Live blogging the Durham City Council work session today | News

Live blogging the Durham City Council work session today

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1:04 pm: There are several interesting items on today's agenda, but several of them will be taken up later in the meeting. It's standing room only. Stay tuned.

We'll blog the following: 
10. Durham Historic Preservation Annual report 

32. GoDurham passenger survey See related PDF 10600_PRESENTATION_GODURHAM_ON-BOARD_PASSENG_374400_653052.pdf

33. Proposed condo development at 400 Hunt St., near Durham Central Park 10601_PRESENTATION_PROPOSED_DEVELOPMENT_374433_653605.pdf

34. 2014 Traffic Stop Data Review See related PDF 10559_PRESENTATION_TRAFFIC_STOP_DATA_373682_650032.pdf

40. Affordable Housing Density and Parking Bonus See related PDF 10577_MEMO-_CORRECTED__UDO_TEXT_AMENDMENT_374922_653501.pdf

And anything else that raises our eyebrows.

1:13: Councilman Don Moffitt: "Since Eugene Brown isn't running for re-election, it's my job to beat up on the legislature. In terms of the Confederate monuments, they're [lawmakers are] saying people aren't capable of electing candidates who carry out the will of the people. I say, keep your hands off the municipalities."

Hooray! Go Moffitt!

1:19: John Tarantino, local troubadour and City Council candidate, is singing a tribute to outgoing councilman Eugene Brown, to the tune of the Carpenters' "Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down. Here it is in part, with audio linked below.

"Hanging around ... City Hall and Mondays always get him down... Now Eugene can sleep in every morning with his socks left on the floor, dog waiting at the door. Waking up from a snooze, drooling on his Durham News. City staffers are going to miss Eugene Brown."


Item 10 1:24: Next Tuesday night there is a public meeting about local historic preservation criteria.
Councilman Steve Schewel: "It's hard to get people to volunteer on the Historic Preservation Commission because people get angry; it's viewed as anti-development some times. Are we finding it difficult to get people to volunteer?"

City staff:
 "It's been kind of a challenge. It will improve when the local criteria are formalized. They'll know this is their charter and what they have to do."

Schewel
: "Tell them we appreciate their work. It's hard to be in the middle of things."

Moffitt:
 "I appreciate what they're doing—and they need to lighten up a little bit."

We're glad Moffitt is filling Brown's snarky shoes. At the last meeting, the HPC debated the meaning of "vegetation" for at least 15–20 minutes, pondering if it was defined as anything non-animal or non-mineral.

1:58 OK, we've endured the routine blab-ee-duh-dah. Now it's show time. We're transit geeks, so we are interested in the bus system and how it's working. 

Item 32: John Dodson, service transit planner for GoDurham: "The first satisfaction survey was done in spring 2011. This was done in spring 2015. The customer satisfaction survey tells us who the customers are and how they use the system and their satisfaction level."

Hugh Clark, CGI Research: "We handed out the survey on the bus [3,171 returned it]. We've had several service changes and we wanted to know Are people noticing and approving of the service changes? 

"On time performance did quite well since 2011; but we see that buses running on time is at the top of service that needs improved. You've still got a way to go. On-time performance is key. This is not atypical. What is unusual is a nice jump in the score in a short amount of time. It's a feather in the cap of this system."

Demographic alert: Very interesting numbers for GoDurham riders, not including Bull City Connector:
Half of the trips are work-related. Half of all users are very low-income—less than $15,000 a year. A quarter of riders make between $15K and $24K. Only 4 percent earn more than $75K.

Nearly a third of riders are between 16-24. Another 23 percent is ages 25–34.

Seventy percent of riders are African-American; 12 percent are white; 10 percent Hispanic, which is a big jump from 2011, when 5 percent of riders were Hispanic.

The takeaway: Most riders are young, low-income African-Americans commuting to work.

Bull City Connector, the free downtown-to-Duke circulator, rates higher in customer satisfaction than regular GoDurham routes. Probably because the BCC is free, and you'll likely tolerate more discomfort if something is gratis.

Although a lot of low-income people ride the BCC, there is a greater percentage of people who are wealthy, reflecting the connection with Duke, and more riders are middle-aged, probably because they're headed to the Duke Medical Center as they rehab from their knee replacements. [Hey, I'm middle-aged, so I can make fun of my cohorts.]

Behavior of other people on the buses: Clark says it generally ranks low for both services. "I don't know what people are observing here, but it tends to be low." 

The main complaint is younger riders swearing or acting badly. I ride the bus a lot, but I don't hear a lot of swearing. I do hear interesting conversation.s though. 
oneside.jpg


Wait, did I just hear this? Yes, GoDurham has hired mediators that used to contract with the United Nations to train bus drivers on customer service?! Today, Rwanda. Tomorrow, a public bus?

OK, enough about buses for now. We realize not everyone is a transit geek. We're awaiting the condo discussion.



