Voter Guide – Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Jacob Frey

The board and editorial team developed a short series of questions for Minneapolis mayoral candidates related to transportation and land use designed to give voters more information and expand the conversation about these topics. Surveys were sent to all candidates and responses will be posted as they are received.  Here are Jacob Frey’s responses:

What do you believe is the most significant land use and/or transportation issue facing Minneapolis in the next 5 years and how do you hope to address it in office?

The most important land use question facing Minneapolis is whether or not the city embraces progressive housing and zoning policies that favor urbanization and affordability. Minneapolis is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country, a legacy of redlining and discriminatory government policies like large-lot zoning. Our failure to embrace affordable housing and density in neighborhoods currently dominated by disproportionately white, wealthy residents has allowed the explicitly racist policies of the past to entrench the racial and class inequities of our present. To make Minneapolis a city where all neighborhoods are open to all of its residents, we need to allow more height, higher-quality builds, and more units so that we aren’t depressing the natural housing supply and driving up the cost of housing for residents that can’t afford it.

We must tackle our affordable housing crisis, and stop our practice of segregating all affordable options in impacted areas of our city. Minneapolis has lost 10,000 units of affordable housing in the last 15 years alone, making all the more critical a separate pot of money specifically designated for affordable housing that does not compete with classic city issues. While I am proud to have raised the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to record levels, that $10.5 million figure is still insufficient to tackle the problem. The problem stems from the fact that when the city offers subsidies to develop affordable housing, it comes along with the requirement that housing remain affordable for 15-20 years. However, after that period lapses, the housing can be flipped to market-rate, putting us on a revolving treadmill of trying to build more affordable housing to keep up with that which we are losing. And, we are falling behind. Without critical investments and incentives to build and retain affordable housing for the long haul, our city will lose the socioeconomic diversity that makes us great. Specifically, we should set aside a percentage of the property tax revenue the city receives from any increase in the property values of homes valued at $300,000 or more for a special fund exclusively for affordable housing.

In addition to making it easier to build more housing generally, I would like to see the city devote more financial resources to building public housing. We need a huge amount of new housing, and public housing has to be a part of that.

Finally, I would support forms of incentive based inclusionary zoning policies, but we are prevented from implementing most forms by state law.


How can transportation and/or land use policy address historic imbalances in investments and improve equity? What specific land use or transportation policies will you pursue to achieve this?

Urban density is a progressive issue. Land use policies that encourage density reduce per-capita carbon footprints, provide housing supply to keep up with demand (keeping rent increases in check), and contributes to walkable communities with successful small and local businesses. While increasing density alone is not enough to solve our affordable housing crisis, it is definitely a prerequisite. The people hurt most by exclusionary zoning policies and a dearth of affordable housing are people of color, young residents, and lower-income people, making this an equity issue. I support moving away from exclusionary zoning policies and reducing minimum lot sizes and parking requirements as a means of increasing the space we have available for more housing and for pedestrian access on the streets.

There are several steps Minneapolis should take to move towards a pedestrian and bicycle centered mentality. First, the city should strongly embrace protected bikeways, ideally planter-protected bikeways to make sure that our streets are as safe as possible for bicyclists. Second, we need to make sure that pedestrians can use our sidewalks conveniently and cross our streets safely. Third, I want to use the Mayor’s office to extend city support for trail access the way that I have done so as a City Council Member. I have fought for stop signs at dangerous intersections, planter-protected bikeways, and pedestrian improvements along streets with heavy foot traffic, and I will continue to do so as mayor.


Minneapolis is currently updating their Comprehensive Plan. What key issues would you like to see addressed in this process and the final Plan?

