When the director of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation needs to cite an ideal model for a sustainable neighborhood, she doesn't have to look far.
The director, Susan Handy, lives in one—North Davis. The neighborhood is dotted with about 200 modern Streng Brothers homes from the late 1970s, as well as homes by other developers.
Handy, a UC Davis professor of environmental science whose focus is on "relationships between transportation and land use, particularly the impact of land use on travel behavior, and on strategies for reducing automobile dependence," often discusses in her classes Radburn, a world-renowned planned garden city in New Jersey.
"Oh, that looks like Davis!" students sometimes say.
"Or like this part of Davis," Handy says.
In many ways, the neighborhood in which she lives, with her husband, an astronomer, and two teenage daughters, may provide a model for the rest of the nation as we strive to reduce global warming.
North Davis, with its homes clustered around cul-de-sacs and backing onto winding paths and broad meadows, and with its network of trails tying into bike paths and bike lanes throughout town, is just one of several neighborhoods in Davis with greenbelts. Another, Village Homes, is even more radical in its land pattern, complete with community gardens and orchards and virtually devoid of fences.
Davis, with its long-term commitment to slow and compact growth, thus seems an ideal place to house a sustainable transportation center, which is funded by the federal Department of Transportation.
The center's goals include reducing greenhouse gas by getting people out of their cars, and fostering better patterns of land use. "How can we create places like this," Handy asks, "where biking is a viable mode for a good portion of the population?"
In Davis, says George Flamik, a recent arrival to the Streng enclave, "Almost everybody bikes, young or old."
No one lucky enough to walk, bike, skate—or even hop and skip—along the greenbelt trails that wind through North Davis needs to be told that the neighborhood is a delight.
The broad, generally asphalted paths are shaded by redwoods in spots, open to broad meadows in others, wind past modern homes built by the Streng Brothers and past playgrounds. There's an ornamental pond that's home to its own island, and what appears to be a more natural pond, home to birds and fish and amphibians and bugs.