Zoning in Minneapolis

Parks, Minneapolis Public Schools, Density, Zoning, etc.
David Greene
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby David Greene » March 17th, 2017, 11:35 am

FISHMANPET wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 10:48 am
Serious question. Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoints that all non-whites are less than human? Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoint that the sun goes down so solar panels are bad, or that we'll use up all the wind so wind turbines are bad? Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoint that Mexicans are thugs and rapists coming to destroy our country? Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoint that Jews and Muslims are subhuman trash trying to destroy civilization as we know it?
That's not a serious question.

*plonk*

David Greene
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby David Greene » March 17th, 2017, 11:39 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 11:23 am
David Greene wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 9:39 am
If you're really willing to have complex conversations you have to allow and consider those viewpoints. Otherwise you're being intellectually dishonest. Just at least try to understand the other side. Sit down for a few rounds of coffee with someone who disagrees with you, even if they seem crazy to you.
I'm confused. What part of my post indicated to you that the people interested in zoning reform (in the up direction) aren't the ones doing this?
Your objectionable statement was that homeowners are not doing this:
RailBaronYarr wrote: Meanwhile, your average Joe Homeowner only cares about traffic, parking, and if a 6-story apartment building next door will shade his azaleas or cost him a few percent on the sale of his home in 20 years.
I think it's pretty safe to say that all "sides" have positions that seem crazy to other "sides." It's also safe to say that all "sides" have plenty of people willing to hear from and consider the other "sides." If you want to maintain the status quo, by all means keep vilifying your neighbors.

kirby96
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby kirby96 » March 17th, 2017, 11:50 am

David Greene wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 11:35 am
FISHMANPET wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 10:48 am
Serious question. Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoints that all non-whites are less than human? Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoint that the sun goes down so solar panels are bad, or that we'll use up all the wind so wind turbines are bad? Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoint that Mexicans are thugs and rapists coming to destroy our country? Do you "allow and consider" the viewpoint that Jews and Muslims are subhuman trash trying to destroy civilization as we know it?
That's not a serious question.

*plonk*
Nope it's not a serious question, but I'll bite.

The issue is understanding the implications and your own goals (is it simply to 'win', or is it to move forward amicably?).

Don't want to consider someone else's point of view? OK, but that means you are probably going Hatfields and McCoys with them, foregoing any kind of 'progress' (at least until you've gained victory in the conflict, and only at the very real risk of defeat). On issues like racism, etc., perhaps you are very comfortable with that course of action. But with South Mpls homeowners? Seems dubious.

EOst
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby EOst » March 17th, 2017, 11:58 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:For example, you might think that it's important for a place like the Wedge to maintain a bunch of detached houses for reasons of character or history or whatever - have you gone and asked the 50% of people in this city who rent (the majority of them in apartment buildings) if they feel the same way? Did anyone else?
I think it's remarkably myopic to assume that renters (or people of color, or low-income folks) don't care about "character or history or whatever." Many of the properties which are historically protected in the Twin Cities today are protected thanks to the activism of renters and people of color.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby RailBaronYarr » March 17th, 2017, 12:22 pm

David Greene wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 11:39 am
If you want to maintain the status quo, by all means keep vilifying your neighbors.
I think it's telling that a statement about the priorities and desires of homeowners, with no accusation of those being connected to stupidity or malice, is seen as villifying. Do you disagree that, in general, people who live in single family homes don't rate parking availability, property values, maintaining access to light and air, and congestion as pretty high priorities for a city to regulate? In my time door-knocking and phone banking for CM candidates across various parts of S Mpls, these issues come up all the time. I have also seen survey results that highlight the same issues as being of top concern for people (especially the land use ones for people who live in a neighborhood with development pressure - things rise and fall in priority depending on the pains people experience at the moment). I don't think it's a coincidence that city policies explicitly protect them as well. One can point out their perception of other peoples' priorities without implying they automatically make them ignorant. One can also point out that people often act selfishly without it being an attack on their personal character (though, sometimes it is).
EOst wrote:I think it's remarkably myopic to assume that renters (or people of color, or low-income folks) don't care about "character or history or whatever." Many of the properties which are historically protected in the Twin Cities today are protected thanks to the activism of renters and people of color.
I made no such assumptions. I pointed out that the process generally/typically favors people who are aren't renters or POC, and that while it is true that there has been tons of activism from renters and/or POC, I see tons of other activism that isn't focused on downzoning or historic districts (as well as living patterns that fly directly in the face of many reasons to exclude multi-family housing from being built, including that it's not suitable for families or that it won't become affordable). More specifically, my point was that our structure makes it easy to elevate the voices of people who care *most* about neighborhood character and more difficult to elevate the voices who care *most* about other things (things that I also happen to agree are more important). And that, as David accuses me of, many homeowners never invite those voices to the table or seek them out for conversations.

