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New Suburbanism Growing In Southern California

The suburbs, long derided as cultural wastelands, are experiencing a renaissance. No longer just sprawling residential tracts fanning out from nominal downtowns, the reinvented suburbs are pedestrian-friendly villages featuring vintage architecture mixed with new designs, mom-and-pop stores next to national chains, plus jobs a lot closer to home. They also have museums, theaters, art galleries, concert halls and restaurants.

Unlike the idealized suburb of your parents� generation, the lots are small and close together, and some feature so-called rear-loading garages behind the homes, entered via attractive, landscaped lanes rather than alleys lined with garbage cans.

Many of the homes lack traditional yards, so families enjoy the 20 acres of parks scattered through the development, most of which serve as central green zones and are surrounded by residences that face them.

The parks are open to the public, but are maintained by homeowners� fees. The large residential streets have landscaped round-abouts to slow auto traffic. Narrow side streets accommodate wider sidewalks for pedestrian safety.

One of the most striking features of �new suburbanism� is the dramatic shift from cars to walking. Especially in the refurbished downtown areas, residents are parking their automobiles in city lots off main streets so they can stroll along gussied-up avenues chock-full of restaurants, shops and clubs. They can people-watch in central plazas and run errands on their lunch hours.

As suburbs have shifted from industry-based hubs to more eclectic businesses�new media, biomedical and technological, for example�they are attracting a new mix of people who desire a variety of amenities. The mix of ages, ethnicities, and immigrants has brought new culture and restaurants, as well as capital, in some cases from the old country. They bring multiple generations, too, which is what any healthy community wants to have.