Phoenix’s Foul Ball: Hurting Camelback Mountain, Hikers & Undeserving Neighbors

The Arizona Diamondbacks have not treated their fans to much of a season this year.  But neither has the team’s host city as it relates to its custodianship of Camelback Mountain, devoted hikers and an unsuspecting neighborhood.

It’s a combination of circumstances that’s just wrong, but also helpful for explaining why environmentalism and neighborhood activism can get so passionate.

The background.

When The Phoenician Resort realized it wanted to remove 9 of its 27 holes of golf and replace the open space with dozens of new homes who could fault the international behemoth that owns the property?  After all, maximizing profits is the goal of any such corporation.

Zoning hearings took place and as is usually the case, the developer had its way effectively getting most of what it asked for.  Our point here is not be anti-business for the sake of being so.  After all, a healthy Phoenician is good for the nearby area and the city.

But when you ask to replace long appreciated open space for a density grab the public good must be considered as well.

For the City of Phoenix, more residential at The Phoenician will mean tens of millions in new tax dollars over time.  From construction sales tax.  Bed tax.  And property tax.

Ok, we get that.  But what we don’t get when it comes to the “public good” justifying the enrichment of the property owner is why the Cholla Trail, where hundreds of thousands of hikers enjoy the east side of Camelback Mountain, has now been closed for going on two years.  Two years including during a pandemic when it was needed the most. That’s a shame for tourists and residents alike.  The area gets more homes and construction but has a public recreational amenity shut down.

Unfortunately, the story gets worse.

Dropping the number of new homes into The Phoenician necessitates upsizing infrastructure.  One would think that burden would fall on the beneficiary.  Nope. Instead, the City of Phoenix – with little to no to discussion of this possibility during the entitlement process – quietly notified neighbors just two months ago that the unsightly giant water tanks on Camelback Mountain’s eastern nose will now be supersized to accommodate for the new homes.  Not exactly environmental excellence.

Think about it.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in new homes are being sold at The Phoenician.   The City of Phoenix’s coffers will benefit to the tune of tens of millions over time but hikers and a nearby neighborhood get screwed.

This just isn’t a foul ball.  It’s a municipal whiff.  And one Phoenix City Councilman Sal Diciccio and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego can and should work to fix.  Neighbors are asking them to do so.  Environmentalists and others should do likewise.

That the water tanks are there at all is a reminder that something like them would never get approved in today’s environment of sensitivity to the environment.  And now the city wants to supersize them?  That one of the city’s best recreational amenities has been arrested for so long because of private development is alarming too.

Combined, residents should be supremely disappointed by what’s taking place.  But there are solutions.

Next door in Paradise Valley town leaders there somehow find a way to bury power lines, a quality-of-life measure for residents.  But next-door Phoenix can’t figure out a similar way forward, even with all of its new riches – and those at the Phoenician?

Money is not the problem.  A will is.  Residents and hikers deserve better.  A lot better.  Phoenix usually finds a way to balance business and neighbors, better than most municipalities.  Here is another opportunity to shine, rather than hit a foul ball or whiff, like the Diamondbacks have too often this season.

Editor’s Note:  For anyone interested Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and be reached at  and Councilman DiCiccio at