The Primary Struggle for the Future of Ann Arbor

Unless you have just arrived from Mars, or possibly Denver or Atlanta, you are aware that the City of Ann Arbor has been locked in a mighty political struggle for years.  The majority (The Powers That Be, formerly the Council Party) has been pushing an agenda to make Ann Arbor into a high-tech generator of wealth.  They have been fighting off insurgent challengers to their authority since approximately 2006. (Some history is in this post.) The rebels are sometimes called “Townies” (see  What Does It Mean to Be an Ann Arbor Townie? ) but most often simply the Neighborhoods. This August primary may very well be the telling blow that decides the future direction of our city. This is a war about the very nature and future of Ann Arbor.  Will we suffer the same fate as many high-tech communities? Or will we be able to sustain our community, our culture, and our home, all which have made Ann Arbor the very special place it is? And will it continue to be a city where the citizens have real influence over its direction?

The Nature and Future of Ann Arbor

So what is the war about?  The very nature and future of Ann Arbor. Here are the two outcomes:

(1) Ann Arbor will go the way of so many other centers of technological enterprise. We will dedicate our governmental priorities and our infrastructure into making the city attractive (as we believe) to the high-tech workers needed for successful startups. Real estate will become prohibitively expensive as money rushes in to take advantage of the wealth being created. Residents of modest income will be displaced as the cost of living increases. Developers will also take over many of the public spaces and familiar institutions. Much of the casual charm of the city and its sense of community and shared culture will be lost.

There are many accounts of the effect on the community of a high-tech community with too much money flowing in for the citizenry to compete. San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the prototypes.  This lengthy documentary shows in full detail what happens when money rushes in after scarce real estate. San Francisco 2.0

(2) Ann Arbor will plan to keep housing and local businesses in place by countering some of the actions and decisions that are leading to displacement. This will be done with careful planning and citizen involvement. Ann Arbor will still continue to evolve and will still support enterprise, but will make it possible for a wide spectrum of residents to live and participate in the community. It will be a resilient community where changes in the built environment will be adaptive, not abrupt, where the future is anticipated but the past is respected. We will have a city that is to human scale, that includes restorative green spaces and accessible public areas.

There is a process for this. See, for example, Boulder. “The city’s infrastructure, design, and neighborhoods are driven by public investments and land use decisions. Choices made today will last for generations. These choices also must be considered on multiple scales and across issues and systems. Facing a future with so much uncertainty will ultimately require flexible and adaptive systems that do not lock the Boulder community into a single pathway.”  (From Boulder Resilient Cities post)

 

The Placemaking Agenda

There has long been an effort to transform the city from a sleepy college town to a high-tech success story.  The aim was economic development.  A guy named Rick Snyder helped to start an incubator called the “IT Zone” in downtown Ann Arbor (1999) and also launched SPARK (2005) which then (2007) merged with the IT Zone  Meanwhile, Washtenaw County passed a resolution naming Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti downtowns as Smart Zones. These were part of a push by Governor Jennifer Granholm to bring economic revival to Michigan via high technology centers. They allowed school taxes to be captured for economic development in the named centers. (Technically, the taxes are repaid to the local schools by the state, but it is complicated.)  Our Local Development Finance Authority administers those funds.  Since then, SPARK has infamously received substantial allocations from both Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor City.  In the same general time period, Gov. Granholm also launched her Cool Cities initiative, which was presumably modeled after the Richard Florida “Rise of the Creative Class” book and theory.  The basic precept is this: to be successful in economic development, cities must install quality of life enhancements that will attract the young “creatives” (who turn out to be mostly tech workers).  There was quite a push for this in Ann Arbor around 2010, as I reported. All this met with the agenda of the Powers, who set to the job of transforming Ann Arbor into a different place, one that would support a technology-driven enterprise culture.

