Stories indexed with the term ‘parking revenue’

DDA Elects Officers, Gets More Parking Data

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting and annual meeting (July 6, 2011): Other than the ritual cancellation of its monthly meeting for August, the DDA board did not have any items on its agenda for July that required a board vote.

Bag of Rocks

To honor her past year of service as chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, Joan Lowenstein was presented with a plastic bag full of gravel. (That was only part of the token of appreciation.) To Lowenstein's left is Gary Boren, who was elected chair for the next year. (Photos by the writer.)

But during the meeting, parking issues were a focus, as they usually are.

First, board member Roger Hewitt reported to the board that additional data on usage of the city’s public parking system will now be available from Republic Parking. The DDA manages the city’s public parking system under a contract with the city of Ann Arbor – the DDA subcontracts out the day-to-day operations to Republic Parking. The new kind of data measures the number of total parking hours used by parkers against the total number of parking hours that are available in the system. Based on that measure, the parking system has seen a 1.72% increase in usage over the first five months of 2011, compared with the same five months of 2010.

Second, one of the major allocations of public parking revenue the DDA makes is to the getDowntown program, a partnership among the DDA, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and the city of Ann Arbor. As part of a three-year funding plan for the getDowntown program approved in June 2010 for fiscal years 2011-13, the program will receive roughly $500,000 from the DDA for FY 2012 and FY 2013, the bulk of which is to subsidize the cost of rides for holders of a go!pass. The go!pass is a card that allows employees of downtown businesses to board AATA buses on an unlimited basis without paying a fare.

The getDowntown program employs two people, including director Nancy Shore. At Wednesday’s meeting, Shore gave the full board the same presentation she’d given the board’s transportation committee earlier in the month. Part of the board discussion involved which of the three funding partners – the DDA, the city of Ann Arbor or the AATA – would employ the two getDowntown staffers in the future. One possibility, which based on Wednesday’s meeting seemed likely, would be for the DDA to add the two getDowntown staffers to its administrative payroll.

At its annual meeting, convened just after the monthly board meeting, the board elected new officers for the coming year, all with unanimous consent: Gary Boren, chair; Bob Guenzel, vice chair; Keith Orr, secretary; and Roger Hewitt, treasurer.

In recognition of her service, outgoing chair Joan Lowenstein was presented with a token of appreciation by the DDA staff: a plastic bag of gravel, and a necklace featuring a lump of gravel as its centerpiece.

The connection to gravel in Lowenstein’s gift was the underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue, which is currently under construction. The board got its regular update on the status of that project, as well as commentary from the owners of two immediately adjacent restaurants – Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar – which have seen their business drop by 30-50% during the construction.  [Full Story]

Column: Ann Arbor Parking – Share THIS!

It’s budget season for the city of Ann Arbor.

Over the last half decade, Ann Arbor’s annual spring budget conversation has evolved to include a discussion of public parking system revenues.

parking meters in Ann Arbor

In discussions about parking revenue, it’s been suggested that what the city of Ann Arbor is proposing is the equivalent of a tax on downtown parkers. (Photo illustration by The Chronicle. This is not what Ann Arbor parking meters actually look like. Yet.)

This year is no exception. The city council’s public hearing on the budget takes place at its May 2 meeting, with a vote on the 2012 fiscal year’s budget scheduled for May 16. At that May 2 meeting you’ll also hear the city council discuss revenues from the public parking system. The board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – which manages the city’s public parking system – will meet at noon the same day to ratify its side of a contract renewal.

As likely as any other scenario is an offer from the DDA for the city to receive 17% of gross revenues from the public parking system for each year of an 11-year term. But that offer stands a decent chance of getting rejected by the city council. The city’s last bargaining position was 18% for a 10-year term and multiple three-year renewals.

Public parking revenues were already part of council deliberations at a city council budget work session on April 11, when city administrator Roger Fraser had given a dress rehearsal of his budget proposal. At the work session, councilmembers and Fraser played out a scene, in which councilmembers offered up questions to Fraser to elicit this conclusion: If the city does not extract enough revenue from the city’s public parking system, the city will need to lay off additional police or firefighters – four this year and two the following year.

The scene was reprised on April 19, when the city’s budget was formally premiered. The budget did not appear to depart in significant ways from the department-by-department budget impacts that city managers have presented to the council at a series of work sessions since the beginning of the year.

On April 19, it was the city’s CFO Tom Crawford (later in the meeting to be appointed interim city administrator) who played the role of the “numbers guy.” So it was Crawford who gave the recommendation in response to councilmember prompts: Without sufficient revenue from the public parking system, he would recommend laying off an additional four public safety officers. That’s in addition to the five police officers, three other non-officer positions in the police department, and five firefighters who are already slated for layoff.

Councilmembers Christopher Taylor, Carsten Hohnke, Marcia Higgins, Stephen Kunselman and mayor John Hieftje played starring roles in their portrayal of elected officials that evening. But more to the point of this column, I wonder who the city council’s imagined audience is for this sort of theater? Presumably it’s for an audience that pays the price of admission. But in Ann Arbor, it’s an audience that typically doesn’t pay much attention: the city’s shareholders.

