Arbor Update

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Calthorpe to present recommendations to City Council, Monday 5 Dec

30. November 2005 • Murph
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Calthorpe Associates will be presenting their recommendations to City Council on Monday, 5 December, at the beginning of the Council meeting (7pm at City Hall). The consultants’ draft report (pdf) is available on the City’s website.

  1. (thanks to David Cahill for the tip – here I had thought I was special for having seen the draft already; hadn’t realized it was on the website…)
       —Murph.    Nov. 30 '05 - 10:18PM    #
  2. has anyone seen the 3d data calthorpe promised? they said something about releasing sketchup compatible files so we could visualize the results of their study. 3d graphics is what i do, so this is the most interesting way to look at their report for me. words? bah.
       —bob kuehne    Dec. 1 '05 - 01:47PM    #
  3. Thanks for posting this article with the link to the report, Murph! It looks like we scooped the traditional media again…8-)
       —David Cahill    Dec. 1 '05 - 05:12PM    #
  4. Note that Monday’s Council agenda also includes a presentation from Jeff Kahan on the Draft Non-Motorized Plan and public hearings / action on a number of proposed developments: Upland Green (at Upland & Plymouth), Plymouth Green (at Plymouth & Green), and Huron Landing (or Heron? I’m not looking at the agenda right now…).

    Should be a fun meeting…
       —Murph.    Dec. 1 '05 - 06:04PM    #
  5. In case anyone from Cahill is reading, fig. 47, “Fifth Street Civic Center – Illustrative Vision” on p. 52 is wrong—it is a duplicate of fig. 45, “South University – Illustrative Vision”.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Dec. 1 '05 - 08:09PM    #
  6. Oops, I mean Calthorpe, not Cahill! Sorry, David.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Dec. 1 '05 - 08:10PM    #
  7. Heh. I’m glad to see that I’m on your mind, YUA… 8-)

    I have skimmed through part of the 72-page Calthorpe report.

    This report is most easily viewed in the larger context of the struggle for the soul of Ann Arbor. People who have strong feelings about this should read Vivienne Armentrout’s definitive article, “Our Town Versus Big City: The Clash of Cultures over the downtown,” in December’s Ann Arbor Observer. If you don’t get free delivery of the Observer, it is well worth buying this issue – only $2.

    Here is a series of comments about her article from elsewhere on ArborUpdate. I hope copying and pasting like this is OK.

    After reading the Observer’s piece about downtown development and such, I have some further thoughts about the political impact of nonpartisan city council elections (with or without IRV) in Ann Arbor.

    Much as local bloggers criticize the hegemony of the Democratic Party in city elections, it seems that the political push for affordable housing and density comes from social justice activists within the Democratic Party.

    Take away party labels and the party primary, and you sever the link between social justice goals and the city council.

    Before you disparage Democratic Party activists as evil gatekeepers for council candidates, consider that they may be the only reason there is any attempt to balance green and neighborhood considerations with housing and urbanism goals.

    Among odd year election voters, there are very few students and a great many long established homeowners. I doubt there is a majority in any ward that thinks of affordable housing as a high priority, or would choose candidates that made it a prime issue.

    The Observer’s description of the Calthorpe/Scanga workshop vindicates Dave Cahill’s characterization of what went on, with green construction paper pasted in everywhere.

    Without the constraint of a partisan primary, Ann Arbor voters would elect a council that was “greener than green”. Resistance to development might well become the only salient issue.

    The current council might not be interested in enacting, say, a citywide four story building limit, but candidates advocating such a policy would be hard to beat in a nonpartisan race, especially in an odd year.

    Yes, it would be a good thing to move the political decisionmaking from August to November, but it makes little difference unless students participate in much, much larger numbers.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov 29, 10:03am    #

    8.Come on, Larry—the first half of Vivienne Armintrout’s piece was ridiculous (though the wrap-up was fairly balanced). Framing “parks” as equalling “quality of life” is nonsense. How about being able to afford rents or young professionals’ being able to buy a house in the city? That’s part of quality of life, which people like Cahill and Cowherd don’t seem to care about.
       —Dale    Nov 29, 10:30am    #

    9.Dale, I’m not framing the issue that way. But a whole lot of people in this town do, and they’re the ones who vote in off-year city elections.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov 29, 10:48am    #

    10.I wasn’t saying that you were. Armintrout’s piece printed and rephrased the Cahill/Cowherd talking points and most of it wasn’t very good. You cited it as vindicating criticism of the Calthorpe process when it merely repeated it.
       —Dale    Nov 29, 11:14am    #

    11.I thought Armentrout’s piece was one of the best local political analyses I have ever read. (OK, I admit she quoted both me and my wife. 8-) )

    Her most penetrating point was that the people who Councilmembers rely on for their support don’t agree with the Councilmembers! I hadn’t realized the situation was that simple. Maybe we don’t really have a schism within the Democratic Party rank-and-file as a whole, but rather between the rank-and-file and the Councilmembers. If Armentrout is right, then next August’s Democratic primaries could easily result in victories for a slate that would pledge to enact a four-story city-wide height limit. Remember the Broadway Village Haiku…
    – David Cahill

    End of copy-and-paste excerpt.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 1 '05 - 09:45PM    #
  8. Dave—linking to the comment (the #) or putting a shorter excerpt in block quote or italics would probably be better.
       —Dale    Dec. 1 '05 - 10:11PM    #
  9. OK, thanx. I didn’t know the best method for transplanting an excerpt.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 1 '05 - 10:58PM    #
  10. I briefly read the report and thought most of it was as expected. Some good theory, but who is going to make it happen? I thought it was good that they talked about looking at the Emerald Ash Borer as an opportunity to make some changes to streetscapes before replanting. Interesting that they said the minimum building height downtown should be two stories (I would have upped that to at least four). They also said new buildings should be built with no parking because more parking opportunity encourages more driving (not sure the DDA will be on board with this!).

    There were some funny quotes and inaccuracies (it is a draft so hopefully the inaccuracies will be fixed). The most notable of these was that they said the Link was the University of Michigan shuttle service and completely missed that there is an actual UM bus system. The following quote made me laugh: Two of the most used public spaces in Ann Arbor are the Kerrytown Urban Sculpture Plaza and Liberty Plaza. That certainly isn’t the sense I get of Liberty Plaza when I walk by every day! They really wanted to “rehabilitate Liberty Plaza” which has already been done several times and has never worked. They either need to put residential or retail around it that would encourage people to go there or they need to build something on it. It is a silly use of space now. Calthorpe seemed to really like Braun Court (it was mentioned several times) and said we should count that (and Nickels Arcade and Washington Street) in the “park-land per capita” for downtown—hmmmm.

    Calthorpe did look at using the Library lot as a civic center so I thought it was interesting to see in the News last night that there might be the potential of moving City Hall to the Library Lot. I actually think that would be a good move for a lot of reasons, especially if parking and some civic uses could be factored in (and it might be a reason to keep Liberty Plaza). Then the current City Hall site could be used for a lot of mixed-income housing/commercial space, which makes a lot of sense there.
       —Juliew    Dec. 1 '05 - 11:15PM    #
  11. I likewise think that the consideration of the library lot for a new city hall is worthwhile. I’m guessing that the mayor is no longer thinking about a skating rink or similar facility on that site. While I appreciate the thought, that wouldn’t quite be the highest and best use of such valuable land. Anyone have a different alternative to make a case for?

    Also, anyone care to report on the downtown retail presentation at the library on Tuesday?
       —Steve Bean    Dec. 2 '05 - 02:50AM    #
  12. Steve,

    I recorded Gibbs’ Tuesday lecture and am working on trying to turn it into something smaller than an 82MB mp3.

    Meanwhile, there were some interesting bits. It was largely a discussion or q/a format between the audience and Gibbs; not as much of a lecture as his first talk? Kind of an, “Okay, now talk about this!” sort of deal.

    Some of his statements that I found interesting:

    * Ann Arbor is about to be targetted with a massive amount of retail development; we’re underserved and underspending, and everybody knows it. This is kind of like the “lifestyle centers in the pipeline” assertion except
    ** Gibbs’ stressed that A2 is pretty uniquely situation to push or pull that retail development into the form we want. We want it downtown? We make it possible, they’ll do it. We want it pedestrian-oriented? We make that clear, they’ll do it.
    ** Gibbs also stated that retailers would prefer to be downtown (second choice, redevelop fringe “greyfields” (e.g. Arborland)), and that building new malls is what they’ll do only if they’re blocked out of downtown development by political barriers.

    * Local businesses get the highest revenues when they’re in an area with a 50/50 mix of local businesses and national chains. having a Target or similar chain downtown would mean +15%-20% in profits for all of downtown’s other retailers – assuming they adapted well. (A business that closes at 5pm is going to do equally poorly regardless – 80%(?) of retial business happens after 5pm or on weekends.)

    * “Some cities decide they want to bring all the retailers downtown, and try to totally eliminate the suburban strip malls, so that you can get anything you want downtown. Other cities say, ‘we just want to buy kites and scented candles downtown – we’ll go out to the mall for anything we need.’” (He repeatedly claimed that he didn’t know anything about Ann Arbor but was just discussing general principles.)

    * Gibbs noted that he was trained as a landscape architect – and said that all new retail developments include open space (but call it a “plaza” or “square” or “green”). As a general rule, if it looks the right size on a plan, it’ll look way too big in real life. (To paraphrase to what Juliew was saying above – if you look at a map of Ann Arbor, Liberty Plaza looks like a much better-sized open space than Sculpture Plaza, but functions much more poorly. A bigger park downtown would be even worse…)

    * “like it or not, the market will prevail one way or another. you can shape it and mold it, and retailers prefer to go downtown if they can, but they’ll go to greenfields if they have to”.

    * we’re just at the leading edge of a “tidal wave” of people wanting to move into downtowns. He channelled my advisor briefly and noted that, sure, only perhaps 30% of people want to live in downtowns urban neighborhoods, but current trends in development are providing for none of that demand, so new housing in urban neighborhoods will serve a very underserved market.
       —Murph.    Dec. 2 '05 - 05:00AM    #
  13. Before you disparage Democratic Party activists as evil gatekeepers for council candidates, consider that they may be the only reason there is any attempt to balance green and neighborhood considerations with housing and urbanism goals.

    Among odd year election voters, there are very few students and a great many long established homeowners. I doubt there is a majority in any ward that thinks of affordable housing as a high priority, or would choose candidates that made it a prime issue.

