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Justice et injustices environnementales

 | 
David Blanchon
, 
Jean Gardin
, 
Sophie Moreau

It doesn’t bother me...”: Local neighbourhoods, planners and the meaning of spatial justice in an industrial city, 1955-2000

Ken Cruikshank et Nancy B. Bouchier

Texte intégral

  • 1 Cited in: “North end man resents slum tag”, in Hamilton Spectator, 7 March 1978.
  • 2 Cited in: Hemsworth W., “Words of wisdom from the Beach Strip”, in Spectator, 30 October 2000. 92 d (...)

1In 1978, the urban government in Canada’s steeltown, Hamilton Ontario, moved to purchase homes and property in what were termed ‘appalling’ and ‘blighted’ neighbourhoods severely affected by “truck and train noise and pollution from nearby heavy industry”. One steelworker, who had grown up in the area and recently purchased a home, retorted “But I’ve lived around tracks all my life and so has my wife. It doesn’t bother me... My house looks good inside and out. It’s well kept and so are my neighbours.”1 In 2000, a resident who lived in a Hamilton lakefront neighbourhood that had been repeatedly targeted for a similar urban renewal program commented that, “Everybody knows the Beach Strip. It’s dirty and it’s slimy until it’s 92 degrees and then everyone from the city comes down here, and suddenly it’s fine.”2

  • 3 On urban renewal struggles, see e. g. Klemek C., “From Political Outsider to Power Broker in Two Gr (...)
  • 4 For a history of the environmental justice movement, see McGurty E., Transforming Environmentalism, (...)

2Scholars interested in urban renewal and those interested in the environmental justice movement will find in these quotations a familiar theme. A sense of place served as an important resource for local communities resisting urban planning that threatened their neighbourhoods. In the case of urban renewal, local residents often struggled with authorities who were only too eager to prove that their communities were unhealthy. Residents contended that local planners and authorities stigmatized homes and neighbourhoods to justify removing the community and to make the land more desirable.3 In environmental controversies, local residents often struggled with authorities who were very reluctant to accept that communities would be any more or less healthy than they already were. Residents contended that local planners and authorities stigmatized homes and neighbourhoods so as to justify undesirable uses of the land.4

  • 5 Wakefield S. & McMullan C., “Healing in places of decline”, in Health and Place, n° 11, 2005, p. 29 (...)
  • 6 For a discussion of planning, see Cruikshank K. & Bouchier N. B., “Blighted Areas” and “Obnoxious I (...)

3Urban spaces are made and remade by such struggles over the meaning of place. Both urban renewal and environmental struggles centre on three clearly related questions: how do places become defined as healthy or unhealthy, what is to be done with them, and, who gets to make those decisions?5 In this paper, we trace the evolution of the answers to those questions in a heavily industrialized Canadian city since the 1950s, using two case studies. Both cases involve initiatives designed to replace unhealthy neighbourhoods with recreational areas. They reflect the planning belief that the disordered arrangement of functions in city spaces produced unhealthy places. Spatial order, planners believed, would produce a form of social justice: a more orderly arrangement of the spaces where people lived, worked and played would benefit everyone. In reviewing these initiatives, we reflect upon the nature of justice in the implementation of such spatial strategies.6

Hamilton and Lakefront Communities

  • 7 “Council by Narrow Margin Annexing 2,650 Acres in Saltfleet”, in Spectator, 6 February 1953; Brown (...)

4Hamilton is located at the western end of Lake Ontario, on an enclosed harbour that is separated from the lake by a relatively narrow strip of land (figures 1 and 2). The city grew on a stretch of land 2-3 miles deep, hemmed in by the harbour to the north and a 300 ft. limestone escarpment to the south, known locally as the Mountain. Although advances in construction and transportation technology made the plateau on the Mountain more accessible after World War II, industrialists still preferred locations along the harbour that were more accessible to port facilities, railways, and highways. There Hamilton’s steel factories developed. Industrialists filled in swampy inlets along the shore of the harbour with slag and other types of fill to create new land for more industry, but they needed even more land than was available. To accommodate them, the city government annexed 2,600 acres of land to the east of Hamilton’s municipal border from neighbouring Saltfleet township in 1956, an area that included a small lakefront community. Two years later, they also acquired control over the Beach Strip, the narrow strip of land that separated the harbour from the lake7.

