Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: Google Parking

7. January 2007 • Juliew
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Monday, January 8 at 7:00 pm.
Ann Arbor City HallCity Council Agenda

Highlights:

  • Resolution to request the DDA “work with” City Council to find free parking for Google.
  • Approval of non-motorized transportation plan.
  • Resolution to create the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board while eliminating the existing CDBG Executive Committee and Housing Policy Board.



  1. google parking:

    I missed the part where council asked staff to do some research to determine what would be involved in offering google free parking. It must have been somewhere between promising it to google and then begging it from the DDA.

    While the DDA certainly has its own motivations to accomodate google, I would encourage them to stand by their committment to encouraging alternatives to SOV commuting. Perhaps the most obvious solution, given that the location of the parking is yet to be determined, is to offer spaces at park-and-ride lots.

    The DDA has rightfully said it will not address this issue until the parking study is complete. I’ve been skeptical of the study, but am glad to see they are more willing than the city to research the issue before laying gifts at googles feet. I’ve said before that we have a lot of opportunities to use existing parking more efficiently. Perhaps, instead of gifting spaces to google, we could make them earn them. They design a way to easily “google” parking, and we give them spaces equal to the increase in “newly available” parking.


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 8 '07 - 04:20AM    #
  2. I am in favor of offering all sorts of incentives to get people to leave their cars out of downtown but it seems like the free parking is the only thing that kept google from going to the township where they would have had unlimited surface parking. It was probably a choice for the city, free parking or we go outside.


       —Dustin    Jan. 8 '07 - 04:36AM    #
  3. NMT plan:
    The AANews is instigating a fight that overlaps somewhat with the google parking issue. While I think bike lanes are a mixed bag, and personally prefer sharrows, pitting cycling against parking is a waste of everyone’s time and energy. It will be interesting to see if the News is successful in turning an NMT report approval into an issue that divides our fair city.

    If it come down to choosing between keeping Google in town (by adding more parking) or making space for bike lanes (by removing/rearranging parking), what would council choose?


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 8 '07 - 04:41AM    #
  4. Dustin,

    I don’t doubt that the city was faced with such an ultimatum. I just think that they didn’t make much effort to investigate the impact of the deal or propose alternatives.

    As an example, if Google requests 400 parking spaces, the city might point out that 400 spaces is way more than they currently need and way less than they would eventually need if all the googlebots drive to work. Google wants to provide convenient access to their office (and to other destinations from there) for staff and clients, not parking spaces. Free rides on improved transit routes, bikable and walkable city streets, Zipcar, and downtown housing options can (at least in part) give Google what it wants.

    Madison, WI has a great policy that requires TDM (transportation Demand Management) studies and program implementation with any large scale purchase of parking permits. Both the city and Google might benefit from including TDM consulting in the deal.

    Instead, it seems that the discussion was more like:
    AA: Free parking?, We might be able to offer something like…
    Google: 200 spaces
    AA: Well, that may be an option, but we have to consider…
    Google: 300 spaces
    AA: While we understand your needs, we need to investigate…
    [phone rings]
    Google: Hello, Saline Township. We were just talking about our parking requirements with Ann Arbor…
    AA: 400 spaces, you’ve got it. And a helicopter pad. We’ll have the permits on your desk Monday.


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 8 '07 - 05:04AM    #
  5. As i understand it..the getdowntown program has been trying to contact google for awhile now to talk TDM, but google has yet to respond.

    If google won’t talk to getdowntown and they’re demanding parking spaces out of the city, i would say that we’re being fed a line of progressive-sounding BS from yet another large corporation who may not even stay in AA in the long run.

    Why is the city bending over backwards to give away the farm to this corporation? They certainly haven’t yet demonstrated how they’re significantly different from any other business (especially when it comes to transportation issues).

    I’d rather have Yahoo! here than google…at least they have a demonstrated commitment to TDM.


       —keaz    Jan. 8 '07 - 06:15AM    #
  6. By the way…most of the P&R lots aren’t under the control of the city. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to reserve spaces at lots which don’t charge a fee for parking. We can’t really charge for parking at P&R lots…it would just end up killing most of the existing demand (or forcing them into neighborhoods to do hide-and-ride).


       —keaz    Jan. 8 '07 - 06:24AM    #
  7. The trouble is, a complete parking study together with a Master Plan should have been completed a couple of decades ago. We didn’t do it, and we continue to pay the price for our lack of planning and foresight.

    This transaction shouldn’t be that difficult. Unfortunately, our lack of planning leaves us little choice but to make short term decisions that may very well screw us in the long run. It’s not the current Council or Planning Commission’s fault that we’re in this mess, but here we are, nonetheless.

    The only question that I have is will Ann Arbor be ready for the next Google…or has Michigan been in such an economic slump for so long that the very idea of the arrival of another 1,000 job company is completely inconceivable?

    If we had been better prepared, we’d likely have to give less to get more from Google.

    Of course, the obvious answer to this problem is to establish a GPP (Google Parking Permit) program for the surrounding neighborhoods. Give Google four “Google parking permits” to each and every employee so that they, and only they, can park in the streets of nearby neighborhoods. Let the residents of that area park somewhere “else”.

    Problem solved, right?


       —todd    Jan. 8 '07 - 07:14AM    #
  8. I agree with Dustin: it was probably free parking for Google or forget it.

    Since the City has promised the free parking, the DDA and Council have no room for maneuver at this point.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 8 '07 - 02:49PM    #
  9. There’s some interesting discussion of various upcoming council issues over on Ron Suarez’s blog.


       —HD    Jan. 8 '07 - 03:30PM    #
  10. Another progressive idea from the man who should be the next 5th Ward council member.


       —Dale    Jan. 8 '07 - 06:36PM    #
  11. The parking resolution on tonight’s agenda is a bit odd. Why should it be necessary for Council to formally request the DDA Board and staff to participate in figuring out how to provide free parking for Google? The DDA’s participation should happen automatically, and the DDA has already said it is willing to do this.

    Maybe the Council debate will tell the tale.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 8 '07 - 10:46PM    #
  12. Interesting, I tuned in late to the meeting and Council was discussing item DC-4 which was labeled on the online agenda as “DC-4 Pending: Community Events Funds Disbursement” (actually moved to DC-5) but they were talking about the new Courts and Police site. Surprise, surprise, Council seems to have decided on the Larcom site as the preferred site for the new Courts and Police and the resolution was decided tonight. Easthope was the only dissenting vote. I don’t know which of the Larcom proposals was the one on which they were voting.

    While I realize that agenda items can be added at the last moment, I do think that something of this scope should have at least appeared on the online agenda so citizens had a idea that it would be discussed and voted on tonight.

    The non-motorized transportation plan was approved unanimously. I don’t know what the discussion was like for the Google parking resolution but I agree with David Cahill that it seems unusual to have to make a resolution to require this cooperation (unless this is a requirement for Council or the DDA).


       —Juliew    Jan. 9 '07 - 03:38AM    #
  13. kaez,
    I wasn’t really suggesting that we reserve or charge for spaces in P&R lots. Just pointing out that the vacant spaces there could accommodate a good portion of the 400 promised. The structure permit parking is not that different. They don’t reserve a spot for permit parkers, they just let them into the structure to find one. Also, the City prabably has as much pull with P&R lots as they do with the DDA’s parking structures.

    I’m not arguing that gDt didn’t show due diligence, nor that Google should be initially interested in alt trans options. I’m saying the city showed no backbone to uphold the community value of alternative to driving (which I may be inflating) and parking supply concerns (which are inflated without my help). gDt probably should have been at the table when the city negotiated this deal. I’d like to know who agreed to this and what process it followed.

    Todd,
    I agree that we are swinging behind the pitch here and that we lacked foresight, but I don’t think the hole is deep enough to keep us from climbing out, if we can get the city to stop digging.

    Since I’m on an anti-city rant anyway, here’s another way to accomodate some of the promised Google parking. The city can end their HR policies that provide discounted and free parking to their staff. The spaces vacated by city employees unwilling to pay the full cost of their permits can be given to Google (though I still think an exchange for a google parking locator is a good trade).


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 9 '07 - 03:48AM    #
  14. A roughly hewn summary from council discussion on the Google parking resolution:

    —Easthope proposed a revision to the language eliminating ‘incentive’, in part to mitigate against the impression that this was an idea that originated from the city; Easthope said Google made a demand for free parking, the city made one offer that was flatly rejected, and then the ‘up-to-400’ number was agreed on.

    —Hieftje’s take on the number of 400 spaces is that it reflects Google’s commitment to non-motorized transit, because 400 is far fewer than the number of employees they expect to employ. He cast it as simple decision: do we want Google downtown or not?

    —A few speakers in favor of the Non-motorized Plan called upon Council to embrace a ‘change in culture’ that would come from thinking about non-motorized transit even when not formally considering the NMP, say for instance, when considering offering up free parking spaces to Google.

    —Hieftje seemed to answer David Cahill’s question about the need to put this into a formal Council resolution, when he alluded to the DDA’s preference for their cooperative work with Council to be based on resolutions from the whole Council.


       —HD    Jan. 9 '07 - 04:07AM    #
  15. Scott, I didn’t mean to sound like we can’t get out of this hole. I was simply stating that I hope that we’ve learned our lessons, and we don’t make the same mistake again. I still feel like we’re dragging our heels on Master Planning and the rest of Calthorpe.

    As to Cahill’s question about the weirdness of a formal resolution (HD addressed this to a point), I would think that all parties involved with Google are going to play by the book and get everything possible in writing.

    This is just speculation, but I suspect that Cahill’s legendary paranoia is warranted here: anyone who delays/gets in the way of Google setting up shop smoothly would, in my personal opinion, get run over by a Michigan Political Bus the size of which we’ve never seen. (Honk, Honk)

    The arrival of Google is serious business, and I’d be completely amazed if anything or anyone would step in their way…..and this is how it should be. These jobs are critical to Michigan, both symbolically as well as literally. We have to make it work. NIMBY won’t work this time.


       —todd    Jan. 9 '07 - 07:21AM    #
  16. The arrival of Google is serious business, and I’d be completely amazed if anything or anyone would step in their way…..and this is how it should be. These jobs are critical to Michigan, both symbolically as well as literally. We have to make it work. NIMBY won’t work this time.

    Getting out of the way or obstructing aren’t the only options, they’re just the extremes. There’s a vast, unexplored (it seems to me) middle ground of approaches that could benefit the community, which Google is now a part of, and they would likewise benefit.


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 9 '07 - 04:47PM    #
  17. To add to HD’s report, Mayor Hieftje said that the DDA had requested that Council pass the resolution. So Council did.

    Ron Suarez had some perceptive things to say about Google’s arrival leading to an increase in the need for non-motorized transit, plus an opportunity for Google people to live downtown and decide that not every person in every household would need his/her own car.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 9 '07 - 05:17PM    #
  18. I forget to ask – what happened to the resolution to create the Housing and Human Services Advisory Board and abolish the other two groups?


       —David Cahill    Jan. 9 '07 - 05:20PM    #
  19. “Getting out of the way or obstructing aren’t the only options, they’re just the extremes. There’s a vast, unexplored (it seems to me) middle ground of approaches that could benefit the community, which Google is now a part of, and they would likewise benefit.”

    Ordinarily Steve, I’d agree with you, but Ann Arbor doesn’t have a track record of positive public/private partnerships. Our Urban “planning” has consisted of an all or nothing approach to nearly all large projects…...3 site plan, the ‘large’ building in the ‘historic’ district by the new UMich pringle building, the project next to the Elks building, the new Courthouse/Police station by the Library lot etc. etc. etc.

    No one ever asks “how to we make this project better?” (well, except maybe JulieW). It’s either NIMBY, or the project gets built as is….it’s rare to read/hear about a true public/private partnership for a large project…...


       —todd    Jan. 9 '07 - 05:27PM    #
  20. To answer David Cahill’s question about Housing Policy Board, it was postponed because the CDBC Executive Committee wanted to meet to discuss some details. That EC meeting was to happen before next Council meeting, so it’s supposed to be back on for next Council meeting.

    But back to parking.

    Another of Hieftje’s comments was to the effect that, Well, Google’s not going to need 400 parking spaces tomorrow. That’s fair enough, but it’s also fair to ask, What’s your plan to add 400 additional parking spaces downtown to the supply in the next five years? “You can build more parking but you can’t go out and get another Google” is the slogan of the day. Um, so go out and build some more fucking parking!

    What’s the effect of not adding to the parking supply? It might not be all bad. Consider the supply that’s currently available to current downtown workers/users. If you don’t add to that supply, then allotting 400 spaces to Goog artificially reduces the supply to current downtown workers/users. So if you just consider the universe of current downtown workers/users, this counts as good public policy, if you’re an advocate for non-motorized transport. It forces this population to find alternatives to driving their cars downtown. TenBrink’s suggestion that the subsidy for City workers’ parking be ended is very much in this spirit.

    If Joe Cityworker starts doing the Park-and-Ride because the City ended the free parking subsidy to make room for Google, then this is a positive outcome, provided we restrict our focus to Joe Cityworker. Or to the population of current downtown workers/users. Let’s suppose that five years from now parking supply has remained fairly stable, Goog is humming along with 1000 workers downtown parking their cars in 400 spaces, and 400 non-Goog people who used to drive downtown are getting into downtown by Park-and-Ride, bicycle, walking, ZipCaring, rickshawing, or whatever. From a transportation policy point of view, that’s equivalent to Goog coming to town and saying, Oh, by the way, we won’t be parking … at all.

