The Ann Arbor City Council and the Downtown Development Authority are working together to develop a proposal to transfer decision-making responsibility regarding parking in downtown Ann Arbor from City Council to the DDA.
Though officials have already drafted the proposal, they haven’t taken any further action to put the plan into effect.
In crafting the proposal, City Council proposes transfering its power to enforce parking decisions — like setting rates and enforcement hours — to the DDA.
The proposal stems from a 2005 agreement between the DDA and City Council in which the DDA gave $10 million to the city over a span of 10 years to fund parking enforcement. However, city officials say they no longer have sufficient funding because the $10 million ran out after the first five years of the agreement.
In 2009, the DDA and the city reached an agreement that entailed a $2-million grant from the DDA to the city to avoid debt. In exchange, the city promised to renegotiate its parking contract with the DDA. The two entities have been working together over the past year to renegotiate the contract.
“The city’s track record with downtown development and parking is not as good as it should be,” City Council member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1). said
Under the current agreement, the DDA officials must notify the city if they plan to make any parking changes. Unless the city raises any objections to the proposed changes within 60 days, the amendment goes into effect.
According to DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay, City Council has never objected to a proposal made by the DDA in her 15 years with the organization.
The city receives a set rate of parking income from the DDA under the current contract. If approved, the new agreement would give the city a set percentage of the parking income — increasing profits from the downtown parking structures.
“The proposal is an advantage for the city,” Briere said. “The more people that visit and park downtown, the more money the city will make.”
According to Briere, the DDA says that the new proposal will allow the city to avoid making tough political decisions about contentious issues like parking prices.
However, Briere said she is “not particularly happy with the idea that the City Council will not take responsibility for the citizens” on parking issues if the proposal is passed.
Despite Briere’s concerns, Pollay said the public would still be able to hold the DDA accountable for its decisions.
“The DDA is not a for-profit organization looking to generate profits from parking,” Pollay said. “Rather, it is a public agency responsible to and responsive to its community.”
While parking costs could potentially increase due to the current economic state, Briere said the DDA is working to make sure the cost of parking in Ann Arbor is as low as possible.
“The DDA wants people to park downtown and spend money in stores instead of on parking tickets or fees,” Briere said. “Keeping parking costs down will be stimulation for the Ann Arbor economy.”
Though the proposal will not have a direct effect on the University, Pollay said the agency will continue to keep students and visitors needs in mind when implementing the plan.
“As managers of the public parking system, the DDA has always viewed U-M students, visitors, faculty and staff as hugely important stakeholders and it has striven to manage its parking in support of these and other constituents,” Pollay said. “Going forward, the DDA’s goals will remain the same.”