Topics in this issue...
- Be Kind
- Impact Fees
- Broadway Overlay
- Benedictine Development
- Benedictine Transition
- Turf Paradise - May 21st
- PFC’s at Luke
- Tucson Parks and Recreation Activity Guide
- Local First
- Food for Fines
- Events and Entertainment
On Sunday, my Chief of Staff, Ann Charles, and her husband Rob joined property owner Ross Rulney in paying for all the fixin’s we used in a celebratory ‘thank you’ for the hundreds of volunteers who have been serving at the Benedictine. The work being done there includes medical assessments and treatment, food preparation, clothing distribution, filling travel bags, contacting next-of-kin, making travel arrangements, bus depot pick-ups and drop-offs, intake of and managing donations, translating from Spanish into indigenous languages, and lots more hands-on work. Moreover, none of this is paid for with taxpayer dollars; it is all being done from the heart.
Dave Fitzsimmons – editorial board member from the Star, also supported the volunteer appreciation. Dave recently wrote an excellent article on what is happening at the monastery, so inviting him to take part was a natural.
The humanitarian operation that is going on at the monastery will need to wind down as construction begins, likely around early fall. I have reached out to several groups trying to generate some dialogue about transitioning parts of the Benedictine work to other locations. The only two certain things are that the need will not be going away anytime soon, and that the volunteers from this community are the ones who are the juice behind keeping the welcoming spirit flowing. If you know of a group who would like to be a part of the transition, have them get ahold of me. If you would like to join in this work as a volunteer, connect with our office and we will get you in touch with the people who are signing up workers, and giving the training.
Thanks to all of those who are already involved. In addition, thanks to Rob and Ann, Ross, and Dave for giving a chunk of their weekend to show the volunteers that they are valued. I would be remiss if I also did not recognize Diana from my office and her son, as well as Ann’s daughters and their spouses, and Mark Crum from my office for taking part in the volunteer event. Literally hundreds of people were served, and continue to be served by members of the Tucson community.
One faith community has stepped up and will be helping take some of the families currently housed in the monastery chapel during the Lend a Hand 13 neighborhood yard sale. That is coming on Friday, April 26th and Saturday, April 27th. It will run from about 7am until 1pm each day. All of the proceeds will go to helping Tucson seniors stay in their homes. The desire to stay in one’s home is integrally related to maintaining independence and a sense of dignity. Please consider stopping by and supporting the Lend a Hand cause – and thank you to Pastor Jeff and his community for helping to fill the need created while the yard sale is in the monastery. Lend a Hand is the affirmative reply to those who ask me if we are still ‘doing for’ residents in need who live right here in Tucson.
We get the migrant families after they are processed through I.C.E. and are here legally, pending their deportation/asylum hearings. At the front end of that though, is the work done at the border to provide a healthy and safe living environment for families while they await their I.C.E. interviews. An inter-faith group called Cruzando Fronteras (Crossing Frontiers) does that work. Instead of simply leaving the families to stay on the street in Nogales while they wait for processing, Cruzando Fronteras provides housing and food for them, and gets them out of the elements while the families are in that waiting limbo. The capacity is limited, but in a way that is very similar to what we do at the monastery; families cycle through so beds are filled as soon as one family leaves. Faith communities involved in this work are located in Nogales, Green Valley, Tucson, Bisbee, and Douglas. We are grateful for their work – Cruzando is the intake end of the pipeline through which the families we see at the monastery travel.
Nightly we see news reports of the government back and forth on this issue. While the policy work remains undone, ordinary folks have been, and continue to be the ones helping heal the brokenness on the ground.
My mom spent time working as a nurse on base in the Canal Zone, Panama. While she was there, she bought this set built from rail ties and hardware used on the Panamanian railroad. It is dated to when the French occupied the area in the early 1800’s. I am very grateful to the folks who run our Historic Train Museum for accepting it in her honor.
I write pretty often about the family friendly events that take place down at the museum. I will continue to do so. Now when you visit, you can see this artifact that’s now over 150 years old. Mom continues to give.
