As bloggers posing as journalists in Seattle reduce people’s heartfelt views and concerns into tweetable labels like “NIMBY” and “Density Demagogues”, it’s important to take a deep breath and seek to understand all sides.
Jane Jacobs is a lighthouse for me. In her seminal work “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jacobs wrote, “To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts, four conditions are indispensable”
1. “The Need for Mixed Primary Uses” “These must… insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for diffferent purposes.”
2. “The Need for Small Blocks” “That is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.”
3. “The Need for Aged Buildings.” “The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce.” “…Hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighborhoods, and appreciated for their convenience and personal quality, can make out succesfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction.”
4. “The Need for Concentration” “This includes dense concentration in the case of people who are there because of residence.” “However, it will not do to jump to the conclusion that all areas of high dwelling density in cities do well. They do not, and to assume that this is ‘the’ answer would be to oversimplify outrageously.” “The reason dwelling densities can begin repressing diversity if they get too high is this: At some point, to accommodate so many dwellings on the land, standardization of the buildings must set in. This is fatal, because great diversity in age and types of buildings has a direct, explicit connection with diversity of population, diversity of enterprises and diversity of scenes.”
“The necessity for these four conditions is the most important point this book has to make…The purpose of explaining them one at a time is purely for convenience of exposition, not because any one — or even any three — of these necessary conditions is valid alone. ALL four in combination are necessary to generate city diversity.”
For a summary of the book from Wikipedia, CLICK HERE.