Wednesday, December 23, 2009

DiCiccio and the Loop 202: Is There a Story Here?

A friend forwarded the following email from Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio this morning.  My reaction follows, and yes I am a little more skeptical of Mr. DiCiccio now than ever before.

Governor, others boost 202 alternative momentum

Momentum has swung strongly toward exploring an alternative to the Pecos Road South Mountain Loop 202 alignment on the Gila River Indian Community thanks to powerful letters of support from Gov. Jan Brewer, House Majority Leader John McComish and Congressman Harry Mitchell plus hard, cooperative work by many players.
As you know, I've been a strong proponent of an alternative to the Pecos Road alignment.  My office has been working tirelessly to get all parties to communicate to see if there could be a win-win for all.  I've maintained that another alignment would save taxpayers' money, preserve South Mountain, provide opportunities for GRIC, and maintain neighborhoods and homes.  We've since learned that perhaps $200 million in construction/engineering also might be saved.
The way for such a win-win solution to be accomplished is when all parties work together, which I'm happy to report is occurring. The best example was the Dec. 7 meeting at the Maricopa Association of Governments attended by me, MAG, the Arizona Department of Transportation, federal highway officials, GRIC, the BIA, two congressional offices and others.  The first time, all stakeholders sat in the same room and talked things through like that. The result was a general agreement that GRIC would formally indicate its willingness to consider a proposal and that MAG and ADOT would pursue it. Gov. Brewer, in her letter to GRIC Gov. William Rhodes, pledged the full engagement of the Arizona Department of Transportation in working with the GRIC to develop a SM202 alignment there (see attached letter).
Other 'never-quit' players have been working behind the scenes for the past nine months on this, including Chad Blostone and Mike Hinz of Ahwatukee, two local HOA board members and worker bees who have kept this alternative issue alive so it could reach this point. When very few people believed such an outcome possible, they doggedly worked at it, helped us uncover information, develop relationships and drive momentum.
A huge lesson for all of us, one that should ring much louder in these difficult times, is what innovation and results can come from working together.  Look at all the different communities, levels of government, primary missions and cultures that share in this accomplishment. It included federal, state, city, MAG  . . . and HOAs and community ad hoc committees. It's the Gila River Indian Community, suburban Ahwatukee and the folks in downtown Phoenix. It's neighbors, engineers, elected officials, agency heads, community activists, Democrats and Republicans.
To keep this momentum moving, your help is needed also. Please forward this and the letters from Gov. Brewer, Congressman Mitchell and Majority Leader McComish to your email list plus other interested parties, encouraging them to add their voices to encouraging this exploration of alternatives by calling or writing their elected representatives, community leaders and newspapers to support it.
Please sign onto and leave your email so we can update you as developments occur, or email it to  Also, please feel free to forward any of this information to any other concerned parties.  We look forward to your opinions and feedback.

Thank you all again for your effort.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio
Phoenix City Council District 6

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting Involved in the Community

Here's an interesting article from the Arizona Republic about overall civic engagement in Arizona:  While it makes a pretty clear case for Arizonans not being engaged enough in volunteer efforts, charity, or even that most basic American right and responsibility, voting, I'd like to believe that we in Laveen are well above this average.  Not to mention, I wonder if the polls that were used in the research take into account some of the more opaque but nonetheless great activities that we have to offer in our community.

As I type this, Catherine is off to a cookie exchange with one of the two local moms groups with which she regularly participates.  While this is not exactly what most would consider a volunteer/charity event, I think it's important to consider the positive social role such groups play in our community by connecting neighbors with similar needs.  It's sort of like the blockwatch that a few neighbors and I created in our neighborhood in that we want to facilitate neighborly relations more than ever, given the negative trends that seem to have appeared elsewhere in communities where I've lived.  We want better and we're willing to work for it.

Here are a few other examples I've observed in our community:  I not only serve on my HOA board of directors (as many do in their HOAs), but have also represented us in the Laveen Association of HOAs.  And more recently, I have dedicated more time to my involvement with the LCC and on the Laveen Village Planning Committee.  Then there's the LPC/LCRD, Laveen Lions, Friends of the Library, Laveen Art League, and even the Laveen School District's governing board and the various PTSAs.  Each of these groups is very community focused in its own way, and they seem to each attract a slightly different subset of people interested in helping their community.  Also, each of these groups has shown incredible ability to affect positive change for Laveen as they support each other and raise funds for those who need them--such as our community sports groups, scholarships for our students, and similarly worthy efforts to help those in need.

And by the way, I'm totally omitting things like our planned farmers' market (search for it on Facebook) and the proposed Laveen Economic Development Council, both of which will emphasize strengthened sustainable commerce in our community (and also both lagging in moving forward--more about that later).  And then there are the organizations that cross boundaries into Laveen, such as the South Mountain/Laveen Chamber of Commerce, which has done excellent things for our community and its businesses, or the South Mountain/Laveen Village Festival Committee, which hosts great events for our families every year.  Also, let's not forget the churches, boy scout troops, and the many, many others who make this a great place to live (including even our local newspapers South Mountain District News and South Mountain Villager).  And I know several people who partake in their own pet projects around the metro Phoenix area (like Lisa Doromal's Dress for Success), and we'll claim those as well.  I'm certainly omitting several other important people and organizations here, but hopefully you can find mentions of them elsewhere on this blog, or else please let me know.

My point in listing every one of these groups is that they are certainly small and therefore may fly under the radar when outside pollsters try to evaluate our civic engagement, but they are incredibly accessible and influential, as community organizations ought to be.  Plus, the sheer number of volunteers who take part in these organizations' efforts really should prove other than the old 80-20 rule (aka Pareto Principle).  Sure, there are only so many people with the time, inclination, and energy to lead the efforts, but we've all seen the uprising of support whenever there's a community event or a call to action (see for instance the Loop 202, school bonds, or our zoning battles as great examples).  So I urge my fellow Laveen residents to stay involved and take pride in bucking these negative trends.

P.S.  Since our modern culture seems to be very sensitive to political discussion, I saved this part as an important afterthought to the main discussion.  You should also know that we have a few very active political groups in our community, and politics is a wonderful means by which we can all make the cogs of our system turn.  I urge my neighbors to engage in frequent and lively political debate in every appropriate forum possible, and hence learn the forgotten art of influencing policy for our benefit rather than just seeing and experiencing its effects.  As a Canadian coworker recently commented when we discussed our CEO's controversial political commentary at a meeting, "Isn't that what once made America great--that people could freely discuss their views?" 

For your reading pleasure, here are a couple of viewpoints about how political discourse factors into our modern society: Here and hereHere's an entertaining bit of satire on the subject.  And then there are the hazards of our political discourse becoming increasingly noisy and vicious: here, here, and here.  But I have an idea: let's discuss every way in which we want to improve our society, keep it civil, and try to respect independent thinking and intellectual curiosity.  I've always believed that contrary to the most conservative modern etiquette guidelines, you should prepare to discuss politics when in my personal space and it is my right to live by this policy (work is a slightly different story for most, but I mean at home, at a restaurant/bar, or while out and about).  And guess what, I still have tons of friends on Facebook (and yes, in real life too), where I have been known to toss out random politically charged URLs, etc.  Many of my friends disagree with me on important issues, but as long as they have a difficult time pigeonholing me into a particular group and view me as being tolerant of opposing views, they seem to tolerate my attitude well (not to mention that anyone who knows my family knows that this is a hereditary trait, so they may just pity my helplessness in the matter).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Loop 202 Update

I think my comment on the following story's comments section says it all:

Let's hope that this freeway begins moving forward sooner rather than later....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Future of Phoenix

So, I know I've been slacking on this whole blog thing lately--more on that soon. For now, I felt compelled to note a couple of important developments related to our Village's plan and that of the entire city and metro area. First, in case you are not one of the dozen or so people who attended the last meeting, I have proudly joined a great group of people on the Laveen Village Planning Committee. Councilman Nowakowski submitted my name and received City Council approval in a September meeting, and then I sat in on my first official LVPC meeting last week.

