Map Monday: Minneapolis Residential Zoning

Minneapolis has eight zones dedicated to residential uses, R1 through R6, plus R1A and R2B. A full half of those, R1, R1A, R2, and R2B, are dedicated to the preservation of the single family character of neighborhoods by allowing only single family homes or duplexes (1 & 2 Unit Residential). The other four, R3-R6, permit larger (3+ Unit Residential) structures. Two-thirds of the city, by area, is zoned for 1 & 2 Unit Residential, as shown in yellow in the map below.

Minneapolis Zoning by Classifcation

Map by the author. Click for larger version.

Note: While parks are not shown on this map, and are not likely to be developed any time soon, the city of Minneapolis does not have a specific zoning classification for parks.  Therefore parks will be zoned similarly to the surrounding land, usually residential. For example, Powderhorn Park is technically zoned R2B.

About Peter Bajurny

Peter rents a single family home in the Corcoran neighborhood of Minneapolis, which he shares with his wife, two cats, and a transient boarder roommate. He is a board member of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, and tweets very thoughtfully as @FISHMANPET. Opinions expressed are his own.

77 thoughts on “Map Monday: Minneapolis Residential Zoning

  1. Julia

    It’s so strange to me that we purposefully zone/legislate in a way that causes/exacerbates public health disparities. I live near/in Uptown and looking at that map is like seeing the clear correlation between where we allow denser housing (you know, apartment buildings, the kind of housing that is most accessible to already marginalized groups) and where we put commuter traffic and diesel trucks.

    Higher density housing is only allowed adjacent to high-traffic (& high air/noise pollution) arterial roads. Not only that, but neighborhood organizations (I think?) have worked to limit commuter traffic in the interior of neighborhoods through various means, including one ways, no rush hour turns on certain streets, and speed bumps, thereby protecting the health of the few residents in single family homes at the direct expense of the health of more vulnerable populations.

    If we were really a city dedicated to equity, we’d see upzoning around parks and we’d work to direct our heaviest, dirtiest traffic flow towards the streets where the fewest residents would be exposed to toxic pollution. We’d calm traffic and divert suburban commuters FROM, rather than TO, streets where many people live (and work, go to school, eat, shop, walk, wait for transit). And we’d prioritize public health improvements for populations that are already at higher risk because of socioeconomic status, age, etc.

    Disappointing to see how large the gap is between Minneapolis’ rhetoric and actual on-the-ground zoning & restrictions.

    1. cobo Rodreges

      I think actually makes a lot of sense to have high density buildings near arterial roads and commercial spaces, because there are:
      1. More places to walk to
      2. More transit options
      3. More nearby jobs
      4. More demand because of reasons 1-3.

      In the suburbs there are plenty of high density developments in the third ring suburbs that are built around parks (I used to live in one) but..

      1. to accomplish anything requires a minimum 20 minute car trip.

      2. you can’t walk to anything.

      3. biking places is too scary because cars on the roads are very fast and winding even when its not an arterial road.

      4. Most jobs are far away.

      And I disagree with your suggestion of re- routing traffic through the most desirable neighborhoods because.

      1.It would kill the city’s tax base by lowering property values. People in those single family houses tend to pay a lot to keep the city functioning.

      2. it would Create more traffic, because there would less walking and transit possibilities, so driving becomes the default for the people living in the buildings.

      It just makes sense to cluster dense housing, with other amenities like transit and commerce, and transit and commerce work the best where there’s traffic.

      1. Rosa


        And even though I don’t expect the city and its voters to actually live up to those ideals of equity, I’m surprised that there aren’t more developers/landlords looking for density and getting zoning changes for that.

        Looking at the neighborhoods I know (Phillips, Powderhorn, Central, Seward) I’m realizing that my impression of them as full of multiunits is skewed because I’m usually on main streets, where the denser development is clustered.

        Though there must be a lot of exceptions for older buildings, right? Because I’m seeing a lot of SFH yellow on that map in places I *know* have quads & sixplexes.

        1. Peter Bajurny Post author

          If you look closely (click the picture, then click the cross in the upper right hand corner of the picture to expand it to full size) you’ll see tiny dots of orange around the yellow, those are probably the apartment buildings you’re thinking of.

          I’m guessing those neighborhoods are just like mine, Corocran, in that the apartments are individually zoned appropriately but the vast majority is zoned for single family homes or duplexes.

          1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

            This is true, but there are many examples of apartments in the Wedge, CARAG, and other neighborhoods with R2B zoning, or even ones with R3/R4 zoning that exceed the max/mins for lot coverage, FAR, lot size per dwelling unit, and/or parking spaces.

            1. Peter Bajurny Post author

              I’m not really sure by what exact criteria these apartment buildings were assigned into higher zones. Many of them don’t meet the parking requirements, but there’s also a lot of these spots zoned R6 so maybe they looked at lot area or FAR?

              And then you’ve got places closer to Uptown, where the residents were more politically connected, and were able to subsequently downzone their apartment buildings to be more “consistent” with the surrounding character. T

              1. Julia

                I thought some (many) older apartment buildings were zoned in later years for much lower uses, so that if they were torn down or destroyed by fire, the landowner would no longer be able to rebuild to the same housing density?

                1. Peter Bajurny Post author

                  As I said above, I think that’s a political result in just a few small areas. All the apartments I’ve checked in my neighborhood have been zoned for higher density housing, not R1 or R2.

                  You can look up the zoning of any property by putting in its address here:

                  If you wanna go really crazy, you can print off the corresponding Zoning Plate map here and walk around your neighborhood comparing what you see to what’s on the map.

                  1. Julia

                    Ahh, didn’t catch that that was what you were addressing. So far checking for East Isles/Lowry Hill, it’s about 50/50 for underzoned (many downzoned for more exclusionary uses in ’99). But Mpls’ search is much harder to use than the Henn County one (I’m using them in tandem–too much work!).

                  2. Julia

                    It doesn’t seem like logic plays a role in this, unfortunately. I’d think higher density zoning would be allowed at the very least with some consideration of the proximity of the location to destinations like, say, downtown & the lakes (with the Shoreland Overlay in place to minimize environmental impact by limiting total footprint, rather than restricting number of residents allowed).

