District 10 Como Community Council

Minnesota State Fairgrounds

Technically, the State Fairgrounds are not in Como (or even in Saint Paul). But they are across the street, literally. As a result, they have a huge impact on our neighborhood. During the 12 days of the State Fair, the neighborhood is packed with cars, pedestrians, and shuttle buses. With dispensation from the city (and permission from neighbors), many residents are allowed to turn their lawns into parking lots. The rest of the year, the Fairgrounds host horse shows, car shows (including the massive Back to the 50s event in June), bicycle and running races, swap meets, concerts, antiques shows, plant sales, book sales, comics conventions, and more. When there’s nothing (or little) going on, the tree-lined streets are empty and usually open to the public.

A Neighbor's Guide to State Fair Ordinances

Guidelines for D10 Como Park residents, businesses, and institutions on the handful of special ordinances that are in effect during the 12 days of the State Fair. Enforcement of some of these rules is not always carried out in a satisfactory timeframe for those reporting violations, but the following guide is intended to help neighbor’s understand what exactly the rules are in a time that often feels very chaotic.

• Yard Parking

Generally, residential property owners can park vehicles in their back yard or interior side yard any time of year – if the vehicles are parked on a hard surface. City code defines hard surfaces as “asphalt, concrete, gravel, rock, or other durable and dustless surfaces” (Sec. 34.08.7).

DSI Overlay Districts
DSI Overlay District (click to enlarge)

During the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair, Saint Paul zoning code sets up a special “state fair parking overlay district” (Sec. 67.101) . The overlay district covers the areas bounded by:

  • Hoyt, Hamline, Wynne, and Snelling
  • Como, Snelling, Wynne, and Winston
  • Hoyt, Chelsea, Arlington, and Hamline
  • View Google Map Here

Within the overlay district, residents can park vehicles anywhere on their property, including their front yard and all side yards, regardless of the surface. Residents who park vehicles in their front yards must get “written consent” each year from property owners on both sides of their yard. Vehicles can drive over curbs, boulevards, and sidewalks to reach lawn parking within the State Fair parking overlay district (Sec. 157.05.B1).

Note: Yard parking is allowed only during the 12 days of the State Fair; it is not allowed during other large events, such as the Back to the 50s car show or the Hmong Freedom Festival. The overlay district does not include any sales or income tax exemptions.

Where to call: If you suspect a violation, contact the Department of Safety and Inspections:

• Street Parking

On many streets in District 10 west of Lexington Parkway, vehicles can park on only one side of the street during the 12 days of the State Fair. Some of these streets don’t allow parking at all. These streets are marked with specific “no parking” signs.
It is also illegal to park:

  • In a way that blocks an alley or private driveway, or is within 5 feet of the entrance to an alley or private driveway (Sec. 157.03.A2).
  • Across from an alley entrance, it is illegal to park within 20 feet of the width of the alley (This is pulled from city website; citation needed)
  • In a crosswalk (Sec. 157.03.A6) or within 20 feet of a crosswalk (marked or unmarked) at an intersection (Sec. 157.03.A7)
  • Within 10 feet of a fire hydrant (Sec. 157.03.A5)
  • Within 30 feet of a stop light, stop sign, yield sign, or other traffic-control sign or device (Sec. 157.03.A8)
  • In residential permit parking area 29 (along Hamline and nearby streets west of Como Zoo) without displaying a permit (Sec. 164.01)
  • Within 80 feet of a bus stop (Sec. 157.03.A10)
  • Side by side with another parked car (Sec. 157.03.A14)
  • On a boulevard (Sec. 157.03.A3) or in an intersection (Sec. 157.03.A4)
  • On private property without consent of the owner (Sec. 157.03.A17)
  • In an alley, unless there is at least 10 feet available for traffic to get by, the vehicle is at least 5 feet from of any driveway or garage entrance on its side of the alley, and at least 20 feet away from a driveway or garage entrance on the other side of the alley. (Sec. 157.03.A23.h)

In addition, people charging drivers to park their vehicles on private property cannot park those vehicles on public streets or alleys for more than 90 minutes (Sec. 157.03.A23.b) 

Where to call: If you suspect a parking violation, contact the Saint Paul Police non-emergency number – 651-291-1111 – and request parking enforcement. You can also submit an online parking violation report. Be sure to give details of the violation, including an address or intersection.

• Peddlers

  • 2021 St. Paul Peddlers Handout (PDF)
  • Peddlers sell goods, wares, or any items of value, including tickets (Sec. 345.01).
  • Every peddler who operates in Saint Paul needs a license from the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections (Sec. 345.02).
  • A peddlers license is good for only one person; it is not transferable to other people, even family members (Sec. 345.07).
  • Peddlers must display a badge on their “outer garment or clothing”; this badge must display a current photo, their peddler’s license number, and expiration date of their license (Sec. 345.06).
  • Peddlers must keep moving, unless they are in the act of completing a sale. If they intend to stop or stay on any sidewalk, street or alley, they must obtain an additional “use of street” permit from the city’s Department of Public Works (Sec. 345.08.a).