The Comprehensive Plan should allow for both diversity in housing stock and diversity of use. The first goes back to my earlier responses regarding affordable housing and density. The second has to do with the rigid and uncoordinated way in which the city’s zoning currently operates. For so long, our city has had a practice of segregating use – separating residential from business, business from entertainment and commercial, and entertainment and commercial from light industrial. I believe that diversity of use helps create vibrant and safe neighborhoods. When activity and schedules are uniform (for instance, in a business district with people arriving at 8:30 am and leaving at 5:30 pm), there is immense activity for short stints with dead time in between. Conversely, a diversity of use creates a constant in-flow and outflow of people, which puts eyes on the street throughout the day and night and improves safety. Additionally, a diversity of use creates interesting street life with excitement and vibrancy.


The city recently hired a new public works director. What type of support should the City provide this position to achieve the best results for all residents (for example: people who travel by foot, bike, transit, and car)? Are there other department directors that need additional support to create sufficient land use or transportation changes to achieve the goals of the city’s Comprehensive Plan?

The city should fully fund department efforts (and those of public works director Robin Hutcheson) to assist a growing pedestrian and bicycling mentality, as these modes of transit do more to further environmental and social justice ideals. Beyond financial and staff support, I would also offer political support because having a clear and strong voice from the Mayor reduces a disjointed approach from the city council.

Support provided, however, should not only be given to our public works director. The director of CPED similarly needs strong backing if forward-thinking transportation policies are to be realized. This means absolutely means expansion of BRT and light rail. But it also applies to modes not yet marketed. For example, within 5 years we will likely have fully-autonomous cars mass produced in our city. When combining fully-autonomous cars with ride sharing and electric we can produce a trifecta of environmental sustainability, convenience, and repurposing of public space that can quite literally transform our city. Consider the amount of space devoted to parking, whether in ramp form or on-street. With the onset of vehicles that do not need to be parked by a given destination we can transform previously underutilized space to magnificent public realm improvements. This planning needs to happen now.


Both street and development plans continue to be controversial across the city. As Mayor, how would you lead the City to address concerns about development impacts? What recent controversial street or development project would you have managed differently?

It is easy for DFL candidates in Minneapolis to support pro-growth and pro-density developments and policies in the abstract. Where candidates set themselves apart is in their ability to make it happen. As a Council Member, I have been willing to defend affordable housing, density, and height even when it was difficult. The 3rd Ward (where I represent) has accounted for approximately 40% of the total growth in the entire city, we have pushed for substantial increases in affordable housing along the central riverfront, and we have negotiated excellent outcomes for the community ranging from added green space to improved lighting and pedestrian amenities.

As far as a controversial street project I would have liked to see done differently, I wish that we had made the bike lane on 3rd Avenue planter-protected. While I am a strong supporter of the bike lane improvement and use it several times a day, I believe we missed an opportunity to add greening and protection to a key cross-town route.

22 thoughts on “ Voter Guide – Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Jacob Frey

  1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Nice responses overall!

    On his final note — I am a little skeptical that success in the already-very-urban third ward will translate evenly to the rest of the city. Will residents concerned about four stories in downtown Linden Hills care about high-density apartment projects in the North Loop?

    It seems that the strongest opposition to more intense development almost always comes from residents single family homes, of which there are almost none in most of the third ward. (Except far-north end, which has seen little new development.)

  2. Kyle

    Still gotta say it: I’m getting really tired of being called racist if I’m a white guy with some disposable income enjoying a quite house on a Minneapolis city street, and finding that perfectly acceptable.

    Time to look inward, Jacob. You and your party have been in complete, total control of the City of Minneapolis, the Planning Commissions, the County Commission, the MAC, and all transportation decision making in the City for half a century. Any failures as you’ve defined them are just as much yours as the people you are pointing your finger at….. and you then want us to put ya’ll right back into office!

    So why should anyone vote for you? You can’t solve the problem because you are part of the problem. If you are elected Mayor few if any of the things you outlined here will be put in place except some pretty flowers in planter boxes.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Hello. I too am a white guy with some disposable income enjoying a quiet house on a Minneapolis city street. I too find that perfectly acceptable.

