“But what about parking?”

“There’s lots, don’t worry”.

At the Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2018, now in its 41st year.

By the way, the infamous “Birkenstock 500” has been modified. Instead of the aggressive, early-morning free-for-all race to the main stage to claim prized spots on the grass for blankets, there is now a lottery among early arrivals, thus spacing out the action in a more civilized fashion.

Read more »

Daily Durning found another Great Mistake to add to the list, from Streetsblog: 

Parking spaces are everywhere, but for some reason the perception persists that there’s “not enough parking.” And so cities require parking in new buildings and lavishly subsidize parking garages, without ever measuring how much parking exists or how much it’s used.

Now new research presents credible estimates of the total parking supply in several American cities for the first time. The report from Eric Scharnhorst at the Research Institute for Housing America, an arm of the Mortgage Bankers Association, provides city-level evidence of the nation’s massively overbuilt parking supply and the staggering cost to the public [PDF].

Scharnhorst states:

After decades of requiring parking for new construction, car storage has become the primary land use in many city areas.

In Seattle, one-third of the city’s parking supply is located in downtown garages.  … the parking occupancy rate downtown is 64 percent. …

Scharnhorst concludes that cities should change course, and that in places with excessive parking developers should “allocate capital to non-parking uses” — a.k.a. housing, commercial buildings, and, in general, the sorts of things that make cities habitable for people instead of cars.

Images: Research Institute for Housing America

Read more »

An irresistible article from The Guardian:

Too often, cities think they’re unique and repeat the blunders that others have made before them. Here are three of the worst ideas that keep getting recycled …

Build a big mall to ‘revitalise’ the city

The gigantic out-of-town complex Centro was the centrepiece of Oberhausen’s efforts to halt economic decline and turn the German city toward post-industrial success. …. As much of the retail and service activity in the city gravitated to the new mall, many mom-and-pop businesses downtown couldn’t stay afloat. The once-vibrant streets of the city centre were gradually taken over by discount stores, empty shop fronts and visible decay.

Bury’ cars to improve the downtown core

The “Five Star” development strategy of the city of Tampere involves adding new housing and jobs, a new tram system, and prioritising pedestrians and cyclists. In order to achieve this deluxe downtown experience, the city is building underground parking facilities and a tunnel to clear the roads of cars. A clear and effective concept, one might think.

But congestion in the city wasn’t even an issue before the city completed two costly Five Star projects: a 1,000-space parking garage, and a tunneled highway section. The effect has been to increase the number of cars the city centre can accommodate – and the number of cars has duly increased.

Build a highway on the waterfront

In 2015, despite lengthy community campaigns for tearing it down and plans for high-quality waterfront urbanist interventions, Toronto decided to keep the Gardiner Expressway in place, cutting the city’s waterfront off from the rest of its downtown. …

The Estonian capital of Tallinn has decided to invest in a brand-new downtown highway, in order to grant easier harbor access to trucks. In the process, it will pave over one of the city’s only seaside parks. As a kind of absurd flourish, the city has promised to build a shiny promenade and public space in the only narrow stretch of land that now remains between the sea and multiple lanes of traffic.

Full article here.

Read more »

From John Graham:

State Street in Santa Barbara

Yes, there are no people because it is raining—about enough to raise a shrug in Vancouver. But the real thing missing is parking. And in its place, fabulous street landscape and furniture. All parking is away in lots or under buildings or down side streets.

Read more »

From Bloomberg:

In Los Angeles, it’s perfectly legal to build a new apartment without a refrigerator, a balcony, or air conditioning. But you can’t build one without plenty of parking. In most cases, in fact, you have to build at least two spaces per unit — and no fudging with tandem or compact spaces. That makes housing much more expensive. Removing parking requirements would be one of the simplest ways to ease California’s housing crisis …
Angelenos tend to assume that if the law doesn’t require builders to provide at least a couple of spaces per dwelling, cars will be endlessly circling the block looking for spots on the street. But that’s not the case.
In 1999, the city created a natural experiment with the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, designed to encourage the transformation of vacant commercial buildings in the historic core into housing. Among other provisions, the ordinance exempted converted buildings from parking requirements. Developers couldn’t subtract parking, but they didn’t have to add it. “The law created a set of downtown buildings that faced the same market conditions as other properties — the same amenities, crime levels, and transit access — but that did not have minimum parking requirements,” writes UCLA planning professor Michael Manville in a study of the results. “The ARO therefore lets us compare what unregulated developers did with what they would have had to do if they were regulated.”
Manville estimates that between 1999 and 2008 developers created at least 6,900 new housing units in the exempted area, or more than three-quarters of those added in downtown L.A. …
What mattered, it turned out, was the flexibility the exemption provided. Some luxury buildings opted for more spots than required, upping the average, while one building provided no parking at all. Most important, the exemption allowed developers to rent parking off-site, sometimes in uncovered surface lots, instead of digging expensive garages. They met residents’ needs in ways city regulations would normally prohibit.
“Removing parking requirements doesn’t remove the problem (buyers might still want parking), but it does remove the one-size-fits-all solution,” Manville writes. “Developers can provide parking in the way they think is best, the same way they already provide pools, fitness centers and other amenities.” The result was “more housing with less parking, often in buildings and neighborhoods they had long ignored.”
The experiment worked in downtown. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t work throughout the city, especially if combined with another key ingredient in the downtown trial: eliminating free street parking. “When cities don’t give on-street spaces away for free, developers will provide — and drivers will pay for — spaces off-street,” writes Manville. Let the market work.

Read more »

Christopher Cheung has written a delightfully fun piece in the Tyee about his foray into the instagram world of people photographing~well, themselves. His office window is smack adjacent to a popular instagram location on the top of a Gastown parkade. These people all came to the top open deck of the parkade to photograph not the area, the view, but themselves. And that is where Christopher’s story begins.
“All visitors have a mobile phone or DSLR in hand. They aren’t there to photograph buildings; they are there to photograph themselves in front of buildings, dressed in a diversity of styles: preppy, street and vintage throwbacks. Most of it is for Instagram. The app has 800 million monthly users (and counting) sharing images from their lives, sharing creative content and connecting over hobbies. Celebrities, small businesses and global companies use it too. Aside from simple portrait photographers, there are other surprises. I’ve seen skateboarders record tricks on video. I’ve seen TV crews shoot fight scenes. I’ve seen teens set off a bomb of blue smoke for dramatic effect. And, strangest of all, I once saw four guys — all in black, puffy jackets — place a puppy in front of a Ferrari for photos.”
Since most of us would doubt that four duffle coated men would put a small white dog in front of a Ferrari and photograph it on the roofdeck of this rather derelict rooftop parking lot, Christopher provides the photo. Surprisingly even though his office window overlooks the parkade he is largely ignored by the instagrammers. It seems, just like in real life, when someone is in pursuit of a great photo of themselves outside distractions are superfluous. Even taking photos of the instagrammers taking photos was mostly ignored.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think to document these visitors earlier — especially the ones who set off the blue smoke bomb. But from then on, I was determined to capture all who came up to the rooftop to visit.”
And of course Christopher placed his photos of people taking photos on instagram at @lotspotting. He also has a fullsome discussion on the use of instagram in rediscovering these lost corners of the city, and revisits the magic of Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog in the candidness and reality lacking in the instagram staged photos.
“Urban windows are a curious thing. They are part of the voyeurism that is life in a city. Looking through them from the street or looking through one at the street stirs both isolation and intimacy. American artist Edward Hopper captures one such window in Nighthawks, which has become an iconic image of urban loneliness. The painting shows four figures in a downtown diner late at night. They are appear to be strangers, but are sharing a moment together. The perspective is from the outside looking in. Instagram isn’t so different from urban windows.”
Photos~Christopher Cheung

Read more »


Love or hate the idea of Uber, this little gem of a YouTube video clearly outlines what we often forget-we are using huge containers of steel to transport ourselves in and out of cities, and have grown accustomed to norms about motordom that are rather ridiculous.
Produced for Uber, this advertisement “Lets’ Unlock Cities” clearly shows how much space is taken up for the commuting, management, and parking of cars. The YouTube video is below.

As described in AdWeek  “The spot is based around research that Uber commissioned that said drivers in nine of Asia’s biggest cities are stuck in traffic jams for 52 minutes every day and spend a 26 more minutes looking for parking. Almost four in 10 car owners have considered ditching their car over the last year, the survey added.”
Uber sees their marketing opportunity in the trend to get rid of individual cars and has a new website, www.unlockingcities.com that contains their Asian city research.

Read more »

The CBC weighs in on the recent news that the Sears department stores are having a financial challenge and may be looking at how to rebrand and/or restructure. Dianne Buckner notes that the typical mall design incorporated two large anchor stores in a mall, with the concept that shoppers would support the anchors’