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Rental Density 1, Heritage Homes 0

Turning front yard into parking lot

I’ve sat back and let the rental density issues take their Darwinian course and here’s what you get. Ever since the 300′ rule was allowed to lapse, we’ve had five homes in two blocks flip. Here’s a particularly wonderful example of a classic old Duluth bungalow. It’s 100 year old front yard facing Woodland Avenue will be no match for the Kamatsu at the hands of a boarding house proprietor. He’ll be able to park six vehicles here.

Contact the city council, individually, by email and let them know that they should support reasoned developments to house renter’s near UMD and that they should oppose efforts to nullify regulations which help guide and motivate intentional development. I am not anti-student! I am anti-profit above community.

54 Comment(s)

  1. Oh damn. I know that house. That STINKS. We had an offer on our old house on 19th — from an investor. We turned it down. We want a family moving into a house that is so full of memories for us, where we raised our child til now. Sad when homes get flipped. Sad about this one… I agree with Baci, this is really fucked up.

    Claire | May 27, 2012 | New Comment
  2. That truly sucks and how sad. This is happening to several other properties as well in the area. That is why Tuesday night, May 29th @ 7:00pm, the Duluth City Council is bringing up two ordinances for discussion. One would limit the number of bedrooms in a NEW multi-tenant conversion to FOUR bedrooms (not the six and up that some are attempting). So if you would like your voice heard about this, please show up at the city council meeting on Tuesday night. If you feel really brave, sign up to speak. Not to pick on any one group in this, but the landlords will be out in force on this issue and do not want it to pass. But let it be said that all current rental units will be grandfathered in. This will only affect new rentals. Contact your city councilor as well and let him/her know your feelings on the subject. As the saying goes, “The world is run by those who show up!”

    blondie | May 27, 2012 | New Comment
  3. It’s certainly a crying shame that a property owner actually gets to do with their land as they see fit. Maybe you should piss and moan some more to the city to have ordinances changed since you know more whats good for that property owner than they know themselves.

    Rickjf | May 27, 2012 | New Comment
  4. I think Ayn Rand is calling. No point in considering the community if you own property…

    TimK | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  5. It is a bit naive to say that property owners just KNOW what is right in all cases, it hardly takes more than a moment or two to realize this is not always the case, nor should it be. There is a balance between reasonable ordinances and unreasonable intrusion. And turning large swaths of lawn into parking lots should be at least cause for some consideration of the ugly result.

    edgeways | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  6. @Rickjf, Communities across the country face this very issue. Most have adopted reasoned ordinances which guide homeowners and landlords with intentional urban planning. The truth is that these formerly single family, owner occupied residences are in fact purchased to become boarding houses. The landlords are imposing their small business, and all the transient chaos that comes with it, on to the neighbors and surrounding community. The landlord, often an out-of-town rental management company with very little concern for the community, rakes in profit while removing community and, in this case, green space and beauty.

    baci | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  7. There HAS to be some controls. In our former home, which is on the market now, and in our new home, six blocks down the hill, not far from Baci’s house, we’ve had the same problem: renters cramming too many cars into too small of a driveway. What happens, is the cars then protrude in the alley. In our old house, I’d have to back up very carefully out of my driveway, for fear of backing up into the neighbor’s cars. In our new house, after that huge March 3 blizzard, the snow plows could not go down our alley, because the renters’ parked vehicles were blocking one entrance to the alley. The answer is NOT to pave over lawns and create huge parking lots in residential neighborhoods.

    Baci, I am so sorry the new owner of that house on your street is doing this. It’s going to be an eyesore on Woodland.

    Claire | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  8. Get off my lawn …

    Swan | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  9. Swan, it’s a matter of maintaining the neighborhood’s stability. Do you want to live in a city where houses are torn down for parking lots? There’s a big parking lot across the street from a Church at 19th & 4th. It’s a total eyesore. And I know it’s affected property values, there’s a house on that block that’s been on the market for at least a year. Nice house, but no one wants to live across the street from a parking lot.

