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Why (almost) nothing seems to be getting done in Minneapolis

Trader Joe's failed in its bid for a store on Lyndale Avenue in Uptown.
MinnPost photo by Marlys Harris
Trader Joe's failed in its bid for a store on Lyndale Avenue in Uptown.

“Stop” may be Minneapolis’ secret mantra.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about why a prize piece of land across from Lake Calhoun continues to sit empty after seven years of attempts to redevelop it. 

But that's hardly the only example of rampant stoppage. The other day, the City Council refused to issue a waiver to a developer whose 60-unit housing project was halted by a Linden Hills building moratorium on so-called large-scale developments. Activists in my own condo nearly thwarted the construction of an Izzy's ice cream plant (with parlor) on a nearby lot. And Trader Joe's failed in its bid for a store on Lyndale Avenue in Uptown.

The worst example perhaps is Hiawatha Avenue, along which runs the Southeast LRT. Plans call for TOD or transit-oriented development on the route—housing, stores, offices full of people who will utilize the mass transit our taxes paid nearly $1 billion to construct. And, since the train started running nearly a decade ago, an increasing number of people are using it. But Hiawatha remains mostly empty with only a few developments jutting up like mesas in a desert.

Please understand. I am not advocating old-fashioned urban renewal where cities took bulldozers to entire neighborhoods (sometimes blighted, sometimes not) only to substitute ugly hi-rises and freeways. Nobody wants that. But it seems as though right now, we can't even put up a modest apartment building or a store without requiring developers to rejigger plans 17 times and jump through a batch of political hoops only to fall on their faces at the end. The result is that we are choking off our own growth from the inside.

You may be saying, "Well, we don't want growth, and so there!" But, like it or not, cities must redevelop to stay alive. Sure that little grocery on the corner of 5th and Whatsis or the Dairy Queen on Wherever Ave. used to be lively meccas when you were a kid. But times have changed. The buildings—not architectural marvels in the first place—have run down and no longer suit people's needs. If we don't respond, either through private or public redevelopment, our cities become patched with weed-choked empty lots that can bring down whole neighborhoods.

So I've been asking developers, planners, land use experts and others why we are having so much trouble making things happen. Here's what they point to.

Attitude

The attitude toward anything new seems to be negative at the outset.

It's good to be skeptical. After all, developers are known to have ruined coastland, lakeshores, nature preserves and neighborhoods. But what we're talking about in Minneapolis right now is mostly infill development —a reutilization of one or several plots of land that have fallen on hard times. Nobody is chopping down trees, dredging ecologically-sensitive swamps or doing away with local wildlife on Lyndale or 11th Avenue South. That was already done 150 years ago.

Unless the developer is trying to put an abattoir in a residential neighborhood, maybe we should take a breath before taking a stand. After all, property tax revenues and jobs from new construction would benefit the city and its residents. The question should not be: How do we stop this, but how can we make it work for all of us?

Hiawatha Line
MinnPost photo by Raoul BenavidesHiawatha remains mostly empty with only a few developments jutting up like mesas in a desert.

Economics

The economics of building often cannot support what a neighborhood insists on.

It's fine to negotiate. Having said that, some neighborhood groups insist on low-rise development, say, three to six stories. Anything else is considered akin to the World Trade Center. But building fewer floors reduces a developer's economies of scale and raises the cost of each unit. If the location's amenities don't justify the cost, the developer won't be able to sell or rent the apartments or commercial spaces. Some developers will foolishly accede to any demands to get something done, but empty stores and apartments are hardly a good advertisement for a neighborhood or city.

Another example: The model for housing is one that includes parking, even along corridors with bus lines and light rail. A structure for parking boosts the price of every apartment unit by about 16 percent. Looking ahead, however, we may gradually be moving into a less car-centric culture. Already more people are doing more shopping via the Internet and also increasingly working from home—or from a nearby coffee shop. So is our insistence on parking with every building reasonable?

Lake Calhoun empty lot
MinnPost photo by Martha GarcésWith stunning views of Lake Calhoun... and an empty lot.

Regulations

Zoning regulations should reflect what can be built.

