New urbanists

 

Regarding your recent story "The Growth Machine is Broken": The real estate bust is the best thing to happen to the Sonoran Desert, although fears that the bulldozers will be on the crawl again in a few years are legitimate (HCN, 4/27/09).

Yet I believe important changes are taking place that were not mentioned in the article. A light-rail line has just opened, connecting Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix. Areas along the line that were once infested with decrepit motels, used-car dealerships, and pawnshops sprouted pedestrian-friendly, high-quality mixed-use developments even before the trains began running, with more to come. Sleek, high-rise condos and lofts now dominate the downtowns of Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix, and crime is down.

I don't see the majority of younger people living out on the fringes and commuting an hour to work; they are aware such commutes might sink the polar bears, and they probably don't have the patience to waste so much time in their cars. Americans have seen how people live in European cities, and have found out it's not bad living in a real city. They want to be where the action is, near sports facilities, museums, concert halls and sidewalk cafes.

Some developers still dream of a vast city on Douglas Ranch, which is even farther west than Sun Valley. They need to wake up; this is not 1955! They don't see the generational shifts taking place. As the car-dependent lifestyle falls out of favor, someday the cheap, drive-till-you-qualify mini-mansion in rattlesnake habitat will be as obsolete as the high-rise public housing projects of the 1960s.

Fareed Abou-Haidar
Mesa, Arizona