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Thread: Why suburbia?

  1. #26
    Cyburbian
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    ditto, Cardinal

  2. #27
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Levittown houses were not much bigger than NYC apartments, but for people with access to VA loans, it was cheaper to own in Levittown than rent in NYC. Plus, Levittown had appliances like electric stoves, washers and dryers, and food processors that were unavailable in the older housing stock of NYC.

    Certainly there are many who believe that the market will always provide what is demanded. They refuse to believe that market conditions can develop which cause the tail to wag the dog and for demand to be driven by supply.

    It takes a lot of faith and a lot of ignorance or rejection of a lot of evidence to believe that, however. I would go so far as to say that, with the advent of modern marketing, most consumer markets in the American economy are driven primarily by supply. But considering the huge structural bias in the housing market resulting from conditions already stated (secondary loan market etc.), to pretend that it is mostly demand driven is ridiculous.

  3. #28
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    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.
    When the market demands communities that are based on something other than driving one's personal car (which will likely be the case due to the world's declining supply of fossil fuel and the lack of any viable replacement being developed in a meaningful way), what do we do then? Bulldoze millions of acres of poorly planned, ill-advised suburban developments and start over???

    The planning profession shouldn't be dictating to others how and where to live, but there needs to be some forethought applied to development decisions, rather than "just giving the public what they want." The word "PLANNING" has a meaning, ya know.
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    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.
    Speak for yourself. Not all planners believe there is only one way to live - my experience is not limited to such narrow thinking.

    Further, your entire post suggests that all real estate markets have experienced the same trends that you describe. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm not suggesting the limited experiences I've had disprove your assertions (however specious they may be), and yet, I do wonder if you are over-generalizing. The community I've lived in for over 20 years provides a limited range of housing opportunities in similar neighborhood styles, and yet with the advent of the neo-traditional style of neighborhood development from almost 20 years ago, I would think my town of 40,000 people (and growing) would at least have something that approaches, for example, New Urbanism. But it doesn't. And the demand is there. People want to live close to services and parks. But we have a good school system. So, people will settle for at least that.

  5. #30
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    Hi! I'm new here...I just came across this thread. I completely love the suburbs and sprawl, pretty much everything about it. For me it's primarily the aesthetic quality that is so appealing. I love that houses, stores, parks all look the same. This is appealing to me. The fact that so many of these places look "perfect" with their white sidewalks and ultra-green lawns and black asphalt is terrific to me. In different suburban planned communities I've lived in, seeing this sharply defined architecture and color scheme, while looking out the window at a clear sky filled with stars is heaven. I enjoy driving to places I need to go to. I enjoy the big-box strip malls. To me they are not ugly, but the complete opposite. I find all of this very attractive and love all of it.

    I haven't really heard this type of viewpoint, even from people who are pro-sprawl. Maybe somewhere there are people who share my view. And I don't have a family, I'm single (so the better schools, etc. argument is not my primary reason). The only thing that planned communities/suburbs lack are the high amount of nightlife, museums, etc. that can be found in cities. For this I make sure I live in a suburb of a major city (commute to work and easy access to "city" things if necessary).

    Right now I am living in Manhattan (so you can appreciate my "suffering", as it is the ultimate anti-sprawl place to live) after living in various suburban areas around the country. I am eagerly looking forward to getting out of Manhattan in a year or two to a suburb in the NYC area.

  6. #31
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Unecessary sarcasm ahead

    Quote Originally posted by organize
    I completely love the suburbs and sprawl, pretty much everything about it.

    {snip}

    Right now I am living in Manhattan (so you can appreciate my "suffering", as it is the ultimate anti-sprawl place to live) after living in various suburban areas around the country. I am eagerly looking forward to getting out of Manhattan in a year or two to a suburb in the NYC area.
    I'm gald you're happy with sprawl.....though, I hope your car doesn't break-down on the 6-lane arterial in front of the mall.


    Oh, and......Welcome!!!
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  7. #32
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    hilld -- What "new demographic" are you talking about? Immigrants?

