Dave Reid

Apparently, My Mom Isn’t Welcome in Bay View

By - May 28th, 2009 01:59 pm
Yield Elderly People. Photo by bensons.

Yield Elderly People. Photo by bensons.

Recently I moved my mother from a single family home into a low-income subsidized senior housing development.  It wasn’t fun, or easy, but it was necessary.  It’s vitally important that all of our communities have facilities like these, as imperfect as they might be, to allow our aging population safe and clean housing to live in.  Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of affordable units, not just in Milwaukee or the Bay View neighborhood, but nationally.  For example, my mom’s building which is located in a suburb of Chicago, just like many of the other facilities she looked at both in Milwaukee and Chicago, has a waiting list of over a year to get in it.  It would great for her to be able to live in a neighborhood like Bay View where she might walk to the store, the lakefront, or to a park instead of having to drive.  It would be even better if she could, on her fixed-income, live in a development with almost no energy bills.  Unfortunately, after sitting through Tuesday May 26th’s neighborhood meeting on the proposed Eco Bay development I learned something bothersome about Bay View.

I say bothersome because of the arguments made against the proposal had little to do with design or the green components.  Throughout the meeting what many residents used as an argument against the proposal was that it didn’t “maximize tax base,” so it shouldn’t have been the winning proposal.  One of the many Bay View residents that opposed the project because of the senior housing component, stated that “if you’re building low-income senior housing you’re not maximizing tax base.”  For one, it needs to be pointed out that if “maximizing tax base” is truly the goal then high-rise buildings with lake views should have been allowed as a possible proposal during the RFP process.  Though comments by other residents indicating that they “don’t want lots of people in a congested space,” that the project should be “scaled down,” and the fact that Bay View recently passed an overlay district restricting heights, indicate that wasn’t a widely supported alternative.  So, this discussion of maximizing tax base was fascinating, misleading, and to me offensive.

Fascinating because the opposition was strong, vocal, and seemed organized, but beyond opposing low-income seniors being able to live in a new facility in Bay View, there wasn’t a lot of comment on the actual design.  Misleading and offensive because this discussion of “tax base” was an expression of fears over “low-income” people living in the neighborhood and hurting property values.

Yeah, pretty harsh words from me today, but what I learned at that meeting wasn’t that Bay View is committed to green living, sadly it was that my mom isn’t welcome in Bay View.  I truly hope somebody will prove me wrong.

Categories: Real Estate

21 thoughts on “Apparently, My Mom Isn’t Welcome in Bay View”

  1. Tegan says:

    Hey, Dave: There’s been a lot of talk about this on the Bay_View_Matters yahoo group — by no means is “Bay View” opposed to senior housing, or affordable housing, or even low income housing in this project, BUT there is a lot of confusion about it; there are many aspects to it; many of us are trying to form opinions although we lack confidence that we’ve absorbed or been exposed to all the facts.

    Bottom line: “Bay View” hardly speaks with one voice (it speaks with many, many, often garbled voices). This is by no means a settled matter.

  2. Juli Kaufmann says:

    I was sorry I could not attend this public meeting. I am interested in understanding more about what is proposed and the process for selecting Eco-Bay for the site. Conceptually, building affordable housing that incorporates renewable energy makes tremendous sense for seniors, particularly in dense, walkable communities. That element of the plan, from the little I know, sounds fantastic. I am more interested in understanding what made the proposal from the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) most competitive. Presumably it offers some really innovative environmental ideas, smart design, and a realistic plan for implementation. When an RFP is issued by our government, I think its important that the playing field is level, the selection is fair, and the process is transparent. When the selected project will be undertaken by a quasi-public organization like HACM (with a board selected by the mayor, appointed by the Common Council and staff housed within City of Milwaukee buildings), paying attention to the mechanics of the process is critically important. Since HACM has now been selected, we should also understand how the public good is best served by an organization that can leverage tools not available to private sector developers. I am not suggesting that the outcome was inappropriate, merely that given the choices made, stakes involved, and use of public resources, that exceptional transparency should be the rule.

    In the spirit of transparency, I should say that I was involved in the planning and submission of proposals with three of the seven teams that competed for this RFP. I can say from first-hand knowledge that this was a really tough project to work out financially given the proposed sale price of the land and the aggressive environmental goals. Each team I worked with struggled to come up with a good plan that could be successful and improve Milwaukee. I harbor no personal disappointment about the outcome, since I truly believe we need everybody working toward a more environmentally sustainable Milwaukee. I really do hope that HACM can transform the site and look forward to learning more as plans proceed. Perhaps Urban Milwaukee can follow-up with another story in the weeks ahead that shares details about the plans so we can debate the merits of the design, environmental goals, and overall impact on our community. I look forward to that discussion.

  3. CarolV says:

    Very nice and thoughtful article. It was unfortunate that the presenters of the idea were unable to allay the fears of the masses who may have had limited information or only part of a picture of the thing. The proposal seemed to be in strict keeping with the SE Side Milwaukee Comprehensive Planning document from DCD which had ample community input so its surprising to see the uproar on things that were specifically included and signed off on by the BV community and elected officials just a few short months ago.

  4. Nate Holton says:

    I just shook my head when I read that article and saw that the opposition seemed to focus on the tax base as their primary rationale. How often to neighborhood people look at a local project and place a mostly city-wide, dispersed effect at the top of their list of concerns? It’s difficult to see this as anything other than code for: we don’t want low-income people in our neighborhood. This should not be a surprise, class/race issues are amongst Milwaukee’s greatest longterm challenges. They pervade many a policy matter beneath the surface, and way too many people are either blind to that or unable/unwilling to confront these issues in a productive way. Milwaukee’s current atmosphere of “mostly pretend these issues don’t exist and occasionally use them divisively for political gain” is anathema to progress, and it will continue to create substantial inertia at every turn.

    I hope that the civicly active folks who have wonderfully come together to create progress on projects like the UWM water school and the Zweig project are also willing to come together on issues related more directly to poverty and class/race. Both of those projects serve to improve Milwaukee’s culture and image, which is believed to result in attracting business and talent in a way that will boost Milwaukee’s economy. Another piece of Milwaukee’s “image” problem involves one of the highest poverty rates in the country and massive segregation. Addressing those issues would do infinitely more for Milwaukee’s economy than sticking a building in one location as opposed to another location. Until these issues are addressed by the entire community in a productive way, Milwaukee’s ceiling will remain relatively low.

  5. Ms Jones says:

    Yes, we are all grandma haters who can’t wait for the seniors in our neighborhoods to die so we can buy their homes and throw PBR street fests on their blocks.

    Come on!

    Dave I don’t recall you or your mother speaking in support of this project at the meeting, but I may have missed it. There were actually three very well-spoken proponents at the public meeting, with very good points about the need for senior housing and the need for density, etc, etc. Or so we’ve been told. I would like to point out that there are four senior housing buildings in this immediate area: one a block away on Linus, one owned by HACM a few blocks away on Lincoln, one on Winchester, and another on KK/Russell/Logan. North Bay View has plenty of senior housing buildings, including the Bay View Manor which currently has vacancies. There is also talk of turning the massive Hide House building into similar housing. If anything, my neighborhood already has a high concentration of senior housing. It’s hard for me to grasp that we need more (I’m told that, but haven’t seen these seniors first hand to hear from them) . We have no grocery stores, no medical clinics, and no hospitals on this end of Bay View, none of the things that as a senior I would want. So why is this site so ideal?

    As a person who lives three blocks from the site, and a person who is deeply invested in the home I own and the community I live in, I did attend and did speak. You allude to the fact that all of the speakers were “well organized”, as if we met beforehand and came up with a common strategy. This was not the case, to my knowledge. Each neighbor and interested party came on their own accord and spoke honestly and intelligently, imo. Speakers were of a diverse age, were homeowners, business owners, business association members, social workers, and even one guy from Madison who attended because he had a career and interest in such projects.

    The feeling I get from it all is that the immediate neighbors didn’t want high density housing on this land even before the RFP was written; the RFP asks that proposals ahere to zoning code, which calls for LIMITED high density housing, and the RFP calls for proposals to maximize the tax base. None of these requirements are met by the HACM proposal – which proposes 80% multi-family units. Likewise, the DCD and HACM, as Julie states, were not very transparent about the proposals, did not share the other proposals with the community, and refuse to disclose who the residents were on the review committee.

    I guess as a neighbor, I feel a bit blind-sided and shocked by this proposal. Call me a grandma hater if you will, but I read the original RFP. I read all of the press releases about this great net-zero energy development we were going to get in our neighborhood. And I never expected it to be tied to subsidized senior housing. The green movement is something I generally associate with young professionals, not senior citizens. This is not to say they are not deserving of this development, and as you and Julie point out – it makes sense for them to have no energy bills. It just was not was I expecting for this site, nor what I personally think is best suited for this site. But I’m just a tax-paying neighbor with an opinion.

    It has been pointed out recently that in fact, the South East plan targeted this site as ideal for senior housing. The citizens who were chosen to sit on the committee decided that for us. Then why didn’t the city allude to that in its RFP? That any proposal needed to include a certain percentage of senior housing?

