The Silent YIMBY Majority, and Why They Lose

So, a local entrepreneur wants to build a beautiful, mixed-use building on a surface parking lot in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis. This is apparently quite controversial.

Residents of Minneapolis' Linden Hills neighborhood worry this mixed-use building will "ruin" their community. Photo: Twin Cities Streets for People

Some 1,500 people have signed a petition opposing the development, a five-story condominium building with ground floor retail (right). These neighborhood folks are really worked up. Their concerns are often vague and wide ranging, but the most consistent complaint seems to be that the building is too tall.

Our friends at Twin Cities Streets for People say now this sustainable project is in jeopardy. And it’s a shame because it would benefit a lot of people, but those people aren’t necessarily invested enough to get involved with the planning process. On one hand we have 1,500 people who are against this project. On the other hand, we have:

?,000 Linden Hills residents who are indifferent or mildly supportive of the project, but don’t have the time or interest to be any way involved in the political process for it. They may not even be aware of it.

?00 potential residents of this building that want to live in this location, but aren’t currently able to. Maybe the nearby single family homes are too expensive. Maybe they are physically impaired and need to live close to retail amenities and transit service. Maybe they simply prefer living in a condo in a mixed-use setting that isn’t as busy as Downtown or Uptown. Denying this development is also denying more people a chance to live in a nice neighborhood of their choice.

??,000 people that visit Linden Hills to shop or eat and would enjoy having additional retail destinations and restaurants to choose from.

382,000 Minneapolis residents who would benefit from broadening the tax base. Pretty much every property owner in the City has had taxes go up in the last few years, even as property values have fallen. There are two ways to help that: cutting the budget, and broadening the tax base. Since the City is now down to laying off firefighters and cops, broadening the tax base is probably the only viable route for any substantial relief from property tax burdens.

7,000,000,000 people across the globe who will in some way be impacted by climate change if we can’t reduce our transportation emissions; to have any chance of doing so, we need to reduce dependence on motor-vehicles by increasing density in walkable communities. It may seem extreme to claim that the outcome of a single local land-use decision will impact billions, but this same process is repeated a thousand times over in cities across the country. If a 5-story building can’t be built in a commercial node of a relatively dense urban neighborhood, where can it?

Hopefully Minneapolis’ decision makers will keep this silent majority in mind when the decision comes down to a vote some time in the next few months.

Elsewhere on the Network today: I Bike TO says Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s effort to end “the war on cars” is paradoxically hurting motorists. New Network blog Sitka Cycling reminds us in the lower 48 to be strong in the winter — after all, they’re still biking in Alaska. And NextSTL rallies the troops to oppose the demolition of two buildings to make way for surface parking.