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Thread: Loving suburbia!

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Loving suburbia!

    Which of you Cyburbanites love the suburbs?!

    I grew up in the 'burbs and loved it! All the complaints of it being an auto-oriented hell do not ring true to me. I had many freedoms and my parents let me go practically anywhere I wanted. Perhaps they were a little too permissive, but I was the youngest of 4 that spanned 11 years between myself and my oldest subling, so I'm sure my parents were too tired and already broken-in by my more mischevious older sublings. I was able to ride my bike to the comic book store, to the many 7-11s to buy baseball cards, to the video arcade, to the toy store to gawk at all the Kenner Star Wars toys, to the mall that was 5 miles away, and to practically anywhere else I could have dreamed! I don't know what it is about these complaints from planners and self-assumed urbanites who constantly deride the suburbs. Sure, as an adult, the driving does get a little crazy, but it's quick and convenient, even though its a tad bit expensive when considering gas, maintenance, and insurance.

    Was I bored in the suburbs when I was at home and not on my bike? Not that I recall. I don't think I was spoiled, but I had plenty to keep me entertained at home and had plenty of friends in the neighborhood. Plus I had 3 older siblings to harrass!! Maybe I had a weird imiganition and was too much of an introvert reading my comics, Highlights, and Electric Company magazine, but for some reason, I don't have bad memories of suburbia. Am I an anomoly, or have familes and values changed significantly in the past 20 years? I have no children of my own, so admittedly, I am not too keen on the new pressures and issues that affect children and families these days.

    So what's up about all those complaints about the so-called American Suburban Hell? Was my situation and family experience unique or am I missing something here? Suburbia rocks!!!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    I too grew up in suburbia but I don't claim it as home. I still attended school in the city - rode up to 3 transit buses for an hour each day when I was old enough to travel on my own. My church was in the city. I did most of my shopping (clothes and such) in the city. All of my friends and the rest of my family lived in the city. The city had all of the attractions - Canal Street (before its decline into cheap retail hell), the French Quarter, the Riverwalk, the Superdome, etc. etc. When I turned 18, I used a relative's address so that I could register to vote in Orleans Parish (county), not Jefferson (which was considered the 'burbs). I'm glad that I was allowed the opportunity to be exposed to both sides of the Parish line as it has helped me tremendously as a planner in this area.

    Ironically, as much as I love the city, I still live in the suburbs, but for no other reason than the fact that it's cheaper for the time being.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I grew up in the suburbs. It was a nice place then, an older suburb that started along the rail line heading north from Chicago in the 1800's. It had a traditional downtown with a train station, village hall, library, stores, and old streets in a grid pattern lined with elms forming a cathedral ceiling. There was a pool built by the WPA a few blocks from downtown.

    I lived in a house built in the 50's in what was not quite the old pattern of building, but not the later sprawl either. After ten years of college, Army and rambling around, I moved back to the area. It had changed, lost its charm, even its soul. No, I don't love suburbia.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    My exurbia is now a suburbia

    I grew up in the Town of Delafield, WI when it was "exurban". My parents built a modest ranch home of about 2,000 square feet for a mere $50,000. It was in the early 70's in one of the Town's first subdivisions, unsewered and with no local services such as trash collection or police protection. The house next door was the original farm house dating to the 1860's. Our lot had the barn on it, which was razed right before we took occupancy. There were notraffic lights for miles. Doctors, and all but the most basic retail were 25-30 minutes away. The local grociery store was about 6,000 square feet, and only things like barbers and supper clubs were around. Without a bike, there was nothing to do except go play at the landfill. Milwaukee was 30 miles east, but I never ventured there unless we were on a school field trip. The bus ride to middle school was over 1 hour each direction. I can honestly say, I hated it until I had a car of my own. But it was safe, and the schools were good, and I turned out alright I guess.

    Fast forward 30 years : Home Deport, Target, Kohls Department Store amongst others, all crowd the freeway interchange. The road has been expanded to 6 lanes, and there are 4 stop lights in the 1 mile between that house and the new retail establishments. Yet somehow it all seems to work, and when I compare that busy interchange to others that have popped up recently, I think the area has been one of the best planned in the area. The old 'town center' has been gentrified with a Williamsburg Colonial design theme, which looks awesome (despite the fact that the locals hate the developer!)
    Now, the average new home price is approaching $700,000.

    Yep, sad to say it's not only a suburb now, but its trending towards being an upscale one too.

