Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Greenway hearing unbalanced?

31. May 2005 • Scott Trudeau
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The Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway are making noise, calling the speaker line-up at the upcoming city greenway hearing bias. The meeting will consist of one hour of pre-selected speakers, followed by up to three hours of public commentary, with a follow-up meeting if there is more demand for public commentary time.


“What we are getting is a biased event in favor of a fake greenway,” Wong said.

City Council Member Chris Easthope said the city is planning on having Margaret Wong, co-chairwoman of Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway; a member of the Downtown Development Authority; Norm Cox of Greenway Collaborative Inc.; Washtenaw County Drain Commissioner Janis Bobrin; and possibly a member of the city’s Parks Department speak before the public commentary portion begins.

The plan is to have the much-anticipated meeting start at 7 p.m. with the first hour devoted to those speakers. Then the public will comment from 8 to 11 p.m. If there are still residents wanting to speak after 11 p.m, Easthope said, the city will continue the meeting the next week.


> Ann Arbor News: Greenway hearing sparking criticism Open-space campaigners say roster is unbalanced



  1. From the article:

    “Wong and Doug Cowherd, co-chairman of the Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group, said the list has speakers who have conflicts of interest.”

    As if living nearby the site and therefore being an “accidental activist” means you have no conflict of interest at all.
       —SG    May. 31 '05 - 03:00PM    #
  2. OK, I’m confused. Why is the City Council having these speakers at all? Is this for the benefit of Council? I thought the point was to state what the issue was and then let the public have their say. Frankly, I don’t need to hear Margaret, Janis, Renee or Susan, and Norm speak again. I think we all know what they are going to say. I would rather hear other opinions, or more to the point, I would like City Council to hear other opinions.
       —Juliew    May. 31 '05 - 04:34PM    #
  3. Three hours of public comment (with the possibility of a continuation) are scheduled after the initial speakers’ hour. I’d say that’s quite a reasonable plan. The first speakers will frame the debate in a clear public manner. While there has been quite a bit of lobbying on both sides, this has not been (or should not have been) enough to make up council’s mind. So let’s start with these speakers (no conspiracy theories here) and then let’s get down to city hall to make our views part of the public record. Any objections?
       —Dale    May. 31 '05 - 04:43PM    #
  4. I can’t quite understand how this is supposed to be biased. Are the Friends complaining that there aren’t enough people there who, by profession, can be expected to slant towards the TSP?

    Since the DDA and Margaret are de facto on opposite sides, they cancel out. Therefore, bias must exist in the other speakers.

    One would expect a consultancy called “The Greenway Collaborative” to be biased towards a greenway – maybe the Friends are afraid that he’ll point out that an urban greenway means a pedestrian corridor and not necessarily huge parks?

    One would expect the parks department to be constantly trying to expand its turf (ha ha). Maybe the Friends are afraid they’ll say they don’t have the money to maintain more big parks, let alone build them, and that West Park could use the love that’s currently being heaped on a non-existant park?

    One would expect the Drain Commissioner to be in favor of whatever is best for the Allen Creek Watershed and Floodway. Maybe the Friends are afraid that Bobrin will think the TSP’s reconstruction of the drain under 1st/William is a good idea, and that daylighting the creek would be a bad idea?

    If bias towards the TSP exists, as Margaret claims, then we can expect at least two of these three speakers to be supporting of the TSP. Furthermore, for Margaret to be complaining, the Friends must know that these speakers are pro-TSP.

    Oh, no, wait. That’s silly. Dale is right, no conspiracy theories. I’ll just go back to designing my Ann Arbor spinoff of Illuminati now. . .
       —Murph    May. 31 '05 - 09:46PM    #
  5. I LOVE Wong’s contention that there should be more pro-greenway speakers because there are DIFFERENT GROUPS who support the greenway. As if they would say anything substantially different in the allotted time and as if there aren’t a bevy of groups FOR the TSP (who aren’t getting to speak).

    Although, you know—some guy is reputed to have called up some other guy, and a third guy was fired…thus, maybe this public hearing IS biased.
       —Dale    May. 31 '05 - 10:54PM    #
  6. There are several people scheduled to frame the issue for the council in different ways. Having someone who has multiple (and possibly conflicting) viewpoints is probably likely to be more enlightening and useful. Norm Cox (knowing only what the article says about him) is likely to present statements both pro and con. Personally, I’d rather hear someone who can weigh both sides of a matter and present information on both sides, rather than someone who belongs to one side or the other.

    It’s only a black-and-white matter if you have a vested interest (either politically or by proximity) in one side or the other. I don’t see any problem with having speakers who belong to shades of gray who can preface and frame the public commentary with their respective viewpoints.

    And why must there be “balance” in this? Do only the ‘black’ and the ‘white’ views matter? I think each of the proposed speakers has a valid and unique perspective to bring to the matter. Trying to score them as belonging to one side or the other is further attempting to polarize the matter and press a “my way or the highway” agenda.
       —archipunk    Jun. 1 '05 - 11:07AM    #
  7. Good points archipunk.
       —todd    Jun. 1 '05 - 11:40AM    #
  8. I don’t know what you all are talking about. The speaker’s list clearly indicates a bias against the plan to give every resident a pony, and to use the Washington and First space for the most magnificent gilded stables this state has ever seen!
    Why are all of you against ponies?
       —js    Jun. 1 '05 - 04:12PM    #
  9. Well, js, we may be against ponies for everyone, but I heard that you hate parks and puppies!

    And, now, in order to gently mock both spokespeople equally, I’m off to Murph’s happy world…
       —Murph    Jun. 1 '05 - 10:21PM    #
  10. When I first saw this article, I thought “They’re not just unbalanced— they’re nuts!”
       —js    Jun. 2 '05 - 09:48AM    #
  11. Just a reminder to put this date on your agenda to make a comment. (I made an upcoming.org event entry for it, also). I especially call pro-DDA plan speakers and/or anti-greenway speakers to MAKE SURE TO COME AND SPEAK. This will be an important event in the process and the greenway folks will be out in force.
       —Dale    Jun. 6 '05 - 11:31AM    #
  12. what date? (the aanews story didn’t give the date, either! ... or am i blind?)
       —peter honeyman    Jun. 7 '05 - 09:08AM    #
  13. You’re right—they neglected to mention the most important information.

    June 13. speakers at 7, public comment 8-11. It’s also on the upcoming.org-roll on the right.
       —Dale    Jun. 7 '05 - 09:24AM    #
  14. And, if there are still people who want to speak past 11, they’re cutting it off and taking up again the next evening, apparently.

    It seems the Friends hunted down my e-mail address and knocked me off their mailing list, because I haven’t received anything from them in weeks, and I would have expected to. If anybody’s been getting their e-mails, could you forward some on to me?
       —Murph    Jun. 7 '05 - 12:11PM    #
  15. My understanding of Norm Cox’s group’s position is that they are for alternative transportation routes like bike paths and pedestrian walkways. You might think that would mean they would be aligned with the Friends, but they are also interested in spending money wisely and to its best advantage, and not on needlessly expensive plans which may fall apart on the whims of property owners who don’t feel like cooperating with a greenway plan.

    So they aparently do fall in the middle – wanting to see more bike and pedestrian routes, but not necessarily wanting the Friends’ expensive and impractical plan either.

    (As I said, this is just my understanding of where they’re at. I could be misunderstanding them or even be outright wrong about it.)
       —Laura    Jun. 7 '05 - 09:50PM    #
  16. > Friends’ expensive and impractical plan

    really? what is this plan of what you speak? the friends plan doesn’t have $ associated with it, it isn’t a formal plan – it’s a lobby for a park at 1st william and two other public properties in the floodway and floodplain. costs, extents, and development plans are not at all part of the plan.

    you might be referring to the dda’s $22 million parking structure in the floodway (actively flowing water in floods). hardly what i call environmentally or civically responsible development.

    but let’s see what makes sense. let’s wait until calthorpe finishes their taxpayer-funded study of zoning downtown, let’s wait until the city and fema finish their taxpayer funded study of the floodway.

    we’ve paid for these things, to ignore them in a rush to develop seems much more expensive and impractical.
       —bob kuehne    Jun. 8 '05 - 02:10AM    #
  17. That is an excellent point that I think needs to be reiterated, Bob.

    The Friends have no plan other than a broad greenway idea. The Friends have given no acknowledgment of the cost of the greenway, either in direct infrastructure improvements OR in the opportunity lost for the city. Because of this lack of planning, their greenway idea does nothing for affordability in Ann Arbor, for rationalizing parking, for promoting downtown vitality.

    Despite this, greenway advocates want their idea to be given equal weight to a thorough plan 18 months in development.
       —Dale    Jun. 8 '05 - 08:00AM    #
  18. bob kuehne, that’s where the confusion comes in. There are 2 greenway advocate groups. One is Friends, who just want it all to be a park, and have no plan. The other plan is by Joe O’Neal, and involves 100 acres, buying out current residents in the floodplain and knocking down their houses, etc. to the tune of $75 million or more. That’s the expensive plan people keep referring to.

    You can read more about the differences here.

    Personally I don’t think that the issues at the heart of this – what to do with land in the floodway and floodplain – will be resolved by Calthorpe’s plan or the FEMA survey. The first may not address the issue at all, and the second will tell us that the land is in the floodway, which we already know. So how would that knowledge change anything? It wouldn’t.

