Daily Archives: February 21, 2010

ASU researcher outlines strategies to curb urban heat island (downtown Phoenix cited)

[Source: EurekaAlert] — Protect yourself from the summer sun is good advice to children who want to play outside on a hot summer day and it is good advice to cities as a way to mitigate the phenomenon known as urban heat island.  For children, a hat, long sleeves and sun block provide protection.  For cities, it might be canopies, additives to construction materials and smarter use of landscaping that helps protect it from the sun, said Harvey Bryan, an ASU professor of architecture.  Bryan presented several possible strategies a city could use to help it fight urban heat island (UHI) in a presentation he made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in San Diego, Feb. 18 – 22.  Bryan’s presentation, “Digital Simulations and Zoning Codes: To Mitigate Urban Heat Island,” was presented on Feb. 21 in a session on Urban Design and Energy Demand: Transforming Cities for an Eco-Energy Future.

Urban heat island is a phenomenon experienced by large cities, especially those located in desert areas, where the constant heat of the day is absorbed by the buildings, pavement and concrete.  The result is a rise in nighttime low temperature for a city’s core from the stored heat of the day.  The higher nighttime temperatures mean more cooling is required for residents’ comfort, resulting in increased power demand and potentially more greenhouse gases emitted.  Phoenix, where summer nighttime temperatures often do not go below 90 F, is a classic example of the UHI, Bryan said.

Citing work he participated in about a year ago – with Daniel Hoffman, an ASU professor of architecture and Akram Rosheidat, an ASU doctoral student – which focused on ways of improving pedestrian comfort in downtown Phoenix, Bryan outlined several methods a city can employ that will help alleviate the UHI.  Shade, not surprisingly, is one of the prime tools.  “Canopies to shade streets and sidewalks keep the concrete and asphalt cooler,” Bryan explained.  “Interestingly, sidewalks in downtown Phoenix during the early 1900s were canopied.”

Bryan said another key aspect is being smart on material choices for the canopies.  “In addition to shading devices, color and thermal properties are also important considerations,” Bryan said.  “Lighter colors are best for any surface in the Valley. You also have to consider the heat capacity of the materials – denser material will absorb heat during the day and are slow at re-emitting at night.”

In areas that cannot be canopied, Bryan said material additives use could play an important role.  Phoenix, for example, has a large number of parking lots and streets that constantly absorb daytime heat. “Introducing additives, like crumb rubber to asphalt and concrete, are ways of reducing heat capacity at the surface and making for a better nighttime profile,” he said.  “The important part is to look at materials performance more than just during the daytime.  We need a 24-hour profile to see how materials absorb heat during the day and how they emit it during the evening.  We then look for materials that are reflective during the day and highly emitting during the evening.”

All of this points to modeling as an important tool in mitigating UHI.   “It comes down to how we model the downtown and how we look at various scenarios with different materials using models that accurately simulate the radiative phenomena,” Bryan explained.  “Most cities have never used such powerful tools to find solutions to UHI.”

Proposed tax zones could benefit Phoenix Coyotes and Suns arenas

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — A measure put forward at the Arizona Legislature would allow the city of Glendale to create a special tax district to help the Phoenix Coyotes and Jobing.com Arena.  The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Phoenix, also could allow the city of Phoenix to establish a similar tax zone around US Airways Center downtown, where the Phoenix Suns play.

House Bill 2193 would allow Arizona cities to create special tax districts around enclosed, city-owned sports arenas.  Sales tax revenue collected within two miles of those venues would be earmarked for use by the arenas and for public infrastructure within their zones.  The cities also could issue bonds against the money to finance projects and the sports complexes’ operations.

