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Poll results: What is your attitude toward lawns?

Voters
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  • Lawns are great! – but I prefer to pay someone to do the work.

    3 4.41%
  • I pay for landscaping mainly for the sake of property value, HOA concerns.

    0 0%
  • Lawns are great! – I do all the work myself.

    8 11.76%
  • Lawns are ok – I mow it myself.

    16 23.53%
  • Lawns suck! – But I mow it anyway to avoid the ire of my HOA/neighbors.

    4 5.88%
  • Lawns suck! – I let my lawn go to seed/dry out like the Sahara.

    5 7.35%
  • I keep my yard too full of various plants to have much if any room for grass.

    16 23.53%
  • I live in an apartment/condo – but would do the upkeep if I had a lawn.

    2 2.94%
  • I live in an apartment/condo – glad to not have to worry about a lawn.

    7 10.29%
  • I live in an apartment/condo – think lawns are better suited to public parks.

    7 10.29%
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Thread: What is your attitude toward lawns?

  1. #51
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    Can you elaborate on that?
    Game theory (the one example most people are familiar with is the "prisoner's dilemma") strongly suggests that under certain conditions individuals will make choices that are utility-optimizing from their singular perspective but, by virtue of being universal or at least very common choices, in the aggregate they are not utility maximizing. In plain jargon-free terms, it's the old "what if everyone did that" argument.

    In the specific case I mentioned: aping the landed gentry.

    As long as poor transport/very long workdays/lack of income made it possible for a tiny minority to enjoy both sylvan quiet in a country estate and presence in the city for commercial and social purposes, it was indeed idyllic. Imagine if 99% of the people were forced to live in a dense, urban center. And imagine you, 1% of the people, live in a nice, 5-acre plot with a beautiful mansion surrounded by fields and forests. Only 1% has cars, there is little or no congestion. You can live on your country estate and pop in (and park) downtown in a matter of a few minutes. You may even have a nice townhouse if you want to spend more time in town. Your mansion can be relatively close to the city center and still be immersed in countryside, since the remaining 99% are jammed within a tighter area surrounded by farmland/nature. Sounds great.

    Now let's reverse the percentages. Sprawl/suburbia. The product of 99% trying to do what only 1% can get away with. So you're no longer surrounded by nature but rather by other suburban houses. You can no longer live within easy driving distance, but through hours/miles of grinding traffic, etc.

    The LAWN, specifically, is part of the fantasy of an English country mansion which, to be shown off properly and have vistas, will be placed in a commanding spot, surrounded by fine lawns and maybe low-rise formal gardens, with more naturalistic gardens to the back and sides. If you’re going to pretend that your ranch-style sheet-rock shack is Castle Howard, you MUST have a nice big lawn in front of it.

    Again, if you’re ever seen an area of ‘terraced (town) houses, a house within it that has a low wall and a lawn around it looks positively baronial and of course set back from the road, etc. IF they are ALL like that, they just look like ramshackle, street-wall-less agglomerations.

  2. #52
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    On traditional residential streets, I don't think there is anything at all wrong with small setbacks (5'-20') from the sidewalk, and they work very well as a space to separate the stoop or verandah and the street. This makes using the stoop or verandah more inviting; able to watch and connect with the comings and goings of the street. (Set too far back, however, and the connection is lost, and each house is no longer part of the aesthetic whole of the street, but rather an individual mini-estate.) Anyway, residential streets like these usually have such narrow sidewalks that if there were no building setbacks, there would be little room for reasonably accomodating both sitting residents and walking passerbys.

    Of course the reason for setbacks (front lawns) gets skewed in the contemporary suburb, where stoops, verandahs, and human activity have been replaced by garages, and all connection to the street is lost. This is where front lawns become wasteful and stupid.


    I agree that grass is unnatural and wasteful. My wife and I have started turning up the remaining sod in the front of our house (aprox. 33' x 9') and replacing it with shrubs, tomatoes and cucumbers, flowers, etc. Eventually we hope that half of our backyard space (aprox. 33' x 33') will be devoted to something other than grass.

