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Yuma Mayor Nicholls says Arizona affordable housing bill unnecessary

Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls, backed by colleagues from across the state, urges Gov. Katie Hobbs on Thursday, March 14, 2024 to veto legislation that would wrest some control over zoning and planning issues from cities.
Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer
Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls, backed by colleagues from across the state, urges Gov. Katie Hobbs on Thursday, March 14, 2024 to veto legislation that would wrest some control over zoning and planning issues from cities.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Calling the measure both unnecessary and an overreach, mayors from around Arizona came to the State Capitol Thursday to urge Gov. Katie Hobbs to veto legislation on her desk to override some of their ability to make planning and zoning decisions.
At a press conference, Mesa Mayor John Giles called legislation billed at paving the way for more affordable housing unnecessary.
"In Mesa alone, we have approved more than 6,000 housing units in the last two years,'' he said. "And we are committed to increasing this number.''
And Giles said while he believes the motives of those pushing HB 2570 are well intentioned, what is in the measure is "deeply flawed.''
"Simply limiting our cities' land-planning authority is not the solution to the housing crisis,'' he said.
The measure, which gained bipartisan support, allows for higher densities and smaller lots on parcels of at least five acres. There also are other provisions, like smaller setbacks from the street and from adjacent properties.
Proponents say that they want to ensure that there can be many kinds of housing within communities and not simply allow for just single-family homes on larger lots. And there also is the argument that, absent state intervention, there will never be affordable housing because of the philosophy of "not in my back yard,'' or NIMBY-ism,
"That is just patently false,'' said Giles who has been mayor for the last 10 years. "I can tell you in all that time there has not been a case where NIMBY-ism has killed a project.''
Still, Neal Haddad, president of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, said there is is an interest of existing homeowners trying to protect their areas.
"Zoning is the bedrock foundation of local government land use protections,'' said Haddad who also was at the press conference. "It helps to establish and maintain the character of a community in accordance with local desires and protects property values by separating uses that may be incompatible.''
Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls called the measure, which would affect all cities of at least 75,000, unnecessary.
"We have implemented positive measures in our communities to increase housing supplies,'' he said.
"This includes streamlining construction approvals, promoting urban infill, reducing lot sizes, increasing density in single-family areas, reducing processing times and facilitating construction of accessory dwelling units.''
That last reference is to something not in this bill. Instead, HB 2720 would require cities of at least 7,5000 to allow at least one -- and, in some cases, more -- of what are sometimes called "casitas.'' Proponents say these small homes in the yards of existing houses could provide more affordable housing.
But what is in HB 2570, Nicholls said, is unacceptable because he said it would provide zoning "by right,'' meaning that the owner could pretty much do whatever he or she wants without having to first get city approval and go through the process of rezoning and the hearings to get public input.
"This bill, by its 'by right' provisions, removes the God-given right, as enumerated in the First Amendment to redress your government,'' he said. And Nicholls sniffed at the arguments that the provisions in the measure will lead to more affordable housing.
"Instead, they risk undermining the integrity of our communities and eroding the thoughtfulness of our community planning as aimed at ensuring the people are a critical part of the process,'' he said.
Other mayors who were not at Thursday's event also have weighed in asking Hobbs for a veto.
"Housing solutions that cut out stakeholder voices are not aligned with our values,'' said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero in a post on social media. "Let's prioritize community-driven approaches, not legislative overreach.''
Romero said she agrees thee is a real housing crisis, saying there also is a need to address "the persistent causes of poverty.'' And that, she said, requires lawmakers to "work with cities and fund solutions.''
Hobbs has through Monday to decide whether to sign or veto the measure.
On X and Threads: @azcapmedia

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