City-DDA Parking Talks Gain Tempo

Meetings now twice monthly on parking contract

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority manages the city’s parking system under a contract last revised in 2005 to extend through 2015.

In early summer 2010, committees from the DDA board and the Ann Arbor city council set out a schedule of monthly meetings to renegotiate that contractual parking agreement.

Susan Pollay at table with timeline on whiteboard in the background.

Susan Pollay, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, takes notes at the end of the table an hour and a half into the July 12 meeting of committees from the city council and the DDA. On the white board behind her is the timeline worked out by the committees that led to the scheduling of additional meetings. (Photo by the writer.)

Faced with a target of Oct. 31, 2010 for a completed contract, the two groups – known as the mutually beneficial committees – have now increased the frequency of their meetings to twice-monthly. At the June 14 meeting, it was agreed that staff members from both the city and the DDA would attend future committee meetings, and that staff would prepare a matrix of policy points related to the parking system.

But at the July 12 meeting of the two committees, the matrix of policy points had not yet been prepared and no city staff were present. Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, attended the July 12 meeting as the DDA staff representative. And Pollay led the committees through a calculation backward from the Oct. 31, 2010 target date, which showed that an outline of the agreement needed to be ready by the very next monthly meeting – then scheduled for Aug. 9.

When committee members apparently teetered on the edge of abandoning the Oct. 31 target, Pollay gave them a nudge, tilting them back to terra firma. She was prepared to work with a sense of urgency, if that is a priority, Pollay told them – but if they already wanted to push past the deadline, then she was content to take it easy, too.

Committee members responded by deciding to add extra meetings to the schedule. Besides scheduling issues, the July 12 meeting also focused on: (i) contractual aspects of the current parking agreement that had possibly been overlooked in recent city council decision-making; and (ii) the appropriate length of the term and monetary consideration in the new contract.

On July 26, the two committees held an extra meeting, this time joined by Sue McCormick, the city’s public services area administrator. The task of creating the parking policy matrix had been taken on by Pollay, who had then worked with McCormick to produce a chart that included the city’s recommendations along with DDA suggestions.

The next regular meeting – the second Monday of the month – falls on Aug. 9, with an additional meeting planned for Aug. 23.

Parking Contract Background

Under the parking contract signed between the city and the DDA in 2005, the DDA was to pay the city of Ann Arbor $1 million per year through 2010 as rent for the city’s facilities. The city had the option to request up to $2 million in payment in any given year, provided that the total for the contracted period did not exceed $10 million. But in each of the first five years of the contract, the city requested and received $2 million from the DDA.

The city’s FY 2011 budget plan, which was developed as part of the two-year budget planning cycle for the FY 2010 budget, included an additional $2 million payment from the DDA that was not required under the parking contract.

Although the city adopts budgets only one year at a time, the two-year planning cycle already made it clear: the city expected the DDA to pay more than the contract stipulated. So in January 2009, as the city council began its work on the FY 2010 budget, the city council passed a resolution that called upon the DDA to begin a conversation about revising the parking contract in a “mutually beneficial” way.

Then in July 2009, the city council appointed members to a committee that was to talk with a corresponding committee of the DDA board about amending the contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.  Through the end of 2009, the two committees did not meet in public view. Then, in early 2010, a group of councilmembers and DDA board members worked outside of any committee structure, and out of public view, on a term sheet for the contract revision, which was finally made public in late April 2010.

That term sheet was the good faith basis on which the DDA board, on a 7-4 vote in May, decided unilaterally to amend the parking contract. That unilateral amendment amounted to a payment from the DDA to the city of an additional $2 million that had not been required under the existing contract. The city used the $2 million to modify the budget for FY 2011, which began July 1, 2010.

In May 2010, the city council appointed a second committee to take discussions forward based on the term sheet.

Members of the council’s committee are Margie Teall (Ward 4), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5). Representing the DDA are Sandi Smith, Russ Collins, Roger Hewitt and Gary Boren. Smith is also a city councilmember, representing Ward 1.

