Vancouver is getting a bit of a run on the Planetizen blog these days. The latest contribution comes from Matthew Kahn, who was up here recently to speak on a panel sponsored by the Sauder School at UBC.
Kahn is a free-market economist, with a typically American skepticism about the role of planning. So he asks:
… when urban planners look at downtown Vancouver and its greeness and high land prices — who deserves credit for its high quality of life? Did good urban planning cause this success? If you think so, what is your evidence? What is the “counter-factual” here?
I view San Francisco and Vancouver to be almost “twins” — both look pretty great to me. Did urban planning have a larger impact on one of these cities than the other? In both cities, quality of life continues to act as a magnet for the skilled and this guarantees their tax base. Given that many footloose employers chase the skilled, new firms will cluster in these high quality of life cities and growth will continue .
In both SF and Vancouver, planning has been highly interventionist – more to maintain the status quo in the former, to direct growth in the latter. But Kahn’s questions are important: is ‘planning’ the reason for the succuss of these cities – and their failures?