5.25.2005

hooray for jane jacobs!

I always forget that she's Canadian now. She used to be a New Yorker!
Toronto's planners favour developers over citizens, says urban affairs guru Jane Jacobs.

Called to give the Canadian Urban Institute award that bears her name, Jacobs stood before a room full of urban planners and policy-makers and harshly criticized Toronto's planning process.

"If citizens don't like it, you call them names (and say) that they're selfish and ignorant and that they're NIMBY — not in my backyard," Jacobs told planners.

"It's true that people don't want certain things in their backyard," she said. "But they're usually right.
Full story here.

And guess what?? We're going to see the Port Credit house tomorrow night! Yippee!

We've been making arrangements all morning and now I must get to work. Have a great day, everyone.

17 comments:

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

On an unrelated note, and nothing particularly new, O'Reilly once again says torture is the right thing to do:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,157608,00.html

RobfromAlberta said...

I mean, that's like saying well, if we're nicer to the people who want to kill us, then the other people who want to kill us will like us more.

As usually, O'Reilly fails to even grasp the argument. Setting aside, for the moment, questions of the morality and usefulness of torture (although both are compelling arguments themselves), the point is not to improve the opinion of the US in the eyes of Al Qaeda members. Those people are committed to harming US interests regardless of what America does. The point is to make sure that US actions don't swell the ranks of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups with people who might otherwise have been at least neutral before. When you resort to torture, you make new enemies and the last thing America needs is more enemies.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Another unrelated note: please, please check my newest post: Is America Becoming a Theorcracy. I think you will LOVE to weigh in on this one.

Hope you are doing well and not working too very hard.

All best,
Barbara

Sass said...

On a related note, a close relative of mine was an urban planner in Toroto. I'll have to rush over and read this, then see what he has to say.

Sass said...

That is, Toronto. Gosh, Toroto? Sassypants? What's happening with me and your comments?

L-girl said...

Hey everyone, thanks for these!

Sassypantscats, I'd love to hear what your urban planner relative says about Toroto. :) Seriously, I would.

(It must be that my blog is so exciting, that you are typing your comment so furiously, you have no time to re-read.)

(Yeah, right.)

Lone Primate said...

Jane Jacobs is not my favourite person in the world, nor is her padawan, John Sewell, who managed to be elected mayor of the city for one term before it at least partly came to its senses. Between the two of them, they're largely responsible for the traffic chaos in the city today.

Toronto is not New York. Take that for good or bad; however you like it. It's the truth. It grew into a large city much later in history, at a time when rapid transportation allowed for people to live further afield. It also grew up at a time when women were entering the workforce, and couples were increasingly forced to make their homes in places more or less equidistant from two different workplaces, neither particularly close. Toronto, then, was a city formed with certain circumstances that were not the case when New York gelled, and we did not develop under the same urge to live, antlike, stacked on top of one another. Indeed, the times required other strategies of us. Unfortunately, it was also a time of urban decay in the United States -- much of it founded on racial issues that were absent or far less pronounced here -- that was not developing here. No one took that into consideration, least of all Jane Jacobs, who seems to feel that New York is the world and the world is New York. She may form an object lesson for you (if not for us), Laura, in that "you can take the American out of the United States," etc.

There were a number of highway initiatives in the 1950s and 1960s that were important to Toronto. Few of them were completed, because when the time came for several in the 60s, the atmosphere was poisoned to them. Leading the charge was Jane Jacobs, who showed up, declared Toronto another New York, and set out to save it by seeing to it it remained fragmented and discontinuous... several hundred small towns somehow coincidentally mashed together. Some of the highway projects had no hope from the start. The Crosstown Expressway would have been really destructive, and it's hard to imagine it being built, ever. But two of them were needed to complete the belt system to move traffic, labour, and goods in and out of the city. The extension of the Gardiner Expressway to the 401 in the east, which was planned for, undeveloped land set aside for, but never built (indeed, the Gardiner stub to Leslie St. was recently demolished!), and the Spadina Expressway to ferry traffic from the 401 in and out of the downtown.