Figure 1. Boosting Hamilton’s Location.
Adapted from Hamilton Harbour Commission. Hamilton’s location in relation to the industrial centres of North America (1959)

Figure 2. Hamilton’s Lakefront Communities.
Adapted from Rolph-Clark-Stone. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Street Guide of Hamilton and District. Toronto, Rolph-Clark-Stone Ltd., 1969

  • 8 “Beach Cottages”, in Spectator, 19 April 1920; “Beach Cottages are in Demand”, in Spectator, 8 Apri (...)
  • 9 Weaver J. & Doucet M., Housing the North American City, Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen’s Univers (...)
  • 10 Macdonald C., Memories of Van Wagner’s Beach and Parkview Survey, Hamilton, Parkview Survey and Van (...)
  • 11 City of Hamilton & Planning Department, Urban Renewal Study, Hamilton, 1958; City of Hamilton & Pla (...)

5Both the Saltfleet lakefront and Beach Strip areas annexed by Hamilton had been popular cottage and recreational areas that had evolved into permanent residential communities, particularly during city housing shortages that followed both World Wars. As early as 1920, observers noted the increasing number of cottages that were being converted to year round use. ‘Tax-harried citizens’, one journalist remarked, were attracted by the fixed tax rate and low assessments that summer residents had insisted upon.8 Although some efforts were made to regulate construction in the area, its heritage as a place for summer cottages meant that houses there hadn’t been built as well as buildings in the city, which had more stringent building codes.9 Beyond the area’s inexpensive accommodation, it provided people of modest means with food and income, since fish and game could still be found in the area.10 By the 1950s, the permanent community on the Beach Strip numbered over 3000, and just under 800 people lived in the Van Wagner’s and Crescent beach areas.11 Families of industrial workers, truckers and other labourers lived in the Beach Strip community; what little we know about the other community suggests a similar profile, with perhaps more casual and agricultural labourers, and several families who may have had connections to the local Six Nations Native community.

  • 12 Hanley R. J., “Motor Cars Ended an Era Along the Beach”, in Spectator, 24 April 1954; Burlington Be (...)

6The automobile further transformed these communities, and confirmed their marginalized status. By the 1950s, an estimated 2000 cars and transport trucks passed along the beaches during the summer months, on the busy highway that connected Toronto with the Canada-U. S. border at Niagara Falls and Buffalo. To accommodate increasingly heavy highway traffic along the corridor and into the industrial and port areas of the harbour, the city and the province worked together to construct a huge bridge, the Burlington Bay Skyway, that travelled above the length of the Beach Strip. The 8000 foot bridge that opened in 1957 required the expropriation of about 100 beach properties. It towered 210 feet above what remained of the central Beach Strip community, and its entrances crowded the Van Wagner’s beach community.12

  • 13 Hanley R. J., “Motor Cars Ended an Era Along the Beach”, op. cit.; Hamilton Region Conservation Aut (...)

7Although some of the cottages on the Beach Strip had been built by Hamilton’s elite as substantial recreational properties in the nineteenth century, many others in both areas had been quite modestly constructed. None of the homes had regular sewer service, and their septic tanks became less effective as population density in the area rose. For some houses, even something as basic in North America as a supply of running water was quite limited. With Lake Ontario levels at much higher levels than in previous decades and the capacity of local marshes and creeks to absorb water undermined by highway and other urban developments, the two communities faced damaging floods, something made even worse when an unusual series of catastrophic storms in the first half of the 1950s battered the winterized cottages.13

  • 14 Rockwell M., Modernist Destruction for the Ambitious City, M. A. Thesis, Department of History, McM (...)

8One of the benefits of the annexation of the areas to Hamilton, some city politicians suggested, would be an improvement in the level of urban services that they received. Hamilton’s city council hired urban planning consultants to review the overall state of the city, including its newly acquired neighbourhoods. Their brief survey identified 11 areas as being seriously blighted, including the Beach Strip and the Saltfleet lakefront communities. It also targeted 9 areas for a more thorough survey. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the Beach Strip, as well as two neighbourhoods in the shadows of the steel mills, were not among those targeted. Planning con- sultants seem to have selected those areas that city politicians already had discussed and considered priorities for urban renewal.14

Saltfleet Lakefront Neighbourhood

9Through their survey, the planners constructed the Saltfleet lakefront neighbourhood as an environmentally devastated community. They developed an assessment model that graded homes and buildings. A structure would automatically receive the lowest grade, D, if, for example, it did not have two exits, indoor running water, or rooms that were the size regulated by city bylaws, a grade that buildings not on sewer services frequently received. Until 1957 the community had been part of a rural township, consisting of modest cottages converted into permanent residences by people with limited financial resources. Not surprisingly, then, 77% of their buildings received a grade of D, a category that translated as “presumptive clearance.” Instead of the city providing urban services to residents of this area, city politicians hired planners who used the absence of city services to condemn the community.

10Beyond individual qualities of buildings, the planners found the neighbourhood lacked the qualities of an idealized urban neighbourhood. The area did not have sufficient shopping facilities or any churches, and had only one relatively small school. And, the planners noted, “apart from the beach itself, no recreational facilities are present.” Planners clearly used very little imagination in declaring a community where 192 buildings were scattered haphazardly over nearly 176 acres of semi-rural land, and which bordered a lakefront beach and an existing park, as lacking in recreational facilities. In effect, this makeshift community lacked the amenities of a modern suburb.

  • 15 Planning Department, Urban Renewal Study, Hamilton, 1958.
  • 16 As cited in Rockwell M., Modernist Destruction for the Ambitious City, op. cit., p. 49.

11The planners recommended the expropriation of the entire community and the destruction of all buildings in the area, even those that had passed their evaluation (figure 3). They also concluded that there was not enough suitable room for industry there. Instead, the “obsolescent cottage and commercial sites” should be transformed “to patterns of the present and future, that of public beach and waterfront areas”. In doing so, the city of Hamilton would be providing “the essential amenities for the health and well-being” of its own population and for people in the region.15 Spatial justice would be achieved by removing residents from homes and a neighbourhood that clearly did not measure up to modern urban standards. As the local press would later explain, a “swampy, storm-battered huddle of cottages, some converted into year-round slum dwellings” would make way for a public park and beach.16

Figure 3. Part of Saltfleet Lakefront (Van Wagner’s Beach) and Beach Strip, 1956.
Photographer Unknown. Photographic Collection, Hamilton Port Authority. These early planned removals were extended to the rest of the Saltfleet lakefront community south of this photograph. (The photograph looks north to Beach Strip)

  • 17 City of Hamilton, Department of Public Health, Annual Report, 1961, p. 56-57; “Hepatitis Nears Epid (...)

12The planners were not alone in characterizing the area as unhealthy. The local Medical Officer of Health dramatized, for the benefit of the local press, a relatively small outbreak of hepatitis among two adults and five children. For him, the outbreak underlined the serious dangers facing residents, and the rest of the city, because of the structures and environment of the area. He presented local marshes, outdoor privies and substandard homes as breeding grounds for serious disease outbreaks. Local political leaders had other motives as well for stigmatizing the area. It made no sense to them to provide costly city services to a low value neighbourhood that generated little in the way of tax revenues, especially when they could create a revenue-generating lakefront tourist park on the same land. As importantly, city politicians sought urban renewal funds from other levels of government; funds they would not likely receive to develop a parkland unless a strong case could be made that the community was in serious disrepair and its residents in danger.17

  • 18 “40 Page Brief on Beach Project Ready for Study by Councillors”, in Spectator, 13 January 1960; “Ag (...)

13Without waiting for other government funding to help them with their park plans, between April 1958 and 1962, Hamilton’s city council expropriated and cleared most of the buildings; eventually all would be cleared. The value that residents received for their properties varied considerably. Many residents were in a difficult situation: their homes had been relatively inexpensive to purchase because they had only purchased the cottage-like building, paying rent to the owner of the land. The owner might be compensated but, no matter how much they had spent to improve the building, residents could expect a small return on their investment. Some received as little as $ 40 for their properties, although the average was closer to $ 500, still substantially below the $ 1000 or more down payment that would have been required to live in a home elsewhere in the city. Some residents ended up renting in public housing projects, while others found ways to transport their substandard buildings to cheaper property in rural areas outside the city. Several buildings apparently were transported to the Six Nations Native Reserve 30 miles south of Hamilton, the only tantalizing clue we have that at least some of the residents of the community may have been marginalized not only for being poor and living in winterized cottages, but for being aboriginal people as well. Although the city justified the expropriations on the grounds that the residents lived in a substandard area, public officials made little effort to ensure that the residents were any better off after their relocation. Their attention focused only on getting the inhabitants out of the way, so that the city could have its waterfront park.18

14For the residents of the community, this clearly represented an injustice. In procedural terms, politicians and planners never consulted with local residents, and they used ideal measures of urban modernity that ensured that the semi-rural, improvised lakefront neighbourhood would be condemned. Although claiming and perhaps even believing that these measures were related to the health and safety of residents, planners and politicians paid little attention to the effect of the displacement on residents. They even allowed a number of residents to relocate their allegedly substandard homes to what were undoubtedly equally under-serviced and disadvantaged rural areas.

  • 19 “Farm-in-the-Park Already a Hit”, in Spectator, 16 June 1966. “Campsite Opening Caps an Impressive (...)
  • 20 Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, “Rare Shore Birds Visit Confederation Park Beach”, http://w (...)

