Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way

Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room.    
Councilor Seffinger, Morris, Rosenthal, Lemhouse, and Slattery were present.  Councilor Darrow was absent.
1.   Public Input 
John Nosco/840 B Street/Stated he was a member of the Southern Oregon Housing for All (SOHA).  He explained how having adequate funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund provided leverage for private donations and government grants.
2.   Look Ahead review
Interim City Administrator John Karns reviewed items on the Look Ahead.
Councilor Slattery/Seffinger m/s to cancel the July 3, 2017 Study Session.  Voice Vote.  ALL AYES.  Motion passed.
3.   Affordable Housing Trust Fund Menu of Activities
Housing Specialist Linda Reid explained Council adopted the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in 2008.  It allowed a wide variety of housing related activities and provided funding to households earning up to 120% of area median income.  The ordinance prescribed a process where the Affordable Housing Trust Fund request for proposal (RFP) was issued concurrent with the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) RFPs in January.  Council had the authority to identify priority uses through the RFP process.  Currently the fund had $166,000 identified in the proposed budget.  The Housing and Human Services Commission (HHSC) worked on identifying a permanent funding source for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. 
HHSC vice Chair Rich Rhode and HHSC Commissioner Tom Gunderson explained Ashland was at a crossroads and the housing crisis was at the heart of the issue.  The Affordable Housing Trust Fund could keep the community inclusive, diverse, and open to families.  It functioned when there was a dedicated source of funding.  He addressed the Housing Trust Fund Menu document in the agenda.  The types of solutions in the lower fund section were not on the preventative side of affordable housing and addressed people unable to afford housing or were close to being homeless.  The higher end of funding was where the City could prevent the housing crisis.
Commissioner Gunderson further explained the lower end of the funding document would cover basic issues.  Ms. Reid added one of reasons the Affordable Housing Trust Fund RFP process was concurrent with CDBG program was the ability to leverage those funds together for a larger project.  For limited funds, the most effective method would depend on what Council wanted to accomplish.  Vice Chair Rhode commented Council could subsidize accessory residential units (ARU) that would provide some solutions for families.  Workforce housing was an issue the community was trying to address. 
Commissioner Gunderson thought the City needed a funding stream to make any impact.  He clarified the HHSC was not making recommendations but providing Council options on how they may want to spend the money or save it for larger projects.  It depended on what kind of revenue flow the City could achieve.   
Ms. Reid clarified the resolution outlined funding allocation and methodology.  Through the RFP process, the Council and the HHSC could recommend priorities based on community needs and put the RFP out in January at the same time the CDBG process began.  Applicants with projects that met those needs would submit applications.  The HHSC would vet applications on readiness to proceed, and capacity.  Similar to CDBG grant applications.  The Commission would forward their recommendations to Council for final review and approval.  It did not need be an annual process.  Senior Planner Brandon Goldman added it would depend on how much funds were available.  If the $166,000 was expended and there was only $50,000 per year coming into the fund, Council could have the funds build for a couple years before doing another RFP process.  The City could time the competitive RFP process with large projects from other agencies.  Council could also initiate a City housing development through a non-competitive cycle for a project like the ARU program.  Planning Director Bill Molnar explained the resolution required a minimum 50% match.  He confirmed it could be an open RFP.  Ms. Reid explained CDBG funds could not be added to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, it would serve as leverage only.  Other factors were project type and CDBG qualification. 
Mr. Molnar elaborated on the ARU program.  Council comment suggested making it easier for people to build an ARU by waiving fees instead of having a City involved program.
Council expressed concern on immediacy versus long-term solutions.  They would discuss whether they would fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund at the end of the budget process.  Council comment thought it made sense to fund it to a level that drew in projects.  Other comments liked an earlier suggestion of waiving fees. 
Ms. Reid addressed next steps and explained that once Council identified the amount or if there was any money available, they would go through the process of looking at community needs and priorities and be ready to start in September.
4.   Presentation regarding home fire sprinklers
Division Chief/Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman provided a presentation on home fire sprinklers for new construction.  However, there was a small component of a grant for retrofit.
