Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snow Shoveling Rules Not Followed on City Properties

2611-15 Penn Ave N
2631 Penn Ave N
 Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

So we got a bit of a snowstorm the other day.  I spent about six of the twenty-four hours between Sunday and Monday mornings out shoveling.  The last time I lived in a house on a corner lot, it was in college with ten other housemates.  Looking back on it, I can definitely say that the "eleven 21-year-olds" shoveling model is far superior than the solo approach I had to employ.  But quite a few of my neighbors on my block haven't even done that much.  One neighbor in particular is a rather egregious offender:  The City of Minneapolis.

I usually take my dog up two blocks and back down again for our ambulations.  Tonight, instead of the usual route around Queen, we stayed along Penn to see what lots were unplowed (the dog's interest in the topic is confined to the joy of running through chest-deep snow).  Almost all of those such parcels belong to CPED, the Community Planning and Economic Development arm of Minneapolis government.  And all of those lots are vacant with no structure on them.

 The first two vacant lots to the north of me are owned by both CPED and GMHC, but they were both plowed by my neighbor.  Including those, the breakdown of vacant parcels is this:

2611 Penn Ave N – CPED
2615 Penn Ave N – GMHC
2631 Penn Ave N –CPED
2655 Penn Ave N – CPED
2717 Penn Ave N – CPED
2721 Penn Ave N – CPED
2733 Penn Ave N – CPED
2800 Penn Ave N – CPED
2724 Penn Ave N – CPED
2720 Penn Ave N – Hennepin County
2718 Penn Ave N – CPED
2712 Penn Ave N – CPED
2700 Penn Ave N – CPED
2648 Penn Ave N – GMHC
2636 Penn Ave N – CPED
2624 Penn Ave N – CPED
2622 Penn Ave N – CPED
2614 Penn Ave N – GMHC 

2717-21 Penn Ave N
 In between those two parcels and the next one, there is an owner-occupied house, and their walkways are shoveled.

2733 Penn Ave N
2800 Penn Ave N
After 2800, which is not shoveled, there is a curious break.  There appear to be several vacant lots in a row, but in the middle is one stretch that is well tended.  Why would that be?

2712 - 24 Penn Ave N
 Well according to property records, the owner of 2720 Penn is NOT the City of Minneapolis/CPED.  Hennepin County appears to have a way to keep their sidewalks shoveled.

2700 Penn Ave N, facing south.
2700 Penn Ave N, facing east.
2636 Penn Ave N
2622-24 Penn Ave N
2614 Penn Ave N
Although the final property is shoveled, remember, this one is owned by GMHC and not the city.  On this stretch of two blocks of Penn Avenue North, there are eighteen vacant lots.  Four are owned by parties other than the City of Minneapolis, and all of those are cleanly and safely shoveled.  Fourteen are owned by CPED.  Only one of those fourteen is safe to walk on, and that snowblowing job was done by a resident.

Now to be perfectly fair, the City's own website lays out rules for homes, duplexes, apartment buildings, and commercial structures.  There is nothing specific to vacant lots.  If that is an oversight in City ordinance, it needs to be fixed immediately.  The guidelines for a clean and safe sidewalk are not just for property occupants, visitors, or patrons, but for anyone who needs or wishes to walk around.  Yet on one of our busiest corridors--and one that relies heavily on public transit--pedestrians are forced to choose between treacherous footing and walking in the street.

What's worse is that according to one area resident who called 311 about this very matter, the response was that the City would get around to clearing the walkways by January.  While the rest of us have to clear our sidewalks within four to twenty-four hours, the City apparently grants itself that many days.

And the problem isn't confined just to Penn.

On what is colloquially known as "The Curve," from Knox Avenue North to Logan Avenue North, there is another stretch of vacant land along the north side of Broadway.  There are twenty-eight parcels along these blocks.  Twenty-five are owned by CPED, and three by private parties.  The three privately held parcels have two structures on them and one is vacant land.  All three are shoveled, but none of the City-owned lots are.  Again, one of the parts of our city that sees both high vehicle traffic and high dependency on walking, biking, and mass transit, has roughly two full blocks of un-shoveled sidewalks.  Almost all of that is City-owned.  None of the City sidewalks are safe to walk on.

To add even more insult to injury (well, no reported injuries so far, knock on wood) there are two parcels just west of Logan Avenue North.  One is privately held and the second is City-owned.  The businesses between those lots and Penn Avenue all have rather meticulously shoveled their storefronts clear.  What should be a pedestrian-friendly block becomes decidedly unfriendly as soon as one reaches the City parcel.

Our private property owners, non-profit partners, and even other local government owners all seem to have a plan in place for keeping our sidewalks safe and walkable in the wake of a snowstorm.  Why doesn't the City of Minneapolis do the same?

CORRECTION:  In the paragraph about The Curve, the initial blog post stated that all of the land was vacant and none of it was shoveled.  That has been amended to reflect both existing structures and that the privately owned properties are indeed clear of snow and ice.


  1. The City seems more interested in settling injury claims for negligence than to put some of the unemployed in North Minneapolis to work and make the sidewalk passable for those without vehicles.

    Maybe if we file enough 311 reports, Minneapolis tax payers can get a rebate equal to the potential assessments on those lots.

  2. When a hooker or drug dealer FALLS, they will sue the City.

  3. Montana, I am confused. Are you calling me a Hooker or a Drug Dealer?

  4. There's a lot of kids in North Minneapolis who could use jobs shoveling snow and I just wish they were being put to work doing this to give them work experience and put some money in their pockets.

    1. "There's" means "there is". "There is a lot of kids".... incorrect. "There are a lot of kids" is correct. Grammar check.

  5. Most of the kids in North Mpls do not have the desire to even try and do any amount of "real work". For years when I owned a small business on Lowry and Penn, I would hire kids to do some clean up work and other non skilled work around my shop. After one or two days of "real work", they either would not show up again, or stand around doing nothing unless I was watching them. The welfare mentality runs deep up in North Mpls!

    1. I would contend there are far more kids who want an opportunity to work hard, learn skills, and earn money.

  6. It seems we have so many vacant lots on the Northside that we are having a hard time maintaining them appropriately. Probably a good idea to think long and hard about that when considering demolishing houses and thereby creating MORE vacant lots.


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