A timeline overview of events through this week:

  • 2009: Background and overview of 2009 events in previous Chronicle coverage [link]
  • January-April 2010: DDA board member Roger Hewitt reports at monthly DDA board meetings that only informal discussions are taking place.
  • April 16, 2010: The Ann Arbor Chronicle is barred from attendance at a meeting of a “working group” of city council members and DDA board members.
  • April 21, 2010: At a DDA partnerships committee meeting, Newcombe Clark gets assurance that a 7-day notice would be given before the full board would be asked to consider a $2 million transfer payment.
  • April 28, 2010: At a DDA operations committee meeting, a “term sheet” produced by the “working group” of the city council and DDA is unveiled. It’s intended to become the basis for an eventual new parking agreement. A key feature of the “term sheet” is that the DDA will assume responsibility for enforcement of parking meters. Chronicle coverage: “DDA to Tie $2 Million to Public Process
  • May 5, 2010: DDA board approves the unitlateral amendment of the contract with the payment of an additional $2 million to the city. Chronicle coverage: “DDA OKs $2 million Over Strong Dissent
  • May 17, 2010: Ann Arbor city council accepts $2 million from DDA, makes budget amendments that reduce city-administrator-proposed layoffs in fire and police departments and eliminate cuts in human services funding. The council appoints a second “mutually beneficial” committee. Chronicle coverage: “City’s Budget Takes Backseat to DDA Issues
  • May 28, 2010: City council’s mutually beneficial committee meets; DDA board holds retreat to discuss term sheet. Chronicle coverage: “Ann Arbor DDA: Let’s Do Development
  • June 14, 2010: Joint meeting of the two “mutually beneficial” committees of the DDA and the city council. Chronicle coverage: “Parking Deal Talks Open Between City, DDA
  • July 6, 2010: City council work session on the topic of city-DDA parking agreement.
  • July 12, 2010: Joint meeting of the two “mutually beneficial” committees of the DDA and the city council.
  • July 26, 2010: Joint meeting of the two “mutually beneficial” committees of the DDA and the city council.

July 6 City Council Work Session

Just prior to the July 6, 2010 city council meeting, councilmembers held a work session to get an update on how things stood with the mutually beneficial committees.

Based on the council’s latest briefing as a group, the guiding principles of the conversations between the two committees were the term sheet points:

In bullet-point form, the key elements of the term sheet for discussion were these:

  • Parking Enforcement: DDA assumes responsibility for enforcement of parking rules.
  • Code Enforcement: DDA assumes responsibility for enforcement of other community standards codes (e.g., sign violations).
  • Services: DDA assumes responsibility for various services in the downtown.
  • Development: DDA assumes responsibility for development of city-owned downtown surface parking lots.

As Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) reported to his council colleagues at the July 6 work session, the consensus that had emerged from the DDA committee and the discussion at the DDA board retreat was that the DDA was disinclined to take on responsibility for enforcement of non-parking related codes. Taylor suggested, “Let’s engage their disinclination to do it … if no one says, ‘We simply must have them do it.’”

So the tentative proposal is to have separate enforcement staff for parking and for non-parking codes.

Work Session: Separate Forces?

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) has, from the start, expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of the DDA enforcing city codes of any kind, using the phrase “shadow government.” At the work session, he reiterated his view that the DDA should not perform non-parking code enforcement, and asked how this was any different from parking codes. City administrator Roger Fraser clarified that parking codes relate specifically to vehicles on the street, but that other codes – those the DDA does not want to enforce – involve building codes, trash, debris, weeds, sight distances, nuisance complaints and the like.

Kunselman wanted to know if different staff currently enforced the different categories of codes. Fraser indicated that years ago the two different kinds of codes were enforced by different staff – now they’re all enforced by community standards officers.

Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) wanted confirmation on a question he’d raised at the June 14 meeting: Was there any economy to be gained by having the same staff enforce parking codes and other codes? Taylor indicated that he’d received a response from city staff that it’s not a consideration they need to worry about.

Mayor  John Hieftje expressed concern that they were starting to talk about two different enforcement entities operating in the downtown area. He said that based on conversations with the deputy police chief, he thought it would be much easier to train the current community standards officers who do parking enforcement to implement enforcement in the specific ways that the DDA had in mind – to make them “ambassadors” for the downtown. He said that it made sense to invest in training the people we already have.

Taylor sought to distinguish between the staffing of the parking enforcement system versus policies on parking. Hieftje indicated that policy was set by the city council.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) indicated a desire to pursue the dual-force option, noting that currently a police officer can write a parking ticket, as can a community standards officer.

Fraser weighed in by saying that it is important to determine what they wanted to accomplish before deciding how they’re going to accomplish it – with one force or with two. Focus on what before we get to how, he said. Invited by Smith to explain what they wanted to accomplish, DDA board member Roger Hewitt characterized the goal as minimizing the unpleasant aspect of people getting an expired meter ticket. Now it’s under the police and it’s revenue-driven. What the DDA is suggesting, he said, is that they want to maximize compliance with the parking regulations, which are an important part of a larger transportation system.

Questioned by Margie Teall (Ward 4) about whether it mattered who did the enforcement, Hewitt said he felt the key was who the enforcement staff report to. If they report to the police, he said, that has implications for the culture of enforcement. The policy and enforcement culture, he said, needs to be under one organization.

If the goal is not to write tickets, Kunselman wondered why the city was charging for parking at all. He reported that he was recently in Naperville, Illinois, where parking downtown is free. He indicated that he did not even want to partake in a discussion of allowing the DDA to enforce parking meters outside the DDA area. For the DDA to provide parking enforcement, he said, it would water down their true responsibility, which is downtown development.

Kunselman asked what the current problem was that could not be addressed by adjusting meter rates and times. He did not see a reason to create a second force.

Hewitt pointed out that the DDA already does manage meters outside the DDA boundaries. Hieftje said that as long as they were giving instruction to the committee, that for his part – speaking as a member of both the city council and the DDA board – he felt they should retrain the same force the city already had.

Kunselman expressed his view that the DDA didn’t need council direction to hire downtown ambassadors, if that’s what they’d like to do.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) indicated that she thought the parking policy report that the DDA had recently generated at the city council’s request was “a fine beginning” and that would be an opportunity to have a discussion on parking policy.

Work Session: Services?

Taylor noted that another area of discussion for the two committees was the provision of services in the downtown area by the DDA – pruning trees and the like. Kunselman wondered what that would mean, given that a business improvement zone (BIZ) had just recently been established for the Main Street area. Would the DDA expect compensation for those services?

Taylor responded by saying that the overriding consideration is that the city would be “held harmless” in the agreement. Hewitt confirmed that “holding harmless” was a concept that applied – to both sides. The underlying assumption, he said, is that the DDA would pay the city for use of its parking facilities and that if the DDA could reduce the costs to the city through provision of certain services, then that reduced cost would be factored into the payment made by the DDA to the city.

Work Session: DDA Does Development?

Returning to the points listed out on the term sheet, Taylor noted that there was a great deal of interest on the DDA’s part in taking responsibility for development of city-owned property in the downtown area.

Hewitt confirmed the interest, but noted that there are a number of different opinions about what that might entail – it would not mean that the DDA would take over the decision-making process, however. It would mean that a more comprehensive approach would be taken, as opposed to the ad hoc approach. He said they’d look at some economic studies of the mix of retail, dining, and entertainment that currently exists in the downtown and explore what kinds of other businesses would continue to support that. He also indicated that the DDA would bring in some real estate expertise.

Hewitt indicated there would be extensive public process, with the identification of public goals for the property. He stressed that it would be a step-by-step process with city council approval at each step along the way. He estimated that the entire process of development would take many years. He confirmed for Taylor that the DDA’s executive director, Susan Pollay, had been tasked with providing a somewhat more detailed architecture of the DDA’s plan for being the development engine for the downtown.

Briere ticked through a number of questions for Hewitt. Would this entail the development of RFPs (requests for proposals) and RFQs (requests for qualifications)? Would it involve consultants to develop those RFPs and RFQs? Would it involve public meetings before such documents were crafted? Yes, yes, and yes came Hewitt’s answers in turn. Hewitt pointed to the public process as a requirement, given the DDA’s status as a public body.

Kunselman wanted to know if the development activities by the DDA would also be incorporated into the parking agreement. Hewitt indicated that that was considered to be a separate issue. The DDA had already authorized supporting a consultant for the city-owned Library Lot development, Hewitt noted. He indicated that the future development activity by the DDA would be funded out of the TIF (tax increment financing) capture.

Kunselman said that one of the things he’d like to see the DDA do is focus more on development of public buildings downtown. He indicated that he did not feel the DDA needed city council direction to do that. The DDA could approach the Ann Arbor District Library or the Ann Arbor Housing Commission to talk about supporting projects of those two organizations, he said. Those things are already within the DDA’s mission, he concluded.

Hewitt pointed out that because the city owned the parcels in question, it was necessary to have city council’s sanction and cooperation. Briere suggested that the operative term was “city-owned property” rather than “public property” – that’s why Hewitt would say the DDA needs to have the city council’s cooperation, she said.

Hohnke echoed the idea that it was valuable to take a broad and comprehensive look at the city’s downtown parcels.

