On livable cities lists (like this one):
Ricky Burdett, who founded the London School of Economics’ Cities Programme, says: “These surveys always come up with a list where no one would want to live. One wants to live in places which are large and complex, where you don’t know everyone and you don’t always know what’s going to happen next. Cities are places of opportunity but also of conflict, but where you can find safety in a crowd. “We also have to acknowledge that these cities that come top of the polls also don’t have any poor people,” he adds.
And that, it seems to me, touches on the big issue. Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s hugely influential book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (2009) seems to present an obvious truth – that places where the differential in income between the wealthiest and the poorest is smallest tend to engender a sense of satisfaction and well-being. But while it may be socially desirable, that kind of comfort doesn’t necessarily make for vibrancy or dynamism. If everybody is where they want to be, no one is going anywhere.
Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times
Heathcote's whole article is superb. (Small caution: anyone who loves Vancouver will need to stifle some outrage at the sweeping and sometimes false generalities about the city. But the larger point is worth taking in.)