I like small towns! I guess I actually live in a small city (pop about 80,000 I think). There are some neighborhoods with HOA here, but certainly none that are tree-less. We live in an in-town neighborhood (can walk to an independent bookstore and several independent non-chain restaurants) and have more trees on our lot than I could even begin to count. Seriously. I don't know 200, maybe? It's not that big of a lot, but good sized -- .8 acres. It's just completely covered in trees. I couldn't do the big city anymore. NYC is it's own animal, though. No other city like it, IMO. I lived in LA for awhile and that place is sprawl, sprawl, sprawl. Crazy. There are definitely cute little neighborhoods, too, and funky urban places, but I just want to be in my little small funky town now.
Why do people hate the suburbs? - Page 2
The burbs were, as someone said, soul-crushing. By suburb, think ugly, box-style cookie-cutter houses. Teeny yards. No trees. Empty....nobody out walking, nobody in the yards. Depressing as hell. Everyone drives everywhere. Malls that center around Walmart and boring chain-style restaurants (Pizza Hut). Absolutely hated it.
That sounds stifling and horrid. I guess a lot of this discussion has to do with people's experiences in urban and suburban areas. My suburban town is nothing like what's described above. The yards aren't huge, but they're not postage-stamp sized either. The houses are a bit cookie-cutter but they're (IMO) pretty cute. There are always tons of people out and about, tons of populated walking/biking paths, hiking trails, etc. We can (and do) walk half a mile to the library, bookstore, cafes, non-chain restaurants, really lovely city hall/community center with lots of activities, and the movies.
The town I grew up in would be considered a suburb of San Francisco I guess (although it's the "big" city in its county), but it's an old town with a true city center and tons of character -- I loved it and still do.
I think there is a huge difference between a smaller than full sized city that has all of its own resources, and a bedroom community. If I had to, I could (and have) live in a small town if it had it's own resources for entertainment and culture. I wouldn't like it because I prefer the hustle and bustle and press of humanity that comes from being in a city. But there is no way on earth you could get me to live in a bedroom community.
OK, I'll admit it. I was once an anti-suburb snob. In fact, I once used the exact suburb I live in as an example of everything that is wrong with America in a conversation. How's that for a bitter pill to swallow? ;) When it came time to buy our house though, my husband was tired of caring for an older home, and was only willing to buy a new house - and the new houses were in the suburbs.
There are at least 3 other houses in my neighborhood with the exact same floor plan as mine, but gosh, I like my house. I have a huge kitchen that so beats my old city house for entertaining. There were no trees when we moved in, but I've planted some great natives and a small home orchard in the back. It is fun to watch them grow. There are tons of kids for my kids to play with - in that way, it reminds me of the city neighborhood I grew up in. Ours is a small community (6,000 people, surrounded by farms), so it has been really easy to get involved with local committees and volunteer projects. I've been able to get involved in ways I never would have dreamed of when I lived in the city. And although I rarely see my neighbors out and about in the neighborhood, I run into people I know anytime I go anywhere in town. I love those parts of it.
That said, I'm still not sure I'm a suburbs girl. I miss the city. I miss not needing a car and having everything I need in my neighborhood. I sometimes feel like we've got the worst aspects of both city and country life. But living here isn't the soul-sucking experience I expected it to be. ;)
We have lived in two kinds of suburbs. One was closer to the metro area, many of the houses were similar floor plan but there was enough variety that it wasn't boring. Yes, some big box stores. But also some small independant businesses. My biggest complaint was that it just wasn't walkable, at least not with my small kids. Many neighborhoods had no sidewalks, or really messed up ones. We lived very close to shopping areas but any way we went, we had to cross major traffic ways leading into and out of the city, with poor crossing options. It was maddening to have to *drive* in order to get anywhere that we could walk for exercise, or drive .8 miles to go shopping. Really.