15What politicians really cared about was land for a lakefront amusement park that would generate tourist dollars and tax revenues for the city. And had these politicians managed to get what they wanted, we could leave the story there. But they did not. The park that opened in 1964 fell far short of the grandiose plans of local political leaders and entrepreneurs. It remained a somewhat manicured but nevertheless relatively large, open and natural green public space, one of the few areas for picnics and informal recreational activities available to the largely working class families living in the neighbourhoods of east Hamilton. By the late 1970s and 1980s, commercial proposals, including one to create a lakefront tourist hotel, met strong opposition, not least from local politicians who justified the earlier clearance as having been done in the name of free and open public lakefront space for the people of Hamilton. In 1980, the city passed responsibility for Ken Cruikshank, Nancy B. Bouchier Confederation Park over to the local conservation authority, an agency that increasingly focuses on defending and sustaining natural spaces within the local region.19 Undoubtedly unjust in process and outcome to those who had made the lakefront their home, the unintended consequence of the planning process was green, open space that provides an oasis for working families in the industrial city, particularly those nearby in the low income east end. It also provided an oasis for nature itself: the beach at Confederation park attracts many species of water and pelagic birds, and is part of the migration route for Arctic birds such as Jaegers.20

Beach Strip

16Mentioned but then largely ignored in the urban planning documents of the 1950s, the Beach Strip again became a target for renewal, particularly following a damaging flood in 1973 (figure 4). Politicians and planners envisioned a northward extension of Confederation Park, and, as before, they hoped to rationalize clearance by defining the neighbourhood as unhealthy. They encountered a community far less likely to defer to authority. Summer residents had created a system of local self-government in 1907, which the less well off permanent residents had inherited and participated in until the annexation. With a continuing history of local organization, local residents insisted that politicians involve them in the planning process. Residents challenged the attempts to define their community as unhealthy, and, by doing so, challenged proposals to displace them.

Figure 4: Beach Strip Homes and Flooding, 1973.
Photographer Unknown.
Photographic Collection, Local History and Archives Department, Hamilton Public Library.
The seriousness and frequency of this flooding became a point of contention lbetween the city and residents

  • 21 Planning Department, 1969 Official Plan for the Beach Strip, 1971 Edition, op. cit.

17As city officials developed a new Official Plan for the city in the late 1960s, a separate city report on the Beach Strip emphasized the ‘deterioration’ of the neighbourhood. Using the same model for assessing housing, planning officials concluded that one half of the buildings were beyond rehabilitation, and almost all of the rest were substandard. The absence of a sewer service threatened the health of the community as did a newly defined hazard: air pollution. Planners used ‘interpolations’ from a limited number of air quality measurement stations to map concentrations of sulphur, smoke and dust fall in the city. Using this ambiguous evidence, planners suggested that the ultimate fate of the area would be determined by the success of new air pollution control measures adopted by the city’s industries. If not controlled, the neighbourhood should be cleared and transformed into “an (air-polluted) open space.”21

  • 22 McCowell L. D., Pilkor J. L. & Cain W. M., Hamilton Beach in Retrospect: Report of the Hamilton Bea (...)
  • 23 Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, Project 36: Hamilton Beach Land Acquisition Program, Hamilt (...)

18Planners and Hamilton health authorities found a key opportunity to further condemn the neighbourhood in 1973, when flooding from Lake Ontario severely damaged homes in the area. When many owners of waterdamaged homes sought crisis relief and financial help from the local government, municipal authorities encouraged them to sell to the city.22 The local conservation authority, which had been aggressive in championing environmental issues in the 1960s and early 1970s, joined in calling for the transformation of the area from a blighted residential area to a recreational park land. It concluded that the beach strip could not support adequate year round housing, observing moreover that the open space that did exist was poorly distributed and unattractive. It argued that water level fluctuations and the technical and economic infeasibility of installing a sanitary sewer system on the beach were problems that had “now reached critical proportions.” It determined that the area should be cleared and turned into a large public park to be enjoyed by the citizens of Hamilton, for “the Beach strip is unique and strategically located, and is particularly suited for beach activities, boating, fishing and for viewing the steel plants and harbour activities.”23

  • 24 “Strip proposals rile homeowners”, in Spectator, 27 June 1973, p. 29; Ames M., Pikor J. & Mendelson(...)

19The Conservation Authority worked with city politicians to begin buying properties in the area. At least initially, they planned to purchase properties as residents were willing to sell them, rather than to expropriate them. Even this less aggressive plan proved more contentious than Hamilton politicians and planners expected. Local residents formed the Beach Preservation Committee, which nearly 200 homeowners joined by the early 1980s. They contended that the city was trying to do by stealth what it would not do directly. The city refused to provide the area with adequate sewer and water services, and worse, each time it acquired a property it tore down the building and then did not maintain the resulting vacant lots. In their view, the city policy was designed to ensure that the quality of their neighbourhood would deteriorate.24

  • 25 Preston V. S., Taylor M. & Hodge D. C., “Adjustment to Natural and Technological Hazards”, in Envir (...)

