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9850Re: [carfree_cities] Jane Jacobs

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  • Jason Meggs
    Apr 26, 2006
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      On Wed, 26 Apr 2006, Carlos F. Pardo SUTP wrote:

      > To those of you interested in a nice piece of information about the
      > wonderful Jane Jacobs, see the bulleting from PPS at
      > http://www.pps.org/info/bulletin/jane_jacobs

      Also, the LA Times has a good one: it focuses on her passion and
      fiestiness in taking on the establishment.


      I paste the article, below.


      Jane Jacobs, 89; Urban Theorist, Community Activist Who Fought Lower
      Manhattan Freeway Plan
      By Mary Rourke, Times Staff Writer
      April 26, 2006

      Jane Jacobs, an urban theorist and community activist whose books argued
      for the rehabilitation of neighborhoods on traditional lines, breaking
      with emerging trends in city development, died Tuesday. She was 89.

      An American-born citizen of Canada, Jacobs died at a hospital in Toronto
      of natural causes, according to publicist Sally Marvin of Random House,
      Jacobs' publisher. Jacobs was admitted to the hospital late last week and
      had been in failing health for several years.

      She was internationally known as an advocate of cities with distinct
      neighborhoods, built to a human scale, mixing commercial and residential

      She was against building highways that cut through city centers and was
      once arrested at a public hearing after she stormed the podium to express
      her opposition to a plan for an expressway through lower Manhattan.

      "Jane Jacobs' thinking about cities was clear and it came from a person
      who lived in cities," Toronto Mayor David Miller told The Times on
      Tuesday. "She didn't just write about urban issues. She acted on her

      Jacobs' most influential work, 1961's "The Death and Life of Great
      American Cities," set the stage for a battle that Jacobs waged for
      decades. Defying popular theories on how to renew city slums by plowing
      them under and replacing them with uniform housing projects, she pushed
      for recycled buildings and new structures scaled to the existing

      Her feisty prose often read like a manifesto. "This book is an attack on
      current city planning and rebuilding," she announced in the opening
      paragraph of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities."

      She continued: "It is also, and mostly, an attempt to introduce new
      principles of city planning and rebuilding, different and even opposite
      from those now taught in everything from schools of architecture and
      planning to Sunday supplements and women's magazines."

      In her view a successful city needed vibrant neighborhoods linked by
      public transportation. Each area needed its own mix of old and new
      buildings, a constant influx of smaller, independent businesses, and a
      range of residential and commercial space.

      Early critics accused her of being short on realistic solutions to the
      challenges of urban life. Admirers called her a maverick and a
      comprehensive thinker. Thirty years later, when her books were required
      reading in graduate school programs and many of her beliefs about cities
      were widely accepted, she was praised as a visionary and a pivotal figure
      in her field.

      "It's not that the world was one way before Jane Jacobs and changed 180
      degrees because of her," Paul Goldberger, architecture critic of the New
      Yorker magazine, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2003.

      It was more a case of Jacobs daring to voice her complaints in a firm,
      public manner.

      "Nobody else spoke out against the establishment the way Jacobs did,"
      Goldberger said. "In the '50s, American cities were generally considered
      messy, undesirable things. Suburban life was considered the ideal. Jane
      Jacobs fought valiantly in defense of plain, old-fashioned, urban life."

      She was opposed to the use of bulldozers as a tool for urban renewal.
      "From her point of view," Goldberger said, "nothing was being renewed. It
      was all being destroyed." Referring to Jacobs' "The Death and Life of
      American Cities" as "arguably the most important book written about cities
      in the 20th century," he summed up her attitude toward tear-down renewal:
      "The emperor of city planning has no clothes."

      As a writer and community activist, Jacobs' energy was unrelenting. She
      challenged the views of influential thinkers such as historian Lewis
      Mumford, author of "The Culture of Cities."

      Her most audacious outburst came in the 1960s when New York City planner
      and power broker Robert Moses announced his plan for an expressway through
      the Washington Square area in lower Manhattan.

      Jacobs attended the public hearing where she and other protesters vocally
      opposed the plan.

      "He was one of the first speakers," she recalled of Moses, in a 2000
      interview with the Associated Press. "He was furious and he stood up
      there, inside the railed enclosure, and not where most speakers spoke —
      outside where the public microphone was. He was privileged.

      "He gripped this railing and he said, in dismissing scornfully our plan to
      have no more than the existing road and better not even that, he said,
      'These protests are just by a bunch of … a bunch of mothers!' "

      Jacobs, joined by other protesters, then rushed the podium, disrupting the

      Jane Jacobs, 89; Urban Theorist, Community Activist Who Fought Lower
      Manhattan Freeway Plan
      April 26 2006

      Page 2 of 2 << back 1 2

      She was arrested on several charges, including criminal mischief, which
      established her as a terror, at least around City Hall. It also reduced to
      rubble any view that Jacobs was merely a disheveled, jolly-faced lady with
      the big, round glasses.

      Rather, she was "a far-sighted genius who guided cities in new
      directions," Robert Caro, who wrote a biography of Moses, told the
      Associated Press on Tuesday. Her battle with Moses was "one of the truly
      heroic sagas in the history of New York," Caro said.

      Jacobs first staked her claim as the bane of the establishment in 1961
      when she led the opposition against a tear-down plan for her West Village
      neighborhood in lower Manhattan. Redevelopers intended to take out the
      brownstones and small apartment complexes in the area and replace them
      with a housing project that covered several blocks.

