By Tabitha Mueller
The Reno City Council and Redevelopment Agency Board met Wednesday to approve implementation of a bill to address affordable housing in Reno. The bill, SB-103, reduces or subsidizes impact fees on affordable housing projects.
During public comments, David Fraizer, an affordable housing advocate and member of ACTIONN, shared his experience with homelessness and emphasized the importance of SB-103 as part of a solution to Reno’s affordable housing crisis.
“Currently, I have been able to get out of homeless[ness] thanks to my apartment complex, which until recently kept my rent low through federal low-income housing tax credits. Unfortunately, those tax credits expired earlier this year, and my rent has steadily crept up from $550 a month to $1,083, in one year. It is estimated that hundreds of more units will lose their tax credits in the next five years, further increasing our…shortage of affordable housing,” Fraizer said.
A City of Reno staff report notes that the approval and implementation of SB-103 is part of the process to “adopt an ordinance that would allow the City of Reno to reduce or subsidize impact fees…or fees for the issuance of building permits and sewer connections for projects developing affordable housing with an overall average income of tenants of 60 percent median gross income for Washoe County.”
It’s one tool of many more that we need to suggest and bring to the table for us to obtain affordable housing.”
“We also need to adopt an ordinance to establish overall criteria, putting into effect the relevant portions of the master plan,” said city planning manager Claudia Hanson. “For each project that comes forward for this opportunity, we would need to hold a public hearing…concerning the effect of the reduction or subsidization on the economic viability of the general fund and the enterprise fund,” she said.
Bill Thomas, the assistant city manager, added that SB-103 is designed to create new affordable housing projects.
“If the benefit that we’re looking for is more affordable housing, then we believe the strategy should be to make it as broad and as open as possible so we’re not just adding additional money to projects that would already come about but would perhaps getting people to mix some affordable units in their projects,” he said.
If applications exceed expectations, Thomas said that they could revisit the process with the Council.
After some discussion, City Council unanimously approved the implementation of SB-103.
Just one tool in a larger toolbox
Councilmember Oscar Delgado noted that SB-103 is just one part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis.
“It’s one tool of many more that we need to suggest and bring to the table for us to obtain affordable housing,” he said.
Echoing his remarks, Mayor Schieve added, “I do want to stress that this is just one piece of the puzzle to continue to stabilize the market. I think sometimes [members of the public] don’t realize all the moving parts we’ve been putting in place to spur affordable housing and so these are just more of the tools in the toolbox…It’s going to take a lot of things, and sometimes government doesn’t have all the answers.”
Other Agenda Items Council Discussed and Voted On
Consent Agenda — Passed
City Council unanimously approved two business licenses and accepted six grant awards from various government agencies for the Reno Police Department totaling up to $760,853. Council members also agreed to purchase six suspended sculptures made by Paul Vexler to be placed in the National Bowling Stadium. Finally, they accepted a $150,000 grant that the City will receive in $50,000 increments from Apple Inc. for the Downtown Reno Business Improvement District.
Agreement Between City of Reno and Reno Police Protective Association (RPPA) — Passed
Councilmember Devon Reese motioned to approve a collective bargaining agreement between the City of Reno and RPPA. Reese’s motion passed unanimously. The contract outlines vacation, sick leave, salaries, stand-by time, and insurance for police officers.
Case No. LDC16-00061 (The Eddy – Semi-Annual Review of Special Use Permits) — Passed
After some debate on a noise complaint from a community member about The Eddy at the start of the forum, the Council passed Case No. LDC16-00061 with dissenting votes from Councilmember Duerr and Brekhus. Duerr objected to vague wording that she felt contributed to tensions between the Eddy and its neighbors.
Case No. LDC20-00012 (Re-zoning Ordinance) — Passed
City Council opened a public hearing for Case No. LDC20-00012 and unanimously approved rezoning a roughly five-acre site located on at the intersection of Mae Anne Avenue and Grandpoint Way from a Professional Office to a Neighborhood Commercial zone.
Staff Report Regarding Possible Ordinance Changes Related to Alcoholic Beverage Package Business Licenses — Passed with Modifications
On staff report 11677 focusing on ordinance changes related to alcoholic beverage package business licenses, Councilmember Jenny Brekhus motioned for community development, “to follow through with the options…flush them out a little bit more and include the land use component of a discretionary review and bring that back to council.” Her motion passed unanimously.
Case Number LDC20-00010, Zoning Map Amendment — Referred
Council moved to refer the Golden Valley Commercial Zoning Map Amendment in Case Number LDC20-00010 for a second reading and adoption.
