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JAMES LEMON Urban Planning in TwentiethCentury North America: From Success to Irrelevancy? The Liveable Metropolisl a colourful brochure from the Metropolitan Toronto Planning Department, slid last fall through my mail slot, announcing yet another proposed plan. It follows on the heels of the City of Toronto's Cityplan '91. Again, Metro has produced a mountain of paper after hours and hours of talkl though probably no more than yet another planning exercise such as resulted in the recent Regeneration on Toronto's waterfront. Like Vancouverites, or at least those active in the urban political scene in what have been rapidly growing cities, Torontonians love to dream about rearranging the environment. The planning 'industry ' just keeps going endlessly, operating more smoothly, if less conspicuously, than that other great intellectual enterprise of recent times, the redrawing of the Constitution.1 The word 'planning' has been one of the powerful words of the past century. The American Planning Association met for the first time in 1909.2 That same year, persuaded by planners and apparently by Theodore Roosevelt, Canada's federal government set up the Commission of Conversation with a wide mandate of planning concern including the quality of life in countryside and city.3 These two foundings are often seen as the start of formal urban and regional planning north of the Rio Grande. That same year, businessmen and the architectural elite unveiled a grand plan for the Chicago area, and a more modest one for Toronto. In 1929, New York businessmen put forward the Regional Plan of New York, a massive effort t6 ensure Manhattan's economic power in the region and country. The Great Depression drew out more calls for planning. In Canada, the League for Social Reconstruction published Social Planning for Canada, widening the scope of planning. Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats engaged in a variety of new initiatives. From the 1940s onward, governments engaged in urban planning on a continuous basis. Toronto has seen many plans. Recently the Economist has made a case for centralized urban planning,4 and we all know that our municipalities pay a lot of people entitled planners. Urban planning has been subsidiary to economic and social planning. Starting in 1929, Stalin's five-year plans focused and forced industrialization in the Soviet Union. Western European governments, and later Quebec, developed 'industrial strategies' to focus investment. Even if it UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 4, SUMMER 1993 442 JAMES LEMON was not graced by the term "planning,' the United States operated under a government-sponsored industrial strategy fostering military " and space spending - with profound regional and urban impacts. In the wake of the Great Depression, social planning arose, and now environmental planning has joined the fray. In the Planning Programme at the University of Toronto, all these kinds of planning are fields, though one can wonder how they are kept separate, since like the social sciences generally they overlap and interpenetrate one another. And all are concerned about how to get something done for the public good - that is through politics. In this discussion I will focus on urban and regional planning, if not exclusively. I have been directly involved in the politics of planning in Toronto. But as a historical geographer of cities, I also analyse and reflect on the rise of planning to such prominence in this century and its antecedents. I will attempt to provide a historical interpretation primarily of the rise and, it seems, the decline, or possibly even irrelevance, of urban and regional planning in the context of economic growth, ideologies, and the leadership of institutions. I will argue further that Canada has had more success with planning than has the United States, or rather, to put it more cautiously, city problems have been less obvious in Canada and planning may have had something to do with it. After alt Jane Jacobs, New York's famous "anti-planner,' has found living in Toronto's Annex very attractive since she arrived in 1968, though ironically in a city with perhaps more, planners than anywhere else.5 Toronto seems more efficient, safe, and pleasant than, say, Detroit. Urban planning has a much longer history than just the past nine...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 441-455
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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