Gated communities in America


private enclaves, Robert E. Lang and Karen A. Danielsen explain that “In the current development parlance, [-p.868] such places—referred to as “gated communities”—have a precise sense of whom, or more accurately what, they seek to wall out: uncertainty.” (pp.867-868)

“Why are Americans increasingly resorting to walls and gates as a solution to perceived social problems? Perhaps they are reacting to a general societal angst or a direct concern for their personal safety. Whatever the cause, gated communities are certainly gaining in popularity.” (p.868)

“Gated communities represent a major reordering in the physical, social, legal, and civic arrangements by which Americans live (Stark 1998). The conversion of public to private space, inherent in gated community development, drives the process. Because gated communities are private, community associations within them can exercise tight control over residential life.” (p.868)

“In part, gated communities represent a reaction to the postwar evolution of suburbia (Danielsen and Lang 1995). Suburbs seem much less “suburban” today than when they were largely bedroom communities. The suburbs now have it all: business, retail, entertainment, sports arenas, and, increasingly, low-income housing and minority populations. Suburbs have morphed into a new urban form that features all the elements of a traditional city, but in a low-density cityscape (Fishman 1990; Sharpe and Wallock 1994). Gated communities also typify sunbelt urban growth: the very places where America’s new urban form first emerged. Gated communities offer their residents the perception of a safe haven in the new, often chaotic metropolis.” (p.869)

“In gated communities, the walls are there to sharply delineate status and provide security, rather than signify a collective understanding among equals. [/] What erects these walls, as emerges from Guterson’s interviews [in his study of Henderson’s Green Valley], is a free-floating anxiety about the world beyond them.” (p.870)

Apparently, Guterson “argues, “If the traditional American town of the past existed to produce a commodity—shoes, bath towels, sheet metal, whatever—then in Green Valley and other masterplanned towns of today the community is a commodity” (Guterson 1992, 60). Gated community developers work hard to create a “brand name,” using the same marketing principles that any other company uses to sell a product.” (p.870)

According to Blakely and Snyder, “the walls and gates effectively ward off many daily intrusions, such as unexpected visitors at the front door. It is this security from nuisance that gated-community residents apparently cherish most. The proliferation of rules and controlled access create an environment with few of the surprises or random encounters characteristic of traditional urban life.” (p.873)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold) Robert E. Lang & Karen A. Danielsen (1997): Gated communities in America: Walling out the world?, Housing Policy Debate, 8:4, 867-899

Abstract: “Gated communities—enclaves of homes surrounded by walls, often with security guards—are becoming increasingly popular in America. This article introduces and analyzes findings of a Fannie Mae Foundation–sponsored panel on gated communities held at the 1997 Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning annual conference. A key finding is that many people choose to reside in gated communities because they believe that such places reduce risk, ranging from the mundane (e.g., unwanted social exchanges) to the high stakes (e.g., declining home values).
In many ways, gated communities deliver what they promise, by providing an effective defense against daily intrusions. However, some of their benefits entail a high social cost. A sense of community within gated communities comes at the expense of a larger identity with the region outside. Gated communities manifest and reinforce an inward-focused community culture, where the tension between the individual and society tilt toward self-interest.” (p.867)


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