    But of course, that’s not what they’re saying. They’re taking whatever our local political leaders will let them grab. Because Google is serious business, etc. etc. etc. there’s a political bus, etc. etc. etc.

    So Todd, what do you do when Goog knocks on Leopold Bros door and says, We like this big long fucking table you got here, we’d like to have a standing reservation for it as the Google Stammtisch; nobody else can sit there ever; oh, and another thing, the beer that gets served to our Stammtisch, the first 400 pints out of every 1000 are free; and one last thing, we want somebody to actually bring the beer to our table, because we can’t be bothered to get up from the table to get another beer; oh, and sorry that wasn’t the last thing, but this one is, I promise, we want somebody to come around every once in a while with a bucket that we can piss into right at the table, because we can’t be bothered to get up and go to the bathroom. How quickly would an ad for a Piss Boy go up on Craigslist? ;-)==

    In all seriousness, I do recognize that Google has the potential to have a greater positive economic impact on the city than the .5 million annually [or whatever that number might be] that 400 parking spaces cost. It just seems to me that the economic concessions to induce them to come to Michigan have already been made in the form of tax-abatements from the state, which we must match locally (as far as I understand how this works). It seems to me that at some point you do have to say, Look, you’ve already negotiated your economic incentives; if you didn’t think to factor in parking into that equation, then I guess maybe you need to tweak that algorithm for next time, huh? Sure, Goog might say, Okay, I’ll show you how a Fortune 3 Company works … we’re heading down to Saline. Then it’s our job to make the case to Goog that it’s in their best financial interest to locate in downtown Ann Arbor, AND to pay for parking. We don’t appear to have anyone in town who wants that job.

    During the public hearing on the Non-motorized Plan, there were plenty of cheerleaders for the plan, but I thought that among the more persuasive speakers were two small business owners downtown who lamented the proposed sacrifice of some metered street parking, pointing out that a single street parking space is worth $100,000 in revenue annually to surrounding businesses, or about enough to support one small business [I’m not vouching for the data … this is just what I recall the speaker saying].

    When it comes to weighing the interests of several small businesses against a single giant business, I’d like to see at least some kind of nod to small businesses.


       —HD    Jan. 9 '07 - 05:58PM    #
  21. Two corrections to [20]:

    (1) It’s the CDBG Executive Committee, not the CDBC.
    (2) Any ad for Piss Boy at Leopold Bros to service Goog’s Stammtisch would not appear on CraigsList, but rather on Goog’s AdWords network.


       —HD    Jan. 9 '07 - 06:07PM    #
  22. HD, I liked that you used a swear word.

    You are echoing my point here. We are not in a position to take advantage of Google’s arrival, and this is because of several factors:

    1. We have shot down project after project of residential housing in the downtown area over the past few decades. We now have a reduced housing stock, and the stock that we do have is likely too expensive for most of the Google’s workers. If these workers could live downtown, parking would be even less of an issue, as you very well know.

    2. The DDA made an effort to address the parking situation for the DDA area. Residents shot it down. Oops. Guess what we need now? Hey, how about that.

    3. The now famous RPP has taken a few hundred spots off the ledger in and around downtown. No one was arguing that this is bullshit…except me.

    Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and a business is getting the same treatment because as you put it “They’re taking whatever our local political leaders will let them grab.” It’s kind of hard to allow RPP’s, and then turn around and criticize a similar practice for Google….but I’m sure that won’t stop Ann Arborite’s from bitching about it anyway.

    Or do these space not have a cost? Or is it just that it’s ok because these are homeowners?

    We’re not in a position to take advantage of Google’s arrival. 400 spaces shouldn’t be that big of a concession, but since we’re not ready, it’s gonna hurt. It’s our own (since we’re swearing here) fucking fault. The decisions of the last few decades have consequences, no matter how hard this damn town wants to pretend that things like cause and effect or supply and demand don’t work here.

    You can’t give away parking spaces to homeowners at a loss, and expect no consequences. You can’t turn away project after project and expect no consequences. You can’t kill plans to build new parking structures and expect no consequences.

    As to your metaphor about the pissboy (very funny, btw), you’re completely ignoring the other part of the metaphor…..that this same stammtisch and a few hundred of their friends are going keep spending money at my place, even on days where they don’t have the benefit of the pissboy.

    The impact of Google will be huge. I can guarantee you, without hesitation, that they’ll blow $10K per year at my place alone when they are fully employed. The impact on the small businesses that you mentioned will be enormous even if they tend to stay on-site more than most companies. Picture how many dollars will be lost because the vast majority of the employees will get in their car and leave the city at the end of their workday. Again, that’s our fault, not Google’s.

    Shit, let’s use the RPP math to show how much this will cost the city. $40 per space, per year, times 400 spaces. $16K per year. Pretty good deal, if you want to look at it with the same myopic lens that the RPP was created with….obviously (I hope) now we know that the cost for the RPP’s are much, much higher. Again: oops.

    My argument is that their arrival would have more benefits (if we had more housing downtown, as an example) at a lesser cost (if we had done the parking study oh, about 10 or 20 years ago…and then follow up every 5 years or so). The amplified negative impacts are nobody’s fault but our own.

    It looks like we simply disagree on the general principle of corporate giveaways like tax breaks or parking and the like. Which is fine…..but it’s my belief that many small businesses will survive and/or thrive because of Google’s new offices. That’s easily worth the 400 spaces in my book.

    Just one man’s opinion.


       —todd    Jan. 9 '07 - 08:18PM    #
  23. Suppose we built 600 spaces underground at the South Fifth lot? Rental apts. are, I have heard, going in at Ashley Tererace, and William St. Station has plans for 90 rentals, 110 at First/William and another 44 at Metro 202.

    Todd is absoutely right about the past mistakes in not allowing parking and devlopment, and those of us who fought against them got slapped down pretty hard. However, I think it can be done if there is the political will to do it. Let your voices be heard beyond Arborupdate.

    For the first time, I heard the Mayor day, “We need more parking downtown”. Additional parking does not preclude alternative tansportation – after all, it IS the DDA, not the AATA or the City, that pays to underwrite the GoPass at $250,000 per year, out of parking revenues.


       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 9 '07 - 09:12PM    #
  24. Suppose we built 600 spaces underground at the South Fifth lot? Rental apts. are, I have heard, going in at Ashley Tererace, and William St. Station has plans for 90 rentals, 110 at First/William and another 44 at Metro 202.

    Todd is absoutely right about the past mistakes in not allowing parking and devlopment, and those of us who fought against them got slapped down pretty hard. However, I think it can be done if there is the political will to do it. Let your voices be heard beyond Arborupdate.

    For the first time, I heard the Mayor day, “We need more parking downtown”. This does not preclude alternative tansportation – after all, it IS the DDA, not the AATA or the City, that pays to underwrite the GoPass at $250,000 per year, out of parking revenues.


       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 9 '07 - 09:13PM    #
  25. I apologize – my comment got printed twice – sorry!


       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 9 '07 - 09:15PM    #
  26. I was watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night and he kept teasing about the “best corporation in America to work for.” This place provides employees free gourmet meals, massages, haircuts at their desks, onsite medical care from 5 MD’s, car washes, laundry facilites etc. Wow, was I surprised to learn its none other than Google! I then switched to channel 16 to watch the city council and lo and behold they were explaining how they needed to provide 400 free parking spaces for the same apparently very, very well heeled corporation! I thought to myself, self, why do the taxpayers have to pony up for free parking for a corporation that can afford to have 11 (eleven!) gourmet restaurants in its world HQ?!? Lamb shank is always on the menu evidently. This is probably the worst local example of corporate welfare, ever. We ship our unrich to Ypsi Township, but we have the $$ to subsidize a corporation so flush they provide gourmet meals for their employees. Truly post-modern our little city. Truly post-modern.


       —Tim Colenback    Jan. 9 '07 - 11:57PM    #
  27. Tim, Do you want Google’s tax revenenues in Ann Arbor? Do you want Google’s employees’ incidental spending in Ann Arbor? Class struggle and whatnot aside, the more Google pays its people, the more discretionary money they will have to spend in local businesses. You should be glad, not bitter, that Google treats its employees as well as it does. The more for them, the more for everyone.


       —Anna    Jan. 10 '07 - 05:08AM    #
  28. We did not “ship” our poor to Ypsilanti Twp. They are housed there temporarily until the 100 units are built on the old “Y” site. And, the Delonis Center is a national model of what a shelter should be – this community has made a very deep commitment, both public and private, to shelter the homeless and to work to provide affordable housing. Tim’s comment shows how ignorant he is of the facts. For the record, the tenants living at Tuscan Creek are pleased to be there – they pay no more than 30% of their income for rent (unlike at the “Y” where they were hotel guests with no rights, and the rent was the same for all). The have bathrooms, kitchens, and are getting the supportive services that they need. For anyone to say that this commmunity does not care for its most needful citizens just doesn’t know what he is talking about.


       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 10 '07 - 05:10AM    #
  29. Leah: You may want to look a little more closely into how the go!pass is funded. The DDA is not the sole funder of that pass…not by a long shot.

    And to your challenge to arborupdaters about making pleas for more parking i say..WHY IS THIS AREA SO AFRAID OF MAKING SIGNIFICANT COMMITMENTS TO ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS?

    Why can’t we put aside the money actually needed to beef up the bus system to make it competitive against car use?

    Why can’t we find the money needed to put in the improvements necessary to make biking an attractive option to non-hard core riders?

    Why is it that almost every politician who can actually do something about reducing congestion in the area talks a really mean non-SOV game but when push-comes-to-shove ends up going along with car-centric ideas or silly little variations on them?

    I don’t mind installing additional parking at some point, but it would nice to see someone other than UM and Pfizer giving alternative transportation options a serious go.

    I personally am sick of hearing the same old talk. Maybe the people from out-of-state are correct…Michigan might not have the leadership, vision, or commitment necessary to bring itself out of second-rate status.
    I think the fact that one cannot get from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids or Detroit in a cheap or time-efficient manner using public transportation options may be the ultimate testimony to that.

    So yes Ann Arbor/Washtenaw politicians…argue over your piddly amounts amounts of parking spaces. In the long run it doesn’t mean anything because the significant economic investments are not going to come to this area until we bring about drastic changes to our public infrastructure on all levels…beginning with transportation.
    I’ll put this challenge out to Leah and other local politicians: do you have the courage to put forth and implement a new transportation vision (possibly at the risk of your own political career)?


       —k    Jan. 10 '07 - 05:28AM    #
  30. I agree with Tim. The effect of all the money Anna is counting on will probably just drive up rents in Ann Arbor even higher. Do I want Google in downtown…No! I don’t need the congestion, I don’t need the higher taxes to pay for their “free” spaces and I really do need the City to show some spine and stand up to all these corporate carpetbaggers who come in to the city and shake down the local tax payers. What a bunch of knuckleheads! They’ve just trained all these corporate types to expect a hand-out every time they do what they were probably going to do anyway. Are we really so desperate? Even if we are, it’s stupid to advertise such by being so willing to bend over backwards. The average taxpayer in Ann Arbor will not get any benefit and will probably be worse off because of this deal. Local communities should show some solidarity by not racing each other to the bottom. If Google threatens to go to Saline, we should say, “more power to ya, pal!” At least we wouldn’t see so many corporate carpetbaggers with their hands stuck out.


       —Chuck L.    Jan. 10 '07 - 06:19AM    #
  31. “What’s the effect of not adding to the parking supply? It might not be all bad.”

    HD, I’m with you on the idea that forking all the parking over to google might not require an increase in parking. At the same time, new residents and employees are our best bet for growth in non-car modeshare and support. I think bulk rate marketing of “easy to get around without a car” to new commuters and residents will be more efficient than trying to change the behavior of someone who has lived and driven in town for years. Not to say I wouldn’t fish of both sides of the boat, but new google employees might provide a better return on investment than the disgruntled city staff who just lost their parking discount.

    BTW, Todd costed the permits in terms of RPP (which I loved). The loss in annual revenue to the DDA for 400 permits is about $40k. If we build new structures to accommodate the give-away, it will cost somebody about $12m before interest.

    Tim’s comment got me wondering why the parking givaway is free. Google was smart to ask for parking because its value is way above its cost. As I understand it, the DDA does allow bulk-purchasing employers to jump the queue, but a 400 permit request would (will?) be tough to accommodate since turnover of permits is really low. You can’t get a fat stack of permits like that with your checkbook. You need a favor, which is just what google got. Tim makes a good point that google could easily cover the $40k/year. So why demand to get them free?

    My two guesses are
    -it was a negotiating point that the city never attacked
    -google is flexing its evil muscles to make clear who wears the pants in this relationship


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 10 '07 - 08:11AM    #
  32. Just stumbled across this and felt obligated to share.

    a private firm charges employees for parking while cagers duke it out over metered spaces

    Ann Arbor’s future?
    You decide!


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 10 '07 - 08:35AM    #
  33. Nearly everything transportation-related in our society is subsidized to one degree or another, whether it be the private auto, mass transportation, or whatnot. So I think most cost figures are at best not helpful and at worst illusory.

    I would rather have Google in downtown AA, even with “free” parking, to help revitalize downtown. There has been, and continues to be, a serious economic collapse in our downtown. The new people and energy Google will provide will reverse this trend.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 10 '07 - 03:00PM    #
  34. “... google could easily cover the $40k/year.”

    Is there a zero missing? I thought a structure permit cost roughly $100 a month.


       —HD    Jan. 10 '07 - 03:04PM    #
  35. I never thought I’d say this, but Cahill is right. Ann Arbor’s downtown is struggling. The State remains mired in a recession. And yet Tim C and Chuck L would turn away 1,000 good-paying high-tech jobs. That’s an easy position for Tim C to take. After all, he has a cushy job at the UM paid for by the taxpayers. When Tim C. starts living in the real world, perhaps he’ll have some credibility.


       —Bill T.    Jan. 10 '07 - 03:23PM    #
  36. Chuck,

    Saline is welcome to the revenues that Google will provide? That is simply insane. Have you ever taken a macroeconomics class? If not, you really need to.

    Quite honestly, I really can’t see what Google sees in Ann Arbor — other than the potential for a workforce. Compared to other places they could locate, Ann Arbor has horrible weather, a terrible business environment, expensive housing, poor city planning, few cultural opportunities, and lots of ignorant residents. I cannot understand why they are not just going to Research Triangle Park. North Carolina would bring out the welcome band, supply bright shiny new workers, offers a higher quality of life and a large number of people who actually understand business.

    The issues that people in Ann Arbor are haggling over are iddly, tiny, petty, compared to Michigan and Ann Arbor’s potential gain. Those Ann Arbor residents who are not employed at the university face serious problems as the Detroit auto industry fills its promise to head down the tubes by 2018. (go to news.google.com and do even the most cursory search for some recent auto industry news). It’s not just the workers at those companies that will suffer, but the effect will ripple throughout the economy — lawyers, doctors, stores, and other business who serve people who are currently employed will find themselves with lower revenues as people increasingly are unable to pay for services and/or more from southern Michigan altogether. Many of those newly unemployed will be Ann Arbor residents.

    It’s simple math, really — Michigan needs to create as many jobs as it destroys and 1000 from a well-respected company and growing company (one that actually tries to be a good citizen). They are good jobs — the kinds of jobs that, for example, UM graduates might want, which would keep some young talent in the state.

    How you can see Google’s arrival as anything but a deux ex machina alludes me and assures me that Michigan’s decline over the last thirty years really is a direct consequence of ignorance and short-sightedness, not historical accident.


       —Anna    Jan. 10 '07 - 03:31PM    #
  37. Anna: Not everyone believes that our economy is driven solely by large companies, and as a result we’re not as willing to bend over to let these large companies take whatever they want.

    Large companies get most of the press, but it’s medium and small sized businesses that have traditionally provided the lion’s share of jobs and generated most of the revenue in our economy.

    Why won’t the city council bend over for small IT companies and other businesses that want to locate downtown? We seem perfectly content to let them run out to the townships most of the time.

    It may be symbolic to have a google in downtown, but in the long run having them here doesn’t amount to much of anything outside of that symbolism. Google jobs don’t come all that close (salary and benefits-wise) to replacing the lost manufacturing jobs being lost in the area, but apparently this state is perfectly willing to settle for that.

    Localization of the economy has been shown to be a rather effective buffer against the effects of globalization, but our area and state continue to engage in modified versions of the same tactics which helped to create the situation we’re currently facing.

    How is our collective situation ever going to change if we’re not willing to try different things?


       —keaz    Jan. 10 '07 - 03:53PM    #
  38. Chuck L. “Do I want Google in downtown…No! I don’t need the congestion, I don’t need the higher taxes to pay for their “free” spaces and I really do need the City to show some spine and stand up to all these corporate carpetbaggers who come in to the city and shake down the local tax payers.”

    Holy cow. Um, Chuck, did I read your byline correctly that you are from the “Green” party? You want us to move Google out of a centralized and walkable area, and move it to some new Greenfield in Saline, chewing up farmland, and installing the typical surface parking lot for 1,000 employees who can’t live within walking distance to work?

    We are, at least in my view, paying out parking spaces at a premium to gain the downtown location. Locating Google downtown will give us the maximum amount of ancillary economic improvement….after work shopping/eating of employees, and will give us the greatest chance to curb sprawl. Unfortunately, citizens have chosen not to build housing units downtown for the last few decades, so the impact on the environment won’t be as great, but something is better than nothing.

    Look at the Pfizer campus as an example, except move it to Saline. How many people from Pfizer shop or eat downtown after work? Don’t you think that a substantial number simply drive straight home? Lost money. Then take a look at all of the land that Pfizer ate up. Used to be open space. Now look at Google. How much open space will they eat up at the downtown location? Does that not have a value (particularly to a member of the “Green” Party)? Strengthening of local businesses. Does that not have a value?

    Now move Google to Saline. Lost open space. Wanna bet how many fast food and chain restaurants would open up in and around the campus? The local businesses lose out. Open space loses out. Sprawl containment loses out. Car use increases. Then there’s the hidden infrastructure costs that Dave Cahill alluded to. New roads, sewer, etc.

    If the Greens are really, honestly worried about “handouts” for parking, why don’t you start with the RPP program?


       —todd    Jan. 10 '07 - 03:54PM    #
  39. Keaz,

    I am not arguing that Ann Arbor shouldn’t treat small businesses fairly. If they aren’t being treated fairly, they should be. But I don’t think that simply saying, “stay out, we don’t need your money, google!” is a wise strategy. The likelihood of spin-offs and ancillary businesses from Google is high and will raise the number of other businesses in the area (the kinds of business that Ann Arbor should want). That’s how RTP works — a few large corporations and tons and tons of start-ups that have spin off from those businesses by former employees (and continue to, at breathtaking speed) with lots of energy and know-how. Those businesses attract venture capital money, which attracts more entrepreneurs, and other services that serve small businesses (including the right kinds of laywers and consultants) and the whole thing has snowballed. It started with a state vision and a committment from IBM as agriculture died in North Carolina.

    Manufacturing in the US is all but dead for a lot of reasons. Rather than fight that completely impossible battle, Michigan should be looking forward.

    I agree with you: How will the collective situation ever change if we’re not willing to try different things?


       —Anna    Jan. 10 '07 - 04:04PM    #
  40. Todd,

    I think the kind of case you build in [38], together with Steve Bean’s observation in [16], “There’s a vast, unexplored (it seems to me) middle ground of approaches that could benefit the community, which Google is now a part of, and they would likewise benefit,” is exactly the sort of argument that would be persuasive to Google that they should pay the going rate for parking: it’s in THEIR very best interest to locate downtown (EVEN IF they have to pay for parking) because it’s in the best interest of the community of the general region of which they’re now a part. And Anna, if you’re convinced that Goog tries to be a good citizen, I’d say this’d be a great opportunity for Goog to demonstrate exactly that.

    The question becomes: do you risk the possibility that Google is not persuaded by this kind of talk based on stakeholders and instead places greater importance on the numbers that wind up on their annual reports to stockholders, and locates in Saline instead, when free parking is denied? The City of Ann Arbor portrays it as a certainty that Google doesn’t locate in downtown Ann Arbor unless it gets free parking. Without being a party to the communications between the City and Goog, it’s hard to refute this portrayal, but I guess, for my part, I’m skeptical that we made the best case that could be made … based on the assumption that if the best case that could have been made HAD been made, we wouldn’t be giving free parking to Goog.


       —HD    Jan. 10 '07 - 04:30PM    #
  41. Todd, cut Chuck a little slack—he was ranting about big corporate favoritism and clearly wasn’t addressing other considerations. I suspect that he’s frustrated (like you and me) that we (yes, let’s take our share of the responsibility) have not made decisions that are in our own best interest as a community. That’s why we’re in this position of making deals and arguing about parking spaces, as you’ve noted.

    HD, well put. To what extent has council acted out of fear rather than an obvious (i.e., clearly observable) love of community (I hesitate to call it community pride) that would more strongly attract Google?

    -k, do you have the courage to attach your name to your words and commit to work with those “politicians” you expect so much from? Or run to replace them?

    Why can’t we find the money needed to put in the improvements necessary to make biking an attractive option to non-hard core riders?

    Are you saying that the recently adopted Non-motorized Transportation Plan doesn’t do that or are you just not familiar with it?


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 10 '07 - 05:24PM    #
  42. Steve,

    You’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t have given it to Chuck with both barrels (sorry Chuck). I’m frustrated that some are unable to see the forest from the trees.

    It’s possible that we could have negotiated a better deal, true. But to me, this is a very small price to pay for an awful lot of benefit.

    I think that some are jumping on this parking cost because it’s easy to understand….but there are many, many hidden costs associated with bringing a business, any business, into a city…let alone one the size of Google.

    Example? In order to get my silly little business to set up shop in Ann Arbor, the good people of Michigan had to guarantee a loan for $500,000. That’s right $500,000. If our business had failed, $500K in cash flows out of Michigan’s coffers.

    We employ fewer than 10 people. Our sales are in the low millions.

    Now if it was put to a vote, do you think that Ann Arborites would have given us this “corporate welfare”? Hell no.

    By comparison to what Michigan had to pony up for my joke of a business, this Google parking expense is a steal.


       —todd    Jan. 10 '07 - 05:50PM    #
  43. HD notes that a zero may be missing from the cost of 400 free structure parking spaces. I think he’s right. The cost of giving free downtown structure parking should be calculated by what that parking would otherwise bring in, not the price of RPP permits. Using the permit price from the DDA’s website, $105/space-month * 12 months/year * 400 spaces = $504,000 annually.

    Avoiding for now the thorny question of “should we?”, I’m curious about “how would we?” Where’s this cash going to come from? Half a million annually is a noticeable piece of either the City or the DDA’s budget – remember that the parking lease was just renegotiated about 2 years to help cover the City’s budget, reducing the wiggle room in the DDA’s budget by nearly $1 million/year. If we think more parking is necessary (as Todd notes, something we might have considered a while ago), draining the DDA’s parking funds further is going to impede that.


       —Murph    Jan. 10 '07 - 06:22PM    #
  44. “The cost of giving free downtown structure parking should be calculated by what that parking would otherwise bring in, not the price of RPP permits. “

    I was joking.

    I was pointing out that the City has assessed the value of an RPP space as zero as the $40 doesn’t even cover the price to handle the paperwork for the system, let alone the value of the actual parking space.


       —todd    Jan. 10 '07 - 06:27PM    #
  45. My argument is that their arrival would have more benefits (if we had more housing downtown, as an example) at a lesser cost (if we had done the parking study oh, about 10 or 20 years ago…and then follow up every 5 years or so). The amplified negative impacts are nobody’s fault but our own.

    So had these things happened, there is no guarantee that we would be better off. Remember, the last building boom brought us Tally Hall, the Galleria, and One North Main. Prior to that was the Larcom building, the Federal Building, and all these cashbox apartment houses that are sitting empty in many of the prime parts of town. Hindsight is 20/20 but I can tell you, no matter how many apartment buildings we built downtown 20 years ago, we would still have sprawl today and we might not have much of a downtown left. So let’s get over what wasn’t done and move forward. We have a living, breathing town that is attracting companies and people downtown. It might not be exactly what everyone wants, but it is far more vital and interesting than many places. But Ann Arbor is not Detroit. If we really want to control sprawl, we need to focus on Detroit, not Ann Arbor. Detroit has the infrastructure, the buildings and lots of space to build new, the jobs (even now), what it doesn’t have is the people. We Ann Arbor needs to do is make the most of what we have, build new or infill when it makes sense (Tally Hall, Galleria), preserve what contributes to a sense of Ann Arbor (Melrose Place/Anberay), add parking if it makes sense, use the leverage and image Ann Arbor to get more non-motorized transportation, greener buildings, reasonable rental rates for local independent retailers, and so on.

    We know we can put 400 spaces of parking underground at the Library lot since that was already proposed. Obviously we could easily add way more above that (since people did seem to prioritize parking there). It doesn’t have to be ugly or scary. I saw some of the parking structures in the design review seminars that had required retail wraps and they were very attractive. Now that there has been a decision to place the new courts on the Larcom site, if the City wants to get 800 or 1000 more parking spots downtown, they are pretty much going to have to put out an RFP for the Library Lot, require a large number of public parking spaces (with some DDA input) and see if anyone bites. The assumption that people who live downtown will not need cars is false. Yes, there will be a few people who are happy to live without cars and it can be done here now, but it isn’t done by very many. Show me a big city that doesn’t have parking problems. I lived in Boston and it has a fabulous public transportation system, driving is difficult, parking is horribly expensive, there is no connection to the auto companies and yet, people still own cars, and still drive. We can have some effect on the number of people who do this and gradually make it better, but if we want to bring businesses and residents downtown, we will have to provide parking spaces. Parking is a big deal to employees. I was talking to people from DTE and they said it is their biggest issue and the biggest stress their employees have so it matters A LOT to them. They will happily pay, they just want spots. I know several companies downtown who have left or almost left because of lack of parking for their employees. They all have the GoPass, but that isn’t enough.

    That said, I can’t imagine that Google would locate somewhere else just because of the cost of parking. They decided long before the parking deal that they were going to have an office in Ann Arbor. The rest is just who is the better negotiator. I think we could have guaranteed them parking spaces that they could pay for and that would have been just as good as paying for their parking. It was a gesture on Ann Arbor’s part. That is all these incentives are, just like a signing bonus. I wish the city of Ann Arbor was better at these negotiations. We bail on a lot of things. We could have said “yes we will give you parking, but you must be green” or something like that, but we didn’t. We throw random requirements at developers until they are totally pissed at us and costs are up, but we end up getting nothing from them in terms of design, or functionality, or greenness, or alternative transportation.

