Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 3 1 2 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 74

Thread: Why suburbia?

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    west coast
    Posts
    4

    Why suburbia?

    It seems that a large number of the postings on this site treat the suburban dweller as a victim and do not take into account the fact that a large number of people actually choose to live in the suburbs out of their own volition. It is true that in some cases, limited options are at play, but even when options exist, some people simply prefer to live in the suburbs.

    Is anyone out there working to understand what it is people desire from the suburbs (aside from the outdated and pat answers of school, safety, and cost). As can be seen from the 2000 Census, there is an entirely new demographic of people living in suburbia today, and they are not necessarily married or with children. Why are these people choosing suburbia?

    It seems to me that this is the elephant in the room that is not getting discussed.

  2. #2
    Moving at my own pace....... Planderella's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 1998
    Location
    NOLA
    Posts
    4,468
    I grew up in the suburbs and chose to stay there in my adult years. Why? My neighborhood has a nice range of housing densities; it has a transit line; it's walkable, i.e. has real sidewalks; has a functional park complete with walking trails, tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds and football fields; commercial uses are within walking distance; and has a good mixture of races, ethnicities, etc. The only difference between my suburban neighborhood and a neighborhood in the city is it's location.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    West Valley, AZ
    Posts
    3,894
    I think that a lot of it has to do with "new=better" and the "proper" family tradition of the past 50 years. It's also important to note that job centers have moved out to the 'burbs and suburb to suburb commuting takes place more frequently than suburb to city. The suburbs in their amalgamation have become a new form of low density, mutli-centered urbanity.

    Even the old argument of schools is still true. The selling points on many billboards in the Chicago metro area are "Bigger Homes! Better Schools! Better Value!" These are the homes 60 miles away from city center and in primarily rural areas. The notion of an elite education in the country is embedded in the minds of consumers. The basic statistics don't lie, suburban schools perform better than urban schools, crime is generally lower in the subruban areas, land appreciation is greater. The basic statistic is all the consumer cares about.
    The suburbs give an instant impression of more parkland, more open space, more nature, more casual living. It's all about first impressions and selling the product.

    I can't bring myself to say the suburbs are evil. I can say that I believe them to be the short-sighted result of industrialized city building. The suburbs are built to move people around they way they currently prefer to move around. People move around by car. People choose autos, people choose to get around in their autos, People choose suburbia. I told Ms. B last night, if they put a Walgreen's on every street corner in town, I'd bet that 60% of their customers would get there by car. It's not that cars are evil, it's just that we are lazy.

    Some feel that the suburban dweller is a victim in that they may have unknowingly bought into a development pattern that is probably not sustainable in the long term. The entire american economy and society revolves around cheap and easy transportation, suburbs generally offer one or a few conveinient choices to travel by, Cities tend to offer more options.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian H's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2003
    Location
    MKS
    Posts
    2,847
    Maybe it is becuase people often tend to segregate themselves (and families) by class / economic status.

    "Birds of a feather flock together" (in suburbia).

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    west coast
    Posts
    4
    Quote Originally posted by H
    Maybe it is becuase people often tend to segregate themselves (and families) by class / economic status.

    "Birds of a feather flock together" (in suburbia).

    I dont think that this really holds true in suburbia specifically because the demographic is both shifting and diversifying. If anything, the suburbs are less homogenious than they have been in the past.

  6. #6

    Registered
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    1,548
    I think the whole mindset that creates and supports current suburbanization goes back to the start of this nation.

    We're people who want to be set apart from others, have a measure of security that we feel we can control, and open spaces that we can call our own. That hasn't changed since 1607 Jamestown and 1620 Plymouth.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian H's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2003
    Location
    MKS
    Posts
    2,847
    Quote Originally posted by hilld
    I dont think that this really holds true in suburbia specifically because the demographic is both shifting and diversifying. If anything, the suburbs are less homogenious than they have been in the past.
    Maybe the 'inner' / older suburbs as parts convert 'downward' allowing a mixture, but not the new areas... at least not from what I see / seen develop. But if you know different I would love to hear about it.

    Remember I said, 'class' and 'econ. status', not 'race'.


