Gentrify Your Own Self: We Got Our Work Cut Out For Us – Part 2

thIn Part 1 of We Got Our Work Cut Out For Us, I talked about how much I loved HGTV programs, particularly the shows where people are either buying or redesigning a house. I discussed how homebuyers who prefer downtown living want their cake and eat it too, which annoys me. However, that is nothing compared to how I feel when I watch buyers who are looking for a suburban homes. It’s these comments that really get to me because if the homebuyers who are looking to buy downtown want their cake and eat it too, these suburban searchers want the cake, the cookies, the candy, and the milk. But while we are on the subject of suburban living, please indulge my urban planning soapbox for just a moment. What we all don’t seem to realize is that the further away from the urban center we move, the more infrastructure is needed to accommodate the growth. The citizens of these edge cities and suburban areas demand new schools to be built way out to yonder in order to accommodate their children. Then there are the water and sewer wars between neighboring counties. The water issue is so bad that people are sneaking over the boundary lines with a bucket and a siphoning hose. Well, not really, but it is bad. Oh and how far do emergency services extend anyway? Are they blasting Public Enemy’s, 911 is a Joke out in the ‘burbs now? I don’t even want to mention the countless hours in traffic with the people traveling to work. Ever been stuck in Atlanta traffic?

“Sprawl” had been the buzzword when I was practicing planning. I’ve been out of the field for a while, so I don’t know if that continues to be a concern or has it ever been beyond those who practice urban planning and community development. So let’s get to the suburban comments that grate my nerves.

1) It’s dated – First of all, let me start by saying that there should be a clause in the HGTV contract that states that those two words have been used to death and to utter them again, will result in immediate cease filming. Second of all, if you purchase the house under your budget, you will have the money to update it. Third of all, in my opinion, older homes have the best bones. My favorites are the 70s split-level on streets with mature trees. if you insist on living in the ‘burbs, at least purchase a house that doesn’t blow over on a breezy day.

2) I can see my neighbors/no privacy – Oh the narcissism. Unless you come home from church to see a neighbor sitting square on your porch walk, I really don’t think this is a real issue. Normal people, emphasis on “normal,” are too involved with their own lives to care about what you are doing. And if they happen to wave, would that really be so terrible? Just wave back. So I suggest that you invest in some window treatments, shrubbery, and a fence if it bothers you that much. Because unless you move to the moon, chances are you are going to have neighbors. Sorry.

3) Not enough room to entertain – Translation: “If my house isn’t big enough, I can’t show it off to make my family and friends green with envy.” Anyway, I thought you wanted privacy…?

4) The yard is too small – Are you tilling the soil? Harvesting crops? How much land do you really need? I can certainly understand wanting a yard with enough room to throw the football around with the children (and the relator did show you one), but unless you’re raising Drew Brees, your yard really doesn’t need to be the size of the Superdome.

5) No character – Take thyself to the city. That is unless your definition of character is not my definition of character. To me, character is more than double-tray ceilings, ceiling fans, chair rails, and granite countertops with matching backsplash. While that’s a kind of character (Well, not the granite whatnot), but I am thinking more of carved detail in the wood, stain glass windows, archways, ceiling medallions – signatures in the home that tells me the era it was built.

I am sure there is more, but I can’t continue. I cannot help but to wonder if people come up with these statements on their own or is it society that says that resolving all of the issues mentioned in this post and the last post makes a dream home? Anyway, as long as people have these canned responses, it will be very difficult to convince people to return to their neighborhoods. Anyhow, that’s just me thinking out loud. Stay tuned for Part 3.


Gentrify Your Own Self: We Got Our Work Cut Out for Us – Part 3

tnd-collageAs I have discussed in my last few posts, I think in order to maintain culture and a sense of community, we all need to consider returning to our neighborhoods to rebuild them. It is not a secret that I have expressed concern that convincing people to Gentrify Your Own Self! is easier said than done. I don’t know if the people from the HGTV programs are the true face of homebuyers in this country, as they could be putting on for entertainment value. However, if these attitudes are for real, then we have got our work cut out for us in getting people to understand what is truly important in terms of where to live and if it is feasible to have everything. Part 1 of the We’ve Got Our Work Cut Out for Us Series addressed HGTV Homebuyers who wanted the urban living. Part 2, discussed those who prefer the suburbs. And now the Part 3 comments regardless of city or suburb. Here we go.

1) I want stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, hardwood floors, four bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, a big master bedroom with luxurious ensuite, double sinks, a large yard, and turn key in this exclusive neighborhood for $105,000 – Assuming that you are not moving to suburban Atlanta, you’ll need to make some serious compromises with your “must haves.” I would rather that you not show your ignorance by you’re not yielding on the requirements that you must have a gargantuan-sized master bedroom with an elephantine-sided walk-in closet. Please save it for your next house.

2) I don’t like the appliances – Does the stove cook the food? Does the oven bake? Does the dishwasher dish wash? Please don’t ignore a home with good bones because the appliances are white and not stainless steel. Save your money and get your H.H. Gregg top-of-the-line appliances further down the line. Meanwhile, it will not kill you that the kitchen has all white appliances.

3) I hate the wall color – Guess what? I heard that Lowes, Home Depot, and even Walmart sells paint now. Go on and pick you out a color.

4) I hate the alley out back – I need you to go to your computer and Google “TND – Traditional Neighborhood Development.” While you are doing that, I’ll be over here with the other urban planners as we do a collective roll over.

5) I want “Open Concept” – I’m not sure blowing out walls works with every floor plan, but to each his own.

6) This room is too small for our furniture – Or…Your furniture is too big for the room. What is more important? The house you love, which is an investment of a lifetime, or your couch?

7) Low-ballers – Let’s have some real talk right here. I understand wanting to save a buck or two, but if you ever in your life, offer to buy my house way below market value, low-balling, not only will I reject your offer, I will not even consider a counter from you. At all. I don’t care how long my house has been sitting on the market. I will go on Buying and Selling and get Drew and Jonathan Smith to fix my house, and let them get me a good deal. See, just like you are trying to fulfill your American dream and buy a nice house, so am I. Don’t you dare mess with my dream trying to get yours for less than what it is worth. So stop low balling!

That is all. This is the end of my HGTV rant and the reason why as far as Gentrifying Your Own Self! goes, we’ve got a lot of work to do in convincing the masses. Unless we can get that huge yard, three car garage, six bedrooms, and on-going list of over the top must-haves in the ‘hoods, most people aren’t trying to move there. But…I could be wrong. I sure hope I am.

Over the Palmetto Hedge

Some funny stuff there.

Some funny stuff there.

People who know me, know that it takes a lot to get me to laugh one of those rolling on the floor, tears flowing down my face, stomach-aching laughs. My 7-year-old son can make me laugh that way because he’ll say something off-handed and painfully honest not even intending to be funny, which is what makes it funny. My husband is pretty funny. He sees the humor in almost anything and his laughter is pretty infectious (I try not to let on that he makes me laugh though, what’s the fun in that?) He had me fooled when I first met him at that urban planning meeting. The M&M commercials also have me cracking up. I can relate to the Brown M&M who wants to be taken seriously but doesn’t want to be considered uptight. The Yellow M&M is so funny to me though, especially when he’s paired with the impatient Red M&M (Uh… Santa? ROFL!) Yes, put on an M&M commercial and you’ll get more than just little chortles from me.

Then there are the animated films. I have a couple of favorites. The Princess and the Frog, of course tops the list. Also tops are Finding Nemo (I just love that turtle scene) and Milan (I can relate to her as well as we both have the tendency to buck tradition). The animated movie that has me rolling on the floor with laughter is Over the Hedge. If you are an urban and regional planner, it is definitely a must see. I don’t want to give away the movie, so I’ll stick to the basics. There’s a turtle, a squirrel, two opossum, two porcupine parents and three adorable porcupine children, and a attitudinal skunk. They awake from hibernation to find the forest gone and a huge subdivision in its place. If you think they had nightmares when they saw it, I was having horrible dreams myself. It was like one of those subdivisions I used to have to approve (but really hated to) while working down in Henry County, Georgia: Zero lot lines, eight units to the acre, two entry ways to accomodate the traffic for the 300 lots, a mess of culs-de-sac, and my favorite (sarcasm) not a tree in sight. Anyway, these adorable woodland creatures are shown the ropes of navigating the suburban encroachment by a wayward raccoon. Now this movie may sound like, “whatever,” but the writing is genius as it displays the excessive human behavior through the eyes of these animals. To them, we look ridiculous. We use up too much land. We eat too much food. We drive cars that are way too big. This movie tells the truth but it’s hilarious.

There used to be a lot of animals on Hilton Head. My father told me about some of them. He told me about the cattle that used to graze in what is now a prominent subdivision. Some animals, I saw for myself. When I was my son’s age and we would visit the island, there would be several properties with that lone horse grazing in yard, including in grandparents’. Granddaddy, used to ride his horse down the street at Christmas time and the horse would perform tricks. After I moved to the island, I took the bus home from school and we would pass a couple of pigpens… A parent at one bus stop had a farm with grazing cows . We used to have this crazy bus driver who used to try to run them over if they were crossing the road when she approached (Maybe they were worth 500 points if she hit one). I remember one day in particular when the poor farmer had to push that last cow and himself, through the open gate to avoid being a part of her grille. There were the chickens when our house was first built. Before we could garage doors, there were these chickens perched on top of moving boxes, dropping feathers and …uh other stuff. There were wild animals behind our house like wild turkey, Harvey the Hare (Daddy named him), and the occasional deer. I guess the point is, and maybe this is a rhetorical question, but where did all of the animals go? Did they wake up one morning like they did on Over the Hedge to find the forest gone? Is their home now in a small grove of the remaining underbrush? Well one thing I can say for Hilton Head planners is that they don’t allow developers to clear-cut the land. They remove just enough of the trees to build the home or business. There are still plenty of old oaks, but is that enough of a home for the animals? Seeing as they cross through the backyard sometimes, I would say no. And of course the island way of life has changed so that the horses no longer graze lazily in the field. They are now at the equestrian center. I can’t remember the last time I saw a cow or pig on the island. I did see a wild turkey, only he was running down a suburban street in my home of Knoxville. I wonder if it saw past Thanksgiving because that turkey was huge.

What happened to the animals on Hilton Head is actually not funny, but a movie of them exacting revenge on humans is. So if you want to get me to laugh, pop some popcorn, get me a root beer and Peanut M&Ms, and cue up Over the Hedge for some crazy animal hijinks. You’ll be picking me up from the floor.