Colorado mountains

Urban land-use institutions and parcel-scale change in Phoenix, Arizona, 1915-2012

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Joseph Tuccillo
Kevin Kane
Yun Ouyang
Abigail York
We seek to analyze how individual landowner decisions at the parcel level drive Phoenix’s macro-level land use patterns. We highlight three projects spanning the early 20th century until present.

First, we use Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to generate parcel-level land-use data for Central Phoenix, 1915-1949 and compare land-use incompatibility observed for each year to Phoenix’s original zoning plan. Between 1915-1949, we find that Phoenix’s adoption of Euclidean Zoning promoted two seemingly oppositional forces of land development: preservation of growing single-family suburbs from blight and leniency towards nuisances and hazards amid residences in commercial, multifamily, and light industrial districts.

Next, we incorporate a third time point (1963) into our Sanborn Map dataset to assess the land-use trajectory of Phoenix’s historic central business district (CBD) during a period of rapid suburbanization and downtown decay.  Postwar CBD decline can be linked to a number of parcel-level changes including residential homogenization, high commercial and institutional turnover, and proximity of commercial to vacant parcels.  Second, despite an increase in the number of nuisance/hazard properties, they are increasingly isolated from residential and commercial uses.  

Finally, we apply parcel-level land-use analysis to contemporary Phoenix, examining factors determining conversion to multifamily residential (MFR) land-use between 2002 and 2012.  Using logistic regression, we link the odds of conversion to MFR use in 2012 to seven categories of factors observed for 2002: land-use and neighborhood characteristics within 200m of each parcel, census tract level population density, census tract level median income, public water service availability, distance to employment subcenters, and education quality. Preliminary results indicate that MFR parcel conversion occurred at a faster rate than single-family residential during 2002-2012 and suggest a tendency for parcels with neighbors classified “Recreation” in 2002 to convert to MFR.


Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER