Monday, September 18, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: September 18, 2023

 Gentle reader, it's #a2Council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda

The evening kicks off with a modest, 11-item consent agenda. CA-1 is street closures for the Ann Arbor Marathon. CA-4 and CA-5 are for traffic calming on Baldwin and Manchester, respectively. 

There are two public hearings on the docket tonight. PH-1/B-1 is the second reading of an ordinance rezoning two houses at 2670 & 2690 Ann Arbor-Saline Road from R1C (single family zoning) to O (office). PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an ordinance to make changes to the Transportation Commission ordinance. 

Moving down the agenda, we get to the resolutions. DC-1 is a resolution to approve revised bylaws for the Transportation Commission. DC-2 is a resolution to revise the remainder of the 2023 Council Calendar. DC-3 is a resolution to amend the sale of the the Y Lot, 350 S. Fifth. 

All in all it looks like a pretty light 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 

Monday, September 11, 2023

House Party starts Tomorrow


Do Good Work, an Ann Arbor-based 501(c)3, is hosting House Party this week. House Party is a series of events focused around the state of housing in our community. Last week, I reached out to Lisa Sauvé, the founder of Do Good Work, who graciously answered some of my questions about House Party:

Damn Arbor: What inspired you to put on House Party?

Lisa SauvĂ©: I kept having conversations around housing and different perspectives and opinions on solutions and thought we should open it up to a broader audience. Sometimes the policy wonks and design nerds get too wrapped up without taking a step back to invite others into the conversation and spend some time listening. Last September I was at the Avalon Housing Fundraiser and was inspired by all the stories being shared and thought "we need more of this". Immediately texted a friend and the ideas started being put together. Below is a snap of that text exchange. 

DA:  What outcome are you hoping for?

LS: I hope the information sharing can help dispell some myths around housing and development like how and why we only see market-rate "luxury" apartments from the private development industry (hint: the opportunity cost, risk, financing, and requirements all layer into the final cost). Online doesn't allow for long-form discourse and I know I'm part of that vocal group. When we meet face-to-face there is more humanity and understanding of the tradeoffs we're all trying to balance to meet our community goals. 

This is also a great time at the beginning of the city's comprehensive planning process to start to engage from a grassroots of community events without the consultants and municipal leaders leading the agenda. For several of the event,s we have talked directly to the city and Interface (the comprehensive planning consultant) about what outcomes and information would be useful for them to recieve if we were able to collect it. It will be great to share these experiences as part of the longer planned collective conversation. So while we have the support, these events do have some autonomy. 

DA: What are you most excited about with House Party?

LS: I'm actually an introvert, so organizing a whole lot of public events feels kinda out of character. The one that resonates with me personally is House Stories. It allows anyone to schedule an individual time to record their housing story in a phone booth at the AADL downtown branch. The AADL is also going to archive these recordings in their collection as a recorded history and snapshot in time of our lived experiences locally which is exciting to know they'll be able to be a shared resource into the future. A couple of the most powerful experiences I've had around housing this past year have been at that Avalon fundraiser, and a city council meeting (8/7/23) where several renters organized and shared their stories and struggles with landlords, cost, and quality housing.

There's also a few student run events including an engagement session on Wednesday evening, with a second opportunity Saturday afternoon to participate at the Liberty Annex as well as some spaces for Park(ing) Day. Student housing is a major discussion point, partially for the new construction downtown but also our ability (or lack-thereof) to retain talent and grow a multi-generational community. It's great to see how involved they have become to join the issue and break down that barrier between town and gown. 

DA: One last question: What would you recommend for someone who is curious about House Party, but maybe feeling a little shy?

LS: Like I said, I'm an introvert, so I get it. At almost every event there is food and stickers which usually gives something to focus on if being social or engaging isn't something you can jump right into. A great friend, advocate, and expert in community engagement - Jess Letaw - shared a working agreement to help situate the room into a respectful and open one. I hope that this will create spaces for the shy and opinionated to come together and find mutual respect and understanding to allow everyone to grow and take something away from joining. The agreement is below if you'd like to share;

  • As a group, we are committed to practicing the following:
  • We expect and give respect, always assuming good intentions.
  • We allow our opinions and beliefs to be challenged.
  • We recognize learning can be uncomfortable but should not be unsafe.
  • We are mindful of our own experiences and feelings.
  • We take the time and space we need, both inside and outside the shared spaces.
  • We process harms as they arise, when and how we are able, with care and without tone policing. 

Sounds like it'll be a series of incredible events.  House Party kicks off tomorrow morning with Coffee + Conversations with City Staff from 8:30 am - 10:00 am at Cahoots. Events run through Sunday the 17th and are all accessible by public transit. Don't forget to pick up the daily issue of Housezene from Vault of Midnight. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: September 5, 2023


A rendering of the proposed South Town project. There are three public hearings on the project tonight. 

Gentle reader, it's #a2Council night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda

The evening starts off with a modest, 11-item consent agenda. Just one street closing. C-1 is for Little Amal - The Walk on Saturday, September 23. 

On to the public hearings. PH-1/B-1 is to allow specific car related uses in TC-1. PH-2/B-2 is for the second reading of an ordinance to require home energy rating disclosure. PH-3/B-3 is on the second reading of an ordinance to allow Cannabis micro-businesses. 

Then we come to the South Town hearings. This project is great. It involves rezoning the a block of old houses on South State to the campus business district zone. This will allow them to replace the 15 dwellings with a mixed use mid-rise building with 215 homes. It'll also be super energy efficient. This is a great development for this super walkable area. Here's the area where the project is happening: 

South Town area context

PH-4/B-4 is the rezoning to C1A/R. PH-5/DB-1 is the site plan approval. PH-6/DB-2 is on vacating an alley, which is necessary for the project. 

Finally we get to the 7th public hearing of the evening. PH-7/DB-3 which is on vacating a portion of East Mosley Street. 

On to the resolutions: DS-1 is a resolution authorizing publication of the aforementioned changes to TC-1. DC-1 is a resolution to appoint folks Neal Elyakin, Janet Haynes, and Rodrick Green to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission. DC-2 is a resolution to adopt an improved Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program. This is great! DC-3 is a resolution to improve data transparency and performance management. DC-4 is on a resolution to initiate a statue to honor Kathy Kozachenko. DC-5 is a resolution directing the administrator to advocate for the state legislature to end the use of 14(c) Certificates and Subminimum Wage in the State of Michigan. DC-6 is a resolution to approve the purchase of a property on Miller past Maple for a new election center. 

And that's all there is. 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