Year 1959

Get a glass of wine. Then click on this link, which plays a video called Community Growth, created in 1959.

Once you've seen the video, read on…

You're probably sitting with a puzzled look – 1959? Aren’t these the exact same issues that are plaguing us today? Don’t those 1959 developments look like many of today’s latest developments? Even the way they bulldozed through the land and stick-built the homes looks just like the methods used today!

When I was 7 year old, my mother bought a new white 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible with a red vinyl interior. This was one of the best designs with those wonderful curved wing-like fins and oblong tail lights. I remember sitting in the front when my mother slammed on the brakes as a child ran in front of the car. Since they did not have seat belts back then, my head flew into the steel dashboard (your probably thinking; ah ha! so that’s why he writes for New Geography). That beautiful Chevy was a coffin in a crash, as witnessed by the following video showing 50 years of safety advances between the 1959 Chevy vs. 2009 Chevy.

Back then, a 1959 Chevy with 50,000 miles on it was on its last legs, just about broken down, whereas today, a 2009 Chevy with 50,000 miles would be considered just about broken in.

If a 1959 land development subdivision layout were to crash into (OK, be overlayed upon) a 2009 land development subdivision layout there would be little difference.

We have written about this in the past, but it bears repeating: Designers look to the ordinances for guidance, and these regulations have been stagnant for about 5 decades (1959. Developers hire designers assuming they will get the best possible layout. Designers look to the six decade old ordinances and assume the minimum dimensions are the optimum ones to maximize density (their clients profits). The layout by minimums will result in cookie cutter monotonous designs. The council and planning commissions admonish the developer for submitting plans that lack character and imagination, yet the developer just followed the regulations that promote such development. And the cycle repeats, and repeats, and repeats for generations upon generations.

You are reading this article on a computer that is more powerful than any that existed in 1959, or 1969, or possibly even in 1979. If you are older than 60 years old, chances are if this was 1959, you would be dead by now. Advances in health as well as an awareness of what we eat and how we live allow us to live longer happier and more productive lives.

Technological advancements have touched virtually every product and aspect of our lives – except the neighborhoods we live, work and play within.

There is something very wrong with this situation, and solving these problems through over densification and forcing a nation into public transportation is taking giant leaps backwards, not towards 1959, but more towards 1859. We posses innovation and technology for the design and building of sustainable future cities without sacrificing the desire for space and personal transportation freedom. This however takes more effort. But isn’t about time we leave 1959 behind?

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This was one of the best

This was one of the best designs with those wonderful curved wing-like fins and oblong tail lights. painters new jersey

This was one of the best


I wanted to thank you for this great article. I enjoyed every little bit part of it and I will be waiting for the new updates.This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this…
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Beware of the political games played by industry groups

Thank you Rick for drawing to our attention the important documentary by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) back in 1959.

Politicians and planners need to watch that NAHB documentary, to see the real game this industry group was up to at this time. In essense it is sugar coated nonsense, seeking political protection, to shut the competition out.

As most readers of this website will be aware who know their "housing history", it was the late great Bill Levitt soon after World War 2, who moved housing construction from the horse and buggy era to the production industry we know today. Many had tried to do this through the 1930's but failed.

Levitt with his entrepreneurial skills managed to find ways to provide housing at $US7 - $8US8,000 to young families with a single income earning about $US3,500 a year. These were around 80 square meter (850 square feet) houses at around $US100 per square meter or $US10 per square feet.

Notice the NAHB documentary does not mention Levitt once. Indeed they deviously and indirectly denigrate the great work he had done, with their elitist approach.

Levitts great feat was then emulated throughout much of the developed world at the time - lifting countless millions of people to a much higher standard of living.

This increased competition then set the stage for those within the industry to figure out ways how they could lessen the competition and the NAHB documentary Rick has drawn to our attention within the above article, graphically illustrates how the NAHB was captured by the industry protectionists, to politicise the development industry. All that mushy talk of "community involvement" ( in reality sham consultation) is code for political and commercial interests holding hands to control their markets and shut the competition out.

This illustrates why politicians and planners need to be "street smart" and ensure that they are always working in the wider public interest. Property industry protectionists need to be shown the door - fast.

Hugh Pavletich
Co author - Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey
Performance Urban Planning
New Zealand