Blog Archives

Downtown Voices statement on La Luz del Mundo Church zoning variances

Zoning Administrator
City of Phoenix Planning Department
200 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ  85003

Dear Sir/Madam:

The following letter is in reference to two zoning cases (ZA-727-08-7 and ZA-728-08-7) that are scheduled to be heard on January 22, 2009.

The Downtown Voices Coalition (DVC) was incorporated in 2004 to advocate for a sustainable Phoenix with, among its goals, the preservation of historic properties.  With this in mind, the organization’s steering committee voted unanimously at its January meeting to support the variances that have been requested by the La Luz del Mundo Church, 1206 N. Laurel Ave., as they relate to the preservation of their present-day church here in Phoenix.

Originally the church leadership, in order to have enough parking for the construction of a new and larger church at the same address, decided to tear down the original church on their property — a building constructed in 1934 which, today, is the largest adobe church in the State of Arizona. However, in a recent development the church has decided to save the original building.  In order to replace parking that would have been available on the site of the old church, La Luz del Mundo has agreed to move their new church closer to Grand Avenue and to request parking variances for the project.  

Because of the importance to the preservation of the historic church, the Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee voted to support the two variances requested by La Luz del Mundo.  We request that these variances be granted at your January 22, 2009 hearing.

Sincerely yours,

Steve Weiss, Chair Steering Committee, Downtown Voices Coalition

WSJ says housing push for Hispanics spawns wave of foreclosures; Phoenix ranked 9th

[Source: Susan Schmidt and Maurice Tamman, Wall Street Journal] — California Rep. Joe Baca has long pushed legislation he said would “open the doors to the American Dream” for first-time home buyers in his largely Hispanic district.  For many of them, those doors have slammed shut, quickly and painfully.  Mortgage lenders flooded Mr. Baca’s San Bernardino, Calif., district with loans that often didn’t require down payments, solid credit ratings or documentation of employment.  Now, many of the Hispanics who became homeowners find themselves mired in the national housing mess.  Nearly 9,200 families in his district have lost their homes to foreclosure.

For years, immigrants to the U.S. have viewed buying a home as the ultimate benchmark of success.  Between 2000 and 2007, as the Hispanic population increased, Hispanic homeownership grew even faster, increasing by 47%, to 6.1 million from 4.1 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Over that same period, homeownership nationally grew by 8%.  In 2005 alone, mortgages to Hispanics jumped by 29%, with expensive nonprime mortgages soaring 169%, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.  An examination of that borrowing spree by The Wall Street Journal reveals that it wasn’t simply the mortgage market at work.  It was fueled by a campaign by low-income housing groups, Hispanic lawmakers, a congressional Hispanic housing initiative, mortgage lenders, and brokers, who all were pushing to increase homeownership among Latinos.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.  To see how different Congressional districts break down in terms of prime and nonprime home loans, click here.]

Book offers pictorial history of Mexicans in Phoenix

[Source: Beth Litwin, Arizona Republic] — Local author Frank Barrios (pictured at left) and the Phoenix Museum of History invite you to a dinner and book-signing event for his new pictorial history entitled “Mexicans in Phoenix.”  Barrios, a Phoenix native with family roots dating back to the 1800s, compiled 213 photos with captions highlighting the social, cultural and economic history of Mexicans in Phoenix.  “I often refer to the story of Mexican people in Phoenix as the untold story,” said Barrios, adding that the majority of the photos have never been displayed or published before.  The 127-page book features family history and Mexicans photos from the late 1800s through the 1970s.  Barrios gathered many of the photos and stories from interviews with members of pioneer Mexican families in Phoenix while working on the Hispanic Property Survey project last year.

He joined Phoenix Historic Preservation officers and other researchers working on the survey that identified Mexican American properties important to Phoenix’s history.  Barrios agreed to put together the book after the project’s completion.  Among many community involvements, Barrios serves as vice president of the Board of Directors at the Phoenix Museum of History, president of First Families of Arizona, and serves on the state board of the Arizona Historical Society.  For more information, visit the Phoenix Museum of History website.

New study reveals Latino market untapped opportunity for Phoenix arts & culture groups

[Source: Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture] — Comprising nearly a third of metropolitan Phoenix’s population, Latinos spent approximately $118 million on cultural activities during 2007-2008.  This estimated amount has potential to grow significantly, according to recently completed research by the Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture (MPAC).  Entitled “Arts, Culture, and the Latino Audience,” the study conducted by Behavior Research Center (BRC) reveals the vastly untapped potential of this burgeoning market and provides recommendations for local arts and culture organizations to increase Latino attendance.  It is the first in-depth study of Latino arts and culture participation in the Phoenix market and one of the few of any market nationwide.

