Fellow Directors, The treatment the public received during the course of the Pizza Luce parking lot debacle was reprehensible and completely contrary to our mission. The attempt by the dissenting minority to set matters straight was met with personal attacks, discriminatory application of board rules, and scurrilous allegations. Last night's meeting convinced me that a clique of the UPDC's current leaders knows no boundaries in their treatment of board members willing to call out impropriety. In particular, I will not abide the President's allegation that there were "other instances of threatening behavior" in addition to those made by the Executive Director, and that her knowledge of that behavior comes from "first hand experience". I deny having ever threatened anyone associated with this board and I resign. Mike Madden
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
Dear Mr. Hammer and Ms. Wanner,
I am the home owner at
1168 Dayton Ave.
I have lived at that residence since 1983, 29 years. I am one of many neighbors still opposed to the BZA decision on December 27, 2011 to grant the variances for the Pizza Luce (PL) proposed parking lot at 1170 Selby and the City Council's subsequent denial of our appeal in that matter. Throughout my citizen participation in this process, I witnessed what I can only describe as misuses of power by the UPDC, the district council that represents me, whose mission is stated: "UPDC is your portal to city, county, and state officials. Our mission is to provide opportunities for you to participate in planning and decision-making that affects your neighborhood."
I'd like to comment on how that mission seemed to be corrupted in this particular matter. I attended all of these meetings listed below, except the Feb. 1, 2012 one.
In December 2011, the community found out, after the fact, and without any notification to us, that the UPDC had recommended to BZA that the variances to the proposed PL lot at 1170 Selby be approved, saying there would be no neighborhood objection. In reality, the board has known that neighbors had been objecting to many of Pizza Luce's practices since the restaurant's opening in 2006. This looked to us to be a deliberate attempt to circumvent our input.
At the 12/27/11 BZA meeting (Zoning board file no. 11-306845), where PL was asking for the variances, many of us submitted comments, were in attendance, and testified in opposition. Twelve letters and a petition with 62 signatures opposing the variances were received by BZA; only one letter of support was received and no one, besides PL, was in attendance supporting the variances. Despite this, BZA approved the variances. I believe the recommendation given by the UPDC...recommendations for which the citizenry had no input whatsoever...had institutional weight and unduly swayed the board. We filed an appeal.
Thereafter, many of us attended the next UPDC full board meeting on January 4, 2012 to ask why we had not been given notice of the UPDC recommendations and to state that we opposed it. The board decided that the Land Use Committee would revisit this issue at their meeting on January 10, 2012.
At the January 10th meeting, 12 to 15 opposition neighbors attended, including me. Many stated their positions and an impassioned letter from the adjacent property owners to 1170 Selby outlining their serious objections was read aloud. Only one resident spoke in support of the variances. Known also at that meeting was that many of the opposition neighbors had submitted comments and attended the December 27, 2011 BZA hearing. At that meeting, a motion to withdraw support of the variances required for the parking lot was proposed and passed, with a community meeting called for January 31, 2012.
In anticipation of that meeting, UPDC finally distributed very widespread notice to the neighborhood and the meeting was heavily attended. There were a couple of neighbors who have had parking shortage beefs for awhile (unrelated to PL) who commented that parking was needed generally in the neighborhood but the majority in attendance were neighbors in opposition who expressed concerns about the dangerous conditions of the parking lot, the increase in traffic, noise, and air pollution, that PL had torn down a building in our neighborhood for very little gain, the lack of communication from PL and the concern the parking lot would lead to expansion of the restaurant. At times, it was very contentious and hostile, not among the citizenry, but between some board members and opposition neighbors. Those board members led the charge that we were being "anti-business", "against Pizza Luce", and "bullies". Rather than look at the issues we raised, it seemed to take on a tone of personal animosity. I did not leave thinking anything had been gained.
The next day, on February 1, 2012, I understand there was a full board meeting for which preferential notice was given to proponents Pizza Luce and the Lex-Ham Community Council but not to the opponents, even though there had been no resolution to the matter. At that meeting I understand that the Land Use Committee Chair, who, as was customary, should have presented to the full board what her subcommittee had decided on January 10th, i.e. the decision to withdraw support for the parking lot, instead chose to ignore her committee's motion and the neighborhood opposition and quickly introduced a personal motion in a written summary to support the parking lot and oppose the appeal filed by neighbors. That seemed highly improper.
