Plan Meets Skepticism with Older Crowd in SW Minneapolis

I made my way to Southwest High in Linden Hills yesterday for a “Palmisano Presents” community forum on the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan (👈 leave your feedback!). This is a lightly edited tweet transcript from last night’s live coverage. Don’t miss the Hitchcockian “Palmisano Presents” opening credits video.

Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano begins by saying she has received “numerous calls, emails, and handwritten letters.”

Palmisano more than once referring to Heather Worthington, who is the City’s director of Long Range Planning, as the “owner” of this comprehensive plan. Palmisano says, “I don’t endorse this draft in its current form. This is not my work. I have a lot of concerns.” Palmisano says the plan has the “right goals.”

Palmisano saying her best way to implement changes to the draft is “through you.” She means public input.

More Palmisano:

  • “I’m concerned fourplexes in our Ward doesn’t mean affordable housing.”
  • “I’m concerned how new corridor designations affect single-family homes.”
  • “There’s a lot of input to be gleaned from all of you.”

Heather Worthington says she knows this question is on a lot of people’s minds: “Where is the PDF?” It’s coming by the end of May!

Worth repeating: the comp plan isn’t zoning. It’s guidance. Zoning is far more detailed and complicated, and comes after the comp plan.

They paid a mural artist to draw the commentary on the wall in cartoon form. Good luck making Ward 13 more cartoonish.

Worthington points out the raw data from public input on the comprehensive plan is published on the website. You can read all the comments collected at the end of each engagement “phase.” It’s at this link, bottom of the page.

First question is about “single-family homes replaced by high-rise condos.” Resident: “All those houses are going away.”

Analysis: Saying that a thing can happen in many different places, does not mean it will be forced to happen in all places. Neighborhoods change very slowly.

Worthington says nobody would be forced to sell their home. Oh my, these folks are really concerned about “eminent domain.”

Analysis: Eminent domain is not happening and if it were you would hear about it for real. It would be more than rumor spread at public meetings.

Palmisano says the eminent domain fear is a common concern she hears. She makes it clear that this is not a thing the city does. The city is not taking people’s homes.

Question: have setbacks been eliminated?

Worthington says setbacks are a zoning issue. That’s a detail to come later. The comp plan is not a zoning code.

Brian Schaffer asked to tackle the off-street parking question. Uh oh, we’re gonna lose the room!

Analysis: Not requiring the construction of parking is not the same as “parking will no longer be built.” Also, you will still be able to park your two boats in your driveway.

I took a walk through beautiful Linden Hills before the meeting, and here’s a look at the parking situation:

Linden Hills parking situation yesterday.

Question: Why are we doing any upzoning absent a guarantee the mayor’s affordability plan will become real?

Worthington talks about zoning’s historical role in restricting access to the most desirable parts of the city. This is the Single Family Zoning is Racist part of the presentation. She then points out another goal of the plan was to allow people to age in place, remain in their neighborhood in a smaller home, when their single-family home becomes too much.

Worthington says that if you don’t like this plan, let us know. But please offer an alternative that shows how we’re going to house all the people who want to live here.

Round of applause for the idea of more off-street parking requirements.

Worthington mentions the city council is currently working on an inclusionary zoning plan to either require or incentivize affordable units in new development. This is happening separately from the work on the comprehensive plan.

Palmisano says this comment period is “not one that we will endure” but that will actually shape the next draft. (Speak for yourself, I’m enduring it.)

Looks like Heather Worthington anticipated the question about inclusionary zoning. Already answered, but she answers again.

Worthington says this comprehensive plan is about addressing the issue of equity through a “systems lens.” Housing, jobs, transportation, are all related to closing racial and economic disparities.

Speaking of  transportation difficulties for people without lots of money, Worthington notes it costs $8000/yr to own a vehicle. (Can we have another round of applause for requiring more pricey off-street parking?)

Question: How do we keep the historic qualities of our neighborhoods?

Worthington says you can pursue historic designation, though one problem with historic guidelines is that homeowners often don’t like restrictions on fixing up their homes.

Question: What’s the rationale for this plan? Palmisano answers by mentioning projections for population growth.

Worthington says statute requires the city to update its comprehensive plan every ten years. In the past, the city has done a “check the box” update that has not meaningfully addressed problems. As a result we’ve fallen further behind.

SW Light Rail! Palmisano notes largest station will be in West Calhoun.

Question from resident skeptical about the utility of SW Light Rail. How many commuters will actually take the train to Eden Prairie? What do you do when you get there? Walk?

Palmisano is very adamant we need workforce housing along the SWLRT corridor, if it ever happens.

“Why must blocks adjacent to transit corridors be so excessively upzoned?” (Speaking specifically about Interior 3 and Corridor 4 designations)

Resident mentions the city’s goal of “15 percent of commuters riding bicycles” which gets a dismissive round of laughter from the crowd.

I think people cheered the idea of Palmisano driving around in her car, but the cheering was so loud I couldn’t hear it all.

Nobody uses the bike paths, says guy. Guy says Blaisdell has 200 cars for every bike.

I think the submitted written question format has created some pent-up energy. So the open mic session could be interesting.

