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Archive for August, 2012

Poignant concerns with the RTA and  public process can be viewed in the Tucson Weekly’s Broadway or Bust, Tim Vanderpool.  August 30th marks the 3rd meeting of the Broadway Task Force.  The public meeting is 2800 E. Broadway, 5:30 to 8:30.  The task group is intent on a sensible and timely revision to an overly zealous plan.  See also Voters Against RTA Widening of Broadway

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CAMPUS ACQUISITIONS scores a win over public process.  Tucson’s mayor and council chambers was packed with angry neighborhood residents who watched their elected officials favor a Chicago based student housing developer over  their plea to downscale the development and most likely lose the project which Tucson’s development stakeholders did not want.    Many core neighborhood associations supported WUNA’s  alternative plan, but it didn’t look like a design issue.  It doesn’t even look like public process for that matter.  Forty five years and counting,  a divide and conquer strategy has worked for developers and planners;  one neighborhood at a time.  Maybe that tide is shifting now as neighborhoods react to what they see as a planning coup.  The Main Gate Urban Overlay District Zoning was adopted following  a historically quick notification and meeting process with a small handful of WUNA residents.  Under the pressure of a deep economic recession, came an almost a unanimous approval by Mayor and Council, save for Councilwoman Uhlich.   Old neighborhoods have suffered serious attrition in the past and this certainly continues that unfortunate reality.  On February 28th, 2011, historic neighborhoods were shut up again.        

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The August 23rd Overlay Seminar was a rundown of  bullet points outlining 6 overlay topics.   You can download the following power point pdf files by clicking on the titles:  1) Legal limitations 2)  Downtown Links  3) Grant Road  4) Main Gate District  5) Urban Overlay District and  6) Infill Incentive District.  Representatives from Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley and Suarita also summarized their experience with overlays.  Community acceptance to zoning overlays was acknowledged by City Planner, Jim Mazzocco as an area in need of serious work.  He stressed that streamlining the Main Gate Overlay was something he would not want to repeat and pointed to DowntownLINKS as a better model.  The Main Gate District worked for business interests but not local residents.  A poignant moment in the seminar was a partnered presentation by  Neighborhood leader Ruth Beeker and Developer Jim Campbell.  They spoke on the right planning,  failures in the Main Gate Overlay public process, and a need for plans that afford certainty and predictability to residents and developers.  The core of Tucson is under pressure and planning areas targeted for rezoning overlays is necessary whether it is a two year specific overlay district planning process or part of a broader master plan.  Either way, communities need to be deep in a process free of pressure.

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Overlays are not a new term.  Tucson has a dozen major overlay designations including sub-districts.  Recent use of opt-in rezoning overlays are a new phenomena and the Main Gate UOD (Urban Overlay District) is the first of its kind.  Unlike our protective other overlays, UOD’S have rapid and significant impact to existing zoning.  The urban overlay enabling ordinance was set up in 2010 and allowed the Main Gate District to be streamlined.  That flew in the face of public process.  The biggest omission was a plan with community acceptance.  Under pressure to justify the the modern street car, the City did retain a consultant for a specific plan for this UOD.  Although, rejected by core neighborhoods, the plan was adopted under protest.  Public Process was a casualty and the district’s first highrise building permit was issued while being legally challenged.  See Arizona Court of Appeals.

Amidst the fallout of the August 7th amendment, frustration was evident in Councilman Kozachik’s ward 6 newsletter article, Issue of Trust.pdf   Misconceptions persisted with Wards two, four and five, representing a minority of registered Tucson neighborhoods. See also the  Main Gate Overlay and Public ProcessThe August 7th amendment was intended to repair process and restore community trust by pulling out a small corner of the UOD for reconsideration of heights and historic preservation.  Any community consensus that emerged from that effort was effectively destroyed by 4 of the 7 votes in favor of adding three more stories to two privately owned lots.  West University filed a complaint with the State Attorney General over the open meeting law.  See KGUN News coverage  The Main Gate is now a lesson in community relations of what not to do, leaving many asking what a better process will look like.

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UA-area residents denounce city vote  Darren DaRonco,  Arizona Daily Star

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“In a stunning setback for city council members Steve Kozachik and Karin Uhlich, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild on Tuesday broke a 3-3 tie at the City Council in favor of developers of a Main Gate Area property. Rothschild voted for a surprise deal on building height that gave the developers an extra 40 feet, up to 130 feet.  The off-stage deal was only announced when a developer mentioned it in remarks to the council shortly before the vote, saying the proposed 90-foot limit set for a vote, which appeared almost a sure-thing, would not provide enough financial benefits.
”I vote yes,” the mayor said….”   Read more in WUNA NEWS      The motion becomes law after 30 days unless a yes voter asks for a new vote and since it was not a super majority vote.  The focus of the motion refers to a small corner of the Main Gate Overlay called “The Discussion Area”.  What is a concern to public process is that  mayor and council are using overlays to give away new zoning along the edges of already stressed out core neighborhoods without their backing.  The urban planning of our core neighborhoods is a community process.  Predicating its results on the basis of personal gain not only subverts this process, but encourages errors in judgement and placement of new zoning.  Neighborhood leaders are calling for a core neighborhoods commission to give neighborhoods a proper voice in their planning future.  After this M&C meeting, what we see as public process does not look credible.  How do yo re-build that trust?  Here are some opposite views from two councilmen.   Read Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik’s analysis by viewing  Main Gate Development.pdf   and view Paul Cunningham’s opinion in Ward 2 viewpoint    A point to consider in determining who the motion represents  is that wards 2, 4 and 5 voted yes and wards 1, 3, and 6 voted no.  The yes vote wards do not represent core-neighborhoods and contain slightly over  1/3 of Tucson’s registered neighborhoods.  See for yourself in this map:   Tucson NHA’s.pdf    The wards that carry 2/3’s of Tucson’s 187 registered neighborhoods are within the core area and do not want a breach of public process.  An anomaly to this is that Councilman Fimbres, does represent the balance  of “core neighborhoods” and south-side barrios which are ward 5.  His vote does not.  

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MPA & ULI – Overlay Seminar (link)   The date is Thursday,  August 23rd.  This event is for representatives of local jurisdictions, private planners, architects, designers, developers, and neighborhood representatives.  Sponsored by the MPA (Metropolitan Pima Alliance) and the ULI  (Urban Land Institute)

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Despite the Main Gate District  laying in wait for a ruling on whether the Supreme Court will hear West University’s petition rejection, the City of Tucson is set to hear final recommendations for  a small corner of Speedway and Euclid; “the discussion area”.   This is the outline for Tuesday’s M&C public hearing at 260 S. Church (TCC), estimated time:  6:30 (public agenda items start @ 5:30) –  LINK:  MGD Public Meeting Recommendation.pdf.   The rest of the overlay district is untouched as the first highrise was permitted.pdf and in construction.   The discussion area recommendations given to M&C  offer a small lowering in heights and an exclusion area for bungalows.  The overlay is recommended to be excluded for a half dozen historic dwellings along Euclid.  Sadly, the plan may place them in a state of limbo making them unattractive for preservation investment.  Historic bungalows along the Speedway Portion are recommended to remain in the overlay, effectively insuring their removal for more valuable new MGD multi-story zoning rights.  West University and the Historic Commission do not support the Speedway portion.  One can only wonder about the fate of the Euclid dwellings.  A bold option would have been to turn the corner into a public improvement, acquire the historic houses, and tax the highrise(s) for the cost to restore and re-purpose them.  Your input is encouraged at the Tuesday night meeting.

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