Minneapolis has a very strict code. And every neighborhood is governed by several plans, the comprehensive plan, the small area plan, and the shore overlay district, to name a few, to which new buildings must conform. Says Sixth Ward Councilman Robert Lilligren, "We're a city of 10,000 plans."  

Because there are so many requirements and regulations, developers must seek zoning variances or conditional use permits (CUPs) to build. In recognition of the stringent nature of the code, the planning commission and the City Council constantly allow modifications. As a result, developers spend a huge amount of time lobbying neighborhood groups and public officials to get the exceptions they need. At that point, whatever happens is often simply the expression of the personal opinion of a key public official.

We should make the zoning code more flexible and expressive of what the city really wants built in that area. And, if no one wants to put up the specified development, well then, maybe the zoning is infeasible and needs to be changed.

And we could consider other options besides the usage-based zoning we have now, which separates everything into uses—industrial, commercial, residential and so on—and then tries to insulate them from each other. Doing that may have made sense back in the days when noisy and smelly steel mills and slaughterhouses were sitting next to single-family houses and schools. Most of those operations have moved far from cities, and we have nuisance laws to combat them if they try to return.

In contrast, another system—form-based codes—aim at creating more human-scale communities by focusing on the existing streets and building forms and adjacent uses. So a neighborhood can mix in a variety of uses through design and orientation rather than strict codes. I'm not saying that it's the answer; I am only pointing out that there are other ideas floating around that might free us of a nit-picking fussy batch of regulations.

Then maybe we could get stuff done.

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Comments (34)

Your first mistake, Marlys...

was to assume leftists are capable of understanding economics, much less care to take it into an accounting of the effect it has on their lives.

Economically viable solutions are completely worthless if they do not serve to make the leftist "feel good". Whether there is in fact any rational basis for their euphoria is completely irrelevant.

Reply to T.Swift comments

Did you read what the writer was saying? It's a wonder that Minneapolis or the TC metro has any re-surging changes and developments at all. In fact, regardless of the regulations and regulatory hoops everybody has to jump through to have changes made to the business, economic, environment, and even personal quality of life issues, Minnesota's climate for cultural and economic changes etcetera is in the reactionary stone-ages.

No where in the article was leftist, rightist, or extremist mentioned. Minnesotans have progressed themselves into being a reactionary and extremist attitude/culture that even the slightest changes for the good of all concerned take decades to implement.

Yes, "Economically viable solutions are completely worthless"... if they serve or benefit an elite effete minority who are against any changes at all or have little or no societal vision for the future.

Change for the sake of change is not what I am advocating. Neither I am advocating tearing down or flattening all the seedy dilapidated sections of the city. Past history shows us that changes for the popular good are inevitable if a society is to survive in the future. We have all the regulations for regulations etcetera in place but do we have the certainty, chutzpah, and wherewithal to follow those regs for a better viable prosperous tomorrow?

Please note: Nowhere in this reply are rabid political euphemisms alluded to or used. The same holds true for the article's author. The article was just stating the status quo attitude at present that dominates any progress being made in this state. Please think about that before you start squawking some brash political label on what is the present state of affairs in Minnesota.

The Cost of Uncertainty: hurting our small businesses

One other thing I would add is that all of the factors you mentioned in your piece amount to a tremendous amount of uncertainty. This weighs on potential developers and small business owners alike. In my experience, people can meet a high (but clearly defined) bar. What they do not do well with is uncertainty.

The real estate and business processes in Minneapolis contain a tremendous amount of uncertainty which I think causes countless small entrepreneurs to simply opt-out: it is not worth the upfront risk/investment of their time and money. The "big guys" with staff will always be able to pull off projects, but for every high profile Linden Corners-like development or new restaurant that does (or does not happen) I am sure that there are 10-20 projects/businesses that never even get off the drawing board.

We have a clear trade off: we can either encourage and promote good infill development that we (supposedly) want; that create more walkable neighborhoods that support local small businesses. Or we can continue to prevent people from living and doing business in our wonderful City; thus making it increasingly unaffordable to live in, unable to support much local enterprise, and pushing (even more) people into the suburbs.

