Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Vue and surrounding area

The Vue with liquor store in foreground, April 2011 (photo by Seth Fawcett)

Surrounding apartments near the Vue, April 2011 (photo by Seth Fawcett)

The Vue in background with Mexican market in foreground, April 2011 (photo by Seth Fawcett)

922 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe, AZ 85281           
            Heading east down Lemon Street towards the Arizona State campus, the residencies are characterized by small, blocky apartment complexes and empty lots sectioned off by rows of fencing.  One complex, named “Fiesta Park” often has children in the front yard or men playing guitars and singing in Spanish.  Past “Fiesta Park” Lemon intersects with Terrace Road and the light rail passes through Terrace, splitting the road in two.  Across the intersection, a small strip mall sits to the left, featuring El Paisano Mercado, a small Spanish market.
            Towering above these complexes to the Southeast, the Vue on Apache looms overhead like a monument to its own opulence.  Beginning construction in May 2008, the swank high-rise was a $32 million dollar project undertaken by Nelson Construction and finished in August 2009 (Nelson).  The Vue caters to Arizona State students, with individual leases starting at $630/a month per person up to $1,060/a month depending on the apartment layout (and not including the $500 dollar deposit).  Amenities include LCD TVs in every apartment, tanning beds and a steam room.
            By comparison, Cortez Palms Apartments, one of the structures along Lemon, and less than a mile from the Vue has rates starting at $549/a month that plateau at $699/a month (CampusPointe).  Needless to say , the Vue is a vast departure from the smaller, older, cheaper apartments that surround it.  The disparity between the living arrangements in such close proximity to each other indicates certain ethnic and socioeconomic boundaries that influence the spatialization of residents in the area.
            This is both a social function as well as a legal or governmental one.  “Although social categories are ultimately constructed and maintained by individuals within their own minds, the process by which boundaries are expressed is ultimately social. Group identities and boundaries are negotiated through repeated interactions that establish working definitions of the categories in question, including both objective and subjective content, a process that sociologists have labeled boundary work” (Massey).     Whereas students spending upwards of $75,000 dollars for a 4 year education at Arizona State can afford the luxury of a place like the Vue, the local population in surrounding areas are relegated to the likes of “Fiesta Park” and Cortez Palms. 
            Certain legal discrepancies could also contribute to the disparity in housing.   “Laws preventing the legal recognition of minorities have been cited to explain increasing patterns of ethnic clustering in suburban public housing estates.  In the US, Supreme Court cases opened the housing market to non-Whites, yet local institutions and norms—such as mortgage and insurance discrimination by the public and private sectors—reduced the ability of minorities to purchase homes in White neighbourhoods” (Urban Studies).
            Indeed, certain processes of the legal system have proven to lend privilege to whites while disenfranchising Hispanics and other people of color.  A 2008 study of the juvenile courts in Arizona “examined how race/ethnicity and community disadvantage influenced diversion, petition, detention, adjudication, and disposition decisions throughout the State”.  The study found “that racial and ethnic disparities continue to exist in juvenile courts. The disparities were found, not only in the front-end court processes, such as diversion, but they were also prevalent in back-end process”.  Also, “Hispanic/Latinos…were treated more severely in juvenile court outcomes than their White counterparts” and “juveniles from disadvantaged communities were treated more harshly than juveniles not from disadvantaged communities” (Rodriguez).
These disparities could help explain the divergence between the ethnic and economic spatialization of the area around the Vue, as well as all of Arizona.  By encouraging racial and economic clustering both socially and legally, one can account for the existence of a massive, opulent structure full of wealthy residents like the Vue amidst the comparatively poor, ethnic area that surrounds it.
- Seth Fawcett, Travis Simpson, Jr., and Devon Veater
Massey, Douglas S. "The Racialization of Mexicans in the United States." Racial Stratification in Theory and Practice. Fall 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Rodriguez, Nancy. "Multilevel Analysis of Juvenile Court Processes: The Importance of Community Characteristics." National Criminal Justice Reference Service. June 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <>.
York, Abigail M., Michael E. Smith, Benjamin W. Stanley, Barbara L. Stark, Juliana Novic, Sharon L. Harlan, George L. Cowgill, and Christopher G. Boone. "Ethnic and Class Clustering through the Ages." Urban Studies. 13 Dec. 2010. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.

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