    The limited literature and displays on hand regarding the design and eco-friendly components I didn’t really have an issue with. I do wonder how HACM will manage this property – who will do the upkeep of the solar panels, the geo-thermal heating, dual flush toilets, etc. I have seen how HACM manages its building a few blocks away, and if this is our future, I don’t want it.

    We drove by the site again last night, and I have to tell you, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the idea of 168+ new neighbors in that block. I live in Milwaukee and Bay View in particular because of the unique nature of the neighborhood, which to this point, has been pretty much LOW density. And I like it that way. It’s a community made up of single-family homes and flats, with some apartment buildings and a few condos thrown in here and there. I don’t want high density. If I did, I’d move to Chicago.

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @MS Jones I’ll respond to more of this in a bit. Yes, there were a couple of people who spoke up for senior housing and density. In fact during one speaker the crowd boo’d and someone sitting near me shouted “shut up and sit down.” And lots of people said this kind of housing is needed, just not in my neighborhood.

    So let me ask, what is actually wrong in your view with the proposal, not the process, the proposal? The density?

  7. Ms Jones says:

    Dave with all due respect, I believe the boos were when she said she thinks the building should be even taller. I can’t blame people for that. The folks who have lived on Logan for all these years with great sunshine don’t want to be in the shadow of a tall building. Can you blame them? The person who said she should “shut up and sit down” is obviously just a rude jerk. I was very impressed with ALL of the speakers that day, who all had valid points and positions.

    In my view, I think the proposal leans too heavy on the senior apartments. 80% of this entire development is aimed at that. I would prefer they scale that portion down. Make it 25%. Maybe even 50%. I just feel it’s too high, esp. considering the senior housing we already have in that part of Bay View, as well as recent talk of making Hide House into similar housing. I would prefer to see Hide House become the senior housing; its an extremely large building that already has the structure in place for high density housing. Bay View to me does not feel like a “high density” place; again that’s why I chose to live there. There are nice yards and green space and access to the lake; it’s walkable and bikeable and parkable. As the Third Ward continues to build high density residences that are spilling into the Fifth ward, I sincerely hope they don’t spill into Bay View. I like living in a city and having access to all the city amenities, yet feeling like I live in a small community where I know all my neighbors.

    My other issue is with HACM running this building. They were very vague on the LLC that would be created to manage this unique and complex sustainable property. While they may win awards for their building and design, it’s the property management that scares me. Many of us know how hard it is to combat absentee landlords and nuisance neighbors. I don’t want to have to go to battle with such a large space if it turns out to become a nuisance (i.e. – when the seniors we were told would be moving in end up not being seniors, as has happened in other properties).

  8. Dave Reid says:

    @MS Jones The point about the boos and such is well it was pretty hostile to opposing views. Though I’d add height is generally how you get density, and tax-base incidentally. Quite frankly I was offended by the “tax-base” discussion, because really what does that mean?

    PS 200 residents over 5.6 acres is just not high density. It is middling (if that) density 35/acre.

  9. MilwaukeeD says:

    Ms Jones, I have looked at the RFP: http://www.mkedcd.org/realestate/ArmyReserveSite/RFP.pdf

    It is clear that the RFP states, “Any mix of taxable single-family, townhouse and multi-family residential units that positively impacts the surrounding residential neighborhood is allowed. There must be between 75-150 residential units on the site.”

    The “limited” you are referring to is what the current zoning allows, not what was asked for by the RFP. In order for a development to be green, it should have a certain level of density. 75-150 units on that site is not unreasonable.

    Also, it does not say maximize the tax base, it says expand the tax base and maximize the benefit to the city. Tax base is one of several goals and requirements of the RFP, and certainly should not always be the primary goal. If it was, then 1,000 units should be built on the site.

  10. MilwaukeeD says:

    PS, the debate that I heard said that there isn’t any QUALITY senior housing in Bay View. There is a big difference between senior housing and quality senior housing.

  11. Ms Jones says:

    @Milwaukee D – you are right – it does call for ANY MIX. However it’s currently zoned as RT4 – which allows for “limited multi-family”, and the RFP asks for ADHERENCE to the zoning code. This proposal would not adhere to current code. I asked at the meeting if a variance would be sought, per the RFP, or if it had already been granted. My question was not answered. Seems to me that the RFP kind of contradicted itself.

    And actually it does not say “maximize the benefit to the city” (what would that mean anyways?), it says “Expand tax base and maximize the return to the City”. To me, return means money – return means property tax income. When I hear “federally subsidized housing”, I don’t think of that as maximizing return. Now, it is correct that high-density housing could mean more units to base a tax on and could generate more revenue than say, 44 single-family homes at that same site. But when that question was posted to DCD – what is the differential? – they also couldn’t provide an answer for that.

