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

Why Phoenix is a suburb of Los Angeles, and San Francisco

Every once in a while I hear someone say, in a joking way, that Phoenix is a suburb of Los Angeles. And I agree. Because while the distance is great, the connection is very tight. And if you go back further in time, the connection is with San Francisco. And like a child yearning for independence, there has always been a little bit of a resentful attitude towards these California cities.

Los Angeles when Phoenix was young.

In this blog my main focus in Phoenix history, but you can't study Phoenix history without including California, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco. And that's because Phoenix began with reliance on San Francisco, in the 1800s, and continued with Los Angeles in the 20th Century. And while Phoenix has become more self-reliant in the 21st Century, the influences remain.

As long as I can remember, people in Phoenix have said that they "don't want to be like LA". And that meant freeways, sprawling suburbia, smog, that sort of thing. But it happened. But Phoenix has been watching Los Angeles, and as a distant "suburb", has learned from its mistakes. Yes, there are freeways, but they're much better engineered, and attention has been placed on controlling air pollution, and attempts have been made to control sprawl. But, like any LA suburb, there are freeways, smog, and sprawl.

San Francisco in 1906

If you time-travel back further in time, it's all about San Francisco. Because as big and important as Los Angeles is nowadays, back in the 1800s, it really wasn't much. San Francisco was it. Ships arrived with goods from all over the world, and Phoenix needed that stuff, which was brought in by train.

As a former Angelino, I find it just adorable when my favorite city, Phoenix, stands up and insists that "it's big", like a three-year-old insisting that it can do it itself. And Phoenix has gotten big, and when people say that it's really just a suburb of Los Angeles, it can rankle. But Phoenix has a long way to go, and along its journey it will continue to look over its shoulder to the City of Angels and the City by the Bay.

Image at the top of this post: Flying over downtown Phoenix in the 1960s. From a postcard.

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