          2. Rosa

            so what does that mean? Is it then up to anyone doing new building or conversion to get a variance to the general zoning? If it were the other way – zoned for more density – would people have to get special permission to build low-density? Or does the zoning set what’s allowed, not a cap?

            1. Peter Bajurny Post author

              The current zoning code allows single family homes in all eight of the residential zones. If a lot was zoned R6 and you wanted to build a single family home on it, you would have no problem, barring any other overlays that may prohibit it.

              If a lot is zoned for a lower density than you want to build, outside of areas with specific redevelopment guidelines, there’s probably not much you can do. You can try and get a variance, but you’d need a lot of variances, and the city would probably see through what you’re trying to do. You could try and get a rezoning, but without any city policy supporting that rezoning (and there won’t be any policy in the cores of these low density neighborhoods) you won’t have much luck.

              So generally speaking, the apartment buildings that are currently zoned R3-R6 could probably rebuilt in their current form, maybe with a few modifications.

              Apartment buildings in areas like the Wedge that are zoned R2B would not be able to be redeveloped as apartments, which is the political result desired by some in those areas.

              Does that answer the question?

              1. Rosa

                Pretty much, thank you! The zoning is a cap on size, not a plan for what goes where, is basically it, right?

    2. Sue Hunter Weir

      The single-family homes and duplexes in Phillips are owned and rented in large part by families with children. We do not need higher density or increased traffic on those residential streets. We are low density in some areas by design. It’s a matter of safety and air quality–both equity issues in our neighborhood.

        1. Sue HW

          True enough. But it usually means fewer places for kids to play on the blocks where they live. And in a neighborhood like Phillips were parents often work multiple jobs and are not on a nine-to-five clock (or, eight-to-five), cars are often a necessity. They come and go at odd hours so public transportation or biking may not be an option for them. I understand that the idea that higher density means fewer cars but are there any examples in Minneapolis where increased density has actually resulted in less ownership or traffic? There may well be but I don’t know where they are.

          And I’m pretty sure that there are a lot more kids per household in Phillips than Uptown. The idea that “marginalized” people can only find housing in apartment buildings is not always the case. For some, sure. But we have a high number of single-family homes and duplexes that are rental properties–always have been (since 1880s anyway) and likely always will be.

          One size does not necessarily fit all.

          1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

            I don’t get the sense that the density that’s been added around 24th and Bloomington has led to any traffic problems (although I say that mostly based on there not currently being bad traffic, I don’t know what it was like before).

            Greenway Heights at Bloomington and the Midtown Greenway doesn’t seem to be causing any traffic problems (although a driver did crash into it awhile back).

            Minneapolis Grand at Chicago and 24th doesn’t seem to be causing issues.

            There’s plenty of traffic at Franklin and Portland, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the density that’s been added there (it’s the freeway access).

            Unfortunately, none of that is scientific, but perhaps someone else has numbers on whether these project have had any meaningful effect on traffic.

            1. Sue HW

              It’s important to make a distinction between parking problems and traffic. I haven’t seen any evidence that reducing parking spaces results in less car ownership. It may be that people park on the street just as some people have pretty much always done do to avoid paying extra for off-street parking. The increased number of cars contributes to different types of problems and certainly contributes to traffic congestion–blind intersections, double parking, making u-turns to get to a parking spot before someone else does., going the wrong way down one-way streets, etc

              I agree that traffic at 24th and Chicago is not particularly problematic but it wasn’t before the elder housing and town homes were built either. The busiest intersections on Bloomington are at Franklin, 26th Street, 29th Street and Bloomington and Lake.

              The town homes on 24th and Bloomington have quite a bit of off-street parking in back of the homes. I’m not sure about the elder housing. Grand at Chicago was not fully occupied (and that’s being generous) for many years. Residents have access to heated, underground parking. The traffic at that intersection and for three or four blocks east is nightmarish because of commercial properties and inadequate parking along that street. Something in the neighborhood of 5,000 traffic tickets were issued in a period of nine months–one of the reasons why a permit to expand the mall at 24th and 10th was denied. Traffic at 29th and Bloomington is often backed up (more so during rush hour) and may have been to some extent before Midtown Heights was built. That housing development also has heated, underground parking.

              In one census year (I think1990) more than 63% of Phillips families did not own cars because they couldn’t afford to. As the neighborhood has become wealthier the number of families owning cars has exploded. Many families live in housing built between 1880 and 1915 when parking was not an issue (you kept your horse out back). As I said earlier many of my neighbors work two or three jobs, work nights and odd hours. It is not uncommon for there to be four vehicles to a duplex.

              I’ve lived in Phillips for more than 40 years and walked from my home to the U five days a week for 35 of those years. There have been many changes–higher income (even if it takes multiple jobs for families to get there), and families with lots more kids. That’s what we have dreamed of and worked for–a family-oriented neighborhood with safe places for kids to play (sidewalk, parks and yards). We’re closer now than we’ve been in decades and it’s good. I’d be happier with fewer cars and less traffic but there will need to be some significant big-picture economic changes before that will be possible for the families who live here.

          2. Rosa

            Don’t the higher-density developments come with their own parking? And a lot have play equipment for the kids who live there. I’m thinking about Little Earth, the developments at Bloomington near Lake, and the new townhomes at 24th Street – plus a number of quads in Powderhorn that have play equipment in the yard. It would actually be really interesting to figure out whether single-family & duplex rentals have more or less kid-specific stuff available than bigger places, especially in addresses that are more than 3 or 4 blocks from a park.

            Even that big tower on 22nd (is it actually called the Pentagon?) has a lot of green space around it, though I never see anyone playing there.

            1. Sue

              The city has within the past year changed the number of spaces that new developments are required to provide.

              I think that one of the differences between yards and parks is the amount of supervision that might be required. It’s unfortunate that it has to be this way but I don’t think most parents would let their kids, especially small ones, play in a space that isn’t supervised, either by themselves or someone else that they know. It’s one thing to be able to look out your window while you’re cooking dinner or doing laundry and quite another to walk a few blocks to a park–a lot of working parents just don’t have the time. Most kids on our block spend their time riding their bikes and big wheels, or skating, up and down the sidewalk. Everyone on the block knows who they are and watches out for them. It’s a really different dynamic.

