This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

How nice neighborhoods in Phoenix and Los Angeles become ugly


I collect old photos of Phoenix and Los Angeles and post them on the web, and one of the most common comments is "Wow, that neighborhood used to be nice! What happened?!"

Everyone has opinions on this, from conspiracy theories to racial innuendo, but in my experience I've seen the degradation of neighborhoods to follow the same pattern as anything that people care for, or don't. So if you live in a neighborhood and would like to keep it up as best you can, here are some thoughts.

• Don't cut down your trees. Every old photo of new neighborhoods shows trees. No right-thinking developer of a subdivision would dream of trying to sell houses that don't have trees. In Phoenix and Los Angeles, the pattern is the same, the neighborhoods start with small trees, after a few years the trees are beautiful, and then, sadly, they start going away. Trees are messy, trees cost money to maintain - there are a lot of reasons to cut them down. I've visited old neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Phoenix and imagined what they looked like when they had trees. They must have been beautiful!

• Don't wait to be told what to do. If you need a homeowner's association, or a civic law, to tell you not to park your car on the lawn, then you've made a mistake. Caring for your little part of the world is something that you should have learned as a child. Speaking for myself, I grew up in Minnesota, and I didn't need to be told that's it's against some sort of law to let weeds grow all over my property. Why would I want weeds growing all over my property? Or a junked car on the lawn?

That's a good start. It's sad to think that there are a lot of people who don't know how to care for their part of the world. I've known a lot of people like this - very defensive that the city might come by and site them for some violation, or something. And no, I won't tell them what to do, or get into an argument. I will just hope that the next person living in that house doesn't cut down all of the trees.


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