In response to a question from Kunselman about the city planning commission’s role in the development activity, Hewitt indicated that everything would still have to go through the planning commission process. He said that the existing decision-making bodies would certainly continue to exercise those decisions.

Note: The city council work session was sparsely attended – by Hieftje, Smith, Briere, Taylor, Kunselman and Hohnke.

July 12 Committee Meeting

The July 12, 2010 meeting of the two mutually beneficial committees began with the small talk of initial morning encounters. In attendance were Susan Pollay, Russ Collins, Sandi Smith, Roger Hewitt, Carsten Hohnke, Christopher Taylor and Margie Teall.

July 12: Staffing of Parking Enforcement

Small talk evolved into a discussion on the point of the staffing of parking enforcement positions. Roger Hewitt allowed that mayor John Hieftje’s point made at the council working session – that existing staff could be trained in the kind of approach the DDA would like to see – had some merit. But Hewitt came back to his view that it’s a matter of who those employees report to. The priorities of the parking enforcement staff are ultimately determined by the organization they report to, said Hewitt. The priorities of the city government – revenue – are not the same as the priorities of the parking authority, he said.

July 12: Where’s City Staff?

At their June 12 meeting, attended only by committee members, the two committees had agreed that staff from both organizations would attend all future meetings. Collins asked where the staff were. “That’s why Susan [Pollay] is here,” was the answer. For the city, however there were no staff present.

As the conversation seemed to be turning towards a discussion of revenues from parking rates and fines, Pollay suggested: “The tough part is not revenue; the tough part is expenses.” She then noted that the committees had until the end of October to complete the contract.

July 12: What’s Our Deadline?

Pollay’s mention of the October deadline prompted Collins to ask if the real estate development piece of the term sheet would also fall under the committee’s purview. Teall wanted to know if the Oct. 31 deadline reflected the time when the committee finished its work – with the contract to be considered by the council in November. Or did it reflect a target for having the contract signed and ratified by the respective bodies? Based on the term sheet and the resolutions passed by the respective bodies, the target was a completed and signed contract by Oct. 31.

Taylor suggested that “lawyer time” needed to be built in. Calculating back from October, Smith suggested that by September something needed to be ready for legal staff to review. Taylor objected, saying that legal staff “are not reviewing it, they’re drafting it.”

July 12: Who Drafts the Contract?

The committees then entertained the question of which legal counsel should draft the agreement – Jerry Lax, with whom the DDA contracts for legal services, or the city attorney’s office. Smith suggested it’d be faster if Lax did the work. Hewitt agreed that the private sector has a reputation of being more efficient. Hohnke suggested that Lax would simply be more familiar with the various DDA parking issues.

Collins declared that there was a consensus that Lax should do the drafting. The question then became: How long does Lax get? Hewitt suggested that after the next meeting in August, the committees would turn over to Lax what they had, so that Lax could tell the committees what additional information he needed.

Smith suggested that Tom Crawford, the city’s CFO, needs to be looped in on the process. Hewitt agreed that Crawford needed to be part of the conversation with respect to the dollar amounts and the length of the contract term.

July 12: Where’s City Staff (Redux)?

At the mention of Crawford, a city staff member, Collins then returned to the earlier question: Where’s someone from the city staff today? Teall indicated that she had not talked to anyone. There was a brief discussion of the role that Sue McCormick, the city’s public service area administrator, might play.

July 12: Brief History of the Contract

Pollay and Hewitt then reviewed some of the basic points of history of the relationship of the DDA to the city’s parking system.

The DDA was in some sense born out of parking – the initial projects in 1982, when the DDA was created, included the Ann-Ashley and the Tally Hall structures. In 1992, the city and DDA agreed that there were problems with several of the city structures that could be addressed by using the DDA’s TIF capture. The DDA took over management of seven structures and three lots, and approved a repair plan for an estimated $6 million. That cost eventually grew to $25 million, with the final price tag amounting to around $40 million. The DDA had then lobbied for the management of the on-street meter system as well, Pollay said – that’s part of the system that is profitable and can help fund the overall system.

In 2002, the city and the DDA struck an agreement that provided for DDA management of street metered spaces, with a rent payment by the DDA to the city of $100,000 per year. In 2005, Pollay said, the DDA voluntarily approached the city, noting the financial difficulties the city was experiencing, and offered to increase the rent payment to $1 million per year, with the option for the city to draw $2 million in one year as long as the total over 10 years did not exceed $10 million.

