Existing Neighborhood Conditions

Although Tucson (the “Old Pueblo”) has a relatively strong overall sense of place, many neighborhoods lack a sense of pride or identity. Most neighborhoods either don’t have or don’t use public spaces for gatherings. Safe access to basic services through walking or biking is the exception rather than the norm. Existing public transportation systems serve many but not all neighborhoods; limited hours of operation further inhibit accessibility. Close proximity to libraries, parks and community centers is sporadic.

Many neighborhoods lack green spaces. Neighborhood design does not typically integrate habitat linkages. Most natural water ways have been altered and degraded. The air quality is often poor, the streets are noisy, and night skies are dim. While there is an increasing number of homes and businesses engaging in conservation practices such as rainwater harvesting, renewable energy use, and local food production, currently there are few.

In many neighborhoods infrastructure such as lighting and sidewalks are inadequate or lacking. Older neighborhoods are plagued by aging sewer and water lines. Neighborhoods are dependent on government agencies for the development and maintenance of infrastructure. While this relationship directly impacts quality of life, a small fraction of neighbors actually get involved in decisions about their neighborhood. About fifty percent of Tucson is organized into neighborhood associations and only a handful of these have neighborhood plans.

People typically know only a handful of their neighbors. Infrastructure and support for neighborhood watch and neighborhood assist programs are in place but not often taken advantage of. Neighborhood cooperatives are beginning to emerge, but are not widely visible. Effective communication within and between neighborhoods is often inadequate. Businesses and institutions are not well integrated into the neighborhoods, and are sometimes at odds with the neighbors.

Neighborhood Vision Statement

Every neighborhood has a strong sense of place and residents feel a sense of pride and belonging. Neighbors frequently meet in accessible, inviting public spaces. People can safely walk or bicycle to basic services and commercial nodes. Public transportation to additional services and employment is readily available. Residents have access to libraries, community centers, and strong educational institutions.

The natural environment and green spaces are seamlessly integrated into the neighborhood’s design. If damage has occurred, native landscapes and hydrological processes are restored to a more natural state. Neighborhoods across the city minimize flooding by engaging in watershed management through rainwater harvesting. Neighbors enjoy cleaner air, quieter streets, and darker night skies. Homes and businesses actively engage in conservation practices, renewable energy use, and local food production.

Regulations that provide and maintain high-quality infrastructure are initiated and enforced across Tucson. The greater Tucson area is organized into registered neighborhoods that either have or are working on neighborhood and/or “hub” plans. Active neighborhood councils work hand-in-hand with government to carry out those plans. Participation in civic engagement and neighborhood decision making continues to increase.

People of all ages and abilities are valued and participate in the social life of the neighborhood. Work cooperatives, neighborhood watch and neighborhood assist programs are integral parts of the social structure of the neighborhood. Mechanisms are in place that promote communication within and between neighborhoods. Businesses and institutions are important partners in creating and maintaining a strong neighborhood.

Action Steps

Collaborate with City Council Members and County Supervisors to initiate a “Plan Pima County Campaign” for developing a neighborhood-based planning system.

Create a neighborhood planning committee to advise the City and County.

Create a hub-based map for the greater Tucson urban area. Select specific urban “hubs” and identify the neighborhoods and/or geographic boundaries these hubs serve.

Engage neighbors in creating and implementing neighborhood and hub plans.

Support neighbors to adopt traffic calming in their plans.

Expand existing programs that support neighborhoods.

Work with government agencies to acquire under-utilized property and convert to public use.

Engage neighborhoods in conducting surveys for potential sites.

Establish a dedicated bond fund for acquiring sites.

Develop Innovative mechanisms and financial incentives to encourage private property owners to convert under-utilized property to public use.

Build multi-modal transportation networks.

Organize a car-share program.

Expand walking and biking paths.

Establish transportation priorities to allocate funds to non-motorized modes first.

This is just the beginning. It gives a glimpse of the potential of working together for better, more sustainable neighborhoods.

One comment on “Neighborhood Sketch Plan

  1. Brichta Neighborhood Association is one of the many with TUSD schools closing this May. The facility is well maintained, has had some energy efficiency upgrades, and the only green space or meeting space in the area where neighbors can gather for socializing, building community, and taking social action.

    We would like to acquire use of the facility to create a Westside Sustainability Center that could also serve as a Climate Emergency Center for shelter with its own power, water, and food supply. Other school closing neighborhoods probably have other beneficial ways they could use their school properties to prevent their sliding into residential urban blight or conscienceless development.

    If we could find qualified local start-up businesses in solar, water conservation, elder and child day care, and urban agriculture who could occupy the space and pay the utilities, we would like to be able to provide them business spaces in exchange for the retro-fitting and land preparation to make this space a sustainability demonstration and educational center.

    First, however, we have to persuade TUSD that allowing neighborhoods to use these properties FREE would save them even more money than merely closing them. They will still have to maintain them, pay for the utilities, and repair vandalism, which is prevalent in our neighborhood.

    And the property would have to be managed, so we are thinking that a nonprofit corporation, such as Abundant Communities, could be the contractor with TUSD and be compensated on an adjustable scale by the occupying businesses as they take root in the community.

    How can we do that, and how can combined neighborhood advocacy get those valuable properties for needed neighborhood sustainability?

    Yvonne Merrill, President
    Brichta Neighborhood Association
    Environmental Services Advisory Commission, Ward One

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