Looking for Relief from State Fair Pressure
Tuesday, January 16, 2018 10:50 AM

The State Fair broke attendance records in both 2016 and 2017.

The Como Community Council is launching a wide-ranging review of possible changes to parking, traffic, and city enforcement activities during the Minnesota State Fair.

The District 10 board approved six areas of action at its Jan. 16 meeting. The district council’s Land Use committee developed the proposals, which are intended to study and, if possible, limit the impact of State Fair traffic and activities on the neighborhood.

The review is in response to the steadily rising attendance at the Fair. The Fair has set overall attendance records in each of the past two years. In addition, 6 of the 12 daily attendance records occurred in the past three years.

Fair attendance, which is just shy of 2 million visitors a year, is causing increasing parking and traffic pressure on an increasingly larger part of the neighborhood. It also appears to be displacing parking for Como Park visitors, forcing them to move farther east and south.

Exploring the potential changes would include pubic meetings and surveys, as well as talking with and partnering with neighborhood residents, city staff, elected officials, State Fair management, and a variety of businesses, schools, and other institutions. Here is a summary of the proposals.

Expand off-street parking
District 10 would work with institutions and businesses in and near the neighborhood to make their unused parking lots available as shuttle lots or off-street parking, especially on weekends during the Fair. An audit taken during the 2017 Fair indicates there could be more than 3,000 unused parking spaces available; most of them are business in Energy Park, churches, or schools. The State Fair currently has limited capacity to expand shuttle buses coming from the neighborhood, but expects to open an additional transit hub on the north side of the Fairgrounds in time for the 2019 Fair.

One-sided parking
District 10 would explore expanding the number of neighborhood streets in which parking is restricted to one side during the Fair. Streets to be considered are those west of Victoria between Larpenteur and Nebraska, and those between Lexington and E. Como Blvd., in the area south of the lake and north of the railroad tracks. Currently, parking is restricted to one side of streets during the Fair in a many parts of the neighborhood, primarily from Hoyt south to the railroad tracks, and from Chelsea west to the Fairgrounds. Although there are pros and cons, one-sided parking is generally seen as helping to maintain access for public safety vehicles and to create better sightlines for drivers and pedestrians.

Expand the parking overlay district
Saint Paul’s city zoning code creates a “parking overlay district” during the 12 days of the Fair. This overlay district allows homeowners who follow specified procedures to park vehicles on their lawns during the Fair. The existing overlay district covers blocks roughly from Hoyt on the north, Chelsea on the east, Wynne on the south, and Winston on the west. District 10 will explore expanding the parking overlay district to include the additional blocks between Hamline, Larpenteur, Lexington, and Arlington.

Traffic calming
District 10 will explore having the city implement a wide range of traffic-calming measures on residential streets during the Fair. These could include temporary speed bumps, lower speed limits, barrels, stop signs, and other tactics.

Better enforcement
District 10 will work with the City of Saint Paul to implement consistent and reliable enforcement of vending, peddling, and parking rules during the Fair.
Currently, the parking overlay district (and the much smaller vending overlay district) is part of the city zoning code. That means enforcement is the responsibility of the Department of Safety and Inspections, not police.

However, violations during the State Fair often get caught up in gray areas -- depending on whether they are zoning, parking, or other violations, and depending on whether they take place on private, city, park district, state, or other land.

District 10 hopes to erase these jurisdictional boundaries among DSI, police, parking enforcement, and parks; to make enforcement a higher priority; and to establish “universal” enforcement authority during the Fair, so that violations are dealt with, not overlooked.

District 10 will work with the city to clarify what types of signs and promotion that are allowed by residents, businesses, and institutions promoting off-street parking and other services during the Fair. Residents have reported increasing “competition” that has at times led to heated discussions and even confrontations among people vying for business from Fair visitors.

District 10 Como Community Council | 1224 Lexington Pkwy N, Saint Paul, MN 55103 | 651.644.3889 | district10 [at] district10comopark.org

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