              1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

                True, new buildings within 1/2 mile of certain transit corridors and with less than 50 dwelling units no longer have mandated parking minimums. But of course developers generally still build parking, especially in areas outside of downtown. And even if they didn’t, it’s not like there’s a shortage for parking anywhere in the city.

                1. Rosa

                  there are definitely localized shortages, especially during snow emergencies. The short blocks off Bloomington & Cedar get parked up so tight, I’ve seen near fistfights over parking spots.

              2. Rosa

                You get a similar dynamic in buildings with shared play spaces, if people trust their neighbors – conversely, you never see kids on the sidewalk of our block unsupervised, because it faces Bloomington and the traffic speeds and volumes are terrible, and rental SFHs don’t always have fenced spaces. It’s not a simple “house = good for kids” “apartment building = bad for kids” tradeoff.

                Ditto parking – a lot of the older SFHs and duplexes don’t have offstreet parking at anywhere close to the ratio multi-units do.

                1. Sue

                  There are any number of neighborhoods in the city where there is a shortage of parking. Uptown comes to mind. The University is another. Around North Central. In Phillips by the hospital, park, school and mosques. Ventura Village near the mall at 24th and 10th and for several blocks around. There are any number of restricted parking areas in the city. Older neighborhoods tend not to have enough off-street parking since cars didn’t exist when the houses were built. If your neighborhood was built around 1920 or so, there probably is enough parking. Hospitals and colleges require a great deal of parking. Developers are the ones who supported reducing the number of parking spaces because they argued that parking spaces cost too much compared with rental living space.

                  1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

                    There’s a “shortage” at a price of $0. The only answer is to increase the price of parking until there’s available spaces.

                    And yes, parking spaces cost far too much to justify requiring them. We require that developers build space for housing cars, which comes at the expense of space and investment for housing humans.

                    1. Sue

                      That isn’t quite how it works. Hospitals and universities tend to locate in poorer neighborhoods because they view it as cheap real estate. Those neighborhoods are usually older and have less off-street parking to begin with. The people who wind up paying to park in front of their own homes are often the people who can least afford it. We are subsidizing a parking problem not of our own making. And parking v. housing humans is a false equivalency. Fewer parking spaces does not guarantee that there will be more rental units in a building, only that it will be less expensive to build. That does not in turn guarantee that the developer will go on to build more buildings with the money saved. And, yes, I pay to park in front of my own house because I live across the street from a school and park, within two blocks of a hospital and within half a block of a mosque. Each is an asset to the neighborhood but they are not without costs to those who live nearby.

                2. Sue

                  You’re right. It’s not the type of housing–it’s the amount of traffic that affects safety for kids. It makes more sense to me to concentrate traffic in certain areas to keep it off residential (side) streets. And, yes, that’s my point–older houses don’t have double and triple garages or even a garage big enough for one modern car. That is not a good enough reason to tear down single-family homes and duplexes. Isn’t that what people are questioning? Building to accommodate a car culture? We have a parking shortage in much of Phillips–we deal with it. It’s not always fun but it’s our reality. If you live in East Phillips, I’m sure that you’re familiar with the problem and have accepted it for what it is and adjusted/adapted how you live to meet the circumstances.

                  1. Peter Bajurny Post author

                    I’m questioning why in such a large swath of the city is zoned exclusively for single family homes or duplex, you seem to be questioning why anybody would want anything other than the status quo?

                    1. sue

                      I’m wondering why people think that the status quo is so awful. High-density housing has always existed along transit ways in Minneapolis just as it does today and that seems to be a good thing. Whether it means that the residents of those buildings own fewer, or no, cars is another question. What is wrong with single-family houses and duplexes for families who want to live that way? This is not a moral issue. Think of the advantages of having a yard–having the space to grow much of your own food, being able to hang your laundry on the line, being able to participate in recycling and composting programs, raising chickens, planting things that will attract pollinators, etc. Where is the evidence that single family homes in urban settings are a major cause of car dependency? My guess is that where people work and the conditions of their employment, rather the type of housing that they live in, determine whether and how much people need to drive. There is nothing that says that people who live in single-family homes MUST drive more to shop. That may be true in the suburbs which were designed differently but Minneapolis’ commercial nodes arose in the early part of the 20th century. The types of goods and services that they provide may have changed in some cases (i.e., corner drugstores have pretty much died out for a variety of reasons but hardware stores are still within easy reach in many neighborhoods). The reasons that people shop where they do and the way that they do (Target and more’s-the-pity Walmart) is lower prices and convenience. For some of us it may not be a big deal to pay a few cents more for an item–for others, it’s a very big deal. I have no quibble whatsoever with people who want to live in apartments, condos, or tiny houses. Those are good choices for many but they are not good choices for everyone.

                    2. Peter Bajurny Post author

                      I’m not seeing in any of that a justification of why public policy should protect those specific housing types. I’m not shocked that people enjoy living in single family homes. I live in one, it’s great.

                      It was only very generally implied by this map I made, but anybody that’s read much of anything else I’ve written about zoning knows that I don’t have much respect for single family [b]zoning[/b]. Not single family [b]homes[/b] but single family [b]zoning[/b]. I don’t believe there is a government policy interest in protecting single family homes. I don’t see the harm in, for example, raising the minimum residential zoning throughout the entire city to R3 (with some tweaks) to allow small scale incremental density, to allow more people access to these communities that we all love.

                    3. Julia Curran

                      I find your pro-yard claims a bit strange, Sue. I live in a 400 sq foot studio. I hang dry my clothing. I container garden vegetables & fruits in the summer, as well as plants to attract pollinators, and have ~40 houseplants year round. I recycle more than any homeowner/SFH resident I know, despite very little city or building support. I also compost, again, despite no city or building support for this. You don’t need a huge home to be able to do most of the stuff you listed. And not everyone values that kind of thing–I’d rather have a city with apartment space for someone who doesn’t want to garden than have them trying to maintain some monoculture lawn as a default. I’m all for more composting/recycling, but that’s BECAUSE I care about sustainability and slowing climate change, which is the same reason I choose to live in as small of an apartment as the city of Minneapolis considers legal to build.