Question: Why did no Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan information get mailed to us? This is biased against people without computers. Worthington says they’ve put resources into other forms of engagement. It was a good decision and she’ll defend it.

Former two-term Ward 10 council member Lisa McDonald is very concerned about fourplexes and variances. Gets first crack at open mic. Mentions development at 36th and Bryant. Gets some applause. She’s plugging a website and wants you to join her movement. Just like Carol Becker at the Longfellow meeting last night.

It’s heartening to come to these meetings to watch these voiceless, powerless current and former elected officials grab the microphone to fight back against a system that’s crushed them for too long.

Question: Lynnhurst is going to become Uptown.

Worthington begins to answer, is interrupted, then says, “I’ll finish my thought and then you can get the microphone.”

Resident says about the plan: “You’re totally destroying the character of those blocks…”

And continues: “I don’t wanna live on a block that has 3 or 4 apartment buildings that are 3 or 4 stories high.” He’s speaking of an area along 50th St. He loves single-family homes.

Guy predicting ruin for his block. “People are already leaving the neighborhood.” Analysis: Property values don’t bear this out.

Palmisano calling out the “cyberbullying” of people willing to stand up and speak into a microphone at these meetings.

There’s an East Harriet/Ward 10 contingent here to talk about the 41-unit building at 36th and Bryant. Worthington says that’s an issue of existing zoning. (And you may be thinking, did you do live coverage of a neighborhood meeting about 36th and Bryant? YES!)

Resident is skeptical about predictions of future population growth.

Palmisano says, “We could be building housing for 7 years straight on the existing zoning that we have.”

Analysis: would that not require the use of eminent domain?

Resident asks question about Heather Worthington’s resume and where we can see how her work has impacted other communities.

Heather Worthington just recited her quite lengthy resume and received a round of applause.

Resident is concerned that this comprehensive plan means older people from Minnetonka won’t be able to downsize into a smaller home here in Ward 13.

“This area, we can’t handle more density.” In other words, cars are a reality, there’s just too many cars.

Support tonight’s live coverage from the far, far, deep nether reaches of Southwest Minneapolis.

Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition

Minneapolis residents may be wondering who is digging holes in their neighborhoods and dropping little trees in them. It’s the Forestry Division of the Minneapolis Park Board.

Trees are great for the environment. They’re good for public health. They can calm car traffic. Maybe they reduce crime? They definitely make streets vastly more pleasant places to live and spend time.

Be on the lookout for your new neighborhood trees and follow the impressively elaborate care instructions that come with them. pic.twitter.com/YuOyOwG7oJ

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 17, 2018

They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. So I like to think of this as Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition. Little trees need help becoming the big trees people will rely on in 20 years. Water is maybe the most important thing we can do for them:

Trees younger than five years old need one inch of rainfall each week to stay healthy. If there is not enough rain you should water your trees. Slowly pour at least four five-gallon buckets of water over the tree roots, or put a hose under the tree and let it run gently for one hour.

You can find and adopt a newly planted tree in the boulevard near your home using this interactive map — you can even give your tree a human name.

Green icons are trees that have been adopted already.
This is so cool! I just adopted one. Named it Bert.

— Lindsey Rothering (@LLRothering) May 18, 2018

Below is a comically ancient video the the Forestry Division of the Park Board actually delivers to your home in DVD format, if you happen to get a tree planted in the boulevard near your home (the boulevard is the patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street). This video touts the ability of trees to raise property values and obscure unsightly buildings. You should watch at least the first 30 seconds.

As with other kinds of neighborhood amenities, this Baltimore study found there is a “significantly lower proportion of tree cover on public right-of-way in neighborhoods containing a higher proportion of African-Americans, low-income residents, and renters.” If a lack of trees is a problem in your neighborhood, you can help fix it by requesting some trees. You might even consider organizing a tree canvassing crew to make detailed notes of where trees are needed in your area. 
You can request a free boulevard tree from the Forestry Division by calling 612-313-7710 or emailing forestry@minneapolisparks.org. If you’re unsure how much space is enough for a tree, the Park Board’s website says new trees need at least 25 feet of separation from nearby trees. You don’t have to be the owner or resident of a property to request a planting on the boulevard adjacent to that property. The deadline to request spring plantings is November 1.

This Week: Minneapolis 2040 Open Houses

I’ve been to quite a few neighborhood association meetings recently. I can tell you a lot of them will be functioning as city-funded advocacy organizations defending exclusionary zoning. They’re mobilizing against the draft comprehensive plan right now.

That’s why it’s important for you to make your voice heard at one of these upcoming comprehensive plan open houses. Slap a few post-it notes up on a board. Jabber at a city planner. Write a long-winded note. Together we can defeat single-family zoning. And keep commenting on the minneapolis2040.com website.

Minneapolis 2040 Open Houses:

Monday, May 14, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
MLK Recreation Center, 4055 Nicollet Ave S., Minneapolis

Wednesday, May 16, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
North Commons Recreation Center, 1801 N. James Ave., Minneapolis

Thursday, May 17, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
Thu May 17 · Dayton YMCA at Gaviidae

Thursday, May 31, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
5:30 PM · Powderhorn Recreation Center, 3400 S. 15th Ave., Minneapolis

And DON’T FORGET the Wedge LIVE Arby’s Town Hall on May 22 at 5 PM (conveniently located steps from a different, far less delicious town hall, happening at 6:30 PM, co-hosted by Council Members Andrew Johnson and Cam Gordon).

