Entries Tagged 'Development' ↓

Sioux Falls Mayor TenHaken taps former Thune and Rounds staffer for Housing Development Manager

Logan Penfield was tapped 2 months ago according to his profile. He does have educational and professional government experience (unlike some of Paul’s past appointments) but I found it interesting that the circles Mr. Penfield runs in probably contributed to his appointment.

When I think of affordable and accessible housing advocacy, the Republican Party usually doesn’t rank high on that list. (FF 9:40 to hear is introduction);

Sioux Falls City Councilor Selberg should recuse himself from Bunker Ramp negotiations

During the informational this afternoon the council discussed what next to do with the Bunker Ramp;

A public parking ramp that took nearly a decade and more than $20 million to build in downtown Sioux Falls could be sold to a private developer.

During a Tuesday informational meeting at Carnegie Town Hall, city councilors urged Mayor Paul TenHaken’s administration to consider all options when picking a new partner to build at the Mall Avenue and 10th Street site.

And that includes selling the entirety of the seven-story ramp that opened in July 2020 and is equipped to handle up to eight additional stories. The site has gone undeveloped since a mixed-use parking ramp project fell apart in 2019.

I do agree with councilors that they should take the best deal and I also agree with councilor Soehl that we need to use a 3rd party to vet the investors properly. I am also partially in agreement with what councilor Merkouris said;

Rich Merkouris said he’s apprehensive about giving any tax breaks to the eventual buyer unless they use the space to add residential stock downtown.

“For me personally, I would struggle incentivizing anything outside of housing unless it was a part of the bigger package,” he said.

I would go a step further and say there should be NO incentives. Anyone who takes over this property is being given a site in a plum location with an opportunity to do well. The taxpayers have already incentivized this project, there is absolutely NO reason to hand out more candy. Find an honest free market developer who has a solid plan to make it successful, then you don’t need to worry about tax incentives. It was also pointed out it is in an opportunity zone which means there will be some incentives to build there without city tax payers help.

But what what really pissed me off was having councilor Selberg sit in on meetings and negotiations for future use. NO councilor that helped approve this pile of sh!t should be involved. It should either be handed over to a new councilor or Pat Starr who opposed this. It would be like hiring the guy who rear ended your car to fix it. Any councilor who approved this should not be in closed door meetings trying to cover up their mistakes. We need councilors with a clear conscience to negotiate this deal with a focus on hyper transparency.

These knuckleheads learn very little from past mistakes.

The Sioux Falls City Council could have stopped Wholestone Foods

A group filed paperwork today in opposition to the Wholestone Foods ballot initiative. But all of this legal wrangling could have been avoided.

The mayor and council have stated several times there is nothing they can do to stop WF from building a slaughterhouse, but that isn’t true.

As I have mentioned in the past, after Shape Places passed both the council and voter’s muster it was set in ordinance (city charter law) but that doesn’t mean the city council can’t amend it. They have already amended it several times when it comes to signage and building codes.

As it stands right now, the power of the council to either accept or reject conditional use permits for large projects like this was eliminated in Shape Places.

BUT, after the ballot initiative signature drive started the council could have easily amended Shape Places within 30 days and brought back conditional use permits for projects of this nature. They could have rejected most of the permits, especially when it comes to water usage.

The mayor and council are telling you they are powerless to stop this train, but that isn’t true.

Top Down approach to affordable housing is a ruse

Ever since the Reagan administration introduced trickle-down economics governments across our country have experimented with it. It simply doesn’t work. The concept is that if you give tax breaks to the very top it somehow will help the ones below in better jobs and housing. In fact it has done the opposite, expanding the wealth gap.

The cat was let out of the bag during this interview yesterday that the TIF sponsored housing development in SW Brandon was depending on the tired old broken system of trickle-down;

Meanwhile, Karl Fulmer, the executive director of Affordable Housing Solutions in Sioux Falls, told DNN that these TIF-paid city developments are an effective way of addressing affordable housing.

“The benefit of just building more houses in the $250,000 to $400,000 range still provides the unit, and you can see the transition out of more affordable units from those who might make enough to buy homes in that price range”, Fulmer said.

In other words, these new houses in new “accessible housing” developments actually are not for those most struggling to find affordable housing the most. They are far those who bought smaller, older “starter houses” in town that cost less than $250,000 and are ready to move out of them.