Three generations of one family“Our research shows a definite interest within the Latino community in arts and culture events and attractions,” says MPAC President and CEO Myra Millinger.  “However, the regional cultural organizations have faced challenges in actually getting this market through the door.”  Research participants indicated about twice the amount of interest in cultural activities as actual attendance.  Although cost often factored into the decision, the participants were more likely to go to an event or attraction if it was perceived as having a casual, family-friendly atmosphere.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Garfield neighborhood feels impact of development boom

This Queen Anne style home, the Hidden House, was built in 1895.[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Downtown Phoenix’s development boom is shaking up the once close-knit Garfield neighborhood.  The area, bound by 7th and 16th streets and Van Buren Street and Interstate 10, is historically known as a tough Latino enclave with vintage bungalows, small businesses, and deep family roots.  But today, it’s surrounded by multimillion-dollar projects: Arizona State University’s downtown campus, the downtown medical school, and upscale condos.

Garfield residents, who have toiled for decades to fight crime and build affordable homes, worry those efforts could be swept away by student rentals, business traffic, and land speculators.  “It’s going to change,” said Garfield resident Alicia Ruiz, 45.  The veterinarian grew up in Garfield and lives near families she has known since she was 5.  “We want more people who own homes because homeowners care.  It will be interesting to see what happens.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Voices statement on Madison Square Garden

Dear Mayor Gordon:

Please find enclosed an information packet on the Madison Square Garden including our architect’s rendering showing the feasibility of incorporating the Garden into existing plans.

Downtown Voices Coalition first became aware of the proposed demolition of the Garden several weeks ago when re-zoning signs were posted at the site announcing upcoming hearings.  After attending a Central City Village Planning Committee meeting, where our concerns were voiced and agreed upon by the committee, we met several times with the project developer, Jule Dionne, to find a way for the Garden to be incorporated into existing plans.  We also met with Mr. Dionne’s architect, Bob Smith, and spoke with a General Services Administration (GSA) official to better understand any issues of flexibility about placing the proposed Social Security Administration (SSA) facility (the tenant occupying the majority of the Garden site).

We request that any re-zoning be delayed until the following issues are resolved.

The property has substantial social and cultural significance to the people of Phoenix.  We are confident that when the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office completes its Hispanic Historic Properties Survey, scheduled to begin this summer, the site will weigh in as one of the most culturally significant in our city.  The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is also now evaluating the property’s historic significance.

The developer has stated that the Garden can’t be incorporated into the current design because of strict GSA guidelines.  However, Section 106 and 110(k) of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and Executive Order 13006: “Locating in Historic Buildings in Central Cities” raises genuine concerns about demolishing this building for use by its intended tenant, the U.S. Social Security Administration.  Under Section 106, a property must be evaluated for historical and archaeological significance.  Under Section 110(k), if a building on the property is demolished before this formal evaluation takes place, GSA cannot be a party to a lease at the site because of the adverse effects of the demolition.  In addition, the GSA official indicated there is more flexibility with the building design than we were originally made aware of, allowing, in our opinion, room for the Garden to be incorporated into existing plans.

After reviewing the developer’s traffic study, we have genuine concerns about how this dense office park (with a small component of retail and residential) will impact the adjacent neighborhoods, both residential and commercial.  When the full project is completed, there will be over 7,000 new trips to the site each day, with the majority of traffic routed onto Adams St. on the project’s south side.  A serious bottleneck will be created at the corner of 7th Avenue, Grand Avenue, and Van Buren St.  The neighborhoods to the north, including the blossoming arts and retail district along Grand Avenue, will also be adversely affected.

In your most recent State of the City Address, you outlined a vision for an Opportunity Corridor, generally running east and west along the Rio Salado.  Why not, beginning at 7th Avenue to our State Capitol, between Jefferson and Van Buren, you and Governor Napolitano propose a Centennial Corridor of Arizona Culture and Civics (Centennial Corridor, for short)?  Consider the landmarks in this area — Grace Court School, Carnegie Library, Pioneer and Military Memorial Park, Arizona Hall of Fame Museum, Wesley Bolin Plaza, Arizona Mining and Minerals Museum, historic State Capitol, proposed Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building, all of our institutions of state government, and, yes, Madison Square Garden.  The entrance to this special corridor should be grand.  It should be more visually excellent and welcoming to residents, tourists, and office workers, during the day and evening, because the 24/7 city that you and our organization both envision simply cannot afford yet another “dead spot” after the work day has ended.

The “creative class” is here and now.  And we can do better — together.  Let’s encourage and work with the developer and architect to initiate the beginnings of our Centennial Corridor, incorporating the vintage Madison Square Garden into the design because of its cultural and social significance to so many Phoenicians and Arizonans past and present.  And on February 14, 2012, after the focused energy of all downtown players have spent the last seven years revitalizing and rehabilitating the area with infill residential, retail, entertainment, office, government, education, public art, and park spaces, we can point with pride back to this day.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Susan Copeland, Co-Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition