Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- Coffee with a Cop
- Drinking and Driving
- Speedway & Euclid
- Area Plan Discussion
- SB1070 - El Paso
- Film Industry
- Water Security
- Garden District Tree Planting
- Local First
- Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
- Events & Entertainment
Tucson Be Kind
The young girl in the middle of the picture is Megan O’Grady.
In an effort to keep the memories of fallen police officers alive, Megan is making teddy bears out of the uniforms and accessories the officers wore in the line of duty, then gives them to family members of the officers. You can see the image of one at the right hand side of the photo. She uses the buttons to make eyes and noses, then uses badges and hashes to finish off the bears. The “fur” comes directly from the uniform material. Megan calls the project Blue Line Bears.
In Cherry Hill, New Jersey a “secret santa” went into a Toys R Us and paid off all of the lay away accounts they had. Then the guy bought another $2,000 worth of toys and donated them to Toys for Tots. The total gift was over $10,000 and will make for some surprised and happy shoppers when they come in to pay off their lay aways.
I introduced you to Annie the Pig. This week it’s my pal from the River Loop, Annie the boxer puppy.
This Be Kind is for all the walkers on The Loop and around town who let me interrupt their early morning walks to stop and say hi to their puppies. Annie makes me smile every time I see her.
This morning, for the first time in the history of the city, we had a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew offer the invocational blessings at our swearing in ceremony. I’m proud to be associated with the inclusiveness that symbolized. I realize there are other faith traditions not reflected in that line-up, but the point was well made: Tucson is a welcoming community.
I hope you can join us on Thursday, December 14th over at the Islamic Center of Tucson for this year’s holiday interfaith celebration. It’s located at Tyndall and 1st Street, just off campus. I was pleased to accept their invitation to join several other speakers addressing the group on Tucson Values and our inclusive community ethic. It’ll be great to see another full house made up of neighbors from surrounding areas and representatives of the faith communities sending speakers to share in the kick-off to the holiday season, no matter how you personally choose to finish out the celebrating. The event will begin at 6 p.m.
Between December 12th and December 19th we’ll be hosting a week-long event here at the Ward 6 office that will take up all of our meeting rooms. Groups who use the facility will not be meeting here during that time. We will resume scheduling for outside groups on Wednesday, December 20th.
In Birmingham, Alabama last week, two brothers were arguing over some money. The two decided to take the dispute outside. One shot and killed the other, and then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life. The young men were 22 and 24 years old.
Two more young people were shot and killed last week in a Greensboro, North Carolina incident. A 24-year-old girl and a 25-year-old guy were murdered. The shooter fled the scene. Police believe the shooter knew both of the victims, although no motive has been identified.
Two more are now dead from a home invasion shooting that took place in Duncan, Oklahoma. Police arrested a suspect, but no charges have been filed.
It is sadly easy to find examples each week of deaths due to gun violence. Remember the Las Vegas shooting? Over 500 people injured with 58 killed. Remember the church shooting that took place last month in which over 25 people were murdered? Zero action has been taken at the congressional level in response to either of those. But…you can go online to sites such as www.ghostgunner.net or www.ghostguns.com and buy items with which you can transform a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic. You can buy 3D printed accessories to help make your weapon more lethal. None of it is traceable. Congress won’t act on that either.
Coffee with a Cop
One more public safety item. This Wednesday, December 6, TPD will have officers on site at Jacome Plaza for Coffee with a Cop from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. There’s more though.
Kathleen Ericksen is the head honcho at the Downtown Tucson Partnership. She has championed a significant change in Jacome Plaza, the park outside the main library downtown.
The idea was to follow the lead of other jurisdictions and create an active public space in the downtown core. We really don’t have such an area downtown and DTP has worked with TPD, the city and my office to bring one to Tucson. The real heavy lifting was done by Kathleen and her team.
This flyer shows what’s happening at Jacome:
With the unseasonably nice weather we’ve been having, downtown workers are now gravitating to the plaza for what’s called the Outdoor Office. DTP has tables and chairs, along with wifi so people can use the space for work. There are other activities too. They have public art, holiday decorating, food, and security 24/7 so the area is kept looking nice and available for everyone. Stop by and take a look at the change.
