Mpls 2040 Planning Commission Live Coverage

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

Below is a lightly edited twitter transcript of five hours of spirited — sometimes angry, sometimes weird, sometimes thoughtful — testimony at last night’s Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission’s President Brown asks people to respect the buzzer because many people are waiting to speak over the next three hours.

Loud applause for the speaker who says Ward 13 is opposed because they’re the only ones who got a mailer. She also suggests the city has received a large quantity of feedback on postcards pre-printed by her group, and wants to know where those postcards are.

Longtime homeowner, who is white, says “I feel like I’m becoming marginalized.” Raises some eyebrows.

Guy says people prefer single family homes and he doubts people who wrote the plan actually use transit. (I heard this guy make the same comment at a Ward 13 neighborhood meeting last week, and I’ve been assured by someone who works at City Hall that the plan’s drafters do actually use transit.)

Speaker says this will only benefit singles and couples. “What about families with children?”

Congratulations to the handsome man holding a Neighbors for More Neighbors sign on the livestream.

Former Ward 10 Council Member Lisa McDonald says she “came out of retirement” to work against this plan. Calls it a “top down plan” and that people weren’t notified: “You didn’t let people know.”

Next speaker says the 2040 plan calls opponents “elitists, racists.” (This accusation is not in the plan and never has been. There is no part of the plan that says if you don’t like this, you’re a racist. There was a section in the first draft of the plan that described in very blunt detail a history of “racist” housing policies going back many decades. The word racist has been edited out of the second draft, and the language in that section has been softened. This hasn’t stopped certain people from Southwest Minneapolis, including their Council Member Linea Palmisano, from being endlessly disgruntled about it.)

Guy says don’t change the zoning citywide, just “change the zoning in some areas.” (guess which areas those are.)

Lady says if the plan is adopted she will end up having “different kinds of neighbors… Tenants.” She is against this. She likes her neighborhood as it is.

Guy speaks up in support and it restores my faith in humanity.

(The city’s system where you have to get to City Hall at 3 PM to sign in to testify for a 4:30 PM meeting is not ideal. It creates a situation where the first hour of the meeting is dominated by the kind of people who take it personally when you force them to read long passages about systemic racism.)

“We are people, not a social experiment… I ask you to start all over again.”

“This is neither comprehensive nor a plan.”

“…complete disregard for environmental impact of radical upzoning.”

Guy who I recognize from his involvement in a multiyear lawsuit to stop/delay a plan for housing, says “some of us have been at this for years.” By “at this” I assume he means suing and testifying against new housing. He ends his testimony by suggesting, “Follow the money.”

Opponent says, “You shouldn’t be tearing down our neighborhood.” (There is no plan to tear down your neighborhood, but there are those people currently tearing down homes to build 6,000 square foot single family homes. Maybe let’s all go protest a mansion teardown in Ward 13?)

Ward 13 resident and business owner is very angry to be called prejudiced. (The thing is, nobody did. Nobody called you that. You just read the word “racist” in the plan and it hurt your feelings.) Says she’s been considering upgrades to her home, but now she’s reconsidering because it’s just gonna become a “pile of rubble.”

Guy steps up to the microphone to demand that Council Member Palmisano receive answers to her questions. Pity the poor powerless council member, relying on random guy off the street to petition the city on her behalf. Palmisano has taken to routinely telling her constituents how powerless she is and they are taking it to heart.

Next speaker in support says duplexes are fine! She supports the plan.

Plan opponent says there are single family homes and duplexes in her neighborhood that includes Uptown — forgets to mention there are apartments too.

As we find ourselves amongst the affordable housing proponents of Ward 13 (it’s printed on the anti-2040 signs they brought into the room), a reminder: they will fight you to the death if you suggest raising their taxes to pay for it.

