Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Fall River Day this Sunday in Ypsi

This Sunday is Fall River Day in Ypsilanti. From noon to 3 pm there will be tons of great activities in Riverside Park including: games, nature activities, donuts, and birds of prey! There will also be kayak rental available at Frog Island Park thanks to a partnership with Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation and Washtenaw County. This gives you the ability to experience a portion of the river that is generally not available to people without their own boats. I have it on good authority there will be more kayaks available than in years past, but I would still recommend getting to Frog Island early if you have your heart set on renting a kayak. In the past the rentals have been very popular and there has been a bit of a wait for those that did not arrive early.

As a commissioner on the Ypsilanti City Parks and Recreation Commission, I have worked at the last two Fall River Days. I am biased, but they are a great early fall activity. If you haven't been to Ypsi in a minute, you should stop by and make an afternoon of it. You can also check out the brand new barrier free play structure in Riverside Park.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: September 16, 2019

Gentle readers, it's time for the second #a2council meeting of September. Here's the agenda. Let's dive in!

On the consent agenda we have a couple of street closings. One for this Friday's Climate Strike and another for the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. There is also a contract for police body cameras, and adoption of a brownfield policy.

There are 4 public hearings on two developments. PH-1 and PH-2 are on 325 E Summit. PH-3 and PH-4 are on the Glen development.

C-1 and C-2 are ordinance readings that deal with regulations for cannabis retailers. DS-1 is the Traverwood road reconfiguration I have mentioned in previous council previews.

There you have my very incomplete preview. Gentle reader, what are you most agenda items are you most interested in? The event starts tonight at 7. Tune in to CTN or watch the YouTube stream.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: September 3, 2019

The 7.7 acre parcel at 2857 Packard is the site of a proposed PUD (Agenda item C-1).

Gentle readers, tonight is a special Tuesday edition of #a2council. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with 21 item consent agenda with no road closings. CA-19 is the Lower Town Mobility Study. This will authorize the city to spend just under $600,000 to study mobility in the area of the confluence of Pontiac Trail, Broadway, Plymouth Road, Moore Street, Wall Street, and Maiden Lane.

Elsewhere on the agenda there are two public hearings. PH-1/B-1 is the second reading of the proposed ordinance change that would allow restaurants in office zoned properties. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an ordinance that would change some of the rules for mixed use developments.

C-1 is the first reading of an ordinance for a PUD at 2857 Packard. The 7.7 acre parcel is currently zoned R1E and is largely undeveloped. If I recall correctly a previous proposal for the site did not pass muster so it will be interesting to see what happens with the new proposal.

Finally, tonight #a2council will be revisiting two road reconfigurations. DS-2 and DS-3 are on the Traverwood and Green Road reconfigurations, respectively. We have covered road diets previously.

The event starts tonight at 7. Tune in to CTN or watch the YouTube stream.

Friday, August 23, 2019

YpsiFest this weekend in Riverside Park

YpsiFest starts tonight. This is one of our counties more eclectic events and well worth your time. There will even be sheep there from project mow.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: August 19, 2019

Gentle readers, it's #a2council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda for tonight's meeting.

This is coming pretty late, so I am going to hit the highlights. PH-2/B-1 and PH-3/DB-1 are on the proposed project for 325 E Summit, the Garnet. This looks like a cool project, but I am hearing reports that several councilmembers indicated they would vote against it at last night's caucus night.

In other development related agenda items, C-1 is the first reading of a modification of the Glen PUD. This project is located at 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street.

DC-1 is a motion by CM Ackerman to reconsider the vote at last council meeting that defeated the Green Road road reconfiguration (road diet). Here's the preview for that meeting. Here's an article looking at how local road diets have been effective at reducing accidents.

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, August 6, 2019

Vote today

Gentle readers there is an election in Washtenaw County today. The question is whether the Washtenaw Intermediate School District borrow up to $53,295,000 in bonds to build a new school. To pay for the bonds, there would be a 0.37 mil property tax for 10 years. This means homeowners would pay $0.37 for every $1,000 in taxable value of their properties.

If you want my two cents. I think this is a good millage. We underfund our schools at a state level. I think it's important to do what we can at the local level to support public education.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: August 5, 2019

Gentle reader, August's first #a2council meeting is tonight at 7pm at City Hall. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with a modest 15 item consent agenda which has a conspicuous lack of street closings. CA-6 is to rent a Vactor 2100i Combination Sewer Cleaner. CA-8 is to approve a grant agreement with MiEGLE for PFAS removal.

There is one public hearing on the docket tonight. PH-1/DB-1 is an annexation of 614 Riverview from Ann Arbor Township. In the ordinance first readings, C-1 would allow restaurants, bars, and/or food service in areas zoned office provided they are no more than 10% of the total floor area or 12,000 square feet.

In new council business there are two FOIA related resolutions. DC-2 directs the City Administrator to review the city's policies on assessing fees for FOIA requests. Specifically it requests alternatives to ease public interest FOIAs. DC-3is a resolution to waive fees associated with FOIA request 2147. CM Hayner submitted FOIA 2147 on July 11 of this year and requested all emails to and from Mayor Taylor for the period between June 16 to July 8, 2019. The city clerk estimated the cost to be $217 to comply with the records request. Here's the city's list of FOIA requests.

