Massive Rezoning of south Minneapolis: two views

(from Minneapolis e-democracy forum)


Brian Finstad Sept. 18, 2009 7:09 p.m.

Just wanted to share a correspondence put out to my block club members and other Central Residents:

Hi All,

As the purported purpose of the rezoning study is to implement the Land Use Plans per area, I took this to mean that the Midtown Land Use and Development Plan calls for this rezoning. In order to fully understand this issue, I have had to read the Midtown Greenway Land Use and Development Plan, the Lyn-Lake Small Area Plan, and the Uptown Small Area Plan and of course revisit the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan. Central falls into the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan (different from the Midtown Greenway Land Use and Development Plan). Each of these plans requires a very extensive reading, so it is a very time intensive issue to get a handle on.

As I said, because city planners have told me that the rezoning was part of the plan implementation, I belived that this must then be a part of the plan. Last night however, I reread every word and relooked at every figure of the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan. I was hoping that there was room for interpretation as I've been told these plans are effectively unchangeable once they have been adopted by the city council.

It is not that the plan is necessarily either vague or specific - it is that it is inconsistent and different aspects of it contradict one another. In one section, the language of the plan specifically speaks to "enhancing the residential character of 31st Street" and "reinforcing the EXISTING housing south of Lake Street." These are very encouraging statements. However, there is a figure shading the entire 3000 block housing area for "Medium Density" which is likely the justification for the current proposed upzoning. However, upzoning is inconsistent with "enhancing the residential character of 31st Street" or "reinforcing the existing housing south of Lake Street." Yet there is another, even more specific, figure showing each individual building in the plan area shaded in different colors. The houses south of Lake Street are shaded gray to be left as existing. That is the figure I remember looking at in 2006, as I consulted the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan to help determine if this was an area I felt confident in investing and "setting roots" down in.

These inconsistencies certainly are a reflection that there was not resident involvement in the Steering Committee. I believe the focus of the plan was primarily in regards to commercial and transportation interests as well as NEW high density development, but that there was not much thought given to the EXISTING housing in the area. The inconsistencies seem to indicate that, during the planning process, what was to happen with the existing housing was more or less an afterthought (or not thought very much upon at all). That is quite different from the Uptown Small Area Plan which had resident representation. As I've stated before, in the Uptown Small Area Plan, the 3000 blocks are protected as designated "Neighborhood Character Areas" which calls for those areas to remain in their traditional urban built form.

What is most surprising is that the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan has areas targeted for high density development (which again, I feel can be a good thing) that is VERY strategically placed. But surprisingly, in the Midtown Greenway Rezoning Study, these same sites do not have rezoning changes while our current 3000 block residences do. This is inconsistent with the position that this is merely an implementation of the land use plan, as well as that the land use plan is unchangeable post city council adoption. The current rezoning proposals do not necessarily match up with our land use plan. Specifically what I am referring to is what the plan calls the "Park / Portland District" which calls for creating high density development right on Lake Street itself, which is currently commercially zoned (figure 19 on page 27).

Unfortunately, these findings support that the Midtown Greenway Rezoning Study, in its current form, is discriminating based on class and race. When I initially began researching this, I felt it EFFECTIVELY created different land uses based along lines of race and economic status, but that it was not done intentionally. I am still not going so far to claim this is intentional, but it now appears that the rezoning study is creating deviations from the land use plans which exasperate the different planning approaches taken for the 3000 blocks which parallel demographic changes along Lake Street in terms of race and economic status. This now places the city in a position of potential liability.

The good news is that the Midtown Greenway Rezoning Study, as proposed, is quite different from the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan. In other words, it is the study itself, and not necessarily the land use plan that is the issue here. That is good news.

This issue just gets more and more interesting the more it is unraveled. The Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan takes quite a bit of reading, but it does present a very encouraging vision of the Midtown Area. We just have to make certain that the implementation of this plan is done in a manner that brings us closer to that vision - as well as hold the city accountable to ensure that, as stake holders, the neighborhoods are not only informed, but actively involved in that process. If you would like to read the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan in its entirety, here is a link:
For the die hard researchers on this issue, all of the land use plans for the different areas involved can be found by going to the City of Minneapolis website, click on "Departments," then "Community Planning and Economic Development," and then under "Resources," click on "Approved City Plans." That will bring up a list of all of the area land use plans.

Most importantly, as the Public Comment Meetings have unfortunately passed (without the Central Neighborhood or the vast majority of affected residents even being aware of these), the only way to have your feedback incorporated into the formal record prior to the actual hearing will be through written comment.

Please send comments for the formal record to:; or mailed to 250 South 4th Street, Room 110 PSC, Minneapolis MN 55415, or faxed to 612-673-2728.There will be testimony taken at the formal hearing on this issue scheduled for room 317 at City Hall (350 S. 5th Street) on Oct. 13th at 4:30 PM. As many as are able to attend are encouraged to do so as this literally has the power to change the face of a ten block area of the Central Neighborhood alone - not to mention the countless blocks in surrounding neighborhoods.

To conclude, the main reasons I oppose this rezoning, as currently presented, are:

1. The market is not yet ready to attract HIGH QUALITY density development on the 3000 blocks.

2. In the meanwhile, this "upzoning" will incentivize slumlords to carve houses up into multiple units (which we have been working to reverse), if not incentivize our homes becoming "tear downs" for multiunit buildings.