Certainty

I agree that hoop-jumping can add costs, but so often, what's going on here is the developers are trading the "certainty" of the zoning code (which may stop their dream) for the "uncertainty" of pushing deviations (in some cases, dramatic ones).

In the case of Linden Corners, the code pretty clearly allows the project as it is newly constituted (3 stories, a couple of lots). The only variance needed is for some balconies, and my prediction is this sucker gets through. But originally, the developer wanted more (stories, more lots, rezoning/variances, etc.). Guess I won't blame him for that, but he traded (potential) profits for certainty.

Sometimes, I think developers are a lot less flexible than neighborhoods are. And given the pace of development in Uptown, Lyn-Lake apts, 50th & Chowen (new senior low-rise), Kingfield (3700 Nicollet supportive housing), etc.  I think there are plenty of examples of this happening.

While I agree in theory that

While I agree in theory that the zoning code provided certainty; I would also counter that the zoning code is almost designed (maybe unintentionally) to require variances for almost any development. I know from my time in community development here that my former organization had to seek a variance to conform to the more urban community approved plan that conflicted with the more suburban-style City code. This is just an anecdote, but one that I believe plays out again and again.

Second, the zoning code is very often in conflict with how multi-story buildings are actually built - which also drives the almost constant demand for variances. If one wants to build a multi-story building, you are required to provide an elevator. If you need an elevator, you need to build 4-6 stories to spread out the cost. If you are building that high, you will likely be required to build parking on-site. If you have to build parking on-site in an urban location, it will have to be underground - which is very expensive. All of this can be avoided only if 1) you build one story suburban style or 2) your price points are affordable only to the wealthy

Unfortunately, under current rules one cannot build the sort of lovely 3-4 story pre-war brownstones that we see all around Minneapolis; as they have no elevator or on site parking.

Finally, as someone who grew up in Linden Hills and currently lives in South Minneapolis, I have found that "the community" usually ends up being overwhelmingly single-family home owners who show up to neighborhood meetings (and talk the loudest). Their views are valid, but the voice of young adult renters like myself, who rarely attend monthly/weekly community meetings, is not. This does not mean that the young renter voice doesn't matter though, we just need to figure out better ways to engage and account for their views.

Your Mistake, Thomas, is

Your Mistake, Thomas, is making a ridiculous statement about "leftists" not understanding economics.
This "leftist" specializes in economics, but you clearly do not. Most developers don't. The only economics developers care for is the quick buck they can make on a project.

There are several leaps in logic and false equivalencies in this poorly thought out excuse for an article that reads like a paid pitch for local developers. Mentioning a bunch of denied projects and then arguing that not enough of them have been approved does not add up to good logical reasoning.
Apparently the author does not care to look into the minutiae of the actual reasons behind a project being denied and from there try to ascertain whether or not the decision was a good one. I don't have enough time to spend to thoroughly break down the ridiculous question about public transportation replacing the car in this city. Adding a couple of rail lines that should have happened decades ago does not equal a rush to fund public transportation development.

I am noticing that there have been two unsuccesful attempts at large developments in the Linden Hills area within the last year, and in both cases, very soon after an unfavorable decision was given to the developers about approvals, some local writer will go to bat for them under the guise of pushing for more development. In all of these articles, it's the Linden Hills area development that is mentioned at the opening of the article. Last time around it was "Linden Corner", now it's the 45th and France development.
The people fronting these two developments must have some serious money behind them to be able to get this kind of press.

zoning and development

Ms. Harris should come across the river to S.E. Minneapolis and see all the developments and those still in the proposal and approval stage. We know we have to accept more density because people--especially the young and the empty nesters--do want to live in the city and don't want to drive everywhere. But we don't want to tear down good buildings and overload land fills, so thanks for making us think harder but do realize there is more to this city than South Minneapolis.

SE Minneapolis

Well said, Ms. Fraser. There is more than South Minneapolis to this city and the amount of development and changes to S.E. Minneapolis has transformed and continues to transform S.E. Minneapolis.

Perhaps with the coming election and the dismantling of Roco's empire (aka: Department of Regulatory Services), there will be a change in how things get done in Minneapolis.

