May 13, 2008

EcoDensity Revised

The Planning Department has posted its proposed revisions to the EcoDensity Charter, based on the feedback it received from the public hearings and City Council. 

You can read the new report to Council here.  The revised Charter is here.  And the revised actions are here.

The changes reflect the key themes heard:

 – EcoDensity must address affordability in a stronger and clearer way.

– Growth needs to be accompanied by amenities

– Existing policies, especially Community Visions, should be respected, not overridden.

– Each community’s individual character should be enhanced and our city of neighbourhoods reinforced.

– Ongoing consultation with communties is needed; the community voice is essential.

– Climate change is happening even faster than expected, and there is urgent need to be working toward a more sustainable future.


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Though I doubt there are too many people reading this blog who aren’t familiar with the Gateway Project, it’s nonetheless worth clicking on this video by SFU Communications grad Ryan Longoz – a nine-minute summary of what you need to know.


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From this summary, name the city:

The general consensus is that [X] is already quite an accommodating and engaging city – the trick now is to encourage development that builds on the city’s strengths (its grid, its cultural diversity, its human scale, its creative heart), tackles its weaknesses (public transport, urban sprawl, poor building design, lack of affordable housing) and protects its natural environment.

Find out here.

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Bravo to The Sun for stoking a discussion on the future of Burrard Bridge – Bridging the Repair Bill Gap.  Journalist Catherine Rolfsen found a range of opinon, from going ahead with the widening but trying to do it cheaper, to building a separate low-level bridge. 

I like that idea.  Build a passerelle, as the French call them, and as so many cities are doing

My current favourite: the Simone de Beauvoir Passerelle across the Seine:

Cost in 2006: 21 million Euros.  But there are so many bridges varying in size and cost, so many being done by great architects with cities vying to outdo each other that I’ll feature some in upcoming posts.   (Send in your nominations!) 

Some are icons for their city, like the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam.

According to the Wayfaring Travel Guide:

The 808 metre long bridge has a 139 metre-high asymmetrical pylon, earning the bridge its nickname of “The Swan” by locals because of its graceful posture over the water. The southern span of the bridge has a 89 metre long bascule bridge for ships that cannot pass under the bridge. The bascule bridge is the largest and heaviest in West Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world. The bridge was officially opened by Queen Beatrix on 6.09. 1996, having cost about 75 million Euros to construct.

It’s time to put together a task force to really explore the options and not lose a chance to build something truly great – and affordable.


UPDATE: Councillor Chow calls for False Creek pedestrian bridge. 

Derek Moscato’s column in The Province: It feels like we’re being taken for a ride ….

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Mark Hornell, loyal PT reader and Victoria city planner, responded to the post below that noted, according to the Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine, Vancouver is the “Best Walking City in Canada.”   

Oh, really? wonders Mark.

Here in Victoria we take some pride in the walkability of our city, where we have a 24 hour walk mode share of 17% of all trips based on the most recent household travel survey. Looking at 2006 census journey to work numbers, 16% walk to work in the CMA as a whole, with the number rising to 49% of folks living in the City’s central area.

Downtown Vancouver’s rate is probably higher than Victoria’s downtown, but I suspect that at the city and CMA levels, Victoria is more of a walking town than Vancouver.

Coincidentally, Vancouver’s Council will be receiving a report from the Engineers that answers that very question.  (You can see the report here.)

They’ve included charts which report that in 2006, about 40 percent of Downtown Vancouver residents walk to work – a very high rate, but not as good as Victoria’s Central Area, which measured close to half. 


For Vancouver City, only about 12 percent walked to work, compared to Victoria’s 17 percent:

 For Metro Vancouver, a pathetic 4 percent:


Better appeal that award to the Podiatrists, Mark.


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It’s the best-looking building on the Sea-to-Sky Highway:

Mind you, there’s not a lot of competition.

This is the Squamish Adventure Centre – essentially a tourist information booth scaled to its setting and appropriate for, truly, the world-class outdoor-recreation opportunities in this region.

The architect was Richard Iredale, and he combined his design vocabulary with the metaphor of an eagle’s wings.

The 9,500-square-foot structure naturally (and literally) has to meet a high standard of sustainability: locally sourced materials (in fact sap from the fir will continue to seep for up to four years), no use of chemicals in the water, much of which is retained rainfall, crushed basalt for the footings and no preloading to minimize impact on the wetlands.

Expect better landscaping when the highway turn-off is completed.  Which is, of course, the irony.  This is all part of a largely auto-dependent transportation system – as reflected in the advertising for development occurring in the corridor:

“Easy commutes.”  Until you get to Taylor Way and Marine in West Vancouver.  

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Vancouver has been awarded the distinction as 2008 “Best Walking City in Canada” by the Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine. …  Vancouver beat out Fredericton, NB (2nd place) and Nanaimo, BC (3rd place) for the award. 

A number of factors contributed to Vancouver being recognized.  The City’s natural beauty and extensive parks and greenway systems are world renowned and provide an excellent setting for a wide range of art, history, nature and architectural walks.  The establishment of 23 neighborhoods helped create local walkable communities.  The City’s infrastructure emphasizes and supports walkability through transportation corridors, parkland acquisition and local greenways. 

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Sun columnist Pete McMartin took on architect Richard Balfour’s gloomy view of the surburban future in his column this morning.  As usual, a spirited defense of the unsustainable, dripping with disdain.  But he makes an important point:

… suburbs aren’t adjuncts to urban cores, anymore: they have their own dynamics and interests to protect. And in a world of An Inconvenient Truth, the inconvenient truth about suburbs, at least in the Lower Mainland, is:

They not only constitute the majority of inhabited land, they will soon constitute the majority of the population. While Sam Sullivan’s vaunted (and much covered) EcoDensity initiative hopes to squeeze a measly 70,000 people inside city limits, suburbs south of the Fraser, the Tri-Cities area and Langley in the next 15 years will quietly outstrip Vancouver’s population growth by a factor of seven.

I had the chance to give my views in a ‘Mayor’s Lecture’ as SFU Surrey last year – now up as a Google video:

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In arguing against action on the Burrard Bridge, to make it safe for cyclists and pedestrians, The Sun has it exactly backwards.

Let’s just stick to fixing the railings on Burrard Bridge

There is no evidence that widening the sidewalks will increase the numbers cycling or walking, but it’s a sure bet that vehicular traffic will grow.

 If I were a Sun editorial writer, I wouldn’t take that bet.

In fact, the number of vehicles moving on the Downtown Peninsula has been dropping since the mid-1990s.  Cycling has been the fastest growing mode of travel.  And the Burrard Bridge would more than likely seen an explosion of cycling use if the route was separated and safe.

Resolving the Burrrard Bridge problem would simultaneously improve local air-quality, address climate change, reduce traffic congestion and promote public health.  And yet The Sun is arguing that no action should be taken – other than to review some old reports. 

At this time, on this planet, in this city, that is perverse. Read more »