Now we are in a different kind of burb. It's kind of odd. We're in a small city (a city in it's own right), then there is this wasteland of development, and then a larger city. I don't really particularly appreciate the McMansion developments sprouting all over the hills, and wouldn't like to live there. And the bazillions of car dealerships and big box stores...not my thing. But the where we live, we can walk downtown, it's safe, I can walk with the kids, I can get the basics that I need within walking distance. But it's quieter and safer than the big city that we used to live near. Love it.
I am certainly not a fan of city living (much too close to other people) but I also could not live in the suburbs either (we currently live in a small town which is ok but are looking forward to moving to 88acres in the summer).
For me the biggest thing is the lack of individuality & it extends to so much more than the cookie-cutter houses on the postage stamp lawns. It's that when one person puts a big inflatable snowman on their lawn the whole street immediately follows suit. If one person reseals their driveway you can bet that the others will be done in short order. The keeping up the Jones' attitude is SO blatant & we just could not possibly keep up. And the gossip, oy!
One of the reasons we look forward to our future move is that we are so sick of feeling judged & "on" all the time to please the neighbours. We can never seem to keep our lawn as nice, take in our garbage cans fast enough, put up the right decorations, keep the dogs quiet enough, etc, etc.
I think it is funny that a pp said the suburbs are so much quieter. Most of my friends live in suburbs & there is not a moment in time that you are not listening to somebody's lawn mower, or leaf blower, or snowblower, or powertool, or....
I think the suburbs work for some people but they make me rather queasy.
However, I am a big believer in that it takes all kinds. I don't really care if someone else prefers a rural or suburban setting. I just know that I like the city. I like the people, I like the interconnected life, I like access to a ton of public things not found outside of cities for the most part. Coming from an interracial family myself, though I am caucasian, I personally both prefer the diversity of the city and I feel safer in the city. This is likely spurred by my family when I was a child living in a verging to rural area, and being targeted by a hate group. Don't get me wrong, I know that is not representative of all rural and suburban areas, but it does explain why I personally feel safer in a city. I like being close to my neighbors. I just do better in the buzz of a denser, varied city area compared to a suburb.
That said, it is not like we live downtown anymore or even just next to downtown, we live in a mixed neighborhood of houses, apartments and townhouses, 1 block off of an arterial with lots of retail, pretty far north in Seattle. But my bus ride or car trip to work is short, I can walk to the store, there is a nice city park adjacent to my house. My husband bikes to work, we can walk to the library and a number of fun places etc.
Also sometimes, I think that in focusing on the negative values linked to city life we forget about the negative values that can be found in suburbs. I personally don't want to miss hours of my kids lives so they can have 3 extra rooms and huge yard. I would rather live in the city, even though to do that our house is way small.
He He, yeah, this.
Seriously? I actually found Arduinna's comment totally dismissive and offensive. Because I don't think its urban snobbery to find post war architecture rather, urm...lacking.
He He, yeah, this.
Seriously? I actually found Arduinna's comment totally dismissive and offensive. Because I don't think its urban snobbery to find post war architecture rather, urm...lacking.
Well, I'm married to an architect, and we chose to do "urban infill" (if one can call a town in WY 'urban') in part because of this. We're intensively remodeling an old home we purchased, and dh recommends empty city lots for building over the 'developments.' Although he's happy to design anywhere. ETA: And, when his clients are amenable, he prefers to design modern or at least contemporary styles of homes.
A well-designed home is so different from the contractor-designed homes that populate most of suburbia. It's like night and day. Some developments at least have floor plans designed by an architect (depending on what the city/state laws are about home design), but there really is a big difference between those and one designed specifically for your own interests - for instance, dh designed a home a few years ago which included a root cellar. Contractor-designed homes are designed to maximize profits for the contractor - not to minimize long-term costs to the homeowner and the environment (and many of those designed by architects for contractor-driven developments are the same, since the real client is the contractor who'll be selling those homes). Building a home with proper overhangs, sufficient insulation, and other energy-conscious features costs more up-front, so that's not the sort of home they're selling in the suburbs - even though housing uses vastly more energy and emits vastly more carbon as a result, than our automobiles.
