Hundreds show up to sound off on the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan

October 30, 2018

It took two overflow rooms to accommodate the hundreds of Minneapolis residents who showed up to City Hall Monday night to speak at the citys first formal hearing on a two-decade plan for the future.

The Minneapolis Planning Commission spent four hours listening to impassioned testimony on the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, ranging from people asking the city to scrap the entire plan and start over, to those appealing to the commission to amend it for changes on specific properties and some urging the commissioners to push even further in loosening zoning restrictions to allow for more multiunit housing in Minneapolis neighborhoods.

One man suggested he would die sooner if the city didnt do something about all the construction causing pollution in his south Minneapolis neighborhood.

Another said bad planning could turn the city into a death trap for migratory birds.

Others emphasized the need for more housing in Minneapolis in order to make it affordable for its most vulnerable citizens.

We need change, said Ryan Brown. We need more housing options in all parts of the city.

The hearing brought to the surface strong emotions over how Minneapolis should lay groundwork for anticipated growth over the next 22 years and how the long-range proposal should prioritize neighborhood character, racial inclusivity and housing affordability. These and more pieces of the plan have polarized a vocal minority of groups on opposite sides of the debate, leading to pervasive lawn signs on both ends.

Opponents flooded the City Council chambers with signs calling for the city to add mandatory parking spaces to the plan and accusing planners of selling out to developers. I call this a social experiment of epic proportions, said Gail Schack. We are people, not a social experiment.

Minneapolis long-range planners introduced the first draft of the plan in March. From the beginning, much of the debate related to loosening zoning restrictions citywide to allow for dwellings with as many as four units, even in neighborhoods now reserved for single-family homes, and up to six-story apartments in other areas. The plan is more complicated than just this focal point, however, and also deals with long-term concerns over climate change, transportation and other topics.

After dozens of public forums and thousands of online comments, city planners released a revised version in late September. This one tamped down zoning changes, downgrading four-unit structures to three-unit ones. Proponents of more multiunit housing said the new plan didnt go far enough; critics accused the city of giving prospectors a free pass to bulldoze historic homes in the city and flip them into cheap apartments.

On Monday, many accused city planners of ignoring their critical comments throughout the process, including failing to properly notify communities the plan existed.

With thousands of Minneapolis taxpayers opposing this plan, why are we being ignored? asked Colleen Kepler.

Some called the plan a reckless and untested gamble on the city, saying theres no evidence it would create more affordable housing. Several took issue with a narrative that anyone who opposes the plan harbors racial bias.

I feel very angry to be labeled racist or prejudiced against anyone, said Christine Lewis. My only prejudice is against irresponsibly conceived plans.

Many of those who showed up to support the plan spoke about how its necessary to reduce greenhouse emissions and fight climate change, with some referencing a recent dire United Nations report calling for unprecedented action over the next 12 years. Others spoke about rising rents and home costs in Minneapolis and how creating more housing is needed to make the city livable for people of different demographics and income brackets.

This is a tremendous opportunity for us as a city to live our values in terms of how we design our public spaces, said Sarah Tschida. And I believe that we all benefit when we design spaces that prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable residents.

The commission planned to close the public hearing after four hours, which was still going at press deadline. The commission would then introduce its own amendments to the plan and send it with those recommendations to the Minneapolis City Council.

The council will hold a public hearing Nov. 17 and vote on a final version in December.

Andy Mannix 612-673-4036