Redevelopment Areas 1 and 2 and Funding Discussion — Passed with Modifications
Staff members from the City Finance Department, in staff report 11683 on the financial status of the project areas, recommended that “Council begin the process to extend the plan period for Redevelopment Area 1 an additional 15 years and begin refunding the 2007 Redevelopment Bonds.”
Brekhus modified staff recommendations and motioned for the Finance Department to speak with bondholders and look at options outside of extending bonds to 2043. Her motion passed with one dissenting vote from Councilmember Bonnie Weber, who said, “I can’t support that motion. I think it’s wrong that we are overriding what our [staff suggested].”
Department of Taxation Authorized — Passed
Reese motioned to approve the staff recommendation to record State Department of Taxation’s authorization for funding a portion of the Fire Apparatus Replacement Program. The motion passed with Brekhus in opposition.
Reno Municipal Code Amended — Passed
Council unanimously voted to approve ordinance changes to RMC section Chapter 12.21, Article IV giving Reno’s Finance Director the ability to reapportion assessments within Assessment District No. 4.
Research Funding of Public Safety Center with Impact Fees — Passed
Motion to continue researching the potential use of impact fees to fund Public Safety Center projects passed with a dissenting vote made by Brekhus, who said, “[I’m] not going to support because our staff resources are very limited. In my mind [using impact fees to fund public safety projects] is taking a Macy’s credit card to go buy tires at Costco.”
Case Number TXT20-00001 Public Parks and Plaza Shading — Passed with Modifications
Motion passed unanimously to refer the case for a second reading with the modification that in the downtown area, the applicant would have to go through a Special Use Permit if they triggered a shading requirement.
Amend Title 6. Chapter 6 of the Reno Municipal Code — Passed
Motion carried unanimously to adopt Title 6, Chapter 6.8, of the Reno Municipal Code entitled “Bicycles,” applying bicycle laws to electric scooters.
“System Of Dockless Bicycles, Electric Bicycles, and/or Electric Scooters within City limits” — Passed
Motion carried to establish that the City would require a franchise agreement for dockless bicycles, electric bicycles, and/or electric scooters within city limits. Brekhus was the only dissenter.
Amend Reno Municipal Code for Streetscape — Passed
Motion passed unanimously to amend Title 12, Chapter 30 of the Reno Municipal Code entitled “Downtown Streetscape Design Standards,” adding Section 12.30.010 adopting the Downtown Streetscape Design Manual by reference.
School Safety Research and Plan — Passed
Motion passed for city staff to develop a plan addressing school safety that uses “all the tools available” and then brings that plan back to the council in time for the Program of Projects.
Jay Kenny Appointed to the Civil Service Commission
Council unanimously appointed Jay Kenny to the Civil Service Commission.
Reese Elected Vice-Mayor
Brekhus and Mayor Schieve quarreled after Schieve did not nominate Brekhus for Vice-Mayor. Brekhus cited longevity on the council as some qualification for the role and said that it was improper to elect Reese to the role since he hadn’t been elected to the council by voters. Schieve countered that Brekhus wasn’t a team player and wasn’t always respectful. Brekhus then noted that Schieve’s statements were in violation of the council’s code of conduct that states council members shouldn’t discuss personalities or personally attack each other. Council then elected Reese Vice-Mayor, with Brekhus dissenting.
LDC20-00008 (TMWA Equalization Tanks) — Passed
Council passed Reese’s motion reading: “In regards to the appeal of LDC20-00008 (TMWA Equalization Tanks), based on this Council’s review of the staff report, the record on appeal, and information presented at the public hearing for this appeal, I move to AFFIRM the approval of the special use permit by the Planning Commission and DENY the appeal, subject to the conditions stated in the approval letter, based on my ability to make all the required findings. Brekhus dissented.
Corrections: Several votes cast by Councilmember Duerr were reported incorrectly. She voted “Aye” on the RPPA contract, re-zoning ordinance, zoning map amendment and fire apparatus replacement issues, which have been corrected in the story. Additionally, the permit modification request by The Eddy was approved in a re-vote after a council break.
Tabitha Mueller is a freelance writer and multimedia journalist based out of Reno, Nevada. She is fascinated by storytelling, place, and the intersection of narrative and data analysis and holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography and English and American Literatures from Middlebury College. When she is not tracking down a story or listening to podcasts, you can find her hiking Nevada’s gorgeous terrain, perusing local bookstores, playing Quidditch, and discovering Reno’s hidden stories.