Editorial Classified MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 1973 PAGE 23 High-rise: Planning boards are empty, but hill may; not continue By EDWARD J. SYLVESTER Cltlitn Staff WrllÂ«r "Skyscraper." It has a poetic ring if you like tall buttdings. But it's; a nasty word to many Tucsonians who reserve their poetry for' mountains and cactus-carpeted desert, and want only birds scraping their skies. For more ,than ,a decade a battle has ebbed and flowed m the city between those who want Tucson to reach for the sky and those who like it lying low. Now,.'after a year of intensive development and-protests, suddenlythereare no high-ris? proppsalsbefore the City Planning and Zoning Commission. It may be a lull before a greater storm,, centered .on the coming Comprehensive Planning Process, the long-range program to guide the city's growth which will be prepared and debated for the nert 18 montts or more. : , Â·Developers and businessmen, especially those.with East Side interests, say the time was never;toetter for building taU; office buildings. They point riot only to a nationwide demand for corporate office space, but to ;their own success in leasing available: high-rise space in new East Side buildings. Some residents 1 ' groups, mostly from the East Side, have hotly contested developers' plans to obscure with glass arid steel their vistas of the Santa CataMa..Mountains. In at least one case this year, their protests were instrumental in defeating a high-rise proposal. . Both sides have supporters on the Planning and Zoning Commission, and both intend to make their views felt as the Planning Department begins work on the interim 2oning concept plan that, by April 30, is to offer a rough guide to development until the final plan is . finished. For more than three years, high-rise development has been guided by a policy adopted by the commission, mapping out where in Tucson highest intensity land use would be considered. Numerous requests Numerous requests for high-rise development outside the "core" business area .led the commission to formulate its guide, according to the existing interim policy statement adopted July 15, 1969. This statement designated a large area deemed appropriate for high-rise consideration. The commission said then it would consider "major crossroads of human activity, such as the center of a large retail-sales and/or employment area for selective, controlled high- rise development. While the commissioners settled on the area for development, they left its extent and outline deliberately vague so they could consider high-rise projects case by case. For the same reason they did not ask the City Council to rezone the entire area included in the 1969 statement. The City Council is aware of the policy and has, on the whole, gone along with the commission in approving high-rise rezonings within the boundaries of the commission's policy map. But no council action was required on the over-all guide according to James Hummer of the planning staff. As with many such planning and zoning policies, adopting and following the high-rise policy is within the authority of the commission. . Â· If land is appropriately zoned, high-rise buildings may be developed without approval, so long as building code requirements are met. Includes 'node' The three-part, connected area includes the "Central Business District -- University area," the "Broadway corridor" and the "node" around the Wilmot-Broadway interaction. A separate area for future consideration was set around Tucson International Airport. Even in 1969, the area around-the airport wÂ«s considered for high-rise only "subject to airport landing approaches." But recent planning mirveys have considered leaving the area undeveloped, Not only the airport neighborhood, but the entire area considered for high-rise in the 1969 policy are being "intensively reviewed" by planners working on the interim concept due in April. "We're checking all the high-rises that have been developed since 1969 inside and outside tin high-rise policy area," Hummer said. "We may completely change that area in the interim plan." The IfW "rough guide" to high-rise or high- density development has been followed quite faithfully by the commission, with one important exception. In June, Doubletree Inns Inc. was given final approval by the City Council after commis- Â·hn approval to develop 12 acres on South Al- venwn Way to A complex including an 11-story, ISO-room hotel tower, 150 cabana-type hotel unite And A thret-itory office building. The acreage is opposite Randolph Park about halfway between Broadway and 22ml Street While A number of high-rise projects have been approved within the policy statement *reA, Just because someone wants land within the ATVR zoned high-rise doesn't mean h* al- A^high-rise proposal by Albert Oshriri for East Speedway between Olsen and Plumer avenues, near the seven-story Plaza Inter- nationa) Motel and just west of the university area, was denied this month, winning approval. only as a four-story project. _: Tucson considers anything over four stories high rise. Â·: ; \ ; : ' '.' - The controversies surrounding both these and other developments within and without the "strategic, locations for high-rise development" -- as the 1969 zoning policy .map is Called.