That written summary was also very misrepresentative when it stated "there was wide agreement that Pizza Luce is an asset to the neighborhood", and "viewed as a good neighbor", "Pizza Luce and the neighbors have agreed to continue reviewing suggestions for ways to improve pedestrian safety in the vicinity of the parking lot" and "The high resident turnout and constructive dialogue at the two community meetings on January 10th and 31st indicated to the UPDC that Pizza Luce and neighbors are ready and willing to continue working together to make the 1170 parking lot work as well as possible...”.
Based on the meetings I attended, it is hard to see how those conclusions were reached. They failed to acknowledge the very real opposition to the parking lot and essentially eliminated any incentive for PL to work with its neighbors. In fact, I believe I heard a council member say that the council had never made recommendations for something when so much opposition had been demonstrated. Why did the council continue to ignore the opposition citizenry? We did not agree to make the "parking lot work."
Because of this improper handling and misrepresentation of what really occurred at the meetings so far, five UPDC members, as per the bylaws, called for a special meeting to revisit the process. In anticipation of that meeting held on March 7, 2012, I wrote a letter, addressed to the UPDC president, expressing my concerns about the UPDC handling of this matter...questioning the pattern of not notifying us, why we were seemingly being ignored and continually misrepresented. Others wrote letters as well.
About 30 opposition neighbors attended that meeting. The process was outlined as such: twenty minutes to present their case for reconsidering the board action from February 1, 2012; after the initial 20 minutes, discussion will be open to the full board; and there will be no public testimony.
Our letters were suppressed and we were not allowed any opportunity to speak, apparently in violation of the bylaws, but we listened politely. And it was shocking what we heard.
The 5 minority board members made their case for why the process had seemed improper. One said that when mistakes have been made, don't we as a board want to correct this? He pointed out the large group of neighbors who had shown up; that the board should want the community to be involved and engaged. Another in the minority distributed a spreadsheet she had spent considerable time creating that listed the number of times opposing neighbors had written letters or attended meetings over the course of this process, clearly showing just how much more opposition there had been than favoring and distributed this spreadsheet to the members. One in the minority read from some of our letters, since they had been suppressed.
After the allotted time was up for the minority, several other members of the board started to attack them. One blasted them for asking to see the board's financial disclosures. (So they don't want to be transparent? The books are public record. What do they have to hide? Everyone has a right to see the accounts.) One said they were "selfish" for calling this special meeting. (How is it "selfish" to want to represent the people in the community which is the sole purpose of a district council's existence?) One particularly influential member began with a ridiculous recitation of a poem, taking up 20 to 30 minutes of valuable time, and then blamed the minority for the unrelated departure of some other board members and worried that this would alienate the city council ward member. Then the president turned on one of the minority members with a vitriolic outburst no one could believe and said he had been wrong to line up with the opposing neighbors and wrong to have tried to see the books and then she suggested he resign. (My 15-yr-old daughter turned to me and said, "Did she just ask him to resign?") This happened in front of all of us! Later, the minutes that had been delegated to an aide to be written, mentioned none of this... a colossal whitewashing.
To my mind, the few board members who have tried to keep our representation in good stead throughout this process have acted with the utmost integrity, transparency and adherence to the bylaws and decency, but it has been obvious to me that the majority of the UPDC has sought to ignore, circumvent, and pervert the process and then harass, intimidate and punish those on the board who tried to fix it. Unfortunately, our main issue of trying to prevent the Pizza Luce parking lot at 1170 Selby was perverted with it. Our cause suffered because of the lack of integrity and outright unabashed corruption the UPDC has shown. It is clear that the climate on the present board is not one of representation of its district. I see dynamics of a powerful cabal on that board who bully other members into line or to quit. I don't know who would want to serve on that board. I tell people now that regardless of the issue, whether you agreed with our opposition to PL's parking lot or not, the process by the UPDC was what was wrong and that it could happen again with any other issue. The council didn't help us; they completely hindered us. It is my belief that this particular council is broken and that they should be reprimanded for their improprieties in this matter.
Ms. Wanner: I was at the meeting of 4/4/12, where you offered to get comments from all. I understand the council has not facilitated a way for the citizenry to do that so I hope this letter is ok.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
In a stunning point of privilege UPDC President Carla Olson asked Mike Madden to consider resigning his position on the board. Madden a long term member (13 years) of the Union Park District Council who does not back down to anyone said he would take the request under consideration. Mike testified in front of the St. Paul City Council in oppisition to the proposed remote parking lot for Pizza Luce. UPDC supports the proposed varience requests for Pizza Luce. Tell us what you think!
