Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


The fight over Minneapolis’ controversial comprehensive plan proposal, explained

MinnPost photo by Andrew Putz
Through heated meetings with city officials, emails, phone calls and various yard signs, opponents of the draft plan have criticized it as a misguided approach that will overrun the city with buildings out-of-character for many single-family neighborhoods.

The public’s window to comment on the first draft of Minneapolis’ next comprehensive plan, Minneapolis 2040 — which will be used to guide future development in the city — ended Sunday. To get a sense of the biggest issues involved —  and what happens next —  MinnPost sat down with the plan’s architects, including Minneapolis’ long-range planning director, Heather Worthington.

Let’s backup. What, exactly, is Minneapolis 2040?
It’s a policy document, one mandated under state law to be created every decade and subject to oversight by the Metropolitan Council, which governs regional growth in the Twin Cities. It aims to serve as a policy framework for the city of Minneapolis’ investments around housing, infrastructure and zoning over the next two decades. To create the plan, for the past two years city planners studied how people live, work and get around in the city to forecast how those patterns may evolve. The initial draft of the plan, which is likely to change over the next few months as it’s taken up by the City Council, is available online in a 265-page PDF, and includes interactive maps that show, parcel-by-parcel, how the city could develop going forward.

What’s new this go-around?
Ten years ago, dealing with climate change wasn’t as big of a priority as it is now. A key aspect of doing so is cutting greenhouse gas emissions: buildings need to run with cleaner forms of energy and people need to rely less on driving. (An analysis by city staff found that — in order to make a City Council-sponsored goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050 — everyone in the city needs to cut their number of car trips by more than one-third.)

That means zoning the city in a way that makes goods and services and jobs more readily accessible in more parts of the city. At the same time, planners want to guide the bulk of new housing and employment opportunities to areas with reliable transit routes.

Another big priority for the plan: racial equity. Planners say the city’s equity focus is manifest in many ways, but a big one is a push to create more production and processing jobs — which often pay better than service sector jobs — by preserving commercial zones for businesses that do that type of work. “One of the biggest disparities we have between white people and people of color in Minneapolis and Minnesota is unemployment and wages,” said Paul Mogush, of the city’s department for community planning and economic development, which has led the effort to draft the comprehensive plan. “Those businesses can’t really compete in the market with higher-value land-use, such as housing — housing developers can pay more for a piece of property than an industrial user can.”

There’s also the most controversial aspect of the plan: a proposal to allow multi-family housing of up to four units (fourplexes) across the city — including in neighborhoods now currently zoned exclusively for single-family homes.

What’s behind the proposal to change the zoning in neighborhoods now reserved for single-family homes?
The city’s long-range planning director, Heather Worthington, says the answer to that question begins at the turn of the previous century. Back then, neighborhoods often included a variety of housing types, from multi-family buildings to duplexes to small apartments to single-family homes. But in the 1920s came the city’s first racially restrictive covenants, which prohibited particular groups of people from occupying or buying property, particularly people of color and Jews.

Then, after World War II, the federal government’s subsidization of home loans provided the impetus for a building boom — but only in certain areas. “They redlined big parts of the city,” Worthington said, and many neighborhoods became whiter and more affluent as a result. In the 1970s, Minneapolis “double-downed on that equation” by deeming those same areas only for single-family homes.

Also, the city’s investment on fixed-rail transit, an early streetcar system, around the turn of the 20th century pushed wealthier people to the edges of the city, much like places nationwide. Through the comprehensive plan, she said, “we’re looking to ways to reverse those trends.”

Why has the fourplex idea emerged as the plan’s most controversial point?
Through heated meetings with city officials, emails, phone calls and various yard signs (“DON’T BULLDOZE OUR NEIGHBORHOODS” is a popular one), opponents of the draft plan have criticized it as a misguided approach that will overrun the city with buildings out-of-character for many single-family neighborhoods. Some opponents of the plan have also argued that the idea lacks specificity about how it would accomplish the city’s goals around housing affordability, or that it will give developers too much power.

On the other end of the spectrum, supporters of the greater density (who have their own signs: “End the shortage: more homes now”) say the plan will move the city in a better direction to combat rising housing costs. But some even in that group want more from the plan, such as stronger protections for renters or requirements for large-scale housing developers to include a certain number of affordable units in otherwise market-rate projects.

City staff and consultants are working with council president Lisa Bender to address the latter concern, which could take the form in an “inclusionary zoning ordinance.” The city is doing an analysis to determine the specifics, and Bender hopes to pass some sort of framework alongside the 2040 plan, according to a city spokesman.