This leads to the next important topic: PlanPHX. If you are any sort of community leader (i.e. block watch representative, HOA board member, or similar), City of Phoenix representatives likely found you and invited you to help with Phoenix's 2050 plan (see the website for more info). Please accept the invitation. After all, as one of my readers, I assume it's safe to say that you care about how our region develops and want to have a say. Although we will leave the nuts and bolts up to our highly able planning staff, please understand that they are eager to hear public input and put it to good use. So come to the next LVPC meeting and let Mr. Zonn know what Laveen residents want to see for the future of our city, so he can share with the rest of the planning department as they compile results from all the villages. (BTW, how cool would it be if, for once, Laveen were one of the squeakiest wheels....)

We all know that Phoenix is at a critical point right now, as we prepare to complete several important infrastructure projects to serve an ever-growing population (see the recent news on our population from the Urban Land Institute here). It's important to understand that while we strive to define the overall character and interconnectedness of our metropolitan area, we are directly impacting how future growth will occur here. And as noted by many business leaders, including Phoenix's own Kimber Lanning, our current housing market has forced people to stick around and improve our communities rather than constantly chase greener pastures. Overall, this is a great silver lining on otherwise cloudy skies, but there is plenty of work to do.

It sometimes saddens me that not only must we all try to lead our community down the right path, often arguing about what its true assets are and how to address the challenges, but we also must constantly fight cynicism and apathy. And then there's negative external attention that we definitely do not need..... Please see the blurb that I somehow discovered linked to a more current article, in which the writer bashes Phoenix as one of the cities that will not/should not survive future green planning. As one of my neighbors, I'm sure that you believe this is utter nonsense--especially if you travel frequently to other major metropolitan areas and deal with the traffic, pollution, litter, and other problems that Phoenix seems to handle much more effectively (and at generally lower tax rates--but we can debate our state/local budgets later if you like). Below is my hastily written reply to the author's article; while not nearly perfect, I feel that it effectively highlights the kind of response that such articles deserve. So please, let your pen be mightier than a sword and remain vigilant of opportunities in which we need to better inform the misinformed masses about our great village, city, and state.

  • Interesting point about Phoenix, since he fails to note some important facts related to the future growth of this metropolis and its surrounding cities:

    1: Warm weather places have a green head start, since the carbon produced to cool buildings is far less than the energy needed to heat them, due to less energy required to lower temps by one degree than to raise them the same amount (not to mention that the total annual swing in temperatures is relatively small here compared to many places).

    2: Most of the population growth in Phoenix can and will be accommodated by utilizing plans that embrace a new-urban model rather than the outdated suburban growth of the 1950s-1990s. This means that the largest cities in the area are divided into smaller districts/villages to allow multiple high-density centers of development and commerce (see Phoenix Villages, for instance). The remaining areas that are already dense (Tempe, central Phoenix, south Scottsdale) are encouraging more vertical development.

    3: The overall Phoenix area has grown much more transit-friendly in recent years, with the opening of a highly successful light rail line, frequent and extended bus service in core areas (every 15 minutes in Tempe), with ongoing discussions about expanding local rail service and even introducing a regional system. Plus, we are far more bike-friendly by design than almost any other large urban area (required bike lanes and urban trail systems in newer areas).

    4: AZ is going solar, and in a big way. Tempe is home to one of the foremost solar producers in the country (FSLR), and several cities and utility districts in the area have already announced huge investment plans to promote more centralized and distributed solar generation (not to mention wind energy and major solar thermal projects).

    5: We manage our water. Unlike many arid growth regions in the western U.S., Arizona has known for its entire inhabited life that we need to remain creative about sustaining our water supply. Coupled with the exceptional growth spurts in recent decades, our research into continued water preservation has been quite effective and forward thinking (unlike the dry-lake scenarios encountered in California's deserts in the last century).

    So put all of this together and consider the incredible potential that Phoenix possesses, rather than its comparatively minor limitations as a green city of the future. And one more important thought on this subject: conservation advances in Arizona almost always happen affordably and in accord with other market dynamics, rather than requiring the same level of high subsidization and stratification amongst community members who benefit disproportionately from "green" advances. That should really be what it's all about.

    UPDATE (11/19/2009): I just came across this rather timely article about ADOT's growth plans for the Valley, from ABC 15's website.  Toward the end, you will find yet another great link to provide your input:  So please do check this out.  (And by the way, I initially tried to post this as a comment, but didn't like how it appeared; hence the deleted comment on this post.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flu Shots Are Here!

Everyone, please get your flu shots this year. It's not so much that I care about your safety, but I don't want you to get me or my family sick! Okay, just kidding... I do care about my friends and neighbors. So, to make things easier for anyone willing to take care of this immediately, I've organized a list of where to get your shots by date. (Hey, I had to do the research anyhow! Why not share?)

First, though, you should take a look at these nifty informational websites and not blame me for any omissions or liability of any kind whatsoever:
American Lung Association's "Find A Flu Shot" Page
ALA's Page about the Flu
The Centers for Disease Control Flu Page
CDC Flu Activity Report
Google's Flu Trends Page

***Catherine just returned from Walgreen's, where they told her that she needed a prescription in order to get a shot today. So please call ahead to make sure you have everything you need, and to check on appointment requirements, specific costs, insurance options, etc.

***Good Night Pediatrics (Baseline/Central) might offer shots for kids, but I wasn't able to reach them because they open at 5:00pm. Can anyone verify?

Wednesday, September 23rd
Fry's (51st/Baseline) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Thursday, September 24th
Fry's (51st/Baseline) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Walgreen's (51st/Baseline) - 1:00pm to 5:00pm (clinic)
Walgreen's (35th/Southern) - 1:00pm to 5:00pm (clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Friday, September 25th
CVS (51st/Baseline) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Saturday, September 26th
CVS (51st/Baseline) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Sunday, September 27th
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Monday, September 28th
Fry's (Baseline/7th Street) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
CVS (Southern/Central) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Tuesday, September 29th
Fry's (Baseline/7th Street) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
CVS (Southern/Central) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
CVS (Baseline/19th Ave.) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Wednesday, September 30th
Fry's (51st/Baseline) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Thursday, October 1st
Fry's (51st/Baseline) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Walgreen's (both locations) - 1:00pm to 5:00pm (clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment
West Baseline Clinic (51st/Baseline) - by appointment

Friday, October 2nd
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment
West Baseline Clinic (51st/Baseline) - by appointment

Saturday, October 3rd
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment
West Baseline Clinic (51st/Baseline) - by appointment

Sunday, October 4th
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Monday, October 5th
Wal-Mart (75th/Lower Buckeye) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Tuesday, October 6th
CVS (67th/Lower Buckeye) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Wal-Mart (75th/Lower Buckeye) - 10:00am to 6:00pm (Mollen Clinic)
Concentra Urgent Care (51st/Buckeye) - 8:00am to 5:00pm
Walgreen's (both locations) - by appointment

Friday, August 28, 2009

Laveen Economic Development

I know, I know, I know...... I've teased about this before. But this time, I mean it. We are moving forward with a committee to help guide economic development in our Village. Erika Keenan and I have begun working with the City, through our planner Jacob Zonn, and the various community representative groups, and it looks like we are making significant progress.