EOst
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby EOst » March 17th, 2017, 12:42 pm

I don't see the relevance of the underrepresentation of POC/renters to a conversation about the value of character/history unless you assume that the view of those underrepresented POC/renters is substantively different from the view of overrepresented white homeowners.

In any event, I really don't think it's tenable to say that the system is stacked against new-development advocates when you have the support of wealthy developers, the Chamber of Commerce and an array of industry groups, most elected officials (at least in their heart of hearts), and seemingly almost all of the city employees responsible for evaluating projects.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby RailBaronYarr » March 17th, 2017, 12:56 pm

Well, there are actually studies that have shown that immigrants and POC feel differently about development. For example, Mexican immigrants have voted in much higher shares against further zoning restrictions in LA and Houston. There is obviously no one way to explain how people think or behave, but I will admit I find it hard to imagine people of color and/or renters, who live in multi-family housing in far greater rates, have the same rate of opposition to the type of housing they themselves currently live in. I find it hard to believe the 20% of Minneapolis households without a car (POC/renters over-represented) care about traffic or parking the way white homeowners with 2 vehicles do. Maybe that's me!

You know, it's funny that, to my knowledge, the MN or Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce hasn't ever really come out against zoning regulations generally. The BATC lists energy codes and permitting as major barriers to housing production and prices, but never comes out with a position that zoning itself is the problem (or is the cause of the permitting issues). Even developers are generally not in the advocacy business for changing the system because the successful ones know how and when to hit the market with their product and don't really care about smaller developers than themselves being able to more easily find sites zoned for small, less expensive projects. Looking across the country, it's mostly non-profits and advocates doing the heavy lifting on policy recommendations around zoning issues. The ULI or CNU might get involved here and there, but they also tend to be conservative in policy suggestions (like focusing development efforts on brownfield sites or TOD) - and I don't buy that their political sway rivals that of the people who vote in local elections (particularly, in Minneapolis our off-year elections ensure a whiter, older voter turnout). And, as kind of an outcomes-matter and evidence based statement... The vast majority of Minneapolis (a relatively small geography for our metro) is zoned R1 or R2. Outside of downtown, a good portion of what little R3+ we have is historic apartments that make higher intensity redevelopment impossible anyway (ex. a 4 story apartment zoned R4 doesn't have any development capacity left). Further, aside from downtown, ADUs and a few spot re-zonings, point me to any sweeping zoning change in the past 50 years that allows a ton of development.

EOst
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby EOst » March 17th, 2017, 1:42 pm

I'm skeptical that you can pull that equivalency (between LA and the Twin Cities) without acknowledging the very different social and economic situations between the two regions. Los Angeles is one of the most expensive housing markets in the world, a fact that has driven unprecedented levels of construction in virtually every neighborhood. It's easy to acknowledge and promote the safety-valve effect of new construction in that kind of market. In the Twin Cities those market pressures are vastly more abstract, especially in the neighborhoods where POC are concentrated.

In truth, most majority-minority neighborhoods in the Twin Cities are struggling with precisely the opposite problem, which is that they have concentrated amounts of (relatively) affordable housing but lack the market confidence to attract new residents and maintain existing building stock. Getting rid of single-family zoning wouldn't do anything for those low-development-pressure neighborhoods, and could even harm them by encouraging investors to subdivide houses (generally without reducing unit price) to further concentrate residents at the very edge of affordability.

There's even a sort of perverse incentive for these kinds of neighborhoods to preserve single-family zoning in wealthy areas, because the resultant scarcity in desirable areas makes low-demand areas relatively more desirable.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby RailBaronYarr » March 17th, 2017, 2:15 pm

Well, it wasn't just LA, Houston as well. And I've seen (but refuse to seek and link to) other reports where low-income and/or minority communities were more supportive of development or less supportive of additional zoning. I disagree that hotter markets than ours provide an easier path to acknowledging supply's role in affordability - Very Liberal cities like San Francisco and Seattle are filled with people who refuse to acknowledge that market mechanism. Yes, Minneapolis is not San Francisco or LA or Houston or Zurich. But in any case, I feel a little like you're trying to wave away actual hard evidence I provided in my favor without showing any evidence in yours that people in the Twin Cities do actually all feel generally the same about zoning issues while also prioritizing them the same way.

I guess I've never heard an explicit (or even hinting at) argument from people in low-income neighborhoods to preserve SFH zoning in other wealthier neighborhoods to try to drive a little bit of that desirability to their own neighborhood. Not to say it's never happened, but I just see the opposite expressed a LOT - the sheer terror of gentrification ("seeing condos march down the greenway and knowing you're next" or seeing bike lanes as a signal to white people to come gentrify their neighborhood) or the heated call for investment (transit, parks, schools) tied with protection from displacement. To me, there may be an unspoken fear of up-zoning among low income renters, minorities, etc *but for entirely different reasons* than white homeowners - reasons I have a much easier time empathizing with and even supporting with policy if need be.

