Recently the John F. Long Family Trust filed two zoning applications. There will be a public meeting on Monday, November 25, 2013 at the Desert Mirage Elementary School hosted by the applicant. I urge local residents to attend.

One effect of these zoning requests is that the Trust is requesting that 53 acres be used for multifamily housing units (apartments). More land will be used for attached single family housing, another very dense concept. They want land with the highest density possible because it makes the land more valuable and they earn a greater profit when it is sold. The 384 acres of Trust land is located south of the Grand Canal Linear Park to Camelback Road, 83rd Avenue to 91st Avenue.

The City of Glendale’s heart is pumping wildly at the very thought. After all, they are already counting the hefty construction tax, impact fees and sales tax that will be earned as these apartments are built. The heck with its effect on surrounding, existent residents.

They hope that you don’t know that the city has already granted developers (or entitled the developers) the right to build another 4,000 apartment units in West Glendale, the Westgate area.  The last thing that West Glendale needs is another 736 apartments, especially in an area of large lot homes.

If you do a Google search of the effects of multifamily housing on communities you will find positive study after study underwritten by multifamily housing associations or federal government studies as to why multifamily housing is good for us all.

However, I did find one unbiased study done for the Town of Boone, North Carolina by Jud & Associates in 2005. Boone had a moratorium on the building of more apartment units for several years previous to the study and wanted to know if the latest development proposal to build apartments was good or bad for their community. They discovered that it was a question of economics versus quality of life. The study concluded, “A number of academic studies have examined the effects of municipal zoning as practiced in Boone and elsewhere. These studies generally provide support for the idea that proximity to multi-family housing damages the values of single-family homes. An estimated statistical model of housing values in Boone suggests that residential values rise 8.7 percent for every one-mile increase in the distance to the nearest apartment project. The statistical estimates of the housing model provide evidence that proximity to multifamily apartments lowers the values of single-family structures.” In other words multi-family housing damages the values of single-family homes. It lowers property values for existent residents.

An MIT Real Estate Center study identified what it called the “Removal Effect.” It said, “The Joint Center for Housing at Harvard University notes that the construction of rental housing is notable for the way that it impacts the existing neighborhood in terms of what is removed from the neighborhood. While rental housing does have the potential to replace rundown portions of the neighborhood, it also has the further potential to cause the erasure of attractive elements of the community.” In Glendale’s case since the land is currently used for agriculture the removal effect is that it removes the possibility of development of a stable, single family housing subdivision and a grocery anchored commercial center – something West Glendale sorely lacks.

There are other intangible effects of apartments on the health of a community. Apartment renters are by their very nature transient. Did you know that a 1997 study found that 34 % of apartment renters moved in the previous year? If the apartment renter is under 30 years of age that number jumps to 53%. What does this mean to a community? It means that a renter does not invest time or talent in the community. Typically renters do not volunteer in the community. Very few of them vote. They lack knowledge of or interest in local community affairs. Why should they? They will be there a year or two and then move on. It should be noted that senior apartment complexes do not fit this description.

Impact fees paid by developers do not cover the entire cost of increased services needed — water, sewer and sanitation. In fact, apartment owners are free to contract their sanitation services with public or private entities. What about new roads and traffic lights? The developer is usually required to put these elements in at their cost but future operating and maintenance costs belong to the city.

There is also the increased need for public safety – police and fire. Logically apartment units with their much higher populations will have more crime and need these services much more often than a single family subdivision.  In conversations with police officers when asked where crime hot spots are inevitably they will identify an apartment complex.

A case in point about density is the O’Neil Ranch subdivision located from Bethany Home Road to Camelback Road, 59th Ave. to 67th Ave. It is ringed by 10 apartment complexes. Over the years these complexes have not always been maintained, much less upgraded causing their monthly rents to become lower and lower. It is one of the highest crime areas in the city. It has attracted not the normal retail a neighborhood wants and expects but rather 23 package liquor stores, a plethora of fast food restaurants and pawn shops. As a result the 1300+ homes in O’Neil have lost value and their average price is about $90,000. That’s being generous. Some homes have sold for as low as $79,000.

Over the years, I have steadfastly opposed apartment construction. They do not contribute to the overall health of a community. Their residents are transient and do not invest in themselves in the community. Crime increases because of the dense population in apartment complexes. Often the complex may not be a high quality product to start and over time its quality tends to deteriorate. I know that some will point to some spiffy, upscale apartment complex to belie these conclusions but that is not the kind of development that will be built on the 53 acres in question. There will be more apartments in West Glendale’s future  — guaranteed. More are not needed or wanted in an area whose character has been one of large lot development. Oh, by the way, how many apartment complexes are there in Arrowhead?

© Joyce Clark, 2013

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