Today, the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment signed off on the City's request for a parking lot on the former Sahara/Ramada Inn site, which was also the ASU Residential Commons for the first two years of the Downtown Phoenix campus's existence. Despite a wonderful presentation by Sean Sweat (@PhxDowntowner on Twitter) with sound science to his credit, the city put big corporate interests over those who live here.
While I'm irked at the City's underwhelming lack of creativity for its urban area, I'm not really surprised. Tweets from City officials, including the Mayor, put the nail in the coffin for anything but a parking lot at this site.
I'm working on a post that has my opinions on this issue. I think if I published it now, I'd be far too angry. (Even though I am.) But for now, here's how the meeting progressed. I live-tweeted (to my Twitter account, @edwardjensen) the developments for today's meeting.
Though I did have a couple observations. First, the meeting seemed rigged. The board recognized that most in the packed City Council Chambers supported a dog park. What wasn't recognized was that in supporting a dog park, we opposed a parking lot. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Second, the City's arguments had holes and gaps so big that a third grader could find them. The City maintained that a parking lot doesn't increase greenhouse gases, pollution, and traffic. While inherently that might be true, one has to understand the primary user of this parking lot: cars. It's the cars that emit greenhouse gases and pollution as well as increase traffic. In addition, it maintained that this parking lot would be sustainable because 7% of it would have landscaping. Oh boy…what about that other 93%?
Plus, as was noted in Mr. Sweat's presentation (and reminded to me in the comments to this post after the fact), parking lots are inherently bad for the environment. They are hotter than the surrounding area, increasing ozone and particulate matter to dangerous levels. Parking lots release ozone, which, despite being a good thing for the atmosphere hundreds of miles up, is harmful at ground level. 1,200 residents in Taylor Place in addition to all those who walk nearby will be affected.
As promised, the live-tweets are after the jump.
The tweets are sorted newest first, so you'll have to read from bottom to top. A quick word on the actors involved:
- Harry Keidan is the attorney hired on retainer by Sean Sweat, the architect of this project.
- Sean Sweat (@PhxDowntowner) is the architect of this project. He's an MIT-trained engineer who's wickedly smart about urban issues and pedestrianism.
- Jeremy Legg works for the City of Phoenix Office of Economic Development, representing the City in support of building the parking lot
- The Board is the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment, part of the City's Planning and Development Services Department
As promised, the tweets (sorted from newest to oldest, sorry):
- 1:33pm Board approves motion for parking lot, 3-1 #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:32pm Overwhelming number of people in audience oppose parking lot #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:31pm Board will not hear any more testimony from the floor #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:27pm Vaughn Hillyard, #asudpc student, arguing against parking lot on behalf of ASU students #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:25pm RT @andrewkfromaz: It's called evidence. @PhxDowntowner has it on his side, #phx does not. #DTdogpark
- 1:23pm Private citizens now testifying to the board – mainly against the parking lot #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:21pm City reiterates that parking lot is supported by adjacent property owners and is sustainable #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:16pm There is a motion on the zoning board's table to approve a temporary use permit for a parking lot #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:11pm Board: Motion on table and seconded to support parking lot #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:08pm Board thanks people for coming to this meeting, support democracy #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:07pm Keidan: This is not a public parking lot, for Sheraton & KPNX #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:06pm Keidan: Big business wants parking lot, residents want green space #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:05pm Keidan draws analogy to Palo Verde golf course and fight to preserve it for property values #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:04pm Sweat uses engineering knowledge to refute City claims that parking lot doesn't contribute to UHI, pollution #dtdogpark #phx
- 1:03pm Sweat at the podium. Since the dog park is off the table, he is now lobbying to decline the parking lot application #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:58pm Keidan back at the podium for rebuttal. Board reminds us that the issue is a parking lot, not a dog park #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:57pm Dog park commission applications online, http://Phoenix.gov/mayor
- 12:56pm City now talking about dog park ad hoc committee, broad boundaries #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:54pm Legg: closing arguments, major orgs support parking lot and it passes sustainability tests #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:53pm Legg: City has created commission for a dog park not at the site #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:53pm Legg: Bond fund supports higher ed. Not parks. #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:51pm Legg: major landowners (ASU, Sheraton, KPNX) support parking lot. St Croix Villas opposes (only opposition) #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:49pm Legg: Parking lot will have more landscaping than space has ever had before, sustainable features #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:48pm Legg: Parking lot won't inherently generate traffic, won't inherently increase pollution #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:47pm Jeremy Legg, city of Phoenix, now at the podium #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:46pm City says that parking lot will be for five years then home to ASU law school building #dtdogpark#phx
- 12:44pm City says that parking lot won't contribute to deterioration of neighborhood #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:43pm @markdudlik Keidan is hired on retainer by Sean Sweat
- 12:42pm City now stating its position. They argue that people need places to park for DT events #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:41pm Board wants to limit discussion to parking lot. Board feels like dog park is not relevant. #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:39pm Keidan finished, now taking questions from the planning board #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:36pm Keidan: "14K excess parking spaces in DT, per downtown form code" #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:35pm Keidan at the podium noting errors in Phx's original proposal for parking lot, incl UHI, ozone, gases #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:34pm RT @YuriArtibise: Keidan says that @ASU has no opinion on the space #dtdogpark. / He also said that ASU hasn't committed to a DT Law School
- 12:33pm Discussion of pedestrianism and UHI, parking lots negatively impact pedestrianism #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:30pm The presentation thus far has been why a parking lot is a bad thing. Limited mention of the dog park to this point. #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:28pm Sean Sweat (or @PhxDowntowner) at the podium talking about UHI and albedo #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:27pm Keidan talking about Urban Heat Island and asphalt's effect on UHI #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:24pm "Downtown needs more green space" #dtdogpark #phx
- 12:22pm Keidan says that @ASU has no opinion on the space #dtdogpark
- 12:19pm Harry Keidan, representative of Sean Sweat (aka @PhxDowntowner) speaking against the parking lot. #dtdogpark #phx
The lone dissenting vote was from Emilio Gaynor. Kudos to Mr. Gaynor for standing up to residents and not business interests! Approving the motion–and the parking lot–were Patrick Paul, Emily Ryan, and Yvonne Hunter.