Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The good and bad of Homeowner's Associations in Phoenix, Arizona


If you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area, chances are that you live with a Homeowner's Association, or there's one nearby. And there are good things, and bad things, about them. As someone who has lived in a neighborhood with an HOA for over twenty years, I tend to understand the good. But I also understand the bad. And it has to do with rules.

The West has traditionally been a place of freedom, where a man can do as he pleases without having to say "please and thank you" to a lot of people telling him what to do. The wide-open spaces invited that way of thinking. The song that says, "Give me land, lots of land, don't fence me in" says it the best. And yet when you have neighbors, the expression "Good fences make for good neighbors" really applies.

Rules are like fences. Whether they're municipal laws, or Homeowner's Association rules, it's all the same. It's a bunch of rules that tell people what to do. Speaking for myself, I've never needed much in the way of rules - I didn't need to study the local laws to, for example, not rob a liquor store (an extreme example, I know!). I also didn't need to study local laws to know that I shouldn't run red lights, or park my car on my lawn. I certainly didn't need to know local law to know that I shouldn't have a yard congested with weeds, and covered with stuff that should have been hauled off to the dump years ago. But that's just me. Some people need to know specifically if something is against a law, or a rule.

When I went shopping for a house, I intentionally looked for a neighborhood with a Homeowner's Association. I wanted good fences, and good neighbors. And no, it's not perfect, there are always going to be neighbors who really don't know that they shouldn't do stuff, like leave their junked cars on the street, or play loud music at 3 am. I understand. But an HOA neighborhood gave me a better chance to be around like-minded people, and I've been happy here.

On the other hand, I've seen ads for houses that advertised "No Homeowner's Association", and I can understand that, too. There are a lot of things that HOAs don't allow, that many people love to do, like restoring old cars, and having the bits and pieces lying around, and having the noise and commotion associated with that. And not everyone can afford to have a shop separate from their house to that kind of stuff. Luckily, Phoenix has a LOT of places without HOAs, where you can do whatever you please, and be around like-minded people.

I like living in a neighborhood with an association, but then again I also like living with a wiener dog. To each his own! In Phoenix you can live and let live. I like that.

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Los Angeles as non-Angelinos see it


Every city is unique, and the only people who really know a particular city are the people who've lived there. And it's true that all cities have misconceptions that reveal the outsider, maybe the way something is pronounced, or which direction is uptown, or whatever. And I've found that most people are just wise enough to shrug their shoulders and say that "they never lived there, and they just don't know". But Los Angeles is different, there are a lot of people who've never lived there you think that they know it well.

And I can't blame people for thinking that they know Los Angeles, even if they've never lived there. Los Angeles is portrayed in movies, in TV shows, in books, and just about every way that you can imagine. So I won't roll my eyes and correct people who see Los Angeles that way, but it does give me a bit of a pain. If you've lived in a city that you know well, you know what I mean. And if you've lived in Los Angeles you know that:

• Hollywood isn't two steps from the ocean. In fact, it's miles away. Of course there are countless movies where the hero steps off the porch of his Hollywood bungalow, turns around, and is at the ocean. So if we're going to visit the Pantages, you really can't just turn around and see the Pacific Ocean from there. Sorry.

• Los Angeles doesn't include Disneyland. As big as Los Angeles County is, it isn't big enough to include Orange County, which is where Disneyland is. People who hear that I lived in Hollywood, in addition to imagining that the ocean was outside my door, think that Disneyland is just a couple of steps away. It's not, it's miles away. A lot of miles!

• Freeways didn't make Los Angeles crowded. Los Angeles was crowded long before the first freeways were built. Traffic jams, and gridlock, go back to the invention of cars. If you want to see what Los Angeles was before it got crowded, you have to not only go back before cars, you have to go back before trolleys. And even then there were a lot of horses, and people!

• There's no such city as Hollywood. Or Van Nuys, or hundreds of other areas that are actually just part of the city of Los Angeles. And I mean that legally. This is confusing even to people who live there, but it's easy to determine if you're in a different city - look for the police cars. Beverly Hills has its own police force, as does Burbank. Separate cities have their own mayors, but Hollywood has an "honorary mayor" during the Christmas parade.

OK, the list goes on and on, but you see what I mean. The city of Los Angeles has been blurred by the mythology, and it continues every time someone sees a movie or TV show set in LA. And by the way, no one in LA says that they live in LA, unless they live downtown. And even then they'd probably describe the neighborhood. I lived in Hollywood, and Canoga Park, and Winnetka. I worked with a woman who lived in downtown Los Angeles and called it "the City". I liked that. And if you've ever heard the radio describe the area as the "Southland", yeah, they do, but no one who lives there calls it that.

Image at the top of this post: The Greater Los Angeles area in 1910.

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Could people live in Phoenix, Arizona after technology collapses?


As someone who loves to use his imagination, I like to imagine what Phoenix would be like in some dystopian future, with the collapse of technology. Let's time-travel into a kind of scary future!

So the first question would be about water. Would water need to be brought in from hundreds of miles away? Of course not, water flows through Phoenix, and has for thousands of years.

Since most people have no idea how Phoenix works, it's considered a place where people could only live if water arrived from hundreds of miles away. But that's simply not true. People were living in the Phoenix valley long before any kind of "high tech" stuff was around. They were called the Hohokams, and they lived in a very primitive way. They didn't even have iron, they used stone tools.