    Should we develop land in the floodway, or shouldn’t we? and if we do, what uses do we allow there? Personally, I would rather the land be a natural area (NOT a park!!), but if a use must be made, then a parking structure is the next best use. I think that the use of this land in exchange for development of the Kline’s lot and the First & Washtington lot is reasonable, especially if we can somehow package in that the two City lots further north are minimally developed. It isn’t an all or nothing game, no matter what the Friends group says.
       —KGS    Jun. 8 '05 - 09:31AM    #
  19. hi dale,

    i’m glad we agree – no matter how long the dda has ruminated about these three sites, it still amounts in-part to developing in a floodway. that much is irrefutable. and the costs to the environment and public for that are quite substantial. it truly is a lost opportunity if the dda plan for first/william proceeds with a parking structure on-site.

    don’t buy the placating hype about affordability so easily about how this does much more than a token effort for affordability, in fact, i guarantee you, home prices and condo prices nearby will increase in value because of it. you simply cannot dictate affordability to a market.

    the friends are not trying to tell the public how the greenway should be developed, we’re simply trying to preserve, for the public, the only three public properties in an environmentally unique and sensitive corridor.
       —bob kuehne    Jun. 8 '05 - 09:37AM    #
  20. KGS,

    Yeah, my biggest problem with the Friends has been their “all or nothing” attitude about the three city sites they want to be parks and only parks. There are reasonable plans for both the Washington and North Main sites that include partial development of the sites (in the North main case, I think it’s 20% of the site that is outside the floodway, leaving 80% of the site undeveloped, e.g.).

    I think the real argument that needs to be resolved is whether we should build a parking structure on the First and William site. Before this whole greenway hullaballoo, many of the Friends types were organizing specifically around that issue. I’m not convinced either way on what’s the best use for that site. I don’t think there’s a compelling case for a large new park in the area, but nor am I convinced that building a large structure and impermiable surface is a good idea in the floodway (though I’m not sure how this would be significantly different from the surface lot that’s there now).
       —Scott Trudeau    Jun. 8 '05 - 09:47AM    #
  21. Also, a point of clarification (I think everyone here knows this, but hey):

    The three sites the Friends are interested in preserving as parks are not the same three sites in the DDA’s three site plan. The only site that overlaps in these discussions is the First and William site. The DDA’s three site plan involves First & William (currently surface parking; proposed structure), First & Washington (the old, crumbling structure), and the Kline’s lot on S. Ashley. The three sites the Friends want to convert into parks are First & William, 415 W. Washington St. (city yard) and 721 N. Main St. (city fleet services yard). I should gmaptrack this stuff so it’s a little more clear …
       —Scott Trudeau    Jun. 8 '05 - 09:56AM    #
  22. I have to say that I appreciate the Friends’ latest tactic, as represented by BobK’s comment.

    There will, at any time, be some study, or some project, going on that could imaginably include the sites in the Three Site Plan, or the sites in the Friends’ park system, or the Allen Creek watershed. By demanding that we take no action until we have all the information (unless, of course, we take the clearly better step of devoting the land to a park!), the Friends have a delaying tactic that they can apply forever.

    Of course, it’s not so simple as the compromise KGS is suggesting – let part of 1st/Washington turn into a parking structure and leave the other two Friends-targetted sites be minimally developed. Once you get into 415 W. Washington, the Friends start to come in conflict with the folks who want to see affordable artists’ studio space on that site – and those people will no doubt be bowled over, having nowhere near the clout of the DDA with which to defend themselves.

    The most interesting part, of course, with be the North Main Yard, where we’ll have the Friends saying, “Make it all a park!” and other people saying, “Some park, some affordable housing!” and then we get to watch poor Margaret’s head explode from directly conflicting loyalties.
       —Murph    Jun. 8 '05 - 10:25AM    #
  23. North Main Yard is exactly where we could use some arts space, seeing as that area is already an epicenter for music and arts… Natural Canvas Gallery, Bad Idea House, former Totally Awesome House, and just lots of musicians and artists living in that neighborhood on and west of North Main.
       —Brandon    Jun. 8 '05 - 10:45AM    #
  24. Ask the drain commissioner what she thinks the difference would be between a parking structure and a park in terms of stormwater management in the creekshed.

    I still haven’t heard a strong argument for the improvement in flood or stormwater management from anyone. The proposed structure would be an improvement over the existing situation (structure on smaller footprint vs. impermeable lot fill with cars—which perhaps constitute a larger overall obstruction—plus improvements to the drain, for which funding has been determined.)

    One thing the FEMA remapping might help with is determining whether the mass of, and obstruction created by, a parking structure would result in more homes being flooded by a 100-year flood. If the floodplain were to only expand by a foot or two at most, say, from the near edge of a house’s foundation to the middle, then this would be much ado about nothing. (Does it matter whether a basement floods eight inches rather than just six inches? Four feet rather than three and a half feet?)

    But then, this is about parks apparently, not really about stormwater management, or we’d be talking about the Pioneer High School parking lot. This is also about downtown parking, of course, and I’m still open to other possible scenarios that would put a structure elsewhere (though I think someone would have mentioned it by now if there were a better candidate.)
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 8 '05 - 10:49AM    #
  25. Well,

    I can tell you what I told Margaret the last time that we spoke:

    Here’s how you can tell that this has nothing to do with parks, greenspace, or environmentalism:

    The Friends have no formal position on building more parks in Ann Arbor. They are not saying “we have a serious shortage of greenspace in Ann Arbor, and we need to aggressively study where and when these parks need to go before it is too late”.

    Their only postition is that they want a park adjacent to their homes. This is a huge red flag. As I told Margaret, this is one of those “appearance of impropriety” gigs where the conflict of interest is so blatant, that anyone with half a brain must sit back and ask themselves “is this park honestly in the best interest of all of the citizens of Ann Arbor?”. I have to say that my personal answer is a resounding no.

    Murph,

    You’re gonna see more and more of this delaying tactic as you work with the DDA. This is the weapon of choice. No council person wants to be seen as hasty or misguided. They are in a tough position. In response to one of JulieW’s questions from months ago (I know, I’m real quick on the draw), this is why council sees zoning changes as a priority for development even though studies have shown that zoning isn’t the issue.

    What is the issue is that citizens who wish to kill a project starts when a land owner has to file for a zoning change by saying “hey, this doesn’t even fit the code”. The next step is to ask for more time to look at all sides of the issue…..which is why you hear the phrase “vote to table” so often at both council and the planning commission meetings…...
       —todd    Jun. 8 '05 - 10:54AM    #
  26. it’s pretty clear what your position is murph, and to claim you can wear a dda hat and a ‘concerned citizen’ hat is disingenuous. you’re on their payroll.

    why, the hell, are we paying to study the new floodplain/way if the dda has no interest in using that study to make good decisions?

    why, the hell, are we paying to come up with a comprehensive vision for downtown zoning if the dda has no interest in using that study to make good decisions?
       —bob kuehne    Jun. 8 '05 - 11:29AM    #
  27. “to claim you can wear a dda hat and a ‘concerned citizen’ hat is disingenuous. you’re on their payroll.”

    Do you care to retract that, Bob?
       —Dale    Jun. 8 '05 - 12:13PM    #
  28. Being a property owner who will profit from a large increase in your home’s value from being close to the greenway is even more disingenuous. Where’s the attack on the neighbors for that?

    Besides, Murph has been consistent in what he has been advocating from long before he became an intern with the DDA. They aren’t paying him to say this stuff.
       —KGS    Jun. 8 '05 - 12:16PM    #
  29. Bob,

    I’m not entirely sure that either the floodplain study or the zoning changes have anything to do with the DDA plan.

    Can you elaborate on what information will be gained by waiting?

    We already know that the 1st and William lot is in the floodway, and that the maps won’t change so much as to exclude it….

    As to the zoning changes, why would you think that this information would have any impact on the placement of the 3 sites?

    Sincere questions.
       —todd    Jun. 8 '05 - 12:41PM    #
  30. todd,

    seemingly, we all want the same thing: smart development of downtown. so far, we’ve heard the dda plan, now we’re hearing from the public on both the dda plan, and an alternate plan for one of those three sites.

    aspects of the three site plan are fine, but not in their entirety. i’m for increased density downtown, affordable housing, etc. i happen to think the parking structure is a mistake – it’s insensitive development environmentally, contextually, and pragmatically.

    i’m also for preserving and improving natural features downtown, chief among them, the only unique natural feature bridging a multiplicity of neighborhoods. that is, the greenway.
       —bob kuehne    Jun. 8 '05 - 12:59PM    #
  31. Bob K, can you answer something for me, then?

    Environmentally speaking, a green park as described on the Friends website – with grass, shelters for bicycles, play equipment, shuffleboard, a horseshoe pit, sandlots, etc – is functionally no different from a parking lot. The rain absorption, runoff, and flood control is the same for grass as it is for concrete. This is a well known-fact used in landscape architecture when designing drainage for a site.

    So how can the greenway actually be any better?
       —KGS    Jun. 8 '05 - 01:25PM    #
  32. Although a flat play area is not great environmentally, bulk is also of importance when talking about floodways so yes, a parking structure would have more impact to FEMA than a flat lot or a ball field, which in turn, is worse than a rain garden. It isn’t a question of six inches vs. eight inches of water in a basement—there are very real financial and building implications to having any part of your property in a floodplain or floodway (even an inch of your property in the floodplain can require flood insurance, even if there are no buildings in the floodplain). A one foot difference in the outer edge of the floodplain could affect hundreds of buildings and building sites all along the Allen Creek floodway.

    So I have a question for everyone. Think back to three years ago before there was a three-site plan or the Friends, and think about your answer if someone had pointed out City-owned property around the city and asked you the question “where downtown would be a good place to put a parking structure”? Would you honestly ever have said, “First and Washington”?

    This just seems like a lousy place to put a parking structure. It is not easily accessible, is not near any particular concentration of businesses, is not centrally located, is not supported by people who live downtown, is in a floodway, and is expensive (not to mention that the DDA plan does not even add any parking spots to the downtown area). So tell me again why it is a good idea to do this? The first site that comes to my mind is the Library lot or parts of it. You know what the DDA’s answer to that is? “It is too far away.” Which is funny because it is closer to all but about four stores on South Main than the First and Washington site. So I’m not convinced. This may be the best scenario given those three sites (which is what Council specified to the DDA), but the best thing for the City or local businesses? Not at all. I think asking the DDA for a plan given all the city lots and they would have come up with a far different scenario. So why the insistence by the DDA that this is the one true plan and the lack of flexibility regarding any other options?
       —Juliew    Jun. 8 '05 - 02:26PM    #
  33. I’d still like someone to tell me how we’ll build a greenway further north along the tracks where it’s on a sharply-elevated embankment and passes overtop of several streets on bridges.
       —Brandon    Jun. 8 '05 - 02:57PM    #
  34. Arrgghh, of course I meant First and William.
       —Juliew    Jun. 8 '05 - 02:59PM    #
  35. We’ve been debating this for months now, and finally someone who is against the DDA plan comes up with a completely rational point as to why the DDA plan may not be the best of all situations. I love it. Great question, JulieW.

