The Worst Things About Living in Scottsdale

A recent tweet by Arizona Central, the online home of The Arizona Republic, got me thinking about the worst things about living in Scottsdale.

The tweet linked to a study about Scottsdale’s neighbor, Tempe, ranking 43rd in a list of the best small cities to live in.

That’s one small tweet, one giant tweet for encapsulating what’s wrong with Scottsdale. Let’s break it down.

worst things about living in Scottsdale
Valley Metro light rail – not allowed in Scottsdale. (Steven Vance)

Still Putting the Brakes on Light Rail

The same tired Scottsdale mouthpieces have managed to keep light rail out of Scottsdale. Everything they say flies in the face of the increasing ridership on the current light rail line. Nobody with any electricity firing between their brain synapses can figure out how light rail will increase traffic congestion and pollution. If anything, Scottsdale should break its back to figure out a way to do light rail better than the current street-grade system. The cost will be worth it in the long run. In the meantime, enjoy the not-at-all convenient trolleys and buses.

worst things about living in Scottsdale
The Poisoned Pen – One of Scottsdale’s all-too-few bookstores. (Wikipedia)

Can I Get a Bookstore?

South Scottsdale has one bookstore – the highly specialized Poisoned Pen. I love the store, but its mystery niche is very narrow. Scottsdale Fashion Square, we have to infer, serves illiterates since there’s not a single bookstore in its cavernous interior. Even the Scottsdale Pavilions, just across the border in the Pima-Maricopa community just east of Pima Road, doesn’t have one anywhere in its footprint. Aside from the Poisoned Pen, all we have is a Barnes & Noble at the 101 and Shea and yet another B&N at Kierland Commons (and no, antique/religious/New Age bookstores don’t count).

Lagging Left Just the Tip

Traffic is one of the worst things about living in Scottsdale. It’s a long, narrow city — and it seems city officials time the traffic lights to obstruct by any means necessary. It’s rare to catch a break on the lights while doing anything close to the speed limit. And that lagging left turn – Scottsdale clings to it like a helicopter mom clutches a college student. Oh, sure, it can produce all sorts of studies to tell you how great it is. But the proof is in the commute — just take a drive around the city and see if you can maintain your sanity. I dare you — I double-dare you!

worst things about living in Scottsdale
Scottsdale is still bent on preserving its “Most Western Town” persona. (Photo credit: ed 37 ~~)

Fear of a Tall Planet

Scottsdale hates density and loves sprawl. Just let someone propose a tall building, and NIMBYs will crawl out of the woodwork to howl about their mountain views and property values. I’m still dismayed that two tall buildings stand just south of Fashion Square Mall. The only things wrong with those condo towers is they’re ridiculously opulent and expensive — and there’s not nearly enough of them. They could become great residential/transportation hubs. I admit Tempe fumbled initially in its attempts to get developers to build upward. But it’s recovered, and Scottsdale can learn from its lessons.

What’s Good About Being Western?

Scottsdale loves to call itself the “West’s Most Western Town.” I honestly just don’t care about living in a Western town. Why Scottsdale sees this as any sort of virtue in 2013 boggles my mind. Want to set a good goal? Maybe try being the “Southwest’s Most Northwest-Pacific Town.” That might imply good public transit, a creative- and tech-heavy economy, a cosmopolitan flavor.

Bottom line, Scottsdale’s Old Guard might care about this slogan, and it’s not even accurate. Look, I know the city’s Botox-and-boob jobs reputation is a slight exaggeration. But it contains elements of truth that don’t square with being the West’s Most Western Town. I’m also embarrassed that Scottsdale and the nearby town of Cave Creek might have a slap-fight in court about this slogan (My take: Scottsdale can’t out-Western Cave Creek on the most-Western day of its existence even if it had an electrified Westernizing machine). This slogan is one worst things about living in Scottsdale. Let Cave Creek have it.


Over the past few years, more and more businesses (usually bars) have started using golf carts to ferry people around. It’s good to keep people from behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking too much.

But those golf carts are annoying: loud, smelly, slow. Sometimes, they get into the bike lane, which annoys me as a cyclist. I’d like to see the city take a harder stance on this.

I’m also annoyed by people carping about the scooter and bike shares. They’re not perfect, usually because people who use them are pretty clueless (I’ve seen some epic wipeouts). The biggest complaint about them is that they’re unsightly when not in use — talk about a First World Problem!

But they get cars off the streets. I’m all for that.

What would you add to this list?

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By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.

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