Trouble in Barrio Historico

Those who have been following the challenge of intrusive development in historic zones should not be surprised to learn that the problem is not confined to Armory Park. Our neighbors to the west in Barrio Historico are having the same sort of problem with a townhouse development. Their historic board has published the following pamphlet seeking support for their effort to fight the development. Since many in our neighborhood have had difficulty viewing the pamphlet, I am reproducing it here. The print is small but I hope you can read it.


BHHDAB_appealtomayorandcouncil_flyer_May2018 (1)

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Please support Barrio Historico as they supported us at the Baffert zoning hearing. We may not win this fight but if we don’t stand together, we are sure to lose the war against developer money. 

Interesting Armory Park Statistics

Betts Putnam-Hidalgo left a comment regarding a recent article asking if the percentage of renters in Armory Park was really greater than of owner occupants. The answer is yes as I interpret this chart from The statistics in this article are interesting to me but you can find even more on that site.

Owners and renters by unit type (%)

If you add all of the purple columns, the result is less than 30% owner occupancy. The census bureau reports that owners occupy 37% of residences in the area of zip code 85701 which is significantly larger than Armory Park.

The following information about Armory Park households won’t surprise most of you but may help to better understand our neighborhood.

Percentage of population below poverty crime indexHousehold Statistics

For me, the diversity of our community is among its attractive features. The two largest groups were no surprise but the mix of smaller groups is interesting


We know that there are many historic homes in the community but you can see that a number have been constructed in more recent times.

Year house built

A convenient location is another attractive feature of Armory Park. Nevertheless, most people still get to work in a car. The bus and bicycle percentages are significant and I would expect these numbers to increase over time.

Mode of Transportation to Work

I hope you find these statistics informative. If you discover other sources of information on Armory Park, please let me know at so I can include the information in future articles.

Good News, Bad News at Zoning Hearing

So I can move to a more positive note, I’ll begin this piece with the bad news. Perhaps the worst is that before this hearing and as it progressed, I had the feeling that this rezoning is a done deal. There are several steps ahead but it is hard not to feel that the outcome is already determined.

Another disappointment for me was the small turnout of Armory Park people. There has been extensive discussion on the listserv about the threat of this proposed rezoning and the importance of a strong community representation was stressed. The top figures of the neighborhood association and historic board were present but relatively few of their board members attended. I counted five AP people not members of either board. This was way short of the up-welling of community support that might have influenced the examiner.

Baffert View Looking Northeast

It seems that the questions of building size (48′), appearance (modern), business parking (minimal) and operating hours (5:00 AM until 1:00 AM) will not be adequately addressed.

There was some good news. The hearing examiner was actively engaged in the process and asked many appropriate questions. He also sought areas of accommodation which would mitigate the impact of rezoning.

More good news: The developer, Larry Kappler, has made adjustments to the design of the project to make it more acceptable to the neighborhood. He has also agreed to a number of provisions to mitigate impact on neighbors and historic preservation. These, however, can only be relied upon if they are incorporated into the final zoning with his concurrence.

Remaining concerns: This will be the first removal of a property from a historic zone by the zoning process. It has been stipulated that this will not be a precedent for future actions but that is hard to believe. The Trinity Church removal from The West University HPZ by another process was also stipulated to create no precedent. In fact, that action has been cited as a precedent for the Baffert rezoning. One can only imagine how many property owners north along 6th Avenue will soon be seeking to remove the historic restrictions on their properties. This could be the death of historic protection downtown.

The hearing examiner’s preliminary report should be available early next week. Our historic board will review the report and decide whether to appeal the outcome at its regular meeting next Tuesday,

Useful Information at APNA Meeting

This was an especially uneventful meeting of our neighborhood association board. Board members attending were one less than the quorum (6) so no action could be taken. There was, however, discussion of items of community interest.

President Anne Cooper talked about board efforts to reach out to the community. Avenues she mentioned included the APNA website (, the listserv (, Facebook ( and I did a one month trial of NextDoor and found no neighborhood content but typically two commercial messages daily. Of course, AroundArmoryPark provides AP commentary and news.

John Burr reported on the accomplishments of the Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment and revitalization district. Highlights were that with $30 million spent, nearly 3/4 billion dollars of projects have been moved forward. Nearly two billion dollars has been invested in the downtown area in the last seven years. Rio Nuevo started badly but has made major contributions under its current leadership. You can learn much more by going to their website ( He also informed us that the Broadway Blvd. expansion has reached the 90% design point. If you want to learn more about the project, go to its website The site has a very useful video simulation of the 90% design.