Hewitt added that the DDA is responsible for all of the debt service on the parking decks, their maintenance, plus the utilities in and around the decks.

Pollay, noting the 10-year term of the contract, suggested there is a cultural difference between the DDA and the city. The city doesn’t have the luxury of thinking that far into the future, she said, but that’s how the DDA does its planning. Hewitt agreed that because the DDA bonded to pay for construction of parking structures, it is important to make long-term plans.

July 12: The Contract as a Contract

Pollay concluded that from the DDA’s point of view, the parking agreement between the DDA and the city acts as a contract. She said that historically, the city did not seem to view the agreement as acting like a contract. Pointing out that the state enabling statute for DDAs makes the DDA a separate entity from the city that can sue and be sued, she expressed concern that the parking agreement be established on both sides as a contractual relationship.

As one example, she pointed to the language of the agreement, which stipulates that the DDA is to manage “the” parking system. [The ordinary understanding of the definite article in English includes some sense of uniqueness.] In early 2009, when the city staff elected to pursue a strategy of installing parking meters in residential areas outside the DDA district, that was not consistent with the contractual language of the city-DDA parking agreement, Pollay said. Revenues from the parking meters in “the city’s parking system” are, per the contract, supposed to be received by the DDA. Given that the city was looking for ways to make up revenue shortfalls for the FY 2010 budget at the time, Pollay said that the DDA weighed whether or not to “make a stink.” Instead of challenging the city’s move based on the contract, Pollay said, they’d expressed their skepticism that the additional meters would actually generate the kind of revenue that the city was hoping for.

Pollay also pointed to the impact on the city’s labor unions. When the city moved meter revenues and responsibility for collecting coins from meters to the DDA in 2002, the city had told the city’s unions that they were basically no longer in the parking business. Installation of additional meters with revenues to be collected by the city meant that the city was back in the parking business, she said.

The $1 million rent payment specified by the contract, Pollay pointed out, was based on a specific inventory of parking spaces. If the basis of the contract is changed – i.e., if the inventory is changed – the contract needs to be re-examined. Pollay then pointed to places where the parking inventory had been decreased, without revisiting the contract, including the First and Washington structure.

Hewitt weighed in on the contractual aspect of the agreement by saying that if the view of the city was that the DDA was merely an arm of the city, as opposed to an entity that could enter into contracts with the city, then the committees were wasting their time.

July 12: Does Fuller Road Station Get Covered by the Contract?

Hewitt then broached the subject of the proposed Fuller Road Station – would that facility be included in the revised parking agreement? Teall indicated that there would be “huge pushback” if the DDA were assigned responsibility for managing that facility outside the DDA district. Pollay pointed out that the DDA and the University of Michigan already partnered on the Forest parking structure, which is located outside the DDA district.

July 12: Back to the Timeline and Where’s City Staff (Re-redux)

Collins then noted that the “grim reality” is that there were three meetings left to resolve a very complex issue. He reiterated that he was “pretty distressed there’s no city staff person here.” Taylor indicated that the desire for a city staff person to be present had been relayed to the city: “That was communicated – I don’t know what happened.” Collins mused that it was a matter of the budget season being over and the pressure from that being off – and now there is an election campaign underway. He noted that the DDA staff is tiny, and while the city staff is larger, they are overworked. Collins concluded by saying if they were to have a rough draft ready in August, then their committees needed to “battle through it.”

July 12: A Chart with Columns

The conversation then turned to what was needed to get the committees “off square one.” Taylor sketched out in words what he thought was needed: a chart with columns. The leftmost column would indicate all the points of entry into the parking system, he said, one point of entry per row. The next column over would indicate the DDA’s current responsibility. A third column should indicate the city’s current responsibility. Subsequent discussion indicated that there should also be columns for recommendations by the DDA and by the city for changes in the current arrangement for how the elements of the parking system are handled.

July 12: Can We Hit the Deadline?

With Pollay offering to complete the chart by July 26, Smith described that day’s committee meeting as “a wash.” Sentiments from Teall suggested that the Oct. 31 deadline might not necessarily be solid. At that, Pollay told the committee members that if the Oct. 31 deadline is a priority, then she was prepared to work urgently. But if they already wanted to push past that deadline, she said, “I can take it easy, too.”

Collins suggested that the chart with the columns of recommendations by the DDA could be forwarded to the city staff by July 19 – with July 26 as a target for the commitees actually meeting again. It would be great, Collins said wishfully, if the two columns containing the city’s and the DDA’s recommendations were identical. The committees confirmed July 26 as an additional meeting date.