    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock
    We're people who want to be set apart from others, have a measure of security that we feel we can control, and open spaces that we can call our own.
    But then we do we see increased denisities in suburbs? You can often buy bigger lots in the city limits that in the new cul-de-sac developments being put on the fringes.
    Last edited by H; 03 Jan 2005 at 6:40 PM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Posts
    1,263
    Quote Originally posted by H
    Maybe the 'inner' / older suburbs as parts convert 'downward' allowing a mixture, but not the new areas... at least not from what I have seen. But if you know different I would love to hear about it.

    Remember I said, 'class' and 'econ. status', not 'race'.
    I would certainly agree with the economic status. Part of the suburb's homogeny is the sameness of the housing prices. Even the intent of CC&R's is to maintain the sameness and "protect" property values.

  9. #9

    Registered
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee, Wisc.
    Posts
    38
    Americans tend to have a wide comfort zone. We like ample personal space between us and other people we don't know.

    For a lot of Americans having a stranger walk within 20 feet of your living room is disconcerting.

  10. #10
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Jukin' City
    Posts
    16,380

    Why suburbia?

    Because....I like it here.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,842
    Quote Originally posted by hilld
    It seems that a large number of the postings on this site treat the suburban dweller as a victim and do not take into account the fact that a large number of people actually choose to live in the suburbs out of their own volition. It is true that in some cases, limited options are at play, but even when options exist, some people simply prefer to live in the suburbs.
    Yes, the suburban dweller is a victim because limited options are at play. While you may notice some derision on the part of planners regarding the suburbs, keep in mind that many of us feel it is justified because a large section of the home-building and mortgage-lending industries continue to play it overly conservative and try to minimize risks by not taking on so-called "risky" or "unfamiliar" projects.

  12. #12
    $$$, room to park all the vehicles, space for the pets

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    7,061
    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    in some cases, limited options are at play,
    Yes, the suburban dweller is a victim because limited options are at play. While you may notice some derision on the part of planners regarding the suburbs, keep in mind that many of us feel it is justified because a large section of the home-building and mortgage-lending industries continue to play it overly conservative and try to minimize risks by not taking on so-called "risky" or "unfamiliar" projects.
    Not to beat a dead horse, but since the end of WWII, every mortgage financing institution, mortgage tax deduction, etc etc etc. and federal fiscal policy generally has supported and promoted suburban, single family tract housing. It can be extremely difficult to finance anything "alternative", from co-housing to condos to lofts, and it can also be extremely difficult to sell any of those things, partly going back to the lack of ready financing. The default solution is, therefore, the only viable alternative for most people who are middle class or trying to become middle class. You have to have more money, more determination, more brains, etc. to do stuff differently.

    So, if you are a builder or a money lender, and this is, therefore, a business transaction for you which needs to pay the bills and employees, you are going to play it safe. If you are a middle class person with kids and a job and a commute and a zillion other normal headaches of time-pressured middle-class America, you can kind of choose between your ideals and actually buying a house, by god. Since the majority of American "savings" is in the form of equity in the primary residence, homeownership is very much a financial decision for many people, much more so than a "lifestyle" or "values" decision. "Show me the money"...then show me the house. If you cannot pay for it, it doesn't matter how badly you want it, like it, prefer it, etc.

    I also suspect, but cannot prove, that many people who think they "prefer" suburban life have not thought that much about it and are stating their "preference" based upon the available alternatives as they know them: yes, I liked being a homeowner in the 'burbs better than I liked living in a trailer in a trailer court and I liked it better than any apartment I have lived in and I liked it better than renting half of a 50 year old duplex. I have never lived in a loft. I think I would prefer that but I don't really know and I am not sure how to make that happen so I can find out. I have never lived in cohousing. I have never owned a condo. Etc. Of the things I have personal, first-hand experience with, owning a house in the 'burbs is Better. Does that mean that owning a house in the 'burbs is really the thing that is the BEST fit for me, personally? Not necessarily. But, like most folks, I have to live within my means and make realistic, practical decisions based on what I know and what is available.

