Tuesday, November 13, 2018

1843 Map of Washtenaw County

Ann Arbor in 1843. Lots of churches. 

I came across surveyor S. Pettibone's awesome 1843 map of Washtenaw County while browsing the Clark Map Library's colleciton. You can see Ann Arbor (above) and Ypsilanti (below) when they were just small towns.

Ypsilanti in 1843, Lots of mills.

Burr oak and Hickory Plains in Sharon Township.

By far, my favorite feature is detailed forest composition and soil characteristics included on the map. It's definitely worth checking out.

Gently ro9lling Black and White Oak above clay loam in Sylvan Township.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Election Party Roundup

Genele reader, the big day is finally here. If you are looking to celebrate, or drown your sorrows, here is a list of local election night parties.

League of Women Voters Watch Party: HopCat, 311 Maynard St. Details.
UM Ford School Watch Party: Frasier's Pub, 2045 Packard. Details.
Voters Not Politicians Watch Party: Pizza House, 618 Church St.Details.
UM Ginsberg Center Watch Party: 1024 Hill St. Details.
Electric Eye Cafe Watch Party: 811 N. Main St. Details.
Jeff Hayner and Elizabeth Nelson Watch Party with Karaoke: Necto Nightclub, 516 E. Liberty. Details .
UM College Democrats Watch Party: Arbor Brewing Company, 114 E. Washington. Details.
Workantile Watch Party: 118 S. Main St.
No on Prop A watch party: Aut Bar, 315 Braun Ct.

Opinion: Election 2018 Endorsements

Most importantly, gentle reader, vote today if you are able. If you are interested, here are my 2018 election endorsements.

Ann Arbor

Ward 1: Vote for Ryan Hughes. I like his stance on affordable housing. Also, Jeff Hayner has made a ton of... problematic tweets. e.g. said a current councilwoman has resting bitch face; is opposed to people choosing their pronouns; seems to hate pedestrians, etc.

Ward 4: Vote for Elizabeth Nelson. First, she is the strongest proponent of backyard goats we have seen in a generation. Also, I think she is going to be a strong advocate for cyclists.

Ann Arbor Proposition A: Vote No. Housing is one of the most important equity issues our generation faces. Prop A prevents construction of housing and money for affordable housing.

Ypsilanti Public Schools

Vote Yes for the Sinking Fund. It will help repair old buildings and free up general fund money.

Ypsilanti Public Library District

Vote Yes for the Ypsilanti District Library Millage.

Washtenaw County

Vote Yes on the parks millage

State Races

Vote for all the democrats. This includes Bagenstos and Cavanagh for the Supreme Court.

State Propositions

Vote Yes on Proposition 1: ending cannabis prohibition keeps people out of the criminal justice system and will bring millions of dollars in for education and roads.

Vote Yes on Proposition 2: ending Gerrymandering is perhaps the most important thing on the ballot this year. It will make our state more democratic.

Vote Yes on Proposition 3: make it easier for everyone to vote.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Opinion: Vote No on Ann Arbor Proposition A

The Library Lot

I am against Ann Arbor City Proposition A. I encourage you, gentle reader, to vote "No" on Proposition A, if you are registered to vote in Ann Arbor. I support the City's effort to sell the development rights above the Library Lot parking structure. And I generally support the Core Spaces proposal to develop the site. In this article, I will briefly outline why I am opposed to City Proposition A, as well as why I support development on that site.

Proposition A would add an amendment to the Ann Arbor City Charter that would designate all city-owned public land on the block with the Downtown Library to "be retained in public ownership, in perpetuity, and developed as an urban park and civic center commons, known as the ‘Center of the City.’”

There are three main reasons I am opposed to Proposition A, and why I support development on the Library Lot. This first is because I support the construction of more housing in Ann Arbor. The second two reasons have to do with decisions we made as a community in the past.

Ann Arbor needs more housing. The rate of new housing construction, both single and multi-family, is lower now than it was in the early 2000s . The job market in Ann Arbor is strong. U of M alone has added 10,000 jobs in the last 10 years. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people commute into Ann Arbor every day for work. There are more students living here too. Enrollment at U of M is up about by about 6,000 students in the last 10 years. There are a lot more people vying for housing in Ann Arbor at a time when the rate of housing construction has decreased. We see the effects of this in dramatically increasing rents, home sale prices, and clogged roads during commutes. More housing in Ann Arbor will help reduce the increases in rent and home prices, and congestion. The Core Spaces building alone will not solve these problems — no single project will — but it will contribute to making these situations better.