The word for this type of activity is placemaking and it is now a major field of study and implementation. Much of this is discussed in this post: The Placemaking Agenda and Ann Arbor Politics.  The post was written to explain the election of 2014, and most of it remains entirely pertinent today, including the promotion of friendly candidates by the Michigan Talent Agenda. (The MTA is widely known to be run by Ned Staebler, though his name does not appear on the website.) Note the word “talent”.  That is the key to entrepreneurial success, as explained in many different pages. The basic concept is to make Ann Arbor a place that appeals to a different class and type of people, especially those who will lend themselves to a technology-driven enterprise culture.

It worked! Ann Arbor has attracted a number of technology startups, some of which have even stayed in town. A recent highlight: the sale of homegrown Duo Security for $2.53 Billion to Cisco (reported by MLive). Every day seems to bring a new announcement of a start-up or the growth of one, or other similar successes.  We have succeeded in importing “talent” and others. The overall effect of the placemaking efforts has indeed been to bring in more people, which means more need for housing.  It must be acknowledged that the University of Michigan plays a part in this, since the student population continues to increase.  A local blogger, TreeDownTown, has written a useful overview of the student housing picture, in which he concluded that the massive downtown buildings recently built as student-directed luxury units are barely keeping up with demand.  But the overall drive to bring in new “talent” has also meant an influx of affluent new residents who are willing to pay well for housing that satisfies their wish for close-in (to downtown) quality living.  For the first time in several decades, Ann Arbor’s population has grown noticeably.  According to the United States Census Bureau, Ann Arbor City’s population is estimated to have grown from 113,934 to 121,477 between 2010 and 2017, an increase of 6.6%.  That is over 7,500 people looking for housing. Meanwhile, the price of houses is going up and Ann Arbor, according to this 2017 article, is said to be the least affordable housing market in Michigan.

Development, Gentrification, and the Loss of Local Character

One outcome of this drive to transform Ann Arbor has been a strong development push. This has sometimes been led by revisions of downtown zoning (the DDA has been heavily involved in promoting development) but neighborhoods adjacent to downtown have been heavily affected even without changes in zoning. The young population who were the target of all this promotion want to live near downtown, in a nice place, within biking or walking distance.  This has put great pressure on the neighborhoods near downtown.  It has also driven up the value of downtown property to unimaginable heights.

Each time a major development is proposed, it brings out the neighborhood who are fighting to maintain the distinct character of their home territory. For example, Germantown (a neighborhood at the southern edge of downtown, roughly between William, Packard, Madison, and Main) was devastated by the loss of seven historic houses that were the heart of the neighborhood. The Powers opposed a historic district and approved an ugly student-oriented development (City Place) instead. (See Heritage City Place Row.)  Other more recent battles have been over 413 E. Huron, unaccountably zoned D1 right next to a residential neighborhood that is also a miracle of historic preservation, now the Foundry Lofts;  and the Broadway Lowertown site, which TreeDownTown accurately described as a better deal that could have been had by the City.  Battles have also been over the fate of the Library Lot, an Ann Arbor treasure and one of the very few open spaces remaining in the downtown. See Core Spaces and the Soul of Ann Arbor. With the Taylor caucus (the Powers) holding tight, most often with 8 votes but always with a majority, development after development has been approved over the cries of the residents.  The face of Ann Arbor is indelibly changed already.

These individual battles often obscure the true nature of the war itself. The Neighborhoods, who are not really a party or a coherent group, emerge over and over again as residents fighting for the survival of their community. What is at stake in many cases is displacement, as well as loss of local connections and culture. Displacement has already happened in some areas as gentrification has meant replacement of older structures, often affordable rentals or modest owner-occupied houses, with extremely high-end expensive condominium developments.  These are in the desirable near-downtown zone in areas such as Kerrytown, Water Hill, or the Summit Road neighborhood. In classic gentrification style, these were once areas where Black families were grouped because of segregation. Often they had already attracted new owners because they were affordable and had a certain raffish charm. But now the next phase is occurring. For example, Tom Fitzsimmons has built numerous attractive condominiums on former one-house lots or combined lots to create larger developments. New policies appear directed at ensuring such dense development in formerly single-family neighborhoods. As high-priced denser housing sells in each location, the surrounding land becomes more valuable, and simple market pressure causes displacement of renters.