    Hmmmm. Not trying to be snarky, but it sure sounds like you’re saying that it’s important to keep the Ann Arbor Democratic machine in control to avoid the unfortunate outcome of getting a city government that reflects the actual preferences of the voters.
       —mw    Dec. 2 '05 - 01:09PM    #
  14. Hmmm…I don’t think I buy the argument that Larry and David are building up – and thank you to mw for hitting the snark that was inevitably going to emerge…

    I think I’m reading Larry’s comments in the opposite direction from what David’s saying about them, though:

    The “rank-and-file” Democrats vote for Councilmembers because they are Democrats, therefore, remove the party label, and the “rank-and-file” will stay home, and only the activists will vote. I found this out election weekend when I (as an “activist”) went out and polled a few dozen neighborhood homeowners (“rank-and-file”). The rank-and-file seemed to be much more strongly behind the Democrats than I, as an activist, am.

    I understand Larry’s concern with non-partisan voting that it will leave behind all of the rank-and-file and reduce voting to just the activists in various camps – not that it will free up the common man from the yoke of evil social justice activists in the Democratic party!

    Let’s extend this a bit further. In common parlance, if one wants to vote along with social justice activists within the binary party system, one looks to the Democrats. If one wants to vote along with anti-tax activists, one looks to the Republicans. (In Ann Arbor, if one wants parks, one stays home, or casts one’s vote at random, as that issue seems to cut across party lines.) The rank-and-file doesn’t need to do as much research, because they depend on the activists within each party to offer up the candidates that represent those vague platforms.

    Which would seem to indicate that the rank-and-file voters really do agree with the social justice activists, since they elect the Democrats. Perhaps the candidates offered up in the Democratic Party are not quite as vigorously in pursuit of social justice issues as the activists are, but it’s a “more so” question.

    Taking away the party labels, as Larry warns, would remove the clearest signalling mechanism from activists to rank-and-file. All of a sudden, it would be harder to distinguish between your social justice-leaning candidates and your anti-tax-focused candidates, and the rank-and-file, who apparently want to vote for somebody with some social justice cred, can’t find their candidates as easily, allowing the anti-tax activists to sneak their candidates in.

    So, with mw providing the snarky interpretation of Larry’s comments – “nonpartisan would let the rank-and-file voters elect whom they want”, I’ll provide the counterpoint:

    “nonpartisan elections would remove the heuristic that rank-and-file voters use to elect whom they want, reducing elections to a competition between activists.”

    (Does this mean I’m opposed to non-partisan elections? Not necessarily. Regardless of my position on them, I’ve held that voters need to be better informed, better engaged, and have better access to information – that would only become more the case in a non-partisan system.)
       —Murph.    Dec. 2 '05 - 01:34PM    #
  15. I’m not sure the problem in Ann Arbor is the partisan nature of our elections … but rather the fact that they are largely uncontested. The partisan tag should indicate to voters some basic core values. Then qualifiers can be added: “pro-choice” or “pro-life”, for example. In a good old-fashioned party caucus, those qualifiers become very important for differentiating candidates to the delegates. Some recent city council primaries (4th ward Higgins/Lipson and 2nd ward Rapundalo/Kang) were pretty close … indicating to me that rank-and-file made a choice based on issues (or personality, maybe) ... but the reason doesn’t matter … because at least they had a choice.

    If people out there really don’t like the decisions that are being made (about downtown, for example and to bring this post back on topic) ... then support our democratic system by putting up a challenge for a council seat (or finding someone else to do it). The nice thing about city politics is that there is an election every year.
       —Jennifer Hall    Dec. 2 '05 - 03:23PM    #
  16. “like it or not, the market will prevail one way or another. you can shape it and mold it, and retailers prefer to go downtown if they can, but they’ll go to greenfields if they have to”.

    Well, after going on and on about how this is the case for a few years now, this is an independent expert who actually knows what the hell he is talking about….and what is he saying? The demand is there, we just have to get council to pick up the phone and actively get these retailers downtown.

    Can you imagine if Ashley Mews had a Nordstrom’s on the bottom four floors, with those residential units on top? I sure can. Or a smallish Target in new construction on Liberty street? The small business owners would be dancing a jig… would those who like walkability and hate cars…or those who hate stripmalls…or those who like mass transit or those who, etc. etc.

    It kills me as a local business owner and hardcore pragmatic environmentalist to know full well that Ann Arbor is going to choose to force these buildings into strip malls and regional malls outside of Ann Arbor. And why? Because a few downtown residents don’t understand some fundamental urban planning and economic concepts.

    It really makes me sad.
       —todd    Dec. 2 '05 - 06:58PM    #
  17. I’d like some help with the Calthorpe report. It picked the high end of projected demand for housing. It also proposed a height limit of 10 stories for buildings.

    I have a technical question. Is there a linear relationship between the number of housing units projected and the number of stories? As I recall the report projects about 2500 housing units. Suppose it projected only half the number of housing units. Then would it follow that the housing height limit would be half of the 10 stories, or 5 stories?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 2 '05 - 07:33PM    #
  18. Thanks to Murph for the good analysis of my earlier posting. That definitely gets at what I was saying.

    However, I wouldn’t have explained it quite that way. I don’t think that nonpartisan city elections would have lower voter turnout than partisan city elections would.

    I think the typical Ann Arbor voter (1) supports Democrats, (2) supports increased green space and restricted development, and (3) supports social justice goals, in roughly that order.

    Even though (1) and (3) are related, they are not the same.

    Take away the party label, and present a nonpartisan choice of Mr. Green Space versus Mr. Social Justice, and Green Space wins every time. That’s why I think that nonpartisan elections would quickly result in an anti-development mayor and council.

    So why doesn’t that happen in every Democratic primary? I think partly because Democratic Party activists take social justice goals seriously, and ask the same of their candidates. Someone who runs in a Democratic primary without commitment to Democratic ideas is going to be a fish out of water, especially in an even year of course, but even in an odd year.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 2 '05 - 07:45PM    #
  19. Is there a linear relationship between the number of housing units projected and the number of stories?

    If you are talking about a single building site, then yes, cutting the number of residential floors in half would probably cut the number of units in half (since usually the floors are the same, but not always).

    But this doesn’t work for the city as a whole. It is geometry: the bigger the floor area, the more units you can have per floor. So if you have a 1 acre lot, say, then you could have a 5-story building that theoretically equals a 10-story building on a 1/2-acre lot.

    The problem with downtown housing really comes from so many of the downtown sites being very small, such that they can only have tall buildings to be profitable or the developer has to go through considerable difficulty and/or time to accumulate adjacent sites under one ownership. Giving a blanket story limit decreases the possibility that you’ll let a smaller lot be developed to the same density, and could lower the density of the city overall.
       —KGS    Dec. 2 '05 - 09:30PM    #
  20. Thanks, KGS! That helps a lot.

    What I am getting at is probably no surprise to people: I am trying to figure out what the height limits would have been if Calthorpe had gone with the low-end projections of housing units – about 500.

    Can people come up with some ideas about the height limits using the 500-unit assumption?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 2 '05 - 11:21PM    #
  21. As I reporter, I covered two cities with non-partisan elections. The scenarios described in the comments above are completely unlike what I saw.

    The biggest difference in non-partisan elections is that voters make decisions based in individual candidates and their stands on issues, rather than party affiliation.

    The other thing that happened is that both cities eliminated ward boundaries and had all seven seats open in at-large elections. The top seven votegetters won seats. It inspired unusual alliances between candidates, and I think produced a much more balanced council, with more debate and less party loyalty.

    I would recommend it, particularly in Ann Arbor. FTR, one of the cities that did was previously exclusively Democrat. The other city had both parties represented on city council.
       —JennyD    Dec. 3 '05 - 06:17PM    #
  22. I was exploring the possible political impact of nonpartisan elections in Ann Arbor under current political circumstances, not the issue nonpartisan elections in general, across all cities and times. That’s a different story.

    What political scientists say about the difference between partisan and nonpartisan city elections is that nonpartisan elections tend to cleave along obvious demographic splits in the community, sometimes increasing polarization, whereas partisan elections tend to reduce that polarization.

    A fairly strong example of nonpartisan elections increasing polarization would be the epochal 1973 Detroit mayoral election, where (roughly) 99% of the black voters supported Coleman Young, and 95% of the white voters supported John Nichols. If they had run with party labels, Young would have received more white votes, and Nichols would have received more black votes. And more likely, neither party would have nominated candidates who were THAT polarizing.

    East Lansing’s city council is elected all at large, nonpartisan, and the effect for some years was that only a very narrow segment of politicos could be elected, because students and homeowners voted as an overwhelming 95% bloc to veto anyone too identified with the other group.

    Part of the reasons Republicans like nonpartisan elections is that they make it possible for Republicans to win city office in Democratic cities like Ann Arbor or Detroit.

    And that is an accurate perception. For example, in the 1950s Albert E. Cobo (Cobo Hall was named for him) was a conservative Republican mayor of Detroit who never would have won election on a partisan ballot.

    The inverse is also true: there are Democrats elected to city office in strongly Republican cities via the nonpartisan ballot.

    Even when mayors and council members seem popular in an opposite party town, they rarely have much success running for partisan office in the same territory.

    For example, in 1961, when East Lansing was overwhelmingly Republican, the city’s popular mayor, Gordon Thomas, ran for constitutional convention delegate as a Democrat. He lost badly.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 3 '05 - 10:02PM    #
  23. Has anyone finished reading the Calthorpe report yet – all 72 pages, complete with appendices?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 4 '05 - 01:54AM    #
  24. Today’s AA News has an lengthy article about the Calthorpe report making it clear that a big battle is developing (so to speak). The Greenway people don’t like the report, and Tom Gantert makes it clear that the town will change dramatically, with overtones of doom in the article.

    Also, Peter Allen is saying that because of the report, his new pet project, Kingsley Lane, can be made even higher! Typical Peter – he is saying that a mere recommendation is city policy.

    Council was set to approve a resolution on Monday setting a 60-day comment period from the DDA and Planning Commission on the report.

    However, that resolution has been deleted.

    I talked to Jean Carlberg yesterday about what would happen next. She said she had not read the report. She said the report was just the start of a community conversation, including a lot more public comment.

    Stay tuned. The citizens’ revolution against the developers and their ilk will be televised. 8-)
       —David Cahill    Dec. 4 '05 - 01:24PM    #
  25. David, I think Gantert’s article today is pretty pathetic. It opens with calling the current development process a set of backroom deals? Somebody obviously doesn’t understand the PUD process. Unless he thinks that Planning Commission meetings and City Council meetings count as smoke-filled, backroom…public, televised afffairs?

    And this:

    For example, most developers want taller buildings to maximize profits. Under Calthorpe’s recommendations, developers could get extra stories added to their projects if they included affordable housing, ground floor retail or open space.

