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Pursuing design excellence : urban design as public policy on Toronto's waterfront, 1999-2010 White, James Thomas 2013

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PURSUING DESIGN EXCELLENCE: URBAN DESIGN AS PUBLIC POLICY ON TORONTO’S WATERFRONT, 1999-2010  by  JAMES THOMAS WHITE  B.Sc. (Hons), Cardiff University, 2002 M.A., Cardiff University, 2007  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY  in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Planning)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) March 2013  © James Thomas White, 2013  ABSTRACT  As one of the largest post-industrial redevelopment projects in North America, Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront is a key site for examining a range of policy tools and regulatory mechanisms that can be used to foster design-sensitive city planning practices. This research asks the question ‘How do planning processes affect the quality and execution of urban design?’ It uses an amended series of thirteen principles, initially developed by John Punter (2003), to analyze and evaluate the policymaking, implementation efforts and outcomes of the waterfront urban design process. The primary research data was collected using in-depth semi-structured interviews, archival documents and direct observations of the public realm. The research found that after many decades of failed planning efforts, a waterfront-focused bid for the 2008 Olympic Games caused the municipal, provincial and federal governments to contribute $1.5 billion to the waterfront redevelopment effort and establish a triumvirate public-private partnership to lead a comprehensive master planning process. ‘Design excellence’ was revealed to be a guiding policy aim of the waterfront redevelopment programme. Although the public-private partnership had a limited institutional mandate to deliver on its planning and design objectives, findings show that innovative design-sensitive policy tools and regulatory measures were established outside of the statutory planning framework to achieve design excellence. An urban design peer review panel, design competitions and neighbourhood master planning served to counter a weak and unpredictable jurisdictional context.  ii  PREFACE  Approved by UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board Minimal Risk (Certificate Number: H10-02882)  iii  TABLE OF CONTENTS  Abstract ................................................................................................. ii Preface ..................................................................................................iii Table of Contents .................................................................................... iv List of Figures .......................................................................................... x Acknowledgem ents ................................................................................. xii CHAPTER 1 Introduction .............................................................................................1 Urban Design as Public Policy ...........................................................................................................2 Research Problem..............................................................................................................................3 A Canadian Case Study of Urban Design as Public Policy................................................................5 Why Toronto’s Waterfront? ................................................................................................................8 Locating Toronto’s Waterfront ......................................................................................................10 A Brief Planning and Design History of Toronto’s Waterfront ..........................................................13 Research Purpose and Questions ...................................................................................................17 Dissertation Structure.......................................................................................................................18 CHAPTER 2 Literature Review: Postmodern Urban Design and the Foundations of Urban Design as Public Policy ................................................................... 20 Postmodern Urban Design ...............................................................................................................20 The Artistic Tradition ....................................................................................................................24 The Social Usage Tradition ..........................................................................................................27 Postmodern Urban Design Principles ..........................................................................................32 Postmodern Urban Design Principles in Practice.............................................................................34 New York City and ‘Urban Design as Public Policy’.....................................................................38 New Urbanism ..............................................................................................................................40 The Vancouver Achievement .......................................................................................................42 Postmodern Urban Design Theory and Practice and its Discontents ..............................................45 Concluding Summary: Postmodern Urban Design as a Positive Force? .........................................48  iv  TABLE OF CONTENTS  CHAPTER 3 Theoretical Framework: Principles for Progressive Urban Design as Public Policy .............................. 51 Principles for Progressive Urban Design as Public Policy ...............................................................51 Community Vision Principles........................................................................................................54 Design, Planning and Zoning Principles.......................................................................................55 Broad, Substantive Design Principles ..........................................................................................59 Due Process Principles ................................................................................................................61 Evaluating Urban Design as Public Policy on Toronto’s Waterfront.................................................64 Amendment 1: Ecological Urban Design......................................................................................65 Amendment 2: Collaborative Decision-Making ............................................................................69 Amendment 3: Urban Designers as Market Actors ......................................................................74 An Amended Framework for Evaluating Urban Design as Public Policy .........................................77 Concluding Summary: A Guiding Definition of Urban Design ..........................................................79 CHAPTER 4 Research Methodology: The Case of Toronto’s Waterfront ............................................................. 