Monthly Archives: December 2008

Happy New Year Phoenix!

“Archaeology of Phoenix’s Chinatown” topic of Jan. 7 lecture

Downtown Phoenix

Sun Mercantile Building, last remaining structure in Phoenix's Chinatown

Burton Barr Central Library will present “Archaeology of Phoenix’s Chinatown” a free lecture and slide presentation hosted by archaeologist Dr. Todd Bostwick, from 7 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, January 7, at 1221 N. Central Ave.  Bostwick will discuss the archaeological excavations of the historic Phoenix Chinatown at First and Madison streets.  The construction of the Phoenix Suns stadium led archaeologists to excavate portions of two city blocks exposing thousands of artifacts.  The study of these artifacts has provided some interesting insights into Phoenix’s Chinatown.

The lecture, part of the “AZest for the West” series, is supported with funds granted by the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records Agency.  Phoenix Public Library is a system of 14 branch libraries and the Burton Barr Central Library.  For more information, call 602-262-4636 or visit website.

Phoenix Sky Harbor ‘healthiest’ airport says magazine

Phoenix Sky Harbor pet park

[Source:] — …But it was Phoenix’s airport that really made an impression on the judges.  The building has two pet parks and recently added adult changing stations in bathrooms after a family with a disabled son made the suggestion.  According to Health Magazine, Sky Harbor’s bathrooms are “widely known as some of the nation’s cleanest.”  Sky Harbor also has several low-fat dining options: Take your pick of veggie burgers, vegetable burritos, or avocado cucumber sushi.

To develop the rankings, the magazine’s editors compared data about the nation’s leading airports from government reports, rating agencies, and other sources.  Here are the top 5 healthiest airports, according to Health Magazine:

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International (Arizona)
  2. BWI Thurgood Marshall (Maryland)
  3. O’Hare International (Chicago, Illinois)
  4. Detroit Metropolitan (Michigan)
  5. Denver International (Colorado)

Phoenix leads U.S. home price decline as lenders unload houses

[Source: Kathleen M. Howley, Bloomberg] — Phoenix, the desert city that three years ago led the U.S. in home price growth, had the nation’s worst housing market during October as sales of foreclosed properties depressed prices.  The cost of a single-family home plunged 33% from a year earlier, according to an S&P/Case Shiller index.  The decline was worse than Las Vegas, where prices fell 32%, and San Francisco, where they dropped 31%.  U.S. house prices fell 18% in October, a record in eight years of data.

Arizona had 11,000 notices in October of so-called trustee sales, or foreclosure auctions, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a real estate data firm in Irvine, California.  Foreclosure sales reduce the value of similar properties in the same area as sellers who aren’t in distress are forced to drop their prices to compete.  “This was a case of the higher they climb, the faster and harder they fell,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P.  Phoenix home prices at their 2006 peak had almost tripled within nine years, he said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix neighborhood coalition urges City support of existing special planning districts

[Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — Maintaining a favorable quality of life in established neighborhoods is challenging.  Citizen developed and approved area plans are one of the tools used in the struggle to preserve established neighborhoods and define their desired character.  The City of Phoenix Special Planning District Plan (“SPD”) originally known as a Special Conservation District (“SCD”) is one form of such an area plan.  At present, there are 12 SPDs:

  • Roosevelt SPD – Central City Village
  • Story SPD – Central City Village
  • Coronado SPD – Encanto Village
  • Encanto Vista SPD – Encanto Village
  • Willo SPD – Encanto Village
  • Arcadia Camelback SPD – Camelback East Village
  • North Central Avenue SPD – Camelback East Village
  • Squaw Peak Heights SPD – Camelback East Village
  • Windsor Square SPD – Camelback East Village
  • Royal Palm SPD – Alhambra Village
  • Saguaro SPD – Paradise Valley Village
  • Mountain Park SPD – South Mountain Village

Shortly after the Squaw Peak Heights SPD had been approved (July of 2006), a dissident property owner subject to the terms of the plan, filed a suit in Superior Court challenging the way the final votes for the SPD were tabulated.  In August of 2008, the court issued a Minute Entry favoring the claimant.  If the City of Phoenix fails to appeal the Squaw Peak Heights SPD Court decision within 30 days after the formal decision is handed down (could be sometime soon after the first of the year), it will cause this particular SPD to be voided.  A replacement SPD is estopped from being a possibility because of the passage in the fall of 2006 of Proposition 207.  A failure to appeal could jeopardize the validity of all of the other SPDs because they tabulated their final votes according to the same procedures as were followed in the case of the Squaw Peak Heights SPD.

The Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix believes that the loss of the existing SPDs under such circumstances will be detrimental to all neighborhoods whether or not they fall under an SPD.  This is due to the fact that an unwillingness on the part of the City of Phoenix to at least appeal the Superior Court’s decision in this instance will be interpreted by developers as a softness on the City’s part to support other existing citizen authorized/passed area plans such as the existing Specific Planning District Plans.  Such an interpretation will embolden developers to propose projects that will not be in keeping with these plans.  The same holds true for adhering to rezoning for sites throughout the city that was passed subject to approved site plans and stipulations.