Last week I spoke at the Peter Howell neighborhood annual meeting and a question was asked about recycling shredded paper. I had made the point that the market for paper is dwindling, even to the point that we might be talking about eliminating that as one of the commodities we take in the recycle bins. A woman asked about whether shredded paper is still of any value. I promised to check and follow up.
The specific answer is yes, shredded paper can still be of value, but if you choose to recycle it, place it in a clear, sealed bag so it can be separated immediately as soon as it enters the recycle plant.
We are going to have policy decisions to make later this month on whether or not we continue with paper generally. For now, please continue to be mindful of the contamination. Do not place items in the recycle bin that are caked with old food.
Plastic bottles, aluminum, other clean metal cans, and cardboard are all good. However, we are losing over $3M annually right now on the recycle program, so the conversation is coming. You can be a part of a solution by limiting the amount of what you place in the bins, controlling the contamination, and focusing on plastic bottles, aluminum and other clean metal cans, and cardboard.
As we put the new policies in place, one of the factors that I do not want us to lose sight of is that markets change. One certainty is that this M&C will not be voting to totally eliminate our recycle program as has been done in other jurisdictions.
Impact fees are charges assessed to development that has intended to mitigate the cost of the project on infrastructure needed to support it once the work is completed. Impact fees are used to fund police and fire, roads, and parks. For police and fire, impact fees from a project may be used to augment our public safety forces citywide. However, for roads and parks there are five distinct service areas in the city, and fees generated by development in say the Central District are to be used within that area. Under our current process impact fees collected to mitigate effects of a west side project may not be spent to outfit a park on the east side. Last week staff presented a proposal to change that.
This map shows the six defined wards in Tucson. The five Impact Fee Districts, Central, West, East, Southeast, and Southlands, overlay and overlap the wards. The majority of Ward 6 is in the Central District. Each district is to receive parks and road impact fees from projects built in that area. Projects are selected from an Infrastructure Improvement Plan (IIP) that we are required to update every five years. We are in that process, and need to resubmit our new IIP to the State by early fall of this year.
Staff is right now engaged in two main exercises; putting together a new IIP, and suggesting changes in how our service areas are laid out. I said above that for police and fire, money from a given project may be spent to support public safety citywide. Staff is proposing that same principle be used for road and parks impact fees as well.
At our last study session, we were shown impact fee revenue projections based on anticipated projects. That is called ‘growth areas.’ It was odd that anticipated impact fees are zero for any of the downtown hotels I have been working to get off the ground. Similarly, there are no impact fees for the Rosemont/Broadway project, none for the significant Speedway/Campbell project, none for Speedway/Miramonte, nor the Sunshine Mile, the Benedictine project, any of the student housing projects going up around Tyndall and Speedway, and nothing for the new hotel/mixed use that’s about to start right off campus. Additionally, there are no impact fees anticipated for either the Union on 6th, or Partners on 4th. Both of those are large mixed-use projects that we just finished rezoning to accommodate. Those projects will create many impacts, and therefore lots of impact fee money should be spent in support of the work that is creating the impacts. Yet, look at the map up above and you will see where staff is projecting parks projects that will receive impact fees. For Ward 6 there is one single lonely park over in Ironhorse. There is no possible way getting the analog of a new swingset in Ironhorse park reflects an equitable distribution of impact fees, especially considering the many large developments that are not even on the staff list for generating new fees.
At the end of last year, the Central District had $2.2M set aside in parks impact fees, and just over $9M in roadway impact fees. Some of that is spoken for with pre-planned projects. Those include:
Parks - Central District
Arroyo Chico Urban Path: Country Club to Treat $262,700
Himmel Park Improvements $264,000
Limberlost Family Park ADA Improvements and Walking Path $22,100
Reid Park Expansion, Phase 1 $810,300
Silverlake Park Improvements $27,500
That should leave just under $1M left in the parks funds to be used in the Central District.
Roads - Central District
22nd Street: I-10 to Tucson Blvd $1,352,500
Broadway: Euclid to Country Club $1,650,000
Congress Grande Intersection Improvements $535,000
First Ave: Grant to River $3,050,000
Grant: Oracle to Swan $1,100,000
And this list shows that there’s about $1.5M leftover for roads in the Central District.
