Real Stories of the LHENA Development Task Force

This is not a picture of the LHENA Task Force.
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.

Loud Jerks

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.
Teardown Paranoia
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.