Weiers said earlier this week the bill is aimed at helping the Coyotes hockey team stay in the Valley.  The Coyotes are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and have lost more than $300 million since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996.   The team currently is owned by the National Hockey League…

The bill would exclude University of Phoenix Stadium from a Glendale tax zone, Weiers said, because the measure limits the taxing districts to areas around enclosed arenas owned by Arizona cities.  That could allow a tax zone in downtown Phoenix, as US Airways Center is owned by the city of Phoenix.  But Chase Field and the Phoenix Convention Center would not be included in that tax zone.  [Note: Read the full article at Proposed tax zones could benefit Phoenix Coyotes and Suns arenas.]

City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The same week that Phoenix leaders imposed a 2 percent food tax to prevent layoffs and painful cuts to city services, City Council members agreed to spend $6 million to buy a vacant motel so Arizona State University can expand its downtown campus.  The city plans to buy the old Ramada Inn at 401 N. First Street with $5 million left over from a 2006 city bond that was enacted largely to help construct ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus, plus roughly $1.3 million from the city-owned Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel’s capital improvement fund.

The city and the motel property’s owner, Phoenix-based City Centre LLC, have not finalized the sale but hope to before it is due to be sold at a foreclosure auction on March 2.  The city has been eying the property for years but was put off by the price, which was once as high as $30 million.  Now, it wants to buy the property before it goes to auction, where it may lose it to another buyer.  Records show City Centre owes its lender $5.2 million.  Until ASU officials decide what to do with the site, Phoenix plans to raze the motel and build an overflow parking lot with up to 250 spaces for the Sheraton.

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved the deal Feb 3. The city-controlled hotel board approved the transaction on Friday.  “I felt this was a good purchase for the city at this time,” said Councilman Bill Gates.  “The city could acquire property important to downtown and important to the ASU campus.”  But a taxpayer advocacy group said the city should at the very least use the extra money to pay off debt already incurred for the campus.   Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association, said the hotel purchase also highlights government tactics to spend money on projects not specifically approved by voters.

Buying the Ramada Inn was not specified in the spending plan detailed on the city’s Web site and to the media in the days leading up to the bond vote, city officials acknowledge.  But it was part of early plans for the campus, city officials said.  The vote gave the city permission to borrow $220 million to build various ASU facilities.  The city sells bonds to raise money, which it pays off with property taxes. But the taxpayer group concedes the city’s deal still is legal because the property fits within ballot language for long-term plans for the campus.  [Note: Read the full article at City agrees to buy/raze downtown Phoenix Ramada Inn for ASU expansion.]

Baseline Haiku: South Mountain Flower Garden

One of the last flower growers of Japanese descent on Baseline Road, where in the old days of Phoenix you could know it was spring by driving Baseline and seeing row upon row of flowers.  Development encroaches in the film; in reality it closed several years ago and soon will be housed over.

Viewpoint: The urban future isn’t all about population booms

[Source: Froma Harrop, Providence Journal] — Sunbelt-and-sprawl advocate Joel Kotkin wrote two years ago that the future of American urbanism wasn’t in the “elite cities,” such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but in “younger, more affordable and less self-regarding places.”  He named (his order) Houston, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas and Riverside, Calif.

Boom-city boosters like Kotkin play a numbers game, where the place with the biggest population explosion wins.  This is also a kind of Blue America-versus-Red America urbanology, which includes an element of liberal-bashing: Any place that refuses to be steamrolled by developers is called “elite.”

In the aftermath of the real-estate bust, areas overly dependent on building houses, selling houses and financing houses are in the worst shape.  Economies need non-bubble jobs.  Unemployment rates in the recent hyper-growth centers, Riverside and Las Vegas, are now well above those in the aforementioned “elite cities.”  And Boston’s 9 percent unemployment is only a point above that of the more economically diverse Sunbelt powerhouses: Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix.

There’s little point in pitting cities, regions and states against one another.  This is a big country.  One can like San Francisco for some things and Las Vegas for others.  By the way, what gave anyone the idea that Houston, Dallas and Phoenix are not “self-regarding”?  They are, as well they should be.  [Note: Read the full article at The urban future isn’t all about population booms.]