It’s always a good day when the beloved Jane Jacobs gets mentioned in the news. The writer and urban observer has been getting her much deserved revival recently via a lush graphic novel and even an opera chronicling her legendary toppling of development dictator Robert Moses.
With all this hype around Jacobs, it’s hard not to notice how much co-opting and perverting of her ideas happens by urbanists pushing the very high-rise condos Jacobs despised.
Jacobs also hated the damage wrought by cars and auto-centric infrastructure – and she adored the bicycle as an equitable mode of transport. That’s where today’s urbanists are correct to emulate her. Tearing down human-scaled historic buildings to make room for parking lots was an aberration that can’t be fixed fast enough. But when it’s a matter of tearing down the old purely to increase ‘density‘ (the current coded buzzword for more money), today’s Jacobs’ fans have no problem turning their back on her.
They forget Jacobs was a critic of capital, knowing that short-term profiteering by developers and city governments destroy the very creative neighborhoods artists and musicians rely on to live. She knew that by not investing in its own labor force that homelessness would increase, that it is the working class that makes cities thrive.
Jane Jacobs-style urbanism has become all too adaptable to liberal appropriation. https://t.co/H6moMnA0Pr
— Jacobin (@jacobinmag) December 20, 2014