Affordable Housing, the Confusion

One thing everyone agrees with is that housing in Ann Arbor has become unaffordable. But while “affordable housing” is a desirable goal, few agree on what that is and how it should be achieved. To some, affordable housing is targeted to very low income individuals, is subsidized by a variety of governmental programs, and is administered by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, Avalon Housing, or perhaps other nonprofit or governmental providers. This was the concept presented at a recent Council working session by Jennifer Hall, the Director of the Housing Commission. The AAHC was created to oversee the Federal public housing in Ann Arbor but is becoming the housing and community development department in its reach. (Ann Arbor’s Community Development Department was subsumed by the Urban County in 2008.)  Hall and Washtenaw County’s Teresa Gillotti made a very thorough case of the needs for subsidized housing and called for a millage to pay for new housing.

Washtenaw County’s 2015 study of Housing Affordability and Economic Equity reviewed the demographic differences (income, educational attainment, etc.) between Ann Arbor and the City of Ypsilanti and concluded that Ann Arbor should add (subsidized) affordable housing while Ypsilanti should add market-rate housing intended to attract Ann Arbor’s highly educated population. The evident intent was to homogenize the population of the two cities. (Pittsfield Township was included in the study but has not been much involved in the conversation.)  Jack Eaton was the sole CM to vote against adopting this concept, which he called “social engineering”.  He has been beat up about that ever since.  But in point of fact, the study made no useful suggestions for creating affordable housing and merely imposed targets on both communities that they are unlikely to meet.  The subsidized housing discussed would most often not be accessible to working families making 60-80% of median income (e.g. roughly $44,000 to $57,000).  Those would need what is often called “workforce housing”, which must also be subsidized because it is still below market.  This means that many service personnel and even public employees like schoolteachers and city staff have difficulty in affording housing here.

What must be acknowledged is that everyone who can afford to do so wants to live in Ann Arbor. Thus, the limited land mass in the city has virtually become an extractable resource. Parcels that were previously considered to be virtual wasteland are now being expensively developed.  This creates several classes of people who find living here unaffordable.  Among them are, yes! two-income professional couples.  It is just that expensive.  According to Zillow, the median sales price of a house in Ann Arbor is now about $400,000. Unless one is either very high-income or bought in many years ago, buying a house in Ann Arbor is becoming nearly unreachable.

A new group supportive of the Powers has been insisting loudly that our current neighborhood residential structure must be altered. These self-named YIMBYs (Yes In My BackYard) seem resentful of current residential homeowners, whom they often term “wealth hoarders” because of unearned appreciation in real estate value. Downzoning Upzoning (which allows denser development in single-family neighborhoods) has been called for.  The YIMBYs believe that by building more housing units, regardless of the price, somehow housing will become more affordable and available to them in the desirable areas. Ironically, some appear to be hoping that single-family houses will become available after everyone else moves into the high-priced condos.  Much discussion of these options occurs on a Facebook group called Ann Arbor YIMBY.

Generally, it appears that some major restructuring of the landscape might be proposed in order to allow for more housing of any type, but especially denser market-rate housing. The two Mayoral candidates have weighed in. Jack Eaton has proposed a number of possible approaches to housing lower-income Ann Arborites. It includes using City land to start cooperatives.  Chris Taylor appears to stay with the tried-and-true approach via the Housing Commission but also (somewhat ominously) notes:

If we are to be inclusive, we must also be open to development that will create homes people can afford. This will be disruptive and will involve trade-offs. If we do not begin to explore and experiment now, we will not meet even our modest affordability goals.

