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Misinterpreting Jane Jacobs

I, like many other Torontonians, went on a Jane’s Walk yesterday, an annual event honouring the legacy and ideas of Jane Jacobs.  DY and I joined the Regent Park Revitalized walk, scheduled for 2 hours in length.  With tour leaders from Toronto Community Housing (the legacy property owner), The Daniels Corporation (the developer leading the public-private partnership), and volunteers from the Regent Park community, we spent over 3 hours immersed in experiencing the transition-in-progress of a 28 hectare (69-acre) neighbourhood.

Model of

Catching up my reading, I was intrigued by “Jane Jacobs: Honoured in the breach“, an article by Stephen Wickens in the Saturday Globe and Mail.  Jane Jacobs had contacted him in 2005 to acknowledge some fact-finding on the right track, elaborating that “lot sizes and building heights often matter less to density than the land used for driving and parking”.  This people-centered view of city life was typical of Jacobs.  Wickens writes:

While her ideas are cited continually in discussions of urban affairs, their realization is arguably as far off as ever – in part because her followers are finding there are no shortcuts through her complex system of thought. […]

She had no time for ideology – left, right or whatever – and felt that many who invoke her name “cherry-pick ideas to suit their purposes.”

I was fortunate to meet Jacobs in a session of the ISSS 2000 meeting in Toronto (and was invited to her house for wine and cheese, afterwards).  She was truly a systems thinker, with a system of ideas and view on problematiques (systems of problems) that is both commonsense and complex.

On the Globe and Mail web site is a video clip of Harvard economist Edward Glaeser saying that Jane Jacobs got it wrong.

I, like many other Torontonians, went on a Jane’s Walk yesterday, an annual event honouring the legacy and ideas of Jane Jacobs.  DY and I joined the Regent Park Revitalized walk, scheduled for 2 hours in length.  With tour leaders from Toronto Community Housing (the legacy property owner), The Daniels Corporation (the developer leading the public-private partnership), and volunteers from the Regent Park community, we spent over 3 hours immersed in experiencing the transition-in-progress of a 28 hectare (69-acre) neighbourhood.

Model of

Catching up my reading, I was intrigued by “Jane Jacobs: Honoured in the breach“, an article by Stephen Wickens in the Saturday Globe and Mail.  Jane Jacobs had contacted him in 2005 to acknowledge some fact-finding on the right track, elaborating that “lot sizes and building heights often matter less to density than the land used for driving and parking”.  This people-centered view of city life was typical of Jacobs.  Wickens writes:

While her ideas are cited continually in discussions of urban affairs, their realization is arguably as far off as ever – in part because her followers are finding there are no shortcuts through her complex system of thought. […]

She had no time for ideology – left, right or whatever – and felt that many who invoke her name “cherry-pick ideas to suit their purposes.”

I was fortunate to meet Jacobs in a session of the ISSS 2000 meeting in Toronto (and was invited to her house for wine and cheese, afterwards).  She was truly a systems thinker, with a system of ideas and view on problematiques (systems of problems) that is both commonsense and complex.

On the Globe and Mail web site is a video clip of Harvard economist Edward Glaeser saying that Jane Jacobs got it wrong.

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