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What Vancouver could get from viaducts land: open space, below-market housing, more?

November 27th, 2011 · 80 Comments

While everyone is distracted by the visions of being able to swim to the downtown along viaducts converted to pool lanes, courtesy of the re:CONNECT design competition, city planners and a consulting team have been working on potential real land-use plans for the area under and around the viaducts.

There’s an area about half the size of the Olympic Village, mostly owned by the city, that could be used for all kinds of interesting things.

The architecture/urban design firm of Perkins + Will plus the engineering firm Bunt & Co have been working with the city on what that could possibly be.

But it sounds like, from what I heard over the past few days from Councillor Geoff Meggs and city planner Brent Toderian, that it has to be something the public thinks is a benefit. (See details in my story.)

There’s a new thought for everyone. Until now, people have been darkly suspicious about the talk of doing something different with the viaducts.

One suspicion has been that it’s all about giving Concord Pacific, which owns a small chunk of land around the viaducts and then much more to the south in Northeast False Creek proper, some kind of windfall.

Dark Suspicion #2: It’s all part of the radical greenie plot to get rid of roads altogether in the city, starting with the viaducts and eventually continuing on to all pavement.

Few, except for a few residents in small Crosstown cluster, have seen that there could possibly be a benefit.

But the idea of using that land to create something with public value could turn the conversation. (I personally am intrigued by the idea of putting housing back in the couple of blocks where it was taken away, when the viaducts were built in the 1960s, right next to Chinatown. That’s where former councillor George Chow’s family lived when they first moved here.) Or perhaps not, in this paranoid town.

BTW: I was completely unable, in researching this story, to get any firm idea when the city’s planning work would come to fruition. Originally, Brent Toderian told me that the aim was to try to provide clear options in time to mesh with the city’s Transportation 2040 plan. Then later he said that, while the city would aim for that, it’s important to get the options right and that he wouldn’t rush the planning department into coming up with anything prematurely.



Categories: Uncategorized

80 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 28, 2011 at 12:36 am

    There’s an area about half the size of the Olympic Village, mostly owned by the city, that could be used for all kinds of interesting things… But the idea of using that land to create something with public value could turn the conversation. (I personally am intrigued by the idea of putting housing back in the couple of blocks where it was taken away, when the viaducts were built in the 1960s, right next to Chinatown. That’s where former councillor George Chow’s family lived when they first moved here.) Or perhaps not, in this paranoid town.


    First, an observation about the entries for the viaduct part of the City design competition. They fell into two categories:

    1. Those who would keep them; and

    2. Those who would blow them away to kingdom come!

    Fair enough. However, the suspicion started to grow with me that among entries in Group #1 there were a bunch of folks that couldn’t have any ideas if the viaducts were not there. Empty urban land? No! I’m not up to suggesting what to do with that. So in came the decisions to cover the damn things with vegetable matter; put swimming pools in them; anything, since the perception is that they are “free” urban space. No matter if they blight the ground plane below.

    So, let’s see what the jury decides.

    My favourite was a “Rene Magritte” entry that Photo-shoped the underside of the viaducts to look like a blue sky. Subliminal message me-thinks: even if we fear it, we gotta bring them things down if we are ever to see the sky!!

    If you look at the competition brief, then the City comes off as not too shy to show its naked thinking. On the site of the viaducts there is a “View Cone Analysis” that veritably puts the towers and podia down on the ground for ya… “This is what WE want!”

    But, my kudos for the City for hosting the second ‘ideas’ competition. It is a healthy thing to air our opinions about. It builds the culture of the design professions to have that “piss or get off the pot” moment.

    Most of all, I am whole-heartedly grateful of the young designers that chose to wade into waters where their ‘ideas’ may not come off as well as one would hope. Yet, they will take their lumps with pride, and live to design in anoday—stronger for having stuck their necks and ideas out.

  • 2 Roger Kemble // Nov 28, 2011 at 3:41 am

  • 3 Roger Kemble // Nov 28, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Yunno when you look around the world and see what can be done . . .

    . . . you have to ask, what de-palpitated organism at thu hall chose the Busby to secretly do the viaduct thingie?

    Yes, Clr. Reimer, “Vancouver planning is broken”, and NO Lewis half-baked nineteenth century Krier would be worse!

    Go back to sleep!

  • 4 Roger Kemble // Nov 28, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Huh! Wrong link . . .

  • 5 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 28, 2011 at 6:51 am

    I should add that in San Francisco the Embarcadero viaducts came down in the early 1990’s with strong opposition. The structure had been damaged during the 1989 earthquake. The Mayor of the day gained the necessary state and federal support and a wonderful boulevard was created in its place. But, it cost the Mayor re-election.

    I was in Pioneer Square in Seattle yesterday, near the Alaskan Viaduct. That one too, I hear, is due to come down. It will transform old town and the waterfront by allowing better physical and visual connections.

    This notion of ‘traffic in the sky’ is an old modern planning paradigm. Whether it is the El in Chicago, the elevated ‘subway’ in Paris, the elevated line in Queens N.Y., or our own Skytrain and Millennium lines, all you have to do is look out the window from the car or train, or walk the site down below, and you will see blight. Yet, there are many that are okay with that.

    Terminal Avenue in Vancouver is a good local example. It is both a traffic conduit to the viaducts, and the corridor for the Expo Line.

    The cars started coming en masse in the 1970s. That much traffic kills places. Then Skytrain opened in 1986.

    We’ve had 25 years to look and see. The latest developments on Terminal are storage warehouses for the dwellers in the micro condos of the point towers beyond. A Starbucks has opened in the ‘going to work’ side of Terminal—I interview the baristas often. Place is dead by closing time at 7 p.m. or so. Nothing is going to change.

    However, there will be many who will be opposed to tearing down the viaducts, just as there has been strong support for building the Evergreen Line in the air, and between continuous chain link fencing on the ground in Port Moody.

    As many of the entries to the RE:connect competition amply demonstrate, it is not easy to get the urbanism right. A local culture has to evolve. To boot there is another model out there.

    We stayed in Lake Oswego, Oregon, this weekend. A place built on the Orange County paradigm.

    There was a Starbucks there too, just on the other side of the street. Except that the street was not made for walking, neither was the block the hotel stood in, or the neighbouring one for the strip mall & Starbucks. Getting there on foot meant finding your way to the edge of one superblock, waiting for the light to cross the river of a local street with six lanes, and then walking on the parking lot to get to the coffee shop.

    All of it less than 20 years old. All of it just fine for an entire segment of our population. We grew up in suburbs and we like it that way.

  • 6 Roger Kemble // Nov 28, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Lewis @ #1/#6 we know you are knowledgeable about everything under the Sun and in thu universe plus.

    We are sure San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago are very happy with their doings.

    They all represent modern that old tired whatever you evidently preach against.

    We creative qualified urban designers seek way beyond good old Leon and Quinlan.

    We can Goggle Earth too.

    Try not to bore me . . .

    The point is autochthonous, as FLW used to say, and indigenous.

    I wish for a design for the flats original and relevant to this time in Vancouver.

    My concerns: is Vancouver capable of such a feat?

  • 7 RoKeSca // Nov 28, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Time to fill-in False Creek?

  • 8 Roger Kemble // Nov 28, 2011 at 9:32 am

    . . . you are part of a larger group, a society, and that societies evolve emergently according to the circumstances that their time and place presents.

    Let that imagining be your new {West Coast} Dream” . . . on the flats.

  • 9 Kahlo // Nov 28, 2011 at 9:42 am

    @ Roger Kemble, guess you can’t help the nastiness. Have a civil conversation and debate, but save the condescending comments. YOU bore me.

  • 10 Roger Kemble // Nov 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Kahlo @ #9

    Is it Frida? I thought you died in 1954!

  • 11 A Dave // Nov 28, 2011 at 10:43 am

    “Mr. Meggs said some of the stakeholders in the area – landowners like Concord Pacific and Aquilini Developments – as well as neighbourhood groups need to get involved in the debate about the viaducts’ future.”

    Well, if the City Councilor who has been championing the removal of the viaducts doesn’t know what the Planning Department is doing (and who they are hiring to do it) behind closed doors, it’s probably gonna be kinda hard for the rest of us to be involved in the debate, other than in the ether of the blogs….

    But I guess we have no cause for “darkly suspicious” thoughts regarding the planning department’s process, seeing as they are so open, transparent, and have such a stellar record of public consultation? I mean, who in their right mind would go to the trouble and expense to set up an urban design competition, then hire private firms to create a parallel plan, and schedule the land-use hearing with the UD Panel BEFORE the competition was even judged?

