Lately, I’ve been a little obsessed with the idea of neighborhoods. It probably has something to do with how much I enjoy my own. Glen Park, where I live, is part of the city of San Francisco, but it feels like a little village. There are people here in their 70’s and 80’s who were born in the homes they still live in, and there are families like mine, who are recent arrivals. There are some houses you’d never notice and others you marvel at — like the place around the corner that is being repainted in a palette of at least six different colors including hot pink, turquoise and yellow.

Or the one with stars cut out of the facade.

A few new houses are going up as I write (in fact, the drone of construction noise is a little too audible), but nearly every decade of the last century is represented in the architecture.

I’ve spent the last six years writing about modern architecture, and modern is still the vernacular I covet for my dream home. But having traveled to neighborhoods all over the country, from Milwaukee to Louisville, Fayetteville to Portland, Ore., what I’ve come to realize is that what makes a neighborhood a neighborhood is evidence of continual evolution and reinvention. Old houses, brand new ones and all those in between merge in a balance of past, present and future that makes a place feel vital. (This mix also helps guarantee a diversity of ages, ethnicities, income levels and backgrounds.) One architectural era isn’t necessarily better or worse than another — it’s the mixture of ingredients that makes a delectable dish.

And of course, having things you can walk to, like cafes, florists and markets, is key. It’s how you get to know your neighbors.

None of this is rocket science but it seems a tough nut to crack for planning commissions, homeowners’ associations and the building industry. New housing developments — urban, suburban and especially exurban — head way too far in the opposite direction, toward unforgiving homogeneity.

For the most part, developers are not much concerned with creating architectural complexity, and perhaps many potential homeowners aren’t all that interested in experiencing it either. In fact, the level of design differentiation I’ve witnessed in new housing, whether in Orange County, Calif., Forth Worth or Indianapolis, is limited to superficial flourishes like Craftsman facades or brick options on otherwise identical homes. The grating but oddly engaging tune “Little Boxes,” by Malvina Reynolds, bemoaned this impulse as far back as 1962. And now we’re even exporting it internationally: witness, for example, Orange County, China, an almost Disney-like recreation of a Southern California planned community, complete with manicured lawns and the option of French, Italian or Spanish styling. (McDonald’s hamburgers were served at the groundbreaking.)

Reynolds’s folksy ode to Levittown-like uniformity is used to great effect as the opening theme for the hilarious Showtime series “Weeds” — the absurdist tale of Nancy Botwin, a widowed housewife driven to pot dealing to keep her fractured family together under one pseudo-Mediterranean roof, in the gated community of Agrestic. In the show’s opening montage, the rapid evolution of Agrestic (which, by the way, means “rural or rustic”) is illustrated via a neighborhood map on which identical houses multiply at breakneck speed. Identical S.U.V.’s pull out of identical driveways, and men who look like hedge fund managers emerge one after another from the doors a strip-mall cafe, each carrying a vente something or other. The McMansions seem to give their inhabitants little pleasure, and it is fair to assume that the stifling sameness of these “dream homes” contributes to — even explains — Nancy’s career choice.

It was Levittown, the mass-produced suburban development built in the 1940’s and 50’s, that set the standard of sameness for future development. In the decades since, it is worth noting, nearly all of Abraham Levitt’s original 17,000-plus ranch houses have been renovated and remodeled. One might expect a similar evolutionary process in suburban and exurban developments today, but their codes, covenants, and restrictions have become so strident that everything aspect of their design — from mailbox placement to interior finishes— is predetermined. It would be next to impossible to find a development where the multicolored house in my neighborhood could exist. And that’s too bad, because while I may have no desire to live in that house myself, it makes for a far more interesting walk down the street.

For a discussion of one attempt at neighborhood planning that might just help set things on the right path, you may want to attend “Design Like You Give a Damn,” at the New York Public Library this Wednesday (Sept. 20), featuring Architecture for Humanity founders Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr in conversation with John Hockenberry. Sinclair and Stohr will be discussing their Model Home program, which pairs 12 architectural firms with families hoping to rebuild in Biloxi, Miss. This pilot program seems to have a lot of the right elements in place to create a model for future development.