Haskell: Scottsdale is headed down a troubled path

I have become acutely aware that there are indeed two Scottsdale’s made up of the Haves and the Have Not’s.

Lisa Haskell

Yes, two cities under one gold plated roof made up of $500,000 condos, mansions and millennials.

Scottsdale is a million dollar luxury playground for those with the means to play. Yes, luxury simply oozes out of Scottsdale’s pores.

Sadly, there is another side to Scottsdale, a side that doesn’t receive nearly the attention it deserves.

An entire generation/demographic has been priced/pushed out of Scottsdale.

We have a growing homeless population and seniors and young families who worry about how they will survive in an area that is almost entirely populated with overpriced rentals and inflated housing prices even for the most modest of abodes.

A local business owner recently informed me that the days of Scottsdale (even south Scottsdale) being affordable for the middle class is over.

“That ship has sailed,” he rather smugly proclaimed. Hmmm. Well, I guess the rest of us bottom dwellers have been put in our rightful place.

Somewhere, anywhere but Scottsdale.

The welcome mat is not out and they won’t leave the light on for you. (As Motel 6 used to advertise) In fact, if you are unable to afford a $500,000 condo, you might be forced to call Motel 6 home. You know — just until the market crashes again.

Frankly, a room at Motel 6 has more square footage than many of the $500,000 cubicles being constructed at a rate that outpaces President Trump’s daily tweet average.

To those who share an attitude similar to the one expressed by the business owner, let me just say this. Remember the housing bubble of 2008? What goes up must and will come crashing down, an opinion shared by many Realtors and financial planners I have spoken with.

Then perhaps the rest of us slackers may have the satisfaction of informing all those investors, developers and assorted elite who feel the rest of us are financially unfit to inhabit the same city they call home, Gee, so sorry for your loss as in money on your investment but the days of inflated rents and housing prices are over for now.

That ship has sailed. What goes up just came down.

Then what will Scottsdale be left with?

Oceans of apartments and condos that are all competing for renters at bargain basement prices? Another appropriate saying comes to mind. History is doomed to repeat itself.

Apparently we learned nothing from the last housing meltdown except that practice makes perfect. Development in the Preserve was a cause for genuine concern but it is not the only issue facing the community. It’s just the one that received most of the attention.

I would encourage elected officials and residents to focus on some of the other looming disasters on Scottsdale’s horizon. Allow me to share a relevant passage from a publication entitled “Independent American Communities”:

“Government at all levels serves as the gatekeeper to new residential development as well as development of blighted neighborhoods (which local government and developers often have a hand in blighting). When government works in the public interest, they make responsible decisions about the kinds of development to support and how to finance growth and economic development. When governments don’t represent the interests of the general public they enact policies that fail to serve the greater good.”

Note to Scottsdale’s leaders both present and future. Out of control development, the kind that rather than being cutting edge, creative, unique, the kind that follows the latest trends/fads, does not an aesthetically pleasing community create just an ordinary one.

What works in one city (New York) may not be appropriate for another city, one with a desert climate. Too much cement does not a livable city make, just a hotter one.

Local climate, water supply, etc. should influence the type of development that is pursued but sadly in Scottsdale and surrounding communities, $ signs seem to be a motivating factor rather than what is environmentally appropriate for the community.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions so the saying goes and the road to mediocrity is cluttered with nondescript development. The kind money can buy and Scottsdale is currently awash in. Too bad we are not awash in water.

Yes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the devil is always in the details. Why can’t we demand that developers contribute to the long term well being of the community and our fragile desert environment?

So, which way Scottsdale? Down a path paved with developer inspired cubicles with a short shelf life or a path that is more inspired and one that will contribute to both the long term best interest of the community and our fragile desert environment?

If we continue down the path we are currently traveling, we certainly won’t be special or unique or perhaps a magnet for tourism — unless we can design an apartment building that resembles a cactus or a beer keg.

Perhaps we need to pause, take a look in the mirror and ask “What kind of community have we become? What kind of community do we want to become? How do we spell cachet?”

If home is where the heart is, Scottsdale is no longer home for a growing number of young families, retired folks, the elderly. I urge local politicians and their elite associates to acknowledge alternative lifestyles rather than focusing on the $500,000 condo dweller to the exclusion of everyone else. I am also confident that this will not happen.

I recently read an article that focused on what other cities were doing to inject some creativity into the high rise, cement jungle mix.

One city created a children’s garden in the middle of the city, one that provided open space, a place for families, people to gather and it also had an educational component to it. It offered a variety of lectures, speakers, gardening classes, etc. that taught children how food was grown etc.

Public art is not the only contribution that developers should be forced to make. How about contributing a few trees to shade people from the higher temps created by added cement? And, by the way, your contributions should not simply benefit those who live or work in your developments but should benefit the greater community.

It’s time elected officials began to cater to all constituents and not just the ones with enough money to finance their campaigns. If the younger generation (the millennials you currently cater to) hold the keys to our future, the elderly hold the keys to our past and deserve some consideration and not just lip service.

And while I am busy offending the usual suspects (I prefer to refer to it as making some new friends), our downtown could benefit from some creativity and a little diversity. Should a downtown become an exclusive mecca for bars or should it be a diverse gathering place, a mecca for culture, real entertainment and yes — some bars?

What we seem to have created is an adult Disneyland complete with golf carts full of screaming bar patrons. On another note, perhaps some bar patrons need to practice appropriate adult beverage etiquette.

If you feel compelled (or simply have no control over bodily functions thanks to a night of alcohol fueled revelry) to use a public street as your personal rest room, perhaps the city should provide clean up bags for downtown bar patrons similar to those provided for our canine companions.

If you are obligated to clean up after your pet, I believe you should also do everyone the courtesy of cleaning up after yourself. Either that or pay for the over priced shoes I soiled attempting to skirt the after affects of your out of control revelry.

Perhaps I should simply bill the city.

No, wait, they can’t even afford to pay for necessary infrastructure repairs. Silly me. Don’t worry. Be happy or so the song goes.

There are certainly a lot of drunks, I mean happy people, in the downtown on a Friday night. Perhaps this contributed to Scottsdale’s much publicized stress free city ranking. After all, with enough alcohol you can forget about stress and all the things that contribute to it. Rising rents, rising temps but I digress.

As we focus on an upcoming bond election, allow me to share another pertinent quote from the same publication. “For decades, housing consumers and concerned American voters have been largely unaware of the pervasive, toxic, influence of real estate developers and home builders.”

This is especially true in the “new” Scottsdale where the needs of the average citizen are replaced by the wants of the affluent, the politically well connected, the investors, the developers.

What is even more discouraging and a little frightening are the shadowy connections between politicians and developers who in some cases work silently behind the scenes to acquire your property for redevelopment and their profit. Some say Scottsdale has lost its way (along with an entire demographic).

Perhaps it can be found in the same place they dispose of inconvenient community input, open space, conscience, old activists, housing for the middle class and quality of life.

When apartment complexes fail in the next recession, will institutional investors attempt to revive them as condos or will unfinished projects be resurrected with the assistance of tax payer funded grants as affordable housing?

Don’t expect any answers. All is well in the moneyed metropolis of Scottsdale. Don’t worry. Be happy. The following quote seems appropriate:

“The world has enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Gandhi. ‘Nuff said.

Editor’s Note: Lisa Haskell is a Scottsdale resident.

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