The Triplex Revision to the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan Accomplishes Nothing

It’s been a few days now since the revised “final” draft of the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan was released. Of course, anyone who’s paid any attention to this knows that the so-called fourplex proposal has been the hottest issue of the plan since its inception. The biggest revision in the new draft is that the fourplex proposal has been reduced to only allow triplexes on traditional-size city lots. Although the city says this was done for practical purposes, many in the streets.mn community might view it as a concession to the NIMBYs who have been so vocal throughout the revision process. However, I am not writing to analyze the causes of this revision; rather, its failure to accomplish anything has prompted me to finally contribute to the cloud of discussion surrounding the issue.

Let’s begin with my comment on the old draft:

In regard to ‘traditional size city lots’ affected by draft Policy 1, action steps d and e should be limited to specifically allow the following:

  1. Reconfiguration of existing single-family homes into multiple units.
  2. Construction of 1–4 unit structures on already vacant land.
  3. Construction of 1–4 unit infill structures behind existing structures.

Proposed multi-unit structures that require the demolition of existing single-family home(s) should require a variance if not located along public transit routes or within existing mid- and high-density residential districts.

These compromises to draft Policy 1 (including allowance of variances on a case-by-case basis) would continue to support the goals related to density and affordability and housing access, but also support the goals related to ecology and heritage preservation outlined in the draft Comprehensive Plan.

As you’re probably aware, discussion over the fourplex (now triplex) proposal has been turned into a polarizing, “all or nothing” style debate over density and, by extension, racial and socioeconomic equity. This polarization should not have happened. Obviously, any racist and/or classist motives on behalf of NIMBYs or anyone else are simply wrong. On the other hand, YIMBYs have failed to acknowledge the sheer wastefulness and destruction that unconditional upzoning will produce.

To be clear, I fully support upzoning all parts of the city. However, without the conditions mentioned in my comment above, Minneapolis can expect to see the demolition of thousands of perfectly good structures over the course of several years. This is simply bound to happen as single-family homeowners and/or landlords sell their properties. It will happen because, in terms of design and construction, developers naturally find less-challenging projects to be more attractive. So, in this sense – and putting all other connotations aside – the “Don’t Bulldoze My Neighborhood” signs might have some truth to them. Granted, they are rather dramatic.

Nevertheless, the widespread demolition of existing homes that Minneapolis will gradually begin to see is in clear opposition to the ecological goals outlined by the 2040 plan. The EPA officially reports that about two-thirds of all solid waste in the United States is composed of demolition debris.[1] Furthermore, it can take many decades to recover from that loss of “embodied energy,” or the energy required to produce materials and construct buildings. This remains true even if the replacement structure is built to LEED or even net-zero standards. It’s been said countless times before, but I’ll say it again: the greenest building is the one already built, especially if it is rehabbed for better energy efficiency.

Another consequence of the proposal is that we will inevitably lose a significant number of potential historic and/or architectural resources.[2] Admittedly, I am one who believes there are cultural and psychological benefits to preserving places of historical and architectural value, including vernacular places. However, this needs to be accomplished through adaptive reuse and/or reconfiguration in order to fulfil the demands of a mid-twenty first century city. Obviously we can’t preserve everything, but at the same time there is a lot of room for us to better utilize what is already there.[3]

These two inevitable consequences of bad ecology and poor cultural resource stewardship are why I would have liked to see the aforementioned conditions added to the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. For a multitude of reasons, it is obvious that we need more density. This could have easily been accomplished by giving priority to projects that convert single-family homes into multiple units and/or utilize already vacant land. I acknowledge that the plan allows for conversions to take place, but, as stated before, most developers would rather attempt an easier challenge.

Development Action Sign

While on vacation in Vancouver, Canada earlier this year, I walked by many of these “Development Action” signs. Several of the signs outlined proposals to convert single-family homes into multiple units. Some, like this one, included the addition of an accessory dwelling unit-style infill structure in the back yard. This particular property would be converted into a total of seven (7) units! Furthermore, the transparency of information here is kind of awesome.

