Armory Park Commentary & News

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APHZAB Elections & Design Review Process

The 19 December APHZAB meeting had no projects to consider however there was other business conducted.

Michael Taku, Lead Planner at PDSD made some comments and handed out a copy of a portion of the Uniform Development Code from which I extracted the following. If you are considering any project in Armory Park you should review the process described in the code. Otherwise you may want to move past this.


  1. General
  2. Review and approval, of all properties, buildings, signs, and structures within an HPZ, is required for all development and improvements, including new construction or improvements that do not require building permits. Proposals are reviewed for compliance with Section 5.8.9Design Standards.
  3. Prior to the submittal of a proposal, the applicant should consult with the applicable historic HPZ Advisory Board and refer to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
  4. Projects are reviewed in accordance with the Full or Minor HPZ Review Procedures.
  5. Full HPZ Review Procedure
  6. Applicability

The following project types are reviewed for compliance with the applicable standards in accordance with the Full HPZ Review Procedure:

  1. Grading or the erection or construction of a new structure;
  2. A permit for any alteration involving the modification, addition, or moving of any part of an existing structure, including signs, that would affect the exterior appearance, except as provided in Section 5.8.8.C, Minor HPZ Review;
  3. Repairs or new construction as provided for in Section 5.8.8.C, Minor HPZ Review, that the PDSD Director determines shall be approved under the full review process due to the cumulative effect of phased work that would normally be subject to the applicability of the full HPZ review process;
  4. The construction or enlargement of a parking lot within a HPZ or on a property containing a Historic Landmark; and,
  5. Exceptions. The following project types are reviewed using the Minor HPZ Review Procedure: installation of solar panels or cisterns or installation of or repairs to a roof.
  6. Preliminary Staff Review

The applicant must submit a site plan and elevation drawings to the PDSD for preliminary staff review. The PDSD staff reviews the proposed plans for compliance with applicable UDC requirements and any LUC requirements that need to be addressed either through the historic design criteria or a special application for relief. The applicant will be informed in writing of any requirements the proposed plan does not meet.

  1. Application Required

Submittal of an application to the PDSD is required in order to process the request.

  1. HPZ Advisory Board – Review and Recommendation

The applicable HPZ Advisory Board shall review and make a recommendation on the application. The recommendation is forwarded to the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission.

  1. Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission Plans Review Subcommittee – Review and Recommendation

The Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission (TPCHC) Plans Review Subcommittee shall review and make a recommendation on the application. The subcommittee’s recommendation is forwarded to the PDSD Director.

  1. Decision

The PDSD Director reviews the application and decides whether to approve, approve with conditions, deny, or refer the application back for additional review/recommendation based on revisions to the original proposal. The PDSD Director shall consider the recommendations of the HPZ Advisory Board and the TPCHC Plans Review Subcommittee when considering a decision. The decision shall be provided in writing to the applicant, applicable HPZ Advisory Board, and the TPCHC Plans Review Subcommittee. No building permits will be issued prior to the expiration of the appeal period.

  1. Appeals

A party of record may appeal the PDSD Director’s decision to the Mayor and Council in accordance with Section 3.9.2Mayor and Council Appeal Procedure. Appeals must be filed within 14 days of the effective date of the Director ’s decision. For purposes here, the parties of record are the applicant, the applicable HPZ Advisory Board, and the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission Plans Review Subcommittee.

  1. Documentation Required Upon Approval

Applicants must submit three copies of the site plan and elevation drawings to the PDSD for formal approval prior to application for building permits.

  1. Minor HPZ Review
  2. Applicability

In general, the Minor HPZ Review Procedure is for projects that do not require building permits. Specifically, the following project types are reviewed for compliance with the applicable standards in accordance with the Minor HPZ Review Procedure:

  1. Minor or necessary repairs to a structure provided that:

(1)   The total cost of such improvement is under $1,500, except for the replacement cost of appliances and mechanical equipment; and,

(2)   The repairs involve replacement with materials of identical or historically accurate design, size, and color to those being replaced.

