Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Spring Training in Laveen

As many people are aware, our friends in Tucson currently face a dire situation with regard to Spring Training. The White Sox have finalized their escape from the market, and now the remaining two teams, the D-Backs and Rockies, have expressed an interest in seeking greener pastures as well. They can freely leave, as per their contracts, as long as Tucson does not remain home to at least three separate teams - and now there are two.

The bright side to this story is that the teams are not looking outside of Arizona. Furthermore, they are even considering Laveen (as well as Scottsdale, Gila River Indian Reservation, and Casa Grande, among others). And not only are these two remaining Tucson teams possibly slated to relocate here, we are also courting teams from Florida! After all, why scuffle for a piece of the pie, when we can make the whole thing bigger and earn our share.

According to unidentified sources, Scottsdale and Casa Grande's public bids for the Diamondbacks are not likely to be successful. There is nothing yet to report about the Rockies, except that Laveen/Phoenix representatives have already approached them. And then there are rumors about bringing in a team known for its home run hitters from an east coast borough - but I can't say at this time who it is.

In any case, the outlook is bright for our ability to bring in some springtime entertainment. On our side, we have the city of Phoenix, ADOT (remember that freeway?), plenty of influential developers, and a great geographic location. Let's go for the home run!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Courting Desirable Retailers for Laveen

I don't think I shared this on my blog, but LA Fitness has committed to moving in at the Southwest corner of 51st Avenue and Baseline. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful convenience since Catherine and I always use the one at the Biltmore or in Tempe.

And I'm not only excited about having a place to work out nearby, but also all of the other retailers that would move in next to a national gym. Think about how much better a Hi-Health or GNC would perform next to one. Or how about a healthy fast food restaurant.......

Well, along those lines, I've been following up on the rumors of a Chipotle near Safeway. After sending an initial inquiry, I was contacted by Chipotle's representative (with the good name Patrick), who assured me that his real estate people would consider the location even though they hadn't yet thought about it. Here is my most recent response:


Thank you for your reply. For reference, the Safeway center is this one; here's a pdf for the Target shopping center, still in planning stages; and here's the LA Fitness shopping center. The Safeway center opened last month, where one of the spaces looks just like a Chipotle, which is why people started talking about one being planned. Next up will be the LA Fitness shopping center, across the street, which should begin construction soon - LA Fitness has already begun publicizing the location. Next up is the Super Target, which I understand has yet to sign the lease, but the project is still underway in the future. Being more of a regional center, they are awaiting the final word about freeway funding (Loop 202 South Mountain).

As you can see, I'm a very involved resident. As such, I will happily provide you with more information about Laveen if you so desire. I also have a blog, highlighting recent activities in the community. Please let me know if you need anything else - it would be great to have a Chipotle around the corner.


Patrick Brennan

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Turkey Trot and Dairy Air Dash

I may as well warn my readers: This one gets a little personal......

Bummer. According to the www.laveen.org website, the Turkey Trot and Dairy Air Dash are being held on Saturday, November 22nd. Unfortunately, this is the same day as the huge El Tour de Tucson century ride, which always takes place the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. And I am committed to always riding in El Tour, as it's a far more challenging event.

What happened to the "Turkey Trot" occurring on "Turkey Day?" I was really looking forward to registering this year, since last year Catherine and I weren't able to make it. And I thought the attendance was higher than expected last year, which seems like a relative success..... so, I guess I can guiltily hope that the attendance is LOWER this year.... but that just makes me seem disloyal to my community. You understand that I'm not, right? I'm just a tad selfish.

But I guess we all make choices. It reminds me of last year, when I chose to go to the UA/ASU basketball game in Tucson, rather than attend the Laveen BBQ. I'm still repenting over that one, although I can't help being a die hard Wildcat (with season tickets). Oh well, I will still encourage others to get involved - just like last year......

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Community Center in Laveen

It's official. Via word from our LCC President and Councilman Nowikowski's office, we have officially received funding for a regional community center. It will be located at Chavez park and will be under construction soon (within 5 years). More details will be forthcoming.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

We want our freeway!!!