    Why don’t we perhaps say this in a less scandalizing way: Ann Arborites value affordable housing, unique local businesses, parkland, energy efficiency and other “green” features, etc. Developers want to not go bankrupt complying with Ann Arborites’ expensive desires. The Calthorpe report suggests that the degree to which Ann Arborites value all of these things needs to be codified. If we value parkland contributions and green roofs, that will cost a developer a certain amount, and we recognize that the project will need more leasable space to cover the cost of those features. So we should create rules stating, beforehand, exactly how much we value these things – what the tradeoff ratio is – so that the developers know up front if the negotiations are worth getting into.

    I also note that the News continues to air the fiction that the choice is between allowing growth downtown or a totally static Ann Arbor:

    She called it a “far from in-depth” analysis in which residents plotted high-rise buildings on city blocks with little knowledge of “what the implications of all this growth might be and if we actually can handle it.”

    Seems to me that everybody’s got an opinion on at least some of the implications of allowing development downtown, but very few people are willing to acknowledge the implications of pushing that growth away from downtown.

    And I really have to believe that Gantert is slaughtering Margaret’s words. I don’t think she’s really as optimistic as he quotes her that, please, oh please, the Michigan economy is going to get even worse, and the Development Angel of Death will pass over Ann Arbor because everybody who might want to move here will instead move to Phoenix and leave us alone, so that we don’t have to plan for the future.
       —Murph.    Dec. 4 '05 - 03:57PM    #
  26. Murph, I appreciate your analysis, but I know from personal experience that Gantert is right about the back-room deals. What happened on the failed Broadway Village project was not for the fainthearted. The public, largely orchestrated, events at Planning Commission and Council did not tell the tale of what went on in the back rooms. I was in the back rooms; trust me on this. 8-) And that’s just one minor example.

    Both the AA News and the Observer are now saying there is a conflict between citizens and developers. I was surprised that the News would have this attitude, since, being a Republican paper, it is usually strongly pro-developer. I expect that with both telling the same story, they are right.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 4 '05 - 11:10PM    #
  27. David,

    I’m told by people with the project that Broadway Village is not failed…It’s just not making any visible progress. (I found out that saying mean things about the progress of a project is a good way to get a long-winded explanation of current status…) But that’s tangential.

    Sure, there’s a conflict between citizens and developers. But there’s also agreement between citizens and developers. “Citizens” is not a monolithic entity, and nor is “developers”. I don’t know if I’ve met anybody in A2 who is against all developers (with the possible exception of you and a few other zealots?), or anybody who is in favor of all developers. (Bar none on that one.) Pretty much everybody thinks that both good and bad developments are possible, and, from what I’ve seen, I don’t even think it’s possible to say “a majority of citizens are against most developers”. At all three Calthorpe workshops, in fact, I’d say a majority of people I talked to thought that Ann Arbor could reasonably handle significant development.
       —Murph.    Dec. 5 '05 - 12:49AM    #
  28. Here’s another possibility: The News and Observer get all their impressions about “citizens” from the same three people. If they actually talked to citizens, they’d find out there is no “conflict” but lots of opinions.

    One thing they’d also find out is that many citizens are well aware of the fragility of downtown, and the fact that it will grow or die, partly due to pressure from malls, etc. Citizens see the for rent signs, and see small businesses closing. They get the idea….

    I think that relying on the News or Observer for some overarching view of the community is like looking at the world through a gunslit.
       —JennyD    Dec. 5 '05 - 11:31AM    #
  29. Bang!
       —David Cahill    Dec. 5 '05 - 03:29PM    #
  30. Certainly the News, Observer, and Daily promote the divisiveness to a large degree because it makes better reading. A lot of people saying they are in the middle isn’t that interesting. I agree with Murph and JennyD that the majority of citizens think there are good and bad development options and would like to work to have as many good options as possible. I have yet to hear anyone say they love big, empty dirt lots downtown (anyone remember the song about the Main Street “Downtown Hole in the Ground”?). The hope would be to have a development policy in this city that would promote the good and limit the bad. Unfortunately many of our long-standing policies are such that we only allow the bad and actively discourage the good.
       —Juliew    Dec. 5 '05 - 04:56PM    #
  31. Amen to that JulieW. I think that some editors study at the “MTV Real World School of Yellow Journalism”.

    In fact, in speaking with Peter Pollack, the Boulder City Planner, he made specific mention of how the local rags were creating many of the quagmires that got citizens in an uproar in the first place. The developers were painted as the twisting-the-moustache villans, and the no or slo-growthers were painted as grassroots save the earthers. What happened? Neither side was remotely happy with the choices that were made in the 80’s and 90’s.
       —todd    Dec. 5 '05 - 06:06PM    #
  32. Anybody who wants hard copy of the final Calthorpe report will have to wait a bit. The City Clerk’s office said that Calthorpe only provided enough for City Council, Planning Commission, and DDA, without even a copy for the Clerk’s office!

    The Clerk is sending the file of the final report (not the same as the draft, posted on the web) to a private printer. When copies are available, members of the public will have to get them from the printer!

    Strangely believe it.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 5 '05 - 09:33PM    #
  33. I went to the web site and printed the copy that was there. It cost me 72 pages of white paper.
       —Leah    Dec. 5 '05 - 11:48PM    #
  34. David, if you’re trying to insinuate some kind of conspiracy, it’s a pretty pathetic one. Much as I think that 100% of the government’s business should be googleable, I have to give the City of A2 credit for being far and away the best at providing information of any public entity I’ve ever seen. I’m awfully impressed that the draft report was put on the website, myself.
       —Murph.    Dec. 6 '05 - 12:21AM    #
  35. Murph, I agree. There’s pretty good transparency from the city in terms of information. But as I’ve said and will say again, there’s a lack of wisdom on the part of the media in terms of getting a sense of the community and its feelings. I worry that city leaders base their views of issues on a too small segment of the citizen views.

    I’m older and probably more conservative than most people here. I’m very concerned about a vital downtown, with residents, service retail, and other retail and restaurants etc. to lure me downtown. AA is so ripe for economic health; I just hope a smallish segment of the population doesn’t ruin it for the rest of us. I want to shop, walk, eat, revel in the humanity that is density. I can go to parks, it’s not like there’s some shortage here or something.
       —JennyD    Dec. 6 '05 - 12:48AM    #
  36. Haha! No, I don’t think there is a conspiracy about the immediate lack of paper copies of the true final report (again, not the same as the draft posted, according to the Clerk’s office). I was also impressed that the city posted the draft report ahead of time.

    But the Clerk’s people were more than a little perturbed at the shortage of copies.

    I just watched Scanga’s presentation to Council. He said that the entire program of 2500 new housing units could fit on the underutilized sites. I thought this was the case from the third workshop.

    So, what if the “program” becomes the mid-range trend, or even the low-end trend, instead of the wild-eyed 2500? The needed heights come down to a more acceptable range.

    I was also intrigued at Karen Sidney’s comments. She said that the DDA captures the taxes from new construction, and the DDA plans a big series of “public-private” partnerships, in which developers get tax money from the DDA. So under the Calthorpe plan, our tax money will go to enrich private developers. She said a better use for our taxes would be to build the Greenway.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 6 '05 - 02:08AM    #
  37. And she was wrong.

    “Wild eyed”? Come on, Dave. Are you opposed to car sharing? Mixed use? Affordable housing (market rate or subsidized)? You will get none of these without implementations of the modest and reasonable recommendations of Calthorpe Associates. I suspect that is what you want.
       —Dale    Dec. 6 '05 - 02:43AM    #
  38. The projections of growth in downtown AA are completely inconsistent, both with the past extremely limited growth, and with the fact that AA’s population actually dropped between 2000 and 2004.

    Plus, if you create a downtown in AA in which people will be forced to come and go by any means other than the private auto, you are cruising for a bitter disappointment. People simply won’t come to such a downtown.

    “In Michigan there can be nothing wrong with the car.”
       —David Cahill    Dec. 6 '05 - 01:38PM    #
  39. David, you just love that population drop statistic, don’t you? How about repeating this one over and over – Ann Arbor’s population increases 38,292 everyday between the hours of 9:00AM and 5:00PM. That’s everyday – no inconsistencies there.

    Now, think for a moment that somewhere between 5% and 10% of these commuters would actually want to live in our fair city and shorten their morning and evening travel times to just minutes. Or, *gasp*, imagine if some wanted to walk to work. Then the projected growth of 2,500 is not only met but possibly quite underestimated.
       —FAA    Dec. 6 '05 - 02:01PM    #
  40. The estimated population may have dropped, but the number of housing units is up significantly—and that growth will continue.

    But before you rely too much on the 38,292 commuter statistic, consider that a vastly larger number of nonresidents comes into the city of Detroit every day for work or school. Despite the volume of daily visitors, there is no realistic prospect that Detroit’s population will stop falling any time soon.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 6 '05 - 02:39PM    #
  41. Very true about Detroit, Larry, but Ann Arbor has a number of advantages that make the comparison unfair. For instance, no one says “I’m moving to Detroit because of the quality public schools”. Also, I think a telling point is to look to the area’s growth – people are moving farther and farther away from Detroit, whilst the population within minutes of Ann Arbor continues to expand.
       —FAA    Dec. 6 '05 - 02:56PM    #
  42. You know, David, I honestly thought that you we’re a troll (trying to get a rise out of people). Turns out after speaking with a few Council Members that you actually believe what you are typing and saying. All I can say is “Wow”.

    You wanna environmental haiku to operate by? Read “A Sand County Almanac”.
       —todd    Dec. 6 '05 - 03:17PM    #
  43. Todd, was Aldo Leopold your grandfather? I got that vibe somehow, but wasn’t sure.
       —Dale    Dec. 6 '05 - 03:19PM    #
  44. Er, great grandfather.
       —Dale    Dec. 6 '05 - 03:21PM    #
  45. Larry, I don’t think you’re right about Detroit’s population – I’ll make a prediction that Detroit’s 2010 population is higher than its 2005 population.

    The change is evening out – there are people moving in, and every new housing development in the city of Detroit has to turn people away for lack of space.

    Now, I haven’t heard how the last month or so of falling new home starts in the exurban parts of the MSA have affected projects inside Detroit, but I’m, guessing not much – that’s an entirely different market.
       —Murph.    Dec. 6 '05 - 03:22PM    #
  46. He’s my Great-Grand-Uncle, or, as we’ve learned to tell the press, our “distant relative”. I’ve been called his brother before.
       —todd    Dec. 6 '05 - 03:24PM    #
  47. “Plus, if you create a downtown in AA in which people will be forced to come and go by any means other than the private auto, you are cruising for a bitter disappointment.”

