Tucson is not known for its skyscrapers, and I used to think it was because builders were just lazy or ran out of materials.
I later realized tall buildings would block the glorious mountain views.
One midtown neighborhood in particular is learning this firsthand, as outlined in a letter written by Kathleen Williamson.
This Feldman’s Historic Neighborhood resident sent the following letter to the Tucson Mayor, City Council, the press and any other cc she could think of. So far she said she’s gotten no response other than officials telling her it was forwarded somewhere to someone why may or may not do something about it.
Here is the Feldman’s Neighborhood Design Manual to which she refers
Letter from Kathleen Williamson to Honorable Tucson Mayor and Council:
I applaud your efforts to try to preserve the character of Feldman’s Historic Neighborhood. The effort, however, falls far short and gives too much in tax break incentives for too little effort on the part of urban density developers.
Historically, Feldman’s is not a two- or more- storied neighborhood. While you have allowed, however, for two-story or higher architecture in your design manual (which includes extensive details and suggestions about privacy and setbacks), I am shocked to discover that there is not one word about vista protection in the 100-plus pages. Most of the properties and strolls around this area provide great vistas of the Rincons, Tucson Mountains and, especially, the Catalinas.
Probably the most important characteristic of these old residential neighborhoods in Tucson is the mountain vistas. If you’ve been around these parts over the last few years, however, you’d see view after view being occluded by two story monstrosities that were built by developer Michael Goodman (who, ironically, is a non-resident panelist on the
NPZ Feldman’s Design Committee).
My views, which were part of the value of my property as well as a big contribution to my quality of life, are being ripped off more and more with each passing day. It’s become an aggravating and heartbreaking sight to behold from my house, which I have owned and lived in since 1991. My front porch used to be a pleasurable summer place to
sit and watch the monsoon storms come in over the Catalinas. Those experiences have been taken away. Now there are two two-story buildings where Pusch Ridge used to be, and two more will be built very soon obstructing the rest of the Catalina range.
My dear friend and neighbor across the street, Mrs. Canara Price, is almost 96 years old and has lived in her house since the early sixties. Her adobe house is over 100 years old. Right now, Michael Goodman is building four of his two story monstrosities at the edge of her backyard to the north and more two-story structures on the north side of the 300 Elm Street block. Mrs. Price has lost her privacy, quietude and mountain views without a request, apology, or compensation. She technically doesn’t live in Feldman’s but right across the street, on the north side of Lee.
Come on, Tucson. We can do better than this for the people who live here.
There needs to be view protection for the overall area, if not more of Tucson proper. The neighborhood just north of Feldman’s is falling prey to Michael Goodman and other developers. Much of Elm Street (one block north of Feldman’s) has been purchased by M. Goodman, and the properties near the Goodman lots suffer to the degree that they sell or will eventually have to sell (for cheap…to guess who!). Those strips of land are just north of Feldman’s, close enough that two-story and higher structures will permanently change the character of Feldman’s. What is Feldman’s, or Tucson, without views of the mountains?
Architecture does not thrive in a vacuum; it thrives in a visual context. Please make changes to the design manual to create incentives for vista preservation and vista corridors.
More importantly, the vista corridors and wide-open views also provide a free flow of breezes and air. Feldman’s is in a low lying area of this valley and is surrounded by four major arterial motorways (especially with the upcoming “improvements” and broadening of Grant Road). If more and more rows of two-story buildings in Feldman and its contiguous neighborhoods are permitted, we will be increasingly trapped in a bowl of stagnant toxic air. In the summer, add “hot” to the list of adjectives. Please give more thought to all of this.
I’d like to add that the design manual also falls short concerning healthy vegetation. The new developments have obliterated the natural desert plants and left absolutely nothing for birds, bees, and other critters (critical to the survival of all species, including ours) to thrive on. The Home Depot mono-palm trees that dominate these new Goodman type developments do not provide the necessary air cleaning and oxygen producing environment we need to be healthy.
The City Council exists first and foremost to protect the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens; not to be a supporter of environmentally destructive developments. As Ed Abbey so eloquently wrote, sometimes development is like a cancer cell, “growth for growth’s sake.”
Regardless, if Feldman’s is destined for change and density because of the expansion of the university population or to reduce urban sprawl, let’s be wise about it. If we aren’t going to be thorough and sincere about quality of life, what’s the use of “planning?”
Please take your heads out of the abstract and put your eyes and feet on the ground where we live.
I wish you the best of all resources and integrity in your endeavors.
Kathleen G. Williamson, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D.
What do you think?
Has your neighborhood fallen prey to detrimental development?
Do you think more thought should go into factors other than making money?