Replacing the fourplex proposal with the triplex proposal does nothing to address these consequences. All it does is reduce the allowable mix of density so that new buildings can better fit within the proposed height limits, which should be thought of separately from density. It also makes the prospect of adding density slightly less attractive to developers. Yes, it might be a bigger design challenge to build four dwelling units within those constraints, but why should it not be allowed if there’s still a possibility it can be accomplished?

In short, I am disappointed with this particular aspect of the revised plan as it will continue to have the same consequences as before, but with less density.

PS: Can we stop referring to Minneapolis as being “on the prairie?” It lies solidly within the deciduous forest biome.

[1] “Sustainable Management of Construction and Demolition Materials.” Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed September 2018.
[2] Only a small fraction of properties in Minneapolis are legally protected from demolition as standalone landmarks. Historic districts, on the other hand, do not prohibit demolition; they simply require more intensive design review for exterior modifications.
[3] Instead of using the blanket label of “preservationist,” maybe those who share this balancing act mentality should be referred to as “presurbanists.”

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48 Responses to The Triplex Revision to the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan Accomplishes Nothing

  1. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 11:01 am #

    “widespread demolition of existing homes that Minneapolis will gradually begin”

    If we’re going to prevent the widespread demolition of existing homes from gradually beginning, we’re going to need a time machine and some additional proposals/regulations. The homes are already being demolished. They’re being replaced with bigger homes. The economics incentives to do so are already in place.

    I’m skeptical that the change will do much to alter those incentives and I think we’ll mostly see new small-multi unit near transit anyway. In part, because the new McMansion (somewhat to my surprise) actually already follow transit. Also, because transit isn’t terribly far from any part of the city.

    It’s also strange to me to talk about historic preservation of south Minneapolis houses, which mostly fall into a small handle of uniform designs. For the vast majority of homes, there’s not much argument for their historic value.

  2. David Markle
    David Markle October 4, 2018 at 11:21 am #

    I wonder if the planners have given much consideration to the mind-set of couples who are beginning to have families. I suspect that many such young moms and pops will want to live in houses rather than apartments or condominiums, and will eventually want to own homes. In other words, maybe the 2040 plan envisions a city of singles, couples still childless, and retirees.

    A city of apartments and condos may tend to encourage flight to the suburbs for those who can afford to do so. Look at New York City..

    Without having examined the 2040 plan in detail, I assume that it says nothing about the school system and parents’ perceptions of the middle and high schools.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 11:36 am #

      Sample size of one: I’d much rather live in a duplex or triplex in the city than in the suburbs.

      Disclosure: we live in a single family home, are not that young (our kids is) and gave definite thought two raising a kid in the condo we moved out of.

      Also, if suburbs were to become specialized as places we live temporary while we have small kids, that might be an improvement.

      • Anon October 4, 2018 at 2:03 pm #

        Make that Sample-size two.

        I’m in dense multi-family housing with kids. No plans to move.

      • Monte Castleman October 4, 2018 at 2:20 pm #

        I’m not sure how temporary that would be, considering the number of singles and couples that still live single family detached houses in my neighborhood long after their kids have moved out. You don’t need to have kids to enjoy a private lawn to relax in or garden in, or a house to personalize both inside and out, or not having to share a common wall or ceiling with a neighbor, or having a secure private garage for your cars.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 2:33 pm #

          I mean, it was mostly tongue in cheek but to the extent the argument is that parents will always want single family homes, because kids, thus we need single family homes in the city then that sounds like a issue for only part of any adult’s life.

          But honestly, having a kid only makes the value of the city greater. We can walk and bike to parks, the grocery store, the library, etc (eventually to school). All of that would have to be done in a car in the suburbs, and I really want to minimize her time in a car. It’s boring and unstimulating for her and me.

          Yes, there will alway be people who value the things you mention instead. Let them live in the suburbs.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele October 4, 2018 at 1:18 pm #

      The city isn’t forcing anyone to build new apartments, let alone live in one. And even under the Draft 2040 plan, nearly all residential land in Minneapolis will allow for people to build and live in single family homes. Therefore (as a young parent who owns a single family home) I’m not sure what the supposed threat is towards people like me by allowing people with other preferences to act on their preferences and build housing for themselves.

