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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

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.

City Council vacates all activities during the July of each year. Whether you love my blogs or hate them, this break time provides me the opportunity to write a series of them. This one deals with an age old problem, that of new development versus older neighborhoods.

I happened to run across this story in the local Glendale Republic. Here’s the link: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/surprise/2019/06/22/surprise-grows-quickly-residents-question-if-its-growing-right-way/1491785001/ .

It’s about a couple who bought a large lot home on at least an acre in the desert area of Surprise only to discover in the coming years they will be swallowed up and surrounded by a possible total of 4,130 residential units with an average of about four homes per acre. Add to those homes new businesses along 163rd Avenue creating a new urban center and their dream and their investment evaporates.

I would hope the City of Surprise would be sensitive to their life style as it allows new development to surround them. It can be done with what planners call “transitional” development. Under that scheme the development surrounding them would be large lots of 1 acre or better and as development moves farther away from them it becomes denser. It’s not ideal as far as this couple is concerned but it employs a certain amount of sensitivity. After all, they and their neighbors were there first.

It also brings up another issue for which cities should be mindful. All of those new homes and new residents are great. After all, it will increase the amount of state shared revenue that flows into their coffers. However, a stunning fact to remember and I am using Glendale as an example, is that it cost the City of Glendale $973 to provide services to each and every resident. That figure includes public safety which comprises the lion’s share of any city’s budget. For a family of two in a home that comes to $1946. Yet each home (not citizen) generates approximately $400 in property tax and sales tax to offset the city’s costs of services. The imbalance is readily apparent. A city is ahead when it allows development of commercial, industrial and manufacturing.  That type of development does not typically use city services to the extent of a home and they are job generators.

Another type of development that requires sensitivity is that of new infill development. Infill development should not only compliment but should raise the value of older neighborhoods. Sticking a bunch of apartments whether they are the traditional multi-story or single story “Built for Rent” units in the middle of existent residential areas is a recipe for disaster. Multifamily dwellers, as nice as they may be, are not usually invested in the community in which they reside. On average they move every three years. That dynamic does not offer stability to the residential neighborhoods adjacent to such a complex or to the fabric of community as a whole in terms of public participation.

When multifamily units are new they hold their value as the developer/investor seeks to recoup the original investment and turn a profit. But there are no guarantees in life and there is certainly no guarantee as to how long the original owner will hold that investment. At some point there will be sale and now begins the inevitable slide into decline. The new owner may not be as assiduous about keeping the property up while profiting. Little things are not attended to and then the bigger things are not taken care of.  Over time it becomes an underperforming property that diminishes adjacent property values even further.

There are places in a city for multi-family and that is where density and mass will complement existing retail and commercial development. A good example where density is positive is in and around Westgate. With Westgate’s nearly two dozen restaurants, Tanger Outlets for shopping and sports entertainment choices of hockey and football, density is important in terms of providing a consumer base. Another scenario can be in an area of all new mixed use development that establishes new single family and multifamily neighborhoods served by new retail and commercial. A purchaser of a home in that kind of area is already aware that multifamily will be part of the mix.

Cities have a responsibility to their current residents to be sensitive in the placement of new or infill development. Diminishing the property values of one part of the community to accommodate the bright, shiny new development that may not be appropriate for the existent area does a disservice to the very fabric of the community they seek to create.

As the couple in Surprise said about their home in the middle of nowhere, “We thought we had really found something.”  Let’s be careful as a home owner who had moved into a neighborhood years ago and thought they had really found something special becomes threatened by adjacent, incompatible development.

 

© Joyce Clark, 2019         

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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

In the March 1, 2017 edition  of the Glendale Republic there is a story by Jessica Boehm entitled Surprise leaders sound off on tearing down city’s ‘Berlin Wall’ to unify residents. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/surprise/2017/02/27/surprise-state-of-the-city-unite-divided-residents/98301216/ . It isn’t just Glendale or Surprise that has a “Berlin Wall,” every community has its own version. A “Berlin Wall” is metaphorical for what divides a community.

In Surprise, “To the north, retired residents live in age-restricted communities, many of which have lavish parks and other amenities paid for by expensive homeowners association dues. South of Bell Road, young and middle-age couples are raising families in the tract-home developments that permeated the area during the Valley’s housing boom.”

The divisions in Surprise became apparent when, “a $63 million bond measure — which would have funded nine projects, including a new recreation center, swimming pool, road improvements and fire stations — failed by less than 500 votes.” Why? Because the voting clout was with the northern retirement communities who saw nothing in it for them except and increase in property taxes and the southern, younger residents, unengaged in their community and simply failed to come out and vote. Each groups’ priorities are drastically different.

Glendale has been fortunate to date when it comes to bond elections but the future may portend quite differently. While there is no physical wall in Glendale, there is a growing divide between its northern and southern populations. Northern Glendale is characterized by an older, less diverse, more affluent and educated population. They tend to have more leisure time and more disposable income to spend on such activities. They also tend to be universally connected to the internet which can coalesce and encourage them to greater activism and they tend to live in HOA communities.

