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The dark side of south Scottsdale revitalization

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Revitalization is a many splendored thing - at least according to the Republic whose crack team of investigative journalists has joined forces with local city officials to provide " unbiased " progress reports on south Scottsdale's much anticipated revitalization. If you believe everything you read in the paper and who doesn't , south Scottsdale's long awaited revitalization is humming right along. Not a bump in the road except for a few pesky residents who persist in asking inconvenient questions. Not to worry. A developers bull dozer can relocate these " nonconforming " residents to surrounding communities that cater to the unchic and downwardly mobile. Mesa perhaps. Scottsdale's favorite four letter word. Yes, surrounding communities may have to accommodate south Scottsdale immigrants driven over the border by rising rents and home prices, an influx of bars and the flies that frequent them.

I've always been aware that much of the cities so called vision for the area is driven not so much by residents concerns or needs but by an orchestrated vision created by various politicians and area power brokers like the Scottsdale Chamber. Residents aren't in the drivers seat. They are confined to a chauffeur driven pedicab and our chauffeur down the road to enlightenment is - the city . A word of advice. If you want to progress down the road to enlightenment don't ask too many inconvenient questions. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Oh - and pray that the pedicab driver is licensed. Don't ponder things you have no control over. I know - you have a vote. Big deal. Election outcomes are often predetermined by those with enough money to fund campaigns and fund them well. If you need a break from the Republics relentless quest for the best lemon bar recipe and other trivial pursuits, pick up a copy of council candidates campaign finance reports. They accurately predict who the candidate may be inclined to represent- residents, developers or the " entertainment " industry AKA bar lobby. To be fair, the Republic did publish a condensed version of these reports. Sadly, the Republic isn't the best at investigative reporting in spite of a recent commitment to provide readers with more of what they wanted. Apparently that seems to be top 10 lists and lemon bar recipes. Go figure. Seems we are often spoon fed only the positive morsels that the city intelligentsia deems appropriate for public consumption. So what else is new. We've been spoon fed since childhood. Wasn't it Mary Poppins who advised us that just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down? We don't need sugar in Scottsdale. Nope. We simply grab a pedicab and head downtown, a place where even a blind man can find a drink and wash that bitter medicine right down - the road to enlightenment. A road littered with apartments, bars, the hip and trendy and - residents best interests.

Forgive me, but as Council Member Littlefield is fond of reminding us, " The city has a plan and it doesn't include you. " And another pearl, " They ( the city ) have to blight it ( south Scottsdale ) in order to save it . " Although there is some truth to this , residents are left to pay the price. Damned if we do - damned if we don't. Live with city inspired blight or complain about it and be prepared to live with the city inspired solution. The city solution for blight? More - as in more apartments. The luxury residences of today, the low end housing of tomorrow. Just as long as we create party pads I mean housing for the adjacent bar district. Heck, lets not dwell on the negative I mean the future. Lets live in the moment and embrace this vision. After all, it will bring us the retail area residents have demanded. Well - kind of .It may bring us high end retail suitable for attracting the young, upwardly mobile demographic city officials would like to replace us with. The new owner of Papago Plaza, an area landmark long in need of a better mix of retail uses, was quoted in the paper as saying that the time was right for redeveloping the plaza. The area demographic was moving in a positive direction as in younger and more financially secure. Yup. We'll soon be blended into one Scottsdale and not divided by designations of north and south. We'll be remodeled in the image of North Scottsdale or the downtown area. Shudder. Ok - so I'm a cynic. What seems to be lacking in this city /developer inspired solution is true vision. Do we want an apartment filled future? Do we want a sea of multifamily communities on every corner, communities that , as they age, don't always live up to that luxury billing ? Is there a need for new housing in this area? Certainly. A few bars? Without a doubt. Residents have to have some place to drown their sorrows. Unfortunately, the city much like a bar patron often doesn't know when to say - enough. It's quantity ( $ ) over quality.

Yes, everything old will be made new again in the cities version of revitalization. Revitalization should focus on how to integrate the old and the new - both architecture and people - rather than how to obliterate the old to make way for the new. This requires far more than an army of developers armed with bull dozers , politicians with a vision clouded by dollar signs and city inspired groups made up of folks masquerading as residents for the sole purpose of supporting Scottsdale's revitalization vision. Yup - blight the area long enough and anything the city does will seem like an answer to our prayers. 700 plus apartments? How fast can ya build em? You see, the young upwardly mobile demographic that the city is courting may follow, along with inflated rents, home prices, property taxes and - retail. You've probably heard the official city mantra - retail follows rooftops. Yes, this anticipated influx of young, upwardly mobile residents is headed our way. You know the ones. Those financially well endowed BMW driving hipsters and label obsessed fashionistas. They live a glutton free lifestyle, go to the gym to display those well toned, spray tanned bods , own all the latest high tech gadgets and know how to use them and have the entire Starbucks menu committed to memory. They actually know what Chai is.

