Development Controls in Toronto in the Nineteenth Century

By Fischler, Raphael | Urban History Review, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Development Controls in Toronto in the Nineteenth Century


Fischler, Raphael, Urban History Review


Histories of contemporary development control tend to situate its beginning in the first or second decade of the twentieth century, when modern zoning bylaws were adopted. Yet, as some researchers have pointed out, building and land-use regulations took shape in the nineteenth century and even earlier. This paper focuses on controls set by the City of Toronto between 1834, when it was incorporated, and 1904, when it adopted bylaw no. 4408, which is seen by many as the first step taken by the city toward modern zoning. In technical terms, it appears that a coherent, though minimal, apparatus of land-use regulation was already in place by the 1860s. Over the course of the nineteenth century, building codes and nuisance laws display the growing intervention of public authorities in the development of the industrial city. Municipal control over material production and over human activity diversifies and finds expression in increasingly complex ordinances. In political terms, the bylaws reveal a growing concern with socio-spatial differentiation and with the protection of property values rather than with health and safety. The incremental development of land-use regulation suggests that, even though North American cities borrowed from each other and from their European counterparts, they constructed zoning locally, in accordance to local needs, resources, and constraints (economic, political, and legal) and in a piecemeal fashion, one bylaw, one amendment at a time.

Les etudes historiques de l'urbanisme reglementaire contemporain tendent a situer ses debuts durant la premiere ou deuxieme decennie du vingtieme siecle, quand les reglements de zonage modernes furent adoptes. Or, comme l'on remarque certains chercheurs, les reglements de construction et d'utilisation du sol ont pris forme au dix-neuvieme siecle et meme avant. Ce travail examine les mesures de controle mises en place par la municipalite de Toronto entre 1834, quand elle fut constituee, et 1904, quand elle adopta le reglement n[degrees]. 4408, que l'on voit souvent comme le premier pas de la Ville vers le zonage moderne. En termes techniques, il semble qu'un appareil coherent, bien que minimal, de reglementation de l'utilisation du sol fut deja present des les annees 1860. Durant le courant du dix-neuvieme siecle, les codes de la construction et les lois sur les nuisances montrent l'intervention grandissante des autorites publiques dans le developpement de la ville industrielle. Le controle municipal de la production materielle et de l'activite humaine se diversifie et s'exprime dans des arretes municipaux de plus en plus complexes. En termes politiques, les reglements revelent un souci croissant de la differentiation socio-spatiale de la ville et de ses valeurs foncieres, plutot que de ses problemes de sante et de securite. Le developpement graduel de la reglementation de l'utilisation du sol suggere que les villes nord-americaines, bien que portees a emprunter des pratiques les unes des autres et de leurs vis-a-vis europeennes, ont construit le zonage sur place, en accord avec des besoins, ressources et contraintes (economiques, politiques et legales) locaux, et en avancant petit a petit, un reglement, un amendement a la fois.

Introduction

In this paper, I adopt a nominalist attitude toward development regulation: I examine the bylaws themselves, not so much the motivations that led to their adoption, even less their application. Although, as Richard Harris has noted, "enforcement [is] more than half the law," (1) what interests me here is the emergence of a legal and technical apparatus of control, the creation of new rules for controlling urban development. The question I want to answer at this point is the "what" of regulation, not its "why" or "how": what rules were put on the books in Toronto over time and what do they tell us about the origins of modern urban planning? Why they were adopted and how they were implemented will be studied at another time. …

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