Water Distribution operates, maintains, and manages the life-cycle of the City's water system components. From the reservoirs to the customer's service connection, as well as the water meters that measure and report each customer's consumption, the City's 1,000 miles of water main, 16,000 valves and street holes, and 8,000 hydrants are kept in good working order. The Water Distribution maintenance staff performs valve operations, greasing and packing of hydrants, street hole repairs, water main repairs, and leak detection. Additional services provided by Water Distribution staff include connection of temporary water supply during projects, disinfection of water main, installing taps for new service connections, replacements, marking buried water mains for Gopher State One Call requirements, construction inspection, customer service, and working with developers as part of the Minneapolis Development Review process.
Timeline of Events for Moving the Water Yard to E. Phillips
In 2001, the Transportation & Public Works Committee as well as the
Ways & Means Committee recommended that the proper City officers be
authorized to begin discussions with Roof Depot, Inc., owners of the East
Phillips property at 1860 E. 28th Street, for possible acquisition
of their property for a City facility.
For a variety of reasons, including high costs and timing, the 2001
site acquisition was not achieved. To
date, no City documentation has been provided to prove that any community
engagement or resident consultation was completed to approve or support this
Council Committee action.
Fast-forward 14 years into the future as Minneapolis becomes a more
diverse, dense, and progressive city where issues that no politicians would
dare touch have now become front-and-center public policy benchmarks –
Minneapolis Energy Options, foreclosures and eviction protection, and workers’
Last September, City staff notified the 9th Ward Council office of their intent to purchase the Roof Depot site – although the City staff had already been negotiating behind the community’s back as they used our taxpayer dollars in June to pay for an appraisal on the property. Since then, the community, area residents, environmental justice advocates and sustainability organizers have been trying to negotiate a shared-use development model and Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the City for this site. Negotiations broke down in early May of this year when the City expressed a lack of support for funding this shared-use development vision.
It was at this point in mid-May when the community finally put its foot down and decided it would no longer allow the City to treat the impoverished East Phillips area as its dumping grounds for half-hearted development projects that do not offer jobs to the families of this neighborhood, that add more air pollution to an already overburdened area, and that stifle the future prosperity of this Transit-Oriented-Development region.
On Monday, June 15th the Ways and Means Committee voted yes to approve a recommendation to continue the process to purchase the roof depot despite over the numerous scientists, organizations, and individual community members who were present and advocating for them to vote no.
The Community's Position
The community’s position, and that of our elected representative in the City Council 9th Ward office, is to vote NO on the staff recommendation to move forward with negotiations for a purchase agreement on the Roof Depot site.
Environmental Justice, Environmental Racism
The Environmental Justice (EJ) movement acknowledges that humans co-inhabit with nature rather than dominate and control it. Part of the critical work of EJ activists and scholars is to illustrate the detrimental effects of environmental racism. EJ scholars defines environmental racism as "racial discrimination in environmental policy making’ and involves ‘the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste disposal and the siting of polluting industries [and] excluding people of color from the mainstream environmental groups, decision-making bodies, commissions, and regulatory bodies’ (Chavis, 1993: 3). Environmental racism is posited as involving an inter-related set of political practices, power structures, and relations of domination (see Pulido, 2000: 12). For more information on these scholars and the EJ movement see Devon Peña, THE SCOPE OF LATINO/A ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES (2003).
Phillips neighborhood historically has been a dumping ground the for the private sector and the City's industrial services despite residents' protests. Phillips has some of the highest asthma and lead poisoning-related negative health outcomes in all of Minneapolis. These outcomes are often concentrated in poverty areas where 50% or more of the residents are People of Color, Indigenous and working poor. Moving the Water Yard to the current Roof Depot location in Phillips would only decrease the quality of life for residents by increasing sound and chemical pollution therefore, resulting in perpetuated harmful health outcomes for the local community.
Are there any benefits to moving the Water Yard to Phillips? NO!
Moving the Water Yard to Phillips does NOT create any new jobs for residents. The City cannot guarantee any jobs for local residents and refuses to enter into a Commmunity Benefits Agreement (CBA). The Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) does not enter into a CBA because they state, "they only invest in projects that will benefit the community." Moving the Water Yard to Phillips does not benefit the local community. There are cities across the country that are entering into CBAs. Minneapolis should follow their lead to ensure the well-being of all its residents.
Myths, Facts, and Rumors Debunked
Myth: If the City doesn’t buy the Roof Depot site, Bituminous Roadways will move in and expand. Fact: There are two significant reasons why this will not happen. From a legal perspective, the current Bituminous Roadways activity is only appropriate and permitted in an I-3 industrially zoned area. The Roof Depot site is zoned I-1 and I-2, therefore the Bituminous Roadways activity would not be legally permitted. Secondly, the owner of Bituminous Roadways (Ken Peterson) confirmed via phone to the 9th Ward Council Office that he does not have any interest or money to purchase this site. In fact, the owner is trying to do the opposite as he’s requested the City Council and County Commissioners help in moving out of East Phillips into another area that is not overburdened with pollution and more appropriately suited for his business needs.
Myth:The City is the best partner this community could ask for, the City will be the best neighbor this community will ever be able to get. Fact: The City has proven to be difficult to work with and has fought off every community effort to bring forward a Community Benefits Agreement proposal. The Community Planning and Economic Development department goes as far as having instituted a policy against enacting Community Benefits Agreements. The City refused to provide any access to local jobs through their development proposal and never answered questions relating to the air quality impacts of the added diesel truck emissions. Furthermore, the City’s attempts to purchase and develop on this site ignore the community’s years of work on environmental justice where the Phillips community has consistently stood up against bad development deals and further environmental degradation. These years’ worth of work are now being articulated as a grassroots community coalition focused on establishing a Green Zone and phasing out industrial polluters from Minneapolis through the City’s Comprehensive Plan refresh scheduled to be completed in 2018. A nascent, steady, and forward-looking development plan is being grown and put together through resident engagement, community voice, and organizing leadership – this fresh vision and approach cannot be stopped by an outdated zoning and land use plan anchored by an out-of-step 2001 Council Committee action that is no longer relevant to the sovereign future of our communities.
Myth: It is best for the community to have the City as a developer than to have no developer at all. Fact: The community who lives, works and plays in this area is the one who gets to decide what’s best. The community believes that what is best is to vote NO on the City acquisition of the Roof Depot site.
Myth: This area is industrially zoned and nothing outside of industrial uses can be done here. Fact: The Roof Depot site, zoned I-1 and I-2, which are considered Light and Medium Industrial sites.These types of zoning allow for a variety of Industrial uses including the following: Art Gallery, Art Studio, Child Care Center, Day Labor Agency, Farmer's Market, Veterinary Clinic, Coffee Shop, and more! The community originally wanted to pursue some of these options under the shared-used approach. They City did not support this suggestion.
Myth:You’re going to get stuck with a private developer who won’t listen to you. Fact: There are not many private developers willing to shell out $7M for a site that is housed in a residential neighborhood that has heavy and consistent resident opposition to industrial uses that continue to pollute our air, soil and children’s lives. However, the community and the 9th Ward Council Office have been working together with a handful of private developers to secure site control and sign a Community Benefits Agreement that is not limited by the outdated parameters of the City’s language and lack of vision. In order to protect the integrity and good-faith effort of these negotiations, the community is not in a position to disclose more details of this proposed development partnership at this point.