Residents of the West University Neighborhood yelled, “Shame! Shame on you!” when Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Tucson City Council approved the Main Gate district urban overlay plan on Tuesday.
In a meeting held to discuss the plan, council and community members discussed key issues, including the process, building height and architecture. Many residents were upset that the plan would permit 14-story buildings to be built in Tucson’s Main Gate district. Many of the new buildings would be used for residential student housing, allowing more students to live near campus.
West University residents held up signs at the hearing that said, “Uh-Oh: Your neighborhood is NEXT” and “Don’t sell us out.”
Howard Baldwin, a Tucson resident who lives on East University Boulevard, said the plan is “one of the worst ideas to come along in a long time.”
“This plan will mean a loss of historic properties, more traffic and loss of our beautiful skyline,” Baldwin told the city council. “Don’t fail on us by buying in on this plan.”
Tom Warne, a consultant for the Marshall Foundation, said 60 percent of the land is owned by the Arizona Board of Regents, while only 2 percent is residential. He added that all of these homes are rented except for two houses — one of the homeowners is for the plan, the other is against it. Warne said it was important to understand this so the plan doesn’t “get blown out of proportion.”
“The University of Arizona is growing by more than 650 students a year, and in order for it to keep growing, it needs to have more housing next to or as close to campus as possible,” Warne said.
Janice Cervelli, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, also supported the plan. She said it is a “critical tool in building a sustainable community.” Cervelli said the university is in support of both the modern streetcar and the overlay zone.
Nick Crutchfield, a computer science senior, was the only UA student to speak at the hearing. He said the Main Gate overlay is “badly needed.”
“I know students that were considering going to the U of A but didn’t because of the difficulties of finding a place to stay near campus,” Crutchfield said.
Members of the West University Neighborhood Association wrote their own proposal, which would not allow buildings taller than 12 stories to be built. They asked the city council to consider their proposal before approving the overlay plan.
Vice Mayor Karin Uhlich was the only council member who opposed the plan.
“Seeing the community divided points to bad process,” Uhlich said. “We’re rushing things and not watching important details of how we are going about the plan.”
Uhlich believed that sub-section C of the plan, which discusses land use in the Main Gate district, was a “plan block” and motioned to hold out sub-section C. No other members of the city council seconded her motion.