Jane’s Walk 2016: We Make The City | We Make The Tour

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My Jane’s Walk this year offers something completely different. Participants will collaborate to design and lead the tour. We’ll start with a short meeting at Centennial Square, where you are invited to suggest sites to visit. We’ll pore over a map of Downtown Victoria, and decide as a group which sites to visit. Depending on how many people want to participate, and the distance between the sites we’re interested in, we’ll choose which sites to visit. Then we’ll hit the streets and go to the sites we’ve chosen. At each site, the people who suggested it will tell us why they did so. Then, as a group, we’ll discuss how it fits into the broader theme of this walk – the radically democratic idea that we make the city around us every day.

Here are some questions to consider as you think about what site or sites you want to suggest:

• Are there sites in the Downtown area that are particularly significant to you? Do you associate anywhere Downtown with particular memories? Why?

• Are there buildings, intersections or monuments Downtown that you think should be preserved? Are there others that you think should be demolished? Why?

• Do you associate any sites Downtown with other places and/or times? Why?

We’ll start planning the walk at the Centennial Square Fountain at 6:00 pm on Friday, May 6, 2016. Where we go after that is up to you.

This tour is inspired by a tour I facilitated in 2012 as part of the City Walks series.

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Jane’s Walk 2015 – Rediscovering the Complex Legacy of Urban Renewal in Downtown Victoria

Jane's Walk 2015

In the course of my research on urban renewal in Victoria during the 1950s and 1960s, I discovered an outline of a walking tour of downtown Victoria organized by G.J. Greenhalgh, the City of Victoria’s Director of Community Development. The original tour was given to a group of municipal politicians, architects and arts groups from Seattle in June 1967. Greenhalgh chose the sites to highlight several urban renewal and revitalization projects undertaken by the city and private landowners, and enlisted the help of volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce to show off the city.[1]

Because many of the sites that Greenhalgh decided to include in his walking tour have been contested sites for decades, I decided to reprise his tour for the annual Jane’s Walk festival on May 2, 2015. Because the sites we visited continue to be important today, it was an interesting and intellectually satisfying exercise to retrace Greenhalgh’s steps and discuss the ways in which the history of our city informs how we think about it now.

The Tour

Greenhalgh’s tour was scheduled to last three hours and fifteen minutes, during the afternoon of June 3, 1967, with an hour and a half scheduled for mingling, tea and crumpets at the Empress Hotel after the tour. Here’s what his schedule looked like:

Time Event
1245 Depart C.P.R. Station with 10 Guides. Proceed on foot north on Government to Bastion Square via Bastion Street.
1300 Arrive Bastion, tour Square – main floor of Duncan Building – Birdcage walk etc.
1330 Leave Square – east on Bastion cross Government and proceed through Trounce Alley – North on Broad Street to McPherson Theatre.
1345 Arrive McPherson Theatre. Greeting and short address by Mayor Stephen. Show film “Townscape Rediscovered.”
1420 Leave Theatre and tour Centennial Square.
1445 Depart Square – south on Douglas to 700 block Yates Street. Up North side cross over at Library, down south side and through stores to arcade in rear.
1520 Depart arcade (700 Block View) east on View to Blanshard – south on Blanshard – north on Fort to Vancouver and thence south to Cathedral Precinct, Y.M.C.A., Law Courts etc.
1545 Leave Precinct area proceed by shortest route to Empress Hotel. (Short detour could be made here through Thunderbird Park).
1600 Arrive Empress Hotel for Tea and Crumpets.

Reprising Greenhaglh’s tour for a Jane’s Walk worked well, because he had selected the sites in 1967 for very specific reasons, and those sites continued to play important (but often unexpected) roles in how the city developed in the intervening time. In a strange sense, it was like taking a fifty year long tour in two and a half hours. Here are some of the issues we discussed at each site:

  • Between the CPR Terminal and Bastion Square: Industrial, residential and commercial uses of space around the harbour, and the process of gentrification.[2]
  • Bastion Square: The role of municipal, provincial and federal governments, private land owners and non-profits in creating cultural spaces and maintaining heritage structures.
  • Trounce Alley & Broad Street: Pedestrian and vehicle access to downtown streets and spaces, and the concept of greenways.
  • Centennial Square: Civic spaces, modernist architecture and heritage conservation.
  • 700-Block Yates Street: Urban streets versus suburban malls and Business Improvement Associations.
  • Cathedral Precinct, Y.M.C.A., Law Courts: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the City of Victoria considered building the new Civic Square and City Hall in the block bounded by Blanshard, Broughton, Quadra and Courtney, rather than at its current site in Centennial Square.
  • Thunderbird Park: Representations of First Nations culture and heritage in public spaces in Victoria.
  • Empress Hotel: Tourism and leisure at local, provincial, national and international scales.

