The current Plan 2040 should be thrown out and a completely new plan designed. The worst thing about the current plan is that it is not based on expert opinion, factual evidence, or reality. It is based on an unproven, trendy theory which states that population density will result in affordable housing and racial equality. Experience in other cities has shown that the opposite will happen.
The plan is the brainchild of the YIMBY movement (Yes In My Backyard). It is a national movement which is trying to gain traction. The Minneapolis plan is YIMBY’s most ambitious plan so far and is receiving national support.
The YIMBY movement was started by “angry millennials,” who could not find places to live in San Francisco, according to an article in the 10/2/2017 The Guardian (“Rise of the YIMBYs”).
With the plan, housing costs will continue to rise rather than become more affordable. More and more expensive (luxury) apartments will be built. This is okay with the YIMBYs. They somehow believe that, when people move up to luxury apartments, they will leave affordable apartments behind for people who need them. The reality is that developers and real estate investors buy up the affordable apartments to upgrade them, so that higher rents can be imposed, increasing profits. Affordable houses, starter houses, will be bought up first by developers because they are the cheapest. Apartment buildings which charge affordable rents are bought up by developers, who remodel them into luxury apartments or condos and charge accordingly.
YIMBYs are against single-family houses, because, according to YIMBYs, single-family houses take up space which would better used for density (more people in the space). Developers and real estate investors are against single-family housing because it is more profitable for them to build multifamily units in the same spaces now occupied by the single-family houses.
The Plan 2040 will wreck our beautiful city. The trees and houses will be gone, as well as the neighborhoods that we know. The city could never be restored.
How did it happen that a cockamamie plan, dreamed up out of thin air, come about? How did it rise to the point of being embraced by Minneapolis city government? It took the combination of two forces to bring this about.
The YIMBYs and developers/real estate investors joined forces so that they could help further each other’s ambitions. They were working together in regard to the plan, even before the city elections, although the plan wasn’t mentioned publicly until after the election.
The Plan 2040 has the hallmarks of a “railroad job,” also known as a “con job.” Deceptive tactics are used to get something past people, something which they could have objections to, if it were presented honestly.
According to a 4/2/2018 City Pages article*, for-profit developers and real estate investors spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, in last fall’s city election, to elect candidates who would support the interests of the developers and real estate investors. Plan 2040 is based on what the developers and real estate investors wanted in the plan.
*The title of the City Pages article is “Minneapolis Housing Plan Rewards Developers, Punishes Working People.”
Although the idea of having the current plan was being worked on before the election, the Mayor did not speak of the plan until after he was elected. Thus, there was no way the plan could have been avoided before it became ingrained in city government, since no one outside of city government knew about it before the election.
The plan was made while Minneapolis residents were mostly unaware of it. From talking to city residents, I’m convinced that many, or even most, residents still do know about it or do not know much about the plan.
Some residents, who are aware of the plan, don’t get beyond hearing that density will bring about affordable housing and racial equality and that it will make the city more “vibrant” and “walkable.” Also, that there will be fewer cars and traffic. Such things sound good and can create a favorable impression of the plan, even though there is no evidence to support that these things will happen. They haven’t happened in other cities where there has been a similar plan.
The plan itself is very long and verbose, while vague on practical details. It takes a lot of time to read the plan and try to figure out what it all means. Most residents don’t have the time to really make an assessment of it. It is full of false assumptions and misleading statements, and is confusing. The term “to baffle with bullshit” comes to mind; the plan does tend to baffle rather than elucidate.
An example is the section of the plan which deals with the area of South Lyndale Ave., from the creek to Crosstown 62. I’m a fairly fast reader, but it took me over an hour to read this section, try to figure out what was being described, and find out where my house would stand in regard to the plan.
It took a long time because there is TOO MUCH STUFF in the plan. A lot of unnecessary stuff is added, perhaps as filler to make it difficult for readers to parse out what is being said. There is also much repetition of passages.
Every demographic possible is given for the area and for subareas. Lyndale Ave. businesses in the area are described in great deal. All of this data is from a report done mostly in the years 2000 and 2005. It is hopelessly out of date. Rents for various sizes of apartments are given but are also out-of-date. The businesses mentioned in the report have mostly moved away by now. A great deal of information is given for a restructuring of some of the streets in the southern part of the area. In reality, these plans have long since been abandoned.
Thus, the authors of the plan took an out-of-date report about the area and tacked a few YIMBY things to it, and called it a plan. It takes up a lot of pages but provides little information about plan development or rational.
To see a clear and detailed explanation of some of the problems with the plan and what it really means, do a search within Nextdoor (nextdoor.com) for “Criticism of 2040 Plan – Fulton Resident” which appeared in the July 17th, 2018 Nextdoor column.
The period of time for people to become aware of the plan, become acquainted with it, and express opinions, is too short. It looks like the plan is slated to go through whether people like it or not (at least that is what I see a number of people saying, with a basis for believing it).