Southern Glendale is characterized by seas of starter and mid-level tract homes rarely in an HOA community. There is a younger population, decidedly less affluent, more diverse and less educated. Internet access is not universal. It is an area of mid range working families and the working poor with little free time and too busy working or spending time with the kids to be concerned about city issues. They are less likely to become activists and even less likely to vote. The voter turnout between north and south Glendale is historically stark. The north districts of Barrel, Sahuaro and Cholla always produce more voter turnout than the south districts of Cactus, Ocotillo and Yucca.

In the Surprise article several community leaders were interviewed but the $64 dollar question of how “to ignite civic spirit” was left unanswered. Civic engagement can be generated through education. But that is only part of the answer. People need equity. Notice I did not say ‘equality.’ People are motivated to act not only when they are educated about an issue through communication. They are motivated to act when they learn that it is in their best interest to do so — exactly the reverse of “not in my backyard” but rather “yes, put it in my backyard.” Issues and infrastructure development issues will move forward when all citizen stakeholders, both north and south, learn that they will share a piece of the pie.

That may be the reason why Surprise’s latest bond issue failed. The northern portion of the city did not see a share of the pie for it was their vote that cause it to fail. That could be Glendale’s fate, not just on any proposed bond issue but in its continued failure to offer a piece of the pie to its southern residents. Until Glendale recognizes and accepts the imperative of “Upgrading Glendale,” especially in its southern districts, the divide will only grow. At what point does it become Grand Canyon-like where nothing will breach the chasm?

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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

Proposed apartment complexes are always controversial…and not just in Glendale, or in this case, Surprise, but in every Valley city. I was surprised to learn of a new type of apartment complex being proposed in Surprise. Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/surprise/2017/01/30/surprise-proposed-apartments-prompt-concern-anger/96859410/ . What drew my attention was this, “NexMetro Communities plans to build a complex that does not match up with traditional apartment buildings. For example, the 133-unit complex would be gated, single-story and consist of mostly detached homes with private backyards. Rent prices would be between $1,000 and $1,600 per month.” It’s a hybrid,” said Jacque Petroulakis, executive vice president of marketing and investor relations for NexMetro Communities. “It’s not an apartment, not single-family home for sale — it’s gated, single-family homes for lease.”

Why do so many neighborhoods throughout the Valley oppose apartment complexes, no matter what their configuration? The traditional reasons are traffic, increased crime and lower property values in surrounding subdivisions. These continue to be valid reasons.

But the most obvious reason is often overlooked and that is the lack of investment in a community often displayed by renters. Universally (there are a few exceptions) renters have no investment in the community in which they are residing. At some point they will move on to something bigger, better or more closely meets their current needs. How many renters bother to register to vote within a community? Historically it’s very, very low. How many renters become parts of community life? Virtually none. I can’t remember the last time a renter in Glendale came to a city council meeting to express a concern or comment about Glendale. Maybe that’s because they don’t do it. How many renters volunteer for a citizen board or commission? None, that I am aware of.

Without the investment of ownership renters typically do not maintain the property in which they reside. Just ask any landlord who has had to do major repairs or remedial work after a renter leaves. Often the cost of remediation is far more than the security deposit. Drive down any residential street and you will probably be able to pick out the homes being rented. Renters generally have no pride of ownership.

Yet renters costs to a city are often far more than the sales tax or other forms of tax that they generate for that community. Whether it’s a property owner or renter, a city still must provide basic services of public safety, water, sewer and sanitation, library and recreational services and transportation infrastructure…to name just a few. There is also the issue of schools and the sudden influx of large numbers of new students. I have talked to teachers whose classes are often made up by a majority of children living in apartments and were surprised to learn that by the end of a school year the students with which they started are gone to be replaced by a new group of apartment dwelling students. There is no stability in this kind of education equation.

Rental units put additional pressure on a city’s infrastructure as traffic in the area inevitably increases. Rental units put additional pressure on a city’s public safety departments. Wherever there is residential density (and apartments are the most extreme form of density to be found in any city), logically there will be more calls for service for police and medical response. The quality of a rental complex can do damage to nearby property owners, especially as the complex deteriorates over the years due to inadequate maintenance. We’ve all seen the complexes where the landlord pulls in the money from monthly rents but does not reinvest that money into maintenance.

Lastly, in today’s market monthly rental fees of $1,000 to $1,600 are considered the low to median price range. An upscale apartment complex often has monthly rental fees of way north of $2,000 a month. What is being proposed in Surprise is no more than a dense residential development comprised exclusively of renters. It would be the same as if your neighborhood suddenly became nothing but rental properties. I fail to see how this concept upgrades a city or helps to create a stable, residential neighborhood. A rental property is a rental property be it a house or apartment. This “new hybrid of apartment complex” is simply the developer’s attempt to put lipstick on a pig.

© Joyce Clark, 2017        

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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