Jane’s Walk 2013 – The Death and Life of the Tillicum-Burnside Action Plan?

For the second year in a row, I will be leading a Jane’s Walk, this time in the Gorge-Tillicum neighbourhood. The walk starts at 10:00 on Saturday, May 4, at Qu’Appelle Park, which is between Davin and Qu’appelle Streets, near Burnside Road. We’ll then proceed along Burnside and Tillicum Roads, and end around 12:00 at Gorgeous Coffee.

This walk is designed around a series of quotes from Jane Jacobs’ seminal book on city planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.* Employing a unique question-based method, it uses the ideas of Jacobs to encourage participants to observe and engage with their urban environment, build on their own knowledge about the city, and think explicitly about their how their values influence their understanding of the city. The route was inspired by the Tillicum – Burnside Action Plan published by Saanich in 2005.

A few overarching questions will guide our discussions on this walk:

1. Do you know what the Tillicum-Burnside Action Plan suggests for each of the places that we visit today? What kind of improvements have you noticed in this area over the past few years? How do you think such changes should be implemented?

2. What is a neighbourhood? Do you think of the area we’re walking through today as one neighbourhood or many? Are there other neighbourhoods adjacent to our walk? What are their boundaries? What are the benefits and drawbacks of thinking about and planning a city in terms of neighbourhoods?

3. How should local decisions be made? How much power should local residents have? How much power should organizations like the GTCA or higher levels of government have? How can a neighbourhood make its voice heard?

Here’s a map of the route we’ll take:

At each of the following sites, we’ll consider the following ideas from The Death and Life of Great American Cities*, and the more specific questions that go along with them. Moreover, one of the following pictures contains a hidden feature. Can you figure out what it is? Why do you think I’ve chosen this particular feature? How would you answer the related question? Feel free to use the comments below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1. Qu’appelle Park

“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity” (111).

  • Does this park succeed according to Jacobs’ criteria? How could it be improved?

Commerce vs Homes

2. Commerce vs. Homes on Arterials – Burnside from Davin to Orillia

“To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts four conditions are indispensable: 1. The district… must serve more than one primary function… 2. Most blocks must be short… 3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition… 4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people.” (150-151).

  • How well does the stretch of Burnside Road between Davin and Orillia meet Jacobs’ criteria for a  diverse neighbourhood? How could it be improved?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Public Sector Infrastructure – Tillicum School

“Schools, like parks, are apt to be volatile creatures of their neighborhoods (as well as being creatures of larger policy). In bad neighborhoods, schools are brought to runiation, physically and socially; while successful neighborhoods improve their schools by fighting for them” (113).

  • What role does Tillicum Community School play in this neighbourhood? How does its physical and social presence enhance our neighbourhood? How could it be improved?

Tillicum-Burnside Road Infrastructure

4. Transportation Infrastructure – Burnside and Tillicum

“Lack of wide ranges of concentrated diversity can put people into automobiles for almost all their needs. The spaces required for roads and for parking spread everything out still farther, and lead to still greater uses of automobiles” (230).

  • In what ways could the highway infrastructure at this intersection be improved? How could other forms of transportation be encouraged?

Parking Lots & Land Owners

5. Density, Parking Lots & Major Land Owners – Tillicum Mall, Saanich Centennial Library & Pearkes Arena

“Massive single uses in cities have a quality in common with each other. They form borders, and borders in cities usually make destructive neighbors” (257).

  • Does this parking lot create a “border vacuum”? What should be done about it? If new buildings were placed adjacent to the street, with underground parking, how would that enhance the public realm?

Low Density Commercial

6. Successful Mixed Uses? Low Density Commercial & Religious Institutions 

“On successful city streets, people must appear at different times… I have already explained this necessity in social terms while discussing street safety and neighborhood parks. Now I shall point out its economic effects. Most consumer enterprises are just as dependent as parks on people going to and fro throughout the day… If consumer enterprises lie idle for much of the day they may disappear” (152-153).

  • Is there sufficient density and diversity in this corridor to support storefronts like those in this area? How might we increase the economic viability of commercial enterprises in this area?

Commercial Aesthetics & Function

7. Commercial Aesthetics & Function – Fairways Complex

“The aim should be to get that project… rewoven back into the fabric [of the city] – and in the process of doing so, strengthen the surrounding fabric too” (392).

  • Is the Fairways complex working well now? What strategies might be used to make it more functional and aesthetically pleasing?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

8. Finish – Gorgeous Coffee

Gorgeous Coffee offers the “bohemian life of [a] coffee house” (245). Moreover, it is a great neighbourhood place to discuss the issues raised during our walk in more depth.

  • Will you join me there after the walk for coffee and more discussion?

* Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Vintage Books, December 1992 [1961]. All the quotes in this outline are from this edition.

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11 Responses to Jane’s Walk 2013 – The Death and Life of the Tillicum-Burnside Action Plan?

