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March 25, 2013

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Speaking of good bones... the content is there, the interest is there. A Talton's-eye view of latter 20th century history - boom, bust, and (?)revival - through the Phoenix lens should find an easy publisher.

Tell me you're not thinking about that.

Finding a real publisher would be very very hard. Alas.

Great Series Jon - -
Thankfully, I left before the real decline began. I still remember cleaning an office downtown (and riding my bike to get there) and going to the Greyhound Depot for a coffee.
Phoenix always seemed to be 25 -30 years behind LA. Perhaps the climb back up is beginning.
I'm amazed by the progress Baltimore has made in the 20 years I've lived there. They have engaged in a great program of "Urban Homesteading," brought more business and housing to the core, re-established old neighborhoods and been more concerned with preserving the old architecture than tearing buildings down and putting up concrete boxes. It's still a "gritty" city, but the downtown is no longer the ghost town (after dark) that it was in 1991.
Keep the articles coming....
Bear

I think it was Tim Barrow who rode the bus, not John Driggs. I vaguely remember a photo in one of the local newspapers of Barrow on the bus.


Amazingly, Doug MacEachern seems to agree with you in certain vital respects:

http://www.azcentral.com/opinions/articles/20130305babying-downtown-phoenixs-growth.html

The second half of his column may be where the divergence occurs. Is there anything to his suggestion that the City of Phoenix, as owner of so many undeveloped downtown lots, is being stingy in holding them back for use in high profile Big Projects that provide higher returns and (though he didn't mention it) put feathers in the caps of city officials and politicos?

Put aside his remarks about letting the market decide. The market isn't the seller, or the grantor, the city is, and, like it or not, buyers will need city approval.

But why doesn't the city do more with the land? Why sell it at all? Why not provide it free, coupled with suspended development taxes/fees, to selected projects (e.g., affordable housing) for which the buyers are willing to cooperate with city goals and put that cooperation in writing into well-defined, enforceable contracts? That way, apartment developers would have a sound reason to charge below market rents to attract residents.

Land that has been just sitting there for decades and is owned by the city already ISN'T generating revenue. Giving it away (or leasing it with payments in initial years suspended) wouldn't, therefore, lose money, except relative to pie in the sky fantasies. It also isn't attracting residents whose local purchases would support area merchants, increase area jobs and hiring, attract area investment by other businesses, and provide sales tax and other district revenue (including an expanded property tax base, eventually).

There's a lot of information here, all of it quite good, perceptive, and encyclopedic. I want to quibble about a few things only because I think it's good to remember enough about the old downtown that we can actually argue about it. For our purposes, it's useful to trip over a few rocks here in explaining why central Phoenix looks the way it does. We do this partly to help people understand why it's Scottsdale and Tempe that seem to be the real news in place-making. Sadly, it also helps explain why downtown Phoenix faces such long odds in returning as the relevant center of this metroplex.

First this: there is no comparison between Larimer Square in Denver and the old building stock in Phoenix. The Fleming Building (at 2nd Ave & Washington) came closest in terms of quality, but most of the buildings that were torn down occupied crucial blocks and unlikely to survive in a downtown footprint as small as ours. My father bought the salvage rights to three exquisite Beaux-Arts style tear-downs (Water Users, YMCA, Federal Buildings) which would not have survived in Denver let alone Phoenix.

The heroine of Denver was Dana Crawford who swooped in just as urban renewal had cleared over 20 blocks of priceless Victoriana in order to save the best block on west Larimer St. Denver in the 19th Century was extraordinary. Mining, not farming, was its source of wealth and it showed up in well-constructed buildings, beautifully ornamented and dignified. I lived in Denver in the early '70s and was deeply impressed by what I saw. Only after seeing pictures of the old city that existed mostly prior to WWII did I realize how Denver had sacrificed so much in the name of "progress". If Phoenix seems foolish in hindsight, Denver was absolutely profligate. But it had an immense treasure and so there were enough survivors to still grace their downtown.

This points out the primary Phoenix problem. We had been a small but coherent city prior to WWII but by 1960, prosperity in the form of the car had devastated the old civic matrix. Moreover, this happened virtually everywhere else in this country. Americans were moving to suburbs, shopping in malls, and abandoning downtowns across the country (in small and big cities alike) to the homeless and poor. The best cities preserved enough to remind people why real cities matter (Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, and maybe Denver). These cities were hardly virtuous. They were fortunate in having such large old building stock and urban footprints that they couldn't tear down everything for horrors like parking garages and convention centers.