How did the city come up with the fourplex idea?
Planners have been hearing from people in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes, especially older folks looking to downsize into apartments, who don’t want to leave their community but are having a hard time finding any options, Worthington said. It was also seen as a way for homeowners to gain new income streams by converting single-family homes into duplexes while providing more rental options and access to needed services. “It’s a great way to improve people’s access to those areas if they live in areas of the city that are impoverished or are less close to amenities, like grocery stories, schools and transit,” she said.

The city’s long-range planning director, Heather Worthington
City of Minneapolis
The city’s long-range planning director, Heather Worthington: “If you allow density, and you regulate it for affordability, you will get more affordability.”

Planners have tried to temper concerns about the fourplexes by pointing out that the companies behind high-rise, multi-unit apartment complexes are not interested in building fourplexes, and by emphasizing that the city hopes to control the scale of new multi-family housing so that it keeps in line with neighborhoods’ character. A proposal to allow for taller buildings of up to six stories along transit lines operates under that idea, too, she said.

What’s the most misunderstood part of the plan, as far as the city is concerned?
Worthington: “That density — what we’re asking the city council to guide in terms of density — will equal affordability. We have not said that, we don’t believe that, we know that’s not the case. What we have said is, if you allow density, and you regulate it for affordability, you will get more affordability,” since otherwise units will go at market rate.

Are there other cities Minneapolis is trying to learn from in putting together zoning proposals in the 2040 plan?
“We definitely have looked at Seattle, Portland and San Francisco in terms of the failure category,” Worthington said. “I don’t know that we’ve identified a city that’s gotten in right yet,” nor did she recall a city that has proposed this type of comprehensive zoning change for single-family neighborhoods. But she also noted that many cities didn’t go as far as Minneapolis did in restricting single-family zoning in the first place. “We’re a little bit of an outlier in that area.”

What about people who say the plan doesn’t go far enough to prevent displacement or help renters?
Worthington: “If you’ve created a dialogue where some residents think we haven’t gone far enough and some think we’ve gone too far, we’ve probably finding that sort of sweet spot in the middle,” emphasizing the plan’s long range and draft state.

What about parking?
In the past, every building needed some type of off-street parking under city code, which can drive up construction costs that get passed to renters with higher rents. (One parking space can cost $20,000.) The City Council has tried to reduce those requirements over years, especially for projects along public transit lines. But the 2040 plan proposes doing away with that offstreet parking requirement entirely and letting the market dictate building. “Just from a practical standpoint, it’s hard to get financing for a large building without including parking, so I don’t think this will eliminate parking,” Worthington said.

What happens now?
Worthington’s team of more than a dozen people will read every submission about the plan, which includes more than 7,000 comments, to identify common themes. They’ll release a second draft in late September, after which the Minneapolis Planning Commission will host a public hearing about the new draft of the plan. The City Council hopes to vote on a final draft before the end of the year.

Comments (45)

  1. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 07/24/2018 - 12:54 pm.

    Clarification about parking requirements

    Article says, “Right now, every building needs some type of off-street parking under city code.”

    That’s not entirely true. While I do believe in further getting the government out of the business of determining how much parking people need, there are (at least) two major categories of land uses that do not align with that claim in the article.

    Multifamily properties with less than 50 units are exempt from any minimum parking requirements if they are close to a high frequency bus or rail line.

    Developments in the Downtown Parking Overlay District don’t have any minimum requirements, if I recall correctly.

    • Submitted by Jessica Lee on 07/24/2018 - 02:01 pm.

      Hi Matt,Thanks for reading. I

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for reading. I clarified the phrasing so that readers more easily understand that the City Council has taken steps to loosen up the requirement in recent years, like in areas you mention.



  2. Submitted by Ellen Brown on 07/24/2018 - 01:11 pm.

    Try looking at Saint Paul

    Are there other cities Minneapolis is trying to learn from in putting together zoning proposals in the 2040 plan?

    Minneapolitans don’t have to go to the west coast to see successful integration of fourplexes, and even sixplexes, in what at first glance seem to be single family neighborhoods. Take a drive…or better walk…through Summit Hill to start your look. There is rarely a block without a duplex, triplex, fourplex or more in this highly successful urban neighborhood. And that’s just one area; there are plenty of others and we individual homeowners don’t suffer as a result.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 07/24/2018 - 03:43 pm.

      Don’t even need to cross the river

      Take a walk or bike ride through pretty much any Minneapolis neighborhood and you will find lots of duplexes, a few triplexes and an occasional fourplex. In some neighborhoods it’s only on the larger streets. In others it’s everywhere, and those also usually have some small and medium apartment buildings too.

  3. Submitted by Benjamin Osa on 07/24/2018 - 01:52 pm.

    Parking is also not required….

    Parking is also currently not required if an accessory dwelling unit is added to a property with a single family home, essentially making a single home lot a duplex (2-units on one lot, either attached or detached).

