Advocates for more multifamily, affordable housing in St. Paul are turning their attention to the capital city’s 2040 comprehensive plan.
Neighbors for More Neighbors, the Minneapolis housing advocacy group, successfully pushed for citywide upzoning in Minneapolis’ 2040 comprehensive plan. Now St. Paul residents are forming a second chapter, and members say they want to influence planners and policymakers in the way that Minneapolis advocates did last year.
“Obviously, the Minneapolis 2040 debate was a big issue last year, and we’re facing a similar debate,” said SEIU Healthcare Minnesota political director Rick Varco, who publicly supported the Minneapolis plan last year and is involved with Neighbors for More Neighbors in St. Paul. “I think a lot of people are thinking if the issues are the same, we should be talking to some of the people who did the work over there to see how we can do the work in St. Paul.”
Janne Flisrand, a volunteer for Neighbors for More Neighbors and a former Minneapolis City Council candidate, said the group has been in conversation with residents in St. Paul and other communities that are interested in forming their own chapters.
“Inasmuch as we know that this shortage of homes is a regional issue, we want to support people in any community who are interested in organizing to work on this,” she said. “We’ve certainly gotten inquiries about what does this look like and how does it work from elsewhere, but it’s very early days.”
Comprehensive plans outline how cities will grow and develop over time, and local governments update their plans every 10 years.
Compared to the debate over density in Minneapolis last year, discussion about St. Paul’s 2040 comprehensive plan has been relatively quiet. While the Minneapolis plan calls for rewriting the city’s zoning code to allow more multifamily buildings, the St. Paul plan calls for more density without major policy changes.
St. Paul released its draft plan in March and later obtained a six-month extension from the Metropolitan Council. The regional planning agency will receive St. Paul’s final plan in June.
The latest version of the St. Paul plan — which includes chapters on land use, transportation, parks and recreation, housing, water resources and heritage preservation — has been open for public comment since November. Members of the public can submit comments until Jan. 11, when the plan will go before the Planning Commission for a public hearing.
To prepare for the hearing, a small group of St. Paul residents who make up the nascent Neighbors for More Neighbors chapter will meet at a coffee shop this weekend to study the plan and hammer out their position, said Karen Allen, a Hamline-Midway resident and one of the group’s members. An official meeting is tentatively scheduled for later this month, she said.
“Right now,” Allen said, “it’s just some people who are going to grab a coffee together and read the comp plan.”
To read the plan and submit comments online, visit bit.ly/2Rx16lT.