So, one $250K park improvement in Ward 6 on the new list? There is absolutely no way that represents an equitable distribution of impact fees, and certainly not a distribution that reflects the impacts that will be felt by the many projects I have listed above for Ward 6. If it is an example of how staff will spend money in areas outside of where projects are built, and where they impact immediate areas if we were to adopt a citywide service area, I don’t believe it’s defensible at any level.
During our study session on this item, it was made clear that some other council members agree with the idea of keeping impact fees close to where the project is creating the impact. Staff will go back to the drawing board and resubmit a new plan. I will be looking to assure there is a nexus between the project and where we spend the fees, and will be taking a very hard look at any proposed changes in service areas.
There will be another study session on this soon. Based on the feedback staff received last week, I suspect we will see some significant changes in what came to us last week.
Above I mentioned that none of the work being planned for the Sunshine Mile has been included in the projected impact revenue list. Well, despite that miss by staff, the work on Broadway is about to start. It is unfortunate that M&C approved the alignment that it did, but it is what we have to work with, and I believe that it will still work out well.
One project that is under public review is on the former Volvo site. That is located near Euclid, on the south side of Broadway in Ward 5. The site had gone out for a Request for Proposals and the winning submittal was from the same company that owns Welcome Diner. The expanded project will be called Welcome Broadway.
Coming on Tuesday, April 16th the project team will host an open house so the public can learn more about their plans. The meeting will begin at 6:30pm, and will be held at the Miles Exploratory School – 1400 E. Broadway. Welcome Broadway is a planned residential/commercial project that needs a Planned Area Development rezoning. Go to the meeting and share your thoughts.
Beyond that though, Rio Nuevo and Project for Public Spaces are moving forward on their visioning sessions for the Sunshine Mile. They have teamed up with Swaim and Associates, and will begin public outreach likely in mid-May. I will let you know when those dates/times/locations are finalized. These will be the public meetings in which PPS meets with the public and hears input related to how the corridor should be designed, specifically outside the curb lines in three distinct areas; Solot Plaza, the donut-hole space and the Bungalows.
An Overlay is a rezoning. In this case, it will be a rezoning of the entire two-mile stretch of Broadway, from Euclid to Country Club. That area has distinctly different characteristics, so the zoning conditions will necessarily differ from one spot to another. The purpose of these initial public meetings will be to talk about preferred development so we can more clearly define what the zoning will look like.
Your first opportunity to engage on the Sunshine Mile redevelopment is coming this week at the Miles presentation. More will be coming later in May. Utility work is scheduled to start in the summer, and the Bungalows are scheduled to be moved back away from the curb line ahead of that work reaching their location. It is good to see some development finally happening along that stretch of roadway. Moreover, it will be good to get the public process moving so that development can be responsive to the neighborhood scale commercial preferences that have been on the table for the past few years.
I also mentioned above that staff failed to include any impact fee revenue from what will be the development that will take place around the Benedictine. As with the Broadway Sunshine Mile, the public process on this has been extensive – and it is continuing this week. Coming on Wednesday, April 17th the first public presentation of the project design will be unveiled since the area plan was amended to allow the work to move forward.
Starting with the nuns who formerly owned the property, and including I think most of us, the best outcome would have been to leave the site undisturbed and allow for some uses inside of the building that did not have an intense impact on the surrounding area. That is not where we are, and expecting that as some few still do, is simply not a realistic understanding of how zoning works.
For those who have not been following this process over the course of the past year, the site allows Group Dwellings. That is a zoning entitlement for student housing. The site could accommodate approximately 650 student beds in a 44’ tall, four-story structure. For the lady who wants me to “kill the project” – if M&C voted to disapprove the project that is now being discussed, that student housing option could, and still can be built without any public input. That is how private property and zoning entitlements work.
There is a lot of money floating around in the private sector student housing market. The corner of Speedway and Park is now full of towers, and a new one is about to go into construction. There are three different out-of-state companies who have been involved in that series of projects. The beds rent for a range of $700 per month up to around $1,200 per month each. Multiply that by the hundreds of beds involved and it is easy to see the scale of money these Real Estate Investment Trust groups bring to the table.
Over in Rincon Heights a small 12-bed unit just sold. It was built in 2017 and includes three four-bedroom, four-bath buildings. It is just under 7,000 sq/ft total. Here is the headline from Real Estate Daily News & RED Comps:
Highland House Sets new Record for Unit and Bed Prices
The Highland House Apartments located at 380 N Highland Ave. right behind the UA student rec. center is tiny in comparison to what is allowed by right on the Benedictine site. It just sold for $1.7M. That is $142K per bed. Do the math – if something that can house 650 beds came in at even ½ that value, we are talking in the $50M range. The property was sold by the nuns for $6M. Like it or not, those are the market realities.
Come on the 17th and see the proposed development. Included in the commitments made during the area plan amendment process are, (a) no student housing, (b) public use of the monastery, (c) preservation of the monastery, and (d) height limitation of 55’. The doors will open at 5:30 for the meeting. A design advisory committee has been meeting with the development team. What will be presented will be the outgrowth of those conversations.
With the development coming, the work being done that we honored the volunteers for is also going to have to transition to a new location, and very likely to multiple new locations.
Last week, the New York Times ran a piece that was the work of a month-long trip by their journalist crew into Honduras. That is one of the three countries most commonly represented among the guests we see at the monastery. Honduras is one of the world’s deadliest countries for women. This was the cover shot from the article:
Contrary to Trumps claim that drug dealers and rapists are overrunning the border, it is people who are fleeing those conditions who we are seeing. Quoting from the article “President Trump calls immigrants “criminals” — drug dealers and rapists intent on plundering America. But the truth, as I saw so clearly over a month long reporting trip in Honduras, is that migrants are fleeing a society controlled by criminals.”
When we hear the stories of the families who are arriving at the monastery, the very simple answer to why they are coming is because they do not want to die. In addition, they do not want to live under the control of drug cartels. It is that simple.
Recently, Trump also announced that he is considering barring victims of domestic violence from applying for asylum. That would certainly end the exodus from Central America, and it would result in subjugating the women and girls we see to a life of being a DV victim. The work we are looking to transition from the monastery is in support of families who are here trying to stay alive.
If you are a part of a group – faith based, or otherwise – that has access to a facility that could help, please get in touch with me here at the Ward 6 office. There is probably no way we’ll be able to replicate the full extent of the operation that is going on at the monastery, but we will need to find spaces to move the bits and pieces of it, likely by the early fall of this year. Last week I toured another pastor through the place – his congregation is getting involved at the end of this month. I also walked a staffer from one of our Congressional delegation through and two women from a local philanthropic group. I have no idea what, if anything that will yield. I have walked representatives of other public and private groups through with the hope the combined interest will allow this work to continue.
In 2015, 380 women were murdered in Honduras. Nine out of 10 murders of women never go to court or result in a sentence. Nearly ½ happened in public. Trump wants to ‘send the illegals to sanctuary cities.’ Note to Donald – if you want to meet them and hear their stories, they are here at the monastery. Except they are not here illegally. They are here legally awaiting an opportunity to make an asylum plea.
After the WWII incident in which the U.S. blocked a ship that contained hundreds of Jewish refugees from docking – which ended up in their murder – we said ‘never again.’ Tucson should be proud of the work being done at the monastery. Nevertheless, the site is going to be developed. If you can help with a facility, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Off Track Betting (OTB) license Turf Paradise horse track was applying for at the Midtown Tavern was pulled from our agenda last week. Evidently they heard it was facing opposition and have decided to move at the State level before trying their luck in Tucson again.
The Bill we are now watching move through the end of this State legislative session is HB2547. I’ve shared with you before that under current law, in order to run OTB at a local bar, the race track sending the feed must be running at least 140 live race dates. Turf Paradise is the only track in the State that does so, and there is a cap inflicted on Rillito Park of only 12 live dates. The playing field is uneven, by law. The Bill under consideration would allow a waiver of that 140-day rule if the local track had the approval of the Arizona Department of Gaming, and with an agreement from the horseman’s association that represents the racetrack. Here is the language of the striker Bill:
The Bill is of course supported by Rillito, and it is opposed by Turf Paradise. We will be watching to see what changes Turf tries to impose on the Bill before it reaches its final form.