Lisa Goodman, Leader of the Opposition

Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman is rallying opposition to the Minneapolis 2040 draft comprehensive plan (you can comment here!). Goodman wants to defend single-family neighborhoods from fourplexes. She wants to protect drivers from bike lanes. As the most prominent and outspoken critic of the plan, here’s a collection of her recent comments on the topic.

(Please note that I resorted to the very extreme measure of attending the annual meeting of the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association to get some of these quotes, so definitely send all your money to the Patreon.)


City Council Enterprise Committee (Coordinator’s Update, May 3, 2018) [VIDEO]

Goodman: “The comp plan has proven to be something that has drawn out very strong emotions from myself as one, but many many people, and I feel like we’re heading toward something that is not going to be universally accepted, and there are going to be huge winners and losers.”
—-

Goodman, referring to comp plan: “…a plan that could potentially be adopted on a very split vote with a lot of controversy in the community…”
—-

Heather Worthington (city’s director of Long Range Planning): “I’d like to believe that we are in a position where we can work through that and we can produce a document that has, if not unanimity, has strong support.”

Goodman: “Okay, I don’t believe that. I think that’s a very Pollyanna way to look at it. There’s huge divisions in where people are at and what’s been proposed in this comprehensive plan.”
—-

Goodman: “So if 13 other people, er… it won’t be… If 10 other people on the council say too bad, your constituents are going to get this shoved down your throat, then we’re just going to go with that? And then we’re going to plan the entire city’s strategic plan based on that, with all of that division?”
—-

Goodman: “[The comprehensive plan] has been confrontational pretty much since the minute it was announced.”

Heather Worthington: “The comp plan is drafted based on the 14 goals that the city council adopted in April, 2017, and the six value statements that it adopted a year previous to that. So the comp plan underpinnings, the foundation of that document are based on the values that you as a council adopted. And we have had a very broad and transparent community engagement process. […] I have to reject an assertion that this has not been a transparent process. And I feel that if you have specific concerns we should be discussing those.”

Goodman: “I was here for that process and nowhere in those points did we say put a fourplex on every block. Nowhere did we say take single-family homes and turn them into four-story buildings. And that seems to be what you’re suggesting: that that was in the 16 points. That people thought through that and said to us please increase density everywhere in the city no matter where it is, and let’s eliminate lanes of traffic and put in bike lanes everywhere. That’s not what we said in the points that we made with regard to the comp plan. No one told you to do that, that was you being bold, not the public telling us, telling you to be bold. Maybe there were some people who wanted to be bold, but there were plenty of people who wanted to see more incremental change.”
—-

Goodman: “Everywhere I go, every grocery store I go into, people are very upset about what potentially could happen to the neighborhood that they love and that they don’t like it.”
—-

Goodman: “I too would say I’m in favor of growth. And I am, and I represent downtown so we’ve seen our fair share of it. I’m sorry to pound away at the fourplex thing — it’s not my only objection to the comp plan, but it’s a good example of, well, if you’re opposed to having a fourplex on every block then all of a sudden you’re anti-growth.”
—-

Goodman: “So I’m afraid to even say I’m in favor of growth now because of what that might mean. And should I object to it, then I’m objectified as being against growth.”
—-

Z&P Committee Meeting, (Jackson St. NE, May 3, 2018) [VIDEO]

Goodman: “I totally respect that there are a lot of people who love to live in neighborhoods that have single family homes and fourplexes and duplexes and 4-story buildings — I’m not one of them. I chose to live where I live because of the single-family nature.”
—-

Goodman: “I understand that there’s an attempt, not by anyone on this dais, to get rid of all the small area plans and upzone the entire city, and this is probably fortuitous of things to come.”
—-

Addressing the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association annual meeting (May 9, 2018)

Goodman: “We had an election, the far left won, and now we should expect more bike lanes and a lot more density. That’s not what I heard when I was knocking on doors.”
—-

Goodman: “So the question is, there’s lots more density already in the neighborhood that is causing livability impacts in the neighborhood, when does it stop? And I guess what I would say is, when the public says enough is enough.”
—-

Goodman: “What Mary is saying is, having thousands more people living in the neighborhood potentially is adding to the traffic. She’s saying that’s definitely adding to the traffic, and I would say you’re right.”
—-

Goodman: “The people who want to see more density are definitely commenting. That’s how we get to this point in time. It’s important for folks to comment.”

Resident 1 (sincere): “When the light rail opens a lot of these problems will go away.” [crowd laughs, groans]

Goodman: “What he said was, when the light rail opens a lot of these problems will go away. What will happen is all of us complaining about them will go away because we won’t want to live here. So I guess that’s probably the better answer is we won’t tolerate it, other people probably will.

Resident 2: “Help me understand why we wouldn’t tolerate it. I’m new to the neighborhood.”

