Jane Jacobs, renowned urban activist, dead at 89
By Wojtek Dabrowski
TORONTO (Reuters) – Jane Jacobs, the social activist and
renowned urban development critic, died Tuesday at age 89.
Jacobs, an American-born Canadian, is best known for her
book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” which,
since its publication in 1961, has become a standard text on
Jacobs, who was born in Scranton, Pa., advocated density
and mixed use in communities, staunchly opposed large highways
and warned of urban sprawl.
She moved to Canada from the United States in the late
1960s, concerned about her two sons being drafted to serve in
the Vietnam War.
“Jane Jacobs will be remembered as one of the great urban
thinkers of our time,” Toronto Mayor David Miller said in a
statement. “Her contributions and insights have forever changed
the way North American cities are developed.”
Neil Thomlinson, associate professor of city politics at
Ryerson University, said Jacobs had a profound impact on
transforming the way major metropolitan centers are developed.
“Until she came along, the planning industry was just very
technocratic and not about people,” Thomlinson said. “I think
you’d be hard pressed to go anywhere (now) where people are
talking about the development of large urban centers and not
see her influence.”
On May 9, 1996, Jacobs was appointed an Officer of the
Order of Canada.
“Her seminal writings and thought-provoking commentaries on
urban development have had a tremendous effect on city
dwellers, planners and architects,” her citation on the Order
of Canada Web site states. “By stimulating discussion, change
and action, she has helped to make Canadian city streets and
neighborhoods vibrant, livable and workable for all.”
In a 2001 interview for Reason magazine, she spoke about
the distinctive nature each city should possess.
“It should be like itself. Every city has differences, from
its history, from its site, and so on. These are important,”
she said. “One of the most dismal things is when you go to a
city and it’s like 12 others you’ve seen. That’s not
interesting, and it’s not really truthful.”