Minneapolis Sustainability

350 S. 5th Street, Room 315M
Minneapolis, MN 55415
[email protected]neapolismn.gov

Green Zones Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What designates a Green Zones? How were the boundaries of Green Zones decided? Have pollution sources been identified?

The 2016 citywide Green Zones Workgroup was charged with developing designation criteria – how the boundaries of the Green Zones would be decided. The Workgroup developed a set of baseline data to measure existing conditions based on the goal areas and priority issues. To support the Green Zones Workgroup's data-driven decision making, a Minneapolis Population Characteristics and Environmental Indicators Map was created. The tool shows data by Census Tract for each of the priority issues selected by the Green Zones Workgroup: 1) equity, 2) displacement, 3) air quality, 4) brownfields and soil contamination, 5) housing, 6) green jobs, 7) food access and 8) greening. Multiple data sets may be turned on at once to show cumulative burden.

The air quality, brownfields and soil contamination and even housing data, to a small degree, demonstrate the pollution sources impacting Green Zone residents. The air pollution sources include busy roadways and highways, area sources (such as autobody shops, gas stations, etc.), and point sources (industry). Additional air quality concerns include poor indoor air quality, caused by mold, radon, pests, etc. Brownfield and soil contamination data were identified through the state's list of facilities with operating permits for air, hazardous waste, and water withdrawals, as well as voluntary clean-up sites. The City does not have data for all potential contamination, only that which has been tested and discovered.

The data were used to identify communities that faced cumulative impacts of higher levels of environmental contamination exposure and higher rates of poor socioeconomic and health outcomes. Different combinations of data resulted in slightly different areas of the City having the greatest impact. A few options were analyzed, including weighting all the factors equally, weighting each category of factors equally (categories defined by goal areas), or weighting equity factors equally with the combination of all environmental factors. Ultimately, the equally combined equity and environmental data became the recommendations for Green Zone designation criteria, and the highest-impact communities became the first two designated Green Zones.

The corner of Seward that is included in the Southside Green Zone incorporates community that shares the characteristics of the whole of the Southside Green Zone: residents of color with lower incomes, small local businesses, industrial uses and freeway/vehicle traffic that contribute to disconnection, air pollution, less greenery, etc.

What are the resources involved? How long is there support for Green Zones, what is the sustainability of Green Zones? What are the long-term funding resources for Green Zones? Is there a timeline—can the funding roll over to next year?

In 2018, City Council allocated $75,000 to support the Southside Green Zone and $40,000 to support the Northside Green Zone, in addition to the program funds that may be/are allocated to Green Zone areas. Budget requests are made on an annual basis from departments to the Mayor’s office. Requests are due in May or June, the Mayor releases his/her budget in August/September and City Council votes on a final budget in December for the following calendar year. Some funds can be designated as "ongoing", meaning that they do not have to be requested every year and are assumed as part of the base budget. Some of the programs that do/will support the Green Zones are already on-going funds. The request for additional funds depends on the priorities and actions coming out of the Southside and Northside Green Zone Work Plans.

Who decides what will be done? What process is there for community input?

The Southside Green Zone Task Force (11 community members and 4 city staff) will recommend to the City Council a Work Plan full of action items, priority levels for the actions, timeline, resources needed, metrics for success and more. The City Council will vote on the Work Plan and direct staff on next steps.

What are the metrics for success? What accountability can the city have with Green Zones?

These are in development and depend on the action items developed. We want input on how the city can be accountable to the Green Zones goals and outcomes.

What is the timeline for GZ? Can a GZ expire?

There is no explicit timeline for Green Zones. A City Council resolution would be required to “expire” the initiative. However, without codified law (see next question), there is nothing that says the city must invest in or put a specific amount of staff time toward the initiative. It is important for residents and businesses to advocate for the continued support from the city.

What would it take to slow down the cities/work groups timeline- and is that a viable solution to connect/build with as many communities as possible and make the Green Zone initiative as meaningful as possible?

The timeline for developing the Southside Green Zone Workplan is not flexible, as the process is funded by a grant that ends May 2018. Green Zones as a broader initiative has an ongoing timeline that can make updates to the Workplan as needed. It will be important to develop a partnership between City staff and community members for implementation, evaluation and iteration of the Workplan. This is undefined and the City is looking for recommendations for what a partnership would look like.

