Elizabeth Nelson's City Council Blog

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I write a City Council newsletter with my summary of agenda items coming before City Council. Sign up to receive it first via email, or read it here later on this blog.

City Council Newsletter (June 5, 2021)

Hello neighbors!

Welcome to everyone who is new to this newsletter! Before every Council meeting, I write up my own summary of each agenda item and try to pull details that I think are most relevant to understanding them. My hope is that these summaries can help residents keep track of what City Council is doing. For issues that matter to you, I encourage you to follow links (next to each agenda item) to the City's Legistar website, where you can find all the background information.


This week’s Council meeting has a very long Consent Agenda (28 items), four public hearings (including two on the Ward 4 "Valhalla" development), and six items of new business including a call for one of our colleagues to resign.


Since our last meeting, my preschool year ended and I have a good bit more free time during the week. I’m really proud of what my preschool was able to achieve this year in terms of adapting our program to meet safely in person. I’m a part of other organizations that have adapted to these strange times and worked through challenges. Like many other residents, I have a child who is finishing up a very different kind of school year in Ann Arbor Public Schools. I am hopeful about where and how our community institutions can safely return to some level of “normal” in the next few months!

Barrier Busters

Residents in need of financial help during this crisis (e.g. to avoid eviction, pay utility bills, cover emergency medical expenses) can find resources at this link:

https://www.washtenaw.org/2818/Barrier-Buster-Agency-Provider-List


Housing Access for Washtenaw County

Housing Access for Washtenaw County (HAWC) is Washtenaw County’s central intake for individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. If you are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, please call HAWC at (734) 961-1999

http://www.housingaccess.net/


If you would like to receive this newsletter via email before it is published on my website, please click here to signup: https://eepurl.com/dGDKXf

Coffee Hours

Sunday June 6th 3:00pm

I hold coffee hours Sunday afternoons at 3pm before City Council meetings. This week I will be holding in-person coffee hours at Allmendinger Park. If you can, please bring a chair.


Council Caucus

Sunday June 6th 6:00pm

We have been holding Council Caucus on Sunday nights before Council meetings since March 2019. All Council Members are invited to participate.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829861&GUID=09B51C31-33D1-45B4-978A-B30E645CFB7C


City Council Regular Meeting

Monday June 7th 7:00pm

My summary of this Council meeting agenda is posted below in this newsletter.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829771&GUID=5C0AD2CF-DD23-4C7E-A757-64AC1806953B


City Council Work Session

Monday June 14th 7:00pm

This is a work session with presentations titled "Update on Development of City-Owned Properties as Affordable Housing" and "Smart City Strategic Plan"

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829792&GUID=99D52B61-1F7D-49ED-9209-4C3644737B89


Note that Council is still meeting "virtually" using the Zoom application. Video feeds of Council meetings are broadcast on CTN and YouTube. Public comment is audio only using dial-in numbers. Please check the Legistar link for the latest information.

A2ELNEL.com Website Updates

In addition to writing this newsletter, I post updates to my website with my perspectives on how issues were resolved at City Council and details on how Council voted at each meeting. I also post information about meetings and issues that affect Ward 4 residents, along with news that affects all city residents.

You can see a listing of all my posts here: https://www.a2elnel.com/blog/

City Council Voting Chart for May 17, 2021

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/city-council-voting-chart-for-may-17-2021


Illiberal Democracy

My summary of recent efforts to weaponize our rules, target Council Member Hayner (and potentially others) at the expense of liberal norms. (See also item DC-6 on this agenda)

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/illiberal-democracy


Ward 4 Development: Valhalla

A summary of my concerns and considerations related to the Valhalla development. (See also items PH-2/B-2 and PH-3/DB-1 on this agenda)

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ward-4-development-valhalla


Baldwin & Brockman Resurfacing June 7-17, 2021

Pavement resurfacing work on Baldwin Avenue and Brockman Boulevard is scheduled to begin this Monday, June 7th.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/baldwin-brockman-resurfacing-june-7-17-2021


Proposed City Acceptance of Connector Walks (Delaware, Morehead)

The City is proposing to accept "connector walks" as sidewalks near Deleware Dr, Delaware Ct, Morehead Dr, Morehead Ct. This is expected to be on the Aug 16, 2021 Council agenda.

