Falcon Heights adds more permitting to deter student parking

Listening to resident feedback, the Falcon Heights City Council voted Oct. 11 to expand permit parking in the Falcon Woods neighborhood to include all of Moore Street. University of Minnesota students often park in the neighborhood, which is a short walk or bike ride from the St. Paul campus. courtesy of City of Falcon Heights

Just prior to the Falcon Heights City Council’s Oct. 11 approval of expanded permit parking in more, but not all of the Falcon Woods neighborhood, council member Pamela Harris made a prediction.

“It’s going to be within a few months that you’re going to be back here,” she said to residents who opposed permit parking on their streets, adjacent to where permits are already, and soon-to-be required.  “I know you are.”

The Falcon Woods neighborhood, located just north of City Hall and not much further north of the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus, is a popular place for university students to park their cars and hoof it or bike to class.

As explained by City Administrator Sack Thongvanh, the neighborhood has been such a great parking spot that a decade ago, residents, annoyed by the parking situation and raising safety concerns about choked streets, petitioned the council for permit parking on Garden Avenue, which is closest to campus, but the council denied the request.

This summer, the current council was more receptive to Garden Avenue residents, as well as some who live on Moore and Howell streets. On June 28, the council approved permit parking along all of Garden and portions of Moore and Howell, putting parking restrictions in place Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At the June meeting, residents said it was possible that partial permitting would just push the parking problem north; council member Randy Gustafson said it was incumbent upon newly affected residents to petition the council if need be. They did, and their issues were brought before the council Oct. 11.


Public hearing

Thongvanh explained that based on neighborhood feedback, though all Falcon Woods streets could be made into permit parking, not all residents were on board, breaking down mostly block by block.

The only street that was fully on board with permitting — more than 90 percent of residents, Thongvanh said — was the northern half of Moore Street, which was not included in the June permit decision.

The lively public hearing held by the council broadly backed up the community feedback collected by the city. Residents who live on Prior Avenue, Autumn and Summer streets, along with the north end of Howell Street, were not interested in permit parking.

It also showed that residents were satisfied by the first round of permitting.

“Us on Garden Avenue are happy as heck,” said Dennis Caywood, who said he was one of the Garden residents who brought forth the prior petition. “Our lives are a lot better now that those cars are gone.”

Caywood said he was supportive of permitting on all of Moore, and made an ominous prediction about where students will park next. “People on Summer and Prior and Howell: good luck, because they’re coming to you.”

Other residents said the issue should be handled by the university.

“Why are you laying this problem on the neighborhood?” Peter Olin, who said he lives on Summer Street, asked the council. “Go to the university — they’re the one causing [this by] charging three bucks an hour for parking.”

Resident Tom Ammonn, who said he lives on Moore Street, put the onus squarely on the council.

“What’s happening right here, I think it’s a disgrace,” he said to council members, demanding they act decisively to solve the problem then and there. “You guys are the representatives of all of us. You know what you’re doing? You’re pitting him against me, me against her make your decision.”


More solutions?

Council members heard from more than 15 residents before making their decision. Other resident concerns centered on the cost of parking permits to residents — for instance, $25 for unlimited one-day permits for events like parties — and other permit logistics.

At least one resident wondered about the large, typically empty parking lot at Spire Credit Union, adjacent to City Hall, and if that lot could be part of a parking solution.

Mayor Peter Lindstrom said he and Thongvanh were set to meet with a University of Minnesota community relations person and would bring up “this entire issue and strongly relay the neighborhood’s concern about this as a whole.”

Council members discussed a number of possible future options to deal with parking issues, including taking a look at the fee schedule for permits to mitigate the cost to residents. As a part of approving the expanded permitting on Moore Street, the council left the door open to future discussions.

The council unanimously approved permit parking on the northern half of Moore Street. If predictions made that night hold to be true, the council may again be talking about permit parking in the near future.


Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813


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