Why, you may ask, would we want to take on such a challenging project? Because we as residents need to step up and let the rest of the world know what Laveen is all about and what we expect to see out of the inevitable growth the future will bring. If you scroll back through past blog posts, you will see that this has been my primary concern for the community, hence all of the attention that I've given the freeway planning process. Also, I've realized that no one else is nearly as well prepared or intent to promote Laveen's harmonious growth than us, the residents of Laveen.

So please let me know if you are interested in participating in this discussion. Otherwise, I offer you at least the anticipation of big news in the near future (near future, btw, is a relative term, as we have yet to work through all the community groups and the city to create this group). So please stay tuned.

Loop 202 Update (Again)

Josephine already posted this on the last entry, but I thought it was worth repeating, this time on the main page of the blog. From Councilman Nowakowski (via Facebook):

Dear Neighbors,

Like many of you I was disturbed by the news of the 202 construction not beginning till 2017. This was contrary to my conversations I had with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). After speaking to both entities it is abundantly clear that the news reporter erred in her reporting. The head of transportation for MAG, Eric Anderson, has asked the reporter for some corrections, and has clearly expressed to our office that the dates are incorrect.

Of course it is difficult to exactly determine when the 202 construction will begin or end. There is a couple promising assurances that MAG has made. First, the threat of litigation will no longer hold up this process from moving forward. The highway will go forward no matter what and we will meet the lawsuits as they come. Secondly, all efforts will be made to expedite the building and design of the highway. Lastly, while opponents of the highway will try to find a different route for the highway south of South Mountain that is something that will be adjusted as the process continues, but not an excuse to slow down the original plan.

In October, MAG will meet to vote on this plan. I have spoken with Councilmember Peggy Neely (our representative on MAG) about the importance of the 202. She has been a strong ally for us and will continue to fight with me for the current alignment. Again we do not know exactly the completion or start date of this huge project. What we do know is the start date of 2017 is completely off base. ADOT, MAG and the City of Phoenix are in unison about expediting the building of this necessary highway.

Thank you,

Michael Nowakowski
Councilmember District 7

Monday, August 3, 2009

Welcome to the Newly Renamed Loop 202 Blog (or not)

It's Loop 202 all the time! Get your Loop 202 news here! Hot off the presses!

Again, our proposed freeway is in the news. Two articles published today in the AZ Republic highlight the most recent plan proposed by MAG to get this freeway back on track:


The first article is geared toward the more general "Phoenix" audience, whereas the second one focuses more specifically on the Ahwatukee perspective. As such, I think you'll see that the first article is slightly more informative about the overall process that has taken place thus far, i.e. the city has made a recommendation to MAG, which will then vote to pass the plans on to ADOT for finalization; this is moving forward. The second article panders to its audience, as do the quotes included in it, so I thought it deserved my treatment.

First, DiCiccio and his political opponents are either misguided (and I don't think this is it), or they are misdirecting their constituents' attention by claiming that the city has had little or no say in these matters. To the contrary, I think our friends in District 7 and on city staff deserve a huge thank you for helping this dying plan rise again out of the ashes. As I reported last month, our city's transportation department moved forward with a street plan that was made to accommodate the north-south section of freeway through Laveen. Furthermore, the city resolved that it supported the Laveen alignment and passed along instructions to MAG and ADOT to "expedite" their plans (backtrack here). Yes, DiCiccio's council seat is up for grabs, thus making this a hot topic; but the primary reason that this is in the news again is thanks to Wylie Bearup in our Street Transportation Department, Ruben Gallego, and Councilman Nowakowski.

Second, Tim Tait of ADOT notes that the freeway is "not a done deal." It is not, this is true.... But it is now working it's way through the process and is perhaps one of ADOT's best candidates for future federal stimulus funds (remember all that talk about money for roads and bridges?). It is also a great cause for the city of Phoenix to rally in support of revenue potential from all the retail tax and professional business development that will assuredly follow the freeway. I can't help but compliment Mr. Tait for his carefully selected words, but let's prove him wrong about a current lack of certainty by helping to steamroll this directive through MAG and ADOT as fast as possible.

Third, Eric Anderson of MAG is hardly quoted or even acknowledged in these articles, but I must say that I have learned a great deal about the mechanics of our freeway plans from him and Tim Tait throughout this process. Remember, he's the staff guy who must work out all the details on behalf of our political representatives at MAG, so I will look to him for news of future progress on this topic, and then refocus my efforts on ADOT.

Many have inquired as to what we as a community can do right now to have our voices heard. Well, as noted, the ball is in the hands of MAG..... and let's not forget the minor impact of Sal Diciccio's campaign on the politics of this issue. While it appears that he has mostly stepped aside to let the freeway happen, he still cannot allow the city's MAG representation to emerge too strongly in favor of the Ahwatukee alignment, no matter where it lies. This is the reason, I think, that we have divided the Ahwatukee and Laveen portions of the freeway for most planning discussions. So we need to express strong unified support for at least the Laveen alignment prior to the October meeting.

I will post more details as soon as I can get them, but please help do the same. Contact your MAG representatives (see list here) and let them know that you want your voice heard by contacting the Director of Communications, Kelly Taft, at Get a spot on the next meeting agenda to discuss the Loop 202 freeway, or choose from any of the following discussion topics:

  • Necessary local route AND bypass.
  • Necessary for Laveen's commercial growth.
  • Laveen and Desert Ridge are Phoenix's two most promising growth areas.
  • It's already taken almost 30 years........
  • Residents of Ahwatukee and Laveen benefit from proposed hospital.
  • Laveen general plan rivals Scottsdale; freeway further enhances quality of life.
  • Improved South Mountain park access.
  • Any other reasons I may have missed that are important to you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Federal Transportation Stimulus Dollars

Here's a link to the federal government's tracking of all stimulus money going toward transportation projects:

If you are, like me, primarily concerned about our planned freeway in Laveen, you will likely notice that it isn't listed on this site. Loop 202 funds will likely flow someday, but we need to keep reminding ADOT and MAG that this needs to happen now rather than later.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

News about Our Newest Apartment Re-Zoning

While searching for commercial properties in Laveen today, I uncovered this listing for the entire Sun West mixed-use development:

Remember, this is the development group that made all kinds of concessions to improve the quality/image of their project in order to receive approval for re-zoning and a general plan amendment (to drastically increase density). In their appeals to the LCRD, City Planning Office, and City Council, Sun West repeatedly mentioned a high-end apartment community. Yes, this apartment complex would accomplish the extraordinary and charge above average rents in a declining residential market! They would buck the trend toward $700 average rents in the Phoenix market--and without a strong nearby employment base.

Remember also that I called into question the developer's investment strategy here and here. I've since toned down my concern about the suitability of this site for apartments, but remain concerned about the developer's investment model. As noted toward the end of the real estate listing referenced above, the developer is currently seeking HUD Section 221D4 financing to complete the project. While this is intended for projects aimed at moderate income residents, I still fear that Sun West will fail in this attempt given the still-distressed housing market.