    The end result may or may not be seen as beneficial, but the process, yet again, is suspect.

  • 12 Frank Ducote // Nov 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Roger – 6 out of 10 postings on a very important issue. Quite a record, even for you.

    Can one politely dare to ask you to try and not stifle the conversation for just a short while, so that the rest of us can learn from each other?

    Lewis – keep it up, my friend. Your views are always welcome, whether people agree with them or not. At least they are informed, well-meaning for our city, and open-ended for others to engage with. Drawing on precedents elsewhere is a perfectly valid thing to do, even if, as everyone knows, context matters.

    Finally, I also want to offer some kudos to planning and engineering staff as well as Council for opening up this ideas competition to permit anyone and everyone to share creative ideas.

  • 13 Bill Lee // Nov 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

    There has been a lot of archive postings of old photos here of the previous “Georgia Viaducts” that lead to Keefer Street on the eastern side. You can still see the sudden drop off where the old steel structure came to Main.
    Part of this is the fault of having the Lion’s Gate Bridge lead to the city and trucks and most people trying to get __Through__ the city to beyond.

    Cambie and Burrard bridges are/were not sufficient.
    And there was daily blockages of Hastings by freight train crossings.

    I know that Traffic still has the plans in their drawers to go along Venables-Williams Street (only 25 houses to expropriate) to link to the 401 freeway.

  • 14 Paul T. // Nov 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Since this seems to be taking the same course as the downtown separated bike lane trials, let me provide a glimpse of how this will all shake down.

    1. The city will place an innocuous planning statement on it’s website and then go completely quiet for a year. (at least) Any attempt to gain more information from the city about a time-line will run into a brick wall. No one will know anything. No one will be able to answer any questions.

    2. All of a sudden The Province will run a piece about the viaducts slated for demolition sometime in 2013. Public hearings to start within 4 weeks of the story being published.

    3. All Vision councillors will go on a retreat to Hollyhock so media and concerned residents will be stuck talking to engineers who can’t change the plans.

    4. Engineers will quietly begin laying explosive charges around the base of the viaducts about a week before the “public hearings.”

    5. Public hearings will begin, local residents will come fuming that they were not provided with notice. Geoff Meggs will stand up in council and claim the city did send out notice but miraculously all of those opposed were on the Canada Post do not deliver list. The whole time Andrea Reimer will be tweeting about the theatrics of concerned residents.

    6. Council will approve the plan at 11pm. The next morning at 8am, BOOM the explosives go off.

    This is what we can expect. Democracy in action.

  • 15 Kahlo // Nov 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    @ A Dave #11,

    The city needs to scope out the issue first, before it can come to the public. They’d need to understand the context and background, then present something to the public and get their feedback. You need to be able to answer public’s questions, which means you need to understand the issue from multiple angles beforehand. I’m cautiously optimistic and gonna wait and see what they come forward with.

  • 16 Higgins // Nov 28, 2011 at 11:41 am

    What Paul.T said #14.

    It’s all so predictable with this Vision gang. Planning Dept… hmmm, we don’t have, we have overpaid Toderian bureaucrats that like to hear themselves talk… a lot. Concord and Aquilini are foaming at the mouths for the land in question, and are so agitated, Meggs barely holds them in leash. “Down boys! Quiet, or we’ll scare the electorate!”
    Pathetic really. A racket visible from Neptun.
    Isn’t this what the voters wanted, or to be more precise the 20% of them?

  • 17 Roger Kemble // Nov 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Frank @ #13

    Frank I understand your dilemma. You have been an employee of the planning department for what, thirty years. You no doubt feel partially culpable for the disastrous performance of the planning department. As Clr. Riemer pointed out, “Vancouver’s planning process is broken”.

    It is time, as Lewis would say, for a new planning paradigm. Dredging up examples from another country at another time, Lewis would agree, is not appropriate for a self-respecting contemporary community.

    False Creek Flats. What a wonderful opportunity! Once the viaducts are removed, a new slate: an open opportunity to redefine ourselves as a city.

    May I suggest an approach to start the conversation? A living mix . . .

    1. Economic: Small-scale owner operated, import substituting manufacturing (i.e. haberdashery etc) and wealth creating opportunities: home office, home-work, live-work.
    2. Social: emulate False Creek south mix: coop, social subsidized, high end residential, affordable residential.
    3. Affordability:
    a. Circumvent off shore speculation.
    b. Ownership, Is it the best way to go?
    c. Is market rental better?

    4.Transportation: Prioritize,
    a. Walk.
    b. Cycle.
    d. Emissions free pedestrian scale TX.
    e. Goods and services.
    f. SOV.
    In that order.

    4. Aesthetic: the ambulatory experience determines the quality of public urban space, i.e. interconnected unique, varied public urban spaces with defined purposes: interstices, envelope, shadows, geometry of figure-ground space.
    5. Regulatory: As a long service planner do you agree? Based essentially on a 1940’s UK military model, planning regulations are unwieldy and redundant . . . vulnerable to pressure.
    6. Name the new community appropriately granting a modicum of local control so the community has control over its destiny.
    7. These priorities come way ahead of corporate architects working in private.

    Hope we can see eye to eye: if not, sorry. Better luck next time!

  • 18 Frank Ducote // Nov 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Roger – I don’t have any dilemmas for you to worry about but, for the record, I left the CoV in 2004 after 11 years. Over and out.

  • 19 Julia // Nov 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    We need to put jobs into that area that match the cost of the housing.

  • 20 tf // Nov 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I wish the viaducts had never been built but that ship has sailed.
    Now – I challenge every single one of you to WALK across the viaduct – both ways. Then tell me you want them torn down. I think you will want them to stay.
    With each new tower built we lose sight of the mountains and lose sight of the sea. We are going to be stuck on the sidewalk in Chinatown looking up at 17 story towers. Keeping the viaducts will help us retain a wide perspective on our world. Without an overall vision (that word has lost it’s real meaning), we’re worms on the ground.

  • 21 brilliant // Nov 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I wept salty tears when I read of the (gasp) 2 whole blocks that disappeared along with the Chow home in order to construct the viaducts

    Almost as many tears as were shed for the many homes as disappeared from thedowntown peninsula during the 50s and 60s.

  • 22 AnnetteF // Nov 29, 2011 at 9:39 am


    I have walked across the viaducts many times. While the views are indeed grand, the noise and the feeling of cars racing by me (even with a solid divider between us) makes it a truly unpleasant experience. I prefer to take the stairs beside Rogers arena to get into town.

    I truly hope they will tear them both down.

  • 23 MB // Nov 29, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Let’s stop the nattering and get back to ideas.

    The urban design potential regarding the viaducts alone is superficial without considering the land below them.

    And the land is considerable not just for the reasonably large area it covers, but for the fact it is largely publicly-owned. The land is not constrained to being a preordained high-rise condo giveaway to some developer. The public has every right to decide its potential.

    My preference is to have the viaducts removed. This doesn’t mean all the roads have to be removed. Accommodating the traffic can be accomplished on the surface via Pacific Blvd + Quebec + Pender + Hastings streets. Downtown has seen a minimum if 12% decrease in car traffic onto and off of the penninsula even while the residential population there has nearly doubled. If traffic remains a primary consideration, then transit and commercial vehicles need to be given priority.

    The viaducts are a monument to the untold damage last century-era traffic engineering and planning have done to our cities, and thank the god of your choice the freeway was stopped at Main Street rather than ramming through the Grandview Cut to the Trans Canada, or along the Burrard waterfront.

    The False Creek Flats were largely rich tidal marshland before the dominant society erupted here from its European roots and suddenly filled in half the creek. Half the project should be a remediation strategy to return a sizeable portion of the land back to this state, perhaps connecting a waterway to the pond outside of the Dr. San Yet Sun Classical Chinese Garden.

    I’d like to keep only one column from the expansive, overshadowing viaducts. Let it appear that it’s thrusting up from a small estauarine lake, and let it have a rack on top for an osprey or eagle nest. Let it speak to the tragic folly of the freeway madness that consumed North American cities for the past seven decades, and let it get covered in layers of seagull shit and erode slowly into the mud over the next seven.

    It seems almosy too easy to suggest the viaducts can be replaced with a reconfigured Pacific Blvd on the surface. The speed could be calmed, and a very generous median could accommodate triple rows of trees, perhaps a tram. The edges could be lined with low of mid-rise housing and continous street retail, all of which wouild benefit from the aforementioned park and water feature.