The Spadina was essentially killed in the early 1970s when Premier Davis caved in, overruled the planners at the Ontario Municipal Board, and pulled provincial funding. This was greeted as a victory by people who had the luxury of rollerskating to work, believed that billions would be poured into public transit, or presumably thought we'd all be living like the Jetsons by 1985. The worst thing about downtown Toronto is its inexplicably small town attitude. Maybe the city grew too quickly, but people downtown have this siege mentality, as though people living north of Bloor or the other side of the Humber or Don are foreign hordes instead of fellow Torontonians. God help you if you commit the sin of living in 905 country (as you're about to, Laura)... then you are truly der Ausländer, a wicked, venal, selfish ogre almost beyond redemption. They will throw up anything to stop you. Kill highway projects. Object to new subway stations. Make streets one way. No right turns during rush hour. Jane Jacobs preaches small town life in a metropolis of five million, and some people just eat that up.

So what's the upshot? Did people get out of their cars? Hell, no. They like the independence. They like to be able to stop someplace on the way home and pick up supper. They like to be able to drive to a restaurant with friends at lunch time. They're not fond of standing in the rain, the snow, the wind. They're frustrated by the fact that subway lines don't even reach the borders of Toronto, much less serve the suburbs beyond. So they fill highways that haven't been added to, with the exception of the toll 407, since about 1965. The Spadina Expressway, now politically-correctly redubbed "Allen Road", was partially built. First, it ended at Lawrence Ave. and caused traffic nightmares on Marlee Ave. every rush hour till a resident there convinced the government to finish the highway down the empty trench at least to Eglinton Ave... where the nightmare empties now. Instead of swiftly getting in and out of the downtown, or at least doing so relatively more quickly, traffic snarls up surface streets in the morning, and down them again in the evening. And the residents there, who killed the highway in the first place, moan about traffic filling their neighbourhoods. Their answer? Speed bumps! So instead of a bypass to cure a blockage, their answer is lard injections. I swear, it makes me despair for the species. So there's more congestion, more road rage, more accidents and fatalities, and, ironically, more smog, since it's a function of cars idling and inefficiently working in stop-and-go traffic, not of cars moving along at 50-70 mph.

So congratulations, Jane Jacobs. Every time I see a multi-car pile-up, I see your monument.

L-girl said...

Of course Toronto is not New York.

I didn't say she was my favorite person, just someone whose life work I admire. It's also not The Truth, it's just one person's perspective.

Why are you so angry? (Or seem so, at least.)

G said...

Yes, why so angry?

And please, tell me what is so wrong with a small-town mentality in the city. You got in a huff over it, but failed to explain adequately the actual problem with it.

Hey, it's a great city in its own right. Most importantly, it's a generally safe place. Has its own rough areas, and its own gang issues, but nothing really all that extreme on a comparative level. Most people should be so fortunate. And driving really isn't so bad as you make it. It's like any city - learn the back ways around the city and the sidestreets within it and you're fine. Still don't like driving? The subway system is terrific, as are the city bus lines.

What, do you think it's supposed to be some kind of Utopia? Where the hell do you get that idea from? Sheesh, you're starting to sound like the NY Times article in one of L-Girl's other recent posts - upset that it ain't utopia here after all. Get over it.

Lone Primate said...

Let's just say "I dun the highways." :) And yes, I do feel it's the NIMBY syndrome. The city is bigger than what's in a given neighbourhood, and it's all too common for people to lose sight of that. The building of a highway was a problem. Now the surface street gridlock (that results from the failure to do so) is a problem. People can't really seem to get past the prejudice that SOMETHING WILL CHANGE. Funny how it works... the disruption to ten-to-twenty-year-old suburbia caused by building the Spadina was "bad" in the 60s, but an awful lot of Yonge Street, some of it a century old or more, had to be torn down in the 50s to build the subway, but I don't hear anyone lamenting what was lost then... folks are just grateful to have the facility. The double standard drives me crazy.

