If you didn't see the documentary Subdivide and Conquer two weeks ago at the university, you should have (the film's website is www.subdividefilm.com). It addressed suburban sprawl and inner-city decay by advocating mixed zoning for attractive urban villages.
The ugly scenes looked like Tucson--my Tucson, west of Silverbell along Anklam Wash. This is what has happened to the fragile green belt on either side of the wash in the last two years. U.S. Homes planed off approximately 50 acres of ocotillo, saguaro, greasewood and desert flowers at 2100 W. Speedway to erect a 33-building, 205-apartment complex and 109 single-family homes on 5,000-square-foot lots. Twenty-four mature ocotillos and a dozen saguaros were removed and died before being replanted. The homes' landscaping consists of a tree or bush on handkerchief-sized gravel yards. Every building is one of three shades of sand. What used to be a small vista of desert vegetation is now a sea of identical roofs. Five homes are already for sale again.
K.E.G. Construction has just bladed 5 acres of virgin cholla behind Brichta School and bulldozed soil into Anklam Wash, stabilizing it with cemented rock, to put up 35 homes with virtually no yards. The morning after the little square of teddybear cholla was razed, a family of coyotes dug frantically in the bare ground to find rabbits and ground squirrels buried alive.
Codes required all three developments to dig retention basins, even though the natural drainage would be into the wash. All these basins retain are sludgy, mosquito-breeding water and broken toys. I've complained to Councilman José Ibarra three times about the dying plants and the unhealthful basins with no response.
Meanwhile, across town at the northwest corner of Fifth and Wilmot, another 50 acres grows only tumbleweeds and the non-indigenous palm trees where the medical complex known as "Titty City" was razed, what, 10 years ago--the medical establishment sprawling ever eastward. An ideal site for an urban village, it's zoned wrong, leaving us yet another unsightly vacant lot.
If you hate what you see, let's change our nonsensical zoning codes.
I love reading articles about Christopher City, a place I had the unfortunate experience of living in for about three months during my sophomore year of college at UA ("Gimme Shelter," July 27). After moving out from the UA dorms midyear, I found it difficult to find a place where I could live for the final few months of the school year. When I heard about Christopher City, it seemed that moving into an apartment there would be the perfect solution to my problem. An actual apartment, not some ridiculous dorm room, located by the mountains. No noisy roommates, no loud parties. Sounded great. I reserved a spot there, sight unseen.
What a mistake.
It didn't take long to realize that Christopher City was far less than perfect. Upon moving in, I noticed an unusual amount of condensation forming on the inside of all the windows. The place felt damp and humid. Sure, my houseplants flourished, but it felt like a greenhouse.
A few days later, I noticed lots of mold growing on the inside of my windows. LOTS of mold. I contacted the front desk, and they simply told me to buy bleach. The community newsletter that month included a list of ways to remove mildew and mold. Breathing in the mold made me feel slightly nauseated at times, not to mention how sweaty I always was.
Not only was Christopher City a mecca of mold, it also was host to another fascinating problem: sewer roaches. Lots of sewer roaches. Two-inch sewer roaches. At first I found them dead, belly-up, in the kitchen and the bathroom. I poured bleach down my drains, as I was instructed to do, as if bleach is the cure-all to everything. No help. "At least the roaches are dead," I thought. No such luck. They started crawling down my bedroom and living room walls. Lots of them. Like something out of Starship Troopers. Once I reached into a tissue box, and one actually crawled out!
I wrote a letter to Mr. Van Arsdell, in charge of Residence Life, and, after much discussion, Residence Life refunded my money and allowed me to move out.
I have no idea how anyone can honestly say that Christopher City is a nice place to live. It puzzled me that the UA could actually allow families to live in such conditions. As abrupt and possibly unfair as the eviction notice to tenants may have been, and as trying as it can be to find other affordable housing, I would not wish the experience of living in Christopher City on anyone. I sympathize with students having financial trouble, but please, let's not mistake the fact that Christopher City is a completely undesirable place to live.