After three years of work, the Southside neighborhood has its new community plan.
The plan was developed through a collaborative effort between residents of the Southside and the city and may shape the future of development and infrastructure projects in Southside for years.
The plan, which was unanimously passed by the Flagstaff City Council last week, represents a significant step in the right direction in the city’s relationship with the Southside and its residents, said Deb Harris, president of the Southside Neighborhood Association.
The neighborhood association worked closely with the city to organize resident input into the plan.
Through much of the Flagstaff's history, the Southside saw far less investment and attention from the city than other neighborhoods. Numerous streets in the neighborhood still don’t have basic infrastructure like sidewalks and pavement.
And that created animosity between the residents of what has historically been a majority minority neighborhood and the rest of the city.
“The city really did work very hard to gain that trust back when we were working on this plan,” Harris said, adding she is confident that the plan passed by council received input from almost every Southside resident.
That was no accident. Last week, City Planning Manager Sara Dechter emphasized the work that was done to hear what residents believed the plan should address before beginning to look for solutions.
And Harris said that often meant getting out of the meeting hall and onto the streets.
“After our first community meeting, we looked at all the people who had signed in and where they lived and a lot of those people weren’t from here, weren’t from the neighborhood. So we stopped and said nope, this is not working, because we have people from everywhere else talking about what should happen in Southside,” Harris said. "So we had to go out and literally knock on doors to get people to come out.”
The plan's passage comes as the neighborhood finds itself in somewhat of a flux period. At the same time, development interests are eyeing certain sections of the neighborhood, the Lone Tree Overpass, which voters approved in 2018 and would connect Lone Tree to Route 66 over the railway tracks, could redefine the easternmost section of the Southside.
Meanwhile, a flood control project by the Army Corps of Engineers may mean the neighborhood is one step closer to solving localized flooding issues and eliminating restrictions that have prevented residents from fully investing in their own properties.
But just because Council passed the plan does not mean the work is over. As a guidance document, the plan outlines numerous infrastructure needs and policy changes the city council may now implement.
Harris said while she is more optimistic for the future than she was before the plan’s passage, it will be up to future councils to live up to the promises made by the city today.
That includes a new “live/work” zone that honors the mix of residential, industrial and commercial uses which have occurred within the Southside. Likewise, the document speaks to what kinds of development may be appropriate for the neighborhood and where residents would like to see that occur.
That includes eliminating the transect zoning within the Southside, which residents say doesn’t fit with past development in the area.
The proposed changes would allow some larger and industrial buildings near the railway tracks. Development in areas along San Francisco Street, Beaver Street and Milton Road would promote adaptive reuse of buildings and limit height to about 45 feet, roughly the height of the climbing gym.
For other sections of the Southside, the plan seeks to preserve the current feel of the area with its focus on single family homes.
City staff are also already working to update the city’s historical context documents for the neighborhood. That could lead to more historic preservation.
To increase public safety, the completion of sidewalks is suggested as is the creation of new pedestrian and cyclist crossings on Butler Avenue and bike-centered boulevards to parallel that thoroughfare.
Because the neighborhood is largely lacking a local park, the plan also suggests several areas that could become parks, including underneath the future Lone Tree Overpass.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.