Wednesday, November 8, 2023

A Housing Study That Is Not Oro Valley

Jacobs' commissioned study calls for fundamental housing change
In June, we wrote that the Oro Valley Housing Study would be released in the fall. The study was initiated in 2020 under the guidance of the former Town manager, Mary Jacobs. The study's significance lies in its role as one factor that will be used in writing the housing element of the 2026 General Plan. A housing element must be in the plan because the town’s population will reach the 50,000-person threshold that’s required for such.

...Which would result in major land use and zoning change
Even more crucial is the fact that the housing study will play a pivotal role in shaping land use decisions in the 2026 General Plan, which will subsequently influence zoning regulations. Should the 2026 General Plan incorporate the recommendations from this study, significant zoning changes will occur.
Some believe that the study was biased from the start
On Monday, Take Back Oro Valley published an article expressing their belief that the study is biased. We had previously shared this concern, as we felt that the questions asked during the study process predisposed the results toward more clustered housing and lower-income housing. In other words, the study would have Oro Valley turn into something that it is not [see panel right].

Study opens a "can of worms"
Last night, the consultant, Elliot D Pollack & Company, presented the study to the Planning and Zoning Commission. They are Phoenix based and have no feeling for the uniqueness of Oro Valley. They don't know our history.

Several of the suggestions clearly fall outside the intended scope. Take, for instance, the proposal to conduct a study on converting commercial land into retail space. The consultant readily stated that this recommendation is out of the scope of the study.  However, they prepared the study under the direction of the town's planning and zoning staff.  

It's worth noting that this concept aligns closely with the preferences of the town's planning staff, who routinely grant approval for rezoning requests from commercial to residential land use.

Other out of scope recommendations include allowing 4-story apartment buildings... subsidized housing... manufactured homes. 

We've been down this road before when it comes to "land use"
According to Planner Bayer Vella, speaking at last night's meeting, the recommendations are secondary to the intent of the study, which was to collect data for the housing discussion within the general plan. However, it is expected that this discussion will evolve into a thorough review of land use, which will be incorporated into the general plan. If this revision is accepted, it will lead to the subsequent rezoning of areas....some next to your house.

The 2001-02 General Plan underwent numerous revisions related to land use within the general plan. It was modified repeatedly until it received voter approval in a substantially altered land use plan in 2005, driven by substantial resident dissatisfaction with land use. This process indeed spanned five years. Read about the resident angst and what happened on pages 105-107 in Oro Valley: The First FiftyYears by James Williams.

Our View: The housing study is a trojan horse
In our view, the purpose of the study is to provide the planning department with the means to embed in the 2026 General Plan significant changes in land use. The ultimate aim is to facilitate the construction of additional homes and apartments on existing commercial zoned parcels.
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