San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gated Neighborhoods Offer Security, Amenities

IT’S becoming an ever-more-common scene in theCosta Rican lifestyle: before arriving at your house, youcheck in at a guarded entrance before entering the protectedconfines of your gated neighborhood.It’s a different paradigm from the old ideal of having anindependent detached home where each person fends forhim or her self.“Gated communities have been in Costa Rica fordecades, but mainly during the past 12 years have we seenthe large-scale development of (gated communities),” saidJohn Kartman of Carico Real Estate. “I always recommendthat my clients seriously consider gated community livingwhen thinking about investing in Costa Rica.”The advantages of gated living begin with security. Mostgated communities have guarded entrances, limiting accessto the community’s residents and guests, and a private securityforce sees to the neighborhood’s safety.“I always make sure my clients examine security needswhen purchasing real estate in Costa Rica,” Kartman said. “Irecommend that people either have ADT (an alarm system)available, have a live-in maid, or live in a gated community.”KARYNA Pérez, a resident of Villa Adobe in SantoDomingo de Heredia, north of San José, believes communityliving does provide safer living.“If you leave your house, you know there are guards andcommunity members who are looking after your house,” shesaid. “In Costa Rica, it’s not that safe to own a house and ifyou leave you get the feeling that no one is looking out foryou. But if you’re in a condo or a gated community, youknow that you’ll be protected.”Kartman concurs.“Especially if you’re only going to live (in Costa Rica)for eight or nine months out of the year, you need to seriouslyconsider a gated community.”OTHER amenities included in gated living depend onthe development, but many include common areas, parks,and even swimming pools and gymnasiums. Communitymembers pay monthly dues, which contribute to maintenance,security and other community activities.In Villa Adobe, which consists of more than 400 individuallots, households pay ¢12,000 (about $27) a month indues.“Most gated communities charge between $40 and $200a month in dues, and others are even more expensive, depending on the number of homes inthe development,” Kartman said.THE costs of buying a home in agated community versus purchasing anindependent home vary.“Building costs are going to be thesame, around $400 per square meter fortop-quality construction,” Kartman said.Land prices in enclosed communities,however, can reach double those ofindependent lots.“You’re paying for infrastructure,”Kartman said, adding that roads, undergroundelectricity and community areashave a cost. Currently in Costa Rica,home prices in gated communities rangefrom around $55,000 to more than $1million.DISADVANTAGES of gated communityliving, according to real estateagents and residents, include a closeproximity to neighbors.“There isn’t as much privacy,”Kartman said, “but it’s not too bad. Valledel Sol in Escazú (southwest of SanJosé) is quite spacious, and everyone hastheir space.”Social geographer Joseph Sequoiafeels that the shortcomings of gated livingare deeper.“Gated communities perpetuatesocial stratification,” he said. “It sends aclear message to anyone walking pastwho doesn’t have an address within thecommunity that there is a marked differencebetween the denizens behind thewalls and those who amble through thestreets. The people inside don’t wantanyone else inside and that message issent quite clearly. It’s like trying to keepthe barbarians out.“GATED communities are designedto do away with the vibrant street lifethat characterized Latin cities and livingin years past, and instead of sharing withyour fellow people you place a strongdivision between us and them,” headded. “This type of living is for the personwho prefers to be isolated from therest. (These communities) are designedto do away with the outside culture,instead focusing on individualism.“In the United States,” Sequoia continued,“gated communities prey on atrumped-up fear of intruders and crimethat don’t really exist. The securityneeds that arise with living in CostaRica, however, are real, and thereforethe gated communities’ security measureshave a valid function.”

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