This "subthread" was begun in the K Street thread, but of course the tide of recent events demands that thread be on-topic so we can heap scorn on Mo. However, econgrad raised what I think are some points very much worth discussing: How does midtown Sacramento differ from Sacramento's surrounding suburbs? Econgrad has argued that there are no real reasons why suburban residents should move to the central city.
Dakotasteve posted this really great list of reasons why midtown was more liveable than his previous home in Elk Grove, which I repost here:
1) History. I love my 1914 Craftsman Bungalow. I know of no where else besides midtown/central city Sacramento where you can live in a pre-1920's historical home or apartment.
2) Walkability. I happen to work downtown, so its a simple 30 minute walk to work when I choose. And when I don't, no commute traffic. I can walk to Safeway, to the local bread store, to coffee, to my doctor's offices, to a plethora of restaurants and entertainment venues. In Elk Grove, I could walk for 30 minutes and be lucky to hit one Circle K.
3) Mass Transit. Midtown and downtown Sacramento tend to be the hubs for all types of mass transit. I can more easily get to light rail or a bus going in nearly all directions in this area.
4) Diversity. My neighborhood is mixed with million dollar homes and $600 a month apartments. This allows for a wide diversity of people walking the neighborhood and frequenting near by businesses, from accountants to artists, state workers to students. And I find that with diversity comes a lot of tolerance, respect and camaraderie.
5) Neighborhood Community and Pride. I knew more of my neighbors in 2 months in midtown than I ever did in the 12 years in Elk Grove. People come out of their homes in the midtown area, instead of insulating themselves inside or barricaded in their backyards. And the people of this neighborhood care and get involved with what is happening around them (which includes an occasional NIMBY).
6) More regional events and attractions. Second Saturday Art Walk, the defunct Thursday Night Market, Farmer's Markets, Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony, Cesar Chavez Park Friday Free Concerts, the State Capitol, Convention Center.
My argument, and response to econgrad, is that many of the arguments in favor of the central city are not imagined factors (like "lifestyle" or "personal preference") but actually physical differences between the central city and the suburbs. Some of these differences include:
* The grid street system. It is designed for permeability, walkability, multiple routes, and maximized street frontage. Suburban streets are designed to limit routes, maximize private property area vs. street frontage (thus reducing road maintenance overhead) and their broad design is intended for cars, not people.
* Lot settings of buildings. Buildings in the central city are oriented close to their lot line--both homes and businesses are right up against the sidewalk. This is because of the economics of pre-automobile cities: land was still at a premium, and access to the street more desirable than physical separation. Except for the biggest mansions, downtown homes tend to have tiny front lawns, 10-20 feet deep. Downtown businesses (the ones built prior to about 1940) are right up on the street, even auto-centric ones: Zocalo and PF Chang's are located inside former car dealerships! Parking lots, where they are found, are adjacent, behind or under the building, but generally street parking is used (and at a premium.)
In the suburbs, lawns are broad and deep, based on large lots. Retail uses are surrounded by a moat of parking, which separates pedestrians from the buildings and surrounds them with cars, discouraging foot traffic. Occasional "token" buildings are close to the street, but often these are the most auto-centric uses, like drive-through restaurants, and they are still surrounded by parking.
* Small lots. The typical suburban lot is 1/4 acre at a minimum, often much larger. Central city lots are generally 40x80 (1/13 of an acre) or 40x160 (about 1/6 acre.) Many of these lots are single-family homes, but large numbers have been converted into duplexes, tri-plexes or more, while in other places apartment buildings contain as many as 20 units on a single 40x160 lot. Also, many 40x160 lots use their copious "backyard space" for an alley-loaded garage or "mother-in-law" units on the alley, resulting in higher residential density. These neighborhoods were designed for people who walked to work, and couldn't afford large houses on large lots.
* Diversity. This includes economic diversity (difference of income) as well as ethnic/cultural/racial diversity, and diversity of sexual orientation. The suburbs are no longer the exclusively white enclaves they were intended to be, but the outer wave of suburban growth (the exoburbs, the kind of greenfield development that we're trying to stop) still is. But the central city has always been a diverse place, even after redevelopment efforts tried to force its depopulation.
This diversity also encourages a diversity of business: while downtown is not without its chain restaurants, you don't find the unchanging mix of chain stores that greets you in the suburbs and makes it impossble to tell where you are. Walk around the central city and you'll see family-owned Asian markets, hip boutiques featuring the work of local designers, restaurants with only one location, corner bars from the swanky to the seedy, the ubiquitous "retail blister" corner market situated every couple of blocks throughout the central city, and the other products and services that people need, from car repair to legal representation. Unlike the suburbs, where these things are all gathered together in a "retail district" (often so big that you have to drive from one end to the other) they are integrated with the neighborhood.