Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ocean Beach, Jane Jacobs, and Kelly Quinn

Ocean Beach is a great place. And I think Jane Jacobs would approve of Ocean Beach because, though it is not part of a grid system which she was such an advocate for ( a grid is the basic idea of a divided piece of land that provides equal size blocks, that dominates the landscape of the US), much of the grid system of San Francisco ends here. It is so large that much of San Francisco has access to it by simply walking or driving West.

The reason I am thinking about Ocean Beach in relation to what Jane Jacobs and Kelly Quinn had to say is because I love the vastness of it, how it's open to everyone (no fees or major restrictions) and how when it's a nice day out the whole city seems to flock to the beach. As Kelly Quinn said Thursday as a speaker for our Davies Forum on Digital Literacy class, "the grid is the most democratic form of urban planning, because at the corner we have the opportunity to meet people unlike ourselves." I think Ocean Beach is like this too! Because of its size and accessibility, day and night, and because of what it is as nature and as land's end, there are all sorts of different people at the beach.

Kelly Quinn said Thursday, "one of my real fascinations is with urban furniture." She then showed the class a slide of a photo of two benches facing each other. These benches almost require conversation, and human interaction, she pointed out. This brings up an interesting point. Ocean Beach has benches too, and a large ledge in an area where people can sit, though these benches face the water, not each other. But to me it seems like since everyone is there because they enjoy the beach -they all have this in common- and so the human interaction there is meaningful. This has to do with safety too. Though there is probably less of a permanent community at the beach, like a neighborhood would have, that knows who is who and keeps its eyes out for strangers, I feel like the mutual enjoyment of the beach is a safe thing in itself. One can probably tell and feel the difference between a person there to enjoy the beach and someone there to cause ruckus.

Quinn also mentioned the importance of trees. The more plants and trees, the less hot the climate. This is important, she mentioned, for elders. People don't like to come outside when it's really hot, and so are less involved and part of the community. Though there aren't trees at Ocean Beach, there's always a nice breeze.

Safety is of great importance to Jane Jacobs. I think Ocean Beach is very safe. During the day, as long as there aren't gale force winds or rain, people are always out: elders walking or sitting, parents walking kids in strollers, surfers, wind surfers, and couples. During the night, although the beach itself (the sand beyond the boardwalk lit by cars and lights on the street) is dark, partyers and bon-fire goers keep watch. To Jane Jacobs, eyes are very important. The more eyes on an area, the safer the area. The fact that there are so many people at Ocean Beach is itself probably one of the reasons why there are so many people at Ocean Beach. Jacobs says in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, "Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off an on, by watching street activity" (p 35). (my emphasis). To me this says, people need people- a large theme of the first three chapters of her book.

1 comment:

david silver said...

i really like this post, lis. i think the way you bring together quinn and jacobs, and then apply it now towards a city grid but towards the ocean at land's end, is very creative and interesting. and nice photographs, too.