Up in Smoke

The plumed one decries discrimination against smokers and Jenna Jameson, and reports on plundering in Phoenix's, um, Chinatown

As far as the law is concerned, experts say Scottsdale's new ordinance isn't a sure thing for either side. The regulations governing adult businesses are a constant tug of war between strip-club owners (guided by their First Amendment advocates) and politicians who toss out phrases like "protecting the children."

What's for sure is, there'll be leagues of professional petition gatherers, campaign consultants, and, of course, lawyers feathering their own nests with the cash from all this naughtiness nonsense.

Ironically, the city itself may have more to lose on the financial front. Jameson isn't just a porn star, she's an adult industry mogul. No less than Entertainment Weekly's estimated her company's profits at about $15 million annually.

First they came for the smokers. . .
Fred Harper
First they came for the smokers. . .

And Scottsdale? Well, it's got taxpayers. And the taxpayers might want to take a look at a recent decision from the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled that, after years of trying to put tougher restrictions on sexually oriented businesses, the city of Nashville, Tennessee, owed its opponents a whopping $536,535.22 in legal fees.

That's right: $536,535. And 22 cents. Which doesn't even cover the fees that Nashville paid its attorneys.

So take it from this pretend pigeon: These bimbo restrictions would be bad for lap dancing, but they'd be very, very good for the legal flies who swarm around such controversy.

Lion taming

Developers want to obliterate another historic downtown building (in Phoenix-speak, that's any building that's more than three weeks old) and put up a big, shiny resort hotel.

So what else's new?

Well, this time, local preservationists have been joined by the PHX's Asian-American community in claiming that compromising the historic Sun Mercantile building, 232 South Third Street, erected in 1929 by Shing Tang, the immigrant father of late former Phoenix vice mayor Thomas Tang, is akin to race discrimination.

To be fair, the co-developers, Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver and sports mogul Jerry Colangelo, don't want to bulldoze Sun Merc, which is said to be the last landmark left of Phoenix's 1920s Chinatown. (Hey, who knew Phoenix had a Chinatown?)

Instead, Sarver and Colangelo want to drop an 11-story high-rise on top of the building and raise an adjacent 39-story luxury hotel and condominium complex. The developers' thinking seems to be, "Hey, look, we're keeping most of the outside of the building. Chill out!"

The city's Historic Preservation Commission didn't buy this load of hooey, and recently rejected the developers' design for the high-end residential hotel, called the W Phoenix, claiming it violated federal and city historic preservation guidelines.

"They've torn down all the other Chinatown buildings," Steve Dreiseszun muttered last week to The Bird. Dreiseszun is president of the FQ Story Preservation Association and a member of Downtown Voices, an advocacy group invested in protecting what's left of Ye Olde Downtown.

"The only reason Sun Merc was spared when Colangelo built America West Arena is because it didn't happen to be in the way. Sun Merc has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for 20 years!"

When preservation forces dared to ask Sarver (who refused to return any of The Bird's phone calls) and company to set aside 4,500 square feet in the city-owned building for an Asian-American history museum, Sarver balked and ran like a sissy to the Phoenix City Council to appeal the city preservation office's decision.

The Bird swooped down on that meeting recently, which was preceded by a wacky Chinese Lion Dance performed by Asian community members. The ritual was meant to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits that might be lurking at City Hall.

It didn't work.

The big, bad developers won the day. The city council voted unanimously to allow them to go ahead with their plan, which prompted Barry Wong, a former state representative and co-chairman of the Save SunMerc Coalition, to snark: "Colangelo and Sarver say they're going to work with the Asian-American community, but I don't know . . ."

The developers, having prevailed, now appear to be tossing a bone regarding the proposed history museum.

"Sarver's saying they can't commit to the space for a museum," Dreiseszun said, "because they haven't done their space planning yet. But they're saying they might do a 1,000-square-foot memorial outside, and maybe another 1,000 [square feet for something else Chinese-related] inside."

Please! Sarver and Colangelo have hundreds of thousands of square feet to play with, and they can't promise 4,000 of it to preserve a piece of the Chinatown we're just now finding out we've had for 76 years?

If The Bird were, say, Jerry Colangelo, it'd be looking over its shoulder for angry dancing Chinese lions.

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