Speaking of spray tans, the only mail I receive with greater regularity than solicitations from politicians who in spite of their sparse list of accomplishments are never ashamed to ask for my vote or a campaign contribution, are mailings from local investors/flippers who have descended on Scottsdale like ticks on a slow moving dog. Vultures. Yup- they'll pay cash for your home - as little as possible. A recent mailing that found its way into my mailbox pictured a totally renovated and blinged out south Scottsdale home listed for a mere $350,000 in a $200,000 plus neighborhood that used to provide housing for the areas middle class. This glossy mailer also pictured a guy named - let's just call him Nick .Nick had that picture perfect smile that only thousands of dollars in cosmetic dentistry can achieve paired with a glow in the dark spray tan in a hue that can only be described as John Boehner orange. " I'm revitalizing Arizona " read the bold faced type. Excuse me, Nick is it? You're not revitalizing Arizona. You're making a profit for yourself. Alas , Nick had the charisma of a used car salesman. Slick - Nick.

So, you lack confidence in the cities ability to transform south Scottsdale ? Oh ye of little faith. IF they can turn downtown Scottsdale into a giant Mojito , just think of what they can do for south Scottsdale. Yup. The downtown is a giant economic engine fueled by alcohol and pedicabs and these Picassos of economic development can do the same for south Scottsdale - if you let them. Think of the benefit to the community of locating all these apartments within a shot glass/walking distance of the downtown bar district. An unintended consequence of this " cosmetic surgery " is that local bar flies who wish to live within walking distance of area watering holes are moving into nearby condo/apartment communities and bringing some bad habits with them. Behavior that may be " appropriate " for bars is often unwelcome in established residential communities. Who cares. Money talks and everyone else may have to walk thanks in part to an inadequate transit system and DUIS that may impede your driving privileges. Not only that but profit motivated investors who wish to make a quick buck are turning condos into vacation rental opportunities in order to take advantage of the areas " hot " status and proximity to downtown. This is a use that is often not compatible with residential living but thanks to Scottsdale's lax enforcement of the applicable ordinance , vacation rental owners are making a tidy profit minus the burden of bed taxes. Can't wait for those Super Bowl parties.

In case you haven't heard or , God forbid , don't subscribe to the Republic, south Scottsdale is " hot " again. Sizzling in fact. An area realtor recently confirmed this when he attempted to justify the $500,000 price tag on a south Scottsdale home located near the senior center. Making an affordable area less affordable for the average guy is just one tool in Scottsdale's revitalization tool box. My greatest concern regarding south Scottsdale's revitalization is that local officials will transform the area into a place existing residents won't recognize or feel at home in much as they have with downtown residents. In their rush to turn south Scottsdale into a contender for the " hottest " city title, it seems long time residents may be the only ones getting burned. Increasingly I hear horror stories about folks who can no longer afford the area. Out with the old residents - in with the new. A 32 year old Scottsdale resident is representative of this group. He and his brother , both area residents, are moving out of state. He works in the mortgage industry. He contends that Scottsdale is growing too fast, is overpriced and has become just another impersonal, big city.

Residents seem to be caught between two factions - the pro development gang and the no development crowd. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. Give either side an inch- they take a mile. Shouldn't there be a more thoughtful approach to revitalization? What's not hot? Erasing the character of established neighborhoods that seem to be drowning in the shadow of apartment communities and " iconic " shade structures. What's wrong with a little open space in the form of pocket parks or sustainable community gardens to break up the monotony of all that heat generating cement? Other cities are doing just that. Apparently their conscience rather than dollar signs shape their revitalization vision.

Revitalization is indeed a double edged sword. Whether it will be the answer to residents prayers or their worst nightmare remains to be seen. Will long time residents be allowed to stick around to reap the " rewards " of this long awaited revitalization? Only time will tell. Perhaps south Scottsdale is like an old shoe that simply doesn't fit any more. Some residents may be forced to move to greener, less expensive pastures before they are put out to pasture. Or, perhaps it is time to put residents back in the drivers seat and put the pedicab drivers and politicians out to pasture. Perhaps this election season voters will have a plan that doesn't include - them.

UPDATE -

I am pleased to report that the Republic took a break from publishing lemon bar recipes and top 10 lists ( kind of ) to do a more in depth analysis of council candidate campaign contributions in the 7/31/2014 on line edition of the Scottsdale Republic. This is a refreshing change of pace - not intended to be mudslinging - intended to inform the masses by providing - facts.

Update - to the update

The article mentioned above lasted about a day and seems to have - disappeared. The public has a right to be informed regarding the sources of campaign contributions for candidates. The paper needs to provide unbiased facts - let voters make up their own minds.Sadly, it seems that when something might be harmful to a candidate they support - the article disappears. I remain optimistic that it might show up in the print edition. They need to do similar reports on all candidates. Good reporting trumps lemon bar recipes any old day.

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