  3. #53
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Notice the irony of this question.

    I think front lawns are fun for kids up to about the age when they might be expected to mow them. By 12 or so, the safety of suburbia becomes too isolating. Teens stuggle to find role models in subdivisions that are almost totally bereft of twentysomethings/i.e. young adults. How can they can they mature to adulthood when all the commerce and work of the adult world is far away? For teens to become civilized adults, they need to be around society which is best experienced in an urban area.

    By fragmenting open space into individualized plots of grass, sports are hampered. Sure you can enjoy your front lawn - not minding that others can see you, but are others free to enjoy your lawn? Public parks provide for a larger scope and variety of activities than private front lawns. And when houses are close together (because they don't have lawns in the way), parks can be situated such that they are in close proximity to a large number of people.
    Actually there is no irony in the question at all. Irony is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language. Actually the question was rhetorical, anyway.

    Sports are not hampered by my yard or anyone else's. There are parks in my neighborhood. There are parks all over town. My son and his friends can play in my yard. I would prefer that. I can keep an eye on them. I don't have to follow them to a park, while I have stuff to do at home.

    Are people free to enjoy my lawn? They can look at it. The postman cuts across it six days a week. Can they use it? Of course not. It is my private property. Neither can they come into my house, make a sandwich and plop down in front of my TV. Or take my car for a drive. That is my stuff.
    Last edited by otterpop; 08 Jun 2006 at 1:45 PM.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  4. #54
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    Actually there is no irony in the question at all. Irony is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language.
    FWIW, your question of "Why does space have to be private to be enjoyed?" is ironic considering that your view is in support of "private" lawns. I realize that you're saying that you don't find your front lawn to be too public to make use of - which is good. But the larger point is that since it is your own private lawn - albeit in public view, you are enjoying something that is in fact not available to the public at large.

    I confess, I did not enjoy being expected to mow the lawn as a kid , and I would hardly be the last person in the world to be called lazy . But on a social level, I object to large front lawns as subjecting teenage kids to a cocoonlike embrace of the nuclear family at the expense of the development of a wider web of community ties. I subscribe to the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. As a rule of thumb, my personal preference is for neighborhoods where the ratio of building height to distance to houses across the street is > or equal to 1. This is obviously an urban level of density with narrow streets and little if any setback. In the realm of single family detached houses, I think setbacks get ridiculous as soon as they exceed the height of the houses. But that's just me.

  5. #55
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    FWIW, your question of "Why does space have to be private to be enjoyed?" is ironic considering that your view is in support of "private" lawns. I realize that you're saying that you don't find your front lawn to be too public to make use of - which is good. But the larger point is that since it is your own private lawn - albeit in public view, you are enjoying something that is in fact not available to the public at large.

    Oh I see your point, although the apparent misunderstanding between you and I is the different meanings of the word "private"

    I meant "private" is the sense of not secluded and in the public view. The question did not address public vs. private. Nothing ironic about that rhetorical question as it was posed, though easily misconstrued. But I see your point in the larger sense. The misunderstanding is ofcourse compounded becuase elsewhere in my posts I used "private" in the sense of not publicly owned.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  6. #56
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    This has been an interesting thread.

    Now, while I agree with homes being close to the (narrow) streets in a more urban setting, I still think it is necessary to have one's own backyard. Sometimes I like to bbq or just sit outside in my own little world. I like having a safe area for my dogs to run around and play.

    Also, while lawn grasses are unnatural, they are not a waste in my opinion. From an ecological standpoint, lawns do a lot to break down pollutants before they enter the groundwater, prevent erosion, cool the area around them and make a very safe surface for sports, etc. I definitely don't think that a lawn is needed when it is not being used, but I do think it has its purposes.

