The following was a message emailed to the Richfield City Council on the proposed development by Ron Clark Construction on the former city maintenance facility site.

I am writing to clear up a misunderstanding by some City of Richfield workers and City Council members that the protests to the Pillsbury Commons project is a NIMBY reaction by the neighbors not wanting the poor in their neighborhood.

Their reaction is due to two issues:

1. Disregard to the planning work and out come done by the neighborhood with Richfield Corridor Housing Initiative

2. Metropolitan Council’s Formula for Allocating Affordable Housing which lets wealthy communities like Edina off the hook for their share responsibility


Back when the City did its “Richfield Corridor Housing Initiative” in 2007-2008 what came out of it was plan for the 76th Street and Pleasant Avenue site  was low to medium density  residential mix (2 – 3 story height limit) that included different household sizes and incomes (low and moderate income families). This is what the neighborhood told the City and what the planners said would economically work. The neighbors understood and were fine with the development including a mix of affordable and market rate housing. It was supposed to be designed for public safety, including “eyes on the street.” (1)

Unfortunately Ron Clark Construction’s proposal meets none of the criteria developed by the neighborhood in the guidelines. The proposal is now for a high density development which is out of character of the neighborhood. Instead of mixed income it is made up completely of low income housing units. By making the development all low-income, the renters there will wind up being stigmatized as the people living in a “low-income” development. One of rationals for having mixed income developments to prevent stigmatization and to help integrate people into the community.

Livable Communities Act

The Affordable Housing Goals through 2010 set by the Livable Communities Act (LCA) for Richfield was 757 units for owner occupied housing of which Richfield produced 262 obtaining 34.6% of the goal. For rental none was required (55% of Richfield’s existing rental units are considered affordable, one of the highest perentages of affordability in the South Metro – In Minneapolis 67% rental units are considered affordable) however Richfield produced 43 units of affordable rental housing in spite of the fact that none were required.

However during that same time Edina the Affordable Housing Goals through 2010 set by  LCA for Edina was a modest 170 units for owner occupied housing of which Edina produced 3 obtaining 1.8% of the goal. For rental  the goal set by LCA for Edina was 31 units of which Edina produced 8 units obtaining 25.8% of their modest goal.

(2) (3)

Richfield Working Class Takes Low Income Housing Burden for Edina Upper Class

At 70 units, Pillsbury Commons takes the creation of affordable housing burden off the neighboring community of Edina since is the proposed development is being used as a dumping ground for low income housing in Richfield with little regard for them or the neighborhood around them.

Attached is a page from “Metropolitics” a book written by Myron Orfield, Professor of Law; Executive Director, Institute on Race & Poverty at the U of M and a former State Representative. He writes about Exclusionary Zoning – a zoning practice to make it impossible to build housing for anybody but the affluent effectively cutting out the working poor by adding budget busters zoning requirements like large lot sizes, large street sizes, 2-3 car garages, custom built kitchens, etc… In his book he points out that Edina was one of in the eight communities in the Twin Cities area practicing Exclusionary Zoning.

Oddly enough while the Metropolitan Council’s own 2006 Report to the Minnesota Legislature on Affordable and Lifecycle Housing  stated that within the City of Edina zero affordable rental units were created between 1996 to 2005. Currently they say that Edina (the home of Ron Clark Construction and Design) only needs 212 units while Richfield needs 765.

Flaws in Metropolitan Council’s Formula for Allocating Affordable Housing

This is number is arrived at by a very flawed and inherently biased formula that makes sure the poor stay out of the areas of the wealthy. (4)

Here it is:

Affordable housing needc = (HH growthc * K1) *

{ 1 + (Jobs/Workersc – 1) + (0.30 – Existing aff housingc) + (Transit Adjustmentc) } * K2

In a nut shell, if your community diversifies its land use by having commercial or industrial and creates jobs OR is progressive and has mass transit the guidelines say you need to have more affordable housing units in your city. However, if you keep mass transit out or build your city to be a gated bedroom community and let your neighbors build commercial/industrial your community gets rewarded with little to no affordable housing units in your city. Another piece of the formula is Growth. How many housing units do you plan to build in the future. Edina, did much of its low/medium/high density housing development (between York and France) during 1996 to 2005 the years they built zero affordable housing units according to the Metropolitan Council.

Jobs is another part of the Metropolitan Council’s formula for allocating affordable housing.  Edina has low wage jobs and lots of them. Attached is a map created using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies which shows where the low-wage jobs actually are – and not many are in Richfield. Both Edina and the area round the  Mall of America are the hot spots for those jobs and yet, both are virtual ghost towns when it comes to low-income housing.

U.S. Census map showing areas with low wage jobs.

You will find that now Edina is open to affordable housing and at least willing do it lip service now that they have shut the housing development door. This is because the Metropolitan Council’s affordable housing program has been criticized for rewarding participation rather than results. Critics of the Metropolitan Council say that focusing on the LCA ignores the state Land Use Planning Act, which they believe requires the council to determine the region’s affordable housing needs and each city’s fair-share allocation to meet that need. (5)


I have discussed this with many of my neighbors and given that the City so wontedly disregarded the careful and costly planning done with the 76th Street neighborhood during Richfield Corridor Housing Initiative currently there is little good will or trust with City Hall that they will behave in a ethical or transparent manner on this project. Still, I am hoping that the information here will open some eyes on the true nature of this conflict which is one of the wealthy communities such as Edina, not taking their fair share of affordable housing and instead doing community planning that shuts out the working poor. This is also an issue of a flawed Metropolitan Council formula for affordable housing which lets these wealthy communities off the hook.