Art & Culture
November 14, 2019

Senakw Is Not a Gift

From the CBC:

“I really think this is a real gift to the city,” said Stewart. “Everything we can do to make this project be successful is at the top of my list.”

 

Be careful.  If Senakw, the Squamish Burrard Bridge project, is a gift to the city, other proponents will come bearing gifts for similar considerations.

From Expo 86 to the 2010 Olympics, the City has seen almost a dozen megaprojects appear on the skyline – developer-driven, comprehensively designed and built, beginning with Concord Pacific in the late eighties.  All through the nineties, megaprojects sprouted – from Coal Harbour to Collingwood Village to Fraser Lands.

They all had to meet standards for complete communities, based originally on what we had learned when the City created the South Shore of False Creek, followed by Granville Island.  If a developer came to the City with a megaproject proposal, they came with a plan that met the council-approved megaproject standards.

The City extracted huge wealth from the value it created through those zoning approvals.  Lots of parkland and seawall extensions, in addition to the basic infrastructure – pipes, cables and roads.  As well: social amenities and necessities – schools, community centres, child care as a priority; housing percents for families with children, for social equity. There were design standards: for cycling, for sustainability, for the arts.  And more.  That’s what we meant by ‘complete communities’ – and you can go walk around in the results.

Developers paid for all this through direct provision of the benefits, like a child-care centre, or through ‘contributions’ – those CACs you hear about without quite understanding how they work.

In the case of Senakw, it could be the other way around.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers (Vancouver’s first aboriginal relations manager) said Senakw will give future Vancouverites the chance to live in the city and it’s up to the city to respond to concerns about infrastructure and capacity.

Stewart say he is up to the challenge, including working with the park board, the school board and the province to ensure community services are available when the neighbourhood’s new residents arrive.

At 10- to 12,000 residents, there is no way Senakw could meet some of the established standards.  Concord Pacific had to provide 2.75 acres of park for every thousand residents.  Senakw would need more than twice the area of its entire 11-acre site.  While it’s not yet clear what Senakw will  provide, it isn’t obligated.  Nor is it yet clear (or even negotiated), but the City looks like it’s committing itself to providing significant amenities and necessities – accepting density and paying for impacts.

So if the development itself – the thousands of market rental apartments – is the gift, then why would the City not be open to receiving more gifts from other developers.  Yes, Senakw is unique given its status as a reserve, so developers wouldn’t expect the same deal.  They’d just expect the amenity bar to be lowered.

How the relationship develops and negotiations occur is what reconciliation is seriously about – a relationship based on mutual interests levered for maximum value. One of the values of the City is the building of complete communities.  Squamish would point to their own history for examples.  It shouldn’t be hard to come to a consensus.

Squamish has an interest in a successful development in every respect.  The city has to demonstrate respect.  Together, they’re negotiating our collective interests.

This is the reality of reconciliation.  It’s not about gifts, or reparations.  It’s about building the latest version of a complete community, together.

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Steve Nicholls, former Director of Planning for the District of West Vancouver, will speak on municipal planning and the development of West Vancouver when he served as Senior Planner and as Director of Planning, Lands and Permits from 1979 to 2009.

During this time, West Vancouver pioneered in forging advanced policies in community planning, area planning and density transfer, green belt and creek preservation, and waterfront and parks acquisition,

A look at West Vancouver as it was, as it is, and as it can be, from a planning perspective.

Wednesday, November 20

7:30 pm

Marine Room, West Vancouver Seniors Activity Centre.

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This aerial over Burnaby was taken last Thursday, flying out of YVR.

From Collingwood Village to Royal Oak, from Gilmore to SFU, this is how Burnaby stung its apartment districts along Skytrain.

It’s a half century of shaping development according to the Grand Bargain.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, planners and councils struck a compact with their citizens – the blue-collar workers who had achieved the Canadian Dream: a single-family house in a subdivision.  The deal: City Hall won’t rezone a blade of grass in your single-family zones.  But we will pile the density up in highrises, lots of them, clustered around where we expect rapid transit to come.

