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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



                    Provide feedback on how Phoenix addresses blight & zoning violations

                    The City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department is reviewing the code compliance process used to address blight and zoning violations to assure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.   The review process stems from direction provided by the Housing and Neighborhoods Council Subcommittee.  For more information or to request a form to provide feedback, contact Meryl Lawrence at 602-534-3607.

                    Phoenix seeks public input on Downtown Code

                    [Source: City of Phoenix] — The city of Phoenix Planning Department is seeking input on the city’s proposed Downtown Code.  The Downtown Code, which is part of the Phoenix Zoning Ordinance, addresses design that impacts the public by establishing standards and guidelines that will allow projects to develop over time.  It does not dictate architectural style.  The code will be presented at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3 at Phoenix City Council Formal Meeting, Phoenix City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St.

                    The remapping of the area to change the zoning to the proposed Character Areas will follow in March 2010.

                    The Downtown Code implements the vision, goals, and policies of the Downtown Phoenix Plan and establishes the physical environment to create a pedestrian-oriented center.  The code applies to all land uses, subdivisions, and development within the area generally bounded by McDowell Road, Seventh Street, Buckeye Road, and Seventh Avenue.  The code can be downloaded here.

                    Comments can be submitted by contacting Planning Manager Carol Johnson at 602-261-8289 or by sending an e-mail.

                    Paul Barnes, longtime Phoenix neighborhood advocate, retires

                    After 20 years of advocating for the preservation of established neighborhoods and responsible development, Paul Barnes of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix is retiring.  His goal: to spend more quality time with his wife and family… and maybe do a little fishing.

                    In his July 10, 2009 letter announcing his retirement, Barnes didn’t shy away from expressing his opinion on City of Phoenix personalities and policies.  Barnes wrote it was regrettable that “during recent years both some elected officials and the leadership of the Planning Department frequently have taken the position that any development is responsible development.”  He further noted that “planning for preservation of established neighborhoods has largely given way to supporting rezonings that can be harmful to them, while existing area plans are ignored and the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance are made more permissive through text amendments and special overlays.”

                    His advice to friends and associates: “Continue to step up to the plate to wage the good fight by encouraging your neighborhoods to stay organized and engaged.  Hold your elected officials’ feet to the fire.  Developers and other special interests may supply campaign funds but you supply the votes.  If you do these things, sometimes you will still lose, but if you don’t, you will never win.”

                    He closed his letter by stating the good times far outnumbered the bad and that he’s met a great many wonderful people inside and outside of City Hall.  While his retirement is effective immediately, Barnes will complete his remaining July commitments.  After that, it’s off for some well-deserved fishing.

                    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

                    Midtown Phoenix neighborhood plans light rail events, worries about Alvarado & McDowell

                    [Source: Midtown Museum District Neighborhood Association] — The next meeting of the Midtown Museum District Neighborhood Association will be held on Wednesday, December 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, 2520 N. Central Ave.  Click here for the agenda.

                    Association leaders encourage public feedback at a Zoning Adjustment Hearing for property at the northeast corner of Alvarado and McDowell Road.  This meeting will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday December 16, City Hall, 200 W. Washington Street, Assembly Room C.  If you would like to make any comments and/or find out more about the proposals, contact Adrian Williamson 602-265-0094 at Earl, Curley & Lagarde or the City of Phoenix Planning Department 602-262-7131.  The City of Phoenix has more information on its website.

                    The Association is holding a Grand Stuffing Party for information bags that will be distributed at the Light Rail opening event.  The Party will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 13 at the Arizona Department of Education building on Central and Palm Lane.

                    You are encouraged to attend one of the three Light Rail Stations for the mega Light Rail Party on Saturday, December 27.  The Association will have a booth at Central and Encanto (Heard Museum) and will distribute the information bags telling people about all the great things in the neighborhood.  If you can volunteer, please send an e-mail.

                    Taller project too damaging, north Phoenix neighbors say

                    The North Central Phoenix Neighborhood Association seeks support from interested Phoenix residents in opposing zoning application, #Z-33-08, that would allow the erection of three 400-foot towers near the southwest corner of Central Ave. and Camelback Rd.  The group is not against development and, in fact, supported the original height of 250 feet approved by the Phoenix City Council in 2006.

