By Scot Bathgate:
Vancouver has gone to great lengths to develop a vibrant pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown core with abundant transit options for commuters and residents alike. Those priorities have been so successful that the number of cars traveling into the downtown core is the same as it was in the 1960s. In addition, we see all around the city centre the removal of large parking structures once vital to accommodating the flood of single occupancy drivers commuting into the city are coming down.
With such a successful planning approach, why is the City sabotaging this ethos by continuing to demand private parking spaces for residential development in downtown Vancouver’s largest neighbourhood, the West End?
Those who have experienced the West End know first hand both its charm and the convenience of easily reached amenities that come with a high-density gridded community with a Walkscore in the high 90s, multiple bike lanes and ample transit.
However, the city’s continuing development boom, along with the release of the West End Community Plan means there is a flood of new high-rise residential towers in the works. And due to the City’s parking bylaws (parking bylaw 4.3.1) they all are coming with a flood of mandatory underground parking spaces. According to my scan of future and recently completed development and rezoning proposals, there are over 5,000 car park spots coming to one of the densest most walkable communities in North America.
And this is just for the proposals for the current year; there will be many more towers and parking coming to the West End, including the White Spot and Chevron sites on West Georgia Street. The city does allow for a reduction in car space allocation if spaces for carshare are provided but there is still an overwhelming number of private car park spaces being allocated to residents.
Beyond the potential impact of 5,000 new vehicles increasing traffic congestion in the West End, there are massive development costs associated with constructing multiple levels of underground parking. Some estimates place these at 30 percent.
Functional rental apartments with no vehicle parking spaces along Davie Street just west of Bute (dating from the 1930s to 1950s, a period before our current parking regulations were brought into effect) are being torn down, making way for new developments with mandatory parking. These new developments will have no choice but to pass on the added project cost of levels of mandatory underground parking.
Some cities such as Auckland are choosing to leave the decision of providing car parking for new developments up to developers or leaving it out all together. Of course this leads to a debate Gordon Price and I had a few months back: Can the developer market and sell an apartment unit in the city without a car-parking space?
I say yes, because the reduced cost to build the tower without mandatory underground parking results in a lower listing price in a city with many buyers desperate to get on the property ladder. Its all relative.
So, to developers, realtors and planners: What do you think the parking standard should be – or should there even be one?