Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- World Day of Remembrance
- Local First: Fox Theatre
- Urban Infill
- Lake Mead
- Events & Entertainment
Tucson Be Kind
During my run last Tuesday morning I saw a guy stop to help a puppy who had been hit by a car. The driver who hit the dog didn’t stop. Kudos to the guy who showed compassion for the little guy.
Each year since I’ve been on the council, the Palo Verde neighborhood has collected a variety of items around the Christmas holiday for the Youth on Their Own food pantry. I was happy to help them kick off this years drive on Saturday at their pocket park celebration. Youth on Their Own is a wonderful local nonprofit that works with at-risk youth in an effort to help them continue and finish their high school education. PVNA has again started the donation collection. They’re asking for things such as:
Please help if you can and thank you PVNA for your Kind work on behalf of our youth.
Speaking of the holidays, a 26-year-old Florida woman was arrested for beating another woman over the head in a department store with a Christmas tree topper in the shape of an angel. It’s maybe not really a Be Kind item, but I thought I’d include it as a way of sending the message that it’s always a good thing to maintain your sense of what matters while out shopping during the upcoming holidays.
In Rancho Tehama, California last week, a gunman opened fire and ended up killing five people while injuring another 10.
That’s Casey Burnett. She said she saw the gunman driving around town just shooting at people randomly. He used three weapons. The victims included both school children and adults. Over 100 police and FBI agents responded to the scene. The killer was eventually shot to death by police.
In Marysville, Michigan, in another domestic violence incident a 34-year-old guy shot and killed his 32-year-old significant other before taking his own life. The wife owned an indoor childrens play center. There were multiple other kids and adults inside the facility when the shooting occurred. None were injured.
In another shooting incident involving a child, a 10-year-old girl was found shot to death in her home in Pierce City, Missouri. She appeared to have suffered child abuse. Her 40-year-old mother was found shot dead at the scene. She was evidently also the killer.
I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating. Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America promotes the Be Smart program. It encourages parents to ask if guns are in the homes their kids are visiting and if so, how they’re being stored. Every year nearly 300 kids under 17 years of age gain access to an unsecured gun and shoot themselves or someone else. Another 500+ die by suicide. The steps to the Be Smart program are pretty simple – and smart.
World Day of Remembrance
On Sunday, I was pleased to join the Living Streets Alliance along with about 100 others down outside of City Hall commemorating Tucson’s version of World Day of Remembrance. Around the world citizens gathered to honor the victims of traffic violence. I’ve lost three friends and one relative in traffic wrecks. Somehow, in looking at each incident we can see how they’re preventable. If you could rewind the tape and change some behavior, I’m convinced that most every crash is preventable.
If that’s true, then these aren’t “accidents.” They are wrecks, crashes, traffic violence – pick your phrase, but factors are involved that can be addressed to help work towards zero deaths on our roadways. We can all work to strive toward that goal.
Some of the engineering pieces we’re talking about include the Protected Left-Hand Turn intersection management policy I’d like to see implemented at our major intersections. We’re also talking through the idea of what sorts of additional pedestrian safety amenities can be added to crosswalk locations to mitigate what TDOT calls the “false sense of security” peds now feel. They need a real sense of security. Here’s an idea: if we’re reluctant to put in flashing beacons to alert drivers of an upcoming crosswalk, how about making an art statement out of them to get driver’s attention. This painted image…
...looks like this to an oncoming vehicle…
They’re being used all over the world, from New Dehli to Iceland. I’m guessing there are local artists who’d volunteer some time for our own version.
Or, let’s just install some flashing beacons.
Traffic systems can be developed to enhance the safety of our roadways. People may fail, but traffic systems should be designed in ways to avoid that. We lowered the speed limit on bike boulevards. We could consider that for other collector streets as well. At 20 mph, you have a 90 percent chance of surviving being run over. That figure drops to 50 percent at 30 mph and 10 percent at 40 miles per hour. Engineers love data. They should not resist when solutions like this are proposed.
