AN ADDRESS BY
PROF. ERIC R. ARTHUR.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eason Humphreys.
Thursday, January 20, 1944
MR. HUMPHREYS: There has been much planning for war. It is not too early perhaps to explore possibilities for the art of living in times of peace.
The progress of the intelligence of man is very slow in some matters. For instance, for over nineteen hundred years man has pulled his shirt over his head. It is only during the last few years that he discovered that it could be opened down the front.
Professor Eric R. Arthur, M.A., Bachelor of Architecture, A.R.I.B.A., will undoubtedly stimulate our intelligence when, in a minute, he addresses us on "Town Planning".
Professor Arthur was born and partially educated in New Zealand, afterwards attending Liverpool University in England. He is a Lord Kitchener National Memorial Scholar, and Holt Travelling Scholar. While in England he was on the staff in London of Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Now, Canada benefits from Professor Arthur's great professional ability, for he is Professor of Architectural Design, University of Toronto. Our guest is also editor of the Journal of The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.
Professor Arthur's most notable accomplishments are the Dewsbury War Memorial in Yorkshire, England; Canada Packers' Plants in Edmonton and Vancouver; and, by the way, he received the Gold Medals, 1937, from The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Toronto Chapter of the Ontario Association for the most outstanding building of the year--it being Canada Packers' Plant at Edmonton.
Prof. Arthur is author, too. Small House of the Late 18th and Early 19th Century in Ontario is one of his books. Another is Old Forts in Upper Canada. In the last war, our guest served as private with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.
Gentlemen: Profesosr Eric R. Arthur, his subject: "Town Planning".
PROFESSOR ARTHUR: Town Planning is rather a vast topic to discuss at a luncheon address, but as it deals, to some extent, with the causes of urban indigestion and their cure, it may not be so inappropriate a subject. As a matter of fact, it is particularly appropriate at this time because the Report of the City Planning Board in Toronto is now before the City Council and the evidence of its labours over the past year is on exhibition at the Art Gallery.
The exhibition, with the report that accompanies it, is a very significant one, and its influence will extend far beyond the Toronto region. Its significance far transcends any value it may have as a plan of future development, and its publication will stimulate and encourage every municipality in Canada. It is no exaggeration to say that the newspaper discussion, whether favourable or unfavourable, that the report has brought forth will not go unnoticed in the halls of Queen's Park and Ottawa. Across Canada, today, there are earnest groups of citizens, and equally earnest Municipal Councils all studying Town Planning, and the majority of them are without guidance and without leadership. They all look forward to a post war world in which their community will be a happier and better place to live in, and they are in deadly earnest in their desire to provide employment in the immediate postwar years. They look back with fear at that dark period in our history when we dug holes only to fill them in, and they are determined that such an orgy of waste shall not happen again. These citizens have more than an instinctive feeling that Town Planning is the greatest single thing that they can embark on in wartime, if the horrors of war are not to be followed by the horrors arising out of unemployment in an unplanned peace.
Toronto, then, is at the head of a crusade. It is one of two or three cities in Canada that can say to its citizens that, if the very worst befalls us, and an economic collapse occurs, we have a scheme of public works, each one of which will not only provide work, but will contribute to the dignity and beauty of the city and the happiness of its citizenry. On the brighter side, if the post war years fall into the pattern of peace and security for which we all hope, we shall be able to proceed, on the immediate cessation of hostilities, with a programme of works that will put Toronto well in the forefront of North American cities for the excellence of its residential areas, the convenience of its industries, the dignity of its urban centre and the beauty of its recreational areas.
Unfortunately, this handsome child of the City Planning Board is stillborn and can only be brought to life by Federal Financial Assistance, Provincial Legislation and, last but not least, the firm conviction of the people of Toronto that it is worth doing. This last point is of such importance that I shall spend some few minutes, with your permission, explaining the need for planning in this and other Canadian cities.
