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Archive for the ‘Preservation’ Category

Infill..Transition-Stabilization Zones in Tucson’s Urban Core

A resurgence of development from 2008 to 2013, heavy in private student dormitories is now pushing a public dialogue about the impact on core residents.  More than 3,000 new beds in a mile radius of the downtown core coupled with the streetcar project could set the table for retail, services and entertainment sectors to be the next boom in Core Tucson.  How does single family fit into this picture?  At the behest of the Mayor & Council, a Planning Commission subcommittee will try and find out why the GIID’s (greater infill incentive district) biggest project made record profit, but is hurting the future of R1 and R2 zoning in a protected historic district.  The District on 5th is a 700-bed luxury dorm.  While the owners celebrated success, at least six nearby homeowners moved.   As the subcommittee hearings begin, there is an interest in something other than design standards; incentives.
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Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 10.39.36 PMStephen Paul and Demion Clinco, featured in Wednesday’s Star call for a design approach to the onslaught on Tucson’s historic core in the feature, Design Guidelines Needed to Protect Character of Tucson’s Historical Core.  The image embed of The Junction @ Iron Horse is not what they are calling for, but like other new housing projects with modern curb appeal, it is context insensitive.   These projects give us taxes, but unfortunately they promote divestment in homeowner occupancy.  The post real estate crash era inspired a lot of business incentives, but nothing for neighborhoods.  Guidelines are easy and necessary but can they turn things around those of us who want to live here?  How about  sustainable  planning with incentives to help insure owner occupancy is a safe investment.  How about something in return for the lucrative zoning incentives we give to commercial ventures.  The Infill Incentive District alone allows as much as 25% more in zoning allowances than base zoning such as in The District at 5thThe Main Gate Urban Overlay District offers as much as a 400% increase in heights.  These make money but are lost opportunities for neighborhoods. When zoning can’t be trusted, homeowners move.  That’s a price that has not been a factor in planning the core.  What if for every 20 million dollars in value added zoning opportunities we grant developers, a million of it has to be re-invested in neighborhoods.  If value compounding zoning incentives within the core totaled 500 million dollars from 2008 to 2018 that would be 25 million dollars in neighborhood reinvestment. How much additional investment in neighborhoods would that generate?  Since the crash we did incentivize roughly 20% of that but with no equation for trade off investing that directly benefit neighborhoods.  We know development will come, but how should we channel it in and around sensitive old neighborhoods that are worth keeping.

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Neighbors band to block high-rises west of UA.

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Locals protest Main Gate plan, building criteriaArizona Daily Wildcat   

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“The clarification we’re poised to adopt will make it clear that the prohibition against Group Dwellings stands, because Group Dwellings stress the infrastructure and community fabric of low- and moderate-density neighborhoods.” K. Uhlich, Ward 3

Read more  The Official Website for Ward 3, Tucson, Arizona.  

“In an effort to find a middle ground, representatives of the building community and the neighborhoods met and hammered out some deal points. Those came before us, and before you all in the form of the public hearing we held.”  S. Kozachik, Ward 6

AMENDMENT LINK Group Dwelling Amendment (as of 2/7/12)

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If you happen to drive down 6th street in Tucson, you probably have noticed what appears to be a five story tall 2″ thick stick drywall sheeted wood behemoth, just west of Fourth Avenue.  This is THE DISTRICT ON 5TH,  a LEED Silver ® certified student housing project.   Many agree that a significant project was needed for the old YWCA demolition site which was a giant hole for two years.  There is little question that it is clean, modern, and brings much needed work to Tucson.  Its environmental awards and neighborhood LEED points on the other hand, should not go down without criticism.   Just a little over a year ago, The District,  won a fight with West University Neighborhood  over transitions, shocking  residents with what may better show how not to transition into a historic neighborhood.   See Edge Development Pressuring Neighborhoods.    The scale down is an attempt but there is a bigger story regarding its failure in that regards and its potential contribution to homeowner disinvestment.  It is a good project on the drafting boards and in the marketing rooms, but a different story to U of A area residents.  Neighborhoods are being lost and de-valued, because their boundaries ultimately are always up for grabs.   As for LEED ratings it appears, the USGBC has no limitation as to the use of minimalist wood frame construction for high rise housing as being sustainable.  It does raise eyebrows.  The District will store a lot of students.  It is a fully functional amenity rich private dorm with 7 floor plans ranging in the mid $600’s to $700’s per room per student.  It is very similar in concept to modern student group homes that have taken out large chunks of university neighborhoods.  See Mini-Dorms.  Scale is the difference.  There is no question that arterial edges are the place for these, but transition rights need to be real for homeowners.   As the heat is on for density, so are the embers threatening to ignite neighborhoods wanting a future they can rely on and compensation from the effects of heavy handed development.   Welcome to the post proposition 207 era, where Tucson is hamstrung to the point that protective planning regulation is near obsolete and citizens are  realizing any  protection is up to them.

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This from Ward 3 councilwoman Karen Uhlich:  “The definition indicates that a structure will be considered a Group Dwelling if leased/occupied by 5 or more unrelated persons. Mayor and Council provided direction to ensure that domestic partnerships and dependency relationships (e.g. foster parenting, etc.) will be included in the relationship category (along with relations by blood, law or legal custody).  This approach of defining “group” (5 or more unrelated persons) offers a fair and straightforward way of preserving the intent of R1 and R2 zones…Existing structures currently utilized as Group Dwellings could remain in R1 and R2 zones if owners apply for a conditional use permit. That permit could be revoked if the conditional, group use undermines the area by creating nuisance or criminal problems”  I guess one could say this is better than nothing, but the land use code group home limit for the number of unrelated person living in a household is 2 for R-1 and 4 for R-2.  As welcome as this is for Jefferson Park and Feldmans neighborhoods to protect against the larger mini-dorms, it appears to now expand the LUC to allow future smaller minidorms (group homes) if less than (5) person use the structure.  Ward 6 actually contains much more area within impacted areas, however councilman Steve Kozachik doesn’t thinks mini dorm builder are getting a fair shake.  View this FOX11AZ.com story on the October 12th M&C session for more on Kozachik’s point of view.

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