Date:               March 24, 2019

Topic:             Wicked Challenges for City Planning in Mid-Century  

Presenter:     Dr. Ted Relph, Emeritus Professor,

                        University of Toronto                                              

Dr Relph began by introducing the term “wicked” as first used in social planning. A definition provided in Wikipedia states, “A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.” After a brief but engrossing history of urban planning Dr Relph described the current challenges in urban planning with particular regard to the City of Victoria.

Dr Relph discussed modern urban planning from about 1900-1930 in three phases: early 20th century UK- “Garden Cities”, 1920’s Germany- Bauhaus design movement, and the 1920’s- NYC  Neighbourhood Unit.

From the 1940’s to the 1970’s –post WW 2 Europe and Japan were reconstructing while North America was undergoing “urban renewal”. Relph noted that this period was one of implementation of all ideas of modern urban planning. Planning was “imposed” from the top down and the ideal was to get away from the past.

Unfortunately this approach saw the rise of urban expressways, “The Projects” in many major U.S. cities and the overall attempt to control and manage nature.

By the 1970’s there was the beginning of a transformation in planning. Recognition of the complexity, the need to re-naturalize and the invention of “Heritage” resulted from a major shift in thinking. Relph quoted Melvin Webber from 1973, “The kinds of problems planners deal with are inherently wicked.   

Dr Relph detailed the various levels of authority and government that are involved in any urban planning for Victoria. The overlapping and conflicting criteria are seemingly overwhelming. Relph concluded his talk with a description of the 7 challenges that he sees as critical to planning for Victoria.

  1. growth within urban containment boundaries
  2. lack of definition of what are the “urban village areas” and therefore how to contain growth within
  3. how to maintain Open Spaces with the pressure of population growth
  4. community resistance to change-change is factual not negotiable – all we can negotiate is HOW not IF
  5. transportation changes- reduce vehicles – increase bikes ,transit and walking
  6. homelessness and affordability
  7. most profound—CLIMATE CHANGE