So - I agree about the typical suburban home. That said, a newly-built home where one doesn't have to worry about lead paint, asbestos insulation, old wiring, etc. is also alluring (especially in the midst of our long remodel!).
I haven't lived in the suburbs, although I've visited them. I grew up in the country, and then lived in several major metro areas, downtown in two of those cities and in one of the 'neighborhoods' in the other. Then this town, one of the larger cities in WY, where we live in an older neighborhood near the walking path and can walk most places we need to go (in the summer, when we don't have to wait for the city crews to clear snow off the sidewalks). I think the lack of sidewalks and accessible walking areas which typifies many suburbs is part of the disdain people feel -- the disconnection -- the fact that many suburbs are "bedroom communities." The commute. The "cupcake-ness" of the homes, yards, people around you .... Those suburbs which include HOAs and dictate colors and styles of homes, and whether you can have a clothesline or not, or what sort of shrubbery is acceptable in the front yard, are especially cringe-inducing for me. I think also unless very well-planned, suburbs can lack the history and flavor which a neighborhood in a city can have. It's not just the trees which are small, it's the history.
From a Western perspective, the suburbs which are expanding around our Western cities are driving up property values on family ranches - making it even more difficult for ranch families to pass their ranches to the next generation. Ranching doesn't become more profitable just because the taxes and property value go up! Also, the suburbs are expanding into areas which (when used as ranches) doubled as significant wildlife habitat. Once developed, they support far less wildlife, introduce hazards to those wildlife who persist, and also (for the larger plots of land) introduce the issue of overgrazing, erosion, and poor weed management on properties where people are keeping "a couple horses" but which can't support that number of animals in that amount of space. This is a big issue in the arid West.
There's a documentary, The End of Suburbia, which also addresses another reason that I feel we need to move away from suburbs and focus more on livable spaces in our urban areas - rooftop gardens, green spaces, etc. to fill the needs which suburbs ostensibly fill for us. Peak Oil (and/or the climate crisis) may well (will in my opinion) mean that the suburbs and exurbs are the equivalent of the ghettos of 60 years ago - isolated, without income, without work or jobs. It's irresponsible to continue to expand our suburbs when we should be finding ways to make our urban areas more attractive and livable for families again.
My Urban History course in college was really interesting. My Prof talked about how hard the government and others had to work to convince people to LEAVE the cities. They couldn't imagine why one would want to move out of their neighborhoods, where people had known each other for generations, where they had a little grocery around the corner, where they could walk to church, easily get to work, etc. The desire for a white picket fence, a lawn, etc. wasn't necessarily everyone's dream, once upon a time.
Interesting question. I live in a suburb of a European capital city and while there is the same attitude towards the suburbs in the capital, there are few of the same reasons. (Well, it does depend on the suburb, some are pretty horrific architectually speaking--). My town is really a large village with a traditional city center. I can go everywhere on foot or by bus, and we usually go into the city on public transportation. The apartments are bigger here, there are houses (almost no individual homes in the city-- at least, not below several million euros!). We have tons of green space-- parks, a forest, lots of bike trails. We live in an apartment complex with tons of other families and when DS plays outside he has lots of kids to play with. After living in the city for almost 10 years, I love it that I run into someone I know every time I go to the bakery or the grocery store. The local school is small and very responsive to parents. To me, at this stage of my life, it's absolutely the best place for me. When we go into the city now I can hardly stand the noise, the crowds, the stress. I love coming home and breathing fresh air and hearing birds.
Oh, and we don't have the strip mall issue-- in Europe, the suburbs are usually towns that already existed with real city centers. The ugly national chains are found on the outskirts of the city or along the highways.
But I recently ran into a friend who asked me how life was in the 'burbs. I told her how happy we were and she said "I'd die if I had to move to the suburbs. Just die." Uh, ok. Thanks for sharing. I guess it just depends on your expectations and your attitude, as well as your life situation.
