Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tempe city council pushes plan to domesticate and homogenize downtown neighborhoods

Anystreet, "South Tempe"

Anticipating the repulsion the millionaires that the City of Tempe hopes to attract to downtown will feel when looking down from their penthouses on the unruly backyards of the proletarian masses in downtown Tempe, the city has announced the results of a new study evaluating compliance with residential codes.  And, in these data and the new plan to bring the city up to standard, they provide a glimpse at the bland, suburban future they envision for what they are calling "North Tempe" (but which everyone else just calls Tempe).

This future can be viewed right now, in what they city government terms "South Tempe" (essentially the part of the city that most downtown residents consider Greater Chandler).  The new plan for turning downtown into a clone of its lawn-obsessed, bourgeois minivan driving, go-to-sleep-at-a-reasonable-hour-but-I-can't-sleep-with-all-that-noise southern sibling comes on the heals of recent efforts to turn down the volume on Mill Avenue and a crackdown on parties in the neighborhoods.

Tempe government is making big moves again after the collapse of the housing/condo market several years ago set their big dreams back, giving residents a respite from the relentless development and transformation of the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.  For several years, the stalled, unfinished twin towers that now go by the yuppie-friendly monicker "W6" stood over the city like a skeletal reminder of the sinister future that had stalked residents, slain at the last moment but too large to drag away, so left to decompose in the town square as a warning to others.

They stood as a warning to the others.

But the beast is back now, and the city is considering deploying three new code enforcers to bring downtown in line with the South.  According to the tally of a recent survey of homes north and south of Baseline Road, the more conformist southern residents scored very nearly perfect ratings (surprise, surprise!), while the north fared noticeably worse.  Now the city hopes to use these new enforcers and their new approach to code compliance to impose "a positive, uniform appearance for residential properties across the community."  That is, to make downtown look more like the south.

In the city's press release, Councilman Kolby Granville declared ,“This is a historic step for Tempe in the way we look at residential code compliance. Our residents will be the beneficiaries when it comes to living in a community that has a more uniformly positive appearance.”

But -- and this is important -- when the city talks about "residents", they don't mean everyone, despite talking in such broad language.  And they don't even mean current residents.  What city planners and politicians have in mind is a virtual population of people not yet living in Tempe.  Aside from the developers and their money, this is their constituency.  It's a demographic more affluent than current residents, and less diverse.  It is a gentrifying settler population, uptight, law-biding, professional and upper class.  The kind that is attracted to a neighborhood and immediately sets about changing it, imposing their values on everyone people who already live there.

This new focus on code enforcement, noise reductions and party restrictions is their way of preparing the battlefield, pacifying the local population and domesticating the neighborhood for investors, yuppies and the second tier spoiled brat children of the wealthy who couldn't trade on mommy and daddy's legacy admissions and instead got the consolation prize of ASU out of state tuition and a new BMW convertible.

Neighborhood residents already avoid Mill Avenue like the plague.  If this transformation of downtown isn't going to sanitize the rest of the neighborhood and displace residents, it will mean standing up to maintain what's left of downtown's disheveled demeanor.  It will mean house parties, loud music and unkempt yards.  It's going to mean demanding that newcomers to the neighborhood come appreciating its general character, not seeking to control and dominate it, or to cooperate with the authorities who do.  It means that they can't come to Tempe expecting not to be kept up by loud music occasionally, or to not find red plastic party cups and empty cans in their yards from time to time.

If they don't want that, then maybe they should move south to Greater Chandler.

1 comment:

  1. First they came for IGA stablers,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't shopping there.
    Then they came for the long wongs,
    and I didn't speak out because I was drinkin' at casey moores
    Then they came for the CO-OP,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a vegetarian.

    Then they came for maple/ash
    and there was no one left