Municipal sources have shed new light on the controversy that has roiled Flagstaff City Hall in recent weeks.
Bad blood between the City Council and staff is being traced to a new sustainability program combining urban farming and student responsibility that has moved – literally – inside City Hall.
Sustainability manager P.G. Woodshed hatched the plan with Development Director Dan “Guy” Fawkes after learning of negative community feedback to massive student housing projects looming over Flagstaff neighborhoods.
“What if we attached a conditional use permit to each student apartment that required a green commitment?” Woodshed recalled asking Fawkes.
Instead of a bike on each balcony, she said, how about a raised-bed garden?
The pair took their plan to the council in executive session, where Councilman Charlie Odorguard pointed out that gardens don’t do well in winter in Flagstaff, even on west-facing balconies. Instead, Councilwoman Eva Pulletzova suggested raising “fresh air” chickens, saying it would support local food production while also promoting a greater sense of responsibility among students.
City Manager Josh Coping immediately brought up concerns with the idea.
“Where do you plan to incubate the eggs while the students are on Spring Break?” he asked, according to notes reviewed by the Daily Sun.
Councilmember C. Yalater Barrister countered that City Hall had rooms to spare, including Coping’s spacious corner office, and the council endorsed the plan unanimously.
His objections overruled, Coping submitted his resignation letter the next morning, alleging "unprofessional" treatment but declining to give specifics.
That left implementation of the plan to interim City Manager Barbed Goodfellow. She requisitioned eggs, glow lamps and straw-filled hatching bins, then ordered all staff to make room in their filing cabinets and desk drawers for 21 days until Easter, the day the chicks were expected to emerge.
“We even have a slogan for all those frat boys the day after Easter,” said Woodshed. “Come pick up a chick at City Hall.”
When Fawkes asked the council how it wanted to enforce the balcony chicken requirement, Councilmember Scott Overeasy said placing timers on student showers would do the trick.
“No chickens, no long showers,” he said.
City Vitality Director Heidi Hammer pointed out that four stories worth of balcony chickens might create a mess on the sidewalks below, and she proposed a new “Fresh Air” organic waste composting program, to be run at the Wildcat Treatment Plant.
“The hikers at Picture Canyon won’t smell anything much different,” she noted.
Woodshed said excess eggs would go to the free breakfast programs in the schools and the fryers to the family food center. If too many chickens exceed balcony capacity, the outdoor pool at the Hub could be drained, filled with soil and converted to an escape-proof barnyard.
The council has set a special post-Easter meeting to deal with community concerns after receiving a petition from a new advocacy group, Eat More Fish, asserting poultry rights.
“Whether you’re cooped up in a shed or on a tiny balcony, it’s still industrial farming,” wrote a member, Dixie Chick, who moonlights as city spokesperson Jessica Drummstick. She called for larger, covered porches, conversion of city pocket parks to free-range barnyards and, ultimately, a city education campaign to wean local schoolchildren off chicken tenders and nuggets in their lunchboxes.
That was just what Walter Coinfield, one of the principals at Velvet Partners, said he had in mind all alolng. The developer of the Millstone apartment complex said even though the city’s Urban Farming Commission exempted Millstone from including chicken coops on the balconies, Velvet would have tenants raise chickens in the civic spaces of the building.
“We heard loud and clear from Councilman (Jim) McClucky, who has a background in urban farming, that our balconies and common areas would be a sustainable place for chickens,” Coinfield said.
But frat boys will not be the only ones picking up chicks at Millstone. Coinfield said the first-floor residents, all senior citizens, will work off their rent payments by tending to the birds, thus incentivizing housing for all ages and income levels.
Coinfield also took the requirement one step further, saying that Velvet’s Woody Mountain housing development, Pie in Sky, would provide affordable housing to chickens and other farm animals, including pigs and sheep, that did not have homes.
“Affordable housing is a pressing issue in Flagstaff, not just for people but for animals, too,” he said.
That sealed the Millstone rezoning deal for Mayor Choral N. Evitable.
“Who needs a chicken in every pot when we’ve got three on every balcony,” she crowed.
When asked how the council planned to deal with ruffled feathers among City Hall staff so close to Easter, the mayor was dismissive.
“If they can’t make it to April 1, the yolk’s on them,” she said.
By the time children born today are reaching their 80s, Flagstaff could see as many as 80 days per year with temperatures that climb above 90 degrees.
Currently, an average of just two days a year top 90 degrees.
And within that same time frame of the end of this century, Flagstaff could experience as few as 100 days per year when low temperatures drop below freezing.
That's half as many below-freezing days as the city currently averages.
The projections are part of Flagstaff’s new climate profile, released last week. Created by researchers at the University of Arizona, the profile summarizes Flagstaff’s historical climate data and makes predictions about future temperature and precipitation trends in the face of human-caused global warming.
It’s one of the building blocks for the city’s first Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which will be released in draft form later this year, said Jenny Niemann, climate and energy specialist with the city of Flagstaff. By knowing what changes to expect in the future, the city can map out the areas and populations most vulnerable to those changes, such as hotter summers or lower-snow winters, Niemann said. That will help the city take a more targeted approach to adapting to and mitigating climate change impacts, she said.
“We want to make sure our actions and strategies respond to specific risks Flagstaff is facing,” she said.
