This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

How Phoenix fought to not end up like LA


As someone who's lived in Phoenix, and Los Angeles, I understand it when people say that they don't want Phoenix to end up like LA. And by that they meant smog, congestion, jammed freeways, that sort of thing.

Because of that, Phoenix resisted building freeways. When I moved to Phoenix, in 1979, there was only one freeway. One. And Phoenix was already a pretty sizable town, so it was very difficult to drive, for example from Glendale to Scottsdale. The route was to go on Bell Road, as quickly as possible, and stopping every few blocks for the lights. The idea, of course, was that if Phoenix didn't build freeways, it wouldn't get crowded and congested, and have jammed freeways. That was the logic.

Another thing that Phoenix resisted was density. Places like LA were congested, and crowded, and Phoenix was wide-open. To this day Phoenix has an incredible amount of open, empty lots all over. Nowadays people speak of "infill", but this would have sounded too much like "congestion" several decades ago.

Phoenix also resisted the kind of bureaucracy that limited that types of freedoms that made Arizona different from California. Pollution controls were very slow in being enforced, and to this day gas stations don't have pollution controls, which Los Angeles has had for over thirty years. When Los Angeles started tightening up pollution controls for businesses, Phoenix paid no attention.

I don't hear too many people saying that "we don't want to be like LA in Phoenix" nowadays, except the old-timers who remembered how Phoenix had gone from a fairly small-town atmosphere to having a gigantic population almost overnight.

If you remember Los Angeles of thirty years ago, you'll be surprised at how much it's been cleaned up nowadays. The air is so much bluer! As someone who hugs trees, likes blue skies, and cherishes quiet neighborhoods, I would like to see Phoenix become more like LA, with better pollution control enforcement, freeways that take traffic away from surface streets, and of course, more trees.


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