      I also find perfectly acceptable the duplexes and small apartment buildings around my neighborhood. We should be adding more of the latter in particular.

      Not everyone is like me (and you) and I want them to be able to live in city too.

    2. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

      You’re not a racist if you’re enjoying living in a quiet house in Minneapolis. At the same time, the history of explicit racism in apportioning housing in this metro, and many others, is beyond dispute. The spatial patterns of race and wealth that exist in MSP are legacies of those explicitly racist policies.

      You may not be aware of this. But you are likely, through no fault of your own, an heir to it. That doesn’t make you a racist, but once you do know about the history, if you choose to perpetuate it, then that raises some questions.

  3. kyle

    Welcome to the KKK, Adam. Pick your hood up at the neighborhood organization.

    “Our failure to embrace affordable housing and density in neighborhoods currently dominated by disproportionately white, wealthy residents has allowed the explicitly racist policies of the past to entrench the racial and class inequities of our present.”

    – Minneapolis Mayor Candidate Jacob Frey.

    This guy is for real, and he’s running for Mayor.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      I’m not sure what you find so objectionable about that particular quote. Based on my understanding of local history, it sounds entirely factual to me.

      In fact, I recently learned that our house had a racially restrictive covenant when it was built. Personally, I’m glad that’s gone, but my neighborhood is still among the whitest parts of the city. Our housing policy was explicitly racist not all the long ago and next to nothing has been done to undo the lingering effects of those policies.

      So, yeah, if you object to new housing, especially affordable housing but market rate too, or favor downzoning in accessible neighborhoods near downtown, you’re certainly not doing anything to help.

      1. Kyle

        I find objectionable being called racist. Again. By another bobbly-headed politician looking for cheap votes who’s signaling his bona fides using the word “racism” as disposably as I say “Hi”

        His comment lays bare his idea that if you are a white person, living in what he deems as insufficiently progressive housing or housing areas, well you

        “entrench the racial and class inequities of our present.”

        He encourages no discussion about whether there are areas of the city that are fine as is, or if the local population is just fine with the neighborhood, or even if the citizens he is looking to help have any iota of interest in living in dense multi-family units, or if those Minneapolitans want to get out of affordable housing or public housing and move to a nice SFH in south Minneapolis.

        That’s a fair amount of the soft bigotry of low expectations so prevalent in the City Council and Mayoral Office nowadays…… just rack ’em and stack em wherever the city deems appropriate so Mayor Frey can get a non-prime time DNC Convention speaking engagement.

        You and me Adam. Modern day plantation owners living in a city built by his party and by his political and social class. This, from a guy who wants to be the mayor of a major America city. This has to stop.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          I get that it feels unwelcoming to have your group of people called racist. But what’s the right way to talk about these issues?

          Or are there are not racial inequity issues to talk about?

          1. Monte Castleman

            The problem is that when you use the term “racist” to describe everyone from the KKK to a homeowner that happens to be white that doesn’t want people of any race living in hulking apartment towers on all four sides of his or her single family home it loses all meaning, doesn’t contribute to the discussion, and makes people angry.

            I really think this is less about the type of people that might live there and more about views, privacy, parking, and traffic. Maybe minorities are more likely to live in apartment towers, but to call a cause and effect this indirect “racist” dilutes the term into meaningless, and this type of thing is why it’s so widely ignored when thrown out nowadays.

            If it’s really in the best interests of Minneapolis to upzone, suppose we start warning all incoming homeowners in a given neighborhood that it will happen in X years, so if they have a problem with it they should look elsewhere before they make their investment and establish their home. And in turn compensate sellers for any lost value to their property this causes.

            1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

              We had redlining and we’re still largely segregated into those areas. What more evidence do we need that the racism of the past is still relevant today?

        2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          Nobody called you a racist.

          You can’t possibly be denying the racial and class inequities of our present, or their connections to the explicit racism of our past.

