In Defense of Suburban Living (part 3)

The suburbs are really little cities, and in my last essay, I explained how my town really is an idea with at least three elements. The first is its historic element; in my case, my town, Old Sewell, was once a little town, with a mayor, I’d guess, and a unique identity.

No longer. Old Sewell is now just a few streets with what was once a downtown, but now only has a few shops, and nothing more. It has been engulfed in the larger municipality known as Mantua Township.

But rising out of the ashes of Old Sewell is the Mighty Sewell Post Office, which has lent the name of Sewell to lots of other little towns in the municipality of Washington Township due to a dispute over naming rights that goes back more than a hundred years. This is the second element of the “idea of Sewell.”

The last element gets to the point of the series, namely: making a defense of suburban living.

It is this truth: as far as I’ve been able to tell, Sewell is made of what most people would call neighborhoods, subdivisions, or developments. There are between twenty to fifty of these, depending on how you count them.

But where others see neighborhoods, I see cities. In fact, I call them little cities. Continue reading


City vs. Suburb

This piece on Slashdot back in February comments on Google’s and Apple’s choices to plant their mega-complexes in the suburbs; the debate? Is this good for our society, or bad? Should they have built their businesses in the cities where existing public transit options already were in use, or does using “Google Buses” to get employees to work make good sense?

As you read through the comments, you’ll notice how the dialogue swings back and forth between the poles of suburb vs. urb, with no little nasty frosting on top. These kinds of “us” vs. “them” debates have perennial attraction to people. It might be “town” vs. “gown”; it might be “red” vs. “blue”; it might be “white” vs. “black.”

But what if we understood city differently? Rather than an exclusive entity belonging only to a certain kind of place, what if we asked, “Is it preferable to live in the urban city or the suburban city?”

On this basis, as I see it, all people live in cities. Period.

Continue reading