Major update of 10-year Mpls plan gets citizen scrutiny

Most doubt it will survive in its current form

City of Mpls

It is no secret that the city of Minneapolis has some of the worst racial disparities in the country. From lack of affordable housing to wage gaps, Minneapolis has historically failed to maintain an equitable playing field for its residents of color.

The City is now looking to close those gaps with its forthcoming Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive plan. Currently, in draft form, the 2040 Plan will serve as a guide for the City’s economic development, land use and natural resource decisions for the next 10 years.

According to the plan’s website, its goal is to achieve greater equity in Minneapolis by having the City invest in “education, skills training, small business support and other support systems to help residents access opportunities to gain and retain well-paying employment.”

It will also look to provide more affordable housing in areas that lack options due to past racially discriminatory practices like housing covenants and redlining. “The reality is, we cannot achieve our equity or sustainability goals as a City without some changes,” said Council Member Jeremy Schroeder in a letter to his constituents about the plan.

Though the plan’s name suggests it will be effective until 2040, it will actually only be effective until 2030, when the City will have to update it again.

The Minnesota Land Planning Act mandates that Minneapolis, and all 105 other municipalities in the seven-county metro area, make or update an existing comprehensive plan every 10 years. The act states that each municipality must address minimum elements, including land use, transportation, sewers, water supply and open space, like parks.

Despite that 10-year mandate, the City is looking further ahead to 2040 in order to be consistent with the Metropolitan (MET) Council’s regional THRIVE development guide, said Minneapolis Director of Long Range Planning Heather Worthington.

The regional THRIVE plan’s website states that it “sets the direction for the region’s growth and development.” It also provides demographic projections for the next 20 years, said Worthington.

The past few times the plan was updated, Worthington said, it was just a “light update” that focused on basic requirements. But, for the first time in Minneapolis, the new plan “looks at the social fabric of the city” through a lens of equity and inclusion. “[The plan] is a chance to reduce racial disparities across the city,” she said.

These disparities, according to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, have been caused by a history of “institutional racist policies that have harmed specifically people of color.” He said the plan would help undo some of these past injustices.

Reducing disparities is just one of 14 overarching goals outlined in the plan, which addresses a gamut of topics ranging from adding more jobs and affordable and accessible housing to providing access to living-wage jobs and fighting climate change.

Supporting those overarching goals are nearly 100 policies that will help guide City decision-making. The policies are broken down into 11 different topic areas, such as public health and arts and culture. Along with each policy, the City has a list of action steps needed to bring each policy to fruition.

The plan also contains drafts of Land Use and Built Form Maps, which guide land use for every parcel in the city. After the final plan is approved, the City will update its Zoning Code and zoning map to reflect the changes made in the plan.

But, at over 300 pages in length, the plan’s complexity has led to confusion surrounding its details. Worthington said there has “never been [a plan] this truly comprehensive, far-ranging, and has never had this much policy in it.” She also said that historically there has not been enough feedback on plans from communities in North Minneapolis.

To ensure inclusivity this time around, the City has hosted over 100 community learning sessions with thousands of residents to “engage with marginalized communities in a meaningful and authentic way,” said Worthington. This includes providing interpreters at meetings and hosting meetings at different times to accommodate those “who may not work a typical nine-to-five job.”

Ward Four Council Member Phillipe Cunningham hosted a meeting to discuss the plan on July 9 at Serendipity Spot as part of his “Coffee with Cunningham” event series. Much of the feedback there was centered around the historical lack of investment in their communities, lack of affordable housing, and police-community relations.

Public comments help shape the plan City of Mpls

“[The plan] is a chance to build political power here on the North Side,” said Cunningham. “We have the opportunity to demand the City to design a roadmap for how it will repair the harm inflicted on the North Side. It’s crucial for our folks to get involved.”

Ward Five Council Member Jeremiah Ellison echoed Cunningham’s sentiment. He said the Northside residents are “concerned the new comp plan will perpetuate what they haven’t liked about past City policy.”

He also said residents are worried they “will be left underserved by our plan for the future.” He added, however, that “with the plan still being in draft form, we have time for folks to give their input and make the changes they want to see.”

At a July 11 community forum in the Uptown VFW, Ward 10 Council Member Lisa Bender heard feedback focused on property values based on potential changes in zoning codes and land use to allow for multifamily housing in what are currently single-family neighborhoods. Worthington, who was also at the meeting, said this has been one of the biggest points of contention surrounding the plan.

Worthington said people are fearful of what they might lose with the land use updates currently in the plan, which she said understands. But she added, “People should think a little differently about that narrative and try to think about the opportunity that may expand as a result of [the plan] and not decrease.” She called that a hard message for some people to hear.

Residents of the area south of downtown have used Seattle and San Francisco as points of comparison, cities that have tried to do things similar to what the plan suggests and have failed.

“This is a resource-rich city,” said Worthington. “I know that Seattle didn’t get it right, I know that San Francisco didn’t get it right, but I think Minneapolis can be the city that does get it right.”

Responding to her constituents’ housing and property value concerns, Bender said, “We should think about the Native American history, we should think about the African American history,” which she said are two groups of people who have been disadvantaged due to the City’s historically racist housing policies. She added, “This plan is a chance to correct wrongs of the past.”

“Ending exclusionary zoning policies in single-family-only neighborhoods is extremely important, especially in wealthy White neighborhoods,” said University of Minnesota Urban Planning Ph.D. candidate Tony Damiano.

“I know property values are important, but housing is a human right,” one community member said in defense of the plan.

The draft plan is still in the 100-day commenting and public feedback phase, which ends July 22. After that, Worthington said the City will look at the comments online. She expects to receive around 3,000 comments from which they will analyze and identify themes that people want to see changed in the plan.

The planning commission and others will also give input and provide and updated plan by late September. Residents will then be given an opportunity to weigh-in on the updates at a public hearing.

The plan will then need to be adopted by the city council and sent to the Metropolitan Council for final review and approval by the end of the year.

“I don’t know what the final plan will look like, but it will change,” said Worthington. At the Uptown VFW form, Bender said that the city council would not approve the plan in its current form.

A summary of the draft plan, as well as the full-length draft plan, can be viewed at www.minneapolis2040.com. To comment on the plan in general or on specific policies and topics, visit www.minneapolis2040.com/how-to-comment or send an email to 2040@minneapolismn.gov with your comment.

About Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at kschubert@spokesman-recorder.com.

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One Comment on “Major update of 10-year Mpls plan gets citizen scrutiny”

  1. This plan is seriously flawed. All residents of Minneapolis need to understand its potential impact on them and where they live. The city has done a poor job getting the word out- probably because the more public discussion there is the more criticisms appear.

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