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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Toward a new model of urban planning Gerecke, John Kent


Urban planning faces a tremendous challenge: changing its role from land use planning to one of responding to "the current and urgent problems of the city". Under such circumstances the entire approach to planning has come under question. Waterston summarizes the current problem in his "three-horned planning dilemma". He asserts there are three approaches to planning, all of which must fail: comprehensive planning which assumes long-range societal goals can be identified, systems planning which attempts to provide structured solutions to unstructured problems, and partial planning which merely fights "brush-fires". This discourse engages in a search for a way around the "three-horned planning dilemma". A dual methodology was used in this study. First inductive research was selected which allowed a search for a new model of planning unconstrained and not misdirected by past planning theory—a confusing literature. With this freedom, the inductive method naturally directed the research from a broad empirical base to generalizations, of a new theory. The second part of the methodology was the use of the case study technique. This search for a new model focused on a seemingly innovative urban planning agency. A case examination of planning in the Greater Vancouver Regional District between 1969 and 1973 provided the data base for the research. The four middle chapters contain the detailed descriptions of planning in the GVRD. The case material provided basic conceptualizations for a distinct model of urban planning as practiced in the GVRD. GVRD planning proved to be absolutely different from current planning practice, and four major characteristics of their planning were identified: 1. Auto-Action which stimulates a wide range of planning actions, 2. Qualitative Analysis combining technique and diverse judgments, 3. Political Dialogue or working out program design, analysis, and solutions with politicians, and 4. General Interaction which involves the public, local and senior governments, and consultants. The inductive process moved the interpretation beyond case material and the GVRD model to a new model of urban planning. Processes and theory of GVRD planning led to a new bundle of planning theory literature primarily the works of Ruth Mack, John Friedmann, and Edgar Dunn. A "Learning Model" of urban planning evolved which had four characteristics: 1. goal development as an essential part of the planning process and goal determination through widespread dialogue, 2. the inherent limitations of Social Knowledge which can be overcome by transactive planning and mutual learning, 3. Bottom-up Planning as the extensive use of local task forces, and 4. Social Change, in the form of new social structures, as offering promise for solutions rather than dealing with symptoms. The Learning Model evolved from one particular case which limits its range as a generic theory. It has, however, provided a link between practice and theory and has complemented a new wave of planning theory.

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