    From my perspective, Julie, I don’t understand the inner workings of the current nearby businesses together with the parking needs of the new buildings that will come about as a result of the DDA plan.

    In other words, I don’t know if this is a terrific location or not….so, that’s a great question.

    The best barometer that I have to answer this question is that I haven’t heard or read of a single local businessperson who is against the DDA plan. That’s the best that I can give you.
       —todd    Jun. 8 '05 - 03:03PM    #
  36. “The best barometer that I have to answer this question is that I haven’t heard or read of a single local businessperson who is against the DDA plan. That’s the best that I can give you.”

    ....I forgot to add, and perhaps this is obvious, that the very fact that the DDA thinks that this is the best possible solution tells me that it is. The collection of people who sit on the the DDA are in the best possible position to gauge what the best course of action is. Since I haven’t heard some business person scream bloody murder about the location of the garage, I have to assume that it’s the best choice.
       —todd    Jun. 8 '05 - 03:11PM    #
  37. One of the reasons I heard early on from downtown business people is that First and William was a site that could have parking built on it without taking away much parking while it was being built (unlike the Klines lot). That is a little different now because people are parking at First and William, but in general is still true because it is not currently a high use parking spot.

    Downtown merchants have to support the DDA because the DDA holds all the purse strings and, since no other plan has been proposed, clearly downtown merchants will support any parking structure over no parking structure. If there were multiple options which included parking, I think few merchants would choose the First and William spot as the ideal spot for a parking structure. I do think that there needs to be more parking downtown which is part of my problem with the DDA 3-site plan, as it does nothing to add parking and in fact, ignores that the First Martin-owned lot on First and Huron is likely to be pulled at any time leaving the Main St area with even fewer spots.

    And Todd, if the people on the DDA are in the best possible position to gauge what the best course of action is for downtown businesses, aren’t people like Margaret in the best possible position to gauge what is best for downtown residents? I’m not trying to be adversarial, I just think that a healthy city is a combination of businesses and residents and it is smart to listen to both sides, especially if you want more people to move into and stay in the downtown area. I don’t think the Friends and their supporters nor the DDA and their supporters have been very good about actually listening to what the other side has to say.
       —Juliew    Jun. 8 '05 - 04:06PM    #
  38. Juliew comes through again – I too have wondered about the push for the parking on that site for “downtown” parking. There are times I’ve walked downtown and times I’ve driven downtown. Unless I was on an excursion to the Blind Pig, I can’t ever imagine choosing to park in that area for visiting downtown businesses, restraurants, etc. I do recall parking over there once when I couldn’t get into the lot by BP. But I can’t imagine a lot of people with a downtown destination would end up there. What am I missing here?
       —John Q    Jun. 8 '05 - 04:26PM    #
  39. Bob,

    Aw, (sniff) look. . .the first attack on my integrity as a planner! (/me wipes away tears of joy) This is a significant milestone in my career, you know. Thanks for being there with me for it.

    Of course, I’m surprised it was you. You, after all, know that I was talking the same line 3 months ago, before I ever knew the DDA had an internship, that I am now, and you no doubt recall that I was very upfront in stating that I had been hired by the DDA when it happened. I expected the accusations of impropriety to come from somebody who didn’t know what I was like before I was a hired gun.

    On the other hand, it strikes me that I don’t know what you do for a living or where you live. Considering your concern for bias, I expect that you live somewhere in the vicinity of, say, Platt Road, on the far side of town from the Allen Creek, where you are in no danger of a conflict of interest. Am I hot or cold?
       —Murph    Jun. 8 '05 - 05:13PM    #
  40. Well, to clarify my feelings about the current DDA, there is a nice mix of developers and local business interests. They are very familiar with commerical and public sites in the downtown area.

    Pragmatically speaking, I can’t think of another site for a parking structure that would satisfy all of the DDA requirements as well as generate badly needed $$. My point is that if they knew of another site, we’d have heard about it.

    What other piece of public property can hold a parking structure in the downtown area that will allow for parking consolidation?

    I don’t think that there is one. Do you know, Julie?

    And to answer your question about Ms. Wong…..I do think think that she is a fine representative for the interests of residents. She should be heard, and in my opinion, she has been heard. If you ask me, and I know you aren’t, I think that the DDA plan of having a parking structure with a smaller adjacent park shows that they are indeed listening to Ms. Wong.

    You’ll also hear on Monday that the DDA is working with local artist groups to make it as nice of a space as possible. They are cognizant of the needs/desires/ of the local homeowners, but they are also required to look out for downtown businesses. It’s a tough gig.
       —todd    Jun. 8 '05 - 05:19PM    #
  41. “But I can’t imagine a lot of people with a downtown destination would end up there. What am I missing here?”

    Erm, maybe that it’s less than a two block walk from Main street? If that’s not a common downtown destination, I don’t know what is….
       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 8 '05 - 05:54PM    #
  42. “That is a little different now because people are parking at First and William, but in general is still true because it is not currently a high use parking spot.”

    JulieW (and John Q), as Bruce pointed out, it’s not that far from Main Street. My guess is that people would rather have a structure on the Kline’s lot than at 1st & Wm from a parkers perspective. Yet the latter lot is usually full. So I don’t see what you mean by it not being a high use spot, Julie.

    From a broader perspective (which we would all do well to use in this discussion), a structure on the Kline’s lot makes less sense for all the reasons that the DDA has spelled out: public vs. private development, best use of land, coordinated development, housing can’t be built in the floodway, etc.

    Let’s admit it, we’re all (downtown visitors) spoiled being able to park in a surface lot within a block of Main St. When there’s a development on Ashley and at 1st & Washington, we’ll be just as content to park in a structure at 1st & Wm as we would one next to the library or 4th & Wm or anywhere else. Our feelings about it (as parkers) are really about surface lot or on-street vs. structure parking. We need to get used to the changes that will be made downtown and be positive about them (assuming we’ve thoroughly examined them.)

    Again, I’d like to look at more than the TSP to see what might make the most sense for parking and overall transportation as well as housing, but I’m comfortable with the proposed structure location (in part because I suspect its impact on flooding would be insignificant. Still waiting to be corrected.)

    As for more parking, we may need to put a structure at the library lot, too, if Martin develops his. I don’t think a single structure is a solution in that case, regardless of location.

    One immediate step that could be taken (as Murph and I briefly noted a while back) would be to convert more street space to parking. That could be another stop-gap measure to allow us to get the multiple study results if the 1st & Washington structure has to be (more) closed before December. I realize now that since that structure is used for evening parking as well as daytime commuters, incentives for alternatives wouldn’t be a complete solution.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 8 '05 - 07:53PM    #
  43. The charge given to the DDA from City Council was to work with these three sites. As far as I know there was no charge to the DDA to look at other city-owned parcels. My contention is that this is short-sighted and doesn’t actually provide what is best for the city. Yes, this site is two blocks from the southern end of Main St, but it is as much as five or six blocks from the more northerly (but still south of Huron) parts of Main. Or to put it in terms we can all understand: the First and William site is closer to Leopold Brothers than it is to Arbor Brewing. The DDA even says in their literature that 3-4 blocks is farther than people want to walk.

    The reason I like the Library lot for a parking structure is because it can have underground parking, is big enough to consolidate almost all the monthly parking necessary for the city (say three stories underground with six stories above ground, could be built in multiple phases if necessary, and is central to all parts of downtown. If most of the monthly parkers and downtown workers of all shifts could be centrally located in the Library lot (plus at least as much short-term parking as there is now), then the other existing lots around downtown which are closer to businesses could be freed up for the short-term parkers. With Ann-Ashley and the proposed site at First and William, long-term parking is heavily weighted toward the west side of town and is useless for any other part of town.

    I know that there is talk of using the Library lot for development. But I think a city needs to understand that at this time parking is part of the development. You can’t just put a parking structure on any available “non-buildable for any other use” piece of land and expect it to provide what you need to sustain a downtown. Business owners are adamant that they need parking close by, and the First and William lot isn’t close to most businesses.
       —Juliew    Jun. 8 '05 - 10:47PM    #
  44. Putting a structure at the Library Lot makes more sense to me. I think it’s the lot I’ve used most frequently. That probably is why I didn’t grasp the significance of the proximity of the proposed lot to Main Street. It’s not one of my downtown destinations. Yes, it’s part of downtown and I almost always make my way down there at some point but it’s almost never where I start or where I’m going. But that’s just my perspective.
       —John Q.    Jun. 9 '05 - 12:23AM    #
  45. I will note that, with small n, the 1st and William lot is full on Thursday/Friday/Saturday evenings. It doesn’t fill until after the Klines and Brown lots, and not until 1st/Washington and 4th/Washington are almost full, but it usually fills while 4th/William has a few empty floors left.

    At a similar time on a weekend evening, Liberty Square is nearly empty – almost no cars above the 3rd floor, and Maynard St. only approaches full if there’s, say, a John Prine concert going on.

    From a load-balancing / demand-response point of view, my opinion is that 1st/William is in the area where more excess demand is. The library lot has 4th/William a block in one direction and Maynard street a block in the other, and those are not usually maxed out.

