It’s usually not reasonable to expect celebrities to be responsible for the actions of their fans, or for anyone to be held responsible for a few crazies in their comment section. But I think the demonization of Lisa Bender is getting out of hand. Seriously.
Nearly 16 days after dropping hints about “disturbing emails” allegedly written by Minneapolis Council Member Andrew Johnson (an unlikely suspect when you consider he is the Council’s foremost advocate for open data, and therefore likeliest to be aware of the public nature of his email correspondence), Nicole Curtis is promoting her new, very mysterious scandal-hashtag #Girard. Details won’t be forthcoming.
What is “Girard”? Curtis’s HGTV colleagues (rivals?) at Renovate to Rent have proposed a new development for 2811 Girard. The plan, which fits within current zoning, was met with enthusiastic support from the neighborhood association. Scandal seems unlikely, but maybe the home improvement icon has a trail of emails up her sleeve.
|Preserve our historic priorities.|
Last September, Council Member Lisa Bender’s office held an informational meeting regarding a proposed Lowry Hill East historic district. It was a homeowners-only affair, intended for those whose properties would be included, though there were plenty of party crashers: eager homeowners from outside the proposed boundaries, a guy from Kingfield, and at least two renters.
I showed up late, right about the time it devolved into a sort of call and response routine; people were slapping each other on the back over their very, very historic properties (Hey Joe, I don’t see your house on this map, it’s pretty historic… Yeah and what about Bill, his beautiful home isn’t on here either). Our former Council Member was there to suggest that City Planner John Smoley take a historic drive-by on the 2400 block of Aldrich. It was an amazing scene (in 2017, this publication will be endorsing whichever Council candidate promises to hold the greatest number of wildly entertaining historic district info sessions).
Earlier this month, Bender officially nominated the Lowry Hill East Residential Historic District. This was followed late last week by an article in which former Council Member Tuthill says it would have been preferable to put the historic district in areas with many fewer historic homes: “I’m much, much more concerned about the protection of the housing stock north of 24th Street and south of 26th.”
In the same article, former Tuthill aide and current LHENA President Leslie Foreman describes the desire of some neighborhood residents to expand the historic district as far south as 28th Street. I can confirm the accuracy of this statement because the guy directly behind me at the September meeting was muttering “the whole damn Wedge” in response to Smoley’s question about the preferred composition of the historic district.
[As long as we have the recently departed Tuthill campaign weighing in, it would be nice to hear why they didn’t historicize and/or rezone the neighborhood during their term (has anyone been able to figure out what they were working on from 2010 to 2014?). All the talk over the last year gives the impression of a neighborhood on the brink; you’d think these guys never had a friend at City Hall.]
Some of the dissatisfaction with this proposal has to do with the fact that the included properties, while certainly the most deserving of historic status, are already zoned R2 (low density, two-family district). New development isn’t a threat in this area. For the anti-density folks, this historic designation won’t solve their problem; it just means a bunch of regulatory headaches for homeowners, without any of the desired downzoning-like side-effects.
The blocks contained within this historic district were rezoned to low-density in 1975; this is true of most of the neighborhood south of 24th Street. LHENA, which was formed in 1970 to advance the cause of downzoning, declared victory. The northern part of the neighborhood, however, remains an area of high density zoning, which explains the current obsession with the idea of a North Wedge Historic District (Save the apex from R6!). Rezoning the north Wedge is the final piece of unfinished business in a 45-year battle against apartment buildings (and their resident dealers, pimps, prostitutes, and motorcycle gangs).
|Everything was so explicit back then.|
|R6 zoning (dark green) dominates the north Wedge. Kitty cats added for effect.|
Aside from zoning-related geography, there’s a strategic reason for the anti-development crowd to be skeptical of this historic district: putting all your nicest old homes in one basket could mean losing the leverage to cram a bunch of undeserving properties into some future Super-Sized Wedge Historic District. That dynamic helps explain why a nearly identical historic district plan died in 2008 amid neighborhood concerns, reported in the Wedge newspaper, “that acceptance of this proposal could limit future possibilities for expansion.”
This is not to say the proposed district doesn’t have its share of fans. Council Member Bender has indicated the response from affected homeowners has been largely positive. And despite the desire of some residents for a far larger historic district, the LHENA Board put their symbolic weight behind the nomination last week. The organization has also formed a “historic” committee, which will no doubt have expansion on its agenda long into the future.
From the Wedge newspaper. November, 1975.
Last week, former Council Member Meg Tuthill pushed back against new development with an interesting theory:
Tuthill and her husband, Dennis, moved to the Wedge over 40 years ago, a time when older homes were being demolished and replaced by two-and-a-half story walkup apartment buildings. Now, she’s concerned redevelopment could make the neighborhood less bike and pedestrian friendly.*
This may just be a pandering attempt to round up some unwitting allies, in the vein of Anders Christensen’s pretend defense of “vulnerable adults.” But let’s take the argument at face value.