I grew up in a farming community which is home to almost all of my nostalgia. I admit resenting the sprawl which is overtaking it, much though I know it's not the fault of the people living in the new houses ... my mom and I call the new developments barracks because to us they're like slow armies marching across the land. Mostly my experience of suburbs has been one of inefficient land use for the sake of small private lawns on otherwise tremendously fertile ground, lacking in the conveniences and resources of urban life while failing to retain the functionality or beauty of agriculture and forest. I know there are other kinds of suburbs and other experiences of suburbs, but that's the only angle to really loom large for me when the word comes up. It's hard to have positive feelings toward an idea which in one's own personal lexicon means changes perceived as negative to places one intimately knows and loves.
*shrug* We make the most of it. We would love to live someplace sort of rural with lots of land, but are not in a position to afford that yet. So.... suburbs it is!
Y'know, I'm coming to understand more and more that every situation is what you make of it. Suburbs may be your least favorite place to live, but if for some reason you're living there, make the most of it. I happen to really enjoy my large two car garage and my HUGE fenced back yard. I also like my garden tub, and I appreciate that we have enough bedrooms for every space to have a specific purpose and not have the clutter overtaking each other.
Is this ideal? NOT AT ALL. But I'm finding a way to make it work.
Oh! And last summer we even had an above ground pool in our backyard. That was great!
I live in Charlotte, and about half of the population is suburbs. We take our urban sprawl very seriously in the South LOL. I would not want to live in the burbs due to the traffic, hands down. There are people I know with a 15 mile hour and a half commute. Totally not worth it!!!! I also kind of dislike the milk carton neighborhoods- no character, all HOA's, blech.
It would be hard for the average NYC resident to take the position of specialness. I, like many of my co-city-dwellers, live in a prewar apartment building where every floor has the same plan as the next. Then you have countless blocks of row houses in the outer boroughs as well as coveted brownstones - which were all built at the same time and are essentially the same. Finally, the massive condos that have been built over the last few years all have the same floor plans (for each type of unit) and despite a few varying details, are all the same. If there is any snobbery (real or imagined), I think it is mainly due to type and age of architecture, and most importantly, location within the city.
I like to read about urbanization and a while back I read something about the advent of suburbia and how the main catalyst was the auto industry. I need to try and pull up that research again, as now my interest has been re-peaked. I don't 'hate' suburbia, but I choose not to live in it for practical reasons. I have gotten very spoiled in not needing a car and being able to walk or take transit everywhere. I like the fact that DH and I don't have to take the garbage out or tend to a lawn or shovel when it snows. I like that I don't have to clean a house. I like that small businesses thrive on every single city block. I like it that we know all the store owners in our neighborhood and the sense of community I get here. I literally grew up in the woods of West Virginia. I miss nature but I don't really like strip malls and box stores, etc. that I have seen spring up in my old home town. It just seems like diversity and the beauty of the landscape have been compromised by parking lots and ugly sprawl. Not suggesting that the city doesn't have its ugly parts, because it does, but there is a certain community that I feel here that I didn't have in less populated areas. Again, this is a deeply personal observation and choice and we've chosen this lifestyle for a number of personal reasons. In essence, and I think I can speak for a lot of city dwellers here, we embrace the lifestyle not out of snobbery, but out of how we want to arrange our life and time.
The offensiveness is not unidirectional in this thread. Of course all city dwellers aren't snobs, just like all suburban communities aren't soul crushing. We all get that.
I have lived in many suburbs. None of them have been newer developments, though. I don't have to deal with cookie cutter houses but I do have to deal with quite a bit of boredom.
My most favorite suburb was living on the East Side of Providence (RI). It was nice, but down to earth. Very artsy and I LOVED the free, live acoustic music at cafe's. I long for that now!
My current suburb is full of snooty women so it's difficult for someone like me to truly enjoy the town. Yet, it's pretty to look at. hahah.