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City Council: E-scooters get initial approval

By Bob Conrad

E-scooters were approved Wednesday by the Reno City Council. Council members debated whether to have the scooters and how they will work. 

Many brought up the city’s experience with Lime Bikes, which they said was a disaster after Lime bike riders threw bikes in the Truckee River and parked them on the arch of the Virginia Street bridge. 

But Bird, the company that applied to bring up to 1,000 e-scooters to downtown, midtown and the university, promised the company would meet council demands so the city doesn’t have a repeat of the city’s agreement with Lime Bikes.

City officials said having scooters will help relieve car traffic in those parts of the city.

The council voted to approve a three-year exclusive franchise agreement with Bird. The company, however, agreed to address concerns about scooters being on sidewalks and consult with the city’s access advisory committee about how the scooters may impact people with disabilities.

The company has to conduct community outreach about the scooters and how they should be used. Bird’s representative said the scooters can be prevented from being on sidewalks or significantly throttled down in speed.

“Bird … geofences certain high-risk areas, such as parks, publicly accessible plazas, off-street parking lots/garages, campuses, and other areas outside of the City’s public right-of-way,” the company’s proposal reads. “If a rider enters a no-parking zone, the Bird sends an alert to the individual’s mobile phone and informs them via audible and visual messages on the vehicle itself. Our on-vehicle technology prevents riders from ending their ride until they are outside of the restricted area.”

The franchise agreement can be approved by the city after the company meets the council’s requirements. Bird’s representative said he believed he could meet all city requests fairly quickly.

via GIPHY

Other council actions

Provided by the City of Reno staff.

Village on Sage Street to expand with 96 new units

Council adopted a resolution authorizing the city manager to negotiate the terms of a loan-to-grant agreement with the Community Housing Land Trust to purchase 96 units of dormitory-style housing. The purchase is not to exceed $500,000 from the community development block grant fund. The units will be made available to people who earn less than 60 percent of the area median Income.

The Village on Sage Street project opened in 2019 offering 192 units of affordable housing with surplus modular workforce housing units. The city donated the land and $300,000. More than 95 units from the same surplus have recently come available for purchase. The purchase will increase affordable housing

Financing approved for city facilities

Council adopted a resolution authorizing staff to begin issuing general obligations of the city to finance projects including the Public Safety Center; a portion of an Aquatic Center at Moana Springs; and preliminary work on a fire department headquarters. This resolution directs the city clerk to notify the Washoe County debt management commission of the city’s intent to issue such general obligations.

National Endowment for the Arts grant accepted

Council accepted a $500,000 grant of American Rescue Plan funding from the National Endowment for the Arts for the city to sub-grant to local Reno arts and culture organizations. Funding will support staff salaries, artists’ contracts and rent utilities. The application for organizations to apply for funding is scheduled to open in January 2022. 

Alcoholic beverages ordinance 

Council referred an ordinance to be heard for a second reading and adoption. Businesses in the downtown safe scape area will be prohibited to sell beer, malt liquor, wine coolers and other alcoholic beverages in containers less than 20 ounces–not in original factory packages of four-packs or greater. Read our previous report.

These updates to Reno Municipal Code Title 18 (Annexation and Land Use Code) and Title 5 (Privileged Licenses, Permits and Franchises) match the council’s direction to staff to review package alcohol regulations, research best practices and address concerns related to public health and safety.

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