Friday, January 20, 2012

Zoning, Uptown, and Meg Tuthill

I'm pretty sure my city council-member, Meg Tuthill, has almost the polar opposite view of zoning that I do:

I have worked in our neighborhood to protect our residential zoning where possible. We worked hard to downzone parts of the neighborhood to protect our limited historic housing stock. I will work to prevent erosion of zoning laws and to make sure that neighbors have a voice in zoning decisions.

I live in Uptown. My apartment has a walk score of 97, indicating a "Walker's Paradise." My neighborhood is 85% renters. The vacancy rate is around 2% right now and rents are rising, indicating high demand for rental housing that isn't being met. And what is Ms Tuthill concerned with? DOWN-zoning. If I could buy a dead-tree version of Ryan Avent's book I think I would send a copy to her office.

Uptown is a thriving neighborhood where many young people want to live. Not only are they young, but they're young professionals, the exact group every neighborhood wants more of. (The buses from Uptown to downtown are full of Target badges.) They have lots of disposable income to spend on neighborhood businesses. Throttling development is a great way to retard growth and keep Uptown from realizing its full potential.


  1. I don't know if I count as "young," but as a young(ish) person in my mid-30s, Uptown is my preferred Minneapolis neighborhood. It's walkable, has good public transportation, and my family can live there without a car. It's the best Minneapolis has to offer. As a professional historian I also certainly have strong feelings about historic preservation and don't want to see Uptown's historic buildings razed, but I am in full agreement that downzoning is not the way to go. We need to be increasing density, adding additional rental options (including more rentals geared towards families with kids! It's not ONLY young, presumably childless, professionals who want to rent in Uptown!), and embrace the fact that Uptown is about as urban as it gets in Minneapolis. This doesn't need to be a battle between density and historic housing stock; the city could, among other things, do far more to encourage the creation of "alley flats" or carriage house living behind existing single family homes. Unfortunately current laws make that difficult because too many locals place the priority on parking places for cars, not homes for people. When it comes down to it, almost every local zoning battle seems to ultimately come down to fears of parking. Historic preservation or talk about "character" just makes a good cover.

  2. I pretty much agree with all that, particularly allowing alley flats. I'm probably less inclined toward historical preservation than you, but I still agree that it's important. In my mind, however, density and upzoning allow for MORE historical preservation. If more density is added around legitimately historical buildings, it lessens the pressure to tear down and build bigger on those buildings. That way you get a thriving community without destroying its heritage.

    And yeah, parking is really the whole game. But decades of free/cheap parking have made it so people expect subsidized and ample parking everywhere. It's tough to change that overnight.

  3. I have a question about historic preservation. How historic exactly is the area being preserved? My understanding is that LHENA has created a historic district of sorts, what are it's historic credentials?

  4. That's really more of a question for Cedar. I don't know much about it.