And, I agree with you that our history of segregation of poverty (which, for the record, zoning and associated tools played a huge part in aiding) have made the problem of attracting development in those places difficult. I think that is a wholly separate conversation than what the motivators behind strict zoning in desirable neighborhoods are, and the bad outcomes that come from that - for example the walkup apartments that were never really allowed west of Hennepin Ave but built in the Wedge/Whittier, subsequently blocked, are now providing affordable housing. No, people who need affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods TODAY aren't directly helped by building a 4-story apartment next to Joe Homeowner's dream house - that requires an separate set of tools (IZ, public housing, whatever), but without the zoning it won't even happen at all.

I think we've gone down a huge rabbit hole around tons of issues where the three of us are somewhat talking past each other. If anyone was interested in a recent paper based on lots of research into how people feel about zoning and why they oppose development generally - the type of overview that makes me feel like my interactions with real humans feel less like observation or confirmation bias - here it is. There are certainly others out there, but traffic/parking/home value issues certainly come up as primary concerns.

David Greene
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby David Greene » March 17th, 2017, 2:40 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 12:22 pm
I think it's telling that a statement about the priorities and desires of homeowners, with no accusation of those being connected to stupidity or malice, is seen as villifying. Do you disagree that, in general, people who live in single family homes don't rate parking availability, property values, maintaining access to light and air, and congestion as pretty high priorities for a city to regulate?
RailBaronYarr wrote:
March 17th, 2017, 12:22 pm
And that, as David accuses me of, many homeowners never invite those voices to the table or seek them out for conversations.
I think maybe my point didn't come across so well. There are certainly people here who dismiss out of hand some of those concerns you think are typical of homeowners. I wasn't specifically referring to you. I'm sorry I didn't make that more clear.

But I do think that some people here, including you at times, don't give homeowners enough credit for having these conversations and/or thinking hard about these complex issues. I'm recalling a block conversation we had last year. A landlord at the end of the block decided he would open a sober house, allowing 20 people to live in his duplex. A couple of neighbors were really against it, not only because the landlord in question has acted in bad faith in the past, but also for reasons I personally considered rather trivial (parking being one). Every one of the other homeowners on the block I talked to were either moderately supportive or "meh." Many of those homeowners thought the others were overreacting.

Not every homeowner cares deeply about on-street parking. Homeowners don't groupthink in lockstep. Surprise!

I don't care about congestion beyond whatever implications it has for pollution. That's one of the reasons we bought an electric car.

I do care about light and air but it's all relative, right? I don't want a 16-story tower right next to my house but I'd be fine with a 3-4 story small apartment building like the historic ones we have all over the neighborhood. And you have made some really great posts about how we can make that happen.

I do care about massing. Not for any "rational" reason that some here might want but because of aesthetics and placemaking. It matters to me, even if I can't scientifically quantify exactly what it is I care about. We're human, not computers. People aren't being disingenuous because their opinions of things change from project to project. We're human and each project has a unique context that comes with it.

What I'm trying to convey is that some people in this thread, and yes, at times you (but much less frequently), seem to assume homeowners are acting in bad faith. That's not a great place from which to start an open and productive conversation.

The vast majority of homeowners I've talked to hold complex views that are a mix of "new urbanism" and "old suburbia." It's really hard to pigeonhole people.

And yes, I've talked to homeowners I would deem to be unreasonable in their thinking. As in every other aspect of life, there are extremists on all sides of opinion.

David Greene
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby David Greene » March 17th, 2017, 2:52 pm

Let me try to make this a little more concrete. Suppose we got a proposal to modify zoning to allow what RBY, myself and many others have said we want: smaller apartment/condo developments over a lot or two, something like what was built all over the city for the first 40 years of the 20th century. Let's say the proposal includes upzoning many (all?) R2B parcels to this new zoning.

I would love it!

But it's change and we all know humans tend to dislike change. So some (many?) homeowners will be skeptical.

If proponents come in guns blazing and make snarky comments at hearings, on social media or whatever about how selfish and un-hip homeowners are, it's very likely the proposal will be shot down. Because all the proponents will have done is encourage more homeowners to get active and oppose the change simply because they distrust the proponents.

