The Ann Arbor City Council met Thursday night to discuss banning on-street parking near the Lawton Elementary School and rezoning in Transit Corridor 1 (TC1) to address housing affordability.
The meeting commenced with an open floor for public comments on the agenda. Many speakers presented personal grievances with resolution CA-3, which would limit on-street parking on the west side of South Seventh Street from Scio Church Road to Lawton Elementary School. The proposed resolution would also introduce traffic calming measures on these roads, such as adding bike lanes and decreasing speed limits.
Ann Arbor resident Jill Anderson, whose family has lived on South Seventh Street since 1966, said she had concerns with the current framework for CA-3, but believes it would improve traffic and road safety throughout Ann Arbor.
“Removing street parking for some is inequitable for all,” Anderson said. “The street should become an appropriate-sized, local neighborhood street with enough space for bikes and parking for residents, delivery trucks, contractors and visitors. It must leverage traffic-calming measures to keep everyone safe and continue to function as a shared resource.”
The resolution was brought forth in light of another project to upgrade the existing water mains and resurface road pavement along South Seventh Street and Greenview Drive. If CA-3 is approved, the on-street parking on South Seventh Street would be eliminated during the construction project.
Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, introduced a substitute resolution to CA-3, which would postpone the project by one year, allowing time to develop a new design for South Seventh Road and gather feedback from community members. Receiving unanimous approval from the council, the proposal will be referred to the Transportation Commission before returning to council. Eyer said CA-3 is particularly important because of the fatal dangers of speeding.
“At 20 miles per hour, nine out of 10 pedestrians will survive being hit,” Eyre said. “But at 30 miles per hour, the chances drop to five times out of 10.”
Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, said 40% of this survey’s respondents were not residents of the project area and argued the results should be taken with a grain of salt because of this. According to the survey, 61% of survey respondents were Ward 4 residents, the majority of whom lived in the project area. This data was collected in a public meeting held in September where attendees voted on their preferred methods of traffic-calming.
Councilmembers and attendees also shared their opinions on DC-4, a resolution proposing the parking lot next to the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown branch lot be used to host food trucks and mobile vendors. Ann Arbor resident Adam Zemke, who served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019, expressed his support for this resolution, citing similar successes in neighboring areas.
“The Downtown Detroit Partnership has activated numerous urban parks through a joint public-private partnership and is addressing the needs of all users to ensure that everyone is safe, that equity is paramount and that no one is feeling pushed out,” Zemke said.
Zemke also responded to arguments that mobile food activations would create competition with brick and mortar locations, arguing that hosting food trucks promotes vendor equity.
“Mobile activations, particularly those around food, and pop-up vendors are not in conflict with brick and mortar locations — in fact, they are complimentary,” Zemke said. “They promote equity and entrepreneurship by providing low-cost, entry-level points to individuals to start businesses, and I think that is something we strive for as a community value.”
The council then proceeded to address ordinance B1, which proposes applying the TC1 District to the West Stadium Boulevard and Maple Road area in hopes of addressing housing affordability and climate concerns. The ordinance is intended to support the development of higher-density, mixed-use and walkable developments that would reduce the reliance on cars.
Ann Arbor resident Jean Leverage expressed support for the TC1 rezoning as a solution to the housing affordability and access issues Ann Arbor faces.
“We desperately need workforce housing,” Leverage said. “We need to make it easier for people who work in Ann Arbor to live in Ann Arbor, and it would be so lovely to have almost like a little second downtown in that area. We want to address climate change, we want to help people be active and walk and bike, and we desperately need diverse housing in this community.”
Ann Arbor resident Elaine Starco, who lives near West Stadium, expressed concerns about the rezoning pushing out families who want safe outdoor spaces for their children to play.
“When I think about this project, I think: Where are the children going to go?” Starco said. “You’re thinking about potentially thousands of additional residents in a few blocks with no additional green space … With this, your children will only be playing on the sidewalk of busy Stadium Boulevard.”
Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, addressed concerns about inadequate parks and public spaces as a result of this resolution, voicing her support for the change.
“We have parkland acquisition funds,” Grand said. “We have developer contributions. We have other ways that if we did achieve the population growth at some point that would need additional playground space or other kinds of amenities, we actually have policies at the city that can help us achieve that.”
Ward 1 resident Tom Stulberg discussed the example of the North Maple Apartment Project plan to argue for the viability of affordability and sustainability requirements in TC1.
“(The North Maple Development) is going to be mixed-use and has sustainability in the building techniques, and it’s going to donate to the Ann Arbor affordable housing fund,” Stulberg said. “We are being shown a way by this developer that we can achieve the goals of TC1.”
Ann Arbor resident Brandon Chuck also spoke in support of TC1, citing the current housing crisis and arguing that TC1 is necessary to address the issue.
“We need market rate housing, we need affordable housing,” Chuck said. “We need to make this street more pleasant for people to walk on. We need to calm traffic. These are all solvable problems, and we can’t just leave this area as strip malls and huge parking lots.”
Councilmember Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, said the TC1 zoning ordinance has restrictions in place to ensure the development benefits the community.
“We have heard concerns expressed that if housing is built on these parking lots, it will kill the commercial businesses,” Disch said. “We have heard that we are not thinking about who is coming next, but we are doing exactly that: providing housing for upcoming generations of Ann Arbor, just like people in the 1960s and 1970s did for so many of us who live in single-family buildings.”
Hayner motioned an amendment to B1 to exempt parcels 62, 64 and 65, which cover the Maple Shopping Village owned by Brixmor Property Group, a New York City-based commercial realty group.
“Brixmor folks have been very explicit in their letter to us as to their problems with TC1,” Hayner said. “Since we’re only discussing applying (TC1) to these parcels at the table tonight, I would like to exclude those three parcels, and that’s why I move this discussion.”
Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, disagreed with the idea of exempting Brixmor properties, saying it is unfair for a large company to get special treatment.
“A company like that has got the resources they have to be able to sway this body to carve something else out for them,” Ramlawi said. “That’s just not good government, in my opinion.”
Hayner’s amendment was rejected with a 9-2 vote, with only Hayner and Griswold voting in support.
Following the rejection of the amendment, Councilmember Linh Song, D-Ward 2, spoke to the citywide benefits that TC1 would provide.
“Study after study confirms that increases in density (enhance) residential property values as homeowners,” Song said. “I encourage you all to read the paper ‘Economic value of walkable neighborhoods,’ among other papers. If you walk beyond my ward to Oak Creek Apartments, where there are three floors, 264 units all occupied, or to Barclay, my favorite neighborhood, you’ll see the most racially diverse communities in the city. It looks and feels like Sesame Street.”
The Council voted 7 to 3 to pass the B1 ordinance, with Nelson, Ramlawi and Hayner voting against. Griswold was absent for the vote. Hayner said Griswold left the room in the middle of the meeting after saying “Life is too short.”
This meeting marked the last time Hayner, Nelson, Ramlawi and Grand would be a part of a City Council meeting following the Nov. 8 election. Ann Arbor resident Brandon Dimcheff, who remained at Larcom City Hall for the full meeting, thanked the council members for their work.
“I wanted to express my gratitude for all the council members, especially the outgoing members,” Dimcheff said. “I hope in the future, the council meeting will be a little bit shorter.”
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Correction 11/14: This article has been clarified to state that the CA-3 resolution pertains to an area in the Lawton neighborhood near the elementary school, not in downtown areas. Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, sponsored the substitute resolution. Additional context has been provided regarding the CA-3 resolution and substitution resolution.