Initially the idea was met with some resistance due to the perception that the intent was to run the homeless out of town. In fact, El Rio Health Center is a partner in this work and will be offering services to those in need. The purpose is to activate the public space and to touch the needs of those in our community who are less fortunate than most of us.
Drinking and Driving
One final public safety item to begin the newsletter. It’s the holiday season. That means people will be tempted to hit the bars and overdo it, then get behind the wheel of their car while buzzed or worse. I’m working with Southern Arizona Crime Victims Attorneys to produce drink coasters with a different sort of holiday message. Here’s an image of one:
Dave is a constituent. He traveled to Ireland and saw something similar in pubs over there. He came back and shared the idea with me. I’ve gotten funding from the Attorneys group and now have a few thousand of these printed up, ready to be distributed to bars and restaurants around town. We’ll be reaching out, but if you own an establishment where alcohol is sold, feel free to contact me and we’ll get some delivered to your place.
Many of you know I’ve been working with Living Streets Alliance to change city policies and make our roadways safer. Speed limits, intersection management, crosswalk amenities – all are parts of the solution to rising pedestrian deaths and car crashes. I’m hopeful these reminders will be another step towards turning around the mortality rate on our Tucson roadways. Thanks to Dave for planting the seed and thanks to the Southern Arizona Crime Victims Attorneys for seeding the funding. As I often say, we’re a community of partnerships. This is yet another example.
Speedway & Euclid
Two weeks ago, I wrote about some infill development planned for midtown. Last week I gave a rundown on what I consider a botched rezoning for a Fry’s out at 22nd and Houghton. That should have been an area plan amendment, not a rezoning. This week I’ll share some thoughts on an early effort to amend the University Area Plan to allow for a student housing complex. The developer is looking at the northwest corner of Speedway and Euclid. The land use group running the advocacy is also involved with some of the other “infill” I’ve written about: the Honor’s College, another large student housing development going in on Broadway and Park, the 22nd and Houghton Fry’s, and now this. Resume building with a few twists.
The Speedway and Euclid student housing is proposed by Peak Campus. They’re big, based out of Atlanta, and have built student housing communities throughout the country. That doesn’t make them unique, nor does it change the impact of this project on surrounding property owners.
Here’s an image of what Peak originally proposed:
At the required neighborhood meeting last week they announced the scale of the project is being reduced to five stories on Speedway and Euclid, stepping down eventually to two on the west side of the project. They’re planning to introduce 500 new beds for student housing onto the site.
If this project is pursued it will eventually require a PAD rezoning (same as the Fry’s). First though, they’re asking to amend the University Area Plan (same as what should have happened with Fry’s for the proposed changes in addition to height).
The University Area Plan (UAP) encompasses several square miles around campus. This map shows the area:
The developer is proposing not to change language that would affect every neighborhood as soon as it’s changed, but rather to create an entirely new section that only impacts the northwest corner of Speedway and Euclid. Thus, the plan amendment creates “Speedway/Euclid NW” within the UAP.
The project needs to change the area plan because of the size and scale of the proposed housing. They need to address traffic impacts, height, some of the uses on the site, and other normal zoning concerns that arise when a significant change like this is introduced into an area. The neighborhood that’s immediately affected is the Feldman’s Neighborhood Association (FNA). Indirectly affected by the project will be West University and Jefferson Park. Several other neighborhood representatives attended the presentation last week to show support for FNA as these new 500 beds are not being proposed in a vacuum. The Honors Dorm adds 1,100. Broadway and Park adds another approximately 600. There are more being added in the Main Gate District and some being discussed for the 4th Avenue area. The incremental impact does not reflect the combined impact. That’s why neighbors support one another in these situations.
