Archive for October 7th, 2011

Tucson’s urban university core is full of rich old neighborhoods that are both victims of unplanned growth and advocates for preservation.  The larger picture of preservation is the context that make these neighborhoods an urban refuge for family living environments which is worth preserving.   As student housing demands migrate closer to the university, neighborhoods must make  choices between orderly housing blocks,  located along the right activity corridors or random  unplanned group homes and defacto apartment compounds.  The choice is clear and neighborhood edges with the right underlying zoning can be legitimate candidates for housing density near a major university.  How do we plan this?  One problem that vocal critics of planning like West University Neighborhood, is that there is no enforceable plan to insure a compatible transition to their interior.  The closest document is the U of A area plan which is only suggestive and some infill overlays along the edges which have angered home owners and do not work correctly.  Another problem is no voice of consensus.   Tucson lacks a University Area Housing Body or Commission that would be that voice of reason to influence the right planning decisions.  Developers are frustrated because they feel neighborhoods want to save everything and won’t make choices.  Some developers proliferate controversial “mini-dorms”.  Feldmans Neighborhood  is a case history.  It has essentially lost its north half to this new context of group homes and had an opportunity in 1997 to be an HPZ.   Jefferson Park Neighborhood is also threatened.  West University is protected by its Historic zoning overlay, the HPZ,  which can’t be used in new areas because of prop. 207, but it’s edges are an ongoing issue.   The logical direction is for mayor and council to appoint a specific commission that can make the tough decisions about specific planning omissions,  adopt residential and commercial edge incentive plans, guide a re-write for university area plan and  embed key language and references into the upcoming Tucson General Plan scheduled for public referendum before 2015.


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