Above: Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, addresses the City Council amid activists on Friday.
A controversial plan to consolidate the city's public works operations in an expanded facility near the Midtown Greenway is moving forward.
Following a contentious debate that drew hundreds of neighborhood activists to the council chambers, the City Council voted Friday to green light negotiations to purchase the so-called Roof Depot site at 28th Street and Longfellow Avenue. Council Members Andrew Johnson, Cam Gordon and Alondra Cano voted no on the 10-3 vote.
Residents of the area, led by Cano, have forcefully opposed a plan they see as further concentrating industrial uses in the lower-income East Phillips neighborhood. They carried signs reading "NO Water Yard East Phillips," "East Phillips Deserves Better" and "No to Traffic and Pollution" to Friday's meeting.
Ultimately, in a nod to the opposition, the council passed amended language that directs the city's property services staff to work with residents to "identify potential redevelopment or leasing scenarios for the portion of the property not required for municipal operations." That's all dependent, however, on the actual purchase of the site.
Language authored by Cano that instructed more city departments to aid with the identification of alternative uses on the site was not adopted, due to concerns regarding overburdened staff. She ultimately voted no on the overall measure as a result.
"This has been a very difficult issue for me to work with some of our council colleagues on, because to me it was such a clear issue of racial equity," Cano said.
"And I understand that there have been decisions that were made back in 1991 and in 2001 that are shaping the ways that the city has ghettoized industrial uses in our city, and industrial polluters in our city. And I think that it's important for us moving forward to really look at that in the face, to name it what it is, and to work to change it."
Council Member Blong Yang, who represents the southern half of north Minneapolis, found the controversy over this project somewhat unfair given that there are many more of these public industrial sites in his ward. They include an impound lot and facilities for fleet maintenance, recycling, burning garbage and storing buses.
"I represent the three unhealthiest neighborhoods in all of Minneapolis…The flip side to every 'not in my backyard' request is that it always falls in someone else's backyard," Yang said. "As pointed out by city staff, there are very few places where this facility could go in the city of Minneapolis."