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Pics of generic middle-class Canadian suburban dev. for your analysis & critique

OfficialPlanner

Cyburbian
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930
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23
What's good, what's bad?
-----------------------------------

Street-facing garages typically dominate newer houses.











Modern middle-class houses sit on incredibly narrow lots.



























Slabilicious suburban apartments.



In the background you can see single-family homes on postage-stamp sized lots.



Generic suburban townhomes.











Just enough space to push a lawn-mower between the houses.









Suburban arterials are often very unappealing to pedestrians.

 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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Dang there's some booty in one of those! ;)

My only 2 reactions are:

1) Lose the garage snout, and

B) The American Dream is single family home ownershipo, but a 2 foot side yard ruins it for me. Oh yeah, this is Canada. Never mind.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
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10,080
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34
Let's see, the balloon frame construction and no alleys are bad things, right?
 

Jeff

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4,161
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27
Are they houses or is that a public storage facility? All I see are garages, and a basketball net. Where's the goal, eh?
 

tsc

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23
hmmm looks like a bad US suburb... garages in foreground.. only clad in brick not vinyl.
 

martini

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679
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19


There's a what in this picture?

All the SF homes are ugly, repetitious and impersonal. The town homes, on the other hand, are nice and inviting, maybe even charming. Hmmmm. [sarcasm on] Wonder why? [sarcasm off]
 

donk

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6,970
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30
where is this again?
Looks like Brampton or Mississauga. Not a big fan of either of these places.

At least there appears to be "real" sized trees in the backyards.

All the SF homes are ugly, repetitious and impersonal
While not done at the proper scale, the detailing of these homes does match the local vernacular architecure from 1870-1920. The probably tore down the home farm to build these homes.

As for brick facing, I miss it. We only have vinyl or tar paper / tyvek here.
 

jordanb

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25
Comparatively nice

First, it looks like nearly every house is completly lined with brick. Is that just a facade or are they actually masonry buildings?

Second, hurrah for the small side setbacks! The buildings actually form a street wall rather than look like pods shat out at regular inteverals by some huge, hovering sprawl factory.

The residental streets need to be more narrow. There's nothing "traffic calming" about those huge things, so you're going to have everyone from 16 year old Mikey to too much to drink Jim flying through those streets, which will scare parents into relegating all outside play to the back yard.

The collector street is horribly ugly, so are the snouts. I suppose that there's probably not much other than housing in the subdivisions? The front setbacks could be smaller, especially since the owners of the houses are unlikely to use them for anything. They should also plant a line of trees in the front yards so the street can have a canopy over it in time.
 

H

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Garage face: Unfortunately it is too convenient and makes too much sense. Is it worse than a privacy fence or a gate?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very anti auto dependency, but I don’t feel the need to invite people onto my porch either.

If I had a SF house, I think I would build a cement privacy wall around it. I don’t want my things (bike, etc.) stolen. :(
 

BKM

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I would ditto a lot of the comments. I agree with jordanb about the street wall. Think I prefer some of the townhouses, myself. When the single family homes are THAT close together, why not just recognize reality and save money and space through party wall townhouses (I would hope Ontario doesn't have the excessve lawsuit mania that makes such housing difficult to build.).

As for design, the snouts are inevitable but ugly. I thought California tract housing was wierd, but some of the strange mutlicolored brick inserts would give Centex and Seeno Company designers nightmares

Land Planning: Pretty dispiriting, but the inevitable results of large scale, efficient production of monlithic single use land patterns by large developers. (more multifamily than many American cities, of course). Not that developers are the source of all evil, (neither is Walmart or Target), but the nostalgic side of me pines for incremental change and a more fine-grained development pattern. And, jordanb: you think THOSE streets are wide, you should see our beauties out here in CALTRANS land.

I like some of the squares in the latter set of pictures, but given that the residents are going to be tired after long commutes to central Toronto job centers, and given that their family recreation activities are going to be in front of the television set/video game machine/computer, what uses will they have?
 

OfficialPlanner

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930
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The first set were very ugly and nowdays these are basically the standard for new single family homes in southern Ontario. SInce these homes easily go for 200 to 300k, planning is being sacrifised so the developer can crame as many units as possible, and still legally call them single family homes for marketing reasons.

As a student working with the city, I had this one development consisting of a hundred homes with only 20 to 30ft lots. The Nimbys were understandably outraged as the developer wanted to extend a cul-de-sac and add another 100 homes to the street. The NIMBYs tried to convince the developers that having larger homes and less units would generate more revenue. When we looked at other developments in the area, there was no demand for 400k homes while these post-stamp lots we're selling like hotcakes. The poor NIMBYs lost their battle as usual and the development is now sold-out.

You will still find many of the American style homes in some of the older neighbourhoods but the economics are no longer there to build new ones.

As for the second set, are more to my liking but thoes townhomes are a little to dense even for the people who live there. Almost all of them were bought off plans in a sales office.
 

Cardinal

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BKM said:
Land Planning: Pretty dispiriting, but the inevitable results of large scale, efficient production of monlithic single use land patterns by large developers. (more multifamily than many American cities, of course).
Why? There are huge swaths of "monolithic single-use land patterns" in cities. Chicago has its neighborhoods of bungalows and two- or three-flats that are so much more desirable than this, when they are not really all that unlike in uses.
 

jordanb

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I can think of no place, even in the bungalow belt, that is more than a five minute walk from a commercial street. I think the best configuration is to have a small corner store just about every block with the basic essentials in it, but even where that's not available, there's almost always places within walknig distance.

There may be places out in Jeff Park or the far south side where that isn't the case, but those are pretty much still a suburban anyway.
 

BKM

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Most traditional cities (at least until you start getting into suburban areas) are much more finely grained. When I lived in Westridge in Chicago, for example, I lived in e three flat, next to a single family home, next to a two flat, next to a bungalow. There were no isolated megablocks where each specific land use had its own huge, monolithic, single-use pod.

Also, the degree of homogenization and mass production is much lower. Sure, developers in bungalow belts used pattern books and common architectural themes. But, the typical builder was much smaller-you only rarely saw vast tracts of hundreds of houses built by one builder to one set of plans.

Plus, traditional cities-even with single family densities, were much closer to locally owned commerce that served the neighborhood. Today's commerce is concentrated into gigantic warehouse stores next to the freeway interchange. Sure, its "cheaper," but its not the kind of city I find particularly interesting, attractive, or socially sustainable.

But then, I am just a com-symp liberal skeptical of modern life. I will just crawl away now :)
 

jresta

Cyburbian
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1,474
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my gut reaction, especially the second set is -

how temporary it all looks, i mean, that it doesn't look like a place that anyone would be interested in settling down in. It looks like the kind of place that people live in for 3 years, tops, then sell and buy up. I guess that's the idea behind it but i just think it's a shame.

Maybe i'm wrong and i'm just getting that impression because everything is very new/unfinished and with the exception of two prominent backsides, devoid of any signs of life.

Is it a far walk from the condos in the second set to any type of retail center?
 

OfficialPlanner

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930
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Retail space is now being constructed in the podium of one of the condo towers. The closest existing retail is a supermarket about 1000 to 2000ft away depending on where you live in this development.
 

BKM

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Its called living in a big city with expensive land values. Toronto is quite expensive (although probably not by Northern California standards.)

Townhouses are fine, imo, if you can provide the public spaces, neighborhood shopping streets, and parks within walking distance (among other amenities). I personally would rather have a denser traditional town with these amenities and quick access to true open space and a working countryside than low density suburbia with 1/2 acre to two acre lots spread out over a county of unimproved rural roads that are unsafe for everyone (drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists).

If you don't-if you still build on a vast scale of mono-use pods, then you have the worst of low density (total automobile dependence) and high density (traffic congestion and lack of private open space.)

As for the sardines-doesn't Santiago have high rise housing and tight building lots?
 

JNL

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I find the snout garages really ugly. Those pictures remind me of a suburb my parents used to live in that was built in the 60s where many houses had brick-clad exteriors and the street frontage was all about the garage.

