Monday, September 21, 2009

Urban Living & Why It's OK to "Luv-It"

Hey, I might as well weigh in on the controversy that everyone is talking about. Come on, you know what I'm talking about. Ever since "The Office" star Mindy Kaling trash-talked the downtown neighborhood where the famed Luv-It Frozen Custard is located, everyone in Vegas is talking about the merits of urban Las Vegas living.

Is it safe to go to Luv-It at night? Are we at risk of getting mugged at the corner of Las Vegas Blvd. & Oakey? Are all of us suburbanites in Green Valley and Summerlin just too snooty to realize the good quality of life in Downtown Las Vegas? Is the inner city a scary place to avoid or the future of American life?

Now if you excuse me for a moment, I want to put aside the Mindy Kaling/Luv-It controversy and point out something else that provoked me to some more deep thinking. Over at my old stomping grounds in OC Progressive, rockstar local blogger Joe Shaw recently talked about walking around Huntington Beach, the OC city where he lives. Basically, it's difficult to walk around his walled-off suburabn neighborhood. But in downtown, the streets all have inviting sidewalks, stores of all sorts are nearby, and residents there can easily walk around.

OK, so Downtown Surf City isn't exactly Downtown Vegas. Regardless, Downtown isn't as scary as some would imagine it to be. I just stayed at a friend's house near 9th & Oakey las weekend. I never feared for my life or my possessions.

Is it possible that so many of us have become so accustomed to the perfectly manicured Anthem roads and far off Silverado Ranch strip malls that we've forgotten what real city living is like? Sure, maybe I myself am somewhat of a hypocrite about this. After all, I live in the master-planned nirvana that is Green Valley.

But hey, I'm trying. My neighborhood actually is quite walkable. And if I can't walk to where I need to go, RTC bus service out here isn't too bad. All in all, I actually think Green Valley made some good first steps that can ultimately lead us to a brighter suburban/urban future.

There's been plenty of debate lately on the merits of New Urbanism. Many new urbanists see a possible future in places like Inspirada. However, others just see developments like these as lame excuses for the real urban living one can find Downtown.

Sometimes, I do feel guilty about my life in Henderson. Aren't I the one who's always crowing about sustainable living? Well, at least I'm doing my part to make it work in the 'burbs. And perhaps with smarter planning in the 'burbs and more sustainable living on our part, we can make it work... Even in Henderson and other outer reaches of The Valley.

But in the mean time, perhaps those of us in the 'burbs should think twice before bashing the inner city as "sketchy". Take a walk around the neighborhood just east of Las Vegas Blvd. near Luv-It. Do the First Friday Art Walk next month. Notice how walkable the area is, how close the shops are, how the arts scene is flourishing here, and how engaged and connected the community is. What's so "sketchy" about that?

Yes, Downtown does have crime problems and other problems that don't need repeating in other areas. And sure, we shouldn't all be forced to move Downtown. However, we'd be foolish to completely overlook what's gone right downtown. We'd be foolish to dismiss the lessons we can learn from these city neighborhoods that can help us live more sustainably, even out in the 'burbs.

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