    I am thrilled that Google is locating downtown and hope that it has positive impact, but it isn’t all sunshine and light. First, we need to remember that most of those 1000 people are already here. They will be new grads, people leaving the U, moving from other jobs in town. There won’t be 1000 people moving into the area. Most of these people have houses, cars, existing lifestyles. Google provides just about everything they will need (gym, barbershop, free food) so they will have very little reason to escape the Googleplex. It may not affect local retail as much as we think. Retail prices in the State Street/Liberty area are skyrocketing. I know one small family-run business that has been in that area for 30 years and can’t get more than a six-month lease and the last one doubled their rent. Urban Outfitters just signed an 11-year lease for their store. As Murph points out, the DDA is going to be soaked for a half million/year for parking. So yeah, there are some downsides.


       —Juliew    Jan. 10 '07 - 09:08PM    #
  46. Yikes. I looked away for a couple of days and parking seized AU again!

    I just back from traveling in the West to see relatives. Coming back was depressing. The economy here is a disaster compared to elsewhere in the nation. We need to things to attract businesses here to employ all the unemployed people already here. If that means a few hundred parking spots, so be it. I think the entire state is on the brink of even more devastating financial ruin, and moves like this—finding free parking—are the tiny decisions that can make the difference.

    If all the prices for things start to fall, and real estate values drop, it will mean that no one will want to live here because there is no work, no tax base, etc.

    As much as I respect Juliew’s wise views of things, I don’t see Urban Outfitters lease as some kind of economic bellwether.


       —JennyD    Jan. 10 '07 - 09:52PM    #
  47. To Anna:

    “Tim, Do you want Google’s tax revenues in Ann Arbor?”

    Not if it means we pay significant corporate welfare. We will never reverse the growing trend of income inequality in our society if we allow multinational corporations to hold up government at all levels. A2 is certainly well situated to rebuff these attempts. Instead we have a city administration essentially giving Google anything they want. The tax revenues will probably be mostly spent on parking, streetscapes and roads in the DDA area further enriching the increasingly corporate absentee landlords.

    “Do you want Google’s employees’ incidental spending in Ann Arbor? Class struggle and whatnot aside, the more Google pays its people, the more discretionary money they will have to spend in local businesses.”

    I’m not sure the option was to either give this corporation tax breaks or they’ll go to Scio. From my knowledge their CEO is living or plans to live in Burns Park and one of their main business partners is the U-M. I doubt free parking was determinative in their locating downtown. Parking access may be a more relevant issue.

    “You should be glad, not bitter, that Google treats its employees as well as it does. The more for them, the more for everyone.”

    I’m not bitter. I rather enjoyed joking about this over the past few days. Google can do what they want with their money. I imagine getting called the best corporation to work for by Fortune generated enough revenue to pay for mucho massages. I just object to the preferential treatment they are getting from our local elected leaders and city administrators. They don’t need the citizens of Ann Arbor to pay for their parking. A2 doesn’t need to give large corporations $$$$ to be a thriving and fun place to live and work. If we should be giving free parking to any businesses it should be the small businesses that make up the backbone of any CBD.

    To Leah:
    “We did not “ship” our poor to Ypsilanti Twp. They are housed there temporarily until the 100 units are built on the old “Y” site.”

    No they were bussed. Ship was a figure of speech. We will see what percentage of the Y 100 will ever live in the new tower. Care to bet it will be less than 50%?

    “And, the Delonis Center is a national model of what a shelter should be – this community has made a very deep commitment, both public and private, to shelter the homeless and to work to provide affordable housing.”

    We have 10 year plan to end homelessness and that is a laudable goal. In the meantime we (city/county) have recently allocated ~$50 million to house courts, criminals and police services. I think our priorities are screwed up. We should house our people and then work on building fancy new digs for cops and lawyers and judges.

    “Tim’s comment shows how ignorant he is of the facts. For the record, the tenants living at Tuscan Creek are pleased to be there.”

    Do you have any independent assessment or is this hearsay from city staff? What about the 40% of those dislocated that never got to or have moved from TC? What did they think? We have asked the Mayor for all the city documents on this tragic situation several times and have never received page 2. Can you get me the info?

    “– they pay no more than 30% of their income for rent (unlike at the “Y” where they were hotel guests with no rights, and the rent was the same for all). The have bathrooms, kitchens, and are getting the supportive services that they need. For anyone to say that this community does not care for its most needful citizens just doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

    TC has a problematic history. I doubt many with other options have chosen to live there in the recent past.

    We could have housed them in Ann Arbor where they lived. But this is part of a larger strategy called the “countywide solution to the affordable housing problem.” This is code for housing most poor folk east of the Ann Arbor city limits. The future plan is likely to have A2 affordable housing for the most part priced at 80% of median income in A2 (i.e., workforce housing for incomes up to ~$50,000). This will be out of reach for those previously housed at the Y or in similar economic distress. This was the old Republican plan from the 80’s which now has support among several Democratic city council members.

    To Bill T.:

    “Ann Arbor’s downtown is struggling.”

    Gee, this is an incredible statement. We have outside corporate interests falling over themselves to buy land in our downtown for over a decade, we have several new high-rise buildings in the works in or near downtown, we just taxed ourselves to buy land to prohibit development primarily but not exclusively outside of A2 creating an increase in the value of land inside of Ann Arbor and yet people still think downtown is troubled? Give me a break.

    “The State remains mired in a recession. And yet Tim C and Chuck L would turn away 1,000 good-paying high-tech jobs. That’s an easy position for Tim C to take. After all, he has a cushy job at the UM paid for by the taxpayers. When Tim C. starts living in the real world, perhaps he’ll have some credibility.”

    Its not a question of turning away the jobs from the state. Its an open question where Google would have located without free parking. It seems the benefit of the parking gift, at best, was to ensure a city location v. a suburban A2 location. Most of my salary is paid for by tuition dollars from the students I serve and recruit to our community from around the country (30 years ago, before the increase in state correctional budget vis a vis higher ed, 70% would have been paid for by the taxpayers, now its under 25%). These students BTW by and large come from outside the county and live in A2 and spend their income/resources in the city. Our students provide 912 hours of social work services in most cases for free to help the most socially and economically disadvantaged people in southeastern Michigan including A2. We recruit a class of students in social work many of whom come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of the students borrow much in their time in the program and deal with severe economic hardship living in our community. I deal with that part of the “real world” on a regular basis. I do my best to serve the students in our program. Some days on the job are “cushier” than others. I suppose I could run a bar, restaurant or bookstore or work for a Google-like entity and become part of your “real world” but I doubt that would be as meaningful to me or, frankly, the community. Additionally my wife is a realtor so I am well aware of the dark reality in that corner of the private sector errr “real world.”

    The fact is our whole community well being is based on the University of Michigan. A college town like this is different than a community where the financial health is based on the private sector. One benefit to this community is that we can afford to tell big pharma or dot.com behemoths we want them on our terms. This is not a luxury many communities have anymore, and therefore in my opinion we shouldn’t cave to these interests and make it easier for corporate America to shake down the rest of the state/nation. I apologize for the length of this response.


       —Tim Colenback    Jan. 10 '07 - 11:25PM    #
  48. Tim C. “ I suppose I could run a bar, restaurant or bookstore or work for a Google-like entity and become part of your “real world” but I doubt that would be as meaningful to me or, frankly, the community.”

    Hmmm. I’m trying to figure out how to not feel insulted by this comment.


       —todd    Jan. 11 '07 - 12:48AM    #
  49. Todd, as a former food service professional, I meant no offense to anyone working in any arena mentioned especially restaurants and bars. Given my culinary skills life would be bleak indeed without these entities. My point is that the best place for me to work for myself and the community is where I am even if it puts me in a surreal or unreal or quasi-real world. I think my work was being cited as a reason to devalue my opinion. I respect the work that folks do in all of the downtown businesses. Labor of all kinds is very underrated in my view.


       —Tim Colenback    Jan. 11 '07 - 01:11AM    #
  50. No offense taken, then. I was going to counter that I’m much taller than most, allowing me to reach things that sit on tall shelves, and therefore that’s my unique contribution to the community. Stepladders are for losers.

    I can understand how you and HD are against giving spots to Google…in fact, I would say that JulieW is probably right (as are you) that we should have done a better job negotiating with Google.

    That said, I have to say that I am pretty squarely in JennyD’s camp. I honestly believe that the City will wind up with a pretty serious cashflow as a result of Google’s arrival. This is my opinion, but 1,000 jobs comes with a pretty heavy economic benefit, whether direct or indirect.

    Obviously I stand to gain, and gain a lot, from Google’s arrival, so it’d be wise to take my opinion with a grain of salt the size of, well, Google.

    That said, I’m serious when I ask where the firetruck was all this parking rage when the RPP’s were doled out? Isn’t this the same thing as giving away parking to a business? I’m having a hard time understanding everyone’s ho-hum acceptance of RPP’s, and yet this Google thing (essentially a ‘BPP’) has everybody’s boxer’s in a bunch. I’m repeating myself because no one has yet to explain why one is acceptable, while the other one is not.


       —todd    Jan. 11 '07 - 01:34AM    #
  51. Too bad we couldn’t get Google to guarantee some small-business parking as a part of the deal. Maybe they could come through with a donation down the road.

    Anna—Ann Arbor might have horrible weather, but I doubt Ralegh-Durham has more cultural opportunities (whatever you mean by that) and I see no reason to suspect that they are any less ignorant (whatever you mean by that). And if you want to talk about quality of life, successful small businesses are certainly part of the package no matter what.

    I would guess that the city is trying to ramp up tax revenues from condos and new large businesses (like Google) in order to pay not only for the parking needed for independent downtown retail, and to give a boost to residential living in general, but also for nice things like better public transit and nonmotorized options. I guess it’s a question of whether they can get the parking built fast enough to make it all happen the way they want.

    Speaking of which, what’s the general opinion here on the court building decision? It’s hard to tell, but I think probably it was a good thing, though it’s sounding more and more like underground parking is fated for the library lot one way or the other. My only beef with that is that it will need to be highly accessible to the elderly and handicapped, who are important library patrons that need to be accomodated. If it gets built with a retail “skin” that would definitely be a plus over the courts building there, I would argue (and would probably be better placed there than on the Larcom lot, which is not really closely connected to much retail).


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 11 '07 - 01:49AM    #
  52. “...doubt Ralegh-Durham has more cultural opportunities (whatever you mean by that) and I see no reason to suspect that they are any less ignorant (whatever you mean by that).”

    Very telling.


       —Anna    Jan. 11 '07 - 02:17AM    #
  53. “The economy here is a disaster compared to elsewhere in the nation. We need to things to attract businesses here to employ all the unemployed people already here.”

    I can’t say I’ve been able to travel to confirm that but most business reports have said as much. The big problem for Michigan is that we’re going through a massive restructuring and downsizing that’s 10-fold larger than any other state has had to go through. We’ve lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector where in most states, you can count the losses in the tens of thousands. Things are not all doom and gloom. The state has been adding medical, service and IT jobs. But you can’t turn autoworkers and machine shop operators into nurses and computer techs overnight.


       —John Q.    Jan. 11 '07 - 02:45AM    #
  54. Yep, I screwed up in post 31. Thanks to Murph and HD for correcting.

    So the DDA is down half a million in revenues for the google gift. How can you fix that?
    Not as difficult as you may think. The AANews reports that they just raised the cost of all monthly permits by $20-40/month. I was hoping to report a more precise number, but I don’t have the data with me right now. I’m guessing the increases will bring in about $250k/year, so it only took one day to find a good chunk of the money. Turns out it was right in front of them the whole time, hanging out of the pockets of all the other employers and landlords in town. That was easy.

    That said, I certainly don’t begrudge the DDA a right to increase the paultry cost of monthly permits. I’m just surprised how fast this happened compared to the hemming and hawing over changes in street meter prices a couple years back.


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 11 '07 - 03:52AM    #
  55. “The assumption that people who live downtown will not need cars is false.”

    Juliew, would you mind terribly altering that staement from “need” to “really, really want” or “think they can’t get by without”. Those alternatives are depressing enough. Besides, Can’t lives on Won’t Street.

    Todd, while I have my issues with RPPs, I don’t think it is the same as the google parking gift. They may seem the same in that they both give parking away to specific people at a cost to the community as a whole, but they are dirived from different histories. RPPs come out of a planning tradition to protect residential properties (the “highest and best use”), from the horrors of commercial and industrial properties. The free parking comes from the (more recent?) tradition of offering tax abatements, and other favors to lure business to town. Both are legitimate lines of reasoning with lots of precedent. Yes, it’s contradictory that the residents luring business to town are the same ones reacting with repugnance to the impacts of the new business on their homes, but that kind of contradiction is hardly limited to parking policy.

    At the end of that, I’m not sure whether I’m providing a counter argument or ironic support of your statement. Either way, be comforted that not everone had “ho-hum acceptance of RPP’s”


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 11 '07 - 04:18AM    #
  56. How jaded we are in A2! Michigan is dead last in economic recovery of the 50 states. (A2 News tonight) Any city in the state would have given up anything they had to get Google. Two of the townships (A2 and Pittsfield) had already created tax abatement districts for Google, the Gov. gave them whatever they asked for. Why? Maybe because our state is on the rocks. You can’t come down from the ivory tower long enough to consider that maybe A2 should be giving something back? You don’t realize that Ann Arbor is the one great hope this state has to attract the knowledge economy?

    Think about it. How upset would we all be, what nasty things would we be saying if A2’s city leaders had let Google get away? Get real! This was a major coup. Jobs my friends, jobs, up to a thousand jobs, with more employers to surely follow and you are crying about 400 parking spaces??? All of you with a good job, shut up!

