It’s profit over livability in East Calhoun

An open letter to the residents of Minneapolis,

Concerned residents of the East Calhoun neighborhood are writing this letter because we are not only deeply concerned about what has happened in our neighborhood, but because it’s happening all over Minneapolis. City Council leaders are forcing one vision for the future of our city — density at all costs — and citizens are not getting a fair hearing at City Hall. There is a movement afoot to defund neighborhood groups, disenfranchising them from the decision-making process and systematically silencing whole communities in the city. The democratic process in our city government is tainted by a lack of transparency, lack of consensus building and a lack of compromise.

As an example, we want to call your attention to a recent decision made by the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee and to urge you to contact your Council member to voice concerns before the full Council votes on this decision Feb. 23.

Last month, the Planning Commission approved plans for a 317-unit development in East Calhoun that includes up-zoning a property to allow construction of a high-density building on a neighborhood street. The current zoning for the property was put in place to keep any building at a reasonable size and density as a transition from a busy commercial corridor to a two-story residential neighborhood. Up-zoning the property to allow high-density housing will eliminate the transition required by the Minneapolis comprehensive plan, which limits new developments on neighborhood streets to medium density, even if they are right next to high-density developments on commercial corridors.

East Calhoun Community Organization appealed the Planning Commission’s decision to the Zoning and Planning Committee, but last week the Committee denied the appeal, which means that up-zoning can occur to allow high-density housing where medium density is expected and to allow a residential street to be treated like a commercial corridor.

This development is not about affordable housing. According to the developer’s public statements, these are expensive apartments starting at $1,200 a month for a unit under 400 square feet. This project is about money — and profits for developers at the expense of neighborhoods. The developer’s request for up-zoning is not surprising, because the higher the zoning, the more money a developer can make. But the city does not owe this developer or any other developer an up-zoning to increase profit margins. There are many reasonable uses for this property under the current zoning. And if the City Council says yes to one developer, they risk getting sued by other developers who don’t get the same exceptions to the zoning.

If the Zoning and Planning Committee’s decision to deny ECCO’s appeal is upheld by the full City Council, it will set a terrible precedent for neighborhoods along commercial corridors all over Minneapolis. Residential neighborhoods near streets like Central, University, Nicollet, Franklin, Lyndale and Broadway will not be able to provide any buffers between their neighborhoods and high-density developments on their corridors.

We are simply a group of residents who value our neighborhood and who want to help ensure orderly growth based on established city policies and zoning. We are not resisting change, and we support density and development that follows the rules and policies of the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan and our small area plan. If you believe in community engagement, if you believe in your neighborhood having a right to be heard, we need to ask our City Council members to work with us, not silence us.

We are urging Minneapolis residents to ask their City Council members to grant ECCO’s appeal of the Sons of Norway project and deny any up-zoning. Please ask your council member not to sell our city short to benefit developers who are trying to maximize their profit margins at the expense of the livability of our neighborhoods.

ECCO Neighbors for Responsible Growth

Carol Dines, Sharon Cornejo, Jaana Mattson, Sara Wahl, Lara Norkus-Crampton, Heather Wulfsberg, Eric Wulfsberg, Tamara Kaiser, Erik Storlie, Christine Vincent, Jack Zipes, Mary Sabatke, Bruce Sabatke, Anja Bielinsky, Eric Hendrickson, Wesley Mattson, Barbara Mattson, Bobbie Keller, Anja Curiskis, Lois Hall, Dane Stimart