Frances Bula header image 2

The Vancouver neighbourhoods backlash continues

June 8th, 2010 · 82 Comments

For several years, there was an unprecedented ceasefire between developers and residents in this city. After a huge brawl in the early 1990s with the public over the development of the Arbutus lands where the old brewery had been, city planners worked to find another way to talk with the public and that seemed to succeed to those looking on. All was quiet. But ever since former mayor Sam Sullivan started talking about EcoDensity, little wildfires of community resistance started popping up. That’s continued and grown as the Vision Vancouver team introduced its Short Term Incentives for Rental program. The email below, from the group Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, is the latest testament to that movement.

It’s been perplexing to many people who’ve watched the city, where almost 100,000 people in new buildings got absorbed into the downtown with barely a bleat from anyone. And now, these little protests here and there about STIR projects, about social-housing projects, about this and that project. They were dismissed at first at fringe conspiracy theorists. Some of that may be true about certain players, but they are picking up steam here and there.

I’ve come to believe that what’s going on is that, for years, there was no problem because the growth was absorbed into mostly vacant industrial land on the edges of Vancouver. A few people mourned the resortification of the waterfront or the former grubby area around Granville Street but, by and large, there was little outcry. That’s even though there was far, far more density packed into the new Downtown South neighbourhood — heritage density bonus transfers, more density bonuses given for theatres and art galleries and Orpheum additions — than the West End will ever see.

But now the available downtown space is almost gone and developers are looking for other opportunities in Vancouver: the West End, the Cambie Corridor, various nodes along Kingsway. As well, as Housing Minister Rich Coleman has poured money into social housing, both philosophy and the city’s available land parcels have dictated that some of those 100-unit towers would be built outside the usual Downtown South/Downtown Eastside Bermuda triangle of cheap housing.

That means a lot more conflict with existing neighbourhoods. City council’s policies haven’t changed that much, really. Developers haven’t changed. Developer donations to civic political parties, whether NPA or Vision, haven’t changed. What has changed is the location of development into the established residential communities and that’s proving to be a much tougher go than plonking towers onto vacant land around False Creek. It will be a test of this council and future councils how they deal with that new reality. Just wait, by the way, for the insurgency that develops as people find out about the plans for density all along Cambie from 25th to 49th.

In the meantime, here’s the media release from NSM and Ned Jacobs

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

June 4, 2010

Open letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver City Council:

A letter of May 18, 2010 from Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver to many members of our network stated: “City Hall is back on track!” Regretfully, we must disagree. To the contrary, regarding the planning and development of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods across the city, we see this Vision Vancouver Council hurtling forward in the same failed direction as the previous council.

Let’s start with EcoDensity. Upon election in 2008, at an event sponsored by Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV), Mayor Robertson singled out the EcoDensity initiative for criticism, and praised “the very, very intensive effort on behalf of all of you and the neighbourhoods to counter that effectively and to reframe the whole debate around what matters most.” Some Vision councillors saw a possibility to convert EcoDensity from a “policy report” to a “report for information.” This sounded like a solution, and we awaited an action that never came.

Prior to the election, Mayor Robertson and Vision Vancouver responded to a candidate questionnaire from NSV. The question “Do you support CityPlan and related neighbourhood-based Community Visioning as the primary basis for future planning in Vancouver neighbourhoods?” was answered “Yes” – with the added comment, “We need to do a better job of integrating other city reports with the CityPlan process.” We agree – and converting EcoDensity to a report for information would have accomplished that. Supported and worthwhile ideas or actions could still be brought forward for consideration and implementation. Instead, EcoDensity is being used to override CityPlan and our Vision Directions and has been written into the Greenest City Initiative as policy, which ignores your election commitment “to address outstanding concerns related to the EcoDensity Initial Actions.”

Another broken promise is the about-face on a Vision Vancouver election pledge to “oppose the transfer of density from the downtown Heritage Density Bank onto landing sites outside of the currently approved areas into communities across the city.” If allowed to stand, this reversal of policy will result in financial benefits to developers far beyond what is needed to protect heritage buildings, to the detriment of obtaining public amenities and affordable housing. Current provisions for heritage density transfer override the local area plans and Community Visions that you promised would be the primary basis for future planning in Vancouver.

The disregard of longstanding community-based plans for greening Hastings Park and instead approving PNE expansion, which includes construction of a large parking garage in the park (how “green” is that?), betrays the trust of the residents of Hastings/Sunrise. Furthermore, Councillor Louie’s role as chair of the PNE board puts him in a conflict of interest position, which Vision Vancouver has failed to acknowledge and address.

Abuses of public process that citizens objected to during the previous council’s mandate have continued and have even worsened. Reports are often rushed to council meetings with short or no notice – even for councillors. Vision candidates agreed with the NSV questionnaire that “there should be a larger role for scientific polling and referenda in determining the level of public support for major civic policy decisions.” These words have not been followed up with actions. For example, resident surveys were discontinued in the Norquay neighbourhood centre process because planners failed to obtain a “desired” result in June 2007. Ignoring the excellent community-developed plan for a village centre, the City grinds onward toward an ongoing rezoning of Norquay, which will mean mass displacements in a neighbourhood that is 32% low income. The community working group has continued to scrutinize the planning department’s extremely problematic and ever-shifting proposals, but to little effect.

The current Council passed the Principles for the Broadway/UBC Transit Corridor with no public consultation whatsoever. Only after much protest from the affected communities was any public input allowed. The City continues to sit back and let TransLink take the lead on public consultation on this huge corridor that will affect many communities, even though TransLink has the conflicted role of also using development to fund transit.

Following the election, huge incentives were created for Vision Vancouver’s development industry “partners” to build a few expensive rental units, allowing out-of-scale developments to override local area plans and sacrifice the amenities needed to serve future residents. The Short Term Incentives for Rentals (STIR) program would negatively impact neighbourhoods across the city, and especially the West End, where these projects will generate windfall profits while failing to provide affordability. Not only does STIR set a bad precedent, it is an unnecessary response to a short recession. When citizens questioned the wisdom of an “economic stimulus” (your words) for the development industry, and objected to the lack of public involvement in creating a rental strategy, Councillor Meggs retorted: “The election was the consultation—this is the delivery.” This does not match at all with Vision’s election pledge to “increase accountability, transparency, and access to City Hall with new opportunities for engagement, and improved outreach and consultation.”

We don’t believe that Council feels comfortable with this development industry “partnership”. However, all of Council, except Councillors Woodsworth and Cadman, continue to accept numerous large donations from the development industry. This practice creates public concerns about Council’s credibility on planning and development issues due to potential conflicts of interest.

The last election demonstrated voter desire for a change from what the previous council was doing – a change that has not come yet. We do not see a Vision Vancouver train that is “back on track.” Only through actions that demonstrate a genuine change in direction will you fulfill your election commitments to Vancouver’s neighbourhoods.

Respectfully,

Ned Jacobs

On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

Group contact email:  nsvancouver@hotmail.com

Categories: Uncategorized

82 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Urbanismo // Jun 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Ah-rummph, I lived on Kits Point from 1970 until 1985, then later, 16th and Granville until 1997. . . “After a huge brawl in the early 1990s with the public over the development of the Arbutus lands where the old brewery had been . . .” . . . I don’t remember a “huge brawl! We were happy that ugly semi-tower and its rails were chucked . . .

    In fact IMO compared to PCI Gateway it is a gentle intrusion . . . and BTW, WRT to Ling Kun on the Gateway thingie, “The ones I’ve talked to who are aware of the project are in favour. Who wouldn’t want more amenities nearby?

    Indeed, Sir/Madame, and I trust my jaded 61 years of professional practice, you are in for a rude awakening.

    That”. . . two-hour review . . . the UDP people’s antennas were twitching over was a discussion of the “high street” and it is private property so make sure you wear a clean shirt when you go for your java.

    I shopped all along “high Street” Broadway and “high Street” Commercial Drive (Norman’s: 2ltr can olive oil C$5.00!). Now that is high street and the very scale and deportment of Gateway’s massing and traffic precludes a similarity.

    That Gateway “high Street” will be no Robson Strauss pre-Rodeo Drive north!

    As the development pro-forma is configured first must come anchor tenants, usually the “No Logo” vintage. Right there you’re into “ It’s not like they’re building Wal-mart which has already been shot down.” in a different form.

    Lewis on the Gateway thingie, “There is a breaking point where local architectural firms, local engineering firms, and local planning firms selling out to multi-national conglomerates takes the “International Style of Modernism” a step too far.
    The finance swirling around this kind of project is about as far away form Marpole as we can get.” says it more succinctly than I can.

    The concern about the STIR is justified if for no other reason than that the integrity of the programme is unlikely to last to full run (60 years): besides most strata in town is rental ‘cos Vancouver has made itself too expensive for its own. FCS lost its integrity some years ago . . .

    Ling, I apologize for impugning your integrity: a plant you are not, but please do not, then, become dupe! Tell your neighbours . . .

  • 2 michael geller // Jun 8, 2010 at 9:55 am

    I think this opinion piece from Andreas Duany is worth reading, as well as the comments attached to it.

    http://www.planetizen.com/node/43935

  • 3 Joe Just Joe // Jun 8, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Frances, you appear to have copying the letter twice.

    I agree with most of what is written above, I am not a fan of Vision so they haven’t lost a vote with me. That said they do not appear to have delivered on their most important promises, instead having chosen to honour the easier ones. There have been a few times already were current council has approved developments that go against exisiting city policies and a few more in the batters circle. It makes it diffilcult for both residents and developers alike when they don’t know what rules will be followed when. From my biased viewpoint watching council meetings were speaker after speaker is against a project only to see it passed with no discussion from council it certainly gives the impression that their minds were already made up, so why even bother having speakers?
    I’d love to see someone from council respond publicly to the above letter and provide detailed answers.

    And just to clarify a piece from the letter, the norquay village survey was discarded because of irregarilities from the survey responses, it was not the city not liking the answers. They acutally paid for an outside auditor to come in and examine the surveys and found that they had been tampered with by individuals looking to derail the process. The details are availble on the city website as is the auditors report.

  • 4 Maudern // Jun 8, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Coming up from the station at King Edward often seems to catch me by surprise – it feels strange to come upon such a quiet residential, low-density area from a metro system.

  • 5 MB // Jun 8, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I’ve seen public meetings unfairly derailed by highly disruptive NIMBYs, as well as public meetings where city staff outnumber the citizens for lack of community interest.

    Yet I found City Plan and charrettes very useful, the former being be a marvellous strategy where each citizen was given a chance to express a detailed written opinion on their neighbourhood, the latter a way to obtain a hands-on citizen view of urban design.

    I agree with the comments made by Andres Duany posted by Michael that the public consultation portion of the planning system requires reformation, and would hope that Lewis’s neighbourhood quartiers receive due attention.

    Let’s start with turning off the open mike and cacel the talking head show and actually sit down with citizens, professionals and developers in workshops and build on City Plan. Have we forgotten City Plan already? It was a good start, but it is an unfinished work.

    I have more or less respected Ned Jacobs opinion pieces for a number of years now, but in my view he does us a dis-service in this one by cloaking negatively-tinged political opinion as commentary on how to make our urban planning and public processes better. The expression of bias in a pluralistic society does not unite, it polarizes.

    I want to see a discussion about ideas on how to build a better city, not unasked for advice on how to vote in the next election, or to scroll through a long-winded anti-development diatribe that absents any discussion on democratically harnessing the energy of private development to produce LEEDS Neighbourhood ratings or Villagasian Urbie Quartiers.

    Moreover, many of us do not vote for parties per se, irrespective of our personal leanings. We vote for individuals who we think have done a good job, or who have the relevant experience to assist in managing a city, or some new ideas on how to do it better.

    A million and a half people are on their way to Metro Vancouver over the next 25 years, a good percentage of them seniors, this during a time when price spikes in liquid fuels will shift us away from roads to the alternatives, and after a couple of decades of heated debate over density and urban form.

    Let’s not get bogged down in the politicization of planning, and in ignoring the huge role urban design can play in accommodating our local needs as well as regional growth in a more human way.

  • 6 Dan Cooper // Jun 8, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    “Just wait, by the way, for the insurgency that develops as people find out about the plans for density all along Cambie from 25th to 49th.”

    Not just from 25th (aka King Edward) where it would make some sense to put tall buildings right by the station. In fact, the current proposal is to allow eight story buildings also from 16th to 19th, blocks from any station. One hopes the planners would at least widen the sidewalks a bit to accomodate all the extra people, since even now you can barely move by foot in that stretch of the street, what with all the junk blocking the sidewalks on behalf of the city (bus shelters; bike racks…) and businesses (permanent railings across half the sidewalk for restaurants to put seats out four months a year, with planters set on the outside of them over more of the sidewalk; a-frame sign boards; magazine racks…). Every bit of it, I’m sure, is a great idea to someone, but no one looks at the big picture.

  • 7 Sean Bickerton // Jun 8, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Joe Just Joe has hit on why the STIR program has generated so much legitimate resistance – it’s an ad hoc program with no defined rules, that gives away millions of dollars of taxpayer money to encourage developers to build market-rate rental housing when the city has no shortage of market rate rental. it’s below-market rental we need.

    Further, STIR buildings make no important contributions to local community amenities as all past developments used to. It’s no wonder people are opposing them.

    In addition, almost inexplicably, this administration has chucked the long-standing policy of insisting on 2.75 acres of park for every new 1000 residents in a development, or the equivalent in community benefits.

    It was this policy, adhered to by parties of all stripes for decades, that has made Vancouver such a green city. Why Vision has chucked that standard out, I don’t understand, but that also explains resistance to new development under ad hoc rules subject to back-room negotiation and less open to public transparency.

    And finally, having participated in a number of local consultations through the NEFC high-level review and attempts to forge a compromise allowing Creekside Park to be built immediately, this council seems reluctant to listen to the results of its own processes. Understandably, that’s has people a bit upset.

    We need strong neighbourhoods in Vancouver. They foster good schools, safe, livable streets, and a community of local healthy small businesses. But eco-density is essential in urban areas and densification next to transit is the way of the future.

    In fact, I’m told we’re facing the biggest phase of expansion in the city’s history over the next ten years. How it’s managed is the issue.

    Will it be managed to the benefit of local communities or serve a misguided ideological commitment to market rental at any cost?

  • 8 Dr. Frankentower // Jun 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    It is interesting to note that so many of our civic ailments appear to involve the same bitter cure-all: BUILD FUGLY TOWERS.

    In the past few months we have seen the pattern repeat: a massive rental tower in the West End (rental stock/affordability), a BC Housing tower on East Broadway, and more outside the core (homelessness and lack of assisted housing), two new condo towers within the low-rise Chinatown Historic District (revitalization of a depressed neighbourhood), and the behemoth at the foot of Cambie (transit orientated density). Even the art gallery needs a tower accompaniment apparently.

    Land assembly costs and density appear to be the most often-quoted excuses for tower mania. We are told that we can’t even make an attempt at Lewis and Urbie’s low-rise, high-density quartiers because land costs are too high. Of course, that also underscores just how hasty and poorly planned these big decisions are – land assembly is all about PLANNING ahead.

    But this isn’t really about density, which most agree is coming, like it or not. This is about scale and ratio, and the gut human reaction to same. We mastered these simple mathematic principles thousands of years ago. And we already have examples in our own city (the Historic Area) of how we can easily place the required density within a 5 minute walking radius of any given transit stop or neighbourhood centre (the Umbilicus Urbis, as the Romans called it). Within the context of a quartier, we can achieve humanist urban scale, meet the TOD, STIR, or low income housing requirements and not piss off the neighbours in the process.

    If Vision (or the NPA or COPE) was really serious about building the Greenest city, they would realize that there’s a whole lot more to a liveable and socially amenable neighbourhood/transit node than its concentration of density. That density can easily be accommodated without towers if we look at the whole quartier, not just single blocks or building sites. Towers, in this context, are simply monuments of “greenwashing”.

    To blame the neighbours for complaining about the inability of our planners or Council to uphold good urban design principles is a total cop-out.

  • 9 Ron // Jun 8, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I think that public consultation must start with the premise that there WILL be an increase in density – and that the consultation is how to accommodate it.

    The reason that the City has refused to undertake district or quartier-wide blanket rezonings of single family areas to multiple family zoning is that it doesn’t want to upset the NIMBYs – so you end up with piecemeal developments whenever and wherever the “opportunity” arises.

    These are “opportunistic rezonings” on previously consolidated parcels – former supermarket sites (King Edward Village, Broadway & Arbutus, Champlain Mall) or industrial sites (Carling O’Keefe Arbutus Lands, Marine Gateway, Collingwood Village, Pacifica (on Cambie – former transit yard).

    That’s the whole reason that there’s no development at Nanaimo Station or 29th Avenue Station and no significant development at Broadway & Commercial Station – the City refuses to rezone single family homes for fear of upsetting the electorate.

    Almost makes you wish for the days of politicians steamrollering over the electorate for the common good.

  • 10 MB // Jun 8, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    @ Doc: “To blame the neighbours for complaining about the inability of our planners or Council to uphold good urban design principles is a total cop-out.”

    The neighbours must be given the tools by which to participate. City Plan afforded a rationale to do so. I think this is where we should begin again, but in fairness, it should be a two-way educational project.

    The hordes are comin’ whether neighbours want them next door or not. No matter that the gods aren’t filling in the ocean or levelling the mountains to accommodate them.

    Part of the housing affordability (and housing choice) question rests not just on planners and politicians who can be slow to adapt to ‘new’ ideas like centuries-old fee simple row housing, but on the responsibility of neighbours to accept new residents and alternative building forms in their neighbourhood, and to help define how this may be accomplished. Some neighbours prefer drawbridges.

