To the Editor…

by on September 22, 2016

Subject: RE: She Defeated the Urban Wrecking Ball

I disagree with the defense of Jacobs. She has great sensibilities about the physical and even social dynamics of urban space, but her vision is blind to realities of class and race and political power. That is why she is so immensely popular with SPUR and the smart growth and “yimby” crowd–she speaks to their middle-class privilege and superficial analysis which is similarly blind to those realities. Thus without necessary intending, Jacobs is an apologist for gentrification in the name of “urbanism.”

Thoughtful and more deeply analytical people like you may be able to suspend Jacobs’ positive impacts and smart sensibilities from this underlying contradiction about economic and sociopolitical realities that complicate her otherwise wonderful urban vision, but most people who promote Jacobs’ agenda are not able to see past the words on the pages on Death and Life. It becomes the cult language of young urbanists and the “playbook” for urban gentrification. You can call me a staunch ideologue or whatever you want to critique my cynicism, but the gentrification of American cities in the name of smart growth and new urbanism and place-making and all those dreamy theories has been as much a disaster as it has been a revival for those places. It is a totally mixed bag. And good intentions don’t excuse outcomes, especially when we now have enough ground-level experience with these theories to know they are fraught with overly-simplified assumptions rooted in middle class privileges. The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.


Peter Cohen

Filed under: Letters to the Editor

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