    I still hope I can find some other alternative. But I am not counting too heavily on it. If I succeed, BONUS! If I don't, well, then I keep living like everyone else.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Townville
    Posts
    1,047
    Hilld: good question and it has been asked in these forums before...but as I have said this before, planners in general fundamentally misunderstand why people live and love the suburbs.

    And it seems to me the need to understand our growing settlement patterns is paramount and required before we advocate a change in the way we grow.

    I suggest the derison of the suburbs is often founded in a desire to dicate how others should live without a great deal of sound reasoning.

    Now, we all have opinions and aesthetic tastes--a nameless, faceless suburb to some may be the perfect place to raise the 2.5 kids and 1 golden retriever.

    Its about tradeoffs, no matter where we live--a SoHo loft, McMansion way oput there or a first ring old neighborhood.

    I live in a dc suburb and it is a great place to raise the kids now (elementary school aged). The investment in a home in this area is virtually unparalleled. My kids have opportunities to play every sport imaginable, the schools are exceptional, and it is very safe. And it should not be seen as some character flaw to live in a place where there are other young families. Yes, birds of a feather.

    But the traffic sucks, I do have to drive to get almost anything, and there sure are a lot of houses that look like mine right next to me. So I am not blind to the fact that there are negatives.

    for what its worth we spend way too much time in these forums complaining or questioning our lifestyles and not nearly enough time coming up with new ideas to make all of our neighborhoods better.

    g

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    3,644
    Quote Originally posted by hilld
    ...
    Is anyone out there working to understand what it is people desire from the suburbs (aside from the outdated and pat answers of school, safety, and cost)
    ...
    I don't think "school, safety, and cost" are outdated answers at all. More factors are definitely in play, but most people would list those as their main reasons.

    For many people, including working class urban families, and young suburban professionals, the grass is greener on the other side. Don't underestimate the desire of urban families to live the "better life." I think sometimes planners equate "the city" with the success stories of urban America, while many neighborhoods have problems which make it more difficult to raise a family. If you're a sucessful small business owner in the city with a 12 year old son in a neighborhood with a good share of drug dealers around, a move to the suburbs is going to look like a good idea. The notion of "its just gang on gang crime" isn't very comforting when your kid is in the neighborhood high school.

    In expensive housing markets, lots of people are in the suburbs because they can't afford to be in the city. Just about every town within 50 miles of Boston has its share of condos owned by single professionals who would probably prefer to be in the city. In most cities, the majority of urban dwellers own cars anyway so the move to the suburbs isn't as much of a change in lifestyle as it would be for a New Yorker.

    There are regional differences too in what constitutes a "suburb." In the northeast, inner ring suburbs still offer dense neighborhoods within easy reach of the central city. People often move from "very urban" to "less urban" environments. In lots of sunbelt cities the municipality is so large that you're often a "city-dweller" even though you live in an otherwise suburban environment.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,842
    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    I suggest the derison of the suburbs is often founded in a desire to dicate how others should live without a great deal of sound reasoning.
    I disagree. The suburbs are worthy of criticism becuase the home-building, lending, and tax-collection insitutions all favor suburban-style development. Planners know this entrenched way of building limits market choice and oftentimes fails to address the needs of the diverse lives and lifestyles led by Americans. Many work toward finding ways to increase choice onto the housing market.

    How many planners are out there really dictating to others how they should live? Planners have no power and cannot dictate anything. At least not from where I'm at.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Who cares.
    Posts
    1,038
    It does seem as though a large part of the attraction is the newness of suburbs. Buying a house is a major prospect/ordeal for almost anyone, and perhaps the ability to "customize" your new house gives people the sense of a measure of control of the process. Being of the old house/urban neighborhood school myself, I had to turn to some friends who are going through the process of buying a house on a former corn field in an outer ring suburb to see the attraction. For them, it's the schools, the (perceived) convenience of retail nearby, and getting to play a part in the design of their new house ("Honey, you want oak or maple cabinets?"). They have to drive about an hour to their respective jobs, but they have a big backyard for their kids to play in. There are parks nearby (to drive to), etc. So I guess it's just their part of the American Dream. Like others have said, they haven't examined it a whole lot, in terms of environmental or social cost, but it makes them happy.
    The other interesting thing is how many new suburban developments are mimicking traditional urban patterns of development, sometimes with bizarre and random results. Townhouses surrounded by strip malls, anyone? Dense, urban-style developments in the heart of minivan suburbia seems to be a trend--downtown living without actually living downtown!
    I don't dream. I plan.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    West Valley, AZ
    Posts
    3,894
    Quote Originally posted by Plannerbabs
    Townhouses surrounded by strip malls, anyone? Dense, urban-style developments in the heart of minivan suburbia seems to be a trend--downtown living without actually living downtown!
    [sarcasm] It's buffering! You can't possibly put good, church-going families immediately adjacent to the crime, bustle, and litter of a strip mall? [/sarcasm]

    Wanigas? My question is, what can or do planners do to help diversify development? Despite all we do here, we still end up with single family dwellings on dendritic cul-de-saq's with seperate, buffered pods of townhomes or apartments nearby. I know a lot of this (probably all) has to do with our existing code.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    City of Low Low Wages!
    Posts
    3,236
    What I find interesting and perhaps telling about how much attitudes are changing in this metropolis is that the Chicago Sun-Times's Real Estate section in last Sunday's edition had an article titled "House or Condo?" that discussed the pros and cons of each. What they didn't do is suggest that a city condo was a risky investment. In fact they pointed out that condos are appreciating faster than houses right now. They concluded that the advantage of a house was more space and distance from your neighbors and the advantage of a condo was that you aren't liable for the full cost of maintenance.

    hilld -- What "new demographic" are you talking about? Immigrants?

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Townville
    Posts
    1,047
    Wanigas I said planners "desire to dictate". I realize the certain powerless we all must work with day to day.

    You said:

    "Planners know this entrenched way of building limits market choice and oftentimes fails to address the needs of the diverse lives and lifestyles led by Americans. Many work toward finding ways to increase choice onto the housing market."


    How are Americans limited in their housing choices? You say current practice often limts choice, how so?

    I just don't see it.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Who cares.
    Posts
    1,038
    I think marketing is as much to blame as anything else. Look at virtually any mainstream magazine/newspaper/tv show, and it will show the detached sf house in the 'burbs. Billboards, especially those on ring roads, advertise "$0 down, $1 move-in payment!", etc. It's a cycle. People choose what's readily available because it's what's marketed. Perhaps if older, urban neighborhoods used the same marketing tactics as new subdivisions, they would be considered more often by potential homebuyers. I think there are plenty of options out there for housing, and for financing, but awareness of them is limited. As planners, we have heightened awareness of the diversity of neighborhoods in our cities because we work with them and appreciate them. However, the average Joe, cruising the ring road in his SUV, (no offense to Joes or SUV's), is going to see the billboards advertising cheap interest rates and closing costs for new houses, and that's what he's going to remember. Sure, the 1917 bungalow might be $10,000 less and closer to his job, but then he remembers that Fred 2 cubes down got a bonus room for only $500 and a $100 gift card from Home Depot, to customize his kitchen. And he has a 3-car garage. And he doesn't have to re-wire the house....and suddenly the snout house 35 miles out looks pretty good. Some people enjoy renovating. Most don't. If you don't like crawling around a basement with wire strippers, that bonus room is going to seem like a pretty sweet deal. Especially for $0 down.
    I don't dream. I plan.

  22. #22

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    Wanigas I said planners "desire to dictate". I realize the certain powerless we all must work with day to day.

    You said:

    "Planners know this entrenched way of building limits market choice and oftentimes fails to address the needs of the diverse lives and lifestyles led by Americans. Many work toward finding ways to increase choice onto the housing market."


    How are Americans limited in their housing choices? You say current practice often limts choice, how so?

    I just don't see it.
    To exagerate somewhat, but not completely:

    In many metropolitan areas, your ONLY choice for new housing is standard single family subdivision on cul-de-sacs. This may be slowly changing, but it is a good generalization. Your "choice" often consists of which kind of beige trim and how many garage doors you get.