There are two decisions we, as a community, made in the past that lead to my support of development on the Library Lot and opposition to Proposition A. First is the Greenbelt. In 2003 we approved the Greenbelt millage. Ann Arbor voters made the decision to buy conservation easements in the townships around the city in an attempt to limit sprawl. Implicit in this decision was that Ann Arbor would increase in density as the city’s ability to increase in area became constrained. If we limit sprawl and stymie density increases, what we achieve is driving up housing costs and making Ann Arbor a less diverse and accessible community.

The second decision we made was to invest our resources in building an underground parking structure that could support a tall building. Between 2009 and 2012 the City built the Library Lane, a 4 story, 738 space, underground parking structure. This cost $55 million, of which $15 million was to build a structure capable of supporting a tall building on top. Approximately $35 million of the total cost came through the sale of Build America Bonds. The plan was always to sell the development rights of the air above the Library Lot to a private company. I know that not everyone agreed with this decision, but nevertheless the decision was made to build an underground parking structure capable of supporting a large (17-18 story) building. If we do not go through with some construction on the site, we are being poor stewards of our resources, both physical and financial. We made the decision to put a lot of cement and steel into the ground in order to support a large building. We are wasting those resources if we don't use them. Also, the Core Spaces project will immediately recoup $10 million of the $15 million we invested in building the Library Lot. It will also generate an estimated $2 million per year in property and $200k per year in hotel taxes.

There are other reasons I do not support Proposition A, and reasons that I support the Core Spaces development. Here are the other reasons I don't support Proposition A:

Here are other reasons I support development on the Library Lot:

  • I support affordable housing. $5 million from the $10 million sale of the development rights to Core Spaces goes to Ann Arbor's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • I support more housing generally (see above). I do not believe building exclusively market rate housing will solve our housing problems. That said, it does have a role to play. Simply put, Ann Arbor needs more housing of all types.
  • The Core Spaces proposal includes a 12,000 sq. ft. plaza, and funds for maintenance and programing. (Also, there is the possibility of a splash pad.) This is smaller than the park that the Proposition A supporters want at the site. However, unlike their proposal, the Core Spaces proposal has a concrete plan, and a funding mechanism. (And, maybe, a splash pad.)

So there you have it, gentle reader. These are the reasons I encourage you to vote "No" on Ann Arbor Proposal A, and why I support development on that site. I think going forward with development on the Library Lot is an important step forward for our community.

H/T: to AKGoodman, STrudeau for helping me trackdown data and CDzombak for editing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Interview with Skate Witches director Danny Plotnick

Few Super 8 films have captured local hearts and minds like Danny Plotnick's 1986 classic, Skate Witches. The 2 minute short was shot on the Diag in a single day while Danny was a student at U of M. It features a gang of female skateboarders, the Skate Witches, who terrorize male skateboarders. Also the Skate Witches have rats. Despite the films brevity, it really captures the zeitgeist for the mid 80s alt scene. I reached out to Danny, who is now the Director of Film Studies at the University of San Francisco, recently and he agreed to answer a few questions about Skate Witches for me. Below is our email interview.

Damn Arbor: Could you tell me a little about what inspired Skate Witches, or what lead to its filming?

Danny Plotnick: Dana, the witch in the Misfits t-shirt, had talked about wanting to get her old skateboard from her family home and bring it with her back to Ann Arbor. Obviously, Ann Arbor spreads out, and she thought a skateboard would be a great way to get around town a lot quicker. However, she felt she would get hassled by all the boy skateboarders in town. I don’t know if any women were skateboarding in Ann Arbor at that point. If they were, they were few and far between. Dana mentioned this when we were all hanging out. Karen, the queen witch, mentioned she used to skate when she lived in Grand Rapids. I joked that they should form a gang called The Skate Witches. Jenny, the witch that keeps pushing guys off their skateboards, said she didn’t skate, but she’d be happy to join the gang. Dana and Karen never really did get their boards. I liked the notion of them forming a gang in real life, but when it seemed like that wasn’t going to happen, I was convinced that, regardless, we needed to make a movie. So I wrote the movie, they got their skateboards, and the rest is history.