    Um, who is going to be “forced” not to use their cars?
       —J. Bruce Fields    Dec. 6 '05 - 04:36PM    #
  48. A reliance on mass transit or other “alternatives” to the private car is another way of saying that there will not be adequate parking for private cars. Hence, under this vision for downtown, people who want to come downtown but can’t find a place to park will either be forced to use these failed “alternatives” or not come. Since you can’t literally force people to work/live/shop in a place without adequate parking, they simply won’t do so.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 6 '05 - 06:55PM    #
  49. Hold on, there, Dave. This is the Manhattan of the Midwest you’re talking about.
       —Dale    Dec. 6 '05 - 07:20PM    #
  50. Yeah, David… Just look at Chicago – ever since they built the L trains I haven’t been able to find a place to park. And the downtown there is certainly next to dead! Oh, no wait… I went there a few weeks ago and found a space in an underground garage – and there was a couple million people living, shopping, etc.

    I don’t know where in the Calthorpe report it states that the car apocalypse is upon us. I haven’t spoken to one person who thinks that “walkable downtown” translates into “let’s unpave the roads”. Besides you, that is, but I don’t know where you come up with this stuff.
       —FAA    Dec. 6 '05 - 07:21PM    #
  51. David,

    You’re repeating the weakest of the Libertarian arguments against smart growth and transportation options – that somehow car-dependant sprawl is what everybody wants and is the choice of a free market.

    You take a situation where people want to offer up increased choice, to provide people with the free decision to own a car or not, and, if they own a car, to use it or not for a particular trip – and you’re referring to this as “forcing people not to use cars”. “Increasing choices” is hardly the same thing as “forcing” people to do something. (Effectively, removing other choices.)

    One of the ironic fallacies of this argument is that the hard-line Libertarian view, traditionally so fierce to defend privatization and market solutions, assumes parking to be the only thing in the world for which this does not apply. The Libertarian critique that you’ve bought into looks at “demand for parking when parking is free and there are no other options” amd assumes this to be a constant demand, regardless of the presence of other options or the cost of parking.

    Strange for you, in particular, to make this mistake – since you’ve in the past decried the City and DDA for “subsidizing” commuter parking downtown, and have agreed with the “build it and they will come” attitude towards parking, it would seem like you understand that demand is a variable, affected by price and by alternative goods.

    If you look at a suburban strip’s demand for parking (a free, no alternative situation, where people are forced to drive and to park) and apply that demand to downtown A2, downtown already has vastly “inadequate” parking for its uses. However, downtown provides transportation options – the link, the bus, many useful things within short walking distance – that all provide the downtown user with choice, and the downtown also features a parking system that manages supply by pricing it, rather than providing an inexhaustible amount. As a result, you can always find a parking space somewhere, but usually have a choice of whether or not you’re going to use it.

    Compact, walkable, transit-supported development does not “force” people to not use their cars. Quite the opposite – it removes force from them. It stops coercing them into driving. It allows them the freedom of choice.

    This vast blind spot in the Libertarian imagination of land use has always mystified me. Since Libertarians are never blinded by ideology, there must be some rational explanation for holding this belief, but I just can’t figure out what it is.
       —Murph.    Dec. 6 '05 - 07:58PM    #
  52. “A reliance on mass transit or other “alternatives” to the private car is another way of saying that there will not be adequate parking for private cars.”

    How is encouraging alternative transportation or charging market prices for parking going to decrease the availability of parking? If anything, I’d have expected both to increase availability.
       —J. Bruce Fields    Dec. 6 '05 - 08:21PM    #
  53. I have news.

    On October 28 I made a FOIA request for all Calthorpe records. I met with the FOIA coordinator and got some stuff. But I did not get any of the “public comments” sheets that folks filled out.

    On December 2 I reminded the FOIA coordinator that I had not received any of these sheets.

    Today I got the response: “The comment sheets you reference in your email below were not (and are not) in the City’s possession when you made your FOIA request, which is why they were not included.”

    The FOIA coordinator also said that the public comments I wanted were not prepared by Calthorpe, and therefore would not fall under a provision of Calthorpe’s agreement that allows the City to request that Calthorpe deliver to the City all documents prepared by Calthorpe.

    So Calthorpe has the public comment sheets. The City won’t give them to a member of the public (me).

    So much for the promised “transparent” process.

    This situation is made even more bizarre because I hear that last night Council authorized a further email public comment process. If these new public comments will be sent to Calthorpe as well, the public won’t be able to see them either!

    I believe the City has a legal duty to produce these public comment sheets under the FOIA according to a Michigan Court of Appeals decision, MacKenzie v Wales Township, 274 Mich App 124, 635 NW2d 335 (2001). As I read the decision, public records that are farmed out are still FOIAble.

    I would rather not sue the City over this. Does anyone have any ideas about what other route can be taken so that the public can get to see the public comments?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 6 '05 - 08:46PM    #
  54. Murph, I wish you were right that Detroit’s population is about to post a five-year gain, but I am very skeptical.

    The little pieces of Detroit where things are going fairly well are dwarfed by vast stretches where things continue to get worse.

    One blogger pointed to Detroit as part of the national urban renaissance because of the increased population downtown. The tiny numbers of new downtown residents he based this on were within rounding error for citywide.

    People in Southeast Michigan have had for years a very steep economic incentive to move INTO Detroit, which has the region’s cheapest housing by an enormous margin, swamping any tax rate differences. The 1990 census showed the average value of an owner-occupied house in Detroit to be around $29,000; in the suburbs, about $135,000.

    If people are willing to pay two to four times as much for housing to live outside of Detroit, I’m not sure that $5/gallon gasoline is going to change their minds.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 6 '05 - 09:16PM    #
  55. Larry,

    Gas prices are not really part of my calculation. I’m basing this on talking to people who are either developers, development consultants, or members of neighborhood association/CDCs in Detroit. The impression I get is that things are hardly rosy, but they’re also not as bad as they have been.

    I spent Saturday wandering Detroit with my parents and visiting some of their old haunts; my mom was blown away in particular by the current activity in the Jefferson Village project, on East Jefferson. I’m told that particular project took ten years of work to bring to fruition, but pockets of such significant activity are hopeful.
       —Murph.    Dec. 6 '05 - 10:12PM    #
  56. I would rather not sue the City over this.

    Sue the city…over the comment sheets? I’m not sure I see what the utility of that would be.
       —Murph.    Dec. 6 '05 - 10:20PM    #
  57. Hey, Dave. How about asking again? Better yet, make another request, since your first one did not ask for the right things.
       —Dale    Dec. 6 '05 - 11:58PM    #
  58. David, any email that goes to a council member’s city address is FOIAble. I respect your interest in getting the public comments. Please don’t overreact, though.
       —Steve Bean    Dec. 7 '05 - 02:03AM    #
  59. Pockets of activity, sure, but Detroit is a very big place. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see a citywide population upswing for some time yet.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 7 '05 - 03:00AM    #
  60. My original request covered the comment sheets, as the City has conceded.

    Steve, if the new public e-mail comments go to Calthorpe, and the City does not retain copies, then under the City’s present theory they are not FOIAble.

    Again, I hope a FOIA suit against the City will not be necessary. Stay tuned.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 7 '05 - 10:50PM    #
  61. Oop! Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so opaque. Yesterday I made an offer of settlement to the City. No response yet.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 7 '05 - 11:26PM    #
  62. I have a couple more technical questions for people with more of a clue about planning issues than I have. I have just talked with someone who has some background in planning. He raised the following issues:

    1. The Calthorpe report recommends “transfer of development rights” as a planning option. However, TDR is not authorized in Michigan.

    2. Calthorpe recommends assessing “affordable housing” fees on all developments. This is an example of a so-called “impact fee,” which is illegal in Michigan.

    Does anyone know anything about these recommendations?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 8 '05 - 11:10PM    #
  63. David, as far as I know, neither of those ideas are illegal in Michigan. Rather, the State legislature has not passed the enabling legislation to do them. That only means they haven’t said it is okay to do them, not that it is specifically forbidden for us to do them. So Ann Arbor could enact the legislation anyway, if we wanted. It puts A2 in a murky place and open to a lawsuit, but I think that this is exactly the sort of thing we should be pushing our city and state to do.
       —KGS    Dec. 9 '05 - 02:11PM    #
  64. 1. I’m surprised to hear that TDR isn’t already authorized in Michigan; I had heard enough about its use that I assumed it was. As KGS mentions, though, “not authorized” just means we have to be careful. Better would be to push to get the enabling legislation passed. That appears to be on the Michigan Society of Planning’s policy platform for the year, MLUI cites the Michigan Townships Association as supporting ...

    Oh, this document from the Michigan Municipal League in Feb 2005 says the MI legislation has authorized TDRs. So maybe that’s not a problem. (And, if it were, it’s a problem that should – and probably could – be fixed by changing state law, not by giving up.)

    2. We already effectively charge impact fees in some cases, showing it can be done. Me musing aloud: We’ve established conditions that have to be met for any PUD or Planned Project site plan – such as affordable housing, open space / parks contributions, etc. If we really wanted to, we could make everything a PUD, but pre-specify exactly what we wanted out of a PUD in any given area, such that, rather than PUDing being a long and drawn out deal starting from scratch, there’s a checklist known to everybody of what has to be done. We can also specify impact fee-like requirements on any development if we can show an “essential nexus” between the development and the issue the requirement is supposed to address, and if the impact-fee like requirements are in “rough proportionality” to the impact the project has. I can give you Supreme Court citations, if you want…

    These are not insurmountable obstacles. I don’t think anything in the Calthorpe report is plug-and-play, nor was it meant to be; it’s supposed to be an investigation of what we want, and suggestions for how to get there – coming up with the final details to implement anything is still up to us.
       —Murph    Dec. 9 '05 - 03:29PM    #
  65. When a state legislature finally gets around to passing enabling legislation for something that local governments have already started doing, they may create new requirements, but they usually start out by specifically authorizing all the ordinances that are already in place.

    For example, Ann Arbor’s historic district ordinance predated state enabling legislation, and for some time Ann Arbor’s practice differed from what is contemplated in the state law. However, it was retroactively legalized by that same law, and eventually Ann Arbor changed its ordinance to line up with later ones.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 9 '05 - 03:41PM    #
  66. I just did a search of the entire Michigan Compiled Laws for “transfer of development rights” and got a big fat zero – no such language. I read the Michigan Municipal League document (thanks for the link!) and saw the reference to legislation being passed. But my search should have picked up the legislation.

    Can anyone else find the details?

    If Calthorpe is proposing tools which presently lack legal authority, the report should have the good grace to say so.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 9 '05 - 04:13PM    #
  67. I had done a quick search on the same terms; considering that “purchase of development rights” and “PDR” are in the MCL under that name, I had expected TDR to also be. However, just because the name isn’t there doesn’t mean that the authority isn’t. Searching for just “development rights” gets lots of hits, but I’m too lazy to look through and figure out what among those, if any, might be TDR in a different name.

