Sunday, June 9, 2019

Rental Screening Proposals Go Too Far


Minneapolis is proposing a sweeping change to how landlords can screen tenants.  The ordinance is, well, problematic enough to rouse me from my slumber.  I've got a few blog posts left in me on this site and then I'm doing my best to look forward instead of back at my old town.

The proposed changes can be found here and here.

And it's not all bad, to be honest.  But like a lot of what this council does, this proposal takes some good and necessary changes, adds in some trendy left-wing buzzwords, mimics west-coast policies that may or may not apply to the realities of a Minnesota marketplace, tosses those in a blender with some predetermined conclusions and today's ideological purity requirements, and presto!  That's how you get new city code!  Schoolhouse Rock really ought to write a song about this, but it's tough to find words that rhyme with "ordinance."

I do want to break this down into the good, the maybe, and the ugly.  First, the good parts...


Friday, February 8, 2019

On Representation within Neighborhood Boards

Image from Wikipedia.

There is an ostensibly noble push to create more diversity on Minneapolis neighborhood boards.  Noble because the premise is sound; community organizations should at least somewhat mirror the demographics of the neighborhoods they serve.  I characterize the current push as coming from a questionable place though, and that leaves me with doubts about whatever policy might come from any changes.

My entire twelve-year connection to north Minneapolis was spent as part of a neighborhood organization, either as a staff person or as a committee and board member - even two years as board chair.  If there is one thing I learned as an absolute truth for community participation during that time, it is this:

Meetings don't make people come to meetings; issues make people come to meetings.

So when city staff, elected officials, or critics and opponents of these organizations make the accurate claim that some don't have enough people of color, renters, or other demographics in attendance or leadership roles, my first questions are...

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Time of Sale Energy Disclosure is the New Regulation Nobody Wants



Photo is of my home in Superior, built in 1900 and getting as much rehab as I can do in 2019 and beyond.  Note the amount of insulation.

In an attempt to address energy efficiency, the Minneapolis City Council is poised to consider adding new burdens on the sale of residential homes.  Specifically, a blower-door test and a two-inch hole drilled on the inside of an exterior wall would tell prospective buyers new information about the home they are purchasing.  If implemented, I worry that this will lead to more difficult real estate transactions, lower home values, and possibly even a net loss in energy output.

While my time living in Minneapolis has drawn to a close and my time owning property there also nears an end, that doesn't mean my connection to the city is severed and never to be restored.  A future job, relationship, or investment opportunity could always take me back to the Twin Cities at some point.  And a regulation like this would make me less likely to make that investment in this fair city.

We'll get into the broader market impacts, but first on a personal note...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Yes, the Tree Was Racist and Here's Why That Matters


Photo from Chauntyll Allen, now widespread.

I saw the racism in the Minneapolis Fourth Precinct tree instantly.

So I did what so many of us do in this social media age.  I took a screen grab from a friend's Facebook account, put it up on my Twitter feed with a demand for our elected officials to address it, and went back to my day.  I figured I'd contribute to the chorus of calls for apologies, consequences, and reconciliation.  As it turns out, that tweet was one of the first to spread the image broadly, and became a focal point for many people and news agencies.

(A quick side note:  once it became clear that this was getting way more exposure than I expected, I went back and found the source of the original post.  That was Chauntyll Allen, a Black Lives Matter activist.  From that point on, I directed all media inquiries to her - both because she was the original poster and because as a person of color in Minneapolis, her experiences with what that tree means are much more direct and visceral than mine.)

But what I want to address in this post is how so many people, mostly but not entirely White, didn't see what I and so many others saw.  The denials on Twitter, Facebook, and the comment sections of news reports ranged from a thinking it was in poor taste but not racist all the way to seeing the racism and enjoying it.  If you're on the latter part of the spectrum, this post is not for you.  If you're curious as to how this was construed as not just offensive but downright racist, read on...

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The North Minneapolis Element of 2040 is Finally Here! Sort of.

Stock photo from a previous north Minneapolis 2040 meeting.