The true affordable housing comes in those starter houses. And the more new “accessible” houses funded by city TIFs that are built, the more those older, smaller houses become available to lower income people.

[insert laughter]

If you speak with anyone in the real estate business they will tell you that these homes are usually owned by lower income people, families, retired folks or rental property, they are not the Jeffersons moving on up. And even if what he was saying was true, most of the homes being sold in this development will go to NEW homeowners not people looking for a step up. In fact, I have argued that many of the starter homes in the lower price range (mostly in the core of the city) have more square feet and bigger yards (and basements) than what these new homes will have.

A better approach would be addressing the housing crisis we have with the people who are having the crisis;

Pat Starr, who represents the northeast district, also told Dakota News Now on Monday that city government is continuing to “dig a hole” by continuing to dig literal holes to build homes partly funded in part by Tax Increment Financing (TIFs).

“We need to talk about the real causes of the housing issues in our city rather than trying to put a band-aid and build 65 houses, which is what this program will do.” Starr said.”

“It’s not the program I’m concerned as much about as as I am figuring out who we’re trying to help. And, it seems to me we have a wage issue more than we have a housing issue.”

We must be giving a helping hand to those who are at the bottom first to lift the other boats. The city has decades long programs in place including low interest Community Development loans and grants. We also need to upgrade the existing infrastructure in our core such as streets and lighting. We can do all this using existing money in our 2nd penny and Federal dollars.

The president of Sioux Metro Growth Alliance, which helps people with payment on houses in rural and suburban communities surrounding Sioux Falls, disagrees.

“If you look at wage growth around the country and in the Sioux Falls market in the last three years, it’s been astronomical,” Jesse Fonkert said.

While wages have increased in SF, inflation and housing costs have been beyond astronomical and have wiped away any wage increases.

But Fonkert does agree with Starr’s assessment that continuing these city-funded housing projects is not solving the affordable housing crisis.

“It’s a challenging situation, because if you spend too much money on government programming, you’ll have companies that will just hike their prices up,” Fonkert said.

Notice the Sioux Steel District and Cherapa II projects didn’t announce they were building hundreds of units of affordable housing after receiving a combined TIF payout of $50 million. Developers will always go where the money is, and that is how a FREE market system works. But tax rebates for parking ramps attached to condos isn’t fixing anything it’s just making that wealth gap larger.

The water problem with Wholestone’s packing plant

Recently Joe Kirby wrote a post about why another slaughterhouse is NOT a good idea for Sioux Falls;

Slaughterhouses are a horrible fit for our community. Affordable housing and workforce availability are already huge concerns. The idea of adding lots of difficult, low-paying, low-skill jobs, the type that have traditionally been a drag on our progress and success, makes no sense to me. And expanding the presence inside our city of an industry which has long caused pollution problems in our river and air makes no sense. I simply don’t understand why we would want more of this in Sioux Falls.

I agree, I don’t want another slaughterhouse built, but I would much more prefer there was an effort to not only STOP Wholestone but to close down Smithfields.

The issue with this entire fiasco has nothing to do with Wholestone vs. the Citizens vs. the City, it has to do with South Dakota voters, including right here in Sioux Falls who vote against their own interests. When the City Council passed Shape Places, several citizens said this was a bad thing and wanted to see some changes to the zoning ordinances, so they referred it to a vote. The development community along with some councilors said nothing to see here, move along, and the voters ultimately passed the original plan.

The argument then is still the argument today, Shape Places took power away from the council to make conditional use decisions, and when you take power from our citizen representatives, you take power from us.

I think if the council still had that power instead giving total control over to the developers Wholestone would have been denied by the Council or scaled way back and it has little to do with water quality or air quality, it has to do with water supply.

Where do you think WF will get their water? The reason WF is building within the city limits has nothing to do with the labor market, it has to do with using city resources, they will be using a lot.

Besides letting the developers take over almost all branches of city government we have also let them plan this city instead of the government and citizens;

Granted, the city does a lot of planning. It has a parks plan, a capital spending plan, a downtown plan and much more. But I am not aware of any sort of comprehensive plan for our city with direct participation of the mayor and council.  In support of that, some council members and candidates have told me they wished they could be involved in that sort of big-picture, strategic planning. If there was such a plan, I doubt it would have included the phrase, “add more slaughterhouses”.