3. This rezoning will endanger the historic housing stock within these blocks which is directly in opposition to the Central Neighborhood Strategic Plan - a plan that specifically recognizes our historic housing stock as an asset used to promote revitalization (and is working). Our neighborhood strategic plan also had an extensive community involvement process - unlike the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan which did not have ANY resident representatives from ANY of the neighborhoods east of 35W on its Steering Committee (While the neighborhoods East of 35W had ample resident representation). The Central Neighborhood Strategic Plan can be found on the website

4. This rezoning is not specifically mandated by the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan and the current proposed rezoning is inconsistent not only with that plan, but there also is great disparity betwen the land use plans of different areas in terms of both process and content. These disparities also happen to parallel demographic changes in race and economic status between areas. Midtown deserves no less than equitable treatment in terms of both content and representation with other areas. There is a reason these same blocks in Uptown are protected as designated "Neighborhood Character Areas."

5..The cumulative affect of all mentioned above has the potential to seriously destabilize a 10 block area of our neighborhood.

On my final note, due to the vastness of the implications of all of these land use plans, I do not claim to speak to all aspects of each of these plans. I live in the Central Neighborhood and oppose the current rezoning study, in its current form, based on the implications to the 3000 blocks of the Central Neighborhood alone. There certainly are appropriate aspects to this plan, and it may serve other areas very well. I also want to stress especially that the Midtown Minneapolis Land Use and Development Plan overall is a very fine document. As I mentioned, it is unfortunate the plan speaks very little regarding the existing housing within the plan area; however, I find its objectives in terms of commercial development, pedestrian and transportation considerations, Midtown Greenway access, and identification of strategic areas for future high density development to be very inspiring.I know this is a lot of information to digest. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and I encourage residents to do their own research as well. But most importantly, please SUBMIT A WRITTEN STATEMENT for the formal record, and ATTEND THE FORMAL HEARING in person on October 13th.

Brian M. Finstad

Old Central Block Club Leader
CANDO Boad of Directors
CANDO Housing and Land Use Committee Member
Minneapolis Historic Homeowner's Association Board of Directors


Dyna Sluyter, September 18, 2009 10:25 a.m.

“On Sep 12, 2009, at 10:15 PM, wrote:
As for the concept of increasing density along the Midtown Greenway
corridor, this is consistent with the City's Comp Plan and the
Small Area Plans. I am supportive of increasing density along
transit corridors for a variety of underlying values, and don't see
any fundamental problems with the City's proposal, though I may
have some disagreements on a few individual properties.

Let me get this right- we're supposed to throw thousands of good
citizens out of their bungalows and duplexes in the 3000 blocks from
Yuptown east. Then we tear down their homes, replacing them with
tacky "industrial" and other trendy looking condos that no self
respecting robber baron or Wobbly would be caught near... All in the
name of progress and increasing the tax base?

By and large, people do not like living in cities; They live in them
because they have too. Granted, young folks seeking a mate and recent
divorcees seeking another one have flocked to south Minneapolis
apartments for years. But it's tough to build a sustainable community
when they find partners and move on to bigger nests before they put
down roots in the community. Those bigger nests they move on to tend
to have yards, something that's missing in your vision that turns
over a goodly swath of our city to the condo developers fantasies.

People like a bit of land, and in a few short decades our nation
filled up much of our vast country with the Homestead Act. Those
americans settled our vast land despite the odds against them- about
half the homesteaders were unable to stay on their claims and "prove
up". Then something called the industrial revolution happened, as
giant factories requiring hundreds and even thousands of workers were
built in the cities. That same industrial revolution mechanized the
farm to the point where the surplus farm labor had to migrate to the
cities to seek work in factories. So for much of the last century
Minneapolis was a city of factories and their workers who jammed in
as best they could.

Our population peaked in 1950 at around half a million. Yes, we
managed to fit half a million citizens comfortably in Minneapolis
without having to resort to condos or even townhouses. We had so many
gardens in our yards that during World War Tow we raised half the
vegetables we ate in them. Since then we've exported most of the
industrial revolution with all it's problems and benefits. The
factories largely sit empty or are gone. The children and
grandchildren of the factory workers are lawyers, nurses, writers, or
unemployed. Many of these workers can, and do, work from anywhere-
why work in a tiny Minneapolis condo when you can be at your lake
cabin? Even the folks that have to report to a hospital or store for
work have found those workplaces are increasingly moving outside of

Minneapolis is not a dying city, but we're sure as heck not growing.
Looking at the residential real estate market, while the thousands of
abandoned homes on the northside grab the headlines we have an even
higher number of vacant and unsold condos. Meanwhile, 5 to 10 acre
lots in the country have held their value and even homes in rural
towns have held their own while condos in Minneapolis sit unwanted.
There's a plain and simple reason for these- we normal and sane human
beings want a bit of land to grow a garden, a few trees, and maybe a

Condos in Minneapolis are largely a failed paradigm. For the
foreseeable future our population will continue to shrink and there
should be a 40 foot lot if not two for every Minneapolis family that
wants one. Anyone that bulldozes the bungalows and duplexes of the
3000 blocks to build condos deserves to share the same special place
in hell we've reserved for the idiots that tore down the Metropolitan
Building and tore up our streetcar system.

And needing more density for transit? The Amtrak train that comes
closest to breaking even is not the Acella or the other Northeast
Corridor trains- it's the Empire Builder that runs across the "empty
quarter" from Chicago to Portland and Seattle. Over half the
passengers on the Empire Builder do not get on or off in the major
metro areas on the route- Chicago, Milwaukee, the Twin cities,
Portland, or Seattle. They get on and off in tiny little towns like
Tomah, Stanley, Wolf Point, and Pasco. You'd be hard put to find
condos or even an apartment buildings in those towns, and there's
plenty of open country between them.

from Mill City Farms on the Northside,

Dyna Sluyter

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