                      I have no quibble with people who want to live in SFHs, though I question the sustainability of it as a broad practice. But I don’t think the city should prohibit property owners from building, say, a multi-unit apartment over a cafe and yarn store on their land if they choose to, or splitting their existing home into four units and renting three out. This is a limit on the KIND of housing–there are plenty of SFH in Minneapolis that are more than TEN times the size of my apartment. Heck, a “small” house is more than three times as large! Why is that? What is the logic behind allowing a 4,000 sq foot SFH, but prohibiting a four-plex of 800 sq foot apartments?

                  2. Monte Castleman

                    I don’t think hospitals “choosing” to locate in poorer areas is true. Most of them have been in those locations since before the neighborhood became poor. With evolving technology, patient expectations, and standard of care it’s more cost effective to rebuild from scratch, so they tend to locate in a cornfield by a major highway so they have good access for patients and emergency vehicles, plenty of parking, cheap land, and can build a new building without impacting their existing operations.

                    1. sue

                      Simply not accurate. Look at Abbott-Northwestern, HCMC, Minneapolis Children’s, Fairview University and see how much they have expanded in the past ten years.

                    2. Joe T

                      That inner city hospitals have expanded instead of fleeing to the suburbs is not a case for why they located in that location in the first place. One of my favorite houses by the U was torn down for a hospital expansion, but it wasn’t there before the university. The institutions often were created long ago, in smaller forms, but long ago. The development around them is not why they located there.

                      I can see it being the other way around though, living near a hospital has comings and goings at all hours, helicopters, sirens, wailing of family members. Not exactly the most pleasant scenario. Living near a college means lots of drunk college kids, bohemians and strange traffic patterns, loud music from apartments where the kids never learned how to live in the city, unshoveled walks from the same. These conditions are caused by the people and institutions, not reasons for them to locate in their current space.

      1. Julia

        Not sure how low-density-by-design protects either safety or air quality (overall). Low density encourages car-dependency and reduces feasibility of transit service (thereby further encouraging car-dependency). And as a small female, I often feel unsafe in low density areas, particularly residential, which are often deserted at different points in the day.

        But children definitely up density! I think part of what Mpls planners need to take into account with zoning is average family size (including as it varies with income or other metrics, if it does) and how that’s changed over time. My father grew up in Minneapolis in the 1920s/30s, at a time when much of our housing stock was being built. His family of 14 lived in a SFH and even as the children became adults, there was an ebb & flow of family returning (sometimes with spouse and kids) for whatever reason–between moves, during the war, during rough relationship patches, to take care of parents, grandkids visiting for the summer or even a school year, etc. R1/R2 cannot provide the same density now as it did when it was built–people are having fewer kids, there are fewer people working as live-in help, and even multigenerational/extended family living comes with different needs/expectations.

        Neighborhoods thrive because of people (e.g. the 14 in my father’s family), not because of bricks (e.g. the SFH they lived in). We need to make sure the zoning supports and encourages minimum numbers of diverse (in age, race, income, etc) individuals who allow for the efficient provision of basic services (transit, parks, libraries, schools) and whose economic activity help encourage walkable neighborhood grocery stores, restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, theaters, etc. We’ve used measures like SFHs (and their health) as proxies for talking about what really matters in a city, which is its people (and their health).

        1. Sue HW

          How does low density encourage car dependency? We’re all still within walking distance of public transportation, grocery stores, parks, libraries, etc. The number 5 bus runs right through the heart of Phillips (as do the 2,21, 14, 19 and several express buses). Light rail is within walking distance and we have the Miditown Greenway running through the south end of the neighborhood. Low density doesn’t necessarily lead to car-dependency and not all families are having fewer children. Two-child families are not the norm in all neighborhoods.

          I’ve lived in what the media has branded “crime-ridden” Phillips most of my adult life and have not had any problems. It’s probably safer here than it is by the University campus (very high density area). I’m not sure that there is any correlation between density and certain types of crime that isn’t heavily dependent on other factors.

          1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

            Low density means that the other people who want to use those resources but can’t because there is no housing for them have to live farther away. That encourages car dependence.

            And, of course, by definition low density means things are farther apart, making them harder to get to without driving.

            It also exacerbates traffic and parking “problems.”

            But all of this is a bit strange in this context. Phillips is not a low-density area. At 13,000 residents per square mile (2010), its well above the city-wide average (7,417).

            1. Sue

              My guess is that Phillips is not low density is because families in our neighborhood are larger than those in some other neighborhoods and also because multiple families live in the same house or unit. There are also a large number of duplexes built during a lumber shortage.

              I’m not sure why you think that people who live in lower density housing options drive more than people in high-density neighborhoods or that they force others to live farther out. There may be some truth to that in the suburbs but it isn’t necessarily true in the city. Pretty much everything that we want/need is within walking/biking/busing distance.

              1. Peter Bajurny Post author

                If I’m a person that wants to live in Phillips but can’t because there isn’t available housing that meets my needs, I don’t just disappear. I might end up in Seward or Corcoran or Powderhorn Park or Longfellow or maybe somewhere in St Paul. But maybe I end up in St Louis Park or Eagen or Maplewood or somewhere like that. Living in Corcoran I’d say I’ve got pretty comparable transit options to someone living in Phillips. I certainly wouldn’t say the same that someone living in most of St Louis Park, or Eagen, or Maplewood, etc, has those same options.

                1. Sue

                  I’m not sure why one person is more entitled to live where they want than another. The idea that some people are forcing others to live in suburbs where they would otherwise choose not to live because of their transportation options (or lack thereof) is not plausible. This is not a zero-sum game. The key factor for most of us in choosing where we live is the value that we believe that we get in return for the amount of money that we can afford to spend on housing–the quality of schools, the sense of community, proximity to cultural and artistic events, leisure-time pursuits, perceptions about crime, access to goods and services (the type that we want and how far we’re willing to travel for access to them). Some of us like to garden (both in community gardens and our yards). Some like to have pets that aren’t always welcome in rental properties. Transit is only one consideration and for many people it probably is pretty far down on the list. If communities have enough political will they can affect the amount and many of the types of public transportation available to them (LRT and trains being an obvious exception).

