I’m a fan of Jacob’s. I devoured Life and Death of Great American Cities.
(Okay, not devoured, it took me like two years, but I was taking lots of notes, dog-earing pages and writing in the margins!)
Writing about the U.S., she predicted that the suburbs immediately outside of the center cities would fall into disfavor with a buying public that was continually looking for more land and bigger houses. These suburbs were ill-equipped to handle the influx of poor people that would eventually occupy them. They (the suburbs not the people) lacked pocket parks, low-rise apartments that oversaw the street, walkable streets and other marks of well-designed urban places that become, in effect, self-policing by design. She was worried that the isolated design of these suburbs would work poorly in conjunction with social ills of less-well-off communities. Thus, they require a heavy police state to protect the towns from the sorts of ills from which the town should naturally protect itself.
The riots outside of Paris this week have, unfortunately, underscored her thinking.
Paris has a ring of suburbs built after the war using the prevailing “wisdom” of modernism of the time: large apartment buildings isolated from each other in park-like settings and dependent on the car for transportation.
The talking-heads are going on about the lack of assimilation of France’s poor minorities as to blame for the violence?
But how are you to assimilate if you are stuck in a housing block isolated from the country around you? New York’s immigrants didn’t assimilate by moving to suburban housing estates. They lived in crowded conditions, near stores and transit and the cultural life of the major cities.
The immigrant gang problems in suburban Los Angeles and Washington, DC, only seem like Jacob’s thinking is coming to U.S. as our increasingly gentrifying cities can no longer find room for the poor.
The call of urban gentrification of the ’90s was “look at Paris.”