    Some studies of the 2000 Census have come out (mostly from the Brookings Institute) that show that the demographics of suburbia is changing. It is no longer dominated by the white, home-owning, nuclear family. There is growing ethnic and racial diversity, there is a large growth of singles and elderly, and there is a growing number of rentals (read 'different economic class' among other things). The single family bedroom community is only one of many faces of suburbia and I would guess that much of this has to do with the shift in demographics.
    Last edited by Planderella; 04 Jan 2005 at 3:41 PM. Reason: Quote tags fixed

  8. #33
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by organize
    Hi! I'm new here...I just came across this thread. [snip]
    Welcome to the board! And to be honest, I'm torn between taking your post as pure sarcasm or pure truth.

    I can't think of many instances where everything looking the same or similar is appealing. Ever drive by a cornfield? stalk, stalk, stalk, stalk, stalk, stalk...boring.. But, maybe you'd find it lovely.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilld
    hilld -- What "new demographic" are you talking about? Immigrants?

    Some studies of the 2000 Census have come out (mostly from the Brookings Institute) that show that the demographics of suburbia is changing. It is no longer dominated by the white, home-owning, nuclear family. There is growing ethnic and racial diversity, there is a large growth of singles and elderly, and there is a growing number of rentals (read 'different economic class' among other things). The single family bedroom community is only one of many faces of suburbia and I would guess that much of this has to do with the shift in demographics.
    And it could also be read as "lack of availability of other home-ownership opportunities combined with other folks coming up with the means to buy homes and wanting to do so". I know there is a trend in single women finally beginning to buy houses, something they used to almost never do. And, like single men in this forum, they often wind up with a 3 bedroom home in the suburbs even though they have no need for 3 bedrooms. Part of the reason: those houses sell better when you want to move. If you buy a house that doesn't fit that criteria -- if you buy a one or two bedroom house, for example -- it is harder to get rid of it when you are ready to move on.

  10. #35
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    And to be honest, I'm torn between taking your post as pure sarcasm or pure truth.
    Oh, c'mon! It's total sarcasm! That post was hilarious! I bet it's someone's sockpuppet, seeing it's the first post of organize. Here's the giveaway:


    In different suburban planned communities I've lived in, seeing this sharply defined architecture and color scheme...

    I mean - c'mon - "suburban planned communities"? This is so gut-wretchingly funny!

  11. #36
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by organize
    Hi! I'm new here...I just came across this thread. I completely love the suburbs and sprawl, pretty much everything about it. For me it's primarily the aesthetic quality that is so appealing. I love that houses, stores, parks all look the same. This is appealing to me. ...
    Of course, NYC streetscapes can all look the same too. But you know that already.


    www.readio.com

  12. #37
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    Hi again. I'm not being sarcastic at all. I really do feel this way. Why the comment about the "suburban planned communities"? I'm from the DC area. There I've lived in Montgomery Village - one of the original planned communities in MD and a suburb of DC. Also, Germantown, which has recently started some "planned" areas in the past 10 years or so, particularly around their strip malls. Then I lived in Valencia, CA (new planned community that is a suburb of L.A.). Valencia is as perfect as you can get with this type of community. You can walk down the street there and see nothing wayward as far as signage, architecture of stores and houses, size of roads, lawns, and sidewalks. It all fits together. And now I'm in NYC because of another change in companies, but because I was short on time, I wasn't able to look for something comparable here (but I will start soon).

    I'm not in the developer or planning profession, so maybe my definitions might be different from some that are widely accepted in the business. To me a planned community is one with developments, shopping, etc. designed around the idea of "sameness" no matter what the theme (colonial, victorian, contemporary, etc.) that is, most importantly, in the suburbs where the primary method of transport is by car (of course there should be bus lines or other access to public transport). Examples I've given above, also I haven't lived there, but have been to one's in Orange County, CA, particularly Irvine and most of Northern VA (Reston, Herndon, etc.)