    Claire | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  10. “And turning large swaths of lawn into parking lots should be at least cause for some consideration of the ugly result.”

    So when do we get to talk to the hospitals?

    adam | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  11. Wish we could talk to the hospitals, Adam, wish we could. They own this town, as evidenced by the fact that First Street is two-way for about two blocks in front of SMDC.

    Claire | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  12. In rentaldensity-opolis lawn=parkinglot.

    baci | May 28, 2012 | New Comment
  13. So when do we get to talk to the hospitals?

    Oh I’m totally with you on that. We definitely have a shortage of affordable housing that the hospital parking-a-fication has made worse over time.

    edgeways | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  14. Baci, what are they going to do to the front of the red house, do you think? I saw some lumber in front, going by today…

    Claire | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  15. They’re restoring 3 new rooms into the basement and revitalizing a place to park for the renters. This community development program will establish a precedent and bookend the front yard parking conversion all the way up Woodland. Don’t you think it really looks great on Arrowhead?

    baci | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  16. That sucks. That lawn is gorgeous as it is, a parking lot has no place there.

    Claire | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  17. There has to be a more complicated answer than just leave stuff the way it is.
    I am not saying I know what that answer is -- just saying there has to be one.
    Because otherwise you just end up with the suburban donut of death around every city.
    There’s just gotta be a way to do infill and density increase.
    So what? Where?

    Carla | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  18. PS: It’s not the students -- it’s the cars.

    Carla | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  19. I agree. It is the cars. Since when does every student need a car?

    Shane | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  20. I don’t have any answers, but I do believe that “suburban donut of death” is my new favorite phrase.

    Lesterlynn | May 29, 2012 | New Comment
  21. You have come on this site to complain about your neighbors for several years now, why don’t you move to the country? Why did you buy a home near the campus? How could you really be surprised when college kids kept moving next-door? The 300 foot rule finally died -- Thank God!

    Houses are cheap near college campuses and the reasons for this can be found by reading your posts over the years. We have cars today, I know that Duluth didn’t plan for new inventions, but it happened. If this city really did some planning instead of blaming, bitching, and creating crazy ordinances things would run much smoother.

    Sorry that I can’t keep feeling bad for you after you complaining for at least 5 years about your neighbors, but this is why in realty the old saying is location, location, location.

    Andy | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  22. @Andy, I’ve been complaining about this for more than 10 years now. As a result of all the “complaining” some intentional plans about how to create balance have been put into effect (ah, my old friend the 300′ rule, how I miss thee) / are being considered (overlay and 4 renters). I live in this neighborhood because I like the dynamic feeling, historic character, pleasant neighbors .. and it’s location, location, location. It’s NOT the students, it’s the lack of urban planning and thoughtful maturation of the college district that I decry. I’m not anti student! I’m pro student! Most students want to live in affordable housing near campus with a community of other students, with laundry, groceries, social opportunities .. not stuffed 6-by in decrepit cash machines that used to be single family homes run by profiteers. We need to incentiveize the Woodland school development by restricting the wholesale conversion of former single family homes to boarding houses. When the rental density is in check, families will return to the area and we can have some form of balance.

    baci | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  23. It indeed is the cars. I’ve lived in college towns for most of my life. I did not see in these other towns the problems with cars blocking alleys and parked on front lawns like I see here. Why do college students need so many damn cars anyway? When I was in college, there was some oversight about cars. I am pretty sure only juniors and seniors were allowed to have cars on campus. In other college towns I have lived in, students rode bicycles around town, or took the bus. Or walked, for god’s sakes. And we in the neighborhoods around the universities are all suffering because of this car-centric mentality students have — and the pandering to this mentality on the part of these slumlords.

    Claire | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  24. I have my own car, but I’m a mature professional and far more important than a college student.

    Paul Lundgren | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  25. It’s not just the neighborhoods around the campuses. I’m down in East Hillside and surrounded by party houses and students. At 11 every night, the streets and sidewalks get over-run by drunken, screaming co-eds. Many of them driving. There are a few houses where the students sort of take care of things and act like good neighbors. Then there’s that frat house on the corner that just put out 4-5 beer soaked armchairs on the street. The one that has had a sofa cushion stuffed into a broken window. Another one covered in plastic.

    The students have cars partially because many of them go home on the weekends. And partially because DTA really, really sucks. If transit were more efficient, it would really help.

    I agree wholeheartedly that this city desperately needs more pro-active planning and zoning. The student housing, the hospital parking lots… these are all issues that are strangling residents.

    I think the parking situation would be very much improved if we didn’t have the constant odd-even parking. That reduces the number of possible parking places by 1/4.

    emilymoesewco | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  26. A lot of students have cars because they have to get to work. They have to work because it costs so much to go to school now.

    bluenewt | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  27. Paul, I don’t think people need as many cars as so many Americans own these days, period. I grew up in a family of 11 kids. We all didn’t own cars, thank god, or our neighbors would have hated us. I think we owned 2 cars. Older siblings or parents drove younger siblings who needed rides. And there were days my father would walk to work. Minnesota has a car-centric culture. We need to work harder at making our public transit more sustainable, instead of buying more cars that need to be parked somewhere. Maybe, if there were a train between Duluth and the Twin Cities, more students from the TC would use it to go home on weekends and vacations than thinking they need to have a car to get them to their homes and back to school.

    Claire | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  28. This doesn’t much make sense to me. Students have to get to work since school costs so much, so…they can afford cars? If students had better access to mass transit, they would voluntarily go without cars? Respectfully, I think that this is false. Students drive cars because who doesn’t prefer to drive around in their own car, vs. standing waiting for a bus in 30 below weather for school/work/whatever?

    I didn’t have a car for a long time as a student, so I walked 2 miles each way to work as a waitress, and took the bus to school in St Paul. And then…I got a car!!! And drove EVERYWHERE because it’s so much more convenient, right? Which is why we are, most of us, driving to work/SuperOne/Farmers Market now?

    And we are stuck with noisy college students. I cringe when I recall now utterly noisy and disrespectful we as college students were to our residential neighbors; I actually thought then that we were being reasonable; I was sadly and badly wrong. I think that’s the nature of the college beast.

    Few students will voluntarily go without cars or be reasonably quiet after Party Night. So I strongly feel the answer is better zoning laws, and bring back the 300′ rule. Save our residential neighborhoods, which bring historic value and beauty to our city. Accomodate our students better, as they also bring value to our community.

    emmadogs | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  29. I can’t count the times I picked up trash in the parking lots around Bagley this year because students would drive to McDonalds/Taco Bell/whatever to grab lunch then toss the garbage. I love having the students here but agree that the car/fast food culture is a major pain.

    Terry G. | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  30. 300ft rule=socialism

    It is not the answer and created the current rental shortage and unaffordable rent.

    Houses were designed to have a certain amount of bedrooms. Make limits on how much can be changed to a house and still have it eligible for a rental license. Maybe make a bathroom to bedroom ratio?

    This area needs long term solutions, not overreactionary ordinances like the 300ft rule with free grandfather clauses for all slumlords.

    Andy | May 30, 2012 | New Comment
  31. Andy: bullshit.

    The 300-foot rule was an attempt at preserving our residential neighborhoods for the people who *permanently* reside there. It was an attempt at preserving the character of the houses and the integrity of our utilities infrastructure.

    Don’t like it, move to the country? Also bullshit. A kneejerk reaction not too much different from “get a job.” It’s an insult. And a poor one at that.

    Socialism = a word idiots use to mischaracterize ideas and people who give a shit about their community more than money.

    in.dog.neato | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  32. 1. I care a lot about this community, and I am looking beyond just creating some ordinance that solves nothing and doesn’t address the heart and soul of the issue.

    2. The 300ft rule lowered the value of houses that were not rentals and increased the value of houses with licenses. So it made slumlords more money, including many on our own city council who are landlords.

