Whittier Community Issues Monday, July 14, 2014

Whittier Community Issues Monday, July 14, 2014 6‐8:30pm Whittier Park Attendees: Andy Cohen, Jen Kader, Natascha Shawver, Daphna Stromberg, Wendy Darst, Greg Schmidt, David W. Schroth, Felino de la Peña, Laura Jean, Brian Foster, Ross Abbey Staff: Marian Biehn, Abbie Plouff, Rita Stodolka Presenters: Chelsea Adams, 5th Precinct; Joe Holmberg, Affordable Homes for All; Kathleen Tully, Premier Management; Robin Garwood, Aide to CM Cam Gordon Call to Order: Meeting called to order at 6:15 by Justin Kader, Chair of Community Issues. The Standard of Conduct Policy was noted. A motion to approve the agenda carried. Announcements/Community Comments & Discussion Attendees introduced themselves. The new Community Organizer was introduced. A motion to approve the June 2014 CI minutes carried. 5th Precinct Report, Chelsea Adams: Crime reports and a pocket handout for MN bicycle laws were made available. A lot of robberies were more 11 pm – 3 am. Not much of a trend in victims – mostly opportunistic: unlocked windows/doors, keys left in car, etc. Stolen vehicles are sometimes used in additional crimes, then dumped. In the winter, sometimes folks take them to keep warm. National Night Out (NNO) is August 5th. Register before July 21 for free street closing permit – you do not have to close the street in order to have an event. Also, some streets cannot be closed. Go to the City of Minneapolis website (http://www.minneapolismn.gov/nno) to register. The Whittier Alliance has $100 grants available to help fund your party (food and entertainment excluded). See the application for details (http://whittieralliance.org/wp/wp‐
content/uploads/Block‐Apartment‐Grant‐Application‐Form.pdf). Bicycle theft occurs more frequently if a lock can be cut. Reminder to register your bicycle for free in Minneapolis – you can probably register in another city as well, fees may or may not apply. If your bike is stolen, having it registered will help you get it back if it’s recovered. Unclaimed bikes are sold at auction. If your bike is stolen, check Craigslist or mplslove.org. Whittier Park will be hosting an outdoor movie, Thursday, July 31 at dusk. In addition to the movie, there will be face painting, activities and free popcorn. Note, the Whittier Alliance is sponsoring “Dancing in the Park” on Thursday, July 31 at 7 p.m. at Washburn Fair Oaks Park (for one hour – so there is still time to go to Whittier for the movie.). In addition, Dancing in the Park will be July 17th & 24th. Field Day at Whittier Park will be August 23. Volunteers needed – contact Abbie to sign up. Whittier walkers can always use more folks to walk with the group. They’ve deterred some crimes already – having the intended effect. It’s also a good time to get out and meet neighbors and let people know about the Whittier Alliance. Passersby have noticed the purple jerseys and have made inquiries and brought up noteworthy information. There was not a 10th Ward report due to schedule conflicts with Lisa Bender’s office. Written reports were made available to meeting attendees. You may contact Lisa’s office for a copy of the report. 2625 Stevens/Stevens House, Joe Holmberg, President, Affordable Homes for All: Affordable Homes for All (AHA) currently owns 600 units, and will own another 400 by the end of the year. They are seeking approval for a new funding structure for 2625 Stevens Ave. The building is old and needs a lot of work, budgeted at $2.9 mil. The work to be done includes upgrades and repairs to both common areas and units. 56 of the 67 units are Section 8 (tenant pays 30% of their income, the fund pays the remainder). The other units rent for about 60% of the median rental rate (set by the tax credit program) for the area (a requirement for the owner to receive tax credits). They submitted an application to receive a distribution from the Minneapolis Affordable Housing Trust Fund and a loan through Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. Attaining the loan also restarts a 30‐year covenant that maintains the affordable housing status of the property. They will apply for a new FHA loan to make up the difference and hope to start work spring of 2015. In the past, about $300/month per unit was set aside for reserves. AHA does not intend to use any current reserves for this rehab project. They did replace appliances and other minor things after taking ownership about a year ago, but isn’t enough for the major rehab needed. They want to continue to grow the reserves. In the future, they intend to set aside $500/month per unit for reserves. These reserves will be used to pay for ongoing maintenance, such as painting, replacing carpet, etc. The building nets $80,000/year; an additional $47k per year goes to the management company. Management fees are apparently based on a government controlled cap. Members of the community expressed concerns over restarting the 30 year covenant due to having so much affordable housing/poverty already in the neighborhood. CI Motion 1: The Community Issues Committee moves to deny support to Affordable Homes for All to receive the requested grant based on the 30‐year covenant attached to the grant and the high saturation of poverty in the Whittier neighborhood. 