    And yes, generally nice to point out what’s not explicitly allowed by the State.
       —Murph.    Dec. 9 '05 - 05:54PM    #
  68. Along those lines of Calthorpe report recommendations that have questionable feasibility, here’s one that caught my attention: IIRC, they recommend bulb-outs for sidewalks at Huron—how might that be possible short of reducing Huron to one lane in each direction? Anyone know if that is a recommendation as well? (I read the report, but it was the draft version.)
       —Steve Bean    Dec. 9 '05 - 07:50PM    #
  69. You won’t find TDR in MCL searches because the law that was passed isn’t a complete statute dealing with TDR, as compared to PDR. Instead, what the legislature did was pass a law that allows non-contiguous PUDs. In theory, that allows someone who’s proposing a development that includes physically separated parcels to transfer the density from the one parcel to the other. As example, someone who owns vacant land on the outskirts of the City could transfer the density to a parcel downtown by including both in a PUD that proposes to develop one and leave the other one vacant (or vice versa!)

    You can find it here:

    “Unless explicitly prohibited by the planned unit development regulations, if requested by the landowner, a city or village may approve a planned unit development with open space that is not contiguous with the rest of the planned unit development.”

    The problems with this change include:

    1) Very vague language – the law was simply an add-on to the provisions that deal with PUDs. It’s unclear whether local gov’ts. need to amend their PUD ordinances to allow this or if a developer can invoke this without local ordinances permitting it.

    2) It’s limited to PUDs. By comparison, PDRs are not tied the development process.

    3) No guidelines. Unlike PDRs, there’s no direction from the legislature about how this can or should be implemented.

    I strongly disagree with Murph’s viewpoint that Ann Arbor’s imposition of “impact fees” is legal. When done through the PUD process, there may be some argument that they can be justified but I think the City stretches the limits at times. Outside of the PUD process, I don’t think you’ll find a municipal attorney who thinks you would have much chance in MI courts defending that practice. Ann Arbor is just fortunate that no one has taken them to court to challenge the practice.
       —John Q    Dec. 9 '05 - 08:59PM    #
  70. Aha, it sounds like non-contiguous PUDs could be a nifty historic preservation tool, in certain circumstances.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 9 '05 - 09:25PM    #
  71. If the legislature had given us a real TDR statute, there’s quite a bit that could be accomplished by allowing density to be traded from one location to another – open space preservation, historic preservation, agricultural preservation, etc. Instead, we have an ambiguous addition that was created for one specific PUD (in Brighton Township, I believe). Hopefully, some enterprising communities will give this language a test ride and see how far it can get us. Imagine the potential for both downtown development and the Greenbelt if we can use this language to shift density from the townships into the City.
       —John Q.    Dec. 10 '05 - 03:51AM    #
  72. Thanx for clarifying what the legislature did (and didn’t do) on TDRs, John Q! The concept sounds like a good one to me, even though it’s not authorized in Michigan.

    How come Calthorpe didn’t know about this lack of authority?

    I know some of the historicity folks are saying that Calthorpe’s recommendations on historic districts won’t work in Michigan. Sorry I can’t remember the details; historic districts aren’t my issue.

    Is someone going to have to go through all the Calthorpe recommendations and spot others that are not authorized in Michigan?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 10 '05 - 02:25PM    #
  73. I strongly disagree with Murph’s viewpoint that Ann Arbor’s imposition of “impact fees” is legal.

    I don’t know that I said they were legal. I meant that, within limits, developers will pony up rather than taking the City to court. Alls we have to do is stay on the right side of the line beyond which it will clearly be better for the developers to sue us than to play along.
       —Murph    Dec. 10 '05 - 04:32PM    #
  74. My question is much more serious than that, Dave: why didn’t Joey Scanga, a so-called “expert,” know how many fingers I was holding up when I was sitting almost RIGHT BEHIND HIM during last Monday’s city council meeting? If he can’t even say the word “three” in answer to a totally imaginary question I never asked, I don’t know how we can trust his “recommendations” about things that are in Ann Arbor’s best interest to pursue.
       —Dale    Dec. 10 '05 - 09:16PM    #
  75. Murph, I suggest you re-think #73 above. Are you really saying the City should imploy a “cost-benefit” analysis to questions of legality or illegality?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 10 '05 - 09:42PM    #
  76. David C.,

    I think you’re overstating the case here. I finally had a chance to go back and read that section and detail and I don’t think this:

    “The concept [TDR] sounds like a good one to me, even though it’s not authorized in Michigan.”

    First, TDR is authorized within the context of a PUD or similar planned development. By allowing two or more properties that are physically separated to be combined into one PUD, the Legislature has effectively allowed for density to be transfered from one to another.

    Second, my impression from reading the report is that the discussion of TDR is within the context of PUDs or planned developments. I think it would be difficult to legally award density bonuses and other incentives that are proposed outside of the PUD process.

    I think you are on stronger ground on the bullet point about imposing development fees. That appears to be a recommendation that’s based on their experience elsewhere and doesn’t take into consideration the legality of impact fees. Legally, impact fees are neither legal nor authorized in Michigan. There are several court cases that deal with impact fees and as far as I know, all of the decisions have come down against impact fees.
       —John Q.    Dec. 11 '05 - 12:34AM    #
  77. David, do you think it doesn’t already happen, here or elsewhere?

    I’m saying that, just because the State legislation does not contain the exact words that the Calthorpe report uses, the exact words that we’d use to describe it, doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It just means we have to be more creative and more careful about how we do it.

    To quote Jane Lumm in last year’s forum with her and Hieftje at the urban planning school, “Ann Arbor is a very exacting city.” Just because exactions aren’t authorized in so many words doesn’t mean we’re not doing the same thing in other ways.
       —Murph    Dec. 11 '05 - 02:45AM    #
  78. An agent of the Nimby Intelligence Service (NIS) reports that the City staff will be posting all the public comments that went to Calthorpe, plus the new e-mailed public comments, on the City’s website.

    The agent did not know when this would happen. No public comments have been posted yet.

    I sure hope this report is right – it would be good news!
       —David Cahill    Dec. 12 '05 - 03:20PM    #
  79. I got an e-mail from the mayor this afternoon that says: “Information on the public comment sheets. The city did not keep them and has been waitng for them to come back from Calthorpe. An electronic copy of the sheets (scanned) is back now and will be posted on the city website, hopefully by the end of the week.”

    Score one for transparency in government.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 12 '05 - 09:00PM    #
  80. Getting back to the ”’failed’(?) Broadway Village” bit, the News has a piece today saying that the project is moving towards action ; the developer apparently has a letter of intent and is working on a final lease agreement with an unnamed physicians’ group that would push them over the pre-leasing target, trigger their public financing, and start the construction process – they hope to be able to present their leasing package for financing approval next month.
       —Murph    Dec. 14 '05 - 07:54PM    #
  81. Hope springs eternal for the developers of Broadway Village. They have been saying the project is fully leased up, or almost leased up, since the summer of 2004. But they never quite make it.

    Plus, the project has had two large liens filed against it in the past year or so by contractors who were not paid—and they haven’t even broken ground yet. One was for over $130,000; the other was for over $160,000. Both have been released.

    Will the City support a bond issue on behalf of a developer who doesn’t pay its people promptly? If the developer ever produces the leases, we’ll find out.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 16 '05 - 12:27AM    #
  82. There is now a 52-page .pdf file of those public comments which were sent to Calthorpe available on the City’s “downtown” web page. The file is under “Feedback Tools”.

    The comments are uncensored, as you can see from page 13. 8-)
       —David Cahill    Dec. 22 '05 - 08:54PM    #
  83. The comments are also pretty much illegible. They serve mostly as evidence to support that the penmanship (not to mention argumentative writing skills) of this town is deplorable… You almost sued the city for this chicken-scratch?
       —FAA    Dec. 22 '05 - 10:39PM    #
  84. Well, FAA, I was able to read everything.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 23 '05 - 01:57AM    #
  85. Particularly page 13. Submitted by js?
       —Dale    Dec. 23 '05 - 03:30AM    #
  86. Can someone provide a link.

    Your friendly-neighborhood- internet-challenged-idiot-savant can’t find the page.

       —todd    Dec. 23 '05 - 04:19PM    #
  87. Here.
       —David F    Dec. 23 '05 - 04:34PM    #
  88. Armentrout has a follow-up article in the January Observer, page 11, “Subsidizing Downtown”.

    She calls attention to two recommendations of the Calthorpe report for public subsidies of development:

    ”[The report] suggests the city subsidize downtown construction by eliminating the parking requirement for new projects—so that construction of any new parking would require the use of public funds—and by building new stormwater detention with public money, rather than making developers pay for this utility.”

    Consider a typical ten-story mixed-use project of the kind that Calthorpe recommends. Roughly how much would the public have to pay for the parking required for such a project? Ditto for the stormwater detention?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 24 '05 - 07:44PM    #
  89. So how is that a subsidy, exactly?

    This anti-development baloney is ridiculous and ironically ahistorical. Hey, Dave—do you care to guess who built the late parking garage on First and Washington? According to the Christian Science Monitor and New York Times it was the City of Ann Arbor.


    Yah, I know—it’s unbelievable, but the public sector has been in cahoots with the private sector for DECADES now—right under our noses! I hear the CITY has even been constructing SIDEWALKS and STREETS in front of buildings! Can you believe that? *I* have been subsidizing the concrete and asphalt that YOU walk and drive on.

    I should have known something was up when I learned that the CITY was a CORPORATION. Thank goodness people of pure heart like yourself, Dave, wouldn’t mess their hands with corporations or taking tax breaks (on their mortgages, for example).
       —Dale    Dec. 24 '05 - 08:38PM    #
  90. Feel better now, Dale? 8-)

    Sure, I know the history of the First and Washington parking structures, streets, etc.

    I also know that the reason there was in the past a shortage of parking in downtown was that it was “parking-exempt;” that is, you could build something without providing parking. It seems that Calthorpe wants us to move back to this idea.

    Anyway, I am just looking for rough financial estimates on the amounts the taxpayers would have to pay to subsidize parking and stormwater detention for that typical ten-story building.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 24 '05 - 10:07PM    #
  91. “Consider a typical ten-story mixed-use project of the kind that Calthorpe recommends. Roughly how much would the public have to pay for the parking required for such a project? Ditto for the stormwater detention?”

    Ditto for the Residential Parking Permit program, which will be “fixed” and extended to other areas, mark my words.

    How much does THAT little subsidy cost citizens and business owners versus the installation of a profitable parking garage?

