Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 @ 7:15 am
Being in a civil engineering program, I am learning a bit about urban design and planning. While the program focuses on technical aspects of design such as where to locate catch basins and how to design horizontal and vertical road curves, the program does touch on the social aspects of urban development.
Much like the rest of North American young adults, I grew up in a subdivision; however, the location was unique in that I walked to elementary and high school, and I lived on a quiet no-thru street just steps from a full-service highly social shopping village. Even the property we lived on was unique: we shared a driveway with the neighbours. At some point in the early 90's, we tore down the fence separating our property from the neighbours, and we frequently walked unannounced into each others back yard to knock on the back door for a cup of sugar, etc. Not to mention the amount of food that my parents were able to grow in the backyard...
That being said, it was still a subdivision. My dad drove to work over the Lions Gate Bridge, a bridge build by developers to increase the value of property in West Vancouver. We'd drive out to one of the malls to go back-to-school clothes shopping. And, despite living walking distance to a medium-sized grocery store, my mother drove to the Safeway because the food was cheaper.
Since moving out, I've lived in dense community student housing. I've lived on silent, lonely rural property. I've lived in several different subdivisions. And now I live in an apartment just three blocks from the city core. I call this putting my money where my mouth is.
For a project at school, I'm designing a subdivision, and it pains me. I ask, "Can I make large lots so that people can hobby farm?" No, you need to put as many lots as possible. "Can I make the properties different shapes?" No, it's easier for the surveyor if they are all rectangles. "How about a dense condo project surrounded by community garden plots?" No, families want their own houses with their own yards.
And apparently, they do. Something is really wrong when McDonalds is considered a 'small business'.