3‐3‐1 – motion will go to the Board of Directors Prior to the vote, Kathleen Tully gave a few words on behalf of the residents: The building is 40 years old, so isn’t adding to the affordable housing in the neighborhood. Families have raised their children there, who have gone on to college, parents are now seniors; many have been there 20‐25 years and know each other. She would like to see them have a nice place to live with new carpeting, cabinets, etc. They clean and repair as much as they can, but everything is old, they will continue to grow strong families there. Conservation District, Robin Garwood, aide to CM Cam Gordon: Cam Gordon authored a new “tool” called a Conservation District to add a new level to city ordinances for historical preservation. Currently, there is only one ordinance – Historic Districts; an historic district helps preserve the specific physical aspects of a building. The standards are specific to the Historic District but are also tied to the State Historic Preservation Org (SHPO). However, many people felt these guidelines were too rigorous, make it impossible to establish a district, or making it nearly impossible to maintain a property. For example, a homeowner received a grant from the city to replace their windows due to a high lead count in their child; however, being in an Historic District they weren’t allowed to replace the windows. After some research, Cam found other cities implementing conservation district – a more flexible guideline between having an Historic District and nothing. It’s more about preserving the form of a house or building or street face within guidelines specific to a defined area (minimum of one block). A conservation district isn’t about the stuff: you could tear down and rebuild as long as it “fit” the guidelines. Or, on a smaller scale, you could redo a porch without having to “refurbish” the existing or find c. 1900 materials to replace a rotted board. A Conservation District cannot trump city zoning laws. For example, if an area is zoned R4 (multiple unit housing allowed), then the guidelines can’t disallow multi‐unit housing. Also, it’s not intended to make things difficult for developers. It could prevent, for example, someone from tearing down their one‐story rambler and building a 3‐story house on a block that has “maintaining the home heights” as a guideline of their Conservation District. But, in that same example, the homeowner might be able to add a porch, an addition to the back, a dormer, etc. Guidelines would be developed for each Conservation District, and they will vary across the city. The process to assign a Conservation District begins with the property owner(s). Approval (signatures) of at least ⅔ of owners in the proposed district are needed to start the process. The application will have a series of questions/inputs that will essentially make the applicants “prove” why a Conservation District makes sense (vs. an Historic District or any ordinance at all). The Planning Commission would review the applications and the City Council has final approval. Prior to finalization, there would be a public hearing at which residents could make comments (typically for these types of city changes the formal role goes to the property owner, not the resident/lessee). At some point in the process, the city will work with the owners to develop the guidelines. Not all blocks make strong candidates for this. It makes the most sense to try with a block that has a higher likelihood of getting approval. For example, a block where each home or building shares a common character, like one‐story, single family. But, a block where each structure is significantly different or a large 1960s apartment building breaks up a block, would not be a good candidate. A Conservation District can be a stepping stone to an Historic District if that makes sense. Conservation Districts do not give owners any tax credit. However, a Conservation District would make energy and environmental upgrades possible (solar panels, etc.). A historic district can include several blocks –usually not just a couple houses. The feedback on this from other neighborhoods has been mostly negative, but from both sides of the argument: For example, some people think the ⅔ requirement will be too difficult; some think the bar should be even higher. Some think it will effectively stop development in large swaths of town. The city has already tried to modify the ordinance so that owners of multiple structures can’t overweight a decision (because it’s based on property, not owner); but, that revision was not approved and likely won’t be based on the attorney’s opinion. Likely final implementation in August/September 2014. A Conservation District can be repealed by request from at least ⅔ of the property owners. More info at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/hpc/Conservation_District_Ordinance. CI Motion 2: The Community Issues Committee moves to support adopting the Conservation District amendment to the Heritage Preservation ordinance of the City of Minneapolis. Carried: 9‐0‐0 Adjourn: 7:49 Minutes respectfully submitted by: Rita Stodolka, Administrative Assistant