      • Brian October 4, 2018 at 1:29 pm #

        I’m sure some are afraid that rising land values could mean property taxes they can’t afford to pay.

        Most homeowners like neighborhoods just the way they are. A neighborhood might have 1-1/2 story houses that cover say 35% of the lot. The homeowners aren’t going to be happy when 2-1/2 story triplexes that cover 75% of the lot start popping. There isn’t likely to be room to park three to six cars off street so there will be more street parking.

        • Monte Castleman October 4, 2018 at 2:23 pm #

          Increased property taxes mean increase insurance costs too because the cost to replace it would be more. Between the property tax levy and insurance costs my mortgage payment took a 10% jump in real, tangible dollars I have too pay due to increased abstract fake dollars that my house is supposedly worth.

          • Stop Racism Against Apartments October 6, 2018 at 7:35 am #

            The insurance part is incorrect. The land value will go up (according to the previous posters thought, may or may not happen), that is due to the value of the land not the building. The cost of insurance is replacement cost of the building since you cant burn the land down.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 2:36 pm #

          “The homeowners aren’t going to be happy when … triplexes that cover 75% of the lot start popping”

          This is what’s so frustrating about the “debate” about the plan. So many of the arguments against it start from simply incorrect factual assumptions or assertions.

          • Steve S October 4, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

            Adam, what are the size limitations to the triplexes? I admit to only doing a quick scan of the Minneapolis plan and saw a mention of 1.5-2 stories, but nothing about square feet or other details.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 3:10 pm #

              I thought we might get more detail in the revision, but we didn’t. It still just says “small-scale residential” (although it deleted the word “primarily” before that). If I heard her right, Worthington has said “identical” to what’s currently allowed. More here: https://streets.mn/2018/06/01/its-a-plan-not-a-code/

              Every quote I’ve seen from an elected official has said structures will be limited to similar in size as the current rules.

              • Brian October 4, 2018 at 4:27 pm #

                Would the average city lot be big enough to build a triplex if the lot coverage was the same as the structure that was torn down?

                Yes, I was just assuming that allowed lot coverage would be greater to make construction of triplexes more feasible. The city’s website on the 2040 plan seems more about being flashy than actually providing details like what the allowed lot coverage would be compared to today. Homeowners naturally assume the worst if the details are not given to them.

                • Adam Miller
                  Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 6:38 pm #

                  It’s a plan, not a code. It doesn’t have all the details.

                  I’d argue there’s nothing natural about homeowners assuming the worst and, especially here, the worst was specifically encouraged by people with a definite agenda.

                  The change is to allow multiple units, not the size of structures. If they don’t fit, then they won’t happen. When you look at what’s currently being constructed, though, it’s not hard to see how you could get more than one unit in the same space.

                  The link above, though, includes a picture of a three unit building you’d never expect unless you looked closely.

              • Steve S October 4, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

                Thanks, I also appreciate the link to the older article. But that photo in the article you mentioned (captioned:”is this really so bad”) looks like it takes up 75% of the lot even if it doesn’t. And yes I think it looks bad, really bad, and wouldn’t want it next to my house. If you want to persuade the people that are against the plan for multi-family homes I suggest omitting that photo.

                I don’t usually read zoning regulations (thankfully), but when I look at and try to interpret the current rules (R5 multiple family), it appears that for a triplex filling up 75% of a lot might be a practical/logistical stretch. Filling up 60% seems pretty doable and applying the current rules next to my house, someone could easily build a triplex next door to me that would be at least twice as long as my house and completely ruin my backyard life.

                • Adam Miller
                  Adam Miller October 5, 2018 at 10:20 am #

                  Man, did you read the text?? That triplex has been misleadingly used by the anti-plan group as a scare tactic, implying that it would be allowed in neighborhood interiors that are currently zoned only for single family homes.

                  That lot is zoned R5, which allows significantly more lot coverage than is allowed in neighborhood interiors. The reason it’s in the post is people have been lying about it.

                  • Steve S October 5, 2018 at 10:33 am #

                    Yes, I did. And I spent some time reading the information, but apparently not enough.

