Proposed Encroachment Agreement for Dockless Scooters

The Proposed Master Right of Way Encroachment Agreement between the City and a scooter operator Licensee provides for the regulation in the matters of General Operations, Parking, and Safety. These matters are summarized below with included provisions to add sufficient detail and understanding of the breadth and depth of regulation that will be required.

1. General Terms & Conditions

A. Term

In order to effectively evaluate the scooter operators, including Licensee, and their ability to safely operate and comply with the terms of a master encroachment agreement, the duration of the Agreement will be for a period of one (1) year, until January 1, 2020, or upon the issuance of an RFP to select vendors, whichever first occurs. Any renewal or continuance of the Agreement will be at the sole discretion of the City of Raleigh.

B. Termination

The Agreement will contain termination provisions that allows for the City to review and revoke its continuance, taking into consideration factors such as compliance with the law by both the Licensee and its Users

1) The Agreement is revocable at will by the Raleigh City Council.

2) The City reserves the right to terminate the Agreement and require that all scooters be removed from the City’s Right-of-Way (1) if Licensee fails to comply with the Agreement, (2) violation of any local, state, or federal law by Licensee, (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or a knowingly false statement with respect to a material fact in the Agreement by Licensee, or (4) consistent failure by Users associated with Licensee to comply with applicable laws.

C. Liability

User Agreements between the Licensee and its Users tend to eliminate responsibility for the scooter operators for damages regardless of cause, with the costs of damages left to be paid by the person injured or to be the responsibility of the User. Responsibilities for costs and liability for damages, including both personal injury and property damage, are detailed in this Agreement. The Liability provisions within the General Terms & Conditions provide for the following:

1) Licensee is responsible for its own operational costs.

2) Licensee is responsible for damages and repair costs incurred by the City, including:

a) Property damage, personal injury, or death of any person caused by or arising out of the negligence, errors, omissions, defects, and/or willful misconduct, of the Licensee, its agents, employees, contractors, independent contractors, or subcontractors, and any cause of action arising out of the operation of said encroachment.

) Costs related to public property repair and maintenance costs that may be incurred by the City, including but not limited to any costs of repairing or maintaining damaged public property caused by the Licensee, or its Users, the removal and/or storage of improperly parked or abandoned scooters, and any violations of the Agreement, or any local, State, or Federal law.

c) Licensee is to obtain a continuing indemnity bond with sufficient surety, to reimburse the City for future public property repair and maintenance costs that may be incurred.

3) Indemnification of the City to include any claim, suit, action, demand, or proceeding made or brought against the City, its officers, councilors and employees, or on account of the investigation, defense, or settlement thereof, arising out of the Licensee’s, or any of its Users, agents, employees, contractors, independent contractors, or subcontractors’ use of the public space, public right of way, or public structure.

4) In addition to complying with the City’s standard Insurance Coverages, the Licensee is to provide insurance coverage for both Users and Contractors.

2. Operations

The Agreement includes operational regulations for each Licensee, including a maximum number of scooters, staffing requirements, and informational requirements. Some of the key provisions include:

A. The total number of scooters for all Licensees within the City not to exceed 1500 scooters. The City, at its sole discretion, may amend the maximum total.

B. Licensee may not exceed 500 scooters.

C. Licensee shall provide the City with a direct local contact for staff persons that are capable of rebalancing, relocating, and removing the scooters within two (2) hours of notification.

D. Licensee shall provide a twenty-four (24) hour Customer Service telephone number for persons to report safety concerns, maintenance issues, complaints, or ask questions.

E. Licensee shall relocate or rebalance the scooters daily.

F. Licensee shall provide User, prior to User’s operation of the Equipment, in-app messaging that notifies Users of proper use of the scooter and the fees and hourly rate to be paid by the User.

3. Parking

The Agreement sets out the specific location where scooters may not be parked in, on, or adjacent to, informing the Licensee that it is their responsibility to educate their Users that this is not allowed. The consequences of improper parking may result in removal of the scooter by the City at the Licensee’s expense.

A.

B.

