OBSERVING GREAT NEIGHBORHOODS: THE SIMPLE URBANOLOGY OF JANE JACOBS
JANE JACOBS WALK IN NORTH BEACH
Saturday, May 31, 2014
11:00 AM: Meet at the Firemen Statue in Washington Square Park
Near corner of Columbus Avenue and Filbert Street.
Join Elizabeth Vasile, Ph.D for an interactive walk to discuss why North Beach is one of the most livable and fascinating neighborhoods in America. Famed urbanologist Jane Jacobs’ birthday is in May, inspiring neighborhood walks around the world.
Bring your favorite Jane Jacobs book, article, quotes, photographs….
12:00 PM + (after the walk): Food and drink (no-host bar)at Rogue Ales’ patio at Union/ Powell Streets. We’ll continue the Jane Jacobs discussion and have a brief review of No Dig activities over the past year and a summary (if it is finalized) of the federal lawsuit against Muni.
Walk Map and Jane Jacobs info at http://nonorthbeachdig.org/JaneJacobs.html
AMERICAN PLANNING ASSOCIATION: North Beach—2007 top ten great neighborhoods.
This thriving, European-style neighborhood — nestled in a sunny, wind-protected valley between San Francisco’s financial district, Chinatown, and Russian and Telegraph Hills — has evolved into one of the city’s most unique and authentic communities. North Beach, with the help of planning and zoning tools, has managed to preserve its essential character: a mix of tolerance and tradition in both its built and social environments.
What truly makes North Beach unique are the people who live there. If they are left behind by the market, so, too, is the character that a century of effort has kept in place.
NATIONAL TRUST: “Older, Smaller, Better: Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influences urban vitality”
In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs observed that “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.” This Preservation Green Lab report provides the most complete empirical validation to date of Jacobs’ long-respected, but largely untested hypothesis: That neighborhoods containing a mix of older, smaller buildings of diverse age support greater levels of positive economic and social activity than areas dominated by newer, larger buildings. These findings support the idea that retaining blocks of older, smaller, mixed-vintage buildings can help cities achieve sustainable development goals and foster great neighborhoods.
NATIONAL TRUST: “Jane Jacobs and 21st Century Preservation”
Jacobs’s 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, has been called “the most influential American text about the inner workings and failings of cities.” Using plain language and arguments built upon observation and intuition, Jacobs set the practice of planning on its head, arguing for planning concepts and land use policies that didn’t reach national prominence until decades later. Such ideas include land use zones explicitly allowing a mixture of residential and commercial uses; the notion of designing for “eyes on the street” as a way to naturally make public spaces safer; the importance of distinctive, locally-owned and operated businesses to support neighborhood vitality; and the value of retaining a mix of old and new buildings to support varied social and economic activity throughout the diurnal cycle. Before it was in fashion, Jacobs wrote about cities as though cities themselves were living organisms with functioning ecologies, an analogy that has grown increasingly commonplace and finds regular application in discussions of sustainability and resilience.
Jane Jacobs took a practical approach to thinking about cities and the role of older buildings in healthy neighborhoods. Jacobs argued for the preservation of “not museum-piece old buildings … [but] a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings” (Death and Life, p. 187). She suggested that old buildings are partially useful simply because they often provide more affordable spaces than new buildings.
To Jacobs, diversity was paramount, and she considered diversity in a multitude of forms. She argued that neighborhoods need a mix of recreational, commercial, industrial, and residential uses and that cities need a mix of economic engines, including both startup entrepreneurs and more established business models. She also argued that neighborhoods need a mix of old and new buildings and not simply one or the other.