                    I’m still learning about this stuff and I took your opening sentence as very condescending.

                    Since I was unable to figure out what size of triplex would be allowed, please let me know.

      • Mike October 4, 2018 at 4:39 pm #

        A lot depends on the demographics of who occupies those neighborhood. Homebuyers often ask realtors if there are kids on the block. They don’t ask if there are kids in the single family houses or if there are kids in the duplex/4 plex. They want kids for their kids to play with. if the block has a number of apartment buildings where the units are small (a 4 plex on a 40′ lot is going to have small units) they are less likely to have kids. Not impossible but less likely.

        • Stop Racism Against Apartments October 6, 2018 at 8:10 am #

          But the kids in the apartment buildings are a little… different!

  3. Mark Thieroff October 4, 2018 at 11:29 am #

    One small quibble. This is really a use issue–in which parts of the city are you going to allow demolition of an existing SFH in order to build a multifamily structure–rather than one that could be addressed through variances. Variances are governed by state statute and are intended to address circumstances that are unique to a particular piece of land. Using variances to allow a use that is not otherwise permitted is not legal.

    If you wanted to limit the circumstances where an existing single-family home could be removed for a multi-family building, you would make that a conditional use in the targeted zoning districts and require a conditional use permit. You’d then spell out in the ordinance the conditions that would have to be met in order to get the CUP. If those conditions were met, the property owner would be entitled to the CUP. One advantage of the CUP approach is that you’d legislate upfront exactly what conditions would have to be met, rather than deciding things on case by case basis.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary October 4, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

      I disagree that a variance would be inappropriate. A 3-unit and a 4-unit residential building are the same “use”; the latter is just slightly more intense.

      But I agree that a CUP might be better, since it would not require unique circumstances, and could be a good way for skeptics to ensure the specific items that they are concerned about are addressed.

      • Mark Thieroff October 4, 2018 at 1:36 pm #

        Intensity is how residential uses are defined. In the current use table, single-family, two-family and “Multiple-family dwelling, three (3) and four (4) units” are all separate uses. If the new draft 2040 plan were implemented, 3-unit MFDs would have to become a separate use category because they would be a permitted use in some places where 4-unit MFDs would not.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary October 4, 2018 at 2:51 pm #

          The language suggests that 4-unit buildings would be permitted in this standard SFH zoning district, but subject to some minimum lot size larger than a typical Mpls lot. Could you not specify a minimum lot size specific to 4-unit buildings, and allow a dimensional variance to minimum lot size for a 4-unit building on a smaller lot when a variance is justified?

          (Also — anyone know what this lot size is? Seems very undefined so far)

          • Mark Thieroff October 4, 2018 at 5:12 pm #

            I thought the reference to 4-unit buildings was in there because it was from a comment on the previous draft. But sure, a dimensional variance would appropriate for a minimum lot size requirement. Again, though, only on an individual basis, where the applicant can show “practical difficulties” unique to the property.

  4. Josh October 4, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

    The “kids need to be raised in single family homes” argument drives me crazy. It complete degrades the experience of everyone ( myself included) who did NOT live in a single family home.

    1) Triplexes are a great route to home ownership for new families. Own the building. Live in one unit. Use the other two units to help you make your mortgage payments.

    2) Apartments are normal places to raise kids. It has four walls. A roof. Doors. Windows. And often – grass! A home is a place with parents who love you. Not a structure.

    As a kid I rode bikes, played tag, and was friends with the ten other kids in my building. And we all went to the same school.

    My childhood was not “lacking” because my parent’s didn’t own enough land for me to have a private playground. I used the one at the park -which is way bigger and better than the private backyard ones I might add.

    Your experience is not the only experience. The kids will be fine.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke October 4, 2018 at 1:37 pm #

      All over the city and the country children are being raised in duplexes or triplexes or apartments as we speak.

    • Anon October 4, 2018 at 2:23 pm #

      I grew up in a house with a yard. But I’m raising my kids in a downtown flat. We have a billion-dollar “backyard” with a large river that runs through it (Mississippi). We have the skyway where my kids can run around every day, regardless of the weather. I spend zero time commuting and zero time doing home repairs/lawn/snow which creates extra time to be a parent. I can afford an SFH, but I want to center life around people, not maintaining a building.