    As for this forced social interaction that a lot of people seem to support, I want nothing to do with that. I don't see why everything has to be shared and why it's so important for everyone to interact with one another constantly. People generally annoy the hell out of me after awhile and I like being able to get away from them. I don't mind a friendly chat with the neighbors when I'm outside, but I like my alone time in the yard.

  7. #57
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    No one is saying that the concept of grassed outdoor area is wrong. Many are just saying that excess grass is unnecessary (though what constitutes 'excess" is subjective).
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  8. #58
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    No one is saying that the concept of grassed outdoor area is wrong. Many are just saying that excess grass is unnecessary (though what constitutes 'excess" is subjective).
    Agreed. Now if we can just get the HOA's to stop believing that everyone should have a perfect turf in front of their homes

  9. #59
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Agreed. Now if we can just get the HOA's to stop believing that everyone should have a perfect turf in front of their homes
    Yeah, this I really can't fathom. I think it's even more ridiculous than say how the Yankees require all their players to be clean shaven. Besides its leisure value, and class symbolism, a neatly trimmed, lush green lawn affirms one's mastery over their environment - namely nature. It is the epitome of our reptilian/canine territorial natures.

    CLAIM AND MARK YOUR TURF
    FOR ALL TO SEE AND SMELL
    LET IT BE KNOWN TO ALL WHO PASS
    IT IS YOU WHO RULES THE GRASS!

    People can't very well invest in their communities, when their busy worrying about their property values. Why must efforts to do something unique/nonconformist with a front yard be trampled under foot by the HOA Gestapo? Yeah, that broken down pickup truck in the front yard is a decent clue I might be a redneck, but hey, maybe I've decided to memorialize my son's DUI with an art instillation I call - "Teenage Wasteland".

  10. #60
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crisp444
    My theory on why this is: Miami is heavily Cuban, and many Cubans were wealthy / upper middle class before having their property seized by Castro and coming to Miami. Many want to recreate the mansion/elegantrowhouse/apartment they had in Havana, and they WILL put in a small pool, a fountain, and an elegant iron gate (at the expense of having almost zero yard space and almost no lawn) around their 1200 square foot house even it if is located in a purely middle class neighborhood of other very modest homes.
    I don't agree. While a few of the Cuban refugees in Miami were upper-class, the majority were solidly middle class and/or working class before they fled to the US. I recently had this same discussion with my Cuban-American family members in regards to the new Andy Garcia movie about the Cuban Revolution, which was criticized for "not showing enough class conflict." Many of those involved in the debate disagreed with the film critics' one-sided view of pre-Castro cuba, citing their own middle-class families and communities in and around Havana.

    Also, how do you explain the prevalence of fountains and statues in front of many Italian- and Greek-American homes? Do they suffer from the same-fall-from-grandeur syndrome?

  11. #61
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Wow this thread had turned quite interesting!

    I totally agree with you Luca

    But definetely do not agreed with the idea that lawns=less social interaction. I think that there are some interesting social interactions that come from having a front lawn- whether it be neighbours outdoing each other, to kids playing with each other in the front lawn. It doesnt mean that people have to socialise, but it gives people a choice.

    But that brings up another point, which isnt really suitable to this thread, but planners spend their time planning for "community" or for social interaction etc etc (aka new urbanism/neo traditionalist style) but firstly- community cannot be planned for, and secondly (aka jread's point) not everyone wants to socialise, some people want their privacy and to keep to themselves
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

  12. #62
    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Game theory (the one example most people are familiar with is the "prisoner's dilemma") strongly suggests that under certain conditions individuals will make choices that are utility-optimizing from their singular perspective but, by virtue of being universal or at least very common choices, in the aggregate they are not utility maximizing. In plain jargon-free terms, it's the old "what if everyone did that" argument.
    [...]
    The LAWN, specifically, is part of the fantasy of an English country mansion which, to be shown off properly and have vistas, will be placed in a commanding spot, surrounded by fine lawns and maybe low-rise formal gardens, with more naturalistic gardens to the back and sides. If you’re going to pretend that your ranch-style sheet-rock shack is Castle Howard, you MUST have a nice big lawn in front of it.
    If everyone wanted to have an estate and mansion there wouldn't be enough to go around so most everyone would have to settle for something else. This something else doesn't have to be a front lawn. I think you're overanalyzing the situation by bringing game theory into this when it can all be easily explained by poor taste.

  13. #63
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    If everyone wanted to have an estate and mansion there wouldn't be enough to go around so most everyone would have to settle for something else.
    ...but that is exactly my point. They want a bucolic mansion but cannot have it and therefore end up with a suburban house or a McMansion

    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    This something else doesn't have to be a front lawn.
    No, it does not. However, (here I go, overanalyzing again ) behavioral economics now describes/encompasses the endowment bias effects of desires/desirable outcomes in limiting/determining sub-optimal choices. Long before economists put this in papers, spivvy shopkeepers always used this effect in the form of the 'bait-and-switch' trick.

    In pracrtice, if I am convinced that I want, say, a large, tiled swimming pool and then i find that for whatever reason I cannot have it, in theory I can just: a) save my money or b) go for a swing set. People, however, will often go for c) buy a crappy, over-the-ground, plastic, 'fish-tank' atrocity. ' just beause they have 'committed' mentally to a pool. They ahve their 'mind set on it'.

    You want to call it bad taste, fine by me. I've never beleived that good taste is entirely subjective. But the point is that if we can inform people ahead of time that they will not be able to get the big tiled pool, they won't later opt for the crappy one. We remove the bias. If people are helped to examine their motivation they can and do act differently.

  14. #64
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    Idea

    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Yeah, this I really can't fathom. ..

    ...People can't very well invest in their communities, when their busy worrying about their property values. Why must efforts to do something unique/nonconformist with a front yard be trampled under foot by the HOA Gestapo?


    I think we (Design Professionals) only have to show them a better way and a reason for it and then convince them of that. The problem of air pollution not to mention noise caused by mowers is one reason that a change of attitude is needed.

    I mentioned the possibility of fencing off the front yard with a high wall or privacy fence - http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showp...5&postcount=49 - but in order to promote social int ercouse a niche with a bench for passers by might be a standard feature. Then the front yard could be used anyway one pleases yet still maintain a standard neighborhood appearance from the street. A door could be added to the niche which could be opened when the owner wishes to visit with the passer by. More elaborate attachments might be added to the niche such as a canopy or shade tree, a fountain and pool, objects of art, electronic monitoring, etc.

    Possibly the HOA, et al would finance it - at least to provide the front part of the wall or fence.

  15. #65
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
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    The American Dream

    In our competition based society, the majority of citizens both passively and aggressively compete with each other to attain respect and status from our peers. For many the perfect lawn is the grown up equivalent of being selected as the starting quarterback or homecoming queen.

    But what about a lawn designates a citizen as the alpha male or female? Based on my undercover observations, it appears that front yard size/house setback from the road, color (dark green), and height (short blades of grass) are the criteria used to analyze a resident's status. The following are some recent statements our planning intelligence professionals have captured from McMansion, cul-de-sac dwellers "the largest, greenest, tightest cut lawn- just like a golf course!", "so what if that ***** has a bigger SUV, she calls THAT a front lawn", "the 495 belt, this is what it's all about; right now the guys I grew up with are living on top of each other in the city- wait till they see this".

    So we have answer #1- lawns are how we are judged. This begs the question why?

    Well it's a Friday afternoon and I need to tighten up some projects before I head out. However this would be cool to think about over the weekend. One thought is that front lawns are forced upon the masses. After all- what is a front yard setback requirement lol? Oh ya- you guys have lawns and I will grow the indigenous plantings of the area and everything's cool right? I mean what is better- a chemical, fertilizer, pesticide free reflection of what should be plated here or, as Kunstler points out, an industrial artifact? Anyway, I have to run- have a great weekend.

    MWAP

  16. #66
    Dan has got a picture of the perfect lawn in his collection if he would care to share it.

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