Phoenix made terrible choices but the worst thing was not really a choice. As noted, Phoenix was a small city that exploded in size just after WWII when the car became the default mode of transportation. The car changed us as people. It made us crass and boorish. It altered the way we related to each other and buildings in particular. Old buildings were designed to be looked at by pedestrians. Modern buildings, by contrast, were meant to be looked through a car windshield at 35 mph. Architecture changed to accommodate this. Along with Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and Tucson, Phoenix celebrated this fact. America did as well. We were winners! And for nearly 50 years that delusion hypnotized us.

Today, the aftermath of this destructive spending spree is not pretty to look at. I regard the Viad Building as hideous beyond words. Tapestry on Central: ditto. Will Bruder's Central Library destroyed a block of well-constructed older apartments that were organically urban in a way that all the glitzy new stuff will never be. And this is our curse even if we don't recognize it as such. There is no recovery for a city this mediocre. There are times when I visit Lux Coffee that I can almost think there's a real city here. But the moment I step outside and see the vast, unfillable spaces on Central, I know the problem is irremediable. Phoenix is too poor. The money went east to Scottsdale and Tempe and it's not coming back. We won the lottery in the '60s and '70s and blew it on drive-by crapola. We landed on skid row because that's where the bums end up. That shouldn't have been our destiny. Rich kids should always be rich even if they go and out and get drunk every night. Now we know better. And it's too late.


And the newly elected mayor has abandoned downtown for classier up north diggs

I remember in the mid seventies that one of the Driggs kids swam for one of the city pools' team. I was working at Coronado Pool at the time.

Phoenix did (and maybe still does)have a great city pool system that was a very positive force in the lives of young Phoenicians. One of the positive aspects was that the area supervisors had a policy of matching youthful workers (lifeguards, recreation aides, etc.) with work assignments that were out of their comfort zone -- economically speaking.

I remember one summer spent working at Roosevelt Pool on south seventh opened my eyes to the alternate universe of the tough south side.

It was the first and only time that I heard people discussing the potentiality of creating a new 'Aztlan' in the Southwest.

Great series, Mr. Talton. I'll just note that in 1900, Denver already had well over a million people, while Phoenix had just over five thousand. Phoenix grew hard and fast, while Denver grew at a much more reasonable rate. I often wonder how Phoenix would have evolved without modern air-conditioning. In the early fifties, most cooling was evaporative, and I can still remember seeing cars with electric fans on the drivers window, and most cars had wind wings even into the seventies (Hey, man, crack that wing!) The longer commutes in the summer must have been pretty unpleasant. It seems like people mostly lived fairly close to their jobs, but maybe I'm just mis-remembering.

Pat, do you mean Colorado had over a million people? In 1900 Denver had 133,859, according to the Census. Denver didn't even have 700,000 in 2010.

But I agree, great series! It is good to have multiple views on downtown Phoenix rather than boosterism. This ensures that issues advance in regards to development and keeps the focus on what is missing in downtown. We have to constantly be reminded of what elements are needed to make downtown thrive. It is true that CityScape is an eyesore on the retail block, but I like the hotel/apartment/office component. It has been said before, but CityScape could finally be the piece that leads to more residential development in the central core. With 224 apartment units at CityScape (or between 403-448 residents, assuming 1.8 to 2 people/unit) and over 200 hotel rooms in the same half block, businesses could start sustaining themselves. What was missing at Arizona Center and the Mercado is exactly what CityScape brings: residents and on-site/nearby hotels. It is much too late to save or bring back Arizona Center as a vast retail hub, but it is now benefiting from the Sheraton. You can no longer enjoy a movie, especially a new release, without a crowd at the center's AMC.

I have had more than my say, and I promise that these long-read essays will be rare. My primary goal was to tell a story rather than to advance a thesis.

A couple of things. I knew Dana Crawford. Dana Crawford was a friend of mine. (I lived in Denver and worked at the Rocky Mountain News). She was the kind of urban entrepreneur with both skills and the ability to assemble capital that Phoenix lacked, and still lacks. Most people don't realize how close Lower Downtown came to being clearcut. All those great buildings, including Union Station, would have been gone. Another pivotal player was Mayor Federico Pena, and his successor, Wellington Webb. And businesspeople with means, such as John Hickenlooper, now Colorado governor and former Denver mayor, who set up Wynkoop Brewing in LoDo. To quote the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo, it was a damn close-run thing.