Obviously, this isn’t a complete list of all the issues we discussed or a comprehensive history of each of the sites, but it does give a sense of how each of the sites Greenhalgh visited is related to a long history and to current debates about land use in Victoria.

The Films

My favourite part of the tour was a screening of “A Townscape Rediscovered,” a 1966 film that traces the development of Centennial Square and Bastion Square. This film provides rich imagery of 1960s era Victoria and information about the kinds of things the designers of Centennial Square were thinking about in executing the project. I encourage you to watch it, as well as a similar film produced about urban renewal projects in Vancouver during the 1960s.

During Greenhalgh’s original tour, the screening of “A Townscape Rediscovered,” took place at McPherson Theatre, with an introduction by the Mayor. During the Jane’s Walk this year, City Councillor Margaret Lucas generously donated space for the screening at the Hotel Rialto at Douglas and Pandora. Councillor Pamela Madoff attended much of the walk and provided an excellent introduction to the film, based on her own extensive knowledge of this period of Victoria’s history; she also provided some more information and commentary at some of the sites we visited. I owe a great debt of gratitude to both City Councillors for their assistance and for the work they are doing on behalf of the City.

A related film that inspired some of the revitalization efforts in Victoria during the 1960s was The Story of Magdalen Street, which describes the efforts to enhance a downtown shopping street in Norwich in the 1950s. (The East Anglian Film Archive won’t let me embed the video here, so please do follow the link and take a look at the fifteen minute film.)

The Oversight

Greenhalgh’s original tour glosses over an important aspect of urban renewal in Victoria. By 1967, the municipal, provincial and federal governments were embroiled in the controversial Rose-Blanshard urban renewal project that involved displacing 157 families to build a new school and social housing. Greenhalgh’s tour highlights several downtown urban renewal and revitalization projects that, because they were new, probably impressed his guests from Seattle. It’s not clear from the archival record why Greenhalgh didn’t highlight the Rose-Blanshard urban renewal project in his tour – I can only speculate that he thought that the difficult and incomplete process of urban renewal at Rose-Blanshard would have shed a negative light on the City for his Seattle guests. From his perspective, it was probably a happy coincidence that he didn’t have enough time to take his guests on a tour outside downtown, or that his guests were more interested in issues surrounding the renewal of downtown civic and commercial structures than they were in issues surrounding residential urban renewal projects.

While I think reprising Greenhalgh’s tour was effective at highlighting many of the issues that Victoria has faced over the past fifty years, I think it’s important to remember, commemorate and memorialize the Rose-Blanshard urban renewal scheme, because that project highlights other issues that are just as important. I will be working on a public history project aimed at just such a commemoration and memorialization over the next few months, and will announce details about the project here in the near future.

I am also hoping to lead a similar version of Greenhalgh’s tour next year for the Jane’s Walk festival. If you or a group you’re involved with is interested in taking the tour with me at another time, I would be pleased to discuss the logistics with you. You can find my contact details in the About tab above.

[1] The original tour outline and some correspondence related to the tour is in the City of Victoria Archives, CRS 23 1 A 7, File 2 20.12, Receptions, Official Ceremonies, etc, 1964-1967.

[2] William G. Hamilton & Bruce Simard, “Victoria’s Inner Harbour 1967-1992: The Transformation of a Deindustrialized Waterfront. (Canadian Urban Landscape Examples, Part 9),” The Canadian Geographer, 37.4 (1993): 364-.

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BC Transit Fare Review

Last week, I completed BC Transit’s survey for the 2016 Victoria Regional Transit Commission Fare Structure Review. (The survey is now closed, and a decision on the new fare structure will be made on December 8, 2015. You can find a review of the three options presented in the survey in the Times Colonist and Saanich News reports.) Here’s what I told them in the survey:

I would really like to see increasing property taxes presented in this survey as an alternative to increasing fares. We pay for local roads almost entirely through property taxes and provincial funding, and we don’t toll local roads or bridges. The same should go for transit, which increases everybody’s mobility by reducing traffic congestion. We should not have to pay directly through fares every time we want to use transit, just as people don’t have to pay a user fee every time they take their car out of their driveway. 