          1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

            Count me in as another white relatively wealthy Minneapolis homeowner here who doesn’t feel threatened in the least by Jacob Frey’s quote. Thanks for bringing sanity to these comments, Adam.

          2. Kyle

            Sorry, but you’re willfully denying that a Minneapolis mayoral candidate thinks that you and many others are racist for living in an area of the city that does not have his preferred number of racially diverse housing. He put it in writing for you to read, directly.

            There is no more redlining. People of any creed can live anywhere, anytime, and any place, and do so of their own volition. When people elect not to live in areas this Mayoral candidate has deemed not sufficiently diverse or dense, they do not need to be cured of their desire to live in any area they chose.

            This candidate is a current City Councilman and a member of the political and social class that could have fixed these historical inequalities, but have not done so. Does he deserve time in office? Unfortunately I imagine he’ll get lots of votes from voters who judge things by the volume of vitriolic racial rhetoric.

            So as long as he and others continue do so, I’m going to challenge those that lump me into a group that they themselves would never in a thousand years lump any other group.

            Anyway, we’re going in circles here. I appreciate the back and forth and hope that Americans can continue to to challenge back to those that throw around so recklessly the word “racism.”

            1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

              That’s not what he said. He said we have a racist history and haven’t done enough to fix it. That shouldn’t be controversial.

              You’re going pretty far out of your way to find something to be offended about.

  4. Dana DeMasterDanaD

    Hey Everybody, Moderator here. Thank you for bringing this discussion back to a more respectful place. From the comments policy:

    “The mission of is to expand and enhance the conversation about transportation and land use planning through research and informed commentary. The comments section is an important part of that conversation. It is a place to add knowledge and experience, discuss issues more deeply, and learn from each other.”

    Discussions of racism, historic inequalities, and density are all important topics that are very personal to many people. Sarcasm and name-calling (even to the subject of the article, not just other commenters) do not further the mission of informed commentary. So, please think before you hit “submit.”

    Here is the full policy:

    Thank you for continuing this discussion in a respectful manner.

  5. Jackie Williams

    When I read jacob’s article, It seems he is very passionate about housing and bringing density to areas that do not have it. I am not sure I agree with all he is about, but overall I think he is a good canidate. I do like his stance on transportation and streets policy.

  6. UrbanLite

    “For example, within 5 years we will likely have fully-autonomous cars mass produced in our city. When combining fully-autonomous cars with ride sharing and electric we can produce a trifecta of environmental sustainability, convenience, and repurposing of public space that can quite literally transform our city. ”

    Where, what? Where is he pulling this from? Bold assertion.

    1. Dave

      Even if he’s off by five years, I think it’s really smart to start thinking about the impact to cities like Minneapolis now. Jacob clearly has a sunny view of self-driving cars. I see the benefits, but I also see the risks (people living further away from urban centers, for example, and actually increasing their miles traveled). Planning for the inevitable future now is a smart way to mitigate as best we can the downsides and take advantage of the positive sides. (Also, some forecasts actually do predict that mass-produced self-driving cars will be available by 2020: Note that Jacob didn’t claim that most people in Minneapolis would be using them by then.)

  7. Melody HoffmannMelody

    As someone who studies and gives talks about how infrastructure and development can have racist and inequitable outcomes, I would like to chime in.
    There is a difference between racist policies and people who are racist. Frey isn’t calling white home owners racist. He is saying that white privilege is deeply embedded in our city structure and he appears to be wanting to fight against that.
    I know that white people can feel immediately implicated in these statements, as Kyle’s emotional response illustrated. Kyle isn’t the first to express this. If you are white and are down with Frey’s plan, I’d encourage you to continue educating white folk about how making this city more equitable is not an affront to white people but rather a way to raise everyone up.
    And if you’re still feeling gut punched by Frey’s agenda, you might want to think about why it makes you so upset.


Comments are closed.