                  1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

                    “I’m not sure why one person is more entitled to live where they want than another.”

                    Exactly, so why exclude people who are willing to trade larger living space and/or a yard for all the things you list (“the quality of schools, the sense of community, proximity to cultural and artistic events, leisure-time pursuits, perceptions about crime, access to goods and services (the type that we want and how far we’re willing to travel for access to them)”).

                    Yes, transit is only one consideration of many. But for many people, transportation costs are in their top 2 annual spending buckets, and commuting to work is a major factor. So, the availability of transit, proximity to safe biking infrastructure, ability to walk to daily needs, and proximity to jobs by any mode (basically, cost and time cost for predictable daily travel) are oftentimes among the forefront for people making housing location choices and tradeoffs. Specifically, these things often matter more to people in lower income brackets than upper income brackets compared to, say, the ability to have community gardens or proximity to artistic events.

                    To the extent that places like Phillips, or greater Uptown, or any other neighborhood rich in transit and walkability can support new housing, why wouldn’t we want to welcome these people to our neighborhoods? While the share of households in Phillips or Uptown without cars may have dropped since 1960 or 1990, the fact is that these neighborhoods do have higher transit, walking, and bike mode shares than even further-out neighborhoods in Minneapolis. Taking the bus from Fulton or Field or Columbia Heights is decidedly less convenient than Phillips. There are fewer places to walk to for daily needs in those areas. Families pushed to those neighborhoods (or cheaper suburbs) may not drive and park on *your street,* but they will be more likely to drive to their job (which may or may not be located in Phillips) and everywhere else they go than if they could have lived near you.

                    In any case, our perception of parking crunches and congestion (on local streets or otherwise) is just so overblown in this city. Even in the busier parts of town.

                    1. Sue

                      “Specifically, these things often matter more to people in lower income brackets than upper income brackets compared to, say, the ability to have community gardens or proximity to artistic events.”–Source, please. Not how much people spend but about “what matters” to people. You made a pretty big claim there so you must be able to point to some studies that back it up.

                      In fact, Phillips does welcome new and larger developments–13th and Lake, 10th and 29th, 29th and Bloomington, 24th and Bloomington, Franklin and Bloomington, Portland and Bloomington just to name a few. All of them are on buslines or close to the LRT.

                      And the comment about “your streets” was unnecessarily snarky. Let me point out that not everyone shares your perception that parking problems are “overblown.” That’s an opinion offered without any supporting evidence.

              2. Rosa

                don’t forget illegal rentals. When we had roomates, we were always in violation of the rental laws about how many unrelated people could live together, even when the number of people in the house or apartment equaled the number of bedrooms (and other times, when couples getting married would have put us in compliance). I don’t think that’s uncommon at all, especially when rents are high and vacancy rates are low. It’s not zoning but I think it’s related, because it comes from the same idea of how people should live as the bias toward single family homes.

                1. Sue

                  I don’t believe that the City of Minneapolis enforces ordinances limiting the number of unrelated people living together as they once did. If I remember the discussion correctly that decision recognized the high cost of housing and cultural differences about the amount of personal space that people want/require. I’m sure that there must be a point where a limit kicks in for health and safety reasons but I don’t know what it is. Many of those ordinances were written to address public health hazards, specifically the spread of tuberculosis and other air-borne diseases. There is no question that overcrowding coupled with lack of access to adequate health care puts people at risk of serious illness.

                  1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

                    If this ordinance was primarily about public health, it would not have targeted unrelated people, and it would have had something in there about people per square foot. This is all about limiting renters and the type of housing that supports this level of density. Renters are more likely to be unrelated when living together in those numbers, and a large single family home becomes technically illegal to fully occupy unless you’re a “single family.”

                    But yes, this bad law goes largely unenforced, particularly near universities.

                    1. Sue

                      I don’t know the exact history of the law but don’t doubt that there was a moral component to it. There was a time not all that long ago when the partner of a woman receiving AFDC could not live with her because she would lose her benefits. That has changed as the definition of “single family” has evolved. It may be true that in some areas (Uptown and the U, perhaps) that the “high-density” renters are not related to each other. That is certainly not true in all neighborhoods. Some families are simply larger than others. In neighborhoods with a large number of immigrant families, that is most certainly the case and no one is suggesting that those families be broken up to accommodate housing ordinances.

              3. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                I’d speculate fairly confidently that Phillips is relatively dense because because it has a lot of multifamily housing. Even if much of it was originally built as single family but subsequently was subdivided into more than one unit.

                In a city that has large swaths of single family homes, having a lot of duplexes, triplexes and small apartment buildings is enough to make you denser than average (and, of course, there are some bigger buildings too).

                1. Sue

                  As I wrote in another post, there are a lot of duplexes in Phillips dating to a lumber shortage so, yes, some smaller buildings have higher density. Houses, subdivided? Not so much. If you were to look at single-family homes only, I’m sure that you would still find higher density than other neighborhoods. Why? Bigger families, more kids. Look at the number of under-18s. (And that’s a very healthy sign–people with kids want to live here).

                  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                    “Houses, subdivided? Not so much.”

                    There are many houses – along Park, Portland and Chicago, for example – that were not built as multifamily but are now one, two or three unit buildings.

                    Or for a random example on 15th, this one:,-93.2537292,3a,85.5y,83.74h,89.97t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sw6ho05c6u6YS2EHDhcDChA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

                    Or the one down the block that’s was undergoing some renovations when the Google truck went by.

                    Talking Phillips like is characterized by single family homes is bizarre. According to MN Compass, there about 13% of housing units in Phillips are single family detached homes. 19% are duplexes and triplexes. 15% are 4+ units. See:

                    1. Sue

                      This whole conversation is in response to the map which shows Phillips with commercial properties, but inckuding apartment buildings along residential streets forming a ring around single-family homes and duplexes. Re: Park Avenue, there are only 12 of the original mansions left and even when they were all standing they were not representative of the neighbiorhood. Most of them house social service or health organizations now. That house on 15th is, and always has been, a duplex so I’m not sure what yiur point is. I never said that Phillips was chacterized by single-family units and have made repeated references to duplexes. I was responding to complaints that certain sections of the neighborhood are zoned for single-family housing and duplexes. I never claimed thst there were more of those types of houses than apartments. And the houses on Chicago were almost all built as duplexes. I have permits for virtually all of the houses on Chicago between Franklin and Lake for a project that I was working on and I know that for a certainty. I’m not sure where you got the idea that they were single-family homes because they weren’t.

