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Thread: The front yard

  1. #26
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    People are sick of the expense, watering, maintenance, air/noise pollution, and illegal immigration that the conventional yard requires.
    A lawn requires illegal immigration??? no
    A lawn requires water??? not in most of the country, though some water anyway.
    Air/noise pollution? Not with a reel push mower.
    If done right all a lawn requires is simple attention, not expensive.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian
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    I live in the historic district of a suburb and really haven't touched the lawn yet. My house is on half an acre. So the back yard has a small garden, a lounge area, and lots of room for the dog. My front yard is in pretty poor shape at the moment but I hope to liven it up with some flowers and shrubs. Thinking about setting a little bistro set on the front porch too.

    I don't water or fertilize the yard or anything but it is a lot of mowing...

  3. #28
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by VexedCoffee View post
    I live in the historic district of a suburb and really haven't touched the lawn yet. My house is on half an acre. So the back yard has a small garden, a lounge area, and lots of room for the dog. My front yard is in pretty poor shape at the moment but I hope to liven it up with some flowers and shrubs. Thinking about setting a little bistro set on the front porch too.

    I don't water or fertilize the yard or anything but it is a lot of mowing...
    I ascribe to the "farmer theory" of lawn: if it's green and not prickly, it's not a weed, so just mow it.

    If you seed white clover, especially in the back yard, you won't have to mow or water as often. Lawn purists don't like clover but it's drought resistant so it stays green with much less watering, it doesn't get more than ankle high so it doesn't need to be mowed as frequently, and like all legumes, it adds nitrogen to the soil. It's also spreads and takes considerable foot traffic. The only downside is that its white flowers attracts bees which doesn't bother me at all because bees and I get along fine but many people don't like them -- and some are highly allergic to their stings.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian
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    Front yards serve no purpose whatsoever and should just be eliminated. Ten feet of setbacks to the front of the house is all you need. If there is a garage five feet to keep people from parking in front of their garage and using it as a storage space or rec center. I also agree with the premise that the deeper the front yard the less friendly the neighborhood. My house is thirty feet from the back of sidewalk as is most of my neighbors. My front door is probably 60 feet from the sidewalk. My house yells out stay away!

  5. #30
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    Front yards serve no purpose whatsoever and should just be eliminated. Ten feet of setbacks to the front of the house is all you need. If there is a garage five feet to keep people from parking in front of their garage and using it as a storage space or rec center. I also agree with the premise that the deeper the front yard the less friendly the neighborhood. My house is thirty feet from the back of sidewalk as is most of my neighbors. My front door is probably 60 feet from the sidewalk. My house yells out stay away!
    I tend to agree with you. I'm fortunate that my house is designed in such a way that it isn't a "snout house" and the entire front facade other than the garage is a deep front porch. It is setback about 20' from the sidewalk. Even if I couldn't eliminate the front-facing garage, I wish my house was 5'-10' closer to the sidewalk (along with the other houses in my neighborhood).

    I know one thing: I wish I would have laid out my landscaping before the sod went in, because it is a pain in the ass to remove. Even the 'lasagna method' of layering newspaper and compost about 6" deep (basically kills the sod and converts it to compost), waiting about two months and then tilling has not been as effective as I hoped. I'm going to try it again in the summer months to see if the summer heat will help. At least my sod is a variety of buffalo grass and drought tolerant. Even with Central Texas being in the middle of a drought, I've watered only once since March and everything is still green.

    As a suggestion to folks that want a pretty front garden, but would like to grow vegetables with it, I recommend peppers, herbs and lettuces as a way to get some cool color and texture without sacrificing beauty. Even mellons can look pretty cool. A friend of mine used his front porch posts to grow green beans, and it looked really nice.

    My next project is rainwater collection. I'm sure my HOA will love that.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  6. #31
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I ascribe to the "farmer theory" of lawn: if it's green and not prickly, it's not a weed, so just mow it.

