Opposition to New Development

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby FISHMANPET » May 13th, 2015, 2:00 pm

I also think they're evaluating the full field of what's being built now against the few 100 year old buildings that have survived until now. I'm sure there were some real turds built in 1915 but they're not around anymore. There also seems to be a general backlash against capitalism in general but it's like, I don't know, for better or worse we live in a capitalist economy.

I mean, if everybody hates the predominant style of building right now, what do they like that's being built now? Or maybe take a step back and figure out why what you like isn't being built anymore, but when you start getting into matters of form and size and scale then you're really looking beyond design and into external factors like zoning and parking that people don't really want to examine.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby xandrex » May 13th, 2015, 2:12 pm

^I've had friends complain about the new buildings and insist what we need are smaller brick and brownstones that somehow magically offer plenty of bells and whistles (granite counter tops! stainless steel! outdoor space!) while also being "reasonably priced." (This means whatever their current budget is, but think $800-1000 as a good indication).

At heart, this is almost certainly a bit of a class issue. People are angry they can't afford the $1,700 one-bedroom place in the awesome location, so it's just a bunch of worthless Target yuppies who only care about money and [insert some other stereotype here]. And anyway, ya know, the building is "ugly."

Of course, many of these same people suddenly drop their opposition once they see income jumps or pair their money with a partner. Then they're happy to show off their renovated condo with sweeping skyline views or fancy loft apartment overlooking the Mississippi.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby FISHMANPET » May 13th, 2015, 2:30 pm

David Greene wrote:
FISHMANPET wrote:Yeah I was basically trying to get at that in the Nye's thread. Most local opposition currently is pretty terrible.
So organize support. If the opposition is really that terrible it should crumble in the face of organized support.
Nick wrote:Would kind of agree with David here--I mean, yes, a lot of local opposition is terrible, but moving the needle requires so little. Silophant and I were just at the Loring Park neighborhood group annual meeting, and I mean...pretty sure if either (or both) of us had raised our hands when they were asking for nominations, we'd have ended up on the board.

There are very legitimate concerns with and arguments against the composition of a lot of neighborhood groups but on the other hand, if you got a handful of people with a handful of annual hours together, you could basically takeover most of our neighborhood groups.
I was tired that week but I want to get back to this.

The outcome of opposition is not a binary state. It goes much deeper than "the building is approved" and "the building is not approved." Oppositions should exist to torpedo the truly bad projects, but also to improve the good/great-but-not-quite-perfect projects. And the opposition is too busy tilting at windmills and failing to stop and actually produce positive outcomes. And every time the anti-development crowd screams that the sky is going to fall, they lose a little bit of credibility. Much like in the boy who cried wolf, when a truly bad development comes, nobody will listen because every past prediction about the end of the world hasn't come true.

I know I'm too far on the pro-development side. In a mock city council exercise in an Urban Studies class of mine, I convinced the class to allow a truly egregious redevelopment of the grocery store in downtown Hopkins (they only time the class has voted that way, according to the professor) and I was the lone supporter of a hypothetical 20 story building on the Sons of Norway block in Uptown. So someone needs to keep me in check. And screaming that the sky is falling isn't going to accomplish that.

So we don't need better opposition so that more projects get approved, we don't really have that problem, we need better opposition so that the projects that do get approved are as good as they possibly can be.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby clf » May 13th, 2015, 3:36 pm

I have read quite a few news stories in other cities about the opposition of new developments and what I took away from the majority was the displacement of lower income residents.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby EOst » May 13th, 2015, 3:39 pm

I think much of the concern about displacing low-income residents is about as genuine as the Lakes and Parks Alliance's opposition to SWLRT because of "the damage it'll do to parks." It's really just a convenient and universally-popular thing to conceal whatever your real motives are.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby David Greene » May 13th, 2015, 9:00 pm

That's probably true for a lot of opponents but there are many people legitimately concerned about affordable housing and making it possible for people to stay where they are if they want to.

It's certainly a tricky balance.

And I entirely agree, Peter, we need better opposition to make projects better.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby RailBaronYarr » May 14th, 2015, 9:02 am

Not disagreeing. I just have a hard time determining what's better. There are seemingly universal "truths" to urban development most on this board would agree to (garages in back, multiple entrances along a building's frontage, raised porches/stoops as a private-public space transition, stepbacks above XX feet in height, etc take your pick of Jane Jacobs quotes etc). But to most people living in a suburb (even people building infill homes in SW Mpls!), those exact things sound like the apocalypse. A detached garage? Lots typically skinny and narrow so you have a diverse/dense streetscape? Small front yard setbacks? Dark alleys for crime? Could go on.

There are certainly design elements that truly impact public health, municipal costs, etc. I'm thinking of examples like how street wind speed is affected by the variability (or lack) of building massing/height. But the costs are usually pretty small (in relation to, say, the public health impacts of driving), and these issues can also be twisted to a really debatable place (Central Park shadowing, for example). Even pro-urban, pro-density posters on this very forum can't come to a consensus about what makes a building/street design/etc look good, and if we do all think it's bad what the proper suggestion is to fix it. And, at the end of the day, you've got places like Houston that allow projects like this to go into an area of single family homes (98.7% of America's worst-case nightmare scenario) and reality is the world turns and Houston is super affordable and they're building better bus and light rail than basically anywhere in the country. Urbanists mostly hate the LA dingbat design but LA neighborhoods are still pretty dang walkable thanks to the (ugly) low-rise density they bring. I dunno.

This isn't to say I don't have many, many opinions on what makes a great urban environment, what I would or wouldn't appreciate going in 8 feet from my dining room window, etc. I just don't know how/if we can weed out the "good" suggestions from the "bad," especially taking in all the consequences that come with whatever those decisions are.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby widin007 » May 15th, 2015, 3:25 pm

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco ... using.html

Reading stuff like this makes you realize things aren't so bad here.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby EOst » May 15th, 2015, 3:45 pm

In fairness, we are talking about a 20-story tower in a low-rise neighborhood directly adjacent to a wildlife refuge. I can understand why there might be opposition to that.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby MNdible » May 15th, 2015, 3:57 pm

What showed up when I googled the site does not look anything like what you just described.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby David Greene » May 15th, 2015, 4:10 pm

"What we got back didn't live long...fortunately."

Still one of the creepiest movie scenes I saw as a kid.

Back on topic, the Lake Merritt tower indeed doesn't seem to be in a low-rise neighborhood and is not really near the wildlife refuge.

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco ... l?page=all

http://waterfrontaction.org/dd/temp1/lm ... oposal.pdf

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby FISHMANPET » May 15th, 2015, 4:14 pm

I think the issue of affordability is a sticky one, especially when one side is arguing on a micro level, and the other is arguing on a macro level.

I mean, in the example of 2320 Colfax, on the micro level, those 15 or whatever people are losing an affordable unit. They may have ended up homeless and in shelters. And that's terrible. So you could, with the best of intentions, argue to prevent the demolition of the building to save the housing for those 15 people.

But then you run into the macro problem that, look, we need more housing units. And to make an omelet you gotta break a few eggs. If we don't build housing units we end up like the bay area where those 15 guys get displaced anyway because those rooms rent for $1500 a month to the rich people that can afford that etc etc.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby David Greene » May 15th, 2015, 4:24 pm

Not talking about any specific proposal, but in general I'm of the mind that we should try to develop empty lots/buildings first before tearing down stuff people are using. I understand that ownership/markets don't always make that possible. In the Colfax case, Michael Crow is at least as responsible for the displacement as Lander but no one really talks about that.

The problem I keep coming back to that I don't know how to solve is the rise in rents/mortgage payments. Sure, more housing should, all things being equal, make costs go down. But developments happen precisely because all things are *not* equal. Development happens in hot areas and rents are going to naturally rise in those areas, even with new supply. New luxury development might even exacerbate the problem by attracting even more money.

I am not at all saying attracting more money is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. But we should also recognize that it can push people out and we should have solutions for that.

Ideally, any development that tears down existing housing should provide an equal amount of housing at that same price point. Again, I know that's unrealistic in the general case but it might be a useful frame to operate from when considering proposals. It would be an interesting discussion to have with developers. What code/zoning changes would be needed to make that easier to happen, for example? How would we redevelop, say, the McDonald's parcel in Uptown with the aim of providing some housing akin to what was lost on Colfax?

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby widin007 » May 15th, 2015, 4:30 pm

EOst wrote:In fairness, we are talking about a 20-story tower in a low-rise neighborhood directly adjacent to a wildlife refuge. I can understand why there might be opposition to that.
Its across the street from a 20 storey high rise and the nature center is across the lake, by more high rises. I get the sentiments of low income housing, but the bay area is getting out of control expensive because of actions like what happened in Oakland.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby FISHMANPET » May 15th, 2015, 4:52 pm

I there's kind of two separate but sort of related problems when it comes to overall housing prices. One is the problem of the middle class affording their housing. To be honest I don't think it's that much of a problem in our area, but in for example San Francisco it is. In general I'd say we should be building enough market rate housing so that an average middle class person working a middle class job shouldn't really have an issue finding decent housing generally in places they'd like to be. And I don't think government needs to get too involved in that beyond actually letting that development happen. Construction costs and rents line up in such a way that someone can build a building and rent it out and pay for the building and make some money and everything's fine. If we don't allow that then housing costs go up for everyone and people get pushed farther out.

