Southwest Mpls Reacts to Plan for Affordable Housing

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Last night, Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano hosted a meeting in the Fulton neighborhood to gather feedback on an idea to turn a city-owned parking lot near 50th and France into affordable housing. The lot is at 5028-5044 Ewing Ave S.

This is an early stage idea. Because this is a city-owned lot, criteria would be developed through extensive engagement with the neighborhood. The city would then put out a request for proposals from developers. The city would pick their preferred proposal — or pick none at all. Palmisano told residents at the meeting that she wants to do this “collaboratively” so that it brings “the least amount of disruption to the neighborhood as possible.”

At the beginning of the meeting Palmisano acknowledged she had already heard concerns about parking. To which the guy next to me said, “big time.” Palmisano promised “some amount of parking” included in any development. Parking concerns would go on to dominate much of the meeting.

Palmisano also said she’d heard concerns about the city becoming a landlord. That’s not what’s happening. This would be affordable housing, but would be built by a private developer and not managed by the city.

Palmisano said she’d heard at a recent neighborhood meeting that the developer of another project was falling short of neighborhood goals — especially on affordability. People at this meeting, regarding a plan to build affordable housing, would spend very little time talking about the need for affordable housing.

When asked how many units might be built on the site, Oliver Smith from CPED estimated no more than 50.

Let’s start off with some quotes from everyone’s favorite public meeting character “Guy.”

  • “The Fulton neighborhood used to be affordable before all the teardowns… Now we’re going build affordable apartments…” He says neighborhood is too crowded.
  • “You’re putting this in a place where there’s absolutely no parking…. Where’s the protection for us?”
  • “I don’t need a triplex next to me, I don’t need a duplex next to me.”
  • Residents don’t want “people looking down on them” from an apartment building.
  • “Why should the Southwest people suffer?”
  • “The people built the area themselves.”

At that point, Other Guy chimed in to say: “and government stayed out of it.” (To our libertarian readers, I’ll point out that zoning laws that prohibit more affordable housing types are “government.”)

Palmisano, responding to opposition to the 2040 plan that legalized triplexes citywide, reminded the room: “I voted against this plan”

Another guy suggested they “wait a few years” on this idea to build affordable housing in order to see how other ongoing development affects the community.

A commercial property owner told Palmisano “that parking facility is the lifeblood” of the business district. This is “trampling all over” the residential and business community. Then he said “you shoved it right down our throats.” I suppose this was a reference to the 2040 plan (which Palmisano voted against).

Dentist: “I have lost patients because they can’t find parking.”
Palmisano: “I have a dentist at 50th and France.” She’s able to find parking.
Dentist: “they have a ramp there.”

Palmisano trying to reassure the crowd about parking: “I thought I opened up [the meeting] by saying we will preserve some of the public parking.”

Palmisano responding to desire for a ramp: “We are not going to be building a parking ramp.” The city is not in the business of building ramps.

Next guy says they need all the parking. “We cannot afford one less space. It can’t happen.”

I start to wonder if the Fulton neighborhood has already been Uptowned? People are describing a parking and overcrowding nightmare, but it seemed pretty low key on my ride in.

Concern about lack of crosswalks. “We don’t have the infrastructure” to support more people on the Minneapolis side of 50th and France. Palmisano says she’s an advocate on pedestrian issues. 50th is problematic because it’s a county road.

Palmisano: “we know cars don’t shop, people do.”

Guy telling the story of how they acquired the lot, demolished the houses to provide parking. He says that needs to be “respected.” (Respect the bulldozing? Is that what I’m hearing here in Ward 13, of all places?)

Business owner is glad to hear this isn’t a done deal. She says her business would be hurt without the parking lot, because she draws dance students from across the region. Without this parking lot, she wouldn’t renew her lease. “I would leave Minneapolis. I would have to.”

More digressions on dentistry, directed at Palmisano: “Where did you park when you went to the dentist? In Edina. In a parking garage provided by the city of Edina.” Palmisano, appearing unashamed, readily admits that her dentist is an Edinan.

Palmisano tried to sum up the concerns she’d heard so far: traffic and parking.

Lady responded: “We’re arguing with that initial premise that something should be done with that lot.” Reiterates it should remain parking.

Palmisano: “We are not 100% certain” that anything will happen

Then, 90 minutes into the meeting a guy speaks up in support: “I hope that future meetings will have a chance to hear the good things too.” Some people clap.

Next guy: “I am pro affordable housing.” Disagrees with the notion that upscale shopping is a reason not to build affordable housing. “I’m not the quietest voice in the room” but there are others here who support it as well.

Lady: “this is deeply important… This is incredibly beneficial to people of lower incomes who move into higher income neighborhoods.” She cites research about health and educational outcomes.

Lady: People need to be able to afford to shop here.
Guy: Maybe the neighborhood will change to accommodate them?

Point of contention becoming whether people will be harmed by living in this neighborhood. After sitting through the night’s commentary, your reporter remains on the fence.

Palmisano referencing meeting in this neighborhood from a few weeks ago where concerns were about affordable housing. Subtly hitting on some hypocrisy.

Guy responds that this isn’t about affordable housing. It’s about parking. “You’re making my life harder.” People are gonna lose their livelihoods. “I’m all for affordable housing, build it some place else.”

Lady suggests acquiring some different non-city-owned property for affordable housing. So they can keep the parking. This is a “much needed parking lot.”

Andrea Brennan, city’s housing director, says this property was not originally acquired to serve as parking. Guys in the crowd at this neighborhood meeting are very sure that’s not true. (Who do I trust?)

Brennan says land like this is expensive. The city isn’t going to go out and buy some new land. She adds that the city negotiating to buy land for development is a great way to raise the price of that land. Particularly in high value neighborhoods.

Brennan: 2040 plan engagement process showed affordable housing is very important. There is no affordable housing happening in Ward 13.

(I recall that Ward 13 never received a postcard, so that may call into question the validity of the 2040 plan.)

Question from business owner: will this raise or lower our property taxes?

Palmisano says the city-owned surface lot isn’t a taxable parcel. It pays no taxes. Business pay to maintain it. Building housing means the property would begin to pay taxes, so “in theory, it defrays the [tax] burden on you.” Taxes are passed on to renters and tenants of commercial properties too.

Guy says why not just add retain the parking to the request for proposals, and then we “can stop talking about parking.” He’s clearly tired of talking about parking.

Palmisano makes point that the amount of parking included is in relationship to the affordable housing. Requiring more parking could mean less affordable housing. Both parking and housing compete for space and money; neither is unlimited.

More parking concerns: “we can’t make an assumption that somebody living in affordable housing doesn’t have a car.”

City guy Oliver: “I know you guys are a family neighborhood…” Says they can put in the RFP that they want more bedrooms.

Someone asks, “Will there be a CAC for this?” I CAC’d in my mouth a little bit. 🤮🤮🤮

(A CAC is a “community advisory committee.” During my most recent Southwest CAC experience I had to listen to someone connect basketball courts to drug dealing.)