Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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May 14

May 14, 2021

Posted on May 14, 2021 at 3:31 PM by Niyah Ross

The beginning of the week was clouded by graffiti spray painted at the homes of three councilors.  We assume the timing of the graffiti that called for defunding the police was connected to Monday night’s work session to hear about the Community Safety Initiative.  As I said on Monday, this effort to intimidate public servants is cowardly and counterproductive. The discussion about our investment in community safety is hard enough; to succeed we need to respect differing perspectives, civil discourse, and public process that enables everyone to feel safe to express their opinions.


The Community Safety Initiative (CSI) report covered insights gained from a three-pronged outreach: focus groups, online survey and listening sessions.  Council’s intent was to reach out for insight and priorities particularly from BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, who had not been as engaged in the initial CSI outreach.  The report is revealing, rich in detail, and extremely helpful.  I encourage you to read it with special attention to the charts comparing relative priorities for White, BIPOC and LGBTQ respondents for the allocations in the 2018 CSI plan and the new priorities gleaned in the more recent focus groups.  There is a significant shift in perspective expressed as Community Well-being, rather than Community Safety.  Homelessness continues to rank as a top concern; as well as the need for greater mental health services.  Police responsiveness and timeliness continue to be important, but not surprisingly, there is a consistent demand for nonuniformed social workers or others to respond to calls to serve people who are unsheltered and those in a mental health crisis.


This report is separate but related to the upcoming report on the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police Polices, which Council will hear this Monday.  Taken together, they shed light on the path ahead – and it will be a long path.  Some decisions will come more quickly than others.  Council’s first task is to offer insight about how they want to direct those first steps to be considered and undertaken.


On Wednesday, Council approved the next step in the planning process for the River Road Santa Clara neighborhood.  This has been a process of several years of intense investment by community volunteers and City staff, preceded by more than a decade of gradual community conversation and outreach.  In a shift in perspective and framing, the plan is broader than a neighborhood land use plan.  It looks at the whole area as a planning district, including economic development, natural area protection and equity concerns.  Council is hopeful that this work will serve as a model for other neighborhood planning processes.


And finally, on Wednesday Council reviewed the proposed amendments to our ordinance regulating Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU).  The ordinance passed in January 2020 was remanded to the City by the Land Use Board of Appeals which required the removal of regulations related to parking, maximum occupancy, and lot size.  One in particular a change impacts Jefferson Westside and the Chambers Special Area Zones where a second dwelling on a single-family lot is not referred to as an Accessory Dwelling, but as a “One-Family Dwelling.”  This has opened those neighborhoods to the potential that a lot that currently allows two One-Family dwellings would be permitted to add two more ADU’s, one for each dwelling.


Council has asked for insight about where the City retains discretion in amending the ordinance.  This most recent remand indicates little leeway.  I will say two things about this: Council has been struggling for three years to comply with the state requirement to reduce barriers to the construction of ADUs.  There is a mountain of public testimony and no shortage of community engagement. Second, while ADUs are an important housing option for some households and property owners, they are expensive to build and will only add a small increment of housing to the community.  The Council has bigger opportunities to respond to the housing shortage, and I am eager to see them put this issue behind them.