March 14, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

With a re-roofing project soon to be underway at City Hall, we have decided to add seismic bracing behind the parapet as part of the project.  This bracing would prevent the parapet from falling into the street in the event of an earthquake and would also prevent the roof itself from collapsing into the building.  The photo at right, provided to me by Mike Morrison, Jr., shows what is underneath the stucco of the City Hall building; unreinforced brick.  We believe this photo was probably taken around 1910, since East Main is still an unpaved road in this picture.
I invite you to peruse this very interesting “economic scorecard” that was prepared by the Center for Economic Development at Cal State/Chico. It compares economic activity in central California to economic activity in seven other metropolitan statistical areas, including Medford. (Ashland is part of the Medford MSA.) Of particular interest are the “Quality of Place” indices that begin on page 18 and especially the culture and recreation index on page 20, which show the Medford MSA at 685% of the national average. (Note:  We have been working on an “economic dashboard” for Ashland and it will be unveiled with the new Business Resource Portal at the Ashland Innovators Conference on April 11.)
I received this voice mail message on Wednesday:
“Hello, my name is Christine [last name not clear] and I have a really sweet story to tell you.  I was just driving across town and at the light where Safeway is, there were city employees mowing the meridian and there was an elderly person in a wheelchair who it looked like was not going to be able to get across the intersection during the light because they were extremely disabled and the city employees stopped what they were doing and went out and helped this elderly person in a wheelchair get across the street to safety.  I was impressed.” 

The employees were Parks Technicians Greg Jaquette and Trever Coster. Everyone who knows them is very proud of what they did, but also not at all surprised.

A few interesting news media tidbits:
First, Oregon Business Magazine has named Dagoba Chocolate, right here in Ashland, the #1 small company to work for in the state of Oregon. (Click here to see the article.) There were no other Ashland businesses that made the top 100, although there are several in Medford and one in Central Point that has an outlet in Ashland. (Grange Co-op; ranked #10 among large companies.)

Administration – Conservation Division
As a wholesale electricity customer of Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the City receives a significant amount of funding to implement its energy efficiency programs. With the exception of local rate funds for the solar incentive and the zero interest loan programs, BPA Energy Efficiency Incentive (EEI) funding of roughly $200,000/yr. and the EEI Implementation Manual drive the City’s energy efficiency programs.
Significant changes were made by BPA in what is titled the “Post 2011 framework.” City staff have followed and been involved in tracking the changes and their potential current and future impact on the City’s programs. While a large number of issues are technical and process related, several key longer term issues are still being formally discussed in the Post 2011 Review process including; a 25% self funded (utility funded) kwh savings requirement, re-allocation of EEI funds if utilities don’t utilize their full allocation, one, two or three year EEI budget allocations, allocation of EEI funds between utilities and authorized local and regional Community Action Programs (CAP) that implement low income energy efficiency measures to name a few.
All of this is in response to the BPA mandate set by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in the 6th Regional Power Plan to achieve specific multi-year energy efficiency targets as an alternate means of generating new power resources (estimated 85% of regional load growth to be met through conservation). The recent news of note that Staff is tracking and involved with is a formal comment from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to BPA concerning a lack of future funding allocation by BPA (“woefully short” as stated by Bill Bradbury, Chair of the NWP&CC)  to adequately meet the regional conservation targets.
Impacts to the City’s conservation program offerings will not be known and may not be material.  As a small but committed participant in meeting the conservation goals of the region, macro issues such as this can have an effect on the City and its electric customers and Staff is tracking and commenting as appropriate, including a trip up to Eugene for the Oregon stop on the BPA Post 2011 Review “Big Tent” meeting next Thursday.
As of yesterday (3/13/14) the water and electric portions of the Calle Guanajuato project are nearly complete. Avista was scheduled to finish installing gas lines today. Next week KOGAP will begin storm drain runs and then the concrete work will begin. The project, originally scheduled to be completed April 1st will be completed the week of April 28th (or sooner if this stretch of good weather stretch).
The reason for the delay in completing the project was the severe cold weather and snow we received at the beginning of December. There were also some fairly significant delays during trenching because of unanticipated “run-ins” with old foundations and basement walls.

This week marked the first time our new Enhanced Law Enforcement Area ordinance was tested in Ashland Municipal Court with a full jury trial. The ordinance prevailed and the jury found the defendant guilty on two counts of trespass. The defendant was further barred from entering onto OSF property (to include the Black Swan) as a condition of probation. The defendant in this case is a man who is well known to the officers, and has even made sometimes rowdy appearances in the City Council meetings.

Officers arrested a man for criminal mischief after he was discovered "tagging" (graffiti) downtown. This suspect, now identified, has been doing this for at least six months, and our CSO has documented over 100 cases of him having vandalized private and public property. The cases will all be sent to the DA's office for consideration of aggregated charges.

Community Development
Unified Land Use Ordinance - The Planning Commission recently reviewed the chapters on public facilities, signs, solar access, disc antennas, and wireless communication. The solar access chapter includes new solar orientation standards requiring land divisions in residential zones to: 1) orient streets and lots so lots and buildings have maximum solar access, 2) orient buildings so the long sides face south, 3) design habitable structures so primary living spaces are located on the south side of buildings, and 4) provide south facing roof areas for solar collection.  The solar orientation standards were added per the Commission’s review of green development evaluation. The Commission discussed making solar orientation an incentive, reducing electricity needs by the position of the buildings through passive solar gain, and providing a place for solar collectors but not requiring the systems.  The Commission will review the last section of the second draft, Part 18-6 Definitions, in late March.
Normal Ave. Neighborhood Plan – The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the final Normal Neighborhood Plan Framework, plan maps, and implementing ordinance on Tuesday.  The Commission will conclude its deliberations on April 8th, and forward their recommendation to the City Council for consideration. Council is scheduled to hold a hearing on May 6th. The City has created new topic in Open City Hall to receive public input regarding the Normal Neighborhood Plan. To date this topic has been visited by nearly 250 individuals with 23 statements being provided.      
Short Term Rentals in Single Family Zones - At its study session on March 11th, the Planning Commission had a discussion on potential code amendments that could allow a hosted or owner-occupied property within a single-family zoning district to operate a single, short term traveler’s accommodation unit. As part of considering this type of use, which currently is not permitted in single family zoning districts, a number of potential code amendments were evaluated that would regulate size of accommodation, location, type (i.e. attached or detached), parking and the approval process. Over 30 citizens representing opposing sides of the issue attended the meeting to share their viewpoints. Given the number of citizens in attendance, the meeting ended at 10:30 p.m. with over a dozen individuals not having the opportunity to testify. The Commission will resume discussion on this matter in April.​

Previous Updates:

Friday, March 7, 2014

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