As for Scottsdale and Tempe, they will never be real downtowns, much less regional, big-city downtowns. The lack of one is a critical disadvantage to attracting talent and capital.

I think the new downtown Phoenix is "ok" for now. The public and private sunk costs are now too great to just walk away, which was not the case in the years throughout this telling. Now the big problem is most of Central, however many cute restaurants open (and close). And, of course, the ongoing linear slumification of Phoenix. And the loss of consensus on City Council.

As for the land banked by the city, I haven't done enough sniff work to know how much really exists. It was assembled first for the football stadium and then the biosciences campus. With "affordable housing," one must define his terms. The last thing Phoenix needs is more poor people living in and near the core. What it desperately needs is more private employment centers with good pay in the core. Then, the housing would follow -- and I realize this runs counter to the city planners' long-held belief. Even when I lived in Willo, many residents lacked the money to patronize the restaurants popping up.

Finally, is Phoenix doomed? In the medium term, it will face a crisis that will be on a Katrina scale. In the long run, climate change will make it impossible to sustain such a large population center there. Not just climate change's direct effects there, but their consequences and costs worldwide, which will make chimeras such as desalination plants and cool sidewalks impossible -- the capital and efforts will be deployed elsewhere. And all the Grady Gammage op-eds can't wish this away. A Phoenix could have a future, one I have discussed many times, a dense oasis, much smaller, in the SRP footprint. But not a single-family-house vomitus from Yavapai County to south of Tucson.

Yeah, you're right, Phx Suns fan: just over 133,000. Still, it was a well established city when Phoenix was a speck on the map, which gave it an advantage as far as historic buildings and a firmly established downtown goes: I think. (I've read weird stories of KKK dominated city government in Denver in the twenties). Phoenix never really had time to develop that kind of core before the automobile and suburban culture took root. Not saying they didn't blow opportunities, but it was a different evolution, possibly unique in the U.S. Even in L.A., people were reluctant to move inland, away from the ocean breeze, until the car culture made it more palatable. Nobody wanted to commute to Temecula or Antelope Valley until the last part of the twentieth century. My Aunt and Uncle had a "remote" getaway cabin way out in Pear Valley in the forties and fifties, and now people commute from there to L.A. daily.

Ahhh... Pear Blossom, not Pear Valley.

R pear trees native to the Americas

Great comments, including the much-missed Soleri, Phoenix Suns Fan, and Rogue himself.

Among many interesting remarks, the latter scribed:

"With 'affordable housing,' one must define his terms. The last thing Phoenix needs is more poor people living in and near the core. What it desperately needs is more private employment centers with good pay in the core. Then, the housing would follow -- and I realize this runs counter to the city planners' long-held belief."

I'll take a cliff dive and define affordable housing, in this context, as apartments whose rent, for comparable amenities and square-footage elsewhere in the city, is at least 1/3 less than the median cost.

The thing that tends to be overlooked here is that poverty is defined as the lack of disposable income, whereas reducing housing costs by 1/3 or more adds 1/3 or more to disposable income, all else being equal. "Poverty" is not only a function of wages but also of how much of household income has to be spent on basic expenditures, of which housing costs are a major item.

You also have to factor in the fact that not only "poor people" will be attracted to affordable housing: they will certainly be included in the mix but also so will upwardly mobile, young working-class and lower-middle class individuals and couples (with or without children) looking to make their wages buy more.

If we could get Medicaid expansion so that health care (another big cost) was covered, and follow my prescription (or an expanded version thereof) for resettlement of the downtown area, I think you would find that the population attracted to such housing had, by and large, enough disposable income to attract a great deal of additional retail development seeking those dollars. Those retailers have to hire workers and that in turn means more area income, so that the process becomes self-sustaining as more residents attract more businesses and more workers mean more residents.

This is exactly the model that Phoenix has used in its expansion. Developers build HOUSING to attract residents, together with basic business infrastructure to attract retailers. Nobody builds new retail establishments where residents don't exist and are unlikely to exist in the near future.

When you talk about more private employment centers with good pay, you're right. But you're wrong when you say that this runs counter to city planners when it comes to downtown: on the contrary, for some reason, unlike anywhere else in the city, they support big projects rather than settlement first; and, in my humble opinion, you're placing the cart before the horse when you say that employment precedes residency. Employers go where the disposable income is, not the other way around, particularly in the retail sector, which is most of what we can expect downtown employment to be, as indeed it is elsewhere. Take a drive through any typical section of the city and you will find that retailers make up the majority of physical locations.