Individuals and organizations in agreement with the Coalition’s position on this matter are encouraged to send a letter or e-mail by the middle of January 2009 urging Mayor Phil Gordon and Members of Council to oppose the Superior Court decision in the matter of Madison Positive Alliance of Neighbors v. Phoenix City (case on Squaw Peak Heights SPD).  The cost of such an appeal does not come from the City’s operating funds.   It is an insurance matter.   All such letters should be addressed to the party intended at 200 W. Washington Street, 11th Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85003-1611.

For more information, contact Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, at 602-840-1579 or e-mail.

New state archives in downtown Phoenix to be dedicated, Jan. 15 Friends of Arizona Archives invite you to attend the dedication of the Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building.

  • Date: Thursday, January 15, 2009
  • Time: Remarks and Ribbon Cutting 9 a.m. (Honorable Ken Bennett, Master of Ceremonies); tours 10 a.m. to Noon
  • Place: 1901 West Madison Street at 19th Avenue (parking available at the State Capitol, Records Building, Wesley Bolin Plaza, and on adjoining side streets where permitted)

Refreshments will be served, including cake from Polly Rosenbaum’s 100th birthday cake’s recipe.  RSVP by January 7 if you plan to attend.  Specify whether you would like to take a tour of the facility after the ceremony.   RSVP via e-mail or by phone to 602-770-5057.  For more information, visit the FAzA website.  This event is presented by Mortenson Construction and Gila County.

Fatal car crashes in Phoenix down 29%

[Source: Associated Press] — Arizona’s new statewide speed-enforcement program certainly has its detractors.  But the Arizona Department of Public Safety says the program already is saving lives and helping prevent accidents.  Between Sept. 26 and Dec. 16 — the first 80 days of the program — DPS says fatal collisions in the Phoenix metro area decreased by 29% from the same time period last year.   Also in that time period, DPS says injury crashes decreased by 17%.

Arizona became the first state in the nation to launch a statewide photo enforcement program.  The program calls for 100 mobile and fixed devices on freeways throughout Arizona.  More than 40,000 drivers were issued tickets in the first two months of the program.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Metro Phoenix light rail now ready to take on serious commuters

[Source: Nick R. Martin and Mike Branom, East Valley Tribune] — The opening weekend of light rail in the Valley was mostly given over to spectators — the politicians, journalists and locals who were just plain curious.  But today, the first working day for many since the Metro went public, the rail line is expected to be handed over to the serious riders, the ones who will board it to reach their crosstown jobs and destinations.

For people like John Tynan, a Tempe Web developer, it means he and his wife can finally ditch one of their cars.  In fact, the couple’s transportation options were recently crippled when one of their two cars made a catastrophic trip to a repair shop.  Instead of buying a new car, they tried to figure out how they could manage life in the Valley with just one vehicle.  The opening of light rail, Tynan said, provided a solid push toward alternative transportation.  “It got us thinking that we could really become a one-car family.”  For them, it was an easy choice.  One of the Metro stations is less than a mile from their house.  Another in downtown Phoenix is just two blocks away from where Tynan will be starting a new job in mid-January.  “It’s pretty much door to door,” he said.

Metro officials are trying to assure commuters that they can also make light rail a part of their lives, even if they live much farther away from the single, 20-mile line.  On Sunday, Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose stood on the platform of one of the stations, answering rider questions and frequently pointing them to the online “Trip Planner.”  The feature lets riders type in their starting address and destination, and in return, it gives them detailed directions on how to use buses and/or their own feet to meet up with the rail line.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Metro Phoenix light rail opening: What went right

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Metro officials were pleased with the way things went on the first day of passenger service.  With an estimated 90,000 people climbing aboard the trains, the day went off without major glitches.  Here are a few things that went particularly well.

Shuttle buses. The only thing worse than waiting 2 1/2 hours for a train would be waiting 2 1/2 hours for the return trip.  Metro’s shuttle buses, both the local and express versions, took the hassle out of the trip back home.

Safety campaign. No doubt there will be accidents.  But after four months of regular testing and a full day of passenger service, no one has been injured and just one accident has been reported.  Drivers, pedestrians, and train operators should all take a bow.

Rider enthusiasm. In other cities, they listen to iPods or feign sleep to avoid talking to fellow passengers.  On Day 1 , Metro riders chatted enthusiastically for their entire trips, striking up conversations with strangers.

Boosting businesses. If you walked around downtown Phoenix on Saturday, you saw something unusual: people.  Thanks to light rail, bars and restaurants that are nearly empty on many weekends were buzzing with people.

Good behavior. Inviting 90,000 people to a party that takes place over 20 miles can be a logistical nightmare.  The good news for event planners was that Valley residents largely behaved themselves, waiting to board trains without pushing or shoving when trains rolled into the stations.  No arrests were reported by Saturday evening, leaving the dozens of police along the line to chat amiably with riders.

Long waits greet riders along metro Phoenix light rail stops


People lined up at Central & Roosevelt stop (Photo: Jack Kurtz, The Arizona Republic)

[Source: Glen Creno and John Faherty, Arizona Republic] — The trains left the station right on time.  After more than a decade of planning, and $1.4 billion in spending, the Valley’s light rail system finally became a reality Saturday morning.  One train left from a station in Mesa while another departed from downtown Phoenix at precisely 10 a.m.

Riders clapped and cheered as the crowded trains departed.  Many sat transfixed looking out the windows.  On the first east-bound train, people cheered again as the cars crossed over Tempe Town Lake.  Lines started forming for the trains about one hour before the launch and didn’t let up through the morning or into the early afternoon.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]