        2. Sue

          I’m not sure whether you’re the same Julia who wrote about living in a small apartment but that post doesn’t have a reply button for some reason. I applaud you for living the way that you do. I love the idea of tiny houses, smaller appointments and owning less stuff. Some years ago (maybe 20 or so) the City of Minneapolis redefined (downsized) its definition of buildable lots in recognition of the fact that there were a lot of irregularly-sized lots going back to the early days of the city. I can love small spaces and even live in one but I don’t have four kids, or a dog, or an elderly relative living with me. I think that we need to recognize that not everyone has the same housing needs. My guess is that you go to what some would consider heroic lengths to support sustainability and that’s great.

          You ask why someone shouldn’t be able to build rental over retail. The answer is that they can just not on every lot in the city. I don’t know whether you’re suggesting that commercial properties should be able to be built everywhere–a grocery store in the middle of a residential block? a clinic? a roofing company? a used car lot? a bar? a pest-control business? Many businesses are necessary but don’t necessarily make the best neighbors. There is an amazing array of possibilities but rental-over-retail is common in new developments whether the buildings are two stories tall or taller.

          Re: subdividing existing properties. People share space all of the time although they may not, because of the expense, have separate kitchens, bathrooms, etc.

          1. Rosa

            Rental over retail is common, you’re right, and it seems to really enhance the neighborhood, so I don’t understand why you’re arguing for zoning against it.

            And in saying you don’t want commercial development you’re arguing against a great characteristic of the neighborhoods we already have. Looking at your list, I’m pretty sure we already have all those commercial things on residential blocks, and they are really nice, both for consumers and for providing jobs to folks in the neighborhood. We could use more of them, frankly. A grocery store in the middle of a residential block…why not? Like Everett’s on 38th? Aren’t there apartments across the street from the Aldi on Franklin? There’s housing right next to the mini mall at Lake & Bloomington, and right next to the dental clinic just south of there. There’s a tiny grocery at 35th & Cedar, right next to someone’s house. A clinic (like Bloom-Lake?), a roofing company (there’s one of those on 35th street east of Cedar). All the car lots and car repair places on Lake have houses directly behind them. The garden center on Cedar seems like a nice neighbor, probably better than some families I’ve lived next to for nighttime noise. We also have vet clinics, plumbers, tax accountants, and a weird number of art galleries and coffee shops.

            And while I am kind of glad we don’t live next to a child care center or a church that has loud choir practices (a friend in St Paul has really noisy late night church neighbors) the neighborhood needs those things and shouldn’t zone them away.

            Bars are a different issue, and it really depends on the bar – I wasn’t fond of living a block from the Chi-Lake liquor store, but I don’t think Matt’s Bar is an issue for its neighbors aside from street parking (and traffic issues when the President visits). I haven’t heard complaints from friends who live near the Chatterbox. Though I guess technically that’s Corcoran. Phillips actually seems pretty bar-deficient to me but I’m not much of a drinker so maybe I just don’t know about them.

            1. Sue

              Rosa, I never said that I was opposed to it. You need to go back and re-read what I wrote. My point is that commercial development is not appropriate everywhere. There are some blocks that are, and ought to remain, residential.

              1. Julia

                WHY should some blocks remain purely residential AND not all be zoned R6 to allow (not require, just legally allow) development?

                If it’s so great to segregate people from car traffic (and the noise/air pollution that goes with it) as well as all these businesses, then why aren’t we making sure that we have the densest housing zoning OFF commercial corridors rather than ON them?

            2. Sue

              Everett’s is not on a residential street–it’s zoned commercial. It’s a business district and has been since
              at least the 1920s.

            3. Sue

              The last time that I,will bug you, Rosa, but every single example that you gave is not on a residential street. They are om streets that have been zoned for commercial development. Franklin, Cedar , Bloomington, 38th, portions of 28th street, Chicago–they are all zoned for commercial uses and, yes, that’s good. There are a few houses on some blocks but they are stilk zoned for commercial use. An example of a residential street would be 13th Avenue between 27th and 28th street—a mix of single homes and duplexes but all houses.

                1. Sue

                  I’m not sure your point is. There used to be a lot of mom-and-pop markets (also butcher shops and bakeries) but that began to change in the 1930s or thereabouts. People couldn’t make a living running those stores because supermarkets offered more products for lower prices (and were able to offer incentives like coupons and green stamps).
                  There used to be a lot more supermarkets than there are now but the profit margin on food sales is very low and urban land values are high–grocers have to sell a lot of groceries to pay the rent on larger stores. It continues to be a highly competitive business and several chains have gone out of business within the past twenty or thirty years. Some high-end grocery stores, specialty stores, and coops are thriving but their prices are out of reach for many families. For better or worse, people shop at big box stores because their goods are cheaper and small-scale zoning changes are unlikely to alter that fact. And zoning is not black and white–developers can file for zoning changes and conditional use permits. It’s a fairly common occurrence.

                  “This whole “residential zone” “residential street” zoning nonsense is ridiculous.” Opinion, not a demonstrated fact.

                  1. Peter Bajurny Post author

                    Yet you’ve offered no real defense of residential zoning other than bring up scare tactics of nuisance businesses like pest control.

                    Would you be noticeably harmed if a corner store opened up on your block? Or more importantly, would you be noticeably harmed if zoning merely allowed a corner store to open up on your block?