In SE we have the opposite problem

From my perspective living in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood of SE, we have the opposite problem. Development seems to be completely out of control. Variances have been granted by the dozen each to dozens of apartment buildings. all going up at once and threatening to flood the market and destroy the environment of the neighborhood utterly. Most of the buildings are being built right out to the sidewalk, so if there's any green space at all in the development, it's not visible to the public. Our public officials have been altogether too lax in enforcing zoning in this neighborhood at least.

I completely disagree that an empty lot is a disaster. A well maintained green lot contributes to
the ambiance of the neighborhood.

What's happening in SE seems to be the consequence of an unholy alliance of greedy developers
,many of whom will not realize their not too admirable dreams because of overbuilding, and a city
government transfixed by the idea of 'expanding the tax base' by going 'high density'. Some
increase in density is warranted, but dense housing should be punctuated by a lot of intervening green space and that is not happening in SE Minneapolis. Expanding the tax base is a means, not an end. The end is to produce a livable environment and just anything that generates more income for the city government is not good in itself if it doesn't serve that end.

It does seem possible that the writer was carrying water for some developers.

Your first mistake, Thomas

Thomas, Must you always insist on labeling and denegrating people as "leftists" or somesuch? It detracts from the persuasiveness of your point of view. Sometimes I might agree with some of what you have to say but I am put off by your insistence on attacking those who may disagree with you.

I dislike the "Not in My Backyard" mentality and obstructionist tactics abused by some as much as you do. Not only "leftists' engage in these tactics when it is their backyard.

In my view economic development is needed and change is inevitable but moderation is desirable.

Because

He's probably paid to do so. I don't know if he's employed in some other way, but he trolls "leftist" news sites and non-"leftist" news sites in order to flame everything "leftist." And, because news organizations are afraid of being called "leftist," they let him personally attack anyone who he deems "leftist" and sometimes even remove comments that suggest that he's paid to do so.

I actually find Mr Swift....

quite amusing. His rants about "leftist" only serve to reinforce my beliefs since his positions are so radical and ridiculous mine seem centrist and brilliant.

He says "leftist". . . . . . .

like it's a bad thing!

Simple Solution

Put a Church, Mosque or Temple on the ground floor, then the government can't stop you from moving in. (Freedom of Religion, you know.)

Soon we can have:

The Church of Trader Joe's
In Costco we Trust
Sam's God Club
The Seventh Day Comparative Shoppers
Our Lady of Target
The Home Depot Brotherhood
High-Rise to the Heavens

Wasn't there an Islamic meeting place or..

Mosque that was recently denied on the NE side? In that case I don't think the culprits were those crazy, out-of-control leftists, but they still managed to get it cancelled over some side issue without, in my opinion, admitting what their real objection was. I think non Christians in general have a harder time getting approvals than the Christians. Why is that?

Your mistake, Anna, is

... to engage Mr Swift and his rhetorical blunderbuss. You can't win that battle.

Unlike you I liked the article. Also unlike you I agree with the gist of the article. I think you unintentionally hit the nail on the head with your comment about "the minutiae of the actual reasons behind a project being denied". It seems like I read about many developments, half way houses, churches, bike trails, etc that are prevented by NIMBY people who will seize any piece of minutiae to deny something they are opposed to. The minutiae becomes a weapon rather than a legitimate reason.

Apparently these developers didn't have enough "serious money" behind them because they lost. I can't imagine any but a very large business having the resources to win these battles and get anything built. If it wasn't so hard to build anything in these neighborhoods maybe some smaller-scale people would be successful.

A story in search of a problem.....

In fact, the 45th and France developer who was denied the waiver in Linden Hills, Carlston Real Estate Inc was also recently approved to build a mixed use 4 story, 45 unit apartment building on Nicollet and 54th in an area that clearly had a need - http://www.startribune.com/housing/commercial/150078685.html?refer=y
This same developer wanted to build a precedent setting 60 unit (high density) 4-5 story building next to a row of single family homes on France Ave. (thus plunging their property value - or would this minutiae be construed as nit-picky and fussy by the residents?) - All while a moratorium is in place so the neighborhood can develop a Small Area Plan and come up with a reasonable framework for development to ensue.

