Anyone who has lived in Flagstaff for the last 10 years or more could not help seeing what has happened over that time. They see that the admonition – "Don’t Phoenix Flagstaff" – became a plea which became a bad joke. Can anything be done about it? Maybe not, given that long standing zoning (augmented by recent concessions by the city) allows replacement of existing buildings by architectural monsters breeding ever more traffic, noise and incivility. And with the city using up what little open space remains with so called "affordable" housing band aids.
But, Andre Agassi was not the only one proclaiming that "perception is everything." It’s not true of course, but not all wrong either. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, I was told by people I (still) trust that more than a few developers left town empty handed after they discovered that Flagstaff was not a pushover, and that this reputation spread and discouraged others.
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It is worth considering whether a strong City Council could change the current perception among developers - like CA Student Living out of Chicago (Daily Sun 10/24) that Flagstaff is a pushover for any and all development. This would mean telling city staff to replace their obscene eagerness to give developers whatever "development services" they want with hard-nosed enforcement of existing ordinances like resource protection.
It would also require the council to insist on serious rewording of our ordinances so as to prevent such fiascos as the court ruling on transect zoning (HUB). Finally, the council would have to be willing to fight legal challenges instead of backing down whenever attorneys advise them to play it safe. BUT, maybe Flagstaff could become known as a city that actually does development right. Is this all too much to expect? It depends on who sits on the next council.