Saturday, July 24, 2010

What "Serious People" believe

When I read the following in Paul Krugman's column in the NY Times, I thought of the herd of "progressive" lemmings in local government and politics: "When I was young and naive, I believed that important people took positions based on careful consideration of the options. Now I know better. Much of what Serious People believe rests on prejudices, not analysis. And these prejudices are subject to fads and fashions."

The most prominent policy fads in SF politics: the bicycle fantasy and anti-carism in general, the transit corridors myth, and the neighborhood destroying assumptions underlying the dense development and residential highrise bunk promulgated by the Planning Dept. A lot of these fashionable planning cliches are supposedly based on the writings of Jane Jacobs, who I suspect would be appalled at how her work is being interpreted by the "new urbanists."
 
Krugman also has a must-read blog.

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4 Comments:

At 5:28 PM, Anonymous kwk said...

The current dispenser of the Jane Jacobs KoolAid is urban-studies professor Richard Florida. He seems to be the reigning Svengali among the newer group of SF City Planners; one expects that a recent graduate must have an autographed copy of his book, The Rise of the Creative Class to even be considered for a job:
"It's quite remarkable how many city planners and developers . . . walk around either carrying or quoting this book as if it were a bible of how to make their city hip and modern and successful." (Karrie Jacobs, 2005)

Obviously Jacobs was correct in the 1960s about freeways cutting through cities and government "urban renewal" programs but Florida, et al., use her as a launching pad to "save the soul" of your town:
"Jacob's recipe for livable and vibrant cities--keep the scale small, preserve the physical fabric of neighborhoods--has become . . . the lingua franca of planners and city lovers . . . the urban ideal being "the cool neighborhood at the moment before the first Starbucks moves in." (B. Schwarz, 2010)

The result is that these Livable Streets/ Bike Coalition/ Pavement-to-Parks folk are making San Francisco look like the rest the country--every hip modern city has a Valencia Street now. You can hire Richard Florida to lecture on exactly how to do this in your town and then you can have a company in Emeryville produce a video extolling the result:
Valencia St. in Every Town

Turn Here Films has done dozens of these and they all look exactly the same! Watching them makes one wonder why all those bicyclist/hipsters on Valencia just didn't stay home, it would be a lot cheaper.

But Jacobs did get one other thing right, which probably says much about the direction the Planning Department is pushing the City than any of their fantasy pronouncments, she said, "when a place gets boring even the rich people leave."

 
At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A lot of these fashionable planning cliches are supposedly based on the writings of Jane Jacobs, who I suspect would be appalled at how her work is being interpreted by the "new urbanists."

Of course you don't know, though, because you've never read any.

 
At 6:20 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I admit it's been a long time since I've read Jacobs, but I don't recall any mention of constructing new 40-story highrises (the Market/Octavia Plan) as a way to make a city more "liveable." Nor do I recall any referene to trashing state and national landmarks (the UC extension development) as a way to preserve neighborhoods. Nor do I recall any suggestion that deliberately making traffic worse in a major American city (the Bicycle Plan) will somehow enhance the urban experience.

 
At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bike nuts are at it again. A cyclist murdered a motorist because he was offended about the driver's DUI.

 

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