City Council discusses police oversight commission, housing affordability

Monday, March 18, 2019 - 10:03pm

Ann Arbor City Council congregates to discuss various resolutions at City Hall Monday night.

Ann Arbor City Council congregates to discuss various resolutions at City Hall Monday night. Buy this photo
Kayleah Son/Daily

Ann Arbor City Council met Monday night to discuss the affordable housing resolutions and the appointments of the police oversight commission. Affordable housing issues addressed the Lockwood development and developments on Main Street and Industrial Street. The Lockwood of Ann Arbor senior development resolution failed, while three resolutions dedicated to an affordable housing development passed. The appointment of 11 nominees to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission appointment was passed despite community member interruption during the vote.

The Lockwood of Ann Arbor Apartments development is a three-story senior housing facility proposed to be built on a controversial area of residential land near the intersection of Wagner and Jackson roads. The developer guaranteed 40 percent of the units to be dedicated to affordable housing ensured for 99 years. Many opposing councilmembers cited zoning ordinances as the reason to decline the resolution, as the area is currently a single family unit zone and the Lockwood development would require the council to change it to a planned unit development zone.

Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, voted yes to Lockwood and noted issues regarding zoning.

“It’s a zoning question before us,” Hayner said. “To decide, I’m going to be asking myself, ‘Do the community benefits offered meet the standards of the PUD?’”

Other opposing councilmembers cited environmental concerns. Councilmember Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, discussed her concerns with the development impinging on the dioxane plume treatment site.

“I am very convinced by three experts who have told us that this property is a key location for remediation of the plume,” Bannister said. “It is near the main plume the source site of the dioxane and it is the best location, that I’m aware of, to pump and treat this chemical out of the ground if possible.”

LSA senior Krishna Motta and LSA sophomore Hannah Bradshaw spoke to the council about the importance of affordable housing in Ann Arbor. Both Motta and Bradshaw discussed how affordable housing affects students, senior citizens and people with a lower socioeconomic status. They pointed councilmembers to multiple resolutions that offer various options for the city to pursue affordable housing.

“There’s a lot of options that the city has passed up even though they say they support affordable housing,” Bradshaw said. “There’s some great resolutions in front of you today where you can take action on affordable housing and start providing for the community. Even though (Ann Arbor) claims to be a diverse and welcoming place, the reality is that it’s not for a lot of people in a lower socioeconomic status, and that’s making your city less diverse and less welcoming to a lot of people.”

Residents living adjacent to the proposed Lockwood Apartments issued complaints of the development worsening the dioxane plume as reason to stop the building of the senior complex. They also cited the alleged lack of care from the developer to environmental concerns as especially troubling.

Public Policy senior Lauren Schandevel said although environmental concerns are most definitely valid in these discussions, in the history of affordable housing conversations, excuses like these are often used to shut down these developments.

“I can understand if (the dioxane plume) is a genuine concern that they may have,” Schandevel said. “My only fear is that I’ve witnessed other conversations about affordable units and there are a lot of excuses made by community members that may be disingenuous because they don’t want ‘those people’ near their community, so I think that’s something that we have to keep in mind.”

Following the discussion of affordable housing, the council moved onto a vote to confirm the nominations to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission. The commission has been an ongoing concern in City Council meetings since January 2018, when the Human Rights Commission called for increased accountability and transparency from the Ann Arbor Police Department in response to incidents linked to police brutality, most notably the shooting of Aura Rosser by an Ann Arbor police officer and the rough arrest of Ciaeem Slaton by Ann Arbor police officers at the Blake Transit Center.

Since the initial call for increased oversight, City Council created a task force in March 2018 to develop a police oversight commission. Throughout the development of the commission, councilmembers and citizens alike have argued over the appointment of commission members and the agency of the commission.

After months of contentious discussion, on March 11, City Council announced the names of those nominated to the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission. They voted Monday to confirm the appointees of the commission. The confirmation was passed even with community concerns and audience interruptions.

Sargeant Donovan-Smith, a doctoral student in anthropology and history at the University of Michigan, continually raised concerns during City Council about the transparency of the selection process. Many of Donovan-Smith’s comments were directed at Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2.

“Why did you nominate someone who works for McKinley Properties?” Donovan asked. “Someone who has systematically discriminated against formerly incarcerated people in Ann Arbor? Tell us how these people are qualified.”

Mayor Christopher Taylor said he is proud of the commission that was chosen. The members were nominated by by Councilmembers Julie Grand, D-Ward 3; Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5; Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4; and Lumm.

“We strove to work with staff to find something that was both practical for their purposes and for councilmembers,” Taylor said. “No system is perfect. From my part, I’m comfortable with the core picks and the try-it-out basis. In six months, if it’s a disaster, then we’ll either know it or they’ll tell us.”