Finally, I think you have to address the needs of the working poor. The idea that the downtown can be revitalized by a few yuppie lofts is neither credible nor conducive to social justice. We want affordable housing for working class persons and families, and we want it now. The city has ample land holdings (whatever the exact amounts) which it could use to further this goal, but instead it chooses to hold on to them, like Midas, in the grip of speculations about future windfalls. Even if those speculations were realistic, the city should instead be using its bargains in land-banking to help those lagging behind, not (primarily, though there is a place for this also) to indulge the glossy-magazine fantasies of young urban professionals.

P.S. Desalination plants are not a chimera. They are CURRENTLY a chimera simply because it takes so much energy to separate salt from ocean water (which exists in abundance), and the market costs of energy make that uncompetitive.

However, the federal government could built large solar photovoltaic plants, run them as non-profits, and charge only what it costs to operate and maintain the plants; as opposed to private developers, who would first need the capital to build such plants, then would need to price the electricity produced to recover the investment costs, with a profit sufficiently attractive to investors, in a time-frame sufficiently attractive to investors (else they invest their money elsewhere). This means they need to pass these recovery costs on to consumers (including desalination plants using such electricity as input) and that makes them uncompetitive with conventional energy sources.

If the government built and ran the solar photovoltaic plants and charged only what was necessary to operate and maintain them, it could sell really CHEAP electricity. Preferably to government run non-profit projects contributing to basic national needs, such as desalination plants converting abundant ocean water into fresh drinking water.

The main thing that needs to be added to this prescription is EFFICIENCY. Also, the idea that a portion of government revenue needs to be reinvested in maintaining or expanding capacity. The government of Venezuela is, by all accounts, a poster-child for stupidity, inefficiency, and venality when it comes to its nationalization of oil resources, since it has failed to reinvest sufficient resources to maintain or expand output. There is absolutely no reason why "socialism" needs to be stupid! You need people in charge who value efficiency, not for the usual capitalist reasons, but for very soft reasons which nevertheless recognize the legitimacy of capitalist logic when it comes to resource utilization, even though the end results in terms of distribution and pricing are quite different.

Emil, I think you are spot...and you might be surprised to learn that the City has been working with select groups to develop housing for lower income groups. Primarily through the development of "special-interest" housing like the new Native Connections apartments in Roosevelt, the "retirement" housing on 3rd Ave (also in Roosevelt), and the renovated complexes, like the Marquee, aimed at students and young, more working-class individuals. There is also another site on the SW Corner of Roosevelt and Central that will be a mixed use, mid-rise development with reduced rates based on income; similar to Roosevelt Commons on 6th Ave.

I think what is missing downtown is the developments that do "indulge the glossy-magazine fantasies of young urban professionals." Those type of developments (Skyline Lofts, 44 Monroe, and Roosevelt Square) are in demand. I have mentioned this before, but I know plenty of individuals (coworkers and friends) that live in glossier digs in Scottsdale, Tempe, and other parts of Phoenix, specifically because there is nothing for them downtown. CityScape will give them more options but with only 224 units, expect that place to fill-up quickly. I do agree that the city should continue to offer incentives for developing not only income-based rentals, but also for 44 Monroe/CityScape-type dwellings.

I incorrectly identified apartments in the above post. The Marquee Apartments are also aimed at retired seniors seeking an urban lifestyle:
http://www.themarqueeapartments.com/

The apartments I was thinking of are next to the Marquee but I do not know the name of the complex.

No, Cal, Pears are Old World. Hey, were you one of the cops shooting up that bus in The Gauntlet? They were real PPD, weren't they? And isn't that St. Mary's in the background of the photo?

(RIP Eddie Basha)

Worst movie Clint ever made. I did not participate.
but later while investigating an armored car robbery i found one of the police car visa bars used in the movie in a cops garage that had worked on the movie set.

Emil: "Finally, I think you have to address the needs of the working poor. The idea that the downtown can be revitalized by a few yuppie lofts is neither credible nor conducive to social justice."

You tend to invite ridicule of your own pet social nostrums when you reduce someone else's idea to a cartoon. You said yourself at one point that you cannot build a vibrant downtown on the backs of poor people.

Employers aren't stupid. They know how little a person will work for and if you take 1/3 of usual rental fees out of the equation, employers will respond with less pay -- because they know they can.

