Guest Commentary

Pay attention to your neighborhood surroundings--but don't homogenize

Greater Tucson offers a variety of places to live. From lonely parcels out past the Sierrita Mountains, to cellblock-style apartments in town, to sprawling luxury homes in the foothills, you can find it all here.

Well, OK, Tucson has no true urban living, which is probably just as well, considering the state of urban environs found elsewhere. However, if you feel a deep void in your heart knowing that Tucson has no downtown reminiscent of the mid-20th century, take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone: An army of politicians and bureaucrats is working feverishly to build an ersatz downtown just for you, a veritable Potemkin village known as Rio Nuevo.

In any event, I have a word of caution for those of you seeking to escape suburbia for a more rural setting: Don't go halfway! If you do, you may end up in "American Dreamland"--an area outside of town, but not quite in the country.

A friend of mine, who used to dabble in real estate, actually coined the term. I asked him if he was familiar with properties in the area of Taylor Lane, just this side of Three Points. He grunted and said, "Yeah, American Dreamland, where every American has the right to screw up his property any way he wants."

Now, I was taken aback and quite offended that he would have a problem with any property owner building on his property as he sees fit. I almost launched into a libertarian tirade, but refrained in light of the fact that we were in his car; he was driving; and it was a long walk back to town. As they say, "Discretion is the better part of valor."

I do, however, understand his point. If one were to drive down Taylor Lane, one would see every kind of dwelling, from nice, well-maintained houses, to not-so-nice houses, to nice trailers with gardens, to wrecked trailers with junked cars. It's a horrifying place if you're into the whole Don Diamond, Daly City thing.

I was not bothered in the least by the variety and felt a certain satisfaction in witnessing that a person can still "screw up his property any way he wants."

You may ask: "If the place is so satisfying, what's with the warning?"

Well, one should be aware that American Dreamland has a disproportionally high number of twisted anti-social types. Please, no hysterical accusations of generalizations, broad brushes, etc. I said "disproportionally high," meaning high in the relative, not absolute, sense.

I had a relative who lived for a while in American Dreamland. Through him, I had the pleasure of meeting a child-molesting con artist, a violent felon fresh from the Big House, and an idiot. A co-worker once told me about visiting someone in American Dreamland and watching the man across the street shoot a quail in his front yard and cook it up on the front porch. Now, I've done a fair amount of quail hunting, but it never occurred to me to shoot one in my front yard.

To be fair, I did meet a very nice man who owned a business in town that employed people. He used much of his property for materials storage and had a few German shepherds to keep the undesirables at bay.

It makes sense, in a way. It's easier for misfits to live in the county, with no municipal ordinances, limited zoning and no neighborhood associations. They don't rub up against their neighbors as much, and most of American Dreamland is within striking distance of jobs in or near town.

Again, these antisocial folks do not represent most people in American Dreamland. The point is that one must pay attention when picking a home or property. There may be consistency within neighborhoods, but not across the region.

The point is that with freedom comes responsibility, and we all must pay attention when making choices. Some people think that by homogenizing everything, from housing to health care, risk can be eliminated. They are wrong, and such attempts lead to no choice and the stifling of creativity--not to mention damage to the human spirit.