Posts tagged ‘Paradise Valley’

Progressives Lamenting the Effects of Progressive Policies

Kevin Drum writes

Via Harrison Jacobs, here's a recent study showing the trend in income segregation in American neighborhoods. Forty years ago, 65 percent of us lived in middle-income neighborhoods. Today, that number is only 42 percent. The rest of us live either in rich neighborhoods or in poor neighborhoods.

This is yet another sign of the collapse of the American middle class, and it's a bad omen for the American political system. We increasingly lack a shared culture or shared experiences, and that makes democracy a tough act to pull off. The well-off have less and less interaction with the poor outside of the market economy, and less and less empathy for how they live their lives. For too many of us, the "general welfare" these days is just an academic abstraction, not a lived experience.

He does not give a reason, and apparently following the links, neither does the study author.  But my guess is that they might well attribute it to 1. effects of racism, 2.  growth of the suburbs, 3. laissez faire capitalism.

I don't think racism can be the driver of this change, given that racism and fear of other cultures is demonstrably better in the last 30 years than at most times in history  (read bout 19th century New York if you are not sure).  The suburbs have been a phenomenon for 100 years or more, and capitalism has been less laissez faire over the last 30 years than at any time in our history.

I actually believe a lot of this income sorting is a direct result of two progressive policies.  I have no data, of course, so I will label these as hypotheses, but I would offer two drivers

  • Strict enforcement of the public school monopoly.  People want good schools for their kids.  Some are wealthy enough to escape to private schools.  But the only way for those who stay in the public school system to get to the best schools is to physically move into their districts.  Over time, home prices in the best districts rise, which gives those schools more money to be even better (since most are property tax funded), and makes them even more attractive.  But as home prices rise, only the most wealthy can afford them.  This is dead easy to model.  Even in a starting state where there are only tiny inhomegeneities between the quality of individual schools, one ends up with a neighborhood sorting by income over time.  Ex post facto attempts to fix this by changing the public school funding model and sending state money to the poorest schools can't reverse it, because at least half of school quality is driven not by money by by the expectations and skills of the parents and children in it.  Thus East St. Louis can have some of the highest per pupil spending in the state but have terrible schools.  A school choice system would not likely end sorting by school, but it would eliminate a huge incentive to sort by neighborhood.
  • Strict zoning.  There has always been a desire among certain people to exclude selected groups from their neighborhoods.  This desire has not changed, or if anything I would argue it has declined somewhat.  What has changed is the increased power that exists to exclude.  Zoning laws give the rich and well-connected the political vehicle to exclude the rabble from their neighborhoods in a way that never would have been possible in a free market.  I live just next to the town of Paradise Valley, which has very strict zoning that is absolutely clearly aimed at keeping everyone but the well-off out.  They will not approve construction of new rental units.  The minimum lot sizes are huge, way beyond the reach of many.

Are We All Incapable of Doing Anything For Ourselves Any More?

Apparently for some reason having to do with screw-ups and protests in contracting, the State of Arizona is not going to publish a Visitor's Guide.

I run a decent-sized business in Arizona, and have never paid much attention to these guides.  Every state and city and town and county and school district seems to put out some kind of visitors guide, and I could go bankrupt paying for ads in all the ones who hit me with marketing calls.  Customers have a jillion ways to find out about our business, either from Internet searches or private guidebooks and directories.  Heck, when I travel, I usually hit places like TripAdvisor and then run down to Borders to pick up whatever Fodor's guide covers my destination.  I have never even thought about calling the government and asking them to send me a visitors guide, but perhaps some of y'all have.

Anyway, what do I know?  I am just a little small business trying to run a few campgrounds.  Just because I can handle my own marketing needs doesn't mean that billion dollar multinational hotel chains are capable of doing so without the government:

Greg Hanss, director of sales and marketing for the new InterContinental Montelucia Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley, couldn't believe it. "For me, the fact that we don't have a state visitors guide in what is the most challenging economic time of our tourism lives is really disappointing."

Pathetic.  It is interesting to see that, for every 20-something anxiously awaiting the government's takeover of healthcare because they are really bummed about all the work it takes to find the right health care plan, there is a corporation waiting for the US govenrment to do its work for them.

This is Just So Short-Sighted

OK, here is the story to date:  Paradise Valley is a small, very wealthy town within the boundaries of Phoenix.  There is no commercial development allowed in the town except for a series of golf resorts, of which there are a number.  The town had one last large tract of unbuilt land, owned by the Wrigley heirs, I believe, that has for years been zoned for a resort.  There was an auction several years ago in which the land was sold for some figure north of $70 million to a group who wants to build a Ritz-Carlton resort, a hotel chain notorious for bringing riff-raff into communities ;=).  The Ritz group unanimously obtained all the town council and planning board approvals it needed to build.

