A Lowertown landlord whose concerns about safety fanned debate about when St. Paul should close its skyways will continue to lock her doors early — at least for a couple more weeks.
City Council members stopped short of making a decision Wednesday on Jaunae Brooks’ request for an exemption to city skyway regulations that require the public walkways remain open until 2 a.m. Brooks has had repeated issues with people sleeping, drinking and urinating in her building and started illegally locking the door to her skyway at 8 p.m.
She asked the City Council in May for permission to keep closing early and council members said they would take a few weeks to try to find a solution. The city is also in the middle of a broader evaluation of the skyway system after complaints about safety and cleanliness.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Dan Niziolek, deputy director of the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections, urged council members to decline Brooks’ request.
One exemption to the rule could result in a “domino effect,” Niziolek said, and other building owners could start asking for early closures as well.
Granting this exemption, he said, would interrupt more “holistic” improvements the city is trying to make to the skyway system.
City officials plan to clarify their rules about security and behavior in the skyways, and are considering an earlier closing time of 12 a.m. The city’s 5-mile skyway system is public, with easements running through private buildings, unlike the skyways in Minneapolis.
Outside groups are stepping up to solve some of the problems that pop up in skyways. Ramsey County and various partners have added outreach workers to connect homeless people downtown with shelters.
The Greater St. Paul Building Owners and Managers Association is looking for a consultant who would develop a security plan for all of downtown, not just skyways.
Several speakers who came to Wednesday’s council meeting said they do not want Brooks or other landlords to close the skyways at 8 p.m.
Kari Sheldon, who uses a wheelchair, said she needs skyway access to get to the bars and restaurants, like Barrio on the ground floor of Brooks’ building.
“You need to keep the skyway open because it reduces barriers for people with disabilities,” she said.
Council Member Rebecca Noecker said the council has received new information in the past few weeks and suggested holding off on a decision about Brooks’ situation Wednesday. Council members opted to gather more public feedback at a hearing in two weeks.
Until then, Brooks said she plans to keep locking her doors.
The city also has two events planned this month to get input on the broader plan for skyway safety, and Niziolek anticipates the council will consider those changes at a public hearing Aug. 2.