Save Our St. Paul Neighborhoods (SOSPN) is a city-wide coalition of concerned citizens who are fighting teardowns and other forms of destructive development that are negatively impacting the character and integrity of our neighborhoods.
It started with a group of alarmed Mac-Groveland citizens who came together in 2014 to fight the teardown of 1721 Princeton, a charming older house that was a treasured part of an established neighborhood of early 20th century homes. Their organized efforts led to a successful outcome for this house—it was saved from the wrecking ball and sold to new owners who appreciate its heritage and share the values of surrounding neighbors regarding protecting the character of the neighborhood.
THE Epidemic CONTINUES
However, it has become apparent that the problem of teardowns, lot splits and other unmonitored development activities is increasingly prevalent and impacting all areas of the city. One example of the latter is, in effect, a teardown: sometimes referred to as a “scrape-off,” the city issues a permit for what is supposed to be a partial remodel, but an unscrupulous developer instead demolishes all of the house except the front façade. What is built is, in actuality, a new house.
Finding our voice
Aside from the often-extensive negative impacts that these activities have on neighbors and neighborhoods, St. Paul residents currently have virtually no voice, notification or the ability for informed consent in what is happening, even if they live right next door. Residents often don’t know what is happening until a house near them is being torn down, and even then they have no idea what will be taking its place. At the very least, teardowns and related development activities should be treated with at least the level of prior notification and ability to voice concerns that they are currently afforded neighbors for major variances.
Thus, SOSPN was formed with three major goals:
- To develop and encourage city-wide solutions, administered by city entities such as the departments of Planning and Economic Development and Safety and Inspections, the Historic Preservation Commission, and St. Paul’s 17 District Councils, which would protect established neighborhoods from irresponsible, short-sighted and unsustainable development
- To give residents of affected neighborhoods the voice they want and deserve regarding proposed major changes to nearby houses and other buildings, as well as the tools and resources they need to preserve the investments they have made in maintaining their homes and creating stable communities
- To educate residents, developers and builders, and other stakeholders on best practices around respectful, sustainable development that upholds the heritage and integrity of St. Paul’s unique neighborhoods as they evolve