Yes, that’s exactly the word I want. Shareholders. [Full Story]

Council Delays Pot, Takes Shots at DDA

Ann Arbor city council meeting (April 19, 2011): The city council delayed a second and final vote on two local laws that involve regulation of medical marijuana businesses in the city – one on zoning and the other on licenses.

Roger Fraser, Tom Crawford

Seated is Roger Fraser, who attended his last Ann Arbor city council meeting on April 19 as city administrator – he gave a formal presentation to the council of the FY 2012 budget. He’s chatting before the meeting with the city’s chief financial officer, Tom Crawford, who was appointed interim administrator later in the evening. He’s not telling Crawford: “Whatever you do, don’t let the council tie your hands, see?” (Photos by the writer.)

After public hearings on the two medical marijuana laws, the council did not deliberate long in deciding to postpone both votes until its next meeting, on May 2. Substantive amendments that had been presented to councilmembers late that day for consideration made them reluctant to attempt grappling with the amendments in detail. The May 2 vote on the two laws will likely count only as their initial approval, assuming the amendments are adopted at that meeting. The laws would then need an additional final reading after May 2 before they are enacted.

A tweak to the city’s panhandling ordinance was given its second and final approval at the April 19 meeting. That change to the existing ordinance had come as a recommendation from a task force that worked for six months on the issue, following up on a longer effort in the early 2000s that had led to adopting the language in the existing ordinance.

The longest deliberations of the night involved a resolution of instruction to the council’s “mutually beneficial” committee, which is currently negotiating a new contract under which the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority would continue to manage the city’s public parking system. The direction given to the committee was not to stay firm with its previous bargaining position, but rather to escalate the city’s expectations for revenues from the public parking system.

Previously, the city’s committee had taken the position that the city should receive 16% of gross parking revenues in the first two years of a 10-year contract, and 17.5% in remaining years. That compared with the DDA’s position that the city should receive a flat 16% across all years. But at the meeting, the council voted to direct its committee to take the position that the city should receive a flat 18%. The council’s deliberations included comments directed towards the DDA that could fairly be described as inflammatory.

Called to the podium to comment on the parking revenue figures and the DDA’s overall financial health was the city’s chief financial officer, Tom Crawford. Later in the meeting, Crawford was appointed interim city administrator, effective April 28. Current administrator Roger Fraser is leaving the post to take a job as a deputy treasurer for the state of Michigan.

Although councilmembers did not comment on it, Fraser was attending his last meeting of the council as city administrator. And in his final major act, he gave a formal presentation to the council of his proposed fiscal year 2012 budget, as required by the city charter. The charter stipulates that the council will need to amend and approve the budget by May 16, its second meeting that month. [Full Story]

Parking Money for City Budget Still Unclear

On Jan. 5, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board held a retreat to discuss current negotiations with the city of Ann Arbor about the agreement under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system. And this past Monday, the respective “mutually beneficial” committees of the city council and the DDA board met to continue their conversation on the parking contract – a dialogue that has taken place in public view since June 2010.

Newcombe Clark, Sabra Briere

Left to right: Teddy Bear (on screen); DDA board member Newcombe Clark; Ward 1 city council representative Sabra Briere. Clark and Briere were chatting during the break between the regular DDA board meeting and the DDA board retreat. Briere did not take part in the meetings – she was there as a member of the public. The teddy bear was featured in a video short that was meant to kick off the retreat with a bit of humor. (Photos by the writer.)

Two days later, at Wednesday’s meeting of the DDA partnerships committee, board member Gary Boren reported back to his colleagues about the conversation that had taken place at Monday’s mutually beneficial committee meeting. Boren was frank in his assessment that the city’s team appeared intransigent.

To Boren, it appeared that city representatives had staked out their position, and they saw anything less than that position as meaning the city was not receiving what it is properly owed. For his part, Boren considers the DDA to be in the driver’s seat, because the current contract runs through 2015, and would not require the additional payments the city is seeking for that period.

At the partnerships committee meeting, Susan Pollay – executive director of the DDA – drew attention to the fact that there will be an increasing sense of urgency to firm up the contract as both the city and the DDA put together their respective budgets for the next fiscal year. The city administrator will need firm numbers by March, she suggested.

In this report, we put Boren’s comments and the ensuing discussion by the DDA’s partnerships committee in the context of the DDA’s board retreat last week, when board chair Joan Lowenstein noted, “We’re not a savings bank. We’re supposed to spend money.”

The retreat included a discussion of the kinds of projects the DDA would like to undertake over the next 10 years, some of which would need to be deferred, depending on the amount of parking revenue the DDA passes through to the city. The DDA also appears ready to defer some of its scheduled maintenance to the parking decks, if the maintenance activity is of a more aesthetic or cosmetic nature.