Goodman: “Well I think if you’re someone who wants to get on a train and live near a train, then you have to have a train where there’s a lot of density, and most of the corridor doesn’t really have a lot of density. I think you would even agree that the corridor is pretty much single-family homes from West Lake Street all the way into downtown. And even the projections for Penn Ave station project under 1,000 people will take that train when it’s been established 20 years from now. I really think, and I’ve said it for years, we really have to put trains where people ride them, and that means through West End, potentially through Uptown, down Hennepin, down Nicollet. And you know if this project had been planned now, that likely would have happened. I’m happy to ride the train, and I do, and I live in Bryn Mawr because I like the proximity to downtown, but I think you have to put trains where people ride them. And I also have a very strong concern about having more ethanol and more chemicals riding through the corridor. It’s interesting that one railroad that said we have to have a crash wall for protection from these trains that are carrying chemicals and there’s no going around that area and then you run them right past people’s houses and there is no crash wall and they’re filled with chemicals. So I think there’s been a lot of hypocrisy in this process. [clapping] I just call it as I see it, people voted the way they did, and it is what it is. I’m not going to back off of saying that transit should be where people will ride it.”

Lisa Goodman: Arbitrary and Capricious

Here’s an interesting thing I noticed. Last week, Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman rejected the idea of a variance for the reduction of a front yard setback for a proposed four-story building. It’s not a remarkable argument. She’s just a stickler on variances, and won’t grant them just because someone wants to “build a bigger building.”

But you may recall the Lisa Goodman of 2016, who voted for a variance to increase the floor area ratio (FAR) of a 40-story tower from 2.04 to 14.42.

Here’s Goodman talking about her support of the tower back in 2016. 

Live Coverage: All Along the Witch’s Tower


This is my third neighborhood meeting in as many days (read the Tuesday and Wednesday editions). Nothing this impressive has been attempted since Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov became the first men to successfully die in space back in 1971.

Below is a lightly edited tweet transcript from an almost three hour meeting of the Prospect Park Association (the local neighborhood organization). The object of concern is a proposed 17-story building, which many fear will obscure the beloved Witch’s Hat Tower.

TONIGHT: watch me become the first person to successfully complete 3 neighborhood association meetings in 3 consecutive days. pic.twitter.com/NkMUFRrDRu

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

This line is almost as long as the one to ride the Witch’s Hat tower. But today we ride the concern!

Neighborhood organization staff person observes: “It’s like a sport round here, attending meetings.”

Atmosphere is electric. Person next to me says, “This is gonna be wild tonight I think.” Still a crazy line out the door, as the meeting begins.

Everyone gets a chance to talk, says the president of the neighborhood association. “But if we all talk we’ll be here all night.” He suggests people “keep it concise.” (Spoiler: everyone talked, nobody kept it concise, and we were there all night)

It was eventually standing room only.

Representative from Chicago-based developer Vermilion says this is the beginning of a “concerted effort to invest in the Twin Cities.” This will be their first project here.

Previous proposal for the site from different developer had a few curb cuts. Those have been eliminated. Task force from neighborhood association wanted them to “break up heights” which the developer has done.

Developer touts 13,000 sq ft of new retail, and 20,000 sq ft of preserved commercial space in the historic Art and Architecture building. “It was a major sacrifice” financially to preserve the building.

There will be green space open to the public, as well as a number of green roofs.

Developer: It was important to help existing neighborhood residents “transfer to horizontal living.” I think he means allow older people to sell their giant empty house and move into a condo.

Anxious guy in the crowd: “You’re taking a lot of time up, like, trying to sell us a condo…” Then he suggests we have the developer present at the end. He’s eager to skip the details and get directly to the concern. (I hate details too and would like to get to the part of the meeting where six people ask the same question about dumpsters and snow removal.)

Developer’s key points:

  • Skinny buildings to let sunlight through
  • Pocket parks
  • Green space
  • “Friendly and inviting.”

Where there had previously been parking, developer brags they are trying to be “good neighbors,” and have modified the plan to include walkup apartments instead.

The historic Art and Architecture building is in orange. Apartments are built over and around the existing building.

Developer keeps calling it “a collection of buildings” broken up. He wants to emphasize this is not a “monolith.”

Developer talking about extensive back and forth with the neighborhood organization. Guy in crowd asks, “So did the neighborhood organization ask you to make it taller?” Developer says he’ll let the neighborhood organization speak to that.

How will it affect “view sheds” from the highway? Here’s a slide:

Proposed building is the big white blob. Witch’s Hat tower off to the right.

This is what it will look like from a “whirly bird” says developer. Not a view that’s possible to achieve from a conventional vehicle.

This is what it will look like if you have x-ray vision and can see through trees and earth.

Proposed building is the black drawing under/behind the tower.

Lady thinks this presentation is misleading. This doesn’t sound anything like what she’s read on the neighborhood email list.

How will this new building affect your tennis game? There’s a slide for that too. This picture really threw people for a loop. (Why doesn’t the massive building look massive in all the renderings?)

Some confusion in the room about these renderings. Developer explaining to people that things far away look smaller than things close up:

  • Guy: “Why does that big building look so small?”
  • Developer: “It’s thousands of feet away.”

With the presentation done, the concerns can now begin for real.

