When I am King: Neighborhoodwinked

When I am King...

Housing developments will have more accurate names.

There's a small townhouse development in my town called Hidden Oak. I walked around the whole development once (it took 20 seconds). There not only wasn't an oak tree – there wasn't even a spot of earth from which a tree could grow. It was all parking lot and townhouses crowding in upon each other like kids under a busted pinata.

I suppose the name of the place wasn't actually wrong – if there was an oak there, it really was hidden. But what does that have to do with the name of the place? Just because something doesn't exist doesn't mean that we have to name a housing development after it. We might as well call it “Jimmy Hoffa,” or “The Honest Politician,” or “Paris Hilton's Brain.”

Let's examine some samples of current housing development names, just to hammer the point home. Now remember; these are new developments, the ones where there's a bunch of barren clay covered mostly with slab foundations, sidewalk, and tarmac. If they're really fancy developments, maybe there are some starter trees planted and some new sod rolled out. But there is never anything remotely like real natural surroundings. So here they are, real samples of new housing development names:
  • The Anchorage at Marina Bay
  • Cortina at Live Oak Ranch
  • Woodbridge
  • The Heights at Grain Crest
  • Garden Walk
  • Ivy at Montage
  • Crossings at Eden Shores
  • Bella Vista Gardens
  • Seacliff at Point Richmond
  • Oak Court
  • Teal Cove at Cypress Grove
  • Ponderosa Estates at Ironwood

The last of these is particularly good. I guess it's supposed to conjure up images of western ranches, maybe a few hundred head of cattle, and limitless horizons. But I've seen this development and I know for a fact that it's a compressed neighborhood directly across the street from the local dump.

After looking at these names for a while, I realized that most of them use a simple formula. I could even write a program to create these names, and maybe that's what the developers use. Here's the way it works:

  1. You take the name of a tree, like Oak
  2. You then add the name of some kind of land feature, like Shores
  3. Put them together, and you've got a housing development: Oak Shores

Let's try some examples:

  • Redwood Cliffs
  • Elm Grove
  • Acorn Plateau
  • Maple Glen

Wouldn't these make lovely housing development names? Wouldn't you like to live in places with names like these?

There's another formula that's used when developers want to make their property sound fancier to justify pumping up the house prices a couple of hundred grand. This formula produces names that are more formal-sounding, unlike the patently casual and down-market names above. Here it is:

  1. Start with The
  2. Add the name of a tree OR a land feature, but, and here's the important bit, pluralize it, like Oaks or Shores
  3. Add a crucial preposition, like at
  4. Add the name of a place, either real or imagined, like Summerville
  5. Put them all together, and you've got an exclusive housing development, like The Shores at Summerville

Let's try some names of our own with this formula, to see if we could be rich land developers:

  • The Beaches at Larchmont
  • The Hilltops of Sinvale
  • The Forests of Gwymn (note the unpronounceable ending word here; this ensures that the unwashed masses will be unable to even find the gated community, much less try to break in)
  • The Birches at Fresno
  • The Palms of Duluth

Things have clearly gone too far. It's high time that we had a bit of truth in advertising. Why can't we have housing development names that actually reflect something of the surrounding community? Don't developers think that people are smart enough to figure out, when they first enter the development, that there is no Oak at the Shore? Or that the nearest Shore is a four hour drive away? Why not pick features that more accurately describe what the place is all about?

Here are some names that I would like to see. They don't come from any formula, but rather from simple observation of many of the new development areas I've seen springing up in my community:

  • Dump View
  • Across from the Landfill
  • Shaky Grounds
  • Moldy Valley
  • Fault Zone
  • Flood Plains
  • Tornado Alley

When I am King, I'll enforce truth in advertising for these places and ensure that the names reflect their surroundings. My people would be far happier with their homes, knowing that this was all there was in their lives. Or if not, it would at least be nice if they didn't waste their time looking for the nonexistent Oak or Shore.

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