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Edina Debates a Comprehensive Plan

Edina’s City Council approved a draft comprehensive plan last Tuesday. While it’s not nearly as ambitious as the 2040 plan approved last year in Minneapolis, the Edina plan has still attracted some organized opposition.

Bruce Christensen, creator of two anti-population growth websites in Edina (stopthelid.com and We Can Do Better Edina), led a contingent of of residents whose testimony focused on opposition to Metropolitan Council population forecasts. Those forecasts, showing Edina growing by 33 percent by 2040, were incorporated into the plan. Christensen called the plan a “massive density vision.”

Among the residents echoing that sentiment was Jill Fay who said, “I have 5 children and I’ve raised them up here. I like Edina a lot. I’m just here to say I wish the city were growing not so at a rapid pace. I find it disappointing because I want my children to be able to live here some day and then raise a family like I did.”

Edina Population Forecast

Population growth estimate chart from Edina comprehensive plan.

Here’s a statistic cited throughout Tuesday’s meeting: 93 percent of Edina’s land area will see no change — and in some cases a decrease — in allowed density. Edina Planning Commissioner Todd Thorsen emphasized the degree to which they’re maintaining the status quo in his presentation to the City Council:

“We’re taking a very different view in Edina about how we’re accommodating population growth vs. Minneapolis. We’ve concentrated it in those areas of change, whereas Minneapolis has adopted a different view […] which is allowing triplexes in typically R1 [single-family] areas. This plan really maintains those [single-family] areas in the very heart of Edina…”

Thorsen noted that population forecasts are not goals, but are used for planning purposes. There’s no penalty for not reaching a particular forecasted number, but there is a downside to underestimating: less state funding for things like affordable housing and transportation. Thorsen told the Council, “If we were to try and get the Met Council to reduce our forecasts that could reduce the transit dollars and opportunities that are coming to Edina.”

Council Member Mike Fischer said, “The reality is we haven’t actually increased [allowed] densities that much over the previous comp plan.”

While population densities would remain the same — or decreased — for 93% of Edina, that doesn’t mean low-density areas won’t see change. But that change takes the form of single-family teardown/rebuilds. Mayor Jim Hovland said the city should be proud of the trend: “What a tremendous investment the town can be so proud of. We’ve had over 800 of our single family homes torn down and rebuilt.”

Those rebuilds are exclusively single-family homes — bigger and more expensive than the ones they replace. And there’s nothing in the draft plan approved by the City Council that would halt that trend — and nothing that would allow two or three families to occupy a house the size of a large single-family home (as in the Minneapolis 2040 plan).

Mayor Hovland also noted that multifamily housing has “been subsidizing single-family homeownership” in Edina. He pointed to the example of condos that pay double the property taxes of the median single-family home, per square foot. “We haven’t wanted to heap that [property tax] burden on the 93% of folks that are living in a single-family home.”

Council Member Kevin Staunton said he knows many people move to Edina for the great schools but “the problem is eventually all the single family homes are filled and there isn’t room for the next generation.” Edina schools have seen a 26% decline in enrollment between 1970 and 2010. Despite Edina adding households, families got smaller.

Staunton also gave this statistic: between 1989 and 2017, incomes in Edina doubled while single-family home prices tripled. “Now some people would say that’s a good thing, but I’m not sure it’s sustainable. And it does raise a question about affordability.”

Resident Chris Bremer spoke in support of the plan:

“I’m deeply concerned about what kind of world we will leave our children and grandchildren. And so I believe we need to grow responsibly. This means higher density housing which will bring new and better transit and reduce commuting and greenhouse gases throughout our region. It also means developing more affordable housing.”

Carolyn Jackson, who chairs the city’s Energy and Environment Commission, noted that 40,000 people commute into Edina every day. She supports creating more housing options so that some of those 40,000 could live in Edina, which would reduce car traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking in opposition to the plan, Edina-based concerned citizen Frank Lorenz said, “Apartments are a lousy place to raise children.” Earlier in the meeting he suggested, “Let them live in Hopkins or Richfield or unprestigious east Bloomington and commute ten minutes to work in Edina. Poor babies!!”

Bremer’s response to the comment about apartment families: “I grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in a family of four and I would maintain that I turned out ok.”

Edina is scheduled to submit a final comprehensive plan to the Metropolitan Council by the end of this year.

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26 thoughts on “Edina Debates a Comprehensive Plan

  1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    “I have 5 children and I’ve raised them up here. I like Edina a lot. I’m just here to say I wish the city were growing not so at a rapid pace. I find it disappointing because I want my children to be able to live here some day and then raise a family like I did.”