The rows of houses that all look the same I find scary, it would be my worst nightmare to be forced to live in a place that looked identical to many others either side. How are you supposed to remember which is yours when you stumble home after a night out??

The second set of pictures I like better but they make me think of our university buildings rather than somewhere to live.
 

jresta

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OfficialPlanner said:
Any reconmendations on how to improve the first and second sets of pics?
In the first set of pics - the garage doors have to be moved, if they can't go around to the back or side then at least recess them a little. One set of houses has this feature with a decorative porch. Maybe make the porch actually useable and push the garage doors back a little.

The "blocks" are way too long. I would walk out that front door, look right and look left and then say, "who has the car keys".
When you look down the streets there's no "light at the end of the tunnel". Some focal points might help, even if it's just another house at the end of the street.

1000 feet is not a bad walk to neighborhood shopping but i'd like to know that it is a pleasant walk. One garage door after another would make me miserable. I'm sure you could get more creatives as to where the shopping was within the development and how accesible it was for pedestrians.

For the second set - i can't think of anything specific except - where are the shops?
and where's the public space?
where will people hang out, walk their dogs, etc?
Where am i going to see people/bump into my neighbo(u)rs?
 

Zoning Goddess

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The single-family homes look a lot better than the tract housing around here (Central Florida). All we get is beige stucco. No window details, just square holes in the walls. No brick, no porches.
 

bubbles

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I scanned through the comments, agree that the obsession with garages is not very appealing. I refuse to buy a home where the garage is closer to the street then my front door!

Although realize that Western Canadian suburbs don't look quite like those pictures. First off we don't have brick (besides a ltte bit for decoration) and I think overall we still have more yard space. Look at new developments around Calgary!!
 

j_deuce

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49
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When I am King, there will be no more garage-fronted houses. I understand the utility, yes. I don't care--they're ugly.

Agreed about the booty.

And, those roads look fit for a Formula I race.
 

Miles Ignatius

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Even The Hozers Succomb To It...

Overall, the pics saddened me; they reminded me of the dreaded banality I suffer through everytime I visit the faceless suburbs of Denver where the garage door reigns supreme. Like I need another reminder that I'm supposed to genuflect at the holy alter of the "Mo-bile society and its Discontents." (With apolgies to Freud...)



A much brighter spot was those Slabilicious Canadian rumps.....
 

OfficialPlanner

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1000 feet is not a bad walk to neighborhood shopping but i'd like to know that it is a pleasant walk. One garage door after another would make me miserable. I'm sure you could get more creatives as to where the shopping was within the development and how accesible it was for pedestrians.

For the second set - i can't think of anything specific except - where are the shops?
and where's the public space?
where will people hang out, walk their dogs, etc?
Where am i going to see people/bump into my neighbo(u)rs?
Actually, It was 1000ft for the second set of pics. There is also more retail currently being built at the base of one of the condo towers. Residents will literally be able to get off the elevator and do their shopping all in the same building.

The first set you will definetly need a car for shopping. Due to the high density, good transit of every 5 to 10 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes overnight is provided.

In the second set a huge public park is currently underconstruction as shown with other parks nearby. It's suppose to be a focal point of this new community and I think they have done a good job.

 

jresta

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sorry, i missed that park. Nice one too. that angle gives one a much better perspective.

the stores inside the high rise - is this a mall type atmosphere or are the stores accessible from the exterior as well?
I realize it's Canada and weather may influence people's expectations on how they prefer to access stores.
 

sfinlay

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OfficialPlanner said:
Any reconmendations on how to improve the first and second sets of pics?
The only way I would improve these pics would be to contrast them with another set of suburbian houses from another metropolitan area such as Montreal. Most of us know about Toronto's housing issues and lack of land to build...However, many other Metropolitan suburbs still have space to grow and build. The South Shore of Montreal still has available lots with a minimum of 60 feet lots. Oh yeah...as an after thought I haven't seen very many homes around here with eye sores such as those awful garages protruding out of the front of them :-c
 

passdoubt

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It's interesting that this thread should pop up now because I just spent the last week in a Toronto suburb that looks exactly like these pictures. But these photos don't emphasize just how many identical developments there are. It made my head hurt. They never end. That and the fact that each suburb substitutes a central shopping mall called a "Town Centre" for a downtown business district [although the fact that it's used as a major transit hub in Scarborough is really interesting and progressive]. It actually reminded me more of the West Coast than the Northeast, in the ugly hyper-modernity of development. The problem is that these neighborhoods are so boxed in that it'd be difficult to "fix" them. You'd have to raze the entire neighborhood and start over.

