Neo-Traditional Community Review
Laguna West:
New Urbanist Snout Houses

  • Located in the Sacramento metropolitan area, approximately 10 miles south of downtown.

  • Designed by Peter Callthorpe.

  • A "leapfrog" development, in violation of New Urbanist preferences. Considerable developable space exists between Sacramento and Laguna West.

  • Liberal use of cul-de-sacs, as opposed to New Urbanist preference for interconnected streets.

  • Architecture appears little different from 1980's California suburban styles. Garages are in the front, resembling the appearance of outlawed Portland "snout-houses." Virtually no retro-styles.

  • Extreme auto dependency illustrated by newly advertised four garage homes (see picture below).

  • Some failures are structural --- impossibility of building a community with auto competitive transit access to a metropolitan region, and impossibility of developing a commercial district capable of attracting the higher income people that must necessarily occupy the comparatively expensive housing.

  • Laguna West is frequently cited as a leading new urbanist community. Yet, with the exception of higher density, Laguna West appears indistinguishable from similar era suburban developments.

  • Neo-Traditional Rating: 1.33 (Substantially fails to achieve neo-traditional ideals) on a scale of 1 to 5.

  • Pictures below table.
Criteria Objective Case Rating
Walkable Community Stores within walking distance (1/4 mile) of all residences. Few houses within walking distance of stores. 1
Transit Oriented Development Automobile competitive transit service providing service to entire urban area Transit competitive service provided only to downtown Sacramento (9 percent of metropolitan job market) 2
Housing Prices Mix of housing prices, including affordable housing. No low income housing. 1
Density 7 housing units per acre minimum (12,000 per square mile) Population density estimated at under 5,600 per square mile (56 percent of the 12,000 objective). 2
Impact on Suburbanization Infill -- does not contribute to suburbanization Greenfield --- contributes to suburbanization 1
Balance of jobs and residences Community provides a balance of jobs and residences, reducing the necessity to commute by automobile Little employment in the community. Employees in these establishments are not likely to have the income to live within the community. 1
Market oriented development No subsidies or tax breaks Unknown ---
Composite Rating 1.33
Rating System:

5: Substantially Exceeds Objective

4: Exceeds Objective

3: Meets Objective

2: Fails to Meet Objective

1: Substantially Fails to Meet Objective

Nothing in this review is meant to suggest that any neo-traditional development is not a desirable community. Most are well designed and attractive. To the extent that any such development fails to achieve neo-traditional (new urbanist) objectives is more than likely a reflection that the objectives themselves are impractical and largely unachievable in an environment that depends upon consumer choice in a free market.

Sign advertising up to 4 car garages (2000.05)

Advertising 2 to 4 car garages (2000.05)

Wide boulevard through development (2000.05)

Space over which development "leap frogged" (2000.05)

Houses with lake (2000.05)

California/Florida style suburban designs (2000.05)

Example of California/Florida suburban design (not retro) (2000.05)

Apparently "full width" suburban streets (2000.05)

Development wall typical of "cul-de-sac" suburban developments (2000.05)

Commercial area with ample parking (2000.05)

(c) 2000 --- Wendell Cox Consultancy --- Permission granted to use with attribution.
Demographia is "pro-choice" with respect to urban development.
People should have the freedom to live and work where and how they like.

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