Except now a ballot initiative will be voted on by the town residents in November as to whether to allow them to build a resort on their own land that is zoned for a resort (my previous report, complete with Zillow maps).  This action is consistent with the absolute resistence that every resident's attempt to do a major remodel of their house encounters from various community groups and zoning bodies.

One lesson, of course, is that local participative democracy can be just as much a threat to individual rights as the worst dictatorship  (though this is not a new lesson -- it was in fact learned in Athens when it was first tried).  But a second lesson is just how short-sighted this is.  I am sure residents convince themselves in each such individual effort that they are somehow protecting their property values.  But in sum, the effect of multiple such efforts is to make people reluctant to invest in property in the town, fearful that some citizens group or zoning body will take control of what they can do with their land. 

I live about 4 houses away from the Town of Paradise Valley in the city of Phoenix, though most of my neighbors and even the US Postal Service think I live in PV.  It used to be, about 10 years ago when I moved in, that living outside the PV boundary was considered a negative.  There was a big enormous value gradient between the nearest PV home and mine, based as much on snob appeal of the address as anything else.  Now, however, the gradient is reversing (hurray for my home equity!)  Real estate agents in my neighborhood who used to hide the fact that the homes are not actually in tony PV (shame on them) now use it as a selling point.  My remodel contractor breathed an enormous sigh of relief when he found out that I was, in fact, not in the town of PV.

Help me out, readers.  I seem to remember there was a name for an economic game where the profit maximizing strategy when playing once was different than if one were playing multiple times in sequence.

PS - If you are confused why a town would consider a Ritz to be bringing down the neighborhood, see here, complete with Zillow maps where not a single surrounding home is going for less than $1.8 million. 

If You Had Plans for the Property, You Should Have Bought It

Don't buy property in Paradise Valley (a suburb of Phoenix, near Scottsdale) if you actually expect the property to be fully your own.  Even the smallest revisions of your home can require multiple appearances in front of the town council.  By some odd statistical anomaly, property owners with friends in the city government seem to get these changes approved more readily than those without such influence. 

Anyway, things just get worse if you own a lot of land in PV

A residents group is preparing to launch a voter referendum against the
planned Ritz-Carlton, Paradise Valley Resort, claiming the project's
residences are too dense....

Scottsdale-based Five Star Development wants to build a 225-room resort
hotel, 15 1-acre home sites, 46 luxury detached homes and 100 patio
homes on about 105 acres northwest of Scottsdale Road and Lincoln Drive.

This really isn't very high density, but this can be a very flaky town.  One thing you have to realize is that I can't remember the last new home I saw go up in PV that was less than 5000 sq ft and 10,000+ sq ft is not at all unusual.  This may be one of the few cases where a town is trying to keep out the Ritz Carlton because its customers will bring down the neighborhood, lol, but that is exactly what is at work here, in part. 

Now I know you think I am exaggerating when I say the locals are worried about a Ritz-Carlton bringing down the neighborhood by attracting the unwashed, but here is the Zillow sales page for the area -- the vacant lot in the lower right is the property in question.

Zillow_pv

This piece of land has been empty and zoned for a resort for years.  I know it was zoned for a resort long before this sale because I was stuck in traffic court all day and had nothing to stare at but the town zoning map  (don't ever speed when crossing PV).  The buyers purchased this land several years ago (I think from the Wrigley family) after ensuring the zoning was solid.  If the town's residents wanted something else on the lot, they should have bought it themselves.  But it is ever so much cheaper to instead use your political influence to tell other people what they can and can't do with their property.

Another thought:  It is nearly an article of faith among libertarians that devolving government to the smallest possible unit enhances freedom.  Well, here is an example where it does not.  Not state or even city would pass a ballot resolution to change the zoning on one small piece of land.  But it is entirely possible this could pass in a town of just a few thousand people.

Oops, I Missed Myself In Print

One of the modern world's newest guilty pleasures is Googling yourself.  One of the unsung virtues of blogging is that it tends to help you dominate the Google rankings for, uh, yourself.  Anyway, I Googled myself tonight (Everybody does it.  Really.) and found that I missed a mention entirely in Business Week online, in this article about "blooks", the cutesie name for making a book out of blog content.  My logic for doing so is in the last section.  I will save you the click:

Another benefit of publishing blooks on paper? Archiving. Warren Meyer,
of Paradise Valley, Ariz., first printed out the two volumes -- 400
pages each -- of his blog entries last November as a Christmas gift for
his dad, who is 83.