  • 11 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Oh boy, this is going to take some time to digest.

    The problem with community consultation processes in BC, and it probably resides elsewhere in Canada, is a lack of “language”. Since the planners can’t explain how we build the city, and why we build it this way and not another, the possibility for meaningful analysis and consultation is obstructed from the get-go.

    Can’t talk about it in meaningful terms, can’t make progress.

    This is also at the root of the almost complete lack of transparency that we experience in the planning process.

  • 12 Bill McCreery // Jun 8, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Finally, a realization there is something important happening in this City. Let’s take a look a closer look.

    “City Council’s policies haven’t changed that much”. Really? …….. “What has changed is the location of development into the established residential communities and that’s proving to be a much tougher go than plonking towers onto vacant land around False Creek.”

    Isn’t it Council that opened the spot rezoning floodgates into “established residential communities”? Isn’t that a major change in policy? Aren’t major relaxations in development charges & property taxes a major change in policy? Aren’t allowing unheard of 150% to 200%+ density increases a major change in policy?

    There is still underdeveloped land in Vancouver’s West End, Downtown South, False Creek & lots more within the well established, accepted zoning throughout the City. There was in the 1970s & there still is today [see recent Vancouver density article from NSV, not "NSM" above] a considerably under-developed zoning capacity in Vancouver. Perhaps it is time to fine tune that development model which has given us the wonderful city of which we are the beneficiaries. Perhaps there are density increases which can be identified & increased appropriately. Perhaps it’s time to say no.

    The response from “established residential communities” is entirely expected to anyone who knows Vancouver. It is, in fact, the correct response from these communities to what is currently being inappropriately & crudely brute forced into previously harmonious neighbourhoods.

    In fact these initiatives are ill-advised major policy changes which are not thought through &, they are resulting in ill-advised, not thought through spot rezoning proposals, who knows where, what or how big next, which “can’t be stopped now because we’re to far along in the process” according to City Planner Brent Toderian.

    Unfortunately we are 17 months from the next election. And, these projects need to be stopped now. They will inflict permanent, irrepairable damage to these now healthy communities.

    Does recall legislation apply to cities?

  • 13 Paul C // Jun 9, 2010 at 2:41 am

    While there are the nimbies that are opposed to any change what so ever. So no matter what you proposed they would never like it.

    I do feel a big reason you see a big resistance to increased density. Is that people are afraid of loosing their homes. Maybe not homes, but are afraid of being kicked out.

    Everyone talks about how we should rezone the single family residential. But once they do that. Does that mean the city or a developer is going to come along and tell me to move out now, because they want to redevelop the area. I have no desire to move. Any place they build is going to be more expensive for me to buy into. So either I’m going to have to pay more money to live in the same area that I was already living in. Or else I’m going to be forced to move outside of the city. And I have no desire to do that.

    Unless someone knows of a time when the citizens in the area all moved back into the area with no extra funds spent by them. In other words the money they got for their house. Was enough to pay for the new residential suite.

  • 14 Urbanismo // Jun 9, 2010 at 5:49 am

    There’s a lot going on here: CityPlan, Ned Jacobs, densifying . . .

    I’m surprised CityPlan is mentioned. I participated throughout and concluded after the final meeting at Emily Carr it to be a dead issue.

    Other than the local colloquiums, in my case in a private house, the general meetings were severely controlled by quasi “facilitators”. The final meeting at Emily Carr, to introduce the Ideas Book, was a charade, very well attended, obviously to boost the stats, by young school kids enjoying the day off.

    Conclusions, in the book, overwhelmingly called for community control of development which, of course, was vehemently opposed by thu department.

    Essentially we have inherited a planning methology from the military: a hierarchical department wherein seniority trumps talent, a control ethos. Even the language is militaristic: zoning, officer, development control, strategy/strategic etc. . . .

    Yet, our prurient disciplined souls cannot countenance neighbourhood creativity and freedom that we would, hoity/toity, describe as undeveloped and primitive!

    Yet, before we jump to conclusions note the happy neighbours dancing having fun after their hard work.

    Lewis and I have had many a discussion on the virtues of high/low and I am coming around to his point of view that high does not necessarily translate into density or land assembly convenience.

    Ned Jacobs. Despite the revered surname he, and the now over bureaucratized architectural profession, appears to have too much faith in acronyms: LEED, BEEP.

    Ned’s work fits the current green fad: it will pass!

    IMO the architectural, so called, profession” has taken advantage of a reasonable concern for good building practice to “market its wares“.

    Good intentions, Green, sustainability. Indeed, the so called profession, has caused to degenerated into turf war marketing: over controlling bureaucratized, totally out of touch with reality, pandering to a development and real estate industry” long past their usefulness to society.

    Does anyone doubt there is a creative alternative to the incessant dirge of awful bland concrete towers?

    Sprawl must be arrested and densification need not, and should not if sensitively presented, frighten the neighbours.

    Yes . . . A NEW PLANNING PARADIGM. please.

    Surely civic planning’s top priority towards a new paradigm is to accept the multitude of naturally recognizable QUARTIERS.

    Did not Lewis mention in that previous thread, and I paraphrase . . . the first priority of the planning department is to represent the neighbours!

    What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Emerson.

  • 15 MB // Jun 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

    @ Urbie: “I’m surprised CityPlan is mentioned. I participated throughout and concluded after the final meeting at Emily Carr it to be a dead issue. ”

    Um. Errr. Okaaay…..

    Let’s see. Before I arrived on the Coast in ’79 the planning regime of the day came within a spider’s leg of building an eight-lane monster freeway directly in front of what would become my house. It would’ve knocked down hundreds of houses in a 250 metre wide swath. No consultation required …. too bothersome.

    They may have taken the first step and killed the freeways, but they didn’t finish the job and provide transit alternatives. And yes, Urbie, that’s a TX comment, but it’s an issue that intimately cohabitates with — and influences greatly — city planning.

    Then the spot rezoning madness crept into City Hall like blobs of slime oozing from the Underworld staining politcians of all colours. Hence massive block towers in the West End built by developer friends of councilors on the Right, and a totalitarian mindset on the Left that resulted in tragedies like McLean Park in Strathcona, both requiring the demolition of viable and often heritage-rated housing. Oh yeah, little if any consultation was required in either quartier. They just couldn’t wait to smell the diesel.

    After a decade and a half of urban evolutionary dissonance, Gordo had the only bright idea he’s ever espoused as a politician, a bottom-up neighbourhood planning process called City Plan.

    It wasn’t perfect, but in no other jurisdiction I am aware of did every citizen have the opportunity to sit down and help plan their neighbourhood and their city in detail, and in writing, and with the promise that every single response would be tabulated for the record.

    I spent several days debating stuff with my wife on what kind of growth we’d accept in our neighbourhood … heights of future buildings, parking, parks, etc etc etc. I spent another four hours at the kitchen table filling in the sheets. There has never been this opportunity before or since.

    Yes, we’ve had distractions like Eco-This and Density-That, some of it good (e.g. laneway houses in single family zones) but the real planning and consultation evolution has slowed, and in my opinion may start slipping backwards.

    To me charrettes and workshops at the neighbourhood level with total citizen involvement is a natural next step in the City Plan process. They should be ongoing, held every five years or so to allow for changes. But the spot rezonings are starting to block the view with their top-down hierarchy.

    The development and demographic pressures are immense here and will only get worse. But that only means the consultation processeses need to evolve with them, and we had a good methodology with City Plan.

    There are some issues that are beyond the city’s control, such as provincial jurisdiction over a rather archaic Strata Act. We will never get fee-simple townhouses without changes to that legislation. The success of neighbourhood planning / quartiers, and finding affordable housing alternatives to the horrendously expensive single family zone (in a city with no raw land) cannot be realized until these alternatives can be explored along with transit.

    If Gordo is incapable of having a second good idea before he leaves office, then good riddance.

  • 16 Michael Geller // Jun 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

    “Any place they build is going to be more expensive for me to buy into. So either I’m going to have to pay more money to live in the same area that I was already living in. Or else I’m going to be forced to move outside of the city. And I have no desire to do that.”

    Paul, I don’t understand why you have these concerns. In two of the rezonings from single family to multi-family with which I was involved, (on West 41st and on Oak Street) the single family homeowners were able to buy new, more suitable apartments and townhouses in the new developments, and put money in the bank.

    While some might fear that a rezoning from single family to multi-family will result in an increase in property taxes, this is not necessarily so. It is possible to design a zoning that rezones properties to multi-family use, but retains single family assessments until such time as a site is redeveloped. The city can fine-tune this with BC Assessment.

    This is the approach I am recommending that the city consider. Pre-zone land for new multi family, in a comprehensive way with community input, rather than continue to require spot rezonings which as others have pointed out, do not create certainty for anyone….neither the developers, the original property owners, nor the neighbourhood.

  • 17 Bill McCreery // Jun 9, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Agreed Michael.

    MB: Stopping freeways happened long before 79, it happened in 73 when TEAM took control of Council, Park & School boards after a neighbourhood uprising of citizens throughout Vancouver. We also did not not support transit improvements. Quite the opposite. We supported the creation of regional planning [GVRD] & lobbied the province & then BC Hydro for it. We established planning criteria, densities & zoning regulations which anticipated improved transit including the general routing of Skytrain & Canada Line.

    TEAM did not last long after you arrived. Keeping Mike Harcourt & Jack Vollrich in the same room became more & more difficult. But, Mikey did become Mayor & May & Marguerite stayed on. then Gordo & co. moved over to the NPA. So, although TEAM, the party did not continue, TEAM, the legacy did, & yes, what became City Plan, citizens involvement in creating their own city, was a part of our original platform back in 1969.

  • 18 Paul C // Jun 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    @ Michael

    “Paul, I don’t understand why you have these concerns. In two of the rezonings from single family to multi-family with which I was involved, (on West 41st and on Oak Street) the single family homeowners were able to buy new, more suitable apartments and townhouses in the new developments, and put money in the bank.”

    I’m curious in those cases where you were involved. Did people end up with the same sq ft home as before. Or did most of them end up with something smaller.

    I just don’t see how anything newer for the same sq footage. Would be the same price. There is always a premium on something when it is newer.

    As I said before I just feel your biggest backlash is from people who are simply afraid of loosing the home they worked hard to own.

  • 19 Urbanismo // Jun 9, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    @ MB . . . “After a decade and a half of urban evolutionary dissonance, Gordo had the only bright idea he’s ever espoused . . . ” Yes beggars can’t be choosers but let’s put the record straight.

    In Fact it was Tom Fletcher, (he of “I want 60 more planners” the minute he got off the plane) who started CityPlan: not Gordo.

    He even quoted from my 1987 SCARP thesis, on telly, the memorable phrase “a shared vision of urban space“.

    CityPlan is the direct result of that phrase, “a shared vision of urban space.

    But it didn’t go nearly far enough and the concept was stopped in its tracks when Grace McCarthy sold the Expo lands off-shore: over the protestations or perfectly capable local developers.

    Indeed my thesis BC Place: urban design requirements 1987 laid out spacial interconnections that could have been very satisfying had it been even partially recognised by thu planners.

    And I’m sure you will not agree but I thinq FCN in all its bulging planning perfidy http://www.theyorkshirelad.ca/6urbandesign/2010.pdf is a disgrace to civility.

    The city would be so much more liveable if we did not just settle for less.

    CityPlan: pop went the weasel!

  • 20 Urbanismo // Jun 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    @ Bill Mc . . . long time no see . . . greetings . . .

    TEAM and rose coloured glasses! It was Mayor Art who declared Vancouver to be THU EXECUTIVE CITY much to the chagrin of Clr. Harry and, in retrospect, Harry was right.

    Labels are one thing but when you delve into what they mean life is impacted: the impact of the executive city for Vancouver was essentially de-industrialization.

    I suppose it was good to clear False Creek of the bee-hive burners and WWII Liberty ship building years’ remnants but the replacement is questionable.

    Essentially all that is left in Vancouver is selling our real estate off shore. And for the life of me cannot see how that is beneficial yet we have no alternative but to live with it. Mayor Phillip tried, declaring the flats to be a hi-tech zone but that fell on its flat.

    When I first arrived I could afford to keep my little sail boat at Fraser’s wharf of Kits beach: now a berth would cost me my annual pension and more . . . and I do not see that as progress . . .

  • 21 Wendy Pedersen // Jun 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Frances,
    I think your thesis may be right. The problem is imposing a lot of new development on existing communities like the Downtown Eastside where we already have a lot of community assets — in the case of my neighbourhood, we have assets that are key to low-income, racialized or disabled people: the non-judgmentalness, the cheap necessities, free and nearby, the many places to work and volunteer, strong Aboriginal and Chinese presence, the informal network of community support and much more.

    DTES residents told us things like this in our community mapping work: “I’ve only been here for a year but it feels like home. No one judges you here. The people who live here are welcoming….It’s nicer to be here than on the streets of North Van.” We asked some women if they were offered a nice apartment in the DTES or Shaughnessy, which one would they take? Almost all said the one in the DTES. “I would stay here because it’s my home, my family. I would stay here because it’s more nerve wracking because you are not sure about things up there. Down here you know the ropes….”

    We can see from the Woodwards development that these assets, which are needed by the low income community, will be destroyed by lots of market development which leads to increased land values, higher rents and indirect displacement of low-income housing, stores and services. We have also noticed that some (not all) of the new, richer residents lobby to get rid of or stop affordable housing and services that low income people need.

    But, at CCAP we’re thinking that mixing richer people and poor people together into brand new neighbourhoods is probably OK because it doesn’t push out the existing community or destroy its assets.

    But, something to consider….if you look at the city’s latest social indicators report you’ll see on page 72 that it says that the percentage of low income people in South False Creek is among the lowest in the city when that is supposed to be a mixed income community. This community was built to be one third each of low, middle and richer people. I’ve asked people anecdotally who live there in co-ops what happened and they speculate that over time, folks that came in on very low-incomes stayed and became higher income and if people left, there was no pressure to replace new residents with very low-income people.
    Thanks for staying on top of the planning issues Francis.

  • 22 Urbanismo // Jun 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    @ Wendy . . . You may have noticed, I certainly have, that the popular conversation always revolves around externalities: be it cones of vision or TX, but always easy for the techno-obsessed mind to grasp.

    I suppose, for you talk of an ambient, all inclusive city, is pie in the sky yet there was a brief interlude in the late ’50′s to ’60′s when social responsibility was au currant!

    The hippies of Kits were heard. What happened to them? They must have their hand on the levers of power by now.

    In the days of skid row and Essondale the homeless, probably a hell of a lot more than we admitted, were conveniently invisible: but the beer parlors, street windows not allowed, ladies separate, were full.

    Loggers and miners would come to town, head for Carrall Street, blow their wad over night then head back to the bush.

    Today: that ugly tower with its misplace W, that oh, don’t tell it like it was art piece inside tries to make out things are different and popular convenient conversation goes along: view corridors, TX number crunching, real estate but never, never inward introspection.

    Now there is no work in the bush or in town, unless barista-ing can be considered work and so far as I can tell, its all about money, luxury condos and moving the phuccin’ art gallery . . . and . . . and . . . the speculators run rampant.

    Apparently no one gives a shit about anyone anymore.

  • 23 Michael Geller // Jun 9, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Wendy Pedersen has correctly identified a problem that should be examined very carefully, namely the number of people who are not poor, and ‘overhoused’ at significant public expense.

    I would challenge the coops and non-profit housing operators to go through their social housing occupancies and reallocate the units, so that well to do singles and couples are no longer living in two and three bedroom units that were intended for lower income family households.

    I would suggest we could ‘create’ hundreds of new units for those in greater need in a very short period of time at virtually no cost. Of course, I know this won’t happen, but it should.

    In answer to Paul’s question, the people who were living on the sites ended up with a similar sized living spaces, but much less land. For example, the lots on Oak Street were 66 by 140. The bungalows were around 1100 square feet. In the mid nineties, I paid $720,000 for each of the lots and the new apartments cost less than half that amount.

    I agree that when the lots are smaller, the spread between the value of the single family lot, and the new apartment or townhouse is much less. But along Cambie Street and in similar areas, one should be able to sell a home and move into a new unit, at a lower cost.

    This of course depends on whether the city is going to try and recover 70% of the ‘lift’ in land value when a rezoning occurs. That’s right, the city now shares in the ‘profit’ from rezonings, and this policy is starting to adversely affect the economics of creating new multi-family housing…. in areas where we should be building new multi-family housing. I agree that the city needs funds to finance new community amenities to accommodate higher densities, but the ‘contribution’ should be based on the cost of amenities, not the value of land. But that’s another story.

  • 24 Chris Keam // Jun 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    “Wendy Pedersen has correctly identified a problem that should be examined very carefully, namely the number of people who are not poor, and ‘overhoused’ at significant public expense. ”

    I certainly didn’t interpret Ms. Pedersen’s remarks to suggest that conclusion. I hope she will indicate if that was what she was implying.

    “I would challenge the coops and non-profit housing operators to go through their social housing occupancies and reallocate the units, so that well to do singles and couples are no longer living in two and three bedroom units that were intended for lower income family households. ”

    Is this really a problem? Are there really hundreds of ‘well-to-do’ couples and singles occupying multi-bedroom co-op and non-profit housing units? No one I know who lives in a co-op (albeit mostly all young families rather than singles and childless couples) strikes me as anything other than of average income (or less) and fighting hard to stay in that position. Are there any resources I could access to educate myself about this suggested problem?

