Jacobs and Florida and Gehl oh my! Who really influences our local politicians?
In class the other day we actually got into a pretty serious discussion about Mike Davis, whose writing has been criticized for being sensationalistic and negative in its portrayal of lower income communities. Based on my (albeit fairly limited) reading of his stuff I have to agree. Having read a bunch of John Friedmann and Leonie Sandercock’s stuff at about the same time I found Davis’ ideas incredibly pessimistic in comparison, but mind you Friedmann is somewhat unabashed about being a utopian urban theorist. Davis’ portrayal of slums is something that particularly rubs me the wrong way, working in the DTES for the past 5 years, a place also categorized by certain others as a slum but a place with incredible passion, creativity, a will to organize and stand up for itself despite being filled with diversity and adversity. But the way he talks about a historical awareness of radical leftist movements in cities is kind of inspiring; Perhaps akin to some of the recent ideas of David Harvey (Rebel Cities) – who I might add nobody cited as an influencer or inspirer. Charles Montgomery I’ll comment on a bit later as Rob McDowell from the NPA cited him as being foremost on his mind in regards to urban thinkers.
Who loves Jane Jacobs?
Related Content: Jane Jacobs. Gentrifier.
At the Mayoral debate hosted by CBC and SFU Urban Studies (way too) early Thursday morning Meena Wong threw down the Jane Jacobs card when I had a chance to ask her, Gregor Robertson and Kirk LaPointe about who has influenced the way that they think about cities in general and Vancouver in particular. She had poll position I might add. Jacobs’ son Ned of course lives in Vancouver and is a vocal critic of Vision Vancouver and the recent decisions made or processes engaged in by the City under Vision’s leadership. This was something not lost on me as Mayor Robertson agreed with Wong that Jane Jacobs’ was someone whose ideas he too appreciated. Kirk LaPointe too agreed that Jane Jacobs was worth noting.
Jane Jacobs was of course immortalized for her courageous stand against Robert Moses and modern, rational scientific planners, of the day. Moses famously quipped that sometimes "...when you operate in an overbuilt metropolis, you have to hack your way with a meat ax". His goal of building expressways and other thoroughfares through New York's older neighbourhoods was contingent on "slum clearances" of lower income communities. Jacobs organized her Greenwich Village neighbourhood and wrote the now canonical Death and Life of Great American Cities, an all out battle cry against the type of planning and development championed by the likes of Robert Moses. Jacobs argued that the merits of older, quaint, diverse neighbours had been unfairly characterized by the developers and planners of the day like Moses, and the rest is history.