What teeth does GZ have? What/How will it be enforced? By who?

The Green Zone was adopted by resolution, which is a statement of support but not a law or ordinance with any teeth. It is currently managed by a single staff person. City Council may ask for updates, such as reports to City Council committees, or pass staff directions for ongoing work, or codify the resolution as ordinance/law.

What is the power analysis that we can utilize to destabilize threat of gentrification?

Challenging question! One way would be to break down each action item and ask “who benefits?” either through improved health outcomes, monetarily, or both. There is a question on the Work Plan that asks about the impact on core values/outcomes of equity and anti-displacement.

What other cities have established Green Zones? What happened?

In 2014, Minneapolis conducted background research on other cities’ Green Zone concepts. In general, there was a focus on community-driven and community-owned solutions that improved environmental conditions in overburdened communities, but that’s where the similarities stopped. Examples ranged from Clean Up Green Up LA, which had a core focus on air quality in communities adjacent to major industrial areas, ports and interstates, to the Kansas City, MO Green Impact Zone which was a government-initiated designation to engage community and concentrate resources in a large previously under-invested area, to PUSH Buffalo’s Green Development Zone in Buffalo, NY that utilized a community-land trust model to provide healthy, efficient housing as well as job training and employment in green infrastructure construction and maintenance.

Overall, the lessons learned from looking at these and other examples demonstrated that there were a few core pieces to the varying Green Zone models:

1. Community-driven solutions

2. Focusing resources in underinvested communities, lower-income, communities of color

3. Multipronged solutions: reducing environmental burden while promoting housing stability and wealth-building

What benefits will the Green Zone bring to the community?

The benefits that come to the community depend on what the community needs and asks for. Some examples of City programs that have targeted resources to the Green Zones starting in 2018 include: the City Trees program (100 free trees in the Green Zones in 2018); the Green Cost Share Programs (10% higher cost share for projects in the Green Zones); and residential and small business engagement in energy efficiency programs targeted in the Green Zones (under development). The Southside Green Zone Task Force will identify additional actions in the Work Plan that will bring additional benefits. In 2018, there is $75,000 for Southside Green Zone projects and $40,000 for Northside Green Zone projects.

If Green Zones are successful on the Southside and Northside, will the process be opened to other neighborhoods?

It is too soon to say what the process will be for designating other neighborhoods as Green Zones. The Southside and Northside neighborhoods were selected because they have more pollution, historically less investment, and face more discrimination than other communities in Minneapolis.

How were people appointed to the Green Zone Work Group (2016-2017)?

The Green Zone Work Group (2016-2017) members were selected by a small group of City staff, Council Member aides and community partners. The members had to apply to be considered. The call for applications was sent out through City Council newsletters, advertised to community partner organizations including the HIA Steering Team, and shared to neighborhood associations and the City’s Neighborhood and Community Relations department.

Who made up the term “Green Zones?”

The idea and terminology for “Green Zones” came to Minneapolis from environmental justice (EJ) organizers in L.A. The Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) became aware of community organizing in L.A. on Green Zones through their connections to other EJ organizations nationwide. CEED brought the Green Zones idea to Minneapolis in 2012 during the development of City of Minneapolis Climate Action Plan and began organizing around Green Zones in the Phillips community in 2014.

Can Green Zones set the table for gentrification? What can be done to stop it?

The Task Force will be vigilant in thinking about how the action items in the Work Plan may impact gentrification and suggest best practices for stopping it. It is clear that major infrastructure investments and rapid new economic development from outside investors are key triggers for gentrification. The Task Force is focused on how to invest in existing residents and businesses to support their well being.

Is rent control possible in GZ?

The State of Minnesota does not allow cities to control rents. See MN Statute 471.9996.

Can Green Zones change zoning about industry? About land use?

GZ can recommend changes in zoning for industry or any land use. Recommendations will go to City Council for voting; City Council may or may not approve zoning changes. Making a strong case for why the zoning change is needed and how zoning change is the best/only way to accomplish a specific goal will be helpful for City Council to consider when voting.

Last updated Apr 17, 2019

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