    3. I permanently have owned my home in the Endion area for 7 years now and plan on staying. When I was looking at houses the closer I got to campus the cheaper they were. There is a reason for that. Which was why I said real estate is all about location, location, location.

    Just knock down many of those tiny houses across the street from these campuses and build some giant apartment buildings like every other college town has done. Forget about refirbing schools to become apartments and just go clean slate.

    On the morning news it was reported that we have the highest rent in the state, we also pay more for gas in town, and our incomes sit low up here. This town needs to wake up and really address the issue instead of band-aids.

    I wouldn’t buy a cheap house near the campus because I know that I would live right next to college flophouses. So I bought farther away and still paid pretty low. If I really didn’t want to be near slumlords I would have bought a house out on Rice Lake Road or up by the mall.

    You need to face the fact that the hospital and colleges are what keep this town afloat. Embrace them, research how cities similarly sized have faced and handled these issues, and maybe rezone -- like the city has been doing.

    The 300 foot rule was lazy and was socialist in that it dictated how someone can use their property with no exceptions. We went through a housing crisis and the people who were hurt by the 300 foot rule were the very people you claim to want to protect. It grandfathered slumlords and didn’t address the heart of the issue. It also put people who lost their jobs into a more horrible situation as they couldn’t rent their house and move to a city that would give them a job.

    Andy | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  33. As for the 300′ rule, I can say that I had to foreclose on my house that I was unable to sell it in the bad housing market (and I was not able to rent it out to afford the cost of the mortgage).

    More students have cars because instead of having college housing within walking distance of colleges (like every other city), housing is spread far and wide across the city. Add in the fact that more students are working, many jobs have “do you own a car?” on their application, and the DTA is not a reliable solution for people who work odd hours (such as evening shifts -- common for college students).

    BadCat! | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  34. Andy, that ‘cheap houses near the campus’ comment sounds disrespectful to the legitimate property interests of those of us who can’t afford million dollar homes. No neighborhood should be relegated to the ‘trashed-out’ section of the city and just be told to shut up and live with it.

    Also, you are incorrect about ‘cheap houses’. I live behind Woodland Middle School. Our neighborhood is being taken over by student housing problems. The following houses are directly impacted: neighbor across the street whose house just listed for $400,000; neighbor at end of block whose house is listed for $450,000; neighbor around block whose house was listed at half a million; ditto across the street; two neighbors down the street with multi-million dollar properties that are listed on National Register of Historic Places.

    Which is to say that Duluth’s legacy, i.e. beautiful, historic old homes, of whatever size and price, continue to be threatened by this issue. As we lose these homes, so we lose the character of the city, and then why would anyone want to move here and contribute to our community?

    emmadogs | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  35. You know what really pisses me off today? After dropping my kid off at school this morning, I drove by our old house — which is on the market BTW — and the renters next door, who Mr. Claire says moved out yesterday, left a lawn full of crap — broken down looking furniture, trash, shit they don’t want anymore. And I saw a broken down couch on the curb down the street, around the corner from Baci’s house. If you move out of your rental, you take your trash to the dump, you don’t just leave it on the street. What is wrong with some people?

    And Emmadogs is right on. I have lived in this City for 18 years, in Chester Park the entire time. It is sad to see how a beautiful area with gorgeous old homes has deteriorated because the universities aren’t providing enough housing on/near campus for their students. I lived a half mile from Stanford University in the late ’70s. When there wasn’t enough housing, as the university was growing so fast, they bought trailers and parked them on campus. Thus, the neighborhoods nearby were not destroyed — as is happening here in Duluth.

    Claire | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  36. Here here Claire.

    Student housing on or near campus. Public transit that works. Decent zoning. Greening of the parking lots. These things add value to the city and encourage growth.

    It’s practically a platform for city office.

    emilymoesewco | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  37. I apologize for making the Chester or Woodland area seem “cheap,” I know there are tons of beautiful and expensive houses in the area. I just hated the laziness of the 300 foot rule. It solved nothing and in the end is creating more unintended problems… Duluth is one big unintended problem from the City Council and the self interest small town attitude from many members.