The Flagstaff profile gives a range of future climate scenarios that correspond with different levels of carbon emissions. Right now the world is tracking on the highest-emission, worst-case scenario, said Alison Meadow, a Research Scientist with the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment who worked on the climate profile.
Staying on that track would mean that by 2100 Coconino County will be more than 10 degrees hotter than the current average. Under that scenario, average temperatures would be on par with those in Albuquerque by 2050 and those in Sierra Vista by 2100, the report said. Even under a low-emissions scenario, the county’s average temperature is projected to be almost 6 degrees higher than the current average by 2100.
Particularly detrimental to Flagstaff’s winter tourism industry is the fact that average low temperatures are rising much faster than high temperatures. That means more precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow throughout the year because there will be fewer days that dip below freezing, Meadow said.
The models predict little to no change in the total amount of precipitation the area receives annually. But hotter temperatures increase evaporation from surface water sources, soils and plants, which means an increased likelihood of conditions ripe for wildfire. Hotter summers could also mean Flagstaff residents will have to start thinking about air conditioning, Meadow said.
After working with several tribes, Flagstaff’s is the first city-specific climate profile produced by the University of Arizona’s Climate Assessment for the Southwest program, Meadow said. The idea is to provide data specific to each community so decisionmakers can better plan for the future, she said.
“It’s a big deal to have to think about changing your local economy because agriculture isn't going to work or snow is going to be less plentiful,” she said.
The climate profile’s analysis of past temperature and precipitation data from local weather stations shows temperatures in Coconino County have already been climbing.
Among the findings:
Shawn Newell, with the Citizens Climate Lobby, said the Flagstaff profile “brings the data home” and serves as a handy tool for groups like hers to show there is a problem and it’s happening here.
“It gives us all a common reference to use,” she said. “More information that is sound and reliable is helpful in telling the story people need to hear to be able to get ramped up to make a difference.”
TUCSON -- As federal funding for transitional housing dries up and Tucson's downtown area becomes gentrified, a local organization is working with a new model of affordable housing in the city’s core.
Former hotel, Catalina House, 115 S. Fourth Ave., now offers dorm-style living. The rooms feature a closet, sink, bed, desk, dresser, microwave and mini-fridge. All other amenities, such as laundry, kitchen and bathrooms, are shared.
“What we did is look at changing from transitional housing to the marginalized housing market,” said Peggy Hutchison, CEO of Primavera Foundation, which is looking to add dorm-style living at other locations near downtown.
Primavera has two other dorm-style developments south of downtown, the Alamo Apartments and Five Points apartments that also have shared bathrooms and kitchens that serve as affordable housing for dish washers, bus boys or maintenance workers in the downtown area.
Dorm-style living has already taken off in pricey downtown San Francisco.
“Shared bathrooms at the end of the hall and having no individual kitchen or living room is becoming less weird for some of the city’s workers thanks to Starcity, a new development company that is expressly creating dorms for many of the non-tech population,” a recent story in the New York Times says. “Starcity has already opened three properties with 36 units. It has nine more in development and a wait list of 8,000 people.”
The Times noted that the company is buying a dozen more buildings (including one-star hotels, parking garages, office buildings and old retail stores) and plans to have hundreds of units open around the San Francisco Bay Area this year, and thousands by 2019.
At Catalina House, tenants pay 30 percent of their incomes for a room and participate in the upkeep of the property.
“We all try to pitch in,” said Jeffery Barrett, 54, who rents one of the rooms.
Sharing bathrooms and common space is no bother to him and being downtown near the street car and bus line means he can manage without a car.
Barrett said there would be no way he could afford to live downtown otherwise.
As he leads a tour of the facility, he pointed out his favorite pots and pans and community garden.
“It just has such appeal,” he said of the property.
Catalina House has 20 units — 15 of which are occupied — and six resident bathrooms. It also has one bathroom for staff and guests and a one-bedroom unit known as the Porter’s Room for on-site staff.
An open area on the first floor of the house will be used as a community space for artists and writers or area events.
“Everything we do needs to add value to the neighborhood,” Hutchison said.
Funding for long-term transitional housing is no longer a HUD priority. The federal agency is promoting a model called Housing First, which emphasizes getting a person or family out of a shelter and into an apartment as soon as possible, regardless of their willingness to get a permanent job, sober up or commit to a long-term plan. HUD has argued this is a more cost-effective approach.
“A trend we’re seeing is baby boomers who didn’t plan for retirement because of the financial crisis or a medical crisis,” Hutchinson said. “They’re not making enough working, retired, on disability or Social Security. They can’t afford to live.”
The revitalization of downtown must include opportunities for working-class residents to also live there, she said.
A limited inventory of homes for sale in the 85701 ZIP code has pushed prices up over 20 percent from 2016. Rental rates in that ZIP code are the highest in the city and 13th highest in the state.
“We see the gentrification moving south,” Hutchison said. “Affordability should not be an afterthought; it should be an integral part of the plan from the beginning.”
She remembers visiting her grandmother, who lived in a rooming house in Palo Alto, Calif., that had an outside bathroom and community kitchen.
“I don’t think she thought of herself as being less-than,” Hutchison said. “We’re trying to expand our capacity to serve the community in a dignified way.”
All rental properties have different qualifications and pricing structures.
Visit primavera.org for details.