Policy & Planning
May 13, 2016

On Jane Jacobs: Contrary to the Contrarian

Lawence Solomon responds in the Financial Post to Sam Sullivan’s criticisms of Jane Jacobs (here).


Jacobs’ critics also marked her 100th anniversary — but by bemoaning her influence. As former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan told CBC, his city is only now beginning to recover from an unfortunate love affair with Jane Jacobs. In his view, her ideologically anti-high-rise, anti-development and anti-change thinking led to sprawl and unaffordable neighbourhoods except for the very few who got in early and then kept others out, profiting at their expense.

“She was very much against towers; she was against the highway, high-rise city,” Sullivan lamented. “Her own home (in Toronto’s Annex) is in an area that should have been densified a lot earlier. One of my favourite moments in life was when I got to sit on the porch with Jane Jacobs and talk about porches. I was such a big fan of hers but over time as I tried to densify Vancouver, I ran into people who were advocates of Jane Jacobs’ ideas and I realized then that there were some negative parts (to her legacy).”

Sullivan is confused, as are her devotees on the left who think she held the anti-development views they hold dear. Jane Jacobs was not “very much against towers.” I was a colleague of hers, and in literally hundreds of conversations that I had with her over a period of 25 years, not once did she ever express an animus towards high rises. Jane did object to high-rise towers for public housing — but then, she objected to all public housing — and she did object to the useless green space that planners forced on high-rise builders, calling such “tower-in-a-park” developments economically sterile. But Jane also thought some areas needed more high-rise towers. Her views on high-rises, as on everything, were never ideological; they were matter-of-fact, geared to solving real-world problems. …

Sullivan seems not to understand that Jane Jacobs’ legacy has been appropriated (misappropriated, really) by those determined to impose the type of results Jane favoured, not realizing her desired results — such as diverse neighbourhoods — can’t be imposed by planners. The misappropriators do harm, too, by failing to understand that Jane’s thinking transcends cities to include economic development and wealth creation generally. Because human ingenuity is unlimited, she believed, the planet is blessed with “unlimited resources.” In a message her fans of today would not want to hear, Jane concluded that planning for resource shortages is not planning for sustainable “economic development at all. It is planning for stagnation.”


Full article here.

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. ReConnecting Vancouver: After the Viaducts . Led By Michael Alexander May 7, 2016, 1:00 PM, 1 Hour May 8, 2016, 11:00 AM, 1 Hour . The Viaducts are coming down. Learn what could replace them— including your ideas for new neighbourhoods and parks! . The viaducts disrupted and divided important historic neighbourhoods in our City, including Hogan’s Alley, which served as a hub for Vancouver’s black community until the viaducts. Scarred by the viaduct structures, the area today is a mix of highway-adjacent parks and pathways, with a new bicycle-friendly corridor along Union Street. It is a well-positioned and exciting area of the city, with rare opportunities for neighbourhood-building, affordable housing, and safe streets. . We’ll visit the area and see how it’s used today by local residents — including lower-income and homeless Vancouverites — local businesses, and regional commuters. Looking ahead to the replacement of the viaducts, we’ll explore how to reconnect the adjacent communities and repair the urban fabric ruptured in the highway-building frenzy of the 1960s and 70s. . Walk Start: Across from the Downtown Skate Park on Quebec Street.  We’ll be standing across the street from the Vancouver Skate Park. . Go here to register (at “I’m going” tab). Read more »

The Google Doodle announces Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday.


And The Guardian posts a celebratory piece and a pic of Jane on her bike:.


Here’s one of my most prized possessions: a first-edition paperback of her most famous book, signed by Jacobs in 2002 when she was visiting Vancouver’s mayor, Philip Owen.


I still use it when leading a Jane’s Walk through the West End, which pretty much meets all the criteria for a successful urban district.

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Jane Jacobs, urbanist and author, believed in walkable neighbourhoods, urban literacy, and cities planned by and for everybody.

We celebrate Jane’s birthday every year by leading and tagging along on Jane’s Walks. You create a walking tour of an area you’d like to talk about or celebrate and people sign up for it. It’s less of a lecture and more of a walking conversation. Leaders share their knowledge, but also encourage discussion and participation among the walkers. The whole thing is free.
It could also be a jogging tour or a bicycling tour or a skateboarding tour…
The one hour orientation session is Monday April 25 from 5:30-6:30pm at the Mount Pleasant Community Library.
Jane’s Walks, now in its 9th year, are held Friday-Sunday, May 6, 7, or 8 in 2016.

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Let’s work backwards from September, 2016. Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place, almost always held in the US, will be in Vancouver. In fact, we’re having a whole Placemaking Week Sept 12-18 AND celebrating Jane’s 100th birthday (may she rest in peace).
Vancouver Bike Share (the temporary name until CycleHop announces a sponsor) launches in June, expands in July, and should be running smoothly by September. Inshallah.
Five protected bike lanes downtown are to be built and finished by the end of July, 2016. Yes, 2016. It sounds like more than it is. Some are little blips on the map.
Cambie, Smithe, Nelson, Beatty, and Richards.
Here’s my 2 cents: I applaud the speed and approach. We should be constructing multiple lanes at once. Building upon and expanding the current AAA network is key.
The couplets on Nelson and Smithe (one-way on each street in same direction as vehicles) are: on Nelson from Richards to Beatty (shouldn’t that go to the Cambie Street Bridge?) and on Smithe from the bridge to Richards. If Nelson/Smithe went as far as Hornby instead, people would have so many more options and we would almost have a complete All Ages and Abilities (AAA) link from Yaletown to the West End.
Linking the bike lane on Homer Street northbound for one more little block from Georgia to Dunsmuir’s protected bike lane would help. Surely continuing the bi-directional protected bike lane on Dunsmuir for one block west to Burrard – a major transit hub of Burrard Station – is also a priority. Don’t make me take the one-way painted bike lane the wrong way for a block! #ungapthemap
Some of the bike lanes in the plan could conflict with vehicles turning. Please be careful in the final design.
You have 24 more hours to email your comments on this project. You might as well take a look right now. View the information displays from the March 8, 2016, open house and email your comments to downtownbikenetwork@vancouver.ca by March 25.

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Review in the NY Times today of “Becoming Jane Jacobs” by Sam Roberts that have two important insights into Jacobs – along with this beautiful picture: .

Jane Jacobs was so consumed in the late 1950s by the writing of her manifesto, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” that her hair turned from auburn to white. In “Becoming Jane Jacobs” (University of Pennsylvania Press, $34.95), Peter L. Laurence dispels the sexist and condescending contemporary view that her canonical book was a collection of home remedies from a housewife whose only credentials were as an amateur observer of the city’s sidewalk ballet.

Then this – an observation that I hope gets circulated in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in Victoria and in Motordom-biased transportation departments everywhere:

Her views evolved, too. Professor Laurence, director of graduate studies at Clemson University School of Architecture, recalls that she was even somewhat forgiving of Robert Moses. “It is understandable that men who were young in the 1920s were captivated by the vision of the freeway Radiant City,” Ms. Jacobs wrote, “with the specious promise that it would be appropriate to an automobile age.” She added, however:

It is disturbing to think that men who are young today, men who are being trained now for their careers, should accept on the grounds that they must be ‘modern’ in their thinking, conceptions about cities and traffic which are not only unworkable, but also to which nothing new of any significance has been added since their fathers were children.

As disheartening is to hear the notion, repeated by leaders like Peter Fassbender, that somehow we have to continue to build around the automobile today because we’re not sufficiently ‘European’ or advanced enough to depart from Motordom in order to shape growth around transit, even though that’s exactly what our plans call for and which, when we do it, we are so successful at. Read more »

Okay, so the weather was abysmal on Sunday – but people still turned out for this year’s Jane’s Walks.  And on Saturday, I had the perfect crowd: 15 interested, varied, well-informed walkers (one even knew how long a chain was!) – and only a few drops of precip.

Here we are at the traditional ending point of the tour through West of Denman:



A tip of my fedora to Jen Harvey, who helped make it happen.

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Meet us at the intersection of public space and fiction.

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to walk through your favourite novel? We’ve assembled a team of local authors to create short works of fiction that take place in the Riley Park area.  Amble your way through some of these (very, very) short stories. You’ll be able to literally choose your own adventure in this self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood! 


The Active Fiction Walk


May 3, 2014 | 11:00 AM
May 3, 2014 | 12:00 PM
May 3, 2014 | 01:00 PM
May 3, 2014 | 02:00 PM
May 4, 2014 | 11:00 AM
May 4, 2014 | 12:00 PM
May 4, 2014 | 01:00 PM
May 4, 2014 | 02:00 PM

Walk Leader: Jaspal Marwah Meeting Place: Main & east 20th – This is where we’ll start & end the walks

We’ll remain at this meeting point to provide a gathering spot so walkers can meet and chat about your experience after the walk. In case of rain, we’ll be inside the Bean Around the World cafe.

This is a preview of the full-scale version of this project the Vancouver Public Space Network will launch later this summer.

. More here.


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Topics we will cover:

1.  What happened on December 6, 1989? See Beth Alder’s memorial sculpture.

2. Have you ever ventured into a revered Chinese tea house?

3.  Learn about the amazing building that houses the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and Bridge Housing.

4.  Check out the amazing displays and bouquets at Olla Urban Flower Project.

5.  Feast your senses and tastebuds on chocolate, coffee and pastries at East Van Roasters.  


Amazing, Brave and Extraordinary Women: Wouldn’t it be nice to walk together, sharing our souls while wearing out the leather?


May 3 , 2014 2:00 pm .

Walk Leader: Ellen Woodsworth and Jo Fox

Meeting Place: Thornton Park


More here.

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