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.