    I’m convinced that this is one of the greatest things that has ever been said at a public meeting.

    1. Bob Roscoe

      Point of information: what do the letters in the name ‘Edina’ stand for?

      “Every day I need attention.”

  2. Monte Castleman

    Every city has a one (or more) of those people. The one in Bloomington keeps going on about alleged zoning and ordinance violations by one of the mosques and now alleges some conspiracy surrounding the cities desire to build a community center as well as proposing alternatives that the cities paid professional consultants have found infeasible. Their names opinions are of course public record but I’m not sure using an article to call them a “crackpot” by name is appropriate just because you disagree with their opinions

  3. Elizabeth Larey

    I understand the majority of people who follow this blog are supporters of the Minneapolis 2040 comp plan.I initially wasn’t but now understand the need for better planning. That being said, I don’t think it’s right to dictate what another city/suburb should do. That is up to each individual entity. People move to Edina, Minnetonka and Wayzata because they have the money to.They do not have the “big city” problems, they are beautiful and they have great schools. As well as great shopping and restaurants. Like it or not, a lot of people like having a nice yard. I love my yard, so do my dogs and cats.
    If they want to plan for increased residents by building high rises, and keep them in a certain district, they certainly have the right to. Many of the high rise condo’s in Edina are beautiful. They are mandated to plan for more people, that’s it..
    I am sure multiple people will respond to this along the lines of “affordable housing should be spread out in the city”. Why don’t people just say this and be honest. “ I have a right to live in the best neighborhoods in Edina if I want to” – so build affordable housing spread throughout the city.
    People do not have a right to live in the best part of Minneapolis, Edina or anywhere else. If a city wants to keep it in a certain district, they have a legal right to.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      I don’t live in Edina and don’t want to (could probably afford it if I did), but this argument – that there’s nothing to be concerned about in the self-segregation the affluent – should be as embarrassing as any other argument in favor of segregation. Because it is the same.

      1. Josephmck

        I’m sorry you don’t approve of it, but what’s embarrassing about freedom of association–or freedom from association? kudos on being able to afford Edina, I guess.

          1. Elizabeth Larey

            Redlining was a horrible thing, we can agree on that. It does not exist today. Now it’s simple economics. So if you want to make a case for reparations that’s a legitimate argument ( I disagree with it, but it is still a valid argument nonetheless.) Each community gets to decide where and how they want to deal with density. If Edina puts high rises all in the same area, that is there right to do it.

            1. Janne

              It’s well documented that residential zoning was created explicitly to exclude black people and low-income people. It was paired with explicit federal and other policies that also excluded black people from economic prosperity. Zoning is a form of redlining, and we must recognize the history of policies in place today if we want to redress the inequities – the racial inequities – that exist today.

              I don’t know about you, but I’m committed to making amends for that past, and I know that zoning is one of the many inequitable policies we need to change to do that.

            2. Julie Kosbab

              There is no such thing as “simple economics” when the value curves were established based on unfair rules. To claim that since redlining is over it has no effect is to ignore all simple and complex economic data to the contrary.

    2. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

      Elizabeth, where I would take issue is the idea that “the best part of Minneapolis, Edina, or anywhere else” is something that is just the case, rather than being the product of deliberate human choices.

      In other words, Edina isn’t a wealthy suburb because it has some kind of extraordinary natural feature that makes it the most valuable land. It’s a wealthy suburb because wealthy people conspired successfully to shut poorer people out of it. The things that are perceived as the reasons why Edina is expensive, like the perceived quality of the schools or the perceived safety, are best explained as the result of deliberate racial and economic segregation.

      That’s why what Edina does is meaningful for communities throughout the metro.

      1. Elizabeth Larey

        Alex, I don’t think people are intentionally shut out of Edina, or any other wealthy part of the city. This is simple economics. We live in a capitalist country. You can choose where to live, you can sell your property for what the market can afford. It doesn’t matter what race you are, if you can afford to buy it you get to do that. I agree that there was a lot of red lining that went on in the past. But it does not today.
        If you want housing that is the same for everyone, than look no farther than the former USSR. I spent time in St Petersburg last spring, and it was interesting to see how the housing looked. It was depressing, and everyone was assigned a place to live by the government. Is that what people want?
        I have stated on this site I think Heritage Park in Minneapolis was a great example of a cooperative example of a public/private partnership that included 30% affordable housing. But it was built by tearing down a horrible section 8 housing complex. It was not built in Kenwood because it’s already built out. Should affordable housing be built in expensive areas? simple economics says no. If you want to build a duplex or triplex that’s fine, but its not going to happen in the tony neighborhoods because the economics do not make sense.