Here are my specific hang-ups for such a project (just bear with me):
  • Senior and handicap-focused housing are both difficult with more than one floor, without including elevators. This project is 3-stories and has no elevators. Therefore, it won't likely be restricted to either of these uses (which I would favor--except for the illogical location).
  • Foreclosed single-family homes are selling for under $100,000, which means that they can be profitably rented out for less than the 2008 average apartment lease rates. This is a tough sell to banks that are already sour on residential and commercial uses, if your projections for an apartment community are significantly higher.
  • My guess is that Sun West bought the property from our school district for less than the $333,000 per acre in its current list price (anyone care to check the tax records to verify?). Their holding costs have not been much yet, which means that they are likely better off selling to the highest bidder.
  • Knowing nothing about Sun West's current financial well-being, I question whether they need to raise capital--thus leading to a distressed sale situation--because of a high debt load (common story for developers right now).
  • The best financial outcome for any developer holding an entitled apartment site within walking distance of Wal-Mart and other neighborhood sevices, and on a bus line, is for the developer to target the lower end of the affordable housing segment. And that's exactly what I think Sun West or the future buyer will do.

I still feel strongly that, if this project moves forward, it will target Section-8 renters and others benefiting from such programs. While these people most certainly require affordable housing, we must remember that this use is quite different from what has consistently been promised for this specific site. Meanwhile, our general plan is designed to focus the necessary resources on a long-term basis toward the future village core, near where the freeway will someday intersect with Baseline Road. This project still strikes me as poor long-term planning for that reason alone.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Domain Name

As I spoke with one of our local shopping center brokers yesterday and tried to refer him to this site for reference, he rightfully commented that this was an awfully clumsy address to deliver over the phone. So I thought I should do something about it. Now let me amaze you with this new trick I learned: That's right! I'm now what my grandmother would refer to as internet savvy. So please feel free to pass along this simplified url to your friends and neighbors, and I'll keep posting away.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Laveen Farmers Market

I have put this request out to the "Laveen, Arizona" facebook group, so I thought I should do the same here. Is anyone interested in planning a farmers market for our community? If so, please email me at (or contact me via facebook). If we can start by sometime this fall, I will promise to do my part in organizing most of it--but we still need a committee in place.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stay Tuned for More 202 News

Here's a comment Ben left on my last post about retail:

Just found this article on the 202 moving forward. May be old news but just published today:

I thought it was a timely article and a timely observation from Ben. My guess is that we will see significant progress over the course of this summer. And I know that Tom Trush has been following Loop 202 developments on behalf of South Mountain District News; so keep tuned there and at the AZ Republic for further news.

Not only do I continue to argue that this WILL happen for the reasons cited in my last 202 article, but the summers in AZ are a great time for political deal making; and it appears that the deals are being made (not to mention ADOT has gotten better in the PR arena). Plus, I find it interesting that Harry Mitchell and Ed Pastor have both weighed in on the subject. They will hopefully provide the federal spending that can make our Loop 202 a reality.

As we continue to see signs of resuscitation for our freeway, I will definitely try to stay "in the loop" (yes, I put quotes around it--very clever indeed). Please do the same, and let me know if you catch anything that I fail to mention here. Thanks again to Ben for the contribution.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Wee Bit O Retail News

Did you notice that the shopping center at 35th and Baseline now looks nicely landscaped, and there's a new broker's sign in front of the property? That's right, apparently the owner (bank?) realized that it can't continue to sit empty, or else they will have a deteriorating piece of junk on their hands.

Now, let's see if we can get any momentum in the commercial lease market. Hint: it isn't going to happen as long as properties like the one at 51st/Southern keep trying to convince the world that their lower traffic locations are worth $22 psf. The guys over at 27th and Baseline have the right idea in starting negotiations at $14.

So on to the bright side, let's commence the discussion of what kinds of businesses would be appropriate for 35th/Baseline. A craft store? Sporting goods? Trader Joe's or similar? Restaurants? Yoga studio? These are a few of the ideas I gleaned from past posts. Please feel free to take it from here, and keep in mind that this is a neighborhood location, meaning that most major retailers who normally locate near malls and such won't be interested. But that's okay; we can still use a few more neighborhood-oriented businesses here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Loop 202 Moving Forward!!!

At least one traffic jam has been eliminated in the Loop 202 South Mountain Corridor's approval process. As of June 10th, Phoenix's Street Transportation Department has gone on record to say:

The Street Transportation Department recommends MAG and ADOT expedite the planning process for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway from the I-10 at 59th Avenue to approximately the Estrella Drive alignment in Phoenix.

Rumor has it that Councilman Nowakowski and others will champion this at the next City Council meeting, so that it is passed along as a directive to MAG and ADOT to commence work on this vital project.

I must applaud the wise words of Wylie Bearup, Interim Director of the Street Transportation Department, for pointing out:

The Street Transportation Department continues to push for the construction of the north-south portion of the freeway. The southwestern area of the City was developing rapidly prior to the most recent economic downturn. The City has planned the street network in the area based on an assumption of a freeway to carry significant north/south traffic. The freeway also provides a much needed additional crossing of the Salt River. Since there is wide-spread agreement on the alignment for this section, the department would prefer that construction begin soon to take advantage of the current market conditions.

That's us, by the way.... the rapidly growing part of southwestern Phoenix. If the people just over the mountain from us realize what a new freeway can bring them, in terms of services to their community (like a hospital, for instance), then perhaps that portion of the freeway will hurry along in step with this one. Now is definitely the time to make this happen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Loop 202 News

Here's a message from ADOT Spokesperson, Timothy Tait, offered as a follow-up to concerns from residents after the Local Laveen Summit last month:

At this point, ADOT is awaiting direction from the leaders of the region on how to proceed forward. While a freeway has been proposed up to this point, we recognize that this may change into a different type of roadway. "What" is not decision of ADOT, but of the leaders of the region through the Maricopa Association of Governments. ADOT doesn't plan Valley freeways -- rather, we serve to complete the formal studies, design, construct and maintain the network.

South Mountain does have a long history. ADOT completed the first environmental study in 1988 before regional funding fell short and the freeway was removed from the planned highway network. Through the 2004 vote in Maricopa County, ADOT again received funding to study the South Mountain Freeway in 2006. Like any Environmental Impact Statement for a long, complex project, this study has taken time. At the time we were stopped because of the roadway-configuration debate, the study was on track for release this summer. That, obviously, cannot happen at this time. Any change from the 10-lane freeway concept will require some degree of reanalysis to conform with all federal regulations, since this is a Federal Aid project.

Another take (or two) on this issue:

Mr. Tait's statement above was prompted by emails from two Laveen residents, one of whom has been a member of the community for several decades and the other a more recent addition. Each had a different perspective on why we need to make the Loop 202 freeway a reality in our community.

One of the residents, Mary, moved to Laveen a few years ago (as did I). She did not move to Laveen because of its past heritage, but because of the proximity to downtown Phoenix and availability of nice new homes, golf courses, and the promise of future development. Mary is concerned about Laveen's economic growth and sees the freeway as a way to spur this growth, as well as provide a bypass for the I-10 freeway through Phoenix.

Shelley has been in Laveen since the 1960s and has seen the community grow exponentially in recent years. She does live here for the ranch lifestyle, but sees the freeway as a much needed reliever for all the traffic that our recent growth has brought upon the community. She cites the fact that many "old Laveen" residents share her view, despite the very vocal few who essentially deny our growth trajectory as a reality. She notes that, "Our growth is a fact of life and with it comes the need for better transportation." Furthermore, she points out that we need to get the already busy bypass traffic off of 51st Avenue and onto a freeway.

