Opinion

Caputi: Extremism will threaten Scottsdale’s future

Posted 6/27/22

I ran for city council to be a positive, forward-thinking voice for Scottsdale.

We need councilmembers who will govern with facts and open minds. Activism has its place, and the council can have …

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Opinion

Caputi: Extremism will threaten Scottsdale’s future

Posted

I ran for city council to be a positive, forward-thinking voice for Scottsdale.

We need councilmembers who will govern with facts and open minds. Activism has its place, and the council can have disagreement about policy, but we must understand what it means to govern, and base our decisions on facts and data.

My job as a councilmember is to promote Scottsdale’s brand — not spread fear and misinformation. Fear may help a candidate get elected, but it’s not a winning strategy for our city. We need to encourage residents, businesses, and tourists to come to Scottsdale and contribute to our economic development, so we can afford to stay special.

We’re often told that we only hear from people when they don’t like something.

A handful of people complain; most of our 240,000 residents love the city and are happy with our direction. Scottsdale scores highest on almost every metric. We have one of the lowest crime rates of any city in the Valley. We are not being overtaken by “high rise” buildings — there are two 150-foot buildings in Scottsdale, appropriately located at Fashion Square.

Short-term rentals make up approximately 3% of our current housing stock — they are a real problem, but not the cause of our housing shortage. We are not growing “out of control.” Our population has grown much slower than predicted, resulting in a $2 million decrease in state shared revenue. We are not building light rail, removing a lane from Scottsdale Road, or mandating bicycles. These are all boogeymen.

Per our general plan, our projected build out in 2055 is expected to reach 316,700 people residing in 157,034 housing units — about 20,000 more than we have now. We are not “overdeveloping,” we are planning carefully.

No one on council or running for council supports the idea that all development is good. We are known for our strict codes and guidelines. Projects often take years to move through the rigorous application system and many die long before reaching the finish line. Our job on council is to approve the best projects for our city, not to interfere with or dictate what the free market does. The amount and type of housing proposed is driven by population needs, market conditions, and private industry.

Leaders should not be repeating extremist talking points. Apartments are not draining our water supply. Our city water department’s vast body of data tells us that multifamily dwellings use half the water per capita of single-family homes. Statewide, 70% of water use is for agriculture; housing is a small piece.

We are experiencing drought conditions, and the city is well positioned to manage this issue.

Every development project must show a 100-year water supply and large water users must justify their economic benefit to the city. There are many things we can do to conserve water before calling for the drastic step of shutting down economic development. We shouldn’t solve one problem by creating a bigger one — destroying our local economy.

This is exactly what extremism amongst our leaders is currently doing. Planning Commission and Development Review Board meetings have been canceled for lack of agenda items. City Council has seen only a handful of projects in the last 18 months. Interest rates and construction costs are rising, recession is looming, and the economic boom is passing Scottsdale by while we push investors and job creators away. We’re heading toward a financial cliff. Successful cities are not run by fear and extremism or shutting down the economy.

There has been politically manufactured hysteria about “tens of thousands” of apartment units being built. This is not true. The trend to deny facts and double down on a fake political narrative is one of the biggest problems we are facing at the national level; we must not let it infect our local politics as well.

According to city staff and industry data, there are a few thousand apartment units currently under construction. If we look back six years, there are another few thousand “prospective” units at various stages of progress — many that will never get built, and about the same amount of “planned” units, with zoning entitlements but no building permits pulled.

Many future units included as “planned” haven’t even been submitted to the city for review. Adding up every conceptual project, real and potential, is a false extremist narrative — these projects will take several years to develop, and many will never happen. We need to make decisions based on facts, not fear.

Arguing over what the exact number of apartments is in the “pipeline” is a distraction; the real problem is that vacancy rates are approaching 0% and housing prices are soaring out of control. The fact is we need more housing!

Our city is suffering from a lack of housing supply at all income levels along with huge demand, which has pushed prices past the reach of many, and is forcing families, young people, workforce, and long-time residents out of our city.

The housing element of our general plan calls for us to “encourage a variety of housing densities in context-appropriate locations throughout Scottsdale to accommodate projected population growth,” and to “support adjustments to the housing mix based on demographic needs and economic changes.” We should be following our plan.

The problem is not developers, it’s lack of supply and massive demand as people move to Maricopa County. This is basic economics. The annual average number of new apartment units delivered across the entire Valley has been 5,600 over the past 22 years. We are not “overdeveloping” by any stretch of the imagination. Construction projects take many years, and often never get built — there must be an adequate pipeline of potential projects to keep our city fiscally sustainable. Project pipelines are our lifeblood; they prevent us from raising taxes or cutting services.

Scottsdale today is a vibrant city. We can’t unrealistically cling to a past that has changed over 50 years. We have 240,000 residents, 18,000 businesses, the second largest number of corporate headquarters in the Valley, the most startups, and a $2 billion+ budget. Without thoughtful, continued economic development we will have outdated infrastructure, rundown buildings, homeless camps, unattainable housing, high taxes, less services and amenities, an aging population, and fewer tourists.

Leaders must not be afraid to embrace the facts, overlook the rhetoric of extremists, make hard decisions, and continue to look ahead while using our voter approved general plan as a guide. Successful cities do not stagnate.

Comments

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  • jason.alexander

    Such a great article, thank you for speaking with facts and dispelling the hysteria. Contrasting Caputi's optimism and fact-based vision with the tired, doomsaying ideology of some of her peers shows why its important for our city to be run by qualified, thoughtful professionals.

    Monday, June 27 Report this

  • just_scrolling

    It is also a fact that there are 10,000+ apartments in the pipeline. You can’t deny that. Your college shot herself in the foot trying to disprove that fact. The city has also said the number is likely closer to 20,000, but it will take them over a month to compile the data. Why isn’t this data already compiled by long range planning? Seems like a list of all upcoming apartments would be a necessary piece of data for long range planning.

    You talk about people fear mongering and creating a boogeyman. This is EXACTLY what you are doing by consistently and often stating it we don’t build X amount of apartments, our city will go bankrupt. We will stagnate and then just cease to exist. Hypocritical and manipulative at best.

    How many is enough? You realize that we can’t keep building and building and that at some point, people will stop moving here and actually start moving away due to the increase in everything we don’t want (traffic, crime, lack of finite resources.) People moved to Scottsdale to live in a suburban area. You were not elected to turn it into an urban area. I wonder why you keep pushing this so hard. It almost seems like there’s some other benefit for you.

    Monday, July 11 Report this