    I know people find it hard to believe someone can love it, but I do. I think most of these communities are beautiful. I don't know if it makes a difference, but I'm female. Maybe women are supposed to feel this way and men aren't? *smiles*

  13. #38

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    While it is true that many people want just what conventional suburbia has to offer, it seems just as presumptuous, and just as poorly supported by the facts, to me to say that the market is giving people what they want, as it is to blame the whole thing on the tax code and government subsidies. You can go all the way back to Adam Smith, the philosophical grandfather of capitalism and read that markets in land are qualitatively different. There is no such thing as a free market in land (or other resources). People face limited choices in location and housing type and cannot express their preferences freely as a free market requires. Karen and I have been searching for months here and we cannot find what we want, even if we could afford it.
    This is a very complex topic, in bad need of empirical data instead of assumptions.

  14. #39
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    Oh, c'mon! It's total sarcasm! That post was hilarious! I bet it's someone's sockpuppet, seeing it's the first post of organize.
    Same thing I was thinking when I read it.

  15. #40

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    Quote Originally posted by ludes98
    Same thing I was thinking when I read it.
    Well, beige stucco and blank boxes must appeal to somebody, given their wide application.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Yeah, "organize" must be someone's sock puppet. EG having a little fun with us?
    Then again I know people who are happy with the environment he/she describes. Where I see a biological desert, a water-polluting stain, they see a beautiful green lawn. Where I see sterility and conformity, they see aesthetic harmony and good, nice people.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  17. #42

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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    Yeah, "organize" must be someone's sock puppet. EG having a little fun with us?
    Then again I know people who are happy with the environment he/she describes. Where I see a biological desert, a water-polluting stain, they see a beautiful green lawn. Where I see sterility and conformity, they see aesthetic harmony and good, nice people.
    I hope we're not being too hard on a newbie. I just took his/her comments literally and responded as such.

    Then again, I can be a little naive.

  18. #43
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    ya but seeing how this thread is not in FAC and so far, has been a good thread. I'm going to continue to treat the comments fairly.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  19. #44
    What a great thread this turned out to be. I fully agree with Cardinal on this one: Let the people decide where and how they will live their lives, and the best way to empower them is by way of market freedom. Long ago I use to love New Urbanism, but now I realize that not everyone wants to live in these types of pseudo-urban neighborhoods and a planner should not have a personal bias to promote or discourage these types of developments. Let the market decide - which is the true voice of the people, free of political and personal bias.

    Planners do and should play a very important role in doing the actual reasearch to find out the pro's and con's of new developments. Work with the developers and realize they're tring to maximize profits. Help them archieve that goal while at the same time achieveing utilitarianism for the community, albeit easier said than done. Once all the planning work is done in a timely manner, give the reconmendations over to the politicans who are elected by, and speak for, the people to make a decision.

    Another beef of mine are comprehensive plans. They are great but a town or county will create a 30-year comprehensive plan only to get it completly re-written every 5 years and at the end of the 30-years none of the goals of the original, or all the other plans are accomplished. I think this is the reason why so many American and Canadian cities are a mess in terms of transportation and land use. In the end it's the citizens - old residents and new - who get cheated.

    If plans are to be re-written every 5 years, then do the plan for 5 years and have the goals for those years backed with actual funds. We can plan all we want, but in the end it's the market which will determine what gets built and what does not. Some planners seem to ignore the market and are perfectly content with doing the revisions on a 30-year plan every 5 years even though the goals in all these plans are rarely carried out. It's a disservice to the community they're suppose to serve.

    These are the communities that have out of control traffic because densities were increased each re-write without the needed road network or transit expansion, or these are the communities which are experiencing a donut effect as the city starts to die off because the comprehensive plan or zoning bylaws were to restrictive and failed to take advantage of development - investment in the community - in times of boom years, and now are dying in the bust.

    What am I suggesting with all this? Planners like to think we know what's best for the market. But that's the developers jobs. Work with the developers vision so it best fits in with the existing community vision; a difficult balancing act. Do the best you can and let the politicans make the final decision. It bugs me when I see developers treated like Darth Vader and their development as some sort of Death Star. The developer only responds to the wants of the market - the wants of the people - and they are the true city builders.

    I know I'll probably receive some flank for this, so bring it!

  20. #45
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Dog Bites Man...

    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    Some planners seem to ignore the market...
    Good thing, then, that most planners aren't ignoring the market. Otherwise, I'd think we're all a bunch of idiots.



