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Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, became a bible for neighbourhood organizers and what she termed the "foot people". It made the case against the utopian planning culture of the times -- residential high-rise development, expressways through city hearts, slum clearances, and desolate downtowns.

(more after the jump)....

She believed that residential and commercial activity should be in the same place, that the safest neighbourhoods teem with life, short winding streets are better than long straight ones, low-rise housing is better than impersonal towers, that a neighbourhood is where people talk to one another.

 Full obituary for her death this morning in Toronto

Originally posted to Ed Tracey on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 09:30 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the news... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vansterdam, SoCalLiberal, melvin

    my husband is a huge Jane Jacobs fan. Since I grew up and still live in the Berkshires I have not delved too deeply into her writings but my husband, who went to Columbia and live in NYC for many years, has always used her as a reference and I have heard her name countless times.

  •  Oh no! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, vansterdam

    My condolences to her family.  I recently read Death and Life of Great American Cities.  She was an incredible woman.  She was bright, talented, forceful, and really effective.  I actually thought she was well older than 89.  She was still going strong though in her old age.  Her voice was important to reshape the world of urban planning and her ideas could especially be used now as we deal with sprawl, oil depedency, obsenely long commutes, and air pollution.  I think we will all miss Jane Jacobs.

  •  A towering figure in the field of urban planning (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vansterdam, SoCalLiberal

    And I believe she had just written a new book fairly recently, sometime within the past year or two. We need her ideas now more than over, that much is for certain.

  •  Sad news. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoCalLiberal, kkjohnson

    In an odd coincidence, I'm about halfway through Dark Age Ahead, her last book, and it's been providing me with a great deal of inspiration and food for thought.  

    Her humanity and wisdom will be missed in a time when they are sorely needed.  

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. -Philo of Alexandria

    by vansterdam on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 09:41:49 AM PDT

  •  Jane Jacobs Should Have Been Required Reading... (4+ / 0-)

    ...prior to posting in the public transportation diary wars over the past several days.  I am also a fan of her writing.    

    •  Oh I know (0+ / 0-)

      Those diaries all were SO off base.  I actually kind of admire Robert Moses.  And that's ironic because he and Jacobs were arch enemies.  Of course then again I like both former LAPD Cheif Daryl Gates and former LA Mayor Tom Bradley.

      The thing is, cities can be livable and can be enjoyable.  And cities aren't bad.  I loved how in Death and Life she really laid down a smack down on some of the fathers of urban planning.  She called them anti city and really that's what they were.  She also acknowledged that Los Angeles was a city but also said it was embarked on a "strange experiment".  Bottom line is that she will be sorely missed.

      •  Los Angeles Has More 'Neighborhoods'... (0+ / 0-)

        ...than is apparent.  Most Easterners have a hard time getting a grasp of the city and are often dismissive, but I find many parts of L.A. to have urban vilages, even if the residents themselves don't always take advantage and visitors are unaware.   Los Feliz, Venice, Silverlake, East Hollywood, and the Toluca Lake area are just some sections that are thoroughly explorable by foot and have the characteristics that Jacobs would approve of in an urban setting.  

        And as un-p.c. as it sounds it these parts, there is a unique L.A. urban feel in the availability of boulevards that stretch for miles on end that one can cruise in a car and observe the changes in neighborhoods along the way.

        As a New Yorker who once looked derisively at L.A. as not being a 'real city,' I learned while living in L.A. that the "strange experiment" has more to offer for 'traditional metropolitans' than initially meets the eye.

        •  Well I am in halfway agreement (0+ / 0-)

          Los Angeles has some great and unique neighborhoods.  This is why I feel that we could become a mass transit oriented city.  I know people laugh at me when I say that but I'm a firm beleiver.  I feel like there's this prevailing attitude that if you have to drive to someplace or it's not right out in front of you, it doesn't exist.  My attitude is that LA does have these great little neighborhoods and does have great culture, what we lack is an extensive mass transit system to cover this.  But, that system can be built and when it is built, we will not be adding something to nothing.  Merely, we will be enhancing what we already have.  

          I could go on and on and on about this.  But I have to get ready to head back out to class soon so I think I will diary about this later.  

        •  Actually Los Angeles is much more dense (0+ / 0-)

          today than is commonly believed.  Today's poster child for sprawl should probably be Atlanta or Phoenix.

          That said, Jane Jacobs had it right, dense cities are incubators of some of the best that humans can be (as well as some of the worst).

          -4.63,-3.54 If the people will lead the leaders will follow

          by calebfaux on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 01:12:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoCalLiberal, paul2port

    As someone who loves cities and the good life they can offer, I always valued Jane Jacobs' insights and perspectives.  Livability in cities doesn't just happen.  She showed us that it is the result of mindful planning and being attuned to what conditions must exist for people to live well together.

    Everyone who works for an enjoyable urban life owes Jane Jacobs a debt of gratitude.

    The person who defines reality wins.

    by Taylorbad on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 09:58:57 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this diary (0+ / 0-)

    I didn't know anything about this amazing woman.

  •  A very influential person (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catfish, SoCalLiberal, paul2port

    Jane Jacobs got her start in activism by helping to stop Robert Moses from building a major expressway that would have destroyed much of Greenwich Village.

    She stood in the way of people who believed that new and bigger was always better.  She helped start a movement that taught people to appreciate the value of organic diverse neighborhoods that evolved over time with a mix of uses.  I remember her writing about a very simple idea - the fact that having small shops in a neighborhood helps to provide oversight while residents are away at work during the day - which helps to prevent crime.

  •  Jane Jacobs's concept of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catfish, SoCalLiberal, paul2port

    "import replacement" is valuable to understand why some cities prosper while others fade away. I won't get into a lengthy explanation here, but, essentially, she theorizes that if a city cobbles together the resources it has on hand to manufacture goods (or provide services) in whatever industries it can rather than importing those items, then the capital saved can be used to procure those goods and services the city doesn't have the capability to provide for itself. (Something to that effect, anyway.)

    She was a very intuitive thinker regarding urban studies, and it's interesting to see how many cities are trying to redevelop their center city areas and urban neighborhoods using many of the insights that Ms. Jacobs put forward.

    •  'A city should make its own brooms' (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catfish, paul2port

      or something close to that.  This may be esecially true for foodstuffs - - eat what is produced nearby in an urban area's own "hinterland", and trade with others for what you must.  Makes sense, since transportation of goods would be reduced.

      Stop the politicization of crime!

      by tom 47 on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 10:26:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Her thinking seems to be the foundation for "smart growth". She was someone who had an early influence on me, and my approach to thinking about urban planning. A truly good person.

  •  Torontonians are so proud (6+ / 0-)

    of our city as a city of neighborhoods, a Jane Jacobs idea.

    In the late 1960's when the cores of many American cities had been gutted by bad development (then burned in the civil rights riots) Toronto looked green, peaceful and lovely by comparison.

    Immigrants from every part of the world learned to get along in those neighborhoods. "Caravan" started as a weeklong festival of flavors, sounds and cultural pride. You could tip a pint with the Aussies at the ANZAC club, stroll a few blocks for Ukrainian food and dance at St. Stanislaus then saunter down the street to the First Nations house for pemmican, bannock and drumming. We became a global village with a vibrant new attitude that continued year round. Eventually it came to characterize our new city. Before it was ours it was Jane Jacob's,  her beloved Annex neighborhood and city of Toronto.

    "Toronto the Good" had been known for its starchy WASP traditions, but as the spring transforms the city from cold white and grey to every hue of the rainbow after a long cold winter we were transformed too. We've learned to be ourselves and to embrace others from around the corner and around the world.

    Even today the vibrancy and multicultural success of Toronto are due directly to the spring-like influence of Jane Jacobs.

    May she rest in peace.

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