Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan Passes 12 to 1

13th Ward News from Minneapolis Council Member Linea Palmisano
Visit us at www.minneapolismn.gov/ward13


Contact Information

Council Member Linea Palmisano
350 S. 5th St.
City Hall, Room 307
Minneapolis, MN 55415 612.673.2213

John Freude, Senior Policy Aide

Josie Vautrin, Policy Aide

City of Lakes

Dear Neighbor,

With the final Council meeting of the year completed I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the final vote regarding the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The Plan passed 12-1 and I was the lone dissenting vote. If you would like to watch the proceedings click here. My comments begin at 24:50. Many of you signed up for this newsletter for updates regarding the 2040 Plan so I wanted to dedicate a message specifically to this.

As you know, the Metropolitan Council requires all municipalities within its jurisdiction to complete a comprehensive plan every ten years looking to the next twenty years. The plan is a document that guides land use and transportation decisions. It covers recommendations for built form, zoning changes, transit corridors, commercial corridors and a whole host of goals. During my first term we, the Council, unanimously voted on the goals that would be the guiding force of this plan. You can find those here. What still needed to be determined was how we achieve those goals. To help facilitate this decision city staff underwent a public input period, which they said would be the main force for updating the plan between drafts.

From the outset I have been a strong proponent of these goals. That is why I decided to make it a priority for my office to help collect feedback to help shape this plan. I hosted a ward forum in May with nearly 300 attendees, spent a large part of the Summer in your living rooms, block groups, visited each neighborhood for special meetings in October, sent newsletters, attended neighborhood association meetings, sent a physical mailer, hung fliers, posted on social media and invited city staff to come into the 13th Ward, all to solicit this feedback. I made the ask of each of you to participate in this process because I was told that input from city residents would be the key driver of ideas and amendments between the first and second draft.

Unfortunately, I was misled.

In the hundreds and hundreds of calls, emails, handwritten letters, art pieces and any other communication sent my way I heard the following input and more:

  • Regulate absentee landlords
  • Keep the ownership of new properties local
  • Address the environmental consequences of new development and density
  • Don’t downzone existing commercial and corridor nodes
  • Keep lower zoning in-between nodes
  • Address the affordable housing crisis
  • Show us the data that says density equals affordability
  • Address parking concerns

None of this feedback made it into any draft of the Comp Plan. I know for a fact that there were thousands of these messages because I read them and I made sure they were sent to the department collecting feedback. But they went ignored.

I have said many times already, but I will say it again, this process was flawed. Input was not respected or reflected in any version of this plan. Hiring a PR firm to sell the same plan to residents using tax-payer dollars was wrong. Framing a narrative that anyone with misgivings about this plan is inherently exclusionary, or against affordable housing, is wrong. Attacking residents on social media for giving their opinions because city staff asked for them, is wrong.

This wasn’t good engagement and this creates an environment where city residents will be reluctant to participate in the future if they feel the same outcome is likely.

This is one of the main reasons I voted against this plan. I could not, in good conscience, support a plan that asks for community input, but that also went to such lengths to ignore and discredit that same input. This is unfortunate too because this plan has amazing goals. I still support those goals and I support many pieces of this plan but I could not vote for it.

Throughout this process I made several attempts to make improvements to this plan and ultimately brought some of these in the form of amendments to our Council mark-up session at the very end. By working with my colleagues, I was able to make some significant changes to zoning amendments for the 13th Ward. You can find the full map amendment here with a few of the larger changes below:

  • 44th street was initially stripe zoned Corridor 4, which went against most of the recommendations in the Linden Hills Small Area Plan, including reducing the zoning of existing commercial properties. My amendment brought 44th Street closer to alignment with the Linden Hills Small Area Plan.
  • The original plan had Sheridan Avenue South designated as Corridor 4 for medium transit despite how narrow that street is and the lack of on-street parking that exists today. I was able to reduce that to Corridor 3 to reflect that difference relative to a street like 50th Street.
  • Somehow between drafts 1 and 2 Lyndale Avenue, south of 50th Street and north of the creek, was up-zoned to Corridor 4. However, the rest of Lyndale, north of the creek, is not treated the same and so I negotiated to bring it more in line with the rest of Lyndale.
  • One of my main concerns of this plan was that stripe zoning would allow for developers to control where density went, instead of strategic planning. This caused me great concern on streets like Bryant Avenue South and Penn Avenue South where today we have nodal based zoning, focusing higher density near amenities. While there was no appetite from my colleagues to respect that nodal zoning, I was able to reduce these streets from Corridor 4 to Corridor 3 to signify how different they are from actual major commercial and transit ways like 50th Street.
  • Initially, parts of Bryant, south of 50th St.,  were also zoned for Corridor 4 despite the fact that buses turn once they hit 50th. Given that south of 50th is not acting as a transit way I worked to bring it back to Interior 1.

In addition to these map amendments I authored several text amendments. You can find the full list of every amendment here. Below are a few highlights:

  • Throughout this process I heard from residents regarding the lack of data to support that density would lead to affordable housing. Having never been shown this data myself I successfully moved forward an amendment requiring staff to create measurables that would track the “success” of the comp plan.
  • Encouraging the regulation of, and education around, the use of pesticides and chemicals on privately owned land and supporting carbon sequestration, which I co-authored with Council Member Gordon.
  • Prioritizing safety investments in street redevelopments.
  • Prohibiting school zoning in industrial areas, which I co-authored with Council Member Reich. These areas do not have safety in the right-of-way for children.
  • To study, encourage, and implement new and creative parking strategies to accommodate increased residential density.

You will notice that a handful of the amendments I brought forward were withdrawn. Some of those were withdrawn due to the fact that Council Members weren’t acting in coordination in the last minute chaos, so there was some duplication. Mark-up day was the first time I saw what many of my colleagues were bringing forward. Some of us had similar amendments and so if one came forward that achieved a similar goal or was worded better I would pull my own. An example of this was my amendment to respect existing setbacks and building footprint guidelines for this new development. Council Member Schroeder brought forward a similar amendment with a broader scope so we agreed to move forward with his.

Another reason was that I actively negotiated with my colleagues for changes that would improve the plan for the 13th Ward. For example, I have been advocating for a physical piece of mail to be sent to all residents to inform them of changes the comp plan will bring. My colleagues did not support this being a part of the Comp Plan document itself so I withdrew it and instead brought it forward as a budget amendment later that week successfully.

You will also notice a few of mine were defeated. One of those was changing the triplex on any city lot policy to a duplex plus and additional dwelling unit (ADU). Because our city requires homesteading for ADU’s I believe we could have addressed the absentee landlord issue by requiring property owners live in these buildings. It would also guarantee ownership remains local. Additionally, from an environmental and affordability standpoint, far more of our existing housing stock could be retrofitted into duplexes than triplex homes. I believe this will require new buildings and make triplexes less affordable as a growth initiative. Unfortunately, my colleagues do not see the same value in this that I do and they voted it down.

I knew very early on that this plan was going to pass. I knew that voting against it anyway would also make it challenging to advocate for amendments that I truly believe improved this plan. But I think I achieved the right balance of this.

I know there are some 13th Ward residents who are frustrated that I voted this way. I want you to know that I hear you as well. I know we need to do more to improve public transit and reduce dependence on single occupancy vehicles. I also know we need to address our housing crisis. I’m pro-growth and remain that way. I am very supportive of Bus Rapid Transit making its way to the 13th Ward and am excited about the recent groundbreaking of SW LRT and am very supportive and advocated for increased density along and near transit. However, I believe our issues regarding housing and affordable housing are not addressed in this plan. I take issue with the idea that speculatory investors will simply add affordable units because we added a new market for them. I fear this plan has unintended consequences for our naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) and affordable starter homes. I feel those concerns went ignored and I could not support that.

As I have said before, we had the right goals, but the wrong Comp Plan.  

I thank you all for your time and input. I greatly appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

Wishing you and yours a safe happy holiday season!

Warm Regards,