    Choice is being further limited by the consolidation of the American homebuilding industry. Large national (and regional) homebuilders like U.S. Homes, Centex, and Citation Northern increasingly dominate California markets, and I've read tales of Toll Brothers and the like. Only these large firms can take advantage of the cost savings associated with scale and brave the time and money-draining delays of the entitlements process. But, in exchange, you get a handful of Southern California design factories that provide identical housing designs throughout the entire state, ti seems sometimes.

    Choice is also limited by conservative lending practices. This conservatism is understandable, but again, when you have a few homebuilders relying on their own financing or a limited and decreasing number of financial institutions, you get very little choice or variety.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,842
    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    Wanigas? My question is, what can or do planners do to help diversify development?
    Good question. Maybe it's out of reach for most planners. That is, how do we do battle with the home-building lobby and legislators who write tax codes to reward buyers of news homes rather than the rehabbers?

    Good question, indeed - I do not have an answer.




    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    I said planners "desire to dictate". I realize the certain powerless we all must work with day to day.
    Your point is well-taken. Regarding your question about how current practice limits choice, I believe it has to do with supply. If the supply of new housing is dominated by single-family dwellings of a certain size in a certain price range, then choice is not improved.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    I am going to disagree with those who argue that sprawling suburbs are built because of conservative bank financing or codes that don't allow other forms. These products are built because they are what the market desires. When suburbs first appeared the homes were not much different from those found in the central cities, except, perhaps, that the neighborhoods tended to be dominated by single family homes and uses were more segregated. Homes were still small and lots were narro and deep, but not large. Over time, the lots grew in size. Homes took on an orientation parallel to the street, especially as the garage was brought to the front. This image of suburbia really came into vogue in the 1970's, and the majority of home buyers wanted it.

    In the 1990's people's interests began to change. The market responded - imagine that! Banks financed converting manufacturing plants and warehouses or rehabbing houses in questionable, gentrifying neighborhoods. Builders began to put up subdivisions with traditional (new urban) elements. Why, because a growing segment of the population wanted them. Look -- it is this simple -- if there are people who demand a product, the market will find a way to provide it. Through the 50's to the 90's people moved from those "walkable urban neighborhoods" that we planners romanticize. Why? Because they did not offer the amenities (housing, traffic, safety, proximity to jobs, yard, or whatever) that people wanted. In the last decade some people have found that they want some of the things found in these neighborhoods, so now we are building them or moving back.

    The problem with planners is that we think we know what people want. We are continually schooled by our colleges and peers to think that there is only one acceptible way to live and everyone who does not live this way is either miserable or profligate abuser of the world's resources. Get over it. Get real. People want different things. Some want a high-rise condo. Some want a cabin in the mountains. Some want an urban neighborhood. Some want a suburban ranch. Some want a farmette in the country. The market will provide it, and if there is too much of anything, the prices will fall and they will be abandoned. I don't see many abandoned homes in suburbia.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  25. #25
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 1998
    Location
    On the Mother River
    Posts
    4,512
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    The problem with planners is that we think we know what people want. We are continually schooled by our colleges and peers to think that there is only one acceptible way to live and everyone who does not live this way is either miserable or profligate abuser of the world's resources. Get over it. Get real. People want different things. Some want a high-rise condo. Some want a cabin in the mountains. Some want an urban neighborhood. Some want a suburban ranch. Some want a farmette in the country. The market will provide it, and if there is too much of anything, the prices will fall and they will be abandoned. I don't see many abandoned homes in suburbia.


    Preach to me brotha man...... I wholeheartedly agree.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 3 1 2 ... LastLast

More at Cyburbia

  1. When did suburbia begin?
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 8
    Last post: 30 Nov 2012, 6:11 PM
  2. The end of suburbia
    Environmental Planning
    Replies: 3
    Last post: 04 Feb 2008, 11:57 AM
  3. The End Of Suburbia -the movie
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 27
    Last post: 01 Nov 2006, 9:04 AM
  4. The New Suburbia
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 6
    Last post: 25 Sep 2005, 2:28 PM
  5. End of Suburbia film
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 10 Nov 2004, 10:34 AM