    Any solution that involves mass evictions and pre-supposes a large scale mis-allocation of subsidized housing must surely be a situation that’s easy to quantify with a quick trip through Revenue Canada’s taxation information.

    I am reminded of one of the greatest pieces of wisdom I’ve ever read.

    “When will we learn to ask ‘And then what’ as a matter of course?”

    JEREMY CHERFAS
    Biologist and BBC Radio Four broadcaster; author of The Seed Savers Handbook.

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/wqc/wqc_p2.html

  • 25 False Creep // Jun 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I suspect that tearing down the viaducts would be (in part) a convenient way to keep building without upsetting an existing neighbourhood. Land like that doesn’t fight back.

  • 26 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 10, 2010 at 12:01 am

    “I’ve come to believe that what’s going on is that, for years, there was no problem because the growth was absorbed into mostly vacant industrial land on the edges of Vancouver…

    But now the available downtown space is almost gone and developers are looking for other opportunities in Vancouver: the West End, the Cambie Corridor, various nodes along Kingsway. As well, as Housing Minister Rich Coleman has poured money into social housing, both philosophy and the city’s available land parcels have dictated that some of those 100-unit towers would be built outside the usual Downtown South/Downtown Eastside Bermuda triangle of cheap housing… That means a lot more conflict with existing neighbourhoods.”

    —Frances Bula

    That may be it, Frances. Your analysis explains why the grass roots may be energized. Stuck in a gear where high-density means high-rise, and only high-rise, when we see the City comin’ we scream.

    For some of us the somewhat self-serving “Vancouver Achievement”—betraying a too cozy relationship with the planning department, and not enough analysis—put us on alert. Excluding the West End, the downtown peninsula, I feel, was fair ground to experiment with hyper urbanism. However, the “Refrigerator Architecture” along Main Street Skytrain station was not good urbanism, and that should be a warning (the metaphor was brought back from Dubai by Trevor Boddy: towers standing in a row like fridges at the appliance store).

    Those of us that know the new planning paradigm are not happy to see the Gateway Project at Port Mann, and wonder at the brashness of using the same nomenclature for developments at the foot of Cambie on Marine Drive. The old Safeway site on Knight and Kingsway—one of the Kingsway “nodes”—is in the ground and a complete fiasco in urban design. Let’s interview any of the 13 home owners unlucky enough to have this behemoth spring to enormity in front of their picture windows on the other side of King Ed East, and ask them if they are NIMBYs.

    How long will it take the rest of this area to build up to this model? Will the single storey frame commercial buildings on the other side of Knight ever redevelop to this scale? The famous Flat Iron Building in New York City was completed in 1902, and it still dwarfs all the architecture on its periphery.

    Outside the downtown peninsula, we want to see the new paradigm planning, not more of the same.

    Ned Jacobs and the VSN are providing invaluable community service, whatever their political bent. It takes tireless work and consistent effort to draft that kind of document. On the ground, urbanism is factual:

    “The disregard of longstanding community-based plans for greening Hastings Park and instead approving PNE expansion, which includes construction of a large parking garage in the park (how “green” is that?), betrays the trust of the residents of Hastings/Sunrise.”

    Examples like this litter our city.

    1. The green thing at Hastings Park would return the Hastings Streetcar, and create a viable transportation option for the PNE, Exibition Park, Pacific Colosseum, Empire Field, and Hastings/Sunrise. The bus from Gilmore Station works, but for major events like the PNE special trains on the West Coast Express, and a temporary station, should be part of the strategy.

    2. The Hastings Streetcar, a Hastings Street revitalization, and a form-based code are missing elements all for the revitalization Vancouver’s Historic Quartiers. We are being asked to overlook the synergies that result from good planning—here the PNE and the so-called DTES—while the cradle of our city deteriorates year by year.

    From Wendy Pedersen, “But, at CCAP we’re thinking that mixing richer people and poor people together into brand new neighbourhoods is probably OK because it doesn’t push out the existing community or destroy its assets.”
    Yes. But, before we open the flood gates, and roll the dice on the most at risk population in our city, let’s make sure that we are able to deliver on the promises we make during “neighbourhood planning days”.
    3. Both Frances and Ned missed the HARH. What can only be described as the back-wash of permitting The Woodward’s—a tawdry piece of urbanism considering its location within the plat of the Gastown townsite, and the lack of sensitivity shown for connecting to its neighbourhood at the ground plane.

    4. Before we flail at the NIMBYs, let’s consider some neighbours whose lives have been decimated by growth and bad planning during our generation. I invite everyone to take a lawn chair, knock on a door to ask permission, and then sit the afternoon in the front yard of any of thousands of single family homes along our arterials. Homes that for decades have been beat down by high volumes of traffic, and high traffic speeds.

    That is a concrete loss in livability as well as family wealth. It is a loss had at the hands of a failed planning ideology that missed the opportunity of planning transportation and neighbourhoods at the same time.

    5. Next day we could install the lawn chair in the balcony or deck of any of thousands of three-storey condos (bloating to five storeys now) with single aspect units facing arterials.

    The failure on show here is designing the arterial as a six-lane through-way, without changing the building type on lots fronting, or doing anything about the physical design of the street itself. Ameliorating actions in the urbanism of the street design should range from planting continuous rows trees in medians to implementing BRT/LRT—removing 10 or 20-thousand vehicles per day while returning many times more trips.

    6. The new building types—and lets see what’s coming in “the plans for density all along Cambie from 25th to 49th”—should be human-scale and high-density. We can sustaining a doubling of the city population—even as we take 75% of the cars off the road as “trips made unnecessary”—without building anything higher than 2x the width of the fronting right of way.

    However, it would appear that something, or someone, is standing in the way of this kind of approach. Turning to one who some would cast as the Sith Lord* of the New Urbanism we hear that, “We’ve tainted the process by not understanding that the neighbors are a special interest,” says Duany. “They are not the community.” (*With my 5 year old, I watched selected pieces of the Star Wars saga this Memorial Day weekend).

    The neighbours may well be a special interest, yet they are a group dwarfed in the shadow of developers and their bankers. NSV reporting on campaign contributions to local elections draws a sharp point.

    7. The charrette has not been adopted here—this is a small divergence from MBs comments above—and professional staffs at the local halls seem incapable of leading charrettes. I am reminded of a Q&A with Beasely in front of Council. I suggested that a charrette process would have got us to a better answer faster in the then stalled process to put big boxes on Broadway near Arbutus. He responded that “charrettes work, but they are too expensive”—fudging on the fact that running a do-over on a failed planning process would ultimately consume as many or more resources, and produce inferior results.

    Even then, we should have been planning the Broadway corridor instead.

    8. I agree with Urbanismo on the City Plan. Apparently, many years before we met at the Nanaimo Downtown Charrette, the two of us had bracketed the City Plan process. I had participated in the Cedar-Cottage and Dunbar kick-off sessions, he had been involved in the final stage. Different observers, different points in time, same conclusions. What was missing then, and now, is method and methodology of urbanism in planning. When I approached one planner on this point she responded, “we are up to their assess in alligators.”

    Zoology, like urbanism, is science. If you lack the theory, and don’t have the methods down right, expect difficulties.

    However, I am also on board with MB that City Plan is the kind of process we need to make work. The Americans have just passed the wrong kind of Health Care, in some opinions, just so that they will have something to amend and improve in the coming decades.

    9. VANOC got a bye for getting the transportation system breathtakingly right. Those were magical days in our city. However, from the point of view of the physical urbanism, the best things during the Olympics were the Olympic Tram to Granville Island, and the Lantern Trees on Granville Street.

    Once you got downtown on a transportation system seemingly running on steroids, there was not a lot to do, or many places to go to. The Olympic Torch was in the wrong place. The memory of Wayne Gretzky braving the rain from BC Place to the Waterfront was an Opening Ceremony low. The torch should have been in front of the Art Gallery, on Georgia. Robson Square was tarted up with cheap plywood hoardings. And Robsonstrasse was unrecognizable once the traffic control gates made it impossible to j-walk from one side to the other. The scheme that let people walk unencumbered down Granville Street’s regrettable booze zone, and penalized Robson Street with traffic control gates was a horror show.

    10. Whether we call it Vancouver’s quartiers, or Vancouver’s Sustainable Neighbourhoods doesn’t really mater. We are now aware that the planning is not being done right, and that it is the “common folk” that will be left saddled to live with the unfortunate results.

    This is not rocket science, but it is a very, sticky wicket.

    A consensus is growing that we will not get to the primary issues until we start to make decisions at the scale of the neighbourhood, using a proof-based methodology of planning complete with methods tough enough to cut across the silos. We can deal with the “screamers” at the charrettes well enough, it’s the silent department heads we need to worry about.

    Meanwhile, giving net density (FAR) to developers is a bit like giving junk food to teenagers. We will not get push back, and the effects won’t become obvious for years. However, in a time not long in the future, obesity that is unsightly today will present serious and chronic conditions.

    No, make that… “giving junk food to wealthy teenagers”.

  • 27 michael geller // Jun 10, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Chris, this is what Wendy said…
    “they speculate that over time, folks that came in on very low-incomes stayed and became higher income and if people left, there was no pressure to replace new residents with very low-income people.”

    From my discussions with BC Housing, the Greater Vancouver Housing Corporation, the City of Vancouver, the Coop Housing Federation, and individual non-profit housing operators, I know that there is a significant mismatch, in many projects, especially coops on subsidized city land, between family size and income, and unit type.

    They all know this is a real problem. However, it is a difficult one to resolve, because it is challenging to ask someone to move after being in a unit for years, or decades. In many cases, a spouse has died, the children have moved out, etc. In others, the household income has risen, and the individuals are paying ‘the lower end of market rent’ but are ‘over-housed’.

    Since this is not the central topic of this posting, I will leave it at that. But since the readers of Fabula generally share a desire to see an increase in the stock of affordable housing in the city and region, (at a time of declining public funds) I thought I would pick up on Wendy’s ‘aside’, to highlight this important problem.

    If you now agree this might be a problem, and would like to help do something about it, please email me and I’ll provide more details.

  • 28 michael geller // Jun 10, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Lewis, I just carefully read your piece, since you obviously spent a lot of time writing it, and it is most interesting. While I don’t agree with everything, I agree with much of it. However, I strongly take exception to the last point, and at the risk of having someone write in and ask that I stop posting anymore items because they are tired of hearing from me, I will address it since it is central to this post.

    “Meanwhile, giving net density (FAR) to developers is a bit like giving junk food to teenagers. We will not get push back, and the effects won’t become obvious for years. However, in a time not long in the future, obesity that is unsightly today will present serious and chronic conditions.”

    In the case of the Cambie Corridor (and I exclude the Marine Drive development for the moment), I think there is a general agreement that there should be ‘up-zoning’ at and near transit station IN ORDER TO ALLOW MORE PEOPLE TO LIVE CLOSE TO THE TRANSIT LINE AND MOVE AROUND, WITHOUT BEING DEPENDENT ON THE PRIVATE AUTOMOBILE.

    While I agree that we need to have a discussion as to what the new density and building forms should be in different locations, there should generally be some increase in density.

    Now here is where I disagree with you. The city is not giving density to rich developers. Let me repeat, the city is not giving density to developers. The properties along the Cambie Corridor are predominantly owned by individual property owners who have been in the area for some time. Yes, there are some sites owned by speculators, and there are some assemblies, and potential assemblies, but right now, most land owners are people who bought their homes some time ago.

    When the city rezones these properties, the values will likely rise, depending on the increase in density, and how much of the land is rezoned, here, and elsewhere on the west side of the city. In most instances, the existing owners will benefit financially.

    Now I realize that some residents do not want to leave the area, such as the lady I heard on CBC this morning. But she and most of her neighbours stand to benefit financially over time.

    So far, the city has not given any density to rich developers ‘like junk food to teenagers’. It is increasing the value of predominantly single family lots, many of which have been owned and occupied for years, or decades.

    Now, the amount of financial gain and the value of rezoned land, and in turn the eventual cost of new housing in this area, is all tied to another important factor that I mentioned in a previous post.

    It is a current city policy…not necessarily written down, but very clearly stated, that if a rezoning results in an increase in land value, the city will ‘claw back’ about 70% of this ‘lift’ to pay for needed community amenities.

    I’m not making this up. This is the policy which Brent Toderian clearly articulated in Council during the West End STIR discussion, in response to a question from David Cadman, as to whether new development pays for itself.

    So here is the problem. So far we have individual property owners seeing their homes increasing in value as a result of a rezoning, and the city expecting to receive, one way or another, 70% of the increase. However, the homeowners do not always know about thi

    Currently, most of these homeowners have a lot of new friends….realtors, who are dropping by and writing every day. They are telling them that their homes will significantly increase in value when they are rezoned, and if they agree to band together with their neighbours, they can get more money than if they sell on their own.

    And they are starting to band together, in some instances. I know, because I am speaking to them, and the realtors in some cases. And some are offering their land for sale at a very high price. Just check out the property next to the Cowie townhouses at 33 and Cambie if you want an example….or most other properties for that matter.

    But my central point is that so far, the city is not giving density to rich developers. This is a fallacy. The city is increasing the value of land for the existing owners, most of whom are not developers. However, the extent to which the land value is increased depends on just how much density is granted, and how much the city takes as its share of the lift. It also depends on how much land is rezoned, not just on Cambie Street, but in the general area, and other West Side areas.

    My hope? I do have worries about seeing another Kingsway/Knight situation. To my mind, what happened there is wrong. However, I do agree that there should be some increase in density….definitely not 6 to 8 stories all the way along Cambie, but some significant increases at some stations, especially W41st, and increases in between. However, I hope that there will be guidelines to keep a sense of greenery along much of this ‘heritage’ streetscape. This is a different issue, but it’s an important one.

    I developed Oak and 42nd, and am proud of my development. However, I am disturbed by the project along Oak south of W43rd. It’s jammed in, and frankly, quite ugly. If that’s what we’re going to get, or possibly something worse, then I’m worried too.

    As Lewis often says, we need a new typology for certain Vancouver streets which allows higher density, without the loss of the existing character. This means some front yard setback requirements, planting, etc. I know I’m getting into the details, but the details will be very important.

    I haven’t been to the open houses yet, but I will be interested to see if the Planning Department’s work does help keep the ‘green character’ while allowing increases in density.

    But again, to the central point, this density is not being given to rich developers, and we shouldn’t allow this misconception to interfere with what might be the right thing to do in terms of city planning.

  • 29 Urbanismo // Jun 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

    The city is increasing the value of land for the existing owners, most of whom are not developers“.

    Sounds good on paper Michael but in fact it is INFLATION.

    After said, banded together, owners shake out their spread sheets, after the legal hassle, after the dealing with realtors, who they will learn, to their chagrin are not on their side then what?

    Month of hassle . . .

    A move to a cramped condo with a view of the next condo’s bathroom, a strange neighbourhood, strange neighbours . . .

    This town is in distress Michael, believe me . . .

    LAND LIFT Pah! Where did that ridiculous phrase come from?

  • 30 flowmass // Jun 10, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Interesting and much-needed debate.
    Is it hierarchical planning from the top down, or hierarchical planning from the ‘ground’ up? i.e. NIMBYism or the perceived fear thereof.
    As the old saying goes: “Everyone wants and supports good public transportation, but no one wants a bus stop in front of their house.”
    Frances, could you get debates like this going in Burnaby, Surrey and, say, the Tri-cities also?
    To me, Vancouver starts at the eastern boundary of Maple Ridge all the way to the salt chuck.

  • 31 Urbanismo // Jun 10, 2010 at 11:19 am

    CAMBIE LAND HEIST!

    North of King Ed, mostly,’60′s vintage, stucco three storey walk-ups: probably a heist would be an improvement and the owners are in the biz anyway.

    South of King Ed, the neighbours are vulnerable to the sweet talk.

    But they really do not have much to gain. Some of them probably bought-in in the ’50′s and ’60′s and their aging little eyes balls may goggle, a-dandy, at the numbers.

    Then, the light goes on: maybe too late.

    After lots of hassle, and they need look for a place to live . . . and . . . and . . . OMG . . . they’ll realize they’ll have to leave town to find a place they can afford . . . and lose their friends and neighbours to boot!

    INFLATION

  • 32 Bill McCreery // Jun 10, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Glad to see you involved in this & other spirited & provocative discussion Roger.

    Art Phillips “Executive City” notion actually started with Hilda Simmonds, Chair of the Planning Commission & in retrospect is to simplistic for today’s reality. But, they were right in saying Vancouver would become an expensive place to live. That + our setting + what ‘improvements’ done since then have taken the City in that direction. It is unfortunate & not helpful that we have also caught the attention of largely absentee globe trotters [should I say squatters] who contribute very little to the well being & cultural quality of the City.

    Misguided attempts @ social engineering such as the Olympic Village, which is apparently not breaking rental up take records are an ineffective drop in the bucket to try to change that balance & are costing taxpayers millions.

  • 33 Bill McCreery // Jun 10, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Michael, I agree with much of what you’ve been saying in this exchange but, while the developers are only marginally benefiting from increased land values there are other aspects of the development profroma where they do get their own ‘lift’. They benefit from efficiencies of scale in larger projects, from added profits which they otherwise would not have achieved @ lower densities, etc. At the density increases currently proposed, these efficiencies & profits are significant.

    However, it is more important to focus on the City planning process achieving the right answer. At the moment that is not happening by a long shot. The densities that are being fast tracked parachuted willy nilly into heretofore cohesive communities are far to great & unjustifiable. The LIFT, while a good concept, appears to be being misused by the current Vision Council to the point one must ask is there a conflict of interest here on the part of the city? Where are those LIFT revenues going to go?