Personal attacks are made on people who express concerns about the plan. They are accused of being racist, selfish, against affordable housing, reactionary. People in neighborhoods of single-family houses are accused of harboring “white privilege”, as if they are in the wrong somehow for raising concerns about the plan. SW Mpls seems to be the favorite target for this type of comments.
IF the Plan 2040 were sound, there would be no need for the subterfuges described above. IF the plan had merit, it could have been presented clearly from the beginning, with no need to railroad it through. IF the plan were based on sound evidence, done with input from people with expertise in relevant issues such as affordable housing, the city could respond to concerns about the plan by using sound explanations, rather than responding with personal attacks on people who raise concerns.
Accusing people of being anti-affordable housing, anti-racial equality, etc., is a last resort for planners who have no legitimate response to concerns and criticisms. They just put down people who have concerns, as a way of undermining what they say. This would not happen if the plan was a good plan.
A major policy change in the plan is to change the current zoning to “up-zoning,” which means no zoning at all, in any part of the city. Developers can buy houses, tear them down, and build fourplexes in their place in any neighborhood. In some residential areas of the city, apartment/condo buildings can be built which are three, four, or more stories high.
Having no zoning is somehow expected to bring about racial equality and affordable housing. Any part of the city will be like any other part of the city. Anyone can live anywhere in the city. In reality, housing will continue to become more expensive, while property values will decrease for single-family homes in neighborhoods which once were made up mostly of single-family homes. Owners of single-family homes will become unhappy as their neighborhoods are destroyed and property taxes rise, and will move away, freeing up yet another space for building a four-plex.
I remember letters to the editor in the Star Tribune, from developers. The line that has stayed with me, said by a developer, was that Minneapolis is full of “antiquated housing stock,” which needs to all be torn down and replaced. With Plan 2040, the developers can get their wish.
There is a lot about racial inequality and racial equality in the plan, along with a concept of “environmental racism.” It looks like minority group issues are being used to lend credibility to the 2040 plan. Minorities have to put up with prejudice and now they are being used to further acceptance of a plan which does not have their best interests at heart. This seems insulting, especially since the minorities will be no better off, and most likely worse off, as a result of the plan.
For a clear and detailed explanation/criticism of housing issues, see the article “Criticism of 2040 Plan – Fulton Resident, by Katherine Paulaha Brown. It can be reached by a search within Nextdoor, using the title of the article and “7/17/18.”
In Plan 2040, people will get around the city by using public transportation, walking, or riding bicycles. The idea seems to be that people will get rid of their cars, because cars are not necessary.
This overlooks the fact that cars *are* necessary for many people. Families with children rely on cars for taking family members in every direction. Many places are difficult to access with public transportation. Elderly and disabled people need to use cars, in order to maintain their independence. The vision for Minneapolis appears to be that it will be a city of young, able-bodied people.
Plan 2040 speaks of expanded bus service, even as funding for bus service is being cut.
The idea that bicycle commuting will be 15% of all commuting, is unrealistic for Minnesota.
At one time, Minneapolis required an adequate number of parking places to be included with new construction for housing and businesses. This requirement was dropped in recent years. Now we’re told that all parking (for new construction) will be on the street.
There are parts of Minneapolis where residents have to cruise all over the neighborhood to find parking places. When found, the parking places may be quite a distance from where the car owners live. With the density that Plan 2040 requires, all of Minneapolis will be like that, because of density bringing in large numbers of people who will live in new construction and park their cars on the street.
The idea might be to make parking so difficult and owning a car such a miserable experience, that people will get rid of their cars and Minneapolis will be a carless city. This would be a YIMBY idea. Developers and real estate investors possibly have a different take on the idea of not providing parking.
A recent article in a newsletter of the Minneapolis Real Estate Forum mentioned that Minneapolis now allows ADUs (Auxillary Dwelling Units) to be built in back yards. The article told the real estate investors to build ADUs in the backyards of all the uni-, du-, tri-, and four-plexes they own, so that they can rent them for $1600 – $2000 per ADU per month, to maximize their profits.
The spaces used for ADUs would, in the past, have been used for parking spaces for the occupants of the plexes. By the same token, not having to provide parking spaces, for apartment/condo buildings, means that developers have more space to use to expand the size of the buildings. The bigger the buildings, the more units and rent can be collected.
Currently, there is a policy that the owner of a plex must live in the plex. The owner of a property which has an ADU, must live on the property. The real estate investors are agitating to get this policy thrown out. Then one person could own multiple plexes as an absentee landlord, and be able to collect from multiple ADUs.
Homeowners Will Lose Their Neighborhoods
I live in a wonderful neighborhood in southwest. I like my neighbors. My block has a variety of houses, in size and age. The linden trees on the boulevards are now large, having been planted when the elms died off. I have a small Craftsman bungalow, built in 1921, and I could not be happier with it. I bought it in 1991. Like my neighbors (and thousands of other Minneapolis homeowners), I have made many improvements on the house over the years, including some remodeling. Fixing the house up is like a hobby. I have it just about fixed up the way I want it. I could never do all the work over again with a different house, were I forced to move.
