Part 2: Differences Can Be Overcome By Finding Similarities Within Culture
"My Address Is" is a Utah Public Radio series exploring Utah issues associated with how and where we live. This is part 2 of 6.
In a little more than 100 years, the Wasatch Front has grown from small settlements in the harsh desert into a dense urban and suburban sprawl stretching from Ogden in the north to Provo in the south.
And in the center of it all is Salt Lake City.
Joanna Landau and her husband Clemens are lawyers by trade. They live in a so-called “warehouse-style” home just up the hill from the Utah State Capitol. They and their two adopted children are four of the almost 200,000 people who call the state’s largest city their home.
The Landau’s chose their home because it allows them to live close to downtown while having the great outdoors in their backyard.
“Well it’s exactly why I can never live anywhere else, because we bought our house on a dead-end street that ends on a trail and which is five minutes from our work downtown on bikes.
It’s the best of both worlds. You can walk downtown to go to restaurants and you can walk up the hill- I think you can walk all the way to Bountiful if you want to in those hills, and walk even further afield if you are so inclined. It’s the perfect mix.”
The Landaus commute largely by bike to their respective firms in downtown Salt Lake City and can drop off their children at day care on the way.
Joanna says she and her husband, who are not religious, sometimes struggle with whether Utah is the right place to raise their children, who are African American and non-LDS, making them “othered” in the state’s dominant culture.
She says Utah is a great place to raise adopted children however.
“Even though the stereotype is a big family, ** the emphasis is on getting children, and fertility and other things around through Mormon families too, so there are a lot of adoptive families, because everyone does want kids and prioritizes having kids. So we know a ton of adoptive families in Utah. I think we are more accepted here in a lot of ways.”
Weston Clark is a stay-at-home dad with two adopted children of his own. He lives near the University of Utah, and says he likes the concept of Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods.
Older neighborhoods surround the city center --- neighborhoods that were considered the suburbs back when they were being developed, Clark said. These neighborhoods attract a variety of people in different phases of their lives.
“I love the concept of a neighborhood that appeals to all kinds of people and all generations. So you could live your entire life in one neighborhood if you wanted to, you have the housing stock to accommodate that growth.
So you could live there while you were raising a family, you could live there while single, while you were retired. There’s condos and single family and large home and small home. It’s nice to kind of have that variety.”
Clark said the area where he and his family live now works well for them, with a big yard and larger house for the kids to grow up. Clark and his partner, Brandon, were married on Dec. 20, 2013, the day Utah’s Amendment 3 was ruled unconstitutional by the Utah District Court. They were married by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
Salt Lake is often regarded as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country in addition to being one of the most diverse areas of the state. He says Salt Lake is a haven.
“Salt Lake City, we feel like, is kind of a Mecca for those of us who love everything that Utah has to offer, but are a little squeamish about the predominant political and religious persuasion. And even those who are a part of the predominant political or religious persuasion, they like the diversity that comes with Salt Lake City and the difference of thought and opinion.”
Landau says she thinks religions mix well in Salt Lake.
“We walk through the temple (grounds) all the time, and certainly Conference weekend, you see a huge presence of Mormons, but you see on Sundays at the Cathedral of the Madeline, there’s tons of Catholics coming in and out, and the Presbyterians down on the next block. I mean, you find a good mix of religions in Salt Lake for sure.
Not far from Salt Lake is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The Wasatch Mountains tower over the valley and offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, one thing Clark appreciates.
“One second you are downtown in a pretty urban, cosmopolitan city, and 10 minutes later you’re up in nature and there’s a river running next to you and you might see bear or moose. It’s just so amazing to have that juxtaposition of nature and urbanity and it’s really neat to see the two right next to each other and enjoy both of them.”
Landau is from Denver, where she says getting to the natural surroundings can take long travel times, that’s why she can’t ever see herself leaving Salt Lake City.
“I’ve considered moving back to Denver, and I don’t think I can give up the physical dimensions of what I have here.”