A Bit of Early History (1880s to 1960s)

In about 1880, Richard & Lela Garstang built an adobe hacienda at what is now 3426 N Campbell Ave. The area now known as Richland Heights was largely farm and ranch land, known as the Garstang Ranch (1880-1915) and then Griffith's Ranch (1915-1926). In 1926 it was subdivided into 1 acre lots by Vic & Ernestine Griffith and named Richland Heights.

In 1926 the Griffiths sold most of what is now RHW to BB & Vida Langen. In 1937 they sold most of RHE to Angle Realty. Codes, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) were established for RHE (they expired in 1960). Pima County zoning established a minimum lot size of 16,000 square feet (a little less than half an acre). In 1957 the streets in RHE were paved and sewer lines were extended to the area.

The City of Tucson annexed the area in March 1959. It created new zoning specifications, RX-2 for RHE, which maintained the required lot sizes of 16,000 (RX-1 was created for larger lots in RHW). (During World War II, zoning exceptions were granted for some lots, allowing three houses per half acre, so there are some smaller lots in the neighborhood.)

The main difference in building requirements under the CC&Rs, County CR-2 zoning, and City RX-2 zoning, is setbacks. The CC&Rs required a 50' setback from the street and 20' from all other property lines. CR-2 required 30' from the street, 10' on the sides, and 40' to the rear. Our current zoning, RX-2, requires 20' setbacks from all property lines. This resulted in some of the differences we see today -- it all depends on which rules were in place when a structure or an addition was built.

Until the 1960s Campbell Avenue was a two-lane dirt road with a drainage ditch running along the east side which blocked access to RHE from Campbell. When Campbell was widened and paved and the drainage ditch filled in, drivers could turn from Campbell into the neighborhood. Long-time residents say this this change marked the beginning of problems with cut-through traffic in the neighborhood.

The Founding of RHENA (1994)

Richland Heights East has had a long-standing commitment to protecting itself from commercial intrusions. The original 1977 neighborhood plan focused largely on maintaining the residential character of the area by limiting commercial development to small professional and semi-professional offices. In 1994, five dedicated residents joined forces and created the Richland Heights East Neighborhood Association (RHENA). Their goal was to ensure that the neighborhood continue to grow in a direction determined by the residents. The original interest was to prevent rezoning along Ft Lowell from residential to business.

Michael Murray (Lind), Marilyn Dinwiddie (Kleindale & Olsen), Jay Van Echo (Greenlee & Olsen), John Wilson (Olsen & Lind), and Jon Guenther (Lind & Wilson) created RHENA and incorporated it with the Arizona Corporation Commission. The corporation has lapsed, but the Association has continued as an official Neighborhood Association registered with the City of Tucson..

It's been said that Neighborhood Associations in Tucson are formed when a neighborhood has pressing issues, such as crime, graffiti and zoning change requests, but once those issues are addressed, it's difficult to maintain a "critical mass" to continue working for the neighborhood. Well, Richland Heights East has proved to be an exception to the rule! The original 5-member Board of Directors has grown to 9 members over the years, and the Board has continued to meet regularly to work for the betterment of RHE. Many people who live in RHE are actively involved in RHENA.

Traffic Circles and Speed Humps come to RHE (1995-1998)

In 1995 a committee was formed to investigate ways to cut down on cut-through traffic and speeding in the neighborhood. The committee worked with the City of Tucson (COT) to develop a Traffic Management Plan. Before a Plan could be started, a petition stating that there was a traffic problem had to be signed by 60% of households on the 6 interior streets. From April to October 1996 the committee gathered signatures from residents to get the process started with the COT to study traffic flow in the neighborhood.