Guy says he wants to remove a third of the tower, because it’s just too tall. Second guy is also concerned about obscuring the Witch’s Hat tower. He’s grown used to seeing it on his way home on “280” (which I guess is a roadway of some kind.” And parking issues: “They’re all gonna have cars and park them in front of my house.”

Important to note that the single story commercial building where this meeting is taking place is obscuring the Witch’s Hat tower right now.

There are traffic concerns. This is followed by Evan Roberts stepping in to tell people traffic counts in the area have dropped significantly in the last 15 years. (Reminds me of the kind of stunt Nick Magrino would pull.)

Lady is concerned about people using the spaces around the building to “urinate.” With some hesitation she says that “unsavory items” will be left around the building. (I’m not sure what “unsavory items” are meant to be a euphemism for.)

Obligatory garbage concerns have been expressed.

Did you know renters produce a lot of trash?

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 4, 2018

Lady says to development team, “You got off the rails when you got to the height of the tower.” Lotta claps. “I ask you to significantly reduce the height of that tower.”

We got a comedian: “one of you used the word “faulty” a while ago, so is the name of the project gonna be faulty towers?” I heard him muttering this joke quietly to himself earlier. He held it in reserve and released it — well done.

Series of supportive comments. Some clapping. Supportive comments are boring.

Local mom Serafina says this is about the future and sustainability for future generations. “It’s important to grow up, rather than grow out.” She says neighborhood has a grocery store now because they’ve added more people to the neighborhood.

“Parking will be a bitch quite frankly”

Someone says, “I’m tired of seeing architecture that doesn’t blend in. It’s just boxes.” Analysis: I don’t get the aesthetic concerns. It’s not “like every other building.” This seems like an especially nice looking building. Maybe these concerns are coming from people who are too classy to gripe about height.

Guy says he’s not happy with building blocking everyone’s view. ends comment with, “Jesus, fucking idiots”

I think if you put this picture I took before the meeting on the projector, people would immediately rip this building apart brick by brick.

This is not trick photography.

People now using the phrase “breaking the seal.” As in, a 17-story building today means more 17-story buildings in the future.

Older dad likes all the neighborhood destinations. Heartwarming tale so far. I’m holding my breath. Don’t know where he’ll come down:

  • “All those activities are gone, they’ve been forced out by redevelopment.”
  • “We will no longer be able to walk to a daycare, a summer camp.”
  • “We’re gonna look like Central Park” surrounded by big buildings. 
  • He says “livability” is gone.

Developer rebuts: they’re preserving commercial space and adding even more. Neighborhood will have more destinations than before.

Guy says there’s no 17-story buildings in the residential areas of Paris and other great cities. Second guy tells him he hasn’t traveled very much.

Lady says she liked the previous proposal. She wants to spread the development out with shorter buildings and distribute the traffic more evenly.

Neighborhood association guy going into extended explanation of the comp plan… Lotta people gasping.

You just know all these short building fans hate the idea of 4plexes.

People really want to see the tower at all times and from all places. Lady says make the project three stories.

Analysis: maybe we need a walking tour so people can see all the places in the neighborhood where you can’t see the tower.

Optical illusion: Witch’s Hat tower would be much larger if it were closer to the camera.

Prospect Park and the Witch’s Hat tower is like Catholics and JFK. Lady says you go into people’s homes and they have pictures of the tower framed.

Guy says it’s highly unusual for developers to spend so long working with the neighborhood organization before taking plans to the city. He’d much rather have this project, than take a chance on a “crapshoot” with another developer.

People are gonna move to Minneapolis, even without our consent, says Viswa. It would be preferable if we add housing to accommodate it. He uses the word “Livability.” Guy asks Viswa: does he think this project is livable? Viswa says he does. Lady demands to know where Viswa lives.

Is this the plan that will go to the planning commission? Will they revise? Developer, coy: “we’re listening.”

Guy says lack of rental housing has led to a lot of upscaling and increased rents in older rental housing. But he does have qualms about height. Likes that it’s adding housing near transit. He wins most nuanced comment of the night.

Hamburg and Rome don’t have buildings taller than six floors, says guy who lived in Hamburg for a while. Minneapolis doesn’t need any either. Says we can only guess at future population projections.

I have never been more optimistic about the future than I am right now, listening so many people embrace a “six-stories everywhere” vision of tomorrow.

Guy: “Massive gentrification is not gonna save the planet.” Ryan, seated next to me, points out this is already a neighborhood of very expensive homes.

Lady: How much student housing will this become? She then clarifies that she owns a triplex that houses older students. “But it’s a house.”

Developer: “This is not a student housing building.” BUT (BIG BUT): “We can’t put up a barricade and prevent [students] from coming into the building.”

Student: “we’re not that bad. Don’t be too afraid of us.” Encourages people to think of the youth that aren’t in this room. Wedge LIVE salutes the youth.

Look at me mom! I was quoted by @WedgeLIVE ! https://t.co/qHoQaonHPl

— George Abdallah 🇱🇧 🇺🇸 (@GeorgeYAbdallah) May 4, 2018

Guy sweet-talking the developer: “Please make it smaller… We’ll be here for you.”