    This parking requirement seems be loosening up in the city as time passes, might as well fill the available parallel parking spaces, or get rid of them for other means (rapid bus transit or bike lanes) and have single family lots filled with housing units.

    I’m all for it, any 1st tier city I visit for work or play, I have to walk at least a couple blocks from a parking space to the final destination, otherwise I’m in the wrong neighborhood or the wrong city. Hopefully Minneapolis continues to grow and get more exciting (I’m looking at you Ward 13 where I reside and live in a single family home).

  4. Submitted by Clark Starr on 07/24/2018 - 03:22 pm.

    It’s not just four plexes

    While I know four-plexes are the big bad for many, for a lot of us its much worse than that. Our block (in Ward 13) can, under 2040, would be eligible to be zoned for multi-lot 6-story and 4-story apartment complexes. This on a block that is currently only single-family homes and duplexes. If someone wants to build a four-plex on an existing lot, I have no issue with that, I think that degree of multi-family dwelling is part and parcel of our neighborhood. However, these much much larger structures are not.

    • Submitted by Patrick Steele on 07/24/2018 - 04:07 pm.

      Speaking of 6 and 4, do you live by those bus routes by chance?

      My house is a stone’s throw from a semi-major bus line and my lot will be upzoned, plus there will be the same Corridor 4 zoning you complain about beginning a few lots down. It’s okay. It will be fine. It’s unrealistic to think that the city – especially the city along major bus routes – is going to be merely single family homes forever. Part of the reason I live where I do is due to the transit access, and I’m excited to density grow so that I can see more buses and more routes.

      In the meantime, nobody is going to come take you house or mine.

      • Submitted by Michael Hess on 07/24/2018 - 05:56 pm.


        The comment clearly states buildIng small scale multifamily four plexes wouldn’t be an issue, they do not suggest as you reframed it to be advocating for “merely single family homes forever”.

        The issue is valid – many people are not as convinced as you it will be fine to have multiparcel sized apartment complexes with maximum height to be negotiated (2040 includes a proactive encouragement to exceed 4 stories in corridor 4 and 6 stories in corridor 6 for projects deemed to advance goals of the 2040 plan, there is no maximum specified in the build form for this relief).

        St. Paul is focused on building up around the small neighborhood commercial nodes instead of running a highlighter down the length of certain city streets. That’s worth a look for our city planners to evaluate.

        Similarly the concern is not that someone will take your home it’s that a building you never conceived of, 6 stories tall, is built next door or behind you and suddenly the environment you live in is dramatically different. Maybe you don’t get sun till mid day. Maybe you see nothing but windows and balconies where you used to see the sky. These are real scenarios now proposed in neighborhoods far from that current level of density and buildup. While you may not care plenty of homeowners due and they get to voice their opinion to the city as well.

        • Submitted by Patrick Steele on 07/25/2018 - 07:11 am.

          I guess it’s a matter of interpretation, as I read “much worse” as the commenter not liking fourplexes, either.

          For the record, if we’re talking about corridor 6 the guidance reads as four story max unless a variance is had. We’ve seen plenty of examples of how homeowners (especially in affluent areas like Ward 13) seem to always get their way when it comes to lobbying for reduced density, and I don’t expect that trend to end.

          • Submitted by Michael Hess on 07/25/2018 - 12:33 pm.


            That’s not correct

            Corridor 4 is 1-4 stories, can include multi-parcel buildings, and includes this text in the build form: “Building heights should be 1 to 4 stories. Requests to exceed 4 stories will be evaluated on the basis of whether or not a taller building is a reasonable means for further achieving Comprehensive Plan goals.”

            Corridor 6 :Building heights should be 2 to 6 stories. Building heights should be at least 2 stories in order to best take advantage of the access to transit, jobs, and goods and services provided by the Corridor 6 district. Requests to exceed 6 stories will be evaluated on the basis of whether or not a taller building is a reasonable means for further achieving Comprehensive Plan goals.

            If the zoning proactively includes allowance to exceed 4 or 6 stories, respectively, I don’t think it’s even requiring a variance. Additionally there is no maximum. the language as written today doesn’t say “exceed 4 stories up to 6” for example. it’s open ended.

            So across the city (including non-affluent wards) there are neighborhoods with predominately small scale residential build out who because of their proximity to bus service may be caught up in this upzoning and these very large projects – reinforcing the original comment point, that it’s not just about 4plexes, which they don’t have any issue with.

            • Submitted by Patrick Steele on 07/25/2018 - 03:31 pm.

              Sorry, I typed 6 when I meant 4.

              The only places I’m seeing 6 in Ward 13 is the (very dense) West Calhoun stretch and directly on Lyndale in the (quite dense) area south of the Creek. We’re talking about roughly two city blocks worth of Corridor 6 between Minikahda and Grass Lake. If anything, that’s an embarrassing low number. It’s too bad the City started from such a compromise position.

