When Alicia Robinson and her husband retired to Lodi six years ago, the main requirement when searching for a house was to find one in a gated community.
Moving from Southern California, the couple had never lived in a gated community, but they wanted added security, she said.
Since moving into River Pointe on Turner Road, Robinson said she has noticed there is less traffic, the neighborhood is more controlled, and it is safer for kids to play.
"We all know each other. If someone is gone, we always know someone is gone," she said.
Future gated communities would be prohibited in the proposed General Plan, the city's planning bible, for at least the next two decades. The city is in the process of receiving feedback on the document, which will guide growth.
Gated communities bring up several issues about the definition of community. Some who live in them discuss the unparalleled security and kinship with neighbors, while others worry they create barriers within a city and restrict interaction with a wide range of people.
The city is looking to eliminate the gated communities because they divide neighborhoods and prevent walkable and bikeable communities, said Rad Bartlam, community development director, at a past Planning Commission meeting.
He also said that they give a false sense of security because there is still crime in the neighborhoods.
The Planning Commission is currently reviewing the General Plan, and commissioner Dave Kirsten said everyone he has talked to has concerns about the look and feel of a gated community.
"They feel like it's a black hole in terms of an exclusive area they don't have access to," he said. "They are not inviting."
Similarly, Commissioner Bill Cummins said it is important for neighborhoods to flow together and connect.
"It kind of makes them an island to themselves when we want to have a more open feel to development," Cummins said.
But Robinson said she does not know why the city would deprive developers of creating gated communities if there are people who want to live there.
"There are plenty of open spaces to ride a bike and have freedom," she said. "We should all have a choice. If you don't want to live here, move somewhere else."
Having people roam through neighborhoods is exactly what Janay Rusk would like to prevent. She has lived 17 years in the Rivergate area of Lodi. Her section of Rivergate is not gated but is very close to River Pointe. When Rusk moved in, she said there was less crime, so she was not concerned about whether the neighborhood had a gate. But if she were to move now, she would try to find a gated community.
Lately, she has noticed people driving through and circling the neighborhood, and she said they must be mapping out potential places to rob.
"I would like to get a gate here to keep out riff raff. … Gated communities are there because people feel more comfortable."
General Plan at a glanceThe issue of gated communities is just one of the many planning issues addressed in the city's General Plan, which city staff is looking for public feedback on.
To download a copy of the plan, go to www.lodi.gov/community_development/ general_plan/index.htm.
The next opportunity to offer feedback on the plan will be at the Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m., Nov. 11, Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St., Lodi.
You can also offer feedback by sending a letter to Rad Bartlam, Community Development Department, City of Lodi, P.O. Box 3006, Lodi, CA 95241.
You can also e-mail the Community Development Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at 333-6711.
When Wine and Roses started adding homes about four years ago, owner Russ Munson said they never thought twice about making it a gated community.
"It's something we wanted to do, to have a nice entrance to control it. It maintains the whole integrity," he said.
He believes there is less crime in gated neighborhoods and does not believe the city should prevent property owners from creating more.
"Eliminating them is just a subjective decision," Munson said. "If people want to have a gated community, they should be able to. It's personal property rights."
Still, there are concerns that gates create barriers, not bridges.
By banning any more gated communities, Lodi is taking an active role in encouraging its residents to have more interaction with a wide variety of people, said Tom Sander, the executive director of The Saguaro Seminar. Since 1995, the seminar has discussed ways to keep Americans civically engaged in their communities. Sander helped with Harvard sociologist Robert Pullman's groundbreaking book on social connectivity, "Bowling Alone."
Sander said there are two main types of social capital that people receive from everyday interactions with people. Social capital is made up of the connections people make to social networks, which benefit the individual by providing support or tangible things like a job.
The first kind, bonding social capital, is often formed with people who are in some way similar. The second type, bridging capital, is interactions with a wide range of people who might be of a different ethnicity, race or socio-economic status, Sander said.
When people are in gated communities, they have less of a chance to meet people who are different from them, especially socio-economically, he said.
Meeting a wide variety of people is important because it dispels stereotypes and fosters community, Sander said. This translates into a better city because when people feel like they belong to a community, they are more likely to volunteer, join organizations or vote to pass a bond issue for schools.
"The extent that you can, you don't want to engineer a city that is making it harder for bridging social capital to form," Sander said.