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The front yard

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#22
And while the yards and facades may appear worn and rustic, that's just how the crunchy crowd likes it. When a unit in the pictured development goes up for sale, it tends to be in the $150/square foot range.
I'm really liking your word choice here. "Crunchy" seems to accurately portray this type of lifestyle, without being too condescending or derogatory.
 

ColoGI

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#23
And while the yards and facades may appear worn and rustic, that's just how the crunchy crowd likes it. When a unit in the pictured development goes up for sale, it tends to be in the $150/square foot range.
The facades aren't my cup of ginseng and Himalayan-grown chamomile and fleabane tea, the landscaping is great in my view. YMMV.
 
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#24
I have never understood the appeal of the large private lawn, especially in southern California where moisture comes seasonally. Hearst Castle doesn't have a single blade of grass on the site, and I think that approach makes much more sense in this climate. The grounds there are spectacular sans grass. Too often, home-owners seem to lack imagination with their ornamental plantings. And, I think a growing number of people are interested in doing some organic and local subsistence farming on their properties, especially with landscapers who are hired to do some of the work.

I have noticed a growing interest in converting front yards into outdoor rooms by adding seating, umbrellas, and tables, as well as water features and other comforts that go beyond the typical front porch. All of this is great for building community and for community self-policing. People are sick of the expense, watering, maintenance, air/noise pollution, and illegal immigration that the conventional yard requires.
 

ColoGI

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#25
People are sick of the expense, watering, maintenance, air/noise pollution, and illegal immigration that the conventional yard requires.
I agree, and not around here they're not. I can honestly say that my less-than-radical front yard is the only one of its kind within at least a mile radius. Maybe 2.

There are some places where the culture is changing. But the norm is the signaling that you are in control of nature. And there are new consumer products every year that are dutifully purchased to keep it that way. One day when water is priced properly and petrochemicals are too expensive to lavish on turf, this will all change. Not a day too soon, either. Food is much more logical in turf's place, but that requires work and knowledge.
 
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#26
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.
 
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#27
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...
 

Linda_D

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#28
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.
 
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#29
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!
 

Suburb Repairman

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#30
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. :not:
 

btrage

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#31
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. :-c
 
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#32
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.
 
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#33
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.
 

ursus

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#34
...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'.
 

ColoGI

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#35
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.
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.
 

mendelman

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#36
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.
 

HomerJ

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#37
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??
 

ColoGI

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#38
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.
 
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#39
........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.
 

btrage

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#40
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.
 
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