When we support local businesses, we grow our local economy. That's key to my platform, and necessary to contribute to a lasting local economy in Tempe.
Development is one of the issues I discuss most frequently with Tempeans and it is also incredibly complex and comes in many forms. To give an idea of my values, I do not approve of providing variances on properties to be resold immediately for a profit, but I'm for providing incentives encouraging local business owners to adapt and reuse existing structures that maintain our history and grow our local economy.
I have become acquainted with multiple stakeholders on this issue and I'm anxious for an opportunity to review and negotiate proposals. To be frank, Council can’t force a business to open (like a specific grocery stores in NW Tempe) or a specific development to build on private land. The City can provide incentives, they can facilitate collaboration, they can accomodate zoning changes, but a City is not going to fund development on their own.
I’m a strong proponent of Transit Oriented Development, and affordable and workforce housing is among my top priorities. I know what it's like to have home insecurity and lose a home to foreclosure during the recession. Housing in Tempe is a struggle for most working families and homeownership is often difficult. The ability to have affordable housing in many parts of Tempe is difficult due to demand and high prices. However, strengthening our transit infrastructure allows more affordable development with varied transportation options (like light rail, bike lanes, and Orbit) to major job centers will help people who work in Tempe be able to afford to live here.
I’ve asked people in various aspects of the development process if there even is a documented process for reviewing development proposals, and I never get a consistent answer. And this is part of the problem; how can we make effective development decisions, request appropriate input, or balance the overall landscape of opportunities without an open and clear process?
If elected, a streamlined and open process is something I’ll push for. From a business perspective, time is money, and as much as we can shorten processes, the better for business. From the community’s perspective, understanding what is happening and when neighborhoods have a chance to provide important feedback on the types of development proposed, provides a more collaborative approach to new developments.
I have knocked on doors in nearly every neighborhood in Tempe, and the character of each is so unique, I can’t help but advocate for preservation. But that can’t be up to the City alone, advocacy must be up to the neighborhoods and input must be sought early on in the process before a proposal is approved. Strong neighborhood groups are so important to maintain and grow our community, and I’d love to continue and expand the art grants to help define each neighborhood. But we know that the most active neighborhoods in Tempe tend to get more funding while other neighborhoods lack an organized group to make the application.
I’d also love a more robust neighborhood character area discussion. Guidelines that developers can follow to streamline the design review will save time, unnecessary rework, and protect and preserve the character of our neighborhoods. This can also provide additional input from designated neighborhoods for all planned development activities.
Our property values and home prices in Tempe are up, which is good for homeowners, but that also means our rent goes up, regardless of single family homes, condos, or apartments. Most recent approved development proposals are market rate, meaning it’s not luxury, but rent is higher than it has been in recent years which is pricing out our renting residents who can no longer afford to live in Tempe.
We must be mindful that renters are our neighbors too. Landlords who raise the rent should be providing additional value in their rentals to warrant the higher rate. But the City should also enforce code violations in a reasonable manner to maintain the neighborhoods we've grown to love in Tempe.
Affordable housing is a federal definition and understandably, is often avoided because of regulatory hurdles. I’d love to entertain proposals for affordable housing but many residents don’t want this type of development in their neighborhood, and the City would have to use an incredible amount of tax revenue to purchase land or provide extreme tax offsets to developers to build anything designated affordable.
I myself am a renter, having lost our home in the recession in 2008 after a layoff and we are still struggling to recover while paying a small mortgage-worth of student loan debt. While we do plan to purchase a home in the next year (hopefully!), I fear the prices will continue to rise and I'll always be mindful of the struggle for working families.