I wasn’t really sure where to put this, I considered american collapse but it’s not the country falling, it’s just the same shit, needing to be called out for what it is. Also as I get older I start to have stronger and stronger opinions on architecture.

Anyway, ProPublica recently did a really good piece on zoning in the area I live, Southwest CT.

I really feel like this practice should be common knowledge, and around here it may very well be but I’d rather state the obvious than let it go unsaid:

Rich places use zoning laws to enforce de facto segregation: You can see this borne out all over the country, there was a great example in Yonkers like 20 years ago, and the thing happening today in the article listed above is literally the same shit.

To be explicit, here’s the general gist of (one of) the way this shakes down: Developers wanna build housing where people are crammed closer together, because more people with lower rents makes more money to the owner than less people with higher rents. So they buy land and try and build these houses that have more units in them (often called low income housing).

What follows is a myriad of things but all of them have the same goal: Stop the developer from doing that. Sometimes it’s NIMBY (not in my backyard) activism. Sometimes it’s a legal challenge from the city on the basis of like emergency access, sometimes it’s denying the building proposal, sometimes it’s just the city buying the land out from under the developer and turning it into a community garden or some shit.

Doesn’t really matter how it happens. It always happens for the same reason. Racism:

William Woermer, resident of Branford
“But don’t get too much of that riffraff in. There will be a lot of riffraff. Then we go onto, with a project like this, you need security guards in the area.”

First Selectman of Oxford CT, George Temple
“I’m sure they could have their little parking spaces, but somebody throws a party, or it’s Cinco de Mayo or something else and pretty soon you can’t park there. Well, you also can’t bring an ambulance there and you can’t bring a fire engine there”

There’s a whole other bunch of shit I wanna cover in this thread, shit like parking minimums, trains, fourplexes, bang for your buck building size, housing density, and yeah, other aspects of zoning like mixed use zoning, rather than just the cases where it’s used as a weapon.

Not just when it comes to affordability and segregation, but houses that are far apart from each other with lots of land is one of the primary things responsible for the shitty state of our country.

First, there is cars. First it was the car which enabled people to make far apart houses. Now it is the opposite. Far apart houses require people to have cars. No need to discuss the entire war on cars, here, but environment, traffic, time wasted commuting, etc. insert it all here.

But the other big thing with far apart houses is community and sociability. When houses are close together, people meet their neighbors. Houses with small or non-existent front lawns, with porches that are right next to each other. Go to a neighborhood like that and you see people walking and talking and doing community biz. Houses with long driveways, far away from the street, far away from other houses, these are lonely isolated people.

Design of systems is responsible for people’s behavior. Outlaw the lawn.

Counterpoint: I’ve never had good relations with neighbors even when houses were close together. We never had anything in common with them except that we happened to live in the same physical place. Most of our family friends lived further away.

I saw our close neighbors regularly. Just as you describe with the porches. But the lottery of who actually lived near us meant there was no real community on the block. We’d walk to other neighborhoods to talk to the people we actually liked and had commonality with.

Now, in the city, I live densely packed with neighbors. It’s not like I ever see them. Even in this fairly large building I see another person in our hall maybe once or twice a month. All my friends in the city live in other buildings or other neighborhoods based on actual shared interests.

I have a sense of community, but it’s among people scattered across the four real boroughs. Who actually lives near enough to me that I’d encounter them regularly by chance is a pure lottery. You live where the rent is right: not where you want to live.

A better tack is to ensure that denser housing is linked to good community spaces. Places for people with common interests to easily congregate and engage. The town square, the park, the community center.

Not the houses themselves. Few people actually get to choose specifically where they live.

You can just be close together. You specifically need to be in a place where people sit on the porches and have porch culture.

Consider how in wildwood where people with porches were all like hey, what’s up. But the newer condo-y places not so much. Same thing in parts queens, but not the people who fenced themselves in. Those are the mysterious people the rest of the neighborhood doesn’t know. Stoops also. The building next to me, people on the stoop make friends. My stoopless building, not so much.

The point is that to a large extent, architecture, zoning, city design, road design, etc. determines people’s behavior as much as UI/UX in software determines user behavior.


People used just hang out on the stoop? I thought that was just Stoop Kid.

I feel like for the most part, porch culture is a pre-internet phenomenon. Sure cars and suburbanization got us to there, but even in cities I feel it’s gone. No one wants to hang out with random people and hope for a good time (and try not risk making things awkward with someone you live next to) when the internet lets you get to the good shit directly.

Yes, people still hang out on the stoop. The Internet has damaged the porch, but not eliminated it.

EDIT: Phones have actually helped the stoop since you can Internet outside when it’s nice.

The brownstone in ridgewood I really wanna live in (currently occupied by my nonna) has a very stoopy stoop. When we first came to the states I briefly lived there as some work was being done on our suburban house that was on my mind as I made this thread.