The Neighborhoods are not united on all subjects and are not really a coherent group. But generally they wish to retain both their homes and their quality of life.  (Yes, lots of complaint about the roads.)  Gentrification is a threat. So are increased taxes and increased fees. Recently a water rate restructure has reduced the cost of water service to multifamily developments such as are built by developers, while increasing the cost to certain single-family homes. While the City’s basic tax rate has not increased, allocation of City funds to such multi-million dollar projects as the Treeline ($55 Million) (a greenway conservancy that is already attracting more high-value development along the railroad tracks in what were once the old industrial properties and the lowest value) and the Fuller Road Train Station (ca. $80 million) creates potential tax demands for the future. These are high-risk projects that will encumber current or future City budgets, without bringing direct benefits to current residents.  Thus, the Neighborhoods can anticipate either higher taxes, or loss of services, or both, in the drive to bring “talent” for technology to town.

The Citizenry as Decision Makers

Some have accused the Neighborhoods of being elitists and implied that they are worse. But actually, the shoe is on the other foot.  The whole thrust and focus is to wealth creation at the expense of long-time residents, many of whom are not particularly well off. Who owns the city? Current residents and businesses, or a future populace who are not here yet? Should a small group of elected and appointed officials make all the decisions and determine the course of the city? Or should the citizenry be empowered to help set the course?

Ann Arbor has a strong tradition of citizen involvement, and I believe this is one reason for the strength and vitality of the town. We have a City Charter that requires a number of decisions to be based on a vote of the people, or a supermajority (8 votes) of our elected representatives. We have public comment at meetings and open meetings act/freedom of information act requirements for governmental transparency.  With leadership from the former CM Sabra Briere, we have many steps in our development process that make citizen access to planning documents practically global.  (I remember when I had to go to the department physically and beg to see them.)  There are a number of citizen task forces and committees that produce advisory reports.  But some CM have found contributions from the public to be a tedious intervention, sometimes remonstrating from the bench.

Recent actions on the part of the Powers seem to indicate that they consider themselves uniquely qualified to make all the decisions.  They have supported massive redactions in FOIAed documents and most recently supported the signing of a contract by the Mayor and staff, in contravention of the Charter requirement that a vote of 8 CM is required for such action. (They knew they didn’t have the votes.)

This Is It. Vote.

This election may be a decisive battle, since credible challengers against the Powers are running in every race. (Full information on the election and candidates can be found on the Ann Arbor Votes page. Additional insights from these interviews on All About Ann Arbor.)

All four Ann Arbor wards which have incumbents running also have a challenger.  The First Ward has two candidates running for an open seat; one of them has declared his allegiance to the Powers so is treated here as one of them. The other has affiliated himself with the bloc I am calling the Neighborhoods.   Note that each of these candidates has a personal history and individual positions on many issues. None of them are running in a slate. Nevertheless, their places on the chessboard are clear.

Candidates running for City Council in Ann Arbor, August 2018

The race for Mayor is key and the battle is being vigorously fought.  The current Mayor, Christopher Taylor, is challenged by current 4th Ward Councilmember Jack Eaton.  They are very distinct, not only in their views but in their voting records.  Here is a very comprehensive account of their voting records on key issues, as reported by the Ann Arbor News.

This is it, folks. Ann Arbor is at a turning point. Please vote.

Disclosure: I am Jack Eaton’s campaign treasurer and I have supported the objectives of the Neighborhoods for years.

UPDATE:  I have been reminded that Council and Mayor terms have now been extended to four years. This election is more meaningful than ever.

SECOND UPDATE:  This was quite a turnover election. The only “Powers” candidate who survived was Ward 3 Julie Grand, but in addition Mayor Christopher Taylor held an authoritative lead. (Jack Eaton remains as a 4th Ward CM for three years until a new contest.) So Mayor Taylor will now be presiding over a Council where the numbers have turned against him.  He’ll have only 4 votes (including his own) against a potential bloc of 7 votes.  I predict that the Neighborhoods representatives will not operate in the strict discipline of the old Powers bloc, since they are all individuals with independent viewpoints. But it should not be business as usual.