    Lewis, I think you are confusing a public transit amenity with publicly-funded infrastructure meant to serve the private car. And it seems intentional. That’s a pity.

    The SkyTrain guideway consumes only about 15% of the sky that the viaducts occupy, and its mass is perhaps 1/100th the mass of this remnant divided freeway. You’re comparing a possum to a pig.

    This doesn’t mean that local surface trams won’t work on Quebec + Pacific + Cordova in tandem with — and greatly benefitting from — the adjacent regional SkyTrain connection, all in the absence of the viaducts and with a new injection of parkland and a viable new community.

  • 24 Joseph Jones // Nov 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Such a rush to do so much in one decade under one administration, the Vision-NPA axis – and its one DoP. Whatever you call this process and goal, do not call it organic or sustainable.

    Without tides of capital sloshing at the shore, who would be looking now to take out expensive infrastructure that is nowhere near the end of its built life?

    All this to open up one more frontier for the conversion of existing public goods into fodder for the maw of the insatiable behemoth of build-it-all-fast-everywhere-even-if-no-human-bodies-will-actually-inhabit-it.

    Paul T #14, you are such a seer.

  • 25 Roger Kemble // Nov 29, 2011 at 11:04 am

    MB @ #23

    Let’s stop the nattering and get back to ideas.” Oh please let’s . . . read post 17

    My preference is to have the viaducts removed . . . Me too!

  • 26 Glissando Remmy // Nov 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    The Thought of The Day

    “It feels like a sauna forum in here!”

    @Paul.T #14, @Higgins #16, @Joseph Jones #24
    Like in Twitter.

    Burrard Bridge Pedestrian/BikeLane Options have been studied to the… rebar. Millions of $$$ later we have an ugly, barely used separated lane, that would make Bob the Builder to fire himself, and then die of shame.

    Hornby Bike Lane was never a Trial lane. Unless ‘trial’ means something else in the English language, something that I am not aware of.

    Casino or no Casino. Occupy or not Occupy. Viaducts or no no Viaducts.

    History of past events tells us that Vancouver is already on Rohypnol, the Date Drug.
    It’s been administered on Nov.19th.
    Dress warmly. Act casually. Smile.

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • 27 Craig Henschel // Nov 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Interesting conversation.

    I’m surprise that there is virtually no discussion about removing BOTH viaducts and keeping access up/down the escarpment at BOTH Dunsmuir and Georgia.

    This could be done without having to rework any traffic patterns outside the area.

    No need to wait until we are all dead.

    This option was submitted late to the reCONNECT competition, so it might not be seen by the City planners and Perkins+Will. The maximum possible new development is shown in orange. Obviously, if less building mass is desired, that is possible. The orange buildings are really just suggestions.

    The point of this submission is that BOTH viaducts can come down and create lots of new land, without affecting traffic and without taking 15 years to do it.

    See PDF (4Mb file):
    See Comments:

    This would involve:

    1) Tearing down BOTH viaducts.

    2) Replacing traffic capacity of BOTH viaducts with roads on the ground and ramps going up/down the escarpment.

    Georgia Street: Connect Georgia St to Pacific Blvd with a down ramp at a perpendicular intersection beside the hockey rink. Ramp could have same capacity as current viaduct or could add a lane going up (west) making the ramp 2-way and taking some of the traffic off of Dunsmuir ramp. Georgia St is 2-way downtown, so this would continue that. There could also be integrated walkways with BC Place Stadium and bike lanes. There’s quite a bit of width here.

    Dunsmuir Street: Connect a 2-way Pacific Blvd to Dunsmuir St with a one-way up ramp with two lanes for cars and one for bikes and pedestrians. Traffic would come from Quebec St or Main St, turn left at a normal intersection, travel west along a two-way Pacific Blvd, flow up a Dunsmuir St ramp, just before the hockey rink.

    Pacific Blvd: Make into a two-way Blvd. This would also help connect to the two-way portion of Pacific Blvd west of the mess of Cambie St Bridge off ramps and viaducts. Pacific Blvd would need some extra lanes, but would be comparable to other arterials in the city.

    Skytrain: Would be best to raise it. The above could be done leaving the Skytrain alone, but not nearly as nicely. Raising Skytrain would allow Pacific to run directly onto Prior St through normal intersections at Quebec and Main streets. It would also increase the land available for the park.

    This will free up lots of land for whatever use and/or profits the city wants. From Parks to high-rises. Anything.

    Over 4 Hectares of land can be created in the heart of one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world.

    Why waste valuable downtown land right beside Skytrain? Do we prefer urban sprawl and paving the Agricultural Land Reserve? Wouldn’t affordable housing be better than a kilometre of highway experience?

    This site is right in the middle of several important areas: Main Street, Chinatown, North East False Creek, North West False Creek, Downtown East Side, Yale Town, City Gate, False Creek Flats, Olympic Village, and Downtown Proper.

    This site can connect all of these areas with a walkable, bikable, drivable, inhabited community.

    Or we can keep a 2 minute highway driving experience.

    What are our values?

  • 28 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    …confusing a possum for a pig…

    Urban taxonomy—I love it MB. My point is that elevated anything, whether it serves the public good or not, screws up the floor plain for future generations. I think the difference is that you would accept Skytrain on Broadway, and I wouldn’t.

    We won the freeway fight but lost the war. The cars came anyway. We documented in one diagram the 94,000 vehicles per day that cross a narrow band of urban land barely 1/4 mile or 400 meters wide. Never mind that these are the most historic acres in our city, developing already in the pre-CPR era. You can see it here:

    Water-Powell, Cordova, Hastings and Union-Venables bear the brunt of the traffic that never got a waterfront viaduct. But, the first injury predates it by almost 40 years. The first lighting bolt dates to the 1920’s when the entire area was re-zoned for Industrial use. The cradle of our city, home to five vibrant residential districts, was simply zoned out.

    I’m reading the Bartholomew report to see a snapshot of where urban thinking was in Vancouver circa 1927-1929. This was the moment of the very inception of the Planning Commission that would become the Planning Department in the Post-WWII years. This was the moment of birth of the modern planning paradigm. You’re right. Planning for cars was all-consuming.

    While there was an acknowledgement that towers would bring congestion, there already was a strong opinion against a dispersive, low-rise, high density urbanism. The Dominion Building on Victory Square (1908) and the Marine Building (1930) bracket the era of the Bartholomew report.

    What the modern planning paradigm never got right was the effect of high volumes of traffic on the fronting sites. Just look at single family residential along any of our arterials and measure high volume impacts visually, and in terms of property values.

    The modern planning paradigm also got something else wrong. By concentrating all the muscle of the city’s urbanism in a Central Business District, that it would surround by a belt of lands re-zoned industrial, further unwanted consequences were ushered along.

    First, there would be no constellation of centres to distribute the wealth and share the load of the problem. By pointing every aspect of urban growth towards one site (held by one owner) inevitable imbalances would be perpetrated that we feel to this day. In fact, at a smaller scale, we are using this “centralized theory” every time we approve towers for neighbourhoods.

    The second loss was in the straight-forward disregard for the urbanism that can only be won overtime, through the continuous inhabitation of one place. I have in mind the historic quartiers once again. However, we are all well aware of the “Sudden Jerk” effect of spot rezoning today, for example, to be brought about by the new towers approved for Marpole.

  • 29 Dan Cooper // Nov 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I’m interested, perhaps encouraged, that at the “competition” website the Creekside Park extension (decades awaited so far, and I suspect to be awaited for decades more) is still shown at its originally planned size. I had the impression that the developers already had managed to get the city to give part of it to them.

    I will admit to being one of those who has dark suspicions about this entire viaducts question, since the city seems to cave in whenever the developers come knocking, claiming they just can’t get by on what they promised when the original agreements were made. The fact that the city did not laugh in their faces at the idea of giving up part of this parkland (or “reconfiguring” it), after letting the developers sit on it with a ridiculously low tax rate for decades, makes me angry.

    If there were an iron-clad guarantee that the viaducts would be replaced right away by parkland or some other purely public amenity, then I would be in favour of getting rid of them. But if there is any chance that it is just going to be sold off for one more set of condominiums – high rise, low rise, “affordable,” or whatever they choose to call them – or be left as an empty ruin most of the time except when it’s rented out a couple times every year for multiple times its supposed value, then I am against it.