    I don’t see why one would be offended by a discussion of tax base. Do you own a home? What it means to me is that in this time of state, city, and county government budget crunches, I want our city to do the financially prudent thing and be sure that a development will generate property tax income for them. There were some in the audience who feel that this property could end up as a tax exempt property (the senior housing portion), just as Lincoln Ave is, which again in the RFP is listed as a prohibited use. As a homeowner, this is a very valid discussion to me, as my tax bill had been going up 10 – 12% many years.
    I would assume the offense is taken by placing a higher value on the need for senior housing than on the need to increase property tax revenues.

    And yes, the debate did talk about quality senior housing. But you could just as easily say there isn’t much quality single-family housing in Bay View. Homes are 80 to 100 years old in this part of the city. Many were absentee landlord owned for years and require a lot of investment to get them up to standards.

    The RFP called for 75-150 units. The proposal is for roughly 168, so definitely on the high-end, according to the homeowners in the area, who will be directly impacted by the development.

  12. MilwaukeeD says:

    I thought it was pretty clear that there are no tax-exempt uses in the HACM proposal.

    Also, where are you getting your info? 168 units? Every article published on this says 140. Here are a few examples:

    120 senior units, 12 single-family and 8 townhouses.

  13. Ms Jones says:

    That’s what they said, but I don’t know if I believe it. But that’s just me.

    My info was from the notes I took at the presentation. I could have it backwards, but I thought the woman from Quorum Architects said 12 single family, 8 townhouses (so 16 units), and 130 apartments, so my bad, 158 (kept thinking 12 townhouses for 24 units).

  14. Dave Reid says:

    @MS Jones Don’t own a home, I’m a renter, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pay property taxes. I do, all renters do. Further in a discussion about low-income senior housing when the majority of the complaints are about the plan not “maximizing tax base” (especially when we know the neighborhood wouldn’t really allow maximizing tax-base i.e. high-rise and dense) what comes through is that poor, let alone elderly, people aren’t welcome. Sorry but that’s how I read that meeting.

  15. Boots says:

    I worked for one of the competing firms and have our presentation drawings available if you’d care to see it. I personally think our design fits in much better with Milwaukee and Bayview. I’m just a little miffed that the city chose a design by one of its own entities, it just seems a little fishy to me. I wonder why they even bothered with requesting proposals.

  16. Ms Jones says:

    @Dave – First off, yeah my numbers are off – I was doubling the townhome number that had already account for two units per building.

    I can see how you would walk away from a meeting with that feeling (that elderly aren’t welcome), even though I don’t feel that was really what the neighbors were getting at. It has become clear to me that any proposed federally subsidized housing for the elderly or low-income is going to be a sensitive topic, I just wish the city would have been more up front about their desires for this parcel. Yes, it was visualized as such in the south-east side plan, but let’s be honest, not every resident is going to participate in those plans, or download the plans and pay attention to all of the details. You can be sure I will now. Also, regarding that plan, I don’t recall a survey being sent out to South East side residents seeking their input for the plan. I do recall receiving and filling one out for downtown. Wonder if I missed it or one just wasn’t done.

    Also – re: property taxes. Realize that as a renter, property tax increases are not always passed on to you. When my taxes and water bills were going up $400 to $600 per year, I certainly wasn’t able to raise my rent by $30 – $50 a month every year. So a lot of times, the owners are absorbing that cost, and feeling the pinch more than you would as a renter.

  17. JCG says:

    This all sounds eerily (and sadly) similar to the raucous license committee meetings regarding a liquor license for AK food mart at the Howell/Lincoln/KK triangle. The low-income housing complex in the vicinity was clearly the true inspiration for most of the ugly tone from the opposition, of which there were a lot, about “vagrants”, “transients” and such. While I love visiting Bay View, largely owing to it’s diverse and ecclectic community atmosphere, I cannot help but notice that a lot of the community leaders in Bay View can barely hide the fact that they don’t see that diversity as an asset. And that’s putting it very mildly. As Ald. Kovac noted about this phenomenon: “disturbing”.

  18. JCG says:

    …and that’s all by way of agreeing with Dave that, in this instance and many others, talk of “tax base” is thinly veiled dog whistle language for opposition to low-income citizens and developments. I know it well, having moved here from the suburbs where that kind of attitude andlanguage rules the roost, but someone doesns’t have to hve experience with it – rather you only need to look into the mechanisms of gentrification to see that pattern in this kind of language.

  19. Dave Reid says:

    @JCG I agree the AK situation was very very disturbing, and yes similar. That one got me mad… and it was clear as day what happened there…

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