Episode 56: Inside the Phoenix TOD Community Plan
On this episode, Elias Valencia, a planner with the City of Phoenix, and Victor Vidales, a local resident and business owner, talk about the creation of the South Central TOD Community Plan, which was passed by the City of Phoenix city council in March of 2022.
A 5.5 mile light rail extension currently under construction in South Central Phoenix is set to open in 2024. The TOD plan, Victor Vidales says, builds on community interest and involvement with the light rail project. Residents knew the LRT project was pitched as a tool of economic development, with $1 in investment yielding $8 in return. The community wanted to secure that benefit for existing residents, he says, especially given the area’s history of disinvestment and redlining.
Half of the residents of the corridor, Valencia shares, are renters for whom housing and transportation eat up more than 60 percent of their income. They are vulnerable, Vidales says, and already struggling on the fringes given the high cost of living.
Vidales, who grew up in South Central amidst gang violence, has been involved with efforts to improve his community since he returned after military service. Now raising a family and running a business on the corridor, he says the TOD plan is unlike any previous plan he’s known because it shows the “fingerprints of the community.”
Along with capturing the vision of residents for what they want their community to become (in terms of land use, health, housing, mobility, economic development and green systems), it has a strong emphasis on strategies to minimize displacement and includes guidelines for developers that Vidales helped create. While non-regulatory, the plan is a clear guide to community priorities.
Already, Vidales says, a strong community voice pushed a developer of workforce housing to add more units affordable to existing residents. But, Vidales says, his hope is that community members can become the developers themselves. He wants to see skills and wealth grow in the community as a result of the investment. “There’s a human development side to this corridor that has to happen along with the physical and built environment,” he says.
Creation of the TOD community plan was funded by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration and builds on previous community plans funded through HUD Sustainable Communities grants.
Victor Vidales, Founding Member, SoPho Convening, Phoenix, AZ
Elias Valencia, Planner II – South Mountain Village / Transit Oriented Development, City of Phoenix