Archive for the ‘Land Use Code’ Category

Land Use Code Simplification Project | Official Website | City of Tucson.

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Last Monday, 12/19/11, the City of Tucson invited residents within 300′ of the proposed Main Gate District Urban Overlay District (UOD).   The UOD is a modern zoning based concept that can stimulate development in around downtown and university.  Tucson is still waiting for one to work.  Despite the challenge of transitioning into neighborhoods along their edges, these districts are necessary for Tucson.  The downtownLINKS is one of the first proposed overlays that is not yet approved and adopted.  Planners and residents know we need to find an edge strategy to preserve the dignity of impacted neighborhoods that are looking at an urbanized future.   The Main Gate District is the next hot plan that will bring in hi-rise housing in close proximity to university neighborhoods and perceived traffic.  Much of this drive for density  is synonymous with the Modern Street Car as the City brain storms ways to make it viable.  It needs density along its route or the street car simply faces a weak performance, but if it works, traffic will not be an issue.

Residents of West University Neighborhood (WUNA)  are troubled by the Main Gate District as it sets the stage for highrise housing adjacent to single story historic homes; which in one case, a 12-14 story zone proposed directly behind 68 year resident Brian McCarthy’s bungalow facing Euclid Ave.  Residents fear not only the view of nearby highrises, but concentrated density of single user groups, i.e. students and their undergraduate lifestyle.  How do you guarantee the right mixed use?  If you factor in the rest of the streetcar linkage, downtownLINKS, etc…, there is plenty of space for a variety of  housing and business options and uses.   A consensus on what defines the right transitions is perhaps the biggest key to success.   Imagine a scenario where residents and developers saw through the same lens. Impossible?

Other fears are lack of neighborhood input once such an overlay is adopted.  Neighborhoods do not have substantive input.  They have their required 300′ proximity notification,  public comment and toothless advisory protocol.  In a cynical sense, if neighborhoods had any real power, they would have a large part in the planning process and involve the right decision makers.  One would think the planning commission would be that venue, but it hasn’t appeared so.   A smaller targeted UA area commission might be an idea worth looking at.  One continuing hurdle for U of A neighborhoods, is that residents want to define what they wish to see in a vacuum, which is partly why what they keep getting the wrong development.   Now is always the time move on anything.  Currently, that piece of time ripened opportunity is the Main Gate District.

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Land Use Code (LUC)  Project / Tucson Website

The LUC simplification project is probably not simple but it is has been ongoing for almost 2 years.  It is intended to clean up the current LUC piece by piece until it fits a vision for a prop-2007 proof land use code that better fits Tucson’s emerging development paradigm.   Paradoxically, a totally new and modern zoning code, the Unified Development Code (UDC) is emerging right by its side.  Wierd?  Not so!…  It is being designed to ultimately replace the LUC.  The LUC will remain as a pre-proposition 2007 alternative to the UDC, long enough to deal with lingering “prop-207” challenges that are expected to impact the UDC.  Ladd Keith perhaps explains the motives behind all of this in his blog, what’s next for cities & urbanism.

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Tucson residents don’t want to imagine exploding gas prices in a typical sun belt city designed to rely on lots of roads.  That day of reckoning is moving upon us and the message is fewer cars and more sustainability.  These notions might reflect in current trends to provide student housing that will rely on the modern street car and other public transportation.   The University of Arizona recently reached a goal to house freshman students on campus. Now, developers want to tap into the rest of the market for high density sustainable housing projects with one of the first,  looking to be  The District at UA. Not withstanding, the anxiety of homeowners, West University Neighborhood is particularly unhappy with it because its edge relationship with the neighborhood is too abrupt.  That is simply, an omission of planning that the UA and City of Tucson choose to ignore.  Nonetheless, the District still speaks more of an urbanized housing future than popular inefficient alternatives. This is a question about the  balance between an urbanized university and its neighbors.

The market driver is the 30 thousand perennial UA students scattered around a few dozen neighborhoods.  They are a shifting market geared towards much less driving. That begs the question; will the vacuum that this shift creates, be in-filled with better and more stable single family housing around the U of A.   As vehicle-free high density housing projects are built, market pressure will lessen to build vehicle dependent group home style mini-dorms, which lease as fast as they are built right now; to make a point.   They are the antithesis of sustainable student  housing.  Now, as the City of Tucson sees it, group homes are not actually a residential use in its recent zoning determination.  The alternative scenario is more urbanized student housing solutions and re-vitalized single family zones surrounding the U of A.

On a bigger planning level, Tucson’s latest vision project,   Imagine Greater Tucson (IGT), actually introduced a survey of what Tucson citizens want to see happen to the greater Tucson region at the Marriot Hotel on April 7th.  Out of (9) focus areas, the University of Arizona and the subject of Urban Planning were (2) of these.  Our problems are all around us.  Its a matter of identifying and solving them,  unlike Tucson’s past vision exercises.



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The Land Use Code as it we know it is on its way out as work on a new Unified Development Code (UDC) will ultimately become Tucson next official planning and zoning guide.  This has all followed recent work aimed a simplifying the LUC and improving and designating development districts to continue efforts of revitalization and simplification.  Land Use Code (LUC) simplification as well the LUC’s committees’s key note project, the downtown core district (DCD) is moving forward.   Some current updates are in downloadable PDF format for your viewing.   A Nov. 23rd Mayor and Council Memorandum summarizes work thus far.  Key issues were identified in Simplification Project Key Issues. A document called General Background Material, time line key planning work, dates, etc,  of significant C.O.T. planning work since June 2009.  Lastly, the Land Use Code Simplification Project is outlined in a powerpoint document.

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The LUC Committee is meeting on Thursday October 7th @ 3-5Pm, 149 S. Stone, 2nd floor to discuss sidewalk licensing which is important to street activity, the parking code and the infill incentive district, known as the IID

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The downtown core district is an overlay of the Infill Incentive Zone with a variety of incentives that simplify or eliminate current provisions in the land use code, particularly parking, landscaping and loading zones.  As such these overlay incentives are being proposed as an amendment to the Infill Incentive Zone.  The DCD Draft can be downloaded and viewed here in PDF.   On August 18th the City of Tucson Planning Commission forwarded the draft to Mayor and Council for adoption with a revision to maintain portions of the NPPO ordinance in drainage corridors that run though the district.  The overlay boundaries of the DCD are concentrated in the core of downtown Tucson with its northern edge a couple blocks north of some run down commercial sites along Stone/6th/9th Ave and 5th/6th streets.  Stone in particular is considered a gateway.   The Downtown LINKS project overlays these gateway points.

One small remaining roadblock to development downtown are high cost of city revocable right of way use easements along downtown sidewalks that start @ $5000 plus annual renewals had not been adequately addressed.  This type of easement applies to things like a café using portions of wide sidewalks with right of ways for outside European style seating, marquee signage, canopies,  etc…

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Reprinted with permission of  Adam Smith, Principal Planner, City of Tucson, Planning and Development Services, 837-6951

Time line of “quick fix” LUC amendments

Tuesday, June 22nd –  Mayor & Council: Public hearing at or after 5:30 pm

  • Loading Zone (allows co-location of off-street loading zones within the approach area for dumpster containers and the stacking spaces of drive-through aisles when safety and access issues are appropriately addressed)
  • Development Timeline and Expiration Dates (extends the expiration dates of tentative plats and development plans)

Wednesday, July 7th – Mayor & Council: Public hearing 5:30 pm

  • Zoning Compliance for Existing Site Improvements (aka CofO Relief – allows new uses to move into existing buildings without having to meet all of the zoning requirements, so long as the new use is permitted under the current zoning of the property and existing improvements are maintained)

