Posts Tagged ‘Land Use’

13th March
2009
written by Arizona Kid

Ms. Trasoff

Ms. Trasoff has announced she wants to selectively revise the Tucson Land Use Code.

Bully for her.

But it is time to COMPLETELY revamp the antiquated Tucson Land Use Code and not perform some selected minor elective surgery.  Ms Trasoff you are wrong – again!

A total revamp of the code is what is needed to create a brighter future in Tucson.  But revamping the code will be a dangerous task for her to accomplish and the reason Trasoff and Company do not wish to pursue this endeavor is because their neighborhood special interest group allies do not want this to happen. 

These are the same folks who help elect Trasoff and her Democrat crew along with BIG LABOR.  That is why she has been so unwilling to make any substantive changes to happen and only reluctantly suggests some tinkering with the code.

Is it in Tucson’s best interests to continue to elect council members who are beholden to special interest radical neighborhood groups and BIG LABOR who lead our City Council around the nose on issues which are so important to ALL Tucson?

Rio Nuevo was to be Ms. Trasoff’s jumping off point to run for mayor of Tucson. 

She had hoped for success with the project and so did each of us who also wanted there to be a vibrant downtown.  That is why local community leaders and myself worked so hard and sacrificed our personal reputations at the Arizona Legislature to expand the TIF only to be embarrassed by her and the council.

Trasoff, the rest of the council and her supporters squandered the most positive business cycle in half a century flopping around like a fish from one failed concept after another.

Further, Ms. Trasoff sanctioned selling $80,000,000+ of bonds at the worst possible time in an effort to threaten the Legislature against cutting off the TIF expansion. 

When the bonds were sold Trasoff said this was one the greatest developments for Rio Nuevo.  Trasoff says she “owns” Rio Nuevo.  If she does then let her sink with this stinker.

This week Ms. Trasoff will announce she plans to seek re election.  Her bid MUST be rejected.  She is an amateur who is in charge of millions of our dollars and while she would believe our tax dollars have been well spent she and her friends are delusional.

4th January
2009
written by Arizona Kid

Planning and Growth

Fifty-seven years ago, the city of San Jose hired a new city manager, A. P. “Dutch” Hamann, who previously had been a middle manager for General Motors. Hamann had a vision for San Jose and he carried it out with gusto. 

Sprawling San Jose.

Hamann had grown up in Orange County and felt there was something wrong with an urban area that did not have an identifiable central city. He could see that the area that would eventually be known as Silicon Valley was growing, and he set out to make San Jose, which calls itself the oldest city in California, the most important city in the region.

 He succeeded in spades. Over the next two decades, San Jose grew by an average of 8 percent per year, from 95,000 people to nearly 450,000 people.

His tools were aggressive annexation (mostly supported by the landowners being annexed) and maintenance of a business-friendly environment. To achieve and maintain San Jose’s dominance over other cities in the valley, Hamann would spot where development was about to take place and annex land in and around that development. Some people called this “strip annexations” because he would annex small strips of territory to prevent other cities from annexing that and adjacent land.

As it turned out, he was too successful. By the late 1960s, an anti-growth mentality had grown in California. Critics said San Jose was guilty not of unplanned growth but “mis-planned growth.” (This and other quotes are from a 1971 book called “San Jose: Sprawling City” published by the Stanford Environmental Law Society.) They complained about the irregular boundaries that had resulted from strip annexations. And they charged that existing residents were being forced to pay high taxes to subsidize growth.

There is little evidence that this last charge is true. For the most part, the city sat back and let builders pay for the roads, water, and sewer lines. They sometimes even paid for schools and parks. The areas annexed often brought in huge property and sales tax revenues. In the long run, these areas easily paid their way. Hamann argued that annexations kept taxes low, and he was probably correct – after all, one of his goals was to keep San Jose tax rates low so as to attract more employers.

“They say San Jose is going to become another Los Angeles,” Hamann said in response to his critics. “Believe me, I’m going to do everything in my power to make that come true.” Of course, Hamann and his critics had different views of what “Los Angeles” was. He considered it an economic powerhouse. They considered it (quite wrongly) the epitome of sprawl.

One of the criticism was that development decisions were “simply turned over to the private sector.” This would resonate with lots people today. Before 1960 or so, however, it would be a very peculiar statement. After all, why should people be allowed to do what they want with their own land. I am pretty sure that Santa Clara County did not have zoning at that time. So until San Jose annexed their land, they were free to do what they wanted with it. Since most of the annexations were voluntary, Hamann must have agreed with the landowners that they could do what they wanted with their land.

All this changed in 1969, when no-growth advocates took over the city council. Hamann resigned rather than try to work with people with whom he so strongly disagreed. He was killed in a plane crash a few years later.

He might feel vindicated to see San Jose today. Thanks to no-growth policies, housing is unaffordable, tax rates are high, jobs are fleeing, and the region is becoming more and more like Los Angeles – a dense, congested, unaffordable urban area – every day.

What brings this up is a story in yesterday’s Oregonian. Several years ago, Portland planners finally added some areas to the region’s urban-growth boundary. But this hasn’t relieved the housing crunch because no one can build in those areas until planners are done planning them

Future sprawl, Oregon. (Not quite North Bethany, but close.)
Flickr photo by Audrey’s Dad.

One of those areas, North Bethany, is 800 acres of greenfields. Planners wonder how they are going to finance the $300 million in infrastructure costs required to support development of the area. Their solution? Declare the greenfields “blighted” so they can create an urban-renewal district. All property taxes collected on new development will go to subsidize the development. Meanwhile, everyone else in the region will have to pay higher taxes (or accept lower services) to cover the costs of operating schools, fire, police, and other services in North Bethany.

In what way is this “planned” growth better than Hamann’s “mis-planned” growth?

  • Under Hamann’s system, developers paid most of the capital costs and property owners paid the operating costs out of their taxes. Under the planned system, property owners pay the capital costs out of their taxes and everyone else has to subsidize the operating costs for new developments.
  • Under Hamann’s system, developers developed when the market was ready for development, which kept housing and other costs affordable. Under the planned system, development is delayed for years while planners fiddle with their plans, which makes housing unaffordable.
  • Under Hamann’s system, population densities hovered around 3,000 people per square mile and, as of 1970, abou 20 percent of the Santa Clara County was developed. If the densities had remained the same, this would have increased to about 30 percent today. But the planned system prevented expansion, so densities have greatly increased.

In other words, planning saved about 10 percent of the county from develoment – land that is mostly marginal or submarginal farmland. The costs of saving that land include high housing prices and higher taxes, and greater sensitivity to economic recessions. Isn’t planning wonderful?

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17th November
2008
written by Arizona Kid

Here is a great editorial from Priscilla Storm on one of our major issues, land use planning. Priscilla has a daily inside look at our regions issues as the lead government liaison for Diamond Ventures. Diamond is one of the most influential people and companies in our county. Don Diamond started back in 1965 and gained big AZ holdings like the 12,000 acres purchased from Howard Hughes into the Rocking K (Vail area).

Diamond Ventures are masters at taking a long range look. DV deals in the land business as if it were a casual game of monopoly. They land bank to big and small builders, influence the political process locally and give a large amount back to the community via their foundation. Diamond even made some national news during the McCain for President race. From the NY Times

Mr. Diamond, for his part, said Mr. McCain had only done his job. “I think that is what Congress people are supposed to do for constituents,” he said. “When you have a big, significant businessman like myself, why wouldn’t you want to help move things along? What else would they do? They waste so much time with legislation.”

In building his empire, Mr. Diamond said he had struggled with local elected officials over land use and zoning issues just like any other developer. “They are a pain in the ‘you-know-what,’ ” he said.

But associates say he revels in his ability to “work the system,” as his friend and sometimes partner, Stanley Abrams, put it: “Nobody is as connected as Donald.”

Mr. Diamond is close to most of Arizona’s Congressional delegation and is candid about his expectations as a fund-raiser. “I want my money back, for Christ’s sake. Do you know how many cocktail parties I have to go to?”

And Priscilla’s story from the Nov. 16th Inside Arizona Business:

When I moved to Arizona several years ago, I learned about the “Five C’s” economic drivers of our state: copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate. I also realized just how important land use was to the economic future of our region. Now, public opinion on our Five C’s seems to have changed.

On Dec. 3, a diverse group of citizens, community experts and leaders will gather to discuss regional land use at the Tucson Regional Town Hall. With the economic outlook dim and all sectors suffering, now is the time to discuss what role land will play in our shared, bright future.

Below is an overview of our current land profile published by public sources. As you can see, only 14 percent of our county’s land is privately owned.

 

Pima County (total) 100% 9,186 sq. miles, 5.9 million acres

Native American land 42% 3,858 sq. miles, 2.5 million acres

Federal agency/national park lands 28% 2,572 sq. miles, 1.6 million acres

Arizona State Land Department 15% 1,378 sq. miles, 882,144 acres

Private lands 14% 1,286 sq. miles, 823,066 acres

Military bases 1% 92 sq. miles, 58,810 acres

While state land may be available for private development through public auction, in Southern Arizona that process has not been ideal. Of the 14 percent private lands, much is already developed or is undevelopable. In general, there is not an abundance of private land readily available for development, and it is often not in the most preferable location.

Local land-use policies also reduce private land available for future regional development. For example, development proposals are required to set aside 30 percent acreage within each project for compliance with the Native Plant Preservation Ordinance. In addition, the nationally-recognized Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan has regional guidelines for natural, undisturbed open space set-aside acreage ranging from 66.66 percent to 95 percent throughout the region.

Important riparian areas – 95% open space

Biological core – 80% open space

Special species management areas – 80% open space

Multiple use management areas – 66.66% open space

Additionally, in 2004 voters approved bonds for the acquisition of open space, further limiting private lands for future development. It is also important to consider that public infrastructure may require an additional 15 percent to 20 percent of the land.

Our community’s shared vision and values will impact future land use and the crafting of a regional land use plan. Some key items to consider:

• Historic and current versus future residential densities. Historically, even our most dense neighborhoods are low density by urban planning standards. Redevelopment of low-density areas and strong market acceptance for higher density are important considerations.

• “Growth” has not been perceived as a community benefit. Citizens often protest residential, apartment, commercial, office, retail or manufacturing land uses. Thus, crafting a regional land use plan that promotes quality growth AND preserves our important cultural and natural resources is important.

• Priority has been given to the “unbuilt” environment. As a community, we traditionally tackle one land use topic at a time. Now, it is important to consider and advance several key aspects of land use planning simultaneously; including the “built” environment.

• Our community is dependent upon public sector jobs. Attracting and retaining companies and higher wage jobs to our area and allocating land and resources for job creation is important to our region’s future viability.

• Equitable sharing of the costs for maintenance and expansion of roads, water and wastewater required for a healthy, progressive regional community.

• Regional common long-term goals and differing interests of member jurisdictions.The members of Pima Association of Governments vary in geography, control over land, resources and population. Balancing interests throughout the region for shared success is critical to crafting a regional community.

• Sustainability should be shared by both existing community members and future development. Federal, state and local regulation may provide new incentives and options to advance these concepts. In planning our shared future, market-driven solutions should be considered.

In preparing for the Dec. 3 Regional Town Hall, I propose “Five New C’s” for community-wide discussion on successful future regional land use planning:

• Candid discussions

• Changes in how we work together

• Collaboration and compromise

• Costs shared by current residents and future growth

• Community inclusively defined, a “regional community” deserves priority

We must work to build trust among stakeholders that have been historically distrustful. The traditional model of leadership, decision-making and public policy influence must be modified. A shared regional vision and land use plan will come with a large price tag and a long-term commitment from every current and future resident, business owner and organization.

Growth is not the “enemy” of this community. The balanced use of land and natural resources for jobs, community services and housing are essential to our shared quality of life.

To attend the Tucson Regional Town Hall on land use, call 1-800-321-5011 or email Shelia.hamilton@uli.org. Priscilla Storm is vice president of Public Policy and Community Planning for Diamond Ventures, a Tucson-based real estate development and investment company.

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