(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
Under Construction. The 2015 Arizona Legislative session just ended, and citizens of Scottsdale were relieved that Arizona House Bill 2570 (HB-2570) did not pass. This bill would have made it illegal for Arizona cities to require that developers salvage and replant native plants.
Like other cities in the metropolitan area, including Phoenix, developers in Scottsdale are required by city ordinance to salvage and replant native plants. In Scottsdale, the original native plant ordinance was passed in 1981.
In 2015, The City of Scottsdale even encouraged its constituents to call their elected officials to vote against HB 2570.
For most areas of town, Scottsdale’s density is very low, with large lots, wide streets, greenbelts, and lots of open space with native vegetation. Areas of higher residential density are limited to the traditional downtown (near Old Town), and the emerging Scottsdale Quarter in the north part of town.
Residents of Scottsdale wish to preserve the native desert environment, and started buying land for the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve, by raising sales taxes in 1995. Indeed, the emerging McDowell Sonoran Preserve will be the largest natural preserve of any U.S. city, covering 33% of the city limits of Scottsdale, nearly tied with the 34% statistic in the demographically similar Los Angeles “edge city” of Thousand Oaks, California.
Indeed, Thousand Oaks, metro Phoenix, Scottsdale, and other cities in Maricopa County (AZ) and Ventura County (CA), have traditionally established large preserves with extensive urban trail systems. South Mountain Park in Phoenix is the largest preserve of any U.S. city (by acreage, at nearly 19,000 acres).
List of Protected Native Plants
Quoting from the City of Scottsdale Web Site: http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/codes/nativeplant/plantlist
“Protected native plant shall mean cacti which are three (3) feet or greater in height and trees which are four (4) inches or greater in caliper of the following species.”
“If any of the following protected plants, in the indicated sizes, are being disturbed by your project you are required to submit a native plant program as outlined in the amended zoning ordinance section 7.500:”
Vauquelinea CalifornicaCACTI Botanical Name
White Thorn Acacia
Cat Claw Acacia
Blue Palo Verde
FootHills Palo Verde
Arizona Rose WoodCommon Name
|“Single family projects are required to submit a native plant program at the time of submittal for building plan reviews. Commercial projects are required to submit a native plant program no later than the time of application for Development Review Board. A native plant permit is required to remove, relocate, or destroy any plant protected by the ordinance. Permits will not be issued unless submitted in conjunction with an approved or proposed development project. A permit will be issued after the native plant program has been approved.”|
Indigenous Plant List – for water conservation requirements, etc (with photos)
Envrionmental Regulations in Scottsdale
In addition to the native plant ordinance, Scottsdale preserves the environment in many other ways. For example, The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance (ESLO) protects 134 square miles of hilly and mountainous areas, located north and east of the Central Arizona Project canal. This area includes the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. There are many natural washes in this area that are subject to flash flooding. The washes are filled with native plants and/or irrigated turfgrass, as shown by many photos on this web page.
Compared to Scottsdale, Smart Growth Cities Do Not Save Native Plants
Over the next few posts, I’ll show photos of very nice, low density neighborhoods and parks in Scottsdale covered with native plants, required by Scottsdale’s native plant ordinance. I’ll also point out that “smart growth cities” do not save native vegetation. Instead, they tend to clearcut desert vegetation and tall pine and douglas fir trees, to make room for “smart growth towers” arising from residential neighborhoods, at densities of up to 32dU/acre.
Overall, I’ll demonstrate that lower density, Republican adjudicated cities, such as Scottsdale, Bellevue, Thousand Oaks, Reno, and the suburbs of Salt Lake City, are actually “greener,” compared to Democrat run cities with “smart growth,” such as Seattle, Eugene, and Boulder. Historically, this was not the case. Suburbs of blue collar, now post-industrial cities such as Seattle, were very green with large lots (i.e. Renton, Washington). Today, Republicans are the “new environmentalists,” in terms of green neighborhood design in master planned communities, with native plants, bike trails, large lots, and open space. The Democrats are no longer green, they sold out to the international smart growth construction companies years ago, such as Port Blakely Holdings.
