February 16, 2009
UN-CITYING OUR CITIES
It started as a sensible idea: workers' housing shouldn't be located next to smoke-belching heavy industry. But it has turned into an obsession with separating everything and everyone from everything and everyone else, a denial, on a massive scale, of community and of the bedrock urban reality of mutual interdependence.
Today we find ourselves with, not only separate neighbourhoods for the rich and the poor, but a fetish for spatial segregation that defies rational explanation: One area for $250,000 houses, another one for $350,000 houses, a third for $450,000 houses. Housing for old people where young people aren't welcome, family neighbourhoods where housing for the elderly isn't welcome. No housing where there is commerce, no factories (even clean ones) and no offices where there is either housing or retail trade, wide swaths of wasted land to ensure that everything is well and truly separated from everything else.
All these different forms of separation create many problems of isolation and dependency: old people who are trapped in their apartments, having to wait for rides before they can go anywhere; children who are trapped in their back yards except when their parents drive them somewhere else; parents who are forced to waste countless hours acting as chauffeurs for their children, and for workers, punishingly long commutes, often to low-wage jobs.
As usual, it is the most vulnerable who pay the heaviest price, the poor and the marginalized, who, in growing numbers, are relegated to those areas of the city that have been abandoned by everyone else. Being poor anywhere is a big problem, but it's a much bigger problem yet if you're living in a neighbourhood where there may be no good jobs, no opportunities for a good education, a neighbourhood that is likely to be terrorized by street gangs and assorted criminals. And, for good measure, the neighbourhood may be besieged by the threat of gentrification, facing residents with the prospect that they will be forced to trade their meagre refuge for absolute homelessness.
Last Saturday's Globe and Mail carried a series on one of the worst of such neighbourhoods, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The series is honest journalism that asks the right questions and doesn't shrink from the answers. Robert Matas calculates that Canadian taxpayers have paid out something on the order of $1.4 billion since 2000 without achieving any real improvements in the neighbourhood, and Gary Mason takes up the cudgels on behalf of Vancouverites who share an apparently growing determination to find a way of putting an end to the misery.
We can get some sense of the size of the challenge by reflecting on the depth of the problem. It began with a long-standing unwillingness of wealthy people to live near poor people, proceeded to a growing unwillingness of better-off people to share space with anyone less well off, and ended with a distaste for any kind of human diversity. If cities are anything, they are places where many different kinds of people live and work at close quarters and cannot avoid the reality of mutual interdependence.
We have tried to deny that reality, to un-city our cities, and blind karma has repaid us with places, like the Downtown Eastside, that are a devil's brew of abandonment, misfortune, drugs and crime. There have, of course, always been places in cities where marginalized people live, but the obsessiveness and relentlessness with which the fortunate separate themselves from those who need help is probably unique to our times.
There is no simple fix for such problems, though a stronger social housing policy could bring hope to many marginalized people, and, with changes in zoning rules, commercial areas could become excellent locations for the cost-effective creation of affordable housing. But in the long run, we all need to reflect on the folly of believing that we can, at one and the same time, enjoy the benefits of city life and separate ourselves from those who are different from us.
Want to give some thought to this problem? Here are suggested readings:
Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961.
Peter Marcuse, "The Enclave, the Citadel and the Ghetto: What Has Changed in the Post-Fordist U.S. City". Urban Affairs Review 33 (2), pp. 233-43.
Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. New York: North Point Press, 2000.
For other discussions of land use issues, check out these links:
February 12, 2006
CITY POLITICS (POL-2500/3)
Study questions Jacobs
More Jacobs questions
Week of 27 September
Week of 4 October
Week of 11 October.
Week of 18 October
Week of 25 October
Weeks of 1 and 8 November
16 November to end of course
Questions for the final exam
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
URBAN ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS (RIGHT TO LEFT)
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
The Mayor's web page
Winnipeg Citizens' Coalition
Winnipeg Rapid Transit Coalition
Light Rail Now
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
OPPORTUNITIES TO PUT YOUR EDUCATION TO WORK
Student essay contest
Note: This is an annual contest. I'll post information regarding the 2010 contest when it's available.