  5. Nick Magrino
    Nick Magrino October 4, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

    “However, without the conditions mentioned in my comment above, Minneapolis can expect to see the demolition of thousands of perfectly good structures over the course of several years.”

    This……..clearly is not correct.

    • Janne Flisrand October 4, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

      Thanks for the fact check, Nick. I had the exact same reaction. Cite sources or at least prove financial viability before offering such sweeping generalizations.

      • Aaron Person
        Aaron Person October 4, 2018 at 6:09 pm #

        I’m sorry for the poor structuring/wording of that sentence — I should have been more precise. But here’s my thought process:
        My understanding is that there are *about* 130-140 residential demos per year in Minneapolis right now (granted those are replaced by a wide range of structures). I do not know how strongly the market will react to the proposed triplex upzoning, but if it makes that number go up to 200, then it would only take five years to surpass 1,000.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 6:47 pm #

          Yeah, I’m really skeptical of a 50% increase and instead would expect a fair number of new small multi-units to replace rather than augment, the current rate of demolitions.

          I just don’t think the extra return from more units makes it viable to demo an otherwise in-demand home.

        • Mplsjaromir October 5, 2018 at 4:49 am #

          So by your math, ten years before thousands of houses are replaced.

          The above op ed arguments are flimsy.

  6. Matt Steele
    Matt October 4, 2018 at 1:14 pm #

    There are so many things to address about this ridiculous change, but I’ll address just a small piece of it. Planners and councilmembers justified this change by saying that it would somehow help things because fourplexes are covered by the ADA. First of all, housing requirements is covered by the Fair Housing Act, not the ADA, which requires that all ground-floor units be accessible/adaptable on a fourplex. It’s true, there’s no requirement for accessibility for triplexes. But isn’t that an argument FOR fourplexes, since they would generally include one or two accessible/adaptable units where none would otherwise exist?

    Related to this, triplexes were justified because “fourplexes would be tough to build on a traditional Mpls lot.” Well then, what’s the big deal? Let the market figure it out, if triplexes or fourplexes are able to be built on a particular lot. Don’t artificially limit the options for more housing.

    Finally, the TC Business Burl Gilyard article points out that it’s really the big developers who are *against* the idea of fourplexes. Of course they like the status quo… it creates regulatory capture that serves them by having high barriers to entry (capital, regulatory, return on project effort). I’m starting to wonder if the entrenched big-development interests are the ones bankrolling the anti-2040 effort. Maybe Minneapolis for Everyone should open their books and show where their dark money is coming from.

    • Brian October 4, 2018 at 1:23 pm #

      If the goal is more affordable housing then a fourplex doesn’t help affordability with the extra cost of making the ground floor accessible.

      • Matt Steele
        Matt Steele October 4, 2018 at 1:34 pm #

        You’re gonna have to explain that. Let’s say it’s your standard two over two single stair fourplex… There’s virtually zero added expense in creating accessible/adaptable units relative to non-accessible/adaptable units.

        Second, most line items on a small project – triplex or fourplex – are fixed costs and not really a marginal per-unit cost. As someone who has done a number of pro formas for potential fourplexes, I would be very surprised to see a circumstance where the per-unit cost of a fourplex is higher than a threeplex. Therefore, you could assume lower rents on each unit of an average fourplex for a project to pencil out compared to your average threeplex alternative, which would mean 1. more units constructed per project (good for affordability in the aggregate) and 2. more projects funded because more pro formas pencil out (good for affordability in the aggregate) and 3. the possibility of lower rent per unit in those projects (good for marginal affordability).

        • Mike October 4, 2018 at 4:46 pm #

          Very few homes in Minneapolis have at grade-level entry to the 1st floor unit, so you are talking about a ramp for one of those units to cover at least a couple steps. That does add some complexity and cost to the project.

          You also can be looking at larger bathrooms to handle a wheelchair, wider doorways which will affect the floorplan…

          Accessible units often have lower kitchen cabinets/counters as well.

