Monday, May 3, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: May 3, 2021

 


Gentle readers, tonight is the first #a2Council meeting of May, 2021. Here's the agenda and here's the A2AF episode covering the agenda. 

The evening kicks off with a modest, 14-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-14, Healthy Streets 2021. This includes temporary neighborhood slow streets for the summer, as well as permanent improvements on South Main and Packard. Both components of this are really exciting, unfortunately this needs 8 votes to pass and there were some murmurs of opposition at the Caucus meeting last night. This should pass unanimously, but I hope it at least has 8 votes. 

Tonight's agenda is stacked with 10 public hearings. PH-1 and PH-2 are routine township island rezonings. PH-3 and PH-4 are the second reading of changes to the rules around short term rentals. PH-5 is on a change to stormware rates. PH-6 is a public hearing on a ~200 sq ft addition to 614 S. Ashley. The city should change whatever rule elevates something this trivial to the level of policy. City Council does not need to waste time with this. PH-7, PH-8, and PH-9 are on adjustments to various fees. PH-10 is a big one. It is the public hearing on the FY22 budget. 

C-1 is a new ordinance that would cap the fees that 3rd party delivery companies could charge restaurants in Ann Arbor at 15%. DC-1 is a resolution to improve council effectiveness, performance, and communication. It allocates $20,000 for hiring professionals to help council in these areas. DC-2 supports SB 352, a Michigan senate bill that would allow municipalities to set some of their own firearm regulations. DC-3 is a resolution that requests MDOT do something about the M14 bridge over the Huron River. To whit, in one 24 hour period recently, there were 3 semi-truck crashes on that bridge. DC-5 is a resolution to approve amendments to council rules. And finally we have DC-6. This is a resolution to have a community conversation about "Palestinian People and Palestinian-Americans." I don't have a ton to say about this and the history of it and how it will be divisive. I will say this, if #a2couincil is in the business of facilitating community conversations, why not do one on politicians attacking journalists with homophobic slurs? Why not have one on police violence?

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Safety in the time of Surveillance


Tomorrow, April 29th, at 7 pm, there is going to be a great presentation on the dangers of facial recognition surveillance. You can register for the event here. This event is being sponsored by some really great orgs: Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice, Bend the Arc Jewish Action: Greater Ann Arbor, CryptoParty Ann Arbor, Liberate Don’t Incarcerate, Survivors Speak, Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. 

Facial recognition technology, especially when used by police is bad. It increases racial disparities in an system that is already rife with them. For example, at least two Black men in Detroit have been arrested and charged with crimes they did not commit based on false facial recognition "matches." According to this BuzzFeed article, the Ann Arbor Police Department has used Clearview AI, a despotic facial recognition software company, for between 51-100 searches. 


 In my humble opinion, Ann Arbor City Council should ban the police department from using any facial recognition software. If you'd like to learn more, make sure you check out Safety in the time of Surveillance tonight at 7pm. You can also learn more by checking out Ban the Scan A2


Monday, April 19, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 19, 2021


 It's going to be a long meeting, so let's get right into it. Here's your #a2Council agenda. Here's the Ann Arbor AF episode about this meeting, which is definitely worth listening to. 

Before we even get to the consent agenda, we have the Administrator's presentation of the proposed budget for next year.  

There is a pretty small consent agenda with just 6 items. CA-2 is really great. My understanding is that it would allocate $100,000 from gas tax revenue to provide maintenance for the city's new protected bike lanes. Unfortunately, some CMs indicated that they don't support this at caucus. This needs 8 votes to pass so if it gets pulled, and nobody crosses faction lines, it will fail. CA-3, CA-4, and CA-5, are all rezonings to build affordable housing. CA-3 is for the old city fleet lot at 721 N Main. CA-4 is for the Pailo Lot, and CA-5 is for the old fire station at 1510 E Stadium. 

There are two public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/DB-1 are the rezoning and site plan for 700 N Main. This 1.2 acre parcel is going to be rezoned from PUD to R4C so that 22 townhouses can be built. This is coming with unanimous recommendation from planning commission. 