Institute of Urban Studies (IUS) student paper contest
How to enter the IUS contest
Jane's Walk was a big success in Winnipeg last May. You might be interested in helping to organize another one in 2009.
POWER POINTS OF PAST LECTURES (no pictures)
Municipal government in context
Origins of municipal government: Political analysis
Origins of municipal government: Institutional analysis
How city government works
Posted by leo-c at 2:38 PM
February 11, 2006
ISSUES IN CITY POLITICS (POL-2505/3)
OPPORTUNITIES TO PUT YOUR EDUCATION TO WORK
Please bear in mind that anyone can post any nonsense on the internet. You need to evaluate these sources with the same critical eye that you would use with any library or magazine source. Who is the author? What is her institutional affiliation? What are his credentials?
POWER POINTS OF PAST LECTURES (no pictures)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Winnipeg could be a city we love - but not the way we're going about it
Physicist develops a science of urban growth that turns out to support Jane Jacobs
Are downtowns recovering?
Developer: Strong demand for walkable city neighbourhoods
End of the automobile era?
New York says goodbye to blank walls.
Attacking the menace of overbuilt roads
An urban or suburban future? It depends on how we plan.
Is a culture shift underway? More people prefer urban to suburban living.
Culture shift: EPA study
Point Douglas: Aboriginal people say no to crime
We really have to fix those roads, Katz says
Does it make sense to build a highway through River Heights?
Thoughtful article about the future of cities
Is rural fundamentalism dying out?
Un-citying our cities
Car sharing in the Osborne and Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhoods
Overbuilt suburban malls
Geothermal heating: Renovator succeeds where the province and Ladco failed
The next slum
Life on the fringes becomes untenable
Main Street: Development or degradation?
They're banking on Main: Architects purchase building for offices
Neon Factory returning to its Main Street roots: Owner hopes to light up derelict stretch
Sprawl and the revenge of Gaia
Edge cities: Early beginnings
Ten things wrong with sprawl
Posted by leo-c at 2:51 PM
February 9, 2006
COMMUNITY DEMOCRACY IN A GLOBAL AGE (POL-3520/3)
Questions for the final
Posted by leo-c at 12:52 PM
February 8, 2006
POLITICS OF URBAN PLANNING (POL-4505/7505/6)
PUBLISH YOUR WORK: STUDENT ESSAY CONTEST
Publish in JACK
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Barriers to good development
City drags its heels on downtown housing
Downtown revitalization: Where do low-income residents belong?
Is Winnipeg following Leinberger's prescriptions?
Is Winnipeg following Leinberger's prescriptions? Glossary
Aboriginal people say no to crime
Who benefits from aboriginal programming, First Nations people or bureaucrats, lawyers and consultants?
Is it a good idea to build a highway through River Heights?
At last! Rapid transit in Winnipeg
Rapid transit: Cost or opportunity?
Does rapid transit fight sprawl? Not necessarily
Link to a map of the proposed transit corridor
The next slum
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
Dealing with sprawl
1. How can we expect cities to become more compact in a wired, highly mobile world?
2. It's obvious people like their quiet, residential neighbourhoods, their shopping malls, and their big box stores. How can there be any hope for compact, mixed-use development in light of those preferences?
3. If combatting sprawl requires filling in empty spaces within the urban perimeter, who's going to live in those empty spaces? Where's the market for infill neighbourhoods?
4. Social isolation isn't something that's been imposed on an unwilling public by evil real estate people. Rich people don't like to live in the same neighbourhoods with middle class people and middle class people don't like to live in the same neighbourhoods with poor people. What are those who complain about social isolation advocating, mind control?
Modernism and reactions to it (Gillham, chapter 3)
5. What is modernism? Where can you find it in Winnipeg?
6. What influence have counter-trends to modernism had on Winnipeg? Identify some examples and characterize them.
7. How does the history of expressways and major roads in Winnipeg - and Canada generally - compare with the American history set out in Gillham?
Growth management in Portland
8. What's the difference between growth control and growth management?
9. Explain the authority structures that bring about the urban growth boundary.
10. What does Kotkin have to say about Portland, and what do you make of his argument?
Public participation in government decision-making
11. What are the advantages of wide public participation in government decision-making?
12. Are there any disadvantages?
13. If there is to be public participation, what’s the best way to do it: questionnaires, public hearings, advisory panels, or what?
14. Have you had any relevant personal experiences, or heard or read about those of of others?
15. Does the discussion of legitimization in the Portland article contribute anything?
Urban aboriginal policy
16. Is it correct to characterize Jean Allard as ideologically close to the Fraser Institute? More generally: The debates over aboriginal issues are strait-jacketed by duelling political correctness. I'll call one of them conventional political correctness and the other the political correctness of talk radio. In the illustration below, how would you place your views of urban aboriginal issues?
17. How can a city help integrate migrating aboriginal populations without being accused of assimilating the population?
18. Is the Kapyong Barracks Urban Reserve a good idea?
19. Canada has a long tradition, now somewhat tarnished, of a social safety net that supposedly sets a basic standard of medical care available to all Canadians, and puts a floor under poverty. Can we have both place-based public policy and national standards?
20. Sam Katz says the City of Winnipeg keeps just eight per cent of the revenues governments collect from Winnipeggers. Instead of a lot of interfering senior governments using Winnipeg, or particular Winnipeg neighbourhoods, for their policy experiments, shouldn’t the city just get a bigger share of total government revenues?
February 6, 2006
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL NOTE-TAKING
"Read not to contradict and confute, not to believe and take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider." Sir Francis Bacon.
A general rule for all note-taking, whether lectures or readings: Listen or read and think. Decide what's important to you, and summarize it in complete sentences.
Learning is an active process. The only way you learn is by processing the material in question through your own mind, and integrating it with what you know already. That's what you're doing when you read or listen and summarize.
Reading or lecture notes that consist of words, phrases and incomplete sentences are limited in their usefulness, because they're open to interpretation. When you return to them in a month or three months, you will have trouble understanding them, because you won't remember which interpretation you were placing on them when you wrote them.
Underlining or highlighting text in your readings is useful only if you already have an understanding of the material being covered. In that case, it can remind you where the key points are for the next time you use the text.
Conclusion: The way to learn, and the way to remember are the same: Think, summarize what's important to you and write it down in complete sentences.
Taking notes for lectures
Reserve a wide margin on one side of each page you use for taking notes. In taking notes, follow the procedures set out above: Listen, summarize, write complete sentences. Sometime before each lecture, take ten minutes to go through your notes from the last lecture, and put any necessary corrections or explanations in the margin.
Those extra ten minutes yield two benefits. First, when the next lecture begins, you're clued in from the first sentence, instead of spending the first five minutes trying to remember what the course is about. Second - here's the real pay-off - when you study your notes for the final, you won't be memorizing them. You'll remember most of the material, and studying will consist of reminding yourself of things you know already.
Taking reading notes
The most important part of the reading process is deciding what you need to read. In a book, look at the table of contents and quickly read introductory and concluding chapters to get a sense of the overall argument. Then decide what you need to learn and read it carefully. In a chapter or article, use the abstract, the section headings, and the introductory and concluding sections in the same way.
Careful reading of the material you need to learn: Read section by section and take notes after you finish each section. After finishing a section, decide what the important points are and summarize them as briefly as possible, in complete sentences.
Personal note: When I was an undergraduate, I was semi-motivated, and, like most students, I studied irregularly, took notes inefficiently, pulled all-nighters for essays and crammed for exams. My marks were just good enough to squeak into graduate school. In graduate school, I knew the real world was upon me, and I evolved the methods set out above. After that it was straight A's all the way.
Conclusion: Develop an effective, efficient system for studying and note-taking, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.
Posted by leo-c at 11:11 AM