Scooters shall not be parked in or on:

1) The pedestrian corridor, any vehicular travel lane, or any bicycle lane; or

2) Blocks without sidewalks.

Scooters shall not be parked in, on, or adjacent to:

1) Transit zones, including bus stops, and shelters, loading zones, accessible parking zones and/or associated loading zones;

2) Public benches, trash containers, parking pay stations, transit information signs, or other fixtures requiring pedestrian access;

3) Any building access, exits, or any emergency access or exit ways. Building access and building exits must maintain a 10-foot clearance;

4) Any emergency facility, fire or emergency related fixture;

5) Any driveway or cross-walk;

6) Any area within the public right-of-way improved with lawn, flowers, shrubs, or trees;

7) Any location where the clear space for the passageway of pedestrians is reduced to less than five (5) feet;

8) Parklets or sidewalk dining; or

9) Curb ramps, signal push buttons, or other facilities provided for handicapped persons.

If notified of public access and safety concerns by the City, Licensee shall repark/rebalance the identified scooter(s) within two (2) hours. If a scooter is not removed timely by the Licensee, the City may remove the scooter and take it to a designated facility for storage at the Licensee’s expense.

Licensee shall conduct a daily check for improperly parked or abandoned scooters.

When deploying, rebalancing, or relocating scooters, Licensee shall not place more than four scooters on a single block face.

Licensee shall remove all scooters from the public right of way no later than 10:00 PM EST for overnight charging and/or storage. Scooters may be re-positioned in the public right of way no earlier than 7:00 AM EST each day.

The City shall have the sole discretion to prohibit use or parking of any scooters within a designated area(s) for special or emergency events that require street closures and/or space upon street or sidewalk. 4. Safety

The Agreement sets forth safety requirements that echo those found in other municipalities for the purpose of safe operation of the scooters within City limits, including:

A. All scooters must meet local, state, and federal standards for manufacture, safety, financial responsibility, and registration.

B. Each scooter is limited to use by the number of persons upon or within such vehicle, including the operator, which it was designed to carry.

C. Licensee shall limit Users to persons aged eighteen (18) and older.

D. Every e-scooter shall have a unique identification number that is clearly displayed on the e-scooter and visible to the user and to enforcement officers at a distance of ten feet.

E. Each scooter shall display “No Riding on Sidewalk” on each scooter and prominently within the operator’s user app.

F. Every e-scooter shall have a customer service number that is in service at all operating hours and clearly displayed on the e-scooter and visible to the user.

G. All scooters must be equipped with technology, such as GPS, that allows the scooter to be located and tracked by the Operator at all times.

H. Any inoperable or unsafe scooter must be removed immediately from the right-of-way, and in no case more than twenty-four (24) hours from notice by any means to the Licensee; said scooter must be repaired before it is placed back into the City right-of- way.

Memo on Dockless Scooters from Michael Moore, City Transportation Director

Here is the memo that I just received on dockless scooter:

 Background 

Dockless scooters, sometimes referred to as shared electric mobility scooters, were introduced to Raleigh in July 2018. Bird initially deployed approximately 150 dockless scooters in downtown Raleigh, Glenwood South, and Cameron Village; the Bird fleet has now grown to over 1100 scooters all over the city. Lime, the company that provides dockless bicycles to the North Carolina State University campus, later deployed approximately 200 dockless scooters in September. Neither company currently operates with permission or license from the City of Raleigh. 

Dockless scooters proponents say the scooters provide a viable low-cost mobility option for short trips, including first mile/last mile connections to transit and to parking. Dockless scooters can also increase the catchment area for businesses and community attractions. The reduction in automobile trips can help improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Opponents of the technology point out potentially negative consequences. Improperly parked scooters can impede sidewalks and create tripping hazards for pedestrians and the visually impaired, and scooter use (riding) on the sidewalk create additional hazards for pedestrians. Vehicular traffic is not yet accustomed to scooters utilizing the street space, and some scooter users are not observant of basic safety rules and parameters. 