At the time of Confederation the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Verdun, Sydney, Fort William, Moose jaw and others did not exist. The City of Winnipeg was a Hudson's Bay Post with a population of 200. Moncton was a hamlet of 500 souls. Only three cities had a population of over 50,000 and they were Montreal 130,833, Quebec 59,600 and Toronto 59,000. Ottawa, after one-half a century as Bytown boasted 20,000, and Halifax with the advantage of near 120 years previous existence had a population of 30,000. These colonial towns that we had, were planned originally by military engineers, and were as tidy as a military camp.
Commerce and what industry there was, segregated, or was of such charm and scale that its presence went unnoticed; and residential areas were fixed and unviolated by buildings put to non-compatible uses. Had it been possible for the colonial town, with its simple economy, to grow by natural increase of population, and without violent disturbance, they would still be orderly, decent places in which to live. The Industrial Revolution changed that peaceful picture, and, in the second half of the nineteenth century, we see our Canadian cities growing in a casual, unplanned fashion in which profit, rather than the general good, became the basis of urban and suburban growth. The cities, and the lure of work at higher wages, took young people away from the farms in such numbers that municipalities were quite unprepared for them. In 1880 the urban population of the United States represented 10 per cent of the total population while today it is 56 per cent. In Canada the urban population is 53.7 per cent and in 1880 25.6. Our worst slums in Toronto were built in that period of uncontrolled growth when every foot of land was sweated, and the residences of the poor existed cheek by jowl with industry. Movement of population, in any volume, from the country has now been completed--in fact we may see the reverse take place, in some degree, after the war. It is the view of most planners in the United States that internal migration will, in the future, between cities, not to them, or from rural areas.
The advent of the railways added to the general confusion, and they are today, with the industries which flank them, our greatest barriers to orderly planning. The advantages of railway transportation were so great, that, in spite of the protests of certain citizens and alternative plans which they produced, the railways were allowed to ride rough shod over our areas of greatest natural beauty, or even, as in Oshawa, down the main street. With them came round houses and industry, heavy, light and noxious occupying an area in Toronto in the path of the prevailing south-west wind. It is not generally realized how large a part railway terminals play in the urban scene--how much blight they cause, and how the results of poor planning on their part have complicated the whole urban plan. In this city we have the evidence of poor planning in two monumental examples. The C.P.R. folly on Yonge St. blossomed into a brief, but spectacular new life, with the arrival of Their Majesties in 1939, and has since been put to the service of the public in a manner not considered by its designers. It is probably forgotten that the old red brick Union Station was built, and became obsolete, in the lifetime of many in this room. It was built in 1895. In the absence of a master plan for the city as a whole, the new station was built in 1927 on its present unhappy site, and has, within that short period, proved wholly inadequate for its multitudinous functions. A site for its successor, in a democratic society, which has advanced beyond the pioneer stage of development will some day be not the sole problem of the railroads, but of the City Council through its City Planning Board.
High real estate taxation and the deterioration of urban residential areas for the various causes I have given, have brought about a flight to the suburbs. In any large city we can trace those migrations of people that lead them ever forth in search of sunlight and fresh air. From the point of view of the architect, and without title deeds or the like to help him, the old colonial centre of Toronto is easily traceable. I could show you in a short walk of this room some splendid old houses dating back from 1817 to 1930. I could show you the Third Toronto P.O., a modest frame shack with a charming front door. From there, we could walk to a later P.O., now the Bank of Canada, which is only a stone's throw from the present P.O. In any scheme of reconstruction I would give a high priority to the rebuilding of that obsolescent structure, which has neither beauty nor age to justify its existence in any capital city. Going further afield, we could see evidence in the Annex and Rosedale of the first great flight of citizens. The Annex makes feeble, but usually effective, protests against the intrusion of gasoline stations, but its inhabitants know that unless something is done, deterioration of the district will accelerate as the city moves further north. We might take side trips to those streets once restricted to the well-to-do on Jarvis Street, St. George and Simcoe Streets and see that new uses are everywhere apparent. And so we could go on through Moore Park, Forest Hill Village, North Toronto, all still new, until we come to the last refuge of the escapist, of singing birds and trees, of rabbits and all the joys of a rural existence--Bayview. We are inclined to forget that the same pleasures were once enjoyed in their turn by the people on Queen Street, Bloor, St. Clair and Eglington Avenue.
