Maybe there's no place like home, but when given the choice, Salt Lake County residents feel that east is east and west is west but east is better.
In a Deseret News/KSL-TV poll conducted in April by Dan Jones & Associates, 62 percent of the people polled said they would prefer to live along the east bench - anywhere from Draper to east Salt Lake City.By contrast, only 21 percent said they wanted to live in westside areas, with West Valley City and Magna being the least desired, 8 percent preferred Midvale and Murray and 9 percent either picked other areas or didn't know.
But when asked whether they were satisfied with their current neighborhoods, an overwhelming 85 percent of the same people said yes.
The telephone poll was conducted among 254 residents and has an error possibility of 4 percent either way. It raises age-old arguments in a valley that traditionally has been divided along east-west lines.
Salt Lake City's east side was the most preferred among all areas. That's not surprising to Paul Tayler, a resident of Salt Lake City's Oak Hills neighborhood and chairman of the Oak Hills Community Council.
He said the proximity to the University of Utah and to cultural events ranging from art galleries to concerts makes the area ideal. A professor of physical science at Utah Valley Community College, he prefers the long commute to moving elsewhere. He said the neighborhood comprises people of diverse ages and backgrounds, making for an enriching experience.
As for the common perception among west-siders that people in the east are snobs, Tayler said it just isn't true.
"I find it to be kind of the opposite," he said. "People seem less stratified here than elsewhere. The social pressures don't seem as great here. Maybe people just figure they've made it."
Lorna Matheson, who chairs the Sunnyside East Community Council in Salt Lake City, said she likes seeing the mountains as she drives home from work. "It's fulfilling to me," she said.
But the west side appears the choice of many when it comes to deciding where to live. The west is, in fact, booming.
West Valley City is second only to Salt Lake City in population, West Jordan is the seventh-fastest-growing medium-size city in the nation, and South Jordan, Riverton and Bluffdale are targeted for extensive residential development.
Faced with the economic reality of housing costs, a growing number of people choose to live in those communities. And some of the housing, particularly in South Jordan, rivals east-bench properties both in quality and cost.
"Once people get out here, they like what they see," said Paul Zakis, a West Valley real estate broker. "I live in West Valley, and I love it. I wouldn't trade with anybody."
Zakis suspects the poll reflects a lack of familiarity with the communities in the southwest quadrant of the valley. Housing is comparable to what is available elsewhere and costs less, which means homebuyers get "more house for the buck," he said.
Local community leaders in the west note that residents are satisfied with their neighborhoods.
West Valley City Manager John D. Newman said, "I think we all have dreams of living in the rich parts of the valley, but when you get down to whether you're satisfied with what you've got, most people are."
West Valley boasts lower taxes and good municipal services, he said. A Dan Jones poll conducted for the city last year found that residents were generally pleased with their community. Only 7 percent said they didn't like it.
South Jordan also conducted its own survey, and of the more than 700 residents who responded recently, 87 percent rated the community's quality of life as good or excellent. Fewer than 1 percent said it was poor.
If you could live anywhere in Salt Lake County, where would you choose?
Salt Lake City's east side 22%
SLC's West Side/Central City 8%
Walker Lane area 21%
West or South Jordan/
Riverton area 7%
West Valley City/Magna 6%
Don't know 2%
Are you satisfied with the neighborhood where you now live, or would you prefer living somewhere else?
Satisfied with current neighborhood 85%
Prefer another neighborhood 14%
Don't know 1%