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NYT Extols German Anarchist Commune

More green propaganda from those killers of trees at the New York Times:

In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL

May 12, 2009

VAUBAN, Germany — Residents of this upscale community are suburban pioneers, going where few soccer moms or commuting executives have ever gone before: they have given up their cars.

Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here

Vauban, completed in 2006, is an example of a growing trend in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to separate suburban life from auto use, as a component of a movement called “smart planning.” …

While there have been efforts in the past two decades to make cities denser, and better for walking, planners are now taking the concept to the suburbs and focusing specifically on environmental benefits like reducing emissions. Vauban, home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, may be the most advanced experiment in low-car suburban life. But its basic precepts are being adopted around the world in attempts to make suburbs more compact and more accessible to public transportation, with less space for parking. In this new approach, stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway…

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is promoting “car reduced” communities, and legislators are starting to act, if cautiously. Many experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year, Mr. Goldberg said…

In Germany, a country that is home to Mercedes-Benz and the autobahn, life in a car-reduced place like Vauban has its own unusual gestalt. The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home. Stores, restaurants, banks and schools are more interspersed among homes than they are in a typical suburb. Most residents, like Ms. Walter, have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or children’s play dates.

For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vauban’s car-sharing club

Vauban, the site of a former Nazi army base, was occupied by the French Army from the end of World War II until the reunification of Germany two decades ago. Because it was planned as a base, the grid was never meant to accommodate private car use: the “roads” were narrow passageways between barracks.

The original buildings have long since been torn down. The stylish row houses that replaced them are buildings of four or five stories, designed to reduce heat loss and maximize energy efficiency, and trimmed with exotic woods and elaborate balconies; free-standing homes are forbidden.

By nature, people who buy homes in Vauban are inclined to be green guinea pigs — indeed, more than half vote for the German Green Party. Still, many say it is the quality of life that keeps them here…

In the past few years, Vauban has become a well-known niche community, even if it has spawned few imitators in Germany. But whether the concept will work in California is an open question…

In typical New York Times fashion this piece of propaganda carefully leaves out or misrepresents some details about this little slice of utopia.

From Wikipedia:

Vauban, Freiburg

History of the site

The site was originally developed as a military base in 1936, and was taken over after World War II by the French forces occupying the region. The military left in 1992. Over a period of some years the vacant structures were occupied by various tribes of hippies and anarchists. Following battles with the city government, squatters won the rights to four of the original twenty barracks. The other sixteen were re-appropriated by the city and have been converted into private apartments or student dormitories for the University of Freiburg. Some former residents of these structures have taken up residence in a diverse assortment of cars, vans, and retired civil service vehicles, forming what has been named Wagenplatz.

More "alternative" projects have, among other things, converted old barracks at a low cost, such as S.U.S.I., a self-governed independent residential initiative that, through an alternative living concept, developed living spaces for students as well as subsidized housing. A self-governing "Community Center Building 037" (German: Stadtteilzentrum Haus 037) has been established in one of the preserved barracks

Note that Vauban is still made up of housing that was built by the evil military. Apparently, The Times claim that “the original buildings have long since been torn down” is not entirely true.

And, as the Wikipedia entry notes, not everyone has abandoned their cars there. As even the article grudgingly admits, some still have cars. Some are communally owned.

In fact, some of these bravos are even living in their cars and trucks, in what they call a Wagenplatz.

Isn’t that great?

Perhaps most significantly, Vauban doesn’t seem to represent much of a trend. The hippies and anarchists started moving in during the mid-1990s, and yet it doesn’t seem to have expanded much.

And, despite the claims of this article, Vauban doesn’t yet have any copycats anywhere else around the world. Indeed, as even the article admits, there isn’t even anything else like it in Germany.

So what was the point of this New York Times piece again? That is, besides being mindless propaganda?

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

20 Responses to “NYT Extols German Anarchist Commune”

  1. Right of the People says:

    I wonder if The One commisioned this pack of lies in the NY Slimes? Our green future??????