20Local residents did not share the view of their neighbourhood that was presented in the local press and in city planning reports. A survey conducted in the early 1980s, ostensibly to study how people dealt with living in an environmentally degraded area, found that most residents simply did not regard flooding or noise as significant problems. Only one in three people worried about water pollution, which they defined in terms of unsightly dead fish and inadequate sewer service. Many people, some 84%, expressed some concern about air quality, but were not convinced it was a more serious problem in their community than it was anywhere else in the industrial city. They told the researchers that they valued the sense of community in the area, and, more importantly, they believed that the Beach Strip offered them a chance to own a house, or to own a much larger house than they could afford in Hamilton. In short, residents did not see their neighbourhood as degraded, and they concluded that the benefits of living in the area far outweighed whatever risk they faced from air pollution.25

  • 26 Moore/George Associates, Hamilton Beach Study, Hamilton, 1986. For a thoughtful consideration of th (...)
  • 27 Hughes R., “Hamilton Launches Beach Strip sell-off”, in Spectator, 4 August 2001; Wilson P., “Beach (...)

21While the city did manage to acquire some 175 properties by 1983, the Beach Preservation Committee eventually forced the city and the conservation authority to review their plan with a committee that would include representatives from the beach community and “the public-at-large.” The new planning committee sponsored a series of studies that directly challenged the conclusions that had been reached about their neighbourhood. By moving the air quality measurement station from a point just 60 feet from the highway to an area closer to where most Beach Strip residents actually lived, one study supported the committee’s view that air quality was not, as had so often been suggested, “the worst in the City.” They hired a firm to assess the actual risks of damage from flooding, and it concluded that only one in three properties suffered regularly from flood damage, and that the damage done was minimal at best. Finally, the planning committee studied and championed several alternatives for providing the neighbourhood with sewers, the real environmental problem that many residents felt needed to be addressed.26 Through this work the Beach Strip community successfully challenged who got to define their neighbourhood as unhealthy. Hamilton abandoned its plans to clear the neighbourhood and, eventually, city politicians even agreed to sell many of the properties that had been acquired, to allow the Beach Strip to develop as a combined residential and recreational area.27

22For the residents of the community, therefore, there is an element of justice in this story. In procedural terms, they forced politicians and planners to consult with and involve local residents in the planning process. They insisted that the planning assessments of their neighbourhood did not reflect the lived experience of residents, and they insisted on a more careful and accurate measurement of environmental risks. By doing so, residents were able to continue living in a community that they valued, and, in their view, to live better than they would if forced to move.

  • 28 For an example of the local critical response to urban renewal projects, see the journalistic essay (...)

23The contrast between the procedure and local outcome in the Saltfleet and Beach Strip lakefront neighbourhoods is striking. Residents of the Beach Strip enjoyed several important advantages. First, by the time that city politicians turned their attention to the area, the national government no longer was supporting urban renewal projects. The local government slowly expropriated properties on the Beach Strip, largely because that is all it could afford to do. The gradual process gave residents more time to mobilize against the project, and allowed some to argue that the process was a deliberate strategy to undermine local property values. Second, a long history of local governance and resistance to city policies provided Beach Strip residents with organizational and ideological resources unavailable in the Saltfleet neighbourhoods. Finally, the residents benefited from another important ideological and political resource: the much greater suspicion of government and experts that was a general feature of the 1980s. This was a larger global development, but was reflected in Hamilton in a number of controversies over urban renewal projects in the early 1970s. Given more time to mobilize, the residents of the Beach Strip found social and political allies sympathetic to their plight.28

  • 29 Wilson P., “I want everyone to enjoy this”, in Spectator, 13 December 2001; Davison M., “Beach trai (...)

24Procedural and planning justice characterized the Beach Strip controversy. Environmental justice may prove more elusive. Although the local committee called for combined recreational and residential uses, not all Beach Strip property owners welcomed efforts to improve public access to the lakefront. During the 1990s, proposals to create a waterfront trail faced serious resistance from Beach Strip residents, one of whom complained in 1992, “We don’t want asphalt and Dickie Dees [ice cream vendors] and so many people you can’t turn your head without bumping into them” (figure 5). Nine years later, one local resident told a reporter “You don’t need someone out your back gate saying, ‘I’ve got a right to be here’,” although he quickly added, “Don’t say I’m against the trail.”29

Figure 5. Beach Strip Community ca 2000.
Photographer Unknown. Beach Aerial Photos, Posted on Hamilton Beach Community Gallery,
http://hamiltonbeachcommunity.com/​forum/​gallery.php (accessed 31 January 2009).
The community is squeezed between the lakefront and paved waterfront trail in the foreground, and the busy multilane highway and industrial harbour in the background

  • 30 Jerrett M. et al., “A GIS-environmental justice analysis of particulate air pollution in Hamilton”, (...)
  • 31 McGuinness E., “Dirty air mutates mouse sperm, study confirms”, in Spectatotor, 16 January 2008.

