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Phoenix Rising

1/7/2008 12:00:00 AM


One of my favorite Christmas presents was a bundle of old home magazines from the 1950s. My boyfriend, Pieter, told his dad I had a thing for these, and Pete Sr. found me some eBay gold. One night after dinner, Pete asked me why I liked old magazines. Perspective, I think I told him. We looked over a great-news introduction ad for vinyl-asbestos floor tiles and an ad for homes in Hacienda Gardens in the January 11, 1953, Los Angeles Times Home supplement. Hacienda Gardens was a new development in the Pomona Valley back then, with three-bedrooms starting at $9,800.

Pete’s home is in Queen Creek, Arizona, a 21st-century version (with all the opulence) of the Pomona Valley. Once the edge of nowhere—desert that Pieter explored as a kid—the Queen Creek/Chandler area is now a series of very nice roads and roads under construction, to lots of houses that will soon be there. Really nice new highways link the area to Phoenix. It’s clear that lots of people are going to go live out there, soon.

I like to imagine they’ll all want tight, nontoxic houses, and I read some things in the paper while I was down there that made me think I’m right. In particular, the Arizona Repubic reported that Chandler’s new municipal Green Building Task Force suggested reducing permit fees for environmentally friendly construction–and the city council is taking it seriously. Chandler’s new General Plan is expected to encourage energy conservation and green building—and given the scale of what’s about to come, that’s some good news.

A decade ago, when I was strident, I declared “green development” disgraceful. But driving on all those nice Phoenix roads reminded me that big housing developments are just what’s happening right now. They’re where and how people want to live—and it’s great that more of them might be built responsibly.

In the current issue of Natural Home, we named our Top 10 Eco-Neighborhoods, inspiring examples of what’s possible in large-scale development. These neighborhoods bring solar panels and green roofs into a much larger conversation, and I can envision the builders of all those houses in Queen Creek and Chandler—and all the Bed, Bath & Beyonds that will follow—playing around with geothermal pumps and native plants, too.

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