My take

It's interesting....well, interesting to me at least: I initially thought that I couldn't offer a new perspective to those posted above. But after I drafted my response, I think I came up with something of a judicious and refreshing addition to the discussion (oh please, stop with the flattery). If you have been reading my blog posts, then you already know that I'm something of a "big picture" thinker; in which case my viewpoints will not likely surprise you.

I feel that both Mary and Shelley are correct in their assessments about Laveen's transportation needs. We have experienced significant residential growth in recent years and are poised for even more thanks to our proximity to Phoenix's central business district (and ASU, the airport, Glendale, etc.). Furthermore, we are well positioned to cultivate our ongoing growth into a great new model for a suburban community, building on the plans already hotly debated and settled (hopefully), thanks to groups like the LCRD and the city-county collaboration that resulted in the Southwest Regional Growth Study (see link on the side-bar of this page). Laveen is and always has been a rural community, and our master plan of record would ensure that this remains true as we welcome even more residents and businesses.

At a time that our metropolitan region exemplifies and amplifies the housing crisis affecting our country, people are becoming more selective in their choice of residence because they now have more options than ever. Again and again, research and intuition collide in acknowledging culture and character as some of the toughest qualities to break and some of the most important to people. Therefore, I hope that Laveen will continue growing to provide modern conveniences while maintaining a unique character and proud legacy (note: look to the series of highly critical articles that The Economist published back in 2005-2006 about Phoenix and Scottsdale).

If we don't preserve something of the old Laveen--and build upon projects that celebrate its history--we offer very little to future investors besides proximity to downtown, the airport, or the South Mountain foothills. So, while our master plan helps to preserve Laveen's character, the completion of a local freeway helps connect us to the rest of Phoenix, thus enabling Laveen to better complement all of the other communities that make up this ever-growing city and huge metropolis. So while it provides a much needed local commuter route and a regional bypass, the Loop 202 South Mountain alignment also makes possible such regionally important developments as a hospital, a super-regional shopping center or two, additional office space, and the ancilliary employment that supports the above--all coincidentally slated for Laveen, but benefiting the rest of the region as well.


So what do we need to do? Well, for those of us with our feet firmly planted here, the answer is clear. We need to do what we can to advocate for the continuation of all Loop 202 studies and the eventual completion of the South Mountain Corridor, whether it be a freeway, parkway, or a major thoroughfare by any other name. I'll follow up on this soon, but for now, I would recommend contacting your MAG representatives (political representatives, not staff). Also, make sure you tell your friends to do the same. If you know anyone in Michael Nowakowski or Mary Rose Wilcox's office, then by all means call them. Be the squeaky wheel; you might be surprised at how receptive both offices are.

*If you are the diplomatic type, then please help your pitifully misguided friends and family in Ahwatukee understand that they too should support the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. Very few houses stand in the way of the proposed freeway's path, and those that do shouldn't have been built anyhow. Plus, imagine how convenient it will be when our friends at Club West can take advantage of our new retail and hospital, neither of which will likely come to Ahwatukee anytime soon without the freeway.

*And one more thing.... I've heard that Mayor Phil Gordon does not support the freeway. If this is in fact true, then I beg you to convince him otherwise. I think it's absolutely insane that Mr. Gordon would stand on the wrong side of this issue. Even if he prefers the support of Ahwatukee to that of Laveen, I would think he could benefit from the job creation that could come from the Loop 202--both short and long-term.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What's New in Laveen Retail

As mentioned in my last post, I've been traveling a little during the month of May.... One of those trips was to the International Council of Shopping Centers' annual conference in Las Vegas, where I confirmed that Goodwill signed a lease or build-to-suit agreement for 35th Avenue and Southern (Mervyn's center). This may be a welcome note to my readers, or not; but I will say that we have merely caught up with the rest of the valley in welcoming one of their stores to our community (see for a map of existing locations). After driving all the way to their Tempe store on Saturday with a truck full of stuff, I guess I'm happy to have a closer donation center.

From this information, I made two observations. One is that we will finally have a tenant generating legitimate traffic to this shopping center, which is good (aside from US Bank, of course, which is still open for legitimate business). The other is that Goodwill is planning for a pad location, which verifies past news from Staubach representatives that they have secured other users for the empty Mervyn's space. I need to put in a call to Michael to verify the proposed tenants, but last I heard it was a Ross and Hacienda Mercado (California-based Mexican grocery).

So that leaves two more empty shopping ceneters in our area: 35th/Baseline and 27th/Baseline. I have heard rumors that both of these are going back to the banks (more or less confirmed for 35th/Baseline). While I know of several investors who have made offers on the Laveen Village Center (35th), I can't imagine what anyone would do with the smaller one at 27th/Baseline. Let's just say that I think we'll see activity at 35th before anywhere else. However, this center is owned by Bank of the West, and they fail to understand why they need to let go of it at a slight discount (despite their REO holdings rising to 17% of total assets in the last year). I sense that they are lobbying for a treasury deal, but will eventually find wisdom either on their own or with the help of a judge--if the original developer declares bankruptcy while still in control of the asset. Believe me, I'll be watching this one closely and keeping you posted.

Final word for today.... This may be surprising, but we have some new development activity to note. According to Mike Moreines of Terrazona Properties, his group is preparing to begin work on their LA Fitness-anchored center at 51st/Baseline. The pads have been sold to MidFirst Bank and a couple more fast food restaurants to be named in the future (I may have blogged about this already). The lease with LA Fitness is less assured, although Mike said that he would definitely bring in a gym...... I really hope it's LA Fitness and not some local place that cuts corners.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Local Laveen Summit Update

Sorry I've been away from this blog for the last three weeks. During that time, I've taken three trips out of town, received an industry certification (crammed/took test during the days after our Summit), taken care of a minor baby surgery, and had some major housework to do. But enough excuses.

Our Local Laveen Summit was a huge hit. After what I can only describe as a brilliantly pleasing but tiring collaborative effort, we were rewarded with great attendance and an enthralling panel discussion. The temperature was far above what I thought it would be in the "shaded" (ya, right) outdoor space we used, and yet we had about 70 people show up to listen and express their thoughts about our community. So aside from my poor planning of the space requirements, everything went well. *and yes, we will plan differently next time....

Thanks to Krag Klages, our incoming LCC president, I even have some notes to share:

*Business Growth/Development

Keeping Laveen prosperous and growing
Medical facility/hospital is top priority
Roller rink, Bowling alley, Youth center(s) are being considered
LA Fitness at 51st Ave. and Baseline is very close, but negotiations still ongoing – stay tuned

Get groups working together – mentoring new business owners, creating partnerships to drive new business together
Increase businesses in Laveen
Future small business workshops planned
Residents have “the power to invite people”
Word-of-mouth and referrals is best way in this kind of economy
Call Mike Moreines directly if you have any ideas for new businesses (Terrazona Properties)
Grassroots business growth

Keeping Laveen “rural” is still a high priority, even with growth

*Traffic Growth/Development

202 Freeway/Parkway Project
Environmental Impact Statement has yet to be done – 8 years going
Should be a meeting in next 2 months to decide direction of project
They are facing $1 billion deficit
Definitely TOP priority and biggest project going on in Laveen
People of Laveen need to band together – Fight to make this happen!