  • 30 Craig Henschel // Nov 29, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Dan, you said:

    “If there were an iron-clad guarantee that the viaducts would be replaced right away by parkland or some other purely public amenity, then I would be in favour of getting rid of them. But if there is any chance that it is just going to be sold off for one more set of condominiums – high rise, low rise, “affordable,” or whatever they choose to call them – or be left as an empty ruin most of the time except when it’s rented out a couple times every year for multiple times its supposed value, then I am against it.”

    Two things:

    1) If you believe in things like recycling paper, reusing yogurt containers or reducing consumption generally, then not wasting 4 Hectares of usable land should be a no brainer.

    2) When people live downtown near work (or beside mass transit) instead of out in the suburbs, we all benefit with less traffic congestion, fewer greenhouse gasses, more vibrant communities etc.

    I think we should be relieved that the interests of environmentalists and developers are somewhat aligned.

    I did write “somewhat”.

  • 31 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 29, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Craig 27,

    I didn’t comment on entry #147 because I thought it was—to repeat from the top of this thread—“This is what WE want!” (i.e. the City). The entry shows 5 towers, maybe that’s $5 million in land-lift to the City. Maybe more. Without a working plan for urban intensification local governments have to practice urban ambush to raise cash.

    I didn’t click to see more than the posted image. It was drawn on CAD and is shown from high above the ground plane. This kind of abstraction is being had at a price. I believe it ushers in the last phase of modern planning, but I could be wrong.

    I have walked the Viaducts, at least the north one, and photographed from it. I agree that it is a very central location integral to our historical areas.

    But you have to be mad, or doing some research in urban design, or run out of gas, or got a flat on your bike, to walk there.

    Good urbanism is made of the other kind of stuff.

  • 32 Sean Antrim // Nov 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Weren’t we promised below-market housing and open spaces at the Olympic Village? We now have a fraction of the below market housing promised and a ‘ghost town’. On the upside, we do have a bunch of unsold, super-luxury condos. How are we going to make sure that we actually get the goods this time?

  • 33 Bobbie Bees // Nov 29, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    @ Lewis #31,
    Lewis, I quite often walk from my place in the West End over to Tinseltown. I’ve often walked from my place over to Home Depot on terminal.
    Waves on Pender and Main is a coffee shop that I travel to when i’m bored.
    It’s really not that far.
    Humans were made for walking, not shovelling fast food into the mouths while siting on their ever expanding butts doing nothing more than pressing either the brake or gas and turning a wheel for exercise.

  • 34 Craig Henschel // Nov 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Lewis, I very much agree with you about birds eye views of things. With CAD and even physical models, we can get the wrong idea about things.

    For instance, I really like #71, but probably only as seen from space.

    If you can use SketchUp, I can sent you the file and you can get an infinite number of on the street views.

    In #147, I included many views to show very specific things. As someone who has walked around down there, you know how difficult it is to see relationships from ground level, especially with those huge buildings, vast open spaces and the viaducts.

    My feeling is that on a planning examination of this scale, we should really try to focus on the large scale (somewhat boring) and not be fooled by cute drawings of street scenes with everyone drinking coffee, dogs playing with children and everyone smiling as if they just won the lottery.

    In order to have good street life, we need good streets.

    I hope that you’ll click on the #147 PDF to see what’s inside.

    As I posted before, once the viaducts are put back on the ground, we can do anything we want with the new land. I’ve only shown development which fits in with what is directly adjacent to it, so that the new development links everything together.

    Sean, good question. I suppose we just need to try again and pay a little more attention this time. But we shouldn’t decide not to do something because we might fail.

  • 35 voony // Nov 29, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Lewis, you seems very opinionated on what to do with the Viaducts area, why didn’t you have articulated your ideas in a submission?

    yes, I have seen your proposal in the Wild category, suggesting a Vaporetto to go from VCC clark to UBC…interesting (BTW, wasn’t it the same proposal which give birth to the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas? ) but not on the viaduct topic.

  • 36 ThinkOutsideABox // Nov 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Craig Henschel #27:

    Over 4 Hectares of land can be created in the heart of one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world.

    Fact check please. All my google searches are indicating Vancouver is not one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. Canada maybe at times.

    I thought I even heard Gregory Henriquez say something recently about how prices in Vancouver are still a huge bargain compared to other parts of the world.

  • 37 Craig Henschel // Nov 29, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Think, Sorry about that. I conflated “most expensive” with “least affordable”.

    For those who live and work here, it’s practically the same thing. Affordability links price with local incomes.

    The study also only looked at these countries: Australia, ­ Canada, ­ Ireland, ­ New Zealand, ­ United Kingdom, ­ United States, ­ China (Hong Kong).

    It’s from:

    7th Annual Demographia, International Housing Affordability Survey: 2011, Ratings for Metropolitan Markets

    “Hong Kong ranked as the least affordable major market (82nd), with a median multiple of 11.4. Sydney ranked second most unaffordable, at a Median Multiple of 9.6 (81st), having slipped behind last year’s most unaffordable market, Vancouver at 9.5 (which ranked 80th).”

  • 38 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Hi, Voony. I must turn in for the night. But, just enough time for one more. I will reply to you here, then address the others tomorrow.

    The Venetian in Vegas is a big FAKE— all private land, security guards, cameras and chlorine in the water. Will they let you row your own kayak in there? I doubt it. A canal-expression of the False Creek Flats history would be a bit messier than The Venitian–we have to let the rest in on the fact that duking it out is simply our way of showing respect for one another’s way of thinking.

    I did have an entry for the viaducts, though I played only a supporting role. Look around…

  • 39 voony // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:01 am

    ah #125 I guess Lewis…
    …But I see it retains the Dunsmuir viaduct?…
    (that is probably the reason why you didn’t want put your name on it)

    …Nevertheless you need to get rid of the Skytrain one to realize the idea

  • 40 Joe Just Joe // Nov 30, 2011 at 6:40 am

    I’m rooting for submisson #8. I’d love to see it win the people’s choice award. Kudos to the residents of Cedar Cottage.

  • 41 Roger Kemble // Nov 30, 2011 at 8:31 am

    . . . what they also found in the Charrette”. I was there!

    Lewis @ passim was a rehashed version of the Krier bros discarded plan for Luxembourg, Liechtenstein . . . . . .

    replete with inappropriate Lombardi Poplars Cllr. Krall dubbed, “an abandoned, eighteenth century mining village”.

    My input left me bewildered. Aw shit Lewis you screwed up a magnificent opportunity!

    Your Nanaimo tumbrel (charrette) had you do all the talking and strutting, and then a week later you showed up to do it to Nanaimo. And the mayor and council walked out after your insults.

    You’re lucky your admirers here have never worked with you (Frank D., listening?).

    Doing our little ride ‘round Mount Pleasant I realized, hey this guy has no ideas: just obsessions!

    SUNN, another predatory lunge at DTES: forty odd students misled, all comfortably numbed, not one allowed input. Check the link.

    What a fiasco: you put “charretting back a century. As for the viaduct thingies, Lewis, I take you with a pinch of salt!

    JJJ @ #40 Don’t root. None will see the light of day. That’s the nature of the beast.

  • 42 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Voony gets the the “door prize”—#125 indeed.

    I had ridden shot-gun on our Wild Card submission, so it was my decision to put the viaducts submission under one name. All we wanted was to get the “idea” some light of day and discussion.

    The real point, I think, is that the viaducts are “small potatoes” compared to the question of the False Creek Flats. Put another way, if we can get FCF right, the viaducts just fall into place. Or, if you would prefer, the viaducts are a distraction that will not get us to the fundamentals of good urbanism. Better get the principles right, then move in on the “mistakes of the past”.

    This notion that there are 2,000 jobs to be preserved on the Flats—so what? The jobs would be retained somewhere else in a more suburban site, while something new would take its place. We put 40,000 dwelling units at human-scale urbanism in a design that took barely one week of late-night drawing. Surely that would generate many times more jobs than 2,000.

    The entire edifice of modern planning paradigm is falling around us. There is the spectacle of these exaggerated gestures of it trying to hang on.

    So be it. However, in the final analysis we are moving on. Consider two options:

    (1) Hang on to what has been got wrong since the Bartholomew 1927 analysis (we can push that back to the 19th century if we looked at places like Vienna, Paris and London); or

    (2) We can dare to look at urbanism as a concrete and measurable whole. A comprehensive effort that breaks down the silos and builds a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

    History suggests a lot more of (1); then we get to (2).

