Let's look at our neighborhood's homes through the lens of environmental and community sustainability. How can we lower our per-capita carbon footprint and stay viable for young families, diverse households, and small businesses? In both North and South St. Anthony Park, we have a range of housing choices. We love our neighborhood—how it looks, how it feels, how it works. That’s why we take a careful, multifaceted approach to densification.
After discussing various options in early 2013, the Housing Options action group decided to focus first on accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are secondary living units on lots zoned for single-family homes. We held public meetings, including one with design proposals for several lots in St. Anthony Park (slide set below), published articles in the Park Bugle, and shared information on the SAP Community Council website. The City had independently developed an ordinance to allow ADUs on defined lots within one-half mile of the Green Line. This ordinance eventually was adopted in late 2016 for two of the Wards, including our neighborhood. Just two years later, ADUs were allowed city-wide, if they met defined standards and conditions.
Very few ADUs have been built so far in Saint Paul in part because of the expense for materials and labor. But interest has spiked during the pandemic that began in 2020, as parents and adult children sought to live closer together to support one another.
Slide show of ADUs
designed for ten actual SAP properties (62 slides).
How might ADUs benefit the neighborhood and the environment?
Energy savings: Smaller dwellings use less energy. Housing accounts for about a third of our society’s total energy use. Let’s help improve that statistic!
Aging-in-place options: Older homeowners might choose to downsize, living in the smaller unit.
Affordability and generational mix: High-quality but lower-cost dwellings help attract young families (good for local schools), artists and other creative professionals (good for our Creative Enterprise Zone), and more faculty and grad students.
Transportation efficiency: ADUs could offer more live-where-you-work choices for both South and North—for employees in clinics and schools, for example.
Business vitality: More people patronizing local businesses means a stronger local economy. And this, too, reduces transportation needs.
An ADU in St. Anthony Park. Photo by Troy Thies, Ben Quie & Sons website.
Although the Housing Options group disbanded a few years ago, the City of St. Paul is now considering zoning changes that will generally increase housing options. This is an effort to provide the “Missing Middle” housing types between detached single family homes and mid-rise multifamily buildings. Learn more at the 1–4 Unit Housing Study webpage, which includes a recorded webinar on Phase 1 amendments (scroll down to view it). Most of these changes would help achieve the list of benefits above, and we support them.
For more information, contact Michael Russelle.