So, it appears that the Loop 202 completion is threatened yet again - this time due to the state's budget shortfall. Based on the following article from the AZ Republic, however, it appears to be one of the best options for regional freeway planning.

And residents of Laveen should understand that the freeway is our ticket to economic growth. Not only will we finally get our major retailers (sigh), but it will also mean that a hospital will become that much more likely to enter the market. And who knows? There have been rumors that we could pick up a spring training complex, given our convenient location in regard to the other facilities in the west/central Phoenix areas. But without a freeway? I doubt it.

Oh, by the way, some people say they don't like the relatively short drive here. Perhaps a freeway would change their minds? Here's the article:

Freeway projects may be on chopping block

Several Southeast Valley transportation projects could be on the chopping block when Valley mayors begin the process next month of deciding how to cut at least $4.5 billion from the Valley's 20-year transportation plan.

The shortfall is largely due to lower-than-expected sales-tax revenues combined with growing project construction costs, and policy makers must decide whether to move ahead on the county's 20-year Regional Transportation Plan or modify planned freeway projects. Projects may not be cut altogether but could be scaled back.

Southeast Valley projects that are among 18 Valley-wide that could be cut, delayed or changed:

• Interstate 10 East, $811.4 million in carpool and general-purpose lanes, traffic interchanges and a mini stack.

• Loop 101 Price Freeway, $135.2 million in carpool and general-purpose lanes.

• Loop 202-Red Mountain Freeway, $607.8 million in carpool and general-purpose lanes, plus ramp work.

• Loop 202-Santan Freeway, $448.5 million in carpool and general-purpose lanes, plus traffic interchanges.

• Loop 202-South Mountain Freeway, $2.68 billion in new construction for 22 miles of freeway.

• U.S. 60 Superstition Freeway, $173.8 million in carpool lanes, traffic interchanges and related work.

Negotiations at the Maricopa Association of Governments likely will pit parochial interests against each other as mayors try to hammer out which projects are essential and which can be delayed.

Gilbert mayor Steve Berman, who also is chairman of MAG's Transportation Policy Committee, said he doesn't look forward to tackling the list.

"To be honest with you, when we did the original allocations a few years ago, it was the most brutal, miserable process in the world," Berman said. "Every single mayor in that room was elected to take care of their community, but we had to look at the whole picture."

Berman said he expects committee members to make one of three arguments:

• Projects such as the South Mountain Freeway were promised in the last voter-approved tax, Proposition 300, and should be built to meet that promise.

• Certain projects are more important because they would benefit the region as a whole.

• The amount cities receive for projects should be based on how much that city contributes to sales tax revenue.

Berman said he favors the third argument, although he also supports the notion of building projects already passed by voters. "We need to complete the projects that were promised back 20 years ago," he said.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, another committee member, said he will support projects that carry the biggest traffic loads, including fixing problems with the I-10.

"I will strongly advocate that the U.S. 60/I-10 interchange has to be improved because the Broadway Curve is the place where most of the congestion occurs," he said.

He also said he backs building the proposed Loop 202-South Mountain Freeway because it would relieve bottlenecks along Interstate 10 by giving motorists another way to commute from Ahwatukee to west Phoenix.

But Hallman said the MAG committee shouldn't evaluate the projects on a piecemeal basis.

"There has to be a fairly global examination of what our transportation needs are, first," he said.

Goodyear Mayor James Cavanaugh, past chairman and current member of the MAG committee, agreed that this is no time for horse trading for pet projects.

"We have to live by the word 'regional,'" Cavanaugh said. "As mayors, we have to think regionally."

Cavanaugh said the committee is awaiting updated revenue numbers, which have been falling with the worsening economy. He said many committee members agree work needs to continue on Loop 303 in the west Valley, which has been planned since 1985.

But he stopped short of making the same recommendation for the South Mountain Freeway. Rather than a full-blown freeway, the Arizona Department of Transportation should build a parkway with fewer lanes and fewer interchanges, he said.

He also suggested toll roads be considered as one solution to solving the financial crisis.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Speed Demons Beware

From what I witness daily on Baseline Rd, this will be relevant to many of you. (I can't begin to describe how many times I've been passed at high speeds by the little BMW 3-series or Lexus sedans.....)