    **sign** I guess you can never go home.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I grew up in Philly then moved to the burbs for four years, and I'm now back in Philly. I'm never moving again. There is just so much in the city that the suburbs can't offer. My own sports teams, restaurants, clubs, bars, bike lanes, a real newspaper, etc, etc.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    I grew up in the 'burbs and only recently moved into the central city a few months ago. Am still getting used to not having any garden or yard, and never really getting clean seaside air like I used to have. I like living in the city for a change but I miss the suburbs. I always lived within walking distance of school, and we had a small town centre also within walking distance. But post high school, all my age group have moved away - there isn't enough in the way of entertainment, employment or even tertiary education to keep us there. But it was a great place to grow up.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
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    i grew up in a blue collar city neighborhood made up of two family two story flats. i'm still here...i live next door to my childhood home now. my girlfriend came from the burbs and said she'd have a hard time going back and giving up the ability to walk to the Post, the corner market, church, etc.

    i've had family who live in the burbs and while it seems inviting...i still have not been able to leave this good ol' neighborhood.
    Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete. (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law) - Fyfe's First Law of Revision

    We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans. -- George W. Bush , Scranton, PA -- 09/06/2000

  8. #8

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    I grew up on the northwest side of Detroit; in the city but away from much of the blight further in. I left Detroit in the early 80's to spend seven years in Muncie, IN (culture shock!). After that I moved to the Chicago area, where I've been in and out of the suburbs. I'm presently living on the southwest side of Chicago.

    I would have admitted to an anti-suburb bias several years ago; I saw the suburbs almost as leeches that were drawing the life out of vibrant cities. If you grew up in Detroit in the '70s, you might think so, too. But I'm rather neutral toward suburbs now. I realized they're not going anywhere, and that possibly my opinion was strongly in the minority. Suburbs are what they are; there are positives and negatives, good and bad. They can be improved upon, just like our cities.

    Originally posted by pete-rock
    I grew up on the northwest side of Detroit
    My neighborhood was full of two-story colonial style homes built between 1945 and 1950. It was family-oriented with many kids, a mix of blue-collar assembly line workers, mid-level auto execs and other professionals.
    Last edited by nerudite; 29 Jun 2005 at 10:01 AM. Reason: double post

  9. #9
    I grew up in the Village of Merton, Wisconsin, which is about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. When I was a kid, living there was great, as a teenager (before I had my driver's license) living there sucked. When I got my driver's license, I was in Milwaukee several times each week. When it came time for college, I chose UW-Milwaukee because I loved City life. I have lived in Milwaukee since then (over 11 years).

    Merton was more of a small town than a suburb when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. There was a post office, a bait store, a feed mill, a small food store, and a couple of taverns. Then throughout the 90s, the farms were replaced by subdivisions, many of them upscale. Now it looks like suburbia, with large homes, large lots, and mini-vans everywhere.

    I guess I could see myself living in a traditional "small town," with small lots and a walkable downtown area, but a subdivision in the middle of suburbia is out of the question.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  10. #10

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    raised in suburbia

    I was raised in the suburbs
    first neighborhood was great, hundreds of other kids to play with and even as young as 5, I was allowed to go all over the neighborhood.
    second place was not really a neighborhood, a bit more sprawl but all the teens accepted that you walked 2 miles to friends house or to the movies(or pestered parents for a ride)


    FAST FORWARD
    I would like a small town that is very walkable. So... fond memories of what used to be suburbs but don't want to live in what most suburbs are now and I don't want any large cities either.

  11. #11

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    I grew up in the suburbs, went to the suburban high school, etc.
    Absolutely hated it. My home town is extremely class consciouss and snobby, and being a working class, very bookish, non-athletic nerd was not much fun in a high school full of "Trish, the Daughter of the Mayor's Personal Attorney" and "Chip, the star quarterback/son of the bank vice president" and the like. Never felt like I fit in. Not that City neighborhoods are never snobby either! (In San Francisco, it is far worse, of course). But, my personal history is not very pro-suburban.

    I would never consider living in a standard subdivision on the fringe of a town. Don't like the aesthetics, the social attitudes, the visual dullness, or the auto-orientation of modern suburbs. But, suburbia as a mass contains small pockets where this is not true.

    Today, I live in a suburban city on the outskirts of the Bay Area. Vacaville at least has a traditional core, with a sleepy Main Street and some sense of local community. I can be in open countryside on my bicylce in ten minutes. I can walk downtown (as sleepy as it is, it has a few services). There is actually a variety of architecture in my neighborhood, from Victorian mansion to shacky hovel (with the wrestling ring and seven-foot tall plywood fence) within three blocks.

    Ideal? Nah, I would still feel more at home in San Francisco or Berkeley. But, downtown Vacaville ain't no sprawling subdivision either, and I feel no need (or ability, to be honest), barring a winning lottery ticket, to move.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I grew up in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles (the Valley)... about the 'burbiest place I can think of. I loved it as a kid... although it was suburbia, it had some L.A.-equivalent elements of more rural areas.