This is something Janet Brekke stressed in her entire 4 years on the council. Her colleagues on the dais ignored her and did nothing. I think if she would have gotten re-elected and we would have changed a couple of other seats, Brekke would have been successful moving it forward.

Once again, in Sioux Falls and the rest of the state we continue to vote against our own best interests, and until that changes, you will see NO change in the status quo; DEVELOPERS RUN OUR CITY.

Mayor TenHaken pens rare Op Ed

Imagine my surprise when I found this Op Ed by the Mayor in the Argus today. I can’t remember the last time he wrote an Op Ed in the Argus (or should we say one of his minions). I suspect there has been some push back by VIPs in the community about crime prevention;

Our per-capita violent crime rates have been largely flat for the past decade, and that is true again for 2022.

While this is true when you compare to population growth, the crimes have become more violent and drug related. I’m not putting this entirely on PTH, even though he has had 4 years to do something about it. The past two police chiefs essentially hid in their offices doing little to address the drug related crimes. Chief Thum has decided to tackle it with 1,000 times more transparency than the last couple of guys but he does need the mayor, his boss, to step up.

The Sioux 52 Mentoring Initiative was set up to intentionally begin addressing challenges we were seeing with juvenile crime. 

I commend this program. Mentoring is essential to help keep youth out of trouble. After winning re-election PTH handed the program over to the HelpLine Center. I’m fine with that except when an elected official starts an initiative they need to stick with even after leaving office. It’s one thing to applaud mentoring programs but on the other hand turn them over to a private entity.

Crime largely has to do with economic status. I don’t believe middle class and lower middle class individuals in Sioux Falls ever fully recovered from the 2008 recession in which wages were frozen for several years. While businesses complain they can’t find workers and can’t afford to pay more, the problem is they never kept up to begin with, wages were stagnant for over a decade while the cost of housing has skyrocketed. The math just doesn’t add up.

It’s the tale of two cities. Over the summer I have decided to ride my bike through neighborhoods (logging almost 3,000 miles since last November) and came to the conclusion that 18th street (west to east) is the dividing line. The further South you go the better the residential neighborhoods, the further North, not so much. While there are pockets like extreme NE and NW for the most part the city is divided in economic status, infrastructure upgrades and housing.

When Janet Brekke was on the council she pushed hard for a pilot program to fix up some of these neighborhoods which would have required a heavy lift from the city when it comes to infrastructure. The solution the city offered was slab on grade tract homes between Brandon and Washington HS. Hardly what Brekke was envisioning. If we don’t address building density in our core for affordable housing in this community ASAP I’m afraid crime is only going to get worse.

Fighting crime means fighting for a more sustainable economy in Sioux Falls, FOR EVERYONE! As that line on 18th street gets wider crime is only going to rise.

Downtown Sioux Falls organization wants to increase the bid tax

Thank goodness we have a new media source in Sioux Falls covering City Hall, otherwise I would not have had any idea DTSF was planning this;

Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc. (DTSF) this month will ask the Sioux Falls City Council to get behind a proposal to get rid of a decades-old cap on the amount of revenue it can collect on parcels within the boundaries of what’s known as the Main Street Business Improvement District (BID). 

However, not everyone is on board. 

Duff Robinson, owner of a pair of properties in the northern end of downtown, said he’s not opposed to lifting the cap. But he said DTSF could capture additional revenues with a more modest change to the special assessment.

Rather than leaving the base rate of the special assessment at $1.50 per $1,000 of valuation for downtown buildings and adding a 50-cent tax on valuation beyond the $1 million value, Robinson said DTSF could capture additional dollars by lowering the base rate and relying on the overall valuation increases assessed on downtown properties by the county equalization office and a reduced base rate for the BID.

“With an 18 percent increase in valuations, they’re going to get an increase anyway even if they don’t approve this,” Robinson said, referring to average assessment increases placed on downtown properties in 2021. “I’ve come to terms with removing the cap, but I just think they should flatten it out.”

Here’s a better idea, STOP HANDING OUT $50 MILLION DOLLAR TIFS FOR PARKING RAMPS DOWNTOWN.

Isn’t it ironic that DTSF is the first to hit the podium at Carnegie talking about all the TIFilicious benefits of Tax Increment Financing then turns around and asks for a tax increase to fund its organization. Make the organization DTSF and its employees a division of the city and fund it thru the general fund and parking fund.

