What people get wrong about life in West Valley City

West Valley City • You may have heard some of these blows against West Valley City:

Too much crime. Too few parks. Too few good restaurants. Too many run down houses.

But do the rapeseed correspond to reality?

No, according to the people who should know: the residents who call Utah’s second most populous city home.

“It’s just a good community,” said Mayor-elect Karen Lang, a city council member who will become the first woman to head West Valley City next month. “[The city gets] this reputation as the rough city. But as soon as they come to visit, they fall in love. “

With more than 140,000 inhabitants, the city is big. But there’s something Lang notices when she works at the front desk at her family’s kindergarten, Oakbridge Greenhouse. Many customers either know each other or share a connection.

“We’re the second largest city in Utah,” she said, “but we still have the feel of a small town.”

This suburban town with a majority minority has different neighborhoods with different characteristics. White people make up 44% of the city’s population and Hispanics 39%. This means that residents and visitors have different experiences. But statistics show a glimpse into a safe and ethnically diverse city that some residents can empirically confirm.

“We have a population that has been underserved not only by local authorities but also by state and national agencies,” said Teresa Molina, assistant director of University Neighborhood Partners, a University of Utah organization that aims to share with neighbors Find solutions to problems. “We just have to serve them.”

Crime: fact vs. fiction

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) West Valley City Police Officers Tyler Longman and Amy Maurer compare how they fared shopping for needy children selected from the donation tree at Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City in 2009 became. West Valley City has lower crime rates than Salt Lake County as a whole.

The crime rate is possibly one of the most common concerns newcomers to West Valley City hear.

While the crimes reported are significant, the numbers do not show an exceptional level of crime when the city is compared to areas to the east, including Salt Lake City.

In fact, West Valley City’s 2020 crime rates were slightly below the Salt Lake County’s average, according to a report from the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The county’s index crime rate, which includes murder, rape, and robbery, was nearly 42 ads per 1,000 residents in 2020. The rate in Salt Lake City was 82.21 per 1,000 population that same year.

Now look at West Valley City’s index crime rate in 2020. It was 38.25 reports per 1,000 inhabitants. And that number is down from 48.63 in 2010.

Still, the perception of widespread crime has made the city persistent and, frankly, prejudice may be partly at play, Molina said. “Many of the problems we have in the country are closely related to racism and social discrimination, which leads us to see some things of lesser value.”

Ed Munoz, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies in the United States, shared this view, especially when it comes to a city with a majority minority.

“Historically, there has been a perception that non-whites are more criminal than whites,” Munoz said. “This is how people have justified the marginalization of non-white people throughout history, as we have seen even recently.”

Additionally, communities of color are typically overwhelmed, Munoz said, which contributes to inequalities in criminal justice statistics.

“These stereotypes affect not only people’s attitudes toward West Valley City, but also the Latinos who live in Salt Lake City, Latinos who live on the East Bank,” he said. “We have also seen that even if you have a higher socio-economic status, you do not fully protect against falling victim to an over-police force.”

The food scene

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tonkotsu Shabu Shabu Bar and Tonkotsu Ramen Bar, 3500 South in West Valley City, on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

It is widely believed that most businesses in West Valley City are chain-owned and that most residents cannot afford nicer shops or restaurants.

Yes, the city, like most other communities, has many franchises, but there is one dominant power in the local food scene: family-owned ethnic food companies.

Locals point to their people’s international background as a strength – one that extends to their diverse cuisines.

Laa Hernando, co-owner of Tonkotsu Ramen Bar, a Japanese soul food restaurant in West Valley City, knew from the start that this was where she wanted her business to be.

“Asian food is one thing here,” she said. “We thought West Valley was the best place to start this type of business because people are open to different cultures and cuisines.”

Customers from all over the Salt Lake Valley come to Tonkotsu for their fresh wheat noodles, served in a creamy pork broth with toppings such as bamboo shoots, pak choi or bean sprouts. The deal was so well received that Hernando and his business partner Dennis Nguyen also opened Gosu, an all-you-can-eat Korean grill place nearby.

“It’s pretty hot because all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue is booming here in West Valley,” she said. “The food scene is so important here. We like to eat. “

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gosu Korean BBQ, at 3500 South in West Valley City, on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

The city has more than 300 restaurants and the choice of options doesn’t disappoint.

“If you are looking for a piece of America,” said Barbara Riddle, President of ChamberWest, “West Valley is a place to find it.”

Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian dishes, there is all this and more, as well as a typical American breakfast, barbecue and burger.

Chamber associates have a strong sense of belonging to the West Valley City community, Riddle said, and all negative claims come from those who did not venture there.

“In my role, I regularly invite heads of state to meet with me in West Valley,” she said, West Valley City is really amazing. “

The case picture

Is West Valley City crowded with neglected neighborhoods and shabby houses?

No, say local residents and real estate agents. In fact, the city has a housing stock that caters to a wide variety of needs.

Laurie Rice, a real estate agent who lives in West Valley City, has gathered positive traits that define the character of the city for her Facebook followers.

“We have new developments all the time,” she said, “and we have … really nice neighborhoods that are safe and the people are just great.”

Whether single or multi-family houses, upscale houses or condominiums, there is something for everyone, says Rice. “There are houses that are at least 2,800 square feet,” said Rice. “These are just beautiful houses that cost between $ 600,000 and, I think, $ 900,000.”

And there are relative bargains to be found.

“I want to point out that West Valley City is amazing value for money in this housing crisis,” said Rep. Mike Winder, a former mayor who now serves at Utah House. “You can buy a nice house 10 minutes from an international airport and 20 minutes from downtown. And the same house would be much more expensive if it were further south or further east. “

Just like the rest of Salt Lake County, West Valley City is growing, and with that, housing affordability is worrying. House prices in three West Valley City zip codes rose 26% to nearly 30% in one year, according to the Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service.

But with average prices in the $ 390,000 to $ 450,000 range, many homes in West Valley City remain more affordable than those in other parts of Salt Lake County that range from $ 500,000 to $ 800,000 or more.

Parks place

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Centennial Park in West Valley City on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

Parks and recreational spaces are indispensable for any city. West Valley City has some large open spaces, but not enough for many.

The city is home to 37 parks and walking trails, including Centennial Park, a 77-acre regional park, and Lodestone Regional Park, a 60-acre district park that shares with neighboring Kearns. It has sports fields, skate parks, playgrounds, pavilions and pools.

The city’s 96,000 square meter Family Fitness Center includes a lap pool, a leisure pool, basketball and racquetball courts, an indoor track, a climbing wall, a weight room and even an “edutainment” room for children.

The county’s Acord Ice Center offers year-round ice skating and hockey.

Still, Molina of U. Neighborhood Partners argued that the city “needs to pay more attention to urban planning”.

“It has to provide access to green spaces and the development of recreational centers,” she said, “to serve all communities living on the west side.”

What makes the overall character of West Valley City so unique is its people. In the time she has worked with the neighborhoods, Molina has found great potential in the residents’ creativity and willingness to improve their community.

“The biggest obstacle would be to ignore the city’s wealth and the city’s strong and powerful economy,” she said. “West Valley is a city with a young population that needs education and employment opportunities and which must be consciously involved in decision-making processes.”

Alixel Cabrera is a member of the Report for America Corps and writes for The Salt Lake Tribune on the status of the communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Your donation, which equates to our RFA grant, will help her keep writing stories like this one; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Centennial Park in West Valley City on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

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