Thursday, December 8, 2016

13 reasons Minneapolis needs to move beyond Intentional Communities

In the videos below, City Council Members Lisa Bender and Jacob Frey make some compelling arguments for why we should ease occupancy restrictions for all people living in Minneapolis, and for why we shouldn't limit housing opportunities to a select few who live in strictly defined "intentional communities."

[For a detailed discussion of problems with the intentional communities ordinance, read my earlier post]

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"Intentional Communities": A Path to Legal Status for White People

Over time, average family sizes get smaller, and old houses get emptier. But in Minneapolis’ lower-density zoning districts, no more than three unrelated people can live together as a household; in higher-density districts, the limit is five unrelated people. For people who want to live with three or more friends in a big old house, this is a problem. As a targeted fix, the City Council is on the verge of removing occupancy restrictions for a select group of residents who live in what are called “intentional communities.”

Intentional communities are “a form of housing co-operative where residents form a household organized around an idea.” In researching a proposal to legalize these communities, City staff found that Minneapolis “is fairly unique in that occupancy is regulated in both the Zoning Code and the Housing Maintenance Code." No other city defines the special legal category of "intentional community," and many peer cities don't specify maximum occupancy in their zoning codes.

Minneapolis’ 1924 definition of a family was surprisingly liberal.

Friday, October 28, 2016

70s-Era Planner Confesses Role in Decades-Old Downzoning Plot

In commenting on the city's current plan to downzone the Wedge neighborhood, former Minneapolis city planner Perry Thorvig has given us some historical perspective. He starts off by celebrating the results of the 1975 downzoning:
The zoning scheme adopted in 1975 must have worked. It was gratifying to me and I'm sure many neighborhood residents, including former council member Meg Tuthill, that the recent study by city planner Brian Schaffer found that very little new development has occurred in the neighborhood since that rezoning was done forty years ago.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Who gets to live on our nicest streets?

Alex Cecchini has written a nicely comprehensive post outlining all the reasons it's a bad idea to force dense housing out of neighborhood interiors and onto the most noisy, polluted, dangerous streets in the city.

It's a timely post because the Wedge neighborhood is about to be downzoned. As Alex writes, the last time the neighborhood was downzoned, in 1975, it was happening in parallel with an equally successful movement to force dangerous high-speed car traffic out of the neighborhood's interior (a good thing). In other words, the city and neighborhood activists were making the neighborhood interior nicer/safer at the same time they were telling a certain kind of person in a certain kind of housing they have no business living there.

Read Alex's post for all the reasons why that's a problem.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Lisa Goodman hates your minimum wage study

The Minneapolis City Council hired some economists from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs to produce this study on the impact of raising the local minimum wage. The study showed that raising the wage would not lead to economic apocalypse. The study did show that raising the wage to $15 would help a lot of people who need it--at the cost of an extra 50 cents to $1 for a $25 restaurant meal. Council Member Lisa Goodman was not happy with the results.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Downzoning Deadline: Submit Your Feedback to the City

This Friday, September 30 is the deadline to submit public comment on the downzoning proposed for Lowry Hill East--which I have written about a quite a bit. Here's a chart showing how the proposal would push us further along towards a zoning code that doesn't reflect our current built reality:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What's the matter with Alondra?

Last December, Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano went to the Mall of America to join a Black Lives Matter protest.
But the mall protest never really happened; crowds moved instead to the light rail and the airport, "creating a rolling wave of disruption on one of the busiest travel and shopping days of the year." Cano tweeted a few pictures and words of support for BLM, causing her mentions to fill up with people--probably tweeting from home--more distressed by minor holiday travel delays than the death of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police a month earlier.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Best of Minneapolis City Council Vines

Cast your vote for City Council Performer of the Year.

Ballot at the end of this post.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Downzoning Can't Save Us From the Future

I've previously written about the rezoning that's under consideration for Minneapolis' Lowry Hill East neighborhood. After a few more weeks of thought, these are my big-picture concerns.

Downzoning is forever

The city's proposal has been described as interim protection that gets us through until the next update to the city's Comprehensive Plan (the process for which is currently underway). But "interim" gives the impression that downzoning is temporary. This is technically true; all laws are potentially temporary. But in reality, we're still stuck with a 1975 decision that left most of the Wedge (under)zoned for nothing greater than a duplex. Downzoning is easy. Upzoning is hard.

It might be right to say this particular rezoning plan is a relatively insignificant drop in the bucket--but it's still the wrong bucket. Across the city, and over the years, these decisions add up. While we don't know what the Comp Plan update holds, it would be short-sighted to think we won't be living with today's downzoning in 2055.

For parcels north of 28th Street (data compiled by Alex Cecchini).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Truth About Drug Treatment Centers

A petition against the NuWay drug treatment center.

The executive director of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood organization believes "people in [addiction] recovery tend to bring about drug dealers." This idea went completely unchallenged in a City Pages article about the NuWay Counseling Center which recently opened at 2118 Blaisdell Ave. It's a sentiment that's been repeated often over the years when the issue of "too many treatment centers" in Whittier comes up.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wedge Downzoning Explained in Six Maps

Rezoning is back on the table for Lowry Hill East. Here are some maps to help you understand the history of neighborhood zoning and the potential impact of the city's current proposal.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Time to Hold the Line on Downzoning

Forty-one years after a rezoning left most of Lowry Hill East zoned low-density, the city of Minneapolis has put neighborhood rezoning back on the table. The current plan is nearly all downzoning, meant to clean up the few high-density scraps left over from 1975. It’s hard not to take this issue personally, because I live in one of the last apartment buildings constructed before that long-ago downzoning; in other words, the roof over my head inspired a group of very passionate homeowners to say “that is enough of that!”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Neighborhood Group Votes for More Parking, Higher Rents

The Southwest Journal reports on a housing competition in Minneapolis:
Lyndale neighborhood residents heard two competing development concepts Monday for 3329 Nicollet Ave., and voted 20-11 in favor of the pitch that provided the most parking. 
The developers’ concepts ranged from eight-unit townhouses rising three stories with garages, to a four-story apartment building with at least 32 units and nine surface parking spaces.
The article gives the impression that this vote was a referendum on parking, and how to build as much of it as possible. For anyone who's been to a neighborhood development meeting, this preoccupation with parking should sound familiar. Local landlord Carol Greenwood, speaking about about new people moving to the Lyndale neighborhood, said, "they all have cars, and they all want a parking spot.” It's worth pointing out that 32% of Lyndale households own no vehicle. You might say an apartment building with reduced parking is compatible with the existing neighborhood character.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

City Pages shows how to slam Vogue for not knowing where stuff is in Minneapolis without knowing where stuff is in Minneapolis

Vogue got some deserved criticism for their geographically-challenged article touting Minneapolis as a weekend getaway. But in the process of doling out that criticism, the writer of a City Pages article ("Vogue magazine shows how to endorse Minneapolis without actually visiting it") left some Wedge and Whittier residents to wonder if he ever left the office to pay them a visit.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Day the Laughter Died: Acme Comedy's Parking Crisis

As someone who follows local development politics pretty closely, I've been watching a strange new debate unfold at City Hall. We're used to hearing concerns about parking and neighborhood "character" from longtime homeowners. Now, that same argument is coming from a cast of comedians in support of Acme Comedy Co's quest to stop the development of a neighboring parking lot into an apartment building.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rocket House and the Turkey Guys Explained

World famous Rocket House.

Cards and letters have been pouring in with questions about one topic in particular. So here's everything you always wanted to know about the master builders of our time: Danny Perkins and Drew Levin, aka the Turkey Guys.

Friday, June 17, 2016

City Council “Outraged” Over DNR Downzoning to Benefit Elected Officials

Two members of the Minneapolis City Council have expressed serious concern over what they see as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources pushing special land-use restrictions that would protect the proverbial backyards of certain unnamed elected officials. The comments were made during a June 9 Zoning and Planning Committee discussion about new rules for the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area. The MRCCA is an area along the Mississippi River subject to "special land development regulations that protect and preserve unique natural, recreational, transportation, and cultural features."