Other projects
Hold up on street work due to three things:
lack of funds
county islands
US canals – somewhat unique to cities like Laveen – a lot of red tape
Bridge to new police precinct at 91st Ave. not happening until freeway decisions finalized

*Community Issues and Events

First and foremost, making this Summit a quarterly meeting is a priority
58th Laveen BBQ is on as scheduled – as is Turkey Trot, Easter Egg hunt, etc.
Bike Busters and blighted areas
Citizens are being trained in 4-day programs to issue citations as they see fit
A kind of “Blight Task Force”
Citizens need to “take back their neighborhood”

Schools being built/School renovations
Two Laveen schools built first
Then renovations will be done
These are scheduled as planned

Keeping kids in Laveen busy/Getting kids involved
Youth centers are a high priority for the city and are aggressively being looked into
Parents, get your kids to VOLUNTEER – this is best-case scenario
kids are busy and community is helped
Call Mike Moreines – he can try and find jobs for high schoolers w/ his retail tenants

That's about all I've got, although I can't possibly say thank you enough to our panelists (see previous post) and all those who helped make this happen. We couldn't have done it without the backing of Councilman Nowakowski's office, Terrazona Properties, and all those who donated goods/services. They are Damian Rufus (DJ), for his sound system; Ace Hardware for the space and tables/chairs; Safeway and Fry's for food; Starbucks for coffee; and Corona Ranch for table linens. Also, I want to thank Randy Schiller for being our MC/host, Debbie Zapatka for her design skills, and Janet Gidney for helping run the event. (And then there's always Randy Jones, Claudine Reifschneider, and my lovely wife Catherine, who were my primary sounding board).

Friday, May 8, 2009

One more thing....

Here's my shout out to Laveen MOMS. You guys (gals?) rock! I hope that plenty of you come out to the Local Laveen Summit tomorrow morning (see below). For the kiddos, you'll be happy to know that Terrazona Properties is hosting a carnival right across the street. Plus, your gearhead husbands can wander across the parking lot to the classic car show, and then stick around for an olympic-style boxing event. Fun times, indeed!

Local Laveen Summit Is Tomorrow!!!

For those of you who follow all the happenings in our community, you should already know about this. We have a great event lined up tomorrow morning; and it's possible thanks to the collaboration of several wonderful people, including the Laveen Association of HOAs Retail Committee, the LCC, the SoMo-Laveen Chamber, Councilman Nowakowski's office, and of course Jenna Raskin-Moreines and her husband Michael, of Terrazona Properties. To steal Claudine's quote from the last LCC meeting, "You have to attend this event, or else you have no right to complain about what's going on around here."

It's been exhausting, but well worth it so far. If I didn't have the real life competition for using the phrase, I'd say this has been my baby for the last month or so (so in reality--I'm sure at the risk of offending someone--it's like I've had twins but only one real baby to show for it).

Now I'm just about able to proudly set this baby free...... Questions for panelists are done, all other arrangements have been made..... all that's left is the potential for putting out a couple of fires--fingers crossed that it won't be necessary...... But enough about that. Here's the email that just came out from the LCC (quite similar to the one I sent out earlier in the week, and the Chamber sent afterward):

Laveen Community Council May 7, 2009


May 9, 2009
10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Laveen Pavilions Center
NE Corner - 35th Ave. & Southern
FREE & Open to the Public
Laveen residents are invited to this event spotlighting the current economy and its effects on Laveen's retail and commercial development. Local leaders are taking a proactive stance to look at our community's market response and opportunities following recent trouble in the real estate and financial markets.
A panel of community leaders will answer questions and discuss local planning and transportation happenings and their potential impact on the Laveen area.
The moderator will be community leader Randy Schiller, and the panel includes the following:
  • Councilman Michael Nowakowski, City of Phoenix
  • Timothy Tait, Arizona Dept. of Transportation
  • Eric Anderson, Maricopa Assn. of Governments
  • Mike Moreines, Terrazona Properties
  • Jeffrey Garza Walker, SoMo Development
  • Steve Glueck, South Mountain/Laveen Chamber of Commerce
  • Stefany Scovell, Laveen Citizens for Responsible Development
  • Kimber Lanning, Local First Arizona

Interested community members are urged to attend and bring their questions for this expert panel. Panelists will make brief introductory statements and then entertain submitted questions.

This event is FREE, open to the public and brought to you by the Laveen Association of HOAs', with help from Councilman Michael Nowakowski and his staff, the Laveen Community Council, South Mountain/Laveen Chamber of Commerce and Terrazona Properties.
Coffee and light refreshments will be served.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just Discovered: South Mountain Villager

As I scoured the Internet for an unrelated tidbit of information, I happened across the South Mountain Villager, which is a blog for "positive news about the Laveen and South Mountain villages." This is a great idea for a blog and, judging by past entries, it has some great content. Therefore, I am adding it to my list o' links to the right. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And we're back....

After a rather long hiatus, I am pleased to announce the arrival of my son, born last month to Catherine and me, following a long weekend in the hospital. He is our first and we expect that he will inspire us to have a second, third, and so on.

During this break from posting, there's been quite a bit of activity in the old farm fields of Laveen. Most notably, here's what has been observed on the commercial real estate front: MidFirst Bank is a go; LA Fitness is a maybe. Also, there's talk of a hospital, we've seen at least two new specialty businesses open recently, and now Denny's wants in on the action, along with other restaurants. So here's the play-by-play for each intersection:

51st and Baseline
Denny's signed a lease for the space at the westernmost end of the Safeway shopping center. I know, bummer.... I wanted something better, too. But this way, at least we have another option that is poised to successfully demonstrate our pent up demand. Also, Pappa John's has agreed to enter the same shopping center, leaving only two more spaces to fill. Across the street, MidFirst Bank is preparing to break ground, along with yet another fast food restaurant (Yum brands combo concept?) and a strip mall. As for LA Fitness, we have yet to see what will happen; their preferred local developer, Diversified Partners, has closed its doors and left the site's primary developer to negotiate with the gym directly.

51st and Southern
Reportedly, a new running store is opening here this weekend. The Runners Store is having a grand opening celebration, featuring free foot analysis on Saturday.

Dobbins and 63rd
HOSPITAL??? A Tempe-based developer named Habitat Metro has submitted speculative permit requests to attract one of three local hospitals: Banner, John C. Lincoln, or Catholic Healthcare West. None of the hospitals have committed, although they have each allegedly expressed interest on the condition that we build a freeway. To add credibility, there are also rumors floating around about a group of doctors planning to build an office condo development nearby (although they could probably get a great lease rate instead). Here's my concern about this: Habitat Metro has never completed this type of project in the past. Their largest development to date was a residential project in downtown Phoenix. Add to that the outraged claims of one of the property's neighbors that they have no actual plans for a hospital, and you will understand my skepticism.

We all know that it's just a matter of time, but let's not get too excited yet. We can't even get a definitive answer about the freeway, which is absolutely a prerequisite for any type of trauma center to be economically feasible in such an area as Laveen (those things are quite expensive, and we have yet to provide the immediate population density or demonstrated demand for emergency services--despite showing an absolute demand from the broader region). See also the Banner hospital underway in Queen Creek for an indication of their investment appetite at the present time (hint: they say it won't open anytime soon, despite being nearly complete). Let's see what happens with national health care reform and the state budget outlook for infrastructure improvements, and then perhaps I'll change my tune to something more along the lines of, "I'm a Believer."

27th and Southern
Much to my surprise, the small shopping center on the northwest corner is filling up, with the newest tenant selling weight loss shakes and supplements. Their neighbors include a preschool and barber shop.

