Minneapolis residents were again split on their views of the city’s long-range plan Wednesday night at City Hall, with many looking to address the intracity division they felt it has created.
Some at the public hearing, which stretched over almost five hours, criticized Council Member Phillipe Cunningham over comments he made the day before that sharply singled out critics from southwest Minneapolis.
Yet many who opposed the plan said the overall discussion of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which lists the city’s priorities over the next two decades, had turned neighbors against each other: old vs. young, cyclists vs. drivers, renters vs. homeowners.
“We are a city of extremely progressive people and we have been pitted against each other,” Tamara Kaiser, who lives in the Uptown area, said from the podium. “And I have been very disappointed in the role our leaders have played in fueling that polarization.”
Kaiser was part of an overflow crowd and one of more than 100 people who voiced their opinions Wednesday, in one of the final steps to complete the plan. It followed another multihour public hearing held by the city’s planning commission last month.
The council will meet two more times to add its own amendments to the plan before voting on it Dec. 7, Council President Lisa Bender said.
City officials have sought to make a strong statement with the plan. It looks not only at zoning and development guidelines, but also at reducing racial disparities, increasing access to affordable housing, reducing dependency on cars, mitigating climate change and other long-term goals.
Although emotions were expected to be high, Wednesday’s hearing was mostly cordial, with some clapping but without the heckling from the previous meeting. Some held pro or con signs up for the duration of the meeting.
Many supporters touted the plan’s emphasis on walkability, housing diversity and sustainability. They felt it could help mend the effects of discriminatory housing policies of previous decades and put the city on a path to fight climate change.
Some suggested small changes, including adding stronger language to the city’s energy efficiency goals and having a heavier focus on addressing homelessness.
Critics of the plan said it would lead to single-family neighborhoods becoming too dense, decreasing public parking and green space. A woman carrying a sign that read, “Just saying so doesn’t make it so,” echoed the sentiments of many opponents: “Get a time extension … and get it right.”
On Tuesday, Cunningham, who represents the northwest corner of the city, denounced some critics on Twitter.
“People from [southwest Minneapolis] actually have the audacity to be flooding [council members’] inboxes with ‘stop the 2040 plan’ by bastardizing the epidemic of outside investors buying up single family homes in North Minneapolis,” he wrote. “All in an effort to protect their McMansions and ‘bungalow neighborhoods’ from imaginary developers.”
“[Southwest] folks, do us all a favor and do NOT show up to the Comp Plan public hearing and say this to the Northside [council members’] faces or else we’re gonna have to have some words,” he continued. “Spread the word to your book club.”
One woman retorted at the meeting: “I don’t belong to a book club, I took a half a day off to get here.”
At the beginning of the hearing, resident Kathleen Cole, who supports the plan, told those in the council chambers that a public hearing was not representative of the demographics of the entire city. She asked council members to “remember those who are most affected” when working on the plan.
The city has heard thousands of comments from residents — at casual forums, online and inside the council chambers — since an original draft was shared in March.
Meanwhile, Bender said she was working with other council members on fine-tuning several aspects of the plan, including “strengthening race equity commitments.”
She was also looking to pass a related housing policy requiring a certain percentage of new rental units to be affordable for low-to-moderate income residents. The planning commission reviewed that policy on Tuesday.