Gary Thaden: Tenth Ward Resident

I am a Tenth Ward resident who moved to Minneapolis from the suburbs.  I have lived in other places in Minneapolis and have lived in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood in two different locations.  I love the diversity of people, retail, household income and housing options in my neighborhood.  Homogenizing Minneapolis land use & zoning will destroy that diversity and thus, I oppose the Draft Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan.

My current home is zoned R2B.  It is a historical house, built by Theron Healy, a master builder whose recognized by the City in the Healy Block Historic District (the only Minneapolis historic districts dedicated to a specific 19th Century builder).  Other buildings on my block are zoned R3, R4, and R5.  This diversity of zoning is a positive feature of Lowry Hill East and our City.  The Draft Comprehensive Plan will destroy that diversity by rating most of my neighborhood “Future Land Use Urban Neighborhood” & “Built Form District Interior 3”.  Giving almost all of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood the same Land Use and Built Form will push out a diversity of housing.  It will promote the destruction of existing housing and push the building of new apartment buildings of at least three stories.  I see that the cities drawing for Built Form District Interior 3 on page 64 of the plan envisions only new three-story apartment buildings for this district.  The Plan’s lack of imagination that other housing (including single-family, rooming houses, duplexes, triplexes, 1960’s 2 ½-story walkups, and 1900-30’s three-story apartments) increases diversity of household income and housing options for our city which are positive traits for my neighborhood and our city.

Will the rating of my R2B property to “Future Land Use Urban Neighborhood” & “Built Form District Interior 3” make my property a non-conforming use?  Will this decrease my property value? By promoting the destruction of our housing options are we homogenizing our built environment and destroying our City’s history?

I have noticed over the last few years an increase in rhetoric about “affordable housing”.  At the same time Lowry Hill East has had an increase in new three-to-five story apartment buildings.  Almost none of these are affordable and they sometimes replaced affordable housing.  New construction results in higher housing costs and an increase land-use waste.

The push for higher-built residential should also include a push for higher-built commercial.  For example, all the new residential in Lowry Hill East has been 3-5 stories, yet the pizza/bank building at the corner of Hennepin & 27th and the bank on the corner Lake & Humboldt are both one story buildings.  If we are going to promote height and density it should also apply to commercial structures.

The zoning, land use and resulting economic push to rid the city of single-family homes has an element of negative racial overtones.  Eliminating the disparities in home ownership rates would substantially reduce the racial wealth gap.  For many families in the United States, home equity marks the largest segment of their assets.  These assets can be used to help themselves, their family members and those inheriting those assets.  People of color have lower home ownership rates, lower home equity amounts, and live in areas with reduced housing values.  It was only 50 years ago that the Federal Government passed the Fair Housing Act.  That is less than two 30-year mortgage cycles ago.  Over generations, this disparity perpetuates itself and our public policy choices should promote home ownership for economic and racial wealth-gathering reasons rather than promoting the elimination of single-family homes.

(See:  The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (2017, long-listed for the National Book Award; ; ; )

Lastly, the method of conducting the roll out of this Comprehensive Plan attempts to hide the effects of the plan.  Individual property owners have not been notified how this Plan affects the zoning on their property.  This is unconscionable.  In addition, changing the terms “land use” and “zoning” to “Future Land Use” and “Built Form” are obvious attempts by the city to confuse the public.  Both these actions are contrary to the July 19, 2018 City Council Study Session on “Community Trust & Transparency”.

For these reasons the City of Minneapolis should reject this Draft Comprehensive Plan.

Gary Thaden

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