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/proposed-city-acceptance-of-connector-walks-delaware-morehead

A2COUNCIL Updates (A2COUNCIL.com)

For anyone interested in understanding and analyzing the recent work of Council, I have created a resource at A2COUNCIL.com with summaries of issues and direct links to City documents. For each City Council meeting since November 2018, you can find links to the City's Legistar website, CTN's YouTube video, and links to my newsletters and voting charts. I have listed agenda items of interest from each meeting, along with articles I've written and articles published on MLive.

https://www.a2elnel.com/a2council

http://a2council.com

Council Meeting Agenda 6/7/21

Below is my summary of some issues on the City Council Agenda this week, with links to more information about each of them. If you have comments about any of these issues, feel free to email me at my official City email: ENelson@A2gov.org

The full agenda (including a link to the latest published PDF agenda) can be found on the A2Gov Legistar website:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=829771&GUID=5C0AD2CF-DD23-4C7E-A757-64AC1806953B

Ann Arbor City Council Monday June 7th (7:00pm) Electronic Meeting


City Council meetings are broadcast live by CTN on Comcast (channel 16) and AT&T (channel 99). They are also streamed live on YouTube and Viebit: https://www.youtube.com/user/ctnannarbor

Questions to the Agenda

In preparation for a Council meeting, Council members can ask questions of staff about scheduled agenda items. Questions must be submitted by noon on the Wednesday before a Council Meeting, and answers are returned the next day (Thursday) by 5pm.

AC-1 (21-1103) Agenda Response Memo and eComments - June 7, 2021

This agenda item has a PDF attachment with all questions raised by Council Members, and the answers provided by staff.

Communications from Council


CC-1 (21-1061) Resolution to Appoint Chris Vanden Broek, Evan Redmond, Lunia Oriol, and Yongwen Zheng to the Environmental Commission

These appointments are from CM Disch, who serves on the Environmental Commision. These are being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Chris Vanden Broek - Environmental Commission

  • Evan Redmond - Environmental Commission

  • Lunia Oriol - Environmental Commission

  • Yongwen Zheng - Environmental Commission

Communications from the Mayor


MC-1 (21-1030) Nominations and appointments for June 7, 2021

These appointments from the Mayor are being presented at this previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting.

  • Marianetta Porter - Ann Arbor Public Arts Commission

  • Hugh Flack - Building Board of Appeals

  • Robert Hart - Building Board of Appeals

  • Lynn Nybell - Elizabeth Dean Fund

  • Angela Rasmussen - Housing Board of Appeals

  • Lisa Stelter - Housing Board of Appeals

  • Jason Talley - Housing and Human Services Advisory Board

MC-2 (21-1031) Resolution to appoint Jamall Bufford to the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (7 Votes Required)

This Mayoral appointment is being introduced at this meeting, and will therefore be voted on at the next Council meeting. Because the nominee is not a registered elector, 7 votes are required.

  • Jamall Bufford - Ann Arbor Public Art Commission

Consent Agenda

Below is the list of items included on the Consent Agenda. If no one on Council specifically requests that an item be pulled for discussion, the whole of this list will be approved in a single vote. I encourage you to look at this list and offer suggestions to me about anything you would like to see pulled for discussion.


CA-1 (21-0663) Resolution to Award a Contract to Manpower, Inc. of Southeastern Michigan for Temporary Staffing Services for Public Works (RFP # 21- 09)


CA-2 (21-0579) Resolution to Award a Contract to Margolis Companies, Inc. for the Purchase, Delivery and Planting of Trees Along City Street Rights-of-Way ($420,825.00; Bid No. ITB-4659)


CA-3 (21-0902) Resolution to Accept and Appropriate the Amended Second Phase of the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant Agreement from FEMA for the Construction of the Opening in the Railroad Berm ($355,922.00) and Appropriate and Amend the Stormwater Local Project Share Budget ($2,065,015.00) and Major Street Fund Local Project Share Budget ($905,000.00) to Accommodate Escalated Project Costs (8 Votes Required)


