Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Hold on to your hats, folks. This will be a rather long opinion piece as I have much to say.

I am mindfully aware that one of the prime directives of my job as a councilmember is to represent my constituency…the residents of the Yucca district. Their voice is my voice. They do not possess the power, money and privilege of the pro-Stonehaven contingent. Over 1,000 of my district residents have signed a petition in opposition to Stonehaven’s latest version of its proposed residential plan. These are the people who live in adjoining neighborhoods and will receive the full negative brunt of this proposal. They are the people for whom I speak.

Since this is my last term as a councilmember I possess a precious freedom that no others serving on Glendale’s council may have and that is, complete freedom. I can advocate for and take positions that I believe to be right without fear of retribution when the next election season rolls around. In this context, the opinions I am about to express regarding the Stonehaven application are mine and offered without fear or favor. Some will agree and others will disagree. That is to be expected.

Just as we have all heard of the Washington “establishment” aimed at protecting its power, money and privilege, every community in the country, large or small, has its own version of the “establishment.” Glendale is no different.

Lately, the local Chamber, the local newspaper and the local fire union (no surprise there) have announced their support for the latest iteration of Stonehaven. They all represent elements of Glendale’s “establishment.” The “establishment” circles the wagons when one of their own is in danger for that danger could spread and diminish them as well. All it takes is a well placed phone call or conversation with the “right” people. In “establishment” code it’s a plea for help with the veiled notion that it may be their ox gored next and if they expect reciprocal support, then it’s time to ante up.

Then we have the city’s Planning Department. I understand the tremendous pressure they are experiencing. When the Stonehaven applicants proposed 3,000 square foot lots, the Planning Department made it clear that it could not support the concept for Glendale doesn’t even have a zoning classification for 3,000 SF lot sizes. Hence the applicant’s quick pivot to 4,000/4,500 SF lots for Glendale does possess such a zoning classification. The Planning Department cannot be discriminatory and if it has accepted other projects with 4,000 square foot lots, it must be fair and do so in this case. You will hear the statement from the Planning Department that the Stonehaven amendment is “consistent” with Glendale’s General Plan.

But what you will not hear is that 4,000/4,500 SF lots have never been implemented on such a large scale. Yes, Glendale has seen small tracts of such sized lots and it may be used on small-scale infill projects. Hence the Planning Department’s statement of “consistency” with the General Plan. But it has never, in the city’s history, been used where 44% of a new 365 acre subdivision will have such small lots. It is incumbent upon the Planning Department to show where a subdivision of similar size and scope was permitted with at least 40% of the project consisting of 4,000/4,500 square foot lots. If that is their position I expect them to defend it with some relevant examples.

The pro-Stonehaven contingent is touting their $400 million dollar investment in Glendale implying that we should be ever so grateful. Don’t kid yourselves. They are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. We’ve all seen the term, Return on Investment (ROI). That $400 million dollar investment will reap them a hefty profit (ROI). How much? Only they know but we can assume it is substantial or they wouldn’t be pulling out all of the stops to make it happen.

The Stonehaven proponents also tout the benefit of the connectivity to be derived from the construction of Bethany Home Road between 83rd Avenue and 91st Avenue. In an agreement between the city and the John F. Long Trust Bethany Home Road does not have to be completed until January 1, 2021.  What you don’t hear is that the city will pay $1.2 million for the north half of Bethany’s right-of-way (ROW). Where will this payment come from? From the Development Impact Fees (DIF) paid to the city.  Each home buyer pays DIF as it is incorporated by the developer into the price of each home in this subdivision. DIF is used to improve the infrastructure surrounding the new development in terms of libraries, parks, roads, etc. Not in this case, the DIF will be used to pay for right-of-way. This is precedent setting for historically the city has not had to pay for ROW for a new subdivision.

The applicants like to refer to Stonehaven as an “infill” project. Here are some conclusions from national studies done on infill:

  1. The smaller homes associated with the increased density of the project will generate lower property tax revenues, yet it increases the burden on the city’s cost for the provision of services as the new residents use them.
  2. Existent nearby residents bear all of the costs associated with this new infill development in increased traffic and congestion in local schools even though it may provide a benefit to the community as a whole as the city receives state shared revenue benefits from an increase in population.
  3. There is a negative impact for those properties in close proximity to the new, denser subdivision, but a positive impact for those properties at a greater distance.
  4. Lower income neighborhoods tend to benefit from infill development and higher income areas had property values decline.
  5. Larger projects, such as this one, magnify the negative effects more so than smaller infill projects.

What did the April 16, 2016 approved Stonehaven plan consist of? It was a balanced plan that the adjacent neighborhoods accepted.

  • R 1-5 (5,500 SF lots) on 43% of site area
  • R 1-7 (7,000 SF lots) on 36% of site area
  • R 1-8 (8,000 SF lots) on 21% of site area

Now look at the changes requested in the new proposal.

  • R 1-4 (4,000 and 4,500) SF lots on 44% of site
  • R 1-5 (5,000 SF lots) on 22.4% of site area
  • R 1-6 (6,000 SF lots) on 17.9% of site area
  • R 1-7 (7,000 SF lots) on 16% of site area

As a comparison Rovey Farm Estates built 10 years ago is a subdivision of 300 acres north of this proposed project. It is comparable in many ways and has 800 lots ranging in size from 7,000 to 17,000 SF. More recent subdivisions close by such as Boardwalk Place built in 2010 has lot sizes from 7,000 to 12,000 SF and the newest subdivision still under construction is Catania, with lot sizes that start at 5,000 SF. Yet another new subdivision, Horizons at Camelback, has lot sizes ranging from 5, 750 SF to 9, 179 SF. All of these subdivisions demonstrate lot size diversity but not one of them in west Glendale has lot sizes as small as 4,000/4,500 square feet.

