New Urbanism and the Green Heart of Suburbia


Now that my city, San Francisco, has been given one of the highest walkability rates in the nation – surpassing NY and Boston – I am thrilled to know that the rise in fuel costs and deepening energy crisis has spurred more people onto the streets into walking or riding to their destinations. That’s healthy, in more ways than one.

Personally, I thrive on interaction with people. Seeing people regularly on the street fosters community and Americans need that more than ever in a time when our culture suffers from the highest rate of depression in the world.

I miss the suburbs. In light of the New Urbanist debates over suburban design, I am pro-community. The New Urbanist approach has many of the elements that foster community in suburbia – for example, a kind of social dimension to the architecture where we see the use of front porches on homes that face and relate to each other; home designs that de-emphasize a dominant garage feature where parking your car is detached and forces people to pass one another on a path.

What could be better than shared outdoor spaces and community gardens providing a setting for casual social interaction? Who wouldn’t want to strengthen their social networks and get the perks of having a sense of community that includes a sense of responsibility and safety in a neighborhood?

Let’s meditate for a moment on how people really want to live – in aesthetically-pleasing, affordable homes with shared outdoor space, tree-shaded dead-end streets that keep the neighborhood cooler in the summer, save money on infrastructure, eliminate through traffic and create quiet and safe spaces for children to play and neighbors to meet. Spaces for ball games, picnics, gardens, vineyards, and orchards. Beneath the SUVs and strip malls, suburbia has a green heart.

Image: Pear Biter