Leah Schein and her physician partner had arrived. They had the views to prove it.
The couple moved into their two-bedroom, two-balcony, top-floor apartment last summer. The larger of the outdoor spaces, roughly 400 square feet, boasted a killer perch overlooking Lyndale Avenue. The smaller pointed toward the Midtown Greenway.
The couple's new digs were located at the Murals of Lynlake, which claims to be “Uptown living, taken to a new level.”
A number of residents were members of the LGBTQ community. Schein and her partner, who asked not to be identified because she prefers to keep her personal life private from her patients, surmised that the apartment building would be a gay-friendly place to call home.
There's nothing equitable about the renter/landlord and condo owner/condo association relationship. The bodies in charge rule by fiat. Every new renter or condo owner gets the house manual.
A few months into their lease, Schein decided to hang a Pride flag off the small balcony.
A letter soon arrived from the management company. The flag violated house rules, which stated nothing could be affixed to the banister. Remove the flag ASAP, the note warned, or be fined $150.
Schein was perplexed. Other renters often decorated their balconies with lights that remained for months on end. In fact, the couple had won a holiday balcony decorating contest over the winter. Their display included a monster illuminated peace sign, which stayed well past the Christmas season.
Besides, Schein and her partner had run bamboo fencing along the entirety of the big deck to prevent their little dog from squeezing through the railings.
Management had inspected their canine safety measure and endorsed it.
The couple had read up on the building's rule book when they moved in. They were aware of the patio rule. But looking around at their neighbors' places told them it was a soft regulation that often went unheeded.
“I was told [by a manager] that if they allowed us to keep up the flag, it wouldn't be fair to the other residents,” Schein says. “If they let us keep it up then everyone else would want to hang college banners or whatever flag they wanted.”
The flag came down, yet the memory of what felt like management picking and choosing what rules were enforced stayed with Schein.
This year's Pride celebration gave the couple another opportunity for freedom of expression. It was time to break out the flag again. Schein understood they were purposely flaunting the rule. But it was also done as an experiment.
“I wanted to see if it was more about the flag than anything else,” she admits.
Her flag, which married America’s stars and stripes with the colors of the rainbow, was unfurled a week before the annual gay community celebration. It stayed up for a couple weeks.
Management soon chimed in a second time. The flag had to go.
“It's very strange,” says Schein. “We had heard Minneapolis was so gay-friendly, but when it came to this flag it felt like it was such an issue.
“… The apartment rules were maybe a couple of printed pages. It said things like you can't spackle holes or you can't rip up the carpet. With [our flag] it was really weird because you don't know what rules are enforced or what their made-up rules are until they tell you. Then they like to make arbitrary fines. It's as if they're making up enforcement as they go.”
According to Brad Johnson, chief manager at the Murals, what Schein's flag was wasn't the problem. He says the building's "no-flag policy is strictly a design aesthetic for the sake of the property's overall appearance."
He adds it's a regulation "about aesthetics and never personal or political" and that the "no-flag" ban is enforced across-the-board.
Residents of the Excelsior & Grand Condos in St. Louis Park are forbidden to display Christmas wreaths on the exterior of their doors. Welcome mats are taboo as well.
Edina's Angie Hildebrand, a mother of two American servicemen, is currently locked in a piss fight with the Southdale Gardens Condominium Association over flying an American flag.
Though nothing in house rules specifically mention a flag prohibition, the association has informed Hildebrand that she's in violation when flying Old Glory outside her home.
The bureaucratic rule fight has spread into real life. Hildebrand tells City Pages that someone shredded her flag. She's also scorned by her fellow condo dwellers.
“Other residents give me disgusted looks regularly,” says Hildebrand. “They look at me because they blame me for bringing all this bad attention when all I wanted to do was fly an American flag in honor of my country and my boys.”
Hildebrand's new flag has been granted a nine-month exemption by the association. After that, it'll have to come down or Hildebrand must move.
She's vowed to relocate.
Back in the City of Lakes, Schein and her partner recently said goodbye to the killer views afforded at the Murals. The couple bought a new place. They moved in just days ago.
“We needed more space,” Schein says. “And we don't miss having to live by someone else's goofy rules in the least. Not in the least.”