There are three road diets on tonight's #a2council agenda: DS-1, DS-2, and DS-3 for Earhart, Traverwood, and Green, respectively. I wrote a bit more about road diets last week. All of these road reconfigurations (their proper name) came before council earlier this year, but were sent back to transportation commission. All of these roads have average daily traffic volumes between 3,500 and 7,500 vehicles per day, meaning these proposals are unlikely to have a substantial impact on traffic. Federal Highway Administration guidelines caution against road diets when traffic flow is greater than 20,000 vehicles per day. These reconfigurations are predicted to lead to a major reduction in crashes like we have seen with other road diets in Ann Arbor. These resolutions will likely be the spiciest chilis of the night.

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.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Road diets

A satellite photo of Jackson Ave. during its reconfiguration. If you look closely, you can see the ghostly shadows of orange barrels.  

Gentle readers. I want to write a little bit about road diets. There are three road diets on Monday's #a2council agenda: DS-1, DS-2, and DS-3. A road diet, sometimes called a road reconfiguration, is when the total number of travel lanes on a road are reduced to allow for other uses and travel modes. E.g. a 4 lane road is reduced to a 3 lane road. This frees up space to add bike lanes and to add features that make pedestrians safer. Road diets also make roads safer for drivers by reducing the number of crashes on a road segment. If you are interested in a deep dive, the Federal Highway Association has a great 72 page report on road diets.

Ann Arbor has implemented several road diets in the past few years including on Jackson Road and Maple Road. On July 16th, a memo examining recent road diets was sent to the Transportation Commission. It too, is worth a read. Looking at 5 recent road diets, total accident counts dropped between 20% and 65%. Here are charts looking at specific crash rates from the Jackson Road project and the Green Road project:

The Green Road Road diet is one of the poorest performing and I wanted to highlight it because it still shows an overall reduction in the average number of crashes.

Road diets also offer great benefits to pedestrians and cyclists. By adding more room for them, and buffering them from cars, road diets increase safety for non-motorized transit. They also tend to increase usage. You can find more in this document from the Federal Highway Administration in section 2.1.3.

One drawback for road diets is that is that they can slow down traffic during peak flow periods. A recent survey of Ann Arbor residents showed that the majority support these minor reductions in traffic flow in exchange for greater safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Here are the results:

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Election 2020: Lisa Disch launches bid for Ward 1 #a2Council seat

U of M Political Science Professor, Lisa Disch, has announced that she is running for the Ward 1 Ann Arbor City Council seat currently held by Anne Bannister. Disch is running as a progressive and lists 5 main priorities: urban stewardship, affordable housing, environmental stewardship, safety, and small "d" democracy. The Ward 1 seat represents Ann Arbor's Northside and is currently held by Anne Bannister. Bannister's campaign website is currently not working. Assuming Bannister runs for reelection, she and Disch would face off in the August 2020 primary.

UPDATE: I reached out to Disch and asked her why she is running for council. Here is what she said:

I'm running for Council because I believe that Ann Arbor is at a turning point. Over this past year, I watched Council vote against projects on affordable housing for seniors, on making our most trafficked streets safer for bicyclists that had been carefully vetted by the appropriate commissions and approved by city staff. I feel as though I am seeing a politicization of common sense in local politics that mimics some of what I am confident most Ann Arborites dislike most about national politics. As an economic engine for Southeast Michigan, Ann Arbor cannot afford to lag far behind Washtenaw County in population growth. But we do! And this means that we face more commuters, more traffic, unsustainable carbon emissions, and the possibility of irreversible economic stratification. Currently, our skyrocketing housing market prices out many people who ought to be able to live here if they choose to: people who teach in our K-12 schools, our firefighters, police officers, and the young people whose creativity and entrepreneurship keep Ann Arbor interesting. The upcoming Master Planning process gives us an opportunity to change course but we are going to need a change of leadership to make that happen. I want to be part of that change. I have lived in Ann Arbor's First Ward since 2008 and I feel lucky to have put down roots in a community where people set high standards for political awareness and engagement. I hope to tap that grassroots energy in my campaign and focus it on the master planning process and beyond.


  • Election 2020: Beto in Greektown
  • Tuesday, July 30, 2019

    Election 2020: Beto in Greektown

    Former US Senate Candidate and Current US Presidential Candidate, Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke stands on a street in Greektown, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Photo By Benjamin C. Houston.

    At approximately 1:26 this afternoon, Damn Arbor's senior staff attorney, Benjamin C. Houston, sent me the above picture. It is of US Presidential Candidate Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke. He appears be standing on the sidewalk across the street from a Cold Stone Creamery and a Five Guys. This places him at approximately 511 Monroe St. According to Houston, O'Rourke was "probably eating."

    Stay tuned to Damn Arbor for more breathless dispatches from the campaign trail.