There are a couple of really exciting items in the ordinance first readings. C-1 is the updated ADU rules. These rules will get rid of a lot off the restrictions on the current ordinance including getting rid of minimum lot size and the owner occupancy requirement. I hope this passes. C-2 is the conditional rezoning for the Valhalla. This is a great project that provides much needed market rate housing in addition to 15 subsidized units. There is some talk that "neighbors" are opposed to this, but to that I say, "who, the golf course?" There is also talk that this development will cause too much traffic. Looking at this project, it looks like it will be about 500 units, and the stretch of Main Street has ~28,200 cars per day so I call shenanigans on that objection. 


The biggest source of conflict on tonight's agenda is DC-5. By way of background, last weekend, Ward 1 CM Jeff Hayner was disparaging journalism, and chose to do so using a quote with a homophobic slur. If you'd like to read more, check out the Daily's article. DC-5 would remove Hayner from his committee positions until they are assigned in December. As you can probably imagine, gentle reader, tensions around this one are pretty high. Hayner, and his allies on council, are citing (non-existant) process issues. Honestly, I am not sure why they are not just cutting their losses on this one. I normally joke about the "spicy chilies" on the agenda, but what Hayner said was super hurtful, and I don't want to make light of of that. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.


Monday, April 5, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: April 5 2021

 


Gentle readers, tonight is the first #a2council meeting of April. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode about the meeting. I am going a little out of order here, but I think the most exciting item here is DC-3, a resolution directing the administrator to develop an unarmed public safety response program. This is a great direction the city is moving. 

The evening kicks off with a respectable, 24-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-5, repaving S. Industrial. Looks like some mid-block crossings are going to be added. CAs 14 through 18 are all purchasing conservation easements in various forms. Neat. 

There are 6 public hearings on the docket this evening. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/B-2 are rezoning parcels to make nature areas. PH-3/B-3 is a township island annexation. PH-4/B-4 is the second, second reading of the fair housing ordinance. On this one there will probably be a lot of landlords calling in to say they need to be able to discriminate against people who have been convicted of crimes. PH-5/B-5 is a restructuring of the dog license fees. PH-6/B-6 is the second reading of the reduction in fees for failure to shovel snow. 

C-1 is the first reading of an ordinance making it so that landlords cannot start showing houses or asking to renew leases until 240 days into a year long lease. Currently they can start showing houses 70 days into a lease. C-2 and C-3 are township island rezonings. C-4 and C-5 are ordinances to governing the rules for short term rentals.  

Elsewhere on the agenda we have DC-2, a resolution to support U of M's President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s recommendations. DC-4 is a resolution condemning recent anti-Asian attacks and rhetoric. And DC-5 is a resolution to order the Attorney's Office to review ordinances related to police enforcement. The A2AF podcast has a good discussion of this towards the end of the most recent episode. Hopefully the report will recommend getting rid of statues that criminalize things like having drug paraphernalia and consensual sex work. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Much ado about ADUs

 

A two-story detached Accessory Dwelling Unit in Portland, OR. Image by Jordan Palmeri, Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality.

Tonight at 7pm the Ann Arbor Planning Commission is going to be discussing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Specifically, they are going to be looking at changing the rules around ADUs to allow them in more residential zones. Here's the agenda

I think making it easier to build ADUs is good. I think we should make it easier to build many more types of housing in Ann Arbor's residential areas and that ADUs should play a part in this. (For a more indepth look at my thoughts on housing, check out this article I wrote last June: Ann Arbor for the many, not the few.) 

Let's talk about ADUs specifically and why they are good. I have two main reasons that I think we should allow ADUs in all residential zones. First, ADUs provide more housing and Ann Arbor desperately needs more housing. ADUs are, on average, less expensive per unit to build than many other forms of housing. A study in Portland, OR found the average cost to build an ADU was about $75,000. The study also found that the average rent of an ADU was lower than other housing options. 

Second, ADUs will help Ann Arbor meet its ambitious climate goals. ADUs, on average, have lower lifetime carbon emissions than larger houses (Slide 5). They also allow more dwellings to be built on residential lots, saving greenfields outside of the city. Finally, by allowing more people to live closer to where they work, ADUs allow people to dramatically reduce their transportation emissions. 

