Spring 2021 - URB 645 G100

Urban Sustainable Development (4)

Class Number: 4599

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM

    5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1700, Vancouver

    5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1700, Vancouver

    5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1700, Vancouver



In this course, we begin to answer the question: what does the idea of sustainable development mean for cities? Using case studies from Vancouver and around the world, we will seek to understand how urban sustainable development innovations are developed, designed, and implemented. Special attention will be paid to the importance of sustainable development linkages between urban issues related to economic development, social justice, and environmental conservation and protection.


Sustainable development has become one of the most contested, indispensable, and ubiquitous concepts of the contemporary era. Broadly speaking, it refers to development initiatives that meet the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. On a planet with finite resources and a growing population, this is no small charge. This course explores the ethics, politics, promise and paradoxes of sustainable development as it is encountered in, by, and through the city.   

In seeking to move beyond policy buzzwords and branding when it comes to sustainability, this course will approach the opportunities and stumbling blocks of urban sustainable development from a conceptual ground based in evolving mainstream and critical social science theory. Topically, special attention will be paid to the ways that sustainable development goals at the urban scale intersect with and inform economic development, social justice, and environmental policy areas. 

Remote Learning Format

  • Weekly synchronous class discussion on Zoom from 5:30pm-8pm
  • Asynchronous course activitiescontent will be assigned most weeks (discussion questions and forum, mini-assignments, etc.)
  • As BCCDC and SFU COVID19 Impact Scalepermit in the Spring 2021 semester, there may be the opportunity to meet up to 4 times synchronously (following all applicable risk protocols like physical distancing and wearing face masks) for outdoor field trips, site visits, and 'walking lectures' around Vancouver (the content for which groups of students will form as a part of the 'seminar leadership' group assignment).  These in-person gatherings will be optional, with alternate assignments and activities provided for those who are unable, or do not feel comfortable, meeting in-person.  Risk-assessment training will be provided in advance of in-person meetings, and all safety guidelines must be strictly adhered to by all participants.

Course Policies

Remote delivery of this course means that "the usual" course policies are now flexible. Due dates, expectations, and requirements are all built for resilience and adaptability.

Time and place of classes:  See Canvas announcement prior to the first week of class for Zoom meeting ID and password.

Effort will be made to meet consistently between 5:30pm- 8pm each week, which allows for two hours of instruction and discussion with a short break.  Occasionally, class may spill into the hours of 8-9:20 p.m. (due to guest speaker schedules, and other special cases). These dates will be made clear in the final syllabus.

Planned Face to Face Activities
Three face-to-face activities for this course are planned forJanuary 13, March 24 and April 7.
Students should consider these plans and dates as tentative and subject to confirmation by the instructor in the course syllabus (which students will receive on the first day of classes) as well as subject to any provincial public health restrictions in effect at the time.


  • Regular class participation: attendance, evidence of active reading, discussion participation, discussion questions (submitted prior to class) 20%
  • Seminar leadership (COVID19 protocols permitting, this will be in the form of a guided walking lecture/tour of a neighbourhood in Vancouver) 20%
  • Defining urban sustainability group project 10%
  • Sustainable neighbourhood observation 20%
  • Final essay OR podcast assignment 30%

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).