When disgruntled, angry developers and bondsters look me straight in the face and tell me I am lying when I point out TIFs only raise taxes on the rest of us I gladly point to this proposed increase which is a prime example of how we give massive tax cuts to very top developments downtown then turn around and increase taxes on everyone else.

Duff is correct, the increase in valuations on properties over $1 million could cover the spread, if only they were paying 100% of property taxes on day one instead of 20 years down the road.

Just further proof that TIFs don’t spur true economic development just higher taxes for the rest of us.

Downtown Sioux Falls Crane Collapse accident(?)

As reported after the incident, the developer claimed that it wasn’t an accident. This is the definition of the word;

an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.

Seems the canary is singing a different tune today;

Following a 200-foot crane collapse at The Steel District in downtown Sioux Falls, the project is back on track, according to Lloyd Companies. 

The front counterweight separated from the crane and we had the crane tipped over, fortunately, that’s all that really came of it. (There was) very little damage to any precast,” Lloyd Company’s Chief Operating Officer Jake Quasney said. “As you can see now, the building is moving right along.”

As I mentioned before OSHA doesn’t show up to a work site to investigate NOTHING or to be CAUTIONARY. On top of that one of OSHA’s main duties is inspecting cranes before they can be used on a work site;

Companies, supervisors, and workers may not be fully aware of the hazards of operating cranes.  As a result, they may not have implemented proper policies and procedures to minimize risks.  One mechanism to safely evaluate and prepare for risks is through the use of a Job Safety Analysis (“JSA”) or Risk Assessment, which is standard in the industry.  When this does not occur, it can result in catastrophic personal injury or death.  In a JSA, each step of the job is examined to identify potential hazards and to recommend the safest way to perform the work in order to minimize those risks.  According to OSHA:

A job hazard analysis is a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur. It focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment. Ideally, after you identify uncontrolled hazards, you will take steps to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level.

Folks, this appears to be an accident caused by mechanical failure. I await the results of the OSHA report.

UPDATE II: Will OSHA investigate the Crane Collapse in Sioux Falls?

UPDATE II: Looks like it is lot easier to tip a crane than to turn it back over.

The developer really needs a communications person reviewing these statements before releasing them;

“We know what happened with the equipment, and it was not anything to do with our building,” said Jake Quasney, chief operating officer of developer and general contractor Lloyd Cos. “We had a failure when it came to that piece of equipment.”

And why would it have anything to do with the structure itself? Am I missing something here?

“OSHA came in even though it wasn’t a workplace accident but out of an abundance of caution,” Quasney said.

So was it a morning donut break gone awry? Using caution is what you are supposed to do BEFORE using the crane, not after the fact. OSHA is investigating because it was AN ACCIDENT. Good thing the crane wasn’t lifting BS, could have been a lot worse,

UPDATE: A reliable source told me this afternoon that OSHA is investigating the crane collapse.

I first want to say I am grateful no one was injured or killed today at the Sioux Steel project crane collapse.

But if you do a little digging, you will see this happens across the United States.

No one was injured in the incident and Lloyd Cos. said it is continuing to investigate the incident alongside local authorities.

I rode my bike by tonight and the crane was in the same position it was this morning. This of course could mean that OSHA will be on site to investigate. I hope so. This is NOT the duty of the local FD or PD, this is a work safety issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated by the FEDS.

As a person who worked construction as a teen and have had many interactions with OSHA we cannot depend on city officials to make a judgement of what happened. There could be a thousand different reasons, but most likely the crane was NOT set up properly or put on ground that was NOT stable. There also could have been mechanical failures. At this point speculation is useless until it is fully investigated.

Homeless advocates email council to vote against Task Force

While I support the task force to combat homelessness, I do agree with a couple of aspects from the people who emailed the city council to oppose it. The data and research has been done for several years, you just need to act and I think the TF should consist of stakeholders in the neighborhood, not friends of the mayor and council. Michelle makes some good points about the opportunity to act over the years. Mayor TenHaken promised in his 1st campaign he would make it a priority, the problem has only gotten worse. It will be an interesting debate tonight.

The first email is from former city councilor Michelle Erpenbach;

Good afternoon, City Council members.

Thank you for your service, and for taking a few minutes to review my reasons for asking you to vote no tomorrow on item 76 — against yet another Homeless Task Force. I would be there in person Tuesday, but I will be working in a neighborhood where Thrive’s Kid Link initiative is supporting programming that seeks to help prevent homelessness among children in our schools.