81 Research Strategy............................................................................................................................82 The Role of the Case Study Method in Urban Design Research .................................................82 A Case Against Cases? ...............................................................................................................84 Defining the Case of Toronto’s Waterfront .......................................................................................85 Data Collection Procedures..............................................................................................................86 Interviews .....................................................................................................................................87 Documents and Archival Records ................................................................................................94 Direct Observation........................................................................................................................97 Data Analysis Procedures ................................................................................................................98 Content Analysis ..........................................................................................................................99 Urban Design Assessment.........................................................................................................101 Validity of Research Findings.........................................................................................................102 Ethical Considerations....................................................................................................................103 Concluding Summary .....................................................................................................................104  v  TABLE OF CONTENTS  CHAPTER 5 Establishing the Conditions for a Design Sensitive Practice ........................ 106 The Olympic Catalyst .....................................................................................................................107 Creating A Task Force for the Waterfront ......................................................................................108 Our Toronto Waterfront: The Wave of the Future! .........................................................................109 Robert Fung and the Task Force Players ......................................................................................111 Our Toronto Waterfront: Gateway to the New Canada ..................................................................113 Making the Case for a Waterfront Redevelopment Corporation ....................................................122 Our Toronto Waterfront: Building Momentum ................................................................................125 $1.5 Billion for Waterfront Revitalization ........................................................................................128 Formation of Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation..........................................................129 A Planning Framework for Toronto’s Waterfront ............................................................................132 Key Influences on the Making Waves Secondary Plan..............................................................132 Central Waterfront Secondary Plan: Principles for Building Toronto’s Waterfront .....................134 The Release of The Central Waterfront Secondary Plan and its Reception ..............................139 Beginning the Process of Waterfront Planning and Management..................................................141 Toronto’s ‘Waterfront Mayor’ ......................................................................................................142 Limitations of the TWRC Governance Model ............................................................................144 Governance and Finance Review .............................................................................................146 Partial Implementation of the Governance and Finance Review ...............................................148 Shifting Leadership at the TWRC ...............................................................................................149 Implementing ‘Design Excellence’..................................................................................................150 New Design-Sensitive Tools ......................................................................................................152 Concluding Assessment: Conditions for Design Sensitive Practice?.............................................155  vi  TABLE OF CONTENTS  CHAPTER 6 Building a Constituency for Revitalization: The East Bayfront Precinct Plan............................................................... 160 The Toronto Waterfront Precinct Plans ..........................................................................................161 Protecting the Precinct Plan Principles ......................................................................................165 Public Consultation and Participation on Toronto’s Waterfront ......................................................167 Building Early Relationships.......................................................................................................169 Towards a Public Consultation and Participation Strategy.........................................................175 Implementing an Iterative Dialogue............................................................................................177 Leading with Public Consultation and Participation on Toronto’s Waterfront ............................179 Criticisms of Waterfront Toronto’s Public Consultation Efforts...................................................182 Planning the East Bayfront.............................................................................................................183 Planning East Bayfront with Local Residents and Stakeholders....................................................185 Public Forum 1: Setting the Context and Learning from Local People ......................................186 Public Forum 2: Considering Three Design Options ..................................................................189 Public Forum 3: Evaluating the Draft Conceptual Design ..........................................................192 Public Forum 4: Reviewing the Draft Precinct Plan....................................................................195 The East Bayfront Precinct Plan ....................................................................................................196 An Alternative Precinct Plan?.....................................................................................................199 From Plan to Prescriptions .............................................................................................................204 East Bayfront West-Precinct Urban Design Guidelines .............................................................207 From Planning and Design to Real Estate Development ...........................................................213 Building the East Bayfront ..............................................................................................................217 Master planning the East Bayfront Precinct: An Assessment ........................................................218 The Reality of Real Estate Development ...................................................................................219 Maintaining Trust with Local Community Stakeholders..............................................................221 Concluding Summary: A Constituency for Revitalization ...............................................................224  vii  TABLE OF CONTENTS  CHAPTER 7 Parks and Open Space: Design Excellence on the Waterfront ....................................................... 228 Waterfront Parks and Open Spaces...............................................................................................229 The Value of Parks and Open Space.........................................................................................229 Toronto Waterfront Design Initiative...........................................................................................233 Central Waterfront Public Space Framework .............................................................................235 Harbourfront Central Master Plan ..............................................................................................238 Central Waterfront Innovative Design Competition .......................................................................243 A Unique Design Competition Format?......................................................................................243 The Innovative Design Competition Process .............................................................................246 The Winning Entry......................................................................................................................252 Quay to the City: Generating Momentum for Design Innovation................................................257 Implementing the Central Waterfront Master Plan .....................................................................259 Implementation Inertia ...................................................................................................................261 Where next for Innovative Design Competitions? .........................................................................262 A Laboratory for Landscape Urbanism...........................................................................................265 Concluding Summary: Commitments to Design Excellence ..........................................................268 CHAPTER 8 Peer Evaluation: The Proceedings of the Toronto Waterfront Design Review Panel ................ 271 Establishment of the Toronto Waterfront Design Review Panel ....................................................272 Defining the Panel’s Protocol .....................................................................................................274 The Proceedings of the Waterfront Design Review Panel .............................................................276 Reviewing Project Symphony.........................................................................................................278 Panel Proceedings on Project Symphony ..................................................................................280 Approval of Project Symphony/First Waterfront Place ...............................................................291 Reflections on the Design Review Process................................................................................292 New By-Law for Waterfront Review Panel ...................................................................................296 Panel Procedures After the By-Law Amendments ........................................................................298 Reviewing Sherbourne Common ...................................................................................................299 Concluding Summary: The Fragility of Design Review ..................................................................305  viii  TABLE OF CONTENTS  CHAPTER 9 Conclusion: Assessing Urban Design as Public Policy on Toronto’s Waterfront ............... 