Gated Communities

Categories: CommunityPolitics

The advancement of gated communities has actually garnered much unfavorable criticism. Some quarters say that instead of assisting develop a unified society, gated neighborhoods simply promote isolation and partition. Others have actually viewed the gates as the abundant male’s transfer to discriminate versus those who are not so fortunate. Homeowners of gated communities nevertheless typically state that it is the security, security and feeling of community that draws them to the “city” within evictions and not the snobbery most critics credit them with.

Baby boomers in particular enjoy the many features and way of life lodgings that such prepared communities provide them. Should gated communities actually be blamed for the growing skepticism and segregation of society? Gated Communities: Hazard or Reflection of Present Society? In February 2001, the Sarasota Herald reported the police look for scammers who impersonated sales individuals of cleansing products who distracted senior homeowners with their sales pitch while an accomplice quietly and methodically takes the property owner’s belongings.

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(” Victim States Assaulter Followed,” 2001, p. BS1).

At least 3 senior Alabama retired people in between the ages of 64-68, came down with home intrusions committed by teenage street gang members were reported in the New American in March 2002. (Lee, 2002, p. 41) Antioch, Illinois saw the sentencing of 44-year old purse-snatcher Andrea Abear who particularly targeted senior females one of whom was “an 81-year-old lady was dragged along the ground by the burglar’s car” (Gordon, 2007, p. 7) in April, 2007. With criminal activities such as these, who wouldn’t wish to get a little additional security for their community and property never mind if they are available in the kind of gates and walls?

The early 1980’s saw the birth of the first couple of prepared gated communities.

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(Blakely & & Snyder, 1997, p. 1) Making use of “gates” in protecting neighborhoods hale from the Middle Ages when royal families and communities lived inside thick fortress walls that secured them throughout the time of sieges and war (Dillon, 1994). In the early 1600’s, early American colonists who also lived under danger of intrusion by the hostile forces protected themselves and all their worldly goods by living inside strongholds or “forts.

” The more modern and familiar concept of “gated communities” came from the 1850’s where property lines were laid out and marked by gates and fences. Examples of these are New York’s Tuxedo Park and the private streets of St. Louis (Blakely & Snyder, 1997, p. 4) In today’s times, gated communities refer to residences with large communal civic spaces that are enclosed by fences and walls to keep out and bar the entrance of non-residents. These communities offer an added sense of security in the face of rapid neighborhood change and crime (Blakely & Snyder, 1997, p.

1)The allure of such security was such that the year 2001 alone saw more than 20,000 gated communities being built “in the Southwest, California and Florida. “(Palen, 2005, p. 124) In her book titled “Behind the Gates: Life, Security and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America,” Setha Low reported that the number of people estimated to be living in gated communities in the United States increased from four million in 1995, to eight million in 1997 and sixteen million in 1998.

(These figures include people living in high-density apartments, condominiums and high-rises that employ guards and use gates to prevent public access to lobbies, hallways and parking lots. ) (Low, 2003, p. 15) The largest part of this growth in gated communities may be found in the area in the southern region of the country called the “Sunbelt. ” Comprising 15 states, it extends from Virginia and Florida in the southeast through Nevada in the southwest, and includes southern California. Its climate is warm, lower costs of living, and has an environment that is comparably friendly and less racially discriminatory.

These qualities of this particular area has become so attractive to both retirees and people of different races alike that according to the Census Bureau, half the national population growth in the past decade occurred in the Sunbelt states particularly in Texas, California and Florida (Palen, 2005,p. 103) There are many reasons why more and more Americans are choosing to live within gated communities according to the book “Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States” (1997).

It could be the an effort to secure or raise the property value of their homes, reduce the probability of crime happening in their neighborhood, or perhaps build a solid and ideal community with neighbors who share a common appreciation and enjoyment of prestige and the “good life. ” (Blakely & Snyder, 1997, p. 2) Some families who settle in more family oriented communities like the safety and security their children are afforded. “It allows them the freedom to walk around the neighborhood at night, and their daughter and her friends from non-gated neighborhoods are able to ride their bicycles safely” (Low, 2003, p.

8) Others, particularly the retirees, are just looking for homes in a community where they feel safe and secure as they used to growing up in their childhood communities (p. 53) There are three different types of gated communities: “lifestyle communities, prestige communities, and security zone communities” (Blakely & Snyder, 1997, p. 38) Lifestyle communities cater to personal and leisure requirements of their residents. Examples of this would be the retirement and golfing communities (p. 39).

Prestige communities are set apart from other residential subdivisions by tall, imposing and heavily guarded gates that more often than not safeguard the privacy of celebrities and the very rich (p. 41). Security Zone communities are different from the typical gated community in the sense that it is the residents, not the developers, who take the initiative and install their own community gates, barricades and street enclosures to ward off perceived threats of crime or disturbances caused by traffic (p. 42). The Position Against Gated Communities

Critics against gated communities not only in the United States but also in some parts of Europe have called the idea of such communities as a prelude to a “fortressing” and isolationist society. One of the first public figures to speak out against gated communities was the novelist J. G. Ballard who decried the separation of the “educated and creative” from the rest of society in his novel “Burning Blue. “: “The most educated, creative and able people, in whom society has invested a great deal,” he says now, “are going to step outside society and lock the door.

