City of St. Paul's very weird parking rules make international news

How many nuns can the Cathedral of St. Paul hold? If you look closely, you might be able to count the parking spots.

How many nuns can the Cathedral of St. Paul hold? If you look closely, you might be able to count the parking spots. David Brewster, Star Tribune

Wake up, St. Paul, you're famous in England! 

And in the sort of well-to-do, intellectual American homes where people read the Economist. (They probably prefer to say they "take" the Economist, which they intone while using the back of their hand to flatten the wrinkles in their slacks.) 

Readers of the Economist are probably well-enough informed to have some sense of St. Paul as a capital city, the nexus of governmental power in a strong economic state, with many thriving and successful corporations.

And some deeply weird parking rules.

The revelation about absurd ordinances on the books in St. Paul comes in a larger review of what we do with automobiles when they're taking a nap. (As the Economist notes, on average, cars are moving 5 percent of the time, and parked 95 percent.)

Here's the short section that calls out St. Paul by name:

Having concluded that the chaos on their streets is the result of a shortage of parking spaces, many cities have set about creating more. Countries including Australia, China, India and the Philippines require developers to create parking spaces whenever they put up a new building. In America these schedules have become ludicrously exact. St Paul, in Minnesota, demands four spaces for every hole on a golf course and one space for every three nuns in a convent. It is because of these requirements that, in many office developments and shopping centres, more space is given over to cars than to people.

[Editor's note: Yeah, that's how they spell "centers." Don't seem so smart now, do they?]

To be fair to St. Paul, one spot for three nuns sounds legit; economical, even. They're already carpooling! What did you expect, some kind of nun clown car?

The golf course thing makes much less sense. The number of holes on a golf course does not determine how many parking spaces it needs. The number of golfers does. Try walking into a country club board meeting screaming, "Gentleman! Have you considered adding more holes?" See how long it takes security to eject you back out into the (surprisingly spacious) parking lot.

To St. Paul's credit, they're trying to get rid of a massive, under-used piece of surface parking lot, and replace it with something more useful: A soccer stadium for Minnesota United FC.

Then again, there are some funny rules about that, too. Like how the franchise is insisting on (and will get) a property tax break worth $3 million a year, which also sounds absurd, but is pretty much what we do for any wealthy person who asks for a sports stadium around here.

Wait until these nerds at the Economist hear about that!