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Dec 04 2013

Anti-child gated communities

We have lived on the same street for nearly 25 years. When we moved in our children were in pre-school and kindergarten. As time went by, they and the other children on the street grew up and moved on as we became the old-timers, and new younger families moved in with their own little children.

It is nice to see children play in the streets in the summer. It is also nice to watch them grow. Children and dogs are great ways to get to know people in your neighborhood. One does not like to stop strangers in the street to make conversation but if they are accompanied by dogs or small children, it is perfectly appropriate to ask about them and this provides a gateway to getting to know the people. I have got to know many of the children down the street, and through them their parents, because the children would stop their playing and come and pet Baxter when he was out on a walk.

This is why I would never live in a gated community that forbids children or pets. I would not live in a gated community at all, for that matter, but one that is only open to older people and specifically excludes children and pets strikes me as a terribly dull place. It is true that children and pets can be noisy at times but they also provide liveliness to one’s experience that would be missed by me.

And yet some people seem to dislike the presence of children so much, and are so committed to avoiding their presence, that they seem to be even willing to vandalize the property of those who commit even minor infractions of the rules against children in their gated communities.

Weird.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    richardelguru

    I’ve always thought of gated communities as prisons.
    A necessary evil indeed, but they do serve to protect us from the antisocial affluent.

  2. 2
    Chiroptera

    I had a neighbor apologize to me for their yappy little dog that yaps constantly when it is outside. I explained that as long as it’s not right under my bedroom window, it really doesn’t bother me.

    Then again, I’m usually not bothered by screaming, crying kids running around and jumping on stuff when I’m in a public place, either. (I was once in a movie theater watching a movie and someone brought in an infant that was crying during the movie. I honestly didn’t even notice until my friend started complaining about it.)

  3. 3
    Curt Cameron

    I’ve never understood the appeal of gated neighborhoods. I like to call them “compounds.”

    In the Dallas area, there’s another feature of the suburban neighborhoods that leads to isolation: the garages are at the rear of the house, with paved alleys. I used to live in Plano, and almost all the neighborhoods are that way. The street view is typically nice-looking, but you never see your neighbors.

  4. 4
    richardelguru

    Curt,
    I still live there (near ‘Olde Towne Planoe, and un-gated) and what amazes me is how most of them seem to have enormous houses on relatively tiny plots.
    My wife and I suspect it’s because the inhabitants never go outside.

  5. 5
    Brian K

    I don;t know. I consider grumpy geezers who would spraypaint a car for trivial reasons a far worse example of an “antisocial element” than the minorities I am guessing your are so terrified of.

    But then, being a Boomer, I guess you are used to things being run for your benefit.

  6. 6
    Chiroptera

    I think his joke is that the fences protect the rest of society from the pretentious people who live in the gated communities.

  7. 7
    chrisho-stuart

    Here’s a positive story you’ll like, from my brother’s family. (Graeme and Cathy, daughters Alexa and Jasmine aged 10 and 12) They have a well established and productive vegie garden, and decided to share the idea with their street. They built a big garden bed on the verge in the front of their house, and then invited all the kids living on the street to come and help them grow vegies.

    This project has been been a huge success in terms of building “social capital” (as Graeme calls it). The garden plot has become a focus of activity with kids from the street — and their Mums and Dads — and even interested onlookers who don’t have kids — coming along to be part of it. The kids run the affair with their own committees and rosters and roles and so on. They play hand ball in the driveway because that’s suddenly where they meet and play.

    Come dinner time in houses on the street, parents are finding that they don’t know where their kids are any more. They might be out and any of several houses nearby, playing with friends made at the garden.

    Graeme has blogged about this frequently at his blog “Sustaining Community Engagement”. His account of how things have changed — such as a dinner time kid hunt — can be found at Vegies on the Verge – it will change things; with pictures. Happy pictures. Pictures full of kids. Look through the blog for more of how it all happened.

    This kind of thing has happened in other communities also around the world. It’s a total contrast to the gated concept.

  8. 8
    Mano Singham

    That’s a great story and thanks for the link. Unfortunately, our community has zoning rules that forbid vegetable gardens in the front yards, for aesthetic reasons I guess.

  9. 9
    Richard Simons

    We’ve grown shiny-leaved peppers behind the geraniums and runner beans up a trellis with a clematis – I’m sure there are quite a few vegetables you could get away with. But yes, it is a rather silly rule.

  10. 10
    Chiroptera

    Do they allow flower gardens? Tell them that you are very fond of tomato flowers.

  11. 11
    chrisho-stuart

    I’ve heard of places that won’t allow vegies in the front yards. Seems pretty regressive. If you wanted to change things, you could try the guerrilla garden method. Just go ahead and plant in the front yard, ignoring regulations. This method works best when neighbours are friends and onside.

    The garden for vegies in the verge is illegal also. It’s on the public verge, or “nature strip”; outside the fence. No one has objected yet; and if council hears about it and raises an objection it will be fun to see how it plays out. Cathy has been the main builder; with the girls helping they put up flashing lights (solar powered; they charge up during the day and shine at night) so it can be easily seen. (Street lighting is poor at this location.)

    In the mean time, next door is now planting a couple of fruit trees in this space as well, with Cathy’s help.

  12. 12
    Mano Singham

    We live in a strange community that takes great pride in having the neighborhood look nice. The idea is to have a community in which there are few signs of blight so that people walk around and get to know one another. The price we pay for that lies in the many rules of the kind I mentioned governing the exterior of homes and yards.

    I am not a big fan of gardening myself so am not the best person to take up this particular cause.

  13. 13
    chrisho-stuart

    Mano, I’m a bit like you with gardening. Impressed with what my brother’s family is doing but not likely to take it up myself!

    What I really like is simply the community thing happening. If your neighbourhood is successful in keeping attractive friendly spaces where people like to walk and meet, then more power to them. Likewise having an animal like Baxter who opens up opportunities is great. I have a friendly cat that helps me break the ice with my neighbours.

  14. 14
    lorn

    I don’t have any great problem with small children or quiet dogs. But kids, beginning at around puberty, are a nuisance. Showing off, loud music, boy/girl friends, people dropping by at all hours, police raids, fireworks, random gunfire, drunken boisterousness, drive-bys … it can get noisy. Even if the kids who live there are okay you can count on them having friends who will bring disorder and random violence to an otherwise quiet neighborhood.

    Of course once those same kids get to be 30 or 35 it all gets quiet again.

    So … just maybe … we need to kick the kids out at 14 and not let them back in until they are 30. We can frame it as reform school and a few hitches of military service.

  15. 15
    bmiller

    Oops. I completely misread the comment.

    My apologies, richardelguru.

    I have to hear the fear-mongering from The Gatedesque (Grotesque) all the time and I made a very bad assumption.

  16. 16
    bmiller

    I’m not sure front-facing garages really solve this problem. People still drive right in, close the garage door, and spend all of their time in the backyards. Which in California are completely fenced off from any neighborly contact in almost all newer neighborhoods!

    Older city neighborhoods with rear garages on alleys are not more less sociable than newer suburban neighborhoods with front facing garages. I think it is more a matter of walkability and density. If people live in a walkable city neighborhood, they are more likely to walk by their neighbors. In a low density suburb where all services require driving, less so. .

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