One problem I saw there, (this from an uneducated American perspective) was that each suburban town is a HUGE tract of land. Pickering and Mississauga are like the size of Rhode Island each, so it doesn't seem like they would have much incentive to provide services in different parts of town. They can designate miles and miles to residential use alone and confine commercial development along a few arterials, either way they still get the tax benefits. The large "sense of place" encourages this too. I grew up in a suburban town that's about a square mile across, so just the sheer enormity of municipal organization was shocking to me. Ontario's suburban "towns" and "cities" are bigger than Pennsylvania counties.
 

The One

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Zoning Goddess is Right!

#1 How much do these cost? I must get a response before I'm willing to accept that some of these are "middle class"! Houses like these in Denver or South Florida would run well into the high 300k's to 400k's depending on sf, interior finish certainly with all of the brick (no matter what type) and in many cases regardless of lot size. Some of the big multi-family housing has a socialist feal.....hmm.... Anyway, I for one don't believe these structures fall into the middle class (whatever that means) category (upper middle class maybe?). Do they have basements? Total sf?
 

BKM

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freewaytincan

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Chet said:
The American Dream is single family home ownership...
Wrong! This is one of the worst misconceptions out there. The American Dream has little to do with your own house, a car, or anything like that, though it can be as a result of it. The American Dream is actually that you will have a good life, better than your ancestors, parents, or even how you are or once lived, and that your children will have an even better life. That can encompass many things, among which homeownership could be one. It drives me nuts when people think that having your own house means that you've achieved the American Dream, because after all, people don't continue to stream into our country just because they want their own house...

But hey, at least you guys have those towers up there, not just a flat "skyline" of rooves, and maybe trees. I need to get an aerial shot of Frisco, Texas. You'll vomit with rage.
 

BKM

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passdoubt said:
They never end. That and the fact that each suburb substitutes a central shopping mall called a "Town Centre" for a downtown business district It actually reminded me more of the West Coast than the Northeast, in the ugly hyper-modernity of development. The problem is that these neighborhoods are so boxed in that it'd be difficult to "fix" them. You'd have to raze the entire neighborhood and start over.
Yep. You are describing Contra Costa County, or even worse, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties in the south.

As bad as we in Solano County are, at least our towns have remained distinct and separate, as numbing as some of the individual housing "product pods" can be
 

ebeech121

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83
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4
jordanb said:
Second, hurrah for the small side setbacks! The buildings actually form a street wall rather than look like pods shat out at regular inteverals by some huge, hovering sprawl factory.
ROTFLMAO

Nice imagery...so sad it's an accurate statement. :)

If it is possible (I have no idea) you should talk to some home builders and offer different housing styles that bring the front door forward (even if the gag-arage has to stay front and center). I know down here there are houses with front-facing garages and with some ornamentation (tell them to watch "Curb Appeal" on HGTV) to draw attention to the front entrance.

I'm totally assuming here, but if they had to use another facade-product instead of brickwork in order to afford the ornamentation..that should be done.

As for the tremendous amounts of uncut grass around some of the houses (ex. "postage stamps"), that should be cut and kept neat. And then maybe people won't care so much that the garage is hideous. :)
 

AubieTurtle

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894
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The reason for the prominence of the garages might be psychological. For people who live automobile dominated lives, their brains think in automobile-centric ways. For a house to be first and foremost a safe shelter for the car they spend so much time in would be appealing to these people (and thus sell quickly). A walkable community isn't something people notice when zooming by at high speed.
 
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