Residents seek safety, respect for all
Neighborhood Relations at the University of St. Thomas hosted a 60-person meeting on April 20, 2017, following the April 8 “Tour de Franzia” party that affected multiple streets in the neighborhood.
Moderated by facilitator (and neighbor) Roger Meyer, the meeting included neighbors of the affected blocks, landlords, a St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) sergeant, and representatives from Student Affairs, Public Safety and Government Relations at St. Thomas, plus Union Park District Council (UPDC) and the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee (WSNAC).
Below are notes taken during the meeting, which was billed as an Ideas Forum. Neighborhood liaison Amy Gage expanded the notes to add context:
Stop neighborhood parties that are oversized and out of control
- Get students involved in the conversation -- and the solution.
- Put clauses in rental agreements that forbid gatherings of a particular size. Include consequences if clause is broken.
- Cancel or actively discourage Case Race and other annual senior parties that encourage over-consumption.
- Hold the Tour de Franzia event on campus in spring 2018.
- Pay attention to campus culture and get anticipated large-scale events on campus administrators' radar: Tommie-Johnnie game, Case Race, even warm-weather weekends. Reach out to neighbors early in anticipation of large student gatherings.
- Boom-box noise from yards is a problem; review the city's noise ordinance to improve enforcement.
Ask city officials to more effectively enforce the Student Housing Overlay District
- More frequently review and inspect registered student rentals within the city's Student Housing Overlay District, which the St. Paul City Council put in place in August 2012.
- Encourage City Council members to review police calls, inspection reports, etc.
- Revoke student-rental agreements/permits as a consequence for landlords whose houses or duplexes are perpetual problems.
- Revisit the policy that allowed current student rentals to be grandfathered in when the overlay was put in place; that leaves some blocks with more student houses than the ordinance (which requires 150 feet between student rentals) currently allows.
- Alert neighbors by letter when a building owner applies to be a student-rental house within the Overlay District.
- Review family-owned rentals, which are permissible within the overlay but which often become de facto student rentals once the original student "owners" graduate and leave St. Thomas.
- Have landlords require their tenants to submit license plate information to the city or the St. Thomas neighborhood liaison.
- Improve enforcement of city over-occupancy laws, and apply consequences (citations, fines, eviction) for over-occupancy.
Encourage stronger collaboration between St. Thomas and student-rental landlords
- Improve St. Thomas' record-keeping system for addresses of students who live off campus.
- Compel landlords to share tenant names with the neighborhood liaison at St. Thomas.
- Seek improved, stronger leases by having the WSNAC Housing Subcommittee help landlords better understand what can and can’t be in a lease.
- Make the St. Thomas Code of Conduct an addendum to leases.
- Get feedback on lease agreements from neighbors.
Find solutions that compel and inspire more responsible behavior off campus
- Review and improve current alcohol-education programs at St. Thomas.
- Encourage St. Paul police to write more social host tickets and, in general, issue more tickets and fewer verbal warnings.
- Improve law enforcement training so that officers understand the importance of citing students for underage drinking, excessive noise and public urination.
- Devise more opportunities to connect neighbors with students.
- Vigorously enforce the St. Thomas Code of Conduct for behavior off campus and impose consequences for students who don't live up to the university's expectations.
- Hire off-duty police officers for party weekends and big events.
- Impose consequences and even suspensions for underage students who are drinking off campus.
- Continue and expand the practice of student-organized trash clean-ups.
- Appoint one student per off-campus household to clean up garbage after parties.
Improve student-renter education at St. Thomas and promote on-campus living
- Require the university's Student-Tenant Education Program (STEP) for all students who live off campus; currently, the program is optional.
- Promote STEP through social-media channels and the e-mail newsletter sent to all off-campus students
- Hold an "all call" event or forum each fall for students in each class with messages about neighborhood livability, out-of-control parties and how misbehavior affects the university's reputation.
- Build more residence halls on campus, and make "dorms" a more affordable option.
- Require students to live in campus residence halls through sophomore year.
Ask neighbors to continue being part of the solution
- Neighbors need to call 911 every time they encounter illegal activity or a neighborhood disturbance in order to generate accurate "Calls for Service" reports; in addition, contact Neighborhood Relations (651-962-6123) and St. Thomas Public Safety (651-962-5100).
- Get case numbers from SPPD to use in communications with St. Thomas, the Department of Safety and Inspections, and City Council members.
- Support St. Thomas in addressing a "binge-drinking culture."
- Connect with the neighborhood liaison regularly. Add your e-mail address to the neighborhood distribution list. Join the St. Thomas Neighbors Facebook group.
- Join a committee in your area's district council, either Union Park (which includes the Merriam Park neighborhood) or Macalester-Groveland.
- Become active in a WSNAC subcommittee: Student and Neighbor Relations, Housing, or Campus Development and Transportation. Connect with WSNAC co-chairs Rachel Westermeyer or Amy Gage for more information.
- The West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee (WSNAC) -- with its membership of St. Thomas officials, neighbors and city representatives -- is the body charged with moving this work forward. WSNAC generally meets the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library, room 108.
- Two documents will guide WSNAC's work: a set of "Commitments" drafted by administrators at the University of St. Thomas and a "Resolutions" document passed by the Union Park District Council (UPDC) board in May 2017.
- You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Neighborhood Relations and WSNAC subcommittees will gather data and create metrics so progress can be charted from year to year.