Dockless scooter perceptions are further complicated in that the behavior of individual users are sometimes conflated with the conduct of the scooter companies. This perception is further complicated by the companies’ “hands-off” approach to self-policing. The existing regulatory environment is also an imperfect fit. For example, the State of North Carolina indicates that dockless scooters are best categorized as a “moped”, but the Department of Motor Vehicles has not aggressively enforced requirements for registration and license plates. In its pilot program for dockless vehicles, the City of Charlotte has elected to treat dockless scooters in a similar manner as bicycles due to their similar operating characteristics.

There are very strong opinions about the presence and operations of scooters in the Raleigh area. In an effort to realize the benefits and mitigate the negative effects of dockless scooters, the Department of Transportation, the City Attorney’s Office, and Raleigh Police Department have collaborated to produce a draft master encroachment agreement. A summary of the key terms of the agreement is attached to this memo. The master encroachment agreement can be the licensing/permitting mechanism for dockless scooter operators. The encroachment agreement terms include the rules and regulations for City Council’s consideration. This approach can also be the model for other shared mobility options like dockless bike share. While the agreement terms are largely based upon research and benchmarking of other cities’ regulations, they are heavily based on the City of Durham draft regulations and the Charlotte Pilot Program current regulations. 

Key Questions 

Dockless scooters present several important policy questions for City Council. Central to those questions is this – “are dockless scooters a valuable addition to Raleigh’s mobility options and can the safety and welfare of users and pedestrians be preserved during their operations?” Secondly, “can dockless scooters be staged by both the company and the individual user to ensure clear and safe access along city sidewalks and minimize impacts to our neighborhoods?” and “should the City permit a private, for-profit company access to the City’s right-of-way for the purposes of offering this mobility service?” We can offer some perspective on each of these, but ultimately Council will set the policy direction for any future actions. Let’s consider these questions in reverse order. 

“Should the City permit a private, for-profit company access to the City’s right-of-way for the purposes of offering this mobility service?” 

The City of Raleigh has permitted private uses of the public right-of-way for a variety of uses ranging from utility installations to outdoor café seating. These uses have been permitted through either a major or minor encroachment agreement. Each agreement has standard language addressing concerns about indemnity, insurance, duration, etc. and language outlining specific terms and conditions for the use of the right of way. For example, hours of operation or road restoration requirements may be included. The master encroachment agreement proposed for dockless scooter licensing/permitting is a subset of the major encroachment agreement category and follows this same model. 

The master encroachment agreement includes the rules and regulations for dockless scooter company operations. The agreement is a versatile permitting structure, regardless of the process (first come/first serve, request for proposals, etc.) for determining which companies Raleigh may allow to operate. The master encroachment will also collect fees based on the number of dockless scooters operated by each company. When benchmarked against other cities, the proposed “per scooter” fee is at the high end of the fee range. However, the initial application cost is low, and the fees will be used to offset program costs and scooter parking implementation. 

“Can dockless scooters be staged by both the company and the individual user to ensure clear and safe access along city sidewalks and minimize impacts to our neighborhoods?” 

The proposed master encroachment agreement terms address this question in several different ways. Several regulations specifically address how and where scooters can and cannot be parked and staged. For example, scooters cannot be left within the walk area of the sidewalk, cannot be placed in accessible curb ramps or in driveways, and are not allowed to block entries. Other regulations on scooter parking and staging address the clutter concern by limiting the number of scooters that may be staged on each block face (4 per operator) and prohibit parking scooters on streets without sidewalks. This rule addresses scooter placement in predominantly residential neighborhoods where sidewalks are sometimes absent. 

The agreement terms also provide the Department of Transportation latitude to further restrict parking and to prescribe designated parking areas in high pedestrian activity areas. Please note that the City will need to make investments to implement this approach. Operators will be responsible to re-park or remove improperly placed scooters within two hours of receipt of a complaint by any party. Operators are also required to remove scooters from the street each night. This last requirement ensures that dockless scooters are properly staged to start each day; it has the additional benefit of removing the scooters from the street late at night. 