                    1. Sue

                      I’ve offered several “defenses” in a number of posts. The problem is that you don’t like them. That’s fine. Would a grocery store be a problem? Maybe, maybe not. Increased traffic would be a problem because I live across from a school and park complete with tot lots. A child was killed crossing the street to get to the park. Litter is be a problem–check out the litter around 28th and Bloomington, the SA station at 25th and Bloomington and others. Sales of drug paraphernalia can be (and are) a problem at some convenience stores in the neighborhood. Parking already is a problem; we already have permit parking. On balance, I would say that it’s not a very good idea but if someone wants to ask for a variance, by all means, I would encourage them to ask.

                      What is the point of talking about a theoretical, but nonexistent, store? Would I be harmed by something that doesn’t exist? It makes no sense to talk about that possibility.

                      Scare tactics? Out of all of the things that I mentioned, you chose one. Why did you single out pest control businesses? Do you think some businesses are inappropriate but others are okay? Isn’t that what zoning is all about? Shouldn’t communities have some say about that? I believe that they do.

                      And, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone who has been so vigorously defending high-density housing (except Julia and I’m not sure about Rosa) appears to live in single family homes. What’s sauce for the goose…

                    2. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

                      Yeah Peter, what are you doing, living in a rental SFH and advocating for density? You know that’s not allowed! You’re not supposed to want your own neighborhood to have more intense land uses. It violates your rental contract.

                    3. Peter Bajurny Post author

                      Well you’ve given plenty of reasons why an individual would themselves want to live in a single family home. What I’m looking for is a reason why the government has an interest in protecting single family homes.

                      Obviously the government has an interest in making sure people have a place to live. But I don’t think it should have any interest in ensuring that those places to live are specifically single family homes. Our most in demand neighborhoods are held back by zoning that limits them to single family homes, which raises prices for everyone, and pushes development into surrounding neighborhoods, usually the ones least politically capable of fighting it.

                      Zoning is a maximum, not a minimum. If the entirety of residential lots in Phillips were upzoned to R6, I’m not sure that much of anything would change in the near term. I think if you upzoned everything in a mile radius around the intersection of Lake and Hennepin, an awful lot would change.

                      And for the record, my home is zoned C3A, and will most likely be redeveloped in 8-10 years.

                    4. Peter Bajurny Post author

                      Correction to this, single family homes are not permitted in R5 or R6, so R4 is the highest zone that allows a single family home. So in my hypothetical, all of Phillips could be rezoned R4 with little practical changes.

                2. Sue

                  Matthew, Be honest now, I never said that you weren’t entitled to an opinion, did I? You made that up. This is going nowhere so time to move on.

              1. Rosa

                They all back onto residential streets and have lots of residential blocks – have you ever driven down Bloomington? I happen to live on a 100% residential block of Bloomington. Of course the individual lots are zoned commercial if they have commercial properties on them. But it’s a stretch to call a block that’s commercial on 2 sides and residential on 2 a “commercial district”. Some individual businesses don’t make great neighbors but it’s not even by type (and yes, I see the trash – we take regular picking up trash walks around the neighborhood.)

                And, yes, I live in a single family house – but we would really like to downsize without leaving the neighborhood. I’d also like to be able to age in this neighborhood in a building without a million narrow stairs, and I’d like a lot of people I know who are getting priced out to be able to stay. All of that means I really want more new construction of multi units.

                I also really adore this neighborhood and would like other neighborhoods to have the opportunity for growth, density, and diversity that we have purely as an accident of history – the variety of development we have mostly predates the current zoning rules. Upzoning and mixed zoning don’t require development, they just allow it.

                Of course not every single business is great in every location – but that’s not a reason to have a general ban on businesses or have the assumption be no businesses unless there’s some special variance.

                1. Sue

                  Rosa, yes, I walked down Bloomington Avenue every work day for 35 years. The only totally residential block that I’m aware of is the 2800 block. Every other block has a church, a store, a firestation, or a clinic. And the 2900 block, both sides, have townhomes or a fourplex. The variety of development does not predate current zoning laws. Most of the high-density buildings have been built within the past 20 years. At least two of those deveopments are for elders. Many of the storefronts are older snd their uses have changed over the years but most are still retail operations of one sort or another. I agree that many people are having a hard time dealing with higher property taxes but that is a function of higher housing prices which is good if you’re selling but bad if you’re buying. It’s unfortunate that people’s income hasn’t kept pace with taxes and real estate/rental costs. But housing prices in Phillips were low with respect to quality for decades in large part due to the media’s portrayal of ours as a dangerous place. Many people were able to buy in who could not afford to live elsewhere. There are new apartments on Bloomington, by the Midtown Global market, at the intersection of Portland and Franklin , on Cedar, at Hiawatha and Lake, and there are plans, not yet completed or approved, for more higher density housing along the Greenway.
                  Phillips has an array of housing options–new v. Old construction, single home to medium-sized apartments, townhomes, condos, you name it. It’s already possible to age in place in Phillips, and there is n gaantee that new construction will result in greater affordability.

                  The definition of “residential,” at least in this thread, is determined by zoning type. So it’s not a stretch to call one-side of a block residential and one side not. One side may be on a major thoroughfare which is ideal for businesses and service providers wjhile the other is on a low-traffic street which is well-suited for housing with children. Same block with multiple uses.

                  The density and diversity of Phillips is not accidental. There have been three defining characteristics of this neighborhood long before it was known as Phillips and they are the same today: immigration and migration, transportation, and affordable housing. As true today as it was in 1880. I have been studying the neighborhood’s history for over 20 years and know a fair amount about how it came to be what it is and why. I have lived here all of my adult life and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else so I understand why you feel the way that you do. It’s an amazing place.

              2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

                How about Dupont Ave and 35th St in CARAG, where Louie’s Food and Deli is located in the ground level of an apartment building? Solidly “residential” zone (and the parcel is zoned R4, which does not allow commercial uses). Is my neighborhood worse or better for it?

                How about the several businesses along Bryant in CARAG zoned R2B like Canteen and the newly subdivided commercial building at 32nd (former convenience store) that was approved for re-zone from R2B to C1 just recently?

                Or the nationally-renowned mystery book store at 26th and Garfield zoned R5 carved out of a basement of a residential building?

                We could likely be pointing to thousands more of these businesses across the city if not for overly-restrictive zoning keeping them out. We already allow a very common commercial use by-right in single family zones, daycares, which exposes a bias in our political process (that something seen as a positive for families with kids is allowed anywhere despite it requiring food delivery, potential vehicle dropoff issues, and nuisance issues to neighbors via noise, not much different than many other commercial uses).