The project will involve demolishing a dozen structures, some of which were moved at an approximate $1M cost to taxpayers back when Speedway was widened. That fact is at odds with the statement in the plan amendment package where the developer commits to:
What that actually means is the project will pay to redraw boundaries that now exist around the Feldman’s historic neighborhood so when the buildings are demolished, it won’t change the percentage of structures that make up the FNA historic designation in a negative manner. The structures aren’t being protected, the designation is. People who value the historic nature of the buildings and those who would prefer not to see the $1M spent on moving them wasted take exception to that nuance in the plan document.
The developer proposes to set up a “process for ongoing communication” with the neighborhoods as the project evolves. Many have seen those committees formed for other projects, and many now view the committees as a way of giving the appearance of collaboration, without binding and equal status among the participants. After seeing and experiencing several of them in action, they’re largely viewed as a bone being tossed – making the recipient feel good, but not really being a vehicle for changing the fundamentally objectionable elements of the project.
There’s another factor involved with this project that’s floating in the background. The guy who owns the land also owns approximately 50 other parcels of land or homes in the Feldman’s and Jefferson Park area. When the city adopted our group dwelling ordinance in an effort to control the growth of mini-dorms throughout the area around campus, this property owner threatened to sue, alleging that our ordinance diminished the value of his properties. He had evidently intended to build mini-dorms throughout the area. Our ordinance capped how large they could be. In an effort to sort out that litigation, the city and the guy (Goodman) signed an agreement to hold off on any lawsuits and give us all time to sort through the many details surrounding the properties. The set of facts on each of them differ, so our hope is/was to figure out a way to allow for some level of development that everyone could agree to. The “tolling agreement” that put the litigation on hold was to give us time to work out the details. It expires in February 2019.
At the start of the neighborhood presentation, the development team indicated that the tolling agreement states if the Speedway and Euclid parcel is developed into student housing, the rest of the litigation goes away. In fact, this is what the tolling agreement states:
So yes, there’s an understanding that Speedway/Euclid has more development potential than what is allowed by its current zoning. Student housing is one option named in the tolling agreement. However, the zoning called out in the tolling agreement is “to OCR or comparable.” While that would allow for student housing, other uses might also be considered and built, such as commercial that would benefit the surrounding neighbors.
I stated at the neighborhood meeting that I do not support the plan amendment as a way of shoehorning in another 500 student beds adjacent to Feldman’s and across the street from Jefferson Park and WUNA. The untapped option is to go vertical on sites within the campus boundary that currently have single or two story dorms on them. There are also parking lots with nothing developed on top. This incremental degradation of quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding campus needs to stop. The fact that they’re being implemented one at a time and a mile apart in different directions doesn’t diminish the combined impact.
We’ll see where the developer chooses to go with the plan amendment. It needs to be considered on its own merits and not shaded by the threat of litigation from the terms of a tolling agreement between the city and the property owner.
Area Plan Discussion
Two weeks ago M&C approved a rezoning within the Houghton East Neighborhood Plan (HENP) to facilitate a new Fry’s with associated other retail stores.
To those who understand the process of how we rezone properties you’ll notice an inconsistency in that opening sentence. We do not ‘rezone’ neighborhood plans. We amend those plans and then rezone in accordance with those new terms.
During the Fry’s discussion, the city attorney cited a lawsuit from a Phoenix case in which the city was allowed to rezone a property even though the new development didn’t strictly adhere to the terms of what in that case was a general plan. The court found the redevelopment only needed to be in “basic harmony” with the terms of the plan. What that means for us when it comes to area plans and neighborhood plans is unclear to me.
We have this language in our Unified Development Code:
After the Fry’s vote with the “basic harmony” counsel, I’m not sure what that sentence from our UDC means. Now, with the request to amend the University Area Plan for the new student housing, and the proposal for a PAD at the old Volvo site on Broadway, we really need to have certain issues surrounding neighborhood and area plans clarified.
I have requested a study session to fully air this out. For the January 9 meeting, I’ve asked for a conversation that could be broken down at its most basic level to: Are neighborhood and area plans legally binding and what effect do they really have on our decisions with respect to rezoning requests? Some are quite old. Others were established within the last 10 years. All were adopted through a vote of the M&C who were in office at the time. All went through considerable public discussion prior to their adoption. We need to know why they exist, what value they hold (in light of Fry’s) and what “basic harmony” will mean as we consider requests to amend them in the future.