Instead, we hear reliance on an outmoded engineering tool called the 85th percentile rule. That’s the speed 85 percent of drivers drive at or below. The notion is that if we’re seeing that number of people drive at say 40 mph on a given roadway, then it must be safe. Therefore, we shouldn’t lower the limit to 35 even though it increases our ped/car collision survival rate, because if we drop the limit people won’t abide by the new speed limit. I disagree. We need to consider the context of the area and the built environment that exists outside of the curb lines, not just how fast drivers are going through an area. It’s a discussion we’re having.
Another tool we can – and in my opinion should – consider is changing our hands-free electronic device law from a secondary offense to primary so police can enforce it. We’re ending a study period on our hand’s free as a secondary offense. I voted against the study because we know from data (again, the engineers should love this) that driving without the distraction of an electronic device in your hand is simply safer. Soon I’m hopeful we have a chance to revisit the vote M&C took making it a secondary offense in Tucson.
Here are some more risk factors:
On average, 100 people lose their lives each day in the U.S. while walking, biking, or driving. That number can be impacted by better road design and better safety elements built into our streets. It can also be affected by our own behaviors. We’re working with Living Streets Alliance on a Complete Streets Policy. We don’t need to wait on that to begin chipping away at the issue of safety on our streets.
In Florida, there are already jurisdictions that have implemented Complete Streets Policies. This is an excerpt from an interview with a guy named Billy Hathaway. He is the Secretary of the Florida DOT and the person who spearheaded their Complete Streets transformation. SSTI is the State Smart Transportation Initiative, a coalition of 15 state departments of transportation, each working towards safer road design. I was surprised to see that the Arizona DOT is included.
BH: When looking at the crash problem related to pedestrian safety, speed is a major factor in the ability of a pedestrian to survive a crash. Higher-speed roadways also diminish pedestrian and bicyclist comfort on those corridors. By taking a context-based approach to roadway design, the Department is providing the right street for the built environment adjacent to the roads, instead of having a one-size-fits-all street design. As a result, the minimum design speed on state roads will be reduced from 40 mph to 25 mph for more urban context zones.
SSTI: Why have training and culture change been a focus of FDOT’s Complete Streets implementation efforts?
BH: The new approach to state road design, based on context, has driven a need for culture change. In the more urban contexts, the design of state roads will be significantly different from how we have traditionally approached it, whereas in the more rural and conventional suburban contexts things will be relatively similar.
Last Friday we cut the ribbon and unveiled the Tucson Bike Share program. It’s fitting to share this section right after the Remembrance Day item. Please be careful whether you’re renting one of the bikes or you’re driving around the streetcar route. That’s largely where the docking stations are located.
Thanks to the hard work of Ann Chanecka and the advocacy out of Jonathan’s office, we now have 330 bikes scattered around 36 docking stations. If you go to www.tucsonbikeshare.com you can see the new website. On it they have the pricing options and a description of how the program operates. This map shows the location of the docking stations:
The first number in each bubble shows how many bikes are available at each of the locations and the second number indicates how many open slots are available. You need to know that in order to turn in the bike you rent. The map is interactive on their website.
Seated next to Jonathan in the picture above is Brent DeRaad, CEO of Visit Tucson. We appreciate their heavy support of the program. Other significant backers include Rio Nuevo, and from the Premium corporate sponsorship side we owe a debt of gratitude to TMC, TEP, Banner UMC and the Tohono O’oham nation. Without the funding help, we wouldn’t have been able to cut that ribbon last week.
The bikes are solid and easy to pedal. They are three-speed with the brake controls on the handles. Each bike is outfitted with a carrying frame in which you can bungie some groceries or other small items. The route runs through our entertainment and commercial districts so there’s plenty of opportunity for you to visit local businesses, see local attractions or just ride through and get some exercise.
It’ll be fun to watch how the community embraces this new, added transit mode. Given that how we get around (cars) generates about one of Pima County’s CO2 emissions, any opportunity you have to move from one place to another without cranking that key is helpful.
The docking stations are situated throughout 13 different neighborhoods in Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6. It’s a great start for a system that’s very well suited to our climate. We look forward to seeing tourists and locals rolling around the circuit, cleaning the air, getting themselves healthier and supporting local businesses.
