No Parking

Plans For Student Housing Have West University Neighbors Worried.

FROM THE FRONT porch of the 1907 Territorial-style home he recently purchased, Mark Landsfeld can look out across two large vacant lots at the corner of University Boulevard and Stone Avenue. The land has recently been cleared; within one year, the Royal Apartment complex, intended to attract University of Arizona students, is expected to rise on the site.

Landsfeld says he doesn't care about the new project or the future student tenants. But he's bothered by a lack of proposed parking. For the 231-bedroom complex, the project will accommodate approximately 140 cars, which includes existing on-street spaces immediately adjacent to the site.

"It's going to be a nightmare," Landsfeld gripes. "Those students will be parking all over the place in our neighborhood. Every single student will have a car. The project's lack of parking has definitely taken some of the magic away from being a first-time home owner."

Roy Drachman Sr., the dean of Tucson's real-estate industry and a representative of the project developer, disagrees. He thinks the apartment complex will be a great asset to the area and that the number of parking spaces, since it meets City of Tucson code requirements, will be satisfactory.

To compound the potential parking problems, Landsfeld points out that some of the Royal Apartment bedrooms may house more than one person. Drachman says each bedroom will have only one tenant, but Landsfeld fears that will be hard to control.

"The flaw is with the code," Landsfeld says with obvious frustration, referring to the City's Land Use Code, which sets parking requirements for new construction. The code calls for multi-family residential complexes to provide parking spaces based on the total number of dwelling units in the project, not on the number of residents.

Obviously written with family instead of college-student housing in mind, this portion of the code is what Landsfeld complains could cause a parking problem in his neighborhood. A four-bedroom apartment, according to the code, has to have only two parking spaces.

Leo Pilachowski, who helped write the code, feels the multi-family parking requirements are a provision which need to be changed. He suggests the Royal Apartments and other similar complexes catering to college students be called rooming houses for parking purposes.

Pilachowski remembers that the citizen committee that wrote the code considered lack of parking for student housing as a possible problem, but he says he couldn't persuade them to look at alternatives to the adopted language. He thinks for non-family dwellings such as the Royal Apartments, parking on an "as-needed" basis should be the city code requirement. He also recommends the elimination of existing on-street parking from the calculations.

To document the potential impact which could occur, Landsfeld conducted a survey of apartment houses which attract university students. He found that those that had less than 1.3 parking spaces per bedroom had problems. His conclusion was that the developer of the Royal Apartments "is trying to cram two-and-a-half to three times the number of beds (into his project than) his parking area can support."

In response to his complaints, Landsfeld says the project architect said he believes only about 50 percent of the tenants will have automobiles. A random check of other university-area student apartment complexes, however, found that an estimated 75 percent of student renters have cars. At these complexes, which are closer to campus than the Royal Apartment site, cars overflow the parking lots onto adjacent streets.

To combat the parking problems he believes are bound to occur, Landsfeld thinks the neighborhood will have to adopt a 24-hour restricted parking program for on-street spaces. It is the only way he sees for protecting the area from excess parking from the new project.

Despite the possible parking problems, Roy Drachman Sr. says that UA President Peter Likens supports the Royal Apartment project -- which isn't surprising, since the university itself has been very reluctant to build any new student housing of its own.

When the university's Comprehensive Campus Plan was adopted in 1988, it called for housing 25 percent of the undergraduate students on campus. To meet that goal, the plan recommended constructing a 750 to 1,000 student housing complex by the year 2000.

That project has never materialized and probably never will. That's why several privately funded student housing projects are now being planned in neighborhoods all around the campus. That way, the University of Arizona can use its own property for other, more important, uses -- like new parking lots.

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