This weekend, HGTV personality Nicole Curtis renewed her efforts to save 2320 Colfax by encouraging her nationwide fan-base to email the entire Minneapolis City Council. Unfortunately, her far-flung fans have been misinformed by months of error-riddled Facebook rants (seemingly banged out on her iPhone with a hammer). It’s only a slight exaggeration to say most of them believe 2320 Colfax was stolen from Nicole after she inherited it from her great-grandfather T.P. Curtis.
Here’s a sampling of the kinds of things the City Council will find in their inboxes Monday morning, courtesy of Rehab Nation.
Real estate types are some shady characters.
Shrewd political analysis.
America: Downhill Since 1893.
Freedom isn’t free.
A healthy distrust of government institutions.
Maybe we should knock it all down and start over?
But really though, Minneapolis is kinda lucky.
Do it for the ones with an unbreakable bond to a city they might one day visit.
Give it a drive-by. You’ll love it.
But they’re not all rural types. Check out the civic pride on this city-dweller.
Don’t select Lisa Bender in your Fantasy Electoral Draft.
Get these motherf-ing snakes off my motherf-ing email!
I dunno about President… what about Nicole 2017?
|24/7/365 livestream of my forever unused parking spot.|
My apartment comes with a parking spot. I don’t use it, but I pay for it. My apartment, my parking spot–it’s a package deal. It sits empty through spring, summer, and fall. Sometimes a parking scofflaw appropriates my spot as their own (this happens rarely). But I don’t care, because I don’t need it. In the winter my parking spot fills with snow, and management posts a sign that says move your car, we’re plowing the parking lot. Lucky me, I never worry about having my car towed, because I don’t own one. Still, I pay my share for the plowing.
Aside from the ample parking, my building is pretty no-frills. It doesn’t provide every unit with a bicycle or a bus pass. Those are the kinds of amenities that might entice me to choose living in a building that offered them. Even though I support the idea of a 1:1 bike to bedroom ratio, it’s probably a bad idea for Minneapolis to mandate bicycle minimums for new development. The same goes for parking.
This isn’t to say that I expect everyone in my building, or my neighborhood, to go car-free. Allow me to modify a metaphor previously made famous by Nick Magrino: If Minneapolis abolished a hypothetical law mandating a Keurig minimum, I wouldn’t interpret that as anti-Keurig, but rather giving people the freedom to choose whether they want to own a Keurig (and relieving them of the obligation to buy those expensive K-cups). You could still choose to own one. But my neighbors–one of whom drinks coffee by the potful and another who doesn’t drink coffee at all–wouldn’t be required to subsidize the bulk purchase of 40 Keurigs for the entire building.
Strict parking minimums make the assumption that everyone is living the same car-dependent lifestyle, thereby spreading the cost of car ownership to people who don’t own cars. This should trouble anyone who cares about housing affordability. Fortunately, Council Member Lisa Bender has a plan to ease parking minimums, and the costs that go with them (hint: it’s far more than the price of a Keurig):
Underground parking costs up to $25,000 per stall to build, [Developer Ross Fefercorn] said, and requires the accompanying development to have a larger footprint. It also raises taxes, maintenance and insurance costs.
“If you can build a building without underground parking and you have residents who will live in it, your cost of building the project is greatly reduced,” Fefercorn said. “You pass on the savings to your tenants.”
Based on some of the reaction in certain local comment sections, you’d think this was a proposal to prohibit car ownership. It’s not. Neither is this a proposal to prohibit the construction of more parking (though I once listened in admiration as Council Member Lisa Goodman sang the virtues of a parking maximum on Channel 79). This proposal is only about easing the parking minimum in transit-friendly areas of Minneapolis.
No matter what happens with this proposal, developers will continue to include lots of parking in many of their new projects. Just like they’ll continue to offer gyms and dog parks; these are amenities that certain people want, and somehow it is provided to them without regulating dog park minimums. Car storage is likewise an amenity that a lot of people will continue to expect, meaning there’s unlikely to be a parking shortage anytime soon.
Parking has a cost, just like a gym or a dog park. While shopping for housing it would be nice to have the freedom to choose how much parking you need and, more importantly, how much parking you can afford.
Cross-posted at streets.mn.
On January 12th, the Whittier Alliance held a tense and somewhat controversial meeting for the purpose of amending their bylaws. Among the more contentious aspects of the new bylaw language was the section giving the Whittier Alliance’s Board of Directors the power to screen Board candidates according to subjective criteria. A clause was also added to require Board candidates to have been a member of the organization for at least six months (membership is typically activated by signing in at a meeting).
It should be noted that the Whittier Alliance was improperly screening candidates prior to this change in their bylaws. Last March, a number of Whittier residents complained to the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) department regarding the neighborhood’s election process. In June, NCR sent the Whittier Alliance a letter, admonishing them for screening candidates and other infractions–like closing registration almost an hour before the election’s scheduled start, denying eligible voters the chance to cast a ballot.
|Whittier Alliance’s old language is typical of the vast majority of Minneapolis neighborhood organizations. The new, more restrictive language passed 40-16.|
There were quite a few people at last week’s meeting who were eager to suggest amendments. Unfortunately, the first person called on by Board Chair Erica Christ was a Robert’s Rules ninja, and the new bylaws were adopted without a single amendment having the chance to be heard. One older woman explained her support of the new restrictions by alluding to an unspecified neighborhood that had its bank account drained by some unspecified people.
(Obligatory note for those who might say these changes are justified by a certain disruptive individual: Amending bylaws in a way that restricts participation seems, at best, a misguided solution to a legitimate problem, especially in light of Whittier’s election issues last year.)
Whittier Alliance’s Executive Director Marian Biehn says the new language is common among non-profit groups. In the wake of this meeting, I read (okay, methodically skimmed) the bylaws of 70 Minneapolis neighborhood organizations (results here). The comparison shows that Whittier is one of the few neighborhood groups with highly restrictive election procedures.
Comparison of Neighborhood Organization Bylaws
Among the small number of Minneapolis neighborhoods with unusually exclusionary election processes, all have large minority and/or renter populations. This would seem to exacerbate the existing problem of unrepresentative neighborhood organizations.
Of the 70 Minneapolis neighborhood organization bylaws surveyed:
- Only two neighborhoods prohibit same-day voter registration: The Folwell Neighborhood Association (71% non-white) and Ventura Village (79% non-white).
- 62 neighborhoods have no length of membership requirement to be eligible to run for a leadership position.
- Six neighborhoods have length of membership requirements of 30 days or longer before you can run for a leadership position. All six are high renter, high minority, or both.
- Three neighborhoods require candidates to have been a member for 6 months or longer: Whittier (6 months), Prospect Park (1 year), and Marcy Holmes (6 months). Each of those neighborhoods have high renter populations (83%, 74%, and 84%).
- The Whittier Alliance is the only neighborhood whose bylaws contain anything resembling this sort of subjective qualification for Board candidates: “shall not have committed an act of malice or defamation against the Whittier Alliance or any member of the Board of Directors or otherwise disrupt the aims and purposes of the corporation.”
- The Jordan Area Community Council has the most onerous attendance requirement for leadership candidates (must attend 3 meetings over the last election cycle). Interesting fact about Jordan: The neighborhood was 64% white in 1990; today it’s 16% white.
- Whittier and Jordan are among seven neighborhood organizations that prohibit candidate nominations on the day of elections.
Other findings of note:
- Two neighborhood organizations set aside seats specifically for renters and homeowners: Cedar-Riverside and Sumner Glenwood.
- Bottineau and Linden Hills allow for absentee voting, mercifully eliminating the poll tax of a three hour annual meeting.
- Sumner Glenwood sets aside two seats for persons aged 16 to 18.
- The Kenwood-Isles Area Association allows itself the ability to assess an annual fee, which is something the city prohibits.
- The Kenny Neighborhood Association has a “Whistle Blower” policy.
- Lowry Hill East and nine other organizations specify no minimum age for membership. So conceivably, babies on Board!
Cross-posted at streets.mn.
|Luther Carlson’s house at 2301 Colfax.|
For Luther Carlson (Longtimer, Class of ’72) 1938 was the bad old days; a time when houses were ill-maintained, and children were scarce. Luther refused to sell out, despite being a virtual island in a sea of transients. We present his story below.
|Luther Carlson in 1972.|
|Rhymes with “transientsy.” Coincidence?|
|Luther’s no sell-out.|
|The Wedgie Awards were a real thing. We’re bringing them back.|
At tonight’s LHENA holiday party we’ll be handing out trophies to some of the neighborhood’s wackiest characters to honor their amazing performances in 2014. We’re revealing the names of Wedgie recipients in advance on the blog, but don’t tell the winners. And you should still come to the holiday party. I don’t want to be the only transient turd in the punch bowl. That can get unbearably awkward.
- Lady who asked during a meeting, “who’s the Palestinian guy we don’t like?” This was when she couldn’t remember Basim Sabri’s name.
- The time LHENA coordinator Tina Erazmus’ daughter sabotaged her mom’s ringtone, then called the phone during the final presentation of Lander’s 2320 Colfax to LHENA. It played for ten seconds at full volume before Tina realized she was the obnoxious hip-hopper in the room.
- The time the Board Member from MRRDC proposed that LHENA hold a joint fundraiser with Healy Project, formalizing the alliance between our neighborhood’s Axis of Long-Timers (LHENAMRRDCHealyProject.org).
The Wedgie goes to: The time the LHENA Board was considering two candidates for appointment to a single open board seat. After a vigorous 5-minute campaign that included one of the candidates (Pet Supply Guy) explaining he would be unable to attend any board meetings, there was a tie. Following much deliberation, the LHENA board broke the tie in favor of transient hero, political juggernaut, and guy who CAN attend the meetings, Michael Roden.
- Task Force Leader Bill’s contention that certain Greenway buildings are “15 minutes from a ghetto.”
- Board Member Bill invoking “the big G word” (gentrification) as a reason to oppose development at Franklin & Lyndale.
- Months later, in his capacity as Landlord Bill (I guess?), he would advocate for the neighborhood to demand only the finest materials be used in new developments; that there is no difference between $5,000 rents and $1,500 rents; and that it’s not really the neighborhood’s responsibility to push for housing affordability anyway.
|This movie is not about LHENA’s
disastrous relationship with Basim Sabri.
As the year comes to a close, let’s give a second viewing to a story that fell through the cracks.
The Channel 79 production of the September 30, 2014 Z&P Committee hearing only has 90-some views (it was a limited release). Still, it made an impression. Imagine it as a movie where a swarthily corrupt developer (a composite character loosely based on Michael Lander and Basim Sabri; played by Alfred Molina) proposes to construct rental housing at 2320 Colfax with few amenities. After a bunch of underwhelming speeches, it climaxes with William Wells (played by Sally Field) concealing MRRDC inside his burqa, and fleeing to the southern Wedge, where they find luxurious refuge and ample parking (in the party room at Flux). Here’s the script.
Alright, maybe that metaphor doesn’t hold up. But listen, they really did appeal 2320 Colfax, in part, because it would have no party room, no gym, and no staff in the lobby. This from the crowd who’s not shy about shoehorning gentrification-based criticism into their arguments against all new development. I realize many gentrification complaints are made with a wink and a nod, and a healthy dose of the kitchen sink; but it’s still worth taking time to highlight the nonsense.
|This was the closing argument on the day history died at 2320.|
And then there was Anders Christensen’s delightfully obnoxious performance in the role he was born for.
Some background on Anders for the uninitiated: he’s a former LHENA president (1979), house historian, real estate tycoon, house restorer, master of frivolous lawsuits, gofundme magnate, and Wedge walking tour guide. While he no longer lives in the Wedge, he loves our neighborhood’s old homes harder than ever. Those so-called “experts” who would declare any of our houses to be “not historic” will find themselves derided by Anders as silo-sucking fourth-ring-suburbanites. Perhaps most importantly, he is the spiritual leader of the notorious Facebook group/doomsday cult called The North Wedge Historians.
Anders introduced himself to the committee as an advocate, not for houses, but for “low-income and vulnerable adults.” He then launched into a speech where he calls out the committee members as a bunch of heartless bastards for allowing the owner of the boarding house to sell his property, as this would displace the home’s current residents. I don’t know how it played in the room, but I was deeply moved watching at home on YouTube.
What I found problematic was some inconsistency in the plot. The previous month, Anders and his organization, the Healy Project, presented LHENA with an alternative to the developer’s proposal. This alternative preserved the houses, while eliminating all the rooming-house-style units. The alternative plan contained not a hint of concern for the “vulnerable adults” (though they managed to squeeze in plenty of additional parking). Turns out, Anders was really in love with the houses the whole time! Oops, I forgot to say spoiler alert.
Bottom line: despite the illogical plot twists and over-the-top sanctimony, I think it’s worth a rental, or at least a quick YouTube scroll-through.
|Final verdict: 3.5 Healys|
Dear Task Force Leader/Board Member Bill,
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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.