              • Submitted by walter pitt on 07/28/2018 - 09:42 am.

                NW Calhoun 10 Stories Planned

                Look at the colored sections indicating height and not just
                Roadways. NW Bede Maka Ska is slated for 10 stories and the Shoreland Overlay District is to be gutted. Is this for the policiesof affordable housing or racial equity? I think not. Look to campaign donors for Mayor and President of the City Council for analysis of who is driving the 2040 Plan. Follow the money, do not believe the new recently Worthington stated paradigm of: Allow the density we want and we will regulate for affordability.
                If you believe that will happen on any large scale- I have a bridge you may want to buy. No Sleep to Brooklyn.

      • Submitted by Clark Starr on 07/26/2018 - 04:16 pm.

        I agree…

        …nobody is coming to take my house. Did I say that? The opportunity for turning my block into something extremely different from what it was (what drew me to investing in a home on it) is what I’m concerned about. Also, my street is not a major bus route, or a minor one for that matter. Yet, it’s adjacent to streets that are. So, the corners and one side of it are up for corridor 4 and 6 designation.

  5. Submitted by Steven Prince on 07/24/2018 - 06:45 pm.


    So Ms. Worthington now concedes density will not bring affordability. She should let the Mayor know, because that’s not how this plan has been sold.

    Allowing multifamily homes anywhere in the City contradicts her claim that “planners want to guide the bulk of new housing and employment opportunities to areas with reliable transit routes.”

    Instead, the plan will encourage developers to buy the cheapest homes available, tear them down, and build multifamily in their place. That will eliminate affordable home buying opportunities and increase density in locations furthest from “reliable transit routes” because that is where the cheap homes are.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 07/25/2018 - 11:48 am.

      Those “affordable” homes

      Those affordable homes are going away either way. The question is whether they get replaced with one expensive home or 2-4 units (in a more expensive building).

      I don’t think people appreciate just how far along this process is. It’s happening all over the city.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/25/2018 - 03:33 pm.

      What the Developers Will Do

      “Instead, the plan will encourage developers to buy the cheapest homes available, tear them down, and build multifamily in their place.”

      It seems to me that a savvy developer will likely not want to waste time and money building the odd fourplex here and there. It just won’t be worth it.

      Furthermore, the builders who are interested in the smaller kind of construction are going to look at more than the price of the property they are replacing. Cheap is good, but is the property cheap because the building on the property is decrepit, or because it is in a bad location. A ratty house in a desirable neighborhood is going to be more attractive (and more expensive) than a random place that is cheap because it is located inconveniently, or is somehow undesirable. I’m not a big fan of the idea that the marketplace has an inherent wisdom, but I think it might apply here.

  6. Submitted by Steven Prince on 07/24/2018 - 06:59 pm.

    Fuzzy Thinking

    This article perpetuates more magical thinking about how the Minneapolis of long ago predicts how the 2040 proposed plan will play out.

    The multifamily that is built today is much larger than what was built a hundred years ago. Back then no one had cars, bathrooms were shared and closet space was an after thought. We are going to get 21st century housing, not 1918 3-story apartment buildings.

    The mayor keeps talking about how easy it will be to add 50,000 plus residents to the City, without acknowledging he has no transit plan to make that work. Sure we had a larger population in 1950, but back then almost all the jobs were downtown and you didn’t need a car to get you to a office building on 494 (because we didn’t have any freeways). Today most people in Minneapolis don’t work downtown. Even if we recreated the 1950 streetcar system – with its single focus on downtown – almost everyone of our new (high income) workers would still own a car.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 07/25/2018 - 11:39 am.


      The multifamily that is built today is much larger than what was built a hundred years ago because that’s the type of multifamily that’s allowed to be built.

      Today, we will get what fits in the size of building that we allow to be built. Maybe the extra space people want today means that triplex is instead a duplex (although we mostly build duplexes back then too).

      As our traffic issues are pretty much exclusively about getting in and out of downtown, I’m not sure I see how people going the other way are really a problem.

  7. Submitted by Steven Prince on 07/24/2018 - 07:10 pm.

    Wishful thinking and untested ideas

    This plan is based on wishful thinking and untested ideas; it is just what the developers ordered – allowing random development that maximizes developer profit without concentrating new housing where it can create more walkable neighborhood nodes.

    The fundamental failure of this Plan is it conflates two problems – a need for more housing and a need for affordable housing – while pretending that allowing developers to have free reign will solve both problems.

    Developers will build profitable market rate housing for the increasing number of high income workers that want to live in our high amenity neighborhoods. This housing will be expensive and will displace affordable housing. But it will never increase housing supply enough to impact Minneapolis rents to solve our affordability crisis.

