St. Paul Planning Commission approves zoning reform proposal

St. Paul’s Planning Commission approved the city’s Phase II zoning amendment, which would allow up to four-unit housing projects in areas of the city zoned for single-family housing. 

Luis Pereira, planning director for the city of St. Paul, said the proposal is about increasing housing inventory in the city. He also noted the proposal does not ban single-family housing. 

St. Paul is the third city in the metro to consider zoning reform this year. In January, Richfield unanimously passed zoning reform and in March the city of Bloomington heard, but did not act, on its own comprehensive proposal. 

Residents, developers, advocacy groups speak for, against 

The packed hearing, held on April 14 at City Hall, drew in residents, developer organizations and advocacy groups. 

Luke Hanson, co-chair of Sustain St. Paul speaks in favor of the change

Luke Hanson, the co-chair of Sustain St. Paul, a local group that advocates for zoning reform, said the proposal respects the current neighborhood structure while allowing communities and the city as a whole to grow. Hanson added Phase II would make it “simpler to navigate the zoning code.” 

“The city is facing an extreme housing crisis and this proposal will be an important step in solving that,” said Jamie Stolpestad of YardHomesMN.

Stolpestad added the proposal meets the needs of the committee and was more thought out than past proposals. 

Tor Olson, a sophomore at Macalester College, said that college students in St. Paul feel the housing affordability challenges every day. 

Karen Allen, a St. Paul resident, told the commission she purchased a duplex which she rented out as owner-occupied, giving her a path to homeownership. Allen noted the importance that this pathway to homeownership would be allowed everywhere.

With redevelopment opportunities created with the proposal, Allen said it provided her with the opportunity to reinvest in her community.

“[This proposal] doesn’t take away housing from anyone, it only adds to the amount of housing,” Allen added.

Other groups speaking in favor of the proposal included the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, the Sierra Club, Habitat for Humanity Twin Cities and Housing First Minnesota. 

Not everyone was in favor. One resident said this proposal would make single-family homes illegal. Others opposed spoke about the lack of notice and public attention to the proposal.

Next steps

The planning commission’s support of the Phase II zoning effort sends the proposal to the City Council’s Comprehensive Plan committee.