Edward Glaeser has a great review in the New Republic of Anthony Flint’s Wrestling with Moses, which is about the planning battles in New York in the 1950s and 60s between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.  Glaeser ultimately has a bit of sympathy for Moses, which is to say he has more sympathy for Moses than I do.  But he’s also got a smart observation about how Jacobs’ legacy has been to make planning more accountable at the local level:

Jacobs did help to make public decisions more accountable, which is an incontrovertibly good thing. There is little to like in arbitrary public power—but at this point the pendulum has swung too far. Today it often feels as if every neighbor has veto rights over every new project, public or private.

Good point, but that’s not all.  Jacobs’ used local activism to make city planners accountable to the neighbourhoods their plans affected.  But she also used it to advocate for livable, mixed-use development with three- and four-story buildings.  Here in Vancouver at least, things are a lot different now.  On the Cambie corridor south of King Edward, it’s the city planners who want more livable, mixed-use development with three- and four-story buildings, and it’s the local activists who are trying to stop it.

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