The City conducted a 3-day traffic study in November 1996, noting such things as speeding, cut-through traffoc trying to avoid major intersections, cutting across to/from Winterhaven, overflow parking, service traffic and traffic noise. The study verified the concerns of residents regarding the volume and speed of traffic. In December, the City shared their ideas with the Committee. They recommended five traffic circles, 3 speed humps, and 9 new stop signs, with the goal of developing a neighborhood traffic pattern that would discourage drivers from cutting through the neighborhood. The total cost was projected to be approximately $17,000.

There were two options for implementing the improvements: (1) The City would complete the construction with the cost repaid by a property tax increase of approximately $10 per year for ten years for each house on an interior street, or (2) RHENA could raise funds through contributions and obtain their own contractors and complete the project on their own. In March 1997, RHENA members approved the City's plan and choose option (1) for construction and financing.

Before the process could be started, the Committee again visited each house in the interior of the neighborhood to collect signatures from at least 50% of the residents to approve the plan, and it was sent to Mayor & Council in June 1997. Committee members met with the City's Traffic and Engineering staff to determine the details of the design, including style of curbs & posts, and type of vegetation in the circles.

In July 1998 the 5 traffic circles, 3 speed humps, and 9 new stop signs were finished!! Thank you to all the members of the Traffic Committee and everyone who helped with petitions, planning, meetings, etc. Since the completion of the project, 5 more speed humps have been added, and the circles have been beautifully maintained by the Traffic Circle Maintenance Group.

See the City of Tucson Department of Transportation brochure about Traffic Circles in the Handouts section here.

Informal Neighborhood Plan (2006-2007)

In May 2006 3 board members expressed interest in forming an improvement plan for RHE to determine its goals for the next 5-10 years. At the first meeting in July they established a group of RHE residents and decided to work with Dr Barbara Becker and students from her Comprehensive and Strategic Planning class at the University of Arizona to create a Neighborhood Plan for Richland Heights East. The students developed a survey that was sent to all RHE residents in early 2007, with the goal of determining the wishes of the residents for the direction the neighborhood should take in the future. 25% responded (a very good representation, according to Dr Becker). Based on the survey results, the students developed a Vision Statement for RHE, and identified 10 goals and objectives for the neighborhood's consideration. This plan was presented to the neighborhood in May 2007.

Groups were established to address some of the ideas presented in the plan. The groups held meetings from May to October 2007. The groups included: Land Use, Public Infrastructure, Circulation (traffic), Parks & Conservation, and Neighborhood Resources. Some of these groups continued to work toward the betterment of RHE for years and reformed into some of the Committees in existence today - Welcome Committee, Graffiti Removal, Neighborhood Watch, and Traffic Circle Maintenance, to name a few.

RHENA joins the information age (2007-2012)

RHENA has produced a newsletter since it became a Neighborhood Association (NA) in 1994. It has been edited over the years by dedicated volunteers. For many years the City of Tucson supported registered NAs by printing and mailing one newsletter per month. When their budget was cut In 2010, the City reduced this to one newsletter per year. At that time, the RHENA Board assumed the challenge of finding businesses or neighbors willing to fund 3 newsletters each year so we could provide a quarterly newsletter to the neighborhood.

In 2007 a neighbor created a Blog for RHENA and she maintained it until 2011. It was eventually discontinued. Before that, all of the posts were reviewed and either: (1) deleted if they were outdated, (2) incorporated into this website (pictures in the Photo Gallery, or information under Neighborhood Plans and Neighborhood Watch), or (3) copied here.

In 2009 we created a Listserv (email list). In 2010 this website was started. It continues to be updated regularly.

In 2012 Nextdoor came to town. Nextdoor is a private online network. Anybody can join, and some neighbors have, but the RHENA Listserv is the "official" method of communication for RHENA.

Tucson/Ft Lowell Crime Prevention Coalition (2009)

In March 2009, residents from Richland Heights East, Winterhaven and La Madera met with Councilwoman Karin Uhlich & George Petit, from Ward 3, and two TPD officers at the Northminster Presbyterian Church at the corner of Ft Lowell and Tucson Blvd. The impetus for the meeting was the perceived increase in crime in our neighborhoods.