    A group came here and said there are serious issues to the way the city currently is set up and some major changes were needed. Those suggestions were never implemented. Just short sited “solutions” like the 300 foot rule.

    When I was looking to purchase my home I made a spreadsheet of every available house in Duluth. I then tried to find outlying homes that seemed to be the ugly duckling of their blocks.

    Looking at houses you can tell a rental from single family home. They are trashed and rooms were created everywhere out of nothing. Beautiful woodwork in a dining room hastily sheetrocked over to make a bedroom.

    There needs to be more than just rezoning on paper and city councilors who are slumlords themselves looking out for their friends interests. Woodland could be like Dinkytown and so could Kenwood. Be realistic about cars and let people make parking for a few cars. Tear down some houses that are beyond repair and open up some area.

    This is a unique city for it’s geography and history. We need long term planning, not just a mayor who says we will get to a certain population. You don’t get there without some really great planning and implementation.

    You don’t get their with a 300 foot rule.

    Andy | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  38. Andy, I agree whole heartily, let’s come up with reasoned and intentional ordinances which guide a balanced approach to this. Duluth can become a really cool college town if we had a district developed for the purpose of student living.

    I said I agree with you … except about the 300′ rule. It accomplished two very important things.

    1. Put some form of control on the issue. Allowed neighborhoods to catch their breath and see what balanced rental density could feel like.

    2. Spread the rentals throughout the city. Took the insane pressure that the neighborhoods surrounding the colleges off and thinned it out. More and more, everyone had to face this issue.

    baci | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  39. I think the spread out student rentals are the whole problem.

    emilymoesewco | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  40. Man, PDDers with whom I usually feel solidarity and respect just turn into jerks when this issue is at hand. Really, dudes.

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | May 31, 2012 | New Comment
  41. Maybe we’re sick of being told that we should just suck it up, bend over and take it or move to the country by people who have no idea what it’s like to live in our neighborhood.

    The 300-foot rule, while not perfect, was a step in the right direction. A city with a rental property density such as this needs to refine its residential zoning code. The issue as it is right now has gotten way out of hand because the number of rentals (licensed and otherwise) has gone unchecked for far too long.

    It’s not socialism. It’s common sense.

    in.dog.neato | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  42. A simple google search shows that wanting some form of control over the lack of balance isn’t freakish, socialist or even unheard of. Investors who buy homes for the purpose of seeking renters are running a boarding house, a small business. Often, they neglect their renters, the house, their neighbors and the community in the process. I’ve seen it happen for the last 10+ years here. Unfortunately, local government has stepped up to finally solve the issue and tabled and hemmed and hawwed every time .. until the 300′ rule. We finally had some form of control. That was allowed to lapse and the second it did, the flipping started again. I love my neighborhood, I love the diversity and dynamic and potential to evolve in a truly mixed use and balanced collegiate area. But it’s not going to happen until the loop holes are closed and we REALLY support students by creating an official district for them.

    baci | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  43. +1 baci.

    in.dog.neato | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  44. Decent housing for students benefits everyone. I favor regulations like: more than four bedrooms requires two bathrooms and two refrigerators, more than six bedrooms requires two kitchens. Substandard housing is bad for students and neighborhoods.

    Mags | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  45. I thought Duluth had an ordinance in effect to prevent front yard parking. How is somebody managing to lawfully pave enough space for six cars in a residential front yard?

    Dave P | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  46. Baci is right. While I was ambivalent about the 300′ rule, it did slow down the flipping. It’s accelerated since it lapsed, and, frankly, it’s out of control right now. BTW, there’s a broken down couch on the curb on 8th street, down from the 19th Street intersection. It’s been there for a week. I really don’t want the entire neighborhood to look like this, like people don’t care. And, a lot of times, people who rent rooms in boarding houses don’t give a shit when they move out. They don’t have to look at their garbage on the curb like those of us who live here permanently and have an investment in the neighborhood do. And I’m not talking financial investment.