  • 43 Roger Kemble // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Gall and hubris beats out sentient creativity . . .

    How sad!

  • 44 MB // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    @ Lewis 28: “I think the difference is that you would accept Skytrain on Broadway, and I wouldn’t.”

    I wouldn’t accept an elevated rail system of any kind on Broadway, which is another category altogethe. And it’s a matter of opinion whether a slow tram or a faster subway combined with improved (but slower) electric trolleys would provide the best service.

    Both are capable of stimulating human scaled urbanism, which is a function of planning decisions, not transit mode decisions.

  • 45 MB // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    @ Lewis 28: “We won the freeway fight but lost the war.”

    Not yet. The one thing that will overpower everything will be the much higher prices in fossil fuels expected to manifest themselves this decade. We’re well on our way now, because the affordable oil has already been exploited, now it’s deep sea, shale, arctic and tar sands.

    Consumers and businesses will make their own choices independent of corporate and political influence when their economic well being is threatened by higher energy costs.

    If we cannot make the decisions to live in compact communities and consume less voluntarily now, I am confident given the information at hand that such decisions will be forced on society.

    Three dollar per litre gasoline will make the viaducts (and the sheer astronomical rate of car dependency they represent) even less relevant in future.

  • 46 Dan Cooper // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    M. Henschel (currently #30) raises some points in regard to what I wrote above. I think M. Antrim (currently #32) fairly well says what I would have in response. I certainly would not argue that there should be housing downtown. I would, however, note that there is already lots of housing downtown, and more being built every day. There are construction cranes everywhere, it seems. Every time my son and I walk downtown, we compete to count more of them. I would argue that the viaducts land is NOT needed for more luxury condos, or even supposedly “affordable” ones (read: under $600,000 for a two bedroom) but for amenities for the people already being shoehorned in all around. There will always be private land for condos, no fear! If we were talking new co-ops or rental housing at income-dependent rates, I might think differently, but that would require funds that are certainly not available.

    And on another thread, I will say that one of those amenities we need is reasonably well-paying jobs that do not require a university degree. M. Villegas writes that building 40,000 new dwelling units in False Creek Flats will produce far more than the 2000 jobs that someone estimated would be lost. I would wonder though, how many of those new jobs will be “service” ones serving coffee and sweeping floors at minimum wage, and how that compares to what is there now. I have always been a strong believer in light industrial areas in urban cores, both so that people can have the decent paying jobs they provide without having to drive, or bus for hours, to some strip in the suburbs, and so that they don’t have to drive or bus (yeah, right!) to some strip in the suburbs to do things like getting their blinds repaired – as I was happily able to do recently right on West 7th Avenue. I suspect the light industrial there will also soon be taken over by the condos spreading like moss up from 2nd Ave and the Olympic Village.

  • 47 IanS // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    @MB #45,

    You write: “Three dollar per litre gasoline will make the viaducts (and the sheer astronomical rate of car dependency they represent) even less relevant in future.”

    Out of curiousity (and for the sake of discussion), would your prediction change if electric cars or something like that (say cold fusion cars) became economic to the point where they replaced cars using fossil fuel?

    IMO, you are correct in stating that the increasing cost of fossil fuel will eventually render cars using that fuel source obsolete, but there are other sources of energy to power cars.

  • 48 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Encouraging to hear your views opposing elevated transit on Bway, MB. Then…

    [slow tram or a faster subway combined with improved (but slower) electric trolleys] Both are capable of stimulating human scaled urbanism, which is a function of planning decisions, not transit mode decisions.

    I’m with you on connecting human-scaled urbanism with a public means of getting around. But, you lose me with the idea that planning and transit are somehow “separate” decisions. I see urbanism as one big pie. Everything is connected.

  • 49 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    @MB 45

    The manner in which “we lost the freeway fight” can best be felt standing in the 600 block E Cordova, the cottage block, and seeing and feeling the cars zoom by.

    When the freeway that wasn’t traffic was re-routed on Water-Powell, Cordova, Hastings, and Prior-Venables we lost the war.

  • 50 voony // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    I don’t read MB saying
    ” that planning and transit are somehow “separate” decisions.”
    What she says is that transit technology (mode) is primarily a transportation issue not a urbanism one…
    …a bit like using concrete or wood for a building is an architecture issue not an urbanism one.

  • 51 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I have always been a strong believer in light industrial areas in urban cores, both so that people can have the decent paying jobs they provide without having to drive, or bus for hours, to some strip in the suburbs, and so that they don’t have to drive or bus (yeah, right!) to some strip in the suburbs to do things like getting their blinds repaired – as I was happily able to do recently right on West 7th Avenue. I suspect the light industrial there will also soon be taken over by the condos spreading like moss up from 2nd Ave and the Olympic Village.

    Dan Cooper 46

    On the Fabula, I propose, we should adopt Jimmy Carter protocols and simply go by first names. ‘Lewis’ is just fine for me, Dan.

    From one of the entries that “dared” to propose to oust the 2000 jobs to the suburbs and build mixed use neighbourhoods:

    …participants in the new economy [will be] walking to work; working downstairs; around the corner; down the block or across the canal. Their life choices look for proximity of work, home, and services in bustling, vibrant, environmentally balanced, and socially rewarding high quality places.

    We’re not going to mount a credible critique of the modern planning paradigm if we assume its errors in the preamble to our vision. Modern planning segregates work place and residence. In the new economy those things can be much more dynamic.

  • 52 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    transit technology (mode) is primarily a transportation issue not an urbanism one…

    Explain that to me Voony. Let’s reference 19th century Greenwich Village. They built an Elevated train, then tore it down 30 years later to build (unless I am much mistaken) two subways.

    The problem is that the ‘El’ was just as bad for the ‘urbanism’ as the subways. I should look at a map, but I’m writing quickly from memory. The 8th Ave subway (I may have its place wrong—but it’s the one that cuts through the village like the Red Sea after Moses was done parting it)…. was cut and cover construction. And, the vast expanse of concrete, asphalt, and blight that results on the surface is very much a result of the mode choice.

    Unless we make decisions about the street design, the building types, the neighbourhood footprints, the transportation modes, etc., in a coordinated way we don’t get away from the silos of modern planning.

    It’s always about “the resulting quality of the urban space”. That’s the bottom line, and all the decision trees in the various areas of urban thinking feed into it. Or, the city we get is not the city we want.

    That would be my take on it.

  • 53 voony // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Lewis, I am afraid you have the thing in wrong order…
    it is because people had little (or a different) regard on urbansim that they choose to put the thing elevated…
    surrounding urbanism is not a consequence of it, but a cause of it…
    here like in some proposal with streetcar in the viaduct competition, or like in Toronto, you can see that any kind of urbanism can come with the streetcar…the same is true with the subway…

  • 54 Lewis N. Villegas // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    The chicken and the egg problem… Reptile lays a mutant egg and we get a chicken. Egg comes first.

    You can write en Francais, you know, we will follow you. The people that put up the El in Greenwich did have a “different” regard for the urbanism—a different paradigm. It was probably the initial stages of modernism in NYC, which of course came much sooner than here.

    From the link you provide:

    It is not without irony, that we can witness the Parisian streetcar leading to highrise neighborhood putting a dent in the widespread north american belief that there is a correlation between building form and transit form, namely streetcars as promoting low to mid rise development

    I don’t see the streetcar leading to the hi-rise in Paris or anywhere else.

    Mayor Adams from Portland, where I’ve done some urban design and have a little bit of behind-the-scenes-insight, was the one that said he could sell redevelopment along the tram lines with great ease. It’s not quite a “build it and they will come”. The important link between public investment and private investment. It is up to each jurisdiction to decide what shape the built form will take. Maybe Paris has caught Vancouver fever.

    I’ve just posted the Charrrette’s proposal for the Historic Quartiers. Two BRTs and one Streetcar. The latter in a radically different configuration than what the City is proposing.

    The points here are that:

    1. the transportation would take away commuter trips;

    2. return local streets to local function (in the so-called DTES); and

    3. transit implementation would be used to effect revitalization of Main and Hastings Streets, Chinatown and Japantown.

    That’s a local example of the silos breaking down, and transportation playing a key role in making the economic engine start running again.

    Qu’est-que vous pense?

  • 55 A Dave // Dec 1, 2011 at 1:25 am

    “The Parisian architects take in consideration the transit rider experience… when the North american will see transit mostly by its exterior impact, and eventually under this view, a streetcar will eventually be the more appealing form of it.

    Why such a cultural difference?

