While touring around Holland, we passed through many cities and towns that had distinct but interconnected neighborhoods. Towns like Pijnacker and Houten have very limited vehicular access points into each neighborhood but many bike and pedestrian connections interconnecting the neighborhoods. Cities such as Amsterdam have neighborhoods that are naturally self-contained by the canals but interconnected none the less by the numerous bridges crossing the canals. Holland is a perfect example of what Jane Jacobs is trying to convey in Chapter 6 of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” She states that ultimately our failed city neighborhoods are due to failed “localized self-government.” (p149) The problem with this statement is that self-governance can’t appear immediately; it must come from the community through neighborhood associations, community events, and people wanting to take part in their community. If people don’t care about where they live, then their community will not thrive.
In Portland, OR the city has been divided into five distinct geographical districts with strong neighborhood associations such as the Buckman or Hollywood neighborhoods within them. This is due to strong public participation on all levels and influential interest groups such as the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC), Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), or Trimet Committee on Accessible Transportation (CAT) that actively participate in transportation projects and other planning events. According to Jacobs, a strong, thriving city neighborhood is dependent upon many factors, such as diversity, visitors, and a vibrant street life to name just a few. Another key aspect that Portland has is short city blocks, only 200ft, which is one of the four conditions for “exuberant diversity in a city’s streets” (p196). I agree with her four conditions, even though the concept of having a district involves many different applications and is successful only if it acts as the medium between the neighborhoods and the city.