Editorial: Would it make you happy? | ParkRecord.com

Editorial: Would it make you happy?

The city this week released the results from its most recent edition of the National Community Survey, which asks Park City residents about “livability” and rates the answers by “percent positive,” meaning that 0% is abysmal and 100% is something like ecstatic or “couldn’t be better.”

Nowhere in the responses we’ve seen is there either a 0% or 100%. The closest high-end positive response rate comes in several questions. “Overall feeling of safety,” for example, is at 95%, slightly down from a whopping 99% in 2013 — which makes us wonder whether people feel and have felt safer here than in almost any other city. The only comparison we could find readily is the NCS survey recently done in Kalamazoo, the city in southern Michigan. It’s roughly seven times the population of Park City, and there, the overall feeling of safety was down to 39% positive in 2022, from a recent high of 56% in 2018.

Since the perception of safety in Park City seems to fit the facts, we must note that we really do, in some ways, live in a blessed bubble, and we know it. For both, we’re thankful.

Other Park City high-positives on this survey include “Overall quality of natural environment” (at 95%, and relatively unchanged since 2011), “Overall quality of parks and recreation opportunities” (95%), feeling of safety “in Park City’s downtown/commercial area during the day” (99%, surely another standout among cities), feeling of safety from “violent crime” (97%), “Recreational opportunities” (94%), and “Fire services” (96%).

In Kalamazoo, which has no mountains to speak of, the overall quality of the natural environment gets a 60% positive rating, down from 66% in 2016. The overall quality of parks and recreation opportunities gets a 63% rating, down from 72% in 2020. Some 74% of Kalamazoo respondents feel safe downtown during the day, down from 79% in 2020, and the feeling of safety from violent crime is at 52%, down from 67% in 2020.

Yet these Kalamazoo numbers might not look so low if one wasn’t looking at them with Park City eyes.

In Park City, the lowest positive response rates — or negative rates — include “Cost of living” (12% positive, down from a still-low high of 26% in 2013), “Traffic flow on major streets” (25%, showing a steady decline from 68% in 2011), “Ease of public parking” (24%, down from 50% in 2013), “Well-planned residential growth (26%), “Well-planned commercial growth” (28%), “Variety of housing options” (22%, down from 42% in 2013), “Availability of affordable quality housing” (13% — down from just 26% in 2011), and “Availability of affordable quality childcare/preschool” (25%, down from a 2015 high of 51%).

In Kalamazoo, people rate the cost of living as 43% positive, down from a high of 59% in 2020, which may well reflect rising inflation over the last few years; yet it’s still almost four times more positive than in Park City, where people are better able to absorb rising prices.

We just have an expensive little city — as anyone knows who has shopped or dined in it lately. It has its decided charms, which is partly why it’s so expensive, coupled with its small size. And there’s probably not much we’re going to do to change these things as long as well-heeled visitors grace us with their presence and are willing to pay those prices.

In Kalamazoo, which has some traffic, the traffic flow on major streets gets a 46% positive rating, down from 60% in 2020. Ease of public parking gets a 42% rating in Kalamazoo, down from 50% in 2020. Well-planned residential growth gets a 36% positive rating, down from 38% in 2020, and well-planned commercial growth gets a 40% positive rating, down from 42% in 2020. Variety of housing options in Kalamazoo gets a 34% positive rating, down from 43% in 2016, and availability of affordable quality housing is at 25% positive, down from 45% positive in 2016.

There is probably no city in America today that is high on the lack of traffic, the ease of public parking, well-planned residential or commercial growth, housing options, or affordable quality housing. That includes places with far fewer visitors than Park City sees, and places with much less expensive housing, like Kalamazoo, where the cost of living is much lower than Park City’s and the cost of housing, 50% less than the U.S. average, is almost a pittance compared to this area.

While it’s not as low as the lowest positive response rates, “Attracting people from diverse backgrounds” scored only 41% positive in Park City (in Kalamazoo, it’s 66%). That seems noteworthy because we are dealing with a largely white, affluent and small population here which perceives that it is unusually safe, and safe from violent crime (because it is). Park City might be doing better, in residents’ eyes, with attracting people from diverse backgrounds if it were more affordable; but since it seems unlikely to become much more affordable, if it wants to be more diverse it may have to find other ways to do that.

The question for Parkites is really how important more diversity is, compared to, say, limiting some or much growth. We are always making choices, and the survey illuminates them. It is an interesting case where what some Parkites collectively say they like is almost at odds with what they say they want. Part of what we like in recreational opportunities, for example, is the access to ski resorts, which is unaffordable for most people beyond Park City, and copious open space, inside and beyond the city limits, which goes hand in hand with the perceived lack of affordable housing.

But also, some people — many people — like to complain, especially when given the opportunity in a survey like this. It is the rare person here or elsewhere who feels more positively about everything — and yet those are probably the happiest people.


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