  1. Emergency repairs provided that the repairs involve replacement with materials of identical or historically accurate design, size, and color to those being replaced;
  2. The change in copy of a sign;
  3. Any alteration that does not require a permit involving the modification, addition, or moving of any part of an existing structure that would affect the exterior appearance. Alterations include, but are not limited to, fences and walls, except those alterations that the PDSD Director determines shall be approved under the full review process due to the cumulative effect of phased work that would normally be subject to the applicability of the HPZ review; and,
  4. Installation of solar panels or cisterns or installation of or repairs to a roof.
  5. Application Required

An application, including site plan and elevation drawings, is required.

  1. On-Site Review Required

Upon submittal of the application, a date and time will be scheduled for the applicant, representatives from the applicable HPZ Advisory Board, Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission (TPCHC) Plans Review Subcommittee, and City staff to meet at the project site to discuss the proposal.

  1. Recommendation

The representatives from the applicable HPZ Advisory Board and the TPCHC Plans Review Subcommittee review the proposal and make a recommendation on the application to the PDSD Director.

  1. PDSD Director Decision

The PDSD Director reviews the application and decides whether to approve, approve with conditions, deny, or refer the application back for additional review/recommendation based on revisions to the original proposal. The PDSD Director shall consider the recommendations of the HPZ Advisory Board and the TPCHC Plans Review Subcommittee when considering a decision.

  1. Documentation Required

If approved, the applicant must submit three copies of the plans for formal approval by PDSD staff prior to application for building permits, if required.

(Am. Ord. 11150, 3/18/2014)

The code can be viewed online here.

In his comments, Mr. Taku expressed the value of the advisory board and requested feedback to improve the review process. This is a change of tone from my earlier experiences with Mr. Taku and it remains to be seen if there will be any real improvement in the process.

There was discussion regarding keeping the board informed, especially on appeals and whether the board can appeal a decision by the PDSD director. The board can appeal by approving a resolution at a regular or special meeting. The question remains as to whether the board will pay a fee of over $600 to make an appeal. This would be quite a burden on a board with no budget and whose members are unpaid volunteers.

The board also elected its 2018 officers. Elected unanimously were Martha McClements, Chair; Esthermarie Hillman, Vice Chair; and Michael Means, Secretary. Best wishes to them all for what promises to be a challenging year. The entire board deserves our thanks for doing an important and difficult job.

Important Contacts

I strongly urge you to attend the  Baffert meeting (Monday 12/18, Armory Park Center, 6 PM) if at all possible. Your views are important. Bill Duffy, APHZAB Chair, passed some important contacts via our listserv, quoted here in italics:

Several people have asked how they can share their views on the Baffert proposal if they are unable to attend the Monday meeting. Here are some points of contact:

John Beall, Special Manager, Entitlements and Special Exemptions Team, Planning and Development Services Dept (PDSD): 520-837-6966 john.beall@tucsonaz.govThe announcement letter IDs Beall as the principal PDSD contact.

You can also submit written comments to PDSD Director Scott Clark (Scott.Clark@tucsonaz.gov) or PDSD Deputy Director Lynne Birkinbine (lynne.birkinbine@tucsonaz.gov.). PDSD’s snail mail address is: Planning and Development Services, Public Works Building, 201 N Stone Ave, Tucson AZ 85701.

I would recommend sending a copy of any comments to Ward 6 Council Member Steve Kozachik (Ward6@tucsonaz.gov). He has been very helpful to us on this project and I believe shares our concerns. 

I am repeating this important information in hopes that it may reach someone who does not subscribe to the listserv and because it will always be accessible here in the Historic Preservation category; just click on that label in the right column.

Save Your Historic Neighborhood

Yesterday, I wrote about the APNA board meeting where the propose Baffert project and removal of the property from our HPZ was extensively discussed. I want to follow up on the subject.

Bill Duffy, Chair of our historic board (APHZAB), recently posted an excellent email to our listserv on the subject. Most of it is quoted here:

Mr. Kappler, the developer, wants to remove the vacant property at S 6th Ave and E 18th St. from the HPZ so his planned project will not be limited by HPZ requirements.
When Mr. Kappler presented an earlier version of his proposal to the Armory Park Historic Zone Advisory Board (APHZAB)  last March and asked for our support, we declined to do so. As stated in the Legal Action Report from that meeting: ‘Removal of property from the HPZ is irreversible, it encourages commercial encroachment upon the district and the proposed “swap” [with Wanslee Motors] is inequitable in terms of square feet and lack of adjacency to the neighborhood. Any precedential value of such a decision would not be in the best interests of the District. On the motion made by Phyllis Factor, seconded by Martha McClements, APHZAB rejects the proposal to remove the address from the Historic District. The motion was carried unanimously.’
No property has been removed from the Armory Park HPZ since it was established 40 years ago. If a precedent is now established to permit a developer or property owner in the HPZ to get a property rezoned to avoid HPZ requirements, other developers will follow and I believe the Armory Park HPZ will become nonviable.

Bill is not the only person to express concern about how city government is disregarding neighborhood viability and even the law under economic pressure. I have written here about other communities with similar experiences as has our Ward 6 council member, Steve Kozachik. Here are a few of Steve’s words speaking in his article about the Speedway/Euclid student housing project :

…design standards called out in Neighborhood Preservation Zone (NPZ) [think HPZ] manuals kick in. There was a recent situation in a midtown neighborhood in which staff interpreted the terms of the NPZ one way, while the neighbors who had participated in drafting it had a contrary interpretation. Staff issued a permit and construction went forward. Laying the framework for when and how to allow input as to interpretations for these design manuals and the weight that input will be given is what this study session item is about.

The city participated in putting all of these plans together. So did residents. None of them were crafted by a single entity without a wide and lengthy public process. The Unified Development Code says they need to be adhered to. We need to find some basic harmony between what the UDC calls for and how we’re in fact operating.

City staff has become very casual about interpreting (ignoring) those parts of the Uniform Development Code (UDC) which are not convenient for the proposal before them. The pressure on PDSD staff and all of city government is to promote development to bring more revenue into city coffers. This creates a conflict of interest since city employees are motivated to bring in more money to save their jobs. Most communities and individuals cannot afford to go to court to demand that city government should comply with the UDC (the law). That is why citizen pressure and even political action will likely be needed to protect neighborhoods, historic or otherwise.

Again quoting Steve K from his article about the Houghton East rezoning: The Metro Chamber felt compelled to send out this rather predictable graphic.

This is the kind of pressure being placed on city officials. Instead of supposed job creation, think of neighborhood preservation and how the thumb positions would be reversed.

The first opportunity for Armory Park residents to express their feelings about the threats to our communities is next Monday at the Baffert developer’s public meeting held to introduce his project to the neighborhood. I don’t offer an opinion on the merits of his project; that is for you to evaluate. I do ask that you express in the strongest terms that the property must not be removed from the Armory Park HPZ. The survival of Armory Park and the other four HPZs as historic neighborhoods is at stake. The meeting is on Monday, 12/18, 6:00 PM at the Armory Park Center.

Note: If you want to read more of Steve’s thoughtful articles, go to this link:  https://www.tucsonaz.gov/ward-6. The newsletter links are in the upper left corner of the page. You may not agree with all of his positions but you will find them well and logically expressed.

APNA Concerned About Baffert Project

The most important discussions of the meeting were regarding the proposed Baffert project at Five Points. While some have expressed concern about the height of the proposed building or its impact on the on-street parking situation, those are not the most important problems with this proposal.  The mechanism being used by the developer and the Tucson planning department is to remove the project’s lot from our Historic Preservation Zone. The precedent created is a threat to the historic character of our entire neighborhood and others across the city.

Talking about the recent tendency of the city and developers to run over neighborhoods, APNA president John Burr cited an article by our council member , Steve Kozachik, on a similar situation, the Speedway/Euclid student housing project. You can read Steve’s piece by going to this link:  https://www.tucsonaz.gov/ward-6/news/steve-ks-newsletter-121117. The article begins at about the midpoint of his newsletter. In past articles, Steve and I have written about the city’s cavalier treatment of the Houghton East neighborhood by permitting a new Fry’s store in violation of their neighborhood plan, a contract between the city and the neighborhood. There is a follow-on piece in the same newsletter (link above).

If the trend shown by these examples and others continues, we can expect our neighborhood and the other four HPZs to gradually disappear as historic communities. Your chance to resist this is a meeting next Monday (12/18/2017) at 6:00 PM in the Armory Park Center where the developer will present his project. I do not feel strongly about the project itself but I hope you will attend and protest strongly about removing the project property from the HPZ. This will not be the end of the matter, however. The economic interests of the developers and city government can only be resisted by strong pressure on our city council. Visible pushback by numerous residents is the best way to send a message. There will be much more to follow.

