By Jonathan Foster & Jackie Foster
This also appears in Streets.mn, posted here with permission from the authors.
What is National Night Out?
National Night Out is an annual block party on the first Tuesday of August. This year, National Night Out is August 7th. It’s an opportunity to meet your neighbors, share a meal, and discuss neighborhood issues. Use this event to let your neighbors know that you support the 2040 Comprehensive Plan because it will provide more homes for more neighbors. If you rent, or live in multi-family housing, this a great opportunity to let your neighbors know that you are part of the neighborhood too.
What is the 2040 Comprehensive Plan?
Every 10 years, every city in Minnesota is required by law to submit a plan for how they expect to grow and change. The Minneapolis City Council adopted 14 goals for the comprehensive plan, including topics such as housing, transit, the environment and equity. Creating the 2040 plan was a multi-year process. City planning staff drafted a plan to achieve these goals after a year of community outreach. Planners then held open houses, city council members held meetings, and the city accepted public comments for 100 days. Draft 2 will incorporate these comments, and should be released in September. The City Council hopes to approve a version of the comprehensive plan before the end of the year.
What does the plan say about neighborhoods and housing?
The draft plan allows a greater diversity of housing types throughout the city so we can have enough homes to go around as more people move here. In most of the city only single family homes are allowed. The plan would allow property owners to build 2, 3, and 4-plexes. These would be subject to the same size limits of single family homes. More homes would be allowed near high frequency bus lines and light rail lines. More retail space would be allowed in neighborhoods. Closer to downtown, taller buildings with more homes would be allowed. The plan also seeks to make neighborhoods more walkable and bikeable, and to help more people live near reliable transit.
What should I do if someone brings up the plan?
If a neighbor wants to talk about Minneapolis 2040, let them know you support the plan. While it isn’t perfect, there are a lot of reasons to support the plan. Pick 1–2 issues that you are comfortable talking about and are meaningful to you. The most effective messages will focus on the people, not the buildings.
For example, you could say, “I support the plan because…:
- I want to allow a variety of people to live in the neighborhood. If we have more apartments and condos here, we can have a neighborhood more accessible to people with different incomes, because they are usually more affordable than small houses. And, our older neighbors, who may no longer be able to afford or maintain their house, could still find a place to live in the neighborhood.
- It would help us have a more complete neighborhood. I’d love to have a greater variety of businesses and shops here, but business owners need customers. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a [coffee shop / grocery store / restaurant / daycare / hardware store] we could walk to! The 2040 plan also opens more areas to commercial activity, creating spaces for the shops and businesses that would make our neighborhood even better.
- I’m concerned about climate change. The plan would help creating a greener, healthier city. Driving is a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gasses. More homes near transit lines will help more people get around without driving and reduce traffic. Safer streets and sidewalks will give people more options to get around town, including walking and biking.
- I want to make sure new people can move into the neighborhood, like I was able to. If my house/apartment was as expensive as houses/apartment are here now, I would never have been able to move in, and I wouldn’t have been able to have such great neighbors.
- I want to be able to stay in the neighborhood. I love this neighborhood, but without new housing, rents will keep going up and I’ll have to move
- I want to be able to stay in the neighborhood. I’ve lived in this house for years and love my neighbors. However, I’m getting older, and soon won’t be able to take care of the yard or even get to the basement to do laundry. I’ll need to move, but there aren’t any homes in their neighborhood where I’d be able to live. This situation may apply to your parents too.
Then, make sure to listen carefully. The most effective conversations will address your neighbors concerns. Consider asking what they want to see in your neighborhood. Or, ask what they like about your neighborhood?
Tips for responding to questions:
Hopefully you’ll spark discussion. Ask your neighbor what city issues matter to them. Your conversation should connect people who support the plan and be informative for neighbors who don’t know about the plan.
If someone responds with an argumentative tone, don’t try to change their minds. No one wants to argue at a neighborly gathering. While your job is not to convince the diehard opponents of the plan they are wrong, you certainly should correct their untruths and inaccuracies. Streets.mn has an excellent series of posts addressing the arguments against the plan, ranging from bulldozers to Reaganomics, and everything in between.
Here are a few tips for short, positive answers to potentially contentious questions:
Q: Will the comprehensive plan change the character of our neighborhood?
A: Neighborhoods are always changing and most of the time that change is gradual. I think the question is not if they will change, but how they should change. In Minneapolis, small single family homes are quickly being remodeled into very large and expensive homes. And, affordable homes that happened to be in 2, 3, and 4 plexes have been converted to large single family homes. This is already changing the character of many neighborhoods. Our neighborhood already has a variety of housing types, and we don’t want to lose them. Ninety percent of us live on a block with at least a duplex.
Q: What about parking?
A: Most houses have garages and driveways. And most neighborhoods have plenty of free on-street parking. The draft plan also includes transit improvements so people can have more options to get around town.
Q: What about those red and white signs?
A: There is a group organizing against the comprehensive plan. I don’t agree with them and I don’t think their arguments are based on the facts of the plan. I think it’s probably best for people to read about the goals and the plan and make up their own minds. You can read more at Minneapolis2040.com.