Gail Schack called it a reckless gamble on the city’s neighborhoods.
Sarah Tschida said it’s necessary for accommodating Minneapolis’ most vulnerable citizens.
Several accused the city’s elected officials of selling out to developers.
Hundreds showed up to City Hall Monday night to speak at the first formal hearing for the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, enough to fill the City Council chambers and still require two rooms for overflow, before the Minneapolis Planning Commission voted 8-1 to send an amended version of the proposal to the City Council. Watch the video.
Audience members clapped uproariously and occasionally heckled speakers as the Minneapolis Planning Commission spent four hours hearing public testimony limited to two minutes per person on the 20-year road map for the future. The comments ran the gamut from people asking the city to scrap the entire plan, to those appealing to the commission to amend it for changes on specific properties and some urging city officials to push even further in loosening zoning restrictions to allow for more multiunit housing in Minneapolis neighborhoods.
“We need change,” said Ryan Brown. “We need more housing options in all parts of the city.”
The hearing brought to surface strong emotions over how Minneapolis should lay groundwork for anticipated growth over the next 22 years and how the long-range proposal should prioritize neighborhood character, racial inclusivity and housing affordability. These and more pieces of the plan have polarized a vocal minority of groups on opposite sides of the debate, leading to pervasive lawn signs on both ends.
Opponents flooded the City Council chambers with signs calling for the city to add mandatory parking spaces to the plan and accusing planners of pandering to developers. “I call this a social experiment of epic proportions,” said Schack. “We are people, not a social experiment.”
Minneapolis long-range planners introduced the first draft of the plan in March. From the beginning, much of the debate related to changing zoning restrictions citywide to allow for dwellings with as many as four units, even in neighborhoods now reserved for single-family homes, and up to six-story apartments in other areas. The plan is more complicated than just this focal point, however, and also deals with long-term concerns over climate change, transportation and other topics.
After dozens of public forums and thousands of online comments, city planners released a revised version in late September. This one tamped down zoning changes, downgrading four-unit structures to three-unit ones. Proponents of more multiunit housing said the new plan didn’t go far enough; critics accused the city of giving prospectors a free pass to “bulldoze” historic homes in the city and flip them into cheap apartments.
On Monday, many accused city planners of ignoring their critical comments throughout the process, including failing to properly notify communities that the plan existed.
“With thousands of Minneapolis taxpayers opposing this plan, why are we being ignored?” asked Colleen Kepler.
Some said there’s no evidence it would create more affordable housing. Several took issue with a narrative that anyone who opposes the plan harbors racial bias.
“I feel very angry to be labeled racist or prejudiced against anyone,” said Christine Lewis. “My only prejudice is against irresponsibly conceived plans.”
Others spoke about rising rents and home costs in Minneapolis and how creating more housing is needed to make the city livable for people of different demographics and income brackets.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us as a city to live our values in terms of how we design our public spaces,” said Tschida.
After the hearing, planning commissioners praised the high turnout and mostly civil discourse, and most spoke in favor of the plan.
Commissioner Jono Cowgill said the plan acknowledges that everyone should have access to the city.
The Planning Commission approved more than 80 amendments to the plan, including making the city’s parks more accessible, creating more sidewalk space and documenting and publishing anticipated greenhouse gas impact on major city infrastructure. Commissioner Amy Sweasy was the sole no vote. The council will hold a public hearing Nov. 14 and vote on a final version in December.