The Minneapolis 2040 Comp Plan is Still Worth Supporting

I had the wonderful opportunity to give a summary of the changes to the comp plan to a gathering of Neighbors for More Neighbors recently. Here’s what I said:

The second draft of the comp plan is out. A “wide spectrum” of comments were received, and our comments were heard. I’d like to give a huge shout out to all my friends who commented “ban cars”. The other end of the spectrum also had their comments heard. Many of our requested improvements and changes were not implemented, though some of them were.

From the Executive Summary, a few key takeaways:

  • Fourplexes everywhere is now threeplexes everywhere. This is because of the requirements to stay within the overall requirements that currently apply to detached single family homes. Boo.
  • Corridors in North and South, north of Lowry Ave and south of 38th St, now have 4 story limits instead of 6 stories, and the corresponding interior areas there are now 2.5 stories. Boo again.

More details that I took from the second draft:

  • Sustainability language was added to the visual quality of new development. (+)
  • Softened language around storefronts of taller buildings. (~)
  • Shadowing is a concern now. (-)
  • Softened language around solar access, which addresses my concern about people installing solar panels to block new development. (+)
  • Snowmelt paths and preventing re-freezing of paths are concerns now (++)
  • The elimination of off-street parking minimums is still there, and parking maximums are set to be evaluated (hopefully lowered) (+)
  • Driveways and curb cuts are addressed positively regarding new developments (+)
  • NOAH (Naturally Occuring Affordable Housing) is defined now, and is better addressed than it was before. (+)

Whether you’re passionate about supporting the comp plan because of climate concerns (did anyone have the stomach to read that climate report?), addressing racial injustices, addressing the looming housing crisis, or just seeing the way forward – there are a million reasons we all said it didn’t go far enough in the initial version. This draft has been watered down, but it’s still good. It’s still worth supporting.

We know there’re people who will oppose any change to the status quo. They are loud, and powerful, and they know how to use their privilege. The comp plan in its current form will be threatening to them. That’s why we need to show up to support it.

Some actions you can take to support it, as suggested by Lauren and Janne:

  • Email the mayor, email the whole city council. Tell them your story. Tell them why it matters to you. Tell them that a 13-0 vote is not in our best interests as a city.
  • Show up to testify at the planning commission, on 10/26. Or show up to testify at city council, on 11/12.

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22 Responses to The Minneapolis 2040 Comp Plan is Still Worth Supporting

  1. Anon October 15, 2018 at 10:09 am #

    Thank you for the analysis.

    Can you expand on this point?

    “Tell them that a 13-0 vote is not in our best interests as a city.”

    • Nicole Salica
      Nicole Salica October 15, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

      Some CMs sound like they would require truly unreasonable changes to cast their vote in support. But that’s just my impression, I’m not a “538 for city council” 😛

      • Anon October 16, 2018 at 8:53 am #

        Ok, I get it. You are saying that it is better to move forward with a divided, (but passing) vote, rather than water down the 2040 plan further. Great point. Thank you for the response.

  2. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller October 15, 2018 at 10:34 am #

    The highest profile changes to the plan made it slightly worse, presumably in an attempt to placate those who have been most loudly complaining. If that was the intent, I don’t think it’s been successful or can really be successful. On the one hand, that is bad because it does less to create access to the most segregated areas of concentrated wealth and least diverse neighborhoods. On the other hand, if it provides cover for plan supporters to be able to point to compromise, it may be a small concession.

    Meanwhile, city staff made lots of lower profile, thoughtful changes in the second draft that will mostly fly under the radar.

    • Mike October 15, 2018 at 11:24 am #

      The city (planning and city council) has made it clear the highest profile change, 4 plex to 3plex was not made to address any opponents arguments, it was a pragmatic decision based on lot size and needs for ADA accommodations. Now opponents may think this is a victory to their objections but it’s clear the city did it because they didn’t expect successful 4plex update under new requirements for standard city lots.

      I’d agree there are lots of small clarifications and improvements that take out some of the ambiguity and lack of precision which led to some of the fear-mongering. for example now it’s clear what kind of property the city will look to acquire by transit corridors, the previous version led to some of the eminent domain fears.

      The continued optionality language around max height which begins in Corridor 4 and Corridor 6 and appears at the higher density is still a problem. The city is being disingenuous to claim that building height south of 38th street and north of Lowry) is now limited to 4 stories while those build forms maintain a proactive carve out for projects that achieve comprehensive plan goals.

      The fact is there are relatively few multifamily buildings down these streets past the lowry/38th cutoffs that are 4 stories, most are 2.5 stories, so even 4 is a big change if it were a true hard limit. 4 should be fine but above that and things get out of place quickly.

