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Suburban Sprawl or New Urbanism and Gentrification

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New Urbanism, Gentrification or Suburban Spawl

New Urbanism is a new way of thinking about master planned communities. It stands in constrast to traditional suburbs, which for the most part have been villanized for contributing to spawl and the demonized evils which it is said to have brought forth. It stands as an answer to the housing issues being faced in the United States, as people weigh the tradeoffs between growth, conservation, affordable housing. It's an good concept for those who want the intimacy and diversity of the city, without the cost of living in the city.

The suburbs epitomize the practicalCar-commuting-responsibility-girlfriend-suburbs-engagement-mortgage-marriage-dullJob-threeKids-happilyEverAfter fairy tale. I complain about it South Riding is a pretty good example of a new urbanist community is in contrast to traditional suburbs.

New Urbanists promote a return to the traditional town planning that defines places like downtown Charleston, South Carolina; old town Alexandria, Va., historic San Francisco and Georgetown in Washington DC. These traditional neighborhoods feature walkable Main Street shopping districts, downtown parks, and grid streets. Unfortunatley such traditional town planning is hard to do, most modern suburban zoning laws prohibit such a neighborhood. Thus finding a place which possesses those characteristics, without paving over farmland and building it new invites a different even more complex problem. Most places which posses traditional town structures are located in expensive urban areas, or were in a state of general decline. The revitalization of the urban district invites a complimentry, if not even more complex problem than spawl. That problem is known as gentrification.

Gentrification is when wealthy middle class residents instead of moving into quiet suburbs, move into affordable urban areas, the influx of new residents improves the neighborhood.

Suburban Sprawl vs New Urbanism

I grew up in a suburb there's a lot to be said about it. It was quiet, it was safe, it was clean. I played t-ball and soccer at the local park, I rode my bike in the hills, I took the school bus across town to a gifted magnet school. Strangely enough the older I got, the further the school became (Elementry school - four miles, middle school ten miles, high school thirteen miles).

Villanized aspects of Suburbs - and suburban sprawl.

Car dependant.
Suburbs were developed with the car in mind, there's plenty of parking. But you can't walk anywhere. The joke is that you can go to the store, then drive across the parking lot to go to another store. The patetic reality is that people really do that. It's not unusual to see retired people using the mall as an indoor walking track, as it's one of the few places in the suburbs where it's safe to walk without being afraid of being run over by cars.

Cars present their own host of evils. Which the tree huggung enviornmentalists have beat to death about the pollution, smog, global warming, and not to mention the carnage of all the cute little animals run over, or all the beautiful cars damaged by collisions with wildlife.

They're spread out.
Suburbs are desgined with the automobile in mind. In additon they are set up with highways, parkways, feeder roads, and tributaries. Although this does create quiet residential streets with minimal traffic. It also tends to separate housing from shopping and work.

They're plain and rather bland.
Since in most suburbs all the houses were built by the same builder, and there's usually three or four different models, but they're usually all about the same size. Since they all were built at the same time, and have the same features, well they tend to look all the same. The joke about suburbs is that if you got drunk and stumbled down the street you could probably get lost go up to the wrong house and not realize you were at the wrong place, till you woke up the people trying to turn your key in the lock.

They're uncentered:
LA is a city without a center, because it simply consists of suburbs. Despite a great deal of effort, it has been hard to build public transportation there, and although there is a "Downtown" too many people do not think of it as a destination. It's easier to think of it as a series of small enclaves. I got to Little Osaka for good gyoza, Monterey Park for Chinese food. The Westside for museums, KoreaTown for jajangmien, and champong

Core principles of New Urbanism:

Basic goods and services are available within a five-minute walk. Sidewalks, narrow streets, and proximity of commercial and residential areas facilitate walking.

De-emphasize the car:
Garages are hidden in alleys, out of sight. Parallel street parking replaces the parking lot.

Mix: Traditional suburbs put homes in one area, schools in another and shopping in yet a third. New Urbanists mix building types, sizes and prices. A modest townhouse or duplex cozies up to large single family home, which may have a rental apartment over its garage. Apartments are built over street level stores.

New Urbanist design encourages human interaction by keeping houses close to each other and close to the street. Residents gather on front porches, in nearby parks and on open plazas. Neighbors share driveways, walkways and alleys.

Right now I live in a traditional city, it has all the characterististics which the new urbanists based their principals upon. In fact it's denser than most new urbanist communities.

Instead of suffering the problems of the suburbs, it faces the problem of a lot of old cities.


Gentrification is the process by which.

It touches on a lot of aspects both good and bad, and seeing the process of it happen where I live gives me an interesting perspective. All the rumors are grounded in some sort of fact.

For a good description POV FlagWars, did a documentry on it. Here's their description of gentrification

Gentrification in my city

There is no doubt that there's a lot of complex issues involved in gentrification.

The ironic thing is that my church prayed for a revitalization of Central Square, and it happened. I like to think we contributed to it. Some of my friends don't think so. They like the fact that

Complaints -

Rents are too high!

Rent control fell 10 years ago, although vacancy decontrol still exists to some degree.

I wonder what the implications of it are. Because indeed what happened was there was a separation, and a lot of people benefited. The middle class renters benefited from rent control, and when it fell the people who owned the houses who were only moderately wealthy, what was discovered was that they then began to sell their houses to developers and


updated 7.15.2003