35th and Baseline & 27th and Baseline
Still empty. That's right, two great new shopping centers that are completely empty. They were speculatively built when rents were considerably higher and better guaranteed. Now, it looks like they can't afford the cost of tenant improvements or the ability to discount leases in order to generate activity. Now, I'd have to guess that it's only a matter of time before one or both of these properties is sold for pennies on the dollar. Let's hope that there's still a bright future in store for both of them and they employ a savvy strategy as the market begins to stabilize.

That's all for now, but stay tuned. I have some exciting news about the upcoming public roundtable event, titled "Local Laveen Summit." Here, we will seek and find answers to many of Laveen's most challenging questions. More info to come soon, I promise.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

To get a Trader Joe's.......

First, let me point out that my blog is green and my name is Patrick--all in anticipation of this day, March 17th. Happy "wear green and drink dyed Budweiser products" Day!

On now to business..... I just read an article on one of's blogs about a Florida man who undertook a petition process to bring a Trader Joe's to his town:

I must say that I like it. This sort of direct guerrilla-style approach is vaguely reminiscent of our Chipotle email campaign (or Chipatopolis, as Catherine and I call it--no clue why), and frankly, the best way for community members to be heard by the large national chains. Many people don't realize it, but this is exactly how our retail committee can work with members of the Laveen Association of HOA's and its members. As ideas bubble up from the masses, we can vote on where to concentrate our efforts and then begin a focused campaign.

As you will see in my yet-to-be posted article about the Local Laveen event in May, I would prefer to focus on small mom n' pop businesses for now. But that doesn't mean we can afford to forget a proactive approach in guiding national retailers who will inevitably end up here as well. Even die-hard independent types, like myself, have a few standby options for groceries, department stores, or whatever the case may be. So we should make sure that they move here before their less desirable counterparts; and a petition campaign is a great way to do it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interim Post: How About that Freeway?

It seems that the powers that be in Ahwatukee are back at work to oppose our beloved Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway again. And they should be since it's one of, if not the, largest public works projects awaiting funding in Arizona. And that means that it would be a great target for federal stimulus dollars because it has the ability to create so many local jobs for our deeply impacted construction workers.

So what do they offer as an alternative? A parkway. Yes, that's right--a Michigan style parkway that has intersections, but no left turns. This is hardly a compromise, when you consider the following:

1) Insufficient capacity relief for cross-Phoenix traffic.
2) More frequent stops for regional and local traffic, which means more air and noise pollution.
3) No left turns means greater trip distances for local traffic.
4) Greater regional traffic overflow onto neighboring residential streets.
5) Insufficient relief for Ahwatukee residents' complaints.

At the end of the day, we know that the right answer is to build the freeway. It's clear that ADOT and MAG have convinced Ahwatukee community leaders and other local holdouts that some kind of bypass is needed. So I can't imagine why these same leaders have reverted to a proposed plan that we already turned down back in 2003.

Here's the original article, from Ahwatukee Foothills News:

Parkway may edge out freeway for Loop 202

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Ahwatukee Foothills News

The idea of parkways replacing freeways is starting to gain some traction in Arizona's transportation community, mainly due to massive budget woes, more than $5 billion in Maricopa County alone, that make traditional freeways too expensive.

And the South Mountain Loop 202 may be the guinea pig in the parkway debate.

"We still have to make certain we're in a situation where we don't create more problems than we solve," said Bob Hazlett, a senior traffic engineer with the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), who said there still needs to be a lot of study on the parkway concept.

The idea is to duplicate what is commonly called a "Michigan parkway" design, where traffic isn't allowed to make left turns at intersections. (See an example here.)

Instead, motorists travel past the intersection, then move into a turn lane in the median, where they in effect complete a U-turn then move to the right and exit onto the cross street, thanks to the large gaps in traffic that the no-left turn rule creates.

An added benefit to a parkway, Hazlett said, is that by eliminating left turns at intersections, the number of crashes are reduced because there are only 16 possible movements at an intersection instead of 32.

While a parkway isn't a magic bullet in the transportation engineer's arsenal, it does have advantages, including:

* Less land is needed because there are fewer lanes and water retention can be contained in the 60-foot-wide median.

* They generally require basic signalized intersections instead of expensive on and off ramps, as long as traffic volumes are low on the cross streets.

* A parkway carries more traffic per day than an equally sized surface street because there are fewer delays due to no left turns.

"I like the concept," said Councilman Sal DiCiccio, although he wants more details.

Jim Jochim, an opponent of the Loop 202 on Pecos Road, is wary of the parkway substitute because he said there are many questions that haven't been answered, including:

* How a parkway would cut through ridges in South Mountain Park that the Gila River Indian Community consider sacred.

* How a parkway with 90,000 vehicles a day could fill the requirements for a freeway that the Arizona Department of Transportation said was needed to carry an estimated 190,000 vehicles a day.

* What impact a parkway would have on schools that back onto or are within a block of two of the proposed road.

Hazlett also admits there are questions that need studying.

The Pecos Road stretch of the proposed Loop 202 has no cross traffic. So if signals are installed preventing left turns from 32nd Street or 40th Street onto Pecos Road it would seem superfluous.

At the same time, there are major streets, including Van Buren Street and Lower Buckeye Road, that cross the proposed Loop 202 in the West Valley that would require the more expensive traditional freeway interchanges.

But it's not clear if even a parkway design can cut the cost enough to save the Loop 202.

Originally priced at just under $1 billion, by 2003 it was up to $1.1 billion and is now estimated to cost $2.4 billion, a 40 percent increase in two years and a 120 percent increase in roughly five years.

And with all projects in the voter-approved Proposition 400 more expensive than expected, some projects may have to be abandoned.

MAG will look at the transportation projects included in Proposition 400 and consider maintaining the current schedule, but extending it over more than the original 20-year timeline, reducing the scope of projects or blending both ideas.

Hazlett said a final decision on revamping the Valley's transposition plan may not come until fall.

Then the Arizona Department of Transportation would need to re-write some portions of a draft environmental impact statement it has been working on over the past few years to take into account any changes to the scope and design of the Loop 202 before asking for federal approval and seeking public comment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Other Blog, and What to Expect Here in the Future....

Perhaps you're wondering why I haven't posted lately, especially given all the comment-worthy past activity and bold plans for the near future. Well, please rest assured that I've got some great news on the way (both personal and public, for that matter), and I will have an update soon.

For now, I've been shifting the focus back to my other much-neglected blog about western development and opinions on economic news. If you enjoy discussions about the big picture, and what it might mean to us in the near future, then I recommend that you check it out. Please just click or paste the following link into your browser:

Monday, February 2, 2009

My last post

A couple of clarifications regarding my most recent rant:

1. I did not intend for my views about the current real estate market or our recent developments to be construed as anti-development. If you know me or have read past posts on this blog, then you will know that real estate development is my passion and I enjoy working with our local retail developers on behalf of LAHOA. I am rather opinionated about this subject, however, and I'm passionate about responsible and high-quality development (as with other businesses and general contributions to society).

While no one called me out on this, I picked up a little bit of a negative vibe as I re-read the post, in response to a friend's comment about something else. Remember, these entries are written hastily--usually during my work day--and quality is not guaranteed.

