Monday, January 23, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 23, 2023


It's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda for tonight's meeting. 

The evening kicks off with a modest, 10-item consent agenda. CA-1, and CA-2 are on That Damn Bridge (East Medical Center Drive Bridge). Though good news, the resolution has been updated and now Umich is agreeing to pay for 3/4 the cost and to have wider sidewalks. CA-9 is an amendment to the project at 841 Broadway. They are planning to include affordable units instead of doing a payment-in-lieu of affordable units. Finally, there's CA-10, the street closure for the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5k on March 12. Anyone want to run it?

There is one ordinance first reading tonight. C-1 is to establish the Robert and Irma Hayden House Historic District. Robert Hayden was the first African American to hold the office that because Poet Laureate and also a notable rider of the No. 5 AAATA Bus. This would establish a historic district for his old house at, 1201 Gardner Avenue in Lower Burns Park. 

There are two resolutions on the docket this evening. DC-1 is to accept a settlement in the case of Rasiel Alvarez-Rodriguez v. City of Ann Arbor et al.. This stems from an event where an AAPD officer rear-ended the plaintiff in June of 2019. The city is settling for $39,000 to cover head and neck injuries sustained in the incident. DC-2 is to authorize the city to be listed as a supporting municipality in an amicus brief filed in the US Supreme Court in Biden v Nebraska and the Department of Education v. Brown. 

And that's all there is. Looks like a pretty modest agenda. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023


Editor's note: This is a guest opinion by Adam Goodman. If you're interested in sharing an opinion, reach out to or drop us a DM on twitter.

The intersection of East Medical Center Drive, Fuller, and Maiden Lane is one of the most important connections for people walking and biking in the city. It’s a key link in the countywide Border To Border Trail, which is itself part of the statewide Iron Belle trail system. It’s also the linchpin in pretty much any conceivable commuting route between North and Central campuses.

Proposed Campus-to-Campus Bikeway route from Walk Bike Washtenaw

In early 2022, at the urging of the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council advanced a proposal to widen the East Medical Center bridge by adding a new 11-foot lane for cars. In doing so, it will - per the latest engineering plans - also increase pedestrian crossing distances and conflict points at the Fuller intersection. Update 1/20/2023: The city has clarified that they do not plan to change the crosswalk geometry. The engineering plans seem to show an excessively wide crossing (almost 60ft); however, it turns out that is already the crossing distance that exists today.

At the City Council meeting this coming Monday (January 23, 2023), the final construction contract will be up for consideration. Rather than approving it, the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan should take immediate steps to modify this project so it provides benefits for all transportation modes, rather than improving throughput for cars at everyone else's expense.

Both the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan have established goals to increase safety and convenience for people biking and walking, and simultaneously reduce overall Vehicle Miles Traveled:

  • The city's Vision Zero transportation plan targets a reduction to zero fatalities or serious injuries by 2025 and implement a citywide all-ages-and-abilities bike network. It specifically identifies Fuller as a "priority corridor".
  • The city's A2Zero climate action plan calls for a 50% reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled in order for the city to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
  • The U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality report calls specifically for the development of a bike route between Central and North Campus, stating: "The Commission views cycling as an increasingly relevant and integral part of campus transit and encourages the university to pursue a multi-modal transportation system by incorporating accessible and safe cycling paths. Additionally, U-M should create a workable and safe Central-to-North Campus bike route..."

So, let's review: this bridge widening project will reduce pedestrian and bike safety and lead to increased car traffic, when our city and the University of Michigan both have established goals to do the exact opposite of both of these things, with specific focus along this corridor. And yet: the bridge widening proposal adds NOT ONE INCH of net-new space on the bridge for people walking and biking, in spite of these goals, and in spite of feedback from many community members noting that such space is needed. Instead, it only proposes to remove sidewalk space from one side and add it to the other, which is a terrible idea, that will make things worse, not better.

Existing vs Proposed sidewalk widths:
10.5 + 10.5 = 21.0
13.0 + 8.0 = 21.0

11 feet for cars, NOT ONE INCH for anybody else.

The only fig-leaf that was included for people walking and biking was to direct that the design contract include an analysis of a pathway connection beneath the bridge. There was no commitment to actually fund construction, but ... none of that matters now. We learned in December in a city memo that this connection is not currently possible, because it would cross into MDOT’s Right of Way for the railroad tracks, and they will not grant the city permission to do that.

This was already a bad project, but this news adds insult to injury. When the design contract was advanced a year ago, over loud objections from many in the community, representatives from the City and from the University characterized this project as a compromise, with benefits for all road users. It was not, and that’s even more clear now. Again. 11 feet for cars, NOT ONE INCH, nor any other new connections, for anybody else.

This project is now pretty far along; engineering plans have been completed. The best time to seek a better outcome would've been a year ago, but it's still not too late to make changes. We need a design that will benefit all transportation modes, rather than improving throughput for cars at everyone else's expense.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Guest Opinion: Put the Library Lot back on the ballot in 2023

Editor's note: This is a guest opinion by Daniel Adams. If you're interested in sharing an opinion, reach out to or drop us a DM on twitter. In a recent guest opinion, Dan summarized the history of the Library Lot leading up to the 2018 election, and argued that the subsequent failure of Library Green's private fundraising campaign all but requires--given the enormous annual public cost of maintaining the status quo--the city to pursue the repeal or amendment of the language that Proposal A added to the City Charter at the earliest possible opportunity. Below you will find Dan's email to #a2Council proposing one possible way to execute that change to the Charter, and urging City Council to put amendment or repeal language in front of voters in 2023.

