How to Remember the Pandemic
Describing the Area
The area under review is the Irvine neighborhood, Orchard Hills Area. It is an urban residential area populated by the upper-class group. The area has resort-style amenities and a setting designed to promote active living and social lifestyles. Some social amenities in the area include family-friendly parks, spas, basketball courts, swimming pools, and barbecue areas. The area is also bordered by miles of trails with overlook areas to offer a great view of parts of the community that offer the residents opportunities to connect with nature when out for a morning run or jog. Additionally, the residence itself is designed in a masterfully planned manner with modern home designs, front parking lots, and open spaces.
Pictures 1: An aerial and long-shot images of the Irvine neighborhood
Pictures 1 is an aerial shot of the neighborhood to show the planning of the community. The buildings (residential homes) are organized linearly, with pathways and trails surrounding them. The residence also features open parking spaces and scattered grass lawns and flower beds.
Irvine neighborhood is an example of a residence with a tenure split as it portrays heterogeneity of irregular settlement as discussed in Mike Davis’ article Planet of Slums. The tenure split occurs when a place or community undermines collectiveness and social patterns by servicing and prioritizing residents with specific characteristics like people from one social class. It then follows that urban spaces experiencing the tenure split have different groups located in different parts of the metropolitan area (Davis 15). For example, a resident for tenants only, renters only, or squatters only. The prioritization is evident in Irvine as all residents belong to the high-class divide. Irvine neighborhood exercises a tenure split from the fact that the landlord set high prices for land and buildings/homes in the area. The pricing is pegged on the planned design of housing and the resort-style infrastructure and amenities available. As a result, the area only attracts wealthy people. They are the only ones who can afford luxury homes, which has seen Irvine become a high-class urban area.
The Coronavirus expanded the difference between the rich and poor neighborhoods in the entire Orange county. As a rich neighborhood, Irvine has a controlled population due to urban planning. When the pandemic came, the residents had ample and convenient spatial advantages for social distancing due to the small population. One would hardly meet groups of people outside their residence. When outside, they took all the necessary precautions and kept social distance even on the pathways. The virus forced people to change from an outdoor lifestyle to limiting their time outside to avoid contracting the virus. In contrast, the situation is very different from other neighborhoods, especially the low-income areas in Orange County like Santa Ana. Santa Ana residence is one of the most crowded urban spaces with poor housing, little urban planning, and mainly low-income people. The poor state of the residence saw people continue to cluster and congest, making it impossible to observe the COVID-19 rules like social distancing which saw it record the highest positive cases in the pandemic (De Nova). While Irvine neighborhood is spatially well-positioned to maintain and observe the corona virus rules, Santa Ana does not have any change in response the health directive due to spatial inadequacies.
Activities in the Area
There is little activity in the sidewalks and the entire neighborhood in general. Firstly, the only slight outdoor activity is people jogging or walking their dogs in the morning hours. However, they are fewer during the pandemic than it was before the pandemic. Everyone is isolating and maintaining social distance as they job or walk on the foot paths in the morning. A few children also got out to play under the supervision of their parents or nannies. There is no contact with children from other households as each family is observing the isolation directives. Children are a high-risk population in the pandemic; therefore, the high precautions are understandable.
Overall, people are limiting outdoor activities to the most priority and necessary activities as a precaution against the virus. The adults get out to go to work the morning, other times it seems like everyone is indoors as indicated by the presence of many cars in the front yards of most of the residences. People are mainly using their cars for transit to avoid the public transport which encourages crowding. There is also a hospital ambulance making trips in the area administering medications and testing people. The neighborhood is receiving a high healthcare attention to keep it safe and well-protected during the pandemic.
Pictures 2: Pictures of the activities in the neighborhood
Pictures 2 show the little level of activities in Irvine. The first picture shows people preference for self-driving instead of walking or talking public transport. On the other hand, the second picture shows a lot of cars parked indicating that people are indoors or prefer to avoid outdoor activities.
While there were no people tending to the front yards, it was evident that the residents are invested in growing flowers and decorative plants around their residences. Before, the pandemic, there were few flowers and plants in the front yards. The area has incredibly changes as the flower gardens and the laws are well taken care of; new flowers and plants are also evident.
Pictures 3: Pictures of the flowers and plants in the area.
Signs of the Pandemic
The most observable areas in the Irvine region are residential places. The parks and public places are out of sight. Again, the majority of the buildings in the area are residential homes.
Picture 4: Buildings in the area.
On another note, there were observable art on the tarmac and pathways in the area. The roundabout section of main road has some chalk art portraying different cartoon figures. For instance, one clear art represents a cartoon cat seemingly skating or playing. More deducible art are a cartoon face with wings, and the initials “USA.” It is not clear what the art represents or communicates, however, it is drawn with a high precision and skill indicating that they were drawn by artists in the area. It is noticeable that the art is not disfigured or erased, perhaps an indication of few movement in the area. If vehicles run over the art, it would be disfigured or erased.
Picture 5: Art on tarmac road
Changes as a result of the pandemic are evident in the Irvine neighborhood. Walking through the Irvine neighborhood, the most predominant buildings are the residential homes. The area had few stores and vendors before the pandemic; however, one is evident presently. Since the people are minimizing their interactions with other including supplies’ people, they rarely buy from small vendors. The sellers also opted to close down their business in response to the COVID-19 directives of total lock down. Despite the slow re-opening of businesses, the small business are yet to start full operation as they used to before the pandemic. The swimming pools and parks are open but with very limited flow of people as they are avoiding public places which have high risk of interaction with others.
The complete shutdown of public places and their slow return to business may be understood through the isolative nature of the environment. As a rich neighborhood, people are reserved and less social than other neighborhoods. They have fewer social problems which eliminate the need for social cohesion and interactions. The slow return to normalcy in the area may be explained by interpretations of “man remaking himself through the process of making a city” Robert Park as cited in David Harvey’s article Debates and Developments. Park highlights that man is always in an attempt of modelling the world he lives in after the desires of his heart. Therefore, the world or city he creates is the same one he is condemned to live. In turn, by living under the conditions he created, the city remakes the man. The statement is true and applicable for Irvine neighborhood because the outcomes during and after the lockdown are remodeling their ways of life.
Firstly, the, urban area was well crafted and spatially planned to effect the essence of isolation and privacy. Even before the pandemic, life in the neighborhood was private and exclusive due to the household spatial features. Most neighbors live like strangers because the spatial arrangement does not provide avenues for natural interaction between the households. The lock down and the standards of self-isolation and social distancing still in place are only making it worse for the residents’ possibility for social interactions. The effects then spread even to the economic realm as the people do not want to interact in shopping area to protect their health. Now that normalcy is coming back, the area is still lagging behind as they are used to the isolating state of their neighborhood. The urban planning and arrangement of their environment is turning them into self-isolating people. The observations proves Robert Park’s claims to be factual.
Irvine neighborhood has evident signs of the pandemic embedded on the social state of the area. It was and is still isolated as people are continuing the COVID-19 directives as guided by the federal government. Normalcy is yet to come; Irvine it may take a little longer than other neighborhood to bounce back to the pre-pandemic life.
Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. London, New York: Verso, n.d.
De Nova, Jessica. Why does Santa Ana have highest concentration of new COVID cases in OC? Researchers conduct antibody tests to find out. 12 December 2020. <https://abc7.com/santa-ana-coronavirus-covid-testing-orange-county-pandemic/8646803/>.
Harvey, David. “Debates and Developments.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27.4 (2003): 939-41.