Important note: the new Council will not be seated until the General Election in November. So we have a dangerous period ahead of us where a lame-duck Council may yet take actions.

THIRD UPDATE:  Obviously, the course of business on Council is likely to shift noticeably beginning in November. Mayor Taylor will not be able to command a supermajority as he has been accustomed to, now that the majority (7) has shifted to the Neighborhoods. (Note that neither “party” has a supermajority.)  But we should not expect that drastic changes will occur. For one thing, the Mayor has great influence over the agenda.  Also, at least a couple of the newcomers are showing signs of independence. They will assume their place at the table, not just count as a number.

I thought Ali Ramlawi’s election night comments (video) were very heartening.  They were evidently spontaneous and from the heart.  Here is a transcript of the remarks.  A couple of notable excerpts:

We’ve got a lot to do. I mean, other than the 4th Ward, all the races are close. You know, it’s just like national politics, it’s pretty divided. 50 to 50 almost, you know, give or take a couple percentage points, there’s a lot of work to do. The work has just started. We need to be bigger people and better people, reach across the aisle and work with folks who think differently than us.

I think we can actually have an honest discussion for the first time in a long time. I think the Mayor and Mayor’s party has had a majority, a supermajority where they didn’t really have to take into consideration what other people thought. For the first time in their career, they have been sobered by the fact that there is a great part of Ann Arbor who doesn’t feel comfortable with their decision-making. and who want a different voice and they elected that. So it feels empowering but at the same time there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that and I need to find ways to bridge the gap and be able to make a difference and move things forward in a way that takes all parts of our community together and don’t just shut out a part of them because they don’t have representation on Council.

 

GENERAL NOTE: Comments are moderated. I do not allow anonymous comments. I deleted an anonymous commenter who gave an address of “gmail@gmail.com”.  Funny, yes?  Discussion is welcomed, but you must own up to your comments and avoid abuse.

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Basis, politics

45 Comments on “The Primary Struggle for the Future of Ann Arbor”


  1. Thanks Vivienne! This is an excellent and timely analysis of the political landscape in Ann Arbor. Voters should bear in mind that the “Powers that Be” engineered a shift from two-year to four-year terms, a change that takes full effect with this election. This means that the August 7 primary has the potential to either lock-in their majority for four years or usher in a new era of balance on City Council. I hope that voters will choose the latter.

  2. Lauren Sargent Says:

    Thank you for this excellent review and clarification of the issues involved.

  3. Bitsy Lamb Says:

    As usual, spot on. Thank you for this succinct analysis!


  4. Thank you, Vivienne. Comprehensive and clear. I have made my decision long ago. I will vote with the Neighborhoods.


  5. A good summary of the overall issues. Vote Neighborhoods please.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, A2

  6. Peter Nagourney Says:

    Required reading for every voter.

  7. Frank Wilhelme Says:

    Vivienne, you are such a valuable asset for our community. Thank you for your important contributions to Ann Arbor’s civic life.

  8. Jeff Hayner Says:

    Thanks for another fine article.

    If only we can get enough folks elected to have the opportunity to build on Cm Briere’s good work in public access to documents and public notice requirements. The developments being proposed and built are so massive that they certainly effect more than residents living in a 500 foot radius of the site. Thanks to her work we at least have that, prior to that it was a notice tacked to a phone pole.

    We need to build on those gains, to expand the notice requirements for certain projects, to empower the people through existing channels and make new channels for public input. It can and should be done, and it all starts with a trip to the polls on Tuesday August 7th. Vote!

  9. J. Bruce Fields Says:

    Minor correction: “Downzoning (which allows denser development in single-family neighborhoods)” That should be upzoning.

    • varmentrout Says:

      I keep making that mistake! Thanks.

      • J. Bruce Fields Says:

        Think “upzoning” allows you to build “up”….