    If you seed white clover, especially in the back yard, you won't have to mow or water as often. Lawn purists don't like clover but it's drought resistant so it stays green with much less watering, it doesn't get more than ankle high so it doesn't need to be mowed as frequently, and like all legumes, it adds nitrogen to the soil. It's also spreads and takes considerable foot traffic. The only downside is that its white flowers attracts bees which doesn't bother me at all because bees and I get along fine but many people don't like them -- and some are highly allergic to their stings.
    I can relate to the clover. My parents' back yard had a lot of clover when I was growing up. My feet got stung by bees many many times growing up.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  7. #32
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    I'm doing the food co-op thing with my neighbors. Once a month, we bring excess fruits and vegetables to our neighborhood meeting. And, so far, the program has worked really well.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    Front yards serve no purpose whatsoever and should just be eliminated. Ten feet of setbacks to the front of the house is all you need. If there is a garage five feet to keep people from parking in front of their garage and using it as a storage space or rec center. I also agree with the premise that the deeper the front yard the less friendly the neighborhood. My house is thirty feet from the back of sidewalk as is most of my neighbors. My front door is probably 60 feet from the sidewalk. My house yells out stay away!
    I am going to stick my neck out against the flow of traffic on this one. I don't think front yards are useless and I think that forcing people to not park in front of their house is extreme.

    First of all, when I was a kid, the front yard was where everything happened. It was the place where all the neighborhood kids could congregate and play without having to ask for parental permission. Can kids play in the backyard instead? Yes they can. Maybe things have changed since I was a kid, but neighborhood kids playing in the front yard was generally seen as an open invitation for others to join. Kids playing in the back yard generally signaled a private event and one had to acquire permission to enter. The front yard was the social sphere for all us rug rats. Does that mean the front yard needs a large green grass lawn? No, but all the aforementioned issues with front yards mentioned in this thread doesn't mean we should just eliminate them either. Not to mention that setback = privacy. Take it from someone who has zero setback; living right up against the street is extremely unpleasant at best.

    As for the parking issue, why can't people park a car in front of their garage? Because a handful of planners somewhere or a HOA decided it wasn't aesthically pleasing? What do you do about the home which houses multiple generations? Until we have a society that can actually support multi-modal transportation, people need cars. You cannot assume every household is the typical nuclear family.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TerraSapient View post

    ...First of all, when I was a kid, the front yard was where everything happened. It was the place where all the neighborhood kids could congregate and play without having to ask for parental permission. Can kids play in the backyard instead? Yes they can. Maybe things have changed since I was a kid, but neighborhood kids playing in the front yard was generally seen as an open invitation for others to join... .The front yard was the social sphere for all us rug rats.
    Sorry, I have to second this, at least in some cases. The night games are starting around the corner I live on, and my entire property (starting with the front yard) will be full of neighborhood kids from ages 15 on down. Mothers, fathers, neighbors sitting around, dropping in and out, etc. I know that in some ways it sounds like suburban hell - and some days it feels that way too - but all kinds of places need to exist, for all kinds of reasons. And suburban front yards...they're a place. And grass notwithstanding, in the right neighborhoods they do all the things that New Urbanism wants to, and sometimes they do it better. Just sayin'.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  10. #35
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by TerraSapient View post
    I don't think front yards are useless and I think that forcing people to not park in front of their house is extreme.

    First of all, when I was a kid, the front yard was where everything happened. It was the place where all the neighborhood kids could congregate and play without having to ask for parental permission. ...The front yard was the social sphere ... Not to mention that setback = privacy. Take it from someone who has zero setback; living right up against the street is extremely unpleasant at best.

    As for the parking issue, why can't people park a car in front of their garage? Because a handful of planners somewhere or a HOA decided it wasn't aesthically pleasing? What do you do about the home which houses multiple generations? Until we have a society that can actually support multi-modal transportation, people need cars. You cannot assume every household is the typical nuclear family.
    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    Sorry, I have to second this, at least in some cases. ... all kinds of places need to exist, for all kinds of reasons. And suburban front yards...they're a place. And grass notwithstanding, in the right neighborhoods they do all the things that New Urbanism wants to, and sometimes they do it better. Just sayin'.
    Me three. Eliminating front yards is simply a bad idea. Our neighbors see us working in our front yard and some get landscaping ideas, others stop and say hi. Most don't, as we live in a conservative area's McSuburb, but everyone knows us.

    And eyes on the street for the few kids who actually still go outside in such neighborhoods.