Please note that the new ADOT speed cameras will probably affect us more than anyone. Some will say that this is a good thing, but I just want to make sure that Laveen's speed demon contingent doesn't get in trouble. So please spread the word. (Note that it is the lower I-17 loop, I-10 east of 51st, and 101 north - almost all the freeways that we would typically use to get in/out of our area).

The following closures are for DPS photo enforcement camera installation this weekend:

  • Northbound Loop 101 (Agua Fria Freeway) closed between Glendale and Northern avenues from 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday (Nov. 1). DETOUR: Traffic will exit at Glendale Avenue and take 91st or 99th avenues north to Northern Avenue.
  • Southbound 1-17 closed between the I-10 "Stack" and 24th Street from 10 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday (Nov. 1). DETOUR: I-17 traffic can detour on eastbound I-10 through the Deck Park Tunnel.
  • Eastbound I-10 closed between 59th and 19th avenues from 10 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 2). DETOUR: Traffic can detour south to Buckeye Road to 19th Avenue to reconnect with I-10.

For a complete listing of freeway and highway closures or restrictions across Arizona visit ADOT's Travel Information site at www.az511.gov or call 5-1-1.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The fight is not over

It looks like we're cutting it close on our petition drive for the apartments on 35th Avenue and Southern. However, based on several recent trade articles, including this one, we will probably have several more opportunities in the near future.

If developers and contractors must stay in business, they must therefore keep looking for "low-hanging fruit." This means that they will find inexpensive land, inexpensive labor, and inexpensive financing for their projects (or else find an opportunity in a downtown market with very high barriers to entry). The most likely projects that will qualify for all of the above are apartments in markets with reasonable rental demand. Where the demand is lacking for high-end apartments, such as in bedroom communities, they will have to look for the next best thing: assured income from Section 8 rentals.

This again highlights my point that the developer is simply being opportunistic in trying to build multifamily. Once more, I challenge the belief that we must sacrifice our community's integrity to provide short-term income for one developer. It isn't fair to the neighbors who bought into another plan for their community.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Apartments at 35th Avenue and Southern

More apartments??? Not again!!!!

Anyone who knows me well would understand that I tend to support vertical development in urban centers, and I tend to gravitate toward a lifestyle that works within that type of setting. But underlying those attitudes are a lot of other beliefs about what a city should be, and how the community's character is expressed and preserved through development.

Now it becomes more complex, as I have grown more and more prideful as an Arizona native, and moved into a wonderfully planned community in Laveen - not far from where I grew up. Again, for those who know me well, you would understand the painstaking research that I undertook before buying our house here. I looked up the Phoenix general plan, looked into future transportation plans, crime statistics, schools (present and planned), strict development guidelines, prospective commercial growth, nearby industry, barriers to sprawl, convenient outdoor activities, and overall convenience in location. What I found was all positive - Laveen actually promised to maintain its character through good planning for managed growth, and appeared to be better positioned than any other newly developing community.

Now it seems that the planning department is actively working against its own interests and ours, as they keep trying to rezone extremely low-density residential for apartments. Not only are the planners violating the implicit social contract with those of us who bought into the current plan, but they're jeopardizing their ability to someday take pride in how well this community was planned and developed. What's more surprising is that our elected city council representatives are supporting these rezoning proposals in direct opposition to the people they represent.

I've been active in helping to obtain signatures for the referendum drive this time around, and gotten into a few heated debates as a result. I was amazed at how many long-time Laveen residents have expressed grateful support for our efforts, despite the fact that the two community councils commissioned to represent their interests have failed to hear these concerns. Below is an email exchange that I shared with Phil Hertel and Steven Kline, both of the LCRD (I'm blue/green):

Justification for the 35th Ave apartment project...this in from the LCRD (Laveen Citizens for Responsible Development)...for more info, http://www.laveen.org/lcrd.html...
On Wednesday Sept 3, the Phoenix City Council unanimously approved the rezoning of the property directly South of the Wal-Mart Supercenter for apartments and two small commercial pads.

The city council vote was required due to the unanimous objection of nearby residential owners. All neighbors within 150 yards of the subject property were asked, and they opposed, as I understand. Like the Berkana case, this is yet another example of an unresponsive and non-representative council. Were you at the LCRD meeting? Although there were some in opposition at the outset of the meeting, I believe many of their concerns were addressed. This IS different from the Berkana piece. That was railroaded through with no community input or compromise.

I was not able to attend, as noted above, due to work. Again, what about the 150' rule, and the unanimous disagreement?

This was a very unusual and unique case for Laveen. For the very first time the Laveen Citizens for Responsible Development (LCRD) and the Laveen Village Planning Committee (LVPC) offered support for an apartment development in the heart of the community. This was a result of several meetings with the developers and intense negotiations. The project received approval after the applicant made numerous changes to the project to address the many issues that were raised during the process. They also agreed to a long list of stipulations further defining this project.

The previously approved use was low-density residential. The negotiated compromises still allowed the developer to rezone the property to the developer's speculative interests. Without making concessions, which are almost universally anticipated in real estate development, the developer would have failed in this pursuit. On all pre-existing assumptions, one would only be allowed to work within the previously planned and accepted zoning: low density residential. The developer has thus won, while nearby residents must sacrifice more than they already have. I would have loved for it to stay low-density. However, in that location, it would not have been viable. In fact, I really wish all of Laveen had stayed low-density.

How is it that this location was not viable for low density? The fact that we "had to" rezone for a Wal-Mart center? Please inform the residents of Laveen which other locations' present zoning is "not viable," or which rezoning decisions have resulted in a reconsideration of other uses. Is there a list of second-thoughts that we can all see? Otherwise, it appears that the current residents' factually based expectations were superseded by the speculations of a single developer.

This case was nothing like the Berkana case. As you may remember the Berkana case had no support from anyone in the community, It is in the wrong place surround by uses that do not compliment high density apartments. The applicant, former Mayor Paul Johnson, and his lawyer Jason Morris refused to work with the community, refused to compromise, and refused to participate in the process. Then Councilman Doug Lingner refused to listen to his constituents and in spite of opposition from every group involved, including the LCRD and LVPC, approved that case and then promptly left office.

Neither the council, the LCRD, nor the LVPC asked the immediate neighbors for their input, or else they chose to ignore it. Assuming the best of the LCRD and LVPC, this was likely an oversight on their part; and the Council based its decision on their mutual support. Additionally, all approving parties neglected to consider that the overwhelming support for the organized Berkana opposition was largely due to Laveen residents' expectations that our representative leadership would remain committed to low density development. The Southwest Growth Study restricts apartment development to several areas already zoned for up to 15 units per acre, but explicitly states that Laveen should maintain it low-density, agricultural character. This was the compromise previously made with Laveen's residents, and it appears that other parties would now prefer to renege on that agreement while our leadership was weak. Again, were you at the LCRD meeting? We sought community input throughout the process. The LCRD does not meet in secret. If people choose not to come, that is their decision. We encourage people to attend and voice their opinions. We did not ignore the neighbors. Laveen lost its low-density agricultural character when the first urban high density project was approved. We are trying to preserve what semblance we can. Putting apartments in proximity of the intense commercial is about the best we can make with the deck stacked against us by the City of Phoenix. We worked extensively with the developer to eliminate some density and to try to keep this as good as possible.

The current general plan allows for an upward limit to density that allows some preservation of Laveen's agricultural character. Moving toward even greater density than what has already been approved is the opposite of low-density preservation.

On the contrary, the 35th Ave case is in an area that makes sense. Being on a major North/South road, having mass transit opportunities, next to retail and employment, water, sewer, and the ability to carry the traffic already in place, and being right across the property line from Wal-Mart, one must ask "if they don't fit here, then where?"

Apartments were already zoned very thoughtfully near commercial and employment cores that were concurrently planned as complementary uses. The guiding document, the Southwest Growth Study, was written in accordance with the city of Phoenix's directive to "[outline] City policies that address neighborhoods, open space, transportation, economic vitality, sustainability and many other components of our city for the next 10 to 20 years or longer." Furthermore, "Because of shared space and common needs, a plan [was] needed that [represented] the best interest of everyone.... The goal is a balance of development and preservation so that all Phoenix residents enjoy a wonderful quality of life." (from http://phoenix.gov/planning/gpfaq.html) Although the Southwest Growth study is still referrred to and a guide, much of it was supplanted by the revised General Plan adopted in 2002.We fought hard to actually strengthen the SWGS, but had limited success. We can thank Doug Lingner in part for that.

