Letter to Lileks: Height Restrictions and Lake Calhoun

The following letter was emailed on January 1, 2017 to James Lileks regarding his December 31st column in the Star Tribune.


Regarding your recent article “The Right Place to go Tall” regarding height around Lake Calhoun, it is not so simple.  And you are wrong about it being the neighbors who were responsible.  The passing of the Shoreland Height Ordinance was a citywide effort. I know because I was a board member of one of the two citizens’ groups that was instrumental in getting the ordinance passed.

I lived in Bryn Mawr but like many residents of Minneapolis, I felt a responsibility to preserve our natural resources from being exploited.  When a 24 story tower was proposed on the CBC’s property across from Lake Calhoun, the residents of Minneapolis revolted.  We did not want the profit motive converting Lake Calhoun into another Miami or Chicago with a ring of high rises dominating the lake.  We wanted to protect nature and all the wildlife that made Calhoun its home.

It took two years and two lawsuits to get the Shoreland Height Ordinance passed.  It was a huge accomplishment and I have two volumes of articles to prove it.  Barbara Flanagan was a supporter.  Linda Mack was a supporter.  Barbara Carlson was a supporter and, as a city council member, one of the reasons it was able to get the city’s support.

I am writing you because it is painful to see you so casually trivialize a major successful citizen effort.

Arlene Fried
A Founding Member of ELECT–Emergency Lakes Environmental Coalition Task Force

The original Shoreland Height Ordinance was passed on May 13, 1988 and published  in Finance and Commerce on that date. Don Fraser was Mayor and Alice Rainville was council president.