After graduating from Harvard University in 1949, where he studied city planning, Eli held various positions with the City of Chicago. He was with the Metro Toronto Planning Department from 1955 to 1966 and the Planning Commissioner between 1962 and 1966. He established a professional practice when he left Metro in 1966, and focused primarily on projects associated with housing, transportation, local government reorganization, and planning legislation. At the local level, Eli conducted studies that led to the establishment of planning departments in the regions of Ottawa-Carleton and Niagara. He participated in the Ottawa Central Area Study, and carried out projects for a number of municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area.
Eli’s work with the private sector included an appointment as planning coordinator for the development of the Erin Mills community in Mississauga where he worked closely with John Bousefield. Housing was a particularly important area of practice, and Eli was involved with several committees and task forces devoted to this issue. He served as Chairman of the Ontario Advisory Task Force on Housing Policy, 1972–1973. It was the report of this task force that led to the formation of the Ministry of Housing.
He was responsible for the formation of the Ontario Housing Action Program, and served as its first Director, 1973–1974. From 1981 to 1988, he was a Director of the City of Toronto’s Non-Profit Housing Corporation, and served as Chairman of the Cityhome Development Committee. From 1981 to 1987, Eli was Canada’s representative on the Bureau of the International Federation of Housing and Planning.
He was a consultant for numerous planning studies at higher levels of government, including the provinces of Alberta, New-Brunswick, Nova-Scotia and Ontario. His services were made the most of during the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Toronto in 1976, and the Ontario Economic Council’s study of Municipal Planning in Ontario in 1973. He also served as Chairman of the Ontario Planning Act Review Committee, 1975–1977, which led to the Planning Act of 1981. Eli taught at York University from 1969 to 1992, and subsequently held an appointment as Professor Emeritus in Environ mental Studies and Senior Scholar. He became a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Planners in 1993, and served as Editor of the Institute’s journal, Plan Canada Eli was the ultimate pragmatist, acerbic, direct and incisive, who believed that the ability to filter experience was what made a good planner. He leaves a great legacy of planners who learned from him, and who are passing on some of the same knowledge and wisdom.