UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ideology, planning and the landscape, the business community, urban reform and the establishment of town planning in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1900-1940 Bottomley, John


To explore the thesis that the landscapes of cities reflect the ideological underpinnings of the social groups dominant during the periods of significant urban growth a detailed investigation was undertaken within the City of Vancouver. The correspondence between the ideology and institutions of a dominant business elite and the landscapes created in the period between 1900 and 1940 provide the major evidence. The diffusion of an American reform ideology into Eastern Canada and later into the City of Vancouver is described. Two major manifestations of this ideology are documented. The first, articulated in the non-partisan, at-large election, and city manager movements was concerned with the need to ensure efficiency and honesty in urban government. The second concerned the need to institute urban planning as a means to facilitate efficient economic and urban growth. The principal reform advocates in Vancouver were members of the city's business elite. Operating from within the institutional framework of the Vancouver Board of Trade they lobbied the City and Provincial Governments throughout the period 1918-1925 for the enactment of planning legislation. Success was achieved when the Provincial Legislature passed the Town Planning Act in December 1925. In turn the Vancouver City Council created the Vancouver Town Planning Commission. The majority of Commissioners were businessmen who held the reform view of planning as the facilitator of efficient growth. A planning expert, Harland Bartholomew, was hired in 1926 to provide the Commission with the desired blueprint for development. Holding similar views on planning to those of the commissioner his 1929 Plan provided a structured development plan of considerable detail which was the primary determinant of Vancouver's evolving urban structure until the late 1960's. This influence was expressed primarily through the operation of the zoning by-laws which specified legally-permitted land uses throughout the city. Vancouver's urban structure, in reflecting the ideology of reform underpinning both the actions of the Town Planning Commission and the nature of the Bartholomew Plan, supports the general thesis of the dissertation. Parallels between the civic expression of reform and National expressions of reform are drawn as are some implications of the study's findings for geographical research and our understanding of present urban planning. The analyses presented are based upon a wide range of archival and secondary materials. Important among these were City and Municipal Council minute books, the minutes and correspondence of the Vancouver Town Planning Commission, the minutes of the Vancouver Board of Trade and its Committees, personal papers, city and biographical directories, maps, newspapers and magazines and government and planning commission reports. The account of the American origins of urban reform is derived largely from secondary sources.

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