309 Returning to the Research Questions ............................................................................................310 Research Question 1......................................................................................................................311 Research Question 2......................................................................................................................312 Principle 1: Removing Barriers/Making Connections .................................................................312 Principle 2: A Network of Spectacular Waterfront Parks and Public Spaces .............................313 Principle 3: Promoting a Clean and Green Environment............................................................315 Principle 4: Creating Dynamic and Diverse New Communities..................................................316 Research Question 3......................................................................................................................317 Community Collaboration and Urban Design Visioning Principles.............................................318 Broad and Substantive Ecological Design Principles.................................................................323 Planning and Zoning Frameworks Principles .............................................................................328 Due Process Principles ..............................................................................................................332 Appropriate Skills and Expertise Principles................................................................................335 Research Contributions and Limitations.........................................................................................338 Design excellence demands ‘Design Champions’ .....................................................................338 Urban design plans must be integrated with implementation devices........................................341 Collaboration legitimizes the urban design process ...................................................................342 Canadian Urban Design: Beyond Toronto’s Waterfront .............................................................343 Outstanding Questions...............................................................................................................344 References ........................................................................................... 348 Appendix 1: Sample Interview Schedule ................................................... 373 Appendix 2: Sample Letter of Introduction ............................................... 376 Appendix 3: Coded List of Interview Subjects and Interviews ..................... 377 Appendix 4: Written Consent Form .......................................................... 384 Appendix 5: Key Initiatives and Policy Documents (1999-2010) ................. 386  ix  LIST OF FIGURES  Figure 1.1. Toronto Waterfront Study Area within Toronto ..................................................................11 Figure 1.2. Toronto Waterfront Study Area ..........................................................................................12 Figure 1.3. The Changing Geography of Toronto’s Waterfront ............................................................14 Figure 2.1. Le Corbusier and ‘The City of To-Morrow’ .........................................................................21 Figure 2.2. Modernist Urban Renewal in Toronto (Before and After)...................................................23 Figure 2.3. Cullen’s sequence of Serial Vision.....................................................................................26 Figure 2.4. Lynch’s Imagability Map of Boston ....................................................................................29 Figure 2.5. Postmodern Urban Design Principles ................................................................................33 Figure 2.6. San Francisco Urban Design Plan Contextual Appraisal...................................................36 Figure 2.7. Urban Design as Public Policy in New York City ...............................................................39 Figure 2.8. New Urbanism at Seaside, Florida.....................................................................................41 Figure 2.9. Fusing the Modern and Traditional on Vancouver’s Waterfront.........................................44 Figure 3.1. Principles for Progressive Urban Design Review...............................................................53 Figure 3.2. The Sea Wall: Vancouver’s Major Public Facility Benefit Provision...................................57 Figure 3.3. Seattle Bonus Zoning Standard .........................................................................................58 Figure 3.4. Design for Ecological Democracy ......................................................................................67 Figure 3.5. Ecological Urban Design Principles ...................................................................................68 Figure 3.6. An Ethic for Communicative Participation ..........................................................................73 Figure 3.7. Capacities for Acting in the Market ....................................................................................77 Figure 3.8. Principles for Progressive Urban Design as Public Policy .................................................78 Figure 4.1. Informant Categories..........................................................................................................88 Figure 4.2. Interview Participants .........................................................................................................90 Figure 4.3. Documents and Archival Records Categories/Example Sources ......................................95 Figure 4.4. Excerpts of Codes for Analysis ........................................................................................100 Figure 4.5. Checklist for Urban Design Characteristics......................................................................102 Figure 5.1. Core Themes Identified in The Wave of the Future! ........................................................109 Figure 5.2. Six Major Development Initiatives ....................................................................................114 Figure 5.3. The Central Waterfront Development Concept ................................................................117 Figure 5.4. Central Harbour Precinct Enhancements ........................................................................118 Figure 5.5. The Port Lands Precinct Urban Design Concept .............................................................119 Figure 5.6. Central Waterfront Plan Core Principles ..........................................................................135 Figure 5.7. Layered Control of Planning and Design on Toronto’s waterfront ...................................154 Figure 5.8. Timeline of Decisions and Plans, Toronto Waterfront (1999-2006) .................................156 Figure 6.1. Central Waterfront Precincts ............................................................................................163 Figure 6.2. Current Precincts on Toronto’s