Monday, February 28, 2005

Urban snob?

One of my smartest and most respected readers really let me have it after reading my review of Reedy Fork Ranch. Here's what he said:

You're increasingly coming across as an urban snob of superior virtue and culture making fun of those who don't share your appreciation of "better" architecture and the way you think neighborhoods ought to be organized.

Hard-working middle-class people are looking for affordable housing in a nice neighborhood with good public schools. "Snout houses," like the ones we've always had and have now, are there so people can put their cars in garages, which happen to be extremely functional pieces of architecture. Sidewalks on one side of the street are plenty good enough for them, and they somehow find a way to relate to their neighbors . . .

. . . If I were young and just starting out in Greensboro, Reedy Fork Ranch would be the place for me, and I suspect [my] kids would have had a perfectly fine upbringing exploring all the cul-de-sacs.

Ouch. That "snob" part is not pleasant to hear, but it's probably true.

But hey, one of the reasons I started this blog was to have a lively discussion about development and urbanism (both new and old) here in Greensboro, and so far this reader is the only commenter to come down on the side of suburbia. Let's have a debate.

So over the next week or so, I'll try to put out a few posts, not only about why I like certain types of housing, streetscapes, and neighborhoods, but why I think they're actually better.

Housing and neighborhood design shouldn't be about snobbery. They should be about happiness for as many people as possible.


Anonymous said...

I’m not a snob, I just don’t like bad planning and development. Reedy Fork is as bad as it gets. It has nothing to do with architecture or the people who live there, they deserve more than they received for their money. The fault is with the Mayor and the developer.
The hard working middle-class people would have to pay less tax and have a more affordable home without the sprawl that cost people in Greensboro about twice as much for infrastructure as other cities equal in population.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a snob. I, too, don't like bad planning and development. However, I do think that Reedy Fork is an appropriate option for some people. A Reedy Fork or Adams Farm type development could help reduce sprawl, unfortunately they weren't done right. The mixed-use development THEORY is right, it's just not playing out the way it should. We said we wanted higher urban density to avoid sprawl, yet we are continuing to annex and sprawl at the same time we're pushing density in town. We CAN'T continue to have it both ways.


Michael said...

Urban planning involves both an aesthetic component and a public utility component. While the latter is at least partly empirical, the former is purely a value judgement. In making aesthetic judgements, we necessarily have to assume our "superior virtue and culture" allows us to make those judgments. The only other option is to fall into complete aesthetic relativism.

Billy Jones said...

Keep doing exactly what you're doing.

Reedy Fork represents a backwards way of developing neighborhoods. It's far too dependant on automobiles and like the neighborhoods built all the way back to the late 1940s the costs to modernize it will be staggering. Your reader will understand full-well what we snobs are talking about when he/she has to pay 5 bucks a gallon for gasoline and can no longer afford to drive or heat their home. It's just a shame that so many of us in the working class will be the ones who pay-- and suffer-- the most from poor planning.