The agreement terms also provide for a maximum fleet for each user (capped at 500) and for the City as a whole (capped at 1500). This cap will ensure that dockless scooters are staged in areas of high demand; however, as a condition of the master encroachment agreement, operators are required to deploy at least 20% of the fleet in underserved communities, as determined by the City. 

“Are dockless scooters a valuable addition to Raleigh’s mobility options and can the safety and welfare of the user and pedestrians be preserved in the course of their operations?” 

Several regulations included in the master encroachment agreement address the matter of safety for both users and pedestrians. The agreement terms clearly state that operating a dockless scooter on any sidewalk is prohibited. The terms require the statement “No Riding on Sidewalk” to be physically displayed on the scooter and prominently featured within the operator app. Regulations also include provisions to prohibit operating within certain areas like City garages and GoRaleigh Station. Staff has discussed using the same technology that “fence” these areas to similarly “fence” city sidewalks; however, the technology is not advanced enough at this time. City Council will need to take an action to permit dockless scooter operations in bike lanes, as dockless electronic scooters were not an anticipated mode of transportation and are prohibited in bike lanes. Regulations require users to abide by all applicable traffic laws. 

City Council will ultimately make the decision weighing benefits and liabilities to determine the value and place of dockless scooters in the overall transportation environment. 

Enforcement 

No set of regulations or rules can be effective without education and enforcement. Certain aspects of the regulations are more easily enforced than others. Parking and staging of scooters can be addressed through a multi-pronged approach of guidance in the agreement terms, education, and enforcement. The agreement terms themselves provide stronger guidance to the scooter companies than exists today, and prescribed parking areas for high traffic sidewalks will provide users clear, unambiguous, and properly located parking zones. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has also offered its Safety Ambassadors to assist with education about appropriate parking locations. 

Transportation’s Parking Division currently has a position vacancy that can be filled and dedicated to scooter parking enforcement (a civil citation that would be sent to the dockless scooter company). One enforcement officer can reasonably monitor and enforce most parking activities in the downtown area. Additional resources may be required if a high level of service is necessary in other areas. 

Riding on the sidewalk and riding without a helmet is more difficult to enforce. These offenses have criminal (misdemeanor) penalties, Responsibility for issuing misdemeanor citations rests with the Raleigh Police Department; Parking Enforcement can only write civil citations. The Raleigh Police Department has limited resources and will provide enforcement as circumstances demand and resources allow. 

The dockless scooter operators recognize this issue of enforcing their own rules of use. Bird indicated that they are working to develop technology solutions to identify and report offenders, including poor parking behaviors. Notices through both their technology solution and City enforcement can be documented and logged, and user accounts could then be suspended and/or revoked based on this violation information. While this approach has promise, to Staff’s knowledge, it has not yet been implemented by either company. 

Options 

Staff has outlined four options for dockless scooter regulation for City Council consideration. These options include: 

OPTION 1: Direct Staff to present master encroachment agreements with the current operators for dockless scooters to Council for approval, with detailed requirements for operations. (The encroachment agreement will be in effect until July 31, 2019, when operators will be solicited through a Request For Proposals (RFP)). 

Advantages to this approach include: 

  • A regulatory framework for current operator and user accountability is quickly created and placed into effect. 
  • The approach provides adequate time and opportunity to produce a thoughtful comprehensive request for proposals to competitively select the best operators. 
  • The approach affords Staff the time to solicit stakeholder input into the request for proposals. 
  • The General Assembly may act on the issue in early 2019, providing some clarity and guidance. 

The current dockless scooter operators would continue to offer service under the encroachment agreements. Some stakeholders may consider retaining these operators a disadvantage to this approach. Also, some level of resources is required to verify compliance. 

OPTION 2: Direct Staff to prepare a RFP to select a vendor(s) most advantageous to the City’s goals based on criteria that includes operations, equity, and safety, as soon as practical, with scooter companies continuing to operate as they do today. 

Since little will change in the interim while Staff develops a request for proposals, few resources are required. The status quo may be considered an advantage by some stakeholders. 

