Correction 10/6: A previous version of this article incorrectly states Public Sector Consulting’s contract was terminated. The article has been updated to reflect that PSC is still employed by the city.
Ann Arbor tenants who want to keep their apartment no longer have to worry about their landlords ignoring their renewal requests after City Council voted 10-1 at their meeting Monday night to enshrine the right to renew in the municipal code. Ordinance B-1, also known as “Right to Renew,” requires landlords to offer lease renewal to current tenants or compensate them for relocation.
Rackham student Evelyn Smith, a Graduate Employees’ Organization member, said landlords often do not share their renewal timeline with tenants, leading to tenants being unable to renew their lease. Smith said landlords who claim they need more time to consider this ordinance is a bad faith attempt to delay the ordinance’s passage.
“Landlords don’t speak for tenants; they try all the time, but they don’t represent us,” Smith said. “They do not advocate for us. Renters are perfectly capable of speaking for ourselves and … we want you to pass Right to Renew into law.”
LSA junior Karthik Pasupula, Central Student Government assembly speaker, told the council that passing this ordinance makes sense, as it has received vast support from the student body.
“Numerous times we hear horror stories (from) undergrads and grad students (on) how landlords mistreat them and (don’t) give them appropriate time to renew,” Pasupula said. “Many renters felt pressured to renew their lease … a lot of landlords want to force students like me to renew early.”
Mayor Christopher Taylor (D) said renter community activists, members of council and the Renters Commission have done a great amount of work to bring this ordinance to fruition.
“The passing of ‘Right to Renew’ is going to improve the lives of thousands of Ann Arbor residents, both today and over the years to come,” Taylor said. “It’s going to improve their lives with particular respect to housing stability.”
Hayner said he believes the council is making a mistake in supporting the “Right to Renew” ordinance. He said there are more holistic solutions that could better solve the housing market problems.
“I think we’re making a mistake, and if the essence of ‘Right to Renew’ is to provide stability in our housing market, we should be roundly looking at other innovative ways to do that, not just by interfering in private contracts,” Hayner said.
Hayner was the only vote against the ordinance.
Dr. Lisa Jackson, commissioner and chair of the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC), announced her retirement and discussed the group’s takeaways from the National Association for the Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).
“One of the most enlightening (NACOLE) sessions that we went to was on addressing the white supremacy and extremism that exists in law enforcement,” Jackson said. “A call session pointed to the desperate need for both departmental and legislative policies to prohibit (white supremacists and extremists) to join or to remain in the police department.”
ICPOC’s new chair Frances Todoro-Hargreaves said the city’s Unarmed Emergency Response Program is vital, as it expands public safety for historically disenfranchised groups such as members of the LGBTQ+ community and impoverished individuals. Todoro-Hargreaves said the process, facilitated by Public Sector Consultants (PSC), a consulting firm hired to survey community attitudes toward the Emergency Response Program.
“So far, the (Response Program’s) sole instrument is an online survey, which is only accessible to those privileged enough to have a computer and internet,” Todoro-Hargreaves said. “We further request that PSC must include outreach and participation of disenfranchised and underserved populations.”
The council also discussed Ordinance C-1, which rezones a set of parcels around the intersection of West Stadium Boulevard and North/South Maple Road near the Westgate shopping center to TC-1, or Transit Corridor District. The ordinance is designed to reduce citywide reliance on cars by encouraging denser, mixed-use, walkable development on the city’s western edge.
Ann Arbor resident Adam Goodman said he strongly supports C-1 and feels a sense of urgency to resolve this issue. Goodman said the West Stadium area will continue to be a dangerous place to walk if nothing is done.
“The lesson is we cannot make this corridor truly welcoming for people using all modes of transportation unless we actually change the underlying land (use),” Goodman said. “If we don’t resolve rezoning this quarter, it’s going to get worse, not better.”
Anne Bannister, Ann Arbor resident and former councilmember, said she is firmly against C-1 and believes that the council should not implement this “one size fits all” agenda. Bannister said the council should think about the larger effects of passing the ordinance.
“Where’s the public benefit, and who’s benefiting?” Bannister asked. “We need to avoid irreversible mistakes with our land use … and avoid great loss of our community benefits.”
Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, said this city rezoning ordinance does not truly align with the proposed goals of “housing affordability and sustainability” and encouraged the council to vote against the ordinance.
“There is no requirement for any kind of sustainability, affordability or anything that is keeping with our goals,” Hayner said. “It’s not worth it for the city to initiate this rezoning on the hope that it changes something for the better based on a flawed vision of what transit-oriented development is supposed to be.”
Councilmember Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, said the council is losing focus of the main objectives of the ordinance. Disch said the Planning Commission set specific objectives for the zoning.
“What we were asked to decide tonight is something that planning commission members were unanimous on, and that is on the broad question of whether the goals and objectives of TC-1 are appropriate and beneficial to the West Stadium (and) Maple area,” Disch said. “If we make this rezoning we will never have to have that debate again, and I think that’s really significant and important — it’s a benefit.”
The C-1 ordinance passed 7 to 4 with Councilmembers Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5 and Hayner voting against.
The council also passed Resolution DC-1 to restrict turns on red in downtown Ann Arbor — the area bordered by Kingsley St., State St., Hoover Ave., and First St. — to promote public safety after postponing the vote at their Sept. 19 meeting. The resolution passed 9 to 2, with Griswold and Hayner voting against.
Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, talked about the importance of pedestrian safety when considering this resolution. She said many organizations have chimed in to confirm that this resolution will solve many community-wide issues.
“The Federal Highway Administration has said that this is a proven countermeasure for improving pedestrian safety,” Briggs said. “Our Office of Sustainability also weighed in and said that they believed this was a positive in terms of the impact on sustainability.”
Griswold said this resolution is based in large part on an engineering standard called the sight distance triangle, which represents how far a driver stopped at an intersection should be able to see in order to safely enter the other road. The triangle is based on the speed limit of the intersecting road, which Griswold said drivers often ignore.
“For some reason in Ann Arbor, we don’t think we need to adhere to that because we’re special, and we can see around the corner, or everyone follows the rules,” Griswold said. “That’s not the case. So I’d just like to conclude that if only we were not a democracy, if we had communist government, it would be so easy. We could just decide all of the good things that are necessary, and take care of them for our public.”
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