  1. Jacqui Ward says:

    This looks like a very interesting walk. Unfortunately I’m not a morning person and am just waking up at 10 am. I lived in this area as a teenager, then later as an adult, and except for Tillicum Mall it has not changed that much. Saanich really needs to encourage improvement of Burnside Road, it still looks like some hick town main street.. The area is interesting in that it is split by Burnside into a “better” neighbourhood on the Gorge side and a “worse” side on the other side of the road. I don’t think that has changed since I was a kid (and I’m retired now!), My mother would not rest until we could move to the “better” side, Another small point. Yes, the 26 bus does drop off by Home Hardware just across from Qu’appelle Park, but the 22 and 21 also drop off at the same place and they can be caught downtown. The 26 only runs across town from Dockyard to the University.

    • vincentgornall says:

      Jacqui – Thanks for your comment. I agree with you on the need to improve Burnside Road, and think your assessment is apt. Thanks for catching my mistake about the buses. I’ve updated the walk description to include the 21 and 22.

  2. Sarah says:

    The type of community Jacobs loved were those that evolved pre-war. Traditional human scale cities/neighbouhoods are also considered a sustainable alternative in a low-carbon future, an example of current planning discourse inspired by intellectuals like Jane Jacobs. You’ll notice many parallels in Seven Rules (very idealistic and conflicting rules).
    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2010/09/15/SevenSustainableRules/

    The problem with such idealism is that it doesn’t happen overnight. In the western world, developers have far more control over the production of the urban form than those who live there. The tragedy is that traditional urban transects that support socially integrated and enlivened communities often attract developers and gentrification. A process that can destroy the type of social cohesion and human urban landscapes Jacobs fought to protect. The problem is the differences in values(ie. aesthetics) and social mores between the working class ( who often inhabit these functioning landscapes) and the middle class that move in.

    In comment to the photos, they all lack pedestrian activity. A trend towards natural play equipment for children lends itself to a more multi-user parkscape that could be inclusive of all community members, not just those with children (blends with the natural landscape).

    Commercial arterials/collector roads (terms that are relics of a street hierarchy system that destroyed the traditional and highly connective grid pattern) that focus on the movement of traffic fail to promote the type of social environment evidenced by pedestrian activity. Ewings “mainstreet ” concept is one proposed remedy for such roads. It basicly suggests narrowing the roadway, widening sidewalks, planting canopy trees, and providing opportunities for pedestrians to cross the street (reducing building setbacks and increasing heights is another visual cue).

    The Tillicum-Burnside Action Plan attempts to implement these strategies. Notably, it has attempted to encourage developer interest in implementing a plan to create a Jacobs-esque environment that has been informed by public process. The question is, was the plan adopted by council?
    It’s also interesting to note public comments around traffic safety. Change weighs on the ability of the community to let go of old ideas. In this case, the idea that wide expanses of pavement increase pedestrian safety.

    My final comment is that I find artist conceptions of this type of public realm to be to conformational. The charm and hominess of the traditional neighborhood ( which is a complete unit, including residential, commercial, jobs, as and public services) is something that evolves in an environment with far less regulation. I suppose the issue is the power of developers in producing urban spaces. Without regulation, the bottom line would dictate an environment far worse.

    I don’t know if this is the type of discussion you were hoping to provoke. These are my two cents, anyways.

    • vincentgornall says:

      Sarah – Thanks for your two cents! This is exactly the type of discussion I was hoping for. Seven Rules is now on my reading list; I am looking forward to hearing what Condon has to say. The Action Plan was endorsed by Saanich Council in 2005, but many of the recommendations still haven’t been implemented.

    • vincentgornall says:

      Moreover, you’re quite right in pointing out that an economic analysis that looks at the power of developers and the relative lack of power of middle and working classes is necessary to understanding the dynamics of our urban landscape. For that reason, Marx is also on my reading list.

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  5. Wendy says:

    I hope I can make it to this walk – my introduction to the “Jane’s Walk” method! It sounds very interesting and useful. I used to live on Maddock Avenue just behind the school, 30 years ago. I remember the old Tillicum Outdoor Theatre (drive-in) where they had flea markets on the weekends. It was much more conducive to community building than the mall is, I think! I now live on the ‘other’ side of Tillicum close to Cuthbert Holmes Park. I find these to be two completely different neighbourhoods though close together.

    I find it interesting that both these areas have narrow, relatively quiet residential streets with post-war houses, many of which have been carefully renovated and kept up nicely. In contrast, both Tillicum and Burnside roads have become major traffic arteries. People don’t use these streets as local commercial areas (i.e. with small local shops that people walk to), but more as routes to somewhere else (Tillicum Mall, the highway, etc). The remaining houses on these roads don’t seem to fit anymore, and I’m sure the residents are not fond of the traffic. It would be very interesting to see what would happen if these busy roads were narrowed and made more friendly to pedestrians and bicycles rather than cars! I did like the concept embedded in the traffic photo, with people and bikes having priority. 🙂

    • vincentgornall says:

      Wendy – I’ve noticed the difference between the two halves of the neighbourhood as well. That issue motivated me to ask one of the overarching questions of this walk: “Do you think of the area we’re walking through today as one neighbourhood or many? Are there other neighbourhoods adjacent to our walk? What are their boundaries?” I’m looking forward to discussing this more with you tomorrow morning!

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