This is what that looks like. A Cordillera of Highsrises and a prairie of low-scale suburbia. Little in between.  Massive change for one, almost none for the other, and spot rezonings thereafter.

More here in The Grand Bargain, Illustrated.

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How do we improve the delivery of extraordinary public spaces in Vancouver? In what way can we approach the study of public life? How do we ensure inclusive placemaking?

With the City of Vancouver’s recent release of the Gehl Report on Public Space and Public in Downtown Vancouver and the upcoming Downtown Public Space Strategy (as part of Places for People Downtown) due in early 2020, the Urbanarium has invited a panel of urban planners and equity specialists to explore issues and opportunities around Vancouver’s public life including considerations for initiatives such as VIVA Vancouver and the soon to be launched Vancouver Plan.

Jay Pitter, author and placemaker whose practice mitigates growing divides in urban centres.

John Bela, Gehl Studio

Kelty McKinnon, Director / Principal, PFS Studio, Adjunct Professor, UBC

Derek Lee, Moderator

Thursday, November 21

6:30 to 8:30 pm

Robson Square

Register here

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Councillor Tony Vallente sends in this post from the City of North Vancouver, in anticipation of the new RapidBus service to Moodyville and through CNV.  Click title for helpful illustration  

As previously suggested in Dan Ross’s post More than Enough in Moodyville, a multi-year transformation is underway in the North Vancouver.  The arrival of the Marine Drive RapidBus delayed from Spring 2019 to early 2020 is very much underway.

A complete street is taking place on East 3rd Avenue in the City of North Vancouver, with space allocated for walking on sidewalks, a Mobility Lane, a dedicated bus lane (currently used as parking, all hail Shoup!), and a lane for cars.

A Mobility Lane is CNV lingo for a space that serves bikes, electric mobility devices, e-scooters, and probably other stuff we do not know will exist in the near future. (Councillors McIlroy and I passed a motion in July asking staff to prioritize segments of the City’s AAA cycling network as Mobility Lanes.)

The City of North Vancouver has been very diligent about attaining adequate space along the East 3rd corridor for years and that vision is now coming to fruition as the new Moodyville will be well served by RapidBus and also have space for alternate modes.

If the change in Moodyville to complete streets seems insufficient, look at Chesterfield at 3rd Street where a new development included a segment of off road. This is the new standard for bike routes in the City.  As more people use them with an increasingly diverse number of transportation devices, we can expect the outcry for a more complete transportation network to grow.

Transportation options in North Vancouver are beginning to be plentiful.

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Motordom 1.0 is the impact on cities of rail and streetcar technology – the DNA of Vancouver.  Motordom 2.0 is domination by the vehicle, and the design of post-war urban regions.  Motordom 3.0 is the reaction and the reshaping of cities to accommodate more transport choices, including walking and cycling – Vancouverism for transportation.

Motordom 4.0 is the era we are entering: transportation impacted by information technologies.  Ride-sharing and hailing, for instance.  Since transport and land-use are intimately connected, one affecting the other, we should expect that urban spaces will become contested spaces.

And sure enough …

… to deliver Amazon orders and countless others from businesses that sell over the internet, the very fabric of major urban areas around the world is being transformed. And New York City, where more than 1.5 million packages are delivered daily, shows the impact that this push for convenience is having on gridlock, roadway safety and pollution. …

The immense changes in New York have been driven by tech giants, other private businesses and, increasingly, by independent couriers, often without the city’s involvement, oversight or even its awareness …  And it could be just the beginning. Just 10 percent of all retail transactions in the United States during the first quarter of 2019 were made online, up from 4 percent a decade ago, according to the Census Bureau. …

“In this period of tremendous growth in the city’s population, jobs, tourism and e-commerce, our congested streets are seeing ever more trucks,” said Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner. “The city is experimenting with enforcement and creative curb management initiatives to address this growing challenge.” …

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Adam Fitch commented on the post below, expressing doubt that we’ll end with a Haussmann-style boulevard on Broadway:

What is more likely to happen is that the areas immediately around the stations will be quickly redeveloped with clusters of 30-40 storey condo towers with a bit of chain and big box commercial at the ground level, ala Marine Gateway and Lower Cambie Village.

