Saturday, September 8, 2007

East Sac, Davis niche so livable, says book

Sacramento Bee Article...

What makes a great neighborhood? One with a community garden or a central gathering spot at a park, playground or plaza? One where residents actually talk to one another and work together to tackle issues from traffic to crime? One where cars willingly share the road with cyclists and pedestrians? At least a couple of neighborhoods in the Sacramento region offer shining examples, according to "The Great Neighborhood Book" (New Society Publishers, $19.95, 192 pages).

In east Sacramento and on a stretch of N Street in Davis, residents have banded together to create "village" settings that are safe, nurturing and fun, the book raves. The book cites dozens of other examples of livable enclaves across the United States and in Canada.

Author Jay Walljasper and his staff researched neighborhoods through the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit urban planning and design group. "The wonderful thing is that there are inspiring stories almost everywhere you look," says Walljasper. "There really is a trend for people to roll up their shirt sleeves and make a difference in the community. You could write a whole book about what people in California or Minnesota or Alberta are doing." Neighborhoods decline, the authors say, when residents "lose their connection" to their communities. Recapturing that sense of belonging and pride of place can be as simple as establishing a dog park or tearing down fences and sharing backyard space, they write.

In an online magazine sponsored by the project, Judy Robinson gushes about her east Sacramento neighborhood, where residents look after pets, plants and mail deliveries for one another and take part in a wide range of seasonal activities. At Halloween, they transform their homes into haunted houses to the delight of trick-or-treaters. During the Christmas holidays, they traverse the neighborhood singing carols, then gather for hot cocoa and holiday sweets from kitchens up and down the block. In the spring, they swap the bounty of their gardens. "I'm blessed to live in such a perfect neighborhood," Robinson says.

N Street Housing in Davis has long been heralded for its co-housing approach, which for two decades has offered residents a combination of private housing and community spaces. The project is a collection of 1950s-era homes and includes a "common house" where everyone on the block can gather for meals, to play foosball, or to watch a big game on television. Residents, both renters and homeowners, also share laundry rooms, a workshop, play structures and compost heaps. "It's not quite fair to list us as a neighborhood," resident Kevin Wolf says. "As a co-housing community, we're a subset of our neighborhood."

Still, the recognition is appreciated, he says. "To me, part of what makes a great neighborhood is knowing a lot of your neighbors," he says. "That means more than just saying 'Hi' as you drive past in your car. It means everyone knows one another's kids, and parents know parents. It means taking care of one another. That's what happens here."


No comments: