Flecha Caida Comes to the Foothills:


It was into this atmosphere in the mid-1950's that John and Mary Bender entered with the idea of developing a more casual subdivision with acre-plus lots. While there was no set style, each home being a custom dwelling, the emphasis was on rural family living, close to town, but with horses and even 'fowl' until County zoning kicked the chickens out of most subdivisions. As it happened, the preponderance of houses were ranch style homes with the mandated minimum of 2,000 square feet, built of the burnt adobe there was so popular in these pre-energy conscious days. John Bender did not want his subdivision to be high profile and removal of vegetation was strictly controlled. Just enough trees, cactus and desert shrub were to be graded to allow for the house and surrounding parking areas. Roads were left unpaved for equestrian use. Few Flecha homes can be seen from the valley, so carefully were they planned to emphasize the desert. As a result, the Flechas have always attracted those who espouse the very values that formed the 'Tucson' lifestyle.


I always found it interesting that John Bender, who had developed Mecedora Estates on the west side and later Skyline Country Club Estates and Skyline Bel Air to the north of Flecha, as well as Bel Air Ranch Estates on the far east side, would come to meetings dressed in his customary attire of green Sears-type work clothes and often a cap with a logo such as 'John Deere' on it. This was typical of the 'reverse snobbery' that characterized him.


The first sales office was built at 5000 East River Road, just across from where the Hughes house would be built. Sales, with lots starting at about $600 an acre, were brisk. the son of the owner of Wild Horse Ranch mentioned earlier, was a sales representative for Coolidge Moore Realty. On my first visit to Tucson - and Wild Horse - in 1960, he urged me to buy a lot as an investment - quoting a price of under $1,000. As a new York-based working girl, there was little extra left in my budget for such investments, a fact I've often lamented. Eight years later, brochures listed lot prices as priced from $4,500. Now, some are listed for more than 40 times that amount.


When Flecha Caida was first developed starting in 1956, the only way to reach it was via the old Dodge bridge, or by traversing the bed of the Rillito on Swan - not always feasible. Craycroft Road ended south of the river and continued on the other side as a dirt and then gravel road. There was virtually nothing east of Craycroft and River Road itself was a rural street. People are still fighting to keep it that way.


These subdivisions in the foothills, as well as others in the city itself, were built with recorded plat mats and a set of Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions, or in the case of Flecha Caida, Conditions, Reservations and Restrictions. However, they are commonly called CC&R's, or CCR's Although some of the earlier neighborhoods were quite exclusionary, by the time Flecha Caida was developed the objectionable clauses in such documents had been rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.


Even so, producing the right mix of do's and don'ts was a learning experience. The CCR's for Catalina Foothills Estates No. 1, for example, failed to include an automatic renewal clause, which was quickly remedied in the subsequent CFE developments. This caused a major upheaval in that subdivision when they expired. John Bender learned from that experience. His great regret was that he did not make membership in the Homeowners Association mandatory in any of the Flechas, an omission that was quickly corrected in later projects. The other major problem was failing to include a mechanism for amending the CRR's which could have eliminated the first omission.


While lots were being sold, in an amazingly short time for nearly 560 of them, John Bender kept a fairly tight rein on the development, granting variances and signing off on plans. He also ran the Flecha Caida Water Company, which had its headquarters in the office at 5000 East River. Until the City of Tucson bought the water company and began providing city water to the Flechas, the man who read the meters also served as the inspector for violations to the CRR's.


A somewhat informal Homeowners Association was formed in 1968, acting principally in an advisory and social capacity. I understand that Board meetings and even the Annual Meetings were more like cocktail parties. Dues at this time were $5.00 per year. By this time, all the lots had been sold and the 'plank-owners' were all in place. Soon afterward the office (by that time relocated to a lot on Swan Road) was closed down.


Early agenda items show that Board members seemed preoccupied with annexation by the City and a dispute with Tucson Gas and Electric Company over transmission lines. There were standing committees to deal with these two perceived problems. These items still arise on occasion.


Most of the CCR infractions discussed were minor ones, stemming from the owners not reading the restrictions, much like today's topics - real estate signs, mailboxes and the like. Meetings, however were often very spirited.


Although I have never been able to get anyone to tell me who the two parties were, it seems that one heated discussion at an Annual Meeting, held at the Skyline Country Club, degenerated into an actual fist fight in the bar after the meeting was over. I have also been unable to determine the cause of the dispute. I'm happy to say that by the time I became President, things had become less physical.