Vancouver (B.C.). Social Planning Department

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Vancouver (B.C.). Social Planning Department

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

  • Department of Social Planning and Development, 1968
  • Social Planning/Community Development Department, 1968-1972

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Description area

Dates of existence


The Department of Social Planning was established by City Council in November 1966, the position of director was approved in April 1967, and the first director appointed effective January 1968. From the beginning its mandate or purpose was (a) to plan, develop, coordinate and integrate health, education, welfare, recreational, and community renewal programs and (b) to foster self-help and community-betterment programs. By 1993 its formal statement of purpose had become more succinct: (a) advising City Council on civic policies for the social and cultural development of Vancouver and (b) providing support to local organizations which promoted equality of participation in all aspects of life. The Social Planning Department's functions over time can therefore be summarized as follows:

(1) Serving as the City's social (including cultural) and community issues advisory body; and
(2) Implementing relevant programs as approved by City Council.

These functions can be defined into narrower subfunctions or activities, as

(1) Carnegie Centre administration. Established as a community centre for the poor of the Downtown and Downtown Eastside areas in 1975, and located in the old Carnegie Library building, the Social Planning Department has administered the community centre because it is a City social service (rather than primarily recreational).

(2) Children's (and youth) advocacy. This function was carried out from the early 1970s, when youth transiency was burgeoning. The Mayor's Task Force on Children, initiated in 1987, led to the appointment of a Children's Advocate as of 1993 (it is a 3-year position filled by City Council approval and funded by the City). A childcare coordinator position has been established more recently.

(3) Civic grants administration and recommendation. This function was previously carried out by the Office of the City Clerk on behalf of City Council and the Standing Committee on Finance and Administration (primarily 1966-1971). The Department began monitoring civic grants issued to social service, cultural, and other organizations in 1971. It has developed civic grants policies, compiled grant recommendations for City Council's decision-making, and provided support services to social, cultural, and other organizations in their quest to obtain funding from the City and other sources.

(4) Civic Theatres administration. The Civic Theatres Department was a Division of the Social Planning Department for the period 1983-1989.

(5) Cultural affairs planning. This function overlaps with civic grants administration (above). In addition to aiding constructive and equitable cultural grant distribution Cultural Affairs has been particularly interested in arts funding at all levels of government and in the private sector, as well as in major cultural events.

(6) Development permit monitoring. The Social Planning Department has provided its input on building projects of a community service, non-profit, and cultural nature to the Planning Department and City Council.

(7) The Gathering Place administration. The Social Planning Department has been responsible since 1993 for the administration of The Gathering Place, a community centre for Downtown South, a project similar to that of Carnegie Centre.

(8) Local area planning. From the early 1970s the Social Planning Department has provided extensive input on the social aspects of community planning to the Planning Department, including the larger projects (False Creek and Granville Mall) and the ongoing local area planning activities (particularly with respect to the Strathcona, a smaller portion of which is also known as Downtown Eastside and "Skid Road", and the West End.

(9) Public art program.

(10) Social housing administration and policy planning. The Social Planning Department was responsible for the administration of City owned lodges and residences from 1974 to the creation of the Housing and Properties Department in late 1989. It has been monitoring the City's policy on social housing and non-market housing since the mid-1970s.

(11) Social services planning and research (later called "community services planning"). The issues with which the Department has been concerned are wide-ranging, including refugee and immigration matters, community service centres (e.g. Britannia, Carnegie, etc.), children's services (including daycare), drug and alcohol abuse, juvenile prostitution and detention policy, impacts of changes on low-rental housing availability, development of housing cooperatives, the social use of heritage buildings, and seniors' issues.

Previous to the establishment of the Social Planning Department the matters relating to social and cultural planning were carried out to a limited extent by the Planning Department. Aspects of social problems were dealt with by City Council and the Social Services Department in earlier years.

The Social Planning/Community Development Department (as of 1972 the Social Planning Department) reported to the Board of Administration from 1968-1974. In 1974 the City Manager replaced the Board of Administration. In 1994 the Social Planning Department became part of the newly established very broad functional area, Community Services, so has been reporting to the General Manager of Community Services.

The internal organization of the Social Planning Department and its predecessors has changed over the years. Divisional units have evolved as follows: Social Development, Information Services, and Social Services Planning, in 1975; Administration, Social Planning Services, Special Programs, Sponsored Projects, and Civic Grants, in 1977; Social Services Planning, Cultural Program Planning, Social Environment Planning, and Social Research, by the early 1980s; Social Environment, Social Services, Social Housing, Cultural Planning, and Civic Theatres (for the brief period of 1983-1989 Civic Theatres was a division of Social Planning rather than its own department); Community Services (the social Planning function), Cultural Planning (renamed Office of Cultural Affairs by 1990), and the Carnegie Centre, by 1989; during the 1990s the Children's Advocate and Downtown Planning units were added, as was Health and Social Planning; in the late 1990s, when "Social Planning" came directly under the new Community Services Group, the divisional units were Community Services Division (i.e. Social Planning), Cultural Affairs, Carnegie Centre, and the Gathering Place.

Name changes have been associated with the perception of the broad function of Social Planning. When established, in January 1968, it was called the Department of Social Planning and Development, but by June 1968 it became the Social Planning/Community Development Department. In 1972 it became the Social Planning Department.

The following individuals have served as Director:
Maurice Egan, 1968-1979;
Max Beck, 1980-1988;
Joyce Preston, 1989-1995.
The position has not been filled as of 1996.

Related Resources:
Social housing functions were no longer administered by Social Planning after 1986; for series containing records with later dates please see the City Corporate Services fonds.


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Related entity

Vancouver (B.C.). Office of Cultural Affairs ()

Identifier of related entity

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Dates of relationship

Description of relationship

Vancouver (B.C.). Office of Cultural Affairs, is subordinate to: Vancouver (B.C.). Social Planning Department

Related entity

Vancouver (B.C.). Community Development Department ()

Identifier of related entity

Category of relationship


Dates of relationship

Description of relationship

Vancouver (B.C.). Community Development Department, is subordinate to: Vancouver (B.C.). Social Planning Department

Related entity

Vancouver (B.C.). Carnegie Centre ()

Identifier of related entity

Category of relationship


Dates of relationship

Description of relationship

Vancouver (B.C.). Carnegie Centre, is subordinate to: Vancouver (B.C.). Social Planning Department

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