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When it was founded in 1847 amid the desert and sagebrush, Salt Lake City probably wouldn't have made a list of even the top 100,000 places to live in North America.

Until the past 25 years, it was still often viewed as a smallish Western backwater.But now a once-every-four-years rating book lists it as tied as the eighth most livable metropolitan area in the United States and Canada.

Salt Lake City-Ogden cracked the top 10 for the first time ever in "Places Rated Almanac: Your Guide to Finding the Best Places to Live in North America," released Monday by authors David Savageau and Richard Boyer.

Perhaps more important, the book cited Salt Lake City-Ogden as one of only five "super-solid metro areas" because it did not finish lower than 200th in any one category. Many of the other top-ranked cities scored poorly in at least one area.

The Provo-Orem area, ranked No. 1 in a Money Magazine poll two years ago, finished 172nd out of 343 metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada.

Officials in other cities that have enjoyed consistently high rankings in previous editions of the book welcomed Salt Lake City to the club Tuesday and said to expect real results. Unlike other rankings sponsored by various magazines, the Places Rated book comes out once every four years and uses a large amount of data to support its conclusions. It has credibility, they said.

"It means more people and jobs being sent to look at your area," said Dee Ann Everson, manager of market information for the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Seattle was picked as the No. 1 city in the book's 1989 edition and finished second this time.

She said the ranking won't necessarily mean more jobs, but it will mean more employers will look seriously at what the city has to offer. "It certainly puts one's name out there, and Seattle has certainly benefited tremendously over the past several years from all the attention it's gotten ranking at or near the top of everybody's list."

The publication shocked many people in 1985 by ranking Pittsburgh as the nation's most livable city. This year, Pittsburgh finished a respectable fifth, and the results over the past eight years have been tremendous, said Corinne Laboon, associate director of communications for the Pittsburgh Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

"Salt Lake's business community will quickly discover the ranking presents many promotional op-por-tunities," she said. "Back in '85, we really surprised the nation. People elsewhere started to take notice."

The Pittsburgh Convention and Visitor's Bureau started using the slogan, "Pittsburgh's the one!" to attract business.

Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Cor-ra-dini welcomed the high ranking as a counter to negative publicity in recent months over the city's rising crime rate.

"This reiterates the fact that we're still one of the safest and crime-free areas in the country," she said. "Despite our problems, we're still a great city."

The book rated each metropolitan area according to cost of living,

recreation, climate, the arts, crime, jobs, housing, transportation, education and health care.

Salt Lake City's highest ranking was in transportation, where it finished seventh, largely because of the international airport, the 35 trains that come through each week and the 359 Utah Transit Authority buses that roam the streets each day.

The city's lowest ranking was in housing, where it finished 190th, being graded on average rents, house prices and availability.

The second-lowest ranking (175th) was for climate.

The book was an update of earlier editions in 1981, 1985 and 1989. The authors say their book is the grand-daddy of such ratings of cities, which have been widely duplicated by magazines.

Salt Lake's entrance into the top 10 was made possible by the disappearance from the list of six metropolitan areas since 1989: San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, New York, Orange County (Calif.) and Long Island, N.Y.

All were hurt by low rankings in the housing category - which was added for the first time - and by poor rankings in cost of living.

New York City had the worst drop - from seventh to 104th. While it was still rated No. 1 for the arts, it dropped to 342nd in cost of living and crime and 343rd - dead last - in job prospects.

The worst place to live, according to the list, was Yuba City, Calif., 50 miles northeast of Sacramento.

"We will look at the points where we were deficient and take advantage of it," said Bill Fuller, assistant to the city manager.


Additional Information

Best Cities

The following are the "best" of 343 cities in North America, according to "Places Rated Almanac."

Top metropolitan areas:

1. Cincinnati

2. Seattle

3. Philadelphia

4. Toronto

5. Pittsburgh

6. Raleigh-Durham

7. Washington,D.C.

8. Indianapolis

9. Salt Lake City

10. Louisville

S.L. ranking

How Salt Lake City ranks in each category (out of 343 metro areas):

Cost of living: 172

Jobs: 57

Housing: 190

Transportation: 7

Education: 56

Healthcare: 120

Crime: 167

Arts: 54

Recreation: 37

Climate: 175