      • Basically, every change that makes a sq. ft. of ground more valuable by comparison to what is “next door” drives up the housing costs. It is a great situation for SOME people to have housing, shopping, work, etc. all within walking or cycling distance. But be careful about the results for housing. An average house in Boulder, CO is now worth $1 million. The same is true in San Francisco and Palo Alto.
        James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, A2

      • J. Bruce Fields Says:

        Yes, agreed, other things being equal a lot with more permissive zoning is more valuable than one without. So the effect of upzoning a single lot is likely to raise the price of that one lot.

        The upzoning *also* affects the prices of other lots, though: if it allows more people to live on the upzoned lot, then it can decrease the demand for other lots slightly. That change can be significant when you’re upzoning a large area.

        For a concrete example: the UM student body has increased by several thousand students over the past 10 years. Without the addition of several thousand new housing units downtown (enabled by the new downtown zoning), those students would be competing for (and driving up the cost of) housing elsewhere.

        So, upzoning can increase the value of a single lot, but the global effect is to increase housing supply.

        I take Boulder as an cautionary tale showing what happens to home prices when zoning is used to restrict housing supply.

  10. J. Bruce Fields Says:

    By the way, I like Boulder in a lot of ways, but it’s not definitely not an example to follow if you care about the cost of housing: http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-business/ci_30129551/cost-average-home-boulder-surpasses-1m

    • varmentrout Says:

      Yes, Boulder encountered many of these issues before we did. But every medium-size attractive city is having similar problems. It’s how we choose to deal with them.

  11. Leon Bryson Says:

    Great Summary and analysis of the political future for Ann Arbor.

    Recently read Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class after reading Peter Moskowitz’s book, How to Kill a City. The two books tell two opposite stories, similiar to the “factions” that we have on city council in Ann Arbor. Mr. Florida’s book is the playbook for gentrification and the catering to the “creative class”. Many cities in America have been following his game plan for most of the 21st century. Moskowitz’s book sums up the results from the cities that used Mr. Florida’s playbook and describes in great detail some of the unintended consequences. Ann Arbor has followed the gentrifcation strategy, which has resulted in the displacement of minorities, middle income and working class people from our city. This election will determine whether certain long time residents can stay here or become displaced by someone who is reffered to as a “creative class” citizen. The Council Party prefers the latter and is unwilling to have a meaningful dialouge with current residents. Again, your analysis is excellent, and we are fortunate to have your expertise on local issues.

    • jcwconsult Says:

      And as we force more and more of the middle income and working class people that are critical for the economics of Ann Arbor out of our city because they cannot afford the housing costs, we need MORE attention to how to make their commutes to and from the city efficient and pleasant. We do NOT need more obstructions to efficient commuting travel like the DDA proposal to choke Huron St. down to two lanes for much of the day from Division to First/Chapin with the resulting congestion and diversion issues that will reduce safety for all of us.
      James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, A2

      • Robert Frank Says:

        James, we are with you on this. Is it the DDA plan, or the city’s plan. And doesn’t the state have to approve this?


      • Yes, the “plan” came from the DDA and both the city and MDOT would have to approve choking down Huron St. with part time parking. This should “die” in council.
        James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, A2

    • J. Bruce Fields Says:

      I’ll put those books on my reading list, thanks!

      ” Ann Arbor has followed the gentrifcation strategy, which has resulted in the displacement of minorities, middle income and working class people from our city.”

      Coming from the YIMBY side, what I don’t get is your model for how people are being displaced.

      Mine is pretty simple: we’re adding housing at a slower rate than we’re adding jobs and students, so rents and prices of existing housing are going up.

      I don’t see how new high rises downtown, for example, contribute to displacement. For the most part they’re built on previous surface lots and such: they’re not destroying a lot of existing housing.

      I *think* the model is something more like: new development attracts people with expensive tastes, who would not otherwise move to Ann Arbor at all. They in turn attract businesses that cater to those tastes, in a cycle which attracts more wealthy residents. No? Apologies if that’s an unfair characterization, as I say, I don’t really understand the argument….

