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Successful suburbia

Ian Anderson

Cyburbian
Messages
41
Points
2
I was over at Planetizen today and found this interesting headline:

"Cary, N.C.: Successful Suburbia"

I thought it was interesting, to think of suburbia as being "successful." This made me wonder: given the implied meaning connoted by the headline, how is it that suburbia is unsuccessful? I grew up in suburbia. I feel good about myself. I had friends. I played. And once I became a teen-ager, I drove eveywhere, too. But not once did I ever think it was a "successful" place to live. Not even professionally had I ever considered my hometown to be "successful" or not. What do you think, are there "successful" suburbs? Or is all of suburbia a wasteland? Apparently the latter can't be completely true (unless there are things I hadn't considered), but in thinking about the spirit of these message boards, what virtue does suburbia hold, if any?

P.S. The URL for this article is:

http://www.planetizen.com/news/item.php?id=3348

Also, the article was contributed by the Congress for the New Urbanism, and a link there takes you to the original article at National Geographic at:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0106/feature7/index.html
 

prana

Cyburbian
Messages
565
Points
17
I think it might be a product of the times- successful vs. unsuccessful suburbia. I too grew up in suburbia in north San Fran., Orange County California, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City. With the variation of experiences between those areas of the country, I can say that there are successes and not. And now raising a 5 year old in suburbia Phoenix, this realization has been brought to a new low.

There are no pick-up football or soccer games within the neighborhood here, only those organized through AYSO with complete psycho parents who can't comprehend that these kids are only 5. I know no one's name more than two houses on either side of mine and I've been in this house for four years. Being a supporter of NU and "community", I have made the effort to meet these people, but it's just not happening in modern suburbia.

As a kid, these recent experiences would have been completely foreign. I could name every family of our 110 home subdivision in Cincy. I had well over 20 boys within 3 years of age to play with and the neighborhood park or pool and my parents had no fear of not knowing where I was every minute of the day. I consider that a successful piece of suburbia.

I was in high school in Salt Lake and that was quite the experience not being Mormon, but I would consider the neighborhood and virtually the whole suburb of Sandy an unsuccessful piece of suburbia. I was old enough to drive, but my little sisters had no where to play within the neighborhood. They had difficult times meeting friends because there were no sidewalks within the neighborhood, so they had to be driven even the 1/4 mile to the other side of the same subdivision because my parents deemed the streets unsafe. Knowing what I know now, the streets were VERY unsafe and pedestrian unfriendly, i.e. way too wide, no sidewalks, were able to be (and routinely were) driven at 50 mph instead of the posted 25. Another unsuccessful piece of suburbia due to design!
 

Ian Anderson

Cyburbian
Messages
41
Points
2
Your last paragraph is quite intriguing in the sense that I'm mystified how those types of "neighborhoods" get built. I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a place may be unsafe and isolating to raise a family. Bur for some reason, these places are in demand and are put on the market. What exactly are these kinds of homebuyers looking for? Is it the enormity of the house? Or are these places just cheap? Or are these the only places that are unsold at the time and therefore are the only places on the market that can be consumed? What behaviors and decisions, on the part of the home consumer and our society as a whole, lead them to these places?
 

prana

Cyburbian
Messages
565
Points
17
Ian- surely you've seen neighborhoods like the one I described in Salt lake City? They are everywhere, especially in the West. And maybe that's the difference... development in the autocentric western US versus the somewhat older Midwest and then the pre-auto East coast.

As far as what it says about society when that neighborhood was one of the better in my school district...I'm not sure, but I know it's not positive.
 

Ian Anderson

Cyburbian
Messages
41
Points
2
I guess what I'm trying to get at relates to our values in society. That is, have we become such in inwardly looking society that the size of our actual house (the space we dwell within) is more of value than our surroundings? Is our society so selfish that we can seemingly "afford" (in a monetary and non-monetary sense) to sacrifice all that exists around us for some increased level of sanctuary? I don't have answers to these questions, and I find interesting to contemplate these ideas.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Who makes the requirements, planners or (traffic) engineers? For so many years we kept hearing "build the street wider, with fewer curves and constrictions and it will be safer." It may be safer for the cars, but nothing else, and forget about aesthetic qualities unless you like the look of asphalt. I've never yet met a residential developer who insisted on having wide streets. If we are getting better at the local level, we still have a long way to go with the state DOT's. Limited access, no curb cuts, frontage roads (roads parallel to roads!), design for twice the posted speed... anything to move traffic faster and "safer." Does anybody else think they have a huge role to play in creating this monster called Suburbia? It's about time we villagers grabbed our torches and pitchforks and marched on the DOT.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,794
Points
58
I'm fighting that same fight in a subdivision that I'm reviewing right now. The proposed street profile shows 18' of pavement; the engineer wants 28'. (I'm now asking the developer for 22'.) Why? Not to move vehicles faster, but for "safety" -- so one fire truck can pass another fire truck. What's the best way to counteract these arguments? Was a municipality ever sued for having streets that aren't so fire truck friendly?