2. This is not a prelude to a bid for political office. As mentioned previously, a friend's comment made me want to re-read my post--he thought I was establishing myself as a candidate for office. But I love my current industry (hotel development) and hope that the market allows me to keep working productively in it. This blog is my hobby and my outlet to vent about my community involvement. In order to take on any formal leadership position in this community, I would have to cut down on my travel, start attending more of our community meetings, and become far more accountable for my ideas and suggestions than I am now. But alas, I lack the time and patience; and my pragmatic side still prioritizes a paycheck over civil servitude.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Village Concept

Phoenix once gave a lot of lip service to the idea of promoting an urban village approach to the development of different areas of this sprawling city -- probably influenced by the likes of Portland and other major population centers that have successfully relied on balancing individual neighborhoods' self preservation/enhancement goals with the need for controlled growth. This, after all, was the reason behind our creation of Laveen Village; and it has ostensibly guided our general plan's creation and execution.

In theory, this is all very good. It gives Laveen the ability to strengthen its most prized rural/industrial characteristics by forcing the inevitable new developments to blend in with the existing community. This also helps to support the basis for several of our community organizations, such as the Laveen Community Council, LCRD, and LAHOA. But again, this is all still only in theory, and those community organizations have been threatened recently to modify their purposes....

When I moved to Laveen a few years ago, it was to embrace what I thought Laveen stood for and what I felt was being chased out of the now heavily urbanized Tempe and other nearby areas. It's that old school Arizona respect for an independent and somewhat agrarian lifestyle -- like when I was younger and got to watch the sheep being moved from one plot of land near my house to another nearby, or scavenged pecans and oranges from the nearby orchards and played in the open fields (all in Tempe, by the way). I had one friend in high school who lived here in Laveen, and we affectionately joked that he lived out in the boondocks; while at the same time observing the rapid disappearance of the boondocks from our own landscape.

Then, as Catherine and I shopped here for our first home a few years ago, I remember smiling at the site of hand-painted "Goats/Chivas for Sale" signs, "Fresh Eggs for Sale," and the periodic stray livestock or slow-moving tractors that created Laveen's only traffic jams at the time. "This is it!" I thought, and it's so close to South Mountain, the airport, downtown Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale (Catherine's parents lived there), and everywhere else I need to be besides home. As we moved in amongst the flood of other new subdivision dwellers, however, I saw that this area too was being threatened by haphazard urbanization and abandonment of a cultural legacy. And if you scroll through some of my past posts on this blog, you will see that I reacted by jumping in headfirst to the "Preserve Laveen Village" campaign to oppose higher density rezoning. If we allowed intensification in other areas of our village, then how could we maintain the assumption of a yet-to-be-constructed village core? And how would we actively preserve the existence of our beloved mom-and-pop farm businesses while simultaneously preserving their rights to cash in on their property values like the rest of us?

This especially hit home a few months ago, when I approached the owners of a prize-winning dairy cow at the AZ State Fair to find out where in Laveen they called home -- 27th Ave and Dobbins, by the way. But just as I thought I was about to find a local dairy where I could buy fresh milk, they crushed my dreams by reminding me that there was none, at least not any longer. The problem, as they very obviously stated, is that the land here was too valuable for its development potential, and so the farmers couldn't help but to gradually sell it off. My utopian dreams were crushed momentarily because, at the same time, I noticed that I could no longer locate the home of the fresh eggs, and my chances of finding truly local food were falling apart along with that elusive agrarian lifestyle.

But I thought that the village concept would protect us from this type of degradation! What about all those old-timers who should be concerned about preserving their customs, and could thus keep Laveen rooted in its legacy as a farming community? Did they all give up and sell out? But what happens when they can no longer ride their horses in peace because of the increased traffic? What about the rising noise pollution, litter, and fading nighttime views of the Milky Way? How about maintaining familiarity with one's neighbors? Surely, we wouldn't all be so complicit in eroding these charming features of our community.

But in defense of our community and its longtime residents, I can proudly point out that our/their laziness hasn't been the cause of all this conflict between old and new. Rather, it's been the continued failure of the City of Phoenix to respect its urban village concept and the fact that we tend to know what we're doing when we express concern about the development of our community. We're preserving what we the residents want, even if it doesn't necessarily jive with the hopes of a speculative land developer recognizing a potential opportunity. The unfortunate fact is that part of that opportunity lies in the expectation that our city government is completely spineless when it comes to preserving our general plan, and our staff/council have repeatedly acted against the residents of our village. Whenever we call their lack of support into question, we're essentially reminded that we need to take one for the team. This is uninspiring to say the least.....

But behold, the times they are a-changing. With such a disastrous real estate and development market right now, we won't likely see many more rezoning requests in the near future. So, for better or for worse, at least we can hang onto what's left of Laveen's general plan and expect that it remain intact for the time being. In effect, we can now take back our village because the real estate market doesn't appear to want it anymore.

I'm not just trying to make the best out of a bad situation or look at the silver lining. Instead, I want everyone else to see what a real opportunity this market has created for Laveen, even if it means that we must think outside of the box. That box, by the way, has somehow always packaged real estate as the only possible opportunity, which is a sad outlook for those of us who still respect a more industrious ethic to pure speculation. Real estate will still be there -- just relegated to its rightful place as a longer term type of business strategy. But we need action now, and we're all capable of helping.

Here are a few ideas for how we can do this together but individually:

First, get involved. Pay attention to your community and become concerned about it. After all, most Laveen residents are homeowners who won't likely move anytime soon due to the housing market's woes. So since you're here, make the best of it.

Second, go out and enjoy your life, close to home. Use the hiking trails, bike paths, parks, library, golf courses, etc. Go to the upcoming BBQ and other local events. I just checked the latest BLS data, and it says you have some extra time anyhow. So use it to rediscover your humanity, for heavens sake. I bet you'll be surprised to find something new if you try.

Third, shop here. I don't care if you hate Wal-Mart -- me too. So I'm not suggesting that you opt to support an international chain just because it has an outpost here. But please do forgo that convenient stop near the office if the same option is available near home. Now that we have these businesses, it's important that we keep them here. The alternative is an abandoned shopping center covered with graffiti and other vandalism.

Fourth, let's get the plows back in the ground, dairy farms working harder, and everyone else with a marketable skill into their own home-grown businesses wherever appropriate. The first three steps here were remarkably simple, so I expect a little support for my idealism on this one. If we all work together and follow our goals, we can make it happen. It'll just take some time and cooperative support.

Fifth, we need a plan. While planning usually comes first, it helps if we have the right mindset and behaviors in place as we begin the planning process and move toward execution. Remember how I pointed out that we can enjoy a little reprieve from rezoning battles and other such outside influences? Well, now we can put it to good use by strategizing and justifying our desire to maintain our cultural heritage as a community. It will make things easier in the future and preserve Laveen's "brand" image and character; not to mention I'm one of those sentimental types who believe in posterity, and I expect the same from others.

Now, let's do something positive for our future!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Local Businesses in Laveen?

YES, PLEASE! Now is the time for Laveen to go after local businesses, given the increasing retail vacancy rate and the ever-present demand for local options still lacking here. Anyone who has heard me rant about the state of retail in Laveen knows that I'm also working to do something about this -- even if it seems discouraging at times. As discussed on my other blog entry, "Time for Local Businesses Is Now," the LAHOA Retail Committee is trying to work with the Laveen/SoMo Chamber and local retail developers to encourage local business growth. This means we need to help people navigate the whole process of starting a new business, including their SBA loan applications and their lease for shop space. As I've always believed; with work, we will succeed (eventually). Please read my other blog and tell me what you think.