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Investigating Renter Trash

Whittier: more renter trash than your average neighborhood.
There's a new line of argument against new multi-unit rental housing becoming fashionable with concerned residents in the Wedge and nearby neighborhoods. It has to do with trash. Here's an argument made by the group Minneapolis Neighbors United against a 10-unit apartment building at 2008 Bryant Ave:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Officially licensed news team apparel

If you appreciate our hyperlocal coverage, purchase the shirt that says, "No matter where I am, I'm always live on scene at a neighborhood news event."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tribute to Parking and Industrial Areas We Have Lost

Over the last ten years the Wedge neighborhood has seen the industrial and parking areas adjacent to the Midtown Greenway transformed into one apartment building after another. This video takes a look back at what we've lost.

One Block, 32 Apartments Too Many

Inspired by the New York Times' recent analysis of Manhattan buildings that would not be legal under current zoning, I undertook a far less ambitious analysis of one block of the Wedge neighborhood. By today's zoning standards, on this one block, there are 32 apartments too many. Seven out of 23 buildings have too many dwelling units; these nonconforming buildings range from triplexes to a 23-unit apartment building. This is largely the result of the neighborhood's 1975 downzoning.

Friday, May 20, 2016

St. Paul Bike Lane Trilogy

If you've ever wondered what the essential difference is between Minneapolis and St. Paul, I would argue it's the degree of wackiness happening at public meetings about bike lanes (and how those bike lanes affect things like traffic and parking). Minneapolis has largely accepted them, while St. Paul is still fighting the good fight.

I didn't set out to make movies about St. Paul, but people kept Tweeting me links to weird videos. So I was compelled to create what critics will soon be calling the definitive three-part series about the people and culture of St. Paul.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

#joke #jokes

Mayor Hodges' comedy bit at MinnRoast yesterday consisted of a "true or false" call and response routine. Things like:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Best of Minneapolis Politicians on Twitter

Unlike their national counterparts, local politicians don't have a huge staff dedicated to maintaining polished social media personas. This gives them the chance to personally interact with constituents, giving real answers to real questions. And if you fill up their mentions with mean tweets, it can elicit real tears. So we have compiled a list of the top two local politicians who are keeping it real, letting it all hang out, and writing their own tweets.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Resignation Letter

People of the Wedge,

I hereby announce my resignation from the LHENA Board of Directors, effective eight months ago, in order to spend more time with my cronies. My only regret is that I didn't resign when they threatened my family. That was just me being stubborn.

Though my approval ratings remain at record high levels, I must depart from elected office. However, it is my intention to remain an active Pillar of the Neighborhood. Additionally, I will be keeping my email address, so please continue to send me your constituent hate mail.

I'm Done

I don't know how things are in other places, but the neighborhood association here in the Wedge is a magnet for the unhinged; people who see vast conspiracies and corporate villains behind every Healy mansion. I'm not saying this describes the attitude of all participants, or even most. It's just far higher than what you see in the general population. I had assumed a city department called "Neighborhood and Community Relations" would also be familiar with this dynamic, and be careful not to encourage residents with overactive imaginations. I was wrong.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tom Lyden, Legend of Local Journalism

Sometimes a series of Vines come together that deserve their own blog post. Our salute to Tom Lyden:

Monday, March 7, 2016

Wedge LIVE! Pledge DRIVE!

The Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations department is spreading rumors about my potential "conflict of interest." This is based on all the pretend dollars I have extracted from my social media empire while serving on a neighborhood board (it may sound like a fishy arrangement, but I assure you there is no "there" there). I have contacted NCR Director David Rubedor, asking him to instruct the person he supervises to stop the rumor mongering. He has declined my request.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NCR's Rumor Mongering

Red squiggly boxes indicate inappropriate tweeting.

In my role as a person with a Twitter account and a seat on a neighborhood association board, I sometimes hear curious things about myself. One of these things involved the Neighborhood and Community Relations department, which oversees and assists Minneapolis neighborhood organizations. This prompted me to do a public records request. Many of the emails obtained in that records request are posted here.