This is part of the problem with the whole public hearing process because it's actually structured to silo people into echo chambers. I really wish we had a formal process that was more group-ish, conversation-ish, relationship building-ish and based on a consensus model. Something that requires people to sit down together and hammer out a plan. I can think of all kinds of ways that might work.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby RailBaronYarr » March 17th, 2017, 3:20 pm

I appreciate your replies. I'm going to paint with a broad brush here, but for maybe a few exceptions, most times a bunch of incumbents get together to hammer our a plan, it seems to point toward down-zoning, not up. Now maybe that downzoning is a historic or conservation district and the merits and motivations are different from general zoning ones. The exceptions I can think of are the Prospect Park plan for the area north of University Ave (which, I'll admit to snarkily pointing out that they supported density on the other side of a major street). And, even if we have some good faith discussions around zoning and finding a proposal that works, we still haven't really touched on the issue that tons of people are left out of the conversation. And that is precisely why we have vast swaths of R1 or R2B literally less than 2 miles from the most important commercial and entertainment hub for 400 miles in any direction - even though people have wide-ranging and complex feelings about things we still often boil down to the common denominators (especially when fear of things like property values, congestion, or [yes, it happens even in Minneapolis] other races are involved]).

We could be inclusive of people who already live in apartments or whatever other underrepresented status we throw around, but even then you're leaving out people who want to live in the city but don't already and therefore don't have a voice. There might be tons of people who want to live in a 15 story concrete tower (sound proofing, construction quality, afforded views) but not on a busy street but the conversation still likely puts incumbents (and, still likely homeowners') views first. At the very least, a proposal to zone for something like that would (as I outlined earlier) frame that structure as the one impacting others rather than the other way around.

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Anondson
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby Anondson » May 4th, 2017, 6:34 am

Sort of related to the thread.

Is there data to evaluate what percentage of single family home, detached garages are single person occupied in Minneapolis?

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby RailBaronYarr » May 4th, 2017, 8:00 am

I think ACS Table B25124 kind of gets at what you're asking about. It breaks down the number of households by number of occupants and then dwelling type (though for 1-unit, detached and attached are put together, which is unusual for ACS data in my experience).

Anyway, the 2015 5-year estimate for Mpls has 17,825 single family homes with only 1 occupant, or 10.5% of all housing units in the city. Insert caution about data accuracy given it's the ACS, but still. There are other tables that break down how many bedrooms are in different types of housing structures, but the major flaw I have with ACS data is that you can't cross-cut things down, you're only able to use the tables they give you. For example, if you had a decennial census where everyone was asked these questions (and not just imputed from surveys), it'd be cool to see how many detached homes with 3 or more bedrooms have only 1 person living in them... but I've never seen that capability to filter down and down. And in this case we don't know if all those 1-occupant single fam HHs are all tiny 1BR houses or 5BR mansions.

Maybe others can chime in with other datasets they're aware of, perhaps specific to Mpls thanks to some city surveys (or other).

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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby twincitizen » May 4th, 2017, 10:39 am

The Census has exact household population data, down to the single block level. It would not be correlated with dwelling type though (single fam vs. duplex vs. studio apartment). Manually, what you could do with that Census data though, is find a city block containing only single family homes and check the household size counts (for the entire block). In order to produce a representative sample size for the city, I'd suggest doing this for several city blocks from different parts of the city.

That would be a decent amount of work that would have to be done manually, but it would give the answer you're looking for.

Since I'm no data expert, does anyone know how many blocks one would have to analyze to get an accurate sample?

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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby LakeCharles » May 4th, 2017, 11:14 am

There are roughly 6,000 blocks, so to get an answer with a margin of error of 5% at 90% confidence you'd need about 250 blocks. if you wanted to double the margin of error to 10, you'd need 70. And you'de have to make sure you picked a representative sample (i.e. spread around the city geographically, socioeconomically, by house size, etc.).

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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby mattaudio » June 6th, 2017, 8:59 am

Staff recommends denial of a variance for a raised bed planter in a side yard. Anyone else think that's ridic? I bet every fourth house on my block has non-compliant planters. And to think you're supposed to get a variance for a raised bed!
http://minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/pub ... 199608.pdf

I'll reserve my judgment on the other variance for the porch side-yard setback, but it seems like the city contributed to that predicament for the homeowner by approving something that was clearly out of compliance (though the as-built was substantially different from the approved drawing, even though the footings were approved). That doesn't seem like the issue.

David Greene
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Re: Zoning in Minneapolis

Postby David Greene » June 6th, 2017, 9:13 am

Yeah, the raised bed thing is stupid. There are many houses in the Wedge that violate arguably more meaningful rules such as height limits on boulevard plantings.

As to the porch, the homeowner/contractor should have known they were building something outside of what was approved, so I don't know that I have a lot of sympathy for that, though the city bears some blame too due to the inspection screw-up.

Regardless, that is one ugly AF porch. And what the hell, is this a garbage house or something? What is in the room with the bay window?


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