    …because maybe in Paris, the architects and urbanists use public transit.”

    Voony, this is an interesting thought, however, I often wonder after reading your posts that maybe, just maybe, the current Parisians are making a mess that they will regret 20-30 years out? Maybe, these days, they are just as beholden to developers and out to get rich with Tower Orientated Developments?

    While human-scaled design is perhaps not as contingent on transit mode as some suggest, our elevated Skytrain has produced precious few, if any, good examples that Parisians would be happy living in, although I’m sure they wouldn’t mind traveling through them on an elevated track any less than we would mind traveling past the parking lots of Joyce Station or Metrotown.

    Why are they blind to our 25-year-old bad example (if they have even studied it)? Or, as you put it, “why such a cultural difference?”

    Well, maybe it’s because the newspapers are vastly superior there, or they aren’t faced with cracking another in a long line of insufferable Canlit epics, or the locals across the aisle dress better and are far more promiscuous than they are here?

    In other words, maybe they aren’t staring vacantly out the window at monotonous parking lots and towers of pavement as they ride to and from work…

  • 56 Roger Kemble // Dec 1, 2011 at 4:46 am

    A Dave @ #55

    Why are they blind to our 25-year-old bad example (if they have even studied it)? Or, as you put it, “why such a cultural difference?”

    Tourists with stars in our eyes: that’s why!

    Once we wander from the conventional our ideals waver.

    Voony, knows his Paris. But Paris comprises semi-autonomous banlieues and arrondissements which, even then, sometimes, erupt into fire-hot protestations.

    As tourists. Voony excluded, we acquire an idealistic vision of our favourites.

    Why? Because we concentrate on superficial appearances, the end results, rather than the process of which of which they are the result.

    Gran Buenos Aires, le Paris de l’hémisphère du Sud is quite beautiful until you see El barrios: mismo El Monstruo.

    La Ciudad de Mexico: comprises semi-autonous barrios with their own ayuntamentos y Alcaldes: mostly banal repetition (Nezahualcoyotl, Chicoloapan) yet, sometimes quite beautiful (Coyoacan, Linda Vista) (Lewis says its okay to show off).

    Vancouver, dominantly, comprises bland suburbs: Cedar Cottage, Oakridge {yes, even the famous Douglas Park} Norquay: more of the same indiscriminate sprawl.

    When we address how decisions are made, how the outcome is financed, cui bono IMO a reformed decision-making process is more likely to produce a humane urban environment (see post 17) than eschatological personal opinions.

    Vancouver, with it’s dominant Walls and MacDonalds, has a long way to go!

  • 57 Roger Kemble // Dec 1, 2011 at 4:50 am

    PS I’m cool with 17 but I meant to refer to 18!

  • 58 Roger Kemble // Dec 1, 2011 at 6:06 am

    PPS This isn’t the first time I have noticed post numbering has been jiggi-mandered after posting.

    What gives?

  • 59 Roger Kemble // Dec 1, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Lewis @ # 55You can write en Francais, you know, we will follow you.

    Actually, Lewis, NO, most of us will not follow. It’s called being oleaginous and pretentious.

    Voony’s a native.

    Me, personally, I’m okay with “Voulez-vous jigga-jig mademoiselle?”: learnt from the Free-French airmen in WWll but most people here don’t go that far back!

    You can try Españole if you like: I’m okay with that. Other’s aren’t, though, and I suspect neither are you despite your Google tourism.

    Let’s stay with Vancouver colloquialisms and I’d be really happy if we could have some insightful commentary, on the planning process, “that no one dare call it’s name“, rather than speculative nitpicking over which we have no control!

    (Errrrrrr . . . ummmmmm . . . Frank: four . . . two to go!)

    Sad really sad!

  • 60 Lewis N. Villegas // Dec 1, 2011 at 10:03 am

    A Dave…. is describing what I mean by “catching Vancouver Fever”. And we are both wondering is the infection may not be catching on the other side of the Atlantic. The possible culprit? Well, how about the back room deals of spot-rezoning and land-lift profits to the Chateau du Ville?Will Monsieur le Marie stare cool hard Francs in the face, and say “Non”?

    Voony is careful to stay within the Arrondisments of 19th century Paris. The scene is less even outside of that. (BTW the built form of Haussmann took on two additional floors in the 1920’s with the advent of the elevator. Technology has always been the greatest accelerator of urban change).

    However, even if there is Vancouver Fever Contagion in Paris, the French were the ones that inherited the classical urbanism from their next door neighbours in Italy and ran with it. We have Montreal to suggest to us that there is an urbanist tradition in French culture, that even if it is under fire, has had a continuity that surpasses all the other western traditions.

    Making mistakes is part of the process building great cities. We can visit horrendous examples of modern urbanism blocks—well, maybe a mile and a half—from Piazza Navona, the longest continuously inhabited urban site in western urbanism according to some sources.

  • 61 Dan Cooper // Dec 1, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Lewis writes, “Modern planning segregates work place and residence. In the new economy those things can be much more dynamic.”

    Personally, I do not want to live above an auto-body and paint shop, or next to a truck depot, slaughtering plant, or rail yard. Nor do I think it would be best for children to grow up breathing fumes and playing among trucks as envisioned by people like Bob Williams in what to me sounds frankly like a dystopia where the urban poor are stuck even more firmly into polluted and otherwise unpleasant and unhealthy arrangements:

    “Residents of newly developed co-op and affordable housing units gather in the parks by the canals, as do workers from the area’s warehouses and railways. The air is aromatic, a strangely pleasant mix of diesel, fresh-cut grass, and roasting garlic from a nearby restaurant. The sounds are eclectic too: children’s laughter, rumbling freight cars, and music from a dorm-room stereo.”

    ( )

    Diesel fumes for the playing children from the low-income housing? Scary!

    Some kinds of business can and/or need to be put right next to housing and to other non-industrial businesses. Others cannot, yet can and should be close enough to get to easily. To make this distinction is not to question the bases of modern planning. At least, not as described later in the same article by Christina DeMarco of Metro, who I think expresses the situation perfectly:

    “Viable cities need industrial land to service area businesses and to provide for employment diversity, she argued. We don’t want to be a city of ‘shoeshiners and Starbucks baristas’ … ‘People live in these glass towers where they can’t even put bookshelves.” Part of the need of a dense core is having these storage places.’ … ‘DeMarco sees the Flats as the “refrigerator, storeroom, and repair room of the downtown’. And it’s this proximity that’s imperative.”

  • 62 Dan Cooper // Dec 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Hmph, as usual a correction: Obviously, Lewis was the one questioning “modern planning” as he defines it, not defending it. I should have written one line above something like, “To make this distinction is not to question the value of a new economy, but to recognize that such an economy cannot and should not uniformly occupy every metre of space within a city to the exclusion of other needs of residents and businesses, or of people’s health. As described later…”

  • 63 Frank Ducote // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Roger@59 – Well for once I fully agree with you. Lewis does have a certain drum that he keeps beating endlessly and it is getting rather tiresome, at least to my ears and eyes. The length of his missives doesn’t help matters either. It doesn’t represent views that I find anything other than romantic at best and at worst totally impractical.

    I mean this in the kindest possible way, but maybe the Prince Charles Foundation would be a better venue for your rather endless lecturing and hectoring, Lewis. A lot of people love or at least like this city which we, collectively and over generations, have built. You seem to find nothing but fault and wrongs everywhere you turn, except for the 19th century and earlier.

    BTW, to correct yet another factual error – yes, I have worked with Lewis, about 25 years ago or so. We had fun and did good work IMHO. Also sat on his architectural thesis committee. (I wish I didn’t have to correct false impressions about me on this blog, Roger.)

  • 64 Roger Kemble // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm


    I remember your encouraging remarks when us deniers were kicked out of the Emily Carr final City Plan meeting.

    When would that be? ’92+/-.


  • 65 Lewis N. Villegas // Dec 2, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Dan, I know Christina but I don’t know if she’s a Bulista. If the three of us were having coffee, I think we would find it pretty damn easy to get to consensus. Having said that, planners in the CoV (Christina’s former employer) have a habit of parroting statements about the value of industrial land in Vancouver. Hmp!

    Vooney has been good enough to chime into our posting. I don’t think there is any industrial lands left inside the historic arrondisments of Paris. You want industrial? Hop on a train!

    The second point that we would all agree about is that your characterization of fuel and fumes is not what I’m visioning as the mixed-use economy of the next 50 years. The new economy mixes store clerks with restaurant waiters; urban designers with film industry workers; drummers with voice-over-artists; PhDs with courier services… and I have only given a smattering of the PTA at my daughters inner city school.

