Who was Harry Lash?

Harry Lash was the first director of regional planning at the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), now known as Metro Vancouver. During his tenure from 1969-1975, he led an extensive public consultation process which culminated in the report The Livable Region 1976/1986: Proposals to Manage the Growth of Greater Vancouver. Mr. Lash elaborated on his planning philosophy in his 1976 book Planning in a Human Way, which we have provided here with kind permission of Library and Archives Canada.

Harry Lash

 

Also available here: a 40-minute video recording entitled Planning in a human way: Harry Lash and the Livable Region Program, 1970-1975, prepared in 1997 by Ted Rashleigh and Howard Harding.


 

 

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Naming of the Library

The library began in 1970 during Harry Lash’s tenure, and was formally named after him in 1996, following his death the previous year. Correspondence at the time stated that “Naming the library after Harry Lash will reflect the GVRD’s continuing commitment to the application of knowledge and public involvement to regional issues, and it will underscore the fact that the library is an external as well as an internal resource.”

Harry Lash’s Planning Philosophy

Harry Lash was passionate about the importance of involving citizens in the planning process. In his book Planning in a Human Way he writes:

The Vancouver experience has convinced me that effective planning of human settlements in western democratic society will come to depend more on human relations in the process of arriving at decisions than it will on the planner’s science and art of preparing plans.”--p. 10

The public participation process was often heated and GVRD planners (Mr. Lash included) came close to resigning during this period. According to Mr. Lash, one Board member actually raised his fist to another over the issue of public meetings within member municipalities. Mr. Lash speculated on why the relations between government and the public are often so tense and hostile. His comments are as apt now as they were in 1976:

“The rapidity of technological and social change, together with the increasing complexity of governmental institutions, means that the old system of public control of policies and programs is not working well ...”--p. 23.

But through it all Harry Lash remained committed to the notion that the public is a critical link in what he called the “six-sided triangle” that is regional planning:

“It came home to us that there is a difference between using people and caring about them, between getting help for your own private agenda or helping people write a new future. It is the difference between “co-optation” and cooperation, between manipulation and honest human relations.”--p. 29.