-- seem to indicate the fallibility of development through rough guidelines rather than stringent rules. - But this is not so, according to ; Planning Director Frank Sortelli.;"You can have the hottest debates in the world on land set aside in a strong master plan for a given zone," he says. / Â· Â·.". j , Faces problems But the Planning Department clearly faces two problems in creating its interim zoning concept. It might; for example, create high- rise zones that the comprehensive plaiihwill designate for other uses only to find theni de: - veloped for high-rise. Conversely, it might ban high-rises in an area where the comprehensive ' plan will want thertr. And between now and the appearance of that interim plan, the Planning and Zoning -Commission has the added problem of having to ap- . prove or deny rezoning, requests based on a soon-to-be outdated policy. Both 'the commission and Sortelli agree that the only solution is to consider each case on its merits and from every possible angle, and both clearly have stated that one of the major angles is "citizen input." ' The Planning Department is actively seeking neighborhood meetings in developing, its master plan -- several already have been held -- to find out what the people of Tucson want to build and where they want it. And until further guidelines are available, several commissioners have said they would consider neighborhood impact the major factor in rezoning matters. "Neighborhood impact," "citizen input" and related phrases are discussed frequently as guidelines -- but they don't solve all the problems. In the cities around the country, for example, tax-burdened voters have urged high-density developments for their communities Â·-- businesses pay high taxes and make no costly demands on schools, goes one argument. But individually these same voters want such high-density uses in someone else's neighborhood. In Tucson, both sides of the high-rise controversy say they are considering neighborhood impact. 'Approval bad 9 Take a look at the Doubletree proposal: "The approval of Doubletree for South Alvernon was bad," says Commissioner Jack Sarver, who voted against it, "I'm not against high-rise, but it's bad in the wrong areas. That area is mostly one-family homes, and it's definitely outside the Broadway corridor." Sarver doesn't believe any more high-rise is needed .outside the Central Business District. "On Stone Avenue, it just isn't economically feasible to build a one-story building," he said, "But even there, a high-rise building is a major investment that can take years to fill with tenants and even longer to return investment money.!' Sarver himself was developer of the Plaza International -- a high-rise hotel project he says was needed because of the adjacent university, among other reasons. Commissioner Howard Sniff disagrees on the Doubletree proposal. "It's a few blocks from Broadway, but how wide is the Broadway corridor?" he said. "It's on a major thoroughfare -- I consider that a big consideration -- and it's opposite the park, a good location for a hotel. On Jan. 9, the council followed the commission recommendations in denying Oshrin rezoning in a business district for R-5 -- high rise -- to put up his proposed eight-story office building on Speedway. Opponents -- and at times they numbered 300 area residents -called the proposal "spot zoning" and said it would block the mountain-desert view of neighbors. Oshrin acknowledged! the effect of the protests on his proposal, as had several commissioners -- but not without bitterness. "This is zoning by acclamation," he said. "Instead of considering the need for a structure and whether a developer can profitably use his land any other way, they just vote up or down according to the amount of applause. The Plaza International and several other proposals were spot zoning," While planners and neighbors have decried the mish-mash of uses along that stretch of Speedway, Oshrin insists that the current business zone allowing a maximum of four stories, is uneconomical. His project, in fact, was approved by the council for four stories, but he Â«aid he doesn't know if he can develop it that way. Buildings over four stories mushrooming City Planning; and Zoning Commission in 1969 foresaw "limited" growth in shaded area HI-RISE ALREADY BUILT UNDER or NEAR CONSTRUCTION PENDING BEFORE COUNCIL DENIED FOR HI-RISE INSET A Downtown Tucto Out of interim plan? High rises around airport seem unlikely Downtown moves lip Central business district has many new high-rise buildings /'You can't work with this zoning law," he said. In addition to the need for offices around the university, Oshrin also claimed that high- rises cost the city less in; services than lower maximum-density buildings? "Most high-rises have their own security," he said. "You need- less police protection, and they usually provide their own street lighting. Their use of sewers and other city services is no higher than in a low-rise building." Tucson real estate man Roy Drachman, president of a land-use study group called the Urban Land Institute, put the high-rise problem this way: "People say they're against high-density land use and urban sprawl. Well, as long as people keep moving in, the city'has to go upward or outward, it's as simple as that: take your choice." : And County Supervisor Ron Asta, former assistant county planning director who has opposed, many high-density projects, gives the same reason for not opposing high-rise in general: "It's an efficient use of our precious-desert land," he said. "If high-rises threaten to block people's view, urban sprawl can eat up the desert, and then Where's the view?" Tucson's character is centered on its desert-mountain locale, Asta says, and all development should preserve this character. Asta favors high-rise development for the time being only in the downtown-university area, and then only when there is "no undue impact on the neighborhood." Action outlined "What we must do immediately is to declare an area where public services for this type of building can be provided immediately, where an intensive use not only would fit the neighborhood but would not catapult street use ahead of transportation redevelopment," Asta said. Asta announced last Monday he would