As the city of Phoenix moves closer to finalizing its 2025 General Plan Update, the Planning and Development Department spent late November and December presenting the PlanPHX draft to residents at a series of six “Road Show” events. Each event had a specific focus, but the overarching theme was “Creating a More Connected Phoenix.”
The General Plan is required by state law (A.R.S. 9-461-06) to be updated every 10 years. The voter-approved long-range planning tool is meant to provide a vision and policies for the growth and development of cities. In 2015, Phoenix voters approved an update to the Phoenix General Plan, referred to as PlanPHX. Once the current plan is finalized it will go to Phoenix voters in November of this year.
At two different PlanPHX presentations in North Central areas, residents offered their varying opinions about the needs in their neighborhoods. At both the Nov. 30 meeting at Park Central and the Dec. 5 meeting at Cholla Library, the focus was on Transit Oriented Communities.
Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) are broadly defined by the city as areas with compact, pedestrian-scaled, mixed-use developments strategically located within a short walk of high-capacity transit. The intent of TOC is to make walking, bicycling and using transit convenient, safe and enjoyable for daily life.
Before Planning staff spoke about the impact of transit, however, they put forth the city’s accomplishments since 2015, including establishing the Transportation 2050, 2050 Sustainability, Housing PHX, PHX Food Action, Climate Action, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Policy and Road Safety Action plans, as well as Reimagine PHX, Historic Preservation partnerships and an Arts/Culture inventory.
Although the city established these plans over the past 8 years, opinions at the meetings varied as to how successful the implementation has been, particularly at the Nov. 30 Midtown/Uptown meeting with regards to TOD and road safety. At that meeting, Planning director Joshua Bednarek spoke about how the city is reinventing and connecting its 15 urban Villages, each of which have a Character Plan in place, and how that relates to the General Plan.
Since 2015, 63 rezoning cases have been approved in Midtown/Uptown, the majority have been built and eight more are currently under construction. Beyond rezoning, seven other major projects have been built, with one under construction. Developments since 2015 have brought over 6,500 dwelling units to the area, with another 3,800 units planned.
Bednarek then spoke about lessons learned and what is next for the Midtown and Uptown areas. With a goal of “preserving and creating a network of vibrant commercial corridors,” Bednarek said that in the short term, Planning will stipulate mixed-uses along Central Avenue where active commercial uses will be removed — something that many residents have argued did not happen with many approved developments — as well as stipulate enhanced streetscapes, greater connection to parks and public spaces, encourage developers to work with communities on how projects interface with neighborhoods and promote adaptive reuse. Long-term goals include updating the Walkable Urban Code to address all these short-term aspects as well as to include the character plans for all the TOC areas.
At the Dec. 5 meeting, the focus was on the Northwest Extension Phase II (NWE) of the Valley Metro light rail, which is already in the testing phase and expected to begin service in early 2024, and how the TOC Plan for the area fits into the General Plan. The study area for this TOC runs from 19th Avenue to 35th Avenue and Butler Drive to Peoria Avenue, excluding 23rd to 19th Avenue from Dunlap south to Butler.
At the meeting, residents were asked to identify their main priority for the future of the area, and safety came up most often. Other priorities included economic vitality and growth, walkability, access to multimodal transportation, hospitals and food, a better mix of housing (including affordable), better circulating roadways, as well as broad efforts to clean up, beautify and connect communities.
In the works now, the city will create this TOC plan by asking the community to articulate its vision for the future and how to leverage the potential of the city’s high-capacity transit investment. The policy plan will be developed in three phases, taking place throughout 2024 with a final presentation for action by Council in winter 2025. Learn more and take a survey to share your input at www.phoenix.gov/pdd/tod/northwest-extension.
Although the General Plan was presented at 90 Village Planning Committee meetings over the course of 2023, direct public input has been somewhat underwhelming, with only 1,700 submissions through the online surveys, and an average of 50-plus participants at the Road Show events. But residents will have two more opportunities to voice their opinions before the General Plan 2025 goes to the Council for final approval.
The Planning Commission will hold two public hearings, with the first scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Goelet A. Beuf Community Center, 3435 W. Pinnacle Peak Road. The second public hearing will be held March 7 in City Council Chambers. A presentation will be provided on the General Plan at both hearings and anyone wishing to speak will have an opportunity to provide public comments. The Planning Commission will make a recommendation at the March 7 hearing, and the mayor and council will vote on the final plan at an April meeting.
In the meantime, residents who would like to review the Phoenix General Plan 2025 Public Hearing Draft can visit www.phoenix.gov/pdd/generalplan2025.