The quality of this site's readership compels me to ask of you: "What makes a good city?"
That modern cities are, shall we say, less good than they should be is (I hope) something of a given. Those who actually thrive in such environments are not the kind of people you want your children to become. It's just plain wrong to walk ten city blocks without greeting anyone or being greeted.
James Howard Kunstler, if you can stomach his frequent vulgarities, has many worthwhile observations on the topic. (I recently threw his book "The City in Mind" into the flames due to his appalling blasphemies.) His musings on architecture, new urbanism, public spaces, city landscaping and so forth strike me as reasonable and humane.
But I lack a coherent vision of what makes a good city. Scale is certainly important. Plato imagined that the ideal city-state would have a population of around 30,000 souls, but this presumes a certain quality. Virginia in 1776 had a population of only 20,000, but just look at the astounding quality of men it produced - Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Henry, Wythe, and so forth. I look at my own county of 28,000 and weep. [Update: The population figure for Virginia is rightly challenged and corrected in the comments. It's badly off. Please don't quote it.]
Much of what makes cities attractive is what we would now call "diversity". Variety and choices. That's certainly true. But a city should also have character, which means it needs a degree of cultural unity. Character and cultural unity require two things: stability and religion. There needs to be a dominant religious character, and also a strong core of interconnected families who remain in the city for generations. A few modern cities can be described in such terms, but the characters of most are so shallow that such descriptions amount to an exercise in wishful thinking.
A serious deficit in modern cities is that of public space and its regular use by a cross-spectrum of the population. Many cities have public spaces enough, but they are too often monopolized by the homeless, or the drug-addicted, or idle young people. There is little reason for anyone else to gather in these places. A useful public space needs a focal point - a market, a church, a school, proximity to food and drink. The idea is that a man ought to be able to get up from the table after dinner, walk several blocks, and find a few familiar persons with whom to converse in a public space, preferably without needing any money.
And today we have .... the shopping mall.