Learning From South Phoenix


People Vs. Industry

 On March 5, 2004 our class was given the opportunity to meet Sara Grineski. Sara is a Pd.D. candidate and also a member of the Department of Sociology, as well as the Center for Environmental Studies at ASU (Tempe). Sarah spoke with our class about the history of Phoenix. Sarah informed us about the struggles that that the residents have had to overcome, as well as the industry in South Phoenix. She brought to my attention the war between the people vs. the industry.

            The name Phoenix represents life rising anew from the remains of the past. If you look back at the history of Phoenix you will see that this name fits perfectly. Phoenix has made the transition from a vest desert land to a booming, economically, successful, major city. During the 1900’s business was expanding rapidly in the downtown Phoenix area and continued along Central Avenue between Van Buran and Jefferson streets. Located south of  all the  industry (warehouses, railroads) was the neighborhood of South Phoenix, home to many poorer residents. The more desired housing areas were located in northern parts of the city.  The majority of the residents of South Phoenix were of a minority race and just trying to make a living working as a day to day, accepting lower paying unstable jobs. As the economic activity increased such, as the welcoming of the South Pacific Railroad so did the population and the desire to live in Phoenix. Maricopa county nearly tripled it’s population between 1940 and 1960. The Rio Salado Project, which began in the 1980’s to transform the Salt River into a “water wonderland of streams and lakes” (Luckingham, p.10), is just another example how Phoenix enticed people to came and build a life here.

            So how does all of this booming industry affect the residents of South Phoenix?  Well you might be surprised by the answer I know I was! A project such as The Rio Salado Project or Beyond the Banks, is very beneficial to the business man or home builder, not to the residents of South Phoenix. These projects and many others like them allow great growth and success from an industry standpoint, but don’t do nearly as much good for a resident living in South Phoenix. Driving around South Phoenix it is clear to see that new homes are being built almost around every corner and more commercial development is on the way. It is almost as if the saying “Out with the old and in with the new” was taken to heart in the gentrification of South Phoenix. For most of the residents there, South Phoenix has been the home for many generations, walking around you can clearly pick up on the Latino culture that has been embedded in the community.

            I recently went into a new housing development and asked their sales representative to give me a tour of the community, as we walked around and looked at all the cookie-cutter homes, she informed about all the benefits of living in this nice community. However before we went down the final street she gave me a little warning about the house at the end of the block. Sitting at the end of the street was an older home that appeared to be the home of a low income family or two. The yard was full of auto parts and unkempt plants. The house clearly did not fit in next to the manicured landscapes of the other brand new homes. She informed me that they have put pressure on the homeowner to sell and they believe he will sell shortly. When I asked why they put pressure on the home owner to sell, she informed me that the house was “an eye sore and undesirable in the community”.  I am sure she is not the only home builder who thinks like that!

            I think that is very important for all the industry workers and home builders to understand the culture that is South Phoenix and instead of  creating “a private world that shares little with it’s neighbors or the larger political system” (Blakely, Snyder 85),  that is the new gated communities, take a second and look at the neighbored that is already there. The people is South Phoenix don’t build nice brick fences around their neighborhood, they don’t seclude themselves from the world. I feel like if you are going to build a new community in South Phoenix, don’t¼. instead add onto the community that is already there!!







Old Vs. New

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