Local First: Fox Theatre
It’s fitting to name one of our local downtown attractions as this week’s Local Tucson item. Bike share rolls right through the heart of downtown and the Fox Theatre on Congress is a must-see during the upcoming holiday season.
The variety this season is all over the map. Everything from Argentinian Tango to Alice’s Restaurant and an Irish Christmas musical. And lots more. Check out the Fox website for shows and events at www.foxtucson.com. Under Craig Sumberg’s direction, the theater is hitting on all cylinders and serves as a destination in the downtown core. Check out their schedule. You’re guaranteed to find something that you’ll want to go and see.
I’m introducing the next couple of sections using the term “urban infill.” It’s an urban planning term that’s used to describe the use of land for construction and redevelopment, largely within a built-up area as a part of redevelopment and managing urban growth. It’s smart growth versus sprawl. It always poses a challenge of developing in a way that knits a community together while respecting the existing context of the area surrounding the development site. We have a couple of project sites that are at differing stages of that redevelopment process. I’ll share them both here and commit to keeping you up to speed as each evolves.
You’ve likely driven past the place while on your way to the Ward 6 office. It’s over on Country Club, just south of Speedway. It was built in 1935, designed by architect Roy Place, and has been the home of the Benedictine sisters ever since. The property has been sold and the developer is in the early planning stages for an infill project.
Sister Joan Ridley runs the place. She says the remaining sisters will vacate in March. The cost of maintaining the very large building and its surrounding land is too much for the Order. So they’ve sold the entire site to a local developer. The zoning for the parcel could allow for a new residential component, ranging from student housing to high-end senior housing. I’ve met a couple of times with the new owner and members of the surrounding Miramonte neighborhood. I think it’s fair to say both sides understand the sensitivity of the site, the need to respect the historic and landmark nature of the building and the need to build in a way that fits the residential context that exists to the east of the land. The Miramonte folks have shown an understanding of good development during their involvement with a mixed-use development going in at Speedway and Camino Miramonte. The same sort of outcome is what we’ll work towards at the chapel.
The monastery building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. That places certain restrictions on how it can be treated by the developer. I assume he did his homework before investing, so that comes as no surprise to him. He was quoted in the Star saying, “The monastery is a historic treasure, and I will work to preserve the exterior of the building, while taking great care with interior improvements.”
Since the project site bumps directly up against single-family residences in a well-established midtown neighborhood, the density and impact of how the infill project is developed will be a topic of concern. It has already been discussed. I’m expecting to see the response to those early conversations with a project proposal within a couple of weeks. There are currently a dozen sisters who occupy the site. Clearly, that’s going to change, but to what degree and in what form is what many of us are waiting to discuss.
Campbell & Speedway
The Benedictine site bumps up against a residential neighborhood. At the northwest corner of Campbell and Speedway is another site that’s being proposed for an infill project. That site has the UA Banner Hospital buffering any direct impact on residential uses and it’s situated on a major arterial intersection. In fact, it’s the intersection at which I’ve asked to have Protected Left-Hand Turn traffic control installed. The site is therefore much different than the Benedictine.
This project is within a stone’s throw from the eastern terminus of the streetcar. It’s also adjacent to the Tom Volgy Warren Underpass that allows for pedestrian and bicycle traffic to join the streetcar connection to the UA campus. The intent of our streetcar investment was to catalyze Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). This site is an example of infill that fits that further definition.
Any project can be done well, or done in a way that is architecturally poor and that brings uses into an area that are duplicative or simply disruptive. The proposal for this site is about 40,000 square feet of retail, a 30,000 square foot grocery component, about 80 residential units, and a significant amount of professional and office space. That last piece will likely complement the medical needs that already exist nearby.
Here’s an image of the massing diagram now being proposed by the developer:
It’s about 20 stories on the interior piece, stepping down to 6-10 on the sides adjacent to the intersection. It’s big and yet how it is designed is an important element that’s now being rendered by the architects. What works even on the edges of this site may be totally out of context for say even the Benedictine site.
