Mpls 2040 Planning Commission Live Coverage

The Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan had a public hearing at the Planning Commission last night. This long-range plan has been the subject of a years-long engagement process and a wide-ranging public debate. One side has taken to displaying red yard signs, largely in upscale Southwest Minneapolis, predicting imminent neighborhood destruction. Another group, called Neighbors for More Neighbors (of which I am a co-founder), says Minneapolis has failed to produce a sufficient quantity and diversity of housing in all neighborhoods — a prerequisite to meeting affordability, sustainability, and equity goals. I’ve written about the 2040 plan quite a bit.

Below is a lightly edited twitter transcript of five hours of spirited — sometimes angry, sometimes weird, sometimes thoughtful — testimony at last night’s Planning Commission. Continue reading “Mpls 2040 Planning Commission Live Coverage”

Terror in Ward 13: “I’m so upset I’m shaking”

Crowd shot of older residents at Linden Hills comprehensive plan meeting featuring Council Member Linea Palmisano.

Here’s last night’s live coverage of a Minneapolis 2040 session in the Linden Hills neighborhood, featuring Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano. If you’re unfamiliar with this topic, read this post on what’s at stake and why I think the 2040 plan is worth supporting. It’s bittersweet, as this may have been my last #Mpls2040 adventure in swanky Southwest Minneapolis. Continue reading “Terror in Ward 13: “I’m so upset I’m shaking””

Big Developers, Big Business, Big Southwest Agree on Mpls 2040

The Star Tribune got big local developer Kelly Doran to talk about Minneapolis 2040, a plan that would allow more housing across all parts of the city. Doran said 2040 was “silly,” and that triplexes won’t turn him a profit. He even sees it as a threat to neighborhood character.

It’s funny because Doran is constructing a five-story building very near to my home (the pile-driving is still ringing in my ears!). Now, personally I’m glad for the additional housing. I couldn’t be happier about the grocery store in the new building. But while we’re on the subject of neighborhood character, Doran’s building takes up a third of a block. It has two levels of underground parking. And I’m sure you can imagine the large volume of complaints about how it would destroy neighborhood character. Continue reading “Big Developers, Big Business, Big Southwest Agree on Mpls 2040”

Group Plans “Legal Action” Against Mpls 2040

Every great battle to keep more people out of a neighborhood ends in a frivolous lawsuit. The heated debate over the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan is no exception. The city’s long-range plan is intended to help Minneapolis equitably accommodate the next 20 years of population growth by legalizing more homes across all parts of the city.
Continue reading “Group Plans “Legal Action” Against Mpls 2040″

Over-Processed Minneapolis 2040 to Begin Next Step In Process

Lisa McDonald, a spokesperson for a group opposing the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan said at a press conference earlier this week, “the City has failed to engage the community in any meaningful way.” McDonald, who is also a former Minneapolis City Council Member, claimed Minneapolis officials “wrap their work in secrecy” and that there hasn’t been an “honest accounting and summary of what citizens really said in online comments, emails, and meetings.”

Continue reading “Over-Processed Minneapolis 2040 to Begin Next Step In Process”

Minneapolis 2040 is back!

Minneapolis 2040 is back! In just a few weeks a second draft of the proposed comprehensive plan will be released by the city. This is a big important document guiding future decisions on street design, housing, land use, and job access.

In an article originally headlined, “Minneapolis 2040 scares the rich. Is that such a bad thing?,” City Pages relays concerns from two Minneapolis City Council Members.

Lisa Goodman, who represents the ritzy lakes-area neighborhoods of Ward 7, tells a sad story:

“If somebody lives in a house they bought 30 or 40 years ago for $300,000,” she says, “and it’s now valued at $900,000, and they can no longer afford the property taxes on it, that’s often the cause of people moving.” 

That’s sad, but tragedy plays out on a sliding scale. Try telling one of Ellison’s [Ward 5] constituents how hard it is to own something worth so much you can’t resist the urge to sell it.

Any plan for how we create a city that’s affordable to everyone shouldn’t be focused on the needs of wealthy people (yes, if you own a $900,000 house free and clear, you are a wealthy person). It should be focused the huge chunk of Minneapolis renters, predominantly people of color, legitimately struggling to afford a home.

If property taxes in exclusive neighborhoods are high, Goodman created that by advocating for policies that concentrate wealth and shut out new neighbors. Exclusionary zoning drives the shortage which promotes skyrocketing property values and higher taxes in these neighborhoods. This result was achieved on purpose.

Linea Palmisano, who represents swanky Ward 13, says her constituents have been subjected to unfair criticism, including from city staff. She suggests there have been accusations of racism, and says that’s “a great way to end a conversation.” Others might suggest many of her constituents would rather not have a conversation about systemic racism and exclusionary zoning.

Speaking of great ways to end a conversation, Minneapolis for Everyone (the group behind all those red yard signs foretelling the apocalypse) has a reaction to the transportation policies contained in Minneapolis 2040. In the Star Tribune (“To cut pollution from cars, Minneapolis wants more neighborhood destinations”) Minneapolis for Everyone co-founder Lisa McDonald says of the Minneapolis 2040 draft plan: “It has no room for cars. They don’t mention cars. They want to get rid of cars.”