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Regarding (1) my position on the 1170 Selby matter, (2) the March 7 special meeting of the UPDC Board, (3) Mike Madden’s tenure on the Board, and (4) a reflection on Selby Avenue:
I have owned and inhabited a duplex at 1163 Hague Ave on the corner of Hague Avenue and Dunlap Street since 1985 and I have lived most of my life within one mile of where I live now. I have no off-street parking. In the past several years, the expansion of the St Paul Yoga Center on the Corner of Selby and Dunlap; the additions of Salon Ori at 1166 Selby and Pizza Luce at 1183 Selby; the conversion of a two-family home on my block to a ten-student dwelling; and increased ticketing of cars parked less than 20 feet from the intersection in my neighborhood have made parking near my home progressively more difficult.
One would assume that I would welcome any additional parking that might result in a shorter trip from car-to-door for me and for my tenants. Certainly, I have been disappointed that the City of St. Paul has not required parking for new businesses. I am not happy that visiting family members are ticketed when they park 15 feet from the crosswalk. I dislike carrying my groceries from the next block, so that yoga students can park close to where they go to exercise.
For these selfish reasons and because I have been out of the country and unavailable for neighborhood meetings, I have until now remained neutral regarding this matter.
First, because I have worked in the field of public health for almost 40 years, the last 15 of those years in environmental health. I cannot justify taking a position based on my reluctance to walk down the block with my groceries when the alternative poses so much potential harm to the health and welfare of my neighborhood.
Second, I assumed that this matter would receive an honest hearing and that all the concerned parties were motivated to find a place of consensus – as my neighbors indicated they were. I thought that the neighborhood and city processes in place would assure that when so many people were concerned, active and willing to give their time, that there would be negotiation, moderation, and a fair solution at the end. I attended two neighborhood meetings – one at the police department on Hamline, and the March 7 special meeting of the UPDC to observe this process.
For the record, I am no longer neutral. I stand with so many of my neighbors in the Save Our Selby (SOS) group in opposition to the dangerous and inadequate parking lot at 1170 Selby.
(2) The March 7, 2012 special meeting of the UPDC Board
The painful antics at the UPDC Board meeting on March 7 were unlike anything I have experienced in 30 years of attending and moderating community meetings.
Hague, Selby and Dayton Avenue neighbors came to Concordia on March 7th believing that the Board was meeting to reconsider a community matter that some Board members and neighbors believe was handled somewhat hastily. Instead, a few members of the Board who have not been able to resolve their personal issues and grievances in private subjected us to fits of temper and an embarrassing public display of anger.
The meeting was not about resolution of a neighborhood concern. That very special meeting was about some members’ expressed fear that the Board will lose the respect of the City Council if it revisits an issue. It was about its own internal conflict and disappointments. It was about pride. The meeting was an embarrassment for neighborhood visitors and for many members of the Board who sat silently throughout the whole debacle.
In the field of environmental health, we expect that members of a community at risk or perceived risk may express emotionality, anger and fear. This is to be expected at meetings about carcinogenic chemicals in community water supplies or excess risk of cancer due to environmental contaminants, for example.
As a moderator and risk communicator in such situations, it is my responsibility to project neutrality, calm and empathy to participants on both sides of an issue. At last night’s and previous meetings, these were presumably the responsibilities of the Board President. I was shocked and affronted by the conduct of the Board President whose contentious attitude, angry demeanor, grimacing, eye-rolling, and other unmistakable body language made speech irrelevant and her position clear.
If there was no previous failure of the process, as some Board members believe, the behavior of some members and general conduct of the Board on March 7 certainly constituted a failure on all counts.
(3) Mike Madden’s tenure on the Board
As I departed the March 7 meeting/poetry reading/therapy session, the President was informing Mike Madden - in an angry voice - that he had no place on the Board. I missed the entire diatribe but have read a brief summary of this undignified episode.
I do not know Mike Madden. I can only comment that he conducted himself calmly and with respect for all parties at the two meetings I attended, as did most members of the Board. I appreciate Mike having listened to the concerned neighbors and am grateful for the other Board members who supported the review of the SOS (Save Our Selby) position on the 1170 Selby situation.