25The low income residents on the Beach Strip had risked environmental hazards in order to find an affordable private home in the city, and had struggled to maintain their right to their homes. They understandably sought to protect their privacy and investment. Justice for these local residents, however, meant that other citizens of the city, and the working class residents of east end Hamilton in particular, had to fight for more public access to the waterfront. For the residents themselves, other studies of air quality on the Beach Strip have raised questions about a collaborative planning process that minimized the risks in the area. As the focus of air pollution research honed in on the detrimental health effects of fine, suspended particulates rather than smoke or dust, it raised questions about the hazards facing the community. Between 1985 and 1994, exposure to fine particulates was higher in the Beach Strip than in much of the rest of the city, and similar only to some industrial neighbourhoods located directly in the shadow of the city’s two steel mills.30 In January 2008, researchers found evidence of disturbing genetic disruption in laboratory mice on the Beach Strip. Such studies raised questions about the hazards that may be facing community residents who successfully fought for their right to continue living underneath and alongside what is now one of the busiest highways in North America.31 Undoubtedly more just in process and outcome to those who had made the Beach Strip their home, it is hard not to feel that both the wider Hamilton community and the residents themselves may come to regret the justice that was achieved.

Conclusion

  • 32 MacIntyre N., “Council votes 12-3 for waterfront stadium”, in Spectator, 23 February 2009; “Stadium (...)

26In 2008 and 2009, Hamilton city authorities struggled to locate a new athletic stadium, as part of the city of Toronto’s bid to host the 2015 Pan American games. Many local political leaders quickly rejected one suggested location: Confederation Park. The decision reconfirmed that, whatever the original intentions for the area in the late 1950s, the park seemed secure as an open green space. A second location was approved as a site for the stadium: a block in the west harbour and old north end of the city, now dominated by abandoned or underutilized factories which stand side by side with a variety of older homes. One north end community leader immediately pointed out that the plan contradicted years of consultation between planners and local residents: the block had been designated for residential redevelopment, and proposals for stadiums or other grander projects had been rejected. Another community leader responded, arguing that the consultation process in question had been flawed from the start: “The study was done in a microclimate (a local neighbourhood’s interest) as compared with a macroclimate (the interests of the community as a whole).”32 More often than not, as the two cases in this paper suggest, city authorities seek to show that they are interested both in micro- and macromatesclimates. While the planning initiatives grew out of broader plans about spatial justice-how best to organize the industrial, residential and recreational spaces of the city, they always were framed in terms of the needs and healthfulness of the local neighbourhood. City plans for the Beach Strip faltered precisely on those grounds-local community organizations challenged the ways in which the health of their area was being defined. They successfully defended their local view of the community, perhaps in part because they largely accepted the criteria of community health in use; they instead challenged the accuracy of the measurements. The insistence on the importance of the microclimate, therefore, prompts us as scholars to think about justice from the perspective of the local community.

  • 33 Loo T., “Disturbing the Peace”, in Environmental History, n° 12, 2007, p. 895-919.

27What happens if we shift our perspective to the “macroclimate”? In her thoughtful reflection on the meaning of environmental justice, historian Tina Loo contends that we need to move beyond questions of the distribution of risk and procedural fairness, and “grapple with multiple scales.” She notes that different conceptions of space and time can be at work in environmental struggles, and that doing justice to nature may involve consideration of different geographic and temporal scales.33 Similarly, assessing these past urban renewal processes at least involves some acknowledgement of questions of scale. We are entitled to assess each of the cases from the immediate spatial and temporal perspective of the affected communities, on the grounds that city authorities at the time did so. If we widen the temporal and geographic focus, however, other issues of justice arise-the need to find ways to create places to play and places for nature in an industrial city, which almost always involves some issue of local displacement. Questions about how best to ensure the health of the wider community, and how best to do justice to nature and even to the health of local residents over the long run are not easily incorporated into a collaborative planning process that focuses on “a local neighbourhood’s interest.”

Notes

1 Cited in: “North end man resents slum tag”, in Hamilton Spectator, 7 March 1978.

2 Cited in: Hemsworth W., “Words of wisdom from the Beach Strip”, in Spectator, 30 October 2000. 92 degrees fahrenheit is over 33 degrees celsius; although Canada officially uses the metric system, many Canadians continue to use imperial measures.

