How Minneapolis grew its urban density--and why that's vital for better bicycle, pedestrian, and transit connectivity | POLITICO Magazine

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Bender, 41, who became city council president in 2018, nerds out with glee while talking urbanist policy, from housing near transit stops to protected bike lanes. (She founded the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, now renamed Our Streets Minneapolis.) “My very first ordinance was to legalize accessory dwelling units!” she enthuses. To build support among reluctant council colleagues, she recruited allies such as AARP, which advocates for so-called granny apartments and garage flats.

“We opened up the dialogue around who gets to live where in our city,” Bender said.

Next, Bender and her City Hall allies set their eye on Minneapolis’ comprehensive plan, which all Minnesota cities have to update every decade. Usually, these plans are dry policy documents that attract little public attention. Before 2013, Bender said, the city’s feedback was mostly limited to neighborhood associations, so it usually heard from older, white homeowners. This time around, the city council approved an ambitious plan to gather citizen ideas at community meetings, street festivals and farmer’s markets.

This wider approach tapped into the 52 percent of Minneapolis residents who are renters, many of them young and keenly interested in lower housing costs but also climate change, transportation and racial justice. “When we set up enough room for the community to actually weigh in, and not just the folks who are opposed to things, there is a lot of public support for increasing housing options,” Bender said.

MoBikeFed comment: Planning for growth and housing opportunities is one of the most important elements in determining whether a city--large or small--is conducive to good walkability, bicycleability, and transit use, or whether it is going to be exclusively automobile-dependent.