Recent summer and winter visits to Seabrook WA have inspired me to investigate the New Urbanism community planning movement. New Urbanism is an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s, and has gradually continued to reform many aspects of real estate development, urban planning, and municipal land-use strategies. New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards that were prominent until the rise of the automobile in the mid-20th century; it encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design and transit-oriented development. It is also closely related to regionalism, environmentalism and the broader concept of smart growth. The movement also includes a more pedestrian-oriented variant known as New Pedestrianism, which has its origins in a 1929 planned community in Radburn, New Jersey.
Defining elements of New Urbanism (all exemplified in Seabrook, WA):
- The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square or a green and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner.
- Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center.
- There are a variety of dwelling types – usually houses, rowhouses, and apartments – so that younger and older people, singles and families, the poor and the wealthy may find places to live.
- At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
- A small ancillary building or garage apartment is permitted within the backyard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work.
- There are small playgrounds accessible to every dwelling – not more than a tenth of a mile away.
- Streets within the neighborhood form a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination.
- The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
- Buildings in the neighborhood center are placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room.
- Parking spaces and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.
More about New Urbanism can be found at http://www.newurbanism.org/
These native plants thrive in the Seabrook landscape:
Dwarf Western red cedar. Thuja plicata ‘Excelsa’ is a narrow cultivar used at Seabrook as hedging or specimens.
Pacific wax myrtle. Myrica californica is the most-used plant at Seabrook, as evergreen shrubs or clipped hedging.
Red-twig dogwood. Cornus stolonifera is used as screening or trimmed hedging; it can take sun or shade, wet or dry conditions.
Baldhip rose. Rosa gymnocarpa is a hardy, small rose with a delicate flower and bright red fruit.
Douglas spirea. S. douglasii is a casual, airy, small shrub.
Coast strawberry. Fragaria chiloensis is a glossy-leafed spreading groundcover with small flowers.
Streambank lupine. L. rivularis is a prolific flowerer that grows quickly from seed.
Western sword fern. Polystichum munitum is an evergreen, textural classic fern used as a filler or accent plant.
New Urbanism offers a sense of community when you want it and privacy when you don’t. Quick and easy access to shared features like parks, playgrounds and commercial areas forgoes reliance on the car. Seabrook is an enjoyable example of this movement where shared public spaces and a sense of community have developed in a sustainable environment.