    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    Planners like to think we know what's best for the market. But that's the developers jobs.
    And I always thought the market decided what's best for the market. Imagine that!

  21. #46
    Looks like I managed to push at least one button.If the shoe fits...

  22. #47
    Just a personal example...

    I'm currently living in Tallahassee, FL, and when I'm not in school I do part-time work. My ideal housing situation would be a high-rise apartment/condo in an older neighborhood within walking distance to FSU. But the closes things to that are on campus student residences, which are currently full.

    What I most despise are two or three storey walk-up apartments without elevators, surrounded in a parking lot, with exterior entrances to the individual units. However, I was forced to live in one of these as it was the only thing vacant (surprise, surprise) within walking distance to the university.

    The part-time company I work for develops real estate. A few years before I joined the team, they were discussing plans and a possible location for a high-rise. They wanted to build near the university, but it was deemed impractical for a number of reasons, including restrictions in the Leon County comprehensive plan and incompatible use in the zoning bylaws. From what I understand, after a short discussion with the planning staff, our plans were cancelled as head office decided not to pursue rezoning.

    The plan and zoning bylaws at the time encouraged higher density developments to be in the form of two or three storey walk-ups. It comes complete with the mandated "amenity space" such as the rarely used pool, which also adds significant costs in the form of maintenance and insurance premiums to the renters. Donít you think if anyone truly wanted the "amenity" of a pool, they would be capable of doing that research for themselves?

  23. #48

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    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    Just a personal example...

    I'm currently living in Tallahassee, FL, and when I'm not in school I do part-time work. My ideal housing situation would be a high-rise apartment/condo in an older neighborhood within walking distance to FSU. But the closes things to that are on campus student residences, which are currently full.

    What I most despise are two or three storey walk-up apartments without elevators, surrounded in a parking lot, with exterior entrances to the individual units. However, I was forced to live in one of these as it was the only thing vacant (surprise, surprise) within walking distance to the university.

    The part-time company I work for develops real estate. A few years before I joined the team, they were discussing plans and a possible location for a high-rise. They wanted to build near the university, but it was deemed impractical for a number of reasons, including restrictions in the Leon County comprehensive plan and incompatible use in the zoning bylaws. From what I understand, after a short discussion with the planning staff, our plans were cancelled as head office decided not to pursue rezoning.

    The plan and zoning bylaws at the time encouraged higher density developments to be in the form of two or three storey walk-ups. It comes complete with the mandated "amenity space" such as the rarely used pool, which also adds significant costs in the form of maintenance and insurance premiums to the renters. Donít you think if anyone truly wanted the "amenity" of a pool, they would be capable of doing that research for themselves?
    I feel your pain. That's definitely one of the things I dislike in our (or most) code. But, at the same time, the useless pool is pretty much "expected" from a marketing perspective, so...

    Tallahassee probably still offically promotes the myth (in a cityof 150,00+) of being a "small town" right? I hate that!

  24. #49
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner
    Tallahassee, FL
    I understand there to be a few downtown/campus res. projects underway. Hopefully they get built.

  25. #50
    But, at the same time, the useless pool is pretty much "expected" from a marketing perspective, so...
    I don't buy that argument. It's not expected, it's mandated. This is a part of planning I'll never understand. It goes back to Cardinal's argument: "The problem with planners is we think we know what people want." ...even a regulation copied and pasted for one community and applied to the next.

    Builders hate putting pools in, and residents don't even use them. As I sit here I'm pondering how much the monthly rent could be reduced if the capital cost of the pool could be substracted from construction, along with the ongoing insurance premiums and maintinance fees.

    Quote Originally posted by H
    I understand there to be a few downtown/campus res. projects underway. Hopefully they get built.
    Yeah. There is definetly a few interesting projects in the pipeline or under development. Tallahassee is improving. The problem is by the time they're finished, they won't benefit anyone currently enrolled. Also, FSU's NIMBY-stance doesn't help: http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/talla...l/10731181.htm



    Also... I'm only an opiniated business/planning student. If I made a illogical critique, feel free to rip me up It's the only way this student is going to learn.

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