Every day seven people died in home fires for a total of 2,500-3,000 deaths per year.  More people died in fires than all the natural disasters combined.  In Oregon, from 2004 to 2013 there were 350 fire deaths and 2,500 fire injuries.  Since 2009, there have been 61 to 97 firefighter fatalities each year.  Of that amount, 15% firefighter deaths related to home fires.  Ashland had two civilian fire fatalities in the last 25 years.  Most fire deaths occurred between midnight and 8:00 a.m.
Children under the age five were one and a half times more vulnerable.  Older adults were three times more likely to die in a home fire.  The safe window of escape time had increased dramatically since the 1970s due to hydrocarbon items in the home and lightweight construction.  In the 1970s, an individual had seventeen minutes to escape a fire.  Presently, a person had 3 minutes.  Flashovers could occur in 3 minutes and 40 seconds.  Lightweight construction increased collapse time to six minutes.  Older or “legacy” homes took 18 minutes to collapse.  It could take a Fire Rescue team up to 10 minutes to get water on a fire.
The City of Scottsdale AZ conducted a fifteen year study of their citywide fire sprinkler ordinance.  The study showed that 50% of the homes had fire sprinkler systems and zero fire fatalities.  There were 13 fire fatalities in homes without sprinkler systems during the same period.  Fire damage decreased in sprinklered homes to an average of $2,000.  Fire damage to non-sprinklered homes was an average of $45,000.  Home occupant deaths decreased 83% with home sprinkler systems, civilian fire injury medical costs decreased 53%, and fire injury total costs were reduced by 41%.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) came out with a report that stated houses equipped with smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system experienced 100% fewer civilian fatalities, 57% fewer injuries, and 32% less direct property costs. 
Environmental impacts of a fire-sprinklered house were less with a 97% reduction in water usage from the Fire Department, fewer persistent pollutants, and reduced gas emissions.  Non-sprinklered homes required additional Fire Department staff.
In 2014, home consumers were more interested in homes that were fire sprinklered.  In Ashland, the cost for a sprinkler system was approximately $1.50 per square foot.  The Public Works Department and the Fire Department collaborated on meter costs.  Customers who upsized a meter for a home fire sprinkler system to a one-inch meter were charged for the 3 5/8 inch meter.  The Fire Department also collaborated with the Planning Department to eliminate the requirement of a backflow device that created an annual cost to the owner.  It involved having a multipurpose setup where water continuously flowed through the system, also known as a passive purge.  Insurance companies offered 5% to 15% off the fire portion of insurance on homes with fire sprinkler systems.
The Ashland and Medford Fire Departments teamed up to receive a grant that helped promote home fire sprinklers in the area. Grant funds went towards three public service announcements and advertising on local networks.  They hired a national educator to provide training on the design and installation of home fire sprinkler systems to the development community.  They surveyed the 200 homes in Ashland with sprinkler systems and completed the construction of a demonstration trailer.  Two adult foster care homes were in the process of retrofitting home sprinkler systems in Medford and Ashland.  Home fire sprinklers met Council Goals #26, 27, 28, and goal 29.
Next steps included continued education internally and externally, strengthen community partnerships locally, regionally, and statewide, and consideration of an ordinance in the future.  However, a local ordinance could result in unintended resistance and push back at the state level through anti-sprinkler legislation.
People could opt to sprinkler one room but it was not prudent cost wise and a fire could start in other areas of the home.  Ashland based the $1.50 per square foot on a standard home.  Other jurisdiction with home sprinkler ordinances had experienced challenges and resistance from homebuilder associations.  This was an ongoing issue with little progress made.  Now was not the time to bring an ordinance forward.  The Fire Department would continue outreach efforts to the community and developers.     
Council comment suggested brainstorming ways to incentivize builders to add sprinkler systems.
5.   Discussion regarding winter and emergency shelters
Item postponed to a special meeting in the future.
Meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,                                                                                                          
Dana Smith
Assistant to the City Recorder 

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