Land Use Planning, Waste, and the Making of “Properly Propertied” Citizens in Vancouver, Canada

Authors: Trevor Wideman*, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Planning Geography
Keywords: planning, property, land use, vancouver, canada, propriety, citizenship
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Vancouver, Canada in the 21st century is framed by urban planners as a model of excellence, a city to be emulated by others. But in the early 20th century this was not so. Canadian Planning Professionals of the day denounced the settler-city’s uncontrolled property development activities, haphazard land uses, and poor housing conditions, framing them as economically and biopolitically “wasteful” and in need of improvement. The solution to the problem, according to these professionals, was for the city to take on comprehensive planning and impose “scientific” and “rational” land use controls to discipline unruly property owners through the logic of the parcel. In this paper, I draw on legal and geographic literature on property, land use control, planning, propriety, and citizenship to look at a particular formative moment in Canadian urban planning history (see Alexander, 1997; Angotti, 2013; Blomley, 2017; Davies, 2007; Porter, 2010; Roy, 2003; Valverde, 2011). I explore the activities of the Vancouver Town Planning Commission and their chair, Frank E. Buck, to show that while land use planning and zoning was (and still is) a seemingly legalistic, apolitical, and neutral exercise, Vancouver planners of the 1920s and 30s also used such controls as: 1) a normative way of implementing and maintaining a ‘properly propertied’ civic landscape, and 2) a way of encouraging forms of white settler citizenship. I assert that in governing through use, certain people, things, and activities were marginalized by Vancouver planners and cast off as wasteful and outside of a municipal “greater good.”

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