I'm from the Chicago area, and I moved out Phoenix in 2007. I'd like to stay out west, and I've looked into the programs at University of Washington, University of Oregon, and UC-Denver. Do you have any idea how those programs compare to the upper echelon programs out east such as Yale, Harvard, or Michigan?
Also, congrats on researching programs. Given that you are applying for F2012, you have plenty of time to do the research and select appropriate programs that best fit you.
To start with, I can appreciate that you wish to stay out west, but please consider this as an investment in your future; any time you spend is very short in the grander scheme. For example, I grew up in the midwest (MI) and attended a Big Ten program as an undergraduate. I would have never considered programs out west except for one of my professors changed schools and I graduated with MArch from a Pac-10 program. Since graduating more than 25 years ago, I have been back once.
Morale: Attend the program that best fits for you; I agree that location should be a consideration but research from the full slate of the more than 65 programs or so.
Next, every architecture school with an accredited program is worth considering even if it is not Harvard. Below is from the book --
Qualities that make a school good for one student may not work that way for another. You should consider a variety of factors in making your choice among schools. Although few would argue that certain programs, particularly those at the Ivy League schools, are excellent, the fact is that if a degree program is accredited by NAAB, it is valid for you to consider.
In the west, there are NOT as many programs as the east, but all are worthy of review -- Consider those you mention, but what about these other schools in the west -- Arizona State University, USC, SCI-Arc, UC-Berkeley, even Utah. Remember, you would be applying to degree program for those with an an undergraduate in another discipline and some design work; which program provides advanced standing, which program best integrates these MArch candidates with those with an architecture background?
Bottom line, I suggest you develop a list of criteria by which you will base your decision to strongly consider and apply. Do not compare each program against each other, but compare each program against each of your criteria.