Re: "searching for the ideal city," by Frances Bula (December 2011).
I would like to thank Frances Bula for her very thoughtful review and the LRC for the opportunity to open a dialogue on a couple of key points she raises. I take the point about finding the right balance between the panorama and the closeup, the concrete and particular, and the world of ideas and theories that often drives change. But for better or worse, a powerful set of abstract guiding Ideas transformed the urban world in the two generations after World War Two. Walking Home: The Lye and Lessons of a City Builder was written, not only for those insiders for whom the drivers in this phase of urban history have become old hat, but also for people who might never pick up a book on city planning or design and for whom this "grounding" of what they see and experience every day is fresh news. Part of my goal was to form easily crossable bridges between the inside baseball discussion of these issues and those whose lives are affected in myriad ways by these unseen guiding hands.
I am hardly dismissive of suburbs. The truth is that most North Americans now live in them. The allure was and still is powerful and I lived it as a teenager, as I recount in the book. But cracks have appeared in the "dream" and, like it or not, this way of life is under stress. The combined effects of rising energy costs, congestion In big city regions and a public health crisis reflecting a sedentary life style, climate change and deteriorating air quality are taking their toll. From 2000 to 2010, the poverty rate in suburbs across the United States rose twice as fast as it did in cities, as people with more choices opt for more walkable places while first-ring suburbs experience deterioration and neglect, putting people who need them most out of easy reach of transit and services. But this is not "their" problem. We placed a collective bet and now have to face the consequences. To do that we need to get beyond the unhelpful "them and us" characterization of a cultural divide. The good news is that people are resilient. Some of the most interesting and important challenges I am involved with today have to do with the transformation of suburban settings by finding ways to introduce new transit options, redevelop struggling malls, diversify older subdivisions and introduce new employment.
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|Title Annotation:||Letters and Responses|
|Publication:||Literary Review of Canada|
|Article Type:||Letter to the editor|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2012|
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