ADUs are not going to solve all of Ann Arbor's housing problems. The city needs more subsidized housing and more market rate housing of all types. Still, if Ann Arbor is going to solve its housing crisis and meet its ambitious housing goals, it is important to make it easier to build ADUs. If you support this, make sure you drop the planning commission an email (planning@a2gov.org) or call into Planning Commission tonight. At the last meeting, a ton of homeowners called in to oppose allowing more ADUs. I think it would be nice for the Planning Commission to hear from people who support ADUs in addition to those that oppose them. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 15, 2021

 


Gentle readers, it's #a2Council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda. Also, make sure you check out the latest episode of the A2AF podcast, which covers this meeting. 

The evening kicks off with a brief, 10 item consent agenda. Of note, three street closures. CA-7 is for Take Back the Night, April 1st. CA-8 is for the Dexter Ann Arbor Run,  August 15th. CA-9 is temporary closure of downtown streets for retail and dining. 

There are 5 public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1 and PH-4 are township island annexations. PH-2 is on amending the new Sidewalk Ordinance. This is a second reading of this ordinance. If I recall, this make it clear that new developments are required to build sidewalks. PH-3 is the second reading of an ordinance that would ban landlords from asking about criminal history on rental applications. I hope this goes through. PH-5 is on the site plan for Lewis Jewelers at 300 S Maple. 

Moving down the agenda we have the ordinance first readings. C-1 is an ordinance to rezone 700 N Main from PUD to R4C. This will allow the site to be developed into 22 townhouses. C-2 is a change to the way Ann Arbor does dog licenses to make it so that licensee renewal coincides with rabies vaccines. C-3 is the first reading of an ordinance that would reduce fines for not shoveling sidewalks. 

Wrapping things up we have DC-3 which lays out what to do with Ann Arbor's Marijuana Excise Tax. This is aimed at undoing a lot of the damage that the war on drugs has done locally. DC-6 is a resolution recognizing the transgender day of visibility. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: March 1, 2021

 


It's that time again gentle reader. Tonight is the first #a2council meeting of March. Here's the agenda, and here's the A2AF episode about the meeting

The evening kicks off with a scant, six-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-4, which would allow sidewalk cafes in MDOT right of ways. 

There is one public hearing tonight, PH-1/DC-3. This is a resolution that would set fees to cover annual investigation and review of on-prem liquor licenses. This resolution would set the annual fee at $50 for this year and raise it to $90 in subsequent years. 

Further down the agenda there are five ordinance first readings tonight. C-1 and C-2 are both rezonings to make nature areas. C-3 is a routine annexation of a township island on Newport Road. C-4 is an ordinance to clarify that new construction should still be responsible for building sidewalks in light of the sidewalk millage. C-5 is an ordinance that would prohibit housing discrimination against formerly incarcerated people. Props to CMs Nelson and Radina for bringing this forward. 

DC-1 is, perhaps, the first spicy chili on tonight's agenda. This is a resolution to waive attorney-client privilege on advice regarding the new council rules.  I don't really know where to start with this one. Some CMs feel that the new council rules, specifically, the section that asks them to take their beefs to the Council Administration Committee rather than air them during council, represents unlawful viewpoint discrimination. They want the Michigan ACLU to redteam the City Attorney's Office, I think. The part I don't get is, if the new council rules constitute illegal viewpoint discrimination, why does the ACLU need to see the City Attorney's advice? There is a good discussion of this on the latest A2AF podcast, linked above. 

DC-2 is a resolution to evaluate alternative proposals for 2857 Packard. Apparently the development plan for the Weber Property is in rough waters. DC-4 awards a five-year recycling contract to Recycle Ann Arbor. 

DC-5 is exciting. It's a resolution directing the City Administrator to assess the feasibility, and propose cost estimates and strategies for a municipal sidewalk snow removal program, among other things. This resolution has some great whereas clauses. Very exciting to see this happening. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 16, 2021


 What better way to celebrate a snowy Fat Tuesday than with a #a2counil meeting? Here's the agenda. If you'd like a deeper dive into some parts of the agenda, check out the latest episode of A2AF. 

The evening kicks off with a deep, 22-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-5, traffic calming for Glenwood. Also, CA-12, street closing in front of Conor O'Neil's for St. Patrick's. At the risk of editorializing, are we really at a place where we should be encouraging drunken revelry? I guess it'll be outside...