The loss of electricity, and pumping stations, wouldn't dry up Phoenix. There would still be a lot of water right there. The water that Phoenix uses doesn't come from hundreds of miles away, it's right there. The water that flows down from northern Arizona goes right through the valley. It's a floodplain, and all you have to do is to stop the water, store it and channel it. The Hohokams did it.

So there would be plenty of water. But that's just part of the equation. The next thing is damming and channeling the water. The Hohokam people dug canals with stone tools. Speaking for myself, I doubt whether my weak lower back would allow me to be of much help there, but for people with muscle it's doable.

And then it starts to get really difficult. Because the people who lived there, like the Pima people today, would have most probably been genetically predisposed to survive in those type of harsh conditions. They had the "thrifty gene" (you can Google that if you want to) which meant that their bodies could survive on very few calories. My European body would definitely starve to death long before a Hohokam, or Pima, body. And my light colored skin and eyes would give me no protection from the sun.

So, the collapse of technology would be fatal to people like me, but certainly not to everyone. The people who survive would have to be as tough as nails, very strong, and with a strong community spirit. It's been done before.

Image at the top of this post: The Hohokam village of Pueblo Grande, part of which has been preserved, at 44th Street and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking southeast towards where Tempe is now.

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Meeting Dave of Dave's Car Care, Glendale, Arizona


As someone who's interested in the history of Phoenix, I realize that it's a very fine line between talking about a businesses and promoting them. In fact, I'm more comfortable talking about a defunct company, like Valley Bank, than one that's still in business. And I think that it gives the illusion that most businesses don't last in Phoenix, and that's not true.

Yesterday I went with a friend to Dave's Car Care in Glendale. I just went along for the ride, and to give moral support, and while my friend was talking to the guy behind the counter, I was wondering, "I wonder if that's Dave?" It was.

I get a big kick out of meeting someone who's name is on the sign of a business. I guess I expect businesses either to have fictional names, or that someone sold it to someone who sold it to someone, etc. I think I became suspicious of asking if the person whose name is on the sign from watching "Happy Days" in the 1970s, after the episode where the owner explains that it would have been too expensive to replace the sign "Arnold's", and besides, it was a sign and name that people knew and recognized.

In the course of the conversation between my friend and the guy behind the counter at Dave's Car Care, he just said, "I'm Dave", and it made me smile. When their business was finished being conducted I made a point to go over and shake his hand, and I asked permission to take a photo of their business hours. No, I'm not going to show you a photo of Dave - that's kind of an invasion of privacy, you know. I gave him one of my history adventuring cards, with the assurance that I wasn't selling anything, and I got the usual look. He may want not to admit that 38 years in Glendale makes his business "historic", but I think that it does. It weaves into the day-to-day life of the city, and to me that's much more important than anything else.

I like my neighborhood, and I'm one of those people who never had to be told to "buy local". I don't own a car anymore, so Dave won't be getting my business, but whatever money I have I try to spend locally. I've always felt that way, even when I lived in Los Angeles, that these people are my neighbors. They live here, work here, are raising their families here, go to church here. Yes, of course there are bad guys everywhere, but they really are in the minority. Most of the people are good guys, even people who repair cars.

Exploring the history of Phoenix south of the railroad tracks


Like the vast majority of the people that I know, including many people who profess to be experts on the history of Phoenix, I know nothing of life south of the railroad tracks. It's strange, but just a few blocks away from an area that I know very well, downtown Phoenix, I can hardly tell you the names of the streets. And since it's a subject that most people don't want to talk about, it's history that gets forgotten, and ultimately is at the risk of being erased forever.

I understand. Some of it just isn't very pretty. And things like segregation are parts of the past that many people would like to forget. And since I'm not a "person of color" - I'm an "average white guy", there are many people who resent my even talking about it. But it's like every aspect of Phoenix history, it fascinates me, and recently I've gotten some help with it, so I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to share more.

I have a PhD (Phoenix History Detective) whose main interest is the history of south Phoenix. It's where he grew up, so he has a very personal connection, and he is also deeply interested in history, right now to the kind of details that I like. Even as we speak he's working on it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he finds, and will share.

I realize that there is a very fine line between interest in the historical aspects of a city, and simply voyeurism. And south of the railroad tracks things could get very suspicious, no one is denying that. But this was a place where people lived, raised families, did the kind of livin' and dyin' that makes a city.

Going south of the tracks in Phoenix, even just to talk about it, seems taboo. Certainly it isn't something that I intend to treat lightly, nor do I plan on re-writing history to make it all squeaky-clean. Watered-down history is an insult to the people who created that history.

If you're interested in this journey, I suggest that you start at Carver High School, which is now a museum. It's so close to Chase Field that you could probably hit a baseball most of the way to it, but in the historical life of Phoenix it just seems so far away.

Image at the top of this post: George Washington Carver High School in 1942, 415 E. Grant, Phoenix, Arizona.

The George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center is a historical preservation site that is dedicated to the Collection, Documentation, Preservation, Study and Dissemination of the History and Culture of Africans and Americans of African Descent in Arizona. https://gwcmccaz.wordpress.com

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