In all these processes affecting your way of living and mine, Town Planning was of a piecemeal, opportunist kind, and not a little was merely subdivision of land by real estate speculators. As a result we are criminally overbuilt and poorly planned. It is not in the nature of land subdivision for profit to allocate areas within the subdivision for parks. Private philanthropy, such as Mr. Howard's gift of High Park in Toronto, has saved us from the ignominy of being a city without regard to the needs of our citizens in their leisure hours, but even with that handsome benefaction and of Allen Gardens and smaller gifts, we are, on an estimate of minimum need, 672 acres short of open space in Toronto.
There were two alternatives for the Toronto City Planning Board in laying its programme for 1943. It could have adopted the short-sighted view of the city as it is today, and prepared a plan in which jogs were corrected, streets were widened and areas marked for condemnation and rebuilding. Even a programme of such limited dimensions would cost millions, and a wiser Board of 1953 would proceed with a programme in which half, or all our labours would prove useless, if not an -actual handicap, to orderly development. Instead, the Board acting on its instructions from Council to prepare a master plan, assumed, first of all, that the strategic position of Toronto would inevitably lead to its continued growth. The citizens of 1973 will know how closely we came, in our estimated population of one and a half millions. That figure represents a growth by natural increase or other means of 600,000 persons.
Probably the most striking elements in the new plan are the inner green belt and the boundary of agricultural land. The inner belt averages 2,000 feet in width and limits the growth of what is approximately the existing city. Its location is determined by the natural valleys of the Don and the Humber, and its area is 2,500 acres. Inside that area we can expand and replan but the Green Belt itself is zoned as a park for all time. Not all of it will be owned by the city, but it will always serve as an area of green trees and grass, and a barrier against unnecessary further building in the city proper. Beyond the Green Belt is another belt, this time of residential areas and industry embracing all the outside municipalities with ample room for expansion. Their growth is also limited (in our total population of $1,500,000) by a line beyond which is agricultural land, zoned and protected against residential subdivision. The criminal destruction of agricultural land by land speculators is a characteristic feature of periphery of all cities on this continent. Wilson Avenue, Sheppard Avenue and stretches of Dufferin Street are sordid examples of the kind of thing to which I refer.
Inside the agricultural boundary and effecting the whole city, new arteries have been planned for east and west and north bound traffic. These super highways connect with present or projected provincial highways. The subject of rapid transit in Toronto raises political issues, but so does sewage. It is possible to over-estimate in any city the number of persons in the post war period who will use plastic or rocket cars or even the common garden variety we have today. We know how long it takes to go to work, or return home in the evening by street car or motor car. We know that the present condition is intolerable, and will get worse.
The city we live in was planned as a horse and buggy town in which your great grandfather drove at 10 miles an hour. With the invention of the motor car that speed has been reduced, in the rush hours on certain streets to eight miles an hour. The average down town speed in rush hours is 9.67 miles an hour. The Planning Board and its experts have in my opinion shown the minimum services for a city of 1,500,000, and the priorities given each super highway or other project in the post war period will be matters to be decided by the people of Toronto. The modern super highway is a depressed or excavated street over which streets pass by means of bridges. Where a street car line is included, the street car travels on its own right of way which is of sufficient width to allow passengers to pass up stairs to the bridges in complete safety. Motor traffic goes by uninterrupted at high speed. Toronto is famous for its ravines and infamous for its neglect of most of them. These depressed highways will serve as a new network of artificial ravines which will give the city a new pattern of residential, commercial and industrial development. The problem of designing streets -even fast streets, is not a staggering one for the expert traffic engineer. The task now before us is one of saving existing residential areas from a blight that already afflicts them, of planning new neighbourhoods; of seeing to it that the children of both groups can go with safety to school without crossing traffic streets-that adults and children have ample areas for their recreation; of recreating out of slum property an area that will provide all the pleasures of suburban living with all the amenities of city life. Where the people will live has now been determined-how they will live is a vastly greater problem calling for a sympathetic treatment by persons with a wide range of experience in these matters. At every stage from this point on, the Board must take the public into its confidence for they are in a very real sense, its clients. The home as the nucleus of planning must increasingly dominate our studies.