The second problem is the people that are for whatever reason, basically too poor to participate in a housing market. It's one of those systemic problems that reaches through all levels of society and I don't think it's fair to look up and down the entire breadth of the economy and say "the only problem of poor people is that their housing is too expensive." The market surely can't build new housing for someone that makes $9 an hour. Some new development might allow some stuff to filter down, and some stuff in the vein of rooming houses might help some of them. But ultimately the problem with this group of people is that they just plain don't have enough money to participate in the economy. Solving that aspect is a whole other ball of wax that housing isn't going to solve. And it can't solve it, as it stands the need for affordable housing far exceeds the supply of affordable housing, and there just isn't enough money as things stand to build enough housing for all of them. But even if we fix the general problem of poor people don't have enough money to participate in the economy, there will still be people who will be unable to afford market housing (though more will, as some people who now have enough money to participate in the economy will move to cheaper market rate stuff and out of affordable housing) so we should still be building some stuff.

So I'm not sure what my point is, or if I even have one. I think maybe it's that the affordability problem in the bay area is completely different from ours. They're having an issue on the first point, because they're just not building enough housing period. They complain that the tech rich can come and outbid them etc etc, but it's because there's no place else to go! If you have far more people that want apartments as you do apartments, and some of those people have more money than others, the ones with more money will get the unit. The solution is clearly to give them a new place that's too expensive for you, but not too expensive for them. The Bay area assuredly has the second problem, but I think it's dangerous to conflate the two. At least in Minneapolis we basically don't have the first one.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby EOst » May 15th, 2015, 4:54 pm

MNdible wrote:What showed up when I googled the site does not look anything like what you just described.
That water channel directly adjacent to the site is part of the Lake Merritt wildlife sanctuary. The tower visible in David Greene's post is one of two in an area which is otherwise one- to three-story buildings.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby FISHMANPET » May 15th, 2015, 5:02 pm

Regardless of this specific situation, a tower sprouting up in an area like that is a failure of zoning.

Not a failure to keep the tower from going up, but a failure of everything else to incrementally densify. It should be much easier to build duplexes and four-plexes in SFH neighborhoods, because they will allow a neighborhood to incrementally grow without suddenly and drastically changing the character (whatever the hell character actually means).

I just kind of feel like if I put all of the opposition about a particular project into one big pile, you'd see that people are often fighting against themselves, even if they don't realize it. Someone wants to build a tower here because they think a ton of people want to live here that currently can't. If you disagree with that, well ok, do you think your neighborhood sucks? Then why bother protecting it? Oh you do think it's great but you don't think anybody else wants to live here? Well ok that's weird. Do you wish that it was smaller and more "in scale?" Well if you admit that people want to be here, and you think that new development should be "to scale" then you need to allow that scale to slowly change, by allowing smaller infill development to slowly transform your neighborhood. Oh you don't want that either? Is it a case of "fuck you got mine?" Is everyone that came before and including you a noble resident fighting for truth justice and the American way, and every person that comes after you is some greedy transiet that doesn't care about your place?

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby MNdible » May 15th, 2015, 7:00 pm

EOst wrote:That water channel directly adjacent to the site is part of the Lake Merritt wildlife sanctuary. The tower visible in David Greene's post is one of two in an area which is otherwise one- to three-story buildings.
This is a silly thing to argue about, but almost all of the buildings in the immediate vicinity are over four stories, and Lake Merritt may technically be a wildlife refuge, but if that's the case, then Lake Calhoun should probably be a National Park.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby David Greene » May 15th, 2015, 10:36 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:One is the problem of the middle class affording their housing. To be honest I don't think it's that much of a problem in our area
I can't speak to the affordability of housing to the middle class but I can say with some certainty that people in stable economic situations almost invariably overestimate the resources available to the middle class. Thus we get ridiculous notions like a $250k houshold income being middle class.
FISHMANPET wrote:And it can't solve it, as it stands the need for affordable housing far exceeds the supply of affordable housing, and there just isn't enough money as things stand to build enough housing for all of them.
Here I unequivocally and emphatically disagree. We're the wealthiest country in the history of the planet. We have enough money. We simply choose not to provide housing.
FISHMANPET wrote:The Bay area assuredly has the second problem, but I think it's dangerous to conflate the two. At least in Minneapolis we basically don't have the first one.
I'm not at all convinced of that. I can't say we *do* have that problem (lack of middle class housing) but I can't say we don't either. And you're right, solving that problem doesn't help the very poor. But I also don't think we can morally just give up on the poor either. It's a big problem but this country has tackled big problems before.

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Re: Opposition to new Development

Postby David Greene » May 15th, 2015, 10:47 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:Is it a case of "fuck you got mine?" Is everyone that came before and including you a noble resident fighting for truth justice and the American way, and every person that comes after you is some greedy transiet that doesn't care about your place?
You have this habit of going to extremes and assuming the worst of people. I would welcome more density in Uptown. I do not want our entire block to become apartment buildings. I could probably accept a third of our block becoming apartment buildings, or even half if it was done well (think 1920's-scale two-lot buildings rather than the current half-block buildings).

I don't think this is an unreasonable position and I'm pretty sure most of the homeowners on our block (not that many, BTW) could live with it. I would like to see some more parking lots and underutilized buildings come down before a lot of new stuff gets built on our block. Does this make me some sort of evil landowner?


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