Disadvantages to this option include: 

  • There is no clear regulatory structure for scooter operations and the current state of “non-regulation” remains in place. 
  • There may be possible broader community concerns that current safety and sidewalk blocking are not being addressed. 
  • Development of the request for proposals would be performed quickly, without opportunity for stakeholder input. 

OPTION 3: Direct Staff to prepare a RFP to select a vendor(s) most advantageous to the City’s goals based on criteria that includes operations, equity, and safety, as soon as practical. Do not permit scooter operations in the interim by issuing a “cease and desist” directive to current operators. 

Advantages to this approach include: 

  • Unlicensed, under-regulated operators are removed from the streets. 
  • The approach provides adequate time and opportunity to produce a comprehensive, thoughtful request for proposals to competitively select the best operators. 
  • The approach affords staff the time to solicit stakeholder input into the request for proposals. 
  • The General Assembly may act on the issue in early 2019, providing some clarity and guidance. 

Disadvantages to this option include: 

  • There may be possible rider/user concerns about the suspension of the program. 
  • A low-cost, low-carbon mobility option is temporarily removed from users. 
  • Some level of resources is required to verify compliance.

OPTION 4: Ban dockless scooters altogether. 

Advantages to this approach include: 

  • Unlicensed, under-regulated operators are permanently removed from the streets. 
  • No potential safety/sidewalk conflicts would be created by scooters. 
  • No long-term resources for program management, infrastructure maintenance would be required 

Disadvantages to this approach include: 

  • There may be possible rider/user concerns about the prohibition of the program. 
  • A low-cost, low-carbon mobility option is permanently removed from users. 
  • Some level of resources is required to verify compliance. 

Recommendation 

Staff recommends Option 1.

Staff would advise Bird and Lime, the current dockless scooter operators, to apply for a master encroachment agreement. Concomitant with the master encroachement agreement, staff would proceed with developing a RFP to solicit any interested dockless scooter operators. Staff would commence the RFP process in order to have a set of operators ready at the conclusion of the initial term of this master encroachment agreement, which is July 31, 2019. 

This approach provides an opportunity for a rapidly evolving industry and technology to mature. Also, the North Carolina General Assembly indicated they may consider legislation in this time frame that could offer more clarity for community policy makers. The proposed Option 1 quickly places rules in effect to address the current situation (few rules, little accountability) while affording staff the opportunity to solicit meaningful stakeholder input into the RFP process and to engage a broader group of potential dockless scooter operators. This time provides the opportunity to produce a more comprehensive, thoughtful RFP to find the best operators for the Raleigh community. 

Not Getting Your Taxes Worth…

A few years ago Raleigh hired a consultant to conduct a community survey. A key result of that survey is the need to address transportation. Transportation was the top concern of our citizens.

Not long after that survey the City Manager and the Planning Department began an update of the the City’s Comprehensive Plan. It has been more than ten years since the City’s plan for transportation has been updated.

This past week I have been reviewing staff’s update on the Comprehensive Plan. Amazingly, despite spending thousands for the community survey and thousands more on the update, the City Manager’s update to the Comprehensive Plan does NOT include transportation. It will now be several more years before the City Manager addresses transportation.

In the meantime we have no meaningful transportation plan for north Raleigh and despite spending millions on sales taxes for transit, no plan to improve bus service in north Raleigh.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Manager Ruffin Hall, why has updating the City’s transportation plan been sidelined?

Falls of Neuse and Policy Priorities

My wife and I moved into our house off of Falls of Neuse Road about eleven years ago. Shortly after we moved in we got involved with our neighbors as plans moved forward to widen Falls of Neuse Road from a two lane country road to four lanes. There was a plan at that time to plan ahead for a six lane super street by placing the four lanes on the outside of six lane corridor. We did not share that vision of six lane super street and advocated for a four lane parkway. That vision for a four lane parkway, except for two desired traffic lights, was adopted by City Council and is what is on the ground today.

There has always been a plan memorialized in the City’s comprehensive plan to maintain as much as possible the rural character of Falls of Neuse north of I540. Development along the corridor has been predominantly residential. Commercial development has been kept to a minimum and there is no industrial development. This character of the corridor is why thousands of people have chosen to live here and to invest in their homes. The Falls of Neuse neighborhoods together form a small town that just happen to be in a city.