  • 34 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    We are not tired of hearing from you, Michael, I’m mulling over your piece right now.

    Remember that in the areas outside the tower zone, places like Portland have actually “downzoned” or taken away FAR with Mayor Adams told us was density that would never be built. Back to reading…

  • 35 G. deAuxerre // Jun 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    McCreery, you should know that by claiming efficiences and “added profits” via the densities proposed, reveals an utter lack of housing reality.

    Low-mid rise with the durability of concrete is the most costly form of multi, and anyone in the industry is acutely aware of this fact. This form bears the costs of u/g parking and virtually the same concrete substructures as high rise, but is then is capped in the upper storeys of available housing units.

    Not a great example, but its akin to the efficiency of sailing a container ship across the Pacific with two stacks of containers instead of five. All in the same boat.

    Adding up all the City’s extorts make many housing projects unviable or break-even at best.

  • 36 Urbanismo // Jun 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Well, surely “corridors” exacerbate TX problems don’t they?

    Curitiba, much celebrated for its hub and spoke colour coded bus system, with cross-hub connections, is, I was told, really under pressure.

    In Vancouver, in one corner we are told Broadway is our most important east/west artery and another corner wants to gussie it up into a Champs-Élysées. I’m for the latter!

    With villages along the way, Fraser, Granville Macdonald etc, it fits Mayor Gregor’s ideal far more truthfully . . .

    Land lift per se is just more techno-babble, more hieroglyphics in a planner’s ledger and most definitely not wealth creating: period!

    I know the TX number crunchers will cry the idea down. But a city designed for constant movement comes out of the age of sprawl evincing shades of collective energy guzzling in the extreme.

    Is not a green ideology supposed to reduce energy consumption, ergo to reduce movement as much as possible?

    And if we are serious about green would not development around identifiable village centres i.e, QUARTIERS yes QUARTIERS . . . be more sustainable than lineal development without focus?

    We’ve got enough of that already . . .

  • 37 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I think Michael, that what you are seeing in the Cambie station areas is rampant land speculation triggered by the ‘signals’ coming from City Hall. HAHR was the first shoe to drop. The Marine Gateway the second. Now, according to what you are reporting, the feeding frenzy is on.

    New Paradigm planning could stop the irrational exuberance in the time it takes to make a pot of tea. The followings seven statements show what the guiding principles for the intensification of Vancouver’s quartiers, and the revitalization of Vancouver’s arterials should strive for:

    1. The pedestrian shed (120 acres) centred on each Canada Line Station will receive an overlay zoning designation as a “Vancouver Quartier”. The intensification of each Quartier will be guided by a Form Based Code developed through charrette-based planning.

    2. New construction in the quartier shall be limited in height to one-half of the width of the fronting R.O.W. (right-of-way).

    3. The total number of residential units at build out in each quartier will be approximately 7,500 units (average unit size = 800 s.f.). [We need census data to know what the occupancy per unit is in this area, and Vancouver wide] The total number of people living in each “Vancouver Quartier” is expected to be approximately 17,000 people.

    4. Each Quartier will develop its own “heart” or centre around a village square with no more than one side fronting on the arterial.

    5. The predominant form of land ownership shall be fee-simple. Strata buildings will be zoned in the commercial areas. Build out is expected to be incremental, without requiring land assembly. Lot subdivision to 16.5-foot frontages that is in keeping with the Quartier Form Based Code will be encouraged and fast-tracked at City Hall.

    6. Street revitalization will proceed in tandem with intensification, financed by municipal bond issues serviced by new tax base.

    7. A Cambie Trolley BRT (reserved lanes; signal activated) will round out the transportation strategy for the new quartiers.

  • 38 MB // Jun 10, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    An excellent discussion.

    Peter Calthorpe gave a lecture at the downtown Hyatt about four years ago that I found very informative on a number of fronts. One of them was his commentary on “urban design” … just what is it, anyway?

    He said that they call themselves “urban designers” in his U.S. -based firm, but the term represents no less than four distinct professions working together under one roof:

    - architecture
    - planning
    - engineering
    - landscape architecture

    Most private projects have a consultant group that includes these professions and perhaps a few specialists like heritage, environmental and costing consultants. But their focus is usually on one site, and the rest of the city (let alone the neighbourhood) is painted in a 50% grey tone.

    Further, each profession considered on their own have distinct regimes of perception in their practice, from the thinnly spread broad brush (planning) to the moderately narrow (architecture) to the minute (engineering). Some cover the medium range (landscape architecture). But put them together as equals in the service of public consultation and you have a dynamic quartier-wide view. Together they are more than the some of the group’s parts.

    This is what I think an improved public consultation process should look like. The Planning Department would fund and staff a significant Urban Design Department specifically to manage the deeper public consultation process required on a neighbourhood-wide basis, building on City Plan, which would also include corridor reviews, like Cambie or Broadway. Then they would actually design the public realm for entire neighbourhoods and corridors based largely on public input from workshops / charrettes, and set policy for height, density, etc. based on sound urban design principles, which still need clear definition.

    It’s no longer enough to do the mobile talking head show for single projects. Empowering citizens to pull out the crayons at a table and actually have a hand in planning and designing their own neighbourhoods along with their peers and experienced urban design professionals / facilitators I bet would bring surprising amounts of co-operation and acceptance of new growth once they are challenged to help demonstrate how it can be done better.

    An open mike at a public meeting is an opportunity to scream and practice disruptive group protest action. Sitting at a table with one’s neighbours and averaging out the various opinions is an entirely different world because you’re forcing screamers to shut up and listen, and affording activists who really care about their city an opportunity to draw their ideas out for everyone to see , but also to get critiqued. Today there is a helluva lotta critiquing and not enough demonstrative and inclusive design process.

    Yes, planners (and entire departments) are “up to their asses in alligators” with the sheer volume of development applications and long-range policy-making, but that only indicates they are woefully underfunded and understaffed to handle what our economy is delivering. What else is new? Every large city with development pressures has the same challenge. But Vancouver has greater regional significance than any other city in the Metro, and therein the challenges are unique. The processes and techniques need to mature to meet Vancouver’s place in the landscape, and to set an example of how it could be done to other cities.

    Compared to a city’s average capital budget expenditures, staffing up for greater public consultation will require an infestisimal increase in taxes as compared to what is spent on capital projects, such as the $20 billion to separate the sewers over a 40-year period.

    Creating an Urban Design Department at city hall whose mandate would be to devote half their time to consultation workshops / charrettes would, in my opinion, be the best thing to come along in years and would increase the possibility that human-scaled urbanism will win the day.

    Otherwise the asses will continue to be snapped by reptiles, and head planners may as well retire to the Prairies to collect fossilized buffalo chips.

  • 39 Urbanismo // Jun 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    With respect Lewis.

    Forget Cambie for the time being . . . something doesn’t add up here . . . the town is going wild . . . jumping from one to another HAHR, DTES, Haro Street, Cambie land lift . . . just a few weeks ago Broadway was au currant . . .

    Let’s stick with Broadway closer in . . .

    QUARTIERS along Broadway: Burnaby to UBC and leave the south to another day . . .

  • 40 Bill McCreery // Jun 10, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    deAuxerre, whoever you are, I said:

    Developments “benefit from efficiencies of scale in larger projects….”

    Do you not agree there are savings in project & office management, fees, construction costs, marketing, etc? I was not getting into differences in the costs of various construction types & systems, they can vary in both directions depending on circumstances but, if you like we can go into that. I should also mention that longer construction schedules for larger projects may, but, not necessarily increase interest carrying costs on a per unit basis.

    “….added profits which they otherwise would not have achieved @ lower densities”

    To clarify, I was speaking specifically of the rash of spot rezonings the current Council has unwisely unleashed on unsuspecting neighbourhoods. In these projects, say the Comox one, the density is proposed to go from an allowable of 1.5 to 7.43, an unbelievable 395% increase! They paid for the land @ +/- the going rate for 1.5 & the City takes its 70% LIFT, leaving the developer 30% of the increased land value + the profit @ 15% to 20%. That adds up & is “….housing reality”.

    “Low-mid” / “rise with the durability of concrete is” NOT NECESSARILY “the most costly form of multi” family housing. It can be but, it depends on how you do it. that’ where good design comes in.

    I do not understand your next sentence.

    Your example: “the efficiency of sailing a container ship across the Pacific with two stacks of containers instead of five. All in the same boat” makes my point precisely, thank you. It’s more efficient to ship 5 stacks than 2 or shall we say an FSR of 7.43 intsead of 1.5.

    Adding up all the City’s extorts make many housing projects unviable or break-even at best.

  • 41 Bill McCreery // Jun 10, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Sorry, I did not delete the last sentence from deAuxerre’s comment which I used to attempt to respond accurately to him / her.

  • 42 Bill Lee // Jun 11, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Planners! You want to kill them at hearings but you can’t as they are undead, like zombies, and there are many more to replace them.

    Certainly it never seems that they propose a change in any proposal, but only act as initial buffer to public outrage at corporate plans that are going ahead no matter what. Is this why we never see any old ones at public presentations?

    Among the many hearings around the city, there is one on the large public lands that some call the PNE. There have been no flyers put around, no one gets the local dailies or weeklies around here, and the only notice I’ve seen has been a banner on the side of a bank on Hastings for an open-air hearing on Slocan Street on the 10th of June.
    This leaves out the east side of the PNE, 1.5 km east, Vancouver Heights, which has always talked about secession from Vancouver ever since the city cut them off with the Great Cassiar Freeway Cut breaking all the cross streets. They do half their shopping and services in Burnaby Heights anyway and find that there are better roads and parks in North Burnaby than in their forgotten Vancouver corner.

    The East Side thought it was already settled: that the PNE would be shut down and leave; that the Stadium site and parking north of it would become grasslands (instead we get a “temporary” stadium with hints that it will become permanent, all put in without a word of consultation with residents. I would not be unhappy if it accidentally burned down); and that the tarmac would be reduced to minimal amounts and green cover planted; that an overpass would lift walkers over McGill in a wide swath to New Brighton park, enabling the only access for kilometres to the waterfront; and that Renfrew and Hastings streets would be narrowed from the old streetcar standards of 6 lanes wide to 4 lanes or less wide for easier crossings and access.
    What and whose Master Plan is this supposed to be, and does Ray Louie of the district care at all about his and his children’s future?

  • 43 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Michael, I posted some numbers so we can dialogue on concrete and measurable stuff. No one has the monopoly on the facts, yours are as good as mine, are as good as some one else’s.

    “In the case of the Cambie Corridor (and I exclude the Marine Drive development for the moment), I think there is a general agreement that there should be ‘up-zoning’ at and near transit station IN ORDER TO ALLOW MORE PEOPLE TO LIVE CLOSE TO THE TRANSIT LINE AND MOVE AROUND, WITHOUT BEING DEPENDENT ON THE PRIVATE AUTOMOBILE.”

    — How many people do we need to live near Canada Line stations? At 12 units per acre and 2.2 people per unit, the pedestrian shed centred on the transit station is already home to 3,000 folks. I’m suggesting an increase of 5.67x that will still maintain value of human scale and defensible space in the neighbourhood. Probably, the social vibe will be better too. The return of 5.67x land lift to the City is in an area fully serviced.

    “When the city rezones these properties, the values will likely rise, depending on the increase in density, and how much of the land is rezoned, here, and elsewhere on the west side of the city.”

    —If the rezoning is done on a “spot” basis—rather than as an overlay over the entire pedestrian shed or quartier—my feeling is that the result will be to drive up land values in all the neighbourhoods.

    “So far, the city has not given any density to rich developers ‘like junk food to teenagers’. It is increasing the value of predominantly single family lots, many of which have been owned and occupied for years, or decades.”

    —The measurable here is the footprint. If the up-zoning is done on a parcel-by-parcel basis—rather than on a quartier-wide basis—I argue that we are giving away FAR as if it were junk food. is the Planning Department is neighbourhood planning in a transparent system? No. The feeling is that more Marine Gateway/HAHR/STIR is coming down the pike.

    “…homeowners have a lot of new friends….realtors, who are dropping by and writing every day. They are telling them that their homes will significantly increase in value when they are rezoned, and if they agree to band together with their neighbours, they can get more money than if they sell on their own.”

    You are describing Greenspan’s “irrational exuberance”. Property values are being inflated. The real losers are we.

    “But my central point is that so far, the city is not giving density to rich developers. This is a fallacy. The city is increasing the value of land for the existing owners, most of whom are not developers.”

    No. The “Gateway Projects” cannot be built by small construction firms. The quartier buildings can be built by either small, medium or large firms. So, that’s where the “rich” adjective comes in.

    If the build out is incremental we have a level playing field. If the build out requires land assembly, then all bets are off. The existing owners are the first link in the profit chain, and they will not be party to the great gains. The ones at the end of the chain get the big cash. This is not unlike a pyramid scheme. The home owner today sets the ground level. Creating a top-top-top level simply takes our democracy to the precipice edge of corruption.

    “I haven’t been to the open houses yet, but I will be interested to see if the Planning Department’s work does help keep the ‘green character’ while allowing increases in density.”

    How much green? And, how much density? If we cannot speak in concrete measures, then the bottom line wins.

  • 44 Vonny // Jun 11, 2010 at 2:01 am

    The Michael Geller comment illustrates the asymmetry of the information.

    Here we have a seasoned developer whose now all the arcanes of the planning system facing average homeowners.

    It could be in their interest to sell to the developer, if so what is the right price? it could be better to wait for the current land owner, or may be not,…

    The developer have a pretty holistic vision of what happen in the corridor, what is going on,…the regular homeowner will know not much more than what happen to his neighbor, and we don’t have Zillow in Vancouver: Real estate information is treated as secret. you don’t know what is the appraised value of the neighborhood lot, the deal occurred on it,…(In US all that is public, even readily available on Internet), and the Vancouver Real estate business make sure public get as little information as possible.

    obviously, the less informed parties, whose have neither the expertise, time and resource of the developer and real estate business, have good chance to be fooled by the laters.

    And we shouldn’t fool ourselves it is what happen, even and especially if homeowner sold their 66foot lot for twice the price of a condo…

    The latest Frances Bula post gives an illustration of the asymmetry of the information:

    “The neighbour had been offered a similar deal but, as planners noted, was someone not familiar with the city system, just a regular person”.

  • 45 michael geller // Jun 11, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Lewis, MB and others, I agree with your suggestions that the city should prepare a comprehensive plan for the Cambie Corridor, including engineering and landscape architecture considerations. I also agree with the suggestion that there can be a mix of densities, with some ‘quartiers’ rezoned to allow street oriented townhouses with grade parking.

    I have just reviewed the planning documents that were presented at the Open Houses. You can find the materials at http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cambiecorridor/public/index.htm and http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cambiecorridor/pdf/Draft%20Emerging%20Plan.pdf

    While I have not studied this material in detail, the city is doing what some of us are suggesting, in terms of setting out a vision for the entire corridor. Ironically, my first impression is that the densities may be too high in some areas…

    More specifically, I’m having trouble imagining a change from sprawling bungalows to a corridor of predominantly ‘zero lot-line’ six storey mid-rise buildings…(I must be getting old.) Personally, I think this is too aggressive, and not necessary, since many of the people I meet want to move into a grade oriented townhouse, or stacked townhouse, not an apartment. I’ll be curious to hear from the Director of Planning why he is so keen to promote a predominantly 6 storey character for much of the corridor….yes I noticed the lower buildings along the East-West Streets, but…

    A three and four storey scale, with townhouses and stacked townhouses and low rise apartments, with some greenery in the front yards (some fee simple, some apartments) up to 1.5 FSR would be just fine along portions of Cambie Street. Similarly, this should be planned for Oak Street and other arterials.

    (An interesting debate will be what changes should be promoted along Granville Street…)

    The Cowie townhouse experiment at 33rd has proven that in the case of larger lots, there may be an economic justification to replace one larger single family house with three townhouses, (and possibly three laneway units) at even lower densities.

    In other places, mid-rise buildings with underground parking will likely be a more appropriate solution.

    However, here’s my key point. By putting in place a planning process that essentially results in a pre-zoning of the entire corridor, rather than require site by site spot rezonings’, I believe we can reduce the ‘lift’ in land values, which I consider a good thing, since it will likely translate into less expensive units. In other words, those selling the houses will be able to afford to move back into townhouses in the same area. In my perfect world, the rezoned value is just high enough to encourage redevelopment, but not so high as to make the housing affordable to those who want to remain in the area.

    A comprehensive rezoning should still result in sufficient increase in land values to allow for Development Cost Levies (DCL’s) to pay for the additional amenities required to serve the increased population.

    However, this approach would put an end to site by site negotiations on the amount of the ‘lift’ and what the city’s share should be.

    Urbanismo, as an aside, the term ‘lift’ was first introduced by the city’s real estate department when the concept of sharing in the land appreciation resulting from a rezoning was first proposed. You can thank Bruce Maitland for it!

    To conclude, this approach will require someone to assess, as Lewis has suggested, what might be the resulting population increase at build-out (recognizing this could take decades). It will also require some urban land economic analysis to determine just what the DCL’s should be, both to fund the amenities, and to ensure that there is still some economic justification to replace single family houses with multi-family building forms.

    With respect to the latter, while it may seem hard to believe, rezoning land from single family to multi family does not necessarily increase value. To prove the point, a 33 foot lot on the Westside (with an FSR of around 0.6) might have a value of $1.3 million. However, if you could only put two 16 foot wide townhouses on it, (at say 0.75 FSR) it might not be worthwhile to build townhouses, especially if you have to pay a $8 a foot DCL. Indeed, it might be worth less. (It definitely is worth less if you also have to go through a rezoning process, and sit down with the Real Estate department and argue over whether the land value has increased or not, and if so, what is the city’s share……However, at a 1.0 FSR, or 1.25 FSR, the multi-family land value is greater than the value as a single family lot.