July 12: Let’s Be Productive: Time, Money, Amnesia

To that point in the meeting, the concrete progress made by the committees could be fairly described as (i) assigning Pollay to do a task, and (ii) scheduling an extra committee meeting. Hohnke, reacting to the apparent willingness of others to let the meeting end there, noted that there were some things they could talk about in the absence of the chart that Pollay would be creating.

For example, Hohnke said, they could talk about the length of the new agreement. Collins suggested, half-jokingly, that given the DDA’s 30-year renewal in 2003, he’d like the parking agreement to run through 2033. “I want 2033! What do you guys want?” he asked.

The back and forth suggested that there might be consensus around a 10-year agreement, based on the previous agreement and the DDA’s preference to work with a 10-year plan.

The conversation then lost some of its focus on the term of the agreement and took a path through what the scope of the agreement should include: loading zone permits, Fuller Road Station?

Hohnke alluded to some of Pollay’s previous remarks about topics that the current agreement already addressed but that had not been treated by the city as contractual obligations. Those had been instances of “institutional amnesia,” he said. The new agreement needs to reinforce what was covered in the original 2002 agreement as a contract, he said – the parking system.

Taylor was keen to draw a distinction between the rest of the parking system and the future Fuller Road Station: “But Fuller is different,” he declared. Hewitt responded by saying that the parking agreement should not automatically exempt something from being covered. If Fuller Road Station materializes, Hewitt said, the city-DDA contract should apply to it. Taylor countered by saying he did not feel that Fuller Road Station should automatically be handled by the parking agreement between the city and the DDA.

Smith pointed out that the DDA already had experience working on a joint UM venture – which Fuller Road Station is proposed to be – in the form of the Forest parking structure. It’s a joint facility and the DDA has the expertise in managing such a facility. Smith concluded it would be wise to tap the DDA expertise to manage Fuller Road Station, even if it were not in the contract.

A brief discussion of the dollar amounts involved in the new parking agreement showed a consensus that it should be some kind of percentage based on either gross or net revenue of the parking system.

July 26 Committee Meeting

At the July 26, 2010 meeting, initial small talk among early arrivees focused on the trolley used at the art fairs, and comparisons to the now defunct LINK. In attendance were: Susan Pollay, Sue McCormick, Sandi Smith, Roger Hewitt, Christopher Taylor and Margie Teall.

July 26: The Chart with Columns – Exactly Right

The handout for the meeting included the requested chart with columns. Taylor led off by saying, “Thank you, this is exactly right.” Rows in the chart were as follows:

  1. parking structures – cashiered
  2. parking lots: city owned – cashiered
  3. parking lots: leased – cashiered
  4. parking lots: city owned – parking meters
  5. parking lots: city owned – monthly permit
  6. parking lots: leased – monthly permit
  7. on-street parking meters – DDA district
  8. on-street parking meters – outside DDA district
  9. enforcement of UM parking facilities
  10. meter bags – on street and off street
  11. off-street moped and motorcycle parking spaces
  12. bicycle parking (bike lockers, sidewalk, inside parking facilities, and on-street)
  13. taxi stand spaces
  14. loading zones – commercial, passenger drop off/pick up, staging
  15. near downtown residential permits
  16. special parking requests and actions
  17. complaint calls
  18. Fuller Road Station

Columns indicated DDA responsibility, city responsibility, DDA recommended changes, city staff recommended changes, with a blank column for the joint committee recommended changes.

Some of the current DDA responsibilities for parking structures – in addition to operation, maintenance and repairs – that were highlighted by Pollay included electricity costs for streetlights, snow removal for sidewalks and sidewalk repair costs.

Among the DDA staff recommended changes for structures were the enforcement of parking regulations, like no parking from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and parking in handicapped spaces without a sticker.

July 26: Parking Referees

A DDA suggestion that ran across several rows of the chart was that the DDA would be responsible for the parking referees. Sue McCormick explained that the city currently employs two parking referees – they hear appeals of parking tickets and make judgments on whether to grant those appeals. One of the referees is funded by the University of Michigan, she explained, because the parking referees hear appeals for UM tickets as well.

In explaining the rationale for the DDA’s desire to handle referee decisions, Pollay said it’s important for the referees also to understand the basic philosophy of the DDA’s approach to parking enforcement. Referees need to understand “the ‘why’ of it,” she said. McCormick noted that it was important that parking referees not make different judgement calls in similar circumstances – whatever philosophy the DDA had needed to be implemented at the point of ticketing.