    The City should take a timeout and slow this process down.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 07/25/2018 - 10:23 am.

      Not true

      This isn’t wishful thinking at all. And it has been tested. Its a plan based on actual economics.

      The need for more housing and the need for affordable housing are intertwined. The reason housing is so expensive is because the demand is greater than the supply and the vacancy rate is very low. Minneapolis – due in part to its zoning restrictions – has artifically limited new housing for a long time. The result is that its expensive to live there. The “fundamental failure” is nothing of the sort – as has been demonstarted in other cities, even building mostly market rate housing will drive overall housing costs down. The idea that adding housing will displace affdordable housing and drive costs up is a misunderstanding of how the economics of housing (and economics in general) works. Its the failure to add housing that is going to result in the displacement of affordable housing as the demand will drive the costs of once-affordable units up.

      Minneapolis has waited a long time. More waiting is going to make the affordable housing problem worse.

      • Submitted by Steven Prince on 07/25/2018 - 10:47 am.

        Where has it been tested?

        Pat, In what U.S. city have these ideas been tested? I think the answer is nowhere. Minneapolis’ success at attracting high wage jobs is creating an affordability crisis for many long-term residents. It is particularly acute in neighborhoods well served by transit (which is a desirable amenity among high income residents), the same neighborhoods that traditionally were most affordable because they had a variety of housing types and you could live there without the expense of a car.

        The free market is not going to solve this problem.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 07/25/2018 - 02:04 pm.

          Try Google

          When you say “[i] think the answer is nowhere,” what you are really saying is that you have made no effort to determine whether that is true or not. You have reached a conclusion without even doing a simple google search, which would reveal that this is not a new idea in Minneapolis.

          Boston, for example, has a housing plan called Boston 2030 (because they got started earlier) that involves adding a significant amounts of housing.

          Denver, Seattle, D.C. and numerous other cities to varying extents have attempted to address housing costs by increasing the housing supply.

          Your description of the issue (Minneapolis’s sucess in attracting high wage jobs) is missing half the equation. That is something driving the demand for housing. The affordabilty problem arises because the housing supply has not risen to meet the demand. If you add housing to accomodate the people who want to live here, prices will drop.

          The “free market” (to the extent such a thing exists) will not solve the affordable housing problem. But recognizing that supply and demand (which is not a radical or complicated concept) is responsible and eliminating artificial restrictions on housing supply will go a long way toward helping. In Seattle, which has demand pressure much greater than here, the increase in building is finally slowing costs. It hasn’t solved the problem by any means, but it is addressing the problem.

          Frey and the people behind this understand all of this very well. They know exactly what other cities have done and what the results have been. There isn’t any wishful thinking here. They have no reason to pause. And given that the affordability problem is only going to get worse, all the reasons to proceed.

          • Submitted by Steven Prince on 07/25/2018 - 06:49 pm.

            Not So

            Your comments, like Mr. Osa’s below, prove my point. The cities pointed to are among the most expensive in the US. Following the links about NYC shows rents dropped 3.8% because of oversupply, creating average rents of $3,168. An even better deal can be had in SOHO or Tribeca where rents dropped 12%, but don’t call the movers just yet, average rents there are $5,300.

            Market forces are transforming our rental markets and market forces are not going to address our affordability crisis. Your link about Boston shows a City dedicated to deed restricted affordable housing, not a free market approach. Your link about Seattle talks about slowing rent increases in a City with average rents of $1,880 per month. Do you consider that affordable?

            Tearing down buildings to build denser buildings will ALWAYS give you higher rents. Construction costs are higher per unit the larger the building and you have to include the price of the torn-down building in your new building’s rents. Sure, building to a point of oversupply will give you a short-term dip in prices, but it will not get us anywhere near what people would consider affordable rents.

          • Submitted by Syuart Orlowski on 07/25/2018 - 09:44 pm.

            First Example Shouldn’t Count

            The Boston example you cite is a plan. It’s not proof that a strategy is working. And obviously most cities’ plans have failed, since rent is skyrocketing and homelessness rising.

            I think your Seattle link is pretty close to cherry picking… again, Seattle is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. They have a higher vacancy rate than we do. You could argue, really, that because rental costs have been going up so dramatically (during a housing boom) that the market is just correcting itself. It’s still totally unaffordable and prices are not going down.

            The government used to have a much greater role in housing, which kept housing costs low. We need to get back to and improve on that.

        • Submitted by Benjamin Osa on 07/25/2018 - 02:24 pm.

          The Free Market Does Solve This Problem of Affordability

          There are several case examples where excess supply of housing reduces cost.