At the second meeting in April, residents from Hedrick Acres and Cabrini joined us, and there was a guest from the Alvernon/Grant Coalition, which has had success with crime reduction in their area. Later in April there was a Crime & Fraud Prevention Forum for all of Ward 3 at the TPD West headquarters. The guest speaker was Terry Goddard, Attorney General of Arizona at the time.

At the next meeting in August, the Tucson/Ft Lowell Crime Prevention Coalition (TFC-CPC) was formed.

TFL-CPC held three more meetings in September, October and November. We learned a lot about crime prevention, but as the individual neighborhoods each became more active, interest in TFL-CPC waned. The coalition came to a quiet end after a year, due to lack of participation.


One positive outcome of these meetings was establishing cross-communication with surrounding neighborhoods. The moderator of the RHENA Listserv joined the Listservs for the other neighborhoods, and one person from each of those neighborhoods joined the RHENA list. These people pass information about criminal activity in other neighborhoods on to their own neighborhood residents. This cross-communication has expanded to include other neighborhoods around RHE in all directions; after all, criminal activity doesn't stop at neighborhood boundaries.

Also, our Graffiti Removal Committee received a bucket of graffiti removal supplies from Ward 3 after attending a graffiti removal workshop given by Richard Sheinus from Hedrick Acres, who was long-time graffiti removal advocate.

Notes and minutes from each of the meetings are included here to provide a historical record of the effort.

Also, our Graffiti Removal Committee received a bucket of graffiti removal supplies from Ward 3 after attending a graffiti removal workshop given by Richard Sheinus from Hedrick Acres, who was long-time graffiti removal advocate.

Notes and minutes from each of the meetings are included here to provide a historical record of the effort.

Construction at the Campbell/Ft Lowell intersection (2006-2011)

Tucson voters passed bond funding for RTA projects in 2006. In early 2007 we first heard that one project would be improvements at the intersection of Campbell and Ft Lowell. A board member proposed including bump-outs in the area of construction (bump-outs had been suggested in the Neighborhood Plan as a way to lesson cut-through traffic in the neighborhood). The intersection project was scheduled to start at the end of 2008 and last 9 months.

Utility work began in late 2009. Pre-construction meetings were held in early 2010. Board members attended meetings and worked closely with the Construction Project group at the City to find ways to mitigate cut-through traffic and other problems in the neighborhood during the construction. We were able to get bump-outs at Lind/Campbell and Olsen/Ft Lowell included in the project at no cost to the neighborhood. Actual construction started in the summer of 2010 and lasted February 2011. See www.pagnet.org/documents/pressreleases/2011/PR-2011-02-25-FortLowell for the official announcement of the completion of the Campbell/Ft Lowell intersection project.

Neighborhood ID Signs (2009-2013)

In 2009, following a recommendation in the 2007 RHE Neighborhood Plan, RHENA agreed that we would like to have Neighborhood ID Signs as many other neighborhoods around Tucson had. A committee of 5 neighbors was formed. The committee spent 3 1/2 years designing the signs, getting bids from sign companies, getting approval from the City, and raising the funds necessary (through voluntary donations from residents of RHE) for production and installation. Richland Heights East Neighborhood ID Signs became a reality in 2013, installed at the 14 entrances into RHE. Neighborhood ID Signs are known to bring a sense of community pride and identity to residents, and increase recognition of the neighborhood across the City as an involved neighborhood that works together and is alert to what is happening in the neighborhood and around the City.

Thank you to all the residents who donated money to the fund-raising effort, to the Neighborhood ID Sign Committee, and to the RHENA board members for all their support.