Housing will not be a function of the Planning Board, but as it will define the areas where housing should go, I would like to mention it here. The method is one that may be adopted throughout Canada, and is one that does not seem to be properly understood by the Press. We have in our blighted area, euphemistically known as Moss Park, an area that should be condemned and acquired by the city. The buildings will then de demolished and houses, apartments and duplexes, churches, stores and other buildings can then be placed on the land in conformity with the new street pattern shown on the master plan. Some of that land will be always city land. Part of it will be school property, fire stations, parks, playgrounds and areas given up to public housing. The rest will be for sale or lease to private enterprise. I believe that private enterprise is already interested in the possibility of large scale housing for rent in this kind of area in Canadian cities, and for people in all but the lowest income brackets. It is generally assumed in all housing programmes that a person should not pay more than one-fifth his monthly income for rent. Private enterprise cannot, with any profit, provide shelter on this basis for those whose monthly income is $100 a month or less. This class of Canadian citizen is larger than is generally imagined, and his proper housing should be No. 1 priority after the war. The 1941 census for the twelve metropolitan areas of Canada shows that in the lower third of all tenant groups, 35,400 tenant families earned less than $500.00 a year. The picture of bad housing is even more vividly shown when you contemplate the kind of dwelling you can get for $15.00 a month in war or peace in Canada, and realize that the 1941 survey showed that 25.5 per cent of the total householders in Hull were in this category; 25 per cent in St. John, N.B.; 15.1 percent in Sherbrooke; 15 percent in Saskatoon and with proportionately high percentages in other Canadian municipalities. There can be no doubt that an alarming and acute housing crisis has been piling up and awaits urgent action in the immediate post war years. Decent living accommodation for low wage income families remains the unsolved major problem of our urban communities."(Special Committee on Reconstruction and Re-Establishment, King's Printer, Nov., 1943.)
It is not often that one has the privilege of addressing so influential an audience, and I should like to say something more on the subject of housing. I have already suggested that the solution calls for immediate action. Various estimates have been given of the Canadian Housing need after the war. These vary from 300,000 estimated by Wartime Housing Limited, to one million, a figure given at a meeting of the Society of Real Estate appraisers in Toronto last year. The former figure of need was carefully estimated though I do not know its basis-the latter I know nothing about at all except that it has had confirmation in other places. If we take an average of those two figures, we get a backlog of houses, including slum clearance of 650,000 dwelling units. Gigantic as such a programme would appear to be, it is lower on a proportional basis that the post war building programme of Great Britain, the United States or New Zealand. Dut to the uncertainty of the Government's intentions in regard to housing, fear is being expressed in many quarters that a programme of great magnitude will be launched, in which private enterprise in the housing field will be restricted, if not actually destroyed. If we take the experience of Great Britain and the United States in this field, nothing could, I believe, be further from the truth. We may anticipate federal assistance in the fields of Home Ownership, and home improvement on which the National Housing Administration has already guaranteed some millions of dollars with infinitesimal loss. Slum clearance, low rent projects and farm housing come under a different category, in which Canada, of all the United and enemy nations with the possible exception of Japan, has had no experience. But even there, the ordinary professional and construction channels will be used for building if we would not court disaster. Nor do I see any reason to fear that one class of project will be adopted to the exclusion of others. The whole vast programme must be worked out, at any rate at the beginning, on a basis of finding the task that will take up the first shock of demobilization.
There is a vital element in any scheme of rehabilitation that I have already mentioned that will arouse hostility in certain quarters, but which is essential to the success of any reconstruction scheme. That is the matter of land acquisition in large blocks by the municipality with federal assistance. Without such a provision, the whole rehabilitation proposal of the City Planning Board breaks down. In 1941, after a visit to England, I mentioned this subject, quite innocently, in Convocation Hall, and I gathered later that I had shocked quite a number in my audience. Today, it is openly discussed, and has been declared to be the policy of Toronto by none other than His Worship the Mayor, in a memorandum which I shall refer to later. Assuming the necessary legislation is provided, it would be the function of the Planning Board to decide on the area to be acquired (though the ultimate decision would be that of City Council); and definitely indicated, as the American Planning Association has pointed out, "would be the proposed use of every portion of the area, whether for public purposes or for leasing to private enterprise, and such use would be determined without regard to acquisition cost of the land.
