On Tuesday, November 1, the Minneapolis City Planning Commission will be voting on three important items that will help shape the future of the city.

The first item is a measure to allow intentional communities in Minneapolis. MSPyimby supports the motion, which would create more flexibility for residents who want to live in Minneapolis. According to city staff:

“The current occupancy regulations of a dwelling unit located in the R1 through R3 Districts allow for one family plus up to two unrelated persons living together as a permanent household, provided that the family plus the unrelated persons shall not exceed a total of five persons.”

From this interpretation, one “family” plus “up to two unrelated persons” means that no more than four unrelated individuals can live in a single unit of housing. There are currently many people living in houses who would be considered unlawful residents.

Considering the population growth of Minneapolis in recent years, this ordinance needs to be amended to allow for more unrelated residents to live together. It is not the job of the city to police whether individuals are related or not. MSPyimby would actually prefer this ordinance go further, and back to the 1924 “definition” of a family, which was altered in the 1960s. However, the ordinance change would legalize many existing households and allow them to continue living together, regardless of familial relations, and without fear of neighbors reporting them to the city.

 

 

The second item is the proposed Uptown Pedestrian Overlay District, which would create more livable and walkable spaces in Wards 7, 8, and 10. MSPyimby supports this motion as well. The proposed changes reduce automobile-oriented uses of land (such as drive-thrus) in areas where pedestrian traffic is critical to the existing commercial integrity of businesses. It would also regulate the impact of parking lots, which serve to create a miserable pedestrian experience.

The proposal is a response to suburban style, single story projects that have been built recently, such as a drive-thru bank and a Walgreens. In an effort to encourage a more urban streetscape, the proposal would allow new buildings to be four stories regardless of the underlying zoning.

 

 

Third, and probably the most important, is the proposed downzoning of the Lowry Hill East neighborhood, known as The Wedge. MSPyimby opposes the zoning changes to this neighborhood, which seek to remove high-density zoning from one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. This proposal would make it more expensive and difficult to live in the most walkable and transit-friendly neighborhood in Minneapolis.

This proposal seeks to remove high density zoning from the northern portion of the Lowry Hill East neighborhood. This part of the neighborhood is exceptionally well-served by transit and has access to many amenities, such as commercial districts, the lakes, multiple grocery stores, etc.

Parts of Lowry Hill East have better transit access than 99 percent of the region.

Parts of Lowry Hill East have better transit access than 99 percent of the region.

What other neighborhood has so many grocery stores within walking distance?(Not pictured is a possible new grocery store at 26th and Lyndale.)

What other neighborhood has so many grocery stores within walking distance? (Not pictured is a potential new grocery store at 26th and Lyndale.)

The proposed downzoning makes it difficult for more residents to enjoy these amenities and restricts benefits to existing property owners. Given the existing high-quality transit options, we should be doing the opposite: allowing more housing to be built in this neighborhood.

If local neighbors are opposed to the high-density zoning, which seems to be the driving force behind this motion, one compromise would to upzone the southern half of the neighborhood, between 24th and 28th Streets, which are also very well served by transit, yet zoned for low density. This interior section of the neighborhood is in need of more development, and has similar access to transit and is very walkable.

Increasing existing zoning from low- to medium-density would allow the construction of  smaller scale, more affordable “missing middle” housing to replace low-density housing that’s becoming increasingly unaffordable and impractical for today’s smaller family sizes. Changing the zoning of the interior of Lowry Hill East from R2B to R4 or R5 would allow for the construction of fourplexes, which are currently “too dense” to be built in this area.

Why don’t we have this zoning now? Lowry Hill East has successfully downzoned previously, stopping most new development since the mid-70s. As WedgeLIVE also observes, today’s medium-sized development is tomorrow’s “naturally occurring affordable housing”:

We stopped building apartments in Lowry Hill East in the mid-70s and now wonder where the naturally occurring affordable housing is?

We stopped building apartments in Lowry Hill East in the mid-70s and now wonder where the naturally occurring affordable housing is?

This resolution to downzone the Wedge is misguided and serves to exclude residents from access to housing, transit, and walkable neighborhoods. The Wedge needs more housing, not less. If this resolution is passed, it will be yet another win for the NIMBYs of Lowry Hill East, and for property owners over renters.

If you’d like to make your voice heard on any of these issues, please attend the Minneapolis City Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, November 1 at 4:30pm and testify.