Urban Planning … gone wrong?

On the heels of Jane Jacobs’, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, comes this excellent commentary from Leonard Gilroy who says simply that we have it all wrong when it comes to urban planning.

But if they go back and reread “Death and Life,” they’ll find Jacobs rightly asking, “How is bigger administration, with labyrinths nobody can comprehend or navigate, an improvement over crazy-quilt township and suburban governments?”

She went on to ridicule the idea of regionalism as “escapism from intellectual helplessness” predicated on the delusion that the problems planners are unable to solve at the local level will somehow be more easily addressed on a larger-scale, concluding that “no other expertise can substitute for locality knowledge in planning.”

Politicians and planners would do well to commemorate Jacobs by revisiting her work. Despite the best efforts of well-intentioned planners, you can’t “create” a vibrant city or neighborhood. The best cities and neighborhoods just happen, and the best thing we can do is to step out of the way of innovators and entrepreneurs.

Is the Neighborhood Model really where we want to go? Are the best cities organic “creations” that evolve on their own, best left to their own devices?

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