Walkable, bikeable and less lonely: Are planned communities the cure?

Frustrated urbanists want to build cities from scratch, claiming they could cure loneliness and climate change with good design.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A bicyclist rounds a curve on the Oquirrh Lake Loop Trail in Daybreak, where planners created a bike-friendly and walkable community.

This story is and excerpt from The Salt Lake Tribune Inno Lab Notes newsletter where we explore housing, transportation and energy solutions.

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Solano County is a small agricultural community in California’s Bay Area. The county has been the subject of national news stories lately because a group of billionaires secretly bought up agricultural land and want to build a city “from the ground up.” The New York Times reported that the project “was billed as a salve for San Francisco’s urban housing problems.”

It seems like part of a trend of frustrated urbanists giving up on older cities and their NIMBY reputations and turning to greener pastures.

Or, in Utah’s case, to former mining and prison sites. While planned communities get a bad rap for having “Stepford Wives” vibes, some feel they provide an easier path to building the walkable, mixed-use communities that advocates say are the key to tackling many of our woes from climate change to loneliness.

Decades ago Utah got Daybreak — a master-planned community in South Jordan that’s become a cycling and walking oasis but is still working on bringing jobs and amenities in. (Although, in a few years, they will get the Salt Lake Bees). There’s the TRAX red line running straight from downtown Salt Lake City to the outer edges of Daybreak, but residents say they still often have to get in the car to get to work.

In Vineyard, Utah County another group of developers and planners are working on a master-planned community that aims to be more “complete.” Utah City, on the edge of Utah Lake, will be a mixed-use, dense community where people can easily walk to work and the grocery store. Or at least, that’s the vision. The famous walkable city expert and planner Jeff Speck (he literally wrote the book on it) is also involved with planning Utah City. I interviewed him last week and published a Q&A of our conversation on Saturday. Read it here and stay tuned for more planned community news.

Do you have strong opinions on a planned community coming to your neighborhood? Do you live in one and love it? I want to hear your thoughts. Email me at sjeremias@sltrib.com.