Point taken. However, there is no need to give up.

Most residents of Laveen will readily acknowledge that public infrastructure is lacking, while the national housing crisis has threatened Laveen's economic vitality, and higher residential density will only exacerbate these problems. The location decision for inevitable apartment development was already made for the village cores, near Baseline and the future Loop 202 interchange, and near Chavez Park. If one looks at more mature communities in Phoenix, such as the Biltmore area, apartment development has been restricted to established major commercial corridors. The anomalous approval of a shopping center does not constitute a necessary shift from our planned development, nor does it constitute an employment center. 35th Avenue is a major traffic corridor. The commercial does provide some employment opportunities.

True, Wal-Mart does provide "some employment opportunities." According to a study commissioned by Wal-Mart in 2005, each store creates an average 97 new jobs in a local market (from "Studies Highlight Wal-Mart's Impact" By: Ellis, Kristi, SN: Supermarket News, 00395803, 11/14/2005, Vol. 53, Issue 46). The additional retail in the shopping center and others nearby adds to that number, although like Wal-Mart it is mostly entry level employment. However, these stores are open and currently staffed; Mervyn's is closing. Therefore, the roughly 70 employees from Mervyn's are now in need of employment. The addition of 275 apartments, and a greater number of potential workers, would again constitute a disservice to current Laveen residents. And again, 35th Avenue may be planned as a major traffic corridor, but it was never shown to necessitate high-density developments, except near Cesar Chavez Park and the neighboring retail.

This does not open the flood gates and these high density projects are not going to get approved throughout Laveen as Mr. Jones suggests. Although it is not high on the list of what we all wanted or expected for our area, there is a need for apartments in the middle of Laveen. Now they are done. Carefully planned, thoughtfully located and created with much community input, here is a place for our friends and family members that want to live in Laveen but do not want nor cannot afford a stand alone house. We have now planned for tomorrow. As a community we now have high density living for those that may want it. The City and developers can no longer say that we have not planned for the diversity we need to allow opportunities for everyone in Laveen.

Even if this decision does not "open the flood gates" to further rezoning decisions, the domino-like rationale already demonstrated by our planning representatives would suggest otherwise. This decision inevitably adds to the proportion of high-density development by failing to replace the existing apartment-zoned properties with lower density uses, which creates an inherent dilemma. Regardless of the already planned apartment locations, this specific zoning decision serves to change the dynamics of the entire eastern portion of Laveen, and it begs the question of a ripple effect.

In regard to the affordability issue raised by Mr. Hertel, one must consider that average apartment rental rates in the metro Phoenix area are upwards of $700 per month (according to the 2008 Sperry Van Ness Top-Ten Multifamily Market Report). Currently, new homes in Laveen are being offered for sale as low as zero-down and $800 per month. While many people cannot qualify, or do not want to buy a home, investors are buying foreclosed homes for as little as $100,000-$150,000 and seeking to rent them out. This means that homes could feasibly rent for as little as $700-$750 per month, which is hardly different from average rental rates. Thus, above-average apartments hardly offer additional affordability or any related benefit (and this example completely fails to address the number of trailer parks located in Laveen, which presumably rent for far less).

By stating that the LCRD and LVPC's support for this rezoning decision was a plan for tomorrow, Mr. Hertel fails to account for the fact that the general plan represented our community's planning guidelines. This decision not only defies the community's tacit acceptance and agreement with the general plan, but it also modifies the very nature of that plan by increasing Laveen's overall density and lowering its employment-to-population ratio. For a point of reference, the recent housing boom has already changed the future outlook for Laveen's employment ratio over the last five years, changing it drastically from 37% (projected in 2003) to 18% (projected in 2007). A true plan for tomorrow would seek to reverse this trend by focusing on the city's goal of a 45-55% ratio, thus promoting regional sustainability and economic vitality. While we may have added some density here, overall, the LCRD has been instrumental in reducing the overall projected density of Laveen. We were successful in derailing a plan for increased density and apartments at 67th Avenue and Dobbins. We have averted other apartments and been successful in moving and reducing density of apartments in our community.