Randal O’Toole’s American Dream Coalition points out that smart growth cities do not protect open space, in this thoughtful essay. The coalition, just like Scottsdale, encourages the development of walkable communities with large parcels of public open space.
Scottsdale Home Under Construction – Native Plants Preserved in Front Yard
Beautiful native plants have been preserved by ordinance in the front and side yards of this North Scottsdale home under construction, near Cactus and Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. The street is lined with native plants, with properties averaging about one acre each.
Greyhawk HOA in North Scottsdale
The Greyhawk HOA in North Scottsdalefeatures low density housing, including single family homes, apartments, condominiums, and trendy shopping and dining areas, including a full size Frys Signature Grocery Store, within walking distance along wide streets and curved sidewalks and bike paths.
The area is quite popular with both families, retirees, and young singles. Due to the area’s low density, crime is very low, compared to South Scottsdale, Tempe, and Central Phoenix.
Greyhawk provides wide streets with wide sidewalks and bike paths. The washes have been filled with irrigated turfgrass, where people walk their dogs. Parks and the local Scottsdale Healthcare (dba Honor Health) medical center campus have been replanted with native plants.
Note that the oversized discount Frys signature store would not be allowed by proponents of smart growth, who like to limit the square footage of big box stores, or even ban them all together.. The Greyhawk Frys Signature Store receives great reviews on Yelp, due to its selection of quality foods.
Below is a typical street view, demonstrating the abundance of natural vegetation, replanted by the developer. More photos, later.
McDowell Mountain Ranch
The McDowell Mountain Ranch HOA is located near Greyhawk in North Scottsdale. This HOA is above much of the rest of Scottsdale, with sweeping views to South Mountain Park near Tempe, westward to the Cave Buttes west of Deer Valley, and northward to Black Mountain in Cave Creek.
In fact, it was just two miles from the McDowell Mountain Ranch that Frank Lloyd Wright bought property at Taliesin West, also in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains.
While a bit denser than Greyhawk, the HOA features native plants in abundance, and a few examples of mid century architecture that reminds me of Sunriver in Oregon, such as the Community Center, below.
In addition, the HOA is incredibly bike and pedestrian friendly, with bike lanes and sidewalks, even on four lane boulevards. One can bicycle down to trails in Westworld, that lead further south into metro Scottsdale, and the central park leading to Old Town.
And, overnight parking is banned on residential streets, making conditions safe for pedestrians and cyclists at night. In contrast, smart growth cities encourage street parking, creating very dangerous conditions at night.
McDowell Mountain Ranch has an interesting history of development, and developers, including the Newhall Land and Farming Company, who developed Valencia in Santa Clarita, California, north of the San Fernando Valley.
The HOA terminates at federally owned property which is part of Westworld. This is a 365 acre outdoor and indoor event center, on land owned by the Bureau of Reclamation (because it is a floodplain), and adjudicated by the City of Scottsdale.
Westworld contains at least three retention basins for flooding, that can also be used for outdoor events. At least one of these, Horseman’s Park, is filled with irrigated turfgrass (below).
A smart growth city would never allow a retention basin to be used for other purposes. Instead, a smart growth city would fence off the basin, and allow it to accumulate water, attracting mosquitos that spread disease.
DC Ranch HOA – One of the Richest in North Scottsdale
And, they have a high budget for native plants, here is a view out the driver’s seat stopped at a light on Thompson Peak Boulevard with wildflowers in April, 2015 –
Scottsdale North and South of Shea Blvd.
North of Shea are larger lots with beautiful native plants. Many HOA’s seem to prohibit or limit Palm Trees. Here’s a corner lot in a nice neighborhood North of Shea where extra native plants have been brought in, extending over the curb. Very nice and I wish I could take photos of individual homes, this was a very nice house. Can’t do it for legal reasons, same with people and license plates. Oh well ! Beautiful corner lot –
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
More, later, stay tuned.