Waterfront.......................................................................164 Figure 6.3. Ataratiri Master Plan for the West Don Lands..................................................................170 Figure 6.4. West Don Lands Workshop Design Proposals ................................................................171 Figure 6.5. West Don Lands Urban Design Concepts .......................................................................174 Figure 6.6. Public Consultation and Participation Strategy Objectives ..............................................176 Figure 6.7. Typical Consultation and Participation Process ...............................................................180 Figure 6.8. East Bayfront Precinct......................................................................................................184 Figure 6.9. Participants at East Bayfront Public Forum 1 ..................................................................187 Figure 6.10. Three Design Concepts for the East Bayfront ...............................................................191 Figure 6.11. East Bayfront Draft Design and Concept .......................................................................193 Figure 6.12. Rendering of Draft Precinct Plan with Public Feedback ................................................196 Figure 6.13. Comparison of Public Feedback and Plan Principles ....................................................197 Figure 6.14. Final East Bayfront Master Plan.....................................................................................199 Figure 6.15. Diamond + Schmidt Alternative East Bayfront Master Plan...........................................201 Figure 6.16. Sample Requirements of the East Bayfront Zoning By-Law ..........................................206 x  LIST OF FIGURES  Figure 6.17. East Bayfront West-Precinct Urban Design Guidelines .................................................208 Figure 6.18. East Bayfront Phasing Map ...........................................................................................210 Figure 6.19. George Brown College (East Elevation December 2011)..............................................215 Figure 6.20. Easy Bayfront Phase 1 (Proposed and Constructed) ....................................................217 Figure 6.21. Proposed Waterfront Right of Way (Wohnurf) ...............................................................224 Figure 7.1. Implementing the Public Realm First at East Bayfront.....................................................231 Figure 7.2. A Series of Key Relationships..........................................................................................236 Figure 7.3. Public Space Typologies..................................................................................................237 Figure 7.4. Harbourfront Centre Mater Plan Proposals......................................................................240 Figure 7.5. Public Realm Improvements at Harbourfront Centre .......................................................242 Figure 7.6. Central Waterfront Design Competition Area...................................................................245 Figure 7.7. Previous Condition of the Spadina Slip Head ..................................................................247 Figure 7.8. Innovative Design Competition Process ..........................................................................249 Figure 7.9. The Five Competition Entries...........................................................................................251 Figure 7.10. Public Exhibition at BCE Place ......................................................................................253 Figure 7.11. Queens Quay Before and After (Proposed) ...................................................................254 Figure 7.12. Key Elements of The Central Waterfront Master Plan ..................................................256 Figure 7.13. Quay to the City .............................................................................................................257 Figure 7.14. The completed Wave Decks ..........................................................................................260 Figure 7.15. Canada’s Sugar Beach, Summer 2011 .........................................................................263 Figure 7.16. Port Land Estuary, winning submission .........................................................................265 th Figure 8.1. Project Symphony Presentation Materials, Feb. 14 , 2007 ............................................282 st Figure 8.2. Project Symphony Presentation Materials, March 21 , 2007 ..........................................284 th Figure 8.3. Project Symphony Presentation Materials, June 13 , 2007 ............................................289 Figure 8.4. Images of the completed Corus Building .........................................................................294 Figure 8.5. Phased Review Process for the Waterfront Design Review Panel ..................................298 Figure 8.6. Progressive Design Concepts for Sherbourne Park ........................................................302 Figure 8.7. Revised Design for Sherbourne Park (Fl’eau) .................................................................304 Figure 9.1. Community Collaboration and Urban Design Visioning Principles ..................................318 Figure 9.2. Broad and Substantive Ecological Design Principles ......................................................323 Figure 9.3. Planning and Zoning Frameworks Principles...................................................................328 Figure 9.4. Due Process Principles ....................................................................................................332 Figure 9.5. Appropriate Skills and Expertise Principles .....................................................................335  xi  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  Many people have helped and supported me during my PhD career at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning. I must start, however, by thanking Professor John Punter, my mentor at Cardiff University during my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Through his thoughtful, critical and often witty lectures and seminars, John introduced me to the ideas and concepts of urban design. He taught me to think critically about the form and organization of the built environment, challenge the status quo and investigate better ways