Council Meeting Date: July 21, 2014
Council Meeting Location: City Hall, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
I cover the cafe ordinance, rental conversion task force, sidewalk infill and University Avenue.
- Committee of the Whole (6:05pm, Mayor's Conference Room, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-
Item I: On April 28th, 2014, I made a committee referral to review our sidewalk cafe ordinance. The first committee meeting happened on June 9th, 2014, which directed staff to work with Community Main Street and other interested parties to review and propose changes. In tomorrow's meeting, we will review specific ordinance amendments. This is how the process works. Sometimes it seems easier to move mountains than to make simple code modifications. But the end-result will include more cafes, vitality and safer streets. The modified code will offer much greater merchant flexibility which will add more of a good thing. Here are the highlights:
- Eliminates food ratios (and the need to ask stupid demands like, show me your books so I can test your ratios) in favor of a restaurant license
- Defines dates of seasonal operation and extends operating hours
- Allows for semi-permanent fencing, security and wash-down flexibility
- Refines service wares (no need for paper cups, but they are still allowed)
- Eliminates requirement that application be prepared by an architect, professional engineer or any other expert, instead favoring a only a significantly detailed, accurate site plan for design committee approval.
To the democratization of sidewalk cafes in Cedar Falls!!!
Item II: Council gets its first batch of recommendations from the Rental Conversion Task Force: (1) Enforce codes; (2) Impose a moratorium; (3) Incentivise single-family, owner-occupied conversion; and (4) Determine enforcement for different (non)conforming types. Rather than comment on each, I will wait to hear the presentation. I have emailed with many people regarding my feelings on the topic. You can find an excerpt of an email in my Brief's below. A great deal of thanks to all involved in the Task Force for bring us to this point.
-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-
Special Order of Business
E.4) This item relates to plans and specs for sidewalk infill on parts of Merner and 18th Street (see side map). We are spending about $45K to fill these gaps. As our city expanded through the mid to late 20th century, our ordinances didn't require sidewalks for new subdivisions. Probably not too wise as walking is now considered a viable activity for functional movement, recreation, and general neighborliness. It is an expensive but desirable retrofit. Funding is coming from the Wellmark Foundation, Civic Foundation and General Obligation bonds.
New Business - Resolution Calendar
G.2.f) In this resolution, we direct $20 million from the State of Iowa (relating to the jurisdictional transfer of University Avenue) to the road improvement fund. This just puts the money in a parking place while we put the design process in high gear (see next bullet).
G.2.i) In this resolution, we approve and authorize a professional services agreement with Foth Engineering (http://www.foth.com/). The scope for the first $1.345MM phase includes:
- Project Coordination and Public Engagement
- Traffic Engineering
- Functional design
- Environmental services
- Consultant services (geotechnical, aesthetics, and public involvement)
The key deliverables will be final design, aesthetic theme, and functional plans. The project is moving, but we'll have at least one more winter of pothole misery. I will comment more on University Avenue in the weeks to come.
Rental Conversion Excerpt -
The issue is rental property proliferation throughout the city which impacts owner-occupied character of neighborhoods. Rental conversions are a symptom of inadequate planning/zoning for rental demand, mainly around UNI. Our land-use plan does not accommodate much high-density development, the preferred place to 'store' student renters (being purposefully sarcastic, but this seems to be the prevailing mentality). When we updated the land-use plan in 2011, we didn't do an adequate job of inventorying density needs around the University. Case in point is Starbeck Circle which is probably 95% single-family rentals or duplexes. It is still planned for low-density residential. It is marketed to students wishing to live off, but near, campus - the real demand. It should have been part of a larger density belt allowing larger, multi-unit development; it should be planned and zoned for high density. So our land-use plan didn't create a desired density belt. Short of revisiting, now what?
Our policies over the last decade are having a positive impact for neighborhood stabilization. The rental market is at a saturation point. UNI continues to add supply and other multi-unit complexes are near completion, rental supply continues to increase. Meanwhile, CF has a number of standards and incentives in place to improve all properties. In the last two years on the Hill... we updated the overlay design standards which addressed many of the concerns in the past two decades. The Urban Revitalization Plan is a tax incentive for re-investment in residential properties. Parking and lot design requirements were also updated. The proliferation of rental housing slowing, might be reversing. This is a function of the market, mainly families seeking out the desirable characteristics of traditional neighborhoods like proximity to new elementary schools, the downtown and UNI.
If the goal for neighborhood balance (eh, limiting rental units) is a priority, then a full ban or moratorium as recently proposed is a solution, albeit, an unfair one. As demand increases (I think it will as UNI enrollment increases), available supply will decrease. Prices would rise, students would need to live much further away. If we limit rental density based on area, it would cause the encroachment of rentals into other traditionally owner-occupied areas which would exacerbate the issue through the community (this was happening up to 2008). As it relates to the issue of multi-unit conversion... what is better, one duplex or two rental homes? What if the older, large home is no longer marketable as a single family home as families get smaller, while others seek different home amenities found in our sprawling new neighborhoods?
How about allowing ancillary dwelling structures or multi-unit structures with the caveat that one unit be owner-occupied (as defined by homestead exemption)? How about limiting bedroom additions in non-owner, occupied homes? How about reallocating CBDG funds to support low interest loans for owner-occupied, single family conversion? Couple this with the city-wide Urban Revitalization Plan for a cherry on top (this is already in place, but maybe it needs to be tailored for rental-to-owner-occupied conversion)? If concrete is the concern, why not reduce the on-site parking requirement? The impermeable surface issue is a direct consequence of the regulation! Street parking is OK, this is a college town. Smarter parking and mass transit policies could result in more students parking in out lots or don't use cars at all. Accommodation of the car-culture comes at great expense.