Twitter Is Public.pdf

Below are emails to the Minneapolis' Neighborhood and Community Relations department referencing myself and/or "Wedge LIVE" in 2015, my first year as a LHENA Board Member. This is the case against me, complete with all .pdf and .png attachments. If you see red squiggly boxes around my pdf'd tweets, those were drawn by the Concerned Resident. As you read, please keep in mind this is the person to whom NCR felt it was appropriate to encourage with speculative questions about how I might be using my board position and tweets to enrich myself.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A History of Downzoning

The year is 1995. A landlord is renovating his triplex when a concerned neighbor appeals to the neighborhood association for help. The organization comes to the rescue, deciding¹ that "because the building has been vacant for over a year, the nonconforming use expires and the building should revert to a duplex." The neighborhood was Lowry Hill East. And that heroic concerned neighbor would go on to become the chairman of LHENA's 2004 rezoning subcommittee.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

2015 Council Fundraising

2015 Minneapolis City Council fundraising
Minneapolis City Council campaign fundraising disclosures were due on February 1st. The Star Tribune ran an article about Council fundraising on February 5th. Council President Barb Johnson filed her report on February 8th. As a result there's not a single mention of Barb in the story. Pretty clever, Barb, but your tricks don't work on Wedge LIVE.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hotel Debate Gets Weird

The hotel proposed for the southeast corner of Lake Street and Emerson Avenue has inspired dueling petitions (pro-hotel vs no-hotel). The petition battle has become TV-newsworthy. A shadowy group has even put out a pretend 30-second ad against it.

Site of proposed hotel. Lake Street in background.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Old News: Rex Hardware at 2601 Lyndale

The vacant lot at 2601 Lyndale could soon get a grocery store and 75 apartments, but ten years ago it was a single story brick hardware store. Here's how the store's 2005 closing and the 2010 demolition was covered in the Wedge newspaper (all this old news was pirated without permission, as usual).

Friday, January 15, 2016

Channel 79 Instant Analysis: Historic White Castle

Slack chat transcripts are the latest digital-age innovation in lazy neighborhood journalism. Only on wedgelive dot com.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Developer Proposes Aldi + 76 Apartments at 2601 Lyndale

"Rex 26"

Master Properties is proposing to build 76 apartments and a grocery store at 2601 Lyndale, in the space currently occupied by a vacant lot and four houses. At last night's meeting of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood association, developer Don Gerberding said he has an agreement in place for all six parcels, and he plans to complete the purchase by the end of February. When asked, he indicated the development proposal was not contingent on the involvement of the specific retailer currently attached to the project.

A Lyndale Story, in Four YouTubes

There's something happening in the Lyndale neighborhood. Many people think of Lyndale as the Rhode Island of our tri-neighborhood area. And these people are right, so it's not worth trying to understand or explain the underlying issues (something about 17 dwelling units and a parking crisis). So let's go straight to the videotape.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Uptown's Newest Drive-Thru Bank Secures More Parking

Wells Fargo had their appeal granted at the Zoning & Planning Committee yesterday. The vote was unanimous to allow the new Lake & Humboldt Wells Fargo to exceed the parking maximum by eight spaces--for a total of 25. As a condition of the parking variance, the bank will need to commit to sharing their lot with the neighborhood or a local business during non-banking hours.

Major Remodeling Underway at Two Area Apt Buildings

1207 W. 25th St
Workers are currently gutting a 12-unit apartment building at 1207 West 25th Street, in preparation for a nearly $500,000 remodel. The building was purchased for just over $1 million by a Chicago company, Maven Real Estate Partners. The same company has permits to begin a similar remodel of the 22-unit building located at 1200 West Franklin, which they purchased for $1.7 million. Both buildings were purchased on July 21st, 2015. 

I don't know what the "Loon Express" sign is all about. I'm hoping for seven lanes of drive-thru falafels in the style of Wells Fargo. But more significantly, I think this proves a theory I've long had: if a fancy man wants to be your neighbor, he doesn't always have to build new.

Update 1/16/2016: Same thing is happening to the Alden Apartments downtown.