Within the by-election’s campaign yak-o-sphere, large-scale re-zoning gets a lot of air time.  Here are two thoughts on the expected push-back.  Both point to a powerful hot button, and make me wonder what the candidates are up to. Perhaps re-zoning at large scale platform planks are simply trial balloons, leading to poll-by-poll analysis of the by-election vote to see where and how party support has changed.  And whether anyone will make the big plunge in 2018.
First is UBC Prof. Thomas Davidoff in a letter to City Council about the upcoming small Ryerson development proposal and the ensuing big debate. Hinthe’s in favour.  Along the way, he tackles the big political boogeyman — local residents fearful of reduced property values. As we all know, it is a long-standing tradition for neighbourhoods to be fearful of any change. It might chop potential capital gains.

DavidoffCertain groups protest that property values will be destroyed by the new development. I have seen no evidence in support of that claim. The new community centre and open space will be a positive amenity that will enhance property values. . . .
. . . The neighbors of Ryerson are in an extraordinarily good position to absorb any damage that hypothetically might be done to property values, as each of the single family neighbors is sitting on millions of dollars of housing wealth. (That housing wealth would be greatly enhanced if the entire neighbourhood were brought up to an urban density, rather than the antiquated suburban density that prevails in the neighbourhood due to current zoning.)

[Ed:  hopefully PT’s readers can see the full text of the letter.  It’s published on the GooglePlex of products, in Google Docs, and seems to be somewhat in the clear.]
Here’s another look at this issue, from none other than PT’s founder, Gordon Price, in November 2014.  The focus may have changed somewhat, from heritage home policies to large-scale high-density re-zoning. But the big question to aspiring public servants and their political parties remains the same:

It’s basically the same question with respect to affordability:
Are you willing to bring in any policy that would, by design or result, negatively affect existing property values?
Because if you’re not, how can you address affordability generally – that is, beyond targeted non-market projects or special programs for rental housing?  If existing values don’t fall, won’t all new housing be just as expensive as determined by the market if not by the higher costs of new development?
Since it comes down to voters, not abstract questions, will you tell the couple above that their loss of half a million justifies your interventions for the greater long-term good?  That they should be happy with the incredible increase they’ve seen on their house, not the relatively minor loss.
And if you can’t, why should the rest of us believe that you intend to do anything that would bring down values enough to make this city ‘affordable’?



  1. This is why I’m very glad they at least removed the threat of de-densification which was being proposed as a ‘stick’ to prevent demolition.
    Adding carrots to give people alternatives to be more creative with their land (maybe with a maximum FSR/Unit to cap ‘monster houses’ that aren’t multifamily) seems like a better option.
    Rezoning to allow more density (with further bonuses if you do keep) seems the best option of all to keep old AND allow new.

    1. I’ve never been especially bothered by very large homes.
      For one, they could be converted to multifamily post-planning reform without actually having to tear them down!

  2. The neighbours of Ryerson? Are there actually any full time residents left in that “neighbourhood”?

      1. Really, full time? Or just students here for a couple of years babysitting their dad’s real estate investment? The West Side has been so hollowed out I’m not inclined to give any credence to complaints about density. And those are protesting are probably only a few years from shuffling off their mortal coil and having their kids cashout their lottery ticket lot.

        1. Where does it say $6 million? Is that the ridiculous price a 33×120′ lot commands in Kerrisdale these days? Insanity.

        2. See Kerry Gold’s Saturday Globe piece. The numbers obviously apply to a very large Dunbar lot that sits among thousands of other unreachable lots. She too is obsessed with West Side real estate wealth. 98% of the population can’t relate and find these op-eds irrelevant to their own experience.

        3. Most people aren’t as short sighted as you think. Where do you think the people who used to buy those West Side lots ten years ago when they were under $1 million have gone? The doctors, lawyers etc? To the East Side, North Vancouver and South Surrey, thereby driving up prices there. Not to mention the fact they are all having to commute longer distances, likely by car.

  3. I’m baffled as to where this fear of densification causing property devaluation comes from. The more residential space you can cram onto your property, the more it’s worth. How is this not obvious?
    “Change the character of the neighborhood” I can understand. But depressing property prices? That one’s a mystery to me.

  4. I agree with Sean. What I hear from my neighbours in Arbutus Village – currently undergoing redevelopment, with more in the process for sites around us – is a visceral hatred for high rises. We live in a six storey building, and there are several such interspersed with two storey town houses. But the mall redevelopment is feared to be encouraging much taller buildings. And this is not about “view corridors” since the view of the mountains to the north is vanishing as the tree canopy grows. In all other directions we are already overshadowed by the bowl of higher ground.
    Density brings more people, more cars and more traffic. More demand for parking spaces, longer waits to cross the road, less probability of knowing the people in your neighbourhood. “Property values” is shorthand for all this – not necessarily a drop in the nominal dollar amount on the valuation.

    1. Yes, but density also brings transit, stores and services – which makes for a far more convenient living situation.

      1. It is usually a long wait for Transit – ask the people in Coquitlam and Port Moody how that worked for them. We no longer build the transit first, then the homes and businesses follow, which makes much more sense.

        1. Obviously that has to change. That is why Davidoff’s letter and op-eds and blogs like this one and yours, Stephen, are important because they get the message out about sustainable urbanism.

  5. Kerrisdale would make an interesting case study over time. Its historical red Clayburn brick buildings are still prominent, as is the still highly visible presence of the old Interurban corridor. East and West boulevards have a certain charming 19th Century scale that is exemplified by the open rail corridor they front onto.
    A tramway is planned for the Arbutus Corridor and that will no doubt cause development pressure, hopefully at appropriately restrained scales. Further, the potential for LRT on 41st Ave is quite large. When you think about it, the connection to UBC at one end and to Metrotown Station at the other (virtually a straight E-W line) would probably beg the question about extending it south and east over the river (parallel to the Alex Fraser bridge) to serve North Delta, Newton and possibly Langley City via Cloverdale.
    A tram intersecting with a medium or even high-capacity LRT line (likely dipped below 41st Ave in the historical town centre) would be very dynamic and could actually force the issue onto hitherto reluctant councils to allow decent and well-planned infill housing on the SDH lots of Dunbar and additional commercial / residential / office along the arterials in Cremeland.
    This will no doubt not be the last story on this issue.

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