It is this small town/rural character that we are working to protect. This is why some 600 people turned out a few years ago to vote overwhelmingly against a grocery anchored strip mall at Dunn and Falls of Neuse Roads. It is why this room was packed again to oppose another strip mall at Raven Ridge and Falls of Neuse.

And it is one of the main reasons why I first ran three years ago for this seat on City Council.

Falls of Neuse winds past more than a dozen neighborhoods – Wakefield, Bedford, Falls River, River Oaks, Wood Spring, Woodbridge, Daltons Ridge, River Run, Oakcroft, Falls Point, Raven Ridge, and Raven Point to name a few. On the west side of Falls of Neuse is the Falls Lake watershed protection area and home to the Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve and Falls Lake Park. On the east side of Falls of Neuse is the Richland Creek watershed protection area. And along the south side of the Neuse river run the Neuse river greenway that is a part of the Mountain to Sea Trail. And right on Falls of Neuse is the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church founded by former slaves and in continuous existence since the 1800’s.

The Falls of Neuse corridor is a unique location in Raleigh with a unique combination of low intensity residential, natural resources, and historic sites including the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, as well as the historic Falls Community. The vision of the residents and many visitors to the area is to preserve the character of this area as much as possible.

As the elected representative and a fellow resident of this area I am committed to that preservation. Make no mistake. The matter before us today is to widen a section of Falls of Neuse between Durant and I540. This widening is simply the first phase of three phases to transform Falls of Neuse from what is today a four lane parkway into a six lane super street.

As the duly elected representative of District B I want to be very clear to the community, to my fellow Council Members, and to the Mayor, that I do not and will not support transforming Falls of Neuse into a six lane super street. Keeping Falls of Neuse Road a four lane parkway and protecting the Falls of Neuse neighborhoods and community must, in my opinion, be a policy priority. And it is a policy priority that I represent and will fight for.

To that end, let us begin the discussion for a better plan for the future not only of the Falls of Neuse but all of North Raleigh and northern Wake County.

Thank you.

Regarding Scooters

From this week’s Manager’s update:

DATE: August 3, 2018
TO: Ruffin Hall, City Manager
FROM: Michael Moore, Transportation Director
RE: Bird Scooters

Background

Approximately three weeks ago, Bird, an electric scooter sharing company, began operating in the City of Raleigh. These scooters operate like dockless bike sharing companies, where users employ a smartphone mobile application to locate, unlock and rent their service. Approximately 150 Bird scooters are currently operating in Raleigh, with distribution focused primarily in Downtown, Glenwood South, and Cameron Village. In general, commercial activity that occurs in the right of way is not permitted without enabling action by the City. No such enabling action occurred prior the deployment of these scooters by Bird.

The City Attorney’s Office has determined that dockless scooters fall into a similar classification as mopeds. Mopeds require an operator to be a minimum of 16 years old and wear a helmet while operating the moped. Neither a driver’s license nor automobile liability insurance are required. Mopeds must also have a title and be registered with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, and while mopeds are motor vehicles, they are treated more like bicycles than automobiles or motorcycles for the purposes of North Carolina’s motor vehicle laws.

Benchmarking

Several other cities, including Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Durham, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Washington DC have implemented or are considering trial or pilot programs to more thoroughly evaluate the multitude of issues arising from dockless scooters in their transportation environment.

These cities have identified various operating parameters, addressing issues related to scooter specifications, permissible fleet size, fleet rebalancing, scooter condition and maintenance, parking locations, insurance requirements, data sharing, permitting, fees, and penalties.

Several cities, including Charlotte, have elected to permit scooter operations under pilot program or trial permit period. This approach affords local governments the opportunity to better understand the technology, the positive and negative issues it may generate, and its potential place in the local transportation system.

Current Work and Next Steps

City Staff, including representatives from Transportation and Police, met with representatives from Bird to further confirm the operating parameters of the company. A key focus of this conversation was, and will continue to be, ensuring public safety for all rental system users relative to other users of the public right-of-way.