Guy says Witch’s Hat tower will go the way of the Foshay tower downtown. He wants to know where the Foshay tower is right now. My producer Ryan, jumps in my ear to tell me, “It’s still there.”

Guy says if towers are really a “good” thing then why not have a second tower on the other side of the building? I’m stumped.

Lady doesn’t want people on balconies watching what she’s doing in her backyard. She’s from New York City. Lived in Boston. When she has “tea on her deck” she doesn’t mind hearing the light rail. She’s not looking forward to the shade though.

Guy just closed on a home two weeks ago. Gets applause for calling for eliminating the apartments in favor of condos. He wants owners, not renters. People who will invest in the community. (Analysis: you just got here!)

Guy asks, why so tall? Is this about money? Developer explains that negotiation with the Prospect Park neighborhood organization’s task force has resulted in a building that is “sculpted” with “carved out view corridors” and public spaces, while retaining the density level of the original, shorter, boxy proposal.

Lady says research shows people who live way high up in the air are less invested in the things happening way down low on the ground.

Research shows that cats who live high up in the air give less shits and are not invested in the neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/wLt7DlFmcE

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 4, 2018

Another person wants to “make the whole thing condos.”

Neighborhood organization guy says “ok, we’ve gone around the room once…” (Can we do it again!?)

Second neighborhood org guy says the goal of their process thus far was to avoid the aesthetic of the North Loop. Preference is for “an assemblage of buildings with slots” that allow sunlight through.

That’s definitely 3 times more concern than I have ever swallowed in one sitting.

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 4, 2018

This was a three hour meeting. For those who’ve never done it, livetweeting is a strenuous activity that can leave your entire face and brain sore for days, so please support Wedge LIVE on Patreon!

Live Coverage: Concern at 36th and Bryant

Here’s a lightly edited tweet transcript from last night’s meeting of the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association. Residents were presented with plans for a 41-unit apartment building adjacent to the famous pit at 36th and Bryant.

Live from the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood.

Developer says the goal is to provide “accessible” rents. What’s meant by accessible? “More attainable” but still market rate. Lower rents than what you find in most new construction nearby. Calls this a micro-apartment project. Some audience grumbling about the micro-apartment aspect.

Developer’s feel good pitch:

  • “We’re attracted to the neighborhood for similar reasons that you guys were… A lot of people like to be in great neighborhoods.”
  • “We buy in great neighborhoods and hold long term.”
  • “We want residents of our buildings to be great neighbors.”

Numbers:

  • 40 or 41 units/20 parking stalls
  • Sizes from 450-700 sq ft.
  • Goal for rents is to start at $1,000

“You said 20 parking spaces? Do renters have to pay for those spaces?” Yes, they do. “So they’ll end up on the street.”

Guy having trouble hearing, repeats same question. “How many parking spaces?”

Someone suggest the architect is speaking with “hostility and contempt” for people in the room. (I didn’t notice hostility, but I have seen this guy abused at so many neighborhood meetings that I would not blame him.)

Person having trouble imagining a driver-less apartment: “Do you think 20 people are gonna get rid of their cars before they move in?”

To deflect parking concerns, the developer cites the Lyndy project in Whittier, which has 75 parking spaces for 100 units. He says their parking is only half full.

Glad we’re doing this at a hospital because we’re gonna set a record for Fred Sanford style heart attacks. pic.twitter.com/QBPoJ6fOa3

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

The developer would like to start construction in August, lasting 10 months.

The alley is very dangerous, says lady. Suggests to developer, “You should drive up it.”

Lady talking about the new 4plex across the street. “The day they moved in, there was traffic problems.” And, “There’s beer cans everywhere… They’re single people.”

Another person chimes in: “They’re letting their animals defecate on their deck.”

Lady: “Because they’re young white males they’re getting away with it.”

And, “There’s something about families with kids, they care about the neighborhood.”

Developer: “Are you saying people who rent are not as respectful as people who own?”

Response: “No, I’m a renter.” She doesn’t like that it’s “catering to a certain kind of up and coming young urban person.”

Staff from Ward 10 office says this project has been approved by the planning commission and without an appeal it goes forward. There’s no need for City Council committee approval. The deadline for appeal is today. Analysis: I have been wondering what the point of this meeting was.

Tina from Ward 10 office: “Council member Bender really supports this project.” Cites need for more housing in Minneapolis, proximity to transit, other amenities.

Ron Harris, also from Ward 10 office: “small scale development more amenable to the folks that live here.” Parking reform has made this possible.

Getting feisty in here. Neighborhood org president stepping in to try and let some other people speak, besides this one person.

I think this meeting was an especially bad idea. Meetings that take place after planning commission approval give people the misimpression that something was just shoved down their throat. The time for input was last month.

Lady says deliveries from Amazon are causing traffic problems.

What about snow removal? Developer: “The building will be professionally managed.”

I’m waiting for a question about garbage. Renters produce a lot of garbage. Think of the dumpsters! On cue, a question about the size of the trash area.

What’s gonna happen to the bus routes during construction? Answer: No impact.

Guy validates himself to the room as a homeowner, then asks “How many bike parking spaces?” Answer: 41. He says the proposal “fits the neighborhood.” It matches the scale of nearby apartments. He reminds us that climate change is a thing. This guy is monologuing.