    As usual, your “outrage” at subsidies depends on who/what is being subsidized.
       —todd    Dec. 26 '05 - 04:31PM    #
  92. Todd, I’m not “outraged” at all. I’m just looking for some estimates on what Armentrout says would be subsidies.

    One original reason for having more housing development downtown was that the taxes from the new construction would help bail out the City from its long-running budget deficit.

    But, if in order to get this development to happen, the City has to subsidize it, then we need some good estimates of the gains to the City through taxes, and the losses to the City through subsidies, to see if the whole thing makes financial sense at all.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 26 '05 - 09:13PM    #
  93. Dave,

    So let me see if I get this straight. You want to check the math on subsidies? OK.

    You want to keep downtown land owners from building up, right? Reducing the amount of taxable property, right?

    Now after you do that, you want to, what, pretend that these same property owners should be installing parking (underground, I am sure, right?)? Now if they don’t put “enough” parking on-site, you’re going to say that the city is “subsidizing” parking if we let the landowners install the building without whatever you deem to be enough parking, right?

    That’s some strange math you want to use, Dave.

    How about this little word problem:

    Person A owns a piece of land downtown. Person A wants to build a 10 story building with a little underground parking. Person DC and his friends come along and complain to the City Council that Person A’s building is too tall, and that it should be no taller than 5 stories.

    Given the above word problem:

    1. How much does it cost the taxpayers (and Person A) every time this project is “tabled” by City Council because Person DC wants Council to force Person A to lop off 5 stories?

    2. How much have we increased the cost of rent in Person A’s building by reducing the number of square feet that Person A can charge rent? Secondly, now that rent is over $30 a square foot, name a local business that can safely operate in this building (in other words, you are subsidizing corporate businesses).

    3. How much tax revenue have we lost because Person DC forced Person A to remove five whole floors from an existing footprint?

    4. Does person DC understand that he is subsidizing “no tall buildings” to the tune of millions of dollars per year to the Ann Arbor taxpayers?
       —todd    Dec. 27 '05 - 04:19PM    #
  94. Perhaps someone without anger management issues could answer my original subsidy question. 8-)
       —David Cahill    Dec. 27 '05 - 08:34PM    #
  95. Well, David Cahill, I don’t think Todd has anger management issues (and he raises much more valid and pertinent questions than your request for how much subsidized parking for a ten story building versus a five story building, which either way is only a matter of time before it is profitable, would initially cost the city).
       —FAA    Dec. 28 '05 - 03:22PM    #
  96. Todd doesn’t seem to have anger management issues to me. Sarcasm, yes, but he still asks good questions. Why don’t you answer them, David?

    Parking within the DDA is exempt for all uses except residential, which has a requirement of 1 parking space per unit. IMO downtown buildings should not be required to provide parking unless their site is big enough to accomodate it, like half a city block or bigger. Anything smaller is very hard to work, physically and financially. Providing parking is as much a public service as streets and sewers in a downtown core.

    Now as to the stormwater detention, that is something I think that the city ought to include, just like they do water and sewer. It isn’t the developer’s fault that Allen Creek is in such bad shape, for example; it is directly related to bad public policy over the last 100+ years. We ought to be requiring certain provisions like using native plants and swales over hard detention areas, but making buildings retain water in tanks the size of semis is just ridiculous.

    To you questions, David, people can’t give you financial estimates because they vary so much according to building site and construction costs. For parking, we have the rule of thumb of $20K per space, and double that for underground (IIRC), though this depends a lot on the design and construction method. For storm water, it is based on the amount of impervious surface, so a 5 story building and a 10 story building is no different if they take up the same amount of square footage on the site. As to what stormwater detention costs, it can range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. Those are all my best guesses of cost, YMMV.
       —KGS    Dec. 28 '05 - 04:27PM    #
  97. “Todd doesn’t seem to have anger management issues to me. Sarcasm, yes, but he still asks good questions. Why don’t you answer them, David?” -KGS

    He won’t answer my questions, KGS. He never does. And, of course, this is because he knows what the answers are, and he’d have to admit that his “position” (if you can call it that) is untenable.
       —todd    Dec. 28 '05 - 05:25PM    #
  98. Thanks, KGS! That’s very helpful. I’m trying to get a more complete picture of the financial costs/benefits of the Calthorpe recommendations, so a comment with numbers (naturally estimates) in it is great.

    People will naturally disagree vigorously on their visions for downtown. Having some numbers to look at may provide an objective basis for some limited agreements.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 28 '05 - 08:51PM    #
  99. Oop! Sorry, I meant to ask about one more thing.

    The Calthorpe report suggests that all, or nearly all, of the surface parking lots downtown are opportunities for development, based on the concept that they are undervalued.

    What is the total number of parking spots in these surface lots? I may have overlooked this figure in the Calthorpe report; if so, just point me to the right page.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 28 '05 - 08:55PM    #
  100. (Could somebody rebut Todd with reasoning or evidence, rather than ad hominems? Not so far, it seems…)

    I’ll toss my couple of cents into the “subsidy” question…

    Economically, parking is an “induced demand” – nobody parks for the sake of parking (except maybe teenagers?), people park for the sake of accessing useful things, such as homes, businesses, workplaces, recreation, etc.

    Parking has not only the private costs of land, asphalt, etc, but also public costs, such as the opportunity cost of using land for parking rather than for first-order uses and the effects on land use and transportation patterns that parking has. (Simply, more parking induces people to walk less and drive more, because more parking pushes real uses further apart – this has been stated since Jane Jacobs in ‘61, and is only becoming more well-known over time.)

    So parking has high costs and negligible inherent value. Clearly, we ought to seek the absolute minimal amount of parking that will suit our needs, and price it properly to minimize unnecessary use of parking. (That is, it shouldn’t be privately cheaper to drive from the edge of Ann Arbor to downtown and park than it is to ride the bus, considering the social costs involved in driving and parking.)

    Everything up to here has been said a dozen times on this site before – I really shouldn’t have to say it again. So, on to Calthorpe.

    David, you’re casting removal of parking requirements from private development as a subsidy. I disagree.

    Requiring each and every development to internally provide for all of its own parking needs causes unnecessary parking to be built – I can dig out my copy of “The High Cost of Free Parking” and look up the number, if you insist, but I remember it as being, depending on land use, being generally between 2x and 5x as could be done with a mixture of uses and shared/pooled parking.

    Extra parking involves extra cost, and that extra cost doesn’t evaporate (nor is it absorbed by the bogeyman “developer” that is often portrayed as having infinitely deep pockets), but in turn drives up the cost of housing, office rent, and storefronts – since parking is an induced demand, it has to be paid for from somewhere. All parking cost is, in the end, a social cost, so there’s no reason to not want to minimize it. (Which is, of course, not to say that the cheapest way to provide parking (surface lots) is the socially optimal way – the social opportunity cost of good land is really high.)

    Pulling the amount of parking built down to the amount needed requires sharing costs across users by slices of time – a space in the Tally Hall or Maynard Street structures, for example, could be used by a TCF employee 9-5, a Michigan Theater or Red Hawk patron or downtown resident in the evening, a Borders shopper on a Saturday shopping trip, and a churchgoer on Sunday. This draws down the social and private/indirectly-social costs of parking for all involved; if all of those users were required to provide 100% of their own parking, as estimated by the engineering manuals on induced parking demand by use, every single one of them except for TCF would have abandoned downtown for the Townships by now. (David, do you want a downtown populated only by banks?)

    Requiring all users to bring their own parking is a death-sentence for walkable, human-scaled downtowns, a mandate for most users to move out to cheap land at the periphery of town to drive down private costs (but up social costs) of parking; shared/pooled (and properly priced) parking is an important part of maintaining a pleasant and liveable built form.

    Conclusion: running a pooled/priced parking system, and thereby doling out both private/user and public/social costs in a visible fashion, is vastly better than requiring a fragmented system that makes visible only the private costs (and only some of those to the average user – quick, how much do you pay for parking during every trip to Briarwood? Hint, it’s not zero, even if you take the bus), and totally buries the public costs.

    So, uh, what’s the problem with the Calthorpe recommendations on parking again?
       —Murph.    Dec. 28 '05 - 11:07PM    #
  101. Simple, Murph. My belief is that in AA, or similar cities in Michigan, the public will simply not accept shared/pooled parking or mass transit to any significant extent. Regardless of how you and others feel they ought to determine their needs, our public will insist that they be able to park downtown using their own single vehicles. My conclusion is not based on what I might want, but rather on my observations of the local scene over the past 30 years. That is the brutal reality as I see it.

    But *I* was not the one who called the Calthorpe recommendation on parking a subsidy requiring public finds. It was Armentrout. See comment 88 above.

    So – how many surface parking spaces would be eliminated under the Calthorpe recommendations? I know I could calculate the figure myself, but I’m sure it’s available somewhere….
       —David Cahill    Dec. 29 '05 - 03:05AM    #
  102. To preempt your having to sue the city over this matter, David, I have been out all evening counting every parking space in every surface lot downtown. I’ll do you the favor of posting this data, should you do us all the favor answering Todd’s questions. 8-)
       —FAA    Dec. 29 '05 - 05:56AM    #
  103. Um … but, David, every single DDA parking facility downtown already IS “shared/pooled parking”.

    To say the least, downtown Ann Arbor isn’t lacking for visitors, shoppers, etc., and most of those who arrive in cars are using the “shared/pooled parking” organized by the city and the DDA.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 29 '05 - 06:51AM    #
  104. I agree that it doesn’t make sense to have every new development provide parking. But shouldn’t those developments pay into a fund to underwrite the costs of building structures, etc. that provide the parking infrastructure needed? If this already happens, I think it addresses the “subsidy” question.
       —John Q.    Dec. 29 '05 - 04:05PM    #
  105. But John Q, they do. New developments in the DDA pay tax money to the DDA. The DDA runs the parking structures. The new developments use the parking structures. Ergo, they pay for them.

    I really don’t get the perception of the lack of parking downtown. Every structure I’ve been has vacancies on a regular basis, with the exception of the two closest to Main & Liberty on big event days. So why do we have this constant need to provide ‘more’, especially at great cost to private individuals?
       —KGS    Dec. 29 '05 - 04:27PM    #
  106. John Q – there’s no “in lieu of on-site parking” fund, as least not in the form of an impact fee. It’s more of a “pay as you go” system, where individual users buy into the pool a little bit at a time. Some of these users are hourly shoppers or clients at the business, some are businesses buying parking validation stickers, some are employees buying monthly permits, or businesses buying permits for their employees.

