Architecture
February 20, 2019

Daily Scot: Is mandatory parking in the West End just a big expensive hole?

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?

Read more »

We all know them and they are popular in cities~those blocky apartment buildings often with retail on the main floor . They’ve been called “stumpies” or “five-over-one” (relating to the condo units above the ground level retail use) but the form and function are completely familiar. Maybe a bit too common.

Justin Fox in Bloomberg Businessweek  describes this building form this way:  “The number of floors and the presence of a podium varies; the key unifying element, it turns out, is under the skin. They’re almost always made of softwood two-by-fours, or “stick,” in construction parlance, that have been nailed together in frames like those in suburban tract houses.” Fox sees these buildings everywhere~while 187,000 housing units were built in buildings of 50 units or more in the United States last year,  half of those units appear to be in this blocky mid-rise form. The balloon or stick framing construction costs appear to be from 20 to 40 percent less than buildings with “concrete, steel or masonry.”

The building method can take advantage of cheaper casual labour , and construction lumber is plentiful.

Read more »
The Third Annual Bell Urban Forum

 

Vancouverism in a World of Cities

 

Nearly twenty years ago, ‘Vancouverism’ began to circulate as an internationally-recognized label for a distinctive set of practices of building, representing, and marketing the virtues of urban life. From planning, development, and architecture to cinema, transnational social movements, and increasingly cosmopolitan currents of migration, the Vancouver city-region has become a reference point for new configurations of density, diversity, and new relations between humans and the natural world.

At the same time, Vancouver has become the second or third most expensive housing market on the planet, and it’s all built on the unceded indigenous lands and communities that long predate British North America and Canada. Vancouver provides a unique vantage point from which to view the transformations of space and time — of past, present, and future — in an urban world.

Where have concepts of Vancouverism traveled? How have the images and narratives of Vancouverism evolved? How have these trends co-evolved with changes in the material lived realities of society and nature in the Vancouver region?

Read more »

We really should pay more attention to local government in Seattle; they’re dealing with so many of the same issues.  And they have a city council structure which many would advocate for us as a replacement for our ten-member council (plus mayor), all elected at large.

The Council consists of nine members serving four-year terms, seven of which are elected by electoral districts and two of which are elected in citywide at-large positions; all elections are non-partisan.

It will surprise you not at all that their major issue is housing affordability, and that they too are struggling with the question of how much of the city should be rezoned for higher density – and whether neighbourhoods should be treated differently with respect to density and affordability.  Here’s the latest from the Seattle Times:

Some potential battle lines were drawn Friday as Seattle City Council members debated trimming a plan to allow denser construction in the hearts of 27 neighborhoods while imposing affordable-housing requirements on developers.

Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González, who represent the city at large, spoke out against attempts by certain district-based council members to reduce upzones proposed for some blocks of single-family houses. …

Read more »

Tom Durning picked up on news from the Valley:

I didn’t see this important meeting covered in the Vancouver-centric MSM nor much in the electronic media. Yet the mayors of the Fraser Valley had a meeting recently to discuss development out that way, ably reported by experienced Black Press reporter Matthew Claxton:

  • Read how Langley Township Mayor recognizes that widening Highway 1 is not the answer to transportation problems
  • See them discuss ride-sharing without resorting to the negativity from the slanted reporting by Mike Smyth

Unless there is a gangland killing in Surrey or Chilliwack, a major pile-up on Hwy 1 in Langley or a barn fire in Mission, these municipalities don’t get the coverage they deserve.

From the Langley Times:

The Urban Development Institute Fraser Valley hosted mayors and councillors from the Langleys, Abbotsford, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Chilliwack, and Mission for a discussion at the Langley Events Centre on Thursday. …

Every city in the valley is dealing with massive growth, with Mayor Pam Alexis of Mission noting her city was expected to double in size in the coming years. …

Abbotsford has about 1,600 housing units under construction, and 3,600 in the stream to being approved and built. …

On transportation, each community is wrestling with more traffic and expects even more issues in the future as density increases.

“Almost 70 per cent of Mission leaves every day,” noted Alexis.

Read more »

The Vancouver City Planning Commission (VCPC) has released it’s 2018 Emerging Milestones: a list of events, policies and decisions that it considers relevant in the shaping of Vancouver as a unique, urban settlement. Compiled by urban planners, architects, historians, and residents of Vancouver, these milestones are related to land-use or social, cultural, and economic events of the last year.

Read more »

In a city as fast-changing as Vancouver, at a time when a big downtown office-building boom is underway, what stays the same now seems even older and odder.  Like this:

 

Where Davie meets Burrard – one of a half dozen or so significant intersections on the peninsula.  Yet it feels blah, undefined, still a bit motordomy.  There’s no sense that three distinct neighbourhoods – the West End, Downtown South and the CBD – all meet here.   At this intersection, one corner is a garden, another a gas station, a third some ancient storefronts, and the fourth a 70s office tower that would be razed tomorrow if a development proposal was approved.

And developments are being approved.  Perhaps if they all proceed within a few years of each other, the new identity of this corner would be the most dramatic change on the peninsula in the next decade – insofar as our mental maps would have to be revised.   “Hey, this isn’t any ‘Davie and Burrard’ I remember.  This is all new.  This is big city.  What happened to the hospital?”

 

Read more »

The short-term closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle a few weeks ago was predicted to result in massive congestion, nicked-named ‘Viadoom’.

You can guess what actually didn’t happen.

From the Seattle Times:

The Alaskan Way Viaduct carried 90,000 cars a day before it was shut down. Where did they all go?

Since the closure of Highway 99 through Seattle on Jan. 11, commute times have been slightly above average — but have fallen far short of the most dire predictions. And fewer cars and trucks than normal have been traveling on the region’s other major highways.

There have been some bad commutes, and we’ll forgive you for knocking on wood before reading too much further. But about halfway through the longest highway closure in local history, Viadoom hasn’t been that doomy.

 

From City Commentary:

… this phenomenon of reduced demand is so common and well-documented that it is simply unremarkable. Whether it was Los Angeles closing a major section of freeway to replace overpasses, or Atlanta’s I-85 freeway collapse, or the I-35 bridge failure in Minneapolis, or the demolition of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway, we’ve seen that time and again when freeway capacity is abruptly reduced, traffic levels fall as well.

… in the next few weeks, keep an eye on Seattle: If the one of the nation’s most bustling cities can survive the loss of a freeway segment that carries a hundred thousand vehicles a day, its a strong sign that more modest changes to road systems really don’t have much impact on metropolitan prosperity.

 

Clark Williams-Derry at the Sightline Institute has been writing about this project for over a decade, arguing not only for viaduct removal but also that Seattle could actually thrive without a waterfront highway.

From Sightline:

Now, for these few weeks, we get to see what Seattle’s transportation system might have been like if we’d torn down the Viaduct and replaced it with nothing at all. And maybe, just maybe, that experience will offer at least one piece of evidence that Seattle without a waterfront highway could have been a lot more livable than so many of us thought it would be.

 

After the Viaduct removal, there will still be an eight-lane surface highway in addition to the four-lane tunnel as depicted above.  How long should we guess before there will be a movement to remove the highway?

 

 

 

Read more »