  11. #36
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    i'm, personally, in the camp of maximum front yards of 10-15 feet with a nice useable front porch.

    Front yards are nice, but I actually like being closer to the street - they're typically just local streets and not 4 land arterials.

    With 10 feet you can still do landscaping in the yard, and it is manageable.

    For context, I prefer neighborhoods with alley accessed garages and little drives to the street.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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

    You know...for kids.

  12. #37
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Either way you stand on front yards, I'd go with 90' setbacks or 2' setbacks if it was going to have any positive impact on adding new construction.

    I've heard of instances where instead of creating a specific setback (20' seems like a fairly common front yard standard), some city codes will instead give a little bit of buffer to the setback allowed and use adjacent property setbacks as the baseline (basically saying you are allowed whatever setback as long as it is within 5' of your neighbor). That seems like a pretty creative way to maintain uniformity and allow front (and probably side and rear) yards some flexibility.

    Is that something that typically only happens with commercial properties, or could it work in a residential zone as well??
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  13. #38
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post
    I've heard of instances where instead of creating a specific setback (20' seems like a fairly common front yard standard), some city codes will instead give a little bit of buffer to the setback allowed and use adjacent property setbacks as the baseline (basically saying you are allowed whatever setback as long as it is within 5' of your neighbor). That seems like a pretty creative way to maintain uniformity and allow front (and probably side and rear) yards some flexibility.
    One of the small cities where I was in charge, we eliminated setbacks that were all one depth - the builder could build a 10' or a 25' as long as they all weren't the same on the block. We also let the front porch encroach as long as it was wider than 6'. This gets rid of the cookie-cutter boring look and serves the walkability function and also gives extra choice. If you travel around and look carefully, you'll see in older neighborhoods its not uncommon at all.

  14. #39
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post
    ........I've heard of instances where instead of creating a specific setback (20' seems like a fairly common front yard standard), some city codes will instead give a little bit of buffer to the setback allowed and use adjacent property setbacks .......
    We have a provision in our code that allows new development to deviate from the bulk standards, including setbacks, to conform to "the prevailing pattern of development in the immediate neighborhood." I've administratively granted plenty of exceptions to the minimum required setbacks. I like that authority.
    Habitual Offender

  15. #40
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    I don't think most in this thread are advocating no front yard at all. I like my front yard, because it's small.

    My girls actually prefer to play in the front yard, because they can ride bikes, etc. But they don't play in the yard itself necessarily. Tonight I had to force them into the back yard, because I'm not completely comfortable letting my 5-year old be out there with no supervision.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  16. #41
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I don't think most in this thread are advocating no front yard at all. I like my front yard, because it's small.

    My girls actually prefer to play in the front yard, because they can ride bikes, etc. But they don't play in the yard itself necessarily. Tonight I had to force them into the back yard, because I'm not completely comfortable letting my 5-year old be out there with no supervision.
    I think this is where the preference for backyards comes from. Parents feel they can leave the kids there in relative safety.

    I will also add that if the yards are mostly unfenced, that it leaves a large, safe play area for the neighborhood kids. We have that in my neighborhood. Only two of us (we have pups) on my block have fenced our yards which creates a nice open space for the kids young and old to have kickball or football games. It also makes it easier and safer for younger children to play with friends on adjoining streets.

  17. #42
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    I think there is a good deal of clove in the back yard and I appreciate a lawn full of little flowers that attract bees to my garden!

  18. #43
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I am convinced that landscaped front yards are one of the least expensive ways to add to the perceived value of the home and this is reflected in maintaining property values and the tax base.

    Areas with old homes that needed some repair were still perceived to be in a desireable neighborhood and home values were maintained.

    I understand that some areas of the country and some parts of the inner city are not able to have this appearance, but that is also what makes some places and areas of the country more desireable to live in.

    We have been successful in maintaining the perception of a college campus in our small city where we have nice large front yards, and our community has won a few national awards for being a desireable place to raise a family.

    We try to protect our front yard setbacks vigorously.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    I am convinced that landscaped front yards are one of the least expensive ways to add to the perceived value of the home and this is reflected in maintaining property values and the tax base.