CA-4 (21-0797) Resolution to Approve an Additional $28,970.07 (Total Agreement Amount of $178,970.07) for the Construction Phase Agreement with the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) for the Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project


CA-5 (21-0756) Resolution to Approve Bulk Chemical Purchases for the Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants of Sodium Hypochlorite (JCI Jones Chemical - Approximately $107,400.00/year), Hydrofluorosilicic Acid (Alexander Chemical- approximately $26,384.00/year), Pebble Quicklime (Graymont - Approximately $717,500.00/year) and Ferric Chloride (PVS Technologies - Approximately $50,320.00/year) (estimated $901,604.00/year)


CA-6 (21-0893) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Anhydrous Ammonia for Water Treatment from Tanner Industries, Inc. (ITB 4672) (Estimated $41,000.00/year)


CA-7 (21-0894) Resolution to Approve Purchase of Clarifloc C-308P (Polymer) for Water Treatment from Polydyne Inc. (ITB 4674) (Estimated $36,720.00/yr.)


CA-8 (21-0778) Resolution to Authorize Professional Services Agreements with Spalding DeDecker Associates, Inc. for $2,100,000.00; Stantec Consulting Michigan, Inc. for $2,100,000.00; OHM Advisors for $1,200,000.00; and Wade Trim Associates Inc. for $1,200,000.00 for Construction Inspection Services for a Duration of up to Three Years


CA-9 (21-0831) Resolution to Approve a Maintenance and Cost Participation Agreement with the Washtenaw County Road Commission for the South State Street and West Ellsworth Road Intersection


CA-10 (21-0853) Resolution to Approve a CDBG Subrecipient Agreement with the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development for the Russell Street Improvements Project ($140,000.00) and to appropriate $140,000.00 from the Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage Fund Balance (8 Votes Required)


CA-11 (21-0879) Resolution to Extend the Construction Contract with Strawser Construction Inc. (ITB No. 4630, $1,985,000.00) for the FY2022 Street Preventative Maintenance Project, and to Appropriate $759,644.00 from the Major Street Fund, $853,970 from the Local Street Fund and $670,000.00 from the Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage Fund (8 Votes Required)


CA-12 (21-0821) Resolution to Approve the Purchase of One Rear Loading Electric Refuse Truck from Bell Equipment Company and to Appropriate Funding from the Solid Waste Fund Balance (Sourcewell - $531,532.00) (8 Votes Required)


CA-13 (n/a) Resolution to Amend the Fleet and Facility Unit FY 2021 Budget by appropriating Funds and to Approve the Purchase of Vehicles from Berger Chevrolet (MiDeal Bid - $327,790.00) (8 Votes Required)

This item was deleted from the Agenda on 6/1/21.


CA-14 (21-0834) Resolution to Approve Two Supplemental Agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration for 1) Land Lease Agreement for the Air Traffic Control Tower and 2) Memorandum of Agreement for Navigation, Communication and Weather Aids Located at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport


CA-15 (21-0897) Resolution to Approve a Contract with DUCTZ of North America LLC d/b/a DUCTZ of SE Michigan for the Guy C. Larcom City Hall Duct Cleaning Project (ITB 4671 - $69,550.00)


CA-16 (21-0971) Resolution to Ratify an Emergency Purchase Order Request for ATC Group Services LLC for Environmental Consulting Services ($31,414.00)


CA-17 (21-0871) Resolution to Approve the Purchase and Sale Agreement of Antique 1927 American LaFrance Fire Engine to Michigan Firehouse Museum and Education Center ($1.00)


CA-18 (21-0747) Resolution Authorizing Water Capital Recovery Charges for 4 Maple Village Ct. ($2,696.00)


CA-19 (21-0748) Resolution Authorizing Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 4 Maple Village Ct. ($5,982.00)


CA-20 (21-1021) Resolution Authorizing Sanitary Sewer Capital Recovery Charges for 1780 Scio Church Rd. ($6,707.00)