Any of the changes suggested in this survey will lead to me using the bus less frequently, reducing my mobility. Eliminating transfers, as option 3 suggests, would mean that I would have to buy a car rather than relying on the combination of transit, cycling and walking as I do now; it would simply be too expensive and inconvenient to pay multiple fares on multiple buses to get where I need to go. As transit planner Jarrett Walker says, “Charging passengers extra for the inconvenience of connections is insane. It discourages exactly the customer behavior that efficient and liberating networks depend on. It undermines the whole notion of a transit network.”

If you’d like to say something similar to your Transit Commission members in advance of the December 8 meeting, you can find their contact details here.

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The City Walks – In the Shadow of Mega-Events: Protests, Policing and the Military in Victoria

You are invited to participate in a discussion based walking tour on the policing of mega-events and police-military connections in Victoria. In partnership with The City Talks, this walk will take up some of the themes in Adam Molnar’s lecture, In the Shadow of the Spectacle: Security Legacies in the Olympic City, and apply them to sites in Victoria.

Here are the details:

Meet: Centennial Square
Date: March 29, 2014
Time: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Join the walk on Facebook.
Click here for a map of the sites we’ll visit and the route we’ll take.

Here are the sites we’ll visit and some of the questions we’ll discuss:

Centennial SquareCentennial Square

  • How has this site been used by protestors, particularly by anti-Olympics groups and the Occupy movement?
  • What makes it an attractive site for protesting?
  • How is it designed to be easily policed? What physical and legal technologies have been employed here to control protestors?

Bastion BricksBastion Outline on Government Street

  • What was the Bastion originally created for? How was it related to forms of civil, military and commercial power?
  • How is the Bastion represented now? How and why was the brick outline created?
  • Given the variety of heritage plaques, First Nations inspired art, and cultural institutions in the vicinity, how should we interpret this site? How is our experience of this place structured by the information embedded in the landscape?
  • Does the fact that the cannons were fired during a dispute with First Nations people in 1844 appear in any of the heritage interpretation signs at this site?

View of SonghesSonghees Lookout

  • Are you aware that the Songhees First Nation used to have a reserve at Songhees Point? Do you know why the Songhees were encouraged to move there in the 1840s?
  • How do you think Victoria would have been different if the reserve had remained across the harbour in Vic West, rather than being moved to Esquimalt in 1911?
  • Do you know about the totem pole that was raised at Songhees Point to celebrate the Commonwealth Games? How else were First Nations involved in the Games?

Ship Point Navy Sculpture

  • What does this statue say about Victoria’s relationship with the military? What does it ask us to remember? What does it ask us to forget? How is it used by residents and tourists?
  • Does it seem odd that one of the main pieces of sculpture here lists a number of corporate sponsors?

Commonwealth Games Commemorative Sign

  • Are the Commonwealth Games generally remembered positively or negatively by residents of Victoria? Do you remember Expo 86 or the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver as being more controversial than the Commonwealth Games?
  • Were you aware that “designated demonstration areas” were set up at all Commonwealth Games venues? Did you know that Games organizers used a number of security measures, including “the placement of surveillance cameras in the Inner Harbor, … photo-IDing of sex-trade workers, and the removal of the homeless from the city’s inner core”?1 How do you think these measures influenced the public’s perception of the Games and of Victoria?
  • What organizations control and manage this area? What effects might this have on the Causeway as a public space?

Legislature Grounds

  • What do you know about the Canada Day bomb plot? Do you recall how it was reported by the media and handled by the police and courts? What do you think of the so-called “Mr. Big” investigative technique?
  • What effect do you think threats like the Canada Day bomb plot (and the reporting about them) have on large public gatherings in Victoria and elsewhere? How do you sort out the various risks and benefits of public gatherings and demands for increased policing?
  • Has the nature and policing of large events at this site changed over the past few decades? How is it used differently for protests, celebrations, state occasions and tourism?
  • How do you feel about the war memorials near this site? How are they used for Rememberance Day and other commemorative ceremonies?

