The City Walks II – Urban Renewal & The Politics of Exclusion in Victoria, B.C.

You are invited to attend the second in a series of walks sponsored by the University of Victoria’s Urban Studies Committee, and organized and led by graduate student Vincent Gornall. This month’s topic is Urban Renewal & The Politics of Exclusion in Victoria, B.C.

Date: October 20, 2012
When: 10 am to 12 pm
Where: Meet at Songhees Point.

The tour will start at the large rock outcrop along the Songhees Walkway, near the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa. The tour continues over the Johnson Street Bridge and stops at several points in and around downtown. Here’s a map of where we’ll go:

This tour will be conversation based. A few overarching questions will guide our walk:

1. What is urban renewal? How do international movements connect with local developments? How has urban renewal changed Victoria’s built landscape? How is Victoria’s built environment similar to or different from other cities that you’ve lived in or visited?

2. Are there some people who are more welcome to use public and private spaces in the city? Does the built environment here make you feel welcome or unwelcome? How has the inclusiveness of our city changed over time?

3. What role do governments play in developing and redeveloping places in our city?

With these broad questions in mind, we will also consider the following more specific questions at each site we visit:

1. Songhees Point

  • What evidence remains in the landscape that there was once a First Nation’s reserve in this area? How would Victoria have been different if it had remained here over the past century?
  • What evidence remains in the landscape of the former industrial uses of this landscape?
  • What do you think of the current landscape? Are high-end condos and luxury hotels a good use of this real estate? What other uses of this land can you imagine? What do you think of current plans for a nearby marina and the opposition to it?

2. Johnson St. Bridge – The Harbour & The Gorge

  • What changes can you observe happening around you as you cross the bridge? How have the surrounding areas changed in the time that you’ve lived in Victoria? Are local waterways symbolic of change and renewal in this city?
  • Pay particular attention to the residential, commercial and industrial activities around the harbour. Should new housing be built near industrial activities in our cities? What are the tradeoffs in maintaining industrial uses of land in our city?

3. Railway Monument

  • How have railways shaped the history of this city, province and country? What evidence remains of their local impact?
  • How have railway rights of way been repurposed locally? Are there other ways that you would like to see them be reused?
  • What roles should transportation authorities play in creating the built form of our cities (rapid transit, roads, freeways, transit oriented development)?

4. Centennial Square I – The Fountain

  • What kinds of buildings do you see around you? Does the architecture generally match the landscape and built form of the square? What can you tell about the designers’ vision from looking around the square?
  • What clues are there about previous uses of this square and the surrounding areas?
  • Does the square connect well with the rest of the city? Does the design make it a comfortable and welcoming space? How could it be modified to make it more welcoming?

5. Centennial Square II – City Hall

In April 2012, Victoria City Council rescinded the last of its wartime motions supporting internment and deportation of Japanese-Canadians during World War II.

  • How does the Japanese-Canadian experience in World War II connect with the themes we’re discussing today?
  • Should governments apologize for racist actions they took in the past? What role should compensation play in redressing historical wrongs?

6. Chinese Public School

  • What roles do schools play in fostering a sense of community? In what ways can schools divide different communities?
  • What can the history of racism and school segregation in Victoria teach us about urban renewal and the politics of exclusion?

7. Swift House

  • What role should federal, provincial and municipal governments play in funding social housing? Should governments encourage certain types of housing with tax and zoning policies?
  • What other competing values and uses are there when developing social housing? What limits should be placed on where social housing is constructed?

8. Rock Bay Industry

  • What role should various levels of government play in regulating industrial uses of land? What role should governments play in cleaning up decades of industrial pollution?
  • What role should the public play in shaping how this area looks in the future? What do you envision being built here?

At the end of the walk, we will continue the discussion over coffee at Discovery Coffee – 664 Discovery Street.

Further Reading:

  • Christopher Klemek. The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal: Postwar Urbanism from New York to Berlin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
  • John Sutton Lutz. Makúk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008.
  • Martin Segger. The Emergence of Architectural Modernism II : UVic and the Victoria Regional Aesthetic in the late 1950s and 60s. Victoria: University of Victoria Art Collections, 2011.
  • Timothy J. Stanley. Contesting White Supremacy: School Segregation, Anti-Racism, and the Making of Chinese Canadians. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.
  • Victoria City Council, “Minutes – Meeting of Thursday, April 12, 2012,” <>.

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

This walk presented in partnership with The City Talks and the Committee for Urban Studies, and created through graduate coursework in the History Department at The University of Victoria.

Thanks to University of Victoria History Professor Jordan Stanger-Ross for supporting the development of this tour and suggesting a number of improvements to earlier drafts. Any errors and omissions remain my responsibility.

All photos and text copyright Vincent Gornall, unless otherwise noted.

This entry was posted in E&N, Education, First Nations, Historic Sites, Homelessness, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use, Pedestrians, Planning, Public Art, Public Space, Public Transit, Racism, Redevelopment, Research, Uncategorized, University Courses, University of Victoria, UVic, Vic West, Victoria, Walking Tours and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The City Walks II – Urban Renewal & The Politics of Exclusion in Victoria, B.C.

  1. Libby Juthans says:

    Great stuff Vincent!

  2. Pingback: The City Walks II – An Invitation | Vincent's Victoria

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi Vincent,
    This is pretty fantastic! I would love to hear more about this project, and your work at UVIC. Are you open to swapping emails?

  4. Pingback: The City Talks III – History, Memory & the Urban Landscape | Vincent's Victoria

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