CA-21 (21-1020) Resolution Authorizing Water Capital Recovery Charges for 1780 Scio Church Rd. ($5,274.00)


CA-22 (21-0972) Resolution to Approve FY 22 Allocations for 6-month Transition Grants to Non-Profit Entities for Human Services - $633,765 (General Fund)


CA-23 (21-1024) Resolution to Amend the Source of Funding for Purchase of Land at 2570 Dexter Road (8 Votes Required)


CA-24 (21-0952) Resolution to Add South University Area Businesses to the Current Approval for Downtown Street Closures for Restaurant and Retail Use


CA-25 (21-0948) Resolution to Accept an Easement for Public Right-of-Way at 2960 Washtenaw Ave. and 2270 Platt Road from Washtenaw County (8 Votes Required)


CA-26 (21-0882) Resolution to Appropriate $1,100,000.00 from the Affordable Housing Millage to Avalon Housing Inc., or an Affiliated Entity for its Project, The Grove at Veridian at 2270 Platt Road, Without Regard to Fiscal Year ($1,100,000) (8 Votes Required)


CA-27 (21-0953) Resolution to Accept an Easement for Public Right-of-Way at 1780 Scio Church Road from Capovista, LLC and Craig and Sarah Lorenz (8 Votes Required)


CA-28 (21-1072) Resolution Authorizing Amy Cell Talent to Assist in the Search Process For The Position of City Attorney (NTE $25,000)


CA-29 (21-0900) Resolution to Appropriate $424,364.00 from the Affordable Housing Millage to Avalon Housing Inc., or an Affiliated Entity for its Hickory Way II Project at 1130 S Maple Road, Without Regard to Fiscal Year ($424,364) (8 Votes Required)

Public Hearings

Anyone wanting to comment on these issues may speak for 3 minutes, without having specifically reserved time. Issues subject to public hearing will also be up for a vote by Council later in the meeting.

PH-1/B-1 (21-0589) An Ordinance to Amend Section 5.15 (Table 5-15-2) and Section 5.16.6 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Accessory Dwelling Units) (ORD-21-14)

Amendments to the City’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance will permit the construction of additional dwelling units on any residential lot in the City, without requirements for owner occupancy. Lot size requirements (minimum 5,000 sq. Ft.) would be removed. Requirements that the property owner reside in either the primary home or ADU would also be removed. The required rear and side setback for ADUs would be three feet.


PH-2/B-2 (21-0634) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code), Rezoning of 9.8 Acres from TWP(Township), R1C (Single-Family) and R1A (Single-Family) to R4E With Conditions (Multiple-Family Dwelling District with Conditions), Valhalla Ann Arbor Conditional Rezoning, 31, 50, 57, 77, 97, 98, 107, 145, 147, 151, 155, 159, 163 Valhalla Drive and 2065, 2099 South Main Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 1 Nay) (ORD-21-15)

A cluster of fifteen parcels (a total of 9.8 acres) at South Main would be re-zoned from Township/R1C/R1A to R4E (Multiple-Family Dwelling District) with Conditions. This zoning would permit the construction of 454 Dwelling units (studio, one- and two-bedroom) in four stacked apartment buildings and five townhouse buildings, as well as two additional buildings. Staff recommended zoning would permit the construction of 84 dwelling units.


PH-3/DB-1 (21-0771) Resolution to Approve Valhalla Ann Arbor Site Plan and Development Agreement, 31, 50, 57, 77, 97, 98, 107, 145, 147, 151, 155, 159, 163 Valhalla Drive and 2065, 2099 South Main Street (CPC Recommendation: Approval - 8 Yeas and 1 Nay)

Approval of the site plan for 9.8 acres at South Main (see B-2) would permit the construction of 454 Dwelling units (studio, one- and two-bedroom) in four stacked apartment buildings and five townhouse buildings, as well as two additional buildings.