Fighting Blight -- Casa Presidio Apartments / Common Ground Award (2010-2013)

In a project that started in 2010 and lasted over a period of 3 years, the RHENA Board and RHE residents worked with our elected officials from Ward 3, Pima County District 3, Arizona Senate District 28, Federal Congressional District 2, City & Federal agencies, surrounding neighborhoods, schools, churches & businesses, and local developers, to improve the Fort Lowell corridor near our neighborhood. There was a vacant, blighted Section 8 apartment complex on 4 acres across the street from RHE that was having a negative impact on our neighborhood. We succeeded in obtaining HUD’s release of its requirement for affordable housing, and found a local developer to bid on the property and develop it as a private apartment complex. Town West Realty developed the property at 2002 E Ft Lowell Rd into Casa Presidio, a high-end apartment complex that has been mostly 100% leased. The improvements to this property have resulted in improvements to other apartment complexes along Ft Lowell. Now there is less graffiti and criminal activity in the vicinity, increased property values of neighboring properties, and improved quality of life for RHE residents.

Follow up:

In June, 2014 we learned that the Metropolitan Pima Alliance (MPA) was sponsoring the Common Ground Awards. MPA believes that the process of collaborating and compromising to reach a balance between business interests, existing neighbors, and the natural environment is what makes a community thrive. The Common Ground Awards celebrate and encourage the positive impacts of groups working together throughout Pima County.

After learning of the Common Ground Award, we wrote a 9-page description of our efforts (with pictures) and a list of people involved (almost 60!) and submitted it to the Common Ground Committee in August. MPA named our project Casa Presidio. We were informed that our project was a semi-finalist in September and were invited for interviews. In October we were notified our project was a finalist. We attended the awards ceremony in December. Much to our delight, the Casa Presidio project won in its category — Revitalization. We accepted the award on behalf of RHENA and everyone who helped make this project a success. Here is a picture of the award (it's 6" x 6", not life-size).

Getting our Streets Repaved (2007-2014)

Discussion about the condition of our streets, and the possibility of getting them repaved, began with the Circulation Group created after the Neighborhood Plan was completed in 2007. We contacted Ward 3 and were told we were scheduled for resurfacing between summer 2009 and spring 2010. That time period came and went, and ... nothing. The City was suffering from budgetary cutbacks, and neighborhood street maintenance suffered. We waited.

In November 2012, citizens passed Proposition 409, a street bond package part of which was to go to residential streets. The Board wrote a letter in January 2013 to City officials, stating the reasons for including RHE as one of the neighborhoods to be included. Other residents also sent letters. Board members attended Bond Oversite Commission (BOC) meetings to argue our case. We prevailed, and RHE was in the first group of neighborhoods to get their streets resurfaced, and in July 2014 our streets were done!

Stormwater Harvesting Grant (2017-2020)

In her May & June Newsletters, then Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich included information about a Neighborhood Scale Stormwater Harvesting Grant opportunity. The COT Water Department had made $45,000 available to each of the six Wards for neighborhood-scale storm water harvesting projects to be administered by TCB (Tucson Clean and Beautiful). The information was forwarded to the RHENA Listserv.

One active neighbor got the ball rolling with her "Can we do it?" email to RHENA. About 25 neighbors expressed interest. This group held weekly meetings to talk about what we might do in RHE, attended the informational meeting at Ward 3, paid for consulting from WMG (Watershed Management Group), and submitted a proposal in July 2017.

Projects in Dodge Flower, RillitoBend & Vista del Monte neighborhoods, and at the YMCA Lightouse at McCormick Park were selected for the first year. In August 2018, we were informed that the RHE project was selected for the second year of the program and that work would be completed in the fall.

As promised, the engineers surveyed the requested basin locations, locating underground utility lines, checking that new trees wouldn't block traffic control signs, etc. City workers cut curbs and constructed the basins. The involved neighbors continued with follow-up reports including pictures showing the basins filled with water after rains. City workers returned in late 2020 to lower the curb cuts on some basins that were under-preforming. All are currently working as intended.

Now all we need is more RAIN!