I visited Minneapolis (and St Paul) a few years back and was crushed to realize that this civic emblem of good government and urban design was mostly a huge dead zone of parking garages, skytubes, surface parking lots, a blimpy sports arena, and, of course, lots and lots of freeways. There were good things, to be sure. The old Lake of the Isles neighborhood was stunning. The uptown neighborhood was energetic. The arts were very well-housed and attended. Also, dotted here and there (and mostly devoid of coherent context) were some lovely old buildings from yesteryear. But the overall effect was so disappointing that I left not caring if I ever returned again.

In 1950, like virtually every other American city, including Phoenix, Minneapolis was extraordinarily good. Now it's a mess where city planners try to revive urban esprit with decorative park benches and lampposts. In Phoenix, this racket includes planting street trees that offer minimal shade.

Here's a forum where cities can be seen in their previous glory. I can get lost in toxic nostalgia, so I limit my visits to once a month or so. Still, I recommend it if only to see how wonderful our cities once were. http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/forumdisplay.php?f=23

I'm repeating myself but I might as well given this venue. Phoenix is crippled less because we weren't reading James Howard Kunstler or Jane Jacobs but because like every city, we wanted to drive everywhere. That's the American Dream in all its infantile glory. And few of us knew any better so it hardly matters that a city of excitable boosters and Midwestern sad sacks created something not quite worthy of sustaining love. The car and single-family house were the totems of our promised land. This was true in every city in America. Phoenix is remarkable only to the extent that its meteoric ascent has crested over a deep, deep canyon.

Amen

"headless lucy" wrote:

"You tend to invite ridicule of your own pet social nostrums when you reduce someone else's idea to a cartoon. You said yourself at one point that you cannot build a vibrant downtown on the backs of poor people."

You would do well to take your own advice. Nothing I have suggested is a prescription for building a vibrant downtown "on the backs of poor people".

"headless lucy" wrote:

"Employers aren't stupid. They know how little a person will work for and if you take 1/3 of usual rental fees out of the equation, employers will respond with less pay -- because they know they can."

So, your idea is that employers routinely check the housing costs of workers and then make major adjustments, decreasing wages by a third because their housing costs have declined by a third? How realistic is that?

I don't mind constructive criticism, but it seems that your replies lately are a kind of contrarian reflex. If you have a problem with me that is your problem, not mine or the blog's. Try to fix that. If I'm not mistaken, your past aliases included "Dulce Nada" and "Soft Cannonball", among others.


"cal lash" wrote:

"(The Gauntlet was the) Worst movie Clint ever made"."

Oh, I don't know, how about The Eiger Sanction? Plenty to choose from, if only because his career has been long and nobody bats 1000. I'm inclined to agree with critic David Ansen (Newsweek) who wrote, about The Gauntlet: "You don't believe a minute of it, but at the end of the quest, it's hard not to chuckle and cheer".

The 1970s was a time of great (and well justified) skepticism, indeed, cynicism about major institutions, including the police. Serpico was essentially a documentary. Nor have the problems disappeared. Ever heard of Abner Louima?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abner_Louima

The real problems with the film were technical. How could that bus have possibly kept rolling with tires full of shotgun slugs?

Can you believe that, according to Wikipedia, "Steve McQueen and Barbra Streisand were originally cast as the film's stars. However, fighting between the two forced them to drop out of the project; Eastwood and Locke replaced them"?!

Since these stories are about Phoenix' past, thought this would interest some of you (especially Rogue). Maybe some of you have stories about the buildings:

1. First Baptist Church
Terry Goddard is leading a push to preserve the beautiful shell. Most of the interior structure burned down in the 80's and the cost to keep the shell standing is extraordinarily expensive. So now plans to rebuild, or sorts, is in the works.
http://cronkitenewsonline.com/2013/03/former-phoenix-mayor-leads-push-to-preserve-historic-first-baptist-church/

2. The DeSoto Building
SE Corner of Central and Roosevelt. Right now the building looks horrible, but the planned renovation looks stunning. This is its current state:
http://vanishingphx.downtowndevil.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/DSC08470.jpg

This is the planned renovation, with historic elements added back onto the façade:
http://desotobuilding.com/

Wow me and Newsweeks David Ansen dare to disagree.
But i thought Eiger Saction was second worst probably because i was a cop.

What is a visa bar?

Visibar, the housing for lights and siren on police cars and ambulances. Made by Federal back in the day.