to plan cities. Taking the plunge and moving to another country to begin a PhD was a daunting prospect and I could have not have done it without John’s sage advice and friendship. At UBC, I wish to thank the members of my supervisory committee – Maged Senbel, John Friedmann, David Ley and Emily Talen – for their collective support and critical feedback. The biggest debt of gratitude must go to Maged and John. At the lowest point in my PhD journey, Maged kindly agreed to join my supervisory committee as chair. Helping me to plan and execute my research, he pushed me to think about urban design in a truly holistic sense and has generously shared the ups and downs of his own qualitative research experiences along the way. Maged’s trust and his belief in my abilities have been personally transformative. I cannot thank him enough. In equal measure, I wish to thank John Friedmann. As an effective ‘co-supervisor’ throughout my entire time at the School of Community and Regional Planning, John shaped my understanding of the planning discipline profoundly. He has always challenged me to think about alternative and imaginative perspectives and, as a result, has helped me to expand the ways that I conceptualize planning and design problems. Yet, crucially, John has schooled me in the art of writing and the nuances of argument. While I still have much to learn, John’s tutelage has had a profound impact upon the way I compose sentences, construct paragraphs and structure opinions. I feel very fortunate to have benefited from his wise counsel. This research could not have been completed without the contributions of my research participants. While I cannot name them here, some 50 people involved in the planning and xii  design of Toronto’s waterfront generously agreed to give up their time and share their experiences with me. It is the stories they told that shape this dissertation. I hope my research reflects their insights and ideas. Particular thanks are also due to Melissa Harwood, a former administrator at the TWRC/Waterfront Toronto, who supplied me with a wealth of reports, drawings and minutes and Daniel Pearce who kindly agreed to photographs large areas of the waterfront during the summer months when I was unable to be in Toronto. I would also like to thank Natasha Graham and Clive Kessel, my mother- and father-in-law, who hosted, fed and watered me during my fieldwork visits to Toronto. Having a place to call home at the end of each day makes the work of a case study researcher all the more enjoyable. Thanks are also due to my colleagues, friends and family. Support and advice, both academic and personal, has been a steady and positive force during my time at UBC. Special gratitude is therefore due to Janice Barry, Ren Thomas, Cornelia Sussmann, Silvia Vilches, Leonard Machler, Michael Mackenzie, Shannon Gormley and Ian Runacres. In addition, I also wish to thank my parents, Helen and David, and my sister, Hannah, who have provided constant love and support during the five years I have spent away from the UK. Finally, my deepest gratitude goes to Tania who shares my love for all things urban design. I met Tania on my first fieldwork visit to Toronto in 2008. She is now my loving wife and best friend. I dedicate this work to her.  xiii  CHAPTER 1  Introduction  My research examines the role that urban design plays within the sphere of planning practice and asks the question ‘How do planning processes affect the quality and execution of urban design?’ Stemming from a longstanding frustration with the uneven quality of contemporary built form and public space, my research aim is to identify how public and private sector actors can work together more effectively to generate better design outcomes. These tools and methods range from general planning policies and zoning bylaws to urban design guidelines and master plans, but also include more discretionary measures such as design review panels and design competitions. To conduct the research I have employed a case study methodology and focus upon waterfront redevelopment planning on Toronto’s waterfront between 1999 and 2010. During this time, efforts to transform the city’s Ontario lakefront have been led by a public-private agency of the federal, provincial and municipal governments called the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC). Now renamed Waterfront Toronto, the corporation remains the steward of Toronto’s waterfront revitalization programme and the lead master planner of the waterfront. In this opening chapter I introduce the theoretical and empirical context of my research. To begin, I situate my work within a body of literature called ‘urban design as public policy’ and outline the research problem I will address. I then argue that the study of urban design policymaking and implementation has received scant research attention in Canada and contend that Toronto’s waterfront provides a formidable opportunity to explore the wider issues under investigation. I then offer a brief historical overview of the Toronto waterfront planning and design story and use it as a foundation for my three substantive research questions. I end the chapter with a brief summary of the nine chapters that follow.  1  Urban Design as Public Policy  I conceptualize urban design as a method of ‘placemaking’ rather than a purely aesthetic endeavour, in the sense that the process of policy-making and decision-making about design is just as crucial as the final design product. I also underpin this conceptualization with a normative definition of ‘good’ urban design that is drawn directly from the postmodern urban design cannon (for example: Lynch 1960; Cullen 1961; Jacobs 1961; Alexander et al. 1977; Bentley et al. 1985; Jacobs and Appleyard 1987). As I will explain more thoroughly in Chapter 2, this theoretical definition states that successful urban design incorporates both a visual and a social dimension (Jarvis 1980), which, when woven together, generate certain tangible qualities. These include a legible and navigable public realm, a mix of sustainable urban land uses and vibrant public spaces. To borrow a phrase from Bentley et al’s seminal text, Responsive Environments (1985), ‘good’ urban design also hinges upon “the idea that the built environment…provide its users with an essentially democratic setting, enriching their opportunities by maximizing the degree of choice available to them” (p. 9). By focusing upon the policy tools, regulatory mechanisms and discretionary measures