    It is fine for people like Tim Collenback to talk and talk but he has a great job with the most subsidized employer in the state. Taxpayers in Michigan have pumped 10’s of billions in the UM. He feeds at the public trough and could care less about the hundreds of tech workers who have been laid off in A2 and all the others from other sectors who now have a new chance. I APPLAUD THE WORK OF CITY COUNCIL! WHAT CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ASSURING EMPLOYMENT FOR THE RESIDENTS OF YOUR CITY? And please, don’t anyone claiming to be an environmentalist criticize this move, Google is downtown! They are not sprawling across the countryside.


       —Andy Terril    Jan. 11 '07 - 04:38AM    #
  57. “The assumption that people who live downtown will not need cars is false.”

    I’ll second Scott’s comments on “needs”.

    Also, given the number of people that work downtown, chances are that most of the people who live downtown and work also work downtown. So they might not be as anxious to have a space both at work and at home.


       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 11 '07 - 05:40AM    #
  58. “...doubt Ralegh-Durham has more cultural opportunities (whatever you mean by that) and I see no reason to suspect that they are any less ignorant (whatever you mean by that).”

    Very telling.

    —And what on earth is that supposed to mean? Seriously.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 11 '07 - 06:22AM    #
  59. If Google had gotten away folks on this site would be carving city leaders into little pieces.

    I have to agree with Andy and if you were laid off or cared about people who have been, so would you. Four hundred parking spaces will serve less than half of the employees they expect to have. For all we know Google asked for 800. What difference does it make? They are here in downtown A2. Praise the lord… and city council.


       —LauraB    Jan. 11 '07 - 06:28AM    #
  60. Wow, if the input here is any indication, Google might just turn into the political tidal wave that special interest groups have dreamed of.

    Residents have fought tooth and nail against new parking structures, but now that google wants one few complain about the possibility. Businesses complain constantly about the lack of parking, but now that google wants to jump the 700 person queue to take up 400 downtown parking permits, even todd is cheering them on.

    So don’t fight the tide, go with the flow!
    Google wants Liberty St to be a pedestrian plaza.
    Google wants a greenway.
    Google wants a Lowertown historic district.
    Google wants a sidewalk on Easy Street.
    Google wants the city to annex township islands.
    Google doesn’t like the name “Skyline High”.
    Google want a dog park.

    Any contentious issue might be resolved with a little google backing, real or perceived. After all, you don’t want google to leave, do you?

    A while back google stipulated that using their name as a verb for internet searching infringed on their copyright. What will they think of this new definition of google, the verb, as in:
    “Did you hear that you need a permit to park in front of Leopold Brothers now?”
    “Why?”
    “Todd convinced city council to turn the street into an special RPP zone.”
    “How the diddly-doo did he get that passed?”
    “He googled it.”


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 11 '07 - 12:29PM    #
  61. Google likes Ann Arbor.
    Google wants to hire people who live here.
    Google wants 400 parking spots.

    That’s it. I’ll take it.


       —JennyD    Jan. 11 '07 - 02:04PM    #
  62. todd,

    without a RPP, a residential neighborhood adjacent to downtown or campus finds 100% of the street parking taken up by all day commuters who reject alternatives like parking structures or park&ride.

    but a residential neighborhood needs some open street parking for incidental visitors like the plumber, baby sitter, milk man, diaper service, fedex, cable guy, etc.

    the minuscule number of RPP permits purchased shows that residents neither need nor want the street parking for themselves.

    the RPP is not a giveaway, it’s a takeaway.


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 11 '07 - 03:15PM    #
  63. You said diddly-doo.

    Well, yes I’m cheering them giving them 400 parking spaces if that’s what it took to get them here. Yes, it’s true that it’s possible that we could’ve done better in negotiations. However, it should be patently obvious that we could’ve done worse. They could’ve walked. Let’s not forget that possibility.

    To reiterate my position, since Scott is trying to cast me as an ironic supporter of this parking thing:

    1. DDA has tried to address the parking issues. A handful of citizens rebuffed their efforts. Don’t blame Google. Blame the citizens.

    2. RPP has taken up just as many free parking spaces as Google will. Actually, that’s not true. The RPP takes them up at a loss. Google’s ‘free’ spots will be paid for many times over by their presence. No such luck with the RPP residents. (Sorry, Scott. Saying it’s a ‘tradition’ doesn’t change the financial cost to the city).

    3. The Michigan economy is in the toilet. Yes, there is a touch of sunshine on the horizon as John Q pointed out, but the horizon seem to be pretty far away to me. All this talk about Google is great if you already have a good job. Ask the local unemployed or the people who Tim C. says we are ‘bussing to Ypsi’ whether or not they think an additional 1,000 jobs plus the ancillary jobs are a good thing. We all know what the answer to this question is.

    4. I pointed out that my little business, and countless others in this town receive ‘subsidies’ in one form or another. Some here are fixated on the parking cost because it’s fairly easy to quantify its value (or it would be if the City even knew how many spaces we had, or how they were used. Ooops). My question is where were these concerns when the 3-site plan was thrown under the bus, or when area after area was roped off for an RPP?

    Take a look at the Arbor Update archives, and watch me get a wrath of shit for explaining about how critical parking, as well as the perception of plenty of parking, is critical to downtown businesses during the 3-site debacle. Look at how many people tell me that we have plenty of parking.

    Fast forward a couple of years, and we now have people lecturing me that parking is critical to downtown! Really? I didn’t know that.

    Don’t blame Google, the DDA, or Council.

    ...and how many of you want to wager a sawbuck that at least one RPP zone will come into existence this calendar year?


       —todd    Jan. 11 '07 - 03:29PM    #
  64. To Andy:

    It is fine for people like Tim Collenback to talk and talk but he has a great job with the most subsidized employer in the state. Taxpayers in Michigan have pumped 10’s of billions in the UM.”

    I rather think this investment has paid off handsomely for the private sector in our state.

    “He feeds at the public trough”

    Basically this is true however inelegantly put.

    “...and could care less about the hundreds of tech workers who have been laid off in A2 and all the others from other sectors who now have a new chance.”

    This is false. Andy you don’t know me and I think no one who knows me well would think I don’t care about people, especially economically disadvantaged people. Or folks who have been laid off. I have been laid off before. I know what that’s like. I taught job search skills to unemployed workers across the economic spectrum. The purpose of this position was to help unemployed workers avoid the mental health consequences of long term unemployment.

    “I APPLAUD THE WORK OF CITY COUNCIL! WHAT CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ASSURING EMPLOYMENT FOR THE RESIDENTS OF YOUR CITY? “

    City council has cut 20% of city staff over the past few years? Andy, do you criticize this? How many tech workers could the city have hired to work for the people of Ann Arbor if they had maintained their employment level? Instead we see major spending for essentially a parking garage for Google. Its not just a monthly parking subsidy because the city will in all likelihood need (or more to the point will feel they need) to increase the overall capital spending for parking to accomodate this need. Conservatively we’re talking about more than $20 million for a parking garage and space over time. Add this to the new police/court bldg at ~$28 mill and we see a lot of spending none of which would probably be supported by the citizens of Ann Arbor were they allowed to vote on the issues. Finally I would be for a local Humphrey-Hawkins full employment plan. We could tax ourselves to provide employment for anyone with the desire to work who is unemployed and been a resident of the city for some specified minimum amount of time. I’m sure we could figure out much our laid off tech workers could do to make our community function better. That’s how much I care about unemployed people.


       —Tim Colenback    Jan. 11 '07 - 03:43PM    #
  65. Peter H. “without a RPP, a residential neighborhood adjacent to downtown or campus finds 100% of the street parking taken up by all day commuters who reject alternatives like parking structures or park&ride.

    but a residential neighborhood needs some open street parking for incidental visitors like the plumber, baby sitter, milk man, diaper service, fedex, cable guy, etc.”

    Oh, I get it. So what you’re saying is that residents “need” these services. Hmmm. So what you’re saying is that residents who live in, say, a 2 story building on Main between William and Washington don’t have plumbers or FedEx, or babysitters? They don’t have an RPP, and they certainly don’t have on street parking. How do they manage?

    Peter, what you and the rest of the crew here don’t seem to understand is that the RPP subsidizes downtown homeowners who don’t have driveways. Your post assumes that businesses don’t need parking. Your post assumes that the downtown residents shouldn’t have to use a parking structure…those are for the have-not’s who can’t afford to live downtown. In addition, I know residents who can afford to live downtown on Main Street who have to pay for a parking structure permit. How is it that you figure that these residents have to use a structure, while these other residents do not? Where’s the logic for this?

    Your post also ignores the fact that not only does the City give these residents free parking, they also cave to them when businesses ask to build a parking structure.

    Look at the RPP map on the City website. Take a look at the area near 1st and William. There’s an RPP there. Essentially what you and the City are saying is that no, you can’t park in the streets, and fuck you if you want to park in a structure off of the street, because we won’t let you build one. ????????

    And as I’ve explained previously, it is irrelevant that residents don’t use all the permits…..it’s not a question of who can use those spaces. It’s a question of who can’t. If these residents aren’t using all of the permits, then the size of the RPP needs to, at the very least, be shrunk down.


       —todd    Jan. 11 '07 - 03:47PM    #
  66. A few years ago I, too, thought parking wasn’t that much of a problem compared to other places I’d lived. Lots of people said that parking was no problem, garages are going empty — one (council member?) was even going around parking garages taking pictures of empty parking spaces.

    However, it turns out that Todd was right about parking, not just partly right, but completely, totally right. In fact, it’s almost a tautology: Parking was a big sticking point in negotiations with Google. Google backed down to half of its original request in the negotiations and local citizens are still up in arms about the number of spaces they’re taking. Ann Arbor could have lost Google to parking spaces! Washtenaw could have lost a swath of open space to parking spaces! I can hardly say it with a straight face. Ann Arbor needs parking, needs it badly, and needed it back when I and many others were skeptical.

    You guys should really listen to Todd; he’s giving this stuff away for free.


       —Anna    Jan. 11 '07 - 03:52PM    #
  67. Andy….nearly every single citizen in Ann Arbor is feeding at the UMich trough in one way or another. It ain’t just Tim. C., I can assure you.


       —todd    Jan. 11 '07 - 04:04PM    #
  68. I got cut off before I could finish post #65.

    So to sum up (there’s no time to ‘splain),

    Here’s how the RPP and our current political situation downtown lets downtown homeowners control it all:

    1. Downtown residents control whether or not a project gets approved. In other words, the control whether or not more people can move downtown. You need only check the paper to see rejections over the last 30 days.

    2. Let’s say they’ve rejected a 100 apartment project. Now these 100 (or so)people need to live out of town, and have to commute in. These same residents who’ve forced these people to live ‘elsewhere’ enact an RPP, and now have control over who uses the street. The resident who’ve been forced to commute are now also denied access to commuter parking on the street.

    3. Next up is the approval of a parking structure. Surprise, surprise, the same people who denied new citizens from moving into downtown…forcing them to commute…and who have said that these same commuters can’t use their street, are now saying that these commuters can’t use a parking structure. Why? Well, because the homeowners who control this fiasco don’t think that we need more parking in that area. And you know what? Council and others believe them.

    I guess it’s just me, but I don’t see why all of you see fit to give such a small group the keys to the downtown area. They are in charge of the whole shooting match, and no one seems to understand how blatantly unfair this is, and how it runs countercurrent to all of the overall Urban Planning goals for the remainder of the City.

    Why do we do this? Why are the RPP spaces valued at zero? Why doesn’t the cost of these permits even cover the overhead associated with the program? Why doesn’t everyone understand that it just moves the parking problem one block over?

    It’s the equivalent of collecting your garbage and dumping it in your neighbor’s yard and saying “well, that takes care of that”. What about the neighbor? Screw the neighbor seems to be the answer to that.


       —todd    Jan. 11 '07 - 04:29PM    #
  69. “Google backed down to half of its original request in the negotiations and local citizens are still up in arms about the number of spaces they’re taking.”

    Where did that info come from? The only reference I see for that number is in LauraB’s imaginings in post 59.


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 11 '07 - 04:38PM    #
  70. Anna—yes, parking is and will be crucial. Fortunately, Council has already realized this and a comprehensive parking study will apparently be released this month.

    I still can’t figure out what you meant by “telling”. The area (which includes Detroit—maybe that wasn’t obvious—it’s a part of the Detroit-Warren-Flint CSA, which practically also includes Windsor) I would say has comparable cultural resources to Ralegh-Durham. I’m totally uninterested in playing local booster, but that is what my comments were based on. Not that Ralegh-Durham doesn’t sound like a nice place to live. And they have better weather :)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 11 '07 - 05:08PM    #
  71. Put me down as someone who is very pleased Google is in downtown Ann Arbor.


       —David R.    Jan. 11 '07 - 05:12PM    #
  72. On the other hand, you could look at RPPs in a different way, as a money-maker for the city. They are only in areas close to downtown and most nonresident parkers are only there because they are free. If you can’t park there, most people don’t go farther out, they end up parking in the for-fee areas closer to their destination. So really, although the RPPs have some overhead that isn’t paid for by fees (I actually think the fees have risen now to cover the implementation costs), the RPPs most likely actually contribute to the city’s (DDAs) coffers. Hey, so maybe the city could make all street parking illegal and then sell permits for say $90/month for each street adjacent to the DDA, then $10 less each street out. Residents of the area could pay a reduced fee. That could be a real money-maker with no changes in infrastructure (hmm, I’m not sure if I’m saying this in jest or if that could really work). Also, it should be a given that plumbers, etc. should get street parking permits when they pull work permits. There is no reason that these people should get tickets while working on a job. Milkmen and delivery vehicles just stop wherever they want and as long as they are gone soon, they are never ticketed.