Homelessness is a complex topic that does not have a single silver-bullet solution. It takes many individuals and organizations with like minds and missions, working collaboratively! Your proposed new task force would splinter existing efforts while ignoring work that has been done recently — and continues to be done – by city staff, Helpline and other local non-profits, members of the Thrive Housing Action Team, and by the city/county Accessible Housing Advisory Board.

It’s time to stop studying and start doing, friends. I’m happy to schedule time to help you catch up with this important topic. In the meantime, please review these links and my comments:

  1. Thrive Housing Action Team (including city, county, and federal staff!) created a Housing Retention Specialist in 2021. Pilot program at East River Legal Services has successfully prevented eviction for 9 families and their children in just a year of operation. The real need? City partnership to take this from pilot to sustainability. Read more: https://siouxfallsthrive.org/children-families-secure-housing/. These conversations are already in the works.
  2. The Accessible Housing Advisory Board, city staff Amos Abu, and a variety of housing stakeholders including Helpline Center and Thrive are working on a Housing Navigation Portal that will help connect tenants with potential housing that meets their existing needs and budget. The real need? Council support and funding to help make the portal a reality.
  3. Former city housing staff (Chellee Unruh) met with clients of the St. Francis House and others to learn more about specific needs from that unique community. The real need? I would recommend reviewing this existing data, so you get a better understanding of this topic from the people living it every day.
  4. Thrive Housing Action Team (again, including city, county, and federal staff) created the OneRoof project that is providing wraparound services for those families who are most difficult to house. This is no longer a pilot and is thriving inside The Community Outreach. Read more: https://siouxfallsthrive.org/oneroof-evaluation/The real need? City support for the unmet needs that some of these folks continue to have.
  5. City/county project Just Home is tackling homelessness for those people impacted by the justice system. The real need? Council members to become well-versed in this important project and ready to support proposals that will come your way within months.
  6. Key non-profits are providing services for our unhoused neighbors. The real need? City council members to acknowledge the important work of St. Francis House, Bishop Dudley and UGM, and encourage them to work together in a stronger spirit of collaboration.
  7. Finally, the biggest need is for more local money without state/federal strings attached for building housing that is affordable to the poorest of our neighbors. Those in the 30% of AMI range. This comes in the form of a Housing Trust Fund. Even Rapid City has an HTF now and it is fully funded while the city of Sioux Falls didn’t grasp the idea when it was proposed 10 years ago. Thrive’s Housing Action Team is taking the challenge and will have a presentation for you in the coming months.

Again, please don’t splinter ongoing work and collaborations. Please encourage the city to instead join these organizations in building a better partnership and collective impact.

Stop studying and start doing.

Michelle Erpenbach

President

Sioux Falls Thrive

The second email is from Anny Libengood from Minnehaha County Human Services;

Hi, I am a social worker and was a front line worker at Human Services for 18 years. Most recently I was the Housing Navigator. During this time, I became closely and extensively involved in the lives of many vulnerable people in addition to learning the inner workings of community resources. 

The first thing elected leaders need to do is educate themselves on what work and research has already been done. They need to know what programs are out there, have been out there, and what programs need to shift and what programs need to stop duplicating services/resources. About 15 years ago, we had a 10 year plan to end homelessness as did many communities. We also had the Homeless Advisory Board that did extensive work and research. Did we implement anything? No. Fast forward 15 years and we now have TWO Augustana research studies telling us what the community needs to do. The research was extensive and included perspectives of front line staff and those experiencing homelessness. What have we done with these studies? Checked the box that we did them, I guess. “We” just keep creating groups because “we” can’t figure out what to do. (Thrive, Forward SF, Empower, AHAB, Sioux Empire Leadership Council, etc. etc.) and then none of them talk to each other. Stop studying the problem over and over again. It’s time to start the work. 

A couple of reasons the Bishop Dudley police calls have tripled is because the former director was a former police officer. It was easy for the calls to not be “logged”- and yes this is true. He told me this himself when I was providing case management to the homeless families staying there. He didn’t want the neighborhood or powers above him to see the calls and start complaining. Also, his no trespass list was longer than my arm. The current director has to go through regular police call protocols and she is trying to respect the mission of the BDHH which is Open Doors, Open Arms.

Please reconsider this Task Force and Study idea. I am willing to help educate. All you have to do is ask.

Thank you. I plan to be at the council meeting tomorrow.