In yesterday’s WSJ, Andrew Manshel announced that the fixation with urban theorist Jane Jacobs has officially gone too far:
It has been almost 50 years since the publication of Jane Jacobs’s “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” and the book has been cited to support almost every position in debates about city planning and urban policy. Jacobs’s ideas have become ubiquitous all over the country. At a recent meeting of the Urban Land Institute, a national organization of real-estate developers and professionals, for example, she seemed to be quoted by almost every speaker-developers, architects and academics all cited her work when talking about the future and how to do progressive development. Her book is on reading lists at every planning school and urban-studies program. Yet the time may have come to give Jacobs (who died in 2006) and her ideas something of a rest.
I’m no expert but it seems like Manshel’s argument is convincing. But if you’re not fully persuaded, I have some anecdotal evidence to back it up.
On Sunday I went to a concert attended almost exclusively by some fairly serious hipsters (I was out of place). While passing a group of them, I noticed that one was clutching a dog-eared copy of The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I was stunned that anyone, let alone a hipster, would be reading a book while at a show, and that the book would be Jane Jacobs. I decided right then and there that we need to cool it with the whole Jane Jacobs thing. Glad to see I’m not alone.