All the ways the City Council changed the Minneapolis 2040 plan

photo of minneapolis skyline
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.

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.

What’s next

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.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by William Lindeke on 11/29/2018 - 01:14 pm.

    “Few places in the United States have considered such comprehensive zoning changes, particularly those affecting neighborhoods with only single-family homes.”

    Q: which places?

  2. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 11/29/2018 - 03:50 pm.

    It’s really unfortunate there was not an amendment to introduce high density zoning to the Kenwood neighborhood and the future Green Line stations. If there’s one thing we heard from plan opponents, it was that neighborhoods shouldn’t be zoned for people to have the freedom to build more housing unless things like transit service improved to handle the demand. Yet we have a $2 billion transit project that will be breaking ground within a matter of months, and this plan still limits the residential density around stations such as 21st St (between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles) with the lowest residential zoning.

  3. Submitted by Betsy Larey on 11/29/2018 - 08:23 pm.

    Minneapolis has a history of tearing down their past. Just look at all the historic neighborhoods downtown. This will only exaserbate that concept into all the beautiful neighborhoods. For the sole purpose of making sure everyone can afford to live there. When I moved here in 1978, I rented a studio apartment. I worked hard to move up and I did. I never expected anyone to change everything so I could move into the better neighborhoods. That was my job to move up.
    Thie city council is so far to the left that at some point they will start the eminent domain process to take houses away to provide housing for those who need it but can’t afford it.
    I have written letters and posted on twitter about the concept of the city working with developers to create another Heritage Park. All the comments that came back said the same thing. “WE have a right to live in the better neighborhoods in the city” In other words, we don’t want affordable housing in affordable areas. We want affordable housing in the better parts of the city. You do not have a “right” to live in the better neighborhoods. But these people think they do. And that will be the downfall of Minneapolis. The people with money will move to the suburbs or ST Paul
    And on top of that,they will not be able to pay the high property taxes in the city. They will complain and want their taxes reduced because they can’t afford to pay them. And I guarantee that is exactly what will happen.
    I never thought i would see this happen. But this is what happens when you have one party ruling a city ( or any gov entity ) for 50 years. So folks with money will probably move. Then the only thing you will have left is crappy neighborhoods where everyone who could never afford to live there can. And for the record, for any one who reads this, I am a loyal democrat and have been for my entire life.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/30/2018 - 11:11 am.

      Making housing affordable is very important, but its not the sole purpose. As a so-called loyal Democrat, I would hope you are interrsted in the environmental benefits of increased density.

      • Submitted by howard miller on 12/02/2018 - 02:29 pm.

        It’s easy to assume that higher-density living is easier on the environment but that is based only on face-validity. When you dig into comparative research you discover that high-density housing is harder on the environment than lower density housing. A definitive Finnish study from 2014 found that the reverse is actually true for clearly articulated reasons. BTW, they use district heating there, so the results would be even more pronounced in the US.
        Residential energy consumption patterns and the overall housingenergy requirements of urban and rural households in FinlandJukka Heinonen∗, Seppo JunnilaAalto University, Department of Real Estate, Planning and Geoinformatics, P.O. Box 15800, Vaisalantie 8, 00076 Aalto, Finlanda

    • Submitted by Benjamin Osa on 11/30/2018 - 02:39 pm.

      Betsy – Your statement is very problematic and has a us-verse-them mentality:

      “Then the only thing you will have left is crappy neighborhoods where everyone who could never afford to live there can.”

      I say this as a resident of Minneapolis who was once was a homeowner in Edina, didn’t like the homogeneous vibe of the suburbs, and moved back to became a home owner in Lynnhurst (which I believe might fall under some peoples’ definition of a nice neighborhood).

      The city is supposed to be a place where people can work and play. A place where everybody is welcomed, a mixing pot. Minneapolis doesn’t have much diversity in the SW corner and anti-renter sentiment is fairly high as shown by posting on social media.

      It’d be nice to see a wider variety of socioeconomic, ages, and races walking past on the sidewalks. I look forward the City being more inclusive for all. It’ll reduce our impact on climate change and improve the quality of life for people who agree with the moves made by the City.

      Cities change, and I’m happy that Minneapolis is taking steps to de-suburbanize wide swaths.

      And no, there is no case law stating that Minneapolis will force you to sell your single family home. Market rate pricing will be the determining factor whether or not new construction happens, whether it’s a McMansion, a triplex, or a larger multi-unit building.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/04/2018 - 10:05 am.

    I don’t know if this the best idea, it seems to be based on a lot of “density” reasoning that’s not as sound as it looks. Whatever. I predict that if or when developers start buying up single family homes and tearing them down to build triplexes in any significant numbers… those responsible for this plan will be voted out. When three fourths of the population find themselves living in demolition zones they probably won’t be happy about it. I guess we’ll see. I also predict that those who build triplexes will rent out two and AIRBNB the third. This won’t “create” affordable housing.

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