  2. curvyred says:

    I watched a show on HGTV in which a woman was “seeking” a green commune in the state of Washington — they just looked like expensive public housing units to me – with a communal room (ie club house) and the “apartments” themselves were very very small with a large price tag.

    I would be interested to see how long people (who were used to modern life) continue to live there.

    And as you pointed out – it doesn’t look like the community featured in the article showed much expansion, in fact I would think they have probably experienced contraction.

  3. proreason says:

    After WWII and into the 1960’s, most Germans rode bicycles.

    The economy was so devastated by the the war that people couldn’t afford cars. Anybody who lived there in the 50’s and 60’s remembers that vividly. Hundreds of bikes on the road per every car. There was public transporation as well, but somehow, even in densely packed German cities, public transportation didn’t seem to turn the trick for the majority of people, who seemed to prefer mobility to fixed routes and rigid schedules.

    So now, in the name of progress, the vanguard of the new green world have have gone back to the future, and are living the life their parents and grandparents struggled for decades to overcome.

    It’s coming soon to a community near you.

    The TMCC intends to to take your cars away altogether you know. They cause global warming, or global cooling, or something else that we need people smarter than us to manage for us and tell us what to do.

  4. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    I could never live a life like this because in addition to many other things, I like having elbow room. Zero lot line communities have never set well with me. And even though I am now middle aged, I hope that one day before I leave this world, that I can own my own land to pass on to my children. Besides, I generally don’t like hippies because they stink and have poor grooming habits.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      The same for the “Great Society” minorities.
      Let us not forget about the 12 million new Illegal Whatever hyphenated Americans they want or insist on being called.

  5. Dangerous says:

    I don’t know why anyone would choose to live like this. I finished University not that long ago, and I’m busily saving up for a house down payment, which includes not paying to own, insure or fuel a car. If it weren’t for a friend who I owe many a beer to for rides here and there, I wouldn’t be able to pull this off. As soon as I’ve got the cash together, you’d better believe I want the independence my own home and vehicle can provide.

    • ptat says:

      Shame on you, Dangerous! You sound like a blatant consumer living in a capitalist society. How crass. Not to worry, though, Obama is making sure to CHANGE things so the likes of you will just give up and fall in line, HOPEless.

  6. gipper says:

    “The stylish row houses…trimmed with exotic woods and elaborate balconies…”

    This makes you think of a quaint New York borough or Chicago neighborhood. Well, I’ve never been to Vauban, but I’ve been to Freiburg when I was stationed in Germany. Those row houses the story is talking about are most likely spartan apartment buildings! Real estate is very expensive in Germany, so many people rent apartments.

    Sean Hannity is right when he talks about how Americans have the greatest standard of living in the world. And now much of that standard is being taken away by Obummer.

  7. VMAN says:

    I saw a news story the other day about a city in Michigan, I believe that it was Grand Rapids but I’m not sure, where they were tearing down houses and people were moving into the city center to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the city. The area where the houses were torn down became “green space”. Has anyone heard of this to elaborate on it? Another thing is the other day I had a census worker come to the door and ask I our house was a single family dwelling. Our house is about 3300 sq ft. They also asked if there were any other inhabited buildings on the property. We have a little over 2 acres. I kind of got spooked later thinking that the bamster might want a couple of other families to move in with us or build a few more houses on the property. I’m sure in his mind no one should have as much room as we do.

    • proreason says:

      2 acres!!!!

      you’re gonna have a whole village on your property.

      What a patriot you will be.

      I’d ask for Henrietta. She looks like such a sweet deadbeat.

  8. wterrier says:

    SG, amazing deconstruction of another NYT pure propaganda piece, especially the pics from Wikipedia.com.

    “…former residents of these structures (‘sixteen (of which) were re-appropriated by the city’) have taken up residence in a diverse assortment of cars, vans…named Wagenplatz”. lol

    Again Steve, the work you do is invaluable!

