'Left Out' Phoenix Neighbors Claim Partial Development Victory

By Christina Estes
Published: Monday, May 10, 2021 - 5:05am

Some residents in south Phoenix are claiming a partial victory in their fight against a developer. 

This is not a story about neighbors yelling, “Not in my backyard." It’s a story about residents frustrated with the process.

“We know we need more housing,” a woman told the City Council on Wednesday. “We were never part of the process, we were left out.”

“Our pointed and direct questions were ignored for over six months,” said Trent Marchuk, a member of the South Mountain Village Planning Committee.

The committee recommended denial of the project that would require a zoning change and amendment to the general plan. A developer wants to build single-family homes for rent on the southwestern corner of 40th Street and Southern Avenue.

After the village planning committee’s vote to recommend the plan be denied, the Phoenix Planning Commission recommended approval with stipulations. Residents appealed and submitted a petition requiring that three-quarters of the council approve the proposal.

Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia, whose district includes the site, got involved and just one hour before Wednesday’s council meeting began, the developer agreed to reduce the number of houses, add green space and move dog parks and trash dumpsters farther away from property lines. 

Residents thanked Garcia for listening and negotiating a compromise. They asked the council to approve 156 units on the 17-acre site, but Garcia said: “The original proposal was over 210 units and I think 166 is fair here and that I hope that speaking to the developer we will continue to have conversations as this moves forward to make sure that everyone is being good neighbors with each other.”

During public comment, several callers expressed support for the developer’s plan to set aside three units with 50% rent for single-parents, medical frontline workers, formerly incarcerated people and South Mountain-area teachers.

Lola Levesque said she grew up in south Phoenix and wanted to raise her children there, but due to a 2003 criminal conviction she struggles to find housing due to background checks.

“Even though property management companies say over and over, ‘Oh, we’ll run your background but won’t consider it,' they always do,” she said. “I have to rent from private owners who will listen to my story and when you have, you know, these large developers or you have like property management companies who don’t have that experience and don’t care, you get kicked out.”

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