          How far does code require you go.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary October 4, 2018 at 1:26 pm #

      “Planners and councilmembers justified this change by saying that it would somehow help things because fourplexes are covered by the ADA. First of all, housing requirements is covered by the Fair Housing Act, not the ADA”

      It seems weird to paraphrase an explanation and then issue a kind-of picky correction
      to your own summary of that explanation.

      But for the most part, I agree with you. An incentive to create accessible units is a good thing — and there was nothing in the previous iteration to prevent you from doing a triplex if you can’t stomach having to build an accessible unit.

  7. Mike October 4, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

    There has been a lot of discussion about how slow the process will be, really how few parcels will be redeveloped initially, how unfounded peoples fear of change is.

    Yet in yesterdays Star Tribune Article, CM President Bender talks about the need to pass an emergency temporary ordinance before the zoning rules officially change because…… “Bender said the city should have a temporary policy in place when the comprehensive plan is adopted, because they anticipate a rise in rezoning applications.”.

    This, like Heather Worthingtons “I could walk to Target but I never do” comment is an example of the hypocrisy at work in favor of the plan, unfortunately, tell people things will change very slowly, nothing to fear, while we put in place a temporary policy ASAP to handle the surge in rezoning applications we’re going to get. ?

    • Chris Moseng
      Chris Moseng October 4, 2018 at 1:22 pm #

      Two things can be true at the same time. In this case, a number can be a “surge” but can also still be small.

      • Mike October 4, 2018 at 4:48 pm #

        well if it’s small, they shouldn’t need an emergency zoning policy, the standard procedures should suffice. Nothing holds back the CUP and Variance process now. It appears they are gearing up for more than a small number.

  8. Chris Moseng
    Chris Moseng October 4, 2018 at 1:20 pm #

    The premise that an existing SFH must be demolished to accommodate the increased density allowed by the plan is just the start of the flaws in this argument. There are plenty of houses that could be converted into 2 or 3 unit properties without demolition (and therefore less expensively, and therefore are more likely to be converted first). Here we are again assuming that things will be demolished without evidence, just baseless fear.

    The two other serious flaws: (1) SFHs are already subject to demolition to be replaced with a larger SFH, all that’s being changed is the permissible structures that might replace that demolition. There’s no evidence what, if any, marginal incentive increase this change provides–and the *marginal* change is the only thing that matters for this fanciful ecological argument, not the overall total.

    (2) not allowing the density increase has its own ecological costs, so any fair comparison must consider the costs of making all these people who would otherwise live in the city drive greater and greater distances to get back and forth from the homes that we allow to be built in the exurbs (oh, and the loss of the natural state of that land, etc. etc. etc.). I trust you’re equally concerned about that.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller October 4, 2018 at 2:50 pm #

      Regarding your second point (numbered (1)), I’m willing to accept that the marginal additional number of demolitions is greater than zero, but I suspect that it will be small because I think the primarily current constraint on demolitions is availability of properties, not the potential ROI on the new structure. It’s possible that small multi-unit buildings offer a sufficiently greater potential return than a McMansion that it makes a lot more demos pencil out, but I’m skeptical.

      Granted, that’s instinct and not science.

  9. Steve S October 4, 2018 at 1:39 pm #

    Thanks for the detailed analysis and wading through the devil’s details. I live in St. Paul and I’m sure my city leaders and other interested organizations are watching and cribbing from the Minneapolis Experience. I’m not sure that guarantees a better process, but I can hope.

    One thing I want to hear in St. Paul is frank talk about trade-offs when ideas (or criticisms) are presented. If a person presents an idea to me and can also go through the possible downsides and trade-offs (yes, this could/will be worse, but this could/will be better), I have much more respect for that person’s idea. Don’t tell me that I can have two slices of bread if you aren’t willing to admit they aren’t buttered.

  10. Tyler Hamilton
    Tyler Hamilton October 4, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

    I appreciate the sentiment of trying to encourage conversions of existing housing, but we should incentivise conversions then, instead of turning every teardown into a battle at city hall.