The LCRD has been instrumental in fighting other battles against increased density. I trust that the LCRD will continue in this tradition in most cases. After Laveen is "built out" to its projected development potential, I will again look to the LCRD to keep the planners in check on infill developments. This, I hope, is an isolated incident, and I trust that the CPLV will remind others of the above data to avoid future mistakes such as this one.

Members of the community do not need to accept the finality of this decision, and I will strive to promote this ideal. Call it a passion for citizen involvement, a desire to keep Laveen on track in maintaining its roots while planning for smart growth, or a little of both. I have already volunteered to offer my full support - financially and with my time - and I believe that the Coalition to Preserve Laveen Village will brilliantly succeed in these efforts, by virtue of a passionate and dedicated support base. I do appreciate the work of the Coalition, but where where you in the early stages of this project? If Laveen had been allowed to retain its roots, there would be nothing but one acre plus horse properties and farms. That is gone. You want dedication and passion? Look to the LCRD. We helped make it possible for a group like the Coalition to be heard. We will oppose apartments where they are not appropriate, but opposing apartments just because they are apartments may be counter-productive. I understand that you feel you live in a low-density neighborhood. I guess it's all perspective. From my perspective, any neighborhood where the house are just a few feet apart is high density. But you are my neighbor, I value your committment and I will work to do what is best for our community as a whole, not just one segment or neighborhood. Sometimes we have to give a little to get a little (quite often we get a lot). When it's all or nothing, we have tended to get nothing. I know I will not change your mind on this matter, but don't be so quick to condemn the LCRD.

Again, all of our community leaders deserve praise for taking charge of such responsibilities. It's sad to see such an apologetically defeatist voice expressed by some, however, in regard to the increase in Laveen's density. The LCRD is not to be universally condemned in my mind - I have no credibility to make that claim. As I cannot be available during most weeks, I will always have to depend on the willingness of my neighbors, such as yourself, to take charge. For that, I thank you. But, you are right - my opinion about this specific case will remain steadfast. Therefore, as I will continue to question the LCRD's judgment on this case, I fully hope and expect to offer my support to the LCRD in the future.

Performing Schools in Laveen

As Catherine and I prepare for parenthood next Spring, we've had many debates about public vs. private school, and more importantly the quality of the schools in our present neighborhood. When I searched the performance records not long ago, it didn't look great, although they were improving..... (See ratings here: http://www10.ade.az.gov/reportcard/Default.aspx)

This morning, as we were taking the dog into Petco to be washed and de-furred, I ran into one of our neighbors who is also a community leader. She recalled that I raised this concern at a district funding-related meeting (please fund!!!), and informed me that our schools are all performing and beginning to achieve the high-performance mark.

This news is highly encouraging, as it indicates a positive trend, despite the fact that we've seen what can happen with growing pains and inadequate funding in the last couple years. This Fall, we will vote 'yes' for a bond issue and 'no' against the state redistricting measure, and should see significantly better improvement. The outlook is finally positive, and I hope it stays that way.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Latest on Berkana

From an email I just sent out to the world......


Please pass this message along to your community leaders in Arizona (original message below). It should especially be meaningful to neighborhoods in Phoenix interested in taking their respective battles off of the home turf and saving exorbitant legal fees down the road. Similar battles have been mounted in response to redevelopment of central neighborhoods like Willow, Coronado, Biltmore, CenPho, Arcadia, and Encanto; as well as newly developing areas like Desert Ridge and Desert Hills. If you oppose unplanned sprawl and support neighborhood/community rights, this is your chance to speak out!

Catherine and I have already contributed generously, but we will match other funds (resulting from this email) up to a total contribution of $1,000. Plus, I'll personally see that any neighborhood or sympathetic organization that raises $1,000 or more on our behalf receives a press release and other promotion of their efforts. Thanks to Randy and Jen's passion for this cause, we've already gained the attention of the local media: http://www.kpho.com/video/16320265/?taf=pho. This is only the latest of press coverage, with more sure to follow.