3 On urban renewal struggles, see e. g. Klemek C., “From Political Outsider to Power Broker in Two Great American Cities”, in Journal of Urban History, vol. 34, n° 2, 2007, p. 309-332; Crowley G., The Politics of Place, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007; Fraser G., Fighting Back: Urban Renewal in Trefann Court, Toronto, Hakkert, “Case Studies in Community Action”, 1972.

4 For a history of the environmental justice movement, see McGurty E., Transforming Environmentalism, New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 2007. For examples of other struggles, see Cole L. & Foster S., From the Ground Up, New York, New York University Press, 2001; Barlow M. & May E., Frederick Street, Toronto, HarperCollins, 2001.

5 Wakefield S. & McMullan C., “Healing in places of decline”, in Health and Place, n° 11, 2005, p. 299-331.

6 For a discussion of planning, see Cruikshank K. & Bouchier N. B., “Blighted Areas” and “Obnoxious Industries”, in Environmental History, n° 9, 2004, p. 464-496.

7 “Council by Narrow Margin Annexing 2,650 Acres in Saltfleet”, in Spectator, 6 February 1953; Brown M. C., The Effect of Recent Urban Expansion in Saltfleet Township, 1949-1964, B. A. Thesis, Department of Geography, McMaster University, 1964; Cruikshank K. & Bouchier N. B., “Blighted Areas”, op. cit.

8 “Beach Cottages”, in Spectator, 19 April 1920; “Beach Cottages are in Demand”, in Spectator, 8 April 1930; “Great Demand for Beach Cottages”, in Spectator, 26 March 1931.

9 Weaver J. & Doucet M., Housing the North American City, Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991.

10 Macdonald C., Memories of Van Wagner’s Beach and Parkview Survey, Hamilton, Parkview Survey and Van Wagner’s Beach Heritage Association, 1995.

11 City of Hamilton & Planning Department, Urban Renewal Study, Hamilton, 1958; City of Hamilton & Planning Department, 1969 Official Plan for the Beach Strip, 1971 Edition, Hamilton, 1971.

12 Hanley R. J., “Motor Cars Ended an Era Along the Beach”, in Spectator, 24 April 1954; Burlington Beach Anniversary Committee, “History of Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway”, Text Panel, 2000; Cruikshank K. & Bouchier N. B., “The Heritage of the People Closed Against Them”, in Urban History Review, n° 30, 2001, p. 40-55.

13 Hanley R. J., “Motor Cars Ended an Era Along the Beach”, op. cit.; Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, Project 36: Hamilton Beach Land Acquisition Program, Hamilton, 1974.

14 Rockwell M., Modernist Destruction for the Ambitious City, M. A. Thesis, Department of History, McMaster University, 2003, p. 45-48.

15 Planning Department, Urban Renewal Study, Hamilton, 1958.

16 As cited in Rockwell M., Modernist Destruction for the Ambitious City, op. cit., p. 49.

17 City of Hamilton, Department of Public Health, Annual Report, 1961, p. 56-57; “Hepatitis Nears Epidemic Stage, 2 Deaths Listed”, in Spectator, 10 March 1962; “Immediate Steps Urged to Fill in Polluted Pond”, in Spectator, 20 September 1958; Brown B., “Attractive Resort on City’s Doorstep Possible”, in Spectator, 9 April; “City Files Bid for Cash Help on Beach Area”, in Spectator, 10 February 1960. Our account of the community greatly benefitted from Fick R., The Zero Option, M. A. Major Research Paper, Department of History, McMaster University, 2007.

18 “40 Page Brief on Beach Project Ready for Study by Councillors”, in Spectator, 13 January 1960; “Agree City Should Help Ousted Beach Residents”, in Spectator, 10 February 1960; Macdonald C., Memories of Van Wagner’s Beach…, op. cit., p. 206-207.

19 “Farm-in-the-Park Already a Hit”, in Spectator, 16 June 1966. “Campsite Opening Caps an Impressive Decade”, in Spectator, 15 June 1970; “Growing Pains at Confederation Park”, in Spectator, 29 May 1980; “Developers Say Region Unfair in Confederation Park Hotel Deal”, in Spectator, 16 March 1984; Bourret S., “School’s in for Summer”, in Spectator, 15 June 1989.

20 Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, “Rare Shore Birds Visit Confederation Park Beach”, http://www.conservationhamilton.ca (accessed 31 January 2009). Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, “Rare Shore Birds Visit Confederation Park Beach”, http://www.conservationhamilton.ca (accessed 31 January 2009).