The problem for me is the quarters in which Jane Jacobs is essentially sainted for what I perceive to be vastly shortsighted pocket theories that time has largely disproven, but that's ignored among a certain class of intelligentia because it doesn't fit in with the model they're promoting. Jane Jacobs's theory of how cities work -- and I have read it, and John Sewell's as well -- strikes me as one-size-fits-all. But there are dozens of ways to live "in Toronto" alone, nevermind elsewhere. In effect, these people want to shove Dolly Parton into a training bra, and then chastise her when she says it doesn't fit. I'm tired, really tired, of people who want human beings to fit a model, instead of creating models that address human needs and local realities. Jane Jacobs's theories are based on the singular, unique experience of New York. I'm prepared to admit that in some circumstances, that experience is going to prove valuable and instructive to Chicago, Toronto, London, Tokyo... but not all the time, in all things. Cities aren't pressed out of dough out of one cookie cutter... they're almost as different as individual human beings. It's been a bugbear of mine for a long time that what might be indicative is instead accepted with Old Testament devotion that can't be challenged, adapted, or even abandoned when it doesn't suit local conditions. Christians get to eat pork, but there's no new covenant for Toronto where the experience of New York, or older American cities in general, is concerned. The administration of the city's been hijacked by an orthodoxy, and I can see the price on the way to work every day.

Lone Primate said...

And please, tell me what is so wrong with a small-town mentality in the city. You got in a huff over it, but failed to explain adequately the actual problem with it.

Well, in short, a small town is a small town. A city's a city. A small town can have a singular character, but a city really can't. The problem arises when people put the local identity before the needs of the larger geographic one. It's great that there's an Annex, and a Leaside, and a Willowdale and all that. But these are, after all, conventions of the mind. They present people with different choices about how to live, but they should not distract people from the reality that they're living in what is a unified whole that has to work efficiently together. It's great to be the liver, but if you cut yourself off from the heart and the pancreas and shut down blood vessels in glory of your 'livery-ness', you're not doing yourself or anyone else a favour.

I'm not saying we need to pave paradise, put up a parking lot. But the reality of this city is people live far apart, and need to get around. We import goods and export services within the GTA and beyond, and it's getting more difficult to move labour and product every day. Meanwhile, an eighth of a million people move to the GTA every year. Pretending that's not the case, or that transit systems that are quick and responsive will magically appear, is a disservice. There needs to be transit, but there also needs... or needed... to be a balance for automobile traffic. Cars aren't evil; they're a means to get around. That's it. Alternatives were expensive and largely ignored when the highway programs were axed, so we ended up with neither. The city is still fragmented into five regions and God knows how many cities and towns, all with their own transit systems with their own feudal rules, jealousies, and fees. Remember the nonsense a few years ago about bridging Morningstar Drive over the 427 to Humberside? Oh, no, that would let Mississaugans drive in Etobicokean neighbourhoods! Or the foolishness about letting Mississauga Transit run the Burnhamthorpe line down the last quarter mile of Burnhamthorpe Road, which happened to be in Etobicoke? This is the kind of narrow parochialism that plagues Toronto. This is not a small town. If people want to live in small towns, where there's no need for expressways or long commutes to work or even transit systems, there are hundreds of them in Ontario. But to force that role on Toronto is a bad idea. A very bad idea, that's going to cost us in the long run.

L-girl said...

"The problem for me is the quarters in which Jane Jacobs is essentially sainted for what I perceive to be vastly shortsighted pocket theories that time has largely disproven"

This is just plain false. Her theories are not pockets, but overarching, they have not been disproven, and they are extremely far-sighted, where what passes for most urban planning - non-planning, really - is very shortsighted.

"Jane Jacobs's theory of how cities work -- and I have read it, and John Sewell's as well -- strikes me as one-size-fits-all."

They are anything but. Exactly the opposite.

"Jane Jacobs's theories are based on the singular, unique experience of New York."

Absolutely false. It sounds like you have read a snippet of what she wrote about one city and generalized from there.

"Cities aren't pressed out of dough out of one cookie cutter... they're almost as different as individual human beings."

That's part of her central philosophy, and the central tenet of all good city planning: talk to lots of people, see what they really need, and go from there.

You say you have read her, but it doesn't sound like you have. You sound like you're thinking more of Robert Moses, Jacobs's nemesis.

L-girl said...

I have to leave for the airport, so I can't continue this discussion.

In general though, Loneprimate, I wonder if your lengthy comments would be more fitting on your own blog.

I'm not asking you not to post here, you are most welcome to, and I value your ideas. But when you write a whole treatise (sp?) full of bold ideas or copy in an entire article into comments as you have done elsewhere, perhaps you would be better served by posting in your own blog, then leaving a comment directing interested readers there.