2022 Peace Day Celebration on the Library Lot, Sept. 21. Photo Via @violinmonster

 Mayor Taylor and Council Members:

I have attached the draft Council resolution that I discussed during my public comment last night. As I mentioned, this resolution is not a "straight repeal" of the Charter language; instead, it replaces the current sale prohibition with a commitment to invest the proceeds generated by any sale or lease of the development rights in the Library Lot to support two policy objectives that I believe to have broad support among the electorate: the city's affordable housing fund and debt repayment. While less "clean" than a straight repeal, codifying these funding commitments into the Charter will help win support for the initiative and undo the damage that Proposal A has done to the city, which is what matters.

This document was intended as a thought starter; I have no particular expertise in municipal law, ballot initiative language, or drafting Council resolutions. So I apologize to the City Attorney in advance for any technical, clerical, or legal errors in the document, and I suspect there may be a few. I hope that it is helpful to you.

The ultimate form and structure of the resolution is not important. What is important, in my opinion, is tackling this problem--the cash burn, demands on staff time, massive opportunity costs, and wasted capital investments created by Proposal A--as soon as politically practicable, preferably in 2023. Some Council--this one, another one in five years, or further into the future--will have to deal with the problem that Alan Haber, Will Hathaway, and a few other folks created for the city. The sooner we deal with it, the better. But whenever it is on the ballot, it will have financial, political, and other support from me and others in the community who share my views on the imperative to make the best possible use of city-owned real estate to make housing more affordable and meet other resident needs.

At the end of the resolution, there is a paragraph that suspends the Council of the Commons and staff support for Library Green. Even if the Council decides to take no action on the charter language, Council should consider suspending these activities, which have outlived their usefulness, do not appear to be serving their intended purpose of providing actionable advice to Council, and are unnecessarily burdening staff with support work in service of a dead-in-the-water project.

This is not a criticism of the serious-minded professionals--I'm thinking specifically here of Mr. Zemke, Council Members Briggs and Cornell, and others--who have dutifully and in good faith served Council on this body and worked to make it as effective as possible, under very difficult circumstances. But with Library Green's leadership usually lacking any progress to report on the substantive work of creating a park, there is very little to discuss and no advice to provide to Council, beyond tasking staff--as they did most recently in November--with projects intended to "activate" a parking lot. This is reflected in the Council's minutes, which are cursory and devoid of action items, decisions, deadlines, and the other indicia of a body performing important work for the Council and the city.

Library Green should be provided with a space in City Hall, if it so wishes, to continue to meet and discuss any topic relating to planning and activating the Library Lot. It can contact Council, at any time, the way I have here, if it has progress to report or requests to make. But special access to Council and staff time should be reserved for projects that demonstrate promise and potential to advance city policy goals and help residents. Library Green, absent a material change in its fundraising progress, is not a worthy investment of these valuable city resources.

Please contact me if you have any questions. Thank you, as always, for your public service.

Daniel Adams

Proposed Resolution:

Resolution to Order Election and to Determine Ballot Question for Charter Amendment Amending Section 1.4 of the City Charter (7 Votes Required) 

Monday, January 9, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: January 9, 2023


Tonight is the first #a2Council meeting of 2023. Here's the agenda

The meeting kicks off with a report from the Independent Police Oversight Commission. 

There is a pretty modest, 11-item consent agenda. Of note, CA-3 and CA-4 which both involve purchasing conservation easements in Webster Township. 

There are 4 public hearings on the docket this evening. PH-1/B-1 is on revisions to the best value purchasing ordinance. PH-2/DB-1 and PH-3/DB-2 are on routine township island annexations. PH-4/DB-3 is on the 2023-2028 Parks and Recreation Open Space Plan. I anticipate that there will be a lot of folks calling in tonight lobbing for their preferred use for the Library Lot. Personally, I think city council should think about setting a ballot question to repeal 2018's Prop A so that the Library Lot can be used for it's intended purpose: housing and a plaza. If you'd like to read more about the Library Lot, you can do so here. If you have strong feelings about the best use of the Library Lot, don't hesitate to call into this open public hearing. 

Further down the agenda, there are two ordinance first readings. C-1 is the first reading of a PUD at 530 N Division. This will allow a pretty cool looking 4-unit building to be built. C-2 is the first reading of an ordinance amending storm water management rules. 

On to the resolutions! DC-1 is a resolution to appoint Brian Steglitz as Public Services Area Administrator. DC-2 is to recommend a Downtown Development Liquor License to Tastu at 620 E Liberty. DC-3 is a resolution to revise a Class C Liquor License for A2Wineman, LLC. 

And that's all there is. Looks like a pretty modest agenda. What items are you most looking forward to seeing? Hopefully we will see you there. The CTN stream starts at 7 pm. Make sure you follow the action on the #a2Council hashtag or on