Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Could Dunwoody take lessons from Happy Town, U.S.A. ??

A friend of mine forwarded me this article from Parade Magazine and thought Dunwoody was following a pretty good model.  I thought I would share the article and I have also reviewed the city website and really like the design.

For his 2008 best-seller, The Blue Zones , Dan Buettner searched the world for the truth about longevity. In his new book, Thrive, out Oct. 19, he tackles the topic of happiness. What are the happiest spots on Earth—and what secrets can we glean from them? One utopia his travels took him to is San Luis Obispo, near California’s Central Coast, where joy seems to be in the tap water. In a 2008 Gallup-Healthways poll, the city’s 44,000 residents ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in overall emotional health. Here are some lessons that Buettner learned—and that we can try out in our own communities.

Support the Arts
Former mayor Ken Schwartz likes to  quote this Persian proverb: “If you have but two coins, use one for bread to feed the body and the other for hyacinths to feed the soul.” Art, like flowers, nourishes the soul. Happy people usually have access to art—painting, film, sculpture, theater, music—and live in places that are attractive to the eye. A city must provide venues for artists to create and exhibit their work, so San Luis Obispo created a center that houses galleries and hosts concerts and film seminars.

Boost Biking and Walking 

Research shows that if city planners make the active option the easy one—by providing good sidewalks and bike lanes and taking steps to decrease and slow car traffic—activity levels go up. San Luis Obispo has all of these features, and new office buildings are required to have bike lockers and showers so people can  freshen up before work. Public-transit use is also encouraged: Bus stations are conveniently located, and people who work downtown can ride for free.

Create a Greenbelt

San Luis Obispo has an aggressive greenbelt plan and an ordinance limiting housing growth to 1% a year. With help from its county’s Land Conservancy, a city manager raises funds to purchase green spaces that come up for sale close to town. The result: Since 1994, the city has acquired 3000 acres of open space, and suburban sprawl has been minimized. San Luis Obispo is now surrounded by parks, hiking trails, mountain-biking trails, and wildlife preserves—beautiful areas to enjoy and to get the body moving. 

Prohibit Drive-Throughs

The city banned drive-through restaurants in the 1980s. Since San Luis Obispo is a college town, the law was originally written to reduce traffic, but it has had beneficial effects on public health, especially on helping contain obesity and its associated costs. The obesity rate there is 17.6%, versus the national average of 26.5%.

Stamp Out Cigarettes

As Gallup poll data have shown, it’s hard to be happy without your health. In 1990, San Luis Obispo became one of the first municipalities in the world to enact antismoking legislation in bars. More recently, it has placed citywide bans on smoking in front of office buildings and in parks and playgrounds. The idea is to “de-normalize” smoking—so smokers are reminded wherever they go that it’s not a smart thing to do. Smoking rates stand at around 11% in San Luis Obispo, among the lowest in the U.S. 

Shrink Signage

Signs tend to beget more signs—as one sign gets bigger and blinkier, other businesses feel forced to make theirs even bigger and blinkier. In 1977, Mayor Schwartz imposed limits on the size and type of signage, making the city more aesthetically pleasing, ratcheting down marketing, and decreasing the urge to buy.

Empower the People

Having a project that people can comment on and rally around  sends the lasting message that citizens have a say in how their city grows. In 1968, San Luis Obispo residents and businesspeople engaged in a heated debate over whether to close a street in the city center and create a plaza. The issue was ultimately put up for a public referendum, and voters overwhelmingly approved the plaza project. Since its construction, Mission Plaza has become a symbol of the city, an icon of civic pride, a place for social gatherings, and a spot for the arts and farmers’ markets.


NellieWoodson said...

An excellent idea, but I doubt if it would work here. I used to live near there. The demographics are completely different. San Luis Obispo has a much more liberal open-minded diverse populace and though I just moved here a couple of years ago, Dunwoody seems pretty close-minded.

A neighbor from our book club indicated that another blogger (not you) had unfairly criticized a grade school music teacher for coordinating a culturally diverse holiday program.

Perhaps if the good persons of this town openly rejected some of the surreptitious intolerance, then your dreams, could be our dreams, and they might just become possible. Thank-you for thinking so progressive, though.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

As a fellow parent of three, how on earth did you let the "no drive throughs" slide through the idea-o-scope without a second glance?

You know as well as I do that having drive-through services at times can make the difference between getting an errand done and NOT getting it done - when carting around a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn.

If that makes me "closed minded", I can live with that.

While we're at it, why are we comparing Dunwoody to other cities in other states where they may or may not have anything in common? Is it really that hard to come by opinions from your own constituents? Including the business owners that pay taxes twice to maintain the city? (That's a serious question, not a smart remark.)

Famous FarmHouser said...

I've been to SLO and it is nothing like Dunwoody and nothing I want part of. If you want to hug trees and "be happy" go live in Kalifornia

Famous FarmHouser said...

Dream on Nellie. I am in favor of a double drive through at the new Chick Fil A.

dunwoodydad said...

Thats an easy fix.
Next time you go to Walmart to get your fluvax cocktail or refill one of your meds, buy a trunk load of happy meals. They will keep for weeks, just pull one out whenever needed. No worries, the FDA said its good for you, and the CDC says a trunk of happy meals reduces the risks of Malaria and Syphilis.
No needs to buy cokes or anything like that, wouldn't want to burn a hole in your carpet if one of those things exploded, just drink some good ole fashioned Dekalb County flouridated water with it. Good as gold.

NellieWoodson said...

You know Infamous Farmer, occasionally I had read your spew in the local paper and found it to be just as ignorant as your comments on this blog. No wonder the legitimate media organizations won't buy your blather any more.

And just what is wrong with preserving our trees and other nature? I do believe that's what our good Lord would want us to do.

What's your ideal community? A homogenous society where evolution is outlawed from our schools and everything shuts down on Sundays - in deference to only Christians, but having no regard for our Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist citizens?

Obtuseness must be such a blissful state! No worries of the vicissitudes of life.

BrookRunner said...


Ignore FamousF. Ever since he was asked to resign from the DunHome Assoc and his wife bailed he has been nuts. However, homogenous societies do have less crime and better education.