One very appealing piece of the proposal is the consideration of conservation components to the development.
You can see the combination of solar, rainwater harvesting, geothermal, the orientation of windows, and rooftop landscaping. We’ve seen some pretty uncreative design on student housing nearby. This piece of infill appears to be following a different philosophy.
I found the traffic analysis to be interesting. These data show traffic is decreasing in the area since 2012. We know that same phenomenon to be true on Broadway, which is why the RTA widening has been such a contentious issue.
The trend is also a reason TDOT should not be resistant to the Protected Left at the Speedway intersection. It’s safe traffic management; not to be confused with simply moving cars as quickly as possible through the area.
Infill fights against sprawl. But infill can be disruptive in its own way. I’ll be actively engaged in each of these projects as they move further through the planning and design phases. Each can be an enhancement to their respective areas or each could be the opposite. The public engagement will help to drive both projects presumably towards good and beneficial outcomes.
Last week we received an update on projected probabilities of when Lake Mead will be declared to be in a shortage condition. There are three different levels of shortage, each with different impacts on our own water supply delivery from the CAP. Presently Mead is about 6’ above where a Level 1 shortage would be declared. That’s an improvement over last year, largely based on a wet winter and by some significant actions many across the state have taken to keep water on the lake.
This table is provided by the Bureau of Reclamation. They review data related to snowpack, rainfall and water delivery claims on the CAP. Based on their analysis they predict when Mead will hit the various levels of shortage shown in the table.
The analyses are fluid. They change as conditions on the ground change. For example, the probability of a 2019 shortage declaration was 31 percent back in April. You can see that now it’s down to 15 percent. That’s the impact of the good winter and contingency actions taken by Tucson and other jurisdictions. However, in 2020 they had previously predicted a 32 percent chance of a Level 1 shortage. That’s now up to 42 percent. Similarly, the 2021 and 2022 predictions increased by 11 and 13 percentage points respectively.
The message is clear. We’re still living in a desert. We still must be vigilant in protecting the water levels in Lake Mead. We still must fight against foolish water legislation that we too often see coming out of Phoenix. We each must also do what we can in our own homes and businesses to limit our use of this precious resource.
Finally, a guy emailed me last week and was pretty upset that I haven’t been including updates on the federal tax discussions and how they may affect individual taxpayers. That’s an area I’m not going to do a real deep dive into. First of all, the discussions are evolving by the day. Secondly, everyone’s tax return is different and for me to project how what’s under consideration will affect you would be presumptive and likely inaccurate. Frankly, I’m not sure how they’ll affect me yet because I haven’t taken the time to sit down and consider the entire package to see how one change will impact another. In deference to his request, I’ll offer this quick summary of some of the pieces of the legislative changes now being debated at the federal level. None of it is final, so what I’m sharing will certainly change.
Below are excerpts from a lengthy table provided by our D.C. team Bracy, Tucker, Brown and Valanzano. I’m including what are likely to be those tax items that’ll affect regular folks like us, without any attempt at predicting either the legislative outcome or how even this list will impact anyone individually. What you may see though are some items that are hot buttons for your own return, giving you the opportunity to lobby at the congressional level before the final deal is cut.
Ok, so maybe not completely for “regular folks…”
This one needs some clarification. The House tax bill totally eliminates the state and local tax deduction for income and sales taxes. What is preserved are state and local property tax deductions, with a cap of $10K. The Senate bill proposes to eliminate all state and local tax deductions. BTBV checked in with American’s Against Double Taxation and report to us that the complete elimination is estimated to cost the average Tucson family anywhere from about $1,100 up to $2,500 in additional taxes. How that balances with other items contained in the tax bills under consideration is an individual matter.
This one’s a good example of how the two houses of congress are at complete odds with one another.
Each of the items shown above will have an impact on peoples’ tax liabilities. None are in final form. If you see some items you want to see preserved or eliminated, this short list will give you a basis for weighing in with your representative or senator. All of it is still up for grabs.
Council Member, Ward 6