Selling sizzle and steak

 

Note: This is a sidebar to a feature story headlined 'Desert sprawl.'

David Taylor is a veteran planner for the city of Tucson.

"I got asked at a meeting once, "When did the town peak?" I said, "If you are a rich, old, white lady living in the Catalina Foothills, it peaked in 1940. If you are a 17-year-old Hispanic in high school, it's next year.

"Our type of immigrants were not the type of Nick and Nora Charles, urbane, high-rise, big city folks. They were millworkers and craftsmen from Schenectady. We would sell them sizzle and steak, a brand new Estes Homes house. They would say, "I can buy a home for $11,000, Ethel, with three bedrooms, a dining room and a living room. My God, we're in heaven, Ethel." If you want to say sprawl is bad, say those aspirations are wrong. You can go to planners' school and learn all the bad things about sprawl - it costs a lot, it is divisive, it leads to balkanized governments. But if the customers come over here one by one, and we go from 40,000 people during World War II to 800,000 today, if the customer picks that lifestyle we sold him, is the customer wrong? We come here for the beauty, we blade our lot, and we are ambivalent about the guy who blades the next lot."