Well, it's here.  CM's Cunningham and Ellison have released their joint...plan? proposal? talking points? about how the 2040 Plan will be utilized to benefit north Minneapolis.  It is, without a doubt, a lot of talking points.  But it lacks a certain something.  I will not mince words; this is a series of platitudes that north Minneapolis has heard for years leading up to this plan, and the addition adds nothing of substance to the discourse or concrete actions that may be taken as we move (presumably) forward.  The entirety of the writing can be found in the first link above, and the housing section is quoted here.
The City of Minneapolis will reverse the institutional harms caused to the Northside community by building on the many assets of the community while also prioritizing community wealth building in the form of housing, small business, public safety, youth opportunities, and environmental justice by:
Action Steps
1. Taking actions to stabilize housing stock by increasing homeownership in interior residential areas with a focus on supporting first-time, first-generation homebuyers, and provide “right to return” supports to homebuyers with historic ties to the community, such as those displaced by rising rents or foreclosure or returning home after completing higher education.
2. Increasing access to affordable housing options in neighborhoods, particularly multifamily housing along transit corridors.
To which I respond with the following series of questions...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Star Tribune Editorial Raises Red Flag on 2040 Plan


The above image is an example of a front porch converted to living space.

Today the Star Tribune published an article titled, "Minneapolis 2040 Helps Address Housing Inequality."  In that article was a startling reference to what the author claims the 2040 Plan can or will do.  In fairness, my interpretation of the article's claims may in fact be incorrect.  I have searched the 2040 Plan website again and it remains a planning document equivalent of trying to find a specific item at a TJ Maxx store.

From the Strib, emphasis mine:
What cannot occur under existing law is exactly the process that would most help those working-class renters: organic, small-scale development, mostly conversions of existing buildings. These developments are unlikely to produce high profit margins — the wealthiest renters are unlikely to trade out gleaming lofts for basement apartments — but they give individual property owners the ability to put another unit or two in an existing house. 
This is exactly the development the 2040 plan seeks to spur, by allowing up to three units on all lots in all residential areas.
 Let's break down why this is bad news...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Minneapolis 2040 Does Not Serve North Minneapolis




Public comments are due tonight on the Minneapolis 2040 Plan, so by the time most of you will read this, I'm hoping that enough input has already made it clear that the plan in its current form is unworkable and needs a new draft.  I have serious concerns over the 2040 proposal, but first want to articulate what this is and what it is not, for the sake of readers who may not be familiar with how these long-range plans work.

The best comparison in north Minneapolis would be the West Broadway Alive! plan.  And I remember my first reaction to the vision of what to do with the north Minneapolis segment of West Broadway was that this plan was full of political pablum and had no concrete ideas whatsoever.  A fair criticism, to be sure, but West Broadway Alive! was not meant to put forth specific development ideas.  Rather, it was meant to express the community's long-term values and goals for West Broadway.  Then, when various proposals came forward, we could point back to the document and say one of a few things. "Yes, this follows the WBA; yes, it could follow those values with some tweaks; no it does not follow the plan and deserves to be summarily rejected; or no, it does not follow the plan, but presents some previously unthought of ideas that we should now incorporate into Broadway's development."

In the years since, north Minneapolis residents, business owners, investors, and advocates have used the WBA plan to push back against the location of a Hennepin County Services Center, to keep the MPS from creating more surface parking, to preserve historic storefronts before and after a fire, and to guide multi-family housing along the Broadway curve from James Ave to Penn Ave.  That's how I see the 2040 plan's future use, which is why even after the initial draft phase is closed, we need to keep giving our input to city council members and other officials.  Because once 2040 is adopted - and eventually it WILL BE - then for the next decade or more, people will come forward with their detailed proposals for specific developments in specific areas.  And they absolutely will point to the 2040 plan in its final form as a document that was passed with enough community input that its gravitas and credibility should continue to guide city and community decisions for years to come.

So since this document will be used to justify or oppose how our city develops and grows for decades, the time to make our voices heard is now.  Which leads me to my concerns over the Minneapolis 2040 Plan...