Archive for March, 2012

The Arizona Daily Star published a piece by the Dean of the College of Architecture, Janice Cervilli.   The Dean sees this as positive for not only development,  but for the community.  What do neighborhoods think?   Check out the Dean’s point of view on a dicey subject in the Modern Streetcar, Intelligent Infill can Make Tucson a More Livable City.


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An Open Letter to Mayor Jonathan Rothschild Regarding the Overlay Ordinance (Tucson Weekly Article) “As I read through the new ordinance, it struck me that it could easily have been written by developers”…Click on title for rest of this telling piece  by Cathleen Shirley.

Many core neighborhoods are on fire to see West University Neighborhood succeed in their petition drive to repeal what they see as a dangerous precedent for the debut of UOD re-zoning in Tucson.    An understanding is setting in as to why the current public process hasn’t worked.   The Main Gate UOD is Tucson’s debut for what is essentially a new tool for planners to  insert large tracts of re-zoning along main roads and within targeted or “blighted” areas.   This inaugural effort gives away the farm for a corporate plan.   Several other UOD’s are lined up at the gate to also be adopted.   Tucson needs to get this one right.   Sending Tucson’s first UOD to ballot box is a citizen process.  It is a difficult and challenging way to exercise a voice, but necessary if we want this to be for Tucson.   Let’s hope the Mayor and Council appreciate its constituents for taking the heat off of  them and asking the questions they couldn’t.

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The $200 million dollar , 4 mile long Tucson urban street car has been an excuse for  a lot of planning activity on the heals of Mayor Walkup’s quick fix initiative 2 years ago  after frustrated voters threatened to recall him.  Much has happened downtown in that time, but not enough for the street car or for the western edge of the university.  Not surprising our new democrat mayor Rothschild has “opened Tucson for business” starting with the big bang of the Tucson’s first UOD (Urban Overlay District), the Main Gate  UOD .    UOD s are large zoning overlays design to fit into the Tucson UOD enabling ordinance adopted by the Walkup administration.  Now it looks like the current Mayor gets to justify the street car.   It is a big buzz and here is a collection of media revolving around it.   Tucson street car official website:    MEDIA COVERAGE   

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Overlay Approved by the Tucson Weekly  is a  short piece on the flawed adoption of the Main Gate Urban Overlay District (UOD).  It could spark real debate over public process.   West University neighborhood launched referendum petition, that could send the plan to City voters and challenge the status quo.   Molly McKasson wrote a companion about another problem; 12 years of ignoring the illegal permitting of group homes in residential R-1 and R-2 neighborhoods.  That ended in a guarded  victory for neighborhoods.   Molly calls all of this one step forward and one step back.   The city added language to enforce existing Land Use Code rules that were being overlooked.  Mayor and council also used that issue to help justify the Main Gate UOD claiming that they are steering unwanted development out of  U of A neighborhoods.  Do you think they have it right?

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The Official Website for the Main Gate Overlay District re-zoning   The following are PDF links that can be clicked on and downloaded.  This will cover information about this rezoning that is  helpful for citizens to understand it:

“The City’s Plan”     WUNA’s Plan, a Visual    →   Rezoning Map   →   City Manager’s Letter (Descriptive)  →    Adoption Letter  

For information regarding opposition to the overlay and citizen view-points, please view WUNA’s official website and facebook sites:    westuniversityneighborhood.org,   facebook.com/nowayoverlay.   Send inquiries to WUNA’s official email address for the referendum action:  nowayoverlay@gmail.com

Opinion:  Ordinance # 10968, Main Gate District Optional Urban Overlay excludes substantive citizen involvement.  It was adopted through quick a 90 day re-zoning.  Now, with citizens initiating a referendum petition to overturn the re-zoning, it looks larger in public scope than a re-zoning process can handle.  The re-zoning adopted on February 28th, is described by proponents as a good thing for business as Mayor Rothschild proclaims “Tucson is open for Business”.  It addresses  shortcomings in infill and growth along transit, namely the modern street car route.  The City of Tucson had a comparable alternative that contained real elements of public inclusion and met criteria for density.  Mayor and Council chose staff’s plan that favors the immediate probability of issuing  building permits.  See Campus Acquisitions  In the larger picture, this rezoning action sets a precedent for more overlays done in a manner that continues to limit substantive citizen input.   A citizen based sub-regional master plan would be a clearing and could pave a smoother road for approvals of future overlays.  As Tucson digs out of its recession, more overlays will be coming.   Citizens need input on these.   UUI

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Neighbors band to block high-rises west of UA.

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Main Gate Urban Overlay District, UOD; reflections on its February 28th Adoption – See “Sacrifice Zone” for an explanation of UOD’s.

The City of Tucson could have supported another plan put together by WUNA (West University Neighborhood Association) that would have maintained the respect of core neighborhoods and still be a significant plan; apparently, without an immediate anchor like the one adopted.  A dilemma; maybe?  M & C chose the plan that satisfied the most immediate needs of a handful of property owners, developers and one major interest, out of town.  It is in fact a legitimate and seemingly legal choice, but one that City leadership will have to live with now, because it has ignited something beyond just WUNA’s interests.

To make this clear however, the choice to adopt that particular plan was not about design, creativity or density. I wish that was said.  I can’t be sure what the choice was about, but it showed how disregarded citizen input really is.

Clearly,  the underlying problem is an absence of a sub-regional master plan that has core neighborhoods at its heart.  Such a plan could be referenced in the 2013 general plan referendum and could guide UODs and work in the spirit of the UOD enabling ordinance;  preservation through attraction.  At best,  city planners think this is too hard to do, but that kind of certainty is a legitimate part of any esteemed university city that chooses to embrace an integrated quality of life befitting of our University of Arizona and our City of Tucson.  The U of A area plan is very inadequate and the UODs are looking like a ruse to neighborhoods.  WUNA is another slain lamb here.  I am not saying this can’t be fixed, but that damage is done.  So now,  the projects that come out of the MG UOD will get permitted just a little bit quicker.

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