Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Monday, February 04, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way

Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:32 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room. 
Councilor Lemhouse, Morris, Rosenthal, Voisin, Slattery and Marsh were present. 
1.     Look Ahead review
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed items on the Look Ahead.
2.     Discussion of Housing Needs Analysis
Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained the foundation for the Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) came from past documents relating to housing like the 2002 HNA, the Rental Needs Analysis in 2007, and the Buildable Lands Inventory updated 2011.  These reports often go into informing the program and potential Land Use policy decisions about housing.  The Citizen Surveys conducted 2011 and 2012 showed low benchmarks for affordability and variety in housing.  The findings and strategies in the latest HNA was similar in the 2002 HNA regarding the need for multifamily land, discouraging the use of multifamily land for ownership housing, and promoting and encouraging affordable ownership housing and removing barriers to accessory residential units, conditional use permits, and manufactured housing.
Mr. Molnar clarified adopting the HNA report by ordinance, as a supporting document did not elevate the importance.  Adding it to the Comprehensive Plan made citizens aware staff would use these reports regarding land use decisions that might result in code amendments.  The Comprehensive Plan stated the reports would not create new policy but the information could constitute part of the basis for new policies or amend existing ones.  Appendix A in the Comprehensive Plan referred to technical reports and supporting documents that would support ongoing dialogue regarding land use issues that could get complex. 
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman explained the Census defined location as a place of residence where individuals lived more than 6 months a year and included that residence in the count.  The Census asked people if they were college students, living in group housing and did not count them in two jurisdictions.
Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid confirmed the Census counted the 800 students living in group housing and staff included that data in the housing inventory.  Southern Oregon University also reported students living in the community instead of group housing. 
Mayor Stromberg expressed concern SOU students’ salaries contributed to the 18% of individuals in Ashland below poverty level.  Council Lemhouse added concern regarding the lack of solid statistical information backing assertions made in the document.  Staff was using the data available but it was not necessarily the right data for Ashland. 
Mr. Goldman explained group housing was a housing type in the housing needs model and accounted for some of the student population but possibly not in terms of the income demographic.  Many of the potential strategies in the current HNA were also in the 2002 HNA.  Staff would have revaluated demographic shifts that disenfranchised people from Ashland or moved away due to housing costs.  The Ashland School District created a demographers report that made this specific conclusion regarding housing costs and staff referenced it in the current HNA.  Mr. Goldman agreed some of the information was conjecture made from valid data. 
Implementing a potential suggestion would take a legislative or Type 3 planning action. 
Councilor Lemhouse questioned referring to the HNA as a technical document when there were unsupported and thought staff should limit them to measured statistics only.
Mr. Molnar noted staff could remove some information and retain the raw data that lead to the next step of analyzing.  If they did not incorporate the 2012 HNA into the Comprehensive Plan, the Planning and Housing Commissions would still access the document for discussion regarding legislative action, code amendments, and findings.  The Department of Land Conservation and Development suggested municipalities look at the City of Dundee case and consider identifying these types of documents in the Comprehensive Plan as something possibly used for land use decisions.  Additionally having the HNA in the Comprehensive Plan made it transparent to the public.  He recommended removing any extreme assertions but adopting the document.  It was a report that served as an appendix to the Comprehensive Plan. 
Mayor Stromberg had issues with the assumptions, the student population possibly contributing to the poverty level, and credibility.  In addition, he felt family and workforce housing was getting lost with the emphasis on low income and family housing was important for schools.  He was interested in exploring the possibility of using capital from the private sector for public purposes and specific types of housing.  He addressed mixed use housing overlays in the E1 and C1 districts and instead of building houses to make money in the housing market, he thought a percentage of housing projects could go to building a certain number of small low rent units for service workers working in those businesses.  Another way of getting low income housing was leveraging money to persuade people to renew their HUD contracts.
Councilor Lemhouse suggested instead of assertions, use caveats disclosing the information may skew the numbers.  He wanted the document be clear on how it was measured, involve the demographics of the town and how the HNA synchronized with those demographics. 
Staff would qualify assumptions, cite materials referenced in the document, review changes with City Administrator Dave Kanner, and if Council determined they satisfactorily addressed their issues, reschedule the second reading of the ordinance.
3.     Follow up report on the resource center RFP
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid contacted some of the agencies that received the grant solicitation to find out why they did not respond.  Results from that effort showed the City was not offering enough money, funding only the facility and no operational costs. In addition, the criteria to show how the agency would sustain after the two-year period put too much risk on the agencies to operate that timeframe.  Applicants also misinterpreted the types of things that might be included in a resource center listed in the grant solicitation as required.
Mayor Stromberg provided additional background regarding an earlier offer from the Salvation Army to open a day center and thrift shop they thought would be viable but was not. 
Ms. Reid read a late response from Rogue Retreat Program Director Heather Hoyle-Aney:  “I imagine that all your responses have been the same. Not enough money for rent, utilities, staff, and administrative costs. As part of a strategic plan this grant could cover part of the cost and could be combined with other funds, however, I do not think anyone had a Resource Center planned and other commitments requested. It is still a great idea and one that needs some thought and planning put into it. Not sure which organization could run it, but the new OHRA (Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland) group sounds like an obvious choice once they obtain their 501c3.”  Ms. Reid emphasized the City may not need to provide the entire $180,000-$200,000 but the agencies involved had to expect it and plan for it because they might not have it in house.
Mr. Kanner noted the Council had three courses of actions.  The first was taking no further action. The second, try again with the understanding it would take $150,000 to get a provider.  City staff would provide funding options.  The third was trying again with $50,000 only significantly scaled back. 
Councilor Voisin supported the third course of action.  There were several groups in the city interested in a day use center that could start lean and efficient then possibly grow. 
Council discussed sending out another RFP (request for proposal) regarding a day use center.  Other comments suggested accepting business plans prior to the RFP, provide flexibility in the RFP, possibly use a less inflammatory title for a day use center, and not limit City funds to facilities or personnel.
Councilor Voisin explained a scaled back facility would have toilets, showers, laundry, a clothing box, provide an address, offer some internet access, storage lockers, or a room to leave personal belongings, and referral services.  There were six people trained in dealing with homeless individuals with mental health issues that were willing to volunteer.  Other services would include a small food pantry, warm liquids with job training in the future.   OHRA was researching a modified plan similar to the City of Palo Alto CA that helped the homeless get into the job market that was very successful.  The day use center could also distribute bus tokens, transitional housing information, and possibly be open four days a week.
Councilor Lemhouse noted the original RFP targeted anyone in need, not just the homeless and near homeless.  Mayor Stromberg thought there were two basic groups, people on the streets with specific needs and non-homeless needing assistance.  Councilor Rosenthal suggested asking service providers the cost of specific services instead.  He was concerned the amount used reduced services elsewhere and thought the allocation should go through the budget process. 
Councilor Voisin explained OHRA and the Homelessness Steering Committee estimated it would cost $50,000-$70,000 a year for five days a week, four hours a day with half the cost going towards rent.  Councilor Lemhouse noted approximately 500 families in need accessed the food bank monthly with less than 8% of them homeless.  A homeless center would not help the majority of people in need.  Councilor Voisin responded St. Vincent De Paul already offered services for that group of people, using $80,000-$90,000 from the City.
Council needed time to identify a target audience, decide on an RFP versus a business plan model and potential funding.  Council supported the Mayor meeting with Mr. Kanner and Councilor Marsh to distill the information discussed and come back to Council in a Study Session or regular meeting with ideas and options.
4.     Review of Mayor and Council FY2013—2015 proposed budget
Management Analyst Ann Seltzer went through the proposed budget and provided additional detail on allocations.  Under Materials and Services, 606 Other Purchased Services, $31,000 of the $43,000 covered dues that included the League of Oregon Cities (LOC), RVCOG (Rogue Valley Council of Governments), SOREDI (Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc.), and National League of Cities.  The remaining $12,000 went towards advertising meetings, personal vehicle mileage reimbursement, attendance, meals, and lodging at the LOC.  If Council were interested in a certain group, staff would make it work within the $12,000.
The Sister City fund allocation fell under 608 Commissions and covered airline fare for two high school students to travel to Guanajuato, a breakfast, or lunch for visitors from Guanajuato, and one person to fly to Guanajuato for their festivities.  
Funds were available if the City lobbied for ecommerce at the State level.  If Council went over budget, staff would do a budget transfer.  Ms. Seltzer confirmed an aberration occurred in the 2012 608 Commission budget but could not recall the reason.
Section 520 Fringe Benefits budgeted benefit packages for all six Councilors and the Mayor.  At the time staff set up the FTE (full time equivalent), they had not envisioned people not wanting benefits.
Meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,                                
Dana Smith
Assistant to the City Recorder

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