When I purchased my home in Phoenix 35 years ago, I picked a neighborhood where my kids could play, where my wife and I could sit outside in our front yard on spring evenings and enjoy the chatter of children and wave hello to passing families out for a stroll.
Thankfully we found such a place and for decades this has been our life. Families young and old live on my street. I love my home and I love my neighborhood.
But the Legislature wants to upend the peace and quiet of my neighborhood and so many like it in Phoenix and throughout the state. Some legislators want to take away the governance of my neighborhood from the City Council. Several pieces of legislation introduced this session remove the safeguards that are currently in place to ensure the character of our residential neighborhoods remain and seek to limit a city’s ability to manage home-based businesses.
SB1387 would prohibit cities from cracking down on the bad actors that run businesses in neighborhoods that are not appropriate for the setting. Many residents testified in front of legislators with their concerns about a similar bill heard earlier this session. It seemed the bill had died a truly deserved death. But some lawmakers have revived this idea and seem intent on destroying neighborhoods all in the name of rolling back sensible regulations.
If I wanted to live in a commercial area where employees and customers visit, deliveries occur at all hours and parking is a mess, I’d move into a strip mall.
Instead, I picked a quaint street with wonderful neighbors, walkable sidewalks and kids playing in their front yards. It’s a neighborhood. It’s full of homes where people live and play. SB1387 wants to upend that.
The bill bars a city from requiring any license or variance for a business that doesn’t fit a neighborhood lifestyle, thereby silencing any opposition from the people who live next to or in close proximity to it. And we have seen when cities lose the power to protect neighborhoods, unscrupulous business people move in. A Tempe neighborhood has limited recourse after a property owner turned a home into a large vacation rental, paving over the entire front yard for parking. It is now a mini-hotel in a small residential area.
I know several people who own a business and either work from home or run it out of their house. They aren’t being hassled by the city. This has been going on for years without state legislation. They are good neighbors who are not trying to disturb the peaceful lifestyle of their community.
If a business gets to the point where it is no longer suitable for a neighborhood setting, I want the city to be able to intervene. After all, I bought my property as my home and I want it to remain a home.
For as long as there have been neighborhoods, people have been working out of their homes. And when their activities have no measurable impact on the surrounding area, no one cares. But when they are negatively impacting their neighbors, cities should be able to enforce common-sense regulations to keep my neighborhood from becoming a quasi-commercial area. I hope legislators will reject SB1387 and allow cities the latitude to keep our neighborhoods residential.
— Jeff Spellman is a Phoenix resident in Legislative District 30.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.