It emerged during the retreat that the politics of parking contract negotiations include the city’s ability to fund public safety – firefighters and police. The speculation was floated at the retreat that it might actually help the city’s negotiating stance with its labor unions, if the DDA took a firmer approach to the parking contract. [Full Story]

DDA Reviews First Quarter Financials

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Nov. 3, 2010): The DDA board passed a single resolution at Wednesday’s meeting: to reorganize its committee structure to include a communications and economic development committee.

DDA board members before their meeting began: Bob Guenzel (foreground); John Mouat (arms extended); Sandi Smith (partially obscured); Russ Collins (jacket and tie). Mouat was not demonstrating how a HAWK pedestrian signal flies. (Photos by the writer.)

But board members heard a series of reports, including a look at the financial picture from the first quarter of FY 2010. Fund balances are lower than they’ve been historically – something the board knew to anticipate with the construction of the new underground parking structure along Fifth Avenue. The report from the capital improvements committee indicated that the project is proceeding apace, with headway being made on solving a problem with de-watering the site. During public commentary, the board heard from proponents of putting a community commons on top of the underground parking garage once it’s completed.

At the meeting, the board indicated that they’d take an extended look at their 10-year budget projections at a board meeting in early 2011. Affecting the DDA’s 10-year plan are at least two major items: (1) the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage construction, and (2) ongoing negotiations with the city of Ann Arbor on the amount of “rent” to be paid by the DDA to the city as part of the parking contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

Other reports from the meeting with a potential effect on the DDA’s budget included an update on the City Apartments project planned by Village Green and located at First and Washington. The DDA is slated to purchase the parking deck component of the project on its completion – for $9 million. Included with the board’s packet were a series of proposed amendments to the parking agreement between the city of Ann Arbor, Village Green and the DDA. Village Green is scheduled to complete its purchase of the First and Washington parcel in May 2011.

Other potential impacts to the DDA’s budget included a report from the board’s partnerships committee that noted a request for grant funding from the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, plus an additional grant funding request from the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County.

The report from the board’s transportation committee included discussion of enhanced service between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, as well as the possibility of adapting the #17 route to serve a partial circulator function for downtown. Also related to transportation, the board received a presentation from Pat Cawley, a city of Ann Arbor traffic engineer, on the installation of a new HAWK pedestrian crossing signal at the intersection of Chapin and Huron.

The board also heard from representatives of the Main Street Business Improvement Zone on the delivery of a blueprint for creating other such zones in the downtown. [Full Story]

DDA Board Retreat to Focus on City Talks

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Sept. 1, 2010): On its surface, the first regular meeting of the DDA board after its July election of new officers seemed to be a relatively uneventful gathering. Two topics that could have prompted extended deliberations were handled in short order.


Washington & Fifth Avenue, looking northwest. The concrete mixer is parked directly in front of the DDA offices. The entry for the board's Sept. 1 meeting was through the alley and the garage, which makes up part of the ground floor of the Fifth Avenue Building. (Photos by the writer.)

The first issue, handled with relatively little comment, was the report out from the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, given by Roger Hewitt. The committee has been meeting over the course of the summer with a corresponding committee from the Ann Arbor city council to renegotiate the parking agreement under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

While board members Newcombe Clark and Russ Collins commented in a general way on the status of the conversations, it did not lead to any specific directive to the DDA’s committee for its next meeting, which will take place on Sept. 13 at 8:30 a.m.

However, at the suggestion of DDA executive director Susan Pollay, the board will schedule a retreat between now and its monthly board meeting in October – but likely after Sept. 13 – to focus on the “mutually beneficial” issue. In the meantime, the DDA’s committee will request of its city council counterparts that they provide their own assessment of the status of the negotiations. The Sept. 13 meeting of the two committees will also be the occasion when Pollay provides a detailed version of the outline, which she’d provided at the last committee meeting on Aug. 23, for a possible role for the DDA in the development of city-owned surface lots.

The second issue dispatched by the board with little overt controversy was a resolution that Newcombe Clark had brought through the operations committee last Wednesday to allocate $50,000 for support of skatepark facilities. Clark himself suggested that the resolution be tabled, alluding to the “prism through which everything is looked at this time of year.” DDA board members went along with that suggestion.

The prism to which Clark alluded is a political one. Clark is running an independent campaign for the Ward 5 city council seat currently held by Democrat Carsten Hohnke. Hohnke has positioned himself as a champion of the skating community’s efforts to construct a skateboarding facility at Veterans Memorial Park, which is in Ward 5.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the newest member of the board, former Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel, and the member he replaced, Jennifer S. Hall, were acknowledged by chair Joan Lowenstein – but neither was present. The board passed a resolution of appreciation for Hall’s service, and Lowenstein welcomed Guenzel “in absentia.”

Other business at Wednesday’s meeting included the usual updates from the board’s committees. Notable from the transportation committee was an effort to collaborate with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to enhance bus service between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. And from the partnerships committee came a summary of a presentation they’d received from the chief of police – there’s a difference between being statistically safe and the perception of safety. [Full Story]