    I personally think this is a better system than having everybody pay up front – how do you calculate, at time of construction, how much parking a structure is going to require over time? What if it’s a residential development and a carsharing system is set up? What if the retail space ends up being rented out to a cycle shop, where almost none of the employees or patrons arrive by car? A Main Street Ventures restaurant drawing mostly diners from Novi has much different parking requirements than does a Jimmy Johns that draws diners mostly from campus. So I’m sticking up for the pay-as-you-go status quo, though modified as necessary to raise or lower rates, fulfill the demand for access to downtown amenities other than through parking (e.g. the go!pass is part of the parking system, since they both serve the same need: to getDowntown), and so on.

    Now I’ll point out the exception. Some developers don’t want to have their clients pay-as-they-go into a monthly permit system, but want some sort of guaranteed parking. As an example, look to McKinley Towne Center – their financing requires some amount of long-term parking promise, so they’ve contracted with the DDA for a block of monthly permits (250? 300?) for (if I remember correctly) 20 years. I think the deal that was worked out was that MTC would pay “market rate + $20/mo premium” for the privilege of holding permits long-term, such that they’re not only affected by rate changes, but also, because they’re taking up so many spaces, are paying into a pool to maintain / replace / expand parking, rather than playing monthly permit roulette. I think the DDA worked out the contract with MTC such that a certain share of the permits would be given over as certain goals were met – they can’t promise residential uses across the street, gets their permits, and then just sign a law firm and ditch the residential plans. Corner House Lofts has a similar, but smaller and shorter-term, deal worked out for parking. So these projects are, in a way, paying into an impact fund, based on their assumption that they need the parking in the long-term, and that their parking desire isn’t going to go down as access to amenities by other means (proximity, transit) improves.

    (My observation: if CHL is willing to take out 70-100 permits at $20/mo “over market rate”, and MTC 250-300 at $20/mo “over market rate”, doesn’t that mean that “market rate” is something like $20 higher than the current permit price? A DDA Board member: possibly, but you can be the person to be strung up for suggesting it.)

    I’ll repeat, though, how is it a “subsidy” if the people using the parking are the ones paying for it? Doesn’t matter if Armentrout said it first – if you’re going to quote her on it, it’s either because you’re agreeing with her or disagreeing with her. If you agree, back it up.
       —Murph.    Dec. 29 '05 - 04:30PM    #
  107. In response to some of David’s questions:

    1. I don’t have a current number of spaces off hand, but you can go to the DDA’s website and add up the spaces in each facility

    2. I don’t think Calthorpe recommends eliminating any spaces. In fact, I think that following through on the Calthorpe recs will involve building parking spaces – just not as many as would be built if we didn’t follow Calthorpe and instead pushed those uses out to greenfield construction.

    3. I don’t think there exists any specific number of the difference between how many spaces might be built downtown/shared versus greenfield/dedicated-parking (what you’re looking for when you ask how much parking would be “eliminated”). It’s not a matter of laying down hard numbers – it’s just the opposite of that. It’s a matter of meeting the need for access in the best way possible rather than forcing blind construction of unnecessary parking.

    4. You won’t give up on your “forcing people onto transit” thing, will you? I still haven’t heard you explain why “not forcing people to drive” – enabling other options – is “forcing people onto transit”. We’ll never have a car-free (or parking-free) downtown, and nobody’s arguing for one. (Well, except the people who want Main St. closed to cars – I wonder how much overlap there is between that group and the group that wants to force people to drive downtown?)

    5. You’re totally wrong about people rejecting transit. Thousands of people accept it (or happily choose it) every day! I suggest you call up AATA’s Chris White and ask him just how many people are choosing the bus every day. Ask him how many of his buses are running at capacity, packed to the gills, because so many people want to ride them. Or maybe you should see for yourself – hop on the inbound #2 at Plymouth and Barton Dr. (probably the stop closest to your house) at 8 or 9 am and see if you can find a seat. Then tell all the people taking up those seats just how much Ann Arborites hate transit, and how all of them are driving, rather than sitting on the bus listening to you. Sure, not everybody’s going to use transit, but we should not force people to drive when they’d rather ride the bus or walk or bike!

    (KGS – for the most part the DDA’s parking fund and the DDA’s TIF fund are separate.)
       —Murph.    Dec. 29 '05 - 04:46PM    #
  108. “New developments in the DDA pay tax money to the DDA. The DDA runs the parking structures. The new developments use the parking structures. Ergo, they pay for them.”

    Every tax dollar captured by the DDA is a tax dollar not going to the City/County/etc. to pay for general services. If that money is being dedicated to parking, downtown improvements, etc. that’s in effect a subsidy from those whose tax dollars are not captured (everyone outside the DDA). By implementing a DDA, the City has made a policy decision that they want everyone outside the DDA to subsidize in some small amount those activities. So there is a subsidy for those activities. They really are not being paid exclusively by the DDA taxpayers.
       —John Q.    Dec. 29 '05 - 05:28PM    #
  109. “My conclusion is not based on what I might want, but rather on my observations of the local scene over the past 30 years. That is the brutal reality as I see it.”

    Ah, I see. So here’s a question that you might answer (hope, hope). Have you seen an increase in traffic in Ann Arbor over the last 5 or so years?

    “So – how many surface parking spaces would be eliminated under the Calthorpe recommendations? I know I could calculate the figure myself, but I’m sure it’s available somewhere….”

    All of them. They would be replaced by parking structures. Surface lots are the worst possible use of land there is….

    Dave, I people are politely responding to your questions, and I have personally just answered one. Be a sport (or a thinking member of our community) and answer the questions that I listed in post 93. Show us that you are a lawyer, and that you have the ability to form arguments and rebuke my positions…
       —todd    Dec. 29 '05 - 07:06PM    #
  110. John, I disagree with your characterization of “subsidy.” The city chose to use those funds, in setting up the DDA, specifically for building downtown infrastructure and business. I see it as essentially dedicating funding of those priorities while maintaining input. If those funds weren’t going to the DDA, they’d be going to the city for basically the same thing (with the danger of neglecting downtown priorities, which the city did for many years). It’s no more a subsidy than any other city activity is a subsidy.

    To take Dave Cahill’s logic on the HDC, this was a local decision to enact specific local priorities, enabled by the state.

    It’s not a subsidy, it’s a safeguard.
       —Dale    Dec. 29 '05 - 07:46PM    #
  111. Well, I suppose that depending on how you look at it, everything in downtown is subsidized. 8-) And every schoolchild knows that the AATA is supported almost entirely by its own tax subsidy (its millage), rather than operating revenues.

    While thousands of people do come into downtown each business day via the AATA, they are a small fraction of the total number of people who come into downtown. I’m sure Chris White would agree. Last year Greg Cook told a working session with Council that until the past couple of years, the AATA had served only those who could not drive: those who did not have access to a car.

    Todd, you are quite right that under Calthorpe those surface lots would be replaced by parking structures. Some would be above-ground and others would be underground.

    I am trying to calculate what the cost of these new, replacement spaces would be. Under Calthorpe, that cost would be paid by the public. Here is some current info which I have been given:

    A. The DDA request for proposals (RFP) for parking in the new First and Washington project estimates $35,000 per above-ground space and $40,000 per underground space.

    B. The developer of the Old Y wants to charge $70,000 per underground space.

    For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that each type of space in a structure, above-ground or underground, costs the same, and set the cost at $40K.

    For every 100 surface spaces replaced by structure spaces, the cost would be 100 x $40,000 = $4 million. Is this reasonable, or have I misplaced the decimal point?

    Todd, I haven’t ignored your questions in 93 above. Of course rents would be less for a 10-story building than for a 5-story building. However, my own personal preference is for downtown to stay pretty much the same, without a lot of big buildings. That is my primary goal. A desire for lower rent for local businesses, while understandable, does not in my mind justify distorting the market by subsidizing big buildings.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 29 '05 - 09:13PM    #
  112. I think I have a first-approximation estimate of what it would cost to replace all the DDA’s surface spaces. Thanks for the link to the list of facilities, Murph!

    There are 421 spaces in DDA metered lots. There are 198 spaces in the First and Huron attended lot, 134 spaces in the Kline’s attended lot, and 193 spaces in the Library attended lot. The total number of DDA surface spaces therefore is 932.

    At $40,000 each, it would cost 932 x $40,000 = $37,280,000 to replace them with structure parking, as Calthorpe is recommending.

    This cost would be borne by the public, not by developers. This would be a change from the current system, set down in section 5:169 of the City Code, under which any projects which use any premiums or special zoning like PUDs (which means most recent projects) must provide off-street parking.
       —David Cahill    Dec. 29 '05 - 09:39PM    #
  113. I don’t think that David’s calculations are of much value in themselves. Nor do I think the change he notes (for certain projects) is necessarily an issue. However, his comments point toward a need to consider the lost present value of city-owned sites when they are sold for private development. Obviously, there’s some sort of tradeoff between the loss of that value and the gain in property tax revenues (hence my initial statement.)

    Has the DDA made any type of initial analysis with regard to that, Murph?
       —Steve Bean    Dec. 29 '05 - 10:32PM    #
  114. This cost would be borne by the public, not by developers.

    Dave, you continue to frame this incorrectly. The upfront investment is borne by bodies like the DDA. That cost is then borne by the users, whether it be through permits, hourly charges, or metering.
       —Dale    Dec. 29 '05 - 10:51PM    #
  115. You’ve acknowledged the fact there are questions from 93 but you still haven’t answered them, David. You appear to be capable… You were able to estimate parking costs (accurate or not) all by yourself.

    If you are truly after some numbers to look at to provide an objective basis for maintaining vitality downtown you’re going to have to look at the other side of the coin – the one that goes against your primary goal and personal preference for downtown to stay pretty much the same…
       —FAA    Dec. 29 '05 - 11:10PM    #
  116. What Calthorpe is recommending is a change in the parking rules which would shift a cost presently borne by the developers to the public. That change in the rules is, IMNSHO, a subsidy.

    Let’s be kind and round my figure down to just $35,000,000 for replacement of the current DDA surface parking. Remember, this figure is just for replacement of that parking if and when buildings are constructed on those lots. That’s the amount the public would pay to just “stay even” on parking.

    But a developer will want to add parking for his/her building, plainly. That extra parking, under Calthorpe, will also be paid for by the public.

    Lets suppose someone wants to build a 10-story mixed use project on the First and Huron lot, which will mean replacing the 198 surface spots which are there at present.

    What would be a reasonable number of added parking spaces for such a project, assuming a combination of ground-floor retail, 2 stories of office, and 7 stories of housing?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 30 '05 - 02:43AM    #
  117. Still waiting for you to answer Todd’s questions, David. This is my last freebie math for you until you do. Heh.

