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Phoenix debates land use near light-rail stations

Camelback/Central LR station public artThe City of Phoenix is holding a forum to get citizen input on land use planning near light rail stations. For the Camelback/Central Ave light rail station, the forum is being held at the Days Inn at 502 W Camelback Rd on Thursday at 6:30pm.

State law requires cities, towns, and counties to update their general plan every 10 years and this is the first revision of Phoenix’s general plan after the development of METRO light rail.

Phoenix is amending the city’s general plan for land-use planning near light-rail stations and is asking residents for input.

A public meeting to discuss the station at Central Avenue and Camelback Road is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Days Inn, 502 W. Camelback Road.

The general plan is a blueprint that outlines land-use and policy guidelines on how the city should grow and redevelop for decades into the future.

State law requires cities, towns and counties to update the plan every 10 years but legislation the state passed last year extended the deadline to 2015 to give budget-constricted local governments short on planning staff more time to update their general plans.

Attendees will discuss a general range of appropriate building heights for future real-estate redevelopment.

By having stakeholders identify what they want to preserve, promote and will accept in advance, the general plan can better guide future real-estate development.

The meetings are not about property ownership, existing zoning or uses, city officials have said.

Properties along the light-rail route are in a transit-overlay district, which means less space is dedicated for parking due to the proximity to the train.

Read more here.

If you go, the nearest light rail station is 7th Ave/Camelback Road (Melrose District). For more information, call 602.256.5648.

Myths associated with applications covering the Camel Square Site on northwest corner of 44th St. & Camelback

DVC (by unanimous vote with one vote abstaining) voted December 13, 2010 to issue a statement supporting the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix position below, stating that this removal of stipulations will set a precedent for going against the wishes of a specific neighborhood, but goes against the goals inherent in ANY neighborhood, i.e. property values, quality of life, view corridor. Mediation and transparency is the key to successful development.



[Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix]

Please read these myths prior to attending the 12/15/10 5:00 pm City Council Meeting.

Myth: The abutting neighbors are NIMBYs who are opposed to all redevelopment of the corner.

    Fact: The abutting neighbors are not opposed to redevelopment with height and density that exceeds those currently existing. Several times they have made requests for legitimate mediation, but these requests have been rebuked by out of State owners.

    Myth: The 44th Street and Camelback Road Study Group put together by the District 6 Councilman is the best body to mediate redevelopment parameters between the abutting neighbors and the owners.

      Fact: This 19-member study group, including the councilman, was hand-picked to insure a satisfactory result for the owners/developer.  It is not representative of the abutting residents.

      Myth: Per the Planning Hearing Officer, “The proposed project will be developed in conformance with the current C-O/M-O development standards.”

        Fact: There is no proposed project.  Throughout the study group discussions and other venues, the owners made it clear that they wanted the present stipulations removed so that before they go through rezoning at some point in time that they would at least have a developable commercial office site.  At the second meeting of the Camelback Road Study Group, the applicant mentioned possible future heights of 75’ and 84’ as opposed to the C-O/M-O height of 56’.  One of the Planning Commissioners called the applications to remove the stipulations a “rope-a-dope”.  The applications are gross speculation.  They achieve a substantial increase in entitlements for the owners by decreasing the quality of life for the abutting neighbors.

        Myth: The proposed project will provide opportunities for employment.

          Fact: There is NO proposed project. No project/development; therefore, no employment. It should be noted that the Planning Commission added a period of 5 years from approval to remove current stipulations before any building permits need to be pulled.

          Myth: Development of the corner in accordance with current C-O/M-O development standards would not be out of character with the surrounding zoning as indicated by the London Building.

            Fact: The London Center is located at the SW corner of 44th Street and Camelback.  At time of construction it was called Camel Point.  It is zoned C-2.  It was built prior to the C-2 District design specifications in June 1988 limiting height to 30’ unless changed by the City Council.  Paragraph 3.9.2 on page 28 of the January 1991 44th Street Corridor Specific Plan states as follows regarding the London building:

            “The intersection of 44th Street and Camelback Road is a major east/west traffic intersection.  It has a strong regional identity with exceptional views of Camelback Mountain.  The commercial and retail uses are a compatible transition to the adjacent neighborhoods with the exception of Camel Point, the office building on the southwest corner, which does not transition well in scale with the development around it.”

            Myth: Owners need 56’ in height on the C-O site at the 44th Street and Camelback Road intersection to compete with the other C-O properties along Camelback Road

              Fact: A study was made of the 20 C-O properties along Camelback Road.  None of them are 56’ in height.  Most of them are 2 and 3 stories.  The highest is at 3900 East Camelback.  This is a new building limited in height to 40’ at the peak.  Tables from this study were previously provided to the Mayor and each of the City Council members.

              Myth: That after the stipulations have been removed, the required conceptual site plan review by a Planning Hearing Officer will protect the abutting neighbors and give them the right of appeal.

                Fact: Once the present stipulations have been removed as being sought by the out of state owners, the abutting neighbors are stuck with the 56’ height, setbacks and density reflected in the proposed replacement stipulations.  Furthermore, the PHO review is only of a conceptual site plan.  This is a poor substitute for the specific site plans that currently define the subject site.  Furthermore, the pertinent stipulation goes on to state “specific development standards and requirements will be determined by the Planning and Development Services Department.”  This part of the stipulation concerns specific site plan approval and review from which the abutting neighbors have no right of appeal.  Only the owners do.  It is at this stage of the process where the “Rubber Really Meets The Road.”

                Myth: The abutting neighbors have rejected 36 different plans submitted for redevelopment of the site by the owners.

                  Fact:    This assertion has been made at the PHO and Planning Commission hearings by flashing “plans” in a video with the word “rejected” written across the front.  Most were of the same “plan” from different views.  They were of overheight structures.  The pretty “plans” were used primarily for the benefit of the Media and the Real Estate industry.  Many were never presented to anyone in the public.  As previously stated, the abutting neighbors want to see the subject site redeveloped.  They should not be maligned for not accepting redevelopment that while maximizing the profits for the owners would result in a serious negative impact on their quality of life.

                  Myth: Building at the subject site to the C-O/M-O standards once the present stipulations are removed, gives greater protection to abutting neighbors than building to the 1986 C-O standards would.

                    Fact:    This argument is a SWITCHEROO advanced to gloss over the real issue.  The Site plans approved by Phoenix to which the buildings on the subject site are currently constructed show a setback on the west side of the site of 160’ before a 16’ building is established.  The reduction of this setback to 20’ as proposed by the owners will totally obliterate the views of Camelback Mountain for the abutting neighbors and transfer them to the owners and their new buildings.  This is simply not equitable.  The abutting neighbors are willing to see the 160’ setback reduced.  Fixing the setback is one of the items that should be resolved in the mediation requested by the abutting neighbors.

                    B.   Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix

                    WHAT YOU CAN DO

                    • Attend the Wednesday, 12/15/10 City Council meeting at 5:00 pm.  For those not catching a bus, parking is available in the City garage across the street from the Chambers.  Please try and get to the City Council Chambers at 200 W. Jefferson at 4:30 pm to sign in and insure seating.  We have asked the Mayor to put our item first on the agenda, so it won’t be a long evening.
                    • Pass this post on to all of your friends and ask them to attend the 12/15/10 City Council hearing, as well as take the action per the next bullet point.
                    • Send emails and/or make phone calls to the Mayor and City Councilmembers asking them to vote NO on removal of the present stipulations from the Camel Square site on NWC of 44th Street and Camelback on 12/15/10.  Addresses and telephone numbers areas follows:

                    Phil Gordon – 602-262-7111

                    Thelda Williams 262-7444

                    Peggy Neely 262-7445

                    Bill Gates 262-7441

                    Tom Simplot 262-7447

                    Claude Mattox 262-7446

                    Sal DiCiccio 262-7491

                    Michael Nowakowski 262-7492

                    Michael Johnson 262-7493



                    Anti-SB1070 billboard added near downtown Phoenix

                    [Source: Michael Ferraresi on Azcentral’s PhxBeat Blog]

                    The billboard at Camelback Road and Third Street gets right to the point with a racial-profiling message.

                    Latino-rights leaders at Brave New Foundation paid for the outdoor advertisement through donations to the Facebook page of Cuentame—an online immigration forum organized by Brave New Foundation, which has fostered anti-SB1070 conversation.

                    The Phoenix billboard cautions, “Have your papers ready — Racial profiling just ahead.”

                    It should be visible to the public for the next few weeks, according to Brave New Foundation communications director Martha de Hoyos. The organization selected the intersection to target tourists, in addition to locals, she said.

                    Cuentame members selected the slogan over two other options based on an online vote, De Hoyos said.

                    Earlier this year, Brave New Foundation—based in Culver City, Calif.—posted a three-minute Facebook video interview with a Phoenix police officer who admitted that SB1070 would make him feel like a Nazi enforcer on the streets.