Perhaps something like what is emerging on West Davie in the West End:

Your basic Vancouverism – the style that transformed Downtown South in the 1990s: streetfront podium accommodating commercial uses, with separated towers above.

The model is essentially the high-density version of the ‘Grand Bargain’ – low-rise residential and slow-growth on the interior blocks, with a high-density buffer along the arterials (with the unstated class distinction that goes with it).  It’s a choice more likely to emerge from the Broadway planning process than a more simplistic consolidation of density in a few blocks around less than half a dozen station areas.

Irony alert: At the moment, a building-height-to-street-width ratio that might make sense on Broadway at roughly 100 in width feels more crowded and canyon-like on a street of 66 feet, even though the three-storey podium that creates the streetwall alleviates the impact of the towers.

It’s a variation on the development scale that has been allowed in the West End since the 1950s, evident elsewhere on Davie.

Or maybe it doesn’t really matter much.  So long as there is animation, transparency, sunlight and rain protection along the sidewalk, the height becomes irrelevant once we get used to it.

 

 

 

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As noted below, the Expo Line, which opened in 1985, has transformed the corridor along which it runs, especially at many of its station areas.  In that same time, nothing much has happened along Central Broadway.  Some of the blocks between Granville and Broadway seem curiously untouched since the 1970s.

The blocks between Granville and Burrard have some of the widest sidewalks in the city – and some of the least active street life.

This block from Burrard to Cypress has never had street trees, for no apparent reason:

At six lanes, it feels more like an urban highway than a streetcar arterial.  This is Motordom 2.0 – a redesigning of the city for the car and truck.

Because of the width of the road at six lanes and the height of the buildings at one and two storeys, there is no sense of enclosure, no ‘village’ feeling.  The Broadway subway offers the chance for a complete reordering when the train comes through  – a case where higher heights and densities will actually give the street a more ‘European’ feeling.

A classic example is in central Paris, where the ratio was set by Baron Haussmann in a 1859 degree that determined the height of the buildings as a function of the width of the street:

Six lanes allows five storeys, plus mansard roof (and no doubt higher storeys than our nine to ten feet for residential).  Even without street trees, it works.

 

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You won’t likely find “The Grand Bargain” in a planning text, even though it explains in a phrase the de facto understanding that has shaped many of the places where Canadians live.

The bargain looks like this:

This is North York* between the Sheppard and Finch subway stations – a one-block-deep corridor of high-density mixed-use development on either side of Yonge Street.

Go another block further and there is a cliff-face drop in scale, where single-family suburbia begins under a canopy of street trees.

Post-war Toronto and its suburban cities decided to accommodate density (those concrete towers especially) where there was primarily commercial and industrial zoning.  With the opening of the Yonge Street subway in 1954, the station areas made ideal locations, especially where there was already a streetcar village.

To deal with community blowback at the sudden change in scale and alienating architecture, especially if the bulldozing of existing residential neighbourhoods might be required, planners and councils struck a compact: we won’t touch a blade of grass in your single-family zones.  Your status will be maintained.

Hence the Grand Bargain: high-rise density, low-scale suburbia, little in between.  Massive change for one, almost none for the other, and spot rezonings thereafter.

On the other side of the country, something similar was going in Burnaby.  In the fifties, the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board produced a vision – ‘cities in a sea of green‘ – and provided the guidelines to go with it, notably where to consider apartment zoning.  David Pereira details the evolution of Burnaby’s commitment to the regional vision and its apartment zones, renamed town centres, in the 1960s.

That bargain when built out looks like this:

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From Daily Scot:

Walking through Victoria’s Harris Green neighbourhood located just east of downtown, you witness first hand the city’s density boom as construction cranes and development-proposal boards proliferate. I noticed an intense cluster of projects around the Cook and Johnson Street corridors.

A new Bosa development on Pandora has condos built above an urban Save-On-Foods location, a new precedent for mix use in Victoria:

There is also preservation of heritage for two developments (Wellburns Market and The Wade)  which incorporate existing landmark structures with new apartment living.

 

Keep your eye on this area as Victoria pushes for more options to address the housing crisis.

 

 

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