St. Paul’s proposed changes to skyway hours and security, including a midnight closing time and video surveillance or security guards, drew concerns Wednesday from some building owners, who say the city is saddling them with too much of the burden for a safe system.
“Security must be accomplished with police in uniform. Private security personnel are not respected by the homeless or the young men hanging around the skyway,” building owner John Rupp wrote in an e-mail sent to the City Council before a public hearing Wednesday. “The absurdity of the city plan is breathtaking. It won’t work.”
Currently, St. Paul requires that skyways stay open until 2 a.m. But Lowertown landlord Jaunae Brooks started locking her skyway doors at 8 p.m., a response to people drinking, urinating and sleeping in the halls of her building.
As a result, city leaders, including Mayor Chris Coleman and Council Member Rebecca Noecker, who represents downtown, have proposed changes to the city’s “skyway conduct” ordinance.
The proposed changes include locking skyway doors earlier and requiring building owners to maintain video surveillance plans for their skyways. “Code of conduct” signs would be posted throughout the system.
But some worry that decreased access to the 5-mile skyway system would hurt those with limited mobility who rely on the skyways to safely traverse downtown day and night. Downtown residents have also pushed back on the idea of closing the skyways early, saying the system provides much-needed access for people with disabilities who are trying to get to restaurants and entertainment venues.
Noecker has said she wants to balance the needs of people who use the skyway system and the building owners who help pay for it. The midnight closure seemed like the best compromise, she said.
Unlike Minneapolis, St. Paul’s network of enclosed walkways is public. St. Paul’s skyways are connected along public easements through buildings. Building owners have to pay to keep their property secure, and some say the 2 a.m. closure is onerous.
City leaders have said the new rules would ensure that property owners meet certain security requirements and that people know what is inappropriate skyway behavior.
But Chuck Repke, who said he represents 20 downtown building owners, told the council his clients oppose the changes because the midnight closing time doesn’t go far enough. He said the dearth of traffic on the skyways after dark means it makes no sense to keep the skyways open past 8 p.m.