Friday, February 6, 2009

Who ARE These People, and Why Do They Live Here?!?

I've been spending more time combing through the Uptown Small Area Plan - both the main document and its appendices. The USAP is a must-read for anyone interested in Uptown. You, like me, might wish you had had the opportunity to fully participate in the formation of the plan, but that doesn't mean that the future of Uptown is a done deal. It's never too late to get involved, or too late to have your voice heard.

OK, enough with the lecture. Let's move on to some of the most intriguing elements of the USAP: the meeting summaries in the appendix. Specifically, to a November night back in 2006. Yes, that's more than two years ago, but most of the same people are still around, and as I've said before, I bet most of them have the same opinions now as they did then. Before getting into the meat of my complaints (expressions of amazement?) let me first acknowledge that diversity of opinion can be a great thing. I think it's wonderful that so many residents and stakeholders came out to express their vision for the future. That said, there's some scary opinions in there - and I think it's an even scarier thing that these viewpoints are most likely held by a small but vocal (and influential) minority.

On November 8 and 8, 2006, approximately 160 people came together to lay out their vision for Uptown. They gathered in groups of five to eight people and together dreamed about the future. They then shared their visions with the group, and through the finalized Uptown Small Area Plan's appendices, to the rest of us.

The Question: What do you want Uptown to look like and feel like in the future?

The Answers: I agree with most of the answers. I won't go into details here (read it for yourself online), but generally people wanted a mix of business and residential offerings, good transportation, green space, a diversity (in all senses of the word), and a sense of distinct place. Some people, however, had some more extreme views. Some of the highlights:

No LRT station in Uptown.

What? Who in their right mind would prefer there NOT to be a light rail station in Uptown? They would prefer to leave Uptown out of the greater long-term train transit grid that will - one hopes - once again cross the city? This wasn't just one group, either; several groups expressed this hope. I think some of these people have some romantic notion of streetcars connecting Uptown with other transit points. I doubt that these residents actually take public transportation themselves. I can't imagine an actual Minneapolis transit rider based in Uptown actually preferring to decrease their public transportation options. I'll have to post more on this later, but in the meantime let me just say that Uptowners need to unite and make one last push to ensure that the next LRT line comes through Uptown.

Dinner and movie destinations close up at midnight on the weekend and 10 pm on weeknights.

Who are these people? Why do they live here? There are many other nice options in town, many of them also in close proximity to the lakes. I certainly don't want an environment where people drink too much, drive drunk through the streets, drunkenly sing as they stagger their way home, or otherwise cause a public nuisance, but this idea that dinner and movies should close up early is crazy. Bonkers. Bad for the neighborhood. I can't imagine that there are more than a few people in Uptown who feel like this, but unfortunately their participation in this exercise probably gives them a greater statistical importance than they deserve. What's next, a ban on dancing?

Uptown is a place that Linden Hills is envious of. [sic]

Ha, I knew it. Proof that there are people in Uptown who would prefer that their supposedly beloved, "unique" neighborhood turn into another Linden Hills. Linden Hills is a wonderful neighborhood. It offers a great deal to its residents and to visitors. It is, in short, an all-around fabulous place to live. So why don't these Uptown residents choose to live there? I certainly don't follow the "if you don't like it you can just leave" model of neighborhood planning; everyone has a right to his or her opinion about where they live, and can and should work to make their visions a reality. But that still doesn't explain why someone would purchase a home in Uptown - knowing full well that Uptown is a busier, louder, more urban kind of neighborhood - and then complain about it.

Linden Hills is not better or worse than Uptown, and Uptown is not better or worse than Linden Hills. The two neighborhoods offer different amenities and lifestyles. They each have their pluses and minuses. Uptown has no reason to be envious of Linden Hills, and I don't know why Linden Hills would ever be envious of Uptown. These are two complementary neighborhoods that, taken together, offer Minneapolis residents (well, those who can afford it - which I have feeling the Uptown complainers probably can) two distinct lifestyle and housing options.

I agree with those who argue that one of Uptown's problems is that local government - in this case the neighborhood boards - do not fully represent the population as a whole. These boards are dominated by older, white homeowners. Certainly many of them do share the interests and opinions of many of their constituents. But others don't. I believe that the boards would be more than willing to open their ranks to those who don't the standard profile. It's not an instance of intentional freezing out of the masses. That doesn't make it any less of a problem, though. It's therefore up to all of us to speak out, become involved whenever possible, and let it be known that most Uptowners moved here because they like Uptown. They like urban neighborhoods. They like public transportation. They like being able to meet up with friends or family for dinner, a movie, even maybe a cocktail (!).

Join your neighborhood board, or at least attend meetings. Read the local papers. Send letters and emails to local politicians. Talk to your friends. Follow the upcoming city council races and demand answers from the candidates. Invite Lara Norkus-Crampton out for a late night beer to discuss planning issues. Uptown is for everyone, and it's time that the silent majority rises up to make their voices heard.


  1. I'm pleased to mention that last night, the ECCO board unanimously endorsed a Southwest LRT alignment which brings the line through Uptown (either version of option 3C). What impact our board can have I don't know, but it's an important gesture. Hopefully some of the other neighborhood groups still on the fence will decide to weigh in soon.

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