      • Matt Steele
        Matt Steele October 15, 2018 at 11:46 am #

        It’s so strange, because the ADA does not mandate accessibility for housing (only for public accommodations).

        • Mike October 15, 2018 at 2:14 pm #

          This is a very confusing area – after I read that this was an area of concern for the 4plex approach I started trying to get educated and it only got more muddled if it truly applies to residential, or if the “public” component of a multifamily (entry hall?) needs to be accessible, it seems what’s out there on line is inconsistent.

          • Josh October 15, 2018 at 4:15 pm #

            It’s a difficult area of code and I’ll try to explain it.

            At 4 units, ADA requirements are triggered.

            If there is an elevator, aka accessible means of egress, then all public areas, dwelling units, and common areas are subject to ADA design and construction requirements – regardless of level.

            If there is not an elevator, all ground floor units and public and common use areas are subject to ADA design and construction requirements.

            The difficulty is that if you do not have an elevator, there cannot be a unit type on the upper floors that is not available on the lower floors. This means, that the lower level and upper levels must look exactly the same. For example, you cannot put a 1 Bedroom on the first floor and then a 2 Bedroom on the second floor. You can’t even do a 500sf 1 Bedroom on the first floor and then a 575sf 1 Bedroom on the second floor. The argument being that you are discriminating against the handicapped person’s desire to choose a larger unit.

            None of these qualms make building impossible – in fact, many developers simply stamp units on top of each other, provide a stair and call it a day – but doing it on a tight infill site isn’t crazy amounts of fun.

            So I assume the city’s argument was that due to the tight sites and small unit count an elevator was unlikely due to cost and space available – while no-elevator buildings are dramatically limited in design options.

            So three is easier. Four isn’t impossible, just harder.

            • Matt L October 16, 2018 at 10:31 am #

              Somewhat related, 4 units also triggers sprinkler system requirements, which are quite expensive.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller October 16, 2018 at 10:58 am #

              All of which is a reason why there might not be many 4 unit buildings, if allowed, not really a reason to not allow 4 units buildings. But whatever.

  3. Clark Starr October 15, 2018 at 11:54 am #

    I still don’t like multi-lot buildings on interior streets. I know that makes me a bad person, I will bear that cross. I was fine with fourplexes, if that rehabilitates me any.

    • Janne October 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

      I think multi-lot buildings on interior streets work or fail to work based on design. In both East Isles and Lowry Hill East, there are some perfect E-shaped buildings on multiple lots, where they feel like three buildings to walk past, but are in reality one with little courtyards. Let’s make sure the design requirements/zoning is done well, so we can get that when lots are combined.

      • Matt L October 16, 2018 at 10:33 am #

        Chicago has a lot of those larger buildings with deep courtyards that make them feel not terribly different from the smaller duplexes and triplexes. I love them so much, and I wish we had more buildings like that in Mpls.

  4. Aaron Isaacs
    Aaron Isaacs October 15, 2018 at 9:50 pm #

    If this is the compromise that can be approved by the Council, I’m for it. It will still open up huge new opportunities to increase density.

    While they’re at it, let’s tear down the I-94 3rd-4th Street elevated freeway ramps, and eliminate the 4-lane highway that dumps I-35W into Lyndale Avenue between the Crosstown and 56th Street. Both those changes will create plenty of new developable land.

    • Nicole Salica
      Nicole Salica October 15, 2018 at 10:22 pm #

      For some reason, they didn’t modify the land use plans to swap out the transportation uses of 35w and 94 to put in core 50 like I suggested… ahead of my time, I suppose.

      • Brian October 16, 2018 at 6:07 pm #

        I don’t think even the ultra liberal Minneapolis city council would ever suggest this, at least not in the next few decades. Would state laws and regulations allow them to take the land from MNDOT?

        • Nicole Salica
          Nicole Salica October 17, 2018 at 11:56 am #

          Hey, I’m just suggesting things that would make the city great. It’s up to the people who know those things to sort that out.

  5. Jack October 16, 2018 at 8:13 am #

    Question: What is “shadowing,” and what are the concerns? Thanks.

    • Nicole Salica
      Nicole Salica October 16, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

      See https://minneapolis2040.com/policies/pedestrian-oriented-building-and-site-design/ item h for details!

      • Karl October 16, 2018 at 8:59 pm #

        Hi, reading item H:

        “Encourage building placement and massing design that considers the impact of shadowing, particularly on public spaces, recognizing that extreme seasons make shaded areas alternately desirable at different times of year.”

        Is the concern here that it gives the NIMBY set an angle to oppose new construction?

        Thanks.

        • Nicole Salica
          Nicole Salica October 17, 2018 at 11:54 am #

          Yep.

      • Jack October 17, 2018 at 8:36 am #

        Thank you for the link.

        Is the concern that people will not want larger buildings that cast shadows onto their property?

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