As a non-driver who walks to quite a few public meetings, my long-time neighbors tell me that traffic and parking in Lowry Hill East is a nightmare (and I believe them, because their calves appear dangerously atrophied from hours of sitting in traffic and waiting for a prime spot to open up). On the other hand, everyone can agree that it’s a great neighborhood for biking and walking. It’s the kind of place that tends to repel the car-centric, while attracting quite a few avid pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a major neighborhood selling point.
Contrary to Meg’s theory, this dynamic is good for safety. Studies show that drivers are “less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling when there are more people walking or bicycling.” This is attributed to “behavior modification by motorists when they expect or experience people walking and bicycling.” As a result, I’m pretty enthusiastic about how my new neighbors will impact my personal well-being.
Sponsored Content: Let’s reinforce this positive dynamic by ditching parking minimums. The City should allow new apartment buildings in neighborhoods like ours to cater to residents who’d rather forego the expense of parking the car they don’t own. I hope Meg reconsiders her position on strict parking minimums when she understands the effect it will have on cyclists and pedestrians.
*Meg’s bike/ped advocacy reminded me of two things:
1. Nicole Curtis’s pre-election warning that candidates like Lisa Bender would lead to children “getting ran over because they are preaching prodensity and packing as many rental units in one square block as they can.”
2. A story I heard recently from a source close to the Minneapolis biking community. During the 2013 campaign, Meg bragged about a bike rack she installed at her old store on Hennepin Ave. She left out the part where it was installed for her children, and removed when they got older and no longer had use for it.
|Allocating LHENA’s money pot on Nov. 19th, 2014. The math didn’t add up.|
- 2 loans.
- 3% interest.
- If LHENA wants to be generous, only make loans forgivable for homeowners in need.
- Deciding to own a difficult-to-maintain museum/house, or displaying a yard sign proclaiming your victimhood (IRRE-PLACE-ABLE) are both insufficient proof of financial need.
|Let’s not do this again.|
|2320 Colfax on February 13th, 2015.|
You may have heard of the house controversy that’s rocking Lowry Hill East. But unless you’re a house superfan, you probably have no idea what it’s about. With the demolition of 2320 Colfax nearly upon us, here’s a handy timeline to get you up to speed on Orthghazi.
1893: T.P. Healy builds 2320 Colfax, also known as Orth House. Anders Christensen, in arguing for the house’s historical significance, notes that 1893 is the same year as a financial crisis and the Chicago World’s Fair (to find other things that happened in 1893, such as Nabisco’s cream of wheat, visit HistoryOrb.com).
1895: First house fire. Repairs performed by T.P. Healy.
Post-WWII: 2320 Colfax is converted from single-family into a boarding house, a condition which will annoy neighborhood homeowners for over half a century (until 2014, when “Save the low-income boarders” becomes a disingenuous rallying cry).
Nov. 1981: Trilby Busch and Anders Christensen “go on record” in Twin Cities Magazine “contending that 2320 Colfax is an important part of Healy’s architectural legacy.”
Healy descendants pose in historically accurate late-70s costumes.
1991: A second fire inflicts significant damage on 2320 Colfax. T.P. Healy, demolished by heart failure in 1906, was unavailable for repairs; he would have been a historical 147 years old.
2007: The owner of 2320 Colfax, Mike Crow, puts his house on the market.
2008: Future Minneapolis City Planner John Smoley earns an advanced college degree, a credential he will later wield to destroy history.
2011: Third house fire at 2320 Colfax.
Oct. & Nov. 2012: The developer makes two presentations before the neighborhood regarding an apartment proposal at the site of 2320 Colfax. The developer decides to build within the zoning code, and not seek any variances. This fact, combined with the City’s determination that 2320 Colfax is not historic, paves the way for demolition.
Mar. 2013: CPED issues a demolition permit for 2320 Colfax. Anders Christensen (a long-time neighbor and friend of Ward 10 Council Member Meg Tuthill) appeals this decision to the City’s Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).
Apr. 2013: HPC rules in favor of Anders Christensen’s appeal, declaring 2320 Colfax a historic resource.
May 2013: 2320 Colfax’s owner, Mike Crow, appeals HPC’s decision to the City Council.
May 24, 2013: Tuthill and her Council colleagues vote 13-0 to uphold the HPC decision (please note: this was an innocent time before the notion of aldermanic privilege).
May 27, 2013: Anders Christensen advocates shutting down the boarding house at 2320 Colfax and “reusing it for an urban hotel or bed and breakfast.”
