The Suburban Parkway

Virtually the entire Parkway is situated within suburban neighborhoods, but when was the last time you read something positive in local media about suburbs.

Suburbs are where a whole lot of Americans live, as Kotkin (2016) writes:

“Overall, 44 million Americans live in the core cities of 51 major metropolitan areas, while nearly 122 million Americans live in the suburbs. Additionally, more than half of the core city populations live in districts that are functionally suburban or exurban with low density and high automobile use.” (p. 15)

So why is so little positive written about where so many live?

Because most urbanists doing the writing believe dense cities are the way to live.

That is changing, as the website New Geography regularly reports and, as the new book just quoted from, by Joel Kotkin—also Executive Editor of New Geography—The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us makes clear, there is a lot of positive to know.

Here’s a sample from New Geography:

“In his new book, The Human City, Joel Kotkin looks at the ways cities succeed or fail in terms of how their residents are best served. Here’s a tour of some past models.

“Throughout history, urban areas have taken on many functions, which have often changed over time. Today, this trend continues as technology, globalization, and information technology both undermine and transform the nature of urban life. Developing a new urban paradigm requires, first and foremost, integrating the traditional roles of cities—religious, political, economic—with the new realities and possibilities of the age. Most importantly, we need to see how we can preserve the best, and most critical, aspects of urbanism. Cities should not be made to serve some ideological or aesthetic principle, but they should make life better for the vast majority of citizens.

“In building a new approach to urbanism, I propose starting at the ground level. “Everyday life,” observed the French historian Fernand Braudel, “consists of the little things one hardly notices in time and space.” Braudel’s work focused on people who lived largely mundane lives, worried about feeding and housing their families, and concerned with their place in local society. Towns may differ in their form, noted Braudel, but ultimately, they all “speak the same basic language” that has persisted throughout history.

“Contemporary urban students can adopt Braudel’s approach to the modern day by focusing on how people live every day and understanding the pragmatic choices they make that determine where and how they live. By focusing on these mundane aspects of life, particularly those of families and middle-class households, we can move beyond the dominant contemporary narrative about cities, which concentrates mostly on the young “creative” population and the global wealthy. This is not a break with the urban tradition but a validation of older and more venerable ideals of what city life should be about. Cities, in a word, are about people, and to survive as sustainable entities they need to focus on helping residents achieve the material and spiritual rewards that have come with urban life throughout history.

“Cities have thrived most when they have attracted newcomers hoping to find better conditions for themselves and their families and when they have improved conditions for already settled residents. Critical here are not only schools, roads, and basic forms of transport, which depend on the government, but also a host of other benefits—special events, sports leagues, church festivals—that can be experienced at the neighborhood, community, and family levels.

“This urban terroir—the soil upon which cities and communities thrive—has far less to do with actions taken from above than is commonly assumed by students of urban life. Instead, it is part of what New York folklorist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett calls, “everyday urbanism,” which “take[s] shape outside planning, design, zoning, regulation, and covenants, if not in spite of them.”

Retrieved May 22, 2016 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/005239-how-make-cities-livable-again

I would recommend picking up a copy of The Human City for your library if you have an interest in urban/suburban affairs.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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