Thursday, July 8th from 9AM to 11AM

  • LUC committee meeting, Public Works Building, Basement Conference room A

Wednesday, August 4th – Mayor & Council: Public hearing 5:30 pm

  • Reductions in the Number of Required Number of Motor Vehicle Parking (clarifies the performance criteria and deletes the annual review of parking mitigation plans requirement)
  • Urban Overlay District (enabling legislation allowing the creation of transit-oriented overlay districts)

Wednesday, July 21st – Planning Commission: Study Session 6 pm

  • Amendments to the Downtown Area Infill Incentive District creating the Downtown Core District

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April 28th, 2010 –

On the 9th of March, 2010, City of Tucson planning staff was directed to analyze the concept of a Downtown Core District.  You can download and view a  PDF of an April 27th mayor and council memorandum;  Potential Downtown Core District Analysis, which summarizes the mechanics of achieving this overlay.

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The LUC committee met today to start hammering out the details the first phase  of the emerging Urban Overlay District (UOD) called the Downtown Core District (DCD).  The committee is targeting August of 2010 for adoption by M & C, with various study session in between.  Content categories that are discussed include 1) expedited review,  2) Uses and dimensions, 3) DCD modification of development requirements review*  4) streetscape plan,  5)  transition plan*)  6)  Utilities*

*  will be shown on the “DCD  plan” as is referred at this time.  It is intended to be similar to a development plan

The DCD is among several future phases of focus yet to come.  It is drawn tentatively within the boundaries of previously adopted Infill Incentive District. taking of the middle portion of the district between I-10 and SPRR rail line.  This phase is viewed as the least difficult in regards to challenges by the community


The Land Use Code Committee , initiated as a quick fix, code simplification project late 08, has found a stopping point for much of its quick fix work on reworking parts of the land use code.  That committee is now shifting gears towards a sub-committee focus on urbanization in the downtown core.  For the past few weeks some of the LUC committee members met separately to probe into what was also recently introduced as urban overlay districts, the  UOD,  as it is tentatively referred.  The UOD sub-committee has in fact submitted initial findings and are scheduled to meet on tax day, Thursday, April 15th  in the basement of 201 N. Stone ( room A )  Space permitting, it is open to the public.  You can read the UOD findings here in a down loadable PDF file format.   The finding start with identifying 4 phases:  1. Downtown Core  2.  Greater Downtown  3. Infill District and 4.  Arterial Focus.  The University Interface is not included.  Comprising a large and difficult focus of distress, lack of resolve along this interface continues to weigh heavy on many university neighborhoods.  What do you think?

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The Land Use Code Committee started as a code simplification project in December of 2008.  As the economy continued to slow development down, an urgency of concern  to grease the development skids started to unfold.   Adding to planned changes in the parking code, development protocol, and rewriting and reworking many parts of the land use code, more urban oriented issues were thrust into the picture drawing new attention to the adopted Infill District and a downtown urban overlay district .  Ideas for this urban overlay district, coined the UOD came to light after the Mayor’s January address, when he proclaimed that “…no economic development project is more important to our City’s future than downtown…” This kind of overlays are occurring all over the country.  You can see a sample in Maryland’s, Columbia Downtown Overlay. Tucson’s planning commission will studying implementation starting in April, targeting a public hearing possibly in June.  The objective is to establish an enabling ordinance for the UOD target areas.  The City hopes that the UOD concept will help implements the downtownLINKS project  which is centered around the final development at the terminus of Aviation Corridor, that dead ends downtown.  It now planned to wind through the Warehouse District Masterplan as it finally makes it way towards I-10.  The UOD concept has a lot of potential to direct development where it needs to go.  It can also potentially enable urbanization overlays around the University and along the new modern street car link.  City Planner, John Beal is looking at the University Area Plan.  That plan is overdue for a bold update that can address a transition strategy between the University and its surrounding community.

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