    DDA has tried to address the parking issues. A handful of citizens rebuffed their efforts. Don’t blame Google. Blame the citizens.
    Sorry Todd, if you are talking about the parking structure on First and William in the 3-site plan, it would have done nothing for this situation. First of all, it would have been too far away for people to want to park there who work on Liberty. Secondly, it was never designed to add parking to downtown, it was only to consolidate parking from the three sites once that parking was removed (which it hasn’t been and won’t be for some time because of the economic climate). I quote from Rene Greff’s own PowerPoint presentation of March 8, 2005: the 3-site plan will “de-emphasize parking by consolidating 450 spaces of parking that are currently spread across 3 city-owned sites.” I thought putting a parking structure at that site was foolish then because of the location and nothing I have seen subsequently has changed my mind. If the DDA was talking about putting an 800-space parking structure on the Library Lot with a retail wrap, that is a different story, but First and William was a boondoggle.

    Downtown residents control whether or not a project gets approved. In other words, the control whether or not more people can move downtown. You need only check the paper to see rejections over the last 30 days.
    Actually, the banks control this and right now, they aren’t funding much of anything because people are not biting on the housing that has already been proposed. Ask any developer from this area what they think about building condos downtown now and they will laugh in your face. Rumor has it even McKinley may bail on their condo building on Washington and turn it into offices. So no, downtown residents have little to NO control. Come on Todd, name a project in the last three years that hasn’t been approved because of residential pressures. Several haven’t been approved at the first try, but they all eventually get approved. The only one that could possibly be in this category is Glenn-Ann and that was only stopped because of the state historic district guidelines. It had already been approved by Council. Even that was pulled by the developer, not incidentally immediately after their project Ashley Terrace had been approved. If the economy gets better, Freed will take it back to the historic district and move forward. Just because people disagree with a project (and often for very good reasons) doesn’t mean they get their way.


       —Juliew    Jan. 11 '07 - 05:12PM    #
  73. If that point about google wanting 800 and getting 400 was wrong, I withdraw it. Scott, your comment just highlights the sort of fetish for arguing about details at the expense of real issues that has gotten Ann Arbor into the mess it’s in in the first place.


       —Anna    Jan. 11 '07 - 05:19PM    #
  74. Come on Todd, name a project in the last three years that hasn’t been approved because of residential pressures.

    Wait, you mean besides the biggest, potentially most profitable for the city and most relevant projects to this discussion, those of the Three-Site Plan?


       —Dale    Jan. 11 '07 - 06:06PM    #
  75. Well, the RFP for the building at First and Washington was accepted and is awaiting a move by the developer (I assume) and the Klines lot RFP was pulled/never posted by the City/DDA due to lack of much interest in the First and Washington site. So maybe you could say the parking lot at First and William was shot down, but First and Washington and the Klines lot are proceeding as directed by the City/DDA.


       —Juliew    Jan. 11 '07 - 07:19PM    #
  76. But that was a pretty big shoot-down.


       —Dale    Jan. 11 '07 - 07:26PM    #
  77. Early 20th century:
    $5 a day and can afford to buy your product

    Early 21st century:
    Free Parking and sushi lunches in your office.


       —Steve    Jan. 11 '07 - 07:41PM    #
  78. I continue to be impressed by Juliew’s insights.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 11 '07 - 08:19PM    #
  79. “your comment just highlights the sort of fetish for arguing about details at the expense of real issues that has gotten Ann Arbor into the mess it’s in in the first place.”

    I’m curious, what’s the mess that Ann Arbor is in right now?


       —John Q.    Jan. 11 '07 - 09:04PM    #
  80. I think the mess is that as reported by the News today, the DDA is $2M in the hole and says the city will have to pay for the parking deal. Which is fine and I’m sure it will all work out—it’s just that getting there will take work and time (and, obviously, money).

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the deal—I think that some just wish the city could do more directly for small business, too. But I think the hope is that by making this deal, the city will be making things better for small businesses. Probably true to some extent—but I also think it’s going to take more parking structures—that’s the flip side. I’m sure the parking study will help determine a lot of the answers.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 11 '07 - 09:28PM    #
  81. So, according to post #80, the city has to pay for the $500,000 annual cost of Google’s parking. At $20.00 average per tickiet, I calculate the city could raise the money by issuing an additional 25,000 parking tickets a year. How much do you want to bet that is how the city will balance its books? Google employees get free parking while the rest of Ann Arbor gets 25,000 parking tickets!

    I do not believe Google would have forsaken the city for want of 400 parking spaces. Furthermore, even if Google located to Scio, Pittsfield or Saline, it still would help the local economy a lot. I believe Google wants to be in downtown Ann Arbor because its employees want to be there and Google management views locating there as an important part of recruiting talent. I bet Ann Arbor could have told Google they need to pay for additional parking downtown if they want to move there and gotten away with it.


       —Chuck L.    Jan. 12 '07 - 12:56AM    #
  82. Chuck L: keep in mind that parking meters were invented by small businesses who wanted to maintain turnover in front of their stores. Parking tickets are not some Big Government Plot to oppress people and steal their money; they’re a product of the recognition that on-street parking, and fairly rapid turnover thereof, is a valuable public good (er, “common pool good”, for the economists in the house), and that we need to provide a little incentive to turnover (“don’t get a parking ticket”) for the good of our small independent businesses.

    /pet peeve.

    One thing I’m curious about is the issue of Google perqs. We all know about the catered breakfasts and lunches, free massages, and in-house 24-hour donut shops out in the California Googleplex – does anybody know what kinds of amenities Google is giving their employees here these days? I’ve heard several people say, “Oh, well, google won’t even provide that much spillover benefit to local businesses, because they provide so much in-house that their employees never need to leave the building,” but I haven’t yet heard exactly what the phone farm / telemarketer types here in Ann Arbor are getting relative to the Computer Science PhD hotshots out in Cali. My guess is that it’s “not so much”, but I’d prefer to know.


       —Murph.    Jan. 12 '07 - 01:19AM    #
  83. Chuck, Ann Arbor is a nice place and all, but I don’t think Google WANTS to be in downtown. It want to be somewhere that suits its business needs. A big box Pittsfield would do that fine.

    But having Google in a big box in Pittsfield would contribute to everything people who post here say they hate: sprawl, traffic, etc. So what’s the solution? Make the city center as attractive to businesses as big boxes in Pittsfield. It is the public good to do that, both in terms of preventing sprawl and in pumping new life into cities.

    Four hundred parking spots is not a huge price to pay for a public good. I mean, AA residents are forking over how many millions to buy a green ring around the city, a ring that will push up real estate prices and encourage traffic and sprawl. How about the green barrier money buys parking spots, spots that might not be necessary if we weren’t determined to have a green barrier?


       —JennyD    Jan. 12 '07 - 01:37AM    #
  84. Actually JennyD, Google does want to be in downtown Ann Arbor. It is part of their corporate philosophy/image to be downtown. As they say about their Boulder office: Urban Googlers are happy Googlers: Google Boulder is the opposite of the giant corporate office park. Our office is located right on the Pearl Street Mall, an outdoor pedestrian strip that forms the heart of Boulder’s retail and dining district. We have no giant parking lot, no giant buildings, and no giant cafeteria (though lunch is free every day). We occupy two floors of a very old building in the middle of historic Boulder, and we like it that way. So especially in these college towns, they want to have a big presence downtown. After all, they have had offices here for two years already (one in the Buhr building and one out by the mall), but they aren’t downtown so they keep them quiet. It wasn’t until the Vinology location opened that you saw all the publicity.

    As for Murph’s question about what perks they will offer, my guess is that they will offer a lot less than they do in Mountain View, in large part because they don’t have to (the Mountain View office is definitely exurbian/suburbian so it helps them keep people there longer hours if they don’t have to leave to do laundry, go to the gym, doctor, etc.). They will definitely offer food in-house, an exercise room, and do things that resonate with the Ann Arbor employees (for example, I’m sure they have their name on a future box at Michigan Stadium). Here is a sample of what they consider essential elements that define a Google workspace. Hey, maybe they will set up a 24-hour doughnut shop somewhere downtown!

    I just hope they aren’t the new Netscape.


       —Juliew    Jan. 12 '07 - 03:09AM    #
  85. Okay, so they want to be in Boulder. Makes sense. And one might surmise that they want to be in downtown Ann Arbor. But what you quoted above doesn’t say that.

    I get the point. Still, I think that if the city dug in its heels they’d head for Pittsfield.


       —JennyD    Jan. 12 '07 - 03:35AM    #
  86. Maybe it’s time to give up the debate given that none of us know anything about what it took to get Google downtown. From everything that was printed leading up to the announcement that they would be downtown, it was clear that Google was undecided or playing the townships off against the city. This is what a smart corporation does.

    Google is downtown and we should be thankful. By all accounts, downtown is hurting as is the Michigan economy. Google downtown is a windfall and well worth 400 parking spaces. The little group of Monday morning quarterbacks on this site would have the council’s heads on the chopping block if Google had settled in the township and all of you know it.


       —Laura B    Jan. 12 '07 - 05:17AM    #
  87. I can’t help but respond to something Tim C. said in an earlier post. He favors raising taxes for a local jobs program while criticizing the city for both reducing the size of its workforce and giving “corporate welfare” to Google. Indeed, the city has become more efficient (Efficiency seems like a good thing!) in recent years and they have eliminated something like 200 FTE’s for a savings of roughly $10 million per year.

    Let’s be conservative and say Google only ends up providing 500 jobs in downtown A2 rather than 1,000. The city still might pay up to $500,000 per year for Google’s parking until the end of their lease, 5 years? Plus of course, Google pays taxes.

    At $50,000 per FTE that same $500,000 per year would pay for only 10 city employee’s. In order to provide the same number of jobs at the city, they would need to lay out a whole lot more cash, $25 millon! I don’t know how many mills of property tax that would take but doesn’t the recent parks millage raise a total of $3 million per year? Not sure many taxpayers would vote for this… and the greatest irony is that though he claims to favor affordable housing, this would be a huge tax increase that would hit homeowners, renters, everyone, very, very hard. Seems like it would create a whole lot more homeless people. Google is a bargain.


       —Andy Terril    Jan. 12 '07 - 05:53AM    #
  88. Post 22: Todd argues says “It’s kind of hard to allow RPP’s, and then turn around and criticize a similar practice for Google.” If RPPs are kosher, why can’t the city provide a similar mechanism for employers with a much greater need for the parking (and who will actually use the parking you give them)?

    Post 72: Julie compares RPPs to a greenbelt. Interesting how we view the greenbelt as an investment that benefits the city, but RPPs as a subsidy to neighborhoods at the expense of the city as a whole. I’m not convinced that RPPs create significant pressure to push people to paid parking, but it is an interesting point.

    Post 82: Murph points out that “parking meters were invented by small businesses who wanted to maintain turnover in front of their stores”. Did he just call metered parking an RPP for businesses? whether or not that was his intention, it does seem that meters benefit local retailers a whole lot more than residents and commuters.

    These are some great observations on our parking system as a whole. I hope folks at the DDA and City read this thread and take them into consideration for, as Todd put it, the next google. (Also, DDA/City, my Parking Cash Out report is still still collecting dust at the getDowntown program office. this seems like a good time to consider it.)

    I want to distance myself from the anti-google posters with whom I’m feeling lumped together. I’m thrilled google is coming to town. I don’t see the debate as give them parking or they leave. While the transportation system isn’t perfect, we have a lot of inovative commuting solutions to offer a company like google, solutions that would benefit the company as well as the city. My gripe is that we could have sold google on these great inovations that they likely weren’t even aware of, but instead we gave them a worse product for free.

    But that may just be my “fetish for arguing about details at the expense of real issues” speaking.


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 12 '07 - 07:55AM    #
  89. Did he just call metered parking an RPP for businesses? ... it does seem that meters benefit local retailers a whole lot more than residents and commuters.

    Right – because nobody lives in Ann Arbor for the restaurants or theaters or bars; local business has never been cited by anybody as a quality of life issue.

    Scott, you’re really building Anna’s case here.


       —Murph.    Jan. 12 '07 - 01:49PM    #
  90. Scott: What makes you think Google wasn’t wooed by all the other transportation options that are on the table? Very good work on a non-motorized plan has the city winning awards as a top cycling city. Commuter trains are in the works and the Get Downtown program is in full bloom working with a good bus service. Google is getting 400 spaces but they could have 1,000 employees. They got less than half of what they plan on needing, seems like a workable solution given what they could have had in the township, unlimited, cheap (free) parking, 1,000 spaces on a surface lot. Parking tax abatements, lower rent, and room to sprawl was what the townships were offering, the city likely needed to level that planing field in some way. Parking must have been the carrot Google wanted most.

    Perhaps we should not compare their small Boulder operation to what they plan on Adwords becoming. This could easily have been more like their sprawling Calf. complex, instead they are downtown.


       —Laura B.    Jan. 12 '07 - 03:59PM    #
  91. todd, in #65 you asked me a bunch of questions:

    So what you’re saying is that residents who live in, say, a 2 story building on Main between William and Washington don’t have plumbers or FedEx, or babysitters?

    am i saying that? lemme go look …

    no. i am not saying that.

