In the current issue of Planning Magazine, a publication of the American Planning Association (APA), SOM’s City Design Practice introduces “the 15-minute city’s cousin”: the 20-minute suburb. Led by Principal Ellen Lou, the San Francisco-based team has developed the concept that combines zoning reform, increased density, sustainable transportation, and regional connectivity as an alternative to car-centric sprawl, fostering more livable, walkable, and human-focused suburban neighborhoods.
Re-Imagining the American Suburb
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, our urban design and planning teams started noticing that young professionals began to move out of cities and into suburbs in search of space, affordability, and access to the outdoors.
As the pandemic continues to shape migration patterns, suburbs face new pressures and demands from their changing populations. Taking a holistic view of these issues, our team posits a planning model that we are calling the “20-minute suburb,” which we envision as a framework for reconnecting communities and expanding economic and social mobility.
Through strategic interventions, existing suburban communities can be transformed to become places where residents can meet all of their daily needs within a 20-minute walk.