I live in the 53xx block of Aldrich Ave. South, which is one block west of Lyndale Ave. South. According to Plan 2040, my street is a transit corridor, in the area of Interior 3. I’m on the west side of the street. The houses across the street are on the back of the block that Lyndale is on. The map in the plan shows that all the houses (and trees) across the street will be gone, to be replaced by apartment buildings as high as three stories. This means hundreds of people living across the street and parking cars on our narrow street, which gets even narrower with one-sided parking, when there is a lot of snow. Not only that, but I will lose half my neighbors, who will be replaced by hordes.
This could happen in my lifetime. It would be so awful that I wouldn’t want to live there any longer. Yet I would hate to leave a house that I liked so well.
What will happen to my block, also will happen to hundreds of other blocks, which are in “transit corridors.” Then, like a cancer, the same thing will eventually happen to all the neighborhoods and to single-family housing. Every part of town will be like every other part of town. Imagine apartment buildings everywhere, the trees gone, so that “anyone can live anywhere in the city” (if they can afford it, as prices rise).
Is Plan 2040 Necessary?
Supposedly, there will be 40,000 people moving into Minneapolis in the 20 years between 2020 and 2040. That is only an estimate. 40,000 people does not mean that we need 40,000 more living units. The number of living units would be lower, due to people who are in couples, roommate situations, or families with children. If 40,000 is an accurate figure for people moving into the city, that would work out to 2,000 people a year, with fewer living units than that being needed.
The 2040 plan might well be overkill, creating way more housing than is needed. Or if 40,000 people turns out to be an underestimate, it would still be possible to find housing in the suburbs. Newcomers would be able to find somewhere to live (if they can afford it).
The plan appears to have the goal of density for the sake of density – stuffing as many people as possible into the city. At what point will the city be considered full? It would probably never be full enough to suit the YIMBYs.
Housing experts believe that a growing population could be accommodated without destroying neighborhoods. There is no need to attempt to make every part of the city just like every other part of the city.
The number of affordable housing units in the city has decreased drastically and continues to do so. Developers buy the lowest priced properties, than tear down the houses and build apartment buildings. If a certain percentage of units are to be affordable, developers can get around it by paying a fine.
Developers, who buy apartment buildings which have affordable units, rehab the apartments, often to luxury units (or condos), and the living units are no longer affordable.
There are hundreds of vacant and boarded up houses in Minneapolis, which could be rehabbed, or the property used to build new affordable houses (if the developers don’t buy up the properties). Speculators are buying up the properties also. On the Nextdoor blog, there was mention of a speculator from New York who has bought 87 properties in north Minneapolis.
Fixing up abandoned houses, so that they could be lived in, would add to the city’s property tax base.
Some attention (and money) could be directed toward helping homeowners whose properties are in disrepair. These and many other suggestions have been made.
The plan talks about how jobs will be created in the city, attracting people who want to move here. Job creation could be self-limiting, in that there is only so much space for new businesses.
There could be overkill in putting density near public transportation. I have read about apartment/condo buildings being overbuilt near transit stations, so that not all units are filled. No doubt there are people who prefer to live in neighborhoods of single-family homes, rather than in busy areas near transit stations.
When Minneapolis turns into a bedroom community, due to implementation of Plan 2040, it will have lost its luster. It will no longer be seen as an attractive city to move to. The neighborhoods of tree-lined streets and single-family homes are much of what make a city attractive. Many people, especially those with children, prefer living in houses to living in apartments or condos, but would be disappointed not to find houses in Minneapolis.
- Throw out the current plan and start over. The current plan causes too much confusion and divisiveness, due to the many interpretations which can be made of the content.
- Be open from the beginning, about progress of the plan.
- Give adequate time for review.
- Spell everything out – how things will be accomplished.
- Base the plan on evidence, facts, reality, instead of an unproven theory that someone has dreamed up out of thin air.
- Use expert input, from people experienced in the fields involved in the plan. For example, much has been learned about affordable housing by people who work in that field, so they should be the ones consulted.
- Restore neighborhood planning and input, and work with the plans, rather than preempting them.
- Take into account the financial costs of the plan, such as for streets, expanded park facilities, and other city services.
- Keep the current zoning plan. Throw out any idea of up-zoning.
- Reinstitute the policy of requiring adequate off-street parking for new construction of residences and businesses.
- Keep the requirement that owners of ADUs and plexes must live on the property.
- Base amount of density along public transportation corridors on amount of transit use. “Density follows transit.”
- Include standards for building, in order to avoid having cheaply built (and ugly) apartment buildings which won’t last for a generation.
In summary, affordable housing and racial equality will not result from unregulated population density. The idea of up-zoning does not hold water. Up-zoning will destroy our community. Plan 2040 should be thrown out and a new plan developed, on the basis of sound evidence rather than unproven theory.
July 20th, 2018