Anne Cooper gave the board an update on the financial results of the home tour. Total revenue was $6,863 with expenses of $557. Of the net proceeds ($6,415), $4,800 will be given to the Neighbors Feeding Neighbors program now. They will probably get more as the proceeds from the PayPal account come in. Anne also asked if the two year tour cycle seemed right and the consensus was that it demands too much effort to be done annually. She also asked that another volunteer come forward to chair the next tour.

Reminder: for those who are interested in our historic advisory board, the 2018 officers will be elected by the board at the meeting next Tuesday (7:00 PM, 12/19, St Andrew’s Parish Hall).

New globe pedestrian lighting has been installed on 6th Avenue between 14th and 18th Streets, a good thing. Unfortunately they were installed in parallel alignment with the street (N-S) rather than perpendicularly (E-W) as required by the approved plans (and like all others in AP), a bad thing. The the change was made by a city engineer without coordinating with anyone else and his reasoning made no sense to the board.

This week it seems the city is not friendly to historic preservation.

Political Event

Those who feel that our state and nation have moved too far to the right might be interested in this event hosted by two of our neighbors.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We’d like to invite you to our “Take Back the House” party next Saturday, December 9th at our home from 2-4pm.

Our goal is to regain a voice in the US House of Representatives by helping to elect more Arizona democrats to office. Two coordinated organizations  have been invited to speak with us: the local Arizona Ground Game and national Swing Left. We look forward to sharing their combined strategies with you.

Both of us are excited to be participating in this effort which we feel is our best chance at pushing back Trump era deconstructive policies. If you know someone who would be interested in hearing about this, please share this invitation with them.  

Warmest regards,

Giovanna and Rick

If you are not happy with recent trends in politics, you may want to actually do something about it. The saying is “all politics is local” is true and here is a chance for you to be engaged.

To RSVP, click on this link: https://actionnetwork.org/events/swing-left-tucson-ground-game-at-take-back-the-house-party?referrer=giovanna-hesley&source=direct_link, or call 480-390-8574.

A Busy Evening at APHZAB

The November APHZAB meeting was a little different than usual because it opened with a presentation by Michael Taku, lead planner in the PDSD historic office. A central message was that the board has a recommending role and is not a final decision maker. The PDSD director has the final say subject to appeal to Mayor and Council. He also asked for feedback from the board to streamline the review process. Streamlining will be easier said than done because of the many obstacles: a split building- historic permit process, shortage of staff, staff inexperience and a culture that does not seem to value customer service. I will remain a hopeful skeptic until I see concrete improvements.

Board members raised an issue that could not be answered at the meeting: basic zoning problems in a proposed project. How can an HZAB review the historic elements of a project when basic zoning issues are apparent? Historic review normally happens before the building permitting process is begun. This is where the split process creates big problems. The board also asked to be kept informed on approved changes to plans by the city/county commission or PDSD occurring after the APHZAB makes its recommendation. Failure in this regard causes frustration in the community and on our board.

At Mayor and Council direction, PDSD staff has begun the process of amending the IMG_2606Armory Park HPZ boundary to remove the Baffert property from it. This may be the best option available now to address a difficult economic vs. historic issue, but it also sets a dangerous precedent. If you want to know more about the Baffert project, you can go to the previous article here.

726 S Bean AveIn the first of two informal reviews, 726 S Bean Ave. the property owner proposes to build two two-story apartment buildings on a vacant lot. “The Board had a number of questions, including the buildings’ proposed height and whether existing examples in the development zone support the proposal.” The lot is small and the two-story exterior walls near the property lines will loom over the nearby lots. Structures nearby with similar total heights do not have the same wall height close to a property line. The largest structures nearby are not contributing historic structures and cannot be used for a height comparison for this proposal.

The second informal review was for a Flexible Lot Development proposed at 811 S 4th 811 S 4th AveAve. The property owner represented by his  architect “plans to build five two-story houses on three lots. There are two existing houses. One house on 4th Ave would be built with a gambrel roof and the other four (one on 4th Ave and three on Railroad Ave) would be built in a Sonoran style. Board members’ questions included whether two-story houses were appropriate and how the Railroad Ave. frontage would appear.”

