As I have mentioned earlier I am currently living in Vitacura, Chile (Vitacura is a city and commune of Chile located in Santiago Province, Santiago Metropolitan Region). Vitacura has a population of 82,000 which is quickly growing and a density of 2900 people per square km.

When we decided to move here we were intentional in finding a place to live that was very walkable.  And that is what we found.  We currently live in a single family home in an area of single family homes (each on a site of about 2500 sf or less) and small parks.  There is a nice grid layout of streets and we are within a 5 minute walk of a major grocery store, bus stop, restaurants, 2 fitness centers, & a school for our kids.  This is possible because we live on the edge of this residential grid 3 blocks from a major (arterial) road that provides all these services.  (To give you the zoning layout here the first block on the major (arterial) road is zoned for up to 7 stories high (depending on the size of the land, the 2nd block in is zoned for up to 5 stories (again depending on size of land – here you see mostly condo bldgs) and 3rd block in and on is zoned for 2 stories residential).

My assumption was with such perceived walkability in this residential area that their would be a great sense of community as well.  This is where I was thrown off.  But after 7 months of now living here I believe I understand why this is so.  The culprit seems to be WALLS. Every individual home, condo/apartment building, & business surrounds itself with walls and gates.  We barely know our neighbors because we never see them.  They drive home, open their gate to their small walled complex, and drive in not to be seen again.

Why the walls/gates?  I am still trying to fully understand this but basically the underlying reason is for safety.  Not only is every property enclosed by walls but as well every window and door is protected by metal bars.  It is not uncommon to see these walls topped off with barbed wire or electrical wires.  Yes, sounds like mini prisons and for sure this is the visual perception.  Does not create a very inviting atmosphere for community. Although from what I have gathered from others here safety has increased greatly over the past several years – though the stigma still sticks.

I would make the agruement, and will write about this soon, that these walls have created a false sense of safety as well have prevented a sense of community to grow and enrich the lives of those who live here.

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