The acquisition of the land would be a by-product of the job of clearing away the obstacles to redevelopment. In arriving at a decision as to its subsequent use it should be deemed to have cost nothing. In other words, it would be used to the best interest of the whole urban community, as indicated by the master plan, and irrespective of acquisition cost. Any portion of the cost not subsequently recovered would simply be written off as the price to be paid for the errors of past generations." You might well ask at this point, Mr. President and Gentlemen, what can be done about all this. In addition to a mass of material which private groups and municipal committees have prepared, the Federal Government has set up the House of Commons Special Committee on Reconstruction and Reestablishment; and the Reconstruction Committee, known as the James Committee has, through its sub-committee on Housing and Community Planning, presented a report in which the need for housing and planning is gone into in great detail, and recommendations made for the carrying out of both. As a member of the latter sub-committee, I can not give you information contained in the report. However, I can refer you to the Minutes of Proceedings No. 31 of the House of Commons Committee to whom the Federation of Mayors and Municipalities presented a brief on November 27, 1943. In that document which received little, if any notice in the press, is a paragraph which may well be the Magna Carta of planning in this country. Mayor Conboy of this city spoke and subscribed to the various points contained in it, along with the mayors of every municipality in Canada. It reads as follows
Specifically, the local government of the entire local area should be given the power
(1) To define the area to be planned;
(2) To create the necessary planning machinery; and to provide for the making of a master plan for the urban area;
(3) To vest the planning agency with all authority necessary to formulate and keep up to date the master plan.
(4) To define "public purpose" to include any purpose deemed, by the appropriate agency of government within the urban area, to be essential for the realization of the master plan;
(5) To acquire, by simple measures, and where necessary by condemnation, land anywhere within the urban area for a public purpose as above defined; to hold, use, lease, sell or exchange such land; and in any case to make certain that it shall be used only in accordance with the master plan;
(6) To enact and enforce ordinances requiring the owners of real property within the urbanized area to use it, or to permit its use, only in accordance with the master plan.
The Mayors then go on to say
"Moreover, the scope of the problem-urban reconstruction-has gone far beyond the proportions of a mere local responsibility. It is a matter affecting virtually all the urban communities, and involves more than half the population of the country. Only the fiscal capacity of the federal government will be adequate for the task in hand. The question, as we see it, is not whether the federal government will assume the responsibility, but rather, on what terms, and what conditions, and for what kind of local public works."
To this question the Mayors and the people of Canada are still waiting for an answer.
There is nothing, Gentlemen, that I can add to the arguments of the Federation of Mayors and Municipalities. It is complete and it is the foundation stone on which our post war planning will be built. I can, however, stress the urgency of the matter. In normal times no planner would undertake the preparation of a master plan for Toronto in less than a three year period. We are therefore already late, and demobilized troops and industrial workers will have returned home to many a Canadian municipality before the jobs that will put them back to work have been planned. It is not so in New York where the Planning Board have a $22,000,000 budget for plans, many of which are now finished, for a reconstruction programme costing $1,000,000,000 spread over the first six post war years. In 1941 the Minister of Reconstruction warned the people of Britain that, in his own words, "Planning Systems and plans must be ready. We know what unpreparedness for war has meant. To be unprepared for peace may be far more serious. We cannot count on the instinctive heroic energy which war evokes--the readiness for sacrifice, the subordination of personal prejudices and possession, the community of nation and individual in one mind and one heart for a single purpose. There is little of that in the common ways of peace." Today the reconstruction plans of Britain are further advanced than those of any of the allied nations, while we in Canada are still proving the need and estimating the cost. I wish we could say with Lord Reith in the House of Lords: "At least I can say this--the site is cleared, and the foundations laid. It will not be grass that grows upon them".
I am greatly obliged to you, Mr. President and Gentlemen, for your hospitality and for the privilege of speaking to you today.