Behold Evergreen Gardens in Pomona, California. The cultural imperative in the suburbs is to maintain the emotional facade of the single family home and the security of a private enclave. If you squint this place comes close enough. Cough. Residents drive in through the electronic security gate, park in the garage, and head for the television and microwave.
Inside the subdivision are tightly packed condo/apartments that display the superficial iconography of suburban homes. I have no doubt the interiors meet the expected standard for comfort and convenience. But the larger context is sad. I was around to witness the removal of one of the few trees in the complex. It was being chipped because it interfered with the garbage truck’s access to the dumpster. Aside from a few potted plants there is very little open soil or vegetation anywhere. Nearly every inch of the property is paved. No evergreens. No gardens.
The land use pattern here is clear from the air. Long thin agricultural lots have been infilled with new construction. Each lot has its own gate, emergency fire lane, and internal parking facilities. It fails on two fronts. It isn’t verdant like a traditional suburb, but it’s devoid of activity and vitality as a compact urban settlement could be. Economic pressure has combined with zoning and building regulations to create a thin gruel. It’s a Spanish village after a neutron bomb.
At street level there’s a whole lot of nothing going on. The lack of open green space has diminished the qualities that people like about the suburbs. But the profoundly suburban isolation and redundant segregation prevents the neighborhood from evolving and acquiring any of the benefits of a vital urban place. It’s soulless. It doesn’t have to be this way. The individual ingredients of a decent town are all here. They just aren’t organized in a coherent fashion. Sadly, nothing else is legal or culturally acceptable at the moment.