that are typically used during the design process, my research falls neatly into a wellestablished field of study within urban design called ‘urban design as public policy’. This concept emerged during the 1970s following the publication of Jonathan Barnett’s eponymous text, Urban Design as Public Policy (1974). As Chapter 2 explores in more detail, Barnett used his experience as the head of urban design in the New York City planning department to demonstrate that private sector design could be controlled more effectively through an aggressive combination of comprehensive urban design policies and regulatory mechanisms. In exchange for greater floor area allowances, and other ‘bonuses’, Barnett’s urban design team required developers to approach their individual building projects within the context of a wider urban design plan. Barnett’s work precipitated considerable interest among urban policymakers in North American and European cities about how to impact the design of the built environment through the planning process and embed a design ethos within the planning decision-making framework (Lai 1988; Punter 2010). 2  Subsequent academic case studies, which are more thoroughly discussed in later chapters, have since demonstrated the considerable success that certain cities, including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Barcelona, have experienced after adopting similar regulatory and discretionary measures (Lai 1988; Punter 1996; 1999; 2002; 2003; 2003a; Marshall 2001; Rowe 2006). Following New York City’s early lead, this “tools approach” (Tiesdell and Adams 2011, p. 11) to urban design as public policy has typically involved a process of give and take between the public and private sectors, in which the local governing authority allows developers to exceed baseline height and density restrictions in exchange for improved design standards and contributions towards public amenity. As Hack and Sagalyn (2011) reflect, “urban design is often portrayed as shaping cities through bold visions of the future. In truth, it is largely devoted to the practical task of acquiring public or collective goods through the process of city building” (p. 258). By way of example, the municipality of Vancouver has demonstrated that building a close relationship with the development community and demanding certain standards can lead to significant public realm improvements. Since the late 1980s, the city’s waterfront has been transformed, primarily by a private sector development company, into a dense mixed-use neighbourhood with an array of publically accessible amenities and public spaces. In an effort to replicate this achievement, the municipality expanded this design-led approach to planning decision-making citywide and continues to generate similar successes (Punter 2003). Research Problem  Envious of cities like Vancouver, an ever-increasing number of planning and design stakeholders have acknowledged the potential economic, social and environmental value of better urban design (Carmona et al. 2002; 2002a; Madanipour 2006; Punter 2010; Hack and Sagalyn 2011). For private sector development companies and their financiers, the producers of the built environment, urban design can help to stabilize local market conditions, reduce overall risk and improve the marketing potential of their development projects (Madanipour 2006). For those who live and work in cities, the users of the built environment, urban design has the potential to both improve how a place functions and enhance its symbolic value, while, for agencies of government, the regulators of the built 3  environment, urban design can be harnessed for competitive advantage (Madanipour 2006) and employed as a “means of economic development” (Gospodini 2002, p. 60). The constant pressure upon regulators to generate new avenues of investment and create jobs has forced them to find innovative ways to market cities and enhance their global competitiveness (Gospodini 2002; Julier 2005; Knox 2010). In this context, cities can use urban design to “lend traction to capital accumulation” (Knox 2010, p. 5). Yet, regulatory agencies do not only have to exploit urban design to gain economic advantages. Good urban design is also recognized as a sophisticated instrument for managing environmental change, as well as an issue around which stakeholders can participate in the process of developing and implementing a planning and design vision (Madanipour 2006). Notably, as concepts of sustainable development have ascended urban policy agendas, interest in the social and environmental role of urban design has also increased (Beatley 2004; Hester 2008; Newman and Jennings 2008). This has generated a growing preference for compact and walkable neighbourhoods in which shops and services are mixed with residential and employment space and pedestrians and cyclists have priority over vehicles – the very principles that urban designers have long argued create higher quality built environments. In all of these various contexts, urban design as public policy has a significant role to play as a form of intervention that steers real estate developers towards “policy-shaped rather than merely market-led outcomes” (Tiesdell and Adams 2011, p. 3). Urban design as public policy is thus a ‘second-order’ design activity (George 1997). It does not involve the direct design of individual buildings or public spaces, but provides the tools and regulatory mechanisms for making decisions about design. “It shapes the design and development process by creating a frame for acts of first-order design,” explain Tiesdell and Adams (2011, p. 2), thereby giving policymakers significant sway over the form and arrangement of the built environment. As a direct result, urban design is invariably a highly contentious component of the planning decision-making process and a site of “seemingly endless conflict” (Punter and Carmona 1997, p. 1) between the regulators, producers and users of the built environment. Urban design is not only a process of negotiation between the private sector developers who propose projects and the public sector planners who assess their applications, it also causes professional conflicts between architects and urban planners and disagreements between professionals and lay people about the nature of 4  good design. Furthermore, because urban design is frequently a core concern on largescale development projects, it often leads to emotive political debates that engage local elected officials, community