"Gauntlet's" one redeeming feature was the opening, where Clint staggers out of a real Deuce bar (an Indian bar in real life, where I went on many a fight and stabbing call), gets in his car parked behind Symphony Hall, drives south over the Seventh Street overpass, west on Grant to Seventh Avenue, back north across Seventh Avenue, then east down Adams to the front of Symphony Hall, playing the role of City Hall. Such were the paltry locations.

Emil: "'If I'm not mistaken, your past aliases included "Dulce Nada" and "Soft Cannonball", among others.'"

You are mistaken. Imagine that!

Is there a rule on this blog that only Emil Pulsifer can make drippingly sarcastic comments and anyone else approaching that threshold is merely indulging, '...a kind of contrarian reflex'?

Your simplistic use of a reductio ad absurdum response to anyone challenging one of your little sacred cows is, of itself, a kind of contrarian reflex.

What's good for the goose, etc....

To "headless lucy":

I seldom make "drippingly sarcastic statements", and certainly not in my comments above. Again, this description seems more appropriate to your own language, e.g., "your little sacred cows". Nor will you find -- among MY remarks -- "a reduction of someone's ideas to a cartoon". Finally, you won't find any reductio ad absurdum "response" by me above, simplistic or otherwise. You seem to be parroting the statements of others, inappropriately.

A "challenge" from you would entail an objection that is at least speciously plausible. Thus far, all but one of your "challenges" have been personal and emotional. The single exception was easily rebutted and you haven't even attempted to defend it further. (Calling an argument "simplistic" isn't in itself a rebuttal.)

headless lucy wrote: "You are mistaken. Imagine that!"

Your inferiority complex and the hostility it breeds don't contribute to a discussion of downtown revitalization. Though this sort of "drama" may be what you live for, it is actually boring and a waste of valuable online time.

It appears that you aren't interested in the subject. If provocation is your goal, I'll ask you to desist. Mr. Talton very rightly reserves the privilege of comment to those making a good faith effort to discuss issues. I fully support his efforts to keep the discussion civil.

I shouldn't have to clarify every word and defend every statement, but just for the record, Mr. Talton has advocated projects like an expanded biosciences center as part of his prescription for downtown revitalization; so the comment about "yuppie lofts" was not directed at him and thus was not a cartoonization of his ideas.

While I agree with him that such projects are of vital importance, my point is that the number of jobs added is marginal; that most downtown business activity and hiring must ultimately come from business sectors which derive their income from local residents (e.g., retail), as is typical elsewhere in the city; and that a healthy business sector needs a normal resident population to support it.

Only when district residents make local purchases will their sales taxes support the district; only when local merchants pay property taxes and other taxes and fees will these do the same. There has to be money for upkeep and improvement, and that implies an active ownership presence, and local residents with disposable income spending money with local merchants.

One way to solve the problem is to reverse engineer it. Mr. Talton has already explain, clearly and with admirable detail, how the downtown fell into disuse and disrepair as it was abandoned by those with disposable income and businesses located there could no longer afford to operate.

So, I am advocating making living in the downtown area attractive again. About the only thing I can think of in today's Phoenix that will make that attractive to larger numbers of mobile residents with plenty of already existing choices, is to make it substantially cheaper to live there. Somebody has to pay for that, and but the city already owns the land and controls the tax structure, and can gift and suspend those as it likes; in return, developers would get a great deal and could afford to offer affordable housing.

Emil's idea to "reverse engineer" by making downtown a cheaper living option is interesting. But can the City really "gift" the land as suggested given the anti-gift clause in our State Constitution and especially after the City North decision from the Supreme Court?

A solid, practical objection, westbev, and one which deserves an in depth, expert opinion which I am not in a position to render. I'll offer what points I can.

As you probably know, the City North decision allowed the deal to stand, based on 25 years of existing case law. However, it established new criteria for future deals, including the necessity of a proportional, "direct benefit" to government, classifying such things as jobs and sales tax revenues as indirect benefits.

"Lawyers, economic-development officials and others said deals with retail developers are likely to be the most in jeopardy as a result of the court's decision last week in the CityNorth case."

http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2010/02/01/20100201citynorthimpact0201.html

I suspect that deeding land to an affordable housing developer could be structured in such a fashion as to satisfy the requirements of the ruling, since affordable housing is a public interest, especially if this was done under superceding provisions of federal law governing project-based housing subsidies. But it's a damned fine question and I really don't have a definitive answer.

As for the assertion that employers would pay the beneficiaries of affordable housing proportionally less, employers don't research the rents paid by job applicants before deciding how much to offer them in wages.

Wage scales are based on a combination of factors including experience, the skill-set required, the rarity or surplus of qualified applicants, prevailing market rates for similar positions, and sometimes the financial condition of the company. Nor do employers track the rent of existing employees and lower or raise wages proportional to the changes resulting from a move between apartments or from an apartment to a house (or vice-versa).

This isn't a "reductio ad absurdum" argument this is realism. The suggestion that employers spy on applicants' personal finances then offer widely differing wages to cashiers, clerks, stonemasons, or accountants, based on their different rents, is patently false.

Also note that the wages for many positions are specified in advance. Someone applying for a cashier's position in response to a classified ad knows the wage scale, and one cashier isn't going to be paid less than another on the basis of their personal rent in any case.

I might have to eat a little crow on the subject of The Gauntlet. I haven't had a television for nearly 15 years, and the only thing I remembered from the movie, originally, was the kick-ass (if preposterous) ending.

This morning I woke up with a vague but definite recollection of being thoroughly disgusted with the procedural absurdities involving earlier scenes. It's one thing to premise a movie on police corruption and conspiracy under color of law, and quite another to paint melodrama with such a broad brush that even Hollywood should blush.

Emil: “As for the assertion that employers would pay the beneficiaries of affordable housing proportionally less, employers don't research the rents paid by job applicants before deciding how much to offer them in wages.”

You research the things that you propound rather well, but my objection to some of your conclusions is that your two and two sometimes doesn’t add up to four, although you seem to think that it does. My contention with the inexpensive housing and the wages paid to the, at this point, ‘chimerical’ low-rent downtown locals (whom you suggested earlier would be the labor force in the new businesses created by the poor people with excess cash because of low rent) is that a lot of people, maybe even your, don’t think like a businessman.

As a ‘for instance’: Texas (at the behest of many doctors who thought that the insurance companies would lower their rates) in 2003 lobbied for a comprehensive tort reform bill that codified most statutes applicable to the broad class of “health care liability claims” and lowered potential cash awards. When the expected quid pro quo of lowering of liability rates did not come, Texas MD’s felt betrayed. The insurance companies explained that the fee caps were good for their business, which is selling insurance; but they never promised that they would lower rates. They were, after all, a for-profit business – and the doctors had just handed them more profits.

Unfair? Duplicitous? Welcome to the real world.

Noam Chomsky has explained this sort of phenomena in U.S. society through the lens of the self-censoring news media in America. Most newsmen would deny that they tilt the news to please corporate owners, but Chomsky maintains that even the slightest concession to the opinions of corporate owners can be likened to a flat 2’x2’ piece of plywood with a small rim that has an almost imperceptible tilt to one corner. If you put a handful of marbles in the middle of the board, all of the marbles will eventually end up in that corner.

I’m saying that the cheap rent is like the tilted board.

All I’m trying to get from you is a serious response to a real question that has been raised instead of a supercilious sniff that employers will have no way of knowing that an applicant lives in a low rent district. In my experience, employers ask for an address on an application; and, if one restaurant in the downtown area gets away with paying a lower than market wage, others will of necessity, follow. Who will travel from outside the downtown area to work a job that pays substandard wages, and where will the poor person from the downtown area get the money to travel out of it for a better paying job – and will the travel expense eat up the additional money?

The low rent is seen as money on the table to a businessman working in a cutthroat business like restaurants.

I believe it was John Stuart Mill who pointed out that people who make political decisions based upon principle rather than a well thought out plan of the possible effects of their actions are simply intellectually lazy.
>>>>>>>:D

An even better downtown location film is the really awful "No Code of Conduct" with Charlie AND Martin Sheen, where Carver Museum substitutes for the Police Station.

We lost our Central City Park to a shopping mall. We lost our vintage Del Webb hotel to a parking lot that may become a law school when we have two or three already, but Michael Crow needs to have a legacy, even with law school enrollment nationally down-turning.

When we won the World Series, we celebrated spontaneously at Patriots Square Park. There is no center of the city to do this again.

We gained a bazillion ads with 2 bazillion foot-candles of light that our City Manager describes as his best idea ever, and then call it an Entertainment District, in memory of the even more bone-headed Entertainment District championed for Jackson Street that locked up great potentials for adaptive reuse.

The funny part is I'm still at heart, a Phoenician and an optimist.

I have little to add to this well written article or the entertaining and thoughtful comments. Sad to think of what was lost. Makes me think I missed the best of America by being born too late.
But I would like to add that Eastwoods worst movie was the one where he plays a senile idiot talking to a chair. It also featured some pompous ass rich jerk whose name I cannot recall.