SB1070 – El Paso
A bit of good news that went largely unnoticed last week is that the City of El Paso rescinded a travel and spending ban they implemented in response to the Arizona legislature passing SB1070.
The El Paso ban went into effect seven years ago. It prohibited city employees from traveling to Arizona on official business and spending money for which they would later be reimbursed. El Paso wasn’t alone in imposing bans on travel and spending in Arizona due to 1070, but it’s the first one I’ve run across that lifted it. Spending from El Paso city government isn’t going to be a game-changer for us in terms of economic activity, but it’s nice to see relations resolving themselves, at least to this degree and in this political climate.
The El Paso vote was not unanimous. Three of their council members remain concerned about the portions of 1070 that are still in place. We as a governing body did not support the law then and we remain opposed to it. We look forward to this renewed relationship with our friends in El Paso.
Last week Visit Tucson shared an update on our success attracting film business. It’s another indication of how ripe this region is for film production and how we could benefit significantly from the adoption of a statewide film incentive bill.
Direct spending due to film activity in the region in November alone was over $800K. We’re bumping up against $3M for the year and will hopefully pass that figure by year’s end.
In what is likely to be one of the year’s highlights, Bisbee ’17 resulted in 450 room nights in a shoot that lasted for over 50 days. The show is about the bitter copper mine strikes that took place in 1917 down in Bisbee. The Sundance Film Festival is likely to pick it up as one of the shows on their schedule.
Shelli Hall and her partners at Visit Tucson Film Office also had a hand in Four Weddings (from the TLC channel), The Curtain Fall (from Netflix – coming this month), and they’re currently working with several well-known brands to shoot TV commercials. The second year of Run Coyote Run will also be filming here in January.
The Star ran a piece recently in their business section related to the impacts of the film industry on our local economy. As I told the reporter, a statewide film incentive bill would be the “jobs bill” the legislature is looking for. It’s clean industry and it’s an industry that touches multiple parts of our local economy – travel, lodging, entertainment, food, construction, and the production-related trades that support the crews needed for shooting films). Many of us are still pushing for that. In the meantime, Shelli and her gang will keep fighting the good fight and demonstrating the importance filming has and has had historically in this region.
As we near the start of the next state legislative session, water policy is setting up to be a huge topic. It’s critical that we in Southern Arizona keep actively involved with what is proposed. As a community that relies to a great degree on CAP deliveries, making sure no policies or legislation is adopted that may put that supply in jeopardy is equally critical.
Joanna Allhands wrote an article recently in the Arizona Republic. In it she touched on many of the water-related topics I’ve already shared in this newsletter. They include the ongoing battle Ducey and the CAP administration are engaged in. Not only have they not gone away, they’re going to be front-and-center this legislative term.
The big picture issues include how water allocations are made once a shortage on Lake Mead is declared. One will be declared. The question is when. I’ve seen predictions in the 50 percent range for 2019 or 2020. That’s the reason for the urgency in resolving these issues now.
I’ve shared before that the meetings to discuss these issues are being conducted behind closed doors with a set of players who do not reflect a strong conservation ethic. Southern Arizona’s interests are not represented to the degree those of us who value conservation over things such as expensive and inefficient desalination plants would like to see. It’s very much a values battle.
Other important parts of the negotiations revolve around selling water rights and whether or not Arizona interests can sell them to out-of-state groups. Rural groups are feeling the heat from urban groups who are buying up land in order to get senior water rights. Groundwater pumping continues to be a hot topic, especially in rural Arizona. I’d add though – not mentioned in Joanna’s article – that pumping in our own Sabino basin is an important local topic. You may have seen the Star article on Saturday talking about the dry Sabino Creek. It’s all interconnected. All of the state water issues are also local water issues.
The CAP is in a structural deficit. Legal claims on it are more than its capacity to keep Lake Mead from a shortage level over the near term. There are operational guidelines involving all seven basin states that expire in 2026. Right now we’re trying to negotiate a drought contingency plan with the three lower basin states. Those negotiations become significantly more complex if we have to conduct them at the same time the other four states are negotiating their guidelines as well. This isn’t just newsletter hype – cuts to Arizona’s CAP allocations could have a very serious impact on our underground water bank.