    Claire | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  47. Regarding the parking spaces in the front yard, Mayor Ness wrote regarding the (then proposed) rental reform ordinance: “Yes, there are standards as to how and where parking can be created — the parking would have to be legal to qualify. You can’t blacktop your front yard.”

    What happened? Did that part of the ordinance not make it through or is this landlord in violation of the law?

    Barrett Chase | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  48. Isn’t this actually the back yard of this house? Front of house on 5th St, back on Woodland.

    Mags | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  49. According to the Duluth Legislative Code (Chapter 50, Article IV), legal parking on a “non-corner lot with dwelling unit and no garage” is in the rear yard or “the area between one side lot line and the nearest side wall of the dwelling unit and its extension to the improved street abutting the front yard.” In the photo above, it appears there is no side lot at all, therefore it seems to me that the only place for a legal parking spot would be in the rear yard.

    (See screenshot image)

    Barrett Chase | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  50. It is indeed the back lawn of a house on Fifth Street. The new parking lot will be on Woodland Avenue.

    Claire | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  51. +1 Mags

    I think if you had a bedroom to bathroom ration it would make things much better. No grandfathering though! 4 bedroom must have 2 bathrooms. 6 bedrooms must have 3 bathrooms and two kitchens.

    Make any rental license have stipulations and then make sure to fund the inspectors. Again, no grandfathering at all.

    These people who are horrible tenants and landlords need regulation like any business. Someone shouldn’t be able to just buy a small two bedroom house and make it into 6 bedrooms and just collect a ton of money. That business model never works. Regulating that would be much better than a 300 foot rule.

    I also feel that if you have no access to your backyard because your home was built when people rode horses and this town had great public transportation you shouldn’t be punished. It is lazy again to say that all parking must be in back or on the side of a home when some homes up here were built the same size as their lot with no rear entrance. I like the idea of knocking down those houses across from UMD and building apartments. Why hasn’t that happened yet?

    Is it because of zoning? Is it because it is too easy to convert small houses into rentals? What are other cities doing to make it more economical to build an apartment across from a campus than to have tiny houses over capacity?

    I went to SCSU and most of the houses across from the campus were rentals and then there were apartments everywhere. That school wasn’t as big as UMD. The neighborhood across from campus has neighborhood groups and lots of rules. One thing that seemed to curb house parties was that you had to have a permit to have a keg of beer in a house. The police were pretty quick to break up parties too.

    We should embrace the college area and work as a city to improve the area. I live in Endion and have mostly rentals around me, but the landlords usually do well to be picky of tenants and are pretty strict. Although the apartment behind me is owned by a slumlord and often has many shady characters and loud parties.

    Maybe a limit on how many properties one person can own and manage?

    We need ideas and more solutions based thinking. The 300 foot band-aid was like prohibition of alcohol. Why punish everyone while grandfathering in the problem landlords?

    Ending grandfathering in these ordinances would be a great place to start.

    Andy | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  52. Bah!

    This kind of front yard back yard quibble is how the system has been exploited up to now. Quick build outs pre-permit or whoops I accidentally built an extra bedroom or two … Profit for the individual investor on the backs of the neighbors or benefit of the greater community .. you choose.

    Until pressure is applied by ordinance and regulation, profiteering investors will continue to exploit these neighborhoods until there are no families left. Then, when UMD’s population contracts or when the Woodland development is completed, all that’ll be left will be formerly grand blighted homes. Yee Haw! Dig, baby, Dig!

    baci | Jun 1, 2012 | New Comment
  53. Andy, I completely agree with you re ending grandfathering. Another great place to start on this issue.

    emmadogs | Jun 3, 2012 | New Comment
  54. Bottom Line: Housing pressure in Duluth comes from students -- not from people moving here to take jobs and raise families.
    The new city code is anti parking and pro bus and walking. Hopefully neighborhoods will not suffer but will become more pedestrian friendly. Adolescent behavior is something that can’t really be adequately policed -- particularly in an environment where anti-tax forces have so much popular support.

    Carla | Jun 4, 2012 | New Comment

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