                    Officer Paul Dobson was placed under internal investigationafter the video helped draw added attention to the website. He is expected to face some type of minor discipline, such as a verbal reprimand, according to Phoenix police.

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                    Viewpoint: Does downtown Phoenix not want business?

                    [Source: Life in Downtown Phoenix blog] — If downtown Phoenix is to emerge as a premier national downtown, it needs to do things better than other places.  And if Fiancee-of-Downtown-resident and my experience is any indication, downtown still has a ways to go in some respects. 

                    Fiancee-of-Downtown-resident and I are smack dab in the middle of wedding planning (which also helps explain the lack of attention I’ve given the blog).  Being downtown boosters and all, we really liked the idea of having our reception somewhere around downtown.  We contacted two city-run downtown facilities, both of which advertise in wedding publications as sites to hold receptions.  We absolutely loved one of them, an historic building that could have been the site for a unique and unforgettable wedding reception and possibly ceremony.  We toured the place, met with the relevant city representatives, and were probably going to book the event until… they stopped calling us back.

                    Seriously?  In this economy?  A city starving for revenue is too busy to call a customer back?  (A customer willing to spend several thousand dollars, no less.)

                    Our experience at the other downtown facility was not much different.  We called the wedding coordinator there and this time we did receive a response… about eight weeks later.  By that time we had already moved on to plan B.  We love the spot we picked in the Camelback Corridor, but it’s tough thinking about what could have been downtown

                    Infrastructure not keeping up with growth, Phoenix officials say

                    [Source: “Should you pay more to fix Valley’s pipe problems?,” Christina Boomer, Channel 15 News] — There has been a record-setting submission of development proposals to the City of Phoenix to build in and around Downtown.  Developers are targeting older, single-family neighborhoods.  Assistant Director of Phoenix’s Water Services, Ray Quay, says, “There’s a lot of excitement and people very interested in the urban life.  So we’re seeing a lot more development proposals in the inner city area, the more urbanized portions of the city.”

                    Quay adds what he thinks is fueling the building craze in those areas, “We’ve heard about the Generation X wanting the urban life.  Phoenix is changing; it’s maturing, a lot of things going on in the downtown area.  We have the rail line going in and that’s quite exciting, ASU coming to downtown has sparked a lot of interest, the new Convention Center is going to be huge and that’s sparked a lot of activity.”

                    But there is a big, costly, item standing in the way of many of those proposals, aging water and sewer pipes.  Quay says, “We want to be sure that the infrastructure is in place for them to build where they want to build.  I mean that’s the key thing, infrastructure is part of safety.  We need to have adequate water supply to provide fire protection of these buildings and meet the domestic needs of these buildings.  We also need to provide sewer service with out having sanitary sewer overflows.  And so we want to be sure that in the areas that people want to build there’s adequate infrastructure to allow them to do that.”

                    Quay says one of the reasons why the infrastructure is not adequate is that the lines were built decades ago to support single-family homes.  They did not anticipate back then that there would be interest later in creating larger multi-level development projects such as a condominium tower.  “Predicting urban development is something we’ve never been really good at,” said Quay.  “No city is good at predicting urban development.  The infrastructure that was put in 50 years ago just was not sized because 50 years ago people really didn’t anticipate that that kind of development was going to occur there.  A lot of this new development is happening in areas where the infrastructure really was not designed to handle the higher-densities going on and in those areas infrastructure is needed.  If that development is realized in those places some significant infrastructure are going to have to be made at those locations.  It’s the places around town that we consider are becoming urbanized, 24th Street and Camelback, 44th Street and Camelback, Central and Camelback, Downtown.  Generally it’s those areas that are really becoming more urbanized over time.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

                    Central/Camelback developer has month to convince neighbors

                    [Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — A Phoenix developer has another month to persuade neighbors that his plans for 400-foot buildings at Central Avenue and Camelback Road are sound.  Reid Butler received a continuance for the project.  It will come up for the third time before a subcommittee of the Alhambra Village Planning Committee on June 17, and to the full planning committee a week later.

                    Planner Marc Thornton said neighborhood groups around the vacant site “have expressed concerns rather than support” for the project, which includes some of the tallest buildings in the city.  Butler’s proposed development would go up on the southwestern side of what village planner Thornton calls “a signature corner.”  The city’s light-rail line cuts across the site, and three buildings would be erected on the northern side of the rail line.

                    Plans call for 1,000 residential units, 300 hotel rooms, and retail and office space designed to tie in to the city’s transit system.  The site was approved for a height of 250 feet two years ago, and Thornton said the planning department tends to think 250 feet would be appropriate for the area.