    I hope this gives a better idea of what I would like to see.

  • 46 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 11, 2010 at 9:00 am

    MB, you’re onto something [#38]. I got Calthorpe to sign my copy of the Great American Metropolis that night, and I discussed briefly Rio Vista. A San Diego Trolley quartier with some problems in the urbanism and the architecture. “We’re not going to get everything right,” was his reply.

    Architects, planners, engineers, and landscape architects “[t]ogether they are more than the sum of the group’s parts.”

    I agree. But what is the glue that is holding them together? What is the common element, or set of principles that they share? Today, unless you look at something like East Fraser Lands, it is very hard to answer that question in relation to projects in our city. We have to identify that common ground, and be conversant in it as professionals and as private developers (the designers are seldom the ones that design), before we can make progress.

    Montreal, I was interested to find out, has a department of “public consultation”. They also have a built legacy that if you look at it the right way, you can squeeze out the answer to the two questions leading the previous paragraph.

    At the charrettes, we begin with a public slide lecture that lays out some of the fundamental principles of urbanism (quartier design among them). Then the session breaks into groups where charrette staff engage the audience in discussions. We have an aerial photo of the site, tracing paper, markers and yellow stickies on round tables. I usually ask each person at my table to describe a walk they have made in the area. Being a trained listener, and already having studied the site, I bring out elements in the urbanism appearing in the stories being told. Folks are both dumbfounded that this stuff is out there, and delighted to discover that they actually had stumbled upon it before.

    “Yes, planners (and entire departments) are “up to their asses in alligators” with the sheer volume of development applications and long-range policy-making”.

    Yes, but to be blunt, they are also adding to their woes by making the same mistakes over and over. Something that they are bent on repeating until they have a methodology for building urbanism (not suburbs), and methods to bring those principles to ground. To land them safely as it were.

    “What else is new? Every large city with development pressures has the same challenge.”

    I’m twisting your words out of context here to make another point: everything about urbanism is more or less the same. What changes are the singularities of each site. Hence the paradox: Every piece of urbanism is exactly the same; yet, every site is unique. It is difficult to comprehend why the architects are still trying to build masterpieces that are stand alones. Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, yet all the buildings look more or less the same.

    “… staffing up for greater public consultation will require an infenstisimal increase in taxes as compared to what is spent on capital projects”

    Ah, yes, the money thing. Let’s call it “Beasley’s Fig Leaf”.

    As you correctly put it, in the context of the quartier as a whole, funding the Form Based Code for its urbanism is chump change. However, we we will not have to raise new taxes. On the on hand, new taxes will be coming in the door as the new build out completes. In the case of intensification sites (i.e. most of what will be the work in Vancouver for the next few centuries), the infrastructure is more or less already in place. Vancouver is at a stage in its development—damn can we get those towers out of the way, I can’t see the future—where it is really rebuilding itself.

    On the other hand, we can borrow against that new-revenue-to-come by issuing a bond, and servicing the bond with the new revenue. It’s called “Tax Increment Financing”, and in Portland Metro it is a component—not necessarily the most important component—of every project.

    “Creating an Urban Design Department at city hall whose mandate would be to devote half their time to consultation workshops / charrettes [i.e draw urban design plans, or Form Based Codes] would, in my opinion, be the best thing to come along in years and would increase the possibility that human-scaled urbanism will win the day.”

    Which brings us to the final point: what is it with this “paradigm shift” anyway? What are we shifting away from, and what are we shifting to?

    If like some of us you are of the opinion that planning transportation without planning community together, The Woodwards, HAHR, the Marine Gateway, and others to come are not forms of “sustainable urbanism”, but rather represent junk food for rich developers, then along with MB we have to hard-wire our definition of “sustainability” to human-scale design.

    Why should it be any other way? We have built our neighbourhoods and our streets to maximize automobile performance. We even tore up the tram tracks to give the car free range, as it is increasingly apparent. The public realm is so encumbered by this mechanistic function that modernist architecture made a common place of “turning a back to the streets”. Then the urban neighbourhoods deteriorated, and the gangs showed up to usurp the unused space.

    We must build places, out of streets and squares, that are a joy to inhabit. To sit on, to walk on, to live on. The bottom-line driven, large-firm boardroom has no way of accounting for that. It just doesn’t make economic sense. Michael will tell us that developers tool up for one type of project, and find it almost impossible to change tract.

    So we need a new civic spirit to instil a new herd mentality. Now we are back to Ned Jacobs’s point: how is our current set of civic leaders performance record on this issue?

    That too is a concrete and verifiable fact.

  • 47 David Samis // Jun 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Somewhere between the silos of information the City produces and the free form discussions/postings in the blogosphere lies a dynamic, constructive tool for community consensus-building at a fraction of the cost. This idea has been kicked around by intrepid bulabloggers before, but perhaps an online charette phase — in addition to the processes already in place – could provide the much-needed elements of transparency and community engagement to the City consultation process?

    In combination with a Quartier mapping site for each of the 22 neighbourhoods (an information archive to give all local proposals the proper context) it could be a powerful and inexpensive way to achieve some level of certainty in the process (which both residents and developers should benefit from). The online consultation phase(s) would be framed and moderated by both the linked city-wide quartier information archive, and a clearly articulated set of measurable urban design principles in line with the regional growth strategy.

    Rather than a Local Area Plan being expensively recreated every decade or two and relegated to the dustbin almost immediately, we could have a living document that is continually updated and easily referenced as new proposals occur.

  • 48 Urbanismo // Jun 11, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Lewis, Michael MB et. al.

    Those nice little places
    http://members.shaw.ca/urbanismo/two.little.places.pdf we save up our pennies to visit and admire didn’t just happen: and they most certainly didn’t come about thru well intentioned planning reports.

    They survived thru habit since the Romans and hundreds of years of accumulated ethos . . . and it’s the ethos that’s missing in Vancouver.

    A Cambie corridor, a string of TX nodes ending up at Thu High Street pipe dream is beyond antithetical it is banal. It is a concept that never should be discussed, if the city is sincere, and will certainly be abused at the shake out.

    Look what happened to King Ed. Village, corner Kingsway @ Knight.

    And a Norquay Village that has yet to happen but nevertheless proposees its “high street” to be Kingsway . . . God help them! Cambie is only marginally less chaotic than Kingsway.

    At King Ed. there was a magnificent opportunity to build a place centered QUARTIER. What did we get? A branch library entrance opening onto, arguably, one of the most dangerous corners on that strip and, behind, a mass of junk condos built over an erstwhile parking lot that could have been, should have been, the PLACE OF community focus.

    I am not suggesting WE give up. I am suggesting a blog conversation be more ideal oriented, a sort of path-finding colloquialism, an effort to educate those poor home owners who are presently being sweet talked bamboozled and seduced by speculators.

    There is no form or purpose to this current and misguided planning process. They are all over the place. They would not be “up to their asses in alligators” if they were organized towards, as you keep emphasizing Lewis, a vision.

    And until they/we, and the too laid back (what was that about lithium?) complacent correspondents on this blog, are will continue to be lead by our sincere little noses to just more of the same.

  • 49 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 11, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Oh, I must object. I must object. I must object.

    We’re turning the Bulablog into a Jimmy Stuart movie! Consensus is growing up all around us like weeds in an unkempt front door yard. Let’s harvest it and make dandelion wine (whatever that is).

    Let’s just run the end of Michael’s the movie first: “I hope this gives a better idea of what I would like to see.”

    I’m going to wait on Urbanismo’s next response. However, I’m thinking the better phrasing should be: “I hope this gives a better idea of what [we] would like to see.”

    Let’s review Geller’s numbers in detail.

    “I agree with your suggestions that the city should prepare a comprehensive plan for the Cambie Corridor, including engineering and landscape architecture considerations. I also agree with the suggestion that there can be a mix of densities, with some ‘quartiers’ rezoned to allow street oriented townhouses with grade parking.”

    1. A form based code for intensification is what Michael is referring to. The DoP—in a charrette processhammers —out the “building types”. Clearly, at the very least we will need 3 building types: one for intensification on lots not fronting Cambie; another for lots fronting Cambie on commercial/mixed zones; and a third for lots fronting Cambie on residential zones.

    “I’m having trouble imagining a change from sprawling bungalows to a corridor of predominantly ‘zero lot-line’ six storey mid-rise buildings…(I must be getting old.) Personally, I think this is too aggressive, and not necessary, since many of the people I meet want to move into a grade oriented townhouse, or stacked townhouse, not an apartment.”

    2. The height of the building must relate to the width of the fronting street. That’s “good” urbanism.

    However, we will need a building type with an elevator and underground parking to serve those with challenges in mobility. I would suggest these units could be in the “Commercial/Mixed Fronting Cambie” with one caveat. The units must be “dual aspect”. We have to “say no” to units that will take all their sunlight, and all their ventilation from an arterial. However, this building type also fits Michael’s, “In other places, mid-rise buildings with underground parking will likely be a more appropriate solution”.

    “I’ll be curious to hear from the Director of Planning why he is so keen to promote a predominantly 6 storey character for much of the corridor….”

    3. I’ll be even more curious to see Monsieur Tondrain squeeze out 6 stories and retain a 1:2 aspect ratio in the street. However—it has been done before. You can set back the Maisonette to achieve a widening in the Boulevard (Paris, 1855).

    “A three and four storey scale, with townhouses and stacked townhouses and low rise apartments, with some greenery in the front yards (some fee simple, some apartments) up to 1.5 FSR would be just fine along … Cambie Street. Similarly, this should be planned for Oak Street and other arterials.”

    4. I must be getting old too. There’s more candy than just 1.5 FSR. The residential types are closer to FSR 2.33. The commercial/mixed types can hold the 1:2 street aspect ratio at 2.75 FSR.

    “However, here’s my key point. By putting in place a planning process that essentially results in a pre-zoning of the entire corridor, rather than require site by site spot rezonings’, I believe we can reduce the ‘lift’ in land values [and net] less expensive units… those selling the houses will be able to afford to move back [in]… In my perfect world, the rezoned value is just high enough to encourage redevelopment, but not so high as to make the housing affordable to those who want to remain in the area.”

    5. Say, in the DTES, affordable enough that we can house the homeless—the building types will not vary much within city limits, only the location, location, location will be different… Michael is now into the stuff he has at his fingertips—the economic analysis…

    “A comprehensive rezoning should still result in sufficient increase in land values to allow for Development Cost Levies (DCL’s) to pay for the additional amenities required to serve the increased population.”

    If lift is proportional to population intensification (and it won’t be, the world is not THAT perfect), then we are close to a 5x factor.

    The tax revenue, however, if calculated by the built foot will be proportional to the density increase. And, we have neglected a few other factors that are developer bread-and-butter. The human-scale units are self-parking, especially within walking distance of a subway

    6. But what about the servicing? Is there a point at where the density increase crosses a line, and the pipes that are in place need to be upgraded to service the point tower, or six-storey slab building? If so, what is that density barrier?

    The idea that the we charge back the off-site services to the project won’t hunt, because the developer incorporates the charge back, and the Community Amenity Contribution, in the unit sale price.

    “… this approach would put an end to site by site negotiations on the amount of the ‘lift’ and what the city’s share should be.”

    7. We have something to give back to the development community in the quartier system which they’re really going to appreciate: certainty. Not only are the building types pre-approved—i.e. build me some of THESE, and the Form Based Code shows the pictures—but the rezoning could be fast-tracked. How about a promise of a 3-week approval period?

    No, make it a guarantee for projects that conform to the overlay zoning.

    “To conclude… a 33 foot lot on the Westside (with an FSR of around 0.6) might have a value of $1.3 million. However, if you could only put two 16 foot wide townhouses on it, (at say 0.75 FSR) it might not be worthwhile to build townhouses, especially if you have to pay a $8 a foot DCL. Indeed, it might be worth less. (It definitely is worth less if you also have to go through a rezoning process, and sit down with the Real Estate department and argue over whether the land value has increased or not, and if so, what is the city’s share……However, at a 1.0 FSR, or 1.25 FSR, the multi-family land value is greater than the value as a single family lot.”

    Michael has taken the time to walk me through the numbers, and the process is complex enough that we cannot just draw straight-line interpolations from what is given here. However, considering that the FSR will be almost 2x his highest number (2.33 vs 1.25 FSR), there may be room to move.

    8. When we discussed it, Michael was of the opinion that a 4,000 s.f. town was just too big. However, two 2,000-foot towns stacked have now entered our posts. A home owner (these are fee-simple, self-parking building types) might just occupy the top town, and rent out the bottom two levels as any of: one townhouse; two 800 s.f. apartments; or four 400 s.f. suites. The ground level(s) might even rent out as an office or a bistro, depending on how flexible the quartier vision becomes.

    I hope this gives a better idea of what WE would like to see.

  • 50 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 11, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Correction: M. Toderian.

  • 51 MB // Jun 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    “We must build places, out of [public] streets and squares, that are a joy to inhabit. ”
    ———-

    That would be an exemplary starting point.

  • 52 Urbanismo // Jun 11, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I dunno, is this Canada Line excitement green/sustainability driven or speculator driven? I suspect the latter for that has been the case in Vancouver for the last two decades or more.

    Sure as hell PCI Marine Gateway is speculator all the way down.

    Historically Vancouver’s planning dept has not been geared to actual urban design/planning preferring to shepherd developers through to an always satisfactory, for the developer, conclusion. I don’t thinq the city has a staff sophisticated enough to guide charrettes or plans to what you/we envision . . . quartiers.

    I don’t thinq SCARP faculty would know what we mean if we served them with a double dose of Johnny Walker . . .

    A few blogs back someone drew our attention to Paris marking Metro stations with towers: as some kind of beacon identifier. I don’t see it! TX stations are not icons and should be heard, as little as possible, and not seen. Unseen TX stations as unseen nodes for quartiers yes but . . .

    Is the intent to describe quartiers at each station?

    After Broadway there are only four stations in the city: King Ed, Oakridge, Langara and Marine Drive but there are more opportunities for quartiers!

    And as quartiers clustered around significant traditional nodes of gathering, again, no prob. other than that development south of 12th is, IMO, quite premature.

    Anyway, I do not thinq realtors currently trawling the line for gullible marks share that vision: quartiers or densification. They want the quick fix all the way down: sprawl by any other name.

    That Tulip tree on Harewood is symbolic of more than the tree. I really wasn’t at all surprised when some somnambulating wag quipped, Lithium when I called Vancouver a failed city. There are many reasons why the city is failing and one big reason is families can no longer live here.

    Also, the city is so inundated by paid flak, yunno, views, paradise, whatever ranking the Chamber of Commerce or tourist bureau pays for . . . the fact is the city is over run by off shore money that has chased, especially families up the valley. And it that ain’t failure I don’t know what is.

    You and Michael are discussing medium rise, height governed by the fronting road width.

    The big fallacy of the current densification fad is mistaking floor area for population density.

    Just because pretty new medium rises line the route doesn’t necessarily mean increased density: the condo genre is usually too small for families and are preferred by empty nesters or even single.

    There is much to be done densification-wise closer into the centre to allow sprawl south.

    As for the wags they will ever be with us . . .

  • 53 Urbanismo // Jun 11, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    PS . . . There is something profoundly humiliating feeding off off-shore money . . .

  • 54 voony // Jun 11, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Urbanismo wrotes:
    “TX stations are not icons and should be heard, as little as possible, and not seen”

    That is the principles which has lead the design of the Paris les Halles station in the 70′s …by the way one of the rare Parisian experience to take account the local opinion

    as noted by Lewis, it has been a failure of historic proportion.

    Lewis did another observation:

    “Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, yet all the buildings look more or less the same”

    Yes Paris seems to be a city of urbanists, not architects…

    …and the only Charette Paris remembers are the one driving opinionated people to the Guillotine.

    Not only Paris is a city of urbanits, but all the urbanism celebrated nowadays has been imposed against the neighborhood wish, this in a bloodbath if necessary…

    (by the way, not before 1977, Paris got a Mayor, and still he and his council has very limited power compared to the Vancouver council)

    The urbanist Haussman, reporting directly to the head of state, and “bulldozing” the Capital ( (at the expense of the poor) in total disregard of the people opinion is just a fine example of how the thing have always worked in Paris.

    Beaubourg, Grand Louvres are result of “autocratic” Presidential works with no say from the local ..Les Halles is result of the community input (worded worded as Urbanismo did).

    the former raised way more opposition than the later…they also finally worked way better. That is the dilemma…

  • 55 Urbanismo // Jun 12, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Voony what the phucc’ are you talking about?

  • 56 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

    “A few blogs back someone drew our attention to Paris marking Metro stations with towers: as some kind of beacon identifier. I don’t see it! “

    You’re absolutely right, Urbie. This business that Peter’s tower is a “Gateway” is just more of the same. Tokyo also does heavy trade off station area development, but we’re not Tokyo are we?

    We can tax the “lift” as Michael has pointed out, so whether the intensification is on one site or one hundred it matters not on the bottom line. However, it makes all the difference everywhere else.

    This impasse—I’ve looked at the links Michael has posted, and there is no urban design there to be seen, let’s not waste time on it here—is block that we are only going to get around, I suspect, by having the Council chairs become a revolving door until we finally get it right.

    By the way, centring the “nodes” on the stations is also misguided. As my seven principles above already pointed out, a station is not a quartier “heart”.

    “There are many reasons why the city is failing and one big reason is families can no longer live here.”

