Laidlaw, Don

This interview is with Don Laidlaw and covers the following themes:

  • Early childhood in Tucson, where Laidlaw’s grandfather had moved because of his cousin AE Douglas. Stories of bicycling in Tucson during the 1940s.
  • High school years in Los Angeles.
  • Laidlaw’s return to Tucson and his life as a U of A student in the 1950s, which covers Greek life, drinking culture, hazing, cars, dating, visits to Nogales, camping and travel on Arizona backroads, and the UA Geography Department.
  • Early work in Tucson’s City Planning Department as switchboard operator.
  • Graduate study at Yale for Masters in City Planning, where the trends were urban renewal, transportation and highway planning, and FORTRAN coding.
  • Laidlaw’s work as the Tucson/Pima County Civil Defense Director during the Cuban missile crisis.
  • A survey of his work for City Planning and Zoning during Tucson’s Urban Renewal with comments on Tucson’s greatest challenges, the General Land Use Plan, and freeway proposals.

Part 1 of 4 was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona, March 16th, 2017.

This interview covers the following themes:

  • - Urban Renewal in Tucson during the 1960s; descriptions of downtown and barrio neighborhoods.
  • - Creation of the renewal plan, including a discussion of historic preservation and road realignment.
  • - Specific sites of preservation and demolition, including the Samaniego House, La Placita, and Otero House.
  • - The multiple goals of urban renewal and Laidlaw’s public advocacy for certain versions of the project.
  • - Armory Park as the beginning of historic neighborhood designations.
  • - Laidlaw’s highs and lows of Urban Renewal: his satisfaction in theater and arts facilities and disappointment in La Placita development.
  • - Laidlaw's work on Tucson's Model Cities grant application.
  • - Frustration with politics and departure from Urban Renewal and planning work in Tucson.
  • - A discussion of the politics of large road projects, plans for a ring of freeways or parkways around Tucson.

Part 2 of 4 was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona, March 22nd, 2017.

This interview covers the following themes:

  • Work in Santa Rosa, CA as a planner and consultant, the rise of environmentalism and challenge of pleasing developers and environmentalists. Laidlaw’s frustration with inability to find compromise.
  • Preparation of one of the earliest environmental impact statements in California.
  • Continuing work in Tucson: Santa Cruz Riverpark masterplan in 1974, Rio Nuevo between Congress and St. Mary’s in 1979/80.
  • Laidlaw’s return to Tucson in 1981
  • Santa Cruz River Park neighborhood challenges, development of Bonita and Commerce Park Loop, channelization of Santa Cruz.
  • 1989 masterplan for recreation of Convento south of Congress, methane problems from old landfill.
  • Original intention of Rio Nuevo: flood control, cleaning environmental pollution for commercial use.
  • Neighborhood fears of gentrification from Rio Nuevo.
  • The Rio Nuevo taxing district after 2000; thoughts on UA involvement, Rainbow Bridge, State Museum and Arizona Historical Society.
  • Laidlaw’s work on the environmental clearance for Caterpillar’s proving grounds and struggle with the EPA.
  • Creation of the “conservation subdivision.”
  • Fight over industrial park zoning in South Park area.
  • Pima Canyon development.

Part 3 of 4 was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona, March 31st, 2017.

This interview is with Don Laidlaw and covers the following themes:

  • Supplemental details about the 1974 Santa Cruz Masterplan.
  • Laidlaw’s interest in historic reconstruction.
  • A conversation about the role of art and aesthetics in a city.
  • Changes in public landscaping since the 1960s.
  • Trends and challenges of urban planning in Tucson since the 1950s: the increasing popularity of large planned communities, the appearance of age-specific communities, less linear roads, excessively sized roads, the rise from one to two stories.
  • Resurgence of downtown housing, space constraints of historic neighborhoods.
  • Challenges of urban planning today: population and resource allocation in a democracy, where planning cannot be autocratic. Social tension making areas unlivable.

Part 4 of 4 was recorded at the base of Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona, April 6th, 2017.