The fight over Minneapolis 2040 is nearing an end; Minneapolis City Council members are finalizing the draft comprehensive plan, which means it is almost a done deal. Next week, the council will formally approve recent changes and adopt the entire document with a vote.
Here are main takeaways from the council’s meetings on the plan this week; council members’ rationale for amendments and modifications; and how the massive document will guide future policies on development, infrastructure, transportation and more.
The plan allows triplexes everywhere
To no surprise, Minneapolis 2040’s most contentious item — allowing multifamily housing in areas reserved now for only single-family homes — spurred debate among council members. Council Member Linea Palmisano, who has been a vocal critic of the idea, led a last-minute effort to dial back the zoning proposal by changing triplexes to duplexes. That amendment did not pass.
The zoning proposal was at the core of campaigns by neighborhood activists both for and against the long-term plan. Opponents of the triplex proposal said it was a misguided approach to increasing density that would overrun Minneapolis with buildings that were out of character for many neighborhoods and give developers too much power. Meanwhile, supporters said the change would diversify — and increase — the city’s housing stock to help alleviate a shortage of affordable living options.
“This is absolutely not the only thing that we need to do to increase housing options and affordability in our city. It is a very moderate and incremental approach,” Council President Lisa Bender said during the markup session. “(But) over time, we are able to get a number of housing units through this approach of allowing more flexibility for when they (property owners) are reconstructing a home, or more likely remodeling an existing building.”
Right now, about three-fourths of Minneapolis’ population live in neighborhoods zoned primarily for single-family homes, or ones that allow small multifamily housing, according to land-use maps and Census data. Few places in the United States have considered such comprehensive zoning changes, particularly those affecting neighborhoods with only single-family homes.
Council members tweaked the plan’s zoning maps
The initial draft of the plan featured interactive maps to show, parcel-by-parcel, how the city could develop going forward (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.). Using feedback from residents and business owners over the past few months, council members approved adjustments to those maps, all of which are available online ward-by-ward.
The city’s goal is to eliminate, not reduce, racial disparities
Though minor wording changes, an amendment by Council Member Phillipe Cunningham could have a big impact on how the city conducts services in the future. Before, the draft plan aimed to reduce gaps in housing, employment, health care and beyond “among people of color and indigenous peoples compared with white people.” But his amendment changed “reduce” to “eliminate,” while also clarifying who those goals apply to (“all communities … regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, country of origin, religion or zip code”) so that it does not center “whiteness as the standard of a success,” he said.
“It’s absolutely necessary for us, as a council, to put our foot down and that by 2040 we should be seeing disparities eliminated — not reduced,” Cunningham said. “We need to set a strong goal for ourselves.”
Tackling climate change is a big part the plan
With suggestions from the city’s Planning Commission, council members amended parts of Minneapolis 2040 to further emphasize the city’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The plan already called for more buildings that run with cleaner forms of energy, such as solar, and set the groundwork for a future in which residents rely less than they do now on driving. But council members made that push clearer in parts of the plan that talk about new development applications, parking downtown and transportation technology, among others. They also clarified sections that talk about the city’s need to prioritize electric vehicles.
“Minneapolis is a city that’s known as a progressive city, and we are watched on an issue like (climate change),” said Commissioner Sam Rockwell at a meeting to discuss the planning commission’s suggestions. “If we lead, we can provide a roadmap for other cities to follow. And if we don’t lead, we can take the wind out of the sails for others.”
Minneapolis is on track to let the market dictate parking
For years, Minneapolis required every new building to build some type of off-street parking, which can drive up construction costs (one spot can cost $20,000) and incentivize driving over other transportation modes. The City Council has tried to reduce those requirements over time, especially for projects along transit lines, but the 2040 plan removes them entirely.
After facing complaints from some drivers, however, council members approved new language to clarify “that demand for parking will still result in new supply being built.”
Other changes address everything from transportation to … indoor plants
Everyone should have access to fiber optic internet by 2040, under amendments by Council Member Andrew Johnson, and the city should “encourage the use of interior landscaping and greening for air quality and psychological health benefits.”
A number of changes pertain to technology’s role in transportation. For example, City Council members agreed the city needs to work with Metro Transit to improve signal timing on current and future transit routes. And Johnson is sponsoring a change that would push the city to develop new kinds of grocery delivery options in areas that have low access to healthy foods.
Other transportation-related amendments include language to eventually reduce vehicle speed limits across Minneapolis and expand city-sponsored bicycle programs.
On Wednesday, the council’s Committee of the Whole — which includes every council member — will formally approve this week’s amendments before the full council votes on the plan Friday morning.
After the City Council passes Minneapolis 2040, the Metropolitan Council will give the plan a look as part of its work to coordinate comprehensive plans for all municipalities across the region. State law requires cities to develop such plans every 10 years. (St. Paul is moving toward finalizing it’s comprehensive plan, too, with the city set to submit it to the Met Council next summer.)
Once approved, Minneapolis 2040 will serve as a prescription for current and future council members as they write specific policies and zoning codes going forward, including the first citywide rezone since 1999.