John also gave an update on the sidewalk project. Parkwise, the parking management and enforcement organization has offered a community improvement matching grant. It will be used to partially fund repair and replacement of deteriorated sidewalks. APNA has prepaid its matching money and is still accepting contributions. The approximate cost of each sidewalk square is $100. If you wish to pay for sidewalk repairs in front of your property, your contribution will be earmarked for that purpose. You will not need to do a permit application or contract for the construction as the city will do all of that. Of course, contributions for the general benefit of our sidewalks will be appreciated. Timing of the project is controlled by the city’s transportation department and is not clear at this time.

Esthermarie Hillman announced a charitable fundraiser to be held at her home on the 10th of May (tomorrow) at 6:00 until 10:30.

Wings for Women will host Women Who Whiskey at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 10 at the  at 544 S. 6th Ave. Sip on whiskey and snack on gourmet appetizers to help support local homeless women and children this summer. Women Who Whiskey will be the main fundraiser for this year’s No Hungry Kids Tucson Project. All of the money benefits homeless women and children in Tucson and will specifically fund feeding approximately 300 kids over the summer.

Angel's Envy Whiskey at Union Public House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The 21-and-up event will serve up samples of different whiskeys and spirits, with other alcoholic beverages available for purchase. Additionally, gourmet appetizers will be provided by Chef Chic, Charro Steak, Micha’s, and Mama Louisa’s. Live entertainment and a raffle will also be available. General admission is $45, VIP is $75 and includes a t-shirt, commemorative tasting glass, cigar, rare samplings, and access to the cigar lounge. A shirt and tie for gentlemen and cocktail dresses for ladies will be the standard attire. 

At the meeting’s end, a resident of many years in Armory Park expressed his frustration with deterioration of the neighborhood from commercial intrusion which seriously impacts parking, homeless people, drug users and deteriorating streets. Phyllis Factor pointed out that pushing back against some of these elements must be the obligation of each homeowner. A large percentage of AP residents are renters and bad ones can be influenced by firm pressure on landlords.

Tension at APHZAB

Immediately after the normal opening routine, the regular April Historic Advisory Board meeting took a dramatic turn. Board Chair Martha McClements read into the record a written complaint sent to city government by Brian Kassel regarding John Burr. He claimed that John was biased against him because of some unexplained animosity. She further read her reaction to the complaint stating that she had great respect for John’s knowledge and integrity and intended to take no action on the complaint. John stated that he would not vote on Brian’s project but would participate in discussions as he deemed appropriate. There was further discussion from the board which supported the Chair’s decision. Remarks by Brian did nothing to clarify the situation but his perception may have been influenced by John’s attempts to point out some issues which may cause problems for the project if not addressed until a later date.

I have been observing the board for over two years now, rarely missing a meeting. Since application of historic preservation standards requires some subjective judgement, one might disagree with any particular board decision. My observation, however, is that board members take their responsibilities seriously and are conscientious in applying the standards as they interpret them. They want property owners to be able to use their properties as desired but historic preservation is always the first priority.

Martha and John gave a brief update on the upcoming zoning hearing regarding the Baffert project at 6th Avenue and 18th Street. You may recall that the hearing had to be rescheduled because of mistakes in the notice of meeting when first scheduled. The meeting has been rescheduled to May 3rd but may not happen even then. There were so many mistakes and missing or incorrect information that it may take more time to research the issue properly. City staff has really done a poor job on this process and has strained its credibility with the neighborhood. Because of his extensive understanding of zoning matters, it was John who detected the errors and brought them to the attention of city staff.

Some in the community feel this poor handling of the hearing is an attempt to discourage neighbors from participating. I certainly hope that is not the case. More likely is that because the rezoning is seen by staff as a done deal, preparation for the hearing was not given appropriate attention. There is no question that economic pressures from developers and the expressed priorities of Mayor and Council suggest that the property will be developed largely as planned with only the details to be worked out. If you are not happy with this situation, keep watching for details of the hearing, whenever it may finally be held.

There was one major review to be considered, a new multiple unit residential construction at 726 S Bean Avenue of which Brian Kassel is the property owner. After extensive discussion of various aspects of the project, the discussion focused on application of historic standards to the project. A motion was made and adopted to recommend against approval of the project as presented to the board. The first of two main issues was total structure height. A new structure cannot be taller than the tallest historic structure within a legally defined development zone and the proposal does not comply. The development zone can be expanded to take in nearby taller structures but no application has been made to do so. The second concern is about massing and that too is related to height. Massing is the visual impact of a structure because of size and shape. Because the proposed buildings would be two story and flat roofed with parapets, it would loom over surrounding historic properties.

The three remaining action items were about code violations for failing to apply for historic review before making exterior building alterations. The first, a major renovation at 245 S 5th Avenue by Waverly Rentals was quickly resolved as agreement was reached to replace the new inappropriate vinyl and aluminum windows with traditional appearing wood windows. The Waverly Rentals representatives were anxious to understand the historic standards and review process because they plan to do another project in Armory Park soon and they want to do it correctly. I was pleased to see their constructive attitude because that is not always the case. 

