Thesis – Chapter 2 Planning Today: 2.3 Community
Community is the amenity most cherished by those looking for a place to live. According to Fannie Mae, Americans prefer a good community to a good house by a margin of three to one (Duany, Plater-Zyberk, Speck, 2000). And yet, we continue to build subdivisions that thwart community at every turn. Life once spent enjoying the richness of community has increasingly become life spent alone behind the wheel (Duany, Plater-Zyberk, Speck, 2000).
“Social capital is the glue that helps bind communities together. It consists of attitudes such as trust and reciprocity, and behaviors such as social networking and civic participation. Urban Sprawl seems to undermine social capital. Much of this effect may occur in direct ways—an absence of sidewalks and public places where one can encounter neighbors, an absence of “great good places” as destinations for socializing, a shortage of time with family and friends due to long commutes. The decline in social capital is worrisome, since social capital is an important contributor to good health” (Frumpkin, Frank, Jackson, 2004, pp.184-185).
“Without Community, we are all doomed to private worlds that are more selfish and loveless than they need be. As our society becomes more privatized and our culture more narcissistic, the need and appetite to be part of something bigger than our individual selves grow. A community must simultaneously nurture both a respect for group values and a tolerance for individuality, even eccentricity. This is the paradox of community that will forever require adjustments” (Kelbaugh, 2002, p. 7)
The physical form of the suburbs we build continues to sustain this lack of community. Houses that are too far apart with no physical (sidewalks) or emotional connectivity, force some sad form of faceless community to be available only on the internet. In the absence of walkable public places (streets, squares, and parks—the public realm) people of diverse ages, races, and beliefs are unlikely to meet and talk. Those who believe that the internet web sites and chat rooms are effective substitutes vastly underestimate the distinction between a computer monitor and the human body. (Duany, Plater-Zyberk, Speck, 2000).