Please help however you can, whether for principle or to forgive any long forgotten debts to us. I copied only personal friends and family on this email because I knew you would at least make it this far before deciding how to respond.


Patrick Brennan

Hiking Nearby!

Just as I was about ready to mount a fight for South Mountain trail access on the western half of the park, Catherine and I discovered the trail head at 19th Ave. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that it was there before Erika mentioned it to me a couple of weeks ago.

After our first hike today, I decided that this is my new favorite access point to the trail system. There was almost nobody else around, which meant that we could let Ilsa off her leash for most of the hike; and the trail was moderately challenging, so it felt like a great workout.

Now you will know where to find me on Saturday and Sunday mornings. And thank goodness that we don't have to drive as far for hiking anymore!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Block Watch Progress This Month

Sorry for not posting much lately - things have been quite busy.  It was due to a comment on my last post that I even remembered to log on again (thanks, Anonymous Laveenite)....

So here's the big news: This month marks the formal beginning of the Highland at Rogers Ranch Block Watch.  At our first meeting, we had about 30 people, with only about a 50% overlap of those already volunteering.  This means that we have an active base of almost 50 people (or one person for every 3 occupied homes).  And we're officially registered with the city.

Stef and Robert, a couple of neighbors that I am proud to have met from these efforts, have taken the most active roles in leadership.  And from Stef's patrol activities, we may finally have a newsworthy event to share soon.  We've been diligently keeping an eye on a couple of trouble-making teens in the community and almost caught them engaging in criminal activity twice.  Next time, perhaps.....

The lesson that I learned from this is that the teenagers are almost always going to be the most knowledgeable about what goes on in the neighborhood, so we should look to them as a potential resource.  And at the same time, a few of them are to blame for much of the problems we face.  The situation is entirely controllable, but we need to manage it better than we have in the past, as well as provide better programs for the kids who can either help or hurt our community.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

LAHOA - Laveen Association of HOAs

What an encouraging sign that our community has unified to create yet another glimmering beacon of hope and promise!

Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Laveen Association of HOAs - a new community group that will provide a public forum for our grass roots community leaders.  It will be comprised of representatives from each and every subdivision within Laveen, including representation from block watch groups and neighborhood associations.

The subcommittees will include Government Relations (a committee dedicated to each level of local and state government, as well as liaisons to the other Laveen community associations); Marketing/Communications (for PR and other imaging campaigns); Fundraising (to provide for operating expenses above the $100 annual dues provided by member HOAs); Membership/Recruitment; Block Watch; School Involvement; Residential Real Estate (to address unscrupulous Realtors trying to damage our reputation); Police Relations; HOA Parks (to address best practices in crime prevention for these areas); Mentoring (for new HOAs and Block Watches); and last but not least, Retail Relations (i.e. Economic Development).

I will be very active on the Retail Relations Committee, as well as contributing to the Block Watch Committee, since these are the areas most related to my personal interests and skill sets.  Also at tonight's meeting, several other people elected to lead committees, which was even more encouraging.

As the group moves forward in recruiting new members, it will be able to sell more than its energy and direction.  This group will provide an excellent opportunity for networking, better representation for community members, streamlined communication within Laveen, and increased visibility for our community as a whole.

I am pumped!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Laveen Hospital/Medical Center?

Yes, that's right....  Laveen may get exactly what it needs in the near future - a new hospital.  You can read the article here.

Now we're talking about a great economic growth generator that actually makes sense for our area (as much as the continued growth of retail/residential development).  And it makes intuitive sense from a quick look at a map of the Phoenix area (or if you need more substantiated proof, look here under "South Mountain HPSA").

Rogers Ranch Elementary School

I couldn't locate the news story, but I recently learned that a new elementary school is planned for our neighborhood.  This should be a good thing for our community and home values, although it appears that the Laveen district needs to work on its overall performance before I begin jumping for joy.

Here are a few direct benefits:

1. Parents of young children will be closer to the school, and we will have more public open space in our neighborhood (seems obvious enough).

2. The previous benefit means that perhaps the vacant and yet-to-be-built homes in adjacent subdivisions might be completed and occupied faster.