    As I said, though, small n. For a statistically significant sample, I’d need to spend much more time looking. Note that this is also affected by 1st/William being free in the evening right now (though Klines still fills first, and people aren’t trekking from 1st/William to State & Liberty, unless they’re me), and by the students being gone.
       —Murph    Jun. 9 '05 - 09:07AM    #
  46. Murph, I can see your point, but during the day, I think the balance changes with more use of Tally Hall, Maynard, and the Library. Tally Hall (Liberty Square—I never knew that was the name!) is not used as much because, well, not that many people know it is there. I was talking to people who have lived in Ann Arbor for six or seven years who didn’t know that was actually available for public parking (and it isn’t until after 3:00, right?). The auto entrance is in an area with very little retail so unless you go to one of the churches across the street, there isn’t a reason to go there. If there was an auto entrance off Liberty, I think it would get much more use. Even more signs would help.

    Part of my interest in parking at the Library is to create more of a transition between Main St and State/Liberty by strengthening the William, Liberty, and Washington corridors to State. As Murph pointed out, very few people would walk from First and William to State. But if your car was in the middle, it would be more likely. I still have a lot of misgivings about promoting big retail changes on Ashley when mostly that would mean destroying small local businesses while doing nothing to strengthen downtown as a whole.
       —Juliew    Jun. 9 '05 - 09:37AM    #
  47. Juliew, keep in mind that the 1st & Washington structure (the first domino) and the Klines lot will most likely be developed in any case. (Downtown housing, remember?) If we only put a structure at the library lot that could hurt the Main Street area significantly, a conclusion Murph’s rough demand analysis would seem to support. Especially if Martin develops the Brown block. And even if the 1st & Wm lot isn’t made into a park.

    Also, I think that most people using the library lot currently are going one way or the other (or just to the library), not to both Main and State. I think the same would be true if there were a structure there and even if there were more retail in that middle stretch of Liberty. (I think we may not have the population to support that much retail—unless of course we put in even more parking. Your idea of housing on Liberty Square might help, too.) I suspect that many of the few people who want to visit both districts would drive between the two. Your goal is admirable, but a tough make given the distance involved. Maybe the Link has a future role after all.

    In some ways I’ve liked the idea of putting more parking next to the library, but I can’t get around the need for parking on the west side of Main. Lack of it (and the subsequent foot traffic) might be a bigger threat to those small businesses on Ashley (and W. Liberty, W. Washington, and First as well) than new retail on the Klines lot.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 9 '05 - 11:35AM    #
  48. “Your idea of housing on Liberty Square might help, too.”

    Sorry, I meant Liberty Plaza, not Liberty Square.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 9 '05 - 11:38AM    #
  49. I expect there will, eventually, be some parking at the library lot. It’s going to eventually be developed, and it’s a large enough block that housing or office on the interior would be hard due to light constraints. I’d expect retail and office on the street frontages, upper-floor housing looking over the library, credit union, and Seva sides, and structured parking structure (or other large, bulky use – urban WalMart? (ducking, running) in the center.

    As much as possible, though, I’d like to keep parking at the edges and have people walk (or LINK) to their destinations. If we’re going to draw lines around downtown to delimit the neighborhoods, it would make sense to me to keep parking close to the boundaries and close to arterials, to minimize the amount of traffic running either through downtown (what portion of car traffic on Liberty is purely due to the placement of the Maynard St. entrances?) or through the neighborhoods.
       —Murph.    Jun. 9 '05 - 01:03PM    #
  50. Steve, the Library lot and the First and William lot are the same distance away from Main. Even if you count the Ashley entrance as the official entrance to First and William, most of the Main Street area is as close (or closer) to the Library lot as it is to First and William. It is true that perception is key and people think that the Library lot is farther away but mostly I think that is because they have to walk by a block they perceive as “scary” with the bus station and the Y. I don’t see how parking at the Library rather than First and William could “hurt” Main Street. It could affect the businesses on First, but not Main.

    I guess I can see the rationale of putting parking structures like moats around the downtown, but I think that is limiting for businesses and disrupts the feeling of connection from the downtown to the in-close neighborhoods which I think is important. My preference for downtown lots would be for concentrated parking centrally with people radiating out rather than diffuse parking outside with people radiating in. It seems less confusing that way for a visitor. If most of the parking is in a central spot, people will know where to park. I just don’t want to see another Ann-Ashley or spend all this money on a nice but too-small spot like Fourth and Washington. Speaking of that, I know that can have floor(s) added, why wasn’t that maxed out originally?

    Murph, it is interesting to note that not only do surface lots fill first, which we knew, but that the structures seem to fill by floors. The second floor of all structures fills first (thus maxing out First and Washington), then up to the third floor and so on.
       —Juliew    Jun. 9 '05 - 04:12PM    #
  51. Advanced warning: this will be a relatively long post.

    I would like to bring this discussion back to the question of who should be on the upcoming parking deck / greenway hearing this coming Monday night. To me, the key missing official on the panel is whoever at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality currently issues state floodplain permits under Michigan Compiled Laws Part 31. Any DDA parking deck will require such a floodplain permit.

    My opinion (derived from my experience in the 1990s as a watershed planner with, successively, of the Drain Commissioner’s Office, the Great Lakes Commission, and the Huron River Watershed Council, prior to law school and then my move out here to Portland, OR) is that the DEQ has been very permissive and lax in issuing permits for projects in the Allens Creek floodway, to the point perhaps of risking public safety. This track record is probably reflective of DEQ’s record statewide. It would be good to have the pertinent DEQ floodplain permit writer on the panel to be held accountable.

    In the case of the proposed parking deck on the First and William site, which is almost completely within the Allens Creek floodway, I find it very difficult to see how the DDA’s parking deck can meet the legal standard for issuing a floodplain permit. At the least, whoever is the DDA rep at the hearing this week should be queried on why the DDA thinks it can meet this standard.

    The standard is based on the term “harmful interference.” The DEQ’s Part 31 implementing rules, which can be found on the DEQ’s website, define this term at R323.1311(g):

    “”Harmful interference” means causing an increased stage or change in direction of flow of a river or stream that causes, or is likely to cause, any of the following:
    (i) Damage to property.
    (ii) A threat to life.
    (iii) A threat of personal injury.
    (iv) Pollution, impairment, or destruction of water or other natural resources.”

    The Part 31 rule has a stringent standard for issuing floodplain permits in the floodway (where water actually flows in a flood), and a more relaxed standard for issuing floodplain permits in the floodplain (or “flood fringe,” where the water just rises, and does not necessarily move). The floodway standard, relevant to the DDA’s proposed parking deck, is at R 323.1315, “Criteria for determining permissibility of encroachments:”

    ”(1) An encroachment in the floodway which, acting alone or in combination with existing or future similar works, may cause harmful interference shall not be approved. In making this determination, an analysis shall be made for a range of discharges up to and including the 100-year flood discharge modified to reflect changes in land use and development reasonably anticipated to occur within the watershed up to twenty years from the date of application.”

    Step back and reflect on this standard for a bit. There is a presumption against issuing a permit for a structure in the floodway. The encroachment does not have to guarantee harmful interference; if it “may” cause harmful interference, the permit shall not be issued. Similarly, the increased flood stage or change in direction of flow of a river must only be “likely” to cause one or more of the four negative outcomes listed. Furthermore, the applicant has an onerous burden in undertaking the analysis mandated by the last sentence in R 323.1315.

    My sense of DEQ’s permitting pattern is that the agency 1) adequately prohibits projects unless they do not raise the base flood elevation; 2) does not prohibit encroachments that will change the direction of flow of a river or stream, particularly when the river or stream is in a storm drain except for during flood events; and 3) generally does not require an analysis of changes in land use and development “reasonably anticipated to occur within the watershed up to twenty years from the date of application.”

    An example that I feel supports my view of lax DEQ floodplain permit issuance is a small office building on the corner of N. First and W Kingsley. I urge open minded people, prior to the upcoming City Council hearing on the DDA three-site plan, to take a stroll over to this project and examine it, then ponder the DDA proposal for a First and William parking deck.

    The N. First and W Kingsley corner, even prior to the construction of this office building, had proven itself to be quite hazardous. It sits right above the main trunk of the underground Allens Creek storm drain as it slopes down to the Huron River. This trunk was put in place in the 1920s or thereabouts, and the decades of increasing imperviousness up-watershed has rendered the drain in this stretch severely under-capacity. In a good rain event, the storm flow fills the pipe, then surges up to the surface on the corner, causing a significant pooling or ponding that overflows the street and encroaches onto neighboring properties.

    In the late 1990s, I tracked down two Ann Arbor News articles about an event that took place earlier in the 1990s. During a heavy rain event, a woman driving down the hill westbound on W. Kingsley at night plowed right into the deep pool that had developed from the surcharging Allens Creek storm drain pipe. Her car stalled, and the water filled the passenger compartment up to her neck. She froze in panic, and did not even attempt to extricate herself. She just began screaming. Fortunately, one of the neighbors in one of the houses on the south side of W. Kingsley came and rescued her out of her car.

    Arguably, the office building that has since been constructed at that corner increases risks posed by the situation at this corner. Take a FEMA floodplain map out with you on your walk. If you superimpose the footprint of that building on the Allens Creek floodway, there is quite a close fit. The building is essentially a dam across what will be the Allens Creek floodway in a major flood event. If you take a look at the whole watershed, the great majority of the Allens Creek watershed, and its flood, is aimed like a funnel, pinpoint on that site.

    The DEQ issued a floodplain permit for this project. The building arguably will not raise the base flood level. The first floor is elevated above the base flood level as shown on the FEMA map, and in fact has a buffer of a foot or two above this level, if I recall correctly. The space below the first floor is empty, and will fill with flood volume during a flood event. So much for prong #1.

    On the other hand, however, I think it certain that in a significant flood event, the building WILL change the direction of flow of the Allens Creek as it surcharges out of the storm drain and flows overland downhill towards the Huron River. There are apertures in the facade of the building designed to allow floodwater to pass through under the first floor. (There are screens across the apertures to keep animals out of the empty space, and these screens apparently can pop out and back into the open space under the pressure of oncoming floodwater so as not to obstruct it.) But there is more than sufficient wall mass otherwise to deflect the change the direction of flow to the left or right, or, to repel the floodwater backwards into the pool accumulating at the intersection and perhaps against the houses on the south side of W. Kingsley.

    What’s more, DEQ appears to have issued the permit upon the assumption that floodwater does not contain debris. It seems inconceivable that a significant Allens Creek flood would not have tree trunks and large tree branches that would flow into this building, and by the force of the vortex of water flowing into these apertures, the trunks and branches would get stuck right across the apertures. Then would come the plastic bags or other matter and block the space between the trunks and branches, then the leaves, etc. Soon the apertures would likely be blocked up, and the building would in fact become an efficient small dam. What would happen if someone late at night drove into that intersection with not just a pool, but with a flowing flood obstructed by a small dam?

    (As to the third prong, I no longer remember from the file whether DEQ required the analysis of land use changes and development.)

    Now, having spent some time at N. First and W. Kingsley, stroll over to S. First and W. William, and ponder what would happen there if the DDA constructed a parking deck on that site.

    Up front, I do not think the First and William site is as dangerous as the N. First and W. Kingsley site, if for no other reason that many of the branches of the Allens Creek drain that run up the west side connect to the main trunk line below First and William, where the DDA wants to put its parking deck.

    But there is some risk. The DDA could perhaps mitigate the risk of raising the base flood level, for example by leaving the ground floor empty, constructing subterranean tanks to add flood capacity, etc. (Q: do empty parked cars raise the base flood level?)

    However, I don’t think the DDA can get by the likelihood that the parking deck will change the direction of flow of the Allen’s Creek flood. The empty first floor of a DDA parking deck would have to be enclosed. If it were left open, it would be a safety hazard in itself: a potential place for rape, robbery, or other illicit activities; or a good shelter for independent-minded homeless people. I certainly would not want to walk past it at night. On the other hand, in enclosing it with a wall, or even primarily only with metal bars spaced close enough to each other to prevent people passing through them, the wall would deflect the course of the moving floodwater, or, again, debris would likely collect on the bars to create a wall that would deflect or repel the course of the moving floodwater. Because on one side of the deck is a steep hillside, and on the other side is a large building, the Eaton Building, the possibility exists for 1) pooling on W. William by obstructed flood water; and/or, 2) evocative of the language in the floodway standard, the parking deck and the Eaton Building (already in the floodway) would “act in combination” with each other to create a more intensified flow through the now more-narrow space, i.e., First St. between the parking deck and the Eaton Building. Either of these is “likely” to cause one or more of the four negative consequences enumerated in the definition of “harmful interference.”

    The precise risk to the public safety probably can’t be quantified. I imagine that the Allens Creek drain almost certainly already surcharges at First and William. And as far as a flood is concerned, the public is at a disadvantage: because the Allens Creek is in a storm drain, the public does not get gradual notice that the creek is rising and turning into a flood. We know the flood is happening only when its happening. It is foreseeable that—similarly to the event on W. Kingsley—a driver coming out of downtown Ann Arbor during a heavy rain at night and heading down the steep hill on W. William could plow into a deep pool of floodwater caused both by the inadequate capacity of the underground drain and the damming effect of a DDA parking deck, with potentially tragic consequences. One could probably develop a long list of foreseeable risks and potential unforeseeable risks.

    Why not just evoke the “precautionary principle,” and rather than run some level of risk, just avoid the risk. My only other post on this blog suggested that the DDA parking deck, if it is needed at all, should be built into the neighboring hillside, under both sides of S. Ashley, where the Kline’s lot is already part of the “3-site plan.” I may involve some extra cost, but perhaps the extra cost is worth it to ensure that someone in the future does suffer needless injury or death in a flood.
       —Jim Nicita    Jun. 11 '05 - 04:58PM    #
  52. Jim and others:
    Some good analysis. I have printed out the whole series of comments and will make them available to the planning commission. I hope everyone goes to the hearing on Monday June 13, 2005 at the council chambers, 7:00 at city hall. The most knowledgable person from the city on the topic of floodplains, floodways and mitigation is Jerry Hancock, the city’s natural features coordinator. I don’t know if he’s going to be at the city’s hearing. Janis Bobrin knows about the creek, underground, but Jerry knows about what can and cannot be built in the creek-shed.
    As to the format of this event, the planning commission planned to have as many informational speakers as possible before the public comment period (including the AA Railroad which owns much of the right-of-way that the greenway people covet)as well as proponents of different plans in order to put the public comments in context. The council seems to be working on the same principle but with not as many informational speakers. We’ll see.
    Planning Commission is still planning, as of now, to hold its own hearing at a later date.
    The videotape of this event will also help Calthorp (the planners doing this new comprehensive study for downtown) to get a running start on this issue including the greenway proposals). My biggest fear is that council is going to try to act on the DDA “3 site plan” before the Calthorp study is in final in December. Why spend $200,000 on a study if you are going to pre-empt it? What’s the hurry after all these years? How much actual planning went into the DDA 3 site plan?
       —Eric Lipson.    Jun. 12 '05 - 05:02PM    #
  53. Ah, I recognize those talking points. Looks like somebody’s chosen which constituency to parrot . . .

    I’d suggest anybody who expects the Calthorpe study to deliver The One Best Use for each and every piece of land in downtown read the scope of work . What exactly do we expect the Calthorpe process to give us that will make everything magically clear? Personally, I expect the TSP will be more in keeping with the recommendations and tools that Calthorpe’s team delivers than the current code.
       —Murph    Jun. 12 '05 - 08:17PM    #
  54. My “hurry” is this—Ann Arbor has been complacent for many years in efforts to keep the city broadly affordable (not just niche affordable in subsidized housing). Ann Arbor has not been accommodating its fair share of countywide growth. Ann Arbor has not been supporting an artistic community. Ann Arbor has not been supporting local business by keeping things affordable. Ann Arbor has not been promoting environmentally friendly development through densification.

    The TSP makes inroads in each of these areas—baby steps for the amount and type of development that is needed. No other plan or initiative is even on the radar.

    The “wait for Calthorpe” line on this plan is puzzling for a number of reasons. The TSP is TOTALLY in line with the DRTF recommendations—the impetus for hiring Calthorpe. The DDA was also involved in selecting and funding Calthorpe’s hiring. And both groups are concerned with downtown development. Why would ANYONE expect that the outcome of Calthorpe Associates’ would conflict with the rather established and transparent goals of the DDA, the city, and the TSP? The ONLY group with which the TSP (and Calthorpe, I’d wager) does and will conflict is the greenway lobby.
       —Dale    Jun. 12 '05 - 09:45PM    #
  55. First, I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory that Calthorpe will just rubber-stamp the Three Site Plan because they were hired by DDA. At this point I believe that they are professional planners who are taking an unbiased look at downtown. Second, the Scope of work is not clear as to what they will deliver. No, I don’t expect a plan for every site in the downtown. But those three very important sites and several others will likely be discussed in more detail. The Downtown Res. Taskforce report is just a framework for a beginning of the discussion. It is not a final plan or a detailed plan. And again, I have no idea how DDA came up with the famous TSP. What data did they use? Whose input did they get? Do we really want to consolidate ALL of the parking from First and Washington and Kleins lot into a 550 space lot on the fringe of downtown on William? Who thinks people will park there in the evenings? I’m told that the Ashely/Ann structure (even closer to the heart of downtown)is significantly underutilized in the evening. I think I have seen what I consider to be a better proposal for more scatter-site parking. For example, a mixed-use development (including parking) on the Klein lot. I really want to see downtown development thoroughly examined before we move ahead with half-conceived “plans.” There is too much at stake. Let’s have a comprehensive, thorough process with LOTS of public input (which is one of Calthorpe’s strengths) before we allow a small group from the DDA or Council or business or greenway push through something that is based on ideology rather than study and actual planning. If we just want to densify downtown we could build 8.5 more tower plazas and get the 2500 new housing units that the DRTF wants. Is that how we want to go about it? I don’t think so. Let’s get as many creative, thoughtful, reasoned alternatives on the table in a very public process and get as much public support as possible so we can develop downtown and improve its liveability without losing its character and benefit the largest possible constituency rather than narrow interests.
       —Eric Lipson.    Jun. 13 '05 - 01:30AM    #
  56. I wouldn’t consider it a “conspiracy theory,” nor am I specifically advocating it. It is, however, a reasonable expectation for two thoughtful, urban-oriented bodies with similar values to come to similar conclusions when given similar information.
       —Dale    Jun. 13 '05 - 08:12AM    #
  57. Eric.

    Question. If you go by your description of the DEQ guidelines for permits, would it be fair to say that an application to install three parks and a walkway directly in a floodway would be summarily rejected on the grounds that it would fall under the DEQ’s “harmful interference” section…

    (i) Damage to property.
    (ii) A threat to life.
    (iii) A threat of personal injury.
    (iv) Pollution, impairment, or destruction of water or other natural resources.

    thanks.
       —todd    Jun. 13 '05 - 08:30AM    #
  58. “If we just want to densify downtown we could build 8.5 more tower plazas and get the 2500 new housing units that the DRTF wants. Is that how we want to go about it? I don’t think so. Let’s get as many creative, thoughtful, reasoned alternatives on the table in a very public process and get as much public support as possible so we can develop downtown and improve its liveability without losing its character and benefit the largest possible constituency rather than narrow interests.”

    Liked your post until you got this section. Do you honestly think that we are going to get anywhere near 2,500 housing units within the next decade in this town? No chance. Never happen.

    Question #2, do you not think that downtown Ann Arbor has already lost a vast majority of it’s character over the past 5 years? How is planning going to help this, assuming that the plans and studies that you wish to undertake will take a number of years to complete….not to mention the public discussion that you wish to have….

    And this all, of course, will not preclude unhappy homeowners from blocking projects (even well-planned projects) that encroach on their neighborhoods. You are assuming a willing public.
       —todd    Jun. 13 '05 - 08:38AM    #
  59. todd,

    when you say that

    “downtown Ann Arbor has already lost a vast majority of it’s [sic] character over the past 5 years”

    what characteristics were lost? what replaced them? how would you characterize downtown ann arbor today?

    thanks.
       —peter honeyman    Jun. 13 '05 - 09:15AM    #
  60. Peter,

    I don’t know if the five-year horizon is the best one – I think Phil D’Anieri’s 15 or 20 years is more appropriate. During that time, ownership of commercial property has become more consolidated and more absentee (Dr. Larry Molnar, UMBusiness, who worked with Peter Pollack on the State Street revitalization project a few years ago, and a similar study for South U. a while before that). Commercial rents have gone up, pushing out small independant businesses. The exceptions are the ones that own their space: the Main St. Ventures restaurants, for example, that bought their space when the retail fled to Briarwood can keep their spaces, while other businesses get squeezed.

    “What was lost and what replaced it?” I think the Decker Drugs to Noodles & Co. is a good example. Scott, you were saying that it’s rumored Arbor Vitae, a 40-some year old collective artists’ loft, will soon be kicked out for something else; any idea what? Somebody (I can’t remember who) is accumulating the south side of 300 Ashley in hopes of razing it all and redeveloping – and, yes, that includes the Fleetwood. Apparently the only thing stopping them right now is Hathaway’s Hideaway.

    “How would you characterize downtown Ann Arbor today?” Well, first go down to the “All Things Local” section at Borders, pick up the book “Ann Arbor (Wr)ites” and read Mark Hodesh’s chapter. Then meditate on the Village of Annarbour boundary signs for a while. That’ll sum things up.
       —Murph    Jun. 13 '05 - 10:34AM    #
  61. Peter,

    You’re not allowed to correct my spelling or syntax. Not because it’s rude, but because it’ll keep you far too busy….split infinitives, verb agreement issues, i’ve got it all, baby!

    Tangible changes:

    Del Rio
    Metzger’s
    Decker’s
    Harry’s
    Shoe store, can’t remember name (I’m a boot man)
    Arrival of Ben and Jerry’s, Potbelly, Noodles, etc.

    That’s just for starters. I’m sure Bob Dascola can come up with a much longer list.

    Intangible changes…..loss of less fortunate residents. Check the census. You’ll be shocked. Artists and working class out, wealthy—in.
       —todd    Jun. 13 '05 - 11:52AM    #
  62. (I think the crowning moment in all of this will be when Jefferson Market closes and is replaced by a Starbucks. Except, oh, wait. If Jefferson Market ever closes, it can’t open again as anything, since it’s a non-conforming use, and the zoning only tolerates it as long as it runs continuously.)
       —Murph.    Jun. 13 '05 - 12:27PM    #
  63. I don’t know about Ann Arbor’s zoning code, but other zoning codes I have worked with kill a nonconforming use once there is a one-year interruption. In other words, if Jefferson Market closed, and the building reopened a couple months later as some other business, that would probably continue the nonconforming use.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 13 '05 - 01:27PM    #
  64. (Checking Chapter 55, Article VII , though I can’t get a direct link to the chapter)

    It looks like the non-conforming use can be resumed within one year, but not changed to a different non-conforming use without appeal to the zoning board. I’m not sure how different a “different non-conforming use” would be, whether difference would be considered at the level of, e.g., “Retail sales … not more than 8,000 square feet”, or the level of “Food and beverages at eating and drinking places having a total seating capacity of not more than 50 seats.” Also, interesting to see that a building containing a non-conforming use may not be structurally altered to extend the life of the building. What when the non-conforming use is in a historic structure?
       —Murph.    Jun. 13 '05 - 01:37PM    #
  65. (1) Many stories of underground parking is not a reasonable outcome of development. While technically feasible, it is so outrageously expensive to build that it doesn’t even work financially in some major cities, let alone a little burg like Ann Arbor. I would not bank on more than one level of underground parking, no matter the site. There’s a reason the S. Forest parking structure has no underground parking! it all comes down to $$$. IIRC, it costs something like 8 times the cost to build one level above ground as 1 level below ground.

    (2) Jim said: The empty first floor of a DDA parking deck would have to be enclosed. If it were left open, it would be a safety hazard in itself: a potential place for rape, robbery, or other illicit activities; or a good shelter for independent-minded homeless people. In an otherwise great analysis of the problems of floodway development, this one point just doesn’t make any sense. What we need in terms of safety is a place as open and visible to the public (i.e. anyone walking by or living across the street) as possible. Enclosing the ground floor of the parking structure would result in a space that would be more dangerous for rape and robbery (out of sight of help), and more likely to house the homeless (who could sleep in relative privacy). The ground floor of the parking structure should therefore have just the columns necessary to support the floors above and very little else.

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. IMO, the Library lot is a better candidate for a ‘Central Park’ than any greenway, and here’s why:
    * central location between Main and State Streets, the two commercial hubs of downtown
    * convenient to Liberty, the connector between State and Main
    * can be an extention of Liberty Plaza, the only other existing park downtown
    * provides public greenspace for gatherings fosterd by the library (a HUGE benefit), or people enjoying both amentities
    * more likely to attract people out on their lunch hour since there are take-out restaurants nearby (Jerusalem Garden & Earthen Jar, for starters)
    * convenient demonstration space that could hold more people than the dinky plaza in front of the Federal building
    * ideally, this could be the prime location for Top of the Park!

    Of all the sites that the City owns downtown, the Library lot is the one I most want to save from development.
       —KGS    Jun. 13 '05 - 02:19PM    #
  66. But where does the parking needed by the Library go??
       —John Q    Jun. 13 '05 - 03:03PM    #
  67. Why, the structure at First & William, of course. ;-)

    Or Fourth & William. That’s even closer, and the top floor is often empty.

    I wonder how many people park at the Library lot to actually use the library? it seems not very many, but it’s hard to tell. Some people have this weird grudge against parking in structures, and I think they park at the library lot much as they would at First & William or Kline’s, before they would consider parking in any structure. I don’t understand it.
       —KGS    Jun. 13 '05 - 03:25PM    #
  68. KGS, I like your idea a lot for the Library area (very “Sunday in the Park with George”) as long as it did have provisions for Library parking. But if the City isn’t willing to give up a fairly useless and nonvaluable site like First and William without building on it, I can’t see them giving up the Library lot.
       —Juliew    Jun. 13 '05 - 03:33PM    #
  69. Ok yuese guys, I’ve been holding my tongue for ages but now I’m gonna have to blast yas. I thought maybe you’d come to your senses, grow up a little bit, but I can see you aint been knocked around enough by the winds of chance.
    I am a greenway supporter, true enough. However, this process has gotten me to look more closely at how business is conducted in Ann Arbor. Things are not looking good. Even if the financial side of things were totally correct(and they’re not), the decision-making methods, excluding all but the most lap dog variety of citizen from the process, is flawed.
    If you look at the projects on the DDA brag sheet on its web page, you’ll not be too confident in turning over control of our city’s future to such a collection of muddled minds. Tally Hall? And to compound that travesty, now the City even eschews that site for use as city hall overflow.
    Remember the Broadway bridge? Maybe you’all haven’t been around long enough to remember that the Professionals and experts had presented their little plan to us citizens as though we should enjoy having such a monstrosity in our midst. We said NO and got to work redesigning the bridge. The result allows the river to be seen and pedestrians and walkers to safely cross.
    My point is that the city belongs to everyone, not just the developers and the polititians and their appointees. I’m thinking that if the Calthorpe study is done correctly, the city can move forward with a coherant vision that has had enough involvement from the citizens.
    We all need to be involved if this city is to remain livable.

    Yours truly, Lou Glorie

    PS try reading Lewis Mumford before you go spouting nonsense about density. First we need the Magnet. This means that retail, public gathering space (parks and squares),office, light manufacturing, arts space, performance centers…and housing all need to be part of the mix. This requires a balancing act my darlings, which the lead foots who’ve got hold of the steering wheel don’t seem interested in performing. xo Lou
       —Lou Glorie    Jun. 13 '05 - 03:41PM    #
  70. Ugh, the Broadway Bridge. It’s an okay design I guess (if you like historical pastiche) but it’s a true monstrosity when it comes to light pollution and glare. It’s horrendous!

    To address your last point Lou, I think we already have a magnet – downtown Ann Arbor – and the question now is, how do we develop these 3 sites the DDA was told to study by the Council? The three sites alone can’t hold all the things you mention, but their plan comes darn close. Affordable housing, consolidation of parking, the start of a greenway, development that mimics the Allen Creek valley, all of these things have been in the downtown plan for years. That plan had a lot of study and public opinion put into it, and is a darn good plan if only we’d see it through. This wishy-washy excuse of ‘it needs more study!’ only goes so far, really.
       —KGS    Jun. 13 '05 - 03:54PM    #
  71. KGS, lots of people park in the library lot to use the library, many of them seniors and parents with small kids. Just stand there and watch for a few minutes and you’ll see.

    The problem with setting aside a large downtown space for events, lunching, etc. is that they’re largely useless for three to five months of the year due to weather. I’d prefer to see smaller lunch spots like the sculpture park or Liberty Plaza, but (in the latter’s case) in locations closer to food providers.

    For demonstrations and celebrations, we have the streets, which have successfully functioned for such things for many years. For example, the Green Fair is next Friday on Main and adjoining streets. Want grass? There’s West Park. It’s lovely and large. Or the Diag.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend tonight’s hearing (unless I can catch the tail end.) Anyone care to make a couple points for me?

    1) We need the railroad (or at least we don’t know for sure yet that we won’t in the future.)

    2) For downtown residents (soon to be more of them), 4th or 5th Ave are the direct routes to the river greenway. Let’s make one of those routes the preferred one and make it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly (and maybe use that area for demonstrations/celebrations.) They also extend to the athletic campus, if that’s of importance.

