I hope you've had a restful holiday season filled with your loved ones. My Council newsletters generally focus on what is ahead on Council's agenda, but in this newsletter I highlight what we have accomplished over the course of 2023, focusing on the key areas of city services, housing, transportation, and climate action.
The topmost priority for any municipal government must be ensuring high-quality city services. In 2023, we:
Completed several major road construction projects, including (but not limited to):
Scio Church Road improvement project: water mains and pavement were replaced, sidewalk gaps were closed, and buffered bike lanes were installed.
South Main Street Water Main project: water main was replaced, the road was resurfaced, and bump-outs were added.
State and Hill Streets Improvements project: on State Street, the road was resurfaced, water mains were replaced, safety improvements were implemented for all users of the roadway, and protected bike lanes were added in each direction (note: the Hill St. portion of the project will be carried out in 2024).
Appointed Andre Anderson as the City's new Police Chief, who will start this position in January.
Directed the City Administrator to improve data transparency and performance management so that residents can more easily track the City on its ambitious goals.
Approved a contract that will bring public restrooms to our downtown.
Ann Arbor, like many communities across the country, faces a housing crisis. The expansion of University of Michigan enrollment and job opportunities exerts significant pressure on our local housing market. Ann Arbor's zoning policies and development review processes are outdated and incongruent with this reality, contributing to the city's elevated housing costs. In 2023, we:
Began the development of the City's new comprehensive plan (anticipated completion in 2024), specifying that it should:
Implement those portions of the A2Zero Living Carbon Neutrality Plan applicable to land use and development activity in the City.
Make recommendations for adding new homes and densifying single-family zoned areas and other areas and zoning districts.
Develop recommendations that promote fewer zoning districts and categories.
Initiated a full review of the City's building and development process with the aim of streamlining and reducing the costs of building new housing. The City released a report and recommendations this month, and I expect Council will act on these recommendations very shortly.
Used American Rescue Plan funds to purchase 8 duplexes to be made permanently affordable housing.
Eliminated Floor Area premiums and maximum Floor Area Ratio from the City's downtown districts. These premiums did not work (resulted in zero units of affordable housing) and arguably slowed down the creation of new housing downtown.
Approved a development at 721 South Forest that will add 228 residential units and 733 bedrooms near central campus while also contributing $4,700,000 to the City's affordable housing fund.
Approved the rezoning of a portion of Briarwood Mall to enable the construction of 354 residential units and a grocery store on a parking lot and long vacant Sears building.
I'm dedicated to ensuring residents have accessible ways to get around our city safely. In 2023, we advanced several important components of our Vision Zero Comprehensive Transportation plan, including:
Expanded our all ages all abilities bike network outside of the downtown on State and Division streets.
Launched an e-bike sharing program through an agreement with Spin.
Won an award of $3.8M from US Dept. of Transportation's Safe Streets and Roads for All program for local transportation safety initiatives.
Adopted an improved neighborhood traffic calming program that will incorporate traffic calming measures where they are needed as part of capital road improvement projects.
Approved a contract to construct the first phase of a larger project to build a pedestrian tunnel that will extend beneath the railroad tracks between Barton Nature Area and Bandemer Park and close a key gap in the Border-to-Border Trail.
As demonstrated by the overwhelming support of the A2Zero Climate Action millage, residents want City policies to advance our climate action goals. In 2023, we:
Passed an ordinance to regulate the use of gas leaf blowers, which are particularly toxic for the environment and human health. Ann Arbor will completely ban gas-powered leaf blowers on January 1, 2028. Until then, gas-powered leaf blowers are restricted to use between October 1 and May 30.
Passed an ordinance that will help home buyers understand the energy efficiency of the homes on the market in Ann Arbor by requiring a simple Home Energy Score (HES) assessment to be conducted before the home lists for sale. The Home Energy Rating Disclosure (HERD) will make a home's energy use easy to understand (for example, like miles-per-gallon/charge rating for a vehicle). These assessments will be provided for free. Learn more on the City's HERD page.
Approved an agreement for the administration of the Home Energy Advisor Program, which will help residents interested in making their homes more energy efficient. Think of this like an energy concierge, who will help homeowners, renters, and landlords navigate through the process of taking on home energy efficiency projects.
Approved an agreement for the administration of a Residential Rebate Program, which will incentivize residential adoption of energy efficiency, high-efficiency all-electric energy equipment, electric modes of transportation, and distributed energy resources. The rebate program will be targeted to progress equity goals through income-qualified rebates.
It's a privilege to be your Ann Arbor City Council Member, and I hope you will continue to reach out to let me know how I can best serve our community.
Here's to a healthy, happy New Year to you and yours!