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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating urban design : looking to Portside Billington, Stephen


This thesis examines how planners negotiate urban design by examining a case study of a development project that was planned for the waterfront of Vancouver, British Columbia in the 1990s. This project, called Portside, was to be situated on land owned by the federal government, adjacent to the downtown of the City of Vancouver but not under their jurisdiction. The literatures in urban design and negotiation theory are iteratively searched to find where there is overlap between theoretical writing on related subjects and communicative or collaborative planning. Qualitative methodologies were used in researching this subject with emphasis on interviews of representatives of those parties involved in negotiations. The questions asked in the interviews mirror the progression of ideas in the theoretical underpinnings of the paper and form the framework around which the results are organized. The statements of the interview subjects form the basis of the about what works in negotiating urban design. High quality urban design is the result of a high quality design process-one that uses effective negotiation techniques and a mixed bag of practical planning tools. The theory of communicative planning acknowledges the importance of negotiation skills and multiple approaches to overcoming obstacles such as those found in the case study. The importance of visual communication skills, team cooperation, anticipation of problem areas, and flexibility within bureaucratic frameworks for planning professionals are underlined as a result of examining this development project. It is apparent that negotiating urban design happens often in Vancouver. It is also apparent that practitioners are unclear as to how they reach agreement in areas that can be subjective and unquantifiable, only that agreement is usually reached. The literature of communicative planning supplies suggestions as to how "messy" problems, such as negotiating urban design in a multi-stakeholder context, can be successfully overcome. And the techniques put forward in the theory are apparent in practice in this case. A high-quality communicative planning process, one that made good use of best negotiative practices coupled with effective design-specific communication, led to highquality urban design for this project. These methods were applied largely unconsciously by the participants as part of a mixed bag of practical planning tools.

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