      She argued against demolition and offered her own proposal, which
      preserved existing housing and added a middle-income apartment complex
      built to scale. Eventually, the plan she helped devise was approved.

      "In the '60s, technocrats were leading the way in urban planning,"
      architect Eric Owen Moss told The Times in 2003.

      His Los Angeles-based firm has recycled office space for housing and
      blended recycled buildings with new structures in the Jacobs tradition.

      "Jacobs was a unique, sensitive voice for a different point of view," Moss
      said. "The technocrat said, 'We'll put an expressway here, a dam there, a
      high-rise here'. She said, 'Let's not build the expressway through
      peoples' backyards. Let's keep the continuity of the existing
      neighborhood. And let's have parks.' "

      Forty years after she helped defeat plans for an expressway through lower
      Manhattan, Jacobs was still receiving phone calls from community activists
      across North America, seeking her guidance. In 2000, concerned citizens of
      Pittsburgh wanted to block a redevelopment project that would have wiped
      out two of the city's downtown streets. Jacobs offered coaching by phone,
      and the Pittsburgh activists won their battle.

      Her credentials for the role of urban strategist were comparatively
      sparse. Born May 4, 1916, in Scranton, Pa., she graduated from high school
      and worked briefly as a reporter on the Scranton Tribune before she moved
      to New York City. There she attended classes at Columbia University but
      did not complete her college degree.

      She went to work as a freelance journalist covering urban issues. In 1952,
      she was hired by Architecture Forum magazine. She became a senior editor
      and remained on the staff until 1962. In her essay, "Downtown Is for
      People," included in the book, "The Exploding Metropolis" (1958), Jacobs
      suggested ways to revitalize downtown areas.

      She criticized governmental civic centers as "pretentious and dull" and
      said that shopping centers all look alike. The goal of urban renewal
      should be to make a city's core, "more surprising, more compact, more
      variegated, and busier than ever," she wrote.

      Through the 1960s Jacobs was appointed to a series of government projects,
      including New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay's Task Force on Housing and
      the Task Force on Natural Beauty, overseen by then-First Lady Lady Bird
      Johnson, that supported the planting of shrubs and flowers in public

      She had gained both respect and notoriety in a male-dominated field, in a
      steeply competitive city. Then, somewhat abruptly, in 1968, Jacobs and her
      husband of 24 years, architect Robert Hyde Jacobs, moved their family of
      three children to Toronto.

      The Jacobs, who had two sons close to draft age, opposed the Vietnam War.
      In 1974, Jane Jacobs became a Canadian citizen.

      "Jane was part of a group of extremely articulate, independent thinking,
      highly accomplished people" who had a strong impact on the growth of the
      city, said Joe Berridge of Urban Strategies, a planning firm in Toronto.
      "By the early '70s, a few years after they settled in Toronto, it was
      taking off and becoming a great city."

      Within months of her arrival in Toronto, Jacobs imprinted her style when
      she joined a group of urban activists battling a proposed downtown
      expressway. The plan was ultimately defeated.

      More recently, she fought a plan to build a bridge from downtown Toronto
      to the airport. "Storming the barricades with the help of her walker,"
      Berridge said of Jacobs' style.

      Urban planners in Toronto credit Jacobs with helping preserve the city's
      highly livable neighborhoods and saving some of its worthy old buildings.
      Outspoken to the point of being brash, she once declared that the city
      planning board of Toronto was "brain-dead."

      "Jane Jacobs had a strong anti-bureaucratic bent," said Eudora
      Pendergrast, who worked as a city planner for Toronto in the early '90s
      and more recently opened her own consulting firm. "That statement had an
      incredible effect. It shaped an effort by planners to be less
      bureaucratic. Jane Jacobs was highly respected."

      She continued to write books on her favorite topic. In "The Economy of
      Cities" (1969) and "Cities and the Wealth of Nations" (1984) she argued
      that the financial health of a nation depends on productive cities.

      In one instance, she used Japan as an example. After World War II, a
      number of Japanese cities developed bicycle manufacturing factories that
      boosted the local economy. Business grew to the point where those cities
      were able to expand into automobile production. Within 30 years the
      Japanese economy went from one of the weakest to one of the strongest in
      the world.

      Some critics challenged Jacobs for leaping too freely from the specific to
      the general. "She was on much firmer ground when she wrote about structure
      and form," Goldberger said. "There, her theories bore out."

      When she was in her 80s and still living in the house she once shared with
      her husband and three children, journalists continued to called on her.
      Several of them made note of her eccentric taste in home decor.

      Porch furniture in the living room, a closet converted to a telephone
      booth and a wooden model for a fighter plane fuel tank as a door stop were
      seen as proof of her commitment to recycling.

      At age 88, she toured to promote her book, "Dark Age Ahead" (2004), taking
      questions with the help of an old-fashioned ear trumpet.

      In the book she wrote that family and community bonds need reinforcing and
      that cities need a self-policing system to keep professionals in check.

      To get to that point, her suggestion was to start small. "Everything is
      connected to everything else," she wrote. "...if something is corrected
      and improved it's likely to affect other things beneficially."

      Jacobs' passion for cities never left her. "All through organized human
      history, if you wanted prosperity you had to have cities," she told the
      Los Angeles Times in 1997, during a conference about her work held in
      Toronto. "Cities are places that attract new people with new ideas."

      Her husband died in 1996. She is survived by two sons, one daughter, two
      grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a brother.

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