ask the Board of Supervisors for a complete moratorium on rezoning in the county until the interim concept plan can be studied. Asta emphasized that, his moratorium would not prevent building -- it would simply prevent any zoning changes. Tucson planning officials all express the wish that the city could have a "breather" in high-density development of all kinds, time to consider the impact of those already existing, under construction or ready to be built. Â· The last category not only includes Doubletree but a high-rise apartment building approved for American Baptist Homes of the West last Monday in the so-called "Wilmot- Broadway node," and a 22-story cylindrical office building just given a variance to go nine feet over the city's 250-foot-high maximum at 25 W. Alameda St., in a downtown area already zoned high-rise. Approval was granted more than six montii Afo for the Great Western Bank build- ing on Broadway and.Rosement Avenue, a 16- story giant that would hold the Tucson record for office.space --265,000 square feet compared with 200,000 square feet in the Tucson Federal Savings building's 20 stories. Joseph R. Cesare of Broadway Realty and Trust Co., leasing agent for the Great Western building, explains why planners are not likely to get the breathing spell they want, in the press for new high-rise office space, especially in the East Side area. "Our feasibility study overwhelmingly favored our building right where it is," he said. "The same study showed that downtown offices are nearing.the 100 per cent occupancy rate in the Central Business District." Last summer, Ray Neal of the Tucson Realty and Trust Co. announced that while nationwide office occupancy rates had declined steadily since mid-1970, Tucson's had been steadily increasing, with the downtown rate a whopping 96 to 98 per cent. Many major cities consider 80 per cent occupancy a good goal But the feasibility study for Great Western pointed to the East Side as the major demand are for office space, both to provide services to the majority of Tucsonians, who live there, and to draw on the readily available office- worker pool in its neighborhoods. Less protection The study was far from a small sampling, Cesare said. It cost the company some $10,000 and was conducted by a local member of the prestigious Master Appraisals Institute. Cesare says he is now negotiating with a New York firm to lease 45,000 square feet of space for its corporate headquarters. That would be the largest single block of office space in the city, he says, and he expects the entire building will be leased .before it is completed. With office development rising so rapidly, the Development Authority for Tucson's Economy (DATE) is planning a study on the city's desirability for corporate headquarters, according to David Richmond, executive director. Girding now for the long, hard fight of developing the city's Comprehensive Plan, the Planning Department is seeking budget funds to hire "the most reputable consultant we can get" to begin analyzing every aspect of Tucson life with a view toward a new zoning ordinance, to be ready sometime in the later nesses, according to Sortelli. But deciding the direction Tucson will take is especially tough because of the city's largely artificial economy, based on state and federal money in such areas as university funding, Davis-Monthan AFB, astronomy and retirement pensions, rather than city-based businesses, according to Sorelli. "It's hard to develop stable, local leadership in this kind of economy," Sortelli said. "I don't mean political leadership, but the kind of strong, citizen advisory groups you need to stengthen a comprehensive plan you want to guide development until the year 2000 or 2020." High-Rise Map Index Map no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, 9 10 11 12 13. . 14 15 16 . . 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 No, 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 St. Mary's Hospital U.S. Gen. Services Admin. Tucson City Hall Pima County Administration Transamerica Building 25 West Alameda Lawyers Title Redondo Towers Pioneer International Hotel . Tucson Federal SL Valley National Bank Landeco Hotel Music Hall Alameda Plaza Mountain Bell Mountain Bell expansion* Red.Carpet Inn (was Santa Rita Hotel) Tucson Housing Foundation Tucson House Duncan.6th Avenue Estate Devp. Corp. hotel UA Med School Science Bldg. Plaza International Hotel UA high-rises: Arizona Sonora Dorm. Coronado Dorm. Administration Physics-Meteorology Manzanita-Mohave Dorm. Optical Sciences Mathematics Chemistry Modern Languages Law Biological Sciences West Space Sciences Regency Dev. Corp* Oshrin* YMCA* Doubletree Inns Inc. SAB Financial Center Great Western Bank American Baptist Homes . Borel Broadway Kivel hotel Drachman Broadway of storks 8 . 9 10 11 12 24 9 8 11 20 11 13 3 5 5 10 8 8 17 8 9 10 5 7 9 9 8 7 r, r, fi 5 5 5 5 5 12 8 5 11 8 16 12 11 10 14 17 *Regency Development got a Superior Court decision in its favor in the latest round of a court fight to prevent the city's revoking permission to build a high-rise. The city says Regency waited too long to develop the property. Mountain Bell's expansion building will soon be completed at four stories, but second phase plans call for its increase to 10 stories. A new courts center planned for the government complex is to be eight or more stories. Drachman high rise on Broadway also is planned, but no hearing has been applied for with the Planning and Zoning Commission. The Oshrin, YMCA and Duncan applications were approved, but not for high-rise as had been requested. The old Santa Rita Hotel building was a high-rise, and a major redevelopment section of the hotel is under way at eight stories.
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