Guy trying to break through the negativity, says he has a “positive suggestion.” Says let’s “maximize housing” under the current zoning. (This idea of “maximizing” would require a hell of a lot of eminent-domain-style BULLDOZING. For all the people in single family homes or small multi-unit houses which are zoned for a greater density, to “maximize” would mean they would need to vacate to make space for that larger building. “Maximizing” current zoning is more complicated than people pretend. Zoning is not destiny. There’s a portion of my neighborhood that’s had permissive zoning for decades while seeing very little development because “maximizing zoning” is just not a real thing. This is why bulldozing concerns are extremely overblown.)

Opponent calling for incrementalism of only allowing what already exists on a block and adjacent blocks. I think he underestimates the degree to which that opens up wide swaths city to fourplexes.

We’ve got a reference to “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Speaker says three-story buildings won’t make the city better. She’s moving to Richfield. (City Pages’ Best Suburb 2018!)

“Homeowners have a vested interest in their communities that renters do not.”

Someone compares the plan to tar sands pipelines and mining. I repeat, a plan that legalizes triplexes and apartment buildings on transit has been compared to tar sands pipelines.

Very loud applause for person bravely opposing a 4 story apartment building on transit. (Project at 36th and Bryant. Lawsuit ongoing.)

We have our first “bodybag” reference.

Guy says we need “diversity of housing choices.” Says the big fear of 2040 opponents — BULLDOZING — is already happening, and it produces huge single family homes. He wants to clear up that bit of misinformation.

Guy says: no really, more people living in a city close to destinations is actually much better for the environment. This is contrary to some of the other environmentalists you’ve heard from today.

Guy raises the volume and calls out the “arrogance and ignorance” of the city. He’s gonna hold the city accountable for the “destruction of my neighborhood” and all the other neighborhoods. He says, “wake up.”

Guy announces he drives a hybrid, which gives him the credibility to call the Hennepin Ave reconstruction “asinine.” I suppose this criticism is related to a bike lane or loss of parking.

Same guy: “…my death will be hastened.” Wow, hold off on the plan then.

“Take the current zoning and build on that.”

Guy announces he has master’s degree in planning. Informs us that Minneapolis was developed around the streetcar and not the Model T.

Peggy asks you to think of the children. She supports the plan. (Peggy from the Wedge is my Wedge friend. A lot of people think I don’t have friends but Peggy proves otherwise.)

Downtown Guy feels very strongly that neighbors should be able to veto your triplex if you want to convert from a single family home. This plan won’t let them do that. Has he met any of the people in this room and does he want them wielding any authority over his life? He wants a plebiscite. Says put it to a vote. People in the room love Downtown Guy. Downtown Guy for Mayor! (We just had an election last year.)

“I’m not a racist because I’m against this plan. I take real umbrage against that. The people you see here are not racists.” (Again, the plan described the historic roots of “racist” housing policies and you took it personally. Stop complaining about being called racist, unless your goal is to sound very racist. If anyone at the city had actually called you a racist you’d be howling their names into that microphone.)

“Building more housing in Minneapolis is a pro labor position,” says SEIU guy. His union members need homes. He adds: forcing more long car commutes is a threat to humanity.

Interesting theory from 2040 supporter who says when he started renting in his neighborhood he paid 700 and it went up to 1100 and no new housing had been built during that time.

Bad news. Handsome guy is gone. Who will hold my @MoreNeighbors sign?

Next speaker: “I don’t wanna live in a condo. I want my single family home.” Good news, you can keep it.

People from the suburbs park in her neighborhood to access the good transit downtown.

The complaint you always hear about new neighbors/renters: “they all have cars.”

Guy wants an environmental impact study. I want an environmental impact study of the status quo.

Guy announces he’s a landlord, says “from experience renters aren’t as engaged in the neighborhood.”

A young person, possibly a renter, trying to poke holes in the theory that they all have cars: “I’m living proof that you can walk, bike, and take transit year round.”

“Cities are our last best chance” to make a dent in climate change.

Guy supports multi-unit housing in his Ward 11 single-family neighborhood. He agrees with UN climate scientists that automobile emissions are killing us. He favors modifying our land-use patterns in a way that puts people closer to destinations and reduces car trips. Anti-crowd calls call out as he goes past his two minutes: “TIME, TIME, TIME!”

Thanks to our backup Handsome Man for showing up told hold a Neighbors for More Neighbors sign on camera. I feel so much better now.

Next guy’s clearly from New Zealand. What does he know about what’s good for America? He’s opposed to single family zoning.

Opponent says, “It hasn’t happened in Seattle. It hasn’t happened in Denver.” (On one hand, opponents say what Minneapolis doing is entirely unprecedented. On the other, they give you a long list of cities which they say have done just this thing, but have failed.)

“I don’t think this plan is gonna do what people think it does.”

The backup Handsome Man isn’t really visible on camera but take my word for it, he’s almost as handsome as our first-stringer.

“We can do it in other ways instead of taking over all the single-family homes.” (Remember, you can keep your single family home. Nobody is taking them over, and there will be no death panels deciding who lives and who dies.)

Opponent says the plan is too divisive. (The cheapest of cheap arguments: You didn’t do exactly as I wanted, I howled in agony over it, and my endless howling is proof your ideas are bad.)

Another call for an environmental impact study.

“This plan is polarizing our community.” (Again, my howling proves your plan is terrible.)

Guy in an 11-plex speaking in support. (11-plexes everywhere!)

Fun moment as Carol Becker sits next to a hero holding a Neighbors for More Neighbors sign and is now in a sign visibility duel. I’m watching it on the big screen.

Opponent says, “Please remove triplexes from all interior 1 districts” because there’s no limitations on number of “people and animals.”

“I don’t want you to destroy my single-family neighborhood or anyone else’s.”

Soon-to-be-mom says she’s supporting this plan for her daughter who will be 22 in 2040. Neighborhoods with access to daily destinations are too scarce and too expensive. She lives in an apartment. “Please don’t fear families like mine.”

Supporter who said to opponents that you can keep your single-family home is my hero.

(Sorry for giving short-shrift to supporters, who are speaking very eloquently, but I save my fingers for the most biting concerns.)

This just in to the Wedge LIVE mobile newsroom. I stand in solidarity with my colleagues at the Star Tribune.

Speaker wants people to have the option to live in walkable neighborhoods across the city. Places where if you have to drive, it can be a short drive.
She responds to the idea, voiced by some here, that this plan is an “experiment.” Says maybe our current land use patterns are the actual failed experiment. Let’s “return to traditional neighborhood development.”

Guy with reality check: “the nature of the world is change” He admits he lives in a home with “character.” Wants to have a choice to stay in his neighborhood when he gets older. That requires some housing diversity.
Finishes on a philosophical note: “We don’t own anything. We’re all just stewards of the future.”

Opponent with visions of our dystopic future: “10, 20, 30-story towers in the middle of our lakes.”

Someone has announced that Uptown is dead.

Three hours in, and the testimony period is extended another hour, to 8:30 PM.

Renter, responding to anti-renter sentiment here tonight, announces that he gardens and actually takes care of the exterior of his home. “I’m invested in my home, in my neighborhood, in my city.” Says if you want people to have housing, then “legalize it!”

Tall guy who lives in the former servants quarters of a triplex, says he has to duck his head in his apartment. (Why doesn’t @Mpls2040 address that?)

Testimony on behalf of 98 year old father who couldn’t be here: “cities are for people, not cars or buildings.”

Supporter says recent UN climate report “makes it clear we need to step up the pace of change.” She grew up in a multi-racial family, in a neighborhood where duplexes were converted to single-family homes. The neighborhood got less diverse. Transit got worse.

Opponent says all our old homes are asbestos-infested poison-bombs so we can never replace them.

Homeowner says they watched their home explode in value in just two years. Says this might be indicative of a housing shortage. Let’s regulate homes around “form, not number of units.” Says we need to expand our conception of what makes a family. Families are changing.

Oof, guy pulls a devastating switcheroo. Says he agrees with all that’s been said about preserving neighborhood character. That’s why he supports the plan. People are what makes the character of a neighborhood. “If you wanna save our neighborhoods and their people” then pass the plan.

Love that this guy is an eminent domain lawyer. You hear me? TIM KEANE IS AN EMINENT DOMAIN LAWYER. He’s coming for your homessssssss!

“Let’s throw this plan in the woods where it belongs,” says Tim Keane, an eminent domain lawyer, and member of the radical red yard sign extremist organization that has people believing the 2040 plan will subject your single-family home to eminent domain. Ironic, because he’s an actual eminent domain lawyer.

Supporter tells a subtle joke, room doesn’t laugh, but in the silence Commissioner Rockwell snorts loudly.

Supporter chides conspiracy theorists on the other side. He says the plan wasn’t paid for by Soros or developers. He’s read the plan. It’s not radical. Doesn’t understand the anger unless it’s from those who wanted it to go further.

Longtime resident alert: 30 year resident of the 11th Ward supports the plan.

I want to say I’m very touched by all the people who came out, took some time from their day to support a forward-looking long range plan for Minneapolis.

Speaker says let’s not push people to live out in the middle of nowhere. Minneapolis is compact, with good access to downtown. There’s no part of the city that couldn’t handle an apartment building.

Seniors for @Mpls2040! It’s a thing! “We need all types of housing, all over the city, so everybody has a choice.”

Opponent unloading hard truths:

  • “I’m not anti density. I’m pro smart density.”
  • “Our transit system is not built to handle what’s in the 2040 plan.” There’s not enough money. “We don’t know who the governor’s gonna be.”
  • “It’s Minnesota. There’s winter.”

“None of you have the balls to stop this,” says the elected official named Carol Becker (who you might remember tried to steal the name of the website you are reading right now, in a bizarre case of trademark trolling).

Number of times Carol Becker said some variation of “you don’t have the balls” while speaking to the Planning Commission? Five.

Carol is upset about how the 2040 plan is dividing the community. This is funny, because in my experience Carol’s message of unity boils down to: you must agree with her or she’ll file some fraudulent paperwork in an attempt to steal all your shit.

Supporter says: “Legalize housing for people who need housing.”

Speaker says there is an “urgent need for affordable housing.” She seems not to take seriously the concerns of many who spoke in opposition: “There’s a difference between not being able to find parking and not being able to find housing.” But she’s also skeptical of the 2040 plan being able to help people who need affordable housing: “This comp plan doesn’t do anything to help them.”

Supporter can’t believe what he’s hearing: “I’ve heard people use climate change to argue against the plan.”

“Why are we afraid of a neighborhood by neighborhood referendum?”

“We are all in favor of reducing greenhouses gases..” we just want to do it “thoughtfully”

“I am Ward 13” (I think she meant to say “I am in Ward 13,” but I enjoyed this  accidental moment of solidarity.)

“I’ve made great investment in my house and in my neighborhood…I don’t care who lives next to me, I just don’t want six people looking down on me” from next door. “I love people, I wanna live near people… Just be more thoughtful.”

Lady calls out Heather Worthington for not being in the room, then Heather Worthington appears out of nowhere like the Boogeyman she is.

At this moment, we hit speaker 109!

“A wise man once told a king, ‘don’t sell the crown jewels.'” I think the king meant don’t let more people live near my lake house.

All these calls for environmental study reminds me of the endless calls for study from climate change deniers.

First speaker to thank the city for all the free food during the endless public engagement process. I echo this sentiment. 🥙

We’re almost done with our 4 hours of testimony which is a good time to point out we get to do this all over again in two weeks! See you November 14, same time, same council chambers.

I think this is our second former city council member speaking against the plan.

Supporter recently moved to downtown out of concern for aging in place. Housing options weren’t available in her old neighborhood. She calls for more housing choice and diversity.

Opponent urges us to “Please don’t forget about pregnant mothers”

A pregnant mother of a future 22-year-old tweets at me:

“Nuclear families are decreasing…” Another reminder that families are changing while laws regarding housing have not.

Recent townhouse purchaser feels like he won the lottery. Value exploded after he bought his home. He wouldn’t be able to afford it today. “We need more housing in Minneapolis. We need it now.” Says you shouldn’t feel like you won the lottery if you own a home in the city.

