Who Plans Sidewalk Toronto?

Authors: Kate Nelischer*, University of Toronto
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Gender
Keywords: Smart cities, gender and planning, public-private partnerships, the entrepreneurial city, participatory planning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Sidewalk Toronto is a public-private partnership between Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs Inc. and Waterfront Toronto (a tripartite government agency) to develop the Quayside neighbourhood as a smart city. It has been called “the most ambitious non-government deployment of smart-city technology,” and as such, precedents set by Sidewalk Toronto will have worldwide impacts (Lorinc, 2018: 3). What will be the implications of putting unelected, powerful, international corporations like Sidewalk Labs in charge of developing, managing, and surveilling smart cities?

This ongoing doctoral research examines who has been included and excluded in the Sidewalk Toronto planning process, whose interests are represented, and to what extent gendered experiences of the city are considered. It brings together smart cities, gender and planning, and entrepreneurial city literatures, and employs discourse analysis, interviews, and participant observation to examine the implications of smart cities for entrenching social inequalities.

In addition to being a leader in smart cities, Toronto has a history of pioneering gender responsive planning. In the 1980s, municipal planners became known as the “Toronto School,” identifiable for their “common feminist analysis” (Whitzman, 1992: 169). The City is now revisiting and updating these policies and engaging in gender responsive budgeting. The coinciding of these efforts with the Sidewalk Toronto planning process presents a valuable opportunity to examine the gendered implications of a privatized smart city.

Lorinc, J. (2018). “Promise and Peril in the Smart City.” Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance.
Whitzman, C. (1992). “Taking Back Planning.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 9(2): pp. 169-17

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