        1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

          Here’s an abbreviated example of how it works.

          Let’s say I start a town, and I want only wealthy people to live in it. So I pass some zoning laws that mandate a minimum lot size, so that to build a home, you first have to own a lot of land. Not everyone can afford that. I pass further laws saying only single family homes are allowed here, so to live here, you need to have the money to own a lot of land, and to own a home.

          These two laws also fundamentally limit the amount of people who can live in my town. You can only build it out so much, and adding more people who require making smaller lots or multi-family housing. Because it takes a lot of money to buy into the only type of housing available in my town, the people who live in it are all well off. My town is exclusively wealthy because of human choices. There’s no million-dollar view or lakeside property. It’s a wealthy place because it’s an exclusionary place, because the rules make it de facto impossible for poor people to live there.

          This is a simplified example, but it’s the basics for how exclusive suburbs throughout the country have developed. These places aren’t wealthy through some geographical inevitability, they are wealthy by choice. These places aren’t “built-out” through some fact of geography, they are “built-out” by choice.

          Edina could decide tomorrow to make room for tens of thousands more people if it wanted, the only thing that is stopping it from happening is the politics of exclusion.

          1. Frank Phelan

            It’s not so simplified. I recall my old man telling me in the mid 70’s that Edina required homes to have double garages as a way to keep the less wealthy out.

            My hunch is he was talking about the 50’s and 60’s, and that presumably it was one of the first metro ‘burbs to do so. Others may have followed; I not sure which and when.

        2. GlowBoy

          “If you want housing that is the same for everyone”

          And that’s exactly what we have in large swaths of American metro areas. Nothing but single-family houses. Of course most people want to live in a single family home, but land is scarce and expensive, so many people can’t afford them. Hence the need for apartments. Unfortunately we don’t even have enough apartments anymore for everyone who wants them and can’t afford a piece of land with a house on it, so rents have skyrocketed out of many people’s reach.

          This situation is not the result of free-market economics, it is the result of municipalities deliberately restricting the market over most of the last century.

          1. Elizabeth Larey

            Its the result of too many people wanting to live in the same place. Across the country the populations of large cities are rapidly increasing, while small and medium sized communities are seeing a net loss. If you want to live in one of the top cities in the country, it will cost you a lot of money. That is simple economics, any way you slice it.
            If you want cheap housing, either buy way out and commute (hopefully mass transit continues to improve ) or choose a city like St Cloud, Duluth or Rochester.

    3. Monte Castleman

      I was going to write an article criticizing the Minneapolis 2040 plan. I sympathize with people that invested in buying a single family detached home in the city not wanting to be blockaded on all sides by apartment towers, but ultimately it’s none of my business since I don’t live in the city. So I moved onto other things and am writing an article on the Bloomington plan, which is my business.

      Maybe Frank Lorenz or another person that actually lives in Edina wants to write an article about Edina’s plan?

      1. GlowBoy

        And how many SFH owners in Minneapolis are blockaded on all sides (or even the three sides not facing the street) by apartment towers? Twelve? And are any of them outside Uptown, or maybe Marcy-Holmes?

  4. GlowBoy

    Obviously a city like Edina likes the teardown/rebuild phenomenon. It increases property tax collection without necessarily requiring additional services to be provided, and the more-expensive replacement homes improve the city’s cachet.

    But while teardowns many increase density of development on the land, they don’t increase population. Very few of these replacement homes house more people than lived in the previous home.

    Of course, the teardowns are what density opponents point to in order to rally people behind them, because it’s easy to get people riled up about them.

    1. Frank Phelan

      800 tear downs? Gad, I can’t imagine how many 30 yard dumpsters that filled. Think of it as one long parade from the Fertile Crescent to the land fill.

      Larger houses, smaller families, what a world.

      While some criticize families with more than two children, there is virtually no criticism of the undeniable trend of more square footage for fewer people.

    2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Edina is a weird place, where you can find tear down McMansions (over there, million homes?) with driveways full on fancy cars, but no curb or sidewalk.

  5. mike

    Suburbs embrace affordable housing efforts as rents rise in Twin Cities http://www.startribune.com/as-rents-rise-in-the-twin-cities-suburbs-embrace-affordable-housing-efforts/506438161/

    “With rents rising fast across the Twin Cities metro area, a growing number of suburbs like Edina are forcing developers to build less expensive rentals and implementing rules that protect renters who are finding themselves priced out of the market.”

    “After Edina passed a 10 percent affordability requirement in 2015 for large multifamily housing projects, 98 of the 1,042 units that have recently been built meet the new guidelines, which are targeted to those who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income.”

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