    There is a vitality growing in our neighbourhoods that is not being reflected… not even a little bit… by—what one hopes—is the last phase of modern planning paradigm playing itself out.

  • 66 Lewis N. Villegas // Dec 2, 2011 at 12:33 am

    I have a great deal of respect for the Franks and Daves and Rons that have suffered working with me… I am eternally grateful, and genetically incapable of expressing it in any normal way.

    But, they put our clock up in Maillardville, some couple of years ago now. Have you seen that Mr. FD? In spite of it being lost in a sea of near-freeway, the damn thing holds its own.

    A pleasure to see. Cudos to our work on that site.

  • 67 voony // Dec 2, 2011 at 12:38 am

    A Dave says “I often wonder after reading your posts that maybe, just maybe, the current Parisians are making a mess that they will regret 20-30 years out? ”

    That is certainly possible, they have did in the past. the most recent example is Chatelet les Halles… incidentally one of the very rare project designed with lot of input community…most of the Paris we celebrate have been the product of “enlightened autocrats” imposed against the people…
    Some of the most recent examples are the Pompidou Museum and Le Louvre’s Pyramid…

    That said, I have walked as recently as September in the new district where high rise are planned, and what I have seen so far is relatively pleasing to my eye.

    You also said: “Well, maybe it’s because the newspapers are vastly superior there”

    you could have a point, at least in urbanism affairs…and Lewis is right too: it looks that more generally French take urbanism much more seriously than canadian here, and not only in the newspapers.

    I am not sure than in an french urbanism competition, entry like 19 could have got anywhere (kid work is always touching, but there is a place for it)…. the Jury here will have to toss a coin to choose between entry 125 (from Lewis) and 138. The later has been chosen because it was much more to read…so probably more thought in the idea isn’it?

    By the way, after explaining that the viaduct create a barrier, the jury -obviously stubborned against the viaducts-will also choose entry 71
    …after some here will explain that that kind of urbanism is a product of the Skytrain…
    like it or not: that is an urbanism form which got plebiscite not only by the local “urbanist” gotha of Vancouver (at least the one on the Jury) but also by the public (which for true could not have ventured much further than the site map…)

    To be fair to the jury, entries was not overall very impressive, but considering the jury values as expressed by their choice, it is not necessarily very surprising either.

  • 68 Roger Kemble // Dec 2, 2011 at 3:53 am

    There’s a lot of stuff to wade thru perusing re:connect’s programme and submissions. I have probably missed the best parts.

    I offer this as an alternative to self-serving gossipers.

    One issue has been clarified simply by looking over the graphics: there is no shortage of developable land, viaducts to flats, in Vancouver (a worthy discussion: another place, another time).

    Land use:
    Cui bono? Clearly not the neighbourhoods.

    The issue, rages currently under the name Occupy. The City derives its form out of how much debt load it can, or cannot, sustain: hence urban uniformity: Dubai to London to Howe Street.

    Design professionals are still, evidently, enamored of the orthogonal grid (viz re:connect entries passim). Yet the nature of urban spatial containment is enclosure.

    A well conceived urban design concept, especially raw land as here, eschews the grid favouring interconnected urban places each unique identifiable and purposeful. Nature never pursues a straight line. Why should we?

    Reconnecting FC with Burrard inlet is a good idea reintroduced by Bud Wood’s UBC class in the ‘70’s. Unless there is a massive cleanup in the creek and the inlet that is mighty undesirable!

    Mixed use, of course. Usage should be governed, only, by noise transmission, air quality, safety and mix at ground level. For traffic mix a Woonerf configuration.

    The western world has suffered an immense trauma: the FIRE economy.

    Raw logs, value/jobs, are hauled off to distant ports. Coal, that dirtiest of dirt. accrue minimum jobs and occupy productive farm lands. Wild salmon, an internationally sort after delicacy is, (intentionally, evidently), being wiped out.

    The federal government is currently considering a NAFTA with many more cheap labour nations: bad news for Vancouver’s prospects. This will impact the use of the flats profoundly: i.e. more off-shore, speculator drive bad architecture.

    I see no appropriate response in the entries confirming Trevor Boddy’s observation. Vancouver Resort City, yet it offers potential tourism precious little different to the multitude of cities offering the same.

    There is much, much more to urban design than pretty pictures: indeed urban livability come from a well-conceived administrative process: re:connect misses that!

    Planning procedures, by-laws etc, have not been re-examined for decades. A 1940’s UK military format prevails. A contemporary format conceives of regulating the building shape, the building envelope, it’s volume and relationship to neighbours and spaces between.

    Usage, as above.

    I have always cherished the notion of incrementalized decision making: i.e. the city as recognizable semi-autonomous neighbourhoods.

    Vancouver planners’ ultimate concept of the neighborhood planning colloquial, Cityplan published, in 1992+/-, all neighbourhood input.

    Supposedly, the ideal public participation model of the early 1990’s, it’s final publication described the neighbourhoods’ requirements: from almost every area the unequivocal plea of neighbourhoods was local control. Needless to say it was ignored!

    Compounding problems:
    Comparing input from two current State of Vancouver blogs, as of Friday 0353 hrs winter shelter beds . . . (17), should bikes be banned . . . (152 and rising). Is there any doubt where Vancouver is heading?

    Re:connect will not be heard from again. Remember Formshift?

  • 69 Lewis N. Villegas // Dec 2, 2011 at 8:16 am

    With the jury selections announced last night, its safe to go public, I suppose.

    I draw your attention to the sketch at the top of the page. It shows the “alpha” and “omega” of local architecture it is true: the gable and hip roof structures. But, it’s purpose is a bit more ambitious than that.

    It also shows that sometimes canals can be more fun than big parks and open spaces. Those kayakers can row to Stanley Park and stop at Granville Island on the way home.

    But what the drawing is actually trying to represent is urban space. It is a rendering of the principle, “The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts.”

    We are not so much interested in the buildings—they are pedestrian enough that any architect will be reassured he/she can do better. We are interested in the urban fact that a combination of buildings, properly sorted out by rules that defy the ages, can create special places or “urban rooms”.

    Over to you Frank.

  • 70 Lewis N. Villegas // Dec 2, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Chatelet les Halles… incidentally one of the very rare project designed with lot of input community

    Les Halles is a facinating study in an urban site skidding out of control. Regional shopping mall and regional transport hub can’t combine to equal the social space created by the jumble of public markets and industrial sheds that (I believe) Haussmann razed to the ground—although it may have happened later than that.

    Public consultation is pointless unless there is something to “consult about”. People don’t bring to the room urban culture, and in most cases in our city it is very doubtful that “urbanism” is really what we are trying to achieve. The modern paradigm tries to invent everything anew. Therein lies the problem. We don’t have to be slaves to history (Academicism); but we cannot not know the past.

    What we need to understand is what it is that we are trying to get from the past.

    [To use entry numbers to get to the presentations referenced click on any competition entry, then type the new number into the end of the URL].

    #125 BTW is Ron Simpson with minor assistance on my part (essentially layout & submission). Ron and I use these competitions to do more than just talk about urbanism, something we are both very interested in.

    His notion of connecting Georgia and Carrall I thought was very good. I think it originated from his topographic model of the site that you have to click on the first panel of #134 to see.

    In my opinion, Georgia Street was intended as the “Great Street” of the Hamilton plan for the city.

    The same topo map shows Georgia occupying the “crown” of the downtown peninsula over the three blocks that start with the Bay and end with the Courthouse. Linking it to Carrall Street, the historic boundary between the 1870 Gastown platt and the old East Side, carries a significance that Mr. Hamilton might well have used of to his advantage.

  • 71 Lewis N. Villegas // Dec 2, 2011 at 9:31 am


    Oh, and connecting Georgia and Carrall provides a solution to the “urban problem” that haunts all the other entries, it haunts the competition blurb, and the Hamilton Plan. Namely— finding an adequate termination for the foot of Georgia Street on False Creek.

    A crescent or a curve achieves this in the most elegant and simplest of ways.

  • 72 MB // Dec 2, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    @ Lewis 48: “I’m with you on connecting human-scaled urbanism with a public means of getting around. But, you lose me with the idea that planning and transit are somehow “separate” decisions. I see urbanism as one big pie. Everything is connected.”