The second violation concerned removal of security bars and replacement of windows at 821 S 4th Avenue (Fernando Chiquette, property owner) without historic review. Apologies were offered for the failure and this issue and another project will be brought to the board at its next meeting. 

After completing the action items, discussing of the website, most board members indicated their support for continuing to develop the site. When completed, the site will collect the guidance needed to design an approved project in an Historic Preservation Zone and particularly Armory Park.

In the interest of clarity and disclosure, I want to briefly explain my role in all of this. I am not a member of the APHZAB but I value the important work the board does. Members are all unpaid volunteers who take on a difficult job. To support their efforts I manage the online data repository used during meetings. Using a projector and screen to display documents makes the meetings go more smoothly.

I have also built the Historic Tucson website (above) to support the board by helping prospective historic review applicants to better understand the standards and review process. This site will also serve the other four HPZs, should they desire. I offer the site as a community service. I also manage the website for the Armory Park Neighborhood Association ( for the APNA board.

All APHZAB meetings are open to the public. I attend meetings as a member of the public as you should when possible. Since many of you can’t attend, I report on my view of the meetings here. This website is mine for offering comments and news about matters I feel are important to the neighborhood — like APHZAB meetings.

If you want to give me feedback, email

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Baffert Headlines APNA Agenda

The most important subject for the meeting was the Baffert Project at 6th Avenue and 18th Street. Both APNA and APHZAB (historic board) have sent letters to the zoning examiner for entry into the record of the hearing to happen at the Mayor & CouncilIMG_2607chambers Thursday (12 April) at 6:00 PM. Both boards will also make presentation of their concerns at the hearing. Neither board is pleased with the proposed building height of 48 feet, much taller than any structure nearby. However, the most important issue is retaining the property in the historic zone so that the APHZAB will have some voice in how the project proceeds and to avoid a newprecedent which could destroy our Historic Preservation Zone and others. The board asked for maximum resident attendance at the hearing to show that the community was very concerned about developments. There was consensus that if this rezoning is approved, there will be a succession of such actions going north along 6th Avenue (Wanslee Motors, Philbaum Gallery, Roy’s Market and more). Imagine what 6th Avenue will look like lined with buildings 48 feet tall or taller. The most public face of Armory Park will be disfigured and the western part isolated from the rest. Continue reading “Baffert Headlines APNA Agenda”

APHZAB View of Baffert Rezoning


Both our neighborhood association and our historic board are actively engaged with the city and developer regarding the proposed Baffert project. I published my views on the subject a few days ago. Since then, the APHZAB has submitted the following letter to the zoning examiner to be entered into the record of the rezoning case. I am not optimistic that neighborhood opposition to the project’s shortcomings will prevail over the economic and political pressure, however, if we do nothing, a bad outcome is certain. Both of our neighborhood organizations are working hard to defend our community’s historic character and they need your visible support. 

The hearing will be held on April 12, 2018 at 6:00 PM in Mayor and Council Chambers, first floor, east side of City Hall, If you care about preserving the historic character of Armory Park, you should attend. 

Note: This hearing has been postponed to May 3rd at the same time and place.

Continue reading “APHZAB View of Baffert Rezoning”

Baffert Controversy

Most involved members of our Armory Park community are already aware of the proposal to construct a new commercial and residential building on the northeast

Developers Rendering Looking Northeast

corner of 6th Avenue and 18th Street. The project periodically becomes subject of discussion and then fades to the background for long periods. Now is a good time to be paying attention to developments. Continue reading “Baffert Controversy”

Busy Days

It has been too long since I posted an article here but I hope to change that for the future. Some may know that I also manage the website for the neighborhood association (APNA) and I am also helping the historic board (APHZAB) to apply technology for an improved historic review process. All of these things are exciting but also demand time and attention.

Consequently, I needed to prioritize my efforts and restructure how each project will function. This site ( will focus on community commentary, history and happenings in the wider world which impact us in Armory Park. While I have generally stayed away from political subjects, it is not possible for me to ignore things which are important to a viable neighborhood and city. Some examples might be education, neighborhood preservation, historic preservation and defense of local control over local matters. Continue reading “Busy Days”

Help for Homeless Neighbors

As downtown residents, most of us are familiar with the Downtown Tucson Partnership (DTP). Their mission statement is: To be the catalyst for making Downtown Tucson the place people want to live, work, and play; where new ideas happen; and that is the economic development and cultural epicenter of the region. The ability to attract businesses and customers is an essential component.  Continue reading “Help for Homeless Neighbors”