    201 W. Huron (the block bounded by First, Ashley, Washington, & Huron) is owned by First Martin Corp, i.e. Bill Martin (all according to the City Assessor records online). It is a private lot leased to the DDA for parking, but IMO should not be relied upon to be parking in the future. The parking on that lot will probably need to be moved elsewhere in the downtown area to a city-owned lot… perhaps on First & William? ;-)

    Anyway, the First Martin block is 264’ long by 131.5’ deep, or 34,716 sq. ft. if it is built to the lot lines (no setbacks or anything). Assume the worst-case scenario and that the building goes up for 10 stories and every story is built to the lot line, it is just one big block. (Hopefully this will not be the case, it would look awful!)

    First 3 stories do not need to provide parking according to Chapter 59, section 5:169; that’s the 300% FAR allowed. After that we need to provide parking at 1 space for every 1,000 sq. ft of residential. That works out to be 243 spaces needed, or just about 1-1/4 levels of underground parking which would be relatively easy to do since we have a whole city block to work with. If the mix changed to have more office, the amount of parking needed would go up.

    Make sense?
       —KGS    Dec. 30 '05 - 03:48PM    #
  118. However, my own personal preference is for downtown to stay pretty much the same, without a lot of big buildings.

    Why, David?
       —Steve Bean    Dec. 30 '05 - 04:30PM    #
  119. “It’s no more a subsidy than any other city activity is a subsidy.”

    Sorry Dale but I disagree. The DDA and its funding is fundamentally different than other city activities. First, the tax dollars that are captured by the DDA go back into the DDA district. That guarantees the property owners in the area that the money they pay in taxes will come back to them in the form of direct or indirect improvements and subsidies for services. No other taxpayer in the City enjoys that kind of arrangement.

    Second, because the DDA is capturing City/County/etc. tax dollars, property owners in the DDA aren’t even paying for the City services that are provided for the district outside of the DDA-funded services, which I assume is pretty much all city services. Where does the funding for those services come from? Every other taxpayer in the City who has to pay a little bit more to provide services for themselves and the DDA district property owners.

    I’m not making a case against the DDA. Since the City established the DDA, the City and its elected representatives willing made the choice to require everyone else outside the DDA to pay for the services within the DDA. I also realize that there isn’t a direct connection between how much an individual taxpayer pays and what they get in services. Most residential development is subsidized by non-residential taxpayers. And everyone is subsidizing the cost of UM.

    But I think it’s naive to expect people to look at that arrangement and NOT expect them to ask questions like David C. is asking (even as I disagree with his vision of downtown). One can and should argue that the benefits of a healthy downtown outweight the extra cost to the average taxpayer of this arrangement. But neither the DDA or its supporters should expect to get a free pass on this question. In my view, the DDA always needs to show that the benefits of this arrangement outweight the costs and the day that they don’t is the day when we need to question whether we still need the DDA.
       —John Q.    Dec. 30 '05 - 06:04PM    #
  120. What Calthorpe is recommending is a change in the parking rules which would shift a cost presently borne by the developers to the public. That change in the rules is, IMNSHO, a subsidy.

    Not so much. Whether the DDA “publicly” builds 100 parking spaces or a developer “privately” builds 100 parking spaces, it’s still going to cost money, and it’s still going to have to be recouped eventually through user fees, whether those fees are permits and hourly parking fees paid into the DDA’s system or are higher rents charged to tenants/buyers (and thereby higher prices charged by tenants). Either way, the parking has to be paid for, and not only do I hold that the DDA can, by big-picturing it, do so more efficiently than a mish-mash of individual projects could, but can also probably get better rates on their bonds than a private project can get on construction loans.

    Plus, developers bringing their own parking degrades the pleasantness of the street: How often have you almost been run over by a car swinging into or out of TCF’s parking lot? Notice that LoFT322 will have its ground floor taken up by parking, as does the newish building on the 100 block of S. Fifth? Why does Huron between State and Division feature alternating towers and parking lots, rather than a nice, continuous street wall? All of these are glimpses of the hidden social costs of forcing developers to bring their own parking, individually, on-site.

    Here’s an idea, David – why don’t we tear down 1/2 of the buildings on State Street and replace them with private parking lots for the remaining ones? Same with Main St. – half those buildings can go, and the parking “problem” will be placed in the hands of those who create it, those evil evil businesses. It’s awfully strange, David, that somebody who so rabidly defends historic preservation prefers the streetscape of the 1950s strip to a more walkable, historic style of downtown. By your reasoning, should we tear down the OFW and replace it with cookie-cutter condos, because that’s what people are buying the most of these days? Personally, I think that’s a pretty lousy vision for Ann Arbor. I kinda prefer the one that people came up with in the Calthorpe process.
       —Murph    Dec. 30 '05 - 06:10PM    #
  121. Second, because the DDA is capturing City/County/etc. tax dollars, property owners in the DDA aren’t even paying for the City services that are provided for the district outside of the DDA-funded services, which I assume is pretty much all city services. Where does the funding for those services come from?

    Sure, things like police and fire protection are probably being subsidized into the downtown from the whole city – but then, I’m personally fine with that. The downtown provides me with enough services that I’m fine with paying part of the police bill for downtown.

    On the other hand, downtown developers and the DDA often uniquely pays for downtown’s own services. For example, the existing water mains in downtown are oooold, much older than the DDA (and therefore not built w/o the benefit of taxes from downtown), and need to be upgraded in order to serve more intense development. And is the City paying for this? No. When Jeffrey Spoon built the Collegian, for example, he had to (privately) upgrade the water lines on Maynard to serve modern demand. (Wonder why that project went bankrupt? There’s one piece.)

    For example two, the renovation of the Maier-Shairer Building on Main Street has involved Carlson buying a nice shiny new electrical transformer to upgrade the power grid in that area, as well as (I believe) a need to (privately!) install a new (public!) fire hydrant and the water capacity to serve it.

    For example three, look at storm water management, flood control, water quality, etc. Every project built in downtown Ann Arbor is incrementally improving storm water management at private cost (since all the existing buildings/parking were put up when storm water management was interpreted as just letting it run off). Not only do they have to manage all of their own sites’ stormwater, they also have to do footing drain disconnects around town in exchange for capacity.

    In fact, the DDA has been thinking about (no action yet, or probably in the near future) whether some of these things should be pooled-cost like parking – if the DDA should buy up some underground volume for storm-water management as a new development is happening, and then sell slices of that storm-water capacity to all of the users on the block, rather than forcing them to awkwardly comply individually.

    Also, just to note, the DDA doesn’t take all of the taxes from downtown. I believe it’s pretty unique among DDAs in this aspect, but Ann Arbor’s DDA TIF capture only covers the initial value of new construction. Any increase in taxes from renovations of existing space or appreciation in value goes to the City/County/AATA/etc as normal. (Talk to the City Assessor’s office if you want to know how this works.) School taxes are never captured by the DDA.
       —Murph    Dec. 30 '05 - 06:29PM    #
  122. “Where does the funding for those services come from? Every other taxpayer in the City who has to pay a little bit more to provide services for themselves and the DDA district property owners.”

    Without going in to where my tax dollars are going (they aren’t all going to the DDA), you have to remember that there are a higher percentage of businesses (vs. homes) in the DDA, and businesses pay taxes at a much higher rate.

    Setting that aside, though, it is certainly ok for Dave C. to question the costs. It is not ok to use accounting methods that a first year English major would use.

    Dave forgot: to value the structures as an asset; that the lot charge users, and will turn a profit in time; that the lots allow more taxable structures to be built; that these structures will hold tax paying residents and businesses; that density makes all services cheaper; that it will bring jobs downtown, and these workers spend money after work…etc., etc…

    If he’s going to do a cost benefit analysis, let’s fill the ledger properly. I can assure you that the installation of tall buildings w/ pking lots versus building nothing or very little will bring in millions per year in the favor of tall buildings. Dave C’s desires fall horribly flat on the financial front. He’s going to have to come up with something better.
       —todd    Dec. 30 '05 - 06:49PM    #
  123. Thanks for the detailed info about the Brown Block, KGS! I was wondering how to find out the exact dimensions, etc. I’ve been looking at the City’s parking requirements; a lot to absorb for a neophyte like me.

    KGS, if we go ahead and build to the lot line, then the needed parking for the residential use for Calthorpe place, 243 spaces, would cost 243 x $40,000 = $9,720,000.

    Since the 198 spaces in the lot which we are losing will have to be replaced by the City – I’m afraid the Main Street merchants will insist – the cost for replacing them is 198 x $40,000 = $7,920,000.

    Ergo, we have replacement cost + residential parking cost = $7,920,000 + $9,720,000 = $17,640,000. This will be paid for by the public.

    Hmm. Even though the City presently doesn’t require parking for the first three floors of a project, nonetheless, in reality, this parking will also have to be provided, or else the customers/shoppers for the retail and the people who use the offices will have no place to park. There is no such thing as free parking. 8-)

    So, what is the added number of spaces for these uses, employing the City’s figures?

    Yes, todd, you’re right that the ledger for Calthorpe Place has to show as complete a picture as we can construct. I don’t even know how to begin estimating the costs of construction, the rents, and other key facts. What mathematical model are you using for your conclusions in comment 122 above? And for your rhetorical questions in comment 93?
       —David Cahill    Dec. 31 '05 - 02:42AM    #
  124. KGS, I think you only included half of the Brown Block in your description in comment 117 above – the northern half of the block.

    You picked up 201 W. Huron. I did an assessor search for the other possible addresses on this block: W. Washington, 200-300 (odd); S. Ashley, 100-200 (even), and S. First, 100-200 (odd). I picked up a whole bunch of other parcels, owned either by Huron Ashley Limited Partnership (including 201 W. Huron) or by First Martin Corp. The addresses are:

    201 W. Huron (yours)
    202 W. Washington
    204 W. Washington
    206 W. Washington
    208 W. Washington
    214 W. Washington
    220 W. Washington
    112 S. Ashley (the old men’s shelter)

    I then drew a map. There are a couple of pieces that don’t seem to fit. Sorry I don’t have a plat map. However, since we know that the Brown Block is in fact rectangular, my conclusion is that the north-south dimension of the Brown Block is 263.5 feet. The east-west dimension is 264.0 feet.

    Ergo, the square footage is 263.5×264.0 = 69,564.

    This figure means that Calthorpe Place can be twice as big as we thought.

    KGS, or someone with a plat map, can you confirm my calculations?
       —David Cahill    Jan. 1 '06 - 05:15PM    #
  125. Aha! I’m right. I have a zoning map which shows parcel lines. That map of the Brown Block bears a strong resemblance to my map.

    So we have 69,564 sq. ft., more or less, of land to mess around with.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 1 '06 - 05:26PM    #