If I or any of my colleagues at the University of Minnesota or Minnesota Department of Health had ever conducted a meeting or meetings in the unprofessional way employed recently by the Board President, we would be dismissed from our jobs. The President’s conduct was unprofessional, unethical and discomfiting. I believe it is she who should step down before any more damage is done to the Board or its reputation.
I am grateful for the quiet concern of those members who have assisted our neighborhood group, as well as those who disagree with our position but have been respectful enough to listen to what we have to say.
(4) Selby Avenue
Like many other long-time residents of the neighborhood, I have welcomed positive changes on Selby Avenue over the past 25 years. I worry sometimes that these changes come at the expense of old neighbors and for the benefit of those who drive into the neighborhood for dinner or a class or to take advantage of some other amenity the “new Selby” has to offer. (We must never forget the fate of the Rondo neighborhood.)
When Pizza Luce arrived, they spoke about a restaurant for the neighborhood. They talked about people walking to dinner from nearby homes. These were the same arguments that allowed expansion of the Yoga Center. Neither business needed what would otherwise have been considered adequate parking because they intended to serve pedestrians. That first concession to Pizza Luce put us all directly at the top of a slippery slope. Now that the story has changed, we are perilously close to the big slide.
To those who care so much for Selby Avenue: Take a drive down Selby from Dunlap to Dale and ask yourself if Selby Avenue needs another parking lot… or more businesses that serve the people who live here all the time, more green space, safer streets, real consensus, and a good deal less backroom politics.
1163 Hague Avenue
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
February 26, 2012
Dear Council Member Carter
Thank you for your consideration in allowing more time for our organization, Save our Selby (SOS) to further clarify our opposition to a second parking lot planned by Pizza Luce at 1170 Selby Avenue. Our organization acknowledges and respects the vitality successful businesses can bring to any neighborhood; however we believe that all businesses should also fit the scale of the neighborhood. We believe our objection regarding a second parking lot is in complete alignment with the City of Saint Paul’s comprehensive plan:
1.7 Minimize and consolidate driveway curb cuts on commercial streets as
opportunities arise. For pedestrian safety and comfort and to maximize on-street parking.
2.2 Support transit-oriented design through zoning and design guidelines.
Compact, street-oriented design should be emphasized to promote walkability
and transit use, especially in commercial corridors.
4.11 To create livable neighborhoods and compact commercial areas,
promote and fund traffic calming measures.
1.22 Establish boundaries for Mixed-Use Corridors to guide development
activity, monitor growth and other development conditions, and evaluate
performance toward meeting objectives for providing services.
1.52 Prioritize the development of compact commercial areas accessible by
pedestrians and transit users over commercial areas more readily accessed
by automobile. Discourage new and expanded auto-oriented uses.
1.53 Encourage changes to the design of existing auto-oriented commercial
buildings and areas with elements of traditional urban form to minimize
impact on the pedestrian realm.
We value the presence of Pizza Luce in the neighborhood but believe that St. Paul’s Comprehensive Plan is in place to try to limit encroachments of this sort, and also encourage alternate forms of transportation. We advocate creativity in determining other uses of the second lot (for example, creation of a restaurant garden or a community space) but we do not support using it as a parking lot. The question I propose is; do we want to set a precedent for businesses to tear down existing structures and build parking lots where there is no proven need and compromise livability in our urban neighborhoods?
We would appreciate your assessment of the proposed uses of this site, 1170 Selby with the compatibility of St Paul’s comprehensive Plan.
1197 Hague Avenue
On behalf of Save our Selby
Monday, February 20, 2012
Listed below are some links that talk about what we would like our Cities to look like in the future.Center for Livable Communities www.lgc.org/center/
Congress for the New Urbanism www.cnu.org/
PreserveNet: Traditional Neighborhood Design this comes up as www.curg.org/planninglinks.html; is is a compilation of various links.
Congress for the New Urbanism www.cnu.org/
PreserveNet: Traditional Neighborhood Design this comes up as www.curg.org/planninglinks.html; is is a compilation of various links.
Friday, February 17, 2012
A good alternative to a parking lot would be Pizza Luce very own organic garden where they could grow fresh herbs and veggies for their pizza and salads. The patrons could stroll through the garden while they are waiting for a table. What to do in the winter? Set up a portable "hot house" for tomatoes.