    Also, if the Friends of the AA Greenway show their renderings of the 1st & William site, point out that the photos were taken when trees were without leaves, but the rendered parks have leaves with trees. Meanwhile, the rendered parking structure has trees without leaves. The visual impression of the area they give is misleading.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 13 '05 - 04:08PM    #
  72. I’m not an ice skater so it didn’t cross my mind earlier, but I suppose that’s a possibility for winter activity in a downtown park. Hockey’s pretty popular around here. I’ll let someone else make that case, though.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 13 '05 - 04:14PM    #
  73. I am regularly amazed at how people can say what the city needs—“retail, public gathering space (parks and squares),office, light manufacturing, arts space, performance centers…and housing”—without acknowledging that local businesses can no longer afford to start up or even continue operating here.

    I’d say this is where Todd might point out that his business, if starting up today, might not even be able to afford to start up in Ann Arbor, but it’s pretty clear Lewis Mumford know Ann Arbor better than local businessmen do (or even people who read Lewis Mumford for a living).
       —Dale    Jun. 13 '05 - 04:15PM    #
  74. “PS try reading Lewis Mumford before you go spouting nonsense about density. First we need the Magnet.”

    Nice condescending remark.

    How about this for an answer: we’ve had a magnet since 1837. And using Mumford’s own definition “a magnet should attract both people and ideas”, I think we have a winner.

    The University of Michigan. Ring any bells?

    Enrollment of 38,000, plus all the ancillary staff…and their activities hinge around Ann Arbor come hell or high water. Good enough of a magnet for ya?

    Sorry for the sarcasm, but if you’re going to accuse us of not reading up, then you’re going to have to eat crow when it turns out that you’re the one who needs to hit the books….
       —todd    Jun. 13 '05 - 04:51PM    #
  75. Todd, I think the poster needs not to hit the books, but pull his/her nose out of the books and look around…
       —Scott Trudeau    Jun. 13 '05 - 06:00PM    #
  76. Some follow up and responses:

    First, the last sentence of my post on floodplain permits should have read, of course, “It may involve some extra cost, but perhaps the extra cost is worth it to ensure that someone in the future does NOT suffer needless injury or death in a flood.” :-P

    To Murph, #53: Thank you for posting a link to the scope of work for the Calthorpe study. I wonder if you also might be able, particularly since you intern at the DDA, to post the scope of work / work plan / RFP for the study undertaken by Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber of the impacts the DDA parking deck would have on the Allens Creek flooding situation. The DDA I understand commissioned and paid for this study.

    To Todd, #57: You address your post to Eric, but your question seems to be a challenge to my post on floodplain permits.

    The relative safety or danger of a path and parks in a floodway I think would depend on the design. If a park in a floodway valley like Allens Creek were planted with a lot of trees, and these trees grew close together, then you bet I think this would be harmful interference. These vertical trunks would immediately trap the horizontal trunks floating in flood water and start a damming process similar to what I described for the posts and metal bars of a parking deck.

    But, I think parks in the three city-owned sites can be designed without obstructions and in relative safety. For example, the First and William site could be designed with a fountain at the base of the hillside, and with most of the flat part in the floodway with paving stones spaced to allow porous infiltration of low intensity rainfall. A lack of trees on the site would provide for the free flow of floodwater during a flooding event.

    As for the other two sites, they both include some floodway and some floodplain. I think trees could be planted or structures placed in the floodplain (although I generally do not favor floodplain development at all), and the floodway could be integrated into the overall design site as an tree- and obstruction- free channel for periodic flow of floodwater. The greenway path would run along the floodway in all three sites.

    I get the sense that part of your concern is that pedestrians and bicyclists themselves might be endangered by their very presence along the floodway channel. I for my part noted the danger of the Allens Creek for the very reason that it is an under-capacity drain that surcharges during rain events and might not provide a warning that a flood is about to happen.

    I remember a discussion several years ago during which former 1st ward council member Tobi Hanna-Davies said that in her home town in Connecticut, the floodway became a greenway because a terrible flood happened and some people living in the floodway died; thus the town decide to prevent rebuilding and develop the floodway as a greenway.

    I generally agree with this logic, that a greenway is the best use of the floodway. It helps, of course, if people KNOW that the greenway is in the floodway.

    Here’s another confession re my past: in 2000 I organized a little group called Urban Design Advocates, and we came up with an early prospectus document on an Allens Creek greenway. Martin Schwartz, George Kachadoorian, Eppie Potts, and Phil D’Anieri were all participants, and should have copies of this document, as should all the council members who were on council at the time.

    One of our recommendations for the greenway was that it should educate the public about the watershed, including the floodplain. For example, along the greenway path there would be posts with signs showing the watershed, and where along the path one would find oneself in the watershed. Each post in the floodplain or floodway portion of the path would also have a marker showing the precise height of the 100-year flood level at that point.

    If a large volume of pedestrian and bicycle traffic traveled along such an “educational” greenway, I think it would make the whole Allens Creek floodway safer because the community would be much more knowledgeable about such fundamentals as where the damn floodway is. I don’t think right now most people in Ann Arbor could tell you where the Allens Creek floodway is (or even tell you what the difference is between a floodplain and a floodway).

    Here’s another idea for Allens Creek greenway (and general) floodway safety: why not create an alarm system with a not-obnoxious whistle that gets triggered when the water level in the subterranean pipe is about to surcharge.

    Or, how about this: some manholes below West Park get blown off by surcharing Allens Creek drain pipe water. Why not up and down the whole drain tap into the pipe and create little geyser pipes that would shoot water into the air when the drain gets to full and exceeds the drain’s capacity.

    Between the whistles and the geysers, people would know its time to get the hell off the greenway path.

    To KGS, #65: Can you name a parking deck in Ann Arbor, or anywhere, where the first floor is completely open? I can’t.

    To Scott, #75, et al: Scott, if you are going to bash people who quote Mumford, does that mean you will bash me if I quote Eliel Saarinen? :)
       —Jim Nicita    Jun. 13 '05 - 11:22PM    #
  77. Jim: I have to say that I absolutely adore the idea of whistling, geysering little teapot manhole covers. You should suggest that to the “combine educational public art with stormwater management” folks.

    Steve: ask BobD about his ideas for West Park. Apparently there used to be a skating rink there?

    Lou: welcome to the site. Hopefully you won’t be scared off by the flames you touched off with the Mumford comment. Like this one: (deleted, once I got it out of my system.) Short version: try to avoid the condescension, eh? I mean, sure, BobK may be outright insulting sometimes, but at least he insults my integrity and not my intelligence.
       —Murph.    Jun. 14 '05 - 12:50AM    #
  78. I saw most of the presentations and public hearing on TV, including BobD’s reminiscing. :-)

    I thought it was great—lots of variety and fairly minimal rhetoric, some of which cropped up in the remarks of several west siders who hadn’t prepared statements. Obviously, the Friends’ propaganda has sunk in a bit.

    The level of ignorance of available information was a little disappointing, though.

    High points: – The DDA continues to impress. Well done as usual, Susan.
    – On the Friends’ side, Vince and Rita were the only ones I saw who focused on flooding and water quality. My thanks to them. That’s the strongest case for waiting a bit longer. And there just might be a compelling reason to not build a structure there.
    – Amy Kuras provided useful graphics of the other two sites along the floodway. Did I miss the one for 1st & William or did she just not do one for it?
    – The mayor announced a town meeting on the 27th (I think) at council chambers.

    Low points: – The divisive rhetoric and dismissal of the DDA proposed pocket park and greenway strip by the Sierra Club representatives. Sure, there are valid questions to be asked about the location and potential of such a space, but they didn’t come close to posing anything valid in that regard.
    – The comments of people who don’t choose to live downtown (count me among them), who nonetheless claim to know what people who live downtown want. (I’m learning to see my own biases.)

    My current view: – The responsible thing is to get as much floodplain info as possible before closing the 1st & Washington structure and committing to putting one at 1st & William.
    – Increase on-street parking wherever possible—First, William, Catherine (on Main in front of Ashley Mews has already been proposed)—and ask the community to do the right thing and continue the practices of Curb Your Car Month so that visitors who don’t have other options can park easily until a new structure is built.
    – If anyone, including Calthorpe, has an idea for an alternative to the proposed structure, they better get it out there soon.
    – We may have new greenspace on the west side in the next few years, but I doubt we’ll have a greenway in the next ten. The reasons will have to do with street crossings and land availability and nothing to do with the DDA.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 14 '05 - 02:02AM    #
  79. Jim Nicita,

    Actually, I wasn’t challenging your discussion of floodplain/way permits, I was asking a valid question. I’ve been on record before as saying that, on its face, placing a park in the Allen Creek floodway/plain is a good idea simply because it does not use up highly buildable land. It just seems strange to me that people bring up safety when discussing the DDA parking garage….pretend you’re sunning at one of the parks, and you fall asleep…..if the roaring turrent that is flooding of Allen Creek (as some want to characterize it) comes along, well, isn’t that dangerous?

    I’m not saying that *I* think that it is dangerous, but I also don’t believe that the parking garage will be a danger if it is designed properly.
       —todd    Jun. 14 '05 - 06:33AM    #
  80. “To Scott, #75, et al: Scott, if you are going to bash people who quote Mumford, does that mean you will bash me if I quote Eliel Saarinen?”

    We didn’t bash him because of who he quoted….we bashed him because he both looked down his nose at us, and clearly doesn’t understand what Mumford’s central idea was. Magnet? Sheesh.
       —todd    Jun. 14 '05 - 06:38AM    #
  81. “To Scott, #75, et al: Scott, if you are going to bash people who quote Mumford, does that mean you will bash me if I quote Eliel Saarinen? :)”

    Was I bashing? And my barb wasn’t b/c s/he was quoting Mumford, but b/c s/he was quoting Mumford to make a point that didn’t seem to jive with the facts. I.e., we have magnets.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jun. 14 '05 - 09:44AM    #
  82. Well, After reviewing all of the posts on this site one thing becomes clear to me: we need a Community effort to create a vison for downtown Ann Arbor. This would include not just a handful of bloggers but the whole community and include a series of lectures from recognized experts in urban development and design. The goal: to get a broad-based consensus so that whatever plan finally gains ascendance, it is legitimized by being the product of the whole community. I am pleased to say that such a program is about to unfold. Three Interactive Public Design Workshops to forge a Downtown Development Strategy are to be held
    July 28, Sept. 22 and Nov. 3 from 6-9pm in the 2d floor ballroom of the Courthouse Square apartments, 100 S. Fourth Ave. Plus 5 public lectures on topics of 1) Regionalism,2) Retail economics, 3)transportation, 4)zoning policy/land-use and 5)Architecture/design guidelines.
    see www.a2gov.org/downtown for details and updates. This is a joint project of the City, the DDA, the planning commission, U of M, & the AA District Library. Sound like a broad-based group? The Public Design Workshops will be led by Peter Calthorpe Associates. Lectures will also be cablecast and available on videocassette at the library. I hope that everyone who has contributed to this stimulating series of posts attends!