To be clear – I continue to believe that the horse racing industry must undergo significant changes. The animals are being injured and killed at an alarming rate. Other countries who have horseracing do not allow some of the drugs that we allow to be administered, up to and including on race day. Some of those drugs mask injuries. The result is breakdowns and euthanizing the animals. Even if HB2547 is approved seeing any applicant for a local license step up and agree to track rules that lead to more humane treatment of the animals is going to be a part of gaining my support.
Over the weekend, I spoke to a group at the Rally for Science in Reid Park. My bride took this picture of me interacting with a constituent:
She is an albino python. The snake, not my bride. I estimate she weighs about 75 pounds. Also the snake, not by bride. She, and this guy:
a 23-year-old green Iguana named Buzz, were some of the folks there to hear my remarks. They are also reasons some of my staff are not thrilled when I invite them to the events I attend. I gravitate towards the critters.
During the Rally, I gave a short history of our local experience with PFC’s in our water supply, and the fact that we are actively pursuing litigation against 3M and other product manufacturers. One of the sources of the contaminants is activity that took place out at DM. Until recently, other military bases in Arizona had not been identified as having detectable levels of PFC’s. Now that has changed.
Last week, on April 10th the Arizona Republic ran an article with this headline:
They will now begin testing water within a one-mile radius of Luke AFB in Glendale. There is a lot of farmland around Glendale. They have reason to be concerned.
The Luke spokesperson said the elevated levels of the chemicals were ‘found in the base’s surface and groundwater, but not in the drinking water.” Farms use groundwater.
They did not release the contamination levels. Our contamination was the result, at least in large part, by DM using foam for fire suppression. They used the same product out at Luke. Now they are trying to identify just how far the toxic chemicals have spread around Glendale.
Our litigation continues. Other States have moved to set their own maximum contaminant levels (MCL.) The feds have not. Given his affinity to Trump, it’ll be interesting to see if Ducey now joins other Governors in insisting on financial assistance from the feds, and changes in the EPA designation of PFC’s, setting MCL’s that will allow for Superfund dollars to come in and help with remediation.
Speaking of Reid Park – the Tucson Parks and Recreation Activity Guide for this summer is now out and available for online viewing. We will have hard copies here at the Ward office later this week.
The guide will have information about all of the leisure classes, summer KIDCO, swimming activities, camps, and also discount information. Every year some of the classes fill up quickly, so if you are going to want to take part, register early. You can do that on-line at www.ezeereg.com. The registration dates vary between City residents, and non-residents. Registration begins at these times:
Online: Saturday, May 4, at 6 a.m. - KIDCO, In-Betweener’s Club, and Jr. Staff in Training
Online: Saturday, May 4, at 9 a.m. - Leisure classes and Aquatics
Phone-in registration begins: Tuesday, May 7, at 8 a.m. - all classes
Walk-in and Mail-in registration begins: Wednesday, May 8, at 8 a.m. - all classes
- Walk-in or phone-in registration only for Gymnastics II/III, Tapping II, Therapeutic Recreation Programs, and Adaptive Aquatics
Monday, June 10, at 9 a.m. - KIDCO year-round
Saturday, May 4, at 1 p.m. for all classes and Summer KIDCO
Monday, June 10, at 9 a.m. - KIDCO year-round
This week’s local Tucson item is to congratulate the staff and crew out at Old Tucson. They spent the weekend celebrating the place’s 80th birthday.
Old Tucson was instrumental in establishing Tucson as a site for the movie industry. Beginning with the 1940 show Arizona, the facility has been host to dozens of movie crews over the years. I know Shelli Hall from the Visit Tucson film office has toured our State film folks through the site. I join her, and many others in continuing to advocate for the State legislature to put in place a film incentive package that will allow Old Tucson, and other locations throughout the State to attract major motion pictures, once again.
You can visit Old Tucson daily from 10am until 5pm. Sometimes they close for private parties, but that is rare. Check them out at www.oldtucson.com.