    They don’t have an RPP, and they certainly don’t have on street parking. How do they manage?

    i live downtown, so i will tell you how i manage.

    one side of the street in front of my loft has six parking spaces. four are metered, which prohibits parking for longer than two hours (sort of like the RPP!). a fifth is restricted to commercial vehicles, with a fifteen minute limit. (it is heavily uses by fedex, pizza guys, etc.) the sixth is also restricted to loading and unloading, with a fifteen minute limit.

    the other side of the street has nine parking spaces. five are (two-hour) metered, one is an unmetered space restricted to electric cars, and three are for loading and unloading.

    these restrictions, which are far more stringent than the RPP, provide for most social and commercial visits, but even they are sometimes insufficient, e.g., when i hire tradespeople that need all-day parking, i rent a meter bag.

    that’s how i manage.

    (obviously, all-day commuters do not park on my street. i don’t know where they park … perhaps they park in the seven-story parking structure across the street. or in front of david cahill’s house. or in the parking lot at leopold’s.)

    Peter, what you and the rest of the crew here don’t seem to understand is that the RPP subsidizes downtown homeowners who don’t have driveways.

    as a downtown homeowner without a driveway, i must have missed out on that subsidy. (insert picture of me with pockets turned inside out and a question mark bubble over my head.)

    Your post assumes that businesses don’t need parking.

    does it? hmm, let’s see … no, it doesn’t seem to assume that. my post has nothing to say or assume about parking needs of businesses: my post talks about residential neighborhoods, not commercial zones.

    Your post assumes that the downtown residents shouldn’t have to use a parking structure

    does it? hmm, let’s see … no, it doesn’t seem to assume that, either. in fact, i am a downtown resident, and i use parking structures often, and so do my kids, and so do people who visit me.

    In addition, I know residents who can afford to live downtown on Main Street who have to pay for a parking structure permit.

    i am one of them! (well, a block off main st.)

    How is it that you figure that these residents have to use a structure, while these other residents do not? Where’s the logic for this?

    well, todd, i chose to live downtown.

    but if that’s not logical enough, how does “life is unfair” sound?

    Your post also ignores the fact that not only does the City give these residents free parking, they also cave to them when businesses ask to build a parking structure.

    are we back to square one here? parking for residents is not the issue.

    Look at the RPP map on the City website. Take a look at the area near 1st and William. There’s an RPP there. Essentially what you and the City are saying is that no, you can’t park in the streets, and fuck you if you want to park in a structure off of the street, because we won’t let you build one. ????????

    i said fuck you? i don’t think i said fuck you … lemme go look.

    nope, i didn’t say fuck you.

    phew! i’m glad i didn’t say fuck you, because fuck you is usually the wrong thing to say!

    and i don’t think i said you you can’t park in the streets … lemme go look.

    nope, didn’t say it. after all, the RPP gives up half the street to all-day commuters.

    nor did i say that if you want to park in a structure off of the street that i won’t let you build one. in fact, i tell people to park in a structure all the time – the one right across the street!

    while i agree with you that

    it’s not a question of who can use those spaces. It’s a question of who can’t.

    i think you are missing the point when you say

    If these residents aren’t using all of the permits, then the size of the RPP needs to, at the very least, be shrunk down.

    because the open parking is not needed by nor is it intended for the residents, it is intended for the people who serve the needs of the neighborhood.

    for downtown businesses, residents, and visitors, those needs are met by heavy restrictions on street parking and the availability of parking structures and park & ride.

    if all-day commuters refuse to play along, why should residential neighborhoods pay the price? as it is, the alternate side rules of the RPP give up half the neighborhood parking. why should the all-day commuter refuseniks have it all?


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 12 '07 - 05:43PM    #
  92. Since it is pointless to quibble with each of your points, I’ll just come the the conclusion that you just handed us the replacement for the RPP’s:

    “i live downtown, so i will tell you how i manage.

    one side of the street in front of my loft has six parking spaces. four are metered, which prohibits parking for longer than two hours (sort of like the RPP!). a fifth is restricted to commercial vehicles, with a fifteen minute limit. (it is heavily uses by fedex, pizza guys, etc.) the sixth is also restricted to loading and unloading, with a fifteen minute limit.

    the other side of the street has nine parking spaces. five are (two-hour) metered, one is an unmetered space restricted to electric cars, and three are for loading and unloading.

    these restrictions, which are far more stringent than the RPP, provide for most social and commercial visits, but even they are sometimes insufficient, e.g., when i hire tradespeople that need all-day parking, i rent a meter bag.

    that’s how i manage. “

    There it is. Black and white. You, as a resident, manage to handle your parking needs just fine with the above situation. Transfer this system (with a similar mix…change the meters to 4 hours mix, get rid of the loading only space, free parking on Sun, free overnight parking, etc., etc) to the RPP areas, and we’re all set. Your ‘refuseniks’ won’t have it all, and neither will the homeowners. And, as you put it, a homeowner, their kids, and their friends can park in a nearby structure if need be. Just like the rest of the users.

    Now if you say “but Todd, there aren’t enough spaces in the parking structures!”

    Then, ladies and gentleman, we have an intellectual breakthrough. Call is satori. Your own existential moment under the chestnut tree.

    Oh, and as to your quote “my post has nothing to say or assume about parking needs of businesses: my post talks about residential neighborhoods, not commercial zones.”

    The area with the RPP’s aren’t residential only areas. Residents don’t “own” the street anymore than any other user does. Your quote and the RPP program wants to pretend that these areas are the domain of the residents.

    These are areas, from a a parking perspective, are mixed use. Residents park there, commuters park there, people visiting businesses park there. And lo and behold, you gave us the blueprint for how parking is handled in the mixed-use area that you live in. How about that? You just handed us a relatively fair solution.

    Cheers to you.


       —todd    Jan. 12 '07 - 06:40PM    #
  93. Ever since I have lived in A2 (since 1977) we have heard about our troubled downtown. Yet the downtown land values have skyrocketed over these 30 years (Unlike truly troubled downtowns like Flint, Toledo, Saginaw, Jackson etc.). Does anyone have data to show that the land downtown is less valuable? It seems to me high rents are the root cause of much of the failing businesses and the high cost of the land makes some (much?)development untenable. And that some (many?) of our corporate absentee landlords would rather keep storefronts/condos/office space empty rather than rent space at market value if that does not meet their economic model. My sense is that the downtown advocates always emphasize the fragility of downtown to keep the tax dollars flowing for construction of streescapes and parking and parking decks and now multinational corporate parking subsidies.

    Finally, when you factor in what it costs to maintain and build parking deck spaces, the real value of 400 parking spaces over 20 years is somewhere between $20-$25 million dollars. This is a real subsidy of significant proportion any way you slice it.


       —Tim Colenback    Jan. 12 '07 - 07:33PM    #
  94. In response to JulieW’s #72:

    First off, your suggestion that contractors who pull permits should have access to paid parking permits is a great idea. You’d have to make them for a few days at a time, but that’s a good idea.

    Second, I know that the 1st and William lot wasn’t going to add spaces. It was the DDA’s first step towards addressing the downtown parking issues. Citizens (and Council, obviously) “swept the leg” on the DDA’s (“Mercy is for the weak.” Cobra-kai: “Yes, Sensai”) plans.

    Now the DDA is back to square one. Where does a structure go now? They have to worry about the same reaction by citizens “not near my house, thank you” for future proposals, even though the parkers that are spilling in front of homes suggests that that may be a good area for a structure.

    Of course we are now waiting for a long overdue parking study. This is where the DDA and the area’s businesses that are dependent on shared parking have failed, actually. This should be job #1 for the DDA. It is the DDA’s most valuable resource, and we should always have a complete accounting of what we have and how we use it. Citizens who live downtown should also be clamoring for these figures as they obviously have a stake, too.

    In any event, citizens killed these plans. Whether or not you personally think that this site was a bad one is irrelevant. The DDA liked the choice, but citizens made the decision regarding the site for them. They thought that this was part of the parking solution, even if you didn’t (if you recall, I agreed this may not be the best spot, too). And you can’t deny that location of these structures matters. Even if it didn’t add parking, it would addressing parking issues in the area that it is located in a material way. That alone gives it some value in this parking battle.

    As to whether or not citizens control who/what comes into town, well, I’ve complained on many occasions that the delays that you briefly mention adds cost to the projects. These costs are passed on to the end tenant. This controls who comes into town…namely, wealthy people. Then there’s the projects that start at 10 stories with 200 units, but after hearing complaints from citizens, 3 or 4 floors get lopped off, and we wind up with 40 more commuters. If you remember just the

    Then there’s the ‘silent majority’ of downtown property owners who have seen and hear of other poor saps who’ve been wrung dry by years of delays in getting a project approved because of one citizen complaint or another. They don’t even step up to the plate because they’re waiting for the implementation of the Calthorpe-led rezoning of downtown so that they don’t have to guess as to what’s allowed by Council so that that they don’t get ambushed by whoever happens to live in the area. They need protection from citizen control in the form of zoning. Let citizens say ‘this tall’ in the Master Plan stage, and be done with it. This will end any surprises for the developer. They will be able to build more quickly and cheaply. My hope is that they can use the saved money for better features or community amenities.

    Then there’s the Historic district mechanism that has to be started by citizens. I think that we’re up to roughly 1,000 historic districts around the downtown area. I jest, but come on already. There’s old, and then there’s historic. The bar is exceedingly low for historic consideration in this town. It’s a bit ridiculous. The Glen Ann isn’t in a truly historic area any more than our building is. There’s a few old homes on the block. Big deal. Developers are, for all intents and purposes, shut out of those areas, too.

    Heck, look at the next post on Arbor Update about the ‘historic property’ near campus. Do you think that this guy is going to get met by a bunch of delays from complaining citizens? I sure do.


       —todd    Jan. 12 '07 - 07:38PM    #
  95. Tim, please share more thoughts on downtown rent/landlords. In particular, assuming for the sake of discussion that your “sense” is accurate, how might the problems you note be addressed?

    As for the parking structure, I think it’s a bit more complicated than you’re assuming. For one, if I understand correctly, the 400 spaces would no longer be free to Google employees after 5 years (per Andy’s post #87—or whatever the arrangement is.) Maybe someone with a good understanding of the DDA’s parking operations budget could explain how a 400-space (minimum) structure would cost out over time, including capital and maintenance costs, etc., as well as expected revenues.

    That also triggered a question: what will the hours/days for Google-exclusive parking be in those 400 spaces (wherever they might be located)—will they be available evenings/weekends for public parking, when the demand is greatest?


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 12 '07 - 10:09PM    #
  96. but todd, that’s exactly what the RPP does — it’s just metered parking without the meters!


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 12 '07 - 10:11PM    #
  97. For residents only.


       —Dale    Jan. 12 '07 - 11:19PM    #
  98. No, RPPs are not just metered parking spaces without the meters — they exclusive access to steeply discounted metered parking during the day (if permits cost $40, and meters normally run 12 hours per day, six days a week, four weeks a month — for sticklers for details — then it’s $.14/hour), and exclusive access to free parking at all other times (assuming they cover the area 24/7).


       —Anna    Jan. 12 '07 - 11:22PM    #
  99. Oops, yeah. What Dale said.


       —Anna    Jan. 12 '07 - 11:23PM    #
  100. dale and anna, you are overlooking the fact that residents do not purchase permits. this — and the low, low price of permits — strongly suggests they do not want or need permits.

    while one side of the street is open to all, the other has a two hour limit, which is exactly like metered parking without the meters.

    residents have the “rule-buster” option of purchasing permits … but they don’t, which makes anna’s calculations moot. the unmeters provide what they do need: short-term access to street parking for visitors and services.


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 13 '07 - 02:30AM    #
  101. Chuck L Responds:

    “Chuck L: keep in mind that parking meters were invented by small businesses who wanted to maintain turnover in front of their stores. Parking tickets are not some Big Government Plot to oppress people and steal their money; they’re a product of the recognition that on-street parking, and fairly rapid turnover thereof, is a valuable public good (er, “common pool good”, for the economists in the house), and that we need to provide a little incentive to turnover (“don’t get a parking ticket”) for the good of our small independent businesses.” (Murph)

    So, I suppose you have never seen a meter agent give out a parking ticket for an expired meter the week of Christmas break on State Street at the very time that there were many unused on-street parking spots available? Well, I have. In fact, I even got to ask our current Mayor about that one. His response was that no one should be allowed to break the law after giving me the same spiel Murph just did. But given the fact that the Mayor and Council write the law, why have they written the law such that it is far more permissive than the stated purpose when it comes to dispensing tickets? (That is, if they really mean what they say about simply being interested in the turnover rate of a scarce public resource.)

    You see Murph, here is my problem: it matters how governments raise money for public purposes. Issuing numerous parking tickets is a bummer and has a negative effect on quality of life for people who choose to frequent downtown. Furthermore, if the city is really only interested in using tickets to adjust the turnover rate of on-street parking, does the city have a target rate they use? Do they even try to measure the turnover rate on a regular basis? Have they done sensativity analysis to see at a given price, how many tickets need to be issued to achieve the target? If they did these things, I might believe you (but I’d still want to know if they are issuing tickets at a rate higher than what is required.)

    Now for my next question: It turns out Murph thinks it was a good idea for the city to pony up $40 million for Lower Town; I wonder if the city’s willingness to drain the public treasury on behalf of private interests there had any effect on multi-billion dollar Google’s decision to seek a public subsidy for parking?


       —Chuck L.    Jan. 13 '07 - 02:39AM    #
  102. Yes, they do have targets and quotas.