[VIDEO: Highlight from April 23, when this project was approved by the Planning Commission.]

Woman asks, “Do leases specify that it’s just one person per unit?” Developer says federal fair housing laws make it illegal to prevent couples from living together in a 1 bedroom apartment.

People have concerns about all the humans and animals you might conceivably cram into an apartment:

  • “You could have 2 or 3 people in there.”
  • “Are you doing DNA testing on those pets?”
  • Guy says renters may have friends and parents. Where will they park?
Renters, do you have friends?

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

Exceptional quotes from the evening’s most concerned resident:

  • Doing a spiel that the developers are great guys with families who are good at business and the real problem is “this Lisa Bender.”
  • “Lisa Bender wants me to take mass transit? Fine! I called an Uber.” It was going to cost $15 with surge pricing. So she walked to make Lisa Bender happy. “That’s what Lisa Bender wants.”
  • “The livability sucks nowadays. If you think I’m gonna take a bike to Target, forget it, it’s impossible. Guess what? We have cars. I’m upset about this.”
  • “The spot right next to you will be the next spot. Same damn fucking thing!”

I appreciate the comment from Tina, suggesting people imagine there are others who live differently than they do.

Remarkable moment here. Lady who was very strenuously opposed at the beginning of the meeting, announces she’s supporting it because she’s disgusted with the people in this room. She was upset that the sentiment seemed to be about excluding different kinds of people from the neighborhood. She made reference to how white the room was, and left the meeting.

This meeting should have been televised.

Architect says there will be less water runoff from this building than there is currently. City regulations have gotten more stringent recently — a lot more “friendly to our waters,” says architect.

Lady asks if developer guy from San Francisco is connected to Lisa Bender, who once upon a time lived in San Francisco, where she worked as a planner. He assures us this is just a geographical coincidence.

Lady worried about the coming extinction of single-family homes. “You gotta think about the future!”

Older guy who expressed concerns about parking earlier in the meeting: “I’m back to this parking again. You got 41 units, 20 parking spaces.” Maybe they take the bus during the week but “What do they do on the weekends. Where do they put that car during the week?”

He continues: “I got another complaint. Wanna hear it?” People say they do.

Woman has a bottom line for us: “These buildings are gonna decrease the value of our homes.” She’s certain there are people sitting here right now taking a big financial hit. (So, I’m skeptical but if true, hooray for affordability.)

Back to trash concerns. It’s gonna swallow up one of the parking spots, predicts neighbor.

Really, really old guy who you would not expect to support this: “This is a big win for Minneapolis taxpayers, because these people are gonna pay a shitload of money [in property taxes].”

Lady asks if developer will take advantage of city’s new program to help landlords receive tax breaks to keep rents affordable. Answer: “I don’t know off the top of my head what those rent levels are [to be eligible]. If we’re allowed to, yes.”

Meeting done. Here’s the dangerous alley. I survived. pic.twitter.com/qL3fO6m7in

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) May 3, 2018

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Live Coverage: Lowry Hill, the Comprehensive Plan, and Affordable Housing

Here’s a lightly edited tweet transcript from last night’s meeting of the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association. Towards the end of the meeting the organization voted to send a letter of support for a 41-unit building at 1930 Hennepin Ave with a combination of supportive housing for young people leaving foster care, and affordable rental apartments.


Today I will be livetweeting perhaps the most shadowy and secretive organization in Minneapolis. Hardly anyone outside of a tight inner circle knows this meeting is happening. Maybe my most dangerous assignment yet.

I’m here. We have achieved quorum at the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association. A guy made a joke about my name, and I told him I’m not that John Edwards.

They’re talking about a plan to “rezone Kenwood along Franklin Ave.” Deadline for feedback is July 22. Nobody said the words “comprehensive plan” but I believe that’s what they’re talking about. They are weirdly uninformed here.

  • “A four story condo could be put up…”
  • “4 story, not just a 4plex…”
  • Then someone throws out the term “R4” (so I think the city’s plan is to legalize the number 4)
  • Hilarious grumbles from Lowry Hill homeowners about lack of affordability. Predictions that any new units won’t be affordable.

Breezy conversation here about latest articles people have read: tax assessment appeals and the recent plan to cut taxes for landlords. A couple landlords on the board here.

Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association annual meeting is happening in two weeks, May 15, here at First Unitarian Church. Guest speaker will be Mayor Jacob Frey. They’re gonna ask him about the “rezoning” (which is not actually a rezoning), among other things.

Board member says, “I would be willing to be planted to ask a question about preservation of the historic character vs redevelopment.”

Talking about Frey and his housing priorities: “…making things affordable sounds great but it’s a fundamentally flawed concept to take a crown jewel in the city and mess with it.”

I may be murdered before this is over. People speaking freely. I’m so glad nobody cares who the strange man is sitting against the wall tapping on his phone. Lisa Goodman is on the agenda tonight, so that’s when things could really get weird for me.

Talking about the wads of cash that flow from the city to neighborhood organizations. Good explanation from a board member outlining the fact that Lowry Hill gets more money than Kenwood because they have more poverty/more renters due to all the apartment buildings along Hennepin Ave.