PH-4/DB-2 (21-0944) Resolution to Adopt the Ann Arbor Moving Together Towards Vision Zero - City of Ann Arbor Comprehensive Transportation Plan (Adopted and Recommended by the CPC on April 20, 2021 - 9 Yeas, 0 Nays)

The City will officially adopt a Comprehensive Transportation Plan including strategies meant to support Vision Zero, A2Zero climate goals, safety and accessibility (both regionally and across the city). The plan includes targets for lower speed limits, specific road treatments, sidewalk infrastructure, zoning for mixed use in residential areas, and enhanced transit options.

Ordinances - Second Reading

In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances were approved at a previous Council meeting, and are also subject to a public hearing as listed above.

B-1 (21-0589) is the same as PH-1 above.

B-2 (21-0634) is the same as PH-2 above.

New Business - Boards and Commissions

The following resolution had a public hearing, as listed above.


DB-1 (21-0771) is the same as PH-3 above.

DB-2 (21-0944) is the same as PH-4 above.

Ordinances - First Reading

In order to amend the city code, Council must vote to approve the change, via ordinance, at two Council meetings. The following proposed ordinances are being introduced for "first reading". If approved, the ordinance will be voted on at a subsequent Council meeting ("second reading"), where it will also be subject to a public hearing.

C-1 (21-0640) An Ordinance to Amend Section 8:530 of Chapter 105 (Housing: Entry to Show Premises and Time for Rental Agreements) of Title VIII (Building Regulations) of the Ann Arbor City Code

Amendments to our early leasing ordinance will change a standard from 70 days to 240 days. A landlord would not be permitted to enter a leased premises for the purpose of showing it to prospective tenants or enter into a contract for a subsequent lease sooner than 240 days into a current lease. NOTE: a postponement is planned for this agenda item. See my "Additional Thoughts" section below.


C-2 (21-1042) An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 112 (Non-Discrimination), Section 9:151, Title IX of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor to Add Definition of Race to Include Prohibition Against Race-Based Hair Discrimination

The City’s non-discrimination ordinance will be amended to add protections for Race-Based hair discrimination by referencing “traits historically associated with race.” Amendments include specific mention of hairstyles such as “braids, locks, twists, and wraps.”


C-3 (21-0870) An Ordinance to Add Sections 5.12.9 and to Amend Sections 5.15, 5.16.3, 5.17.4 and 5.20.4 of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (New Zoning District TC1 Transit Corridor)

Amendments to the local Unified Development Code would add a new zoning district: TC1, Transit Corridor district. This zoning district will permit unlimited density, maximum (rather than minimum) parking requirements, require mixed use, decrease height and reduce setbacks near pre-existing residential areas, and implement as yet undetermined requirements or incentives for sustainability, affordability, and public open space.


C-4 (21-0876) An Ordinance to Amend Sections 5.18.3, 5.18.4, 5.17.3, 5.37.2.A and 5.37.2.S, to Add Sections 5.19.6 and 5.33.6, and to Repeal Sections 5.30.1and 5.30.4.B of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) of Title V of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor (Planned Project Site Plan Modifications)

Amendments to the local Unified Development Code would eliminate Planned Project Site Plan Modifications provisions and codify standard deviations from setback, height, and parking requirements. Setbacks may be reduced at the front, side, or rear up to 50% where another required setback increases by the same amount (I.e. a total, cumulative required setback). A planned project with 15% affordable housing units (or 15% of floor area designated affordable) may increase height by 30% and is alleviated of all off-street parking requirements. A planned project that includes solar collector surface equal to 60% of the building footprint and powers solely by electricity may increase height by 30% and is alleviated of all off-street parking requirements.

Motions and Resolutions

The following agenda items are motions and resolutions, which are approved or rejected in a single meeting. Agenda items marked "DC" are proposed by Council members, items marked "DB" are proposed by City boards and commissions, items marked "DS" are proposed by City staff.


DC-1 (21-0950) Resolution to Appoint Kristen Schweighoeffer to the Housing Board of Appeals (7 Votes Required)

This Mayoral reappointment was introduced at the previous meeting, and will therefore be voted on at this Council meeting. Because the nominee is not a registered elector, 7 votes are required.

