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January 5, 2021 City Manager's Report
Posted: Tuesday, January 05, 2021

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January 5, 2021
The City Managerís Report showcases current events facing the City externally and internally since the last Council meeting, while highlighting City accomplishments. 

Potential shifts in demand for commercial and employment lands and building space
At the December 2020 Planning Commission meeting, Ashland developers Mark Knox and Laz Ayala provided their perspective on the changing landscape of commercial and employment space needs, and the potential opportunity for providing additional rental housing within the Cityís existing inventory of commercial/employment lands. This was a general discussion and no formal action was requested of or taken by the Planning Commission.

At their 2018 annual retreat, the Planning Commission discussed land use implications stemming from a significant growth in e-commerce. While there was literally little to no e-commerce as early as 1999, some forecast that online sales may approach 20 percent of American retail sales by 2025. Among other factors, it is generally accepted that the advance and convenience of e-commerce has contributed to changes in land use patterns. Most notably, a decrease in demand in retail space which, in some communities, has resulted in an oversupply of commercial land.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an expansion of e-commerce toward new firms, customers and types of products. It has increased customer access to a substantial variety of products from the convenience and safety of their homes. To some degree, e-commerce has shifted from more expensive items and services toward everyday necessities, which are relevant to a large segment of the population. Additionally, COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on many employers and their employees, leading to increased numbers of employees from specific sectors of the work force working from home through employer-sponsored teleworking agreements. This has led to discussions about whether the potential benefits from teleworking arrangements could spill over into the post-COVID era. 

The combination of continued growth in e-commerce and post-COVID-19 employment arrangements may suggest re-evaluating commercial and employment land and space needs and code amendments that govern these zoning districts. The ongoing and future role that commercial and employment zoning will play in providing housing was a topic of discussion at the kick-off meeting of the Housing Capacity Analysis Advisory Committee, as it was during adoption of the Transit Triangle along Ashland Street.  At its recent study session, there was consensus by the Planning Commission that this issue deserved further review and support for staff to include it as an item on the Cityís long-range planning project list.  
AFN Service Interruptions
AFN has experienced three Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks:  two minor attacks on December 29 & 30, and one sustained attack on January 2. 

The attack on January 2 was unprecedented in its scope, maliciousness, and sophistication.  Most DDOS attack a single IP; as we mitigated each attack, the target shifted to another random address.  At the peak of the attack, our edge router processed 2.7 million packets per second (our normal peak is 800,000 pkts/sec).  The attacker also targeted over 500 IP addresses on our network. 

The goal of a DDOS attack is to disrupt internet access. No customer data was accessed or stolen during these attacks. As ensuring the integrity and security of our network infrastructure is the top priority for City staff, we have notified the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.  We are following their guidelines, which include working with our upstream transit providers to assist with blocking the attacks.  By their nature, DDOS attacks will affect internet service.  We do everything we can to minimize the duration and the number of customers who are affected. 
AFR Smoke Exemption Update
With the leadership of Mayor Stromberg and assisted by staff, the City secured support from the County Board of Commissioners for the Ashland Community Smoke Response Plan. When approved by the State, having the plan in place can lead to increased ability to conduct critical controlled burning for wildfire safety. The actions outlined will improve smoke preparedness for vulnerable citizens at any time of the year, regardless of the source of smoke. We hope the plan will be accepted by the State sometime in February. 
Looking Ahead
This is a draft of the next Council meetings agenda and is subject to change.
 
No Study Session on January 18 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

January 19 - Business Meeting
  • State of the City Address
  • COVID-19 Emergency Declaration
  • Approval of a Professional Services Contract for Improvements to the Community Center and Pioneer Hall
  • Council Liaison Appointments
  • City Manager Recruitment Process and Job Description Discussion
  • Second Reading of the Food & Beverage Tax Allocation Ordinance
For the full look ahead and descriptions of each item, go to ashland.or.us/lookahead.
January City Source
This month's edition of the City Source includes an introduction to financial funds by Finance Director Melanie Purcell, information on the COVID-19 pandemic, application information on Ashland's Low Income Energy Assistance Program, a call for tree of the year nominations, how to keep Ashland fire safe and more.

Go to ashland.or.us/citysource for the latest and past editions. 
 
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