Sunday Summary – February 11, 2018

Super Bowl cleanup is almost done and now we move on to the Winter Olympics where Minnesota is well-represented. Ski fast, Jessie Diggins! Your Summarizer apologizes for interrupting this post and being such a passionate cross-country skier and fan, but also points out how events like the recent City of Lakes Loppet bring people together and outside on streets, lakes and trails in the winter. co-sponsored an event last week with Nexus Community Partners’ Boards and Commissions Leadership InstituteSafe Streets: Narratives of Pedestrian Advocacy and our newly reorganized Events Committee (see all our committees here) is planning for new opportunities. If you’d like to help with events (or any other aspect of our work), contact us.

Big reads

A History of Minnesota’s Highways Part One kicks off Monte Castleman’s “new series on the history of Minnesota’s highway system. This is not intended to be exhaustive or strictly chronological. Rather the idea is to present certain milestones and points where source material is available and that I think readers will find informative or interesting.” The post starts with early road-building in Minnesota’s territorial period and provides deep detail and historical maps and photos.

Low-density Zoning Threatens Neighborhood Character by Scott Shaffer compares what makes neighborhoods wonderful (shops, walkability, people, and more) and earns them awards (like the Seward nighborhood), but then describes how zoning decisions barring small scale multi-family homes make building those kinds of neighborhoods illegal: “Our zoning code regulates how many homes (housing units) are allowed on each lot. Large areas of the city are designated low-density zones (R1, R1A, R2, and R2B), which permit one-family homes or maybe duplexes, and prohibit buildings with three or more homes. Because Minneapolis is older than these zoning laws, there are homes all over the city that don’t match the zoning code, but have been grandfathered in (they’re called “legal non-conforming” in plannerese).” Commenters agree, but debate the details of duplexes and more.

Zachary Wefel writes about Why I Oppose Rent Control. After a detailed discussion of what constitutes rent control and its effects, he concludes, “In the end, rent control succeeds, to the extent that it does, by raising costs for many renters to benefit a random assortment of other renters.  Overall, the costs of rent control exceed the few benefits.  It’s an affordable housing lottery where the ticket is the certainty that if you don’t win, your rent will go up.  Renters deserve better.” Commenters push back a bit asking whether some rent control provisions could alleviate shorter term issues, but many agree entirely.

My Category Test for Public Comments is Bill Lindeke’s thought exercise developed after many public hearings and comments with the Saint Paul Planning Commission: “For me, the Category Test is not a litmus test. In many cases, these aren’t black-and-white situations where there’s a clear right and wrong lesson to be drawn. But given how pervasive categorical discrimination has been throughout the history of housing in our country, this is just one of those things that I do in my head when reading through public comments,” where he says, “I ask myself the question: how does that statement feel if you replace one group of people with another? What happens if you put in a racial or religious category there, instead of “non-homestead” or “student rentals”?

First Concrete Pavement, Near Red Wing 1911

Quick looks, more links and long walks

Walk: Downtown West, Day 4 finds  continuing his walks through Minneapolis neighborhoods and still downtown. Follow along for history, stories, architecture and more.

Map: Map Monday: Twin Cities “No Construction” Zones Over Time is an animated .gif map showing how the Twin Cities , like other US cities, are dominated by a “dormant suburban interior” where little or no new housing has been built (or can be build due to land use controls).

Links: National Links: This Year’s Planning Trends from the Overhead Wire.

Types of new housing

Betsey Buckheit

About Betsey Buckheit

Betsey rides her pretty blue city bike, walks her energetic black dogs, and agitates for more thoughtful, long-range decision-making in Northfield, MN. You can follow her blog at