    As an example, my boyfriend often waxes nostalgic about his farm life upbringing in Nova Scotia. When he starts talking about biking around with his friends and playing in the local streams, I often counter with "well I did the same stuff!" It's amazing to think now that my friends and I when we were 7 or 8 years old would run wild in Los Angeles in the late-70s. The Los Angeles River (which is really a concrete ditch with a trickle of water) was located across the street from my house. We used to climb down into the storm sewer and play in the river! I loved Sherman Oaks... I still do to some extent.

    I like to live in the suburbs now, but usually the ones that were exurban during the 50s. I usually pick the oldest houses near the core areas to live. I loved living in downtown Davis, CA and Woodland, CA. Given the chance (and the six digit income to achieve it), I would gladly move to the town I work for outside of Edmonton.

  13. #13

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    Downtown Davis is quite charming. Although it would have meant a longer commute and not as nice a house, I sometimes wish now I had bought in Davis. Today? $300K for a 1965 rancher-and very, very few houses for sale.

    Still, using Davis and Woodland as examples begs the question that has been beaten to death on this (and other ) boards: what is suburbia. Woodland is a County seat/agribusiness/farm town that has only recently (last 15 years) picked up a significant suburban fringe. Davis is a small University town that has seen similar suburban growth on the fringe. Neither town is the standard suburb that I at least find unappealing (although I know why they get built and understand the appeal of the "new house" on the edge of town)

  14. #14
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    BKM...

    I agree that Woodland is questionable as a suburb, but Davis most definitely is suburban. I think part of it is how much do they depend on services from the larger metropolitan areas. I think despite the fact that Davis tries to think of itself as its own little city (often called "The Republic"), Mace Ranch, Willowbank, and many other areas of South and East Davis are commuter havens for Sacramento. When I left the area in 1995, towns like Dixon were moving from cute farmtown to suburban sprawl (at least in my mind).

    I still wouldn't mind living in any of these towns (except for it's too damn hot in the summer!)... as long as I could be near the core area where pre-50s architecture and street design is still intact.

  15. #15

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    Nerudite: I would certainly agree with you that Davis is increasingly serving as a suburb of Sacramento (as is much of Woodland-and Dixon, now). That is true of most metro areas though- did the hipsters commuting from San Francisco to San Jose make San Francisoc a "suburb" of Silicon Valley.

    This is an unanswerable question what is a suburb?

  16. #16
          Downtown's avatar
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    We live in surburban Albany, and although when growing up, I swore that I'd either be a city girl or a country girl, but never suburban (which I always associated with Levittown/Jersey/Westchester). However, I really don't think that where we live will be so bad for our kids - they are walking distance to all three of their future schools, the town park, a local Stewarts (a Capital District 7/11) and comic book shop.

    I do, however, hate the suburban subdivisions that are willy nilly plopped in the middle of a field, with absolutely no connections to other neighborhoods or amenities, that force kids to be completely dependant upon their parents for transportation. And we've got plenty of those in our town and can't seem to develop houses in them fast enough.

    And nerudite - my brother just got an apartment in Sherman Oaks and is pretty excited about it - I'm glad you feel so warmly about the town!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    VACAVILLE?

    doesn't that translate into Cowtown?

    or maybe my spanish is total crap.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    suburbs.. ehhhh

    grew up in a town of 16,000 in BFE Illinois. 1.25 hours from ANYTHING.

    1.25 hrs from Peoria, Bloomington, Joliet, and Aurora

    I used to think suburbs were great because they offered me more shopping oppertunities. Then i realized the recycled standard corporate architecture sucked. I also realized that i enjoyed the diversity of my college life. Different people from different backgrounds. You just dont get that in MOST suburbs. I like cities, they offer me culture, and diversity, and a stronger community feeling.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  19. #19

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    Vacaville

    Boiker: Well, Vacaville could certainly be translated as "Cow Town." And, given that a significant element of the demographics is similar to that described by Dan (lots of monster pick-ups, SUVs, a strong blue collar/contractor element of the population), and a history that still talks about small town and country roots (despite pushing 100,000 people in stucco and tile roof boxes), Cow Town would fit. (And, I love my neighborhood, which is the remnant of the old farm town that Vacaville was).

    Actually, though (if anyone cares ) the name comes from one of the early land grant families: Juan de Vaca-whose adobe rancho we can still visit tucked away in a dusty park near the freeway

  20. #20
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    I'm a teacher in Queens,ny.When I was a child in urban Winnipeg Canada,I rode by myself or walked all over the neighborhood from 5 years and up.When I talk to the other teachers at my school they won't let their children[9 yrs to 14 yrs] go anywhere without them.They will walk to school, or take a taxi or bus with them to school.It is not that Woodside,Queens is not safe. They point to the kidnappings and things that happen on TV everyday.They tell me there is a law that children can not be unsupervised under the age of 12 years.By contrast at age 11[25 years ago] I was a patrol[crossing guard]for our elementary school.I now only see adult crossing guards wherever I go.Is this over protectionism the result of more traffic,different times,or maybe different countries?

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    This was certainly a fun thread! Anyone new have anything to contribute?

  22. #22
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I've spent my whole life in suburbia. I spent the first nine years of my life in Wheeling, IL. And the most recent nine years of my life in Lake in the Hills/Huntley, IL. They are both suburbs northwest of Chicago. I seemed to enjoy growing up in Wheeling a little better. I lived in a quaint 50s era ranch in a very dense neighborhood. There were nice big trees all over the place...I love trees. And I could ride my bike to school, to the library, to a drive-in gyro/burger joint, and to all my friends' houses. We even made long bike ventures to the state-of-the-art aquatic center or to Taco Bell once in a while. But we didn't like 6 mexican families living in one house and trailer park-type people moving in and destroying our neighborhood. The house also seemed much too small for us. We felt it was time for a change.

    Then we moved an hour west to southeastern McHenry County, the poster child for sprawl. While the air is clean, the people are nice, the area is prosperous, and the aesthetics are gorgeous, I've never really been able to embrace it. I can't really ride my bike anywhere...if I do, I'm tired by the time I reach my destination and am too tired to ride back home. It took me a half hour to get to school because traffic is horrendous. But I did like being able to go to my friends' houses who lived on bigger lots than me, where we went swimming, dirt bike riding, jumping on the trampoline, and having big huge bonfires in people's back yards and out in the woods. I also am glad having gone to a better high school than the one I would've attended in Wheeling.

    So growing up, suburbs are nice in some aspects, depending upon what you seek out of life, and what kind of suburbia you prefer. I guess I prefer the older suburbs, which are more bikable/walkable. But I also like ruralness nearby and economic prosperity. Big yards aren't that important to me, as long as there is plenty of public parkland/natural lands to make up for it.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  23. #23
    Cyburbian spunky2's avatar
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    I grew up in the standard 80's suburb. The closest bus stop was a 45-minute walk away. Just a sea of houses. I think we had one park and it was about a 30 minute walk away. And it was just baseball fields. I was trapped. My parents worked all the time to pay for the damn house so they were never going to drive me anywhere. So basically, we just hung around the neighborhood and caused trouble. I remember throwing things down the storm drain for entertainment. Around Christmas time, my friends would try to break all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

    When developers design to maximize their profit, the occupants suffer. When you give neighborhood kids absolutely nowhere to go and nothing to do, and price the homes so that the parents have to work night and day to pay for them, you increase what I like to call the "punkass factor". Then people complain about how there is so much vandalism, graffiti, etc. in their supposedly sheltered suburban neighborhood only to find out it's their own kids doing the damage. Mostly because they are bored to tears. And angry about it. That's why suburbia sucks. But it doesn't have to if it is designed well.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian DC Librarian's avatar
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    I was raised in a medium-sized city (Niagara Falls, NY), and my family moved to the suburbs when I was entering high school (so I could go to a better school). My mom still lives in the suburbs, although an older neighborhood adjoining the city limits.

    I have lived in both urban, suburban, and rural environments, and prefer to live in an urban environment. My partner and I live in the suburbs now (of Washington, DC), mostly because that is where he wants to be, and that is the most affordable at this time. We just moved out of DC proper wher we shared a row house with roommates. I loved it, but he wanted something more "apartment-complex-like".

    He grew up in Chicago (north side - West Rogers Park), and we toy with the idea of moving back there some time.

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally posted by DC Librarian
    I was raised in a medium-sized city (Niagara Falls, NY), and my family moved to the suburbs when I was entering high school (so I could go to a better school). My mom still lives in the suburbs, although an older neighborhood adjoining the city limits.

    I have lived in both urban, suburban, and rural environments, and prefer to live in an urban environment. My partner and I live in the suburbs now (of Washington, DC), mostly because that is where he wants to be, and that is the most affordable at this time. We just moved out of DC proper wher we shared a row house with roommates. I loved it, but he wanted something more "apartment-complex-like".

    He grew up in Chicago (north side - West Rogers Park), and we toy with the idea of moving back there some time.
    I lived a semester in West Rogers Park-Western at Fargo. A nice neighborhood.

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