    On target again, Urbie. But note how Geller was already finding his way around this problem by applying the quartier model. The corridor plan that I did not like in Patrick Condon’s presentations of concept are showing their primary weakness already on Cambie. Namely: land speculation. The neighbours are pricing themselves out of their neighbourhood. And, this will infect lots beyond the corridor.

    By building hi-rise instead of high-density, human-scale, the DoP is feeding the pricing frenzy.

    “Just because pretty new medium rises line the route doesn’t necessarily mean increased density: the condo genre is usually too small for families and are preferred by empty nesters or even single.”

    Another advantage of laying the tower on its side, and building it as fee-simple, incremental units is flexibility. History tells that tale.

    “There is something profoundly humiliating feeding off off-shore money . . .”

    Some Montreal writers insist that the problem with off-shore money is that the important decisions are made in boardrooms far away, and are blind and insensitive to local culture. The off-shore money is financed by global capital.

    The small and medium size construction company could realistically obtain financing from the VanCities and the like. The loan officer all of a sudden is someone who reads the same morning newspaper.

    Voony, I’ll get to you next.

  • 57 Bill McCreery // Jun 12, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Villegas, your: “By building hi-rise instead of high-density, human-scale, the DoP is feeding the pricing frenzy” gets to the heart of this wonderful discussion.

    &, Gateway, as a 1st precedent, is a perfect example of the Vision Council & to a lesser extent, the DoP [they are not fully supporting the Gateway but, by letting it get even this far based on what Brent T. told me re: the West End: ‘we’re to far along the process now to reject this application’, the City does not have the intestinal fortitude to admit their mistake in opening the uncontrolled, ill thought through massive spot rezonings which are being parachuted into neighbourhoods all over the City.

    Look @ Marine & Cambie. Gateway will house +/-4,000 to 5,000 on 1 corner, add the other 3 corners @ say 4,000 = say 15,000, then add up zoning in the catchment area of say +/- an additional 1,500 per quarter = 6,000 = 21,000 additional people concentrated @ this already vehicle congested intersection alone. Also, 10 towers have been approved @ Oakridge = say 2,000 to 3,000 + the other 3 corners @ +2,000 + the 4 catchment quarters = 4,500 = +9,000. Add to this the natural increase in the Vancouver feed-in ridership as people get used to the system, become more environmentally aware + the large densification already well underway in Richmond & the natural increase in the Surrey, Delta feeders. Add the additional densification all along the line. What happens to Richmond & South Van to UBC commuters if & when a Broadway system comes into play? The mind boggles.

    What is the total? Nobody knows because nobody has done the studies to find out.

    I am advised the DoP has not done independent evaluations of how much density these stations can handle. This is a major shortcoming in their planning process.

    &, it leads to the kind of preposterous excess we see in the Gateway proposal &, to unwarranted expenses on developer fishing expeditions to find out what the market will bear. This process also destablizes the real estate market which ultimately increases the cost of land, frequently on unwarranted properties.

    The developer here is doing what developer’s are supposed to do, optimize their return on investment. That’s good. However, this should be done by the City taking a leadership role & appropriately densifying @ transit stations but, not in the reckless manner now being employed.

    Since 1973 Vancouver has had a planning process which has lead the development process very well &, it has made an important contribution in the quality of life we currently enjoy. The current out of control process will not produce appropriately scaled, thought through new boys on the block which improve the existing neighbourhood & allow them to become more self sufficient & sustainable. and, they will overwhelm the Canada Line.

    The Canada Line has a limited capacity. Based on figures from Translink there appears to be perhaps a 50% potential increase in capacity but, that requires extending the stations & adding 3 / 4 car trains, both expensive moves. We are already near the 100,000 threshold they have set as an optimal goal, say 120,000 is the current daily capacity. Therefore the max the system can handle is 150 to 180,000 & 180 is pushing it.

  • 58 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Bill McCreery, your description of Marine & Cambie coincides with my own sense that towers are “point loads” of density. We can achieve a finer grain distribution by other means. Around this blog we seem to have settled on “quartiers”, a name for the pedestrian shed or circle with a radius equal to 1/4 mile.

    We can achieve equivalent neighbourhood densities by “laying the towers on their side” because of the issue of scale and proportion. We can put the smaller buildings much closer together than we can space the towers. So that in the overall footprint of the neighbourhhood, equivalent densities can be achieved. However, the quality of the resulting public space will not be the same. Tower neighbourhoods lack the qualities that we admire in the human-scale streets.

    Putting podiums at the base of the towers, strangely enough, has not worked. The streets are shadowed by the towers, and that plus the blocked views of the sky seems to make all the difference.

    I was shocked to see how in the middle of February, Vancouver’s Olympic Streets were in shadow by 3 p.m., or about 2 hours before sunset. We had to walk to the far reaches of the Granville Bar District, where the high rises have not yet been built, to get sun at sidewalk level.

    Let’s look at land yield or density.

    The land area of the quartier is 120 acres. The yields are as follows (per gross acre of land—road space, but not parks, are included):

    at 6 units per acres = 720 single family lots/33 foot frontage. Duplex yields 1440 homes (say 1500). The most we can do is about 18 units per 33 foot lot, or 2200 homes.

    Until Bill Lee shows up with some numbers for the number of residents per home in this part of Vancouver, it will be difficult to know a multiple. I use 2.2 people per unit; and 800 s.f. for the average unit size. I base that in part on the Oliver Garneau study, Edmonton, by Barton Myers in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s.

    We can achieve about 65 units per acre (gross) with the fee simple buildings that Michael and I discuss, at about FSR 2.33 to 2.75 (the latter have retail on grade). Those building types were worked out in full for the FormShift entry that Simpson and I submitted last year. We would consider them appropriate for redevelopment fronting Vancouver arterials.

    What is of interest is that we obtained the same results, independently, as Patrick Condon. We found that if we just took all the single family houses fronting arterials today, and redeveloped with the fee-simple 4,000 s.f. building on a 16.5-ft frontage, we could double the existing population and not build higher than 35 feet in residential zones, and 45 to 60 feet in arterials measuring up to 120-feet wide (Cambie is as much as 180-foot width in some places).

    A third type, this may be what Geller is referring to, looked at a building type that might redevelop targeted blocks in the quartier interior, rather than fronting the arterial. These densities would not be of the 65 u/ac or FAR 2.33 − 2.75.

    Michael’s 1.0 to 1.25 might come into the picture here. Unlike the laneway housing that we feel would be too tight if it were to build out along the full block on both sides of the lane, the third building type puts units back-to-back, and the lane redevelops incrementally over time into a neighbourhood street.

    I have not added up the towers in the Cambie redevelopment plan that Michael linked us to, however the whole scheme is two-dimensional. It shows DoP still practicing old-paradigm planning. Urban design has been dumbed down to a discussion of building heights by floor count. Almost apologetically reference is made to “streetwall” principles.

    Most tellingly, there are almost no drawings in the presentations. If we do not draw, were really cannot design. Not because of “talent”—although that plays into it as well—but because these ideas have to be worked on diagrammatically in order to understand, analyze and innovate.

    There are no neighbourhoods being shaped, and one wonders what the merit might be of building an “urban corridor”. The transportation stations are the “nodes”—and one supposes the intended hearts of the new neighbourhoods. There is no sense of history, of discovery, of joy or celebration of what is to be found in place. No platting analysis. As you point out, no build out analysis. Human scale is not considered or talked about.

    I mean, what can we say? The last thing we want to do is to fault the planners. I agree with you that the developers have to act according to the vicissitudes of the market economy.

    With Jacobs, we want to point to the lack of urban design in the planning, then turn to the people in charge, the council, and ask: How come?

    In my experience, in the CoV the answer is always, “we’re to far along the process now to reject this application” or too late to change the plan. When the public is consulted, the decisions have already been made (SEFC was different in that regard).

    Part of your concerns about transportation capacity would be answered by a trolley BRT on Cambie. However, transit is not being considered at the same time as neighbourhood planning.

    Should that surprise us? How long ago did we start planning the Canada Line? Finally now in 2010 we are planning—poorly—the lots fronting.

    No, there is very little good to say about the Cambie plan.

  • 59 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Sunday morning brioche and coffee alert: I’m double-posting to answer voony.

    “the former [Haussmanization of Paris] raised way more opposition than the later [public input & redesign of Les Halles] …they also finally worked way better. That is the dilemma…”

    Haussmann’s plan for Paris—as voony points out the plan probably belongs to Napoleon III, nephew of the lieutenant become emperor—is a modern plan, dating to 1850’s. New York City’s Commissioner’s plan was platted in 1811.

    Before the 1789 revolution in France, the problem in Paris was that there was no urban land. Sixty years later, the problem was the need to connect the new railroad stations with an efficient street grid, and to house the bourgeoisie within city limits.

    The system they hit upon used the “land lift” to finance an incredible amount of community amenities. Haussmann’s regime built sidewalks, burried gas and water main infrastructure, planted trees by the thousands, put in parks, hospitals, markets and prisons.

    However, I always wonder how much of the “security” measures—i.e. rapid troop movement—was not political rhetoric aimed at convincing a divided city hall and fractured national assembly of the need to invest in infrastructure in order to modernize the economy and secure the nation’s future. It was not just a Paris issue. The lessons of Paris are visible in all the large cities of that nation.

    The Emperor, I suspect, is responsible for bringing his whole wonderful edifice down. Getting into a Bush-like war with Bismark, La France was brought to its knees in the field of battle, and into economic depression. A Germany that in 1850s had been building Berlin’s “mite kaserne”— barracks housing—found itself in a golden age of urbanism that brought about the wonders of Frankfurt’s satellite towns, and elevated the work of Camillo Sitte, Stüben, and others.

    Clearly, a kind of passing of the urbanist baton had taken place.

    When Paris finally bounced back, a central product was the international exhibitions that put on offer the wonders of breaking technology, on the one hand, and the City of Lights, the architecture of the new Paris urbanism, on the other. It is hard to judge from period accounts which part made the greater impression on the visitor.

    However, if we look at the plan of Haussmann-Napoleon two elements become crystallized. First, the longest streets in Pre-Haussmann-Napoleon Paris measured just 500m and were to be found almost exclusively as streets leading from the river-side quays inland. The Haussmann-Napoleon boulevards are typically 1 km or 2 km long (Sebastopol and St. Michel are exceptions).

    The second urban element that jumps out of an analysis of the Haussmann-Napoleon plan is that our “quartiers”, or pedestrian sheds, fit neatly into the spaces triangulated by the new boulevards. Thus, the planners, designers, engineers, and landscape architects were in some agreement about the core-periphery nature of urban places. The super-scaled boulevards, as much as possible, would be kept on the quartier’s edge.

    Now, this is an oversimplified analysis. The Quartier St. Germain, escaping Haussmannization on the left bank shows that at least some of the ‘old Paris’ was worth hanging on to.

    There is also some room for doubt that the six storey maisonette, that dates to the very early 1800’s and the first Napoleon, that has since added on a couple of stories in the elevator-enabled twentieth century, is not too much density. The boulevards—like the 130 and 180-foot wide sections of Cambie Street—are wide enough to support them. However, the spaces inside are a bit tight. The light wells and ventilation shafts put one in too close proximity to the neighbours all around.

    Across the channel, the urbanization of the West End of London, getting a solid impetus from the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, rarely exceeds 4 stories. The units are free-hold, rather than apartments. And, one consequence is that through the years one might argue they have presented a higher degree of flexibility.

    A final aside is that along some streets of the ‘new’ Paris the government put up the building façades, going so far as to outfit the windows with “boxes” behind so that they could be dressed to look as if they belonged to an occupied apartment. The lots behind were then sold to private developers to fill out the block over time. The system was nothing short of ingenious, and very well worked out.

    The lessons for Vancouver as many, and they do rub up against voony’s paradox: do we need despots to build good urbanism? Or, in a turn of a phrase, is submitting to an urban design plan tantamount to submitting to fascistic authoritarianism.

    I think that the waters here are clouded by our lack of understanding, and experience, of urbanism. We have been building suburbs for so long that we are strangers in a strange land every time we cross the boundary to consider what an urban plan might entail. One of the lessons to learn from Paris and other places is the one about “all the buildings in a beautiful city look more or less the same”. Tell that to the architects of the Marine Gateway. Another might be that the believe that “grid is democratic and unbending” should be challenged. The grid is an expedient to be deformed over time.

    In the final analysis arriving at a “good” urbanism will require that we make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions all of them completely foreign to the suburban ethos.

    How are we to know? What is going to guide us? Our problem building good urbanism is not so much existential as it is fact or knowledge based. We lack the confidence to move in the direction of “good” density because we lack the understanding of the primary elements or the fundamental principles.

    Barring stuff that we can all agree about, or planning with proof as earlier stated, my opinion is as good as the next guy’s. What we get is a free-for-all, planning on lot at a time, and decisions that can only be described as arbitrary. Urbanism is not taste, but the stuff we’ve been putting up in the name of “sustainability” looks like fashion to me.

    If this impression is accurate, then pretty soon we’ll be tired of it, and we will find that we have created no legacy to fall back on.

  • 60 Urbanismo // Jun 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Lewis, thanqu, for a very enlightened synopsis of the evolution of Parisian urban design.

    Was not, though, Rue de Rivoli and Imperial project of Napoleon l immediately after the revolution? He, nevertheless, became distracted and his Grande street petered out before it got to the Bastille monument: quite an unsatisfactory experience as one hopefully walks the grandness only to be disappointed by the abrupt change into the comparatively tacky Rue Saint Antoine.

    And, if I may hazard your disapproval, Parisian building of that era are not all the same but they are of the same building material. As for later eras well La Defense, La Parque Villette

    Nevertheless Britain’s Prince Regent was inspired (jealous) after Waterloo (1815) enough to build Regent’s street.

    All this was well before Haussmann.

    Sir John Nash was retained as the Prince Regent’s architect, not because of his urban design credentials but because the Prince was having a d’alliance with the architect’s mistress Mrs. Fitzherbert.

    I mention this to show how capricious urban choices were, and still are. Grande Alleés sometimes have less than grand antecedents.

    However both were stopped in their tracks (as was Wren after the 1666 fire for the same reason) by a merchant class who had had enough of the disruptions and fortunately too, in the case of London’s west end, for other wise we couldn’t enjoy cramped Brewer Street and Soho. The narrow streets of which defy your proportion width/height: making the point that urban formulae are best when broken.

    IMO our present crass attitude towards land use also has a historic precedent in that we walked into a vast land already occupied by the first nations, and treated them and their land with extreme disrespect.

    Ergo we still show profound disrespect of the land as with rampant speculation: especially off shore speculators who give not a hoot for the traditions and mores of the locals.

    Indeed but for their Douglas Treaty, a small piece of land on southern Vancouver Island we are all trespassing today.

    Trivial as this Harwood Street Tulip tree is to some I see it quite differently. In approving its removal council has transgressed it pretensions of heritage, greening and sustainability in order to accommodate a condo that will be of inappropriate layout and far too expensive for local families at a time when that genre is so desperately needed.

    Current building ordinances are rigid and out dated and can be modified and should be complied for modified in such circumstances: more mockery of the Mayor’s mantra green/sustainability.

    I was rather impressed, though, Voony by your reference to the origin of the charrette.

    But, if I am not mistaken our use of the word comes from, not the guillotine, but Beaux Art students’ rushing their designs to final crit. on the first and quickest means of transportation at hand the charrette, push cart.

  • 61 Urbanismo // Jun 13, 2010 at 5:21 am

    PS What I am trying to say, after all the preceding palaver, is that Imperial Paris and London are not measures to follow in our quartiers. The motivating factor behind boulevarded Paris was the clear vision line of vision to facilitate that whiff of grape to quell the mob.

    True urban design comes out of necessity: London’s Soho, Paris’s Place du Tertre, Quebec’s Vieux Ville, and the quite unpretentious . . . the Casbah of Algiers.

  • 62 Urbanismo // Jun 13, 2010 at 6:49 am

    PPS . . . or even Victoria’s Bastion Square/Trounce Alley/Fan Tan Alley . . . all of which were accidental . . . now nothing like when I lived there 1951-7.

  • 63 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Urbie, the historical examples are just a way to help us develop together a working language for urbanism. I think that what is of interest to us today is understanding urban design, and neighbourhood intensification—what does that process look like?

    1. What is the building type?

    If it requires land assembly, then does this trigger a speculative exuberance? As Bill put it, speculation destabilizes the real estate market ultimately increasing the cost of land on unwarranted properties—i.e. house prices continue to move up to the point where families cannot live in a house anywhere in Vancouver.

    To your points, if those are double loaded corridors lining both sides of Cambie as far as the eye can see—except where there are to be point towers—is this really the demographic that we want to attract? Is this where we want families to live—because, my belief is that families will go where the housing is affordable and deal with the consequences later.

    Or can a different choice of type generate more flexibility? Can we put a check on speculation by picking a product that does not require land assembly? Zoning fee-simple product along the arterials—and lot subdivision from 33-foot frontage to 16.5-foot frontages—is that enough to curb speculation?

    Some of the intensification of Kitsilano in the 1970’s proceeded on a lot by lot basis. Bill may have a better understanding of that process—I was still in school. I remember designing RT2 and RT2A in the classroom, to get us to about 18 units per acre gross, without lot subdivision, and keeping side yard set backs.

    Those were the issues we were trying to raise with the FromShift competition entry. That’s the reason to compare the maisonette to the Georgian row. Especially, since as you point out, in urbanism it is not just a question of building type alone.

    2. What is the street design?

    Can we do this on a one-arterial-at-a-time basis, or is that too targeted. Should it be a program for all the arterials, all at once?