The authors generalizations and oversimplifications don't work across these varied projects.

craven politicians

Thank you for your superb article. The proposed new Trader Joe's in Uptown would have been a boon to my neighborhood. It would have made a highly praised grocery store convenient for everyone here, would have gotten rid of a blighted block, and would have raised property values for everyone around here. Its approval should have been a no-brainer. The blackballing of this excellent project by a single local politician was political cowardice, cravenness, and corruption at its worst.

Trader Joe's

It's my neighborhood too and in my opinion the design Trader Joe's was pushing is completely incompatible with urban living. We do not need more big parking lots in Lyn-Lake or Uptown. What we need is more density and TJ's plan actually would have decreased density.

What's "blighted" to you is a unique world-renowned tea shop and soccer store to others. Losing those would have been a blow to the community.

CM Tuthill was very much following the direction of her constituents.

Frankly, I don't know why Trader Joe's gets so much praise. Their produce is often rotten on the shelf, the dry goods are not anything special and the prices aren't even that great compared to the cost/quality you get at The Wedge, for example.

I cannot raise a single tear for the plight of the developers..

..you mention, nor does the sight of an empty lot cause me to pine for something to fill it.

Development has its role, but not as the heroine in a historical romance novel.

I don't understand

In a city, there is little worse than an empty lot. Maybe a paved surface parking lot, which in addition to being a waste of scarce resources is also environmentally damaging, but nonetheless, emptiness where there should be density is definitely a bad thing.

some good new development in Longfellow

Hmmm... I see a different picture from my spot in the Longfellow neighborhood. We are enjoying several new businesses on Minnehaha Aveneue, including Harriet Brewing, Peace Coffee, and the Trylon Cinema. I also like the new Turtle Bread on 34th Street and look forward to the Blue Door restaurant opening soon.

And rumor has it that Riverside Market grocery store may re-open in the old Peterson Building on East Lake Street. (I hope so!)

Redevelopment is not done equally.

I respectfully submit that Ms. Harris is painting the entirety of Minneapolis with too large a brush. I agree with comments of Ms. Fraser that many residents DO accept density and the issues of localized areas like Linden Hills are the exception, not the rule. As a member of my local neighborhood organization in Northeast Minneapolis, I can tell you that many of us involved in Northeast welcome development, investment and change. The fact of the matter is that development and investment does not touch us all in the same way across the breadth of this city.

Good article

Well said, Marlys Harris.

The attitude of some of the city council to development was expressed by Meg Tuthill who said in relation to the Linden Hills development moratorium waiver: "Waiting another six months is not going to make much difference [to the developer]."

It seems quite plausible that waiting six months could be the difference between a profitable and thus built proposal, and one that doesn't make sense on paper.

The zoning code encourages neighborhoods to focus on the letter of what is legally permissible in a certain spot, and not on the big picture of "is this development good for the city?". Moreover, the zoning and planning process encourages a focus on hyper-local impacts, such as "will there be more traffic on this block", rather than bigger picture questions such as "if we let taller developments with less parking be built, will there be an overall environmental benefit?"

There's a developed constituency and process to represent the people who might have more traffic on their street, but there's no mechanism for people who might live in the new building to contribute, to say nothing of the silent beneficiaries of infill development who might not even realize how they benefit, because the benefits of density from one project are hard to see.

Hiawatha

The accompanying photo shows the problem along Hiawatha Av., or at least one big problem, that there are large old buildings that are expensive to knock down. Someone has to bear that cost, and developers may think the demolition and clean up costs make their project cost-prohibitive, or maybe they think the public will do it if developers just wait long enough. I assume it varies by property and project. I'm all for cleaning up obsolete ordinances and complex zoning, but sometimes the removal of the old building is an economic problem rather than a NIMBY or preservation problem.

Speaking as an outsider

…to the local building / permit / regulation culture, several things come to mind.

Mr. Swift, of course, has nothing of value to contribute to the discussion, though at least the phrase “sand as food” didn’t appear in his comment this time.

But going beyond gratuitous insult, first – no facts here, just an impression – Minneapolis strikes me as ossified. Rigidity for rigidity’s sake when it comes to regulation and development is not a recipe for a healthy city, much less for a city that likes to think of itself as “progressive.” Euclidian, single-use zoning has historically been used primarily for a variety of segregationist purposes, some of them racial, many of them economic. Personally, I find economic bigotry to be just as ugly and baseless as the racial variety. What’s required for a metro area’s success – economic, social, and political – is diversity, diversity, diversity. It’s a notion that flies in the face of current single-use zoning.

Making a project and its developer(s) jump through numerous hoops goes a long way toward increasing the cost of whatever the project happens to be, and increasing the cost of the project soon prices it out of the reach of the fledgling neighborhood entrepreneur who’d like to open a small restaurant, or pastry shop, or whatever. It has the same effect on the price of whatever housing is part of the project. There’s no reason why tax subsidies via TIF financing should go toward building projects affordable only to the upper 10 percent in the area.

Second, there’s much truth – but not TOTAL truth – to the stereotype of the real estate developer as a soulless money-grubber interested only in the quarterly bottom line until this project is done – and the neighborhood permanently disfigured in the process – and s/he can move on to the next profitable enterprise. I did make the acquaintance once of a developer who had a functioning conscience – who figured out how to build affordable housing in a community that liked to pretend it had no poor, maintained the historical integrity of another project without sacrificing modern technology and convenience, etc. – but he was a rare bird in those parts, and I expect he’d be equally rare here.

It occurs to me that, if developers generally have a lousy reputation among locals, perhaps they ought to explore just why that might be, and see what they might do to improve the public’s perception of both what they do and how they go about doing it. Maybe some of those gripes on the part of the public are legitimate…

Third, in my years as a planning commissioner elsewhere, the one certainty I came away with after hundreds of hours of meetings and testimony was that there is no more knee-jerk reactionary, hysterical, fact-ignoring and hostile audience for a project proposal than one made up of middle-income homeowners. My all-time favorite comment at a planning commission meeting came from a homeowner who insisted that the only housing he’d support on the land behind his own home was a house identical to his, in both architectural design and square footage, built on a lot of identical size. That, friends, is a recipe for economic segregation, not to mention institutionalized dullness throughout the neighborhood, and it’s practiced all over the country, in every city and county of any size.

Nothing terrifies a homeowner convinced that his/her primary asset is the house they live in more than the word “change.” Not change in terms of esoteric public policies downtown, most of which will likely never have a direct impact on the person’s daily life. The “change” that terrifies is the one that significantly alters the shape, feel, navigability and value of that homeowner’s neighborhood, or even more directly, their block. Want to build housing much like what’s already on the block? Nobody cares – or comes to the meeting. Want to build something different as housing – those concerned about their property values will show up if there’s any threat perceived at all to existing property values. Want to build something that’s different from what’s already in the neighborhood or on the block not just in terms of appearance, but in terms of land use? Good luck.

If nothing is getting done, and the city isn’t doing the necessary reinvention – and reinvestment – local citizens bear part of the responsibility. So do local developers. And so does the City government itself.

Saying "leftist" is bad, right-wingers, wing-nuts, is ok?

Many here were quick to jump on Thomas for his comments, yet I never see anyone here get upset when the words "Right wingers, wing-nuts, ultra-right wingers..." are mentioned in almost every article.

Rachel, because someone disagrees with the left's point of view does not mean they are paid, or are a troll. The truth of the matter is that the City Council and the Mayor are all Democrats and the only rules that seem to matter are zoning codes, building codes, parking fines...I asked a Minneapolis cop not long ago why they were not able to do something about the camping in PV plaza which is illegal, he said that the City Council informed them not to touch the occupy protesters. Pick my story apart if you will, when the Minnesota Supreme Court made their decisions they were called every right wing name imagined.

Before you jump on Mr. Swfit look at your own language.

no, a person is not a troll

no, a person is not a troll just because they disagree. But someone utterly incapable of writing a comment without including an insult is.