"When we won the World Series, we celebrated spontaneously at Patriots Square Park. There is no center of the city to do this again." -Steve Weiss

Patriot Square Park still exists...it is the center of the retail block of CityScape. The street facing sides of the place isn't a nice view but the interior (the park) is set up nicely and there are bars on every corner practically. Then there is Civic Space Park and the new "solar atrium" between Chase Field and Sliders...not to mention the Paseo next to U.S. Airways Center.

concerning the "pie in the sky" proposals to fix downtown and in some ways to fix many other social ills in this state:

I have always felt that humor has a way of delivering a strong message that pretty much sums up a situation like issues we face in downtown and Arizona in general.

Here is the humorous and sadly true description of our state as stated by many who have tried to make a living here.

"Arizona is a right to starve state"

Get the humor of the play on "right to work state".

Ha Ha.

This single sarcastic, humorous line trumps all your "pie in the sky" ideas.

It's good to dream, but Lord have mercy, be realistic about it people.

To "headless lucy":

If your theory was correct, we would already expect to see wide differences in wages paid to, say, cashiers in Phoenix, depending on whether they own a house (and the size of the mortgage payments, which vary), or rent a two-room apartment, or rent a studio apartment. We don't. Note that the differences between these monthly payments are already larger, at the margins, than the 1/3-off-the-median affordable apartment rent I proposed.

You simply don't find that one Circle K employee is paid 1/3 less than another, at time of hire, because of a 1/3 difference in their rent or mortgage payments; or car payments (or lack thereof). The flunky who rides his bike to work and lives with his parents gets the same, standardized entry wage as the individual who spends half his monthly income on an apartment he can't comfortably afford and owns a gas-sucking SUV.

Note also that merely checking an address on an application isn't sufficient, because rents vary at a single complex depending on how many rooms, square footage, amenities, view, etc.; so an employer would need to research the rent paid on that particular unit. Furthermore, this still wouldn't give the employer any information about the housing payments of a particular applicant, unless he also researched how many rent-paying roommates or other occupants of the residence the applicant shared the rent with.

Generic observations about predatory businessmen aren't a counterargument. Neither are straw-man arguments about tort reform in Texas (or elsewhere).

Emil: You forgot about my great reference to a Noam Chomsky metaphor and my sly reference to the Utilitarian school of philosophy as exemplified by John Stuart Mill.

I want some credit for that.

If you can't think of any examples of businesses paying less in wages because they can, I just don't see any point in further discussion of the matter. It's common knowledge that wages have been flat or receding for decades, and when someone points out a particular mechanism whereby it might happen, you get all offended.

Answer me this: Why do employers hire illegal immigrants?

A couple of additional points:

The target market for revitalization via resettlement is someone willing to move downtown, not the poor per se. Theoretically, there is nothing to prevent someone earning the median personal income of $35,000 (in 2011 Arizona) from moving downtown to save thousands of dollars annually on rent while getting the same square-footage and amenities as well as direct access to light rail. Obviously the working poor stand to save more as a percentage of their income, but this savings increases their disposable income by a like amount, thus making them more effective consumers.

(2) Employers don't adjust the starting wages of individual applicants on the basis of differing rent burdens, for the simple reason that they ALREADY structure wages to minimize their costs to the extent practicable (consistent with the variable factors I described above). It is up to individual applicants to decide if their cost of living can be supported by the wage offered.

While it is true that wage structures reflect the local cost of living, "local" refers to the city or metropolitan area, not a particular neighborhood or apartment complex, because they are in competition with other employers and even the working poor commute. (Most of those who regularly use the city bus to get to work are working-poor. It costs about $64 per month, full-fare.)

Initially, most of the resettlement migrants would have to commute to work anyway, since downtown employment opportunities are quite limited at present because of the absence of a healthy residential consumer base. Downtown jobs would follow residential migration as local concentrations of disposable income increased. There is a natural preference to shop, eat out, and enjoy other services close to one's residence rather than undertake a time-consuming journey that may also deplete their gas-tank. Retailers with the money to invest locally have a natural advantage and will act to secure this by opening local stores or branches.

Emil: "While it is true that wage structures reflect the local cost of living...."

This is as close as you'll ever get to admitting that I had a point to make about wages and locality. OK.

Is this allowing middle class residents to the Emil Pulsifer downtown cheap rent renewal plan a new wrinkle ? Do you think it could sqeeze out the poor people?

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