(Full disclosure: Minneapolis for Everyone is an organization co-founded by Carol Becker, who is the very weird elected official who recently attempted to trademark/steal the name of this website because she doesn’t like the content. I am currently embroiled in legal wrangling.)

The plan isn’t nearly as revolutionary or scary as McDonald makes it sound. A city planner put it in common-sense terms: “Put the stuff closer together so it’s easier to get to the stuff.” You’re more likely to drive if your destination is further away and harder to get to. In other words, we should make it legal for more people and businesses to exist in more places while expanding options for getting there. Let’s make it easier to not drive.

Minneapolis was built to serve cars. You might say we’ve spent the last 50-plus years using a blueprint called Minneapolis 1970. It’s very easy (and will remain very easy) to drive your car in Minneapolis. You can’t always say the same about walking, biking and transit. Plans for the future should be focused on making those alternatives more viable, if we care about having options for sustainable, safe, and affordable transportation.

Change is hard, especially when you’ve spent generations doing exactly the wrong thing. The truth is, we will probably end up with a Minneapolis 2040 plan that doesn’t go nearly far enough. Transit, bike, and pedestrian advocates will still have to fight too hard for small victories. Driving will remain easy and the vast majority of people will continue to do lots of it. We will continue to take concerns about neighborhood character far too seriously when deciding what kind of person can live in which kinds of homes in which parts of town.

In comparison to the hole we’ve dug for ourselves, these are only the smallest of first steps towards making Minneapolis a more affordable, sustainable, and livable city. If we’re going to take those steps, we need more people willing to say yes.

The Shape of the Minneapolis Inclusionary Zoning Debate

City Council President Lisa Bender

Inclusionary zoning is an umbrella term for a wide range of policies designed to encourage or require the inclusion of affordable units in new housing construction. Here are three example scenarios from yesterday’s presentation to the Minneapolis City Council’s Housing Policy and Development Committee:

  1. Require 15% of a new building’s units be affordable to households making 60% area median income.
  2. Require 10% of a new building’s units be affordable to households at 60% AMI.
  3. Require 5% of a new building’s units be affordable to households at 60% AMI.
The authors of a city-commissioned study on inclusionary zoning, consultants from a group called Grounded Solutions Network, landed on 10% as the sweet spot.
You might be wondering, why not require 30% affordable? Why not 100% affordable? Because, in the opinion of the city’s outside experts, a 15% mandate is “the very outer limit maximum of what we could possibly consider feasible.” Anything higher makes it very difficult for a profit-seeking enterprise to build apartments.
The experts explained why a mandatory, not voluntary, system was the right path for Minneapolis. Offering developers density bonuses or parking reductions in exchange for affordability doesn’t work because the city has already implemented relatively aggressive parking reforms and has virtually no density restrictions downtown (an area that in recent years has added a lot of units — making it the kind of place where inclusionary zoning could make a big impact).
An inclusionary zoning ordinance is something that Council President Lisa Bender has said must be passed alongside the package of zoning reforms contained in the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan. I expect she has the votes to back it up.
If City Council approval of a bold version of Minneapolis 2040 hinges on inclusionary zoning, it’s worth thinking about what that debate looks like.
There are people who will argue for a prohibitively high (25%… 50%… 100%!) inclusionary zoning percentage. These people are:
  • those who think for-profit multifamily housing construction is bad, and that stopping it is good.
  • those who think building an apartment building is wildly more profitable in percentage terms than it actually is.

Then there are skeptics who say inclusionary zoning hasn’t worked in other cities. They see the construction of thousands of new homes as part of the solution (though not the sole solution) to a massive housing shortage and affordability problem. For them, policies that potentially discourage the creation of more homes are counterproductive
The argument from skeptics is that affordable housing is everyone’s burden to shoulder, not just residents of newly constructed apartments and condos. The skeptics say: tax everyone to pay for affordable housing. The owner of a million dollar home in Ward 13 has as much obligation as the renter living in a $1200 Whittier apartment, or the owner of a $500,000 condo. Someone tweeted at me yesterday that the key to inclusionary zoning’s popularity is that it puts the burden on a small and often disliked constituency: residents of apartment buildings that haven’t yet been built.
Inclusionary zoning supporters on the City Council will probably latch on to something resembling the case made by the group of experts the city hired to study the issue. Those experts are recommending an affordability requirement that gives developers a choice: 1) 10% of units affordable at 60% AMI or 2) a subsidy to go to 20% of units affordable at 50% AMI. The city’s experts contend that development would remain feasible in most parts of the city under this system.
The experts also say that while the cost of a new inclusionary zoning regime will initially eat into the profits of individual projects — making new home construction less likely — landowners would eventually start to bear those costs: “Over time, developers who all face the same increased cost will all negotiate for a lower land price.” This would take years, however.
A few alternative scenarios specifically not recommended by the experts would involve the “politically fraught” process of drawing lines on a map to designate the parts of town with strong enough housing markets to bear more stringent affordability mandates. You can imagine how this might upset a landowner just barely on the wrong side of one of these lines on a map.
The city-commissioned report on inclusionary zoning is set to be finished in a few weeks. For more detail on yesterday’s presentation to the Housing Policy and Development Committee, see my Twitter thread here.