          Go to any small town in america where there is a high unemployment rate, you’ll see vacant housing available for rents far lower than in areas with strong local economies and a high demand for housing and low vacancy rates.

          For major cities, NYC rent prices are currently getting slashed in Manhattan and Brooklyn because the vacancy rate is above the supply demand equilibrium. Landlords have to reduce prices due to a lack of interest. This example is from mid-April this year:

          When a city allows additional housing units to be built, the free market works in favor of the residents with regards to housing costs.

          There are far more examples where limiting housing supply greatly increases housing affordability, case in point: Minneapolis, especially Ward 13, right now (and Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, St. Paul, etc.).

      • Submitted by Syuart Orlowski on 07/25/2018 - 09:26 pm.

        Strange Concept

        Your reasoning is based on supply and demand… do you really think that luxury apartment purveyors and affordable housing purveyors are in the same supply and demand group? That a large amount of people looking for luxury apartments are currently housed in affordable units? I don’t see it. If you want to lower the price of rent, you need more affordable units to bring the market price down. Luxury apartment construction will never lower housing prices for average people. At least not for 20-30 years.

        BTW San Francisco has a higher vacancy rate than us, but they have the most expensive housing in the country. What gives? Same with Seattle.

        And please, if you can, provide studies that show market rate construction has lowered rent costs in any American city.

    • Submitted by Syuart Orlowski on 07/25/2018 - 09:18 pm.

      Total Agreement

      Housing Construction booms in San Francisco and Seattle have not lead to lower rent prices. When all that is being built is expensive, luxury apartments it doesn’t make the city more affordable.

      Seems to me that the construction boom is more geared towards luring wealthy people to the city, rather than building housing that would support current residents. Hence concerns over gentrification and displacement. No problem with luring wealthy people in, but have to support lower income residents too!

      The University of New South Wales has been putting out some really interesting articles on housing, equity and density.

  8. Submitted by Fredric Markus on 07/25/2018 - 07:25 am.

    Parking isn’t a free-range proposition.

    Let’s surmise that a six-unit building will have six cars, may be more depending on multiperson occupance. Where do those cars park? How about a series of 4- and 6-unit buildings on a single linear block? This is a developers’ dream world where tenants and/or condo owners are in fine physical and economic fettle and don’t believe automobiles are a necessary adjunct to middle-class prosperity.

    Say a young couple have been living in a one-bedroom apartment near downtown. Do they want to raise children? Will there be ways to ferry their kids hither and yon without a family car? I don’t think even this young cohort is ready to walk or use a bike no matter what. American consumers have been conditioned to take automobiles as a necessary personal/family asset since the glory years of the 1950s. New arrivals in our urban population also take car ownership as an economic commandment.

    Why would giving for-profit developers the right to build as if alternative transportation were readily available make prudent sense for the foreseeable future? Expanded transportation infrastructure takes more than just painting a few lane lines on existing streets. More major infrastructure initiatives take decades to achieve and consume public capital far beyond the capacities of merely private enterprise.

    I’m fascinated by the recent appearance of two-wheeled easy-ride scooters on the downtown mall. How is that helpful to people like me who just turned 80 years old? How about the near-retirement age folks who are learning that personal habits learned in their twenties and thirties are fading away? How about the baby boomers who have become empty nesters? Shall their thousands of potentially available housing units be sacrificed to corporate greed while they are essentially warehoused in low-amenity environments – forgiddabout cars for that crowd even though they may live reasonably productive lives well into their very senior years.

    City planners have rolled over for private developers for as long as I can remember and I’ve been underfoot in Minneapolis for just one year shy of half a century. Idealistic rhetoric from the new mayor and city council president are swell, but where will the capital come from to make these aspirations come true?

    • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 07/25/2018 - 09:24 am.

      Why does it matter?

      Your garage is safe. If you park there, you have guaranteed parking. Nobody is guaranteed street parking. If there’s more demand for on-street parking than there is available supply, then it should be priced.

      • Submitted by Adam Miller on 07/25/2018 - 11:46 am.


        It turns out people respond to incentives. You can see that in how parking works on our street.

        The people across our alley live on a very busy street and their houses are uphill from the street. All of them park on driveways off the alley or in their garage. Our street is quiet and does not go through, and on our side, is basically flat from the street to the front out. Our neighbors on both sides park on the street – sometimes as many as four trucks and a boat from one of them. There’s plenty of space because (1) some of us have garages and use them and (2) the other side of the street is again, uphill from the street to the front door, so everyone over there parks off the alley or in a garage.

        Point being, where there’s a reason to have off street parking – hills and busy street – people have off street parking.

        This will also apply to “there’s more cars to be parked now.”

    • Submitted by Dana DeMaster on 07/25/2018 - 03:16 pm.

      Loosening or getting rid of parking minimums is not the same thing as removing all parking. It is just saying to developers that they can make the number of parking spots they think the market demands, rather than requiring they include a certain number. If they think they can sell condos or rent apartments with no parking, great. More likely is that at least some parking will be included because lots of people have cars. Parking minimums lead to an oversupply of parking.

  9. Submitted by Sean O'Brien on 07/25/2018 - 07:59 am.

    Great DRAFT Plan

    As a Minneapolis resident (Ward 11), I’m glad the city is taking the long range approach to planning and being mindful of the crisis state of housing that exists in other US cities who have failed to adjust their policies in time.

    Unavoidably, many proposals in this draft that rankle people, but overall it’s a bold and unprecedented way or preparing our city for the future. Using a set of aspirational values that define who we want to be as a city to guide creative proposals for how to adapt to current trends while being mindful of the past is the right way to go about preparing such a plan as this in my opinion.

    There has been SO much extreme generalization, blind certainty about what WILL happen, and flat out wrong understanding of what the draft actually contains that constructive, informed debate on the topic has been nearly non-existent, which is a shame.

    Most of the anger that I’ve witnessed has focused on up-zoning, but the draft plan contains so much more! I believe most residents would in fact agree with the guiding values outlined in the draft. How to use those values to construct policy is the key, and I’m glad the public engagement has been so robust. I just wish there wasn’t so much “Don’t bulldoze!” and “Scrap the whole plan!” so that we could actually problem solve through the public forum on how best to change and adapt Minneapolis for the next 20 years of growth and development.

  10. Submitted by De Marie on 07/25/2018 - 01:22 pm.

    Other Cities and affordable housing

    two questions:

    1. What other cities have been, or have not been, successful at this. did the planners do any case studies? I believe Los Angeles had something like this and it did not turn out as expected.

    2. Affordable rent costs is a very difficult goal to meet. Building contractors only profit from large apartments with standard rent. Currently in the U.S. half of a monthly paycheck goes towards rent. Right now it is about $195 per square foot for a rental unit in Minneapolis. How will this plan address affordable rent?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 07/25/2018 - 02:11 pm.

      Other cities

      I cited some examples of other cities in my other comment. Los Angeles hasn’t really done this because of opposition. There have been efforts to push this kind of thing, including a state-wide bill that would override local zoning laws, but it hasn’t gotten through.

      High rents in Minneapolis are the result of housing demand exceeding supply, which has been artificially restricted. Adding to the supply will decrease rents. The new buildings will largely not be affordable, but those renters won’t be competing with people for existing housing.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/26/2018 - 11:11 am.


        Why should it be assumed the residents of the newly constructed luxury housing are competing with those looking for affordable housing now? As the goal of this plan is accommodating an influx of new residents, how would there be a net gain in affordability for those already residing in the city? Would THEY not still be competing for the same et amount of affordable units, as the overflow goes toward the new ones?

        • Submitted by Steven Prince on 07/26/2018 - 01:19 pm.

          Building Luxury Units often displaces affordable units

          Matt, good point. When you build something new in Mpls you usually have to tear something old down. So the way the luxury and affordable housing markets most often intersect is that building luxury units means tearing down more affordable units. The effect may be more total housing units, but the number of affordable housing units decreases. To put a finer point on your comment, even if the luxury market segment eventually gets overbuilt and luxury rents come down a few percentage points, the affordable rents will remain high because of the loss of affordable units to get to an overbuilt luxury market segment.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 07/25/2018 - 02:17 pm.

      Cities that have been mentioned as looked at include San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. I don’t know close a study was done, though.

      Those are all cities who have failed terribly to add enough housing in the face of a boom in demand. Housing prices there have been rapidly rising for years, although I’ve recently seen some evidence that more recent apartment building is stabilizing rents in Seattle and Portland. They are mostly cautionary tales about what happens when you don’t allow enough new housing. I believe the takeaway has been that no one has really gotten it right (because this stuff is hard).

      We don’t have the same sort of boom in demand that those cities have experienced – we have a more mixed economy rather than rapid-growth tech – but we have a city that is growing and that has a long term trend of losing lower-priced market rate units. We can’t address that problem without adding more housing.

      We also need more low income and subsidized housing – sometimes what people mean when they say “affordable” housing. On that front, the mayor has proposed increased funding and the council is considering “inclusionary zoning” that would require new developments to include some portion of of low income housing. (That policy is tricky to get right and hasn’t worked terribly well where implemented, to the point of actually doing more harm than good at times, but I think we should try)

    • Submitted by Constance Pepin on 07/27/2018 - 07:04 pm.