731 S 4th AveThere were also two formal reviews, the first at 731 S 4th Ave. regarding HPZ violations: “installation of security bars on 4th Ave windows and of glass block windows on Railroad Ave side without prior HPZ review.” The property owner “explained that TEP informed him that due to the new installation of the electric service on the back side of the property, only non-opening windows could be used within three feet of that service. In the bathrooms they are part of new tilework so tearing them out would involve considerable expense. The security bars’ artistic appearance is inappropriate for the house.” The property owner “said he was willing to remove them.”

The board decided that “while APHZAB would not have permitted the use of glass block windows if asked prior to their installation, the it was willing to allow them to remain if the property owner develops a plan to retrofit their exterior appearance to make them look more conforming to historically appropriate windows and presents his proposal to the Board. The Board emphasized this sets no precedent for other properties. The Board recommended that the property owner remove the 4th Ave. window security bars or replace them with some more historically appropriate.” I have seen the security bars and they are attractive but not historically appropriate.

The final formal review was of an HPZ Violation at 245 S 5th Ave. (across 5th Ave. from the Senior Center and Safford School).  “The property owner replaced all the windows with vinyl windows 237 S 5th Aveand all the doors, and replaced a small porch on the back of the house facing 13th St.”

The Board agreed “to allowing the windows and doors currently in place to remain temporarily in order to secure the property, but the property owner should explore the history property cards and develop a plan to present to the Board that will restore the character-defining elements of all the door and window openings and the back porch, in character with the age and style of the house.” There is an important message here for those wanting to upgrade a contributing historic structure. Original elements should be retained where possible rather than being replaced. Also, Not all double hung windows are the same; the window pane patterns are likely to be character defining elements of the historic property. This may be a surprise to many Armory Park property owners.

If I find that any of these recommendations is not upheld upon further review, I will advise you.

At the December meeting, the board will elect its officers for the upcoming year. It is also expected that Michael Means, Steve Grede and Patrick O’Brien will be seated as new board members. During the year, the board will need to be vigilant to insure that new construction on vacant lots is consistent with HPZ guidelines and does not set precedents that may negatively impact the integrity of the HPZ. The recent popularity of the downtown areas has many benefits but also creates economic pressures to weaken historic preservation.

Note: The portions of this article relating the decisions of the board are based on the Legal Action Report submitted by the board. In the interest of accuracy some of the wording  (generally in quotes) comes directly from the LAR. The LAR can be viewed at https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/clerks/uploads/bccfiles/25292.pdf.

Rezoning Closer to Home

Here is another rezoning issue much closer to home. Again, Steve K has done a great job breaking down the subject into understandable pieces. The key element here is the lack of flexibility of HPZ rules concerning maximum height of structures. There has been considerable discussion within our two boards, APNA and APHZAB. Various board members have different views on the matter, but most seem to feel that some form of compromise is needed. Please read through Steve’s piece carefully, then decide how you feel about the issue. Our boards need your input.  Continue reading “Rezoning Closer to Home”

More About Fry’s – Houghton and 22nd

This rather lengthy piece  was taken from Steve Kozachik’s latest newsletter. You may recall my earlier piece on the subject based on my attendance at a public hearing. Steve’s interest is the same as mine, the casual way that city government treats its legal and ethical obligations to our communities. The motivation is economic with our local politicians prioritising economic growth and tax revenue over the environment and community wellbeing. With all of the economic activity near the city center, we should expect similar problems sooner or later. There is a lot of detail here but Steve laid out the issues better than I did.  Continue reading “More About Fry’s – Houghton and 22nd”

Two Neighborhood Elections

At the last APNA meeting (11/14), two important neighborhood organizations held elections to fill positions on their boards of directors. Outside of the scheduled APNA meeting, the historic board (APHZAB) elected three individuals by acclamation. Here are their names (and their category of membership): Michael Means (property owner), Steve Grede and Patrick O’brien (both are subject matter experts). They will join the board on the approval of Mayor and Council, expected within a month. The board will elect its officers at the next meeting. Continue reading “Two Neighborhood Elections”