      • varmentrout Says:

        I tried to explain that turning parcels into high-value properties puts market pressure on adjacent parcels and affordable rentals and homes get sucked into the search for cash returns. There are many scenarios and examples possible but this is not the place.

        The Moskowitz book is great and I derive many of my understandings of gentrification from it. Richard Florida has since written many books, the most recent of which is The New Urban Crisis, in which he acknowledges the effect of his previous ideas.

      • J. Bruce Fields Says:

        “I tried to explain that turning parcels into high-value properties puts market pressure on adjacent parcels and affordable rentals and homes get sucked into the search for cash returns.”

        I literally don’t understand that sentence. Sorry! Could you break it down a little more? By “turning parcels into high-value properties”, you mean upzoning them, or developing them? What exactly do you mean by “market pressure” (higher demand?). How does this make more homes get sucked into the “search for cash returns”?

      • varmentrout Says:

        Sorry, this is not the venue for a long discussion. It is a blog, not a social media post. We’ll have to work this over some other day. Thanks for reading.

      • J. Bruce Fields Says:

        OK. Let me know when, it’s something I’d like to understand.

  12. Diane McPharlin Says:

    Is this forwardable? Wish you had not used the terms “war” and “battle” but otherwise this is informative and thanks for the effort

  13. John Woodford Says:

    This is a tremendous contribution to all A2 citizens. Thanks a lot. It’s clear, cogent and extremely informative in providing a Big Picture for those like me who have sensed that something’s very wrong about how the Powers have been warping the city but didn’t know the historic background behind the onslaught or its implications for city’s future.

  14. Tim Janssen Says:

    I am so appreciative of your work here. You have such an insightful perspective and so much knowledge about our city. I have lived in A2 for most of my life. Hopefully, reason will prevail and we will soon have new leadership.

  15. varmentrout Says:

    Thanks for all the kind words. Much appreciated.

  16. Susan A. Perry Says:

    Vivienne: You always know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. Your blog, in addition to your posts and comments everywhere from Nextdoor to Mlive/AANews, always serve as a reasoned and intelligent source of crucial information. They inform, educate, and inspire ! Thank you for the incredible amount of time, research, and caring that you invest again and again in these efforts. It is no small gift.

  17. Carrie shaw-hillman Says:

    I am one of the displaced, priced out of Ann Arbor a few years ago. I still send my child to school in AA, my husband and I both work there, we do plenty of shopping there. It’s a shame we can’t afford to live in the community in which we do our living.


  18. Thanks, Vivienne. This will spark a good series of discussions. Who are we planning for anyway?

    • varmentrout Says:

      I assume that was a rhetorical question? I am so sorry to hear of examples of people being displaced, as with Carrie. I heard of another person who will lose her affordable rental to a new development (demolishing an entire block). This is a bitter thing. Home is important, including the community you live in.

  19. Leslie Rybicki Says:

    Thank you for this informative article. As a realtor it is frustrating to have to tell soldiers who have fought for our country protecting our freedoms, that I am really sorry but the $250k-$300k you have to spend on a home will not allow you and your family to live in Ann Arbor. Nor will it allow you to purchase in most of the surrounding townships, Dexter, Chelsea or Saline. My clients have been employed by the City of Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, an start up autonomous car project and smaller local tech companies. Due to the continued stigma of Ypsilanti most moving in from out of town do not wish to purchase there.

    Ann Arbor real estate is headed towards the likes of Boston and San Francisco, totally untouchable by the majority of purchasers.

    • varmentrout Says:

      I agree, it is frustrating. I learned of the true extent of the problem when I tried to downsize last year. I found that I couldn’t afford even relatively older and modest condos in Ann Arbor. I think all the hype about “Ann Arbor is #1” has drawn in a great deal of investment money. We are seeing the downside.

  20. Steve Bean Says:

    From a socionomic perspective, a bear market (negatively trending social mood as reflected in the stock and other financial markets) generally results in “change” in the form of incumbents not being re-elected. One or two such replacements at the council level would be in line with this stage of things.