I was going to say this during the election debate, but held my tongue.

L-girl said...

And I thank you in advance. Forgot to say that. Please don't disappear.

Lone Primate said...

I suppose you have a point there. That's not a bad idea. Less spontaneous, but probably more sensible.

Lone Primate said...

Parting shot, though, if you'll indulge me.

I'm sorry, but I have to take issue with you. I live here. I've lived here 25 years, and I've been driving and taking transit to school and work for 20 of it. I've driven the 401, 427, 404, and Gardiner, surface streets downtown; I've made use of two separate lines of the GO Train; I've taken Mississauga Transit, Oakville Transit, and the TTC -- specifically, the subway and streetcars. I know what I'm talking about. I've lived it. I've seen it. Extensively. It's your privilege to admire Jane Jacobs's theories, particularly through the eyes of a New Yorker. But you have not lived the experience of them in Toronto, and I have. I have, literally, the street cred on this issue.

I read The Life and Death of American Cities in university, when that was a mere 15 minute suburban bus ride, and I had no practical reason to doubt her. And even then, my experience of it was the creeping suspicion that she was looking around the US and seeing the problems of New York reflected in every issue. She was seeing problems, but not from above... immersed in a particular experience. When I attended college after university, I had the experience of what regionalism was costing us. What was a similar 15 minute drive was a 90 minute marathon on three transit systems: two municipal that had virtually nothing to do with one another, bridged by a provincial one. I had to take a bus to take a train to take a bus, in spite of the fact that I lived walking distance from the second municipality. As far as I know, that's the case to this day. What kind of savings in terms of time, frustration, and pollution is that kind of mindset?

Then I started working downtown. Depending on the traffic, that was a trip of 30-45 minutes on good days. You know where the traffic was worst? Not usually on the superhighways. It was when I got off the Gardiner at Spadina Avenue. The last 5% of the trip represented about a third of the duration. The same trip, on public transit, required a drive in a car to a train station, to take a subway, to take a street car. Eventually I gave up on the subway and streetcar and simply walked it; it was faster. Really. It was. I'm not kidding. Taking the car, even in those conditions, was faster and less expensive.

Today, I live in the "city" and work in the suburbs. I travel against traffic, on the highway. I see people lining up for miles, literally, to get to the 401 to get to either the DVP or surface streets in the midtown because there's no highway there to get them in and out. Just the streets in those neighbourhoods that would have been largely bypassed by the Spadina Expressway they killed. The irony is considerable. But there are no alternatives for these people. They were planned, but never built. I'm not saying there'd be no traffic or congestion, but it would be largely ameliorated by having different routes, particularly for people coming from the north or east.

We're wearing a suit tailored for somebody else. Most of us know it, too. But it's too late to do much about it now. And they didn't "talk to lots of people". The OMB did, for decades, and made its recommendations with Metro, which represented two million people. Jacobs and the City of Toronto represented at best a half million, and spoke merely for people who did not want change in their neighbourhoods. They did not care or ask what the needs of people beyond were, and they carried the day because they were more vocal, better organized, and momentarily favoured by a cynical provincial government eager to abandon the expense of a project of dubious popularity. Now they live with the gridlock and petition for speed bumps, and wonder why Toronto's debt goes up and businesses relocate to Vaughn and Mississauga. Bad decisions 30 years ago are plaguing us today. There is no "central planning" in Toronto anymore; there hasn't been for a long time. There are neighbourhoods, and they vote their interests, and everyone else can go pound salt. That seems to be how it is in Canada since the 70s.

Twenty years of practical experience, day in and day out, have convinced me that Jane Jacobs's philosophy has not been, on balance, a benefit to the growth and management of the GTA.

G said...

Well, you make a good point on the small town thing. I do give you that.

But - having also lived and driven in Toronto before - not there now but drive to and within the city extensively for parts of my current job and much of a past position - I have to say it's really not that bad. Drive through Montreal sometime (try to leave once you're there) - really not much fun. Vancouver? Not too fun either - spent half a year on a contract out there once - really not cool to drive there at all. Compared to these, TO already is paradise. Sometimes gridlock will be part of the equation, sure - it's called rush hour, happens everywhere. But it's not this extraordinary mess you make it out to be in your posts - far from it.