” (Hari, 2001) An article (1998) by Andrew Stark for the Wilson Quarterly also cites the “madness” of some gated communities such as the Hidden Hills community in Los Angeles, one of America’s oldest gated communities. Stark points out that Hidden Hills took the “exclusiveness” of their community up a notch with their setting up of their own private (homeowners’ association) and public “city” government in charge of everything from property tax deductions, maintenance of parks and streets, to the privatization of Hidden Hills’ Fourth of July celebrations

Harvard Law School Professor Gerald Frug calls the fostering of gated communities representative of divisiveness that goes against the objectives of community building (Frug, 1999, p. 12) Frug further attacks the alleged collection of taxes and the holding of elections within gated communities. He further asserts that residents of gated communities limit the addressing and solution of social and public issues within their own exclusive community, without a thought to how the same problems are affecting those outside their community walls (p. 178).

Frug posits that the security fears may be addressed with the reorientation of “the legal concept of cities to promote public freedom, community building, and public space” instead of the physical boundaries built by separatist and “fort” mentality among people today. (p. 219) Blakely and Snyder also raise questions about how gated communities adhere to the ideal of “a more heterogenous, open society. ” “We are a society that is seeking to bring people of all income levels and races together, but this is the direct opposite of that,” Blakely says.

“How can the nation have a social contract without having social contact? ” (Tucker, 1998) They also point out how instead of unifying races and cultures, the existence of such gated communities just further segregate not only the races but also social classes in terms of public services. As more private communities provide their own security, street maintenance, parks, recreation, garbage collection, and other services, the poor and the less well-to-do are left more dependent on the ever-reduced services of city and county governments, Blakely says.

(Tucker, 1998) The implications of this growing rate of privatization include difficulty on the part of the city government to further meet the needs of the “un-gated” public as their tax base and resources shrink further. “The segregation of urban residents into enclaves will also tend to diminish the importance of issues that separate neighborhoods in favor of differences within neighborhoods. ” (Champlin, 1998) Tax bases are affected because privatized neighborhoods usually influence the residents’ willingness “to pay for public services. ” (Champlin, 1998)

There are also some that opine that gated communities are just another way by which the rich set themselves apart from the working class and the poor (Ehrenreich, 2000, p. 18). Those within the gates are the “somebodies” while those that are left outside are “the gateless nothings. ” (“Our Safe but Oh-So-Sterile,” 2006, p. 37) Race-wise, there are some quarters who contend that the practice of “gating” is just one way of racially discriminating against other people (Dillon, 1994). Daniel Lauber, a consultant for AICP of River Forest, Illinois called gating “an outgrowth

of not wanting anything in our backyard that is different from us. ” (Dillon, 1994) He further states: “A black person who shows up in one of these places is likely to get busted. They reinforce the tendency to categorize people by race and sex, which only intensifies our social problems. ” (Dillon, 1994) Writer for London’s Evening Standard Johann Hari refers to the flats in one of London’s gated communities as “sterile” and “hermetically sealed” that the residents are left bereft of the “glorious randomness that makes life in a big city worth living” (Hari, 2001)

There are also some who observe that civil rights such as those stated in the United States’ Fourth Amendment are not applicable inside a privatized community. According to an article (1998) that was published in the Journal for Economic Issues, the rules that are implemented by the “residential community associations” write up rules that are often not ordinarily “constitutionally allowable in local governments. ” People inside the gated communities whether resident, visitor or employee are therefore subject to rules that are neither democratic nor constitutional (Champlin, 1998).

This is supported by an article written by Frug in 2000, where he also stated that gated communities operated under their own laws, collect their own taxes and hold their own elections (Frug, 2000) Skeptics of the so-called nostalgia for the “good old days” among retirees credit the onset of sentiments to the “Pleasantville” (1998) effect where movies frame suburban life as the utopian “white suburbia” where communities are close and neighbors are like family (Dickinson, 2006). From Inside the Gates: In Defense of the Gated Communities

The picture that critics against gated communities present looks bleak and cynical. Yet the number of Americans who opt to invest and live in such communities grow year by year. In the year 2001, more than 8 million Americans have found new homes inside gated communities (Palen, 2005, p. 124). In his review (2001) of Robert Putnam’s book entitled “Bowling Alone,” Northwestern University assistant professor Eric Klinenberg presents the idea that instead of looking at gated communities as tools of discrimination and segregation, people should recognize these as forms of “collective policing.

” (Klinenberg, 2001) He quotes Joseph Brann, Director of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) as saying: “”Citizens are looking for ways to get involved in community life,” Brann explains. “Community policing gives them a way to do this. ” ” (Klinenberg, 2001) Instead of pointing to gated communities as the source of divisiveness and isolation, perhaps it would be worthwhile to look at the reasons why gated communities came into existence in the first place.

(Klinenberg, 2001) Can the rise of gated communities really be instrumental in contributing to the nation’s declining social capital? Putnam says that while the “physical separation and segregation” and “disruption of community bondedness” that comes with gated communities may contribute slightly to the “decline in social engagement,” their effects are relatively small as opposed to the social disengagement promoted by “technology and mass media.

” (Welch, 2005) Putnam further posits that shifts in social and civic engagement are largely influenced by the culture of each generation (Welch, 2005). In his book “THE GREAT DISRUPTION: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order ,” author Francis Fukuyama asserts that rather than blaming the gated communities for segregation, diminishing social capital and growing isolation in society, governments should address the problem of crime that bring fear upon the citizenry and make the security offered by gated communities attractive. (Waldman, 1999, p. 44)

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Gated Communities. (2016, Dec 14). Retrieved from

Gated Communities

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