  • Kristen Schweighoeffer - Housing Board of Appeals

DC-2 (21-0973) Resolution Establishing a Council Subcommittee for the Purpose of Studying and Setting Parameters for a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Program for the City of Ann Arbor

A Council subcommittee (City PILOT Taskforce) would be formed for the purpose of exploring a program to track and receive Payment in Lieu of Taxes from non-taxable entities in the City. The Taskforce will study the use of PILOT in other communities, create land value maps identifying all parcels currently exempt from paying property taxes, create a list of community-centric benefits that would qualify as PILOT credit, and identify financing and accounting options for receipt of funds. The Taskforce would report back to Council with recommendations no later than October 18, 2021.


DC-3 (21-0970) Resolution to Approve Amendments to the Council Rules

Council Rules would be amended to change the start time of our meetings to 6:30 PM instead of 7:00 PM.


DC-4 (21-1075) Resolution Supporting the For The People Act (H.R. 1 / S. 1)

The City would express its support for federal legislation (For the People Act) that expands and protects voter rights, creates a federal criminal penalty for deceiving voters, funds upgraded election systems, requires greater transparency in campaign finance and online political advertising, and includes other various ethics reforms.


DC-5 (21-1091) Resolution to Recommend and Prioritize the Allocation of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

In anticipation of an expected $24 million in federal money through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, this resolution would direct the City Administrator to recommend and prioritize use of these funds and report to Council by October 1, 2021.


DC-6 (21-1096) Resolution to Request that Councilmember Jeff Hayner Resign from the Ann Arbor City Council

This resolution would ask that Council Member Hayner resign as soon as possible. I wrote at length about this on my blog:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/illiberal-democracy


DS-1 (21-0887) Resolution Authorizing Summary Publication of Ordinance No. 21-14 - An Ordinance To Amend Section 5.15 (Table 5.15-2) And Section 5.16.6 Of Chapter 55 (Unified Development Code) Of Title V Of The Code Of The City Of Ann Arbor - Amendments to Accessory Dwelling Unit Regulations

With Council approval, amendment of the Accessory Dwelling Unit Regulations in the city code (see PH-1/B-1) will be summarized to spare expense while satisfying publication requirements.

Additional thoughts…

My email this week has overwhelmingly covered two topics: the Valhalla development (PH-2/B-2 and PH-3/DB-1) and the Early Leasing Ordinance (C-1). I am using this space to discuss the Early Leasing Ordinance. I have written a separate blog post about Valhalla, which you can find here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/ward-4-development-valhalla


EARLY LEASING ORDINANCE

Earlier this year, the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) and Central Student Government (CSG) at the University of Michigan brought an issue to me: the City’s Early Leasing Ordinance (ELO). This ordinance currently restricts landlords from showing apartments to potential tenants or renewing leases any earlier than 70 days into a current lease. I wrote about this in my Feb 27th newsletter:


Tenants are often asked to renew a lease (or told that their apartment is subject to visits/tours from future tenants of the next leasing term) a little over two months into a twelve month lease. Current and potential tenants are pressured to sign rental agreements (accepting thousands of dollars in liability) far in advance of the actual leasing term, well before anyone might be certain about their future housing needs or preferences. If a tenant’s circumstances change, transferring a lease is subject to approval by the landlord; tenants risk more liability when they sublease an apartment to someone else who might cause damages or fail to pay.


This situation becomes an equity issue when access to housing depends on a person’s ability to make large financial commitments - in both deposits and future liability of the contract - so many months before a leasing term even begins. The risk of signing these early lease agreements is much higher for people with less means.


https://www.a2elnel.com/post/additional-thoughts-feb-27-2021-fair-chance-early-leasing-ordinances


At the April 5th Council meeting, the agenda included an amendment to the ELO that would have extended the timeline from 70 days to 240 days. After discussion with City staff, lawyers, and advocates, that agenda item was postponed, so that we could specifically contemplate enforcement mechanisms. Since that April meeting, additional concerns have been raised, many more stakeholders have met to discuss it, and we now contemplate more comprehensive strategies to address the problem. I expect C-1 to be postponed at this week's Council meeting, and when it returns to our agenda it will look very different.


STAKEHOLDER INTERESTS

In the last several months, I have been talking to local landlords, tenants, local housing advocates, attorneys at the City and the University of Michigan, and attorneys for housing advocacy organizations. I have coordinated meetings between City legal staff and GEO leaders, local landlords and GEO leaders, University legal services and GEO leaders, landlord association leaders and GEO and CSG leaders, in addition to many more conversations with local housing advocates.


There is near unanimous agreement that a problem exists: it is not good for anyone to be entering into contracts for housing so far in advance. An important point of agreement between landlords and tenants: any solution to the problem must be enforceable, so that all landlords and tenants are subject to (and protected by) the same set of rules.


What began as a discussion of our early leasing ordinance is now a much more interesting idea: granting a tenant the right to renew a lease. Such a provision would address premature lease commitments as well as protect every tenant in the city who would choose to remain in a rental unit.


JUST CAUSE FOR EVICTION

States and municipalities around the country have approved these ordinances: larger communities like Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and St. Paul, MN as well as smaller communities like San Jose, CA and Berkley, CA. The city of Burlington, Vermont is currently working on a "just cause" ordinance. State law in New Jersey and New Hampshire include “just cause” protections.


A “right to renew” provision in state or local law gives tenants rights, unless “just cause” exists to end the tenancy. Standards for “just cause” include reasonable circumstances, e.g. the tenant has violated lease terms or failed to pay rent, the landlord wants to take the unit off the market for their own use, the landlord wants to transfer use of the unit to a family member, or renovations are planned that interfere with occupancy.


In places where “just cause” ordinances have been implemented, housing advocates point out that non-renewal of a lease can happen in a discriminatory way. All federally supported housing (funded by HUD) requires that leasing terms include “just cause” provisions in order to prevent discriminatory non-renewal. In Ann Arbor, all 545 units of housing managed by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission include these provisions; all of the approximately 350 current (and 60 more in construction) housing units managed by Avalon also include these protections.


LOCAL SUPPORT

This week, Council received many many emails from many people in Ann Arbor - renters, homeowners, students, professionals - urging us to implement an ordinance that will protect tenants in Ann Arbor. I’d like to share a few excerpts from the emails we are receiving:

I support an amended ordinance that gives renters a “right to renew” and prohibits landlords from showing or leasing our apartments until 210 days after leases begin. This change gives renters much more time to evaluate their housing options, solidify future employment/education plans, and make a fully-informed decision to either remain in their unit or move elsewhere.

The city’s pre-pandemic vacancy rate was 2-3% (3-4% since), compared to 6-7% across both the US and Michigan broadly. Were this our unemployment rate, the city would laud itself for “full employment”, but at this moment the landlords alone are fully "employed". The effects of the housing shortage are real. Any claim that landlords need 7 months to replace a renter is not.

For many renters, securing housing is a difficult decision with heavy implications. Some of us are students, and some are precariously employed. We are restricted by housing discrimination, both legal and illegal. We are closely beholden to tight economic constraints, and all face the housing anxiety inherent to not owning the buildings in which we sleep.What tenants know, more than anything else, is that we do not wish to lose our housing. Tenants are vulnerable to landlords who can exploit the fact that most of us would rather sign a bad lease than be left with none at all.

A BETTER SOLUTION

The current early leasing ordinance primarily addresses problems in a very specific part of the city, nearest to campus and downtown. In most areas of the city - further away from campus/downtown - rental units are not typically leased many months in advance. Simply tweaking the early leasing ordinance (extending timelines) would have very little impact on the many renters in Ann Arbor who do not lease in those central neighborhoods of the city. However, a ‘right to renew’ or ‘just cause’ ordinance would provide meaningful protections to every tenant in Ann Arbor.


I look forward to working with City legal staff to craft this ordinance and I thank Council Member Travis Radina for his co-sponsorship and support of the endeavor!



Thank you for helping me represent Ward 4!

Elizabeth Nelson

ENelson@A2gov.org


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