                Germany has a general residential zone that allows commercial uses that meet daily needs of residents. Things like small grocers, bakeries, book stores, coffee shops, etc etc. Their world keeps turning. Their urban pedestrian and bicycle fatality rates are far lower than ours. Their small business share of total is higher than ours. Their car usage is lower and bike/walk/transit share higher. These things are all inter-related, even if there is not a 1:1 causal relationship between only zoning permissiveness and those outcomes.

                I’m clearly stating personal opinion here, but I do think it’s ridiculous that we think we’re so smart that we can define exactly where commercial uses are appropriate or not, and that we then go and define areas with commercial zoning as commercial despite the fact that many people actually do live atop or next door to them. They’re as much residential as a block with 40 single family homes, and sequestering them to a few small areas doesn’t mean whatever negative impacts we perceive them to have don’t actually still affect residents of our city.

                1. Sue

                  You and I will never agree. I can live with that as I’m sure you can. But I leave you with this–if we’re not smart enough to define appropriate uses, who is? Who are you willing to let decide that for the rest of us? I put my trust in my neighbors and not necessarily the person who comes along with the biggest wallet (although that might just be the type of development we choose). Cheers and best wishes.

          2. Julia

            The reply-threading is difficult here!

            I’m not saying that 400 sq ft apartments should be the maximum, but I certainly would favor a property tax code that potentially has an increased rate above a certain sq footage/resident, at least as long as most of our energy for heating comes from fossil fuels and we’re facing climate catastrophe.

            I certainly don’t think that my efforts are anything approaching heroic and it bothers me to hear them framed that way. I do what I can because I believe in the common good, because it’s pretty easy (though the City of Minneapolis could make it much easier for renters), and because it makes me happy & saves me money & keeps me healthy & connected to my neighborhood/city.

            As for examples of bad-to-live-near businesses, many of them exist adjacent to housing. It’s just that it’s next to higher density rentals like my own, rather than by wealthier/more powerful residents. I’m all for the city heavily limiting/phasing out actual problem businesses (ones that directly hurt the physical well-being of the city & its residents and often leave polluted land in their wake), like toxic dry cleaners and gas stations. There are others that are more fear-mongering morality policing, as far as I can tell. I’ve lived adjacent to bars for nearly ten years and while there are occasional issues with noise and drunk people, I also know that there are likely to be people out when I come home late. I felt much less safe walking home on deserted streets when I lived in a SFH neighborhood interior.

            Again, what I see is the city protecting SFH residents, particularly those in wealthier areas, AT THE EXPENSE OF renters, seniors, and others in high density development adjacent to “commercial corridors.” As you mentioned, those businesses continue to exist, but rather than allowing their presence to be determined by either a) the market, or b) a plan that prioritizes the health and well-being of the greatest number of people, we have a plan that artificially restricts the market at the expense of more vulnerable people to benefit a few. If some businesses don’t make the best neighbors but we’re not going to exclude them from the city or places where people live, wouldn’t it be best to put them in low-density SFH areas, where fewer people are negatively impacted? Right now we do the opposite, but that reflects how invisible more vulnerable people are in our city.

            Rental over retail isn’t as common in new buildings as I’d like it to be. Most of the new higher density development I’m aware of is totally rental. A few have one large retail space (rather than a bunch of smaller spaces, which allow for more interesting streets and more smaller businesses). And I can think of only one that has more than one business on the first floor. But I don’t see any reason that this should be banned outright /anywhere/ in the city. Retail attached to housing is a fundamental and flexible form of urban living.

            Regarding subdividing spaces, I would like to be able to do that legally within the city. If I had a large house on Lake of the Isles, I’d want to be able to split it into multiple units (not necessarily sharing space) and know that both my renters and myself would be fairly protected under the law.

    1. Peter Bajurny Post author

      I thought about it, but ultimately there isn’t a really good data source for public land. Hennepin County has parcel data that includes the owner for each parcel, but I don’t have a good way of verifying that for example, the Park Board owns all the park land, or that all the land the Park Board owns is parks. And as I said in the footnote, the parks are technically zoned, so my map is technically correct, the best kind of correct 🙂

  2. Keith Morris

    There’s no coincidence that the peripheral neighborhoods by and large lack any commercial and sit at the bottom of our Walkscore rankings. They are built on an urban grid but in practice they function as any sprawling development: people even have to drive to the nearest suburb for most things. If you can’t easily walk or bike to a decent amount of places it’s hard to truly be an “urban” neighborhood. There needs to be a movement to make every neighborhood walkable to a reasonable degree that isn’t currently and zoning for that to happen would be a great first step. Good examples of smaller scale commercial are the full blocks built out from 48th & Chicago and Kingfield where instead of one location everything is spread out around the neighborhood. The far north side of North could benefit the most since this could draw interest in the area from the rest of the city in general by giving people enough good reasons to go there.

  3. Wanderer

    If you think about older US cities, you can see a tradition of higher density housing around parks. You see it in New York, Philadelphia (e.g. Rittenhouse Square), Chicago (e.g. Lincoln Park) and even some of the inner parks in San Francisco (e.g. Huntington Park on Nob Hill). These have become some of their cities’ “best addresses.” This pattern means more people live adjacent to the amenity, it also means the locations can have both higher density and light and air–one of the original rationales for zoning.

  4. Xan

    Why do I feel so much safer walking around the densely populated cities I visit than the not densely populated neibourhoods at home? Also, you people have a pretty weak definition of high density.

    I have noticed that most streets in south mpls are only needed to access the parking on those very streets. In other words, they are linear parking lots.

    Interesting conversation. It was fun to read through. My 2¢ – I don’t think our zoning decisions today should be based on what people built 100 years ago. You can see the city was converting to a higher density until it was interupted by a couple of world wars and a finacial melt down. There are a few blocks of continuous 3½ storey residential buildings. They frame the street nicely, are better scaled to the size of the streets and the blocks of the city and the streets are just as quiet as any other residential street, and, from my experience, more neighbourly.

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