"He refuses to do anything online," says Meyer, who has been blogging for more than two years. Meyer
has also kept a copy of his blook, based on Coyoteblog.com, discussing
environmental problems, for himself: "Everything I've ever written is
online," he says. "I wanted to archive my writing, and I don't trust
that electronic media is a good archiving tool, because standards and
technology change so much." While few people now use floppy disks,
paper is here to stay.

I have tried to explain this to younger folks without much success.  But for those of you who have used computers for a while, where are your old Compuserve emails?  How about those old files from your Apple II?  Does your current computer have a 5-1/4" floppy drive?  Beware keeping data only in digital form.  It may still be there in 20 years, but will you be able to read it?

Update: Forgot the link.  Added it.

Botox and Boob Jobs

I am sure that, since I sort-of live in Scottsdale, you have all been waiting for me to comment on this:

  It started out small, with people all across the country nicknaming this city "Snottsdale."

Then came the reality television show about a local women's book club
where members spend almost no time delving into fine literature but
endless hours discussing Botox, marrying for money and the latest
fashions.

Soon after began the headlines about America's most
famous porn queen buying a Scottsdale strip club and the city's rapid
response: an ordinance that would prohibit dancers from being closer
than 4 feet from clients.

And then--as if all that hadn't been
enough--a guy from Las Vegas carpetbagged into town and opened a
restaurant named after a not-to-be-mentioned-in-polite-company part of
the female anatomy.

I say that I sort-of live in Scottsdale, because I actually live in neighboring Paradise Valley, another suburb of Phoenix, but since almost all the famous people listed in the article as Scottsdale residents actually live in PV, I guess I must count as Scottsdale too.

Anyway, here is my comment:  I think it is freaking hilarious.  Any city that actually spends tax money and chamber of commerce funds to advertise itself nationally as a rich enclave deserves what it gets.  If you try to advertise yourself as the next Beverly Hills 90210, you shouldn't be surprised when the media treats you like, well, Beverly Hills 90210. 

I will say that growing up in Houston and living in Dallas for years has somewhat immunized me to the hijinx of the tacky biologically-augmented nouveau riche.  While those who grew up in the Scottsdale that was the quiet horse town seem to be pretty bent out of shape by the town's new reputation, I don't see many of them complaining about the increases they have had of late in their real estate values.  And if the rich scene is more like Paris Hilton than like a Literary Lions Ball at the Met, well, at least it has some entertainment value.  (Though not too much, since CBS is cancelling their reality show).

The best feature of Scottsdale has to be school functions, because Scottsdale does lead the nation on the hot mom index.  I remember when we first moved here both my wife and I were floored at the women at the first school function we attended.  Heck, I still volunteer to drive the kids to school in the morning.  And don't even get me started about women at the Phoenix Open -- there is a reason the tournament is still a favorite among tour players despite the roudy crowds.

In conclusion, returning to the article, I couldn't have said it better than this:

"Oh, get over it," she said. "So what
if people want to make fun of us? Every city has its own particular
brand of strangeness. For some it may be gangs or drugs or troubled
youth. We just happen to have some over-Botoxed blonds with oversexed
tendencies."

111 in the Shade

But its dry heat.

Dry_heat

As a public service, Arizona is taking onto itself all the worldwide effects of global warming, thereby saving polar bears in Greenland and archipelago-living indigenous peoples.  Once it gets over about 108 you don't really notice the difference anyway.  Picture taken at 4:50PM MST today in the inappropriately-named (at least for today) Paradise Valley, AZ.  For all those who want to compare this to hell, I would remind you that the core of Dante's hell was frozen and cold, not hot.  Dante knew what he was talking about.  It may be hot but there is nothing to shovel off my driveway.

By the way, when people laugh at Arizona for not observing Daylight Savings Time, this is why we don't.  At nearly 5:00, we are hitting our peak temperature.  If we observed DST, we would not be hitting this peak until 6:00.  Temperatures here will cool over the next two hours by 20 degrees  (its already fallen nearly 3 degrees in the 20 minutes since I took the picture, and the sun is not down yet).  With this fast temperature drop typical of the desert combined with evening shade, it will be nice enough to be outside, eating or relaxing or watching a little league game by 7:00.  If I had my druthers, I would observe reverse daylight time, going back rather than forward an hour in the spring.  More observations on DST from myself and Virginia Postrel here.