There are certain areas where peddlers cannot operate:

  • Peddlers cannot sell goods within 25 feet of an intersection. They cannot sell goods on any sidewalk that is less than 6 feet wide. (Sec. 345.08.d)
  • Peddlers cannot sell goods in any park or parkway. In the vicinity of the Fairgrounds, that means peddlers cannot operate in Tilden Park or anywhere on Midway Parkway, including the sidewalks, boulevards, and median. (Sec. 345.08.f)
  • Peddlers cannot sell goods “in a congested” area where they “might impede or inconvenience the public use” or “streets or public ways.” (Sec. 345.08b.) This determination must be made by Saint Paul Police or an inspector from the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections. If you believe peddlers are operating “in a congested area” outside the Fairgrounds, you can contact the Saint Paul Police Department’s Western District (651-266-1234) or the Department of Safety and Inspections (651-266-8989).
  • The overlay district does not include any sales or income tax exemptions.

Where to call: If you suspect a violation, contact the Department of Safety and Inspections:

• Vendors

DSI Overlay District (click to enlarge)

Saint Paul zoning code sets up a special “state fair vending overlay district” during the 12 days of the Fair (Sec. 67.102). This overlay district (see purple area on the Google map) runs along the east side of Snelling Ave. from Hoyt south to Canfield. (Along Midway Parkway and the north side of Canfield, it also extends east to Arona.)
Property owners in the vending overlay district can get a state fair vending permit (application) if they get written permission from neighbors on both sides. With the vending permit, they can use or lease their front yards (or, at some corners, their side yards) to set up merchandise booths. In general, these booths have to be at least 3 feet from the sidewalk. The zoning code also lists prohibited merchandise and has other guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed in the vending overlay district. . The overlay district does not include any sales or income tax exemptions.

Where to call: If you suspect a violation, contact the Department of Safety and Inspections:

• Other

Signs: No one – residents, businesses, institutions, etc. – can legally plant signs in boulevards, on sidewalks, in the street, on medians, in alleys, or on other public property without a permit (Sec. 64.401.I). If you suspect a violation, gather a description of the sign, its content and its location, then contact the Department of Safety and Inspections.

Golf Carts: Golf carts cannot operate legally on Saint Paul streets. If you see a potential violation, call the Saint Paul Police non-emergency number: 651-291-1111. Be sure to request an officer. Report the street on which you saw the cart, the direction of travel, an address if you know where the cart is based, and other identifying information.

Something to think about: What happens during the State Fair reflects on our neighborhood. In the short term, we as community members cannot control the chaos and congestion, especially during the busiest days. We cannot control how much (or how little) city departments enforce parking, peddling, traffic, and other challenges. But we can control our own behavior and expectations. For example:

  • When it comes to yard parking, experienced residents recommend cooperating, not competing. There are enough cars for everyone.
  • As Fair attendance increases, and more visitors drive through and walk through our neighborhood, it is an opportunity to help, build relationships, and build a great reputation.
  • As more residents are out in their streets, alleys and yards during the Fair, it is an opportunity to get to know each other better, and to keep extra sets of eyes on each other to prevent mischief.

In the meantime, we can continue to work toward long-term solutions that make the 12 days of the Fair a better experience for visitors and residents alike.

Fair Time Safety Tips

The Como Neighbors Safety Initiative has assembled a variety of ways to help keep visitors and residents safe.

1) Consider an umbrella policy on your homeowner’s insurance. 

You can be sued for things out of your control that happen in your yard. 

Example: in a past year, a fight started in a neighbor’s yard. There were shots fired. If the party fired upon would have been injured or even felt threatened, they could have potentially successfully sued the property owner.

2) Consider not offering yard parking for the evening. 

At night, it’s harder to see and accidents are more likely. There is also more potential for drinking/drugs affecting actions and driving when people come out. Parking during daylight hours may cut the risk of dangerous behavior.

3) Be visible. 

Get out and mow your lawn, walk your dog, and garden. When people see neighbors, they are less likely to not only throw trash on the ground, they are less likely to take significant actions that can cause harm. Consider being visible with neighbors at night and darker spaces. Greet people as they walk by. Anonymity breeds bad behavior, when we engage people, it can have a positive effect.

4) Leave your lights on.

Not only in the evening, but leave them on all night, in front and back. Even though it’s not nature friendly, it can improve safety around your home.

5) Lock your doors (and windows). 

Lock doors even during the day and while you are at home. Consider keeping only one door unlocked if you can keep eye contact with it at all times. There have been break-ins at all hours taking advantage of distractions happening in the neighborhood.

6) Talk to your neighbors.

Stay in the know with what is happening in your immediate area. 

7) Join the neighborhood safety initiative.

Get daily update emails during the fair with neighborhood issues, challenges, and ideas, as well as law enforcement and State Fair updates. 

Sign up here to be added to the email list.

Get alerts to potentially serious issues arising in real time. Make sure you are connected to your block connector contact or volunteer to be one (below).  

8) Volunteer.

Volunteer to be a visible presence and helper, walking around your immediate neighborhood and/or key locations with an identifying T-shirt.

Volunteer to be a block connector (if your block doesn’t have one yet) This serves as a point of contact between your immediate neighbors and the neighborhood to connect when issues arise.

Sign up here to be added to the email list to get more information about volunteering or to be connected with your block connector. 

Advice from the Community Ambassadors:

  1. Approach everyone with kindness and a calm, open attitude (if you approach with anger, it will most likely be met with anger)
  2. Consider your body language – open palm, not pointing fingers
  3. Stay neutral
  4. Don’t follow people if they turn their back or don’t react – following someone is aggressive and could be met with aggression
  5. Ask questions like: “Do you need any help?” or “How can I help?”
  6. Humor always helps
  7. Your safety is important! It’s ok to walk away. If the situation is dangerous, call for help.