DA: How did you find the actors? Do you still stay in touch with the Witches? Did they really all own rats?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

YpsiGLOW this Friday

YpsiGLOW is this Friday. Check out the above video from last year. Marchers with luminaries will gather at two places: the Water Tower and Depot Town. Then at 6:30 they will march to Downtown Ypsi and gather on Washington Street. Here's a map of the route:

The party on Washington goes from 7-10 pm. Hopefully we will see you there.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ann Arbor City Council Preview for Oct. 15, 2018, or Duck yes: City poised to legalize backyard waterfowl

An image of a duck from the Damn Arbor Photo Archive.

Gentle readers, the days when you had to dress your majestic backyard ducks as common chicken may be drawing to a close. That's right, the City Council is poised to legalize backyard ducks. Looking at the agenda for tonight, the first reading of the Duck Ordinance (C-1) may be one of the lest controversial items on the agenda.

The #a2council agenda starts off with a stacked consent agenda docket with 24 items. Of note, there are 4 sanitary sewer easements on the Consent Agenda tonight. Two of tonight's public hearings (PH-1 and PH-2) are on the annexation of Township Islands. This issue has been contentious at recent #a2council meetings. When the city annexes a township parcel there can be an increase in taxes of $1k to $3k per year and fees of up to $100k for sewer and water connectivity. You can read more about the township annexation program here.

There are a couple of other especially spicy items on tonight's agenda. First, PH-4/B-2, the Mayor's Police Oversight Ordinance, has not been received well by members of the Police Oversight Commission Taskforce and by those who seek robust civilian oversight of the police.

The other spicy item on the agenda is DC-4, is a resolution to approve a Deed with Core Spaces for the Library Lot. Whoa. This will pit the faction of the city council that are in support of the development agains those that would rather see the Library Lot undeveloped.

Gentle reader, what are you most looking forward to at tonight's #a2council meeting? We are well into campaign season so there may be some political fireworks. Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Today is the last day to Register for November Election

Gentle reader, this coming election is very important. I cannot emphasize how important it is for you to vote. Today is the last day to register to vote, or update your registration for the November election. You can check your voter registration here. In celebration of this monuments day, our friends at 7 Cylinders Studio in conjunction with Washtenaw County have released the 4th video in their how to vote series. Check it out, then make sure your registration is up to date.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A map of the proposed Food Truck Exclusion Zone

A map of Ann Arbor's proposed Food Truck Exclusion Zone by @SassArbor. In this map, the Food Truck Exclusion Zone is indicated by the color white. 

Gentle readers, local hero @SassArbor has done what the government is scared to do. Blogging under the nom de guerre, A2 Civic Tech, @SassArbor has produced a map showing the Food Truck Exclusion Zone that would be created by the Food Truck Ordinance. The vast swaths of Ann Arbor that make up the Food Truck Exclusion Zone are shown in white on the map above. This is what the government doesn't want you to see.

Sass's analysis is through, and their methodology is very well documented. My only fear is that the map may not accurately depict the size of the Food Truck Exclusion Zone. Section 8 in the proposed ordnance reads:

There shall be a minimum 200-foot separation from any residential use or residentially zoned district. ...
I interpret this to mean that food trucks would be forbidden not just within 200 feet of residential properties, but also PUDs or Commercially-zoned areas that have residential units. So if anything, Sass's efforts underestimate the size of the Exclusion Zone.

You should really check out A2 Civic Tech and read the whole analysis and see all the maps. As a little teaser, here's a map that really captures the 200 foot residential buffer on the Food Truck Exclusion Zone. The map shows South State Street and South Industrial. The top most horizontal road is Henry St.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

One week left to register to vote in November Election

Gentle reader, there will be so many important things on the November ballot that I don't have time to list them. Here are some highlights, though: local elections, legalizing cannabis, and ending gerrymandering. You need to vote. You have just to make sure you're registered. Fortunately our friends at 7 Cylinders have partnered with Washtenaw County to produce videos on how to get yourself registered.