In 2016, after 24 years in Flagstaff, I reluctantly moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve never felt Santa Fe measured up to Flagstaff. I’ve often thought I might like to move back to Flagstaff. I recently returned to Flagstaff, intent at exploring rental options, both residential and commercial. I spent several days riding around town on my bike looking for vacancies and visiting different rental properties.
What an eye-opener! Flagstaff has changed! Had I been away for five years, or was it 50? I was especially shocked by the huge high-rise apartment blocks in west Flagstaff. How did such obscenely tall projects get through planning and zoning and the city council? The sprawling developments on McMillan Mesa were also horrifying.
I was also surprised at how little east Flagstaff has changed, especially compared to west Flagstaff. The biggest change on the east side seems to be the proliferation of sandbags. To a surprising extent, the east side remains largely dusty, ramshackle and deteriorating. But I suppose it too is on the cusp of a major transformation.
My strongest impression was of a town that is experiencing explosive growth and bursting at the seams, with sky-high rental prices, and almost no rentals of any kind available.
Years ago, there was a locally popular bumper sticker that said, Don’t PHX FLG. Clearly, that battle has been lost and the Phoenix developers have won. The war is over, and many of the anti-growth activists have evacuated to other places where they have a chance of financial survival.
My visit gave me pause. Is this crazy town with its ever-worsening traffic, ever-rising rents and endless sprawl really where I want to live? I am not a drinker, but I felt like the guy who wakes up after a wild night and finally gets a good look at his sleeping lover’s face in the cold light of day. It was fun while it lasted. But it’s no wonder he hurriedly dresses and sneaks out the door. I cut my trip short and returned to Santa Fe, where I will contemplate my next move.
Santa Fe, New Mexico