Nov. 5, 2013: Despite an endorsement from HGTV’s Nicole Curtis, incumbent Council Member Meg Tuthill loses in a landslide to Lisa Bender. Tuthill is the founding mother of LHENA, with a history in the neighborhood that goes back to the early 1970s. Neighborhood long-timers are deeply crushed.
Jan. 6, 2014: The new City Council is sworn in. There are seven new members, out of 13 seats (check my math, Meg). News stories are written about the Council’s fresh faces. Long-time residents from across the city are deeply crushed.
Feb. 3, 2014: Less than a month after Bender’s swearing in, the Facebook action heats up. Minneapolis Residents for Responsible Development Coalition (MRRDC) is founded by an anonymous neighborhood association board member. Thus begins a brutal campaign of kitchen sink NIMBYism (anti-gentrification; worry about future ghettos; too much parking; not enough parking; materials are too cheap; rents are too high). Facebook dissent is weeded out with a merciless use of the ban function.
Mar. 14, 2014: Anders Christensen reveals that City Planner John Smoley’s fancy college degree is actually just a Ph.D. in Missile Silos. An embarrassed (probably) John Smoley takes his revenge by engaging in a campaign of lies (allegedly) to destroy 2320 Colfax, all from his base of operations in a fourth-ring suburb.
Apr. 2014: More than a week of candle-light vigils for the house at 2320 Colfax are capped by a guest appearance from home improvement icon Nicole Curtis. This event also serves as a posthumous campaign rally: recently defeated former Council Member Meg Tuthill is caught on video tutoring Curtis on the finer points of Minneapolis politics.
Nicole Curtis’s dog’s eyeballs escape the vigil with only minor burns.
Apr. 25, 2014: The Council follows recommendation by City staff and votes 11-2 to approve the homeowner’s application to demolish a historic resource. HGTV’s Nicole Curtis films an episode of her television program during the vote. Critics wonder if she’s secretly profiting from the controversy.
Late Apr. 2014: The Healy Project files suit to stop demolition. The judge rules against them. It becomes clear why Anders was so agitated over Smoley’s education.
May 1, 2014: Once again, Trilby Busch and Anders Christensen cite a 1981 article written by noted experts Trilby Busch and Anders Christensen (who, you may recall, went on record “contending that 2320 Colfax is an important part of Healy’s architectural legacy.”)
May 11, 2014: A 170th birthday party is thrown in honor of T.P. Healy. Healy’s ghost is reported to have blown out the candles.
Aug. 13. 2014: Anders Christensen’s group, The Healy Project, puts forth a plan that would preserve the house at 2320 Colfax, while converting the existing structures into 1 & 2 bedroom apartments. Under this plan, the boarding house would be shut down.
Sep. 30, 2014: Anders Christensen rebukes the City Council’s Z&P Committee for permitting the owner of 2320 Colfax to shut down his boarding house and sell his property. His argument: allowing a property owner to displace “vulnerable adults” is not the “decent thing” to do.
Oct. 3, 2014: The Council approves developer Michael Lander’s plan for an apartment building at 2320 Colfax. This is despite continued credible assertions from Anders Christensen that developer Michael Lander has been to London, England.
Oct. 18, 2014: 2320 Colfax’s owner hires a contractor to perform asbestos abatement without the proper permit for work on a Saturday. Former Council Member Meg Tuthill and other neighbors are not happy. Pictures are taken of at least one worker’s ID card and posted to Facebook (since deleted). Meg is reported to have said to the workers (and I’m not making this up): “I’m the Council Member!” The workers leave and return another day.
Oct. 19, 2014: Word of the previous day’s dust-up reaches Nicole Curtis, who calls out Lisa Bender (blaming Bender both for a homeowner’s permit oversight, and the disappointing 2013 election results). 700,000 Facebook fans from across the country are suddenly very unhappy with Lisa Bender.
Oct. 27, 2014: A story is published about Nicole Curtis performing house rehab without the proper permits.
Dec. 6, 2014: Nicole Curtis vows to “stockpile” her money for the purpose of defeating Lisa Bender in 2017.
Dec. 16, 2014: Lisa Bender is banned from a Facebook group run by The Healy Project: “North Wedge Historic District.” This is seen by some as a bold move, considering the Council Member is uniquely positioned to help them achieve an actual Wedge historic district.
Dec. 18, 2014: HGTV personality Nicole Curtis boasts of her generosity in funding (at a cost of $102) The Healy Project’s last-ditch attempt at a temporary restraining order to stop the demolition. Once again, the judge rules against them.
Dec. 21, 2014: Trilby and Anders again “go on record,” citing their own article from 1981 as evidence that 2320 Colfax is historic.
Jan. 2015: Lisa Bender experiences increased online harassment, and is frequently locked out of her Facebook account due to unauthorized log-in attempts.