2:41 The moment we've all been waiting for ... CONDOS!
Dan Jewell, landscape architect and attorney Will Anderson are here representing the development team, Lambert Development Group. LDG wants to buy city-owned land for its 35-condo project with underground parking. This is at Hunt and Roney streets. Consult the 10601_PRESENTATION_PROPOSED_DEVELOPMENT_374433_653605.pdf .

Jewell: "This is not a new project. Several years ago, Morris Ridge had Phase II, but it was not built at that time. One of the main differences between what proposing now and that project—since that was going to be developed by Measurement Inc, they were going to provide the parking. But those parking spaces are not available to this developer.

"The valuation of the property interests were secured by the city by independent appraisal. We will be replacing 100 feet of sewer line in former Roney Street. There's an additional payment of $22K to offset trees that will be removed because of construction. The Durham Central Park board voted not to take an objection to this project. We would be here today had Durham Central Park had an objection."

Schewel: "North of the project site and west of Roney Street, how much of that is the park?"

Jewell: "It goes all the way to Corporation Street to the north."

[Hard to tell how far west on the Power Point. Part of the property is city-owned land in Durham Central Park.]

Jewell: "The developer needs to square off a notch of the property. We are needing to provide one parking space per unit to meet market conditions. There's an underground power line that will be relocated."

Now we're looking at an architectural drawing of the building, which is next to the existing Morris Ridge building. The entrances to the underground parking necessitate buying some land.

Jewell: "This building will have substantially more windows than what you saw seven years ago."

IMHO, it's still ugly. Looks quite generic. The developer is asking for several permanent easements—fire, foundation and air rights for balconies. 

Total purchase: Value of 2,800 square feet + the easements = $150,000. That amount includes the $22K for the new tree plantings within the park.

Jewell: "Average valuations are $23–$25 per square foot for this area. Why do we think this request is good for the city? The 1995 charette was not about the park, it was about the district, about how to attract investment to a forgotten corner of Durham. The common element was some type of public open space. In 1996, consensus was step 1, build a park, and maybe redevelopment and reinvestment will follow. It's taken 15 years, but it's finally happening.

"We feel the offer is very strong. We hope these funds can be put back into the park and into the citizens of Durham. New residents will be strongly encouraged in fundraising, maintenance and support of the park."

Mayor Bill Bell: "It looks to be a great project. I'm comfortable with what's being proposed. What I'm not comfortable with is the lack of affordable units."

[Applause]

"The only leverage we have is when the city is being asked to do something. Zoning, we don't have any leverage there. What's the price of the condos?"

Jewell: "High 200s to north of half-a million dollars."

[Audience gasps.]

Bell: If I want 10 percent of those units to be there, that would be $800K. The city is in the condo business. We did it in Eastway, Southside. At DPAC we have a condo of bathrooms. We want to put city dollars into this. Buy condos and low-income people come in and buy them and we make up the rest of the money. We can go in there and buy those condos. We can find the people. This is the place to start. Why can't we buy them? You've got 35 units in there."

"I'm not sure the affordable housing tools are going to work. I know this is going to work. I want serious consideration on my part."

[More applause]

Council member Cora Cole-McFadden: "If we're serious, let's do whatever it takes to make it happen."

Council member Eugene Brown asks about legal questions.

City Attorney Patrick Baker: My opinion is we don't have the authority to require affordable housing as a condition of zoning. However, if there is a public-private partnership, if our participation is contingent upon an affordable housing component.

Bell: My interest is having affordable units downtown where people actually reside.

Moffitt: i think it's a great idea, the creativity of it. It's a great topic of conversation that really merits a lot of conversation. There are nonprofits we could partner with, do it ourselves.

Schewel: "I appreciate the idea. I have a couple of concerns: One is so we have a limited amount of money we can put into housing, we'll be putting very large amount of money into this. It may not be the best use of our affordable housing money. We could build more affordable housing downtown with that money. In this situation we have something a developer wants from us. We need developers to pitch in. I want an affordable housing contribution from the developer as well."

Bell: "When you talk about dollars, we have $2.4 million coming in annually from Penny for Housing. We just gave the Durham Housing Authority $500,000. We are getting tax revenues, so I do support the project. Who ever lives there is going to be paying. It's subsidization to make it affordable on the South Side; we could do it here. I'm not going to support the project until we've taken a serious look at this and figured out how it can be done."

Schewel: "$500,000 to DHA helped us leverage 326 units being upgraded. We have city land downtown that $800,000 would leverage a lot of housing downtown."

Bell: "There are groups coming to us now looking at doing affordable housing on city land. I'm not ruling that out. It's not going to hurt the developer unless they don't want below market-rate people living in their units."

Eddie Davis: We should explore this.

Diane Catotti: "I want to see both. I think it's appropriate for developer to make a contribution. We just did this with the 539 Foster project. It might make more sense to transfer to a land trust. I definitely want to see a contribution from the developer."

Jewell: "Developer understands he has to do something [for affordable housing]. If there's an appropriate mechanism to have that conversation down the road. We'll bring the developer in down the road."

Brown: I have empathy and concerns. With any tax moneys, we need to make sure we're getting a bang for our buck. We also need to look at what else we can do for affordable housing downtown with $800,000.