    • Robert Frank Says:

      This election was unusual in that the economy in Ann Arbor is booming. But councilmembers who were quite popular until very recently, and who most of them were very nice people, lost in this election during true boom times. To me, this indicates a strong dissatisfaction in the direction of the city, and a dissatisfaction in the manner of governing.
      It is confusing to me that Mayor Taylor won so handily, which seems to counter my above statements.
      Could it be that Mayor Taylor’s campaign fundraiser, Ned Staebler’s ridiculous assertions that Jack Eaton may be a racist in sheep’s clothing, had a strong effect on the voters? I know several people who paid attention to the slanderous statements by Staebler.
      Anybody else have a guess?

  21. topcide Says:

    Eaton is the clear choice for mayor

    #stache attack

  22. Peter Mooney Says:

    With the election over I’ll be curious to see how things develop. I understand what the successful challengers are concerned about — the changing nature of the city reflected in new developments, the state of the roads etc. What I’m not clear about is what their plan is going forward. The city could, for example, become less accommodating to developers, and perhaps that would help it retain some of the small town characteristics people like about Ann Arbor. The city could also transfer resources to roads and other basic services, but that leaves unanswered the question of what then will be cut or where new revenues will be found. A quick glance at the city’s budget suggests that when you take out public safety, public works, parks, and basic operations of the city (planning, administration, accessing etc.) there isn’t a huge amount left.

    • varmentrout Says:

      Yes, good questions. I can’t answer for any of them, really, but I’m sure there are going to be some good conversations. As was pointed out by the Taylor camp in articles today, now it won’t be sufficient just to say “no” any more, there will have to be some proposals.

    • Steve Bean Says:

      If by “become less accommodating to” you mean ‘stop subsidizing’, I think that might fit.

      Wrt roads, I suspect that we’ll live with the current plan and funding, just with more public monitoring/reporting and less obtuse/defensive responses. If that were a more widespread concern, I think Taylor and Grand would have been replaced as well.

    • Greg Pratt Says:

      It may be a long shot with straight ticket party voting in Nov, but Ryan Hughes, a democratic socialist, is running as an independent in Ward 1. This may also have an impact on the direction moving forward as his candidacy thus far has focused on policing and affordable housing, specifically the types of housing proposed by Eaton in the 11th hour of his mayoral candidacy.

      The difference with Ryan’s approach is that he advocates for a steady stream of funds via taxation [not DDA parking revenues, though he is open to this], the viability of which is still to be determined.

      Nevertheless, there are already signs that Jeff Hayner is open to additional campaign talks [additional to the LWV fora etc.] to discuss issues with residents. This is welcome news in my mind. Nothing formal has been announced yet, so stay tuned.

      Regardless, as Vivienne has noted, the Neighborhood block of CMs are not rubber stamp types of leaders. I am excited to learn more about how Elizabeth Nelson and Ali Ramlawi [whose post campaign statement makes me hopeful].

      I look forward to all A2 policy discussions moving forward, but especially in the realm of housing and policing.

      Thanks for your summary, Vivienne. I don’t agree with all of it, but it is comprehensive nonetheless.


      • On the housing issue, how about discussing whether some special zoning changes/categories could permit building more affordable housing in practical ways. For example, should A2 permit some developments with “tiny homes” at lower building costs? How about a dense development with smaller 800 to 1000 foot homes on places like 2857 Packard – still requiring careful protection for the mature trees? It is not necessary for all new single-family homes to be 2,000+ sq ft. on large lots with 2 car garages.

  23. varmentrout Says:

    This is an interesting discussion but we are straying somewhat from the original intent of the post.

    Clearly I need to work again on my affordable housing post (which has been incubating for months now). Briefly, I believe that there needs to be a comprehensive discussion of the types of housing we should have in Ann Arbor, who we are trying to serve, what possibilities could be incorporated. The ideas put forth by Jack Eaton’s campaign are a good start. I have some others.

    More later. Keep those brains popping.


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