ASU students, faculty recognized for outstanding work in planning

By

Megan Martin

From a project focused on mobile home parks to work with indigenous communities, members from the Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning were recognized for their work at the annual meeting for the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter. Held on Sept. 12 in Tucson, the meeting brought together planners and researchers from across Arizona and included a moment to recognize the work being done around the state.

Among the winners this year was Maggie Dellow, a recent graduate of the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning program, who was selected as the winner for the student project category. Her project, “Mobile Home Parks and the Future of Affordable Housing in Apache Junction,” was the capstone that she completed as part of her master’s degree program.

For her project, Dellow teamed up with the city of Apache Junction, located east of Phoenix along the border between Maricopa and Pinal County. The city is known for its picturesque views of the Superstition Mountains, but is also home to a community of winter-only visitors and 125 mobile home and recreational parks and subdivisions, which create approximately 50% of the city’s affordable housing. Many of these communities have found themselves in disrepair over the years, especially considering many were developed prior to the city’s incorporation in 1978. This has led to some communities being in floodplains or with site plans that wouldn’t be approved under today’s standards.

In her project, Dellow researched 28 different parks that were identified as high-priority. For each park, she analyzed its demographic trends, amenity access and site conditions, and she spoke with affordable housing developers and property owners within the parks to gain perspective of the needs of the community. As a result of her work, Dellow was able compile a comprehensive report she was able to provide to the city of Apache Junction to help shape upcoming decisions related to these communities.

“Maggie’s scholarly work provided extremely relevant data and concrete examples for the city to consider for the reuse or revitalization of these parks,” said Bryan Powell, city manager for Apache Junction, in his letter nominating Dellow for the award.

As a result of her outstanding work, the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter selected Dellow for the award for student project category. She also was hired by the city of Glendale as a full-time intern to help develop a mobile-home transition project. Staff from the city of Glendale were on hand in April 2019 when Dellow presented her project as part of the ASU Project Cities showcase.

Dellow wasn’t the only winner from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at this year’s meeting. She was joined by David Pijawka, professor of planning; Elizabeth Larson, senior lecturer of geography; and Jonathan Davis, PhD in geography student, who were selected as winners of the public outreach award for their work with an indigenous community to create a visioning report.

In April 2018, the team from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning hosted a workshop to work alongside the Sif-Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation. The focus was to create a visioning report that will be used in future planning efforts of the community that embraces the community’s values, including the unique physical, emotional and spiritual relationship the community has with the land.

The Sif-Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation is comprised of nine communities located in the northern district of the Papago Reservation that spreads out over 700 square miles of the Sonoran Desert south of Casa Grande and southwest of Eloy. No district within the Papago Reservation has developed a land-use plan nor conducted a visioning workshop to develop a plan, making this effort with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning the first of its kind for the Tohono O’odham Nation. This effort provided the technical and professional support to assist the communities in developing short- and long-term goals.

“It was an empowering planning experience for our community members that pushed the communities to work together and consider the needs within our community and think critically on how to meet those needs and achieve our district objectives,” said Alex Cruz, Sif-Oidak district chairman, in his nomination letter for the group’s efforts.

“We are optimistic for the future and will work to use this report as a guiding document for the future of Sif-Oidak District and its communities.”

This wasn’t the first time that Davis and Pijawka have been recognized for their work with tribal communities. They have also been recognized for a project where they worked alongside the Navajo Nation’s Dilkon Chapter to complete a community land-use plan.