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.

Minneapolis 2040: The Final Countdown

Moments ago I submitted some last-minute, under the wire comments on the Minneapolis 2040 draft comprehensive plan. And I will continue to do so, throughout the day, as the situation merits, right up until the deadline.

YOU CAN KEEP COMMENTING ALL DAY –TODAY– SUNDAY, JULY 22!

Here’s a sample comment you could leave in the built form section:

Interior 1 doesn’t go far enough. Homes already exist in these neighborhoods that exceed what would be allowed under Interior 1. The minimum designation in Minneapolis should be Interior 2. 

Areas that are currently designated Interior 1 should be changed to Interior 2. Areas that are Interior 2 should be changed to Interior 3. Areas that are Interior 3 should have their maximum height raised from three to __ stories.

Or you could simply say:

Exclusionary zoning is dumb and terrible. I can’t believe we still do that. Please let people live their lives, even if that means four households occupying a four-unit house instead of just one family.

But there are so many more comments for you to send — and today is your last day to send them!

Minneapolis is growing. People want to live here. Businesses are hiring workers here. A Minneapolis with many more people needs many more homes — otherwise a lot of people will be displaced. Those homes shouldn’t all be in big expensive single-family homes or big expensive apartment buildings. We need less expensive triplexes and fourplexes, and small apartment buildings too. In order to make that happen we need a zoning code that allows those small-scale homes to happen. We need to legalize housing.

But that’s not all. In a majority renter city, we need policies that support and protect renters, people who are disproportionately low-income, indigenous or people of color. We need a transportation plan that prioritizes people, not just cars. We need to recognize that single-family zoning isn’t just exclusionary, but promotes car-dependence and sprawl that does grave damage to our climate.

Minneapolis 2040 Charts and Maps

Some charts and maps to consider as we close in on the comment deadline for the draft of the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan. You have until July 22 to comment at minneapolis2040.com!

Minneapolis and its neighbors are adding more people than places for those people to live. A housing shortage is a game of musical chairs that hurts those with the least money. The next Minneapolis comprehensive plan needs to help us shift that equation in Minneapolis and set an example for neighboring cities.

Data: Met Council community profiles and 2017 population/household estimates.

 These charts show how the Minneapolis and St. Paul are losing the sort of housing that is least expensive: 2, 3, and 4-unit homes. Why? Because zoning codes make them illegal to build on the vast majority of residential land.

Minneapolis lost over 6,000 duplex/triplex/4plex units since 1990. The city added around 2,500 single-family homes in same period

St. Paul lost about 3,300 duplex/triplex/fourplex units since 1990. The city gained around 2,000 single-family homes in same period.

Below is a map of racially restrictive covenants, courtesy of Mapping Prejudice. Areas of South and Southwest Minneapolis dominated by racially restrictive covenants in the first half of the 20th century are dominated by single-family zoning today.

There’s a direct line from racially restrictive covenants to redlining to restrictive single-family zoning:

The FHA promoted zoning as an effective tool for assuring a “homogenous and harmonious neighborhood.” In the view of the FHA, however, zoning was not enough to accomplish the segregation of races as a means to protecting property values. The FHA underwriting manual made the case for racially restrictive covenants, using language that described people of color as undesirable neighbors in the same vein as nuisances such as odor and high traffic.

In case you missed this post from a few days ago, here’s a chart breaking out Minneapolis residents by renter/owner and income. The low-income, cost-burdened renters are disproportionately people of color; they’re also far less likely to receive a housing subsidy than the high-income homeowners.

This map from Scott Shaffer debunks the notion that low-density zoning keeps the bulldozers away. Right now under existing zoning in Minneapolis, homes are bulldozed and replaced with larger single-family homes — we make it illegal to build anything else. We could choose to allow homes that are cheaper to build, rent, and own. Instead, we’ve chosen expensive housing.
If you aren’t yet fed up with exclusionary zoning, watch my award-eligible documentary film “It’s Always Single-Family in the Twin Cities.”

Minneapolis 2040 Deadline Roundup

There’s just one week left in the comment period for the draft Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan! Concerned residents assured me it would be shoved down our throats, but I’m not sure my throat could handle a lengthier process.

Leave your comments at minneapolis2040.com until July 22. The city will spend a few months synthesizing that feedback into a new draft to be released in late September.

Below I have compiled the latest news on the comprehensive plan, including two presentations to City Council committees earlier this week.

Innovative Housing Types. Minneapolis city planner Brian Schaffer (RIP) says that “innovative housing types” aren’t new. Single room occupancy, accessory dwelling units, co-housing–those are all concepts that are “ages and ages old.” What happened? We banned them.

In a presentation to the Housing Policy and Development Committee, Schaffer showed council members this chart:

Schaffer highlighted these points in his presentation:

  • Largest segment on the chart are the 47,000 homeowner households making greater than 100% area median income ($94,300/yr).
  • Second biggest: 31,000 renter households making less than 30% AMI ($28,300/yr). 
    • 19,000 of those households are severely cost burdened (spending more than 50% of income on housing)
    • 6,000 are cost burdened (spending more than 30% of income on housing)
    • People under 30% AMI are majority POC and majority renter – and “disproportionately both.”
Which of those groups have their housing subsidized? To a much greater degree it’s the high-income homeowner households, says the city’s housing director, Andrea Brennan.

In response to what I thought was an illuminating chart, City Council Member Lisa Goodman told Brian Schaffer: “I don’t need a planning degree to know that people at 30% or lower of the MMI are cost-burdened.” (The acronym for area median income is AMI, and the over-educated Brian Schaffer refused to correct her, even though it was his last week at work and he could have just said “I’m too old for this shit” and given the entire council double-fisted middle fingers.)

FLASHBACK: Lisa Goodman told an economist the same thing about his economics degree in 2016 when she was agitating against an academic study, commissioned by the city, that showed benefits to raising the minimum wage.

There’s a climate change opportunity in adding more commercial zoning in Minneapolis, says city planner Paul Mogush. Nationally, 45% of trips are for shopping, while 15-20% are trips to work. Mogush says, “Based on some research that we’ve done, we know that people in Minneapolis are spending a lot of their retail dollars outside city limits, so there’s an opportunity to capture more of that inside the city of Minneapolis.”

Council President Lisa Bender asked a question about small storefronts in neighborhood interiors that “have been made illegal over time in the zoning code.” Mogush said they’re trying to legitimize existing commercial uses, but gave no indication there would be allowances for more. (Idea: you could send feedback to minneapolis2040.com to ask for more small storefronts in neighborhood interiors).

Say goodbye to everyone’s favorite fit young planner:
Brian Schaffer calls it quits after more than a decade swatting microphones as a Minneapolis city planner. He will be missed. But he’ll always be my brother. pic.twitter.com/WTewlE0toO

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) July 12, 2018


Looking for a Minneapolis 2040 policy overview? Read this series from Neighbors for More Neighbors. And some thoughts from Our Streets Minneapolis.

I livetweeted Wednesday’s Minneapolis 2040 info session.
One attendee said the meeting left them feeling “ashamed to be alive.” Lisa Bender told the crowd of longtime residents, “You can boo me but I will continue to pause and wait.” Heather Worthington, the city’s director of Long Range Planning, at one point surrendered the microphone to a resident who continually interrupted her answer. Read the whole thread here.

This has maybe been asked about doomsday cults before, but what are these people gonna do for fun after this is over and the world doesn’t explode?

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) July 12, 2018


Council Member Jeremy Schroeder, chair of the Zoning & Planning Committee, released this FAQ to tamp down an explosion of panic and misinformation.


ICYMI: I published a post in response to an explosion of panic and misinformation–and apocalyptic yard signs.

Start practicing your impassioned speeches. In a committee hearing earlier this week, Lisa Goodman, who is the council’s most vocal critic of the draft, said she was eager for a public hearing in front of the full City Council, instead of just at the City Planning Commission.

BLOOPERS: If you made it this far, you deserve a blooper reel from this week’s City Council meetings. Here’s a bonus blooper reel.

Other cities can’t learn from Minneapolis if we never do the thing that’s supposed to teach these cities a lesson. So I think we’re pretty much legally bound to go forward with the plan.https://t.co/Ml7dZYvZsY pic.twitter.com/o8o73Ulbz7

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) July 12, 2018

Timeline. Here’s a rough schedule of the comprehensive plan process going forward:
  • July 22 – end of comment period (there’s still time!)
  • Late September – new draft released
  • Late October – public hearing at City Planning Commission
  • December – City Council adoption
This content is made possible by readers like you — support Wedge LIVE on Patreon!

Beyond Apocalyptic Yard Signs

It’s a maddening time lately, with political actors denying obvious truths and using scare tactics to sidestep honest dialogue. In any debate about change, political winds favor the side with the simple message: NO. It’s easy to fearmonger, deceive, and put words on lawn signs that conjure impending annihilation.

I like to think Minneapolis is better than that. In Minneapolis we recognize real problems and act to solve them. We recognize that housing is in short supply and unacceptably expensive for too many of our neighbors. We recognize that climate change is real, and is driven by lifestyles made necessary by our region’s sprawling, auto-oriented development patterns. We recognize that nobody should have opportunity limited by the fact they can’t afford to live in the right neighborhood.

To foster an honest conversation about the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, let’s focus on this widely recognized fact: Minneapolis doesn’t have enough homes. MPR reports that the fabled “starter home” is disappearing from the Twin Cities due to a combination of factors: “land, laws, labor, and lumber.” For the sake of conversation, here’s a few examples of things affecting the cost housing:

  • Energy efficiency standards substantially add to the cost of a new home
  • Land on which to build new homes is made more expensive because of growth boundaries
  • Restrictions in zoning codes all across the Twin Cities prevent building “twin homes” (or fourplexes, or apartments, or anything that’s not a single-family home) that share a wall and sell for much less than an equivalent single-family home 
  • Car parking requirements add to the cost of every unit of housing, especially when it’s a massive parking structure

If we can agree to the facts (that these things affect the cost of housing), then — and only then — we can move to what should come next: an actual conversation about what we value.

No doubt, there are trade-offs: someone who values action to fight climate change will probably support energy efficiency standards and growth boundaries–believing sustainability is worth the added housing cost. Sometimes an action can tick off multiple priorities at once: easing density restrictions and parking requirements will move us away from the expensive, auto-oriented, exclusively single-family neighborhoods that dominate most of the Twin Cities. It’s not unheard of — even for a person with a garage — to list abundant street parking as their number one value (because we’re having an honest conversation, please don’t be ashamed to say it out loud).

What are the values served by saying the most walkable and transit-accessible areas in the state of Minnesota must be dominated by low-density, auto-oriented uses? What are the values served by saying these areas must always and forever be reserved for ever-larger single-family homes?

We’ve inherited a system, a legacy of redlining, that’s left us with increasingly exclusive neighborhoods. It’s a system where not being able to afford the neighborhood you want means you can’t afford access to a good public school; or to be near grocery stores and other amenities; or to keep yourself and your family safe from dirty air, soil, and water. It’ll take a lot more to undo that legacy, but ending exclusionary zoning is a necessary step.

They are using the word “extinction” to defend legal requirements forcing (usually large) single family homes as the only land use in huge swaths of our city, which virtually requires people to drive cars nearly everywhere they go.

— Robin Garwood (@RobinGarwood) June 28, 2018

To put a finer point on it: they’re worried about the “extinction” of single family homes, but seemingly not worried at all about the ACTUAL extinction of real, climate-threatened species.

That’s a special sort of cognitive dissonance.

— Robin Garwood (@RobinGarwood) June 28, 2018

Only one of these is real.

I’ve previously written that the Minneapolis 2040 plan is bold. But it’s only bold when judged against the low expectations set by generations of misguided policies. We’ve been numbed into thinking what we’ve been doing for decades is our only choice.

Allowing up to four families to live in a house the size of a large single-family home isn’t bold. It’s not bold to legalize three-story apartment buildings in neighborhoods adjacent to downtown. It’s not bold to allow many more people to live along major transit corridors. These are all modest changes, and the very least we should be doing to give ourselves a fighting chance at a better future.

Instead of rejecting the idea of change and holding dearly to an unsustainable status quo, I hope you’ll seek out facts about the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Tell the city council what you value.

People of the Lakes React to Minneapolis 2040

Last night, a coalition of Lakes-area neighborhood organizations hosted a public meeting in beautiful lakeside Lowry Hill. City Council Member Lisa Goodman and Heather Worthington (Minneapolis director of Long Range Planning) in the same room for a Minneapolis 2040 showdown! Turns out there was no showdown aside from Worthington referring to Goodman as Lisa McDonald. But other things did happen. Last night’s tweets have been lightly edited into the article below. 

(comment on the Minneapolis 2040 plan)

Guy from Kenwood neighborhood org is running the meeting, announces that Heather Worthington is on her way: “Stuck in traffic.” And everyone thinks that’s hilarious. I guess she should have biked. (Worthington was on her way from a Ward 11 public meeting immediately preceding this one.)

Kenwood guy says Lisa Goodman is here in the back of the room, but this plan hasn’t been to the city council. He’s very careful to make sure nobody here blames Goodman for it.

Kenwood guy with introduction highlighting key parts of the plan including “eliminating single family zoning.”

Kenwood guy asks reporters to identify themselves and I’m not brave enough to do that in this room. Profile in courage. I’m more of a columnist. It’s fine. You may recall last time I came to Lowry Hill (for a board meeting) a lady turned her head and snapped “off the record” at me.

Heather Worthington arrives and asks who in this room grew up with a septic system. I hope she’s comparing a looming environmental disaster induced by human sewage to single family zoning.

Heather Worthington comparing the comprehensive plan to a hypothetical family making long-term plans: college education for children, vacations, other longer term concerns.

Starting with pre-submitted questions. (I had no idea that was an option.)

Can this draft be changed? Will our feedback be incorporated? Worthington: “Yes, yes, yes”

What’s the basis of the research behind these population projections? Worthington says data comes from the state and federal government. She says we’re ahead of projections right now. Lots of people coming from other places. (I wrote a thing touching on some of these themes earlier this week.)

Heather Worthington invites people concerned about Livability to check out the comp plan’s environmental section. She says we are not on track to hit city’s climate action goals for 2050, and that’s a big concern for air quality.

Can you name how community input was collected? Were neighborhood organizations engaged? Yes, a multi-year process with countless meetings.

Worthington says growing racial income disparities are not sustainable. Housing cost burden is up while incomes have gone down.

What is your basis for the idea that increased density increases affordability?
Worthington: we never said that. We said we should offer more options, and right now in the city there’s only one option: single family homes. Right now, smaller single-family is replaced with bigger single family.

Worthington doesn’t want to “get trapped in the fourplex discussion.”

Worthington asks the room to imagine getting older.

Question about the impact of increased housing density on single-family property values. Heather Worthington says she is not an economist. (Neither am I but I predict the people of the lakes neighborhoods are gonna be ok.)

“Will fourplexes be subject to setbacks and footprint limitations?” Yes. Worthington reads the description of fourplexes in the comprehensive plan: 2.5 story height limits, matching scale of existing buildings.

Worthington: “If you don’t see yourselves in this plan, you should tell us.” Lady: “We don’t see ourselves in this plan!”

Worthington: “density doesn’t make housing more affordable… We never said it. We never will say it, because it’s not true.”

Analysis: I’m gonna suggest that massive swaths of the city set aside for only single family homes doesn’t make housing affordable.

Worthington reassuring them: “we understand the value of single family homes.” Worthington notes that she lives in a single family home. (These people are so very fragile about their single family homes.)

Question about education: “Plan gives short shrift to education. Please do not say it’s the responsibility of the school board.” Worthington says… it’s the responsibility of the school board. Worthington:”It’s like saying the city is responsible for the state of Minnesota’s budget crisis.”

Worthington says school board has its own budget and people here voted for school board members, right?

More property value concerns: “Have economists reviewed the plan and its impact on property tax values?” Worthington says, “that’s not what this plan is about.”

“How will deliveries and guests get here from outside the neighborhood?” Street parking is amazingly cheap says Worthington. Says there are no parts of the city you can’t get to. Worthington points out a lot of people drove to this neighborhood meeting.

Worthington: “environmentalism is a really important part of this comp plan.”

We’re entering what Kenwood guy is calling the “live mic session” 🎙️

Kenwood guy announces: “this meeting is being livetweeted… Even though I did ask reporters to identify themselves.” 😱😱😱😱 (Somebody blew the whistle! You’re lucky if I don’t do protected tweets from now on!)

Good chunk of the meeting taken up by a guy who really wants to know how many rental units there are going to be in the future.

Worthington: “I think it would be great if everyone who wanted to own a home could own a home… I think we’re over relying on that as a wealth building activity. But a lot of people don’t have a choice” to own. She points out how hard it is to predict things like condo conversions.

Representative from Minneapolis 2040 opposition group takes the microphone to plug their website.

Guy predicts “a kid will get run over when there are four story buildings there.” Worthington expressing skepticism that a four story building will hit a kid.

Lady says Minneapolis is unique in having beautiful neighborhoods “7 minutes from downtown.” She’s making historic preservation argument.

Question about whether research supports the idea that “density will move people out of their cars.”
People here see traffic congestion “all day!” They shout “all day” in unison.

Lady said she only saw three open parking spots around the lake on her way to this meeting. Says Lakes can’t handle increased density. Concerns about lack of off street parking for new multifamily homes.

It occurs to me during this meeting that I want to invite Heather Worthington to the 2nd Annual Cats of the Wedge Walking Tour and turn it into a feedback session.

Worthington compares the microphone-wielding Michael Wilson of CIDNA to Phil Donahue.

Guy asks crowd if they were on the City Council would they vote for it? Crowd responds indicating they are not at all supportive of the plan. Worthington says it would be more beneficial to get constructive feedback of what people actually want in the plan, rather than outright rejection.

Worthington accidentally referred to Lisa Goodman as “Lisa McDonald.” Oops. She caught herself.

Real estate agent wants to know what he’s supposed to tell his clients about the potential for a multi-family home next door.

Did you know that 80% of Minneapolis residents live on a block with multifamily housing on it to-day and that it’s fine?#minneapolis2040 pic.twitter.com/WAx23khZAX

— Scott Shaffer (@scttdvd) June 7, 2018

There is concern from a lady that the closest engagement meeting was far away at MLK park. She had no idea this was going on until last November.

Worthington: There’s 87 neighborhoods. We couldn’t go to them all.

(As the meeting was still happening, a former Park Board candidate tapped me on the shoulder to chastise me about my tweets. I asked her if she’d read any of the tweets. She said no.)

I earned it tonight. Please support my courageous work deep in the heart of the Lakes-area neighborhoods.

A “Pro-Family” Comprehensive Plan

One of the common criticisms you hear about the Minneapolis 2040 draft comprehensive plan, if you go to enough public meetings, is that it’s anti-family. People say if you want to support families, you’ve got to restrict the vast majority of city land for single-family homes. This criticism doesn’t hold water unless the only kind of family you’re concerned about is a white family of significant means. It turns out a lot of current Minneapolis families live in something other than a single-family home.

Comparing pro-family credentials of two very different Minneapolis neighborhoods.

If our definition of “pro-family” extends beyond the kinds of families who aren’t exclusively white and financially comfortable, we should be legalizing cheaper housing types — small-scale multi-family homes.

There’s only so much real estate to go around. Did you know the Met Council projected Minneapolis would hit 423,000 people by 2020 and we exceeded that total in 2017? We can’t all afford to live in a single-family home, or a large luxury apartment building downtown. The Minneapolis 2040 plan can be pro-family by greatly expanding the definition of which families matter in our zoning code. It doesn’t mean eliminating or outlawing single-family homes; it just means legalizing the kinds of homes families are already living in: multi-unit houses and small apartment buildings.

There’s another group of critics who take the other side of the “family” argument; they say Minneapolis has too many families already. For these folks, a plan that envisions so many new people is an environmental disaster. A surprising number of people appear to have the mistaken impression that the city’s draft comprehensive plan calls for tens of thousands of new humans to be conceived between now and 2040. To be clear, there’s nothing in the plan that incentivizes baby-making. In other words, if you like your birth control, you can keep it.

(I suppose there are those who would say implementing Chinese-style population control policies is more practical than allowing more people to live closer together, with less parking, and many fewer people driving.)

What these nominal environmentalists don’t acknowledge is that the additional people we’re planning to house in 2040 have largely already been born. The critics ignore the reality that forcing the people of 2040 to live in some as yet undeveloped, far-flung green pasture is bad for the environment. Forcing people to live far away from transit, jobs, and daily destinations fosters the car-dependency that is actually driving climate change.

In 2040, the cost of housing a family in Minneapolis will be painfully high if we don’t actively plan for enough homes of all kinds, across all neighborhoods. Planning for the future means recognizing some basic realities:

  • family sizes are shrinking, single-person households are growing, and many existing neighborhoods lack the housing diversity to serve an aging population;
  • families do actually live in apartments and fourplexes;
  • family means different things to different people, and my family may not match your traditional conception of a family;
  • immigrant families and anyone else seeking opportunity needs our city to be a welcoming place;
  • and, most crucially, humanity will continue to reproduce (pending partly on our ability to adapt to a sustainable future where people drive less by living closer to daily destinations).

I know we all want a comprehensive plan that’s pro-family. A realistic conversation that anticipates and plans for population growth is the responsible thing to do for all of our families, present and future. I hope more people take that approach when they comment on the plan.

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.

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.”
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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…”
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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.”
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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?”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”