                    According to association members, the new plan is ill-considered and neighborhood-damaging.  Infrastructure, sewer, water, and street would be severely strained by these immense structures.  The additional traffic generated would overrun area neighborhoods that are already impacted by cut-through traffic.  Such out-scale zoning might be cited as precedent for additional mid/hi-rise intrusion.  To review, download, sign, and mail the group’s petition, click here.

                    Downtown Voices statement on redesigned ASU College of Nursing

                    Downtown Voices Coalition has been involved in the ASU College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation variance issue since the first hearing in January 2008.  The Coalition, its steering committee, and the organizations it represents can now lend support for the requested variances based on improvements made to the building’s exterior and movement towards subscribing to Urban Form Project design guidelines.

                    The Coalition hopes that a public art element can be incorporated into the design of the exterior, although we understand the issue of “add-on” art.  Further, the Coalition hopes that the City of Phoenix and ASU will seek citizen and stakeholder comment in the early stages of projects to garner public support and acceptance and improve the eventual outcome.

                    Steve Weiss, Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition

                    Downtown Voices statement on ASU College of Nursing design

                    Frank Dolasinski
                    Zoning Administrator
                    City of Phoenix
                    200 W. Washington St.
                    Phoenix, AZ 85003

                    Dear Mr. Dolasinski:

                    The Downtown Voices Coalition had representation at the variance hearing on January 10 regarding the ASU School of Nursing, ZA-997-07.  However, we did not learn about the hearing, and the variances being requested, until the morning of the meeting.  We are in the process of scheduling a meeting with the architect and ASU regarding some of our concerns.

                    Because this project was described as the “gateway” to the campus by the architectural team, and is a key component of the campus and informs how it will connect with the rest of downtown, we would like to see some changes to the current request for variances.

                    As you are aware, the current Urban Form Project, which is steadily making its way through the city approval process, is geared toward making downtown more pedestrian friendly with an emphasis on shade, connectivity, pedestrian-oriented features, and other “green,” sustainable features.  The Urban Form directive is intended to fix some of the design problems that have hurt the walkability of our downtown, some of which have resulted from developers and architects being able to repeatedly vary out of important shade, window and other pedestrian friendly features.

                    The ZA-997-07 variances being requested are based on current city standards; it’s interesting to note that the city will eventually be requesting more stringent requirements through the Urban Form recommendations (for instance, 60 percent window coverage instead of the currently required 30 percent).

                    Since this project is publicly funded, and ASU’s stated goal is to promote “green” building practices, we think this building presents an opportunity to set an example, for not only other construction downtown, but to other builders and architects who might be hired for future campus buildings.  The Connected Oasis is an important component of the Urban Form plan, and without adequate shade and shade structures to act as connectors between important destinations, the Connected Oasis concept will be severely compromised.  We would like to see the following in regard to the variances being currently requested:

                    There should be a major entryway at the corner of Fillmore and 3rd Street, not only creating a gateway to the campus but connectivity to the surrounding non-campus businesses, thoroughfares, and the rest of downtown.  Where the staircase is shown today on the 3rd Street side, the rather hidden entry could create some real security and safety concerns for students.  By locating a major entryway at the corner, you can create a hub of activity that energizes this side of the building and creates the “gateway” ASU states is their goal with this building.  There might also be an opportunity to create a breezeway that connects the interior courtyard with the Fillmore side of the building, helping to break up the mega-block feel of that street face.

                    We believe the currently required 30 percent window coverage on the 3rd Street face creates an opportunity for the building to be outward looking versus inward looking (and as a matter of fact would prefer to see coverage that reflects the 60 percent the Urban Form is proposing).  The 3rd Street side of the building, without adequate window coverage (or perhaps an inset area for a mural, recessed info boxes, or other visual opportunities) will create a bleak stretch of wall that will add to security concerns. More features along this wall would help to activate the street on this side.  As examples, this could be an opportunity for built-in informational kiosks to help promote downtown events to the student population, or create an opportunity for a mural designed and implemented by ASU fine art majors.  We would like to see these features in addition to the currently required window coverage.

                    There is not adequate shade along 3rd Street — we would like to see more trees planted along this stretch if indeed the overhang is going to be reduced.  Also, there is no shade at the corner of 3rd and Fillmore.  Because there is a bus stop located at that corner, we would like to see some kind of free standing shade structure for the bus stop area.

                    Thanks you for your consideration of our concerns before making your determination on these variances.

                    Best Regards,

                    Steve Weiss, Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition