Minneapolis 2040 Is More Than Fourplexes and High-Rises

Contrary to most of the commentary, Minneapolis 2040, this decade’s comprehensive plan re-do, is about a lot more than allowing fourplexes in all of Minneapolis and skyscraper apartments in your neighborhood.

Fourplex in Seward (photo by Sheldon Mains)

It starts with 14 basic goals adopted by the City Council to provide direction to staff in the development of the draft Comprehensive Plan. The 97 policies in the Comprehensive Plan flow from those goals. Under each policy are a list of action steps designed to accomplish the policy.  The Land Use and Built Form maps are the tools for implementing many of the policies and action steps.

So, lets start at the beginning—with the goals (Maybe it is my engineering training but I like to deal with complex documents in a logical order). I’m just going to comment on four of the 14 Goals I think are most important. Please use the comment section to express your opinion on these or other goals: What goals do you think are important (and why)? What goals do you agree with (and why)? What goals you disagree with?  I promise to compile all the comments and send them to Minneapolis’ official planning process.

Here are my comments.

GOAL 1: Reduced disparities:

In 2040, Minneapolis will have significantly reduced economic, housing, safety, and health disparities among people of color and indigenous peoples compared with white people. (https://minneapolis2040.com/goals/reduced-disparities/)

Economic, housing, education, safety and health disparities between people of color and indigenous peoples and white people has grown in Minneapolis in the last 20 years. Disparities have gone from bad to worse. This is not fair. This is not right. This is not a healthy situation for Minneapolis. Those disparities must be reduced and eventually eliminated.

GOAL 2: More residents and jobs:

In 2040, Minneapolis will have more residents and jobs, and all people will equitably benefit from that growth.(https://minneapolis2040.com/goals/more-residents-and-jobs/)

Why do we want more people in Minneapolis?

Put simply, it reduces to cost of providing government services to everyone.

  • We already have a water and sewer system designed for a city of over 520,000 people (the population of Minneapolis in the 1950s).
  • The costs of the fire department are largely driven by area—how fast they can get to an emergency.
  • One of the cost drivers for police is also area—(e.g. for a given number of police cars and a given miles of streets, a police car can only drive down a specific street a limited number of times). With more people per mile of street, you can buy more police cars and hire more police and increase the frequency of patrols.
  • The cost of maintaining residential streets is not determined by the number of people who live on the street.
    Spreading these costs across more residents makes the services more affordable to everyone.

On the other side of the equation, more people means that there is a bigger market for more businesses (e.g. grocery stores, restaurants). This helps insure that needed services are in every neighborhood. And, more thriving businesses in neighborhoods means more jobs for residents.

Could we limit the number of residents if we wanted to?

Sure, but since we live in a free market, Minneapolis only has one way to limit the number of residents: limit the supply of housing.  That will cause the cost of housing to increase, meaning fewer people can afford to live in Minneapolis; meaning that a lot of people who now live in Minneapolis will be forced to move out.  This is what we are doing now with our current zoning.

GOAL 3: Affordable and accessible housing:

In 2040, all Minneapolis residents will be able to afford and access quality housing throughout the city. (https://minneapolis2040.com/goals/affordable-and-accessible-housing/)

According to the draft comprehensive plan:

Since 2000, Minneapolis has lost around 15,000 housing units that are considered affordable to those earning 50% of the area median income.

Most of these affordable units were not torn down; their rents increased to the point that they are no longer affordable. This is just capitalism at work.

This goal also related directly to Goal 1.

Making sure there is affordable and accessible housing for everyone will not be easy. Building more government subsidized affordable housing will help but will not solve this problem by itself. Opening up the city to more housing may or may not help solve the problem. It at least will take a long time to solve the problem by just building more housing units. This goal probably has the most controversial proposed policies attached to it.

GOAL 4: Living-wage jobs:

In 2040, all Minneapolis residents will have the training and skills necessary to participate in the economy and will have access to a living-wage job.” (https://minneapolis2040.com/goals/living-wage-jobs/)

Employment and wages is one of the major driving forces in causing disparities among races in Minneapolis. The wage and employment numbers included in the comprehensive plan are telling. Policies related to education, health, business promotion and support, and access to jobs are part of this policy.

What do you think?

There are 10 more goals in the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Go through the ones you find important or interesting and provide comments. Comment in the plan itself or on this site.

  • Goal 5: Healthy, safe, and connected people
  • Goal 6: High-quality physical environment
  • Goal 7: History and culture
  • Goal 8: Creative, cultural, and natural amenities
  • Goal 9: Complete neighborhoods
  • Goal 10: Climate change resilience
  • Goal 11: Clean environment
  • Goal 12: Healthy, sustainable, and diverse economy
  • Goal 13: Proactive, accessible, and sustainable government
  • Goal 14: Equitable civic participation system

Your turn—use the comments section here to let everyone know what you think about the goals (and why).

About Sheldon Mains

Sheldon Mains is a shameless agitator and Minneapolis bicycle and transportation advocate. He ran the Spokes Community Bike shop, which is now part of Cycles for Change. He is a board member of the Seward Towers Corporation (a community owned affordable housing complex in Seward Neighborhood that is the second largest affordable housing complex in Minnesota) and a board member of Redesign, Inc., a non-profit community development corporation. His opinions are his own and not those of Cycles for Change, Seward Towers Corporation or Redesign Inc. A decade ago, he was a member of the last Minneapolis Library Board and was a the Library board representative on the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Minneapolis Planning Commission.