Jane Jacobs was an urbanist, author, and activist who challenged prevailing urban planning methods and influenced generations of planners and city-dwellers. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers, and that traditional planning policies were leading to the the decline of American neighbourhoods.
Known for organizing grassroots efforts to protect neighbourhoods, Jacobs was arrested in 1968 for inciting a riot at a public hearing on the planned Lower Manhattan Expressway, which her committee had been successful in blocking. Shortly after, opposed to the Vietnam War and frustrated with her fight to build a better New York City, she moved to Toronto. She said that Toronto was “a very refreshing city,” and continued her passionate fight for better city-planning until her death in 2006. Jacobs successfully opposed the expansion of the Spadina Expressway into downtown, and was influential in the revitalization of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. She continued to publish books, and was arrested twice while demonstrating in the city. In 1996, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. The first annual Jane’s Walk event was held in 2007.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
– Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)