    Areas with old homes that needed some repair were still perceived to be in a desireable neighborhood and home values were maintained.

    I understand that some areas of the country and some parts of the inner city are not able to have this appearance, but that is also what makes some places and areas of the country more desireable to live in.

    We have been successful in maintaining the perception of a college campus in our small city where we have nice large front yards, and our community has won a few national awards for being a desireable place to raise a family.

    We try to protect our front yard setbacks vigorously.
    So, your uniform setback laws make your city "a desireable place to raise a family." Can you explain that logic?

    I know of several cities with large setbacks that are not considered desirable places to raise families.

    I also know of many places with deep setbacks where property values are depressed, sometimes because large parcels are more expensive to maintain.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian
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    Deep setbacks may be alright in rural areas, but as the context becomes more sub-urban and urban, the setbacks need to become more shallow. Planners should be in the business of providing options and variety, partly to ensure economic sustainability through diversification.

  21. #46
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Deep setbacks may be alright in rural areas, but as the context becomes more sub-urban and urban, the setbacks need to become more shallow.
    Reality check:
    • Most urban setbacks are already shallow.
    • Many suburban setbacks, except in the more expensive subdivisions or in areas that were originally exurbs, are relatively shallow, 30-50 feet is common. Many newer subdivisions also have shallow setbacks because homes are being set on smaller lots as home/land prices have soared.
    • Most existing homes in rural areas have setbacks of 100 feet or less, especially homes that were built prior to WW II. This was because people didn't want to mow all that land by hand with a reel mower or clear out that driveway of snow. Even today, setting a house back far from the road means added cost for building a driveway as well as bringing in electricity and for gas/water/sewer if those are available at the road, so most people who built/are building new homes stay within 100 feet or so of the road.

    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Planners should be in the business of providing options and variety, partly to ensure economic sustainability through diversification.
    How, exactly, do "options and variety" of front yard setbacks "ensure economic sustainability through diversification"? I don't think that communities should have rigid one-size-fits-all setback rules for the entire community, but the depth of the frontyard setback is NOT going to be a significant determinant of the market value of a home unless it is extreme (for example --a very shallow setback while fronting on a busy road). IMO, this is just theoretical goobleygook using the favored jargon du jour. Any idea somebody wants to push gets called "sustainable".

  22. #47
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    but as the context becomes more sub-urban and urban, the setbacks need to become more shallow.

    Planners should be in the business of providing options and variety, partly to ensure economic sustainability through diversification.
    Your second sentence contradicts your first.

    The cookie-cutter "need" is, of course, utterly dependent on context.

  23. #48
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    To me the front yard serves many purposes. It is a transitional space from the hustle and bustle of the street to the insanely chaotic family inside. The front yard gives you the abiltiy to meet neighbors out for a stroll.My front yard is basically designed for passive use and enoying a cocktail. It is also pretty well screened off from the street though the use a trees,hedge and plantings. There is no lawn but there is groundcover and shrubs ( california natives)

    The yard also through its layout of masses and its use of foliage color and texture accentuate and articulate the design and mass of the house. Also there is a seperate entry path for guests as the driveway is for vehicles and is gated off at the street.

    c

  24. #49
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    How, exactly, do "options and variety" of front yard setbacks "ensure economic sustainability through diversification"? I don't think that communities should have rigid one-size-fits-all setback rules for the entire community, but the depth of the frontyard setback is NOT going to be a significant determinant of the market value of a home unless it is extreme (for example --a very shallow setback while fronting on a busy road). IMO, this is just theoretical goobleygook using the favored jargon du jour. Any idea somebody wants to push gets called "sustainable".
    Setbacks should be context-sensitive.

    For example, deep setbacks for skyscrapers create towers in a park and no walkability.

    Options come in the form of a variety of contexts with their own respective typologies, including among them setbacks.

  25. #50
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Setbacks should be context-sensitive.

    For example, deep setbacks for skyscrapers create towers in a park and no walkability.

    Options come in the form of a variety of contexts with their own respective typologies, including among them setbacks.
    Are you really comparing american front yards to Le Corbousier style development? I suggest that you study Mies Van der Rhoe. If this area was left context sensitive it would be full of unused warehouses, rotted homes.

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