Moffitt: "It's not $800,000, whatever we buy the units for and whatever we sell them for. It's the gap. I'm intrigued by the mayor's suggestion because it's mixed rate development. How do we get developers to do this? A developer that we have some leverage on.

"I'm asking about fair market values. $41-$42 square foot for 539 Foster. I'd like to know how we got to $21–$25."

City staff: In January, we had an appraisal $21-$35 square foot. 

Moffitt: So fair market value could be more than $21–$35.

City staff: Other considerations: topography, size, comparable properties, utilities go into the valuation.

Moffitt: These are both part of the park that we enjoy.

City staff: We will provide the appraisal.

Catotti: We should look at a more recent value. $21 is $1 million an acre. $41 is $1.8 million. The difference is $800,000.

Bonfield says affordable housing is going to be a regular topic of conversation over the next two years.

End of condo discussion. Now we're on to traffic stops.

Deputy Chief of Operations Larry Smith is presenting the 2014 traffic stop data report.
  • There were 21,939 total traffic stops in 2014, down from 25,630 in 2013. Five percent of those stops resulted in some type of search being conducted.
    More about the searches: 478 of the stops were probable cause searches; 428 were consent searches.

  • Of the stops,12,880 of drivers were black; 8,440 were white/Hispanic
  • The disparity between population and stops is similar in Durham and other cities.
  • The city is about 100 square miles; in a 6.5 square mile area in the central city, 35 percent of all traffic stops are conducted in that area. 61% of black, 21% white27% of all crimes in the city and 31% of all calls for service.
  • October–December 2014: 69 consent searches granted; 22 were denied.

    Of the 1,227 traffic stops in which any type of search occurred, there was an 28 percent hit rate, meaning contraband was found.

    There were 21 officers who had at least 25 traffic stops and a 75 percent of higher stop rate of minorities. Those officers' stops and on-car camera video are analyzed by command staff. There was nothing that concerned us; the stops were consistent with the areas they are assigned to and the crime in that area.

    Bonfield: Is there a national standard for probable cause searches?

    Smith: No, it varies. 

    Bell:
    What is contraband? Do you have any data on the number of firearms?

    Smith:
    Not the actual number.

    Brown:
    Marijuana?

    Smith:
    Drugs doesn't delineate between marijuana, cocaine, heroin.

    Smith:
    Probable cause searches No. 1 reason is observation of contraband. I would guess it's smell of marijuana. The next was erratic or suspicious behavior. The highest contraband was 87 percent drugs, 10 money, 6 percent weapons. But the guns could have been had legally but they were seized as contraband with the [drugs, etc.]

    Davis:
    Some people say the rise in probable cause searches is the result of the written consent policy.

    Smith
    : We did expect the probable cause to go up [because we did a lot of consent searches in the past that could have been probable cause, but officers prefer to ask for consent] but it was higher than expected. In the Baumgartner report, the data from Fayetteville was four years; ours was six months. We had a string of violent crime [last winter]. Our probable cause searches have fallen since the 90-day intensive policing, which began in February, ended.

    Schewel
    : We all expected a rise in probable cause searches, but I didn't expect it to go that high. I'm glad it's going down to a level we expected. We don't want simply to replace consent searches with probable cause searches. We want the disparity to be going down.

    Smith: We stop fewer cars [but conduct more searches.]

    Schewel: The report is mixed. The part that concerns me is the rise in the probable cause searches. I'm very glad to hear that trend has not persisted.

    Cole-McFadden: What I want to see is a culture change in the police department. When we stop folk, we have to treat everyone with respect.

    Smith: That's what we're trying to do with fair and impartial policing training. Officers know we're going to review their data and if we see anything that concerns us we will deal with that.

    Moffitt: I'm interesting in how many people we're stopping per 10,000 population, for example. That would be a worthwhile comparison. What is the stop and search rate per capita? There was initiative, Mr. Mayor, about low level amounts of marijuana.

    Bell: We'll be reporting on that in September.

    Moffitt: In searches, if it's weapons or kilos of cocaine, I'm ecstatic, but if it's marijuana, I think is this the best use of our time? Of the 87 percent of searches that were drugs, how many are pot?

    Smith: Maybe if I smell pot, I find a weapon. Or maybe not. No police officer gets up and says 'I hope we get a little roach today.' That is not the focus of our efforts, low-level marijuana. We have other things to focus on, but sometimes it leads to other contraband.

    Brown: Say you find a joint on one of the drivers or someone in the car, are you compelled to arrest?

    Smith: If it's just a roach or a little bit of marijuana, it will just be a citation, not an arrest.

    It's now 4:14; we're three hours in.
    Schewel: There have been some recent officer-related shootings; the people were wounded but no one was killed. Those were difficult situations for the officer. In one case it potentially saved a life. In the other case, the person had just murdered someone. I am supportive of officers. You have a hard job. In the way you need us to support you, we need the leadership and rank and file of department to buy in to our purposes.

    I think we're done with cops for now. In a few minutes we should be tackling affordable housing. And then, dear Goddess, we'll be done.





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