Architect: Sawtelle Neighbors Guilty of NIMBYism

I am disappointed and outraged at your choice to publish three unsubstantiated letters from neighbors of our Sawtelle Project (Mailbag, Nov. 8).

The previous owners of the original house were a nice older couple who put their home on an open real estate market and were quite happy to sell for a very good price. On the recent home tour, I was fortunate enough to meet their daughter, who came through the new home. She was quite complimentary and said her parents would have been happy to see how we thoughtfully developed both properties. These lots actually allowed for three homes to be built. However, we took great care to save the existing home and rehabilitate it.

Denise Holzman probably didn't mention that we upgraded the existing home, spending thousands of dollars to upgrade a house which had fallen into disrepair with the former owners. The abandoned lot on which the new home was constructed was overgrown with weeds and a dilapidated shed which had evidence of transient occupation, and the city required it to be demolished. Part of our upgrade of the existing home did include adding several native mesquite trees at the street with a drip system, all items which most rational people would appreciate. After we first installed the system, there was a problem one night, and one of the heads popped off, and water went into the alley, not Denise's driveway. We remedied the problem immediately.

We are professionals and went through all required city permitting. The fire department was well aware of our construction, as was the Development Services Department. We were within all city regulations. We never encroached on or modified the alley. The only transactions with the fire department were caused by Ms. Holzman's endlessly badgering them.

The design is consistent with the neighborhood zoning which allows one-story and two-story structures throughout. In fact, there is a high-density two-story condo development immediately adjacent to the west property line.

The reality is that everyone talks about the benefits of infill, but the second anyone actually does infill, people cry, "Not in my backyard." These neighbors inherently don't like change, any change, and that's what their letters are all about. Many other neighbors complimented us for improving the area.

Sonya Sotinsky

Some Whiny Candidates Should Be Beaten With Nintzel's Piece

Who needs political consultants to tell third-party candidates how winners build credibility and get press coverage, when Jim Nintzel ("Campaigning 101," Nov. 1) will do the job for free?

Among Libertarians, it's generally assumed that there is a "conspiracy of silence" against third parties in general and Libertarians in particular, a view used as an excuse by candidates like Ernest Hancock and Barry Hess for favoring cheap stunts and wild, vague positions over political basics.

Down here in Pima County, our experience with campaigns in recent years, including Dave Nolan for Congress, has been that the press treats us fairly, giving coverage proportional to our fundraising, grassroots support and expected role in the race.

Most third-party candidacies are closer to human-interest features than genuine news. The press would be dishonest to treat a token paper candidacy, such as my own "run" for county supervisor in 2004, as equal to a serious campaign. Likewise, after a Libertarian candidate gets caught off guard by an education question at an education forum and ends up proposing free computers for all the kiddies, a political reporter who doesn't have the man pegged as a vain faker is unworthy of his job!

I should get my copy of the Nov. 1 issue laminated and weighted with lead, for use in beating candidates over the head who blame the press for their own failures.

Bennett Kalafut

'Innovative' Building Has a Long Way to Go

It's great that more people are trying to be innovatively green with home construction while at the same time paying more attention to basic architectural concepts like the seasonal balance between passive solar heating and shading. But it is misleading and perhaps even environmentally dangerous to suggest that primitive wall-building techniques like straw bale and rammed earth will somehow save us from an "energy disaster" ("Innovative Dwellings," Currents, Nov. 1).

As pointed out by groups like EcoSur, involved with improving habitation in the Third World, walls can be made of almost anything, anywhere, and for free. Soil--rammed, dried into blocks or simply held in place with old tires or bags, especially with a little clay and fibers like straw--will suffice. The roof is the real challenge. Spanning the gravity-held walls with a material system that can withstand sun, rain, bugs, freeze-thaw cycles and the wind requires a whole different class of materials.

Yet, forests everywhere are going away, and wood is better left in the trees where it can sequester carbon. Steel is extremely energy intensive, and its manufacture produces lots of CO2. Cement, used in both straw bale and rammed earth, also has a big problem that is typically overlooked: As reported in Environmental Building News, "... cement production is very energy intensive--cement is among the most energy-intensive materials used in the construction industry and a major contributor to CO2 in the atmosphere." So Ron Carswell's 8-inch concrete foundation places the entire house on an unsustainable footing.

To become truly environmentally benign, construction technology needs real innovation, and there will be no simple solutions. Advanced "eco-composites" made of industrial-waste products are on the way. Those of us working on these urgent challenges are not impressed with big windows.

David Stone

'Weekly' Article Didn't Include Enough Women

While we appreciate the supportive coverage of the Tuesday Night Community Bike Ride ("Tucson on Two Wheels," Nov. 8), we are disappointed that the Weekly failed to represent the numerous women who are a part of this event. Not one woman was photographed for the story, and only one woman quoted, despite our strong presence at every ride.

There were also three women present at the meeting with Capt. Perry Tarrant and José Ibarra. Despite the unfortunately predictable focus of last week's article on the men involved in the Tuesday Night Community Bike Ride, we hope that the community knows that all riders are welcome--young and old, male and female, straight and queer, Spandex-clad and costumed--and that inclusiveness and having fun are what it's all about.

Another correction: Varo is not our "mascot." He's our friend.

Elizabeth Anable and Greta Anderson

Hey, Bicyclists: Take Courses, Follow Laws, Get Free Stuff!

In the state of Arizona, a bicyclist "is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle." With the right to the roadways goes the responsibility of obeying the same traffic laws as drivers. In addition, Arizona law requires that all bicycles operated at night be equipped with an approved red rear reflector and a white front headlight visible from at least 500 feet.

The police have the right to enforce these laws, even during an event such as the Community Bike Ride. Similarly, a driver of a motor vehicle should be ticketed for driving without headlights at night.

Erik Ryberg suggested that the government should be handing out free helmets and lights rather than traffic tickets to bicyclists who violate the law. Currently, Pima County and the city of Tucson are distributing high-quality bicycle helmets, headlights, taillights and locks free of charge to bicyclists who complete free safety courses. Call 243-BIKE or visit

Dave Burnham

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