Native Plant Inventory – Plants Salvaged for the Scottsdale Appaloosa Library
The native plant salvage nursery (Desierto Verde) for the Scottsdale Appaloosa Library (opened, 2010) conducted an inventory of native plants before construction. In the tables below, plants designated as salvageable are indicated by Y for Yes. Plants designated as not salvageable are indicated by N for No, with the reasons why. Of 71 native plants found on the site, 24 were designated as non salvageable. The remaining 47 plants were either left in place, or, replanted on the site after library construction.
Desierto Verde nursery is used by the Cities of Scottsdale, Phoenix, Mesa, and Peoria, to salvage native plants before construction:
“In 1986, the City of Scottsdale, Arizona became the first municipality to adopt the Desierto Verde-pioneered method of native vegetation transplanting. Over the next two decades, many other communities followed Scottsdale’s lead, resulting in Desierto Verde techniques becoming the community standard for cities like Phoenix, Mesa and Peoria, Arizona.”
Native Plants in Scottsdale Public Parks
Public parks in Scottsdale feature everything from non native Eucalyptus and Palm Trees to an abundance of native species. Newer parks in North Scottsdale, generally considered to be north of Shea Boulevard, have a particular focus on native plants. Older parks in Central and South Scottsdale, such as those in the vicinity of McCormick Ranch, generally feature “tropical” species such as palm trees.
Northsight Park, near Costco, and the Scottsdale Airpark, features an abundance of native plants and perfectly irrigated turfgrass.
“Scottsdale Towers” – Against the Mountains – “Two Downtowns” in a Low Density Suburban City
The City of Scottsdale enforces strict standards for native plant preservation, although they essentially have planned “two downtowns” with tall buildings (Old Town in South Scottsdale, and, Scottsdale Quarter, in North Scottsdale). The City approves, as I call them, “Scottsdale Towers” in these downtowns, set against the mountains. These smart growth towers are rising out of low density suburbs, blooming with native plants. Indeed, this is the same pattern is observed in Bellevue, Washington, near my “ex-hometown of Seattle.”
As Scottsdale continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how many additional smart growth towers are approved. Bellevue has taller buildings than Scottsdale, surrounded by a forest of 101 HOA’s, photos here. Residents of Bellevue and Scottsdale towers can easily escape their respective downtown areas, and find hundreds of miles of running and cycling trails, in the trees and desert, respectively. Seattle, on the other hand, clearcuts its native trees, and does not even have a tree preservation ordinance. John Fox of Seattle’s Displacement Coalition, criticizes the Seattle Mayor, for failing to save native trees:
“And then there’s the [Seattle] Mayor’s Urban Forest Management Plan that emphasizes planting new trees, but fails to address the loss of mature trees. Here again, his plan to accommodate runaway density in Seattle fuels the loss of our existing tree canopy – much of which is on private “developable” land.”
“But what makes Nickel’s Urban Forest Management Plan the worst sort of greenwashing is that his own policies aggravate the loss of tree cover in Seattle. Upzoning the city – trumpeted as a way of preventing urban sprawl – in reality creates irresistible pressures to cover every square foot of lots with buildings. Much of our urban forest exists in the back yards of single-family residential zones, which are coming increasingly under attack for occupying land that could go to denser development.”
In Scottsdale’s “north downtown,” these residential towers were under construction in April, 2015:
Desert Cities Without Scottsdale Native Plant Standards
In Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and Palm Desert, California, developers are allowed to bulldoze all native creosote bush and Encilia faranosa prior to development. Exotic, nursery grown plants are brought in, along with gravel and sharp rocks:
Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Albuquerque and nearby Rio Rancho, New Mexico have relatively small lot sizes on the west mesa. Native vegetation includes pinyon pines, juniper, scrub oak, sagebrush, wild grasses, and cacti. Unfortunately, native species are not planted after development. “Gravelscaping,” featuring large areas of sharp gravel and stone, along with non-native hardwood trees and succulents, are planted.
Ultimately, the neighborhoods will mature and look like yards in the Midwest, much like the older well established areas of Albuquerque and also Denver. To enhance property values and aesthetic appeal, a native plant ordinance could be established.
published draft 4-9-2015 / 4-11, 4-12, Tom Lane