1Steen Hume, “(Re)Locating the Local in the Global: Theorizing Cultural Politics during the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games,” MA Thesis, University of Victoria, 1998.

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GTCA Newsletter Contribution: Could Car-Sharing be Around the Corner?

The following article appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of the Gorge Tillicum Neighbourhood Association’s Newsletter.

Do you want to save money, protect the environment, build a stronger community, and enhance your personal mobility? If you do, you might want to join the Victoria Car Share Co-op.

Membership in the Car Share offers a number of benefits:

  • You get access to a large fleet of different kinds of vehicles, so you can drive one of those cute Fiats one day and use the pickup truck for hauling furniture the next.
  • Rather than paying for large “sunk costs” like insurance and registration, only to leave your car parked most of the day, with car sharing you only pay for the cars when you’re using them. This can reduce your costs by thousands of dollars a year.
  • By encouraging you to use more sustainable transportation options more of the time, while allowing you to use a car when you really need to, car sharing can help reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Because members spend more time walking in our neighbourhood and cooperating to provide public goods, car sharing can help enhance our community well-being.

Since car sharing also tends to benefit other drivers by reducing congestion, it’s in everyone’s interest to have a co-op car in the neighbourhood. Getting a car in the neighbourhood, preferably in a central location near Pearkes Arena, is a goal supported by the GTCA Board. It would also help support the Sustainable Saanich Official Community Plan, which includes encouragement for Co-op cars.

Because each car has to be self-supporting through members’ use fees, there has to be a sufficient density of members in a neighbourhood before the Co-op will consider placing a car here. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough members of the Co-op living in Gorge-Tillicum for them to justify placing a car here. It’s the old “chicken-and-the-egg” problem – without enough members, there will be no Co-op car in the neighbourhood; without a Co-op car in the neighbourhood, there are fewer people who are willing to join the Co-op.

There are a couple of ways you can help:

  • If you’re interested in joining the Co-op, you can find out how to do so at VictoriaCarShare.ca. There are a number of low-cost membership options that you might qualify for.
  • If you’re not ready to join right away, but think that having a car in the neighbourhood would benefit the community or make it easier for you to join later, you can fill in the Car Request Form. That will let the Co-op know that there are people interested in having a car nearby.
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Vincent’s Victoria Urban Events – March 2 to March 8, 2014

An occasional post featuring urban themed events in the Victoria area.

City Talks Poster - Building Better Cities

• March 5, 2014, 7:30 p.m., Legacy Gallery

Building Better Cities: Urban Renewal, State Power, and Democracy in 1960s Halifax and Vancouver
Tina Loo, Professor, Department of History, University of British Columbia
A City Talks Special Event

• March 6, 2014, 4:30 p.m., UVic David Strong Building C122

CSRS Public Lecture Series: Walking Tours and the Religious Landscape of Victoria
Vincent Gornall, Vandekerkhove Family Trust Graduate Student Fellow, Department of History, UVic

Do you have an event that you want to see listed here? Send me an email including the title of the event; the time, date and place of the event; and a link with more information. I reserve the right to choose which events to highlight.

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Parking Follies III

An occasional series featuring parking problems from a pedestrian and cyclist viewpoint.

Looking for information on upcoming walking tours? Click here or on the tab above.

image

What: A car parked in a bike lane.

Where: Near the intersection of Gorge Road West and Gorge View Drive

When: February 17, 2014. 1:59 pm.

Comment: This happens all too often on roads in the Victoria area – a seemingly unaware driver thinks that a bike lane is actually an on-street parking lane, forcing cyclists to merge into the motor vehicle traffic lane to get around the obstruction, often at some risk to their safety. What makes this case particularly egregious is that both nearby driveways (in the foreground and the background of the picture) were empty, meaning that the driver had access to off-street parking. Half an hour later, I passed this spot on the bus, and saw a police car parked behind this car, presumably writing a ticket.

The relevant portion of Saanich’s Steets and Traffic bylaw reads: “7.10 Except when necessary to avoid conflict with traffic or to comply with the law or the direction of a peace officer or traffic control device, no person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle… (r) On or over a bicycle lane.” The fine that Saanich levies for this offense is, according to section 11.03 (b), a minimum of $30.00.

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