Jan. 21, 2015: The Healy Project publishes part one of a soon-to-be 87-part blog series targeting all the liars: The Truth Will Out: Lies that Brought Down 2320 Colfax Avenue South.
Jan. 28, 2015: The Healy Project publishes an open letter to the City Council, along with an invitation to view pictures and videos of the interior, courtesy of their friend Ezra Gray.
Jan. 30, 2015: The geniuses at MRRSVLD produce a hilarious parody of Ezra’s videos.
Feb. 4, 2015: With neighborhood tension at an all-time high, a local journalist becomes the target of a PDF-attached email campaign.
Feb. 7, 2015: Healy Project videographer Ezra Gray publishes the following post to Facebook. Anders and Trilby go on record, liking the post.
Feb. 9, 2015: Robin Garwood (a Bender supporter and aide to Council Member Cam Gordon) publishes a powerful indictment of The Healy Project and their allies, claiming they are analogous to the Tea Party circa 2009. Among other things, he cites their knee-jerk rejection of nearly everything Bender proposes. Garwood also notes that members of The Healy Project sent emails to the City Council in defense of the above Facebook post, with at least one person using the phrase “Je suis Charlie” (because, if you defend yourself from a weirdly disgusting and completely unfounded accusation of corruption, the terrorists win).
In the comments of his post, Garwood makes the case that, despite the constant references to corruption and lies, The Healy Project doesn’t have their facts straight.
Feb. 10, 2015: In the wake of Garwood’s post denouncing The Healy Project, Nicole Curtis calls him out for a recent work trip to Cuba. Curtis also takes issue with Council Members receiving paychecks.
Curtis claims to have been sent “disturbing” emails written by Council Members Andrew Johnson and Lisa Bender. At Johnson’s request, Curtis promises to release them. At the time of writing, she still hadn’t released the emails.
UPDATE: 2320 Colfax demolished on February 24, 2015.
Cross-posted to Stubble Magazine.
About a week ago, a person (whose identity I am withholding) sent me a series of emails. I was surprised to see that these emails were CC’d to various neighborhood and City officials, including Robert Thompson of the Neighborhood and Community Relations department (NCR).
I’m withholding the content of this person’s emails pending NCR’s investigation of my Tweets. In consultation with Yahoo! Answers I’ve decided my reply to those emails can be published without placing me in legal jeopardy.
Subject: Re: Public Tweet
From: John Edwards
Date: 2/5/2015 7:40 PM
CC: LHENA President, LHENA Z&P Chair, “Bender, Lisa”, “Thompson, Robert”, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear ████ (and esteemed guests),
I have copied Governor Mark Dayton so he can join the conversation. I hope you don’t mind.
First of all, thanks for repeatedly emailing me Twitter Is Public as a PDF attachment. After a virus-scan and careful reading of that article, I have decided my Tweets will remain public, though I do appreciate the instructions for how to make them private.
I have examined the 12-page PDF of my social media history that you helpfully attached to your email. Other than a link to a Facebook discussion on MRRDC, I see no reference to you. Keep in mind that Facebook, like Twitter, is public (for further reading on this topic, see my recent Tweet: Your Wacky Facebook Comments Are Public.pdf).
You have now sent me four emails in 24 hours regarding this nonsense; that’s too many. You should know that since you’ve begun CC’ing multiple City officials, these emails are subject to public request under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. This means it’s possible that someone will publish them to Twitter (which is public by the way) and make you look silly.
One last thing: I am willfully misinterpreting your reference to parking-related homicides as a threat on my life, and I will now be CC’ing Chief Harteau on all future emails.
Minutes later I received a reply informing me that “Your interpretation my email is your right.” Chilling. There were no further emails or PDF attachments.
This weekend, HGTV personality Nicole Curtis renewed her efforts to save 2320 Colfax by encouraging her nationwide fan-base to email the entire Minneapolis City Council. Unfortunately, her far-flung fans have been misinformed by months of error-riddled Facebook rants (seemingly banged out on her iPhone with a hammer). It’s only a slight exaggeration to say most of them believe 2320 Colfax was stolen from Nicole after she inherited it from her great-grandfather T.P. Curtis.
Here’s a sampling of the kinds of things the City Council will find in their inboxes Monday morning, courtesy of Rehab Nation.
Real estate types are some shady characters.
Shrewd political analysis.
America: Downhill Since 1893.
Freedom isn’t free.
A healthy distrust of government institutions.
Maybe we should knock it all down and start over?
But really though, Minneapolis is kinda lucky.
Do it for the ones with an unbreakable bond to a city they might one day visit.
Give it a drive-by. You’ll love it.
But they’re not all rural types. Check out the civic pride on this city-dweller.
Don’t select Lisa Bender in your Fantasy Electoral Draft.
Get these motherf-ing snakes off my motherf-ing email!
I dunno about President… what about Nicole 2017?