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Friday, March 24, 2017

Time for Residents to Fight Again

There are few things more fascinating than watching a community wake up to the encroachment of detrimental-for-profit-only

development. In Turkey “Plans to remove Gezi Park, the last significant green space in the center of Istanbul, and

replace it with a shopping mall have energized protesters. Mr. Erdogan’s government has proceeded with disputed urban

development plans with little public input” (New York Times). The protests in Turkey have involved hundreds of thousands of

citizens, and have turned into bloody riots. Some analysts have remarked that it isn’t just about preserving a park, but it is about having that park

taken from the people of Istanbul without due process and just so some people can make money at the expense of some other people’s lifestyle.

Although we have never had bloody riots, this same kind of usurping has been a constant battle here in the Southside at least since I

have been here (1977). Leaders in this part of town have fought to keep this Village from being overrun with shoddy apartments, substandard

housing and commercial encroachment in many ways. First, they thought if they just kept creating a good village we would get quality

development: Alvord Park (later Cesar Chavez Park), Jesse Owens Medical Center, South Mountain Community College, road improvements

and bridges over the River (to name a few). Next, the leaders tried to take on the image: they worked with the police, grandmas,

and politicians to help clean up some of our distressed neighborhoods. They fought with the media: constant calls to the Arizona Republic,

TV and radio. They held symposiums and organized bus rides. The third effort proved to be the most successful and should have been

the most obvious. The leaders realized that most builders and developers didn’t really care, or, perhaps, understand what a great community was.

They could have found the Holy Grail at the base of South Mountain, and that wouldn’t have created one more roof top: the daily paper

would have called it drug paraphernalia from the Middle East and the television news would have confirmed the find, live at 5:00. So, the

conclusion was, this battle wasn’t about what

people wanted, it was about what developers

wanted: money! That is why they wanted to

build substandard housing in the first place.

What this group of leaders figured out was that

they needed a way to bribe (I suppose I should

say “incentivize”) builders to build quality

homes in the Southside.

They had the support of the creative folks

within the city. But they needed a political

leader, and they found him in Cody Williams,

the best salesman the Southside could ever

hope for. And he sold and sold and sold …

The next step was to get the city to offer

incentives to builders. With a little work, some

support from other council people, lots of

public support, luck and prayer, Cody was able

to extend the original notion of “infill” from lots

to communities. The City of Phoenix Infill Program

was born. Quality development arrived

and hopefully is here to stay.

But now, the Southside is looking at the

reverse problem: how do we get developers

to respect our historic and unique neighborhoods?

Our current leaders need to be as

creative and persistent as our leaders were

a decade or two ago. When a developer like

Trammel Crow Co. can come into our community

and suggest that they be allowed to

build big box commercial on 24 acres (zoned

residential and designated for residential in

the General Plan) in one our most unique

neighborhoods, it is a travesty. They should be

embarrassed for suggesting it and Univision

should be ashamed for allowing this project to

get this far.

We are not Istanbul; but the residents of the

South Mountain Village will

not be abused quietly. We

are ready to fight again. SMDN

For more information, contact

Greg Brownell at 602-290-

3300 or brownell@cox.net

 

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