Dear Minneapolis CPED:
Thank you for receiving comments on the draft Minneapolis 2040 plan. I’m writing to share two concerns…
- The draft plan threatens the physical safety of Kenwood Elementary School’s 450 children.
- The draft plan threatens the natural lake environment currently protected by the City’s Shoreland Overlay Zoning District.
…and then to propose a way forward.
1) The draft plan threatens the safety of Kenwood Elementary School’s 450 children.
Kenwood Elementary School is a diverse community of approx. 450 K-5 students. The school draws from far beyond just Kenwood — map attached — and is comprised of white, African-, Somali-, Latino-, and Asian-American kids. Students come from families at every conceivable point on the socio-economic spectrum. Regardless of background, all students there (including my own children) seek to live the school’s motto of “Smarts + Arts.” It’s a model of how public schools bring people together.
I know this was not CPED’s intent, but the current plan threatens the safety of those 450 students.
Specifically, the draft plan would allow 4-story construction along the entire Penn Ave. South corridor across the street from the school’s main entrance and playground. Currently, that corridor is comprised almost entirely of single-family homes.
Penn Ave. South and surrounding streets are already congested every school morning and afternoon. To allow the proposed level of increased density would increase the risk of a child being hit by a car as students make their way to & from school. I’ve attached bird’s-eye views looking each direction to illustrate the point.
I’m sure you would agree that it’s not consistent with MPLS 2040’s goal of increasing equity to zone million-dollar condos and their residents’ cars onto the heads of 450 socio-economically diverse children trying to cross the street safely every school morning and afternoon.
2) The draft plan threatens the natural lake environment currently protected by the City’s Shoreland Overlay Zoning District.
Minneapolis is the City of Lakes. As I think you would know, to protect that priceless resource, the City has wisely created zoning protections for the city’s shoreland.
Specifically, the City Council has created the Shoreland Overlay Zoning designation for use throughout the city. The City Council’s rationale is worth quoting at length: “The SH Shoreland Overlay District is established to preserve and enhance the environmental qualities of surface waters and the natural and economic values of shoreland areas within the city, to provide for the efficient and beneficial utilization of those waters and shoreland areas, to comply with the requirements of state law regarding the management of shoreland areas, and to protect the public health, safety and welfare.” Minneapolis Code of Ordinances Chapter 551.440, available at this link.
With the exception of two parcels, the entire length of West 21st Street in Kenwood is protected under the Shoreland Overlay Zoning District due to its proximity to Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles. See map available at this link.
Similarly, the entire length of Franklin Ave. — starting at the east side of Penn Ave. and running east to Irving Avenue — is also protected under the Shoreland Overlay Zoning District due to its proximity to Lake of the Isles. See map available at this link.
The Shoreland Overlay District has strict height limits. 1-2 family dwellings: 2.5 stories or 28 feet, whichever is less. Other structures: 2.5 stories or 35 feet, whichever is less. Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Chapter 551.480, available at this link.
Nevertheless, the draft MPLS 2040 plan proposes to zone that entire length of West 21st Street and that entire length of Franklin Ave. for construction of up to 4 stories, and greater in some circumstances.
My understanding is that the MPLS 2040 plan is proposing to replace the existing primary and overlay districts, and accordingly a conflict between the plan and the existing districts does not necessarily constitute a fatal flaw in the plan.
My point, though, is that for at least 18 years*, the City Council has seen fit to protect land close to the city’s lakes in order “to preserve and enhance the environmental qualities of surface waters and the natural and economic values of shoreland areas within the city, to provide for the efficient and beneficial utilization of those waters and shoreland areas, to comply with the requirements of state law regarding the management of shoreland areas, and to protect the public health, safety and welfare.” (*Shoreland Overlay District was enacted at least by 2000 according to online code of ordinances.)
I ask that CPED please honor those cherished community values in the MPLS 2040 plan by revising the proposed zoning along Franklin Ave. and West 21st Street to make the revised zoning consistent with the existing Shoreland District protections.
Proposed way forward:
As an alternative to the proposed corridors of density, please consider that — as CPED is aware — there is an existing commercial node at the corner of Penn & West 21st.
Specifically, 2017 Penn Ave. South and 2115 Penn Ave. South have the primary designation of C1- Neighborhood Commercial and the overlay designation of Shoreland.
The more-restrictive Shoreland designation controls, permitting construction of up to 2.5 stories or 35 feet, whichever is less.
Neither parcel is currently as densely developed as the existing zoning permits. See Google Street View at this link. (Of course, that fact raises the question of whether there’s even demand for denser property in this neighborhood.)
To achieve its goals, I suggest that CPED focus on catalyzing growth at the existing Penn & West 21st node since it is already zoned for denser use.
Focusing on the node rather than on creating new corridors would be consistent with the City’s goal of increasing density — but would not threaten students’ safety or the environment as the existing MPLS 2040 plan does.
I ask that CPED please incorporate these concerns into the 2.0 version of Minneapolis 2040. Thank you for your attention. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss.
1715 Logan Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55403