I did look at my own language

Trolling isn't a matter of disagreeing, it is a matter of HOW a person disagrees. Mr. Swift frequently makes comments that are nothing but rants about "leftists." He occasionally makes a point, but mostly not. It's clear that he does it for amusement, which is the very definition of trolling. It's not that anyone here is up in arms about being called "leftist," it's that he simply jumps on to put the word into as many posts, regardless of whether it's appropriate or not. Based on my research, it appears that Mr. Swift doesn't have any other profession at the moment (though that might be incorrect--not all information available is up to date). And because he spends so much time trolling both here and elsewhere, one might wonder if he's getting paid to do it. Since it takes money to make ends meet, and a man like Mr. Swift would readily tell me that handouts are bad, and arguably, unemployment is a handout, I assume he has some sort of income that at least pays for computer and internet access. So, I'm not simply assuming that he gets paid to troll here because he disagrees with me.

As far as your story goes, anyone can claim such a link without any underpinning of fact. Until you know WHY the Peevey Plaza campers were not booted, you can't make any political claims in one direction or the other. It might very well have been political, but I doubt it had to do with "leftism" or "rightism." Regardless, it's tangential, at best, from the topic of the story, which is land development.

Ms. Harris has given us

Ms. Harris has given us another of her advocacy pieces. An opinion article pushing for some vague "more development and fewer rules for developers" that attacks Minneapolis zoning and planning as if our controlling documents don't get a good going over at least every five years. She doesn't like zoning districts. Minneapolitans don't like spot-zoning, changing the look and feel of a block every time some suburban developer buys a lot or two and, without considering anyone but himself and his envisioned high-double-digit profit, wants to build whatever, without consulting the people who have actually chosen to live in the city.

And, had Ms. Harris done any research on what's going on in Minneapolis, she'd realize that there is, actually, a lot of new development! Some developers are able to deal with reality, and pay attention to the existing planning documents. Some successful developers study the neighborhoods in which they hope to do something new, and they work at fitting in with existing plans. They work with planners and with neighborhoods. They respect people's property values (thank you!) and they realize that sometimes, a 60-unit apartment or condo building just doesn't fit next to single-family bungalows.

We're getting more density, fewer required parking spaces for cars, more transit, more walkability and bikability, mixed-use buildings that combine residential with commercial functions. Minneapolis is changing. I suggest Ms. Harris get past her frustrations with two small development issues and look at the whole city.

"Southeast LRT"?

I've never heard the Hiawatha light rail line called the "Southeast LRT" before.

The Metropolitan Council chose recently to name all the transitway corridors by color.

Hiawatha: Blue Line
Central Corridor: Green Line

More here: http://www.metrocouncil.org/news/2012/METRObrandingFeb23.htm

Paid to comment Rachel?

Rachel,

Don't you think it is a little obsessive to research a commentator to MinnPost or other online publications and then assume because they are a frequent commentator they are somehow either not working or paid to comment? Where do I sign up for that job! There are many people on here who comment within moments of a story being published and I wonder myself how they can put out an almost equally as long comment minutes after a story is posted. Seriously who would pay someone to post comments on an online news publication?

Mr. Swift certainly does not need me to defend, however as one of the few voices on the other side of the center line of politics I grow tired myself of the frequent and constant name calling and assumption of stupidity because someone is not a staunch Democrat. I have not seen anyone condemn comments made by others toward public figures and commentators of the right that were unfair and uncalled for.

Take it as you wish

But no one called you stupid. Nor did anyone call you names. Some trolls DO get paid, though (Google it). Mr. Swift may or may not be paid. He may just be doing it "for the lulz."

Why did I look him up? Because he regularly makes various claims without proof. And when he does provide "proof" it's from a conservative blog. I looked him up to see if he has any experience or education in the areas he makes claims because I'd be more apt to take his statements for truth if he knew anything about it. The answer, almost always, is no.

As for comments that are unfair and uncalled for--I condemn them all the time. You know the photo of Mitt's sons being interviewed by Conan O'Brian claiming that one of them said something like "let the unemployed fight?" I called that one BS to someone who posted it and said it was shameful. I'm sure I'm not the only one. You see, truth matters to many people, even if the lies fit their world view.

Thank you

This article is exactly right and highlights important changes that should be made, starting with changes in attitudes.