       —Citywrkr    Jan. 13 '07 - 03:04AM    #
  103. Citywrkr,

    The question was not do they have targets and quotas, it was what kind of targets and quotas. That is, are the targets simply a dollar figure or are the targets based on the turnover rate of on-street parking? Furthermore, does the turnover rate curve flatten out after a certain number of tickets have been issued? If it does, the main effect of issuing more tickets would not have much impact on the turnover rate but would have a big impact on the revenue generated.
       —Chuck L.    Jan. 13 '07 - 03:37AM    #
  104. i have been tagged with countless parking tickets, yet i always greet lovely rita with a smile — were she and her posse not diligent in smacking down scofflaws, i would never be able to find an open spot on the street.


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 13 '07 - 03:45AM    #
  105. It’s certainly true that high rents are among the causes for downtown business closures. And so it’s very important to keep overspeculation in check (I don’t know how, but I’m sure there are ways.)

    “And that some (many?) of our corporate absentee landlords would rather keep storefronts/condos/office space empty rather than rent space at market value if that does not meet their economic model.”

    This, on the other hand, I find very hard to believe without evidence. What makes you think that a landlord, absentee or no, would turn down rent? Seems to me this would just mean that the market value was wrong. (This might be an abstract argument about the role of psychology in economics, so if that’s the case let’s not go there!)

    “My sense is that the downtown advocates always emphasize the fragility of downtown to keep the tax dollars flowing for construction of streescapes and parking and parking decks and now multinational corporate parking subsidies.”

    But…in this case construction of parking would benefit small business owners. Plus Council already has various non-motorized plans in the works (some of which would eliminate parking, I might add). I also don’t know the last time a “streetscape” was built downtown—does anyone else know?

    “Finally, when you factor in what it costs to maintain and build parking deck spaces, the real value of 400 parking spaces over 20 years is somewhere between $20-$25 million dollars. This is a real subsidy of significant proportion any way you slice it.”

    If an earlier comment was accurate, this would only be a 4-year subsidy or so. Which makes me suspect highly that this was a temporary deal, until Google builds the rest of its campus and then there will be re-negotiation for parking. Presumably by then the city will have built more structures and will have more leeway to negotiate with.

    Not that you aren’t raising important issues—I’m just suggesting that the situation isn’t as cut-and-dried as you might think.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 13 '07 - 04:03AM    #
  106. Chuck:

    It seems like it would be difficult to have parking ticket writers decide on the spot if they should write a ticket for an expired meter based on how many empty spaces there are. People in law enforcement seem like the type who look at things in black and white. The meter is expired or it isn’t.

    Is it so hard to put money in a meter or if you are staying awhile, park in a structure. I have found A2 to be less offensive on parking tickets than some other cities. In Chicago they are much quicker to bring out the boot or a tow truck.

    I recall reading that after all the processing and full time workers who need to be paid, the city makes something like $1 per parking ticket.

    I don’t know if I favor the Lowertown investment or not but people should try to understand that in a brownfield redevelopment the project will generate the taxes to pay off the investment by the city and state. The pollution is cleaned up, the project goes up and the community is left at the end with a tax paying entity where there was none before. There is also a whole lot of new economic activity that spills over into the whole area, lots of new jobs. That empty piece of cement can’t be paying much in the way of taxes and nobody works there.


       —Laura B.    Jan. 13 '07 - 07:27AM    #
  107. Laura,

    The meter enforcers don’t have to give out any tickets or they can give out a lot. In fact, on football game days, police spokespeople have stated that they intentionally let things slide on the parking enforcement. The day I saw a cop giving out a ticket for an expired meter when plenty of spaces were available was probably the result of the officer needing to fill a quota. The Ann Arbor News did a study a few years ago and found the city was clearing around $2 Million per year above cost on parking tickets.

    For Lowertown, one possible use could have been as a park and ride. Furthermore, I lived in a community that could never say no to a developer and the result was that yes, economic activity increased in the area but taxes on me personally went up as well. The net effect was that I was subsidizing the growth with no financial benefit to myself and my family. Lowertown is choice land and it is important to pick a use that is self financing. The fact that the city has to jump in with a $40 Million bond issue to jumpstart the process does not bode well for the project in addition to setting a bad precedent.


       —Chuck L.    Jan. 13 '07 - 07:33PM    #
  108. Chuck: Parking meters are quite explicit, if the time is expired, its expired. Not so hard to understand. IMO it is the same as speeding, you are or your not. I am suspect of anything the news does concerning budgets and numbers, they have been wrong too many times.

    I am one of the very few people left in my condo association who is not upset about the delays in moving Broadway Village forward, as I said, I am still undecided. But it seems important not to obfuscate… I have been observing Lowertown every day for 8 years and it is in no way “choice land.” It is the best example of urban blight in A2 and is polluted ground to boot. It has been just a huge swath of impervious surface with no storm water controls and mostly abandoned buildings. It is fortunate that no one has set it on fire. It is also important to understand brownfield legislation.

    Brownfield legislation was created to do many things, cleaning up pollution is just one of them, another important function is to redirect development back onto already developed, polluted land and thus save “greenfields.” One reason Govt. helps by investing in brownfields is to make up the difference between the (cheap) cost of developing a “greenfield” vs a “brownfield” that is blighted and polluted. Brownfield legislation is thus, an anti sprawl tool.

    Another cost intensive factor is that in a greenfield you don’t need a parking structure, just a square mile of surface lot. The legislature recognized this.

    Park and ride lots should be out on the edge or along the X-way, a bus or rail line, not right in what has the potential to be a vital center of town as it once was 150 years ago.

    City representatives have said repeatedly that they will only support what the project will bear and no more. This should be read as “up to” $40 million, I expect it to be considerably less.

    If Lowertown redevelopment needed to stand on its own, there would be no clean up of the pollution stream that is moving toward Traver Creek and we would have another strip mall but more likely, nothing at all. I say this because until this project came along, nothing had happened there in years, just the same old blight.


       —Laura B.    Jan. 13 '07 - 09:50PM    #
  109. Laura B.,

    The Mayor and Murph say the only reason to give out tickets is to maintain a high turnover rate in on-street parking. According to what you are saying, it should be legal for cops to give out tickets if someone pulls up to a meter that has no time on it and hand out a ticket before the driver can get to the meter to put the money in because an expired meter is an expired meter. Or the cops could hover over meters, wait for the expiration and immediately issue a ticket. Of course, from there it is a short trip to not even waiting for the meter to expire because after all, the cop might believe the meter will expire anyway before the car owner leaves.

    Secondly, if the city derives no substantial revenue from issuing parking tickets, why should it be an issue to base the number of tickets on the achievement of some desired turnover rate for on-street parking? You say the city doesn’t make much from tickets so why should the city complain over not being able to issue a large number of tickets? Parking tickets are not a “service”. Parking tickets simply transfer money from one pocket to another and nothing of any perminate value is produced by the transaction. Your view is very simplistic and ignores the fact that issuing of tickets, even when justified under the law, has a negative impact on the quality of life. Anybody who lets a meter expire is taking a chance and as long as that chance is the same from one person to the next, the system is fair.

    Thirdly, I don’t have a problem with the city spending $4 million to clean up the toxic waste because it is not feasable to recover the money from the original polluters and letting the land sit in a perminate state of disuse is not acceptable. However, that is all the city should do.

    Fourthly, I would still like to know if the $40 million pledge for Lowertown had any impact on Google’s decision to seek a subsidy for downtown parking?


       —Chuck L.    Jan. 14 '07 - 02:31AM    #
  110. chuck, metered spaces are available because drivers know that tickets are issued to violators. lax enforcement would negate the social benefit of metered spaces.

    drivers whose meters expire are either exceeding the maximum time or are practicing a foolish economy.


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 14 '07 - 03:02AM    #
  111. “What makes you think Google wasn’t wooed by all the other transportation options that are on the table? ... Google is getting 400 spaces but they could have 1,000 employees. They got less than half of what they plan on needing”

    Laura, I readily admit that I’m working off the assumption that since negotiation efforts by the city and interest by google in our other trasport options were not listed, that they did not happen. That could certainly be wrong. However, there is mention that the Mayor suggests Google asking for ONLY 400 spaces implied an NMT interest, which also implies that the city didn’t work that point. Also it sounds like Google has not yet been very responsive to the go!pass sales pitch from getDowntown.

    Some have indicated that the 400 spaces is only until the end of the 4 year period. If that is the case, google would have far fewer than 1000 employees for the majority of that time. Also, how do the 260 permits that, Google’s landlord, McKinnley, play into this? Could they get 400 free spaces from the city plus the 260 (or some portion) negotiated in the rent?

    I definitely think the “alt trans” options attracted google, but I wouldn’t assume that because these options make for an attractive town to establish a business presence that google is internally driven to participate in those options.

    “Maybe someone with a good understanding of the DDA’s parking operations budget could explain how a 400-space (minimum) structure would cost out over time.”

    Steve,
    Again, I don’t have the info with me, but in general parking structures in A2 lose money. The DDA is quick to point out that the whole parking system is a delicate balance of fees that, in total, usually produce a net gain. The biggest money maker is on-street meters (no, Chuck, that doesn’t include ticketing). This makes me realize that building more structures will require some adjustments to the finances of parking and probably result in an increase in either parking fees or “other revenue sources”.

    “will they be available evenings/weekends for public parking, when the demand is greatest?”

    Regular permits allow parking at any time. Googles peak use woiuld likely be during the day, but they get in free at night, too. If Google employees had repeated problems parking (night or day) they could complain Republic Parking (and thus the DDA) to resolve the issue.
    But I believe that overall sturcture use is actually much higher during the day than at night. Depending on which location google gets permits for, there may be plenty of space at night. In fact, the DDA sells evening parking permits because there is extra supply in structures in the evening.

    ChuckL,
    I think we’ve discussed meters and tickets elsewhere and it may be useful to search the archives for more info on this topic. AAIOR proposed a similar idea of no tickets on slow days. The difficulty was in defining a heuristic for when to issue tickets. It’s hard to beat the clarity of the current one, which is “within enforcement hours, meters with parked cars must have time on them”.

    Maybe instead of arguing for lax enforcement, you should just argue for adjusting the enforcement hours for meters. After all, why require payment at a meter that you aren’t going to enforce?


       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 15 '07 - 06:01AM    #
  112. Well, I admit that my guess about the deal being in some sense “temporary” is a wild, uninformed guess, so please keep that in mind. But you have to admit it makes a certain amount of sense, given the information we have.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 15 '07 - 05:34PM    #
  113. Peter Honeyman, My calculations are far from moot. Your comment #100 just suggests that the permits should be eliminated. All it shows is that there are too many of the permits given demand from the few people who are allowed to buy them. Open up bidding to everyone and you can bet they’d be gone in a second, for far more than the city is charging. That’s all the more reason residents shouldn’t get permits — they apparently don’t want or need them. Their occassional service needs (which I guess from your comments they simply get for free, at tax-payer expense, since they aren’t buying the permits) do not justify taking away public resources for private use.


       —Anna    Jan. 19 '07 - 09:42PM    #
  114. anna, those public resources are not taken away for private use, they are taken away from private use and dedicated to public use.

    you dismiss my suggestion that allowing commuters to convert those resources into personal parking lots is bad public policy. you seem unconcerned that it diminishes the quality of residential neighborhood life.

    do you also reject the idea of providing municipal facilities for commuters, the parking structures that dot downtown, the park & ride lots that surround the city?

    bear in mind that these are not casual visitors to the neighborhoods whose public streetscapes they arrogate. these people drive to town every day. they refuse every day to use the socially beneficial alternatives made available to them.

    i work on the OWS so i know what it was like before the RPP: every street was bumper-to-bumper with parked cars, every day, all day. now, with the RPP in place, one side of the street is given over to them, every day, all day, while the reserved side of the street sees a lot of turnover (thanks in no small part to lovely rita), as cars and delivery trucks come and go. it is rarely empty, rarely full. come look for yourself.

    availability of short term parking is part of what makes a residential neighborhood function smoothly. i find it good public policy to regulate the use of those streets. the alternative unduly penalizes the neighborhood residents (who have no alternative short of moving) and unjustly rewards refuseniks who reject socially beneficial alternatives.

    ps: given your objection to time limited parking in residential neighborhoods near downtown and campus, i wonder how you feel about time limited parking in downtown/campus. would you abandon meters on main st. in favor of an auction?


       —peter honeyman    Jan. 20 '07 - 06:01AM    #
  115. This really belongs on “Overheard in Ann Arbor”, but since that guy hasn’t updated in months, I’ll share with you folks.

    So I’m at the “new” White Castle on Packard the other night and the guy in front of me in line is enquiring about the whereabouts of one of the staff members. The response:

    “Oh, she got a job with Google.”

    “What’s a Google?”

    “I don’t know, but they’re building one around here.”

    Now, you may draw many conclusions from this, but I’ll limit myself to two. First, you miss a lot if you use the drive thru, and second, maybe it’s the new grill, but those burgers were extraordinarily tasty. Viva La New White Castle!


       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jan. 22 '07 - 04:36PM    #
  116. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Digital divide, anyone?


       —Jeff Dean    Jan. 22 '07 - 06:18PM    #
  117. PSD,

    Another negative aspect to the re-configured drive-thru at the Castle is that after getting your Sack of 10 or your Crave Case, or what-have-you, of those bless-ed steamed squares of goodness, you have to do a whole ‘nother lap around the building before you can exit onto Packard.

    And for AU readers who are looking for some entertaining distraction from Pfizer-related news, Charlie Slick’s White Castle song (fourth track of the MySpace StandAlone Player) provides exactly that.


       —HD    Jan. 22 '07 - 08:05PM    #
  118. Dangit… no html on here. Agh.

    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070124/BUSINESS/70124040/1002/RSS02


       —Brandon    Jan. 24 '07 - 11:15PM    #