Staff shared the City’s intent to maintain the quality of life for our citizens and to prevent any negative impacts on local neighborhoods or businesses. To this point, staff continues to share situations and issues where scooters were operated in contradiction to Bird’s terms and conditions of use (multiple riders, no helmets, etc.) or were improperly parked, posing tripping hazards for pedestrians.

In response, Bird has provided “push” notifications to their users and has a program to provide free helmets (for the cost of shipping). They have also conducted free helmet giveaways recently at the Downtown Farmers Market.

Raleigh’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) is currently discussing potential frameworks to recommend to City Council that would permit the operation of dockless bikeshare systems within Raleigh’s rights of way. While somewhat different than scooter sharing companies, these systems share many similarities with dockless bikeshare systems and can be permitted and regulated through similar mechanisms. Staff anticipates a final recommendation from the BPAC on an approach to dockless bicycles at their August 20 meeting that would be presented for the Council’s consideration on September 4.

Transportation staff will continue to work closely with the City Attorney’s Office on this matter and will provide another update to Council during the “Report of the Manager” portion of the regular meeting on August 21.

ADA Compliance

Here is an email I  received from the City’s Chief of Staff regarding ADA compliance by the City:

CM Cox,

City-owned buildings are compliant with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

While existing city buildings may not have all the ADA accessibility features that more modern facilities may have – due to the era of construction – city buildings comply with the federal statute and amendments. We can always do better and there is always room for improvement.

The obligations of State and local government for ADA compliance and program accessibility are in the Department of Justice ADA Title II regulations 28 CFR Part 35.150. I have included a link to the reference here: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/titleII_2010/titleII_2010_regulations.htm#a35150

The civil rights law which is the ADA recognizes the following:

35.150 (b)(2)(i) – Elements that have not been altered in existing facilities on or after March 15, 2012, and that comply with the corresponding technical and scoping specifications for those elements in either the 1991 Standards or in the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), Appendix A to 41 CFR part 101–19.6 (July 1, 2002 ed.), 49 FR 31528, app. A (Aug. 7, 1984) are not required to be modified in order to comply with the requirements set forth in the 2010 Standards.

Based on this section of the federal regulation, it is not correct that City-owned buildings are out of compliance with the ADA.

Please let me know if you need anything further at this time.

Safe Passage

Raleigh passed an ordinance in August 2015 to allow outdoor seating at restaurants and bars downtown. At the December 5, 2017 Council meeting, Council Member Crowder indicated the outdoor dining program has been in place for about 18 months and she would like for Council to request the City Manager to prepare a staff report on the status of the outdoor dining permit program. She stated she would like for the report to include the following components:

  • A list of applicants for permits since program inception with appropriate data
  • A list of permits issued and establishments issued with appropriate data
  • A listing of renewed permits by fiscal year and disposition of permits not renewed
  • A reporting of citations issued against all permits in place.
  • A reporting of complaints that have been turned over to staff about the outdoor dining in general.
  • A city-wide reporting of all easement operating outdoor seating on the public right-of-way compared to the roster of permits issued as of December 1, 2017.

She moved that the report be prepared. Her motion was seconded by Council Member Stephenson and a roll call vote resulted in all members voting in the affirmative. The Mayor ruled the motion adopted on an 8-0 vote.

The report was prepared by staff and presented at the Feb 20, 2018 Council meeting. During the presentation, Councilor Crowder noted that the final sentence of “Suggested Amendments” on pages three and four of the staff memorandum in the agenda packet reads “The City Council may wish to consider removing this allowance.”  She asked if the allowance was for meandering.  APD Crane explained the City Code is not specific in that the pedestrian path must be a straight path on the block face.  The Code does not explicitly prohibit a path that might meander down the block face (he illustrated a meandering path on one of the slides).

Councilor Crowder said that adding clarity in the Code would be helpful and would also help pedestrians who are impaired in some way.  Councilor Branch opined it is very important to keep regulations for traversing sidewalks consistent throughout, especially from a public safety standpoint, so first responders will not have to meander around tables and chairs when responding to an emergency.

