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Jane Jacobs, InSeine Turbines, Cell Phones Attack, Bad Commutes, More ...

by / July 6, 2010
Jane Jacobs in Toronto Photo by Blake Harris

Does Jane Jacobs Gets Too Much Credit?
Photo of Jane Jacobs by former Digital Communities Editor Blake Harris

It has been almost 50 years since the publication of Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and the book has been cited to support almost every position in debates about city planning and urban policy. Jacobs's ideas have become ubiquitous all over the country. At a recent meeting of the Urban Land Institute, a national organization of real-estate developers and professionals, for example, she seemed to be quoted by almost every speaker -- developers, architects and academics all cited her work when talking about the future and how to do progressive development. Her book is on reading lists at every planning school and urban-studies program. Yet the time may have come to give Jacobs (who died in 2006) and her ideas something of a rest. Wall Street Journal

InSeine Power Turbines
The river Seine, the historical "sacred river" running through Paris, inspired Monet, Matisse and even the British painter Turner, who sat on its banks to capture the scenery. Now the landscape is to undergo a subtle change, with a plan to install eight turbines underneath the city's celebrated bridges to  raise energy from river currents. Paris City Hall is to launch an appeal this week for power companies to come up with suitable projects to install the turbines, or "hydroliennes." UK Guardian

Cell Phone Industry Attacks San Francisco Law
San Francisco, a city that banned the plastic bag, has now passed a law requiring retailers to inform their customers how much radiation the cellphones on their shelves emit, so shoppers can figure out how close the devices come to the upper limits on radiation set by the Federal Communications Commission. The law, which goes into effect early next year, didn't mention the word, but it was all about one thing: cancer, and whether cellphones cause it. The cellphone industry answered with its own C-word -- "cancel." After the vote, the CTIA wireless trade group called off its fall show, scheduled for San Francisco.  Washington Post

City Losing Millions in Uncollected Parking Tickets
On a day when Los Angeles laid off more than 200 employees, a new audit released last week revealed that the city is losing tens of millions of dollars in revenue because of collection practices that barely capture half of parking ticket fines and other fees. "I don't know of any business that would stand for such a low  collection rate," said City Controller Wendy Greuel, who released the audit of six departments -- police, fire, housing, transportation, sanitation and building and safety. "It's simply not  sustainable, and the city cannot and should not allow this." Los Angeles Times

City Crafts a New Downtown Plan
When city officials in 1999 last wrote a downtown Milwaukee master plan, the wish list of key proposals included a riverwalk expansion, a new public market in the historic Third Ward, and a remodeled Amtrak station. All three are now a reality. So the city is now unveiling its latest downtown plan including "catalytic" projects such as creating better walking connections between downtown  and the lakefront, and developing smaller forms of downtown housing, such as townhomes.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

So You Think Your Commute is Bad?
Quit whining about your commute. It isn't that bad, even for you Angelinos and New Yorkers. Your daily slog through traffic is nothing compared to Moscow, where people might spend more than three hours sucking exhaust fumes while going nowhere fast. Even that pales compared to New Dehli, where 96 percent of drivers say their commute is so hellish it harms their health. And you'll get no sympathy in Beijing, where traffic can get so bad that almost 7 out of 10 drivers have at some point said, "Screw this" and gone home. The Infrastructurist

Towing Tactics Anger Drivers
Year after year, scores of Arizonans whose cars and trucks are towed from parking lots describe the experience as a nightmare. They park in what they believe to be a public downtown lot only to return to see a tow truck hauling away their vehicles. If there are any signs to warn that the lot is private, they are so remote and weathered that they are unnoticeable. Arizona Republic