December 8 meeting/Ward 3/ Residential Zoning

There is a great deal of activity these days relating to the future development of our community. Construction for the modern streetcar project is now underway as is planning for residential development along the streetcar route. Overlay zoning is being considered, neighborhoods around the University are leading the way in efforts to clarify residential development issues in historic areas, the City is renewing its comprehensive plan and Imagine Greater Tucson is preparing to present alternative urban designs for guiding development in the Tucson region.

One of the most influential documents in guiding the way in which Tucson develops is the City’s Land Use Code. This document has been under review and revision for several years now. One of our long time neighborhood leaders, Ruth Beeker, has been quite active in this review process. She asked me to make the following information available to you for your consideration.



The City of Tucson is concluding the simplification and reorganization of its existing Land use Code (LUC). The resultant document, the Unified Development Code (UDC) is in its final draft. As a member of the LUC Committee representing neighborhood interests, I have two major concerns about content in Article 6: Dimensional Standards and Measurements.

First, all new construction in our residential zones of R-1 and R-2 will be required to have 7′ side setbacks from the property line. This is in contrast to the LUC which has a sliding scale depending on building height. Under current code, a 25′ tall building would be required to have a 16.6′ side yard setback. The proposed change is a notable reduction which will impact the distance to the house next door.

Second, a new section, 6.5.3 Mitigation of Multi-Story and Taller Structures, has been added to address some of the more troubling aspects created by the major reduction in side setbacks. While I appreciate staff efforts to address these problems, I find the solutions totally inadequate.

I have attached a position paper, “Beware!! It Could Be Built Next Door” in which I attempt to put the issues into a broader context. If you find the proposed changes undesirable, please make your voice heard. Attend the UDC Neighbors’ Meeting next Thursday, Dec. 8, 6-8 P.M. at the Ward 3 Office, 1510 E. Grant Rd.; email the Planning and Development Services Department director, Ernie Duarte, at , let your council office know that you are concerned and pass this e-mail on to other Tucson residential property owners so the community knows what is being proposed.

Ruth Beeker
Position paper:


The broader context Ruth mentions is captured by her comments at the end of the position paper: “. . . intrusive development within single-family housing areas . . . If it is a desire for greater urban density, the City must identify areas where density is appropriate. Squeezing a few more people into new construction which is incompatible with existing norms is neither an efficient solution nor an ethical practice. It destroys the character of the established neighborhood for a pitifully small population gain.”

Some of the broader questions include:
– Where is higher density residential development appropriate? How should these areas be decided?
– Should inner-ring suburbs evolve toward a more urban character or should they substantially remain suburbs?
– Should strip malls be bulldozed and replaced by higher-density mixed-use developments with good transit connections?
– Are mixed-income, walkable cities and suburbs with nearby amenities compatible with historic, single family residential areas?

Also of possible interest:

The meeting on Thursday December 8 6-8 PM at the Ward 3 Office may be an interesting one. You are invited to come participate and to learn where land use code revisions fit with higher level concepts of urban design.

Donald Ijams, Coordinator
Neighborhood Support Network

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