How Cities Work: Module 4
What is City Planning?
Planning our Future
Now that we know what a city is and how it’s run — how do they get here in the first place? Everything you see around you in Vancouver is the result of decisions made over hundreds of years. Many of the decisions that shape the Vancouver we know today have been influenced by city planners. These people specialize in planning where different things should be built in order to ensure that the city meets the needs of its residents.
An important part of this history to remember is that Vancouver was built on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples (MST). So while planners of the past were busy creating new things (like roads and buildings), they were also taking part erasing the history, stories and communities of MST. Nowadays, planners from the City and the MST are working together on efforts strengthen reciprocal relationships. The City continues its commitment to reconciliation through decolonization, one of the core priorities of the Vancouver Plan.
Like we learned about in the previous modules, Council makes the big decisions, like whether or not to approve a new plan for a neighbourhood or even the whole city. City planners are responsible for developing those plans and recommending what should be approved. Whenever city planners are tasked with something that could make a big change, there are a lot of things they need to do. This typically includes breaking the process down into steps as planners define the problem, generate options or solutions, evaluate which one is the best, implement their top choice and then monitor it to make sure it works (these steps might be familiar to you from other design problems you’ve worked on!). As part of the process planners get to do a lot of different things like research and interviews, making maps or doing site or neighbourhood visits.
Another thing that planners do is speaking with local residents. This is a key part of each step in the process and ensures that the public gets to help define the problem, and choose the solution. The final plans should then align with what the public wants. Planners from the City and local First Nations will also collaborate to engage with members of both their communities. This process is usually called something like ‘community consultation’ or ‘public engagement’. This is the best opportunity for anyone (including you!) to share your thoughts and ideas for a project or plan. Depending on the project there will likely be: surveys, events, meetings, workshops (and more!) that the public can attend to share their ideas.
Activity: You are the Young Planner!
Imagine you are a City Planner and you have the chance to make a recommendation to Council to make your perfect neighbourhood. Think about what problems your neighbourhood could solve and the kinds of things, places and activities that could make up the neighbourhood of your dreams!