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No rigour went into the production of this book. I suspect its rave reviews may be from people Brown personally asked to rate it. At least one states he met Brown personally. I feel conned.
The book is a series of anecdotes about a few particular developers. Brown makes no attempt to explain why these few cases are representative of other developers, and I would argue they are not. There is no research, no data—no contribution—except a few interviews with some particularly successful developers. The book should be called, “How These Three Guys Think.”
As a planning advocate, I am very familiar with the community v. developer fights Brown describes. At many of those meetings, someone will stand up and rant about an anecdote irrelevant to solving the broader issues at hand. Brown reads like one of those people: “Yeah, well I knew this developer once, and he was a pretty good guy, so…” So what? So nothing.
The introduction lays out a very exciting, necessary goal: to explain the needs of developers so communities can better understand what kinds of demands and criticisms can actually result in a better project. That's a great idea: someone should write that book. It would require, however, actual analysis of development economics and data. It would require figuring out what kind of developments are most common, rather than focusing on a few exceptional buildings. It would require a close-up analysis of actual development controversies from both sides. To uncritically repeat what a few developers told the author fails to accomplish greater understanding.
He writes that “All developers are visionaries.” Nope. This kind of broad-brush statement is no more accurate than criticisms like, “All developers are greedy vampires.” And besides, the book largely misses the point: conflict between developers and community can be so heated because there are structural realities that pit them against each other. That’s why the same fights repeat themselves in cities across North America. It’s not just a matter of understanding each other.
It was only because of the rave reviews that I finished this book. If you’re reading this, I want to warn you not to do the same.
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