The fighting at the state level is about who is allowed to lobby and negotiate water agreements on the states’ behalf, who audits the CAP books, levels of supply that proposed housing developments need to establish, monitoring certain wells for how much they’re drawing from the groundwater supply, how much credit we get for redirecting water back into the aquifer, and much more. The issues are complex and we have a direct stake in how most of them are resolved.
I’ll continue to give updates on how this is all sorting out. I encourage each of you though to contact people in the state legislature and make sure they understand the urgency of resolving these issues. There is no single more important issue on their agenda this term than coming to closure on these water policies in ways that protect Lake Mead and are skewed heavily towards conservation.
Garden District Tree Planting
A couple of weeks ago I shared the tree planting event that took place in Himmel Park. Then one was held in McCormick Park and Tahoe Park. Now the Garden District tree planting event is coming. You’re invited to help out.
Tucson city staff will pre-dig the holes so this isn’t a case of you having to show up with a pick-axe and pound through caliche. The goal is to plant 110 trees in a two-hour window. It’ll begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, December 9. Meet at the Little Free Library at Justin and Lester (one block north of Pima and a block west of Columbus).
Trees for Tucson will have staff on site to oversee the work. If you can bring some work gloves that’d be helpful, but there will be some at the event in case you don’t have any. Bring some water along, a cap and don’t forget your sunscreen.
We’re grateful to Trees for Tucson, city staffers, and the Rotary Club for jumping in and facilitating this event, along with the other tree planting events listed above. We’re making Tucson a more livable place with each of these plantings. They validate even further the importance of getting the state and CAP to resolve the water battles going on up north.
This week’s Local Tucson item is the annual Saguaro National Monument Park West bird count. It’s coming this Saturday, December 16 from 8 a.m. until noon. The count is open to all ages and you do not have to be an avid birder to take part. They’ll have slots open for spotters, identifiers, and recorders. If you have an interest, they’ll find a place for you.
To confirm you’ll be a part of the count, please contact Adam Springer of the park. His number is 733.5171. Between both the east and west parks, over 200 different species have regularly been observed. They include Gambel’s quail, Anna’s hummingbird, red-tailed hawks, American kestrel, and a bunch more. If you have the time, I know they’d appreciate your company and help.
Here’s a reminder that this coming Saturday, December 9 is 2nd Saturdays Downtown. It starts with the free kids’ movie at the Historic Depot, Shrek the Third. That begins at 5:30. Congress Street is the focal point for the rest of the Saturday downtown celebration. Please go and help support our local businesses as the holiday season begins to unfold.
Nova Home Loan Tucson Bowl
Sanctioned by the NCAA in March 2015 as the then 41st post-season college bowl game, this coming December 29 will be the third annual Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. We host representatives of the Mountain West and Sun Belt Conferences. The first two games included Air Force vs. South Alabama and Nevada vs. Colorado State. That brings visitors to the Old Pueblo right after Christmas, a time when our local businesses are stressing for customers.
Yesterday, this year’s match-up was announced. We’ll host New Mexico State and Utah State. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. and tickets are on sale right now.
The match-up has some fun sidebars. New Mexico State hasn’t been to a post-season bowl game in 57 years. Their fans will likely travel very well to attend the game. Back in 1960, the team they played in the Sun Bowl was Utah State. Both teams come to Tucson with 6-6 records.
There will be a downtown block party in advance of the game and plenty of bowl-related activities on and around campus, Main Gate, 4th Avenue and downtown. Getting some tickets and supporting the game is a great way to also support our local economy.
The game gives back to nonprofits in the community. Charities can receive back up to half of the ticket price for any tickets they purchase/sell. If you go online at www.novaarizonabowl.com you can see all the details about tickets, sponsorships, the bowl history and activities that’ll take place throughout the week leading up to kick-off.
If we want to keep it, we’ve got to support it.
Council Member, Ward 6