Councilor Crowder said she would like to move forward with stronger language about no meandering.  Mr. Thompson, whose mother was visually impaired, agreed and said it makes no sense to allow meandering as it is an accident waiting to happen.

Councilor Crowder moved to direct staff to revise the ordinance on outdoor dining to reflect today’s discussion.  Her motion was seconded by Councilor Thompson and carried unanimously.  The Mayor ruled the motion adopted on a vote of 8-0.

Upon passage of the motion staff was directed to review the draft ordinance with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) and downtown businesses. The draft ordinance was brought back to Council in May.

At the May meeting Council Member Crowder moved approval as presented. Her motion was seconded by Council Member Branch and put to a vote which passed with all members voting in the affirmative except Council Member Thompson who was absent and excused. The Mayor ruled the motion adopted on a 7-0 vote.

On Doubling the Allowable Homes in Raleigh

Hello everyone,

You have no doubt heard at least a little bit about accessory dwelling units – small one or even two story homes constructed on the same lot as a larger main home.

Advocates of ADUs argue that every residential property in the city should be rezoned to allow ADUs. Here is why I think this position is wrong and why I think that overlay districts are the best approach.

Raleigh is geographically a large city with 144 square miles. It has many diverse neighborhoods ranging from historic neighborhoods to newer suburban neighborhoods at Brier Creek, Leesville, Creedmoor Rd, Strickland, Falls of Neuse, Louisburg Rd, New Bern, etc. Some neighborhoods are near universities and colleges. Some are not. Some like Boylan Heights, Glenwood-Brooklyn, and Oakwood are within walking distance of downtown high rises while others are within walking distance of Falls Dam, Falls Lake, and Umstead park – very different environments.

Advocates of ADUs have proposed rezoning the entire city with all its diversity to allow two residential structures per lot effectively doubling with the stroke of the pen the allowable residential density of Raleigh. In my view this is simply too dramatic of a change and it is a change that happens without real citizen engagement or input.

I support the use of overlays because it gives each of Raleigh’s neighborhoods a chance to consider if rezoning for ADUs is right for them. If some think that ADUs are right for their neighborhood, then let’s have a process whereby that neighborhood can have them. However, let’s not be so bold to impose one neighborhood’s wishes on every other neighborhood throughout the entire city. An overlay process allows that happen.

If enough people want ADUs in their neighborhood, then with an overlay process, they can request to rezone their neighborhood. What does this mean exactly? A typical neighborhood consists of about 30 to 70 homes. If one or more people live in a neighborhood, then they can request a rezoning. Upon receiving that request the City will start a public process to consider the request. If enough people in the neighborhood agree, the request will proceed to the city’s Planning Commission and the City Council.

Like any rezoning, the request will be considered publicly. The pros and cons will be heard and ultimately Council will render a decision. If Council agrees with the request, then an overlay district will be applied to the neighborhood allowing ADUs.

There is nothing new about overlay districts. Overlay districts have been used for many years to preserve the unique characters and history of many city neighborhoods. Overlays are a recognition that one size does not fit all. And overlays are an exercise in democracy allowing each neighborhood to determine its own destiny without dictating those terms to every other neighborhood in the city.

With overlays the city can move forward allowing rezoning for ADUs where they make sense and where they are wanted. Rather than rushing to rezone the entire city to double residential density everywhere, I think that taking a more measured approach allowing each neighborhood to participate in that important decision is the best approach.

Thank you for listening.

David Cox, PhD

Raleigh City Council

Do You Rent? Know Your Rights and Obligations

An updated version of the “Tenants’ Rights and Obligations Habdbook” published by the City of Raleigh Fair Housing Board is now available. Download your copy today with this link:

In English : https://www.raleighnc.gov/content/BoardsCommissions/Documents/FairHousingHearingBoard/TenantsRightsObligationHandbookEnglish

In Spanish: https://www.raleighnc.gov/content/BoardsCommissions/Documents/FairHousingHearingBoard/TenantsRightsObligationHandbookSpanish