As a kid of about 9, and before phones were much of a thing, the name of the game was throw a ball at the stoop and catch the crazy ass bounces that result from throwing a ball at the stoop. Nowadays I’d imagine the game would be just chill on the stoop.

I had to google “stoop”. It seems to me the steps leading up to apartments are an accidentally social part of architecture. Their intended function isn’t needed on modern buildings, but I can’t think of something else that could do the same job. Who would want a balcony or porch on a modern car-filled city street?

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My ideal streets look a bit like this (there’s an entire article there, but just look at the pictures).

If streets got narrower, they could be more for people than cars.

That said, I still agree with your point. Who wants a porch? Whether you’re on modern car filled streets or modern people filled streets, stoops are where it’s at.

No, stoops are terrible for many reasons. They are bad for accessibility and waste a whole lot of space in front of buildings. They were designed so rich people could have their own entrance while the servants came through the cellar. The people who live on the bottom floor are partly underground, which isn’t a suitable place to be for many reasons. Inequality is built in.

They only accidentally make for a good place to hang out and be sociable.


People are pretty hostile to stoops. The people sitting on the stoop waiting to get into LIC Market are mostly just causing problems for the people who live in the building.



I’d rather have small parks and benches along the street that are truly public property, rather than stoops and porches.

I honestly can’t fault the suburban street I live on.

It looks just like this:

Other than the fact it’s in Birmingham, I assume.

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Funny thing is that that street I posted is in Birmingham but council-wise it falls under Solihull which has a much better reputation. The joke is that that street is where the Solihull wannabe’s end up.

They say Solihull comes from the words soil-hole. Soil being shit and hole being hole. But the trouble it for the most part it’s nice enough compared to neighbouring birmingham that the joke falls flat.

There is where my mom grew up and my grandparent’s lived for many years. Houses very close to the street. Sidewalk. Porches. Literally no space between houses. Streetview doesn’t show the alley in the back, but there are very low fences separating very tiny backyards. You can hug someone when standing in separate yards. It could really only be improved by removing the cars. Though, people did have a place to play outside thanks to the alley.

Also consider the difference in the community and social life living in this beach town of Rockaway

vs. living in this beach town on Cape Cod

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Many a good thing has crappy origins. Accidental good is sometimes aka good.

What is the issue with living partially underground? The place I wanna move to is one of these cellar entrance places. It also has a gas hookup, ducted central AC, and in house washer (no dryer but there one of the rooms is big enough for a clothes line)

Then there’s the typical colonial small town New England coastal region semi-rural areas, like where I grew up in Southeastern CT… don’t know what to call it. It’s probably properly rural, just more densely packed rutal. There is farming all around but it doesn’t feel like farm country.

But no one’s putting many more houses in here. (My extended family is responsible for a good many of them going in over the last century) Now, there are many many apartment and condo complexes in the area, and some tightly packed housing developmentsas well, but even so while it’s dense for rural it’s not exactly high density urban living here, so for the most part urban thinking doesn’t really apply. We had woods all around to go exploring in. We had a shop building to work on projects. We could go shoot bb guns and dam up the streams and build forts and ride bikes and so on… Don’t really get that in more densely packed spaces. But we were still right near town, in 10 minutes drive you’re in Groton and New London which is very small but more apporpiately called urban space.

Thing is, these homes and the lifestyle predates cars. Before cars it was just people getting around on wagons or carriages I guess. So cars just made it more convenient.

So I don’t know, but I hope not everywhere becomes the sort of urbanist wet dream of uniformly dense multi-family housing where every space outside of your immediate living quarters is communal. I liked having a shop that was ours, to experiment in. I appreciated going to a friend’s house and we had a multi-year project of making really cool bike trails with jumps and streams and a janky bridge.

Would I liked having been in or near a city and interacting with more people and doing cooler events? Sure! But there’s a cost to that of never having your own space to explore.

An interesting thought that came to mind is for me Minecraft is fun because its nostalgia of what we did as kids, (cutting wood, digging holes, making forts) but with the scale of fantasy of what we thought we were doing.

How many not-white people were there?

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There is lots of architecture which is perfectly fine for everyone who isn’t disabled. Good for you that you can live in a basement only accessible by stairs, but I live in a modern building with a lift. Moving in was amazing, as everything could be rolled in. Bikes just roll right in to the bike room. All the baby buggies just roll in. Roll, roll, roll.

Steps are fine for decoration or social hanging out, but bad as a default entryway into any modern building.

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I’m not anti ADA compliance. And I’m all for buildings with lifts, though I do acknowledge that lifts are the 1 in a 1-2-3 combo that drives up the cost of construction and maintenance and generally drives rent costs up leading to all the bad things and stifling all the good things.

Six stories is kinda the sweet spot for dense building. Think Paris.