Do you have any books that are overdue and need to be returned to the Pima County Library? If you do, for the last two weeks of the month they are partnering with the Community Food Bank and if you bring them a can of food, they will reduce your late fee.
It is not exactly a ‘get out of jail free’ card, but for every can of food you take in, they will reduce your fine by a dollar. You get a financial break, some needy family benefits from the food, somebody else in the community gets to read the books you have been keeping at home, and your conscience is free as a bird.
Go to their website for hours of each of the participating libraries – www.library.pima.gov.
Council Member, Ward 6
THE PRESIDIO DISTRICT EXPERIENCE: A FOOD HERITAGE AND HISTORY TOUR
April 18 @ 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Celebrating Tucson’s UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation, the tour begins at the Presidio Museum where participants learn about Tucson’s origins and the food fusions that occurred when the Spanish and Tohono O’Odham were first learning from each other. The group then moves on to El Charro Cafe, La Cocina, and Cafe a la C’art, three other historic locations in the Presidio District of Downtown Tucson. Participants experience Tucson’s complex food heritage and the fusion of Old and New World ingredients while hearing great stories of Tucson’s history in some of it’s more historic locations. Not recommended for those under 18. Thanks to event sponsors: Downtown Tucson Partnership, Visit Tucson, The Arizona Daily Star, and Cox Communications.
FREE OUTDOOR SCREENING IN HIMMEL PARK! WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
April 19 @ 7:00PM (SUNDOWN)
This screening will take place outdoors on “Hippie Hill” at Himmel Park, 1000 N. Tucson Boulevard. Please bring your own seating. Sarge’s Cheesecakes and You Sly Dog food trucks will be on site at this screening!
This free IndieLens screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is presented by Arizona Public Media and The Loft Cinema.
Share Mister Rogers’ message about caring for others and contributing to the public good with family friendly pre-show activities, including:
–Himmel Park Clean Up – 5:00pm
–Kindness Coin Making with Ben’s Bells – 5:30pm
TUCSON EARTH DAY FESTIVAL
April 20 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Tucson Children's Museum
Give that big blue marble a hug and discover all the ways to help make your world a healthier, greener place to live. Learn about recycling and composting, the joy of gardening and the fun of getting out and enjoying nature. Or learn how to bring nature to your backyard with exhibits from local wildlife groups.
There will be exhibitors and activities outside the Museum for all ages. Adults with children are welcome inside the courtyard and the Museum for more kid-centric activities.
Tucson Earth Day Festival at Children’s Museum Tucson is from 10 am- 2 pm, but admission to the Museum is free all day!
Arizona State Museum, 1013 E University Blvd | www.statemuseum.arizona.edu
Arizona Theater Company, 330 S Scott Ave | www.arizonatheatre.org
Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S 6th Ave | www.childrensmuseumtucson.org
Fox Theatre, 17 W Congress St | www.FoxTucsonTheatre.org
Hotel Congress, 311 E Congress St | hotelcongress.com
Jewish History Museum, 564 S Stone Ave | www.jewishhistorymuseum.org
Loft Cinema, 3233 E Speedway Blvd | www.loftcinema.com
Meet Me at Maynards, 311 E Congress St | www.MeetMeatMaynards.com
A social walk/run through the Downtown area. Every Monday, rain or shine, holidays too! Check-in begins at 5:15 pm.
Mission Garden, 946 W Mission Ln | www.missiongarden.org
A living agricultural museum and ethnobotanical garden at the site of Tucson's Birthplace (the foot of "A-Mountain"). For guided tours call 520-955-5200
Rialto Theatre, 318 E Congress St | www.rialtotheatre.com
The Rogue Theatre, The Historic Y, 300 E University Blvd | www.theroguetheatre.org
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, 414 N Toole Ave | www.tucsonhistoricdepot.org
Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way | www.tucsonbotanical.org
Tucson Convention Center, 260 S Church St | tucsonconventioncenter.com
Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N Main Ave | tucsonmuseumofart.org
UA Mineral Museum, 1601 E University Blvd | www.uamineralmuseum.org
Watershed Management Group, Living Lab 1137 N. Dodge Blvd. | www.watershedmg.org
Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson, 2130 North Alvernon Way | www.yumegardens.org