The180·The 180

City building guru Jane Jacobs' legacy is high house prices and sprawl, says former Vancouver Mayor

Jane Jacobs ideas about 'mixed use' and 'eyes on the street' have been embraced by cities across North America. For years, Sam Sullivan worshipped at her altar. But when he served as Vancouver's Mayor in the mid 2000s, Sullivan says he realized that the planning evolution she started had resulted in sprawl, greenhouse gases and high housing prices.
Jane Jacobs, who wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities, would have turned 100 this week. (Google)

It was one of his fondest memories.

Years ago, Sam Sullivan sat on the porch of Jane Jacobs's home in Toronto's Annex neighbourhood and basked in the glory of a woman now considered a revolutionary in city building and urban planning circles.

I was such a big fan of hers, but over time as I tried to densify Vancouver, I ran into people who were advocates of Jane Jacobs' ideas and I realized then that there were some negative parts [to her legacy].- Sam Sullivan

Sullivan is referring to 2006 when he was Mayor of Vancouver, and had embarked upon a program called EcoDensity— a plan to densify Vancouver in what he saw as a means to improve housing affordability, sustainability and livability.

Though Vancouver city council did approve his plan, it was only after several drafts, hundreds of meetings and seven nights of public hearings - a total of two years had passed after Sullivan first announced the plan. 

Stopping the densification, stopping the towers, vetoing change — that was very much a legacy- Sam Sullivan

And that isn't the only negative result, according to Sullivan.

Vancouver's unaffordable housing market, Sullivan argues, is a byproduct of the movement against densification because as he sees it, the supply for housing was restricted. 

The market is screaming and the system is so deaf, and it's because we've put in place all these mechanisms to stop and veto things- Sam Sullivan

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