Scottsdale’s Economic Forecast

by John Washington on May 31, 2012

Economic Development Subcommittee

Last Thursday, 24 May, the Economic Development Subcommittee of the Scottsdale City Council (Mayor Lane, Vice Mayor Milhaven, and Councilman Robbins) held an open study session and heard presentations from Elliot Pollack, RL Brown, and Professor Dennis Hoffman from ASU. The topic of this discussion was an “Economic Forecast” for Scottsdale, primarily regarding real estate and the housing market.

You can watch this discussion by clicking this link:

http://scottsdale.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=70&clip_id=4456

As you might imagine, I have a few thoughts on this subject. My comments begin around time index 00:17:30, but you really should watch the discussion all the way through. Very illuminating not only for content, but for how the subcommittee consumed the information.

With to the thousands of Scottsdale apartments under construction or in the planning process, I found Mr. Pollack’s comment around time index 01:44:00 to be especially illuminating. He said,

“A developer would build a high-rise in the middle of the Gobi Desert if he could get the financing. Real estate is 100% finance driven. Money is available for apartments so you’ve seen a lot of apartments…What your job is, is to determine whether there’s real demand, which is difficult, and what you want your city to look like down the road because quite frankly otherwise you’d have apartments right now EVERYWHERE. Is that what you want to look like?”

You’ll note zoning attorney John Berry sitting behind Prof. Hoffman for most of the discussion. Berry quietly hijacked the discussion by whispering in the ear of Elliot Pollack while RL Brown was at the podium.

The subsequent staged discussion of growth and density started at about 01:47:00, culminating with a comment from RL Brown:

“If Scottsdale…doesn’t grow, we all know you atrophy. Assuming that growth is what you want…and I think probably the citizens want it whether they recognize it or not…with a finite supply of land then you are going to have to increase the density.”

I take issue with letting a zoning attorney steer a “study session” in which our elected leaders are ostensibly trying to get information to help them make decisions about zoning. I also take issue with the officer running the meeting allowing this to happen as it is completely out of order.

But, more importantly, I take issue with the tired false premise of “grow or atrophy”…more commonly expressed as “grow or die.”

Scottsdale doesn’t HAVE to grow. If we tell ourselves we HAVE to do it, we put ourselves in a weaker position with regard to considering the nature and extent of the growth we are going to allow.

I submit that these issues are well considered by our current General Plan, and we don’t HAVE to accept radical changes in density or height to accommodate growth.

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