There are two public hearings on the docket for this evening. PH-1/DB-1 is on the site plan for St. Francis of Assisi, 2150 Frieze Ave. The parish is planning a 2-story, 14,570 sq ft addition. Are site approvals for religious institutions just a formality? Does anyone have a good grasp of the intersection between RLUIPA and local zoning law? PH-2/DB-2 is the site plan for 907 and 913 S. Main. This by-right project involves the demolition of two single family houses and replacing them with a 6-unit apartment complex. The real question here is: why do we make by-right projects come up for review by council?

Elsewhere on the agenda, we have C-1, a routine township island annexation. DC-2 is a motion to reconsider the council rules amendment from last council meeting. It's probably the first spicy chili of the night. We've also got DC-3, a resolution to determine the cost feasibility of supplemental snow removal within the DDA boundaries. This may seem like a no-brainer. But my understanding is that this is already handled by the downtown business improvement zones. For a deeper dive into this check out the latest episode of the Ann Arbor AF podcast. 

As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.

Sledding hills, 2021

 

Gentle reader, I am sure you've noticed that we have some snow today. AAPS has called a virtual snow day and that must mean you have sledding on the mind. My personal favorite sledding spot is Huron Hills Golf Course. It is steep and has a great long run. I know people also love the hills at Vets Park and Hunt Park. In Ypsilanti, Riverside Park and Ypsi High are also very popular. If you do go sledding today, make sure you follow CDC guidelines on outdoor social distancing.

Enough about me gentle reader, what are your favorite sledding hills? Here's an article from the Damn Arbor archives with more information on sledding hills. Note: This article was first published on Dec. 27th, 2012.

Look out your window. We've got some snow. It's the holidays so you really have no excuse not to go sledding. With that in mind, I am posting some links to some classic articles about sledding in Ann Arbor:

Guide to Ann Arbor: Sled-DANG! In A2 from Damn Arbor's very own Quinn Davis

Sledding on Arborwiki

Guide to the Ann Arbor area's best sledding hills by Ed Vielmetti

I will add this: Huron Hills is probably my favorite sledding spot in the city (see this article on the Chronicle). The Arb is pretty sweet for sledding too. But the frozen hummocks of grass kind of hurt your bum as your sled there. But really it doesn't matter where you sled, as long as you get out and enjoy yourself.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: February 1, 2020

 


Gentle reader, tonight's the first council meeting of the shortest month of the year. Here's the agenda. Also, check out the latest episode of Ann Arbor AF where the take a deep dive into the agenda. 

The evening kicks off with a decent, 16 item consent agenda. Item's 5 through 8 are all purchasing conservation easements. CA-10 and 11 are purchasing parkland. Nice. 

On to the public hearings. We've got 4 on the docket tonight. Two rezonings and associated PH-1/B-1 is the rezoning for the new Lockwood development. The site at 2195 Ellsworth is being rezoned from R1C to PUD. PH-2/DB-1 is the public hearing approving the PUD for the site (I think this is like the site plan. PH-3/B-1 is the rezoning of 2111 Packard and PH-4/DB-2 is the site plan for this project. 2111 Packard is currently zoned Parking and this would the zoning it to allow mixed use three story buildings on the site. I think we can all agree that forcing parking through zoning is a bad use for land. 

Moving down the agenda we have DC-1, a resolution to appoint 3 at large members to the Council of the Commons. DC-2, the resolution to join WRRMA, the county solid waste org. DC-3 is a "Resolution to Determine Cost and Feasibility of Supplemental Snow and Ice Removal" sounds benign, but part of it is looking at shoveling out people's driveways after plows go by. This may be a spicy chili. DC-4 is cool, it's a plan to support equitable community engagement. DC-5 is a resolution to amend council rules with an eye towards helping meetings not last so long. DC-6 is a resolution to allow a drive through COVID testing site at Briarwood. This is one drive through I am happy to see. Finally, we have DC-7, a "Resolution to Restate the Purpose and Membership of the Council of the Commons." I have not read this because it's so late. 


As always, gentle reader, I am probably forgetting some very important items here. What agenda items are you most looking forward to seeing. I am guessing that tonight will be another late night around the virtual council table. Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2council hashtag.