      It hasn’t worked anywhere else

      The Minneapolis Long-Range Planning Director herself admitted that this approach (density everywhere at any cost to residents and neighborhoods) has not worked anywhere else; yet she wants to subject our City and our neighborhoods to an experiment to see if something magical will happen in Minneapolis. It won’t. The proposal will not address the real housing shortage–which is affordable housing, and will not address the racial inequities that the City blames on previous zoning restrictions. But the experiment will accelerate the loss of affordable homes and the deterioration of our environment.

  11. Submitted by Mike martin on 07/25/2018 - 10:09 pm.

    parking & big box

    I know a block in Mpls. that has about 160 living units.One 3 story brown stone from the turn of the century as 7 off stree parking spaces. Meaning over 2/3 of the people in that buiilding park on the street

    If you come home at night you park block. This means a person can end up walking 2 blocks to their home when its 10 below with 2 bags of groceries.

  12. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 07/26/2018 - 04:08 pm.

    Minneapolis Development Plan

    As a long-time resident of Los Angeles, I’m keenly aware of what inadequate parking planning can lead to. Were I in charge of anything, I’d stick firmly with the formula of 2-1/2 off-street parking spots per unit as a criterion for any development. Most people do not live alone, and just about everyone has his or her own car. Failure to account for this in the plan leads to hellish parking for the residents and a big windfall for the city in tickets written on street-sweeping day. Frankly, there are more ethical ways for a city to increase its revenue.

  13. Submitted by Kurt Anderson on 07/27/2018 - 11:12 am.

    Really? Your coverage begins and ends with an interview of the plan’s author?

  14. Submitted by Sandra Nelson on 07/27/2018 - 03:19 pm.

    Basic Problem

    Having read only the housing section of the 2040 document, it is a far cry from a plan. It reminds me of the saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” How can we agree on what must be accomplished in the absence of any understanding of the housing problem, except that a problem exists? Where is the in-depth discussion and assessment of the problem? The data analysis and supporting data points? The planning assumptions? A comprehensive situation analysis is absent. Goals expressed in measurable terms are absent. So-called action steps — vague, pretentious pronouncements that read as if the writers are talking to themselves — appear in a vacuum. The city planning folks need to start over.

  15. Submitted by walter pitt on 07/28/2018 - 09:55 am.

    Shoreland Overlay Districts will be destroyed

    The Shoreland Overlay District’s protections around our lakes will be violated one development at a time by what Heather Worthington calls exploring new and better uses.

  16. Submitted by Betsy Larey on 07/29/2018 - 08:25 am.

    The best predictor

    Minneapolis has a sad history of tearing down and building whatever they think will make them the most progressive city in the U.S. Seattle and Portland, we’ll do it better. Beautiful buildings torn down for the sake of progress, whatever the current council considers that to be. For a minute, remove the talking points from the discussion. All of them. Just picture what a 4 plex or an apartment building would look like in a single family neighborhood. Look out of place? Of course it will. Everyone needs to understand the city does not care what anything looks like. Really, they don’t. It’s all about numbers.
    St Paul has a much better history of preserving a city, while allowing new housing options. Lots of multi-family/pocket neighborhoods, but built in areas where they fit. What they always forget is people with money will move. And move they will.

  17. Submitted by Tom Trisko on 08/02/2018 - 05:52 pm.

    Minneapolis 2040 Plan is Misbegotten from the Start

    This plan is misbegotten from the start. The planning dept should be directed by the council to start over.
    The initial assumption of the need to increase the population to 500,000 is wrong unless you are the city council and are hungry for more property tax revenue from more and bigger buildings. This hunger is matched by the developers’ hunger for profits and their campaign contributions. Minneapolis is embedded in a low density metro area with a metro wide transit system that is trying hard to grow area-wide mobility. There is no pressing need to increase population and housing in Mpls as there is in cities located on tight peninsulas like San Francisco and Seattle, or ringed by mountains like LA. We have plenty of affordable inner ring suburban housing and suburban jobs.
    Some development of senior and other buildings along transit routes might help the single family housing stock turn over for new families. As a 73 senior who was born and has lived most of my life in Mpls when few others wanted to live here or financially support it, I would like to stay. However, the huge hikes in my 2018 assessment and taxes, combined with the lack of senior ownership buildings in Mpls (but available in Richfield, Bloomington, Roseville, etc.), plus the policies of the new 2017 Mpls city council that are making us into “The People’s Republic of Minneapolis” are all driving me toward moving away and taking my assets and income with me, as Ms. Larey points out above is likely to happen.
    There are many other fatal assumptions and unproven/untried pipe-dreams in this plan that have been well described by the other opponents commenting above. It’s time to start over and get real about this plan, the city’s goals and the policies to achieve them. Ultimately, in a democracy the goals and policies must reflect how the voters want/need (i.e. cars) to live, not the current fads in planning ideology.

Leave a Reply