    @ Dave 55: “While human-scaled design is perhaps not as contingent on transit mode as some suggest, our elevated Skytrain has produced precious few, if any, good examples that Parisians would be happy living in …”

    In my experience urban design is not that well understood at the municipal level (depends on the city, its leaders and individual staff) or within neighbourhoods, and therein developers have a lot of influence to increase density on as little land as possible, notably in reaction to the housing demand nearest to decent transit. Ergo towers.

    SkyTrain has unfortunately been associated with adjacent mundane or ugly towers built in clusters. But your connected absolutism, Lewis,
    leads you to conclude that SkyTrain = inhuman towers, trams = human urbanism.

    With a little more wisdom, cities can change this to a more human urban form with or without making the stiff distiction between SkyTrain or trams.

    London has hundreds of square km of often beautiful three-storey terrace houses and low/mid rise developments in vast swaths of walkable and interconnected neighbourhoods generously sprinkled with Underground stations serving no less than 11 lines and several Overgound and national rail stations. The Underground is ideally complemented by thousands of the ubiquitous red double decker buses on pratically every major and intermediate road.

    There is very little wasted land in London, and despite the density, it remains marvelously rich at the human scale. Sure, there are unfortunate intrusions with 60s tower blocks, but overall, these are not as dominant as the rest.

    The SkyTrain guideway is contained largely within rail and utility corridors, of which there are none on Broadway. Therefore, underground is where it should go due to its relatively high speed, driverless operation and regional service links. I suggest that urban design reflecting the tried and true London experience can be implemented within 1 km of an underground Broadway Line coupled with an improved trolley bus service.

    Dave, oil represents one unfortunate reality: It contains so much energy per unit and was so easily and cheaply exploited in the early days (bubblin’ crude and all that) that it was built up over the decades as the world’s number one dependency.

    There are about 22 million cars in Canada, the vast majority run on petroleum. Car dependency was married to oil dependency after WWII, and no one cared then or even now to look at the long term economic impact of depletion of this finite resource.

    Moving one human being in a car consumes a tremendous amount of energy compared to almost every other mode of transport except flight. The trouble is, there are no substitutes for oil that add up — even collectively — to the amount of energy currently consumed by all our cars, let alone other vehicles.

    You suggested electric cars could be an answer, but how many Site C dams have to be built to supplant liquid fossil fuels tom power them? I read once (sorry, lost the source) that Site C will only return the equivalent power that we have consumed by powering standby switches and battery chargers for small electronics over the last decade.

    You would have to develop practically every tital, wind, hydroelectric, nuclear and geothermal source of power to keep our cars running, or else burn coal, which would be a climate disaster, let alone maintaining the huge levels of public infrastructure that props up our car culture.

    Something has to give, and many prognosticators say it will be cars themselves.

  • 73 MB // Dec 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Sorry, the electric car comment was in response to Ian S #47.

  • 74 A Dave // Dec 2, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    “With a little more wisdom, cities can change this to a more human urban form with or without making the stiff distiction between SkyTrain or trams.”

    MB, I agree with this statement, although the prevailing notion that towers=density=sustainable is clearly heavily entrenched now, even among our “environmentally conscious” council and local progressives. I personally think it is over simplistic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it conveniently ignores both triple bottom line and cradle-to-grave accounting for tower TOD. It may be politically expedient to subscribe to this logic (campaign donations), but it is lazy and shortsighted, and we will pay for it down the road (witness Ducote’s defence of the overbuilt, amenity-poor, obscenely-priced downtown he so proudly helped create).

    As Roger notes, there is also plenty of developable land in addition to the FC flats, despite assertions to the contrary, including the Gastown waterfront and very underutilized “light industrial” zone between Strathcona and Clarke. Deliberately keeping these off the public radar for the foreseeable future serves the Rennies and condo developers of the world, but is hardly in the public interest. The fact remains, we could land 100,000 more people in these areas by 2040 without ever building another tower. Think of the possibilities!

    As for Skytrain, as one who does not own a car and who transits frequently, I agree with you and Voony that my preference would be for Vancouver to have a good rapid transit network. While we started building light rail transit around the time Paris and London did, and were once a world leader in electric streetcar networks, they kept building their rail networks, whereas we eventually tore ours up. They also have the population to support it, and now have a century of infrastructure built that we don’t have.

    So, while I would prefer a well-developed rapid transit system as a user, I simply do not think it is a feasible or viable option for our region at this particular time. If, as you say, we are only a decade or so away from the collapse of car culture, then we damn well start building a light rail network to replace it NOW. The glacial pace of Skytrain development, and its overbearing cost, in this context, makes it a poor choice. If we can build at least 4x the amount of streetcar network in the same time and for the same price, it would seem to me to be a no-brainer.

  • 75 Roger Kemble // Dec 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm

  • 76 IanS // Dec 3, 2011 at 11:54 am

    @MB 72-73:

    To clarify, I wasn’t suggesting that electric cars were, or might be, the answer. I was suggesting that electric cars might be the result of the market forces you cite in #45.

  • 77 Lewis N. Villegas // Dec 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    “… connected absolutism, Lewis,
leads you to conclude that SkyTrain = inhuman towers, trams = human urbanism.”


    I love English culture, especially its distaste for theoretical thinking. Is it absolutist to point to the facts? Or is it exactly the other way around?

    Look at the Evergreen, MB. It’s going to be towers over there. Dave gives a pretty good account of why. The light bulb is not going on at the municipal level. We need to activate the grass roots. I’m hoping the community associations evolve into Local Planning Councils and get some clout.

    We agree that Skytrain is fine along utility corridors, rail yards and… well, what about the TGV running over pastures and farm fields? Subway on Broadway, same questions as Dave: Can we afford it? How long? And is it going to be another cut & cover fiasco?

    If adding road space creates usage, then taking it away should do the opposite. But can we take it away responsibly? We’ve just posted our Charrette transportation plan here:

    It shows BRT on Main (Chinatown Revitalization), LRT on Hastings (Historic Qaurtiers Revitalization), and streetcar on existing rail ROW around False Creek. Dave gets his street railway back on Powell Street (Japantown Revitalization) and Pacific Boulevard (re:connect told us it was under capacity).

    The plan doesn’t go as far as BWAY, but I think BWAY is a slam dunk. Build Broadway BRT next year; then re-implement it as LRT ASAP.

    The street section for that kind of staged implementation is in the previous post on our site. You and I have posted here about the issue of safety, and you have shared your family’s tragic experience in Calgary. I think this can work:

    The SUNN Historic Quartiers website itself is our first attempt to show what urban design and planning by Local Planning Councils could look like. It is urbanism properly defined, because it touches on all the issues that shape community. It wears many hats, and provides the space to form consensus. No silos there, just the need for more extensive participation. We were only able to ‘model’ participation with the SFU grad students who where fantastic.

    Early next year when we complete we’ll ask Frances to do a post on the website and, if she agrees, we’ll get feed right here on the Fabula. We’re writing a report that is going to Council, and that we hope to shop around in person to key players in the ‘hood.

  • 78 voony // Dec 5, 2011 at 12:19 am

    My turn to post a link on my blog : a take on the viaduct competition

  • 79 Roger Kemble // Dec 5, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Voony @ #79

    I wouldn’t get too worked up with Stephen Lee’s blog. Stephen is another control-ista who freaks out it you disagree with him.

    I incurred his wrath, big time, some weeks ago, by referencing the Bible.

    Now I’m no “Bible puncher” or “Fundi-freakoid”, hell no, but I happen to thinq some references to the Old Testament may have something to tell us.

    Referring to the great flood of Noah’s Ark fame I postulated that the flooding of the Black Sea might indicate some catastrophic weather pattern well before we were desecrating the atmosphere with our stinking gas-guzzlers.

    Stephen lost his trousers on that one (looks to me he hasn’t found them yet).

    I dunno, I wasn’t there but I do have some respect for non-Biblical scholarly, geologists who studied the area: it make sense!

    And now, shamefully, we are about to be regaled by the, surely worn-out, nostrums, shibboleths AGW, HCCC etc. that evidently Stephen fervently believes in and I don’t.

    If you cross him, watch your loins.

    IMO I would derive comfort if you TX experts were to put away your Excel recurring, perpetual motion spread sheets and find happiness in communities that do not provide homes in Coquitlam and jobs in Surrey.

  • 80 Norman // Dec 9, 2011 at 8:58 am

    What I would like is city planning. You know, like we used to have before we got into spot rezoning driven by developers? We all know who would benefit if the viaducts were torn down.

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