The applicant rationalizes the diversity of small lots as more appealing to millennials. Yet an article in the May 12,2017 Wall Street Journal said, “Outside Las Vegas, Tri Pointe home builders has introduced a new-home design that is specifically targeted to millennial buyers, featuring indoor-outdoor patio areas and deck spaces, as well as a separate downstairs bedroom and bathroom suite that could be rented out to a housemate. Building executives said one challenge is that many are buying first homes later in life, meaning they have higher incomes and greater expectations molded by years of living in downtown luxury rentals.”

Perhaps the most impactful to adjacent neighborhoods and families is increased traffic and overcrowded schools. Before Bethany Home Road is completed in January of 2021 and while Stonehaven is being built out, daily traffic trips on Camelback will grow from its current daily count of 25,000 to over double, 54,000 trips. When Bethany is completed the daily trip count on Camelback will drop to 41,000, considerably more than the current count of 25,000. Similar situations occur on 83rd Ave. and 91st Ave. between Bethany and Camelback. This subdivision will intensify local traffic even with the eventual completion of Bethany Home Road.

Who is most impacted by this traffic increase? The Camelback Park subdivision just east of Stonehaven will bear the brunt as well as the traffic to Sunset Ridge Elementary School. 87th Avenue is one of only two primary entries for Camelback Park residents. Now it will also serve as a primary entry for Stonehaven. I am very concerned for the Camelback Park residents for even with a widened 87th Avenue their ability to get in and out of their subdivision will be aversely compromised.

These very same residents will face other difficulties as a result of Stonehaven. While Stonehaven offers the requisite 15% of park/open space, the applicants emphasize and seem to rely upon the connectivity of Stonehaven to Camelback Park’s 3 acre Pasadena Park, Sunset Ridge’s joint 10 acre school/city park and of course, the 20 year, still unfinished Heroes Park. While Stonehaven has 9.1 acres of community park, the balance of 50 acres of open space includes entryway landscaping, perimeter landscaping, street landscaping and the inevitable retention areas doubling as open space and trails.

Pulte currently has about 20 subdivisions. In one of them, Parkside at Anthem, Florence, the house price starts at $146,990. At that subdivision Pulte is offering a recreation center with indoor rock climbing and an indoor basketball court along with a splash water park, lighted tennis courts and a softball stadium. At its Bella Via subdivision, Mesa, they offer adventure playgrounds, basketball courts, a dog park and an amphitheater. Pulte is offering no such amenities in Stonehaven. Why not?

There is no doubt that the two closest elementary schools, Sunset Ridge and Desert Mirage, will be under tremendous pressure. The applicants have received approval from the Pendergast Elementary School District and the Tolleson Union High School district. Little noted is another common practice usually unrecognized by the general public.  Built into the cost of every Stonehaven home will be a dollar amount that will be donated to the school districts to offset the cost of accommodating new students. Could any school district’s, including these districts, motive for approval of this increased density be the result of this typical practice of a home builder donation per house built? It is quite possible that the Pendergast School district will have to accommodate another estimated 1,000 K-8 students. In the last Pendergast bond issue recently approved by voters there is money to expand Sunset Ridge Elementary School but there is nothing allotted for an expansion of Desert Mirage Elementary School.

Finally Stonehaven proponents emphasize the $40 million the city will derive in taxes. In that amount they even count the utilities tax that we pay on our phone, cable bills, etc. They forget to mention this amount is over the lifetime of the project…10 years or better. They make it sound as if the city will receive this amount in one fell swoop.

However, one interesting factoid I learned many years ago is that roof tops (homes) do not pay for themselves on a long term annual basis. In other words, a city loses about $200 per home annually (that is an old figure. I don’t know the current figure). What does that mean? The amount of annual tax generated per home in sales tax, property tax, etc., does not cover the cost of services provided by a city. That is why the life blood of any city isn’t in roof tops but in its commercial, retail, manufacturing, etc. development for those facilities produce taxes that help to offset the loss caused by homes.

This proposed project does not hold the promise of upgrading Glendale. It reminds me of old, 1970s zoning and planning where the smallest lots and consequently the smallest homes are placed behind or adjacent to commercial development. That’s the promise of the Stonehaven plan for the 4,000 SF and the 4,500 SF lots are behind the proposed grocery store center and the proposed restaurant row.  Can you imagine millennials or seniors wanting to live behind a grocery store or restaurant with the lights, the smells and the noise of delivery trucks an estimated 35 feet away from their property?

This kind of plan also reminds me of the old Maryvale. The only difference being is that at least John F. Long offered the public 6,000 SF sized lots…not lots of 4,000 or 4,500 SF in size. This proposed amendment and zoning does not upgrade our community. This large, 365 acre parcel of land deserves to be developed in a manner designed to showcase living in west Glendale and to which all can point with pride.  How much pride will these 4,000 and 4,500 SF lots and homes evoke 5 or 10 years after they are built?

What do power, money and privilege get? They get their way… at the expense of nearby residents who live in stable communities and who don’t want the increased traffic, school overcrowding, and even more pressure on their scant park system. They don’t want small lots with small homes destined to become a sea of rentals harvesting nothing but lower property values for those residents surrounding it.

What was so terrible about the existing, approved plan of 2016? Nothing with one exception…it isn’t dense enough for the applicants. Do you ever wonder how much an additional 204 homes will raise the profitability quotient for those involved? And is it worth it… to us?

© Joyce Clark, 2017          


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