  9. DGA says:

    In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is promoting “car reduced” communities, and legislators are starting to act, if cautiously. Many experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year, Mr. Goldberg said…

    Oh yeah, I want to live somewhere like that, where I have little ability to do as I please, to work as I please because I have to base my life on little issues like small distances that were a problem 150 years ago when we had to ride horses!
    I think I’ll go out tonight in my 350ci box truck that does 10 to the gallon, and burn up some gas just to offset this ridiculous idea, and to piss people like this off.

  10. pdsand says:

    We don’t things like this in America, because we believe in private property. Let the EPA promote away.
    It makes me sick everytime I hear about stupid Greensburg, Kansas. Leading the way by rebuilding the town green. I always think, ‘that’s great. Let’s all destroy our cities so we can rebuild them green’. It’s ridiculous. I always liked the response in Biloxi, MS to Hurricane Katrina. The private citizens lost a lot of their private property, and they rebuilt it exactly as they saw fit. No town councils, no sitting down at the table to talk about the best way moving forward. It was great. And American.

  11. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    There must be something in the water in Europe that gives them their Star Trek Borg mentality of feeling that every one and everything belongs to the collective (The State). Most Europeans will never understand how the average American values their privacy and space.

    • proreason says:

      “There must be something in the water in Europe ”

      99.9% of Europeans are descended from serfs who spent their lives working for the aristocracy.

      47% of Americans are descended from people who left Europe to live as free men.

  12. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    Well said.

  13. beautyofreason says:

    Yep, that’s my goal in life: I want to live in a small space squeezed next to dozens of other families and to have the government use their superfluous taxation to dissuade me from using the modern combustion engine. Progress.

    P.S. I used to trek 20 minutes in cold, rain, and snow through a field to get to a studio art class held in a building off the main stretch of the campus. It sucked. I was so happy when I bought my first car and clocked a travel time of 3 minutes – in the cozy warmth!

  14. BillK says:

    Did you ever notice that the first rule of propaganda is always followed by giving things like this a name that forces its desirability on you?

    They named it “smart planning” themselves.

    How could it not be good?

  15. caligirl9 says:

    This “commune” is called Transit-oriented development and it’s the BIG thing here in the Bay Area. In San Jose, they tend to pop up next to or close to a light rail station.

    Very convenient if you are a light rail user for a work commute (me). Very inconvenient if you need a car because parking spaces are minimized and some rental properties require additional rent if you have more than one car. VERY inconvenient if you want to visit a friend who lives in one of those places and you choose to drive your car to see them!

    This photo will help you understand the potentially ugly side of TOD.

    Go here: http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=60192&nseq=34337

    This is the San Jose Diridon Station. To the left you will see a brick building; that is the station itself. Pretty old brick building, restored by the community and with public funds, named for the “father of Silicon Valley Rail,” Rod Diridon. You are looking at Caltrain and Amtrack trains; downtown SJ is in the background; the light rail station is off to the right at a lower grade, and the light rail train tunnels underneath this mess.

    If the BART train (pretty unlikely but who knows) and high-speed rail ever gets here, this is where it will come.

    Also to the right (unseen) is an upscale condo development and a TOD-oriented townhouse development.

    Here is the townhouse development: http://www.vta.org/projects/vasona/images_pdf/diridon_station_shelter.jpg
    The rail station is to the right and elevated.

    Once (proposed) BART gets there, and (proposed) high-speed rail gets built, there will be 600 trains go through there every day (includes light rail). The station will be expanded with some sort of modernistic glass enclosure.

    I’d kill myself. There are no grocery stores within walking distance of any of this, and this stop is actually at the San Jose Arena (where the famously-choking NHL Sharks play). And if you are able to rent/own something in a TOD in this area, the rents are higher, despite the noise and inconvenience if you still need a car.

    It’s a good idea just an unbalanced one …

    • proreason says:

      “It’s a good idea just an unbalanced one …”

      Personally, I prefer to control my my transportation rather than having my transportation control me.


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