Will 2040 plans pass eco-review? 

For those who might have missed this in the media ( MinnPost) an alliance of bird fanciers and others have challenged Mpls. 2040 plan, demanding that it undergo environmental review to determine what might happen if the City's population density is increased. If this sounds familiar to those who follow this website that's because it's been our primary message since jump. 

Please review the attached MinnPost article by David Schultz. And here's the actual trial transcript.

Who will live in Highland Bridge?

"Minnesota's two largest urban counties saw striking population declines in 2021 after a decade of growth, according to new U.S. census data, likely due to COVID-19 pandemic disruptions which upended college plans and accelerated retirements.

Hennepin County's population, which includes Minneapolis, dropped by nearly 13,900 last year and Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul, declined by 8,200 people, according to new census estimates released Thursday."

Mpls. Star Tribune 3/24/2022

CDC data fly in the face of the Metro Council's projections so this article had to follow quickly. The Met Council, it turns out, doesn't count people to estimate population growth. They actually count permits developers request for new housing development.

 

The difference is quite staggering. Read the article noting especially the graphs comparing the Met Council and Census Bureau numbers.

Other recent articles have described a surprising decline in MN, birthrates, reductions of in migration of any kind, and declining life expectancies due to Covid. It all adds up to a mind-blowing bottom line for state population in the negative with little expectation of change. 

Now, look around as you drive through either city or nearby suburbs. Development is everywhere, as it is in Highland Park's Highland Bridge. For who are these buildings being erected?

Historically, shrinking cities and towns have major economic and cultural problems. But something pretty strange is happening in America’s biggest metros: Their housing markets aren’t suffering the way you’d expect. In fact, rents and housing prices are going up in almost all of these metros. In the past year, rents rose 33 percent in New York City, 16 percent in Los Angeles, and 12 percent in Chicago. Since the pandemic, rents are up in every city on the above list (including the Twin Cities), except for San Francisco.

So what we have here is a bit of an urban mystery. If America’s biggest metros are shrinking, why are their housing markets on fire? And if rents are rising in almost all of these cities, how can they possibly be shrinking?

There are a few possible answers. One is that the census data are just wrong. For example,  the government may have failed to count families that have been moving around during COVID waves, taking extended breaks from their city apartments without actually abandoning them. Or maybe the census took an accurate snapshot of city-population levels in 2021 but hasn’t yet caught up to people surging back into America’s biggest cities in the past few months, creating yet another great urban renewal. In these scenarios, many places that looked imperiled during the data-collection process are actually crowded and booming right now.

A second possibility is that my somewhat-dystopian prediction from 2019 is coming true: America’s densest cities are becoming playgrounds for the rich and mostly childless. In 2001, L.A. County recorded 153,000 live births. In 2021, it recorded fewer than 100,000 births. Perhaps middle-class workers and families with young kids used the pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate their move to the suburbs or cheaper towns. As poorer and younger families left, richer and older people stayed, and some affluent young people moved in. In this scenario, some cities might have gotten richer even as they got smaller, pushing up rents and home prices.

The third, simpler answer is: It’s inflation, stupid. That is, cities really are struggling with population loss, but urban rents and housing values are rising along with national inflation, which is surging toward 10 percent.

Quote du jour from Jacobin

"To their credit, YIMBYs have correctly identified some of the trends that erode affordable housing, like exclusionary zoning in suburbs and an influx of tech workers in places like San Francisco. But their framework is fundamentally flawed in two crucial ways.

First, by positioning themselves as NIMBYs’ virtuous foils, YIMBYs paint all critics of development as entitled, self-interested actors who have no concern for the greater good — ignoring the fact that it is quite possible to be skeptical of a development for reasons other than personal greed.

Developers play a huge role in shaping urban economies. Yet they’re accountable to their investors, not to the communities where they build."

What's in my backyard Karen Narefesky, 

What's so 'sustainable' about Highland Bridge?

Is bigger, denser, or any of the other attributes the City or the builder claims for construction of Highland Bridge sustainable? Let's go over the facts.

Let's start with the contention that new buildings are more sustainable than old stock.

Not so (click here). Costs arising from any new construction make the notion of building affordable housing in todays market almost untenable without large infusions of cash (read, TIF or other deferred payment).

 

Most of these buildings, which make up much new development across the country are regarded as unattractive and questionably safe. (Click here)

"The greenest building is one that already exists" former president of the American Institute of Architects. Because "there are so many variables involved in a decision to demolish, including the embodied energy of what is demolished and the energy consumed in construction, there are no universal comparative metrics. While some might claim that there was little deconstruction involved in Highland Bridge should take note of all the construction that has taken place on the site to date.

But the buildings going up at Highland Bridge will all be LEED certified and so will have met the highest level of sustainability. Just check out Ryan's publication, Artful Living. "All projects built onsite, both commercial and residential, will be certified to high sustainability standards, making it the most sustainable community in the region. This includes compliance with LEED standards..." 

 

Not so, US News in 2014 published an article questioning the value of LEED certificates and many others have followed. You can Google LEED to get a better idea.

But it's going to be walkable, have lots of transit and good stuff to make it even more sustainable. 

Ryan's publications report that "more than a thousand trees will be planted throughout the Highland Bridge community" Ryan cannot replace the forest of 100 year old trees they took down for a bike tunnel and playground at Hidden Falls.

A look at the article on this page about 'open space' should disprove Ryan's contention. What open space there may be goes down with each conditional use permit and variance the developer gets.

Final arguments against calling Highland Bridge sustainable:

  • It has increased concrete surface in Highland Park astronomically and concrete spews more carbon into the atmosphere than any other single element.

  • Most buildings on the campus of Highland bridge will be more than three stories so they will require elevators and cannot avail themselves of a tree canopy so air conditioning will be required.

  • Although we've been told that many residents and customers of Highland Bridge will be using public transit to access the site. Well, as people trying to be diplomatic say, "when pigs fly." The 10,000 people who will live and work in Highland Bridge will drive cars, probably regularly.

So, where is the sustainability that those who advocate for this development refer to constantly (an advocacy group supporting the development, even incorporates the word in their name)? There is very little that a reasonable person would regard as sustainable about this development.

tunnel mess.jpg
hbdrone2.jpg

How are the SW/LRT and Highland Bridge alike?

Click on the link in the headline to discover what can happen when the Metro Council, developers and city political entities completely ignore the citizens they represent. What a future we have to look forward to! Think Riverview Trolley.

In their own words:

“We haven’t done enough of these projects to know what we don’t know,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Debbie Goettel, referencing the failure to anticipate the water problems. Goettel is a civil engineer who sits on the Met Council committee that approves change orders to the project and represents the southwest portion of the line. She notes the contractors and consultants the Met Council hired also failed to foresee the extent of the problems, though ironically, project opponents in the neighborhoods adjacent to the tunnel were warning of them for years.. (MinnPost, 2/4/2022, Difficult Questions Remain  about how the SWLRT will be completed)

hint: The Cities building them cannot clearly hear public input.

NLSP remains committed to promoting responsible community development that enhances the existing neighborhood and the City overall. we need your financial support to ensure that we have the resources to help fund this effort, the pending petition, and future legal action. Please consider making a contribution to support NLSP's Legal Action Fund by clicking HERE.