The East Bay is unique. There are no big box stores in Berkeley. For years I have heard its citizens proudly differentiate themselves from suburbia. Our urban centers have neighborhood or street names like Rockridge and Piedmont Avenue. It hasn't always been clear why this is better...until recent social studies sought to duplicate and distill its charms.
From the Charter of the New Urbanism:
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.To get a sense of the places we have created as a nation-- and the places we need to build and care about in the future, watch the following James Howard Kunstler discussion titled, The Tragedy of Suburbia. Please note that the F-word is used in his speech. Do not watch if you would find this offensive. The video takes approximately twenty minutes. If you want to skip any offensive language and get to the heart of the matter, the last four minutes are worthwhile.