    How about we allow the conversation of existing structures to have up to 10 units (or some amount of units larger than the zoning default), as long as X conditions are met to ensure the units are livable?

    Why build a fourplex if you have the space to convert it into a sixplex? (rhetorical question, but old buildings can and do become obsolete for those who are reading.)

    If you can’t get an equivalent number of units, then tear it down. The “conversion > new construction” argument only works for buildings that are large enough to convert. Otherwise it’s just a red herring for NIMBYs to use.

  11. Andrew Evans October 5, 2018 at 10:16 am #

    A friend that does salvage commented on a “mansion” that was being demolished in uptown in the last few years (there was a post about it on craigslist, nothing in the news as far as I saw, it wasn’t famous). They commented that it had been chopped up so many different times throughout it’s history for apartments or condos that there wasn’t much left of any real value. Further, the amount of doors, and millwork already at salvage yards is enough where that unless something is unique it’s not worth saving.

    There is also the point about obsolescence or efficiency of use. Some of the great mansions around Franklin Ave, and dotted around, are fantastic buildings, are historic, but do they server a greater purpose anymore? Although I don’t agree that we should or need to tear them down and put up regular apartments, is there a need foreseen in 30 years for these buildings, and are the gutted ones really worth saving? The same goes for less grand older/vintage homes that are being torn down, are they historic enough, and is there use efficient enough to keep them?

    The trick is to navigate through the arguments, save what is worth saving (especially in light of the cities history for saving things), and plan in a responsible way. It’s hard to convince a wealthy single family to move into a mansion in the middle of south, and it’s sometimes hard to keep the interior styling and make apartments.

    Personally I couldn’t care less about new vs old style houses or mansions. Whatever floats peoples boats who have the money. I still think we’re not going to see this mass demolition, or anything outside of the areas seeing development now – so it really doesn’t have an impact on me that much, or my house.

    This whole debate really seems more about the Liberal left vs the Progressive left, and one side saying the other should get in line and follow through on the agenda. Which makes it that much more interesting and fun to comment on.

  12. Andrew Evans October 5, 2018 at 10:42 am #

    Another thought…

    “Nevertheless, the widespread demolition of existing homes that Minneapolis will gradually begin to see is in clear opposition to the ecological goals outlined by the 2040 plan. The EPA officially reports that about two-thirds of all solid waste in the United States is composed of demolition debris.[1] Furthermore, it can take many decades to recover from that loss of “embodied energy,” or the energy required to produce materials and construct buildings. This remains true even if the replacement structure is built to LEED or even net-zero standards. It’s been said countless times before, but I’ll say it again: the greenest building is the one already built, especially if it is rehabbed for better energy efficiency.”

    That bus has left in the requirements the city (from what I’m told) imposes on investors or those not homesteading when they renovate a house. A lot of these changes were championed by many of the same people pushing for this 2040 plan.

    If my house would have been “rehabbed” to LEED or whatever standards, a few dumpsters would have been filled. The interior charm would have been lost a little due to adding forced air ductwork, the attic would have been covered in insulation and the door nailed shut, my great old windows would have all been replaced, and maybe more than likely interior or exterior holes drilled to stuff insulation in the walls. Adding a lot more waste and cost to the project. More than likely I also wouldn’t have pull cord lights in the kitchen, bedrooms, and hallways – which is pretty charming.

    Not really sure on the savings either. It’s about $40 a month to run our two little window AC units, and gas has spiked around $160 for the 3 coldest winter months. Even if we saved half of that, at $240 for heating, and let’s guess $100 for AC, for a total of $340 a year, it would take a number of years to pay off the extra money the house would have cost, OR the expense we would face to add windows and to really do a good job insulating the house.

    I think it was more of the good idea bandwagon, and the boogeyman of slumlords that forced these changes through. Sometimes the numbers just don’t make sense, the amount of trash doesn’t make sense. I won’t even get into the code changes that must be retrofitted on older homes for stairway width and stuff. But, “Green” standards are sure a buzzword, and it makes people feel good, so there is that.

    There was an article about my house sometime around later 2014 on this topic in the Star Trib, can’t find it at the moment.

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