July 26: Ticket and Appeals Data

Taylor wanted to know where and how most of the parking referee activity originated.

McCormick came to the meeting armed with various statistics on referee activity. From the last year, the contested tickets for city and university cases had the following distribution:

REPORT PERIOD FROM 07/01/2009 TO 06/30/2010 


University CASES ONLY 

Complaint Type    Tickets     Dollar Value
                  Contested   of tickets

Referee Session     1,006     $27,318
Mail                2,798      71,778
Contact Only          339       3,534

Tickets Denied      1,210     $30,824
Tickets Reduced       550     ( 5,083)*
Tickets Voided      2,095     (54,286)

*from $13,517 to $8,434       

Totals      Reasons for Void 

#1    110   Officer Error
#2      1   Defective Meter
#3      2   Emergency
#4     15   Improper Signs
#5      2   Official Business
#6    299   Special Permit
#7      4   U of M PTS
#8  1,254   U of M Policy on voids
#9    308   Referee's Judgment
#10     3   Deceased
#11     0   Vehicle Sold at Auction
#12     1   Unable to Locate
#13     2   Data Entry Error
#14     0   Stolen Vehicle
#15     0   Inclement Weather
#16    63   Defective Dynameter
#17    25   Public Relations
#18     0   PVB Coordinator's Judgment
#19     1   U of M DPS
#20     5   Housing
#99     0   Court Codes


City Cases ONLY

Complaint Type    Tickets     Dollar Value
                  Contested   of tickets

Referee Session     1,365     $43,426
Mail                2,739      82,771
Contact Only          553       8,101

Tickets Denied      1,567     $50,048
Tickets Reduced       872     (10,454)*
Tickets Voided      1,746     (47,886)

*from $28,130 to $17,676     

Totals      Reasons for Void 

#1    174   Officer Error
#2     94   Defective Meter
#3      7   Emergency
#4     17   Improper Signs
#5      9   Official Business
#6    150   Special Permit
#7      0   U of M PTS
#8      8   U of M Policy on voids
#9  1,125   Referee's Judgment
#10     0   Deceased
#11     0   Vehicle Sold at Auction
#12     7   Unable to Locate
#13    20   Data Entry Error
#14     5   Stolen Vehicle
#15     1   Inclement Weather
#16   103   Defective Dynameter
#17    26   Public Relations
#18     0   PVB Coordinator's Judgment
#19     0   U of M DPS
#20     0   Housing
#99     0   Court Codes

In terms of the kinds of tickets that were issued – regardless of whether they were contested or not – McCormick provided the following breakdown from city of Ann Arbor community standards tickets:

Total Parking Tickets    88,414
Expired Meter            60,866
Parked Over Legal Limit   5,997
No Parking Anytime        4,930
Loading Zone              2,412
Ahead of Setback Line       444
Parked On Walk              588
Blocked Drive             1,449
Handicapped Space           846
Fire Lane                    52
All Other                10,830

The idea of the DDA handling referee sessions gained only marginal traction in the discussion. Taylor suggested that if a lot of the referee session originated in areas outside the DDA district, then maybe the city should handle it.

A historical point made by McCormick was that the appeal process was currently separate from enforcement – the city treasurer’s office handles appeals through its referees, while the tickets themselves get written by community standards officers, who are part of the police department. They’re separate, McCormick said, because they used to be under the police department and there was a consensus that enforcement needed to be separate from appeals. What the DDA was suggesting was a return to a scenario that had previously been perceived as flawed – combining enforcement with appeals

Hewitt suggested laying aside the issue of referees.

July 26: Ticket Collection, Single Contact Point

Pollay brought up the issue of ticket collection – it’s currently handled by a company in New York. She suggested that downtown banks might bid on providing that service. Smith advised that part of the reason for the current arrangement was that the company had an arrangement with a half-dozen other states that allowed them to track down tickets owed by UM students who accumulated them, then left town with the tickets unpaid.

A key idea that floated through the whole conversation was a need to present a single point of contact to the public for the parking system. There is a challenge inherent in having two organizations involved – the city and the University of Michigan. What they’re now contemplating is adding a third organization in the form of the DDA. McCormick noted that the physical form of the tickets themselves indicated the two different authorities of the city and the university.

