“Ghettos and gated communities:
The impact of urban planning decisions on neighborhood life”
Salena Brody, Department of Psychology
Study Grant: Summer II, 2008
Bruegmann, R. (2005). Sprawl: A compact history. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The book looks at benefits of sprawl and problems caused by reforms. One of the charts that was particularly useful: p.84 chart of American land use---amount of developed land in American urban and suburban areas has increased since 1960s, but due to an expanding population NOT to an increase in the amount of land use per person
Also, Bruegmann explores the concept of exurbia, a term coined in 1950s that referred to a select group of wealthy, low density bedroom communities at the outer edges of the suburban belt, especially around NYC; term used to describe large areas that are neither suburban or rural but are still connected to central cities.
Interesting book that seems to make the claim using data that suburbanization is not necessarily a bad thing, as many scholars argue. Using a free market argument, Bruegmann argues that consumers’ demand for this type of living environment suggests their level of satisfaction with it (thus, not a threat to democracy as some have argued). He takes on his critics who discuss the “ugliness” of the suburbs by claiming that these are issues of preference, merely “aesthetics.”
Greenberg, M. (1995). The poetics of cities: Designing neighborhoods that work.
Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
This author is from San Antonio and contrasts old San Antonio to what he calls “Loopland.” He argues that planners have neglected the concept of communities and blames “greed, thoughtlessness and laziness of developers and business leaders, local politicians, failures of civil engineers and planners, shortsightedness and inattentiveness of ordinary people.” One useful aspect of this book is its examination of land-use zoning and the negative impact of suburbanization.
Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. New York: Vintage Books.
This is a must read. Jane Jacobs, in the Death and Life of Great American Cities outlines the characteristics of successful neighborhoods. She wrote about topics as seemingly mundane as the function of sidewalks, yet the observations she made in the 1960s about urban planning continue to resonate when we examine the growth surrounding today’s American cities.
Jacobs’ writing is straightforward and her approach to city planning focuses on mixed uses. Her work applies to dense cities and she frequently expresses disdain for planners.
Discusses European architect LeCorbusier’s work in the 1920s and the “skyscraper in the park” idea. With “maximum individual liberty,” no one has to be their brother’s keeper. Discusses how the Garden City concept led to the City Beautiful movement.
Offers valuable insight on why and when people feel safe in their neighborhoods (e.g. use of sidewalks, eyes on the street).
Lang, J.T. (1994). Urban design: The American experience. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
This book offers examples of many types of urban design, from domed cities to Riverwalks. It does a nice job examining the urban planning process and describing the community design process that originated in the 1970s and what is called Advocacy Design that works to improve the conditions of politically or economically powerless groups.
Wilson, W.H. (1989). The City Beautiful Movement. .Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
This book discusses how the CB Movement 1900-1910 by middle/upper middle class Americans had a cultural agenda—beauty, order, system, harmony. Its goal was to influence the heart, mind, purse of the citizen and inspire urban patriotism and meeting community needs.
One of the interesting things about this book is its historical focus on Dallas and its examination of the Trinity River problems in the early 1900s. This is clearly still a relevant issue. In 1902, Civic Improvement League (local branch of the American League for Civic Improvement) President said “there is scarcely a more slovenly community in the United States than this city. Probably in the whole cilivized world there is no more slovenly community than Dallas” (257-8).
Adams, R. (1992). Is Happiness a Home in the Suburbs?: The Influence of Urban Versus Suburban Neighborhoods on Psychological Health. Journal of Community Psychology, 20(4), 353-372.
This is a secondary analysis of interview data collected in 1975 Detroit. Dependent variables: neighborhood satisfaction, psychological health, social participation. Independent variables of interest: demographic variables, crime, density. According to this analysis, people in the suburbs are no more likely to be happy (satisfied with neighborhood or their own lives) compared to city dwellers.
Farrell, S., Aubry, T., & Coulombe, D. (2004). Neighborhoods and neighbors: Do they contribute to personal well-being?. Journal of Community Psychology, 32(1), 9-25.
This empirical study uses survey methods to assess the relationship between neighborhoods and psychological well-being. One of the interesting aspects of this study is that it looks at behavioral measures such as the “neighboring behaviors.” The study is consistent with research finding the more we perceive a sense of community with our neighborhood, the more likely we are to engage in behaviors that benefit it.
Turley, R. (2002). Is relative deprivation beneficial? the effects of richer and poorer neighbors on children's outcomes. Journal of Community Psychology, 30(6), 671-686.
This study looks at how mixed-income neighborhoods might benefit outcomes for low-income children and whether there are negative consequences for the higher-income children for living in this financially heterogeneous environment. One of the interesting aspects of this study is that it looks at the perspective of both the advantaged group and the disadvantaged group, rather than just looking at the benefits to the disadvantaged. The findings that the disadvantaged group benefits at no significant cost to the advantaged group suggests that from a social policy perspective, urban planners should take more care to diversify neighborhoods economically at the very least.
Political psychology & Civic participation
Duany, A. (2000). Suburban nation: The rise of sprawl and the decline of the American Dream.
New York : North Point Press.
This work follows Jacobs’ work. Duany criticizes most of suburban design that is disconnected from “real” community life. The author argues for mixed-use developments, as Jacobs does, rather than neighborhoods lack functionality such as proximity to grocery stores, parks, and other aspects of civic life. Duany and colleagues are part of the New Urbanism movement that tries to promote functionalism, environmentalism, mixed-uses, and civic life in their developments.
Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Putnam discusses declining social capital over the past 25 years. He examines how and why behaviors such as attending club meetings (58% drop), having family dinners (43% drop), and having friends over (35% drop) have been on a steady downward path. Putnam is a political scientist and the book presents quite a bit of data suggesting that we, as a culture, are becoming more and more disconnected as citizens. He argues that what he is measuring is something called “social capital.” Among other factors, Putnam attributes some of this decline in social capital to sprawl. The second half of the book does focus on ways to re-engage and reconnect with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Very interesting read.
Selected recommended articles specifically examining views on gated communities:
PUBLIC FORUM : CRITIC OF GATED HOUSING ENCLAVES REBUTTED.(Editorial)(Editorial)(Letter to the Editor).
Source: Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
This piece reflects the voices of those who live in gated communities who are outraged when reading criticism of gated communities by “elitist liberals.”
WITHIN THESE WALLS: GATED COMMUNITIES HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE POPULAR. K. Burroughs, Financial Times (Feb. 14, 2009).
Burroughs describes some limited positive research relating to life in gated communities. For example, in Buenos Aires, research showed that the gated communities created a demand for retailers, hotels, offices, and private schools. These businesses primarily served the residents of new developments, but they also had some spillover economic benefits to nearby poor. Author provides some data about the rate of growth of gated developments (approximately 80% of new developments are gated, by her estimate).
COLD WAR FALLOUT: THE GATED COMMUNITY. T. Vanderbilt, The Austin American-Statesman (Dec. 7, 1999).
Interesting analysis comparing modern gated communities to fallout shelters in a post Cold War world. Discusses how suburbia has “gates” even if they are not physical in nature. The barrier is, instead, economic. Comparing it to fallout shelters, Vanderbilt argues that suburban neighborhoods and gated communities may have benefits, but those benefits don’t extend to the greater community and might actually be detrimental to others.