The city of Phoenix is working on a new General Plan. They do a new plan every ten years. Their last one was adopted in 2001. See here for a little history.
City general plans were required under “Growing Smarter”. This was former Governor Hull’s very weak attempt in 1998 to pretend to think about actually preventing sprawl in Arizona.
Of course, she was forced in to this by all the pressure from the environmental community, which at the time had a public initiative that was going to limit sprawl. Growing Smarter was such a weak document, in large part, because of the strangle-hold that developers have on this state. But, I digress.
The City of Phoenix General Plan, while not preventing sprawl, is actually a good way for regular folk to have a say in the direction of our city over the next ten years.
The good folks at the Downtown Phoenix Journal and Radiate Phoenix put on an event this week at which the city’s planning office staff took thoughts and ideas about the General Plan, as they get ready for the process of passing the next plan. It was a really great event.
I want to share one suggestion and one challenge with you and I’m asking for your support on both.
1) Shade. The old City General Plan suggested that every new parking lot should have “at least 51% shade coverage at maturity of tree.” In other words, if you look at the parking lot from the air when the trees are fully grown, you should see a maximum of 49% of that space in asphalt. When I was on the Encanto Village Planning Committee, this was my constant mantra. It got quite repetitive. Ask Councilman Simplot. He was on that committee when I was.
However, the problem is that this is just a suggestion. There is no ordinance that requires this. So, here we sit with higher summer and overnight temperatures. People drive around longer, emitting carbon, so that they can find any little bit of shade outside the regional Wal-Mart Super-Country.
Nobody seemed to have the necessary intestinal fortitude to stand up to developers and tell them what they need to do to preserve some semblance of livability in the valley. That is why the suggestion never became an ordinance.
Before the next General Plan comes out, this needs to be an ordinance, not the city government equivalent of a courteous suggestion over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
2) Wiki General Plan. The General Plan is a huge document. It was over 200 pages, as I recall. I remember getting a massive binder and our Village Planning Committee broke it in to bits to read over.
Let’s update that process. Wikipedia mastered the use of “crowdsourcing” to allow millions of people to report, suggest and check each other’s work. Universities, private industry and the government all use wiki site, which are really inexpensive to build and maintain, to allow a crowd of thousands of people to build things that are greater than the sum of their parts.
The City of Phoenix should demonstrate just how advanced it can be in this process. I guarantee that the city will get a much broader participation than it did in 2000, when only city staff and village planning committee members had the time to work on this.
The General Plan is perfect for this type of project. We can break it down in to its sections and subsections for review, comment and writing. The city can recruit volunteers to monitor each section’s postings to prevent spamming, etc.
Hey, maybe out of all of this we will create even stronger and broader connections in our community.
What do you think?
Call your city Councilman.