Peter Rees and The City vs. Families

From the 2007 Cities Conference on Urban Design, a panel on “What Makes a Healthy Downtown?” included planners from London, Singapore, Toronto, Vancouver and Boston.

Of note are some hard-hitting comments from Peter Rees, the planning officer for The City of London. It’s worthwhile to read the whole transcription of the debate for context — but Rees’ candid comments would certainly turn heads in urban planning circles.

“The worst thing you can have in downtown is families. Families kill cities. Families are boring. What you must not do is create a downtown that is mixed-use residential.”

“The City of London about is only one square mile, and we don’t have room for everything. I would direct your attention to the fact that important things like world financial centers and world centers of nightlife are easily killed by residents.

Residents move into SoHo, and the first thing they do is complain about the noise and late night activity, and you wonder why they moved in there in the first place. Now of course other cities have residents downtown, but in the heart of a world financial center, where we’ve renewed 50 percent of the floor space in the last 15 years, we can’t afford to have NIMBYs stopping that process.”

My brief take: Rees makes an interesting argument. With The City, he is a guardian of arguably the world’s most important financial district. But… it’s rather unfair to directly correlate families with Nimby tendencies.

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