Sunday, November 8, 2009
The Goldwater Institute was crowing earlier this week about winning a legal victory against the city of Tucson on behalf of developer Michael Goodman, the mini-dorm developer who, in the words of Goldwater press release, "buys run-down properties in the downtown area and near the University of Arizona, and replaces them with new housing that meets or exceeds zoning requirements and building standards."
Meanwhile: Kathleen Williamson tell us what it's like to live in Feldman's Neighborhood, where the mini-dorms have the highest concentration. Some excerpts from her report:
Tonight about 11 pm the epicenter at Feldman's started sounding like a surround sound stadium of drunks. I took the dog for a walk to see if I could observe what and where things were happening (need to get that video camera!). There parties on 4th and elm and one starting on 4th and adams, the same house I videoed a few weeks ago and which should have been redtagged a dozen times this semester alone. Two guys on the corner of 4th and lee were cursing loudly and one got rid of his empty beer bottle by simply hurling it to the east about 30'. There was a girl, barely dressed, over whom they were fighting. A truck with a bed full of loud party kids came down 4th and called out to "Woody" the blonde tshirt guy swearing on lee to join the party. The truck pulled into the garage at the 4th/Adams party house and deposited its load of drunk revelers. The truck headed back up lee. Some people were in the alley toward 3rd avenue. I thought they might be heading toward this party but could not make that out.
In the meantime the familiar sound of police sirens were headed toward Feldman's. A fire truck/emt truck came up 4th and turned left on lee. I walked along in my invisible with dog on leash old lady way. I got to the area where goodman's offices are. The emgcy vehicle was pulling out and repositioning itself into the alley west of 3rd betw lee and adams. I walked into the area. There was a small mob of drunk jocks and one woman dressed like a whorish barbie doll. I don't know who these girls are who dress like this while in the company of a dozen drunk young vile men. Anyway, there was a young man obviously seriously injured laying in the alley dirt. He seemed paralyzed.
The emts had to put him on a gurney and take most of his clothes off to align him. He was also very drunk and
got agitated. The standing young men all around, probably about 8, later joined by woody and his friend, were drunk, boisterous, and also agitated. The kid was rushed to the hospital. One squad car showed up with two young cops. They started asking questions of this group. Everyone said that the kid fell out of a truck - one or two said he fell off a motorcycle. However not one of them admitted to seeing anything. When they challenged the officers about why they were being questioned, the officers said they needed to be sure he wasn't pushed out of a truck or some crime hadn't been committed. Several said that nobody pushed the kid (21 years old according to the drunks, and he lived on adams between 4th and lee). The cop questioned how they could know if no one saw it.
Postscript (1:12 AM Sunday Nov. 8): The noise and traffic is still unabated. These kids think it is normal to be on the balconies and going from house to house yelling and swearing and hooting and whistling all night.
Law enforcement is not going to fix the behavioral problem. You cannot create a ghetto of undergraduate males with party architecture and ever expect law enforcement to correct anything more than one party for one night and one house at a time. And the crime is booming. At the point it is now at 4th ave from adams to elm, it is irreversible. As this expands or thickens, and as the reputation of the area grows and attracts more and more trouble, this whole area and surrounding neighborhoods will be permanently changed. Policing won't even amount to bandaids.
I am an anthropologist and have also studied urban design as a lawyer and a student of the humanities. Law enforcement will not fix this problem. The design of this development, which hasn't been treated as a development because goodman is building piecemeal, is the insurmountable problem. You cannot have a ghetto of out of town undergrads without any supervision, densely clustered, with all kinds of devices that enable bad behavior such as indoor parking, gated community, huge upstairs party balconies, and no prominent street addresses. That coupled with goodman's practices of renting by the room, no superintendent enforcing any controls at all, is a recipe for ongoing and increasing disaster in the truest sense of that word.
Thanks to Prop 207 and the enshrining of property rights above all else in Arizona statute, the city has little recourse to prevent this kind of cancer from spreading through the university neighborhoods.