    Part 2.
    I second Jim’s request to Murph which I will reprint:”Murph #53: Thank you for posting a link to the scope of work for the Calthorpe study. I wonder if you also might be able, particularly since you intern at the DDA, to post the scope of work / work plan / RFP for the study undertaken by Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber of the impacts the DDA parking deck would have on the Allens Creek flooding situation. The DDA I understand commissioned and paid for this study.”

    And I also feel compelled to respond to several postings by Murph. Murph:
    1. Why, when I suggest that the community should wait until the Calthorpe study,(also, I’d add, the Flood plane mitigation study and the new Floodway/flood plane map) you accuse me of “parroting” (i.e. speaking empty words without thought)while, when you spout the line of the DDA, chapter and verse,you apparently consider yourself an independent and original thinker?
    2. How can you accuse a resident who may live near the downtown of having a conflict of interest? Excuse me. I thought this was just an interest in one’s community. Everyone has some “conflict.” Accusing a neigbor of a conflict of interest in this debate is sophistry. Where is the conflict in expressing a view about your neighborhood? Your city or country?
    3. How, Murph, now that you are on the payroll of the DDA, can you claim to be anything but an advocate for your bosses’ point of view? I know: You just joined up with your ideological breathren. The paycheck doesn’t create a conflict of interest at all….nooooo. Not the lure of permanent job. nooo. Who’s the lap dog here?
    4) This tactic of trying to undermine our opponents’ arguments by attacking their credibility rather than facing the arguments head-on with logic and facts is distracting and annoying. We all have our biases. The DDA wants parking revenue. Businesses want customers and density. Neighbors want amenities and quiet neighborhoods. Politicians want to be elected. Why don’t we just admit we all have our biases and move on with the discussion?
       —Eric Lipson.    Jun. 18 '05 - 10:48PM    #
  83. Todd:
    You asked how I possibly thought that we could get 2500 new residents downtown. That’s not my projection that the “thoughful” recommendation by the DRTF. But I do think it is possible.
    As to how we can avoid wrecking the downtown any further: avoid buildings like One North Main. Encourage mixed use development (as people have been saying) with retail at street-level, office and residential above.
    Re: saving uses like Jefferson Market, the answer is to change the zoning to allow the small bodega/party store/neighborhood restaurant to exist as a legitimate use, not just as a non-conforming use. Homogenous zoning is the suburban model that is anathea to urbanism.The current Planning Commission is working on some proposals to take to city council to correct that problem.
       —Eric Lipson.    Jun. 18 '05 - 11:05PM    #
  84. You know, the plea for the crowd to rise above all of these petty attacks would work a lot better if it weren’t following a string of them.

    I at least appreciate your willingness to say what you think around here, even if what you think is that I have no ability to hold an opinion.
       —Murph.    Jun. 19 '05 - 12:22AM    #
  85. Eric—I’ve said before and I’ll say again, Murph’s the most reasonable voice out there. He was promoting density and a “fair share” vision for Ann Arbor long before he began interning with the DDA. No need to bare your claws.

    “We all have our biases. The DDA wants parking revenue. Businesses want customers and density. Neighbors want amenities and quiet neighborhoods. Politicians want to be elected. Why don’t we just admit we all have our biases and move on with the discussion??”

    Because some of our biases are trivial and some are our motivating factors. It doesn’t make sense to respond to every request to hold off on the TSP when the people asking for the delay stand to benefit at the expense of the downtown area. Also, when people have biases like Todd Leopold and Bob Dascola—wanting to see a thriving local economy—that will benefit EVERYONE, it behooves all of us recognize that their potential personal benefit is relatively minor (and in fact, should be promoted) in the grand scheme of Ann Arbor.

    I am glad you have taken the initiative to post on Arbor Update. Your posts, however, have not won me over to your vision for Ann Arbor.
       —Dale    Jun. 19 '05 - 12:31AM    #
  86. Murph, I believe you have mis-interpreted me. You have every right to your opinion. My point is that your opinion is no more or no less biased or worthy than anyone else’s. You started this attack mode by denigrating my opinion and I responded.
       —Eric Lipson.    Jun. 19 '05 - 12:56AM    #
  87. Dale,
    That’s cool. Like everyone posting here, I just say what I think. Can’t agree with everyone. I personally find Jim Nicita and Julie W’s posts thoughtful and persuasive.
       —Eric Lipson.    Jun. 19 '05 - 01:07AM    #
  88. Eric, I’ll admit to having called you a pawn of the Friends before you called me a corporate shill, and I apologize for drawing you off down the insult path.

    I’m pretty happy to discuss bias in a non-hostile fashion, if that’s what we want to do. For my own part, I’ve always felt that, since everything I say and think ends up on the web somewhere, my own biases are transparent. Somebody with a lot of time on their hands could watch the transformation from undergrad engineer -> Crusading Urban Planner happen in blogged daily increments if they wanted to read five years worth of blog. (This is also part of why I always use my own name online, and always have.) I’m happy to state in relevant conversations that I currently work for the DDA, so that it can be included in consideration of my judgement – though I’d prefer if the people I’m talking to were equally open about potential sources of bias.

    I suppose some amount of your pre-existing bias is captured in CPC minutes, which would be equally tedious, if somewhat more sanitized, to read through as five years of blog archives?
       —Murph.    Jun. 19 '05 - 11:27AM    #
  89. Heh—I belong to the web-transparent school, too. So much so that a Google of “larry kestenbaum” and “lawrence kestenbaum” gets you a total of almost 160,000 hits, and a frighteningly large amount of that is me fulminating about this or that (or somebody else fulminating back).
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 19 '05 - 01:49PM    #
  90. Heh. Googling for “Murph” gets 248,000, very few of them me. In fact, I’ve fallen from 2nd place to 9th place (for Common Monkeyflower 2.0) and 24th (for Common Monkeyflower 3.0).
       —Murph.    Jun. 19 '05 - 02:24PM    #
  91. “How can you accuse a resident who may live near the downtown of having a conflict of interest? Excuse me. I thought this was just an interest in one’s community. Everyone has some “conflict”. Accusing a neigbor of a conflict of interest in this debate is sophistry. Where is the conflict in expressing a view about your neighborhood? Your city or country?”

    Well I have to take a stab at this. The conflict that we all perceive of those who want three parks on those sites is pretty obvious:

    1. All those who have spoken (to the very best of my knowledge…I was scribbling down the addresses of the speakers as fast as I could) in favor of the Friend’s plan live quite near to the proposed parks in question. If I am wrong here, please correct me.

    2. The parks rep. told us all that people would only travel about 3 blocks to use a park. This means that, roughly speaking, these parks will only benefit those who live within three blocks of the sites. The parks rep also pointed out that those who live near the proposed greenway (this includes my business) will see an increase in their property values.

    3. Note the rep. of the Old Fourth Ward complained that they aren’t getting any green space or parks…and that they sure would like some. No one seems to have acknowledged this.

    4. Out of all the plans, there is only one plan that has no compromise with any of the other potential users of the sites. Kiwanis was willing to provide a small park….same for the DDA….same for the affordable housing group. The Friends give no quarter to anyone. They won’t even say “you can have 1st and William, but we want you to build a park of similar size in the OFW, as apparently they need one”.

    5. This point I gave directly to Ms. Wong: The Friends aren’t telling us that they want more parks or greenspace in Ann Arbor. They are telling us that they want complete control over these three sites. They aren’t looking at the numbers the the Parks rep. gave us and saying “there’s a shortage of parks in downtown, we think that they should be evenly spread so that all the wards in question gets at least one park”. If they said that, I would never accuse them of bias, NIMBYism, or any other not so nice acronym. In fact, they’d likely receive my support (If the caved to allowing taller buildings, but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

    How you can look at their plans, and not see not only the inherent bias, but their singlemindedness in achieving exactly what they want is, well, frustrating.

    The only other way that I could express this would be to ask what would you have thought if the DDA came in and said “ok, we’re putting parking garages on all three sites, and we are unwilling to share the sites with anyone”. Would you not scream bloody murder? I know I would. Wouldn’t you say that it serves only one, incredibly biased interest?

    It’s a pretty simple conclusion IMHO.
       —todd    Jun. 20 '05 - 12:13PM    #
  92. Somebody else was commenting to me on the 3-block radius thing – how the Friends’ plan’s supporters alternated between attacking a parking structure at 1st/William as further from downtown than anybody would ever walk and lauding the idea of a park at 1st/William as highly accessible and convenient to downtown.

    The OFW is, I take it, bitter that they’ve been trying to get the trashy old triangular gas station (?) site at the near end of the Broadway Bridges turned into a park for years, and have been turned down out of hand, despite the fact that there’s no other use for it proposed by anybody, ever, but here the Friends come along with a much more ambitious (and, presumably, expensive) plan, for land that there’s an extremely high amount of competing interest in, and they’re getting public hearings, news coverage, Council resolutions, and as much attention as they can handle.

    I’m opening the betting pool: I’ll buy a drink at Todd’s place for the person who can guess closest to the dates when North Burns Park and Oxbridge each declare that, hey, they’re pretty close to downtown too, and they want a share of this parks action.
       —Murph    Jun. 20 '05 - 02:23PM    #
  93. August 15th
       —John Q    Jun. 20 '05 - 03:14PM    #