    This brings up the need to plan for the revitalization of the arterials. As they stand, the urban quality does not support fronting residential uses. Or, as I have made the point earlier, the residential uses fronting arterials show all the signs of being beaten down by their urban condition. We need to deal with the pollution, the volume and the speed of traffic.

    As I never tire of saying, is this process strong enough to bring about the intensification of our historic quartiers, and the revitalization of Hastings Street? We have combined human suffering with under performing urban land for no reason that I can muster.

    3. Transportation.

    Bill’s observations her are on target. This is just not a case of Broadway or Cambie in isolation. The issue is system-wide. New loading on Cambie, or from other parts of the system, will impact system capacity in place today.

    Is planning for a return of LRT/BRT on our arterials work for us in the multiple ways we need? Will adding single and double tracks, or BRT lanes, reduce vehicular volume by 10 and 20,000 vehicles per day, then add two to four times as many trips on transit? That is an increase in capacity alongside a reduction in vehicular volume.

    Can we as part of LRT/BRT implementation add continuous rows of trees to adjust the street section to the requirements for human scale, as they did in Paris, and suck up some of the pollution by using the urban forest as a carbon sink? Cooling loads will be reduced in the summer if we pick the right trees that will shed their leaves in the winter. Yes, there will be new jobs in street cleaning and tree prunning, and that is a burden to the municipality to absorb along with the new taxes.

    Reducing speed remains a question. As we suggested in FormShift, can the new building types “give back” five or ten feet to the R.O.W. in order that we design “local access lanes” fronting the residential as a way of taming the quality of the resulting urban space?

    4. Should the model be intensification by the quartier, not the corridor?

    Using the OV as an example, would it have been better to plan an quartier-wide intensification for all lots within a 5-minute walk of the Salt Building, rather than for the local government to turn developer and pack density into just a few blocks of brown field redevelopment?

    This approach requires a building type that is not just fronting on the arterial, perhaps lesser density on the interior blocks as Michael suggests. But it will put us up against the same question, if we target those blocks too narrowly, will we trigger land speculation?

    Shaping quartiers will require more than just rezoning. The city is going to have to assemble some land in order to fashion a centre. If we are leaving the single-house-on-a-lot model for more density, we need to outfit the quartiers with social meeting places. Somewhere adults can go for coffee, and children can be taken for a morning or afternoon outing. The parks are fine, but I need to be able to pick up a few essentials on the same trip. And Vancouver parks typically are designed to be up against residential zones.

    I think this is what voony and I were pointing to in making reference to urban design in France.

  • 64 Bill McCreery // Jun 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    There has been some discussion above about medium rise vs high rise & density. I have an interesting article written by Sir Leslie Martin +/-65 / 67 in, I think, Architectural Record about this subject. He did an analysis of Manhattan Islands largely ‘skyscraper’ point block built form &, using the same FSR he took out every 2nd & 3rd street both ways on the grid, created an 11 storey doughnut +/-60′ deep with a huge park / green space in the centre in each of the mega-blocks. I found this abstract, theoretical model very enlightening. The point was, you can do high density in a more human scale low / medium rise built form & get other benefits such as green space. Other real live models are London, Paris & many other European cities. And, they have their efficient undergrounds & surface transit without resorting to parachuted in out of scale, alien projects.

    Remember small is beautiful?

  • 65 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 14, 2010 at 7:52 am

    From memory, “The Vancouver Achievement” shows the gross density of North Shore False Creek in the 60s unit per acre.

    65 units per acre can be achieved with 3.5 storey product on Vancouver 33′x122′ lots by subdividing the lot to a 16.5-foot frontage, retaining the lane and the garage, and giving up 10’ of land to the R.O.W. That was our FormShift model.

    Bill Lee on this blog provided census information that showed that North Shore False Creek achieves the equivalent density of Strathcona.

    While on a single lot (FAR) the tower always wins—we can just add more floors to get more density—the same is not true if we measure density on a neighbourhood, quartier or pedestrian shed wide basis. There, the issue becomes the spacing of the buildings.

    On the one hand, we only space the towers so far apart. The human-scale product, as Urbanismo has pointed out already, seems to benefit from being spaced more closely together.

    On NYC

    Jane Jacobs in her epoch making first book (1961) also criticized the grid of the Commissioner’s Plan for NYC (1811) for lacking human scale—she described the 800’ long blocks (the separation of the Avenues west of 6th) as being too long

    Her proposal was to cut the block in half, providing more choices of path if one were walking one block west, and three blocks south. She did not remark that the walk that she was describing was about 1300’ long, or 1/4 mile, or about 5 minutes long.

    On INTENSIFICATION

    However, when we are redeveloping a site—and the way forward in North America appears to be to build a European-style or human-scale urbanism on top of the post war suburbs—triggering land speculation becomes an issue.

    If we want to intensify existing land, not only do the larger buildings return what some feel is a lesser quality in the resulting urban space, but they require land assembly.

    What we are contemplating here is whether or not that land assembly triggers speculation.

    And whether the alternative, plot subdivision to achieve equivalent levels of density, may not keep speculation in check.

    Should we assume 20% profit in the sale of the lot; then 20% profit on the resale of the assembled parcel; and a further 20% profit on the sale of the strata unit…

  • 66 MB // Jun 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    A very enlightening conversation, folks. Kudos to Lewis, Urbie, Bill M and Michael. And of course to Frances.

    We could develop our own Lotus Quarter as a model, which would require the development an urban design and public consultation methodology based on historical precedents and deep expertise. And we can’t forget to follow up with fine tuning and tweaking to suit varying circumstances. Therein the porocess must not be too rigid.

    What we are proposing is no less than the redesign of how we build cities. But couched in a process that includes a new Urban Design Department in our municipal governance and deep public consultation, the new paradign will be seated with the people, not with the elite. Why wouldn’t that work?

    Coming down from the rare air of theory to practical, on-the-street examples, we already have a few that can be built on.

    My lot was one of four subdivided cross wise from two standard 32′ x 122′ lots in 1910. They predate the zoning bylaw by 42 years, and would be illegal today. They are treated in the zoing as though they were standard lots, therein the FAR is non-conforming.

    But these small lots with detached houses average over $300,000 less in price than the same house on a full lot and are in great demand or that reason alone, including by families with kids who won’t trade the access to good schools and parks and inner city neighbourhood amenities merely for a bigger back yard in the suburbs.

    Yet they are a perfect example of what you can do to densify yet maintain neighbourhood heritage and character in a fee simple arrangement. The four houses built on them have front and back yards (abeit smaller than average, yet they are still popular with families with kids), and being detached, have side yard access and lots of light and air.

    Further up the street are two lots subdivided into five, but that is probably as far as you’d want to go without getting into attached row houses and being shackled to a strata council under the current frustratingly inflexible laws.

    Two lots (one on a corner) subdivided cross wise into seven or eight fee simple row houses near commerical / retail and good transit is a big factor in making a Lotus Quarter workable.

  • 67 Michael Geller // Jun 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Lewis, I think you need to be careful when analyzing density figures in new communities such as the North Shore of False Creek, Coal Harbour, etc. It is important to distinguish between ‘gross density’ that includes roads and parks’ and community facilities, and ‘net density’ that looks at just the buildings in relation to the development parcels.

    While I agree that in some cases, low rise buildings can sometimes achieve densities similar to high rises (see below) and mid-rise buildings can often achieve densities that are similar to high rise buildings, in terms of FSR, units per acre, or people per acre, most high rise developments 24 storeys or higher are significantly higher than any developments 5 storeys or less.

    For example, most of the buildings at Coal Harbour, the North Shore of False Creek, and Downtown South are generally in the order of 5 FSR. This equates to approximately 200 to 250 units per acre. The C2 mixed use density along arterials achieved up to 3 FSR, but most development is now around 2.5.

    In the case of Kerrisdale, we do have ”lower densities associated with highrises….around 1.7 for buildings up to 12 storeys. In this case, the higher density townhouses, stacked townhouses and apartments are of a comparable density to the highrises.

    For those who are counting, the new development proposed across the street from the Shangri-la is 20.6 FSR. This equates to approximately 900 units per acre. We might not want to have too many of these buildings in a row!

  • 68 Bill McCreery // Jun 14, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    20.6 FSR? Maddness!!!!

    That is New york & Hong Kong. Vancouver is not &, must not become them. What a tragic loss if this idiotic, out of control process continues.

    Vancouver is reaching a stage where we must make a fundamental decision: When is enough enough? We don’t have any obligation to absorb people just because. We should be taking a measured approach to densifying, applying it only where it will be a net benefit primarily to the local, sustainable community & secondarily the City as a whole. Beyond that, sorry, go somewhere else. The over-reaching objective in this urbanization process must be the continued & improved quality of life in Vancouver.

    Such a decision would also achieve another important objective to provide the opportunity for the suburbs to sustainably urbanize themselves – take the “quartiers ” idea to the next level; to develop their waterfronts, as North Van, Richmond & others are beginning to do, to create livable, sustainable neighbourhoods, etc.

    About what density which can be achieved with single family – I did a 33 lot, zero lot line, courtyard housing freehold subdivision in Victoria’s Dallas Road area for Daon years ago. The generic lot was 33′ x 70′, density, including the dedicated street, was 11.4 units per acre @ a very liveable +/-1,800 to 2,200 sf.

    Good news – we got a Canadian Architect Design Award. Bad news – Daon got out of the residential market & abandoned the project.

  • 69 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    ROW HOUSES IN VICTORIA

    For an apples-to-apples comparison, we can use 800 s.f. as the average unit size. If the Dallas Road units averaging 2,000 s.f. have a gross yield of 11.4 units/acre, then that translates to 2.5 x 11.4 = 28.5 u/ac.

    That’s about 10x more than we can get in the 33’ x 122.5’ lot keeping the side yards. But, only 44% of the density we get subdividing the 33’ frontage in half.

    ROW HOUSES IN SURREY

    The separation between buildings can become a problem with bare land strata (units privately owned; the land is held in strata title by the all owners, the projects are essentially “gated communities” where the streets are not “public” rights of way).

    On a typical Vancovuer neighbourhood with 25 foot front yard set backs, the front door neighbours are 120 feet away from one another, and the distance between the rear of the houses across the lane is typically 100 feet.

    In one Surrey project I know the separation between buildings is about 42 feet on the front, and 40 feet on the rear side. The result is, well, indecent.

    HOW DENSE IS NSFC?

    Michael, let me pull off the shelf the document I have: “The Vancouver Achievement”, John Punter, (2003. Pages 234-35; Figure 45 “The megaprojects: land use, density, floor space, and public facilities—the footnote identifies Stanley Kwok as author, in 1997).

    The designation in the table is “Units per acre: on gross residential land area”. There is no explanation as to what is meant by this. Neither are we given what is meant by “Number of housing units”. The table reads as follows (in units per gross acre):

    63—North False Creek (Concord Pacific)
    60—Coal Harbour (Marathon)
    62—Coal Harbour Bayshore
    109—CityGate
    23—S.E. False Creek
    36—Fraser Lands

    Until I measure building footprints and do site surveys to identify uses, as I have been doing for quartiers across Canada, it’s going to be hard to have certainty about what these numbers really mean. However, within the projects quoted in the table itself, straight line comparisons should be accurate.

    CANADIAN QUARTIERS

    The following are gross density calculations for Canadian quartiers that I have compiled in the past few years.

    6—SFR Bungalow (1.5 storey, 33’ frontage)
    4—Westdale, Hamilton (2.5 storey SFR)
    14—Granville Island (2 storey unit equivalent)
    32—Hydrostone, Halifax (2.5 storey duplex to quad)
    40—Cabbagetown, Toronto (2.5 storey row)
    54—Dartmouth, Nova Scottia (3.5 storey row)
    65—FormShift (3.5 storey row)
    70—Market Square, Winnipeg (4.5 storey warehouse conversion)
    85—Arbutus Lands, Vancouver (4-plus storey walk-up)
    87—ByWard Market, Ottawa (4 storey row)
    102—Place Roy, Montreal (3.5 storey row)
    108—Rue Cuillard, Quebec Citadel (3.5 storey row)

    The “gross density calculation” includes private land, and 50% share of the fronting public right of way. Parks, community centres, etc. are not included. 800 s.f. is used as the “average unit size”, regardless of size of the actual units. In the case of condos, the area is reduced by 15% to allow for common area.

    The difference in yield between our FormShift entry, and Place Roy in Montreal can be accounted for in platting (Place Roy is a quartier named after an 19th century square, not a 1960’s megaproject). The road allowance, the block pattern, and the block dimensions in Montreal achieve higher densities than the CPR platting. In some areas of the Place Roy neighbourhood it would appear that what were once lanes have turned into streets through subsequent redevelopment. The neighbourhood had “laneway houses”, however, at a rate of less than one per block.

    In the final analysis, what we are after is a measurement of “habitable space” per area of land; and number of people per area of land; coupled with an understanding of the resulting quality of the urban space and of the livability average unit.

    ADDING TRANSPORTATION INTO THE MIX

    For the purposes of calculating transportation demand, the engineers I talk to suggest that one job counts as much as one residential unit.

    THE KING IS STILL IN CHECK

    Borrowing a metaphor from the chess board, I am still asking that we think about the issue of whether intensification without land assembly in cases such as Cambie and elsewhere might mean to protecting the price of land from speculation, on the one hand, and putting pressure for better transit on the other.

    “Vancouver is reaching a stage where we must make a fundamental decision: When is enough enough? … The over-[ar]ching objective in this urbanization process must be the continued & improved quality of life in Vancouver.”

    Not only is Bill’s “when is enough” question a cogent one, as his consideration of intensification on a wider basis points out, Vancouver is the place where we set the standard for intensification four our entire region. However, what I see being copied in downtown New West, Metrotown, Port Moody, Coquitlam Cenre, Surrey Centre, White Rock and Nanaimo—to name just a few—is the land-lift model of tower-and-podium.

  • 70 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 14, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Correction: Dallas Road units achieve 10 more units per acre than 33 x 122.5′ lots.

    PS — MB we’ll get to small lots next. One of the townsites I have surveyed but not yet run the numbers on is Charlottetown, PEI. What a wonderful community. What a well-wrought balance between platting and built form. Infinitely walkable… and the real stars?

    Small lot housing.

  • 71 Andrea C. // Jun 15, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I have been following this conversation with great interest, but I just had to jump in after Lewis’ comment on Charlottetown: “What a wonderful community.”
    I was born and raised in Vancouver. Shortly before I turned 30, I moved to Charlottetown and ended up living there for six years. I’ve been back a few years now.
    Charlottetown is the most car centric “community” I have ever encountered in my life. Many families boast about the large number of vehicles registered in their names (and, no, they’re not farmers). Large sections outside of the miniscule downtown area have no sidewalks or sidewalks on one side of the street only. There is no such thing as genuine public transit (unless you count the threadbare joke the local MP’s brother-in-law is running on the taxpayer’s dime). MVAs and drunk driving are like conversation. Local connections (read: corruption) can allow you to build anywhere and anyhow, screw the permits. A combination of threats from the mayor and major indifference to the process led the entire planning department to quit en masse during my sojourn on The Island.
    Urbanismo talks about a “failed town”. To present exhibit A – Charlottetown, PEI.
    Please google for : Charlottetown, least transparent, municipality and Charlottetown, planning, resignation/resigned for some interesting reading. And this is just the tip of a very sad “failed town” trash heap. There’s nothing like actually living and working in a town for a few years to experience the real deal, as opposed to the ideal (which I once held myself).
    Well, enough from this lowly CFA, cue the angry responses from “real” Islanders (and, yes, that’s a capital “I” – didn’t you know that PEI is several times larger than Vancouver Island ? It took an Islander to set me straight on that ‘lil bit of geography.

  • 72 Urbanismo // Jun 15, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Well thanqu for your insight Andrea C. Charlottetown PEI leaves a bad taste in my mouth too.

    In theory, if one doesn’t visit, the Oglethorpe Savannah symmetrical layout, yunno four squares geometrically laid out around the Provincial Building and Confederation Square looks good: despite the latter ungainly chunk far out-scaling the former.

    I’m talking the very small original town near the waterfront: the rest of Charlottetown is really just more of the same: depressing sprawl.

    I was invited to speak at a confederation celebration, can’t remember the details, in the early ’90′s: at the time the mainland connection had been voted yes but construction not commenced.

    Anyway I had been given the royal tour, of course, and concluded that the little town had seen better days: a quite delightful inventory of heritage was in disrepair and moving farther out the unkempt sprawl was more than unacceptable for the seat of Canada’s confederation: indeed for any self-respecting town.

    Anyway after seeing the neglect I modified my speech to tell the town to forget the mainland connection and spend the money to make the town worthy of its pretensions.

    And then . . . OMG . . . THU RESPONSE!

    Nothing was said after the speech: just greeted with less than lukewarm applause.

    As for the remainder of the conference I was virtually ostracized.

    At the ensuing celebration dinner I was seated alone until a very decent and, may I say mature, yet small, enlightened group of diners invited me to sit with them. And we had a great conversation about how to make Charlottetown worthy for Canada to celebrate.

    Et tu Vancouver!

    . . . PEI is several times larger than Vancouver Island?” Huh figures!

  • 73 michael geller // Jun 15, 2010 at 8:00 am

    “However, what I see being copied in downtown New West, Metrotown, Port Moody, Coquitlam Cenre, Surrey Centre, White Rock and Nanaimo—to name just a few—is the land-lift model of tower-and-podium.”

    Lewis ..while I am sure most readers have tired of reading our exchange, I need to get some clarification on your comment above. What do you mean by the land lift model of tower and podium?

