After careful consideration and in consultation with loved ones, I’m formally resigning my position on the LHENAHDTF, effective noon tomorrow. For some of my colleagues this will come as a shock. For others, it will occur to them in three months, “Hey, whatever happened to that one guy?”
The turning point for me was election day. I walked into a crowded and bustling polling place. I saw young and old; I saw black, white, Hispanic, and Asian; I saw Whittier’s world-famous 70s mustache guy registering voters. Then I went upstairs to find two LHENA board members at a table. Eventually we got to six people.
There was an entire neighborhood of politically engaged people downstairs with absolutely no interest in formulating meaningless neighborhood development guidelines. It was at this moment that I realized what I had always known: LHENAHDTF is a big, frustrating waste of time. I’m with the people downstairs.
While I no longer have the heart to continue the struggle against a barely existent organization with imaginary power, I will not fade from public life. I want to assure the neighborhood that I have no plans to move to Whittier. I have not given up on Lowry Hill East. I will continue to live-tweet LHENA board meetings, as this still amuses me greatly.
I have a message for those, on both sides, that I’ve worked with over these last few months. I’m proud to say that we spent so many hours together not getting anything done. You are all fine people, and I know you will continue to not get anything done without me.
This is not a picture of the LHENA development task force.
This month’s Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association Housing & Development Task Force (LHENAHDTF) was sparsely attended. Were these the death-throes of a LHENA sub-committee? Either way, this is likely our last Task Force Report (more on that in a future post).
This one felt like a re-run. Task Force Leader/Board Member Bill continues to use the Murals apartments as the poster child for Greenway “junk” that won’t last 20 years. Board Member Michael Roden was there to push back on the notion that these buildings will crumble to the ground.
As usual, Bill put forth the idea that the neighborhood should push for the finest possible materials. Just like in a previous episode, I insisted he should recognize the relationship between fancy materials and fancy prices. His attitude was that a rent of $1,500 is no different than $5,000. In the past, Bill has said that gentrification is “inevitable.” Maybe he really just thinks it’s preferable.
I mentioned that I live in a building that they would have considered “junk” 40 years ago (and probably a crime against the neighborhood). Everyone at the meeting seemed to agree that the 60s-era 2.5 story walk-ups provide a large portion of our neighborhood’s affordable units. But they never seem to grasp what I’m getting at. LHENA was formed, in large part, as a reaction against those buildings. That attitude from the 1970s persists, along with many of the same people.
In the moments when local NIMBYs feel the need to burnish their pro-renter credentials, they will insist that they really, truly value the ’60s-era apartment buildings. I don’t buy it. We’re just decades past the point where they can fight to stop them.
Bill wanted to know why we’re obligated, as a neighborhood, to consider the issue of affordability as it relates to development. Basically, if you can’t afford to live in this neighborhood, go live some place else. It reminded me of the anonymous email comments from after the first meeting:
Affordable housing? That has moved to a different part of the city. People are going to have to realize that if they can’t afford a certain part of town, they need to look elsewhere.
This sentiment grosses me out–almost as much as when they were advocating for more party rooms in the appeal of Lander’s 2320 Colfax project.
Now, I’m not banging the drum for (or against) welfare or anything. I’m not asking LHENA to use their precious NRP dollars to buy up properties and fund public housing. I just want people to stop trying to pervert the housing market for their own purposes.
Like I said, a re-run. This is why the Task Force Trilogy will not have another re-packaged sequel. It would just be a blatant cash-grab.
A Facebook Page Come To Life My esteemed colleague, the representative from MRRDC, went over a long list of properties owned by KLP Real Estate LLC. It felt like a stage version of the MRRDC Facebook page (I prefer the movie). Apparently, those turkeys from Renovate to Rent have something awful planned for 27th & Girard. Reasonableness
One woman (who shows up to all the meetings) was concerned about green space. She had no problem with extreme building heights as long as more green space was included with new development. She gives me hope that our neighborhood’s older generation might someday grow into constructive members of society.
October is Superfluous Acronym Month (SAM). See if you can spot the impenetrable acronyms that we’ve needlessly inserted into this month’s Task Force report.
Like last time, nothing of substance was accomplished at the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association Housing & Development Task Force (LHENAHDTF). That’s not to say there wasn’t common ground; we agreed that good things were good, and also, that bad things were bad. We haven’t yet gone on any armed raids to bust up illegal attic conversions. But there were plenty of interesting things to report on.
Kathy Kullberg Is Wonderful Kathy Kullberg asked me how the people in my building communicate with each other, or how we would “evacuate” in some unspecified emergency. I said the resident manager would probably knock on the doors. I asked her what sort of situation she was referring to. She asked, “Do you have fire alarms?” We do. She asked if we have a TV channel for distributing building info (does she think I live on a cruise ship docked at Lake Calhoun?). Finally, I went into a highly-technical spiel about bulletin board technology.
Kathy Kullberg is wonderful. Our conversation did a lot to build cultural understanding. If only I could spend all my hours having weird conversations with Kathy K., I’d launch a thousand Twitter accounts in her honor.
Or maybe I’m the one who’s out of touch. Honest question: are community TV channels a standard amenity in our city’s new 5-story luxury skyscrapers? Kathy seemed to think the TV channel thing was a good idea. Anyhow, look for televised bulletin boards to be included in the Task Force’s final report.
Outreach Is On Me At one point during the discussion, my friend from MRRDC mentioned that our assembled group was “representative” of the neighborhood. The room was at least 80% homeowner–and almost all of those homeowners were over 50. This is an 85% renter, hugely under-40 neighborhood. This seemed like something worth clarifying; so my colleague brought it up.
This was immediately turned around on us; current and former LHENA board members insisted that we (the @WedgeLIVE news team!) were somehow responsible for outreach to renters. And this was not a friendly request; it was more an accusing, well, what are you gonna do about it? kind of thing (I guess the assumption was that a fancy-looking guy like myself could just pick up a TV remote to dial up some friends using his building’s dedicated, interactive info channel–let’s call it WebTV™).
So, I’ve taken this to heart. I’ve done some soul-searching. I even checked my online banking; turns out, the city has deposited zero dollars into my outreach budget. And my lawyer tells me I can’t force LHENA to be relevant to people who don’t enjoy historic walking tours. If somebody dropped the ball on this, it wasn’t me.
This is not me.
(It’s also important to remember that a guy who tweets about neighborhood politics doesn’t have the expansive social circle you might be imagining; I’m not exactly Whittier’s world-famous, 70s-mustache-guy.)
After being backed into a ridiculous corner on renter outreach, I did what any violent transient would do. I dropped a bomb. I said that LHENA was organized around handing out money to homeowners. At least one witness reported there were audible gasps. That sacred cow bled out, all over the table–and nobody said a word.
Here’s what I should have added: money moves people; and when you funnel money predominantly to homeowners, you’ve got a homeowners association, rather than a neighborhood association. A financial incentive to encourage neighborhood involvement would probably be a useful tool for organizing renters; I’ve heard that Stevens Square does a rental credit. I’m not saying that buying renter participation is feasible or advisable; but it’s no more frivolous than funding someone’s historic home-rehab hobby.
The best thing LHENA has going for it on outreach? Their current and former board members annoying the shit out of a couple of neighborhood renters. It’s literally the only reason we’re at the meetings. Let’s double the money we have allocated for Antagonizing Transients. That line-item is really paying dividends.
TFLBMB I hope you remembered to email LHENAHDTF@gmail.com with pictures of great buildings. Task Force Leader / Board Member Bill (TFLBMB) was thrilled to receive so many pictures of our neighborhood’s 4-story brick apartment buildings. I sent some of those in; but not because I love brick. Those buildings are just good examples of tall-ish, boxy, attractive buildings that fit well in the neighborhood. But TFLBMB latched on to the expensive materials.
Bill admits that he’s “given in” to gentrification. He said that new buildings are not going to be affordable buildings. I mostly agree (though I would argue that new construction contributes to affordability in the context of the larger housing market). But then he went further: new buildings will never be affordable, therefore they should be built with the finest materials possible. I can’t say whether or not anyone in the room was with Bill on this point.
I would suggest that our inability to build rentals in the $700 price range does not mean we should abandon the 1,000-$1,200 range. I live in a 40-year old building. It wasn’t built as affordable housing, but it’s certainly evolved into that role quite nicely. Let me invoke John Bode (the longest of long-time residents), who said we need to plan for the future–for a time when he’s “long gone.” This melted my cynical, transient heart. He was talking about solar panels; but let’s pretend he was talking about the need for more housing in the Wedge.
For context on Bill’s gentrification stuff, here’s how he justified voting against the since-abandoned FrankLyn project:
We’re supposed to be watching out for renters. We have this thing called gentrification. It’s not being mentioned. The big ‘G’ word. It’s gentrification, which is inevitable. But please call it as such. And we are going to lose some lower income property owners, and we are going to lose some lower income renters.
So when FrankLyn II comes up for discussion, will we see a pro-gentrification version of board member Bill pushing for $3,500 rents?
15 Minutes From the Ghetto The Murals building on the Greenway has apparently begun the countdown–at T-minus “15 minutes from the ghetto.” This is according to Bill. John Bode liked the phrase so much that he put his own spin on it, calling the entire swath of Greenway monstrosities, “15 minutes from a slum.” All this time I’ve been hating those Greenway cretins for their party rooms and fitness centers–not to mention the 8:1 parking ratio for all their antique sports cars. But the joke’s on them! Have fun drinking from that polluted stream, shanty-dwellers. The clock is ticking. You have 14 minutes.
Tune your TVs to the evacuation channel. The slum is nearly upon us.
Adorable Resource Can we draw a dotted line around the Bode household and declare it an Adorable Resource? John Bode was worried about non-residents participating in the forthcoming LHENAHDTF Google Group; he wanted people to include home addresses in their messages. I didn’t want to crush his spirit by telling him nobody cares enough about this stuff to commit Google Group fraud. Plus, any veteran fraudster could just dial up a Google map of the neighborhood and steal someone’s ID.
That’s it for this month’s Task Force report. Tune in again next time–the first Tuesday of November. Unless I have better things to do. Seriously though–if you have plans for that day, take me with you. Tweet me or something.
It’s nearly that time again. What time, you ask? Task force time. What task force? The LHENA Housing & Development Task Force (LHENAHDTF). Geez, it’s almost like you haven’t been paying attention. The next meeting is October 7th, 6:30 p.m., Jefferson School (Media Center), 1200 W 26th Street.
Any old fool can show up, the first Tuesday of every month, and be on the task force. Even I’m on the task force. Our task? To provide LHENA with a future talking point that goes something like this: “Listen, Mr. Developer Guy and/or Corrupt Politician–our task force spent many grueling months/years/decades working on these development guidelines, and look at you, just trampling all over them.”
At least, I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’m tired of being cynical. So, below I’ve listed some reasons every Lowry Hill East resident should be excited to come out for the Lowry Hill East Housing & Development Task Force (LHENAHDTFMRRDC).
It’s an opportunity to help formulate development guidelines that may impact the future of the neighborhood.
Get to know your neighbors. It might surprise you to learn that many of them probably wish people like you didn’t live here.
You’ll have thought-provoking conversations that–for one evening every month–make you question why you even moved to this neighborhood.
Meetings are scheduled for two hours. But if you beg hard enough, you can probably get away after 90 minutes.
Take pride in knowing that–best case–your hard work will result in a finished product that is vague and meaningless pablum. Worst case? It will offend your most deeply held moral sensibilities.
A lifetime’s worth of fun. Literally. There is no known time-frame for the task force to complete its mission. I think they’re just waiting for some of us to move to Whittier.
Board Member/Task Force Leader Bill usually brings enough candles for the whole group.
Your arguments don’t hold a candle to Bill. He holds his own.
Still not convinced to come out for the Lowry Hill East Housing & Development Task Force (LHENAHDTFMRRDCHealyProject.org)? Then you can always send your development-related comments to LHENAHDTF@gmail.com.
Here are some tidbits from the recent meeting of the LHENA Housing and Development Task Force. I’m repeating them here because I have no respect for the First Rule of Wedge Club. Names have been redacted (except board member Bill, because he knew joining the LHENA Board would mean living in the spotlight). These are the kinds of arguments you might encounter while attending a meeting of your local neighborhood association. Proceed with caution.
Shortly after starting the meeting, a nice, reasonable-seeming woman told us about the loud, young renters walking/biking past her open windows late at night. She says these people are the product of the new buildings along the Greenway. She rarely uses AC (same here). Loud jerks are annoying (I kinda hate loud jerks too). On one occasion, she asked a passing group to quiet down. They rudely told her she should leave the city. Sounds like a crummy experience. When pressed, she admits she can’t be sure they even live in the neighborhood (maybe they’re bar-patrons parked in the neighborhood).
To me, this is a story about jerks. To her, it’s a story about people who live in apartment buildings. I suppose, in the context of a meeting about development, this was an argument against building a certain kind of housing. This is the kind of thing that even the quietest, most sober renter might take personally.
Board Member Bill
I feel like it’s been at least three meetings in a row that board member Bill has told a story about how he can’t find anyone living car-free or car-lite. Usually it’s about his tenants. This time it was a family next door who tried and failed to pare down to one car. Bill needs a more diverse group of friends. This is his reflexive reaction when topics like reduced parking requirements or transportation alternatives come up.
Board member Bill loves affordability, porches and high quality materials. He insists porches are not an “amenity” (I would consider them a bonus feature. I don’t have one, yet still feel like I’m living that First-World Lifestyle). Someone chimed in that, for the sake of affordability, porches should not be a necessary component of new development. He asked, so you wanna ban porches? I hope he was only pretending to be confused.
Bill is a gentrification aficionado. The word just rolls off his tongue. Constantly. So it’s fun when he refuses to acknowledge the tension between affordability and the extra stuff he’d like included in new development.
Second rule of Wedge Club
Never talk about supply and demand. For your own sake. Unless it doesn’t make you crazy to hear a room full of educated adults pretend that a fixed supply of an ever more popular thing won’t lead to higher prices. For many of the home-owning veterans of Wedge Club, old houses are the key to affordability all by themselves. Period. End of sentence. Another thing about Wedge Club: I guess gentrifying via home rehab isn’t a thing that exists in the real world; it’s confined to reality TV.
Bill has no use for supply and demand. Too “academic.” He has the real world experience, as a landlord, to know how to keep rents low. Also, Bill has no idea where the “myth” came from that property owners and renters have competing interests in our neighborhood. Again, I hope Bill is pretending to be confused.
In response to the teardown paranoia I was hearing, I brought up that no new apartments have been built north of 28th street since 1974. Bill’s response was like one of my fake tweets come-to-life. He said nothing’s been built in 40 years because the neighborhood was a “cesspool.” And I guess now that it’s not a cesspool, the Wedge will be razed.
Dear Bill: it’s been like hand-to-hand combat to get something built on a parking lot at Franklin and Lyndale (a project that was recently derailed). Mike Crow has been trying to sell his really old, arguably-dubiously-definitely-not-historic house at 2320 Colfax since what–2007? Building in this neighborhood is pretty damn difficult. Let’s not pretend to be confused on this point.
(I didn’t intend to beat on Bill so hard, but Tim Dray wasn’t talking much. Tim keeps his cards close to his chest. One interesting non-verbal observation from the meeting: @Uptownlogic really seems to look to Tim for guidance.)
The Woman of My Dreams
There was one person at the meeting who was truly a breath of fresh air (and I mean this sincerely). When “density” came up–and everyone else was trying to massage their way into seeming sorta-kinda pro-growth–this lady just flat out said she was against it. She doesn’t want more density in her neighborhood.
Dear lady who I disagree with on everything: you’re the best. Can we have regular honesty sessions together? I think we could actually disagree in a way that doesn’t make me hate your guts. You talk about stuff without presuming me to be a big dummy–and it sets my heart afire.
Don’t give me a history lesson; or fear-monger about teardowns or development-induced crime; or give me the gentrification spiel. Just tell me what you really think: Minneapolis has too many people already.
I think I compromised my journalistic integrity by joining this LHENA Development Task Force. But now I don’t have to find an inside source for the meeting notes. My favorite part is the refreshingly honest comment at the end–submitted by email. This person has no need for the “affordability” cudgel. Is the rent too high? There’s an open lot in north Minneapolis with your name on it.
Affordable housing? That has moved to a different part of the city. People are going to have to realize that if they can’t afford a certain part of town, they need to look elsewhere.