I know of one town whose residential street standards were intended to allow two fire trucks to drive abreast down the middle of the street, when cars are parked on one side.
 

Ian Anderson

Cyburbian
Messages
41
Points
2
As a solution to the fire truck issue, is it possible to require fire trucks to be narrower? Imagine, zoning codes that proscribe maximum fire truck widths!
 

prana

Cyburbian
Messages
565
Points
17
Is it possible to simply have more access avenues so that fire trucks don't have to pass each other? That would of course eliminate cul-de-sacs and some other suburbia design staples.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Not meaning to focus on one aspect of New Urbanism, but its a pet topic of mine, so:

We may hate the cul-de-sac and access road palette, but read the real estate sections of any newspaper-cul-de-sacs sell. I don't have any kids, but those that do find cul-de-sacs safe and appealing. Of course, the road system means that the kids can't get anywhere without their parents driving them, which has all kinds of impacts. but, it will be difficult to overcome the market bias in the typical new development.

I do HATE wide streets,

One possible "Solution" to the wide streets dilemna: Really push the street trees! Over time, they will help frame the street, reducing the visual impact. Of course, engineers, developers, and residents who dislike "messiness" (my God, what a terrible mentality-you don't want shade tree because it might mess up your expanse of perfectly trim grass or raked gravel) all hate street trees, but they are almost a public necessity (particularly in a hot climate like the Central Valley of California)

Oh well, I'm rambling again.
 

prana

Cyburbian
Messages
565
Points
17
Raked gravel in the front yard is standard and required code in almost every new development in Phoenix. In the back yards, only a certain percentage of the square footage is allowed to be grass, the rest must be "natural" desert landscape.

Stucco track homes with gravel yards that are the same color as the homes, create a giant salmon or beige colored blob on each side of an oversized, 145 degree strip of asphalt as far as the eye can see. Welcome to suburbia Phoenix!
 

Ian Anderson

Cyburbian
Messages
41
Points
2
Ramble on! Keep it coming... makes my job interesting!

Raked gravel? I once had a neighbor who did that. I do not understand that. Must hate mowing the grass. My solution, if you don't want a lawn to mow: just don't mow it.
 

EZP

Member
Messages
3
Points
0
Cul-de-sacs aren't so bad if there is a pedestrian/bicycle access at the end of it. It helps solve that problem of having to drive the kids everywhere.

One of the battles I'm dealing with is development engineers for the County who say they don't want connecting steets between neighborhoods because they get too many complaints from people in the neighborhood. Many people also think that the pedestrian/bicycle access somehow 'enables' crime - that bad elements will be using the paths.

In north central Florida, the people in the poorer neighborhoods rake the dirt. Have you seen that yet, Dan?
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,890
Points
26
I grew up in the middle of small (15,000) midwestern town. There was a ball-field only about 200 yards from my house. In my little neighborhood of about 30 homes. there were a total of 4 kids including me and my brother. everyone else was retired.

currently i live in a very simliar type neighborhood in Peoria,IL (113,000). The mix of people in my area is wonderful. I'm glad my son will be able to walk to an ice cream stand, get pop at a nearby gas station and play with countless kids in a sidewalked, narrow street, small lot, 1920-1930 neighborhood.

Almost every home has a porch, and i met more people in this area in 6 months than i did in my old slightly suburban neighborhood for almost 2 years. If new urbanisim says anything it says community. Bring the barbecue off the patio and stick it on the porch.

I think back to college. Where did i have the worst living conditions but the most fun, comfortable, and social atmosphere? The dorms.

Where did i feel isolated, alone, ..... a new subdivison full of parking lots and apartments. sure the living conditions were 'better, more space' but... there was no community.

ramble.. ramble.. rambl..ramb..ra
 

prana

Cyburbian
Messages
565
Points
17
Ian- you better be careful, that's almost a New Urbanist thought! I don't have the answers either, but I would say that the trend for the last 20-30 years HAS been that the individual house (and car, but that's another topic) have been more important in societal views than actual "society" or "community."

Michael- AGREED!!! Polyester and pocket protectors may not burn so well, but I'm willing to try!
 
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