    When I talk about ‘land lift’ I am talking about an economics issue, not a building form. More specifically, I understand land lift to be the increase in land value when a rezoning occurs, regardless of the form of development. The issue is that the city seeks to capture about 70% of the ‘lift’ in community amenities or cash. While some may be happy to see the city sharing in these gains, my concern is that this approach distorts the planning process, and ultimately is not in anyone’s interest. Instead, the city should be seeking a payment to offset the cost of amenities, regardless of whether the land value goes up…..or down.

    Let’s not forget the song by Blood Sweat and Tears…..what goes up, must come down…..

  • 74 voony // Jun 15, 2010 at 8:59 am

    interesting briefing Lewis.

    I have a certain numbers of observation to bring:

    one argument done in this conversation is that all thing should be decided by local…but still we , end up to argue a building form over another, and more importantly we narrow it to some specific site, like the Marine#Cambie (cited 12 times in this post’s comments), were we advocate on one building form rather another one, and not too much how to arrive there

    So it is not too much the process which is questioned here but it’s output, and when the output is not pleasing us we question the process.

    It is by the way the sense of the letter of Ned Jacob with the UBC line principle: it has been an open house, well attended. Ned Jacob has spoke to the council on it didn’t mention the lack of public consultation at that time: One councilor, Geof Megg I believe, read him in full the UBC line principle, and ask him at each if he disagrees: Ned Jacob agreed to every single principles…but eventually feel his agreement on some principles path the way to an outcome he doesn’t want… so the process must be bad.

    Back to the Marine#Gateway:
    Note how local input is disregarded in this discussion, we believe we know better than them what his good for their neighbor:
    I have drop at the open house last week: my gut feeling is that the development is rather welcomed by the local: may be it is because they haven’t been presented by Lewis, Urbanismo or someone else alternative…

    that come back eventually to the point of “asymmetry of information” where local are more reacting to what is provided to them than taking an active stand at what could be good to them: no doubt that the much touted Charrette could help, but still the local will act with material provided to them, and because they have big asset (their home) at stake will tend to be eventually very conservative:
    Correct me if I am wrong, but in the Patrick Condon book on Charrette: I remember to saw only example of brand new neighboors, not retrofitting of an existing one (and again my feeling is that the author argue more for a building form, and suggest a process susceptible of favouring the building form he advocates).

    At the end, if we are coming back to talk about the marine drive development, and not for example the Aberdeen or New West one, it is because some place in the city have more significance that others and are used by more than the locals…

    that is where another dilemna arise, where to draw the line between the general interest and the local one?

    To finish this comment, I will cite a local reaction to Cambie corridor from http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100609/bc_cambie_corridor_development_100609/20100613?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

    “Clive Bottomley and his wife, who live a block off Cambie Street on 26th Avenue, attended a June 3 open house meeting to learn more about the project, and were shocked to learn about a proposed six-storey apartment building right across the lane from their single-family home. ”

    then

    “Bottomley says he stands to lose a view of the North Shore Mountains he recently obtained by adding an extra floor to his house”

    Hope everyone see the irony of this local seeing nothing wrong at blocking the view of its south neighbor but outraged at the idea that the north neighbor can do the same to him…

    and eventually all go back down to the “view”: Does that quest for view could be eventually commending the building form in Vancouver with all its contradiction.

    You build your view at the expense of someone else, but you can also build a view : and the cited local incidentally also motivating his storey addition to “To take advantage of [...] an amazing view of downtown Vancouver” (in LiveModern forum)

    It is interesting to see that people are praising a certain building form outcome, but fighting it at the same time: how to conciliate those viewpoints?

  • 75 Urbanismo // Jun 15, 2010 at 10:38 am

    So Michael: Since Lewis brought up Nanaimo let’s talk sprawl as far as the eye can see north and south because that is what indiscriminate land-lift will do on the Cambie Line. Yunno land-lift in one area spells down-draft in another.

    Sin embargo, Nan has not been idle . . .

    1. 1998 Plan Nanaimo, an enlightened plan to contain development in selected villages . . .

    2. 2004 A citizen’s charrette, led by Lewis N. Villegas, B.Arch, urbanist, to define downtown.

    3. My own contribution http://theyorkshirelad.ca/New.Nanaimo.Center/culture.park.html

    4. The 2008 redefinition of the Urban containment boundary

    5. Two design charrettes to define citizen’s input north as south of downtown.

    6. A downtown urban design study by architect Franc d’ Ambrosio.

    7. A vital component of downtown being replaced while ignoring ’6′, with more of the same suburban type shopping mall and suburban type parking DOWNTOWN!

    Items 1-6 all scotched, while ’7′ coming on “nicely“.

    Some two or three years ago an ex-councilor and perennial local committee man was soliloquizing to me on how prosperous the city would become if all the area south of downtown were up-zoned: that was before the termland-lift had been coined but that is what he mean..

    Thus in the Nanaimo instance land-lift has certainly occurred in the sprawl, while down-draft has left the centre almost a wasteland.

    To wit, recently, within the last year two very large (for Nan) developments were approved: ‘Sandstone’ comprising 300,000 sq. ft. of commercial and 4,000 DU’s and ‘Cable Bay’ Ocean view golf and recreation resort comprising somewhat less but including five acre lots fronting the famous Dodds Narrows. (so far little has materialized in either.)

    Now while all this is going on Nanaimo has 25% households on some form of government assistance (excluding OAP’ers) and 150,000 sq. ft. of vacant commercial property.

    Mind as of last count only 4.9% unemployment . . . comprising well underpaid bar-istas and over paid civic employees. There are three major employers in town; NRGH, Harmac (surviving on tax forgiveness) and the City in this once thriving lumber, mining and logging centre. Timber licenses are being converted into more sprawl and lumber jobs are being off-shored daily.

    Long gone are the well-paid high-end jobs and no one has the vision, courage or gumption to create a replacement

    . . . and in that regard Vancouver and Nanaimo have a lot in common.

    PS . . . as for Clive B protecting his view . . . his single home is nothing compared, view-obstruction-wise, to the string upon string of anonymous developer driven mindless six storey stucco box sprawl.

    I’m on Clive’s side . . .

    What was that? Huh! Failed City. Huh!

  • 76 Bill McCreery // Jun 15, 2010 at 11:42 am

    This has been a wide ranging & esoteric conversation. I’ve just gone back to the top to see that FB originally was writing about neighbourhood reaction to the various developments around the City, etc. Much of the back & forth above actually is linked to this important concern, although one might wonder. From the opinions of neighbours to regional development, many of these contributions are connected to the original theme.

    It seems to me when you boil it down we are talking about what is the right new form of urban development in a given community? It does come down to what the neighbours will accept [ultimately they vote every 3 years] & the process by which the decisions are made which will affect them. The needs / aspirations of the City as a whole also play a role in this process.

    Citygate is a good example of the possibility of the two together. Although there are people in the Marpole community on both sides of this issue @ this point, the complex is not community based, it is a City wide, even regionally scaled insertion. An important question is, is a regional scaled node appropriate here? Is it needed here? Can the transit & traffic systems handle such additional loads? What does it do for the local neighbourhood? What will the positive & negative impacts on the local community be? What are the positive & negative benefits for the City & region if this kind of high density is realized here?

    The planning process has not exactly been a model for demonstrating logical thought progression. We are presented with a massive development proposal @ arguably one of the most significant sites on the Cambie Corridor half way through the process, in part because another ill-thought through initiative, the STIR programme has a deadline. My questions above have not been asked publicly by & large & the public is being effectively engaged after the fact & being fed rationed information.

    I have spoken to 2 CoV planners & the City has not done an assessment of what the effect of this scale of development will have on the Canada Line. One wonders what they have done with respect to the vehicular impacts.

    One wonders whether the Marpole neighbour referred to above might still like the idea of living in the shadow of a project such as Gateway if he actually saw a model of this 350′ proposal adjacent to his 20′ high house [unless of course his motivation was his own possible financial gain].

    Again, another bottom line, the process is flawed, there is no one on charge who knows what they’re doing & so far this has resulted in a premature proposal of very dubious validity.

  • 77 Urbanismo // Jun 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    @ Bill . . . “Again, another bottom line, the process is flawed, there is no one on charge who knows what they’re doing & so far this has resulted in a premature proposal of very dubious validity.

    Dubious validity, Bill, because Clive Bottomley, in good faith, added another storey to his house, at a cost of 1/2 m, for a view adding land value, LAND LIFT, only to be aced by a land lift from another direction: ergo he is caught in down draft not of his making.

    . . . the process is flawed . . .

    Right!

  • 78 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 15, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Andrea C, I’m glad you decided to include your comments. I made a mistake. I should have said “what a wonderful plat”—I was not there long enough to get a read on the community.

    Do the worst tyrants make the best towns?. I suspect that ultimately the best towns are made over time, and political factions enter and exit the revolving door. That’s why I don’t think it is one or another political stripe that will get Vancouver’s urbanism right. Ultimately the city we build is the physical externality of a forged consensus. The places that I admire most in Italy, for example, have typically been sites for savage executions.

    Charlottetown suffers from isolation. The drive in is one long trek through a rolling country side. Outside the historic limits of the town, the urbanism is the worst sort of strip variety. There is not enough population to support transit. Just on the edge of downtown there is a shopping mall that is just like malls all over the country. There is a 1970 vintage art gallery that bespeaks modernism at is worse, though no doubt fashionable in its day. There is a big hotel on the waterfront that turns its back on everything. In fact, the heritage strategy seems to have been to draw a boundary at Water Street, and then allow development to take place in the area that was once beyond the shore. A Victorian era shopping street on the west side is now an overly wide swath of asphalt. Echoing your comments that everyone drives, parking must dominate everything. The train station is abandoned. There would appear to be a clear east-west social split in the community. Even Confederation Hall is a pale iteration of the Palladian model it seems to be following.

    However, historic Charlottetown is 2 pedestrian sheds—or two quartiers—large. The entire old town was very reachable by foot, and many of the pedestrians I saw were locals. On the north-south streets, the north vistas are all terminated due to the fact that the old grid is not extended past town boundaries. This creates a special quality of place. There are two squares in each quartier, combining for a four-square pattern that is immediately recognizable (the provincial government taking over one, however, is a blight). Great George Street, comes up the middle of the two quartiers, ending at Confederation House. It is 1,100 feet long. This is the same measurement as the central axis of the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago design by Olmstead and Burnham. The East façade of the Louvre is 1,100 feet from Ponte Neuf. While I have yet to determine the significance of this bit of urban trivia, a building 1,1000 feet away reads as being close enough to walk to. Trivia or not, Charlottetown is replete with concrete elements in urbanism that resonate with the human experience of place.

    As I mentioned to MB… a group of small houses on small lots, just one block from Hillsborough Square (the municipality calls it “Hillsborough Park”) on the eastern side of town caught my eye. Hensley Street is barely 26’ wide and one block long. The buildings that terminate the street end vistas are barely 440’ apart. It is a little bit like a Canadian version of Urbanismo’s favelas. You can see into the living rooms, and you can see into the back yards. The fences line up with the house fronts, and the doors open into the street. In fact, all of Hensley Street would appear to be the result of infill buildings (800 s.f. bungalows), built in the back of the lots fronting the paralleling streets. At what I presume would be an affordable price—for the same reasons MB gives, these lots don’t seem to be much more than 1600 s.f.—this seemed like very good housing. Amenities were nearby. Shopping was a walking distance away. The siting of the houses in relation to each other, and the street, carve out gardens and private patios.

    Some of what I will measure in the two quartiers of Charlottetown is the overall density, block pattern, building types, and sequence of squares and public spaces. What I hope to learn is something about how urban elements combine to deliver overall quality.

    While it is difficult to see how a place like Charlottetown can survive on just tourism and conventions, it is equally clear that without its history it would be far worst off.

  • 79 Lewis N. Villegas // Jun 16, 2010 at 6:41 am

    I’m reposting adding spaces between the paragraphs…

    [Lewis] “What do you mean by the land lift model of tower and podium? When I talk about ‘land lift’ I am talking about an economics issue, not a building form. More specifically, I understand land lift to be the increase in land value when a rezoning occurs, regardless of the form of development.”

    Michael, what you mean by “land lift” is the change in land value due to up-zoning. We’re talking “raising density and mixing uses.” Perhaps “tower type of land lift” would have been better pharsing.

    However, when we rezone from single family to towers, I want to highlight the fact that we are talking about an extreme form of lift. Bill McCreery’s point is well taken, that towers and high-rise along Cambie will shadow and overlook neighbouring single family homes.

    I am less willing to separate the economics from the building building type—but, that is different from “building form”. Consider that the point that has been missed in the “tower debate” is that we can build high-density as either human-scale, or tower product. I know Councils that have gone after towers with the economics (i.e. dollar signs) tattooed to their eyeballs. I can provide a detailed example if needed.

    We should have towers zones (the downtown) and non-tower zones (everywhere else in Vancouver). My feeling here is not just that we will get a better city, but that we will avoid some of the pitfalls associated with hyper urbanism.

    On the one hand, the towers are a very specialized product that can only be handled by a select few developers, designers, builders, and financiers. The human-scale product has been around for centuries, and requires no specialized effort. Neighbourhood developers, small design firms, local builders and credit unions can get into the action. Not only do we achieve higher quality in the urban space, but I believe we hedge against abuses in our democratic system by choosing a more level playing field.

    On the other hand, I worry about raising the cost of land to the point that a family cannot afford a back yard (Urbie’s issue). In Canada there is enough land and wealth to make it so that Canadians can avoid raising families in apartments. If they chose to to live in a tower, that’s one thing. But, if the condo is the only choice around, then that’s another. As I stated earlier, if this model of community is triggered (and we are well on the way now), then I believe the Fraser Valley will go the way of L.A. We will build an Orange County, a Venice Beach, a Santa Monica, and a freeway system to rival all Canadian cities.

    To the other issue:

    “The issue is that the city seeks to capture about 70% of the ‘lift’ in community amenities or cash. While some may be happy to see the city sharing in these gains, my concern is that this approach distorts the planning process, and ultimately is not in anyone’s interest. Instead, the city should be seeking a payment to offset the cost of amenities, regardless of whether the land value goes up…..or down… Let’s not forget the song by Blood Sweat and Tears…..what goes up, must come down…”

    That still leaves 30% profit.

    I made a long description of the reinvention of Paris after 1855 to set the back ground for what follows… Sixty six years after the revolution, the Paris properties that had been confiscated from the Church and from the Crown must have fallen back into private ownership. As I understand it the Haussmann regime expropriated the land for each of the three “reseau”—network plans—they completed, when entire sections of the city were re-planned, re-zoned, and re-serviced. After the improvements were in place, the expropriated land was sold by the Haussmann regime at a profit.

    In this model the land owner gets market value at rates before up-zoning, the central authority provides all the amenities, and captures the entire land lift.

    Right up to the Franco-Prussian War the project was self-financing, and it is difficult to say whether or not the dispossessed landowners were complaining. In “Space, Time and Architecture” Gideon describes a contemporary Parisian explaining how he had come about his newly found riches, “I was expropriated by M. Haussmann”.

    There are several ways of going about this business. The question that I still have on the chess board is: what approach provides the best hedge against “irrational exuberance” in the Vancouver real estate market?

    After all, if we are seeking density, livability, and reductions in automobile use, we don’t have to build higher than 3.5 stories above the street. Here, we have a Stale Mate between the tower and the human-scale product.

    However, if we are seeking to keep our land values stable, maybe the answer is that we should not build higher than 3.5 stories above the street. That’s Check Mate on towers outside very clearly defined, and geographically determined boundaries like our downtown.

  • 80 Urbanismo // Jun 16, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Lewis, lest we become too enamoured of Haussmman . . . “Haussmann’s plans, with their radical redevelopment, coincided with the 1860s – a time of intense political activity in Paris. Many Parisians were troubled by the destruction of “old roots”. Historian Robert Herbert says that “the impressionist movement depicted this loss of connection in such paintings as Manet’s Bar at Folies.” The subject of the painting is talking to a man, seen in the mirror behind her, but seems unengaged. According to Herbert, this is a symptom of living in Paris at this time: the citizens became detached from one another. “The continuous destruction of physical Paris led to a destruction of social Paris as well.

    Many Parisians were troubled by the destruction of “old roots”.”/I> ¡Yo tambien!

    The wide Imperial boulevards led to the railway stations, not for your convenience while holidaying, but to move troops from the countryside when the folks get too obstreperous.

    Imperial grandiosity does not work in a peaceful prosperous city!

  • 81 Lewis N. Villegas // Jul 5, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Urbie, as I indicated in my long background review of the Haussmann project in Paris, my sense is that the idea that constructing transportation infrastructure (i.e. the boulevards) was at its core an act of “imperialist oppression” has to be questioned. It has the marks of revisionist history. The more historically accurate view might contrast paris of the 1855-1869 period to the NYC Commissioners Plan of 1811. Then, we might draw the simple conclusion that between Paris and Manhattan, it is the former that represents the more modern plan.

  • 82 CM // Jul 30, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    “Hope everyone see the irony of this local seeing nothing wrong at blocking the view of its south neighbor but outraged at the idea that the north neighbor can do the same to him…”

    The renovation added 1 storey and brought the house to a 2.5 storey house, the max allowed in this area. All kinds of houses in the area are 2.5 stories. All manner of rules in place by the city to ensure that the renovation does not adversely affect the neighbours and that their properties and lifestyles are protected. If the neighbour directly to the north wants to build a house go ahead. It can only be 2.5 stories though…the city won’t let you build taller. These rules are in place to protect surrounding neighbours.

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