groups and businesses (Punter and Carmona 1997). Strengthening the urban design dimension of a city’s planning system, whether through urban regeneration or other means, is therefore challenging and complex. For all the achievements of cities like New York and Vancouver, many others have failed or attained only mediocre results. As Carmona (1996) argues: …urban design, and the development process which makes it possible, is a complex phenomenon and one influenced by far more than mere aspirations or indeed by local authority [municipal] planning policy and guidance. Decisions on design may be constrained by a wide range of often conflicting factors, particular to the circumstances of the locality (p.  180). Invariably, weak institutional arrangements and political and financial instability dominate the planning and design process. Plans are often delayed or derailed, causing significant urban design shortcuts to be taken (see: Sandercock and Dovey 2002; Dovey 2005; Punter 2007; Bezmez 2008) and, even when urban design is given a core role in the planning decision-making process, it does not necessarily lead to better quality design during implementation. As Punter and Carmona (1997) argue, “overall design quality can be and often is sacrificed to achieve other objectives, particularly the desire for any development or job creation in less economically advantaged areas” (p. 1). Examining the complex web of decisions, policy mechanisms and regulatory tools that, together, embody the process of urban design as public policy remains a crucial task for urban design researchers (Jarivs 1980; Rowley 1994) and is the guiding concern throughout my research project. A Canadian Case Study of Urban Design as Public Policy  As previously explained, a case study-focused discourse on urban design as public policy emerged after the publication of Barnett’s instructive account of planning and urban design in New York City. Since its inception this literature has concentrated upon best practices in 5  Europe and North America, with a particular focus on cities in the United States (For example: Shirvani 1985; Lai 1988; Scheer and Preiser 1994; Punter 1996; 1999). Less attention has been paid to the regulation of design in Canada and, as Punter argues in his 2003 book, The Vancouver Achievement, Canadian urban design as public policy has been “largely ignored” (p. xvi). Punter’s claim is supported by Kumar-Agrawal who asserts in his 2002 article, ‘Canadian Urban Design Practice: A Review of Urban Design Regulations’, that “urban design regulations have not been systematically explored in Canada” (p. 241). Through separate contributions Punter and Kumar-Agrawal have led an effort to close this significant gap in the literature. As stated earlier, Punter’s thorough examination of Vancouver’s design-led planning system unpacks the various regulatory mechanisms and discretionary measures that were used to instil a culture of urban design within the city’s development application approvals process (Punter 2002; 2003; 2003a) and his study has since encouraged numerous other research projects that look at different aspects of the city’s unique approach to design-led planning policymaking and regulation (Hutton 2004; Berelowitz 2005; Macdonald 2005; Sandercock 2005; Grant 2009)1. Kumar-Agrawal’s 2002 research project paints a much broader picture of urban design as public policy across Canada. Using a survey, sent to some 95 municipalities (of which 62 responded), Kumar-Agrawal scrutinizes the extent to which urban design regulations have influenced the planning decision-making process. He found that few Canadian cities had a comprehensive urban design policy and regulation process. Most jurisdictions employed either prescriptive urban design regulations, implemented through zoning by-laws, or, in stark contrast, vague policy statements that did not have the necessary implementation mechanisms to support them. Kumar-Agrawal’s study provides a national overview of the state of urban design as public policy in Canada and gives some indication of the significant challenges urban designers face. The research is also limited by its broad focus and leaves open a significant gap for further research; Kumar-Agrawal and Punter’s assertions about the paucity of urban design-focused research in Canada remain essentially unchanged. Canadian urban design scholarship still offers academics and practitioners frustratingly few insights into the successes and failures of urban design as public policy. There is a pressing need to mirror the depth and breadth of Punter’s  1  See Chapter 2 (pp. 42-45) for a more detailed account of Vancouver’s urban design achievements.  6  Vancouver research and delve into the particularities of urban design policy and regulation in other large Canadian municipalities. As Canada’s largest and most diverse metropolitan city, Toronto is an obvious candidate for such a study and, as it happens, Punter’s aim when he began his Vancouver project was to conduct a comparative study that also examined planning and urban design in Toronto. In the opening pages of The Vancouver Achievement he notes that both cities have “an extremely rich vein of city planning documents” that have received “very little academic comment or synthesis of contemporary planning practice at large, and virtually no analysis of the design dimension” (2003, p. 10). Although Punter collected some initial data in Toronto during the late 1990s, the combination of funding and time constraints, as well as the sheer size of the Vancouver case, meant that the comparative portion of the research was never completed and, almost a decade later, his statement about the lack of urban design research on the Toronto case remains generally accurate. An exhaustive review of the contemporary literature uncovered only two scholarly research papers that directly address the urban design policy and implementation aspects of Toronto’s planning system2. The first of these contributions, also by Kumar-Agrawal (2005), investigates the role that Ontario’s provincial-level appeals board, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), plays in the city’s design decision-making process. Examining three large-scale projects, KumarAgrawal observes that the OMB, which operates like a court, has “extensive jurisdiction” (p. 211) over urban design and notes that individual projects are not assessed against consistent design principles. He questions the method of cross-examination that is used during a