21 Planning Department, 1969 Official Plan for the Beach Strip, 1971 Edition, op. cit.

22 McCowell L. D., Pilkor J. L. & Cain W. M., Hamilton Beach in Retrospect: Report of the Hamilton Beach Alternate, Community and Historical Project, no publisher, 1981; “Beach Strip’s future in recreation-Munro”, in Spectator, 12 November 1973; “Editorial: Future of the beach”, in Spectator, 15 November 1973.

23 Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, Project 36: Hamilton Beach Land Acquisition Program, Hamilton, 1974.

24 “Strip proposals rile homeowners”, in Spectator, 27 June 1973, p. 29; Ames M., Pikor J. & Mendelson R., Preserving the Residential Character of Hamilton Beach, no publisher, 1982; Greenberg D., “Residents fear beach neighbourhood marked for destruction by city hall”, in Toronto Star, 21 June 1983; Howard R., “Buying of beach strip parkland put on hold”, in Spectator, 14 April 1983.

25 Preston V. S., Taylor M. & Hodge D. C., “Adjustment to Natural and Technological Hazards”, in Environment And Behavior, n° 15, 1983, p. 143-164.

26 Moore/George Associates, Hamilton Beach Study, Hamilton, 1986. For a thoughtful consideration of the role of science in environmental justice struggles, see Corburn J., Street Science, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2005.

27 Hughes R., “Hamilton Launches Beach Strip sell-off”, in Spectator, 4 August 2001; Wilson P., “Beach Strip Sale of Empty Lots Signals of a Fine future for the Area”, in Spectator, 22 June 2002.

28 For an example of the local critical response to urban renewal projects, see the journalistic essays in Their Town: The Mafia, the Media and the Party Machine, Hewitt M. & Freeman B. (eds), Halifax, James Lorimer & Company, 1979.

29 Wilson P., “I want everyone to enjoy this”, in Spectator, 13 December 2001; Davison M., “Beach trail opponents have short memories”, in Spectator, 24 December 2001.

30 Jerrett M. et al., “A GIS-environmental justice analysis of particulate air pollution in Hamilton”, in Environment and Planning A, vol. 33, n° 6, 2001, p. 955-973.

31 McGuinness E., “Dirty air mutates mouse sperm, study confirms”, in Spectatotor, 16 January 2008.

32 MacIntyre N., “Council votes 12-3 for waterfront stadium”, in Spectator, 23 February 2009; “Stadium site betrays earlier process, lawyer says”, in Spectator, 21 February 2009; Robbins D. M., “Stop Bickering, Get Building”, in Spectator, 24 February 2009. This second location was abandoned, but only because the local professional sports team objected. Homes were expropriated but there are no plans for the now vacant land: McNeil M., “Walking the west harbour: Jane’s Group wanders and wonders, what’s next?”, in Spectator, 9 May 2011.

33 Loo T., “Disturbing the Peace”, in Environmental History, n° 12, 2007, p. 895-919.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1. Boosting Hamilton’s Location.Adapted from Hamilton Harbour Commission. Hamilton’s location in relation to the industrial centres of North America (1959)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pupo/docannexe/image/3417/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 224k
Légende Figure 2. Hamilton’s Lakefront Communities.Adapted from Rolph-Clark-Stone. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.Street Guide of Hamilton and District. Toronto, Rolph-Clark-Stone Ltd., 1969
URL http://books.openedition.org/pupo/docannexe/image/3417/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Légende Figure 3. Part of Saltfleet Lakefront (Van Wagner’s Beach) and Beach Strip, 1956.Photographer Unknown. Photographic Collection, Hamilton Port Authority. These early planned removals were extended to the rest of the Saltfleet lakefront community south of this photograph. (The photograph looks north to Beach Strip)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pupo/docannexe/image/3417/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 508k
Légende Figure 4: Beach Strip Homes and Flooding, 1973.Photographer Unknown.Photographic Collection, Local History and Archives Department, Hamilton Public Library.The seriousness and frequency of this flooding became a point of contention lbetween the city and residents
URL http://books.openedition.org/pupo/docannexe/image/3417/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Légende Figure 5. Beach Strip Community ca 2000.Photographer Unknown. Beach Aerial Photos, Posted on Hamilton Beach Community Gallery, http://hamiltonbeachcommunity.com/​forum/​gallery.php (accessed 31 January 2009).The community is squeezed between the lakefront and paved waterfront trail in the foreground, and the busy multilane highway and industrial harbour in the background
URL http://books.openedition.org/pupo/docannexe/image/3417/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k

Auteurs

Associate Professor,
Department of History, Mc Master University, Hamilton, Canada

Associate Professor,
Department of History, Mc Master University, Hamilton, Canada

© Presses universitaires de Paris Nanterre, 2012

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540