Somebody asked if there was a journalist in the room so I’ve been outed. Best Website 2018.

Board member talking about how lucky they are that a big chunk of NRP money was invested into affordable housing loan that was paid back to the neighborhood. All that money can now be used for whatever the neighborhood org wants. (I know who helped make that happen: Janne Flisrand.)

LHNA board is now bemoaning the perception this is a wealthy neighborhood. “We are 70% renter.”
Analysis: are there any in this room?

Basically, having a lot of renters along Hennepin should get you cash from the city and immunity from criticism. As you protect the true historic jewel that’s within.

Extended discussion of the bags of cash available for spending here at the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association. Annual meeting is next week if some renters want to crash the party, get elected to the board and spend money foolishly.

Somebody said “Hobo jungle.” Discussion of “bleak” situation under an overpass in Kenwood.

Board member wants to get some plaques for neighborhood mansions and other landmarks. Teach people about some historic white dudes.

Anything from the historic committee? Gonna bring in a guy to talk about conservation districts (which is the little brother of historic districts.)

“If we’re looking to stop teardowns, conservation districts are not gonna do that.”

Fear that legalized 4plexes will lead to teardowns and the construction of expensive housing. (imagine: expensive housing in Lowry Hill)

Board member speaking of making a political “compromise with density advocates” by emphasizing ADUs and legalizing maid quarters and illegal basement apartments that currently exist in legal “grey zone.”

What they don’t want are “high priced condominiums.” Very neat how the homeowners of Lowry Hill have embraced the language of concern about gentrification.

Graves Foundation people are here to present update on their affordable housing for young people coming out of foster care. North of Franklin Ave, between Hennepin and Colfax.

Jim Graves: “we’re holding the density down” and they’ve kept curb cut off Colfax. This is in an attempt to satisfy the residents of this block on Colfax Ave. Graves continues, “The planners aren’t with us.” That’s why he wants neighborhood org support.

Board member: “Is there a chance in hell the city’s gonna let you come in off Hennepin?” Talking about curb cut.

Ground floor. Curb cut on Hennepin.

There’s no retail in this proposal. That’s a change from the previous proposal.

Concerns about parking. Proposal includes 13 parking stalls.

Jim Graves trying to smooth over parking concerns, “this demographic [young, low-income] doesn’t have the means to buy a car.”

Board member: “Worst case you’ve got 35 cars parked in the neighborhood.”

Board member worried about crowding on Colfax. They want to a plan that pushes pedestrians and car traffic to Hennepin Ave.

Graves Foundation representative: “All of the foster units will be single residents.” Affordable units could have couples. Graves Foundation has made an initial 10-year commitment to fund supportive services, which they say is an unusually generous length of time.

Board member: “It’s a lot of units for this spot.”
Analysis: 41 units on Hennepin!

Board seeming more favorable to this proposal than the one from last year. Grudging favorability.

Here are some tweets from last year:

“When you go on the nextdoor website we get lot of kids breaking into cars to sell things to buy a hit of drugs… Are these kids curfewed?”

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) September 6, 2017

“Convince us the kids are gonna be awesome.” Convince me you’re not an asshole!

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) September 6, 2017

Jim Graves says they’ve presented to the Met Council and they loved it. He had assumed there would be “pushback” against project’s lack of density.

Security cameras and 24/7 staffing (may allay concerns over “aggressive malingerers” which was a phrase used at the meeting held about this project last year.)

Graves people say there’s support from county, including commissioner Greene. They find out next week if they get those funds. Neighborhood org support would help because it’s a criteria used in awarding tax credits.

Best case, construction starts spring of 2019.

Board member wants to make neighborhood org support contingent on keeping curb cut on Hennepin.

Questions about when Graves needs support. Answer: tonight. I sense some of these Lowry Hill folks want to kick the can.

Graves people vacate the room. Board members deliberate:

  • “This is 100 times better than the original.”
  • “We don’t know if the city is ok with this.”
  • “We’ll withdraw support” if curb cut is moved to Colfax.
  • “The political momentum [for more housing] has increased to a fever pitch” and this might be better than a building with more units down the road.
  • “This may be the better alternative.”
  • “This can help to dampen people’s misconception that this neighborhood is upper middle class homeowners against affordable housing.”

Graves people spent a lot of time working with neighbors on the 1900 block of Colfax, as well as Lisa Goodman, trying to satisfy concerns.

Board member trying to soothe traffic concerns: “25,000 cars go down Hennepin every day… I don’t think [this new building] it’s that big of an impact.”

Someone says: “if Colfax residents are comfortable…”
Colfax resident: “I wouldn’t say we’re comfortable.” Grudging.

Colfax resident says there’s still a lot of opposition. But she’s resigned to the fact they can’t change zoning.

Another board member: “This whole thing is like negotiating a divorce. People do not walk away equally happy, they walk away equally unhappy.”

Someone just turned and snapped “off the record” at me. Doesn’t work that way!

Letter of support passes Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association. 41 units of affordable and supportive housing for young people leaving foster care is one small step closer to reality.

I got out alive. Please support my courageous reporting this evening.