3.  Schools typically mean strict enforcement of anti-drug laws nearby, and we will see more activity in the daytime hours that so many criminals are able to commit burglaries.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Block Watch Success

Highland at Rogers Ranch Block Watch is the new group page that I set up for our neighbors to communicate about issues important to them in regard to the block watch and other neighborhood concerns. As some of my close friends and family can attest, I've made this something of a mission in the last month.

Crime has suddenly spiked in our area, where we previously had none to speak of. A year ago, you could search on the crime maps at www.azcentral.com (and other sites) and see nothing at all of significance. Now, however, it's a different story, with a sudden onslaught of burglaries, home invasions, shootings, kidnappings, large-scale drug busts, and other activities that you would expect more out of a slum than a nice middle class neighborhood.

Beginning in mid-March, apparently, several groups began targeting all of us suburbanites for these types of crimes. According to a reliable source, the police caught part of one such group that had been targeting newer neighborhoods in Laveen, Chandler, and Gilbert. And whether fortunately or not remains to be seen, but it was in the neighborhood directly east of us that they made the arrest last month. This is in the same span of time that we've seen some shocking stories of home invasions, kidnappings, and drop houses nearby.

It seems that a couple of high profile and/or disruptive incidents have finally made people more aware of a serious threat, and our community has decided that we will not be an easy target. Of 157 homes in our subdivision, Catherine and I got 32 people to sign up for the formal block watch, along with several others expressing interest. This is merely the beginning, but it's been a huge success so far. I can promise more good news soon (and hopefully no more bad news).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Berkana Lawsuit

Here's a little bit of background on the email that I previously sent out regarding our community's recent success in court, regarding the Berkana development.  If approved, the high-density housing development would be built on 27th Avenue and Baseline, which is on the boundary of Laveen Village and South Mountain Village.

The list of complaints include: high traffic (27th Ave. is only two lanes), flooding the housing market, inconsistent use for the general plan, and last but not least the potential invitation for increased crime within a few miles of several South Phoenix neighborhoods with high gang activity.  Like many growing areas, Laveen is presently stressed for basic public services like police and fire - this type of density in such a sensitive part of the community would only exacerbate these problems.  So please understand that, while Catherine and I live a few miles away from the subject property, it is still quite important to us that the residents of Laveen win this case (even if it were less important to us, I would side with the community whenever a strong benefit cannot be demonstrated to offset community concerns).

I'll post more on this topic soon...

This just in from the Coalition to Preserve Laveen Village:

Good morning all.  Below is an article written by Casey Newton that was printed in the Arizona Republic this morning.  I have also included the web link in case you would like to go there to make comments online with regard to this article. Please forward this on.


Best regards,

Randy & Jen

Coalition to Preserve Laveen Village

Phone: 602-445-6332


Development foes win key battle

by Casey Newton - Apr. 15, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Residents hoping to stop a large-scale apartment and townhouse project in Laveen have won a key victory in getting their referendum on the ballot.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that Phoenix should process the signatures they gathered earlier this year in an effort to stop construction of the project at 27th Avenue and Baseline Road. Neighbors say the project is too dense and will worsen existing problems with traffic and school overcrowding.

At issue is how many signatures are required for residents to refer a City Council decision to the ballot.

Phoenix argued that residents must submit signatures equivalent to 10 percent of votes in the last citywide election. The city says the last citywide election was in September, which included the mayor's race and a ballot initiative to fund more police and fire personnel. By that standard, 9,798 valid signatures would be needed.

The neighbors say the relevant election was in November, when two council races had runoffs. If Judge Richard Trujillo's ruling is upheld, residents would need only 2,727 signatures. Residents are confident they have that many.

By lowering the threshold to refer a council decision, the ruling could encourage more residents to take their case to the voters.

"If we're successful, this will definitely change the landscape of future referendum drives," said Randy Jones, who organized the petition drive against Berkana.

Bill Solomon, a city attorney, said he would recommend that the council appeal the decision. The council has until Monday to file a notice of appeal.

The council is scheduled to discuss the ruling today in closed session.

The project is being developed by former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson. It would include 517 apartments on 27 acres. Before the council voted 7-1 to rezone the property, it was zoned for one home per acre.