Parking in downtown Scottsdale

Parking in Scottsdale.

       City Council member Kathy Littlefield recently sent a disturbing email to our City Manager, calling for a moratorium on new downtown projects. Littlefield misses the mark. Badly. Her solution is wrong, and her management is heavy-handed.

       Downtown Parking is a constant challenge. The Old Town merchants are fully deserving of attention to their concerns, and what they bring to the city, while we acknowledge they have an entrenched financial interest. At the City Council retreat on February 23, Director of Public Works Dan Worth gave a presentation indicating we don’t have a parking shortage, we have pinch points at peak times, and these are best addressed by enforcement. Worth’s data-centric overview showed there are adequate parking spots, and parking garages. The problem is not our parking requirements for infill development.

            Littlefield’s email to the City Manager came fast on the heels of feedback from the Old Town merchants trade group, about the study results presented by the City Staff. We should listen to our planning experts, not the spokesperson for a special interest who has a strong incentive to advocate for unlimited taxpayer-funded parking.

            Littlefield justified her demand for a moratorium because staff’s official report is overdue. But as Mr. Worth said in his presentation, COVID has disrupted everything on staff’s schedule, along with parking problems for the galleries. The data and recommendations for enforcement over construction are unlikely to change. Littlefield got the report she requested, she’s just not happy with the findings.

            In an email to me, Councilor Littlefield justified her moratorium because, she believed, new applications would exacerbate the parking problem. Parking from June to September will not be a problem. City staff can implement enforcement changes in the next 6+ months. New applications, as Mr. Worth repeated, are not the problem. The solution is enforcement and policy, not spaces. There seemed to be consensus at the Council retreat not to spend millions on acres of hot asphalt, only for those spaces to sit empty most of the time.

            I disagree with Councilor Littlefield on how best to act on the data and advice delivered by City Staff. However, my deeper criticism is with her leadership. Threatening a moratorium is reckless; its seditious in the middle of a pandemic and financial crisis. My family and I are shareholders in Scottsdale too, and we want investors. Our vibrant business community keeps our sales taxes low, and our property values high. Littlefield signaled the market to avoid our stock, and avoid our City Council. She’s putting her personal agenda ahead of the facts, the residents and the free market.

            This is the second big miss for Councilor Littlefield in as many months. Last month she sidetracked the General Plan review process, again casting doubt on the City staff and processes. Littlefield then notably voted against her own proposal along with a 7-0 majority two weeks later.

            For years, Councilor Littlefield’s supporters bemoaned the Lane majority as refusing to listen to her input and solutions. Now, as the tenured spokesperson for the “Slow Growth” voice, I wonder can she lead, not just criticize. Every proposal cannot be a “No”. Every interaction with city staff can’t be premised on distrust and division. The City exists for everyone, its a continuum, including our children. I’d like to see a business community, not a bedroom community.

 Jason Alexander is a Scottsdale resident.