Pollay returned to the issue of the tickets themselves by suggesting that the physical form could be improved to be “friendlier.” Currently, she said, the envelope simply listed out the fine amounts. For many visitors, she cautioned, that envelope makes a lasting impression of what they think about Ann Arbor.

July 26: Council Authority on Rate Increases

In the course of the committee discussion, Hewitt returned to a theme that would need to be addressed independently of any renegotiation of a parking agreement: council approval of parking rates in the context of flexible pricing schemes associated with transportation demand management. As an example, he suggested that the DDA would not be enthusiastic about getting council approval to change the hourly rate on one level of a particular deck by one dime. Some kind of average, Hewitt said, would need to be offered to the council for approval.

Smith also cautioned against the city council’s possible “micro-managing” by saying: “It’s like the city council making a decision on an AATA bus route.” That remark was met with an animated response from Teall: “Would we do that?!” Replied Smith, “Precisely.” Smith meant that the same negative reaction Teall had displayed to the city council weighing in on AATA bus routes was the same reaction that would be appropriate for the city council micro-managing parking rates.

July 26: Rights to Enforce

One outstanding issue that will receive more analysis before the next committee meeting is the legal ability of the city to grant the right to enforce parking rules to the DDA. It was discussed that the preliminary view offered by Mary Fales, one of the assistant city attorneys, is that she can find nothing that would justify providing the DDA with that authority.

Pollay offered her view that Fales was possibly confining her scope of analysis to the state enabling legislation for DDAs – one would not necessarily find an explicit conferal of a right to enforce parking in the state enabling legislation, in order for it to be legal.

By the next committee meeting, additional analysis by the city attorney’s office plus the DDA’s legal counsel, Jerry Lax, is to be done.

What’s Next

The two committees are currently scheduled to meet again on Aug. 9 and again on Aug. 23. However, there was some uncertainly on the city council side, expressed by Teall, about whether she or Hohnke would attend. She cited the fact that the date fell after the Aug. 3 primary election.


  1. August 1, 2010 at 9:26 pm | permalink

    If parking regulations are an important part of a larger transportation system, then perhaps the AATA should manage the parking system and allow the DDA to concentrate on its core mission, which is (or should be) downtown development.

  2. By Ruth Kraut
    August 1, 2010 at 10:51 pm | permalink

    I would love it if we used local businesses for things like the collection of parking tickets. I believe that Think Local First has thoroughly documented the benefits of keeping our money circulating in the local economy.

  3. August 2, 2010 at 7:24 am | permalink

    CM Smith is a conscientious person but this article exemplifies a concern that I have had for some time regarding her dual roles. Council members have frequently served on the DDA board (though their heavy involvement dates to the reign of the current mayor) but usually they are first council members, then appointed to the DDA as part of those duties.

    CM Smith was a long-time member of the DDA before being elected to Council and in this case is serving as a member of the DDA in the committee rather than as a councilmember. This may seem a subtle distinction, but in negotiations between two parties one assumes that the members on each side are truly representing the interests of the side they are negotiating on. Will CM Smith represent the interests of the DDA rather than those of the council (who are elected to represent their constituents) once this matter moves to Council?

  4. By Steve Bean
    August 2, 2010 at 10:03 am | permalink

    @3: Thank you, Vivienne, for noting that. I’ve been wondering the same thing. Subtle distinctions are often the most important to make.

  5. By brad
    August 2, 2010 at 10:16 am | permalink

    Did anyone notice the DDA is double counting revenue for the Library Lot in its 10-year plan? Below are the relevant numbers.

    For FY11/12 (pg 4 of “10 year plan 2-24-10B.pdf which Mr. Morehouse emailed to me on 2-25-10)

    Total Contract Revenue: $1.1m/year; price/contract: $140/month, so DDA expects 655 contracts/month.

    Total Transient Revenue: $336k/year; price/hour: $1.10/hour, so DDA expects about 300,000 hours of parking. There are 22 spots left (677 total less 655 contracts), so the DDA expects each spot to be occupied every day for 38 hours/day.

    Since this is impossible, there are three explanations. First, the DDA expects contract spots to be available during the day so that hourly patrons can use the spaces. Second, the listed $140 contract price isn’t accurate because it doesn’t include premium pricing. Last, the DDA’s accounting practices are unsound. I’ve asked the DDA for clarification, but I have yet to receive a reply.

    To Vivienne, I completely agree that it’s impossible for Smith to separate her roles as DDA and Council members. Where some see a benefit, I see a conflict of interest.