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Designing a Friendly Neighborhood

designing a friendly neighborhood

Designing a Friendly Neighborhood

3-3-2018  I love to envision our new, friendly neighborhood with beautiful homes and new, even stronger community connections.  I asked town planner Lois Fisher for some things we can do in the design of our homes to foster that friendly atmosphere. Stay strong neighbors and keep your eyes on the future! pvh

Have you ever wondered why some neighborhoods seem to be full of people that are connected, whereas other neighborhoods feel like residents are on their own?

There is a branch of urban design called “The Social Aspects of Environmental Design” that has some answers. It turns out that

Neighborhoods with strong social ties, mutual assistance and non-profits can increase life expectancy by 5 years and reduce fatality rates by a factor of 10 during disasters”.

~ from Eric Klineberg

What are the things that you can do while selecting or designing a floor plan to increase neighborliness in Coffey Park?

One of the most important qualities of cohesive neighborhoods is that the structure of the street allows them to comfortably interact. Looking at the photos below, which street scene looks friendlier? Which one would contribute to letting the residents get to know each other?

street with garages prominent
Street with garages prominent
Street view with porches in front
Street with porches in front

Most people would say that the street in the second image, with the porches in front of the houses is the more socially connected street. That is because the active areas of the house, with people in them, are behind the porch. It is more likely that you will informally meet a neighbor if they live in a house with a porch that is close to the street, instead of a house with a hidden entrance to the side of the garage.

The Santa Rosa city zoning code allows buildings in residential districts to put the porch 15’ behind the sidewalk, 4’ closer than the garage. (Your particular zone may allow it to be even closer to the sidewalk.) Have you thought of adding a large porch to your rebuilt house? It could be your contribution to making your whole neighborhood safer and more neighborly.

If you have the good fortune of having a corner lot, you might consider a wrap around porch. That way your new house will be connected to both streets.

house with wrap around porch
Wraparound porch faces both streets

Another feature of resilient neighborhoods is that people have a chance to meet on foot because walking around the neighborhood is an enjoyable activity.  Which of the streets below look most inviting to go for a walk?Comparing streets with and without street trees in the planter strip

Comparing streets with and without street trees in the planter strip

If you previously paved over your planter strip, how about opening it up again and planting a street tree getting your neighbors to do the same?

These are ideas are some ways for you to help make Coffey Park even more safe and neighborly in its new incarnation- because of the way that you design your new house and lot.

Lois Fisher

Lois Fisher, CNU, LEED-AP and LEED-ND is the president of Fisher Town Design and an Urban Designer. Her firm specializes in creating walkable downtowns and neighborhoods as an alternative to suburban sprawl. Her approach combines an understanding of the unique assets of a site with the timeless principles of urban design. The result is healthy, socially and economically vital places that are sustainable. Her Theatre district project in downtown Petaluma is a very successful urban design redevelopment project. The successful relocation of the North Santa Rosa SMART station from Frances Drive to Guerneville Road is another example.

She is an adjunct faculty member and teaches Urban Design at Sonoma State University. Lois Fisher has served for many years on the Planning Commission for Windsor and helped to spearhead the development of the downtown there. She regularly writes ‘Close to Home’ pieces for the Press Democrat on urban design topics.