A controversial plan to make Minneapolis a more densely populated city has enough support on the City Council to pass when it comes to a vote next month, council members said this week.
Six council members reached by the Star Tribune indicated they would vote in support of the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan on Dec. 7. It needs nine votes to pass, but even Council Member Linea Palmisano, who opposes the 2040 plan, believes it will move forward.
On Friday, Council President Lisa Bender said she was “very confident” the plan would be approved.
“I actually think there’s a lot of consensus among council members and a lot of excitement about the general direction the plan is taking us,” she said.
The 2040 plan would usher in citywide upzoning, allowing triplexes in neighborhoods currently reserved for single-family homes, and denser development along transit corridors. Since the plan became public this spring, impassioned residents have packed public hearings, planted lawn signs and sent thousands of online comments to express how they feel the plan would affect their neighborhoods.
This summer, city planners scaled back the density goals, which originally called for allowing fourplexes citywide. Before approving the revised plan, council members said they first want to introduce changes that would strengthen the goals to increase density, mitigate climate change and reduce racial disparities. They will propose the amendments at a committee meeting Nov. 26 and will meet two days before the vote to finalize any changes.
“We’re down to that level of small, nitpicky cleanup,” Council Member Steve Fletcher said.
The amendments include adding more transportation infrastructure to areas that will be upzoned, clarifying how policies would improve racial equity, giving a bigger voice to elderly residents and bolstering goals to combat climate change.
They would also include land-use changes specific to individual neighborhoods, Bender said.
Although some council members identified flaws in the plan, they expected to support its final form.
“At the end of the day, we have to pass a plan,” Council Member Andrew Johnson said, referring to the Metropolitan Council’s requirements that every community adopt a development blueprint. “The work we’re here to do is to improve upon this plan, and that’s much harder than just simply saying, ‘I’m going to oppose it because there’s elements I don’t like.’ ”
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, who represents part of the North Side, said he’d like the plan to address north Minneapolis explicitly, which he said was like the “elephant in the room” of the plan.
“If we’re talking about equity, then we need to be as intentional … to the most marginalized economically and socially disenfranchised community in the city,” he said.
Palmisano has conceded that the plan will likely be approved, despite her opposition to the citywide upzoning. She said allowing the construction of triplexes could lead to developers replacing “starter homes” in her southwest Minneapolis ward with “boutique housing.”
“I just don’t see it as a way that we would get a measurable impact, and especially from an affordability standpoint,” she said. She said that duplexes with accessory dwelling units would be a better fit.
Bender said she is hopeful an inclusionary zoning policy she introduced this year — which would require that a percentage of new rental units be affordable to low-to-moderate income tenants — would be “another tool to help us get affordable units.”
Fletcher said some people are exaggerating how much immediate change the comprehensive plan would bring. A change in zoning, he said, doesn’t mean that bigger and taller buildings would suddenly crop up around the city.
“But also, sometimes we have to acknowledge that cities change, cities grow,” he said.
Council Members Cam Gordon and Jeremy Schroeder also said they’re in favor of the plan. The office of Council Member Abdi Warsame indicated he wasn’t opposed. Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins declined to say how she would vote. Council Member Lisa Goodman declined to comment.
Council Members Alondra Cano, Jeremiah Ellison and Kevin Reich could not be reached.