Jane Jacobs Missed the Mark on Density

Jane Jacobs is probably the most well-regarded writer on urban issues in American history. But, as economist Edward L. Glaeser argues, her stance on urban density is a little bit off-target.

1 minute read

May 5, 2010, 12:00 PM PDT

By Nate Berg

Glaeser writes, "I don't have anything against Greenwich Village or six-story buildings, but the perspective of the economist pushes strongly against any attempt to postulate or, far worse, regulate a single perfect density.

Indeed, to anyone who respects consumer sovereignty, there is something a little jarring about Jacobs's question: 'What is the proper density for city dwellings?'

Why in the world should there be a 'proper density'? A good case can be made that cities succeed by offering a diverse menu of neighborhoods that cater to a wide range of tastes. Some people love Greenwich Village, and that's great, but I was perfectly happy growing up in a 25-story tower, and I don't see anything wrong with that, either."

Keeping density low causes a reduced supply, and that will basically drive prices up and limit those low-density areas to only the most affluent or prosperous people, according to Glaeser. He says cities need a variety of densities, including high densities.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 in The New York Times

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

View of Palos Verdes Drive along Pacific Ocean in Palos Verdes, California at sunset.

Erosion Threatens SoCal Road, Lloyd Wright Icon

The city of Palos Verdes is closing parts of a roadway to cyclists, citing safety concerns as the land underneath moves between 7 and 12 inches per week.

June 23 - Daily Breeze

Faded image of vacant storefront in rural area with American flag stars painteind on windows.

COVID Isn’t to Blame for the Retail Vacancy Crisis

A drop in demand for retail space began well before the seismic shifts of the pandemic.

June 23 - Slate

Heavy New York City traffic headed toward Holland Tunnel in Manhattan.

Judge Rules in Favor of MTA in Congestion Pricing Suit

Advocates of the program are calling on Gov. Hochul to reinstate the program in light of the decision.

June 23 - StreetsBlog NYC

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.