Friday, February 18, 2005

new urbanism and diversity

A few days ago USA Today covered the phenomenon termed "latino new urbanism." Focusing on the large latino population of southern california, the article examines the efforts taking place in Santa Ana, San Diego and San fernando to create thriving neighborhoods and communities. While the article reinforces some popular stereotypes - "Latino cultural preferences for compact neighborhoods, large public places and a sense of community" - it also acknowledges that families moving up the economic ladder tend to surrender to the American Dream - the one-family house removed from public transportation, commerce and employment.

however, planners argue that if cities and urban planners didn't ignore this segment of the population, and built to accomodate their preferences, the "flight" into suburbia may be stemmed. henry cisneros, the former secretary of HUD, is quoted as a proponent of the movement:

Cisneros advocates designs that fit the needs of Hispanic families — from big kitchens with gas stoves for grilling tortillas to courtyards for social gatherings, multiple bedrooms for large and extended families, and driveways that accommodate numerous cars.

So far, new urbanism has chiefly targeted white and higher-income populations in suburbs, he says.

"I think Latinos can be the ideal audience for a new urbanist conversation," Cisneros says.

while the latino population has largely been ignored in the new urbanism debate until recently, the sheer force of numbers may force the issue. according to the article, latinos are the largest minority in the US and will become the majority by 2040. In california in particular, the state expects to grow by 21 million people from 2000 to 2050, 18 million of them latino. the growth in population will obviously increase the strain on california's resources - water, land, highways, etc. perhaps looking at the models santa ana, san diego and san fernando are developing can help address some of these issues, as well as stanch the white flight reversal New (SUB)urbanist has discussed.


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