Last comment comes from a renter in Ward 7. Caretaker who gets a rent credit. Sees new applicants for building. Sees rents rising rapidly. Takes bus every day. Did it all winter and is still alive. Doesn’t even own an umbrella. Walks to the theater with her partner.

Testimony is over and commissioners discuss and make amendments.

Commissioner Rockwell with a couple of amendments; one of them adding language about greenways and protected bikeways.

City Council Member Schroeder says he’ll be brief because he’ll see this again when it comes to the council. Says affordability needs to be “baked in.” That’s why he’s working with President Bender on the inclusionary zoning policy to mandate affordability.

Commissioner Coleman has an amendment to “protect solar air rights.” Rockwell worries about  hypothetical “1910, 1-story commercial with solar on Lake Street.” Asks, do we preclude development in that case? Coleman satisfies Rockwell’s concern by stressing it’s about shifting burden of accommodating the solar from the solar owner to the developer.

Rockwell says the plan has the potential to make the city a much better, more sustainable place. Quotes his wife: “change requires change.”

Rockwell says he was amused by people tonight who divided themselves into supporters and opponents of the plan. It’s 450 pages. Nobody could possibly support or oppose all of it.

Rockwell says Minneapolis has a responsibility to lead. Other cities will follow our example–if we go forward or pull back.

He pushes back on idea there’s lack of evidence for this plan. Quoting UN climate report and its list of remedies: density of people and places and non-car transportation options. “That’s what this plan does.”

“To not do these things quickly is a form of climate denial… We’re out of time to make changes like this.”

For those looking for a plan with more detail and specifics, Rockwell says, “This is a policy document, not a law.” It will guide more specific action in years to come. Rockwell is better in person than on the TV.

Coleman reassuring people the city has been very deliberate in this 2 year public process. Her motivation for supporting: “It’s a plan for the future and we need to think about change that’s needed for the future.”

Coleman: “In the lifetime of my children, we’re going to make or break this.” (Meaning the planet)

Coleman: “we’re not raising 6 person households anymore.” Duplexes and triplexes are reasonable in that context.

Commissioner Luepke-Pier noting lack of geographic diversity in public comments tonight.

Luepke-Pier: “literally in the climate we’re in, we have to do something now.” Though, she’s “not comfortable with the triplex thing.”

Luepke-Pier: “this is only the beginning.” Rezoning comes next year.

I want to thank Nick Magrino for not getting jeered tonight.

Magrino commends the public, says aside from the “balls commenter” everyone was respectful.

Magrino says over the past decades the city has been very responsive to a group of a few hundred people who did really good work in the 80s. Says it’s a good thing that the city departed from that style of outreach for the 2040 plan, by doing a much more thorough and expansive outreach.

The collapse of human civilization is imminent, says Magrino. Land use and transportation is the way to attack that, not just recycling our batteries.

Commissioner Cowgill is excited to see everyone who came out to comment on a 400 page document. I’m just excited to see his hair in person.

Did he just misquote Lincoln? Cowgill assures me he was correctly quoting Bob Dylan misquoting Lincoln.

Commissioner Sweasy is voting against the plan: “If the goal is affordable housing, to me that case has not been made.” Skeptical that supply affects prices. Worries the city will become mostly apartment buildings.

Sweasy with an odd argument, says rezoning will be so contentious and time-consuming that it will bring city functions virtually to a halt.

Kronzer, trying to address concerns about lack of transportation infrastructure, says plan concentrates most density along existing transit.

President Brown says testimony focused on so few issues that it’s a testament to how non-controversial this 400 page plan is. (I think this is wrong. It really just shows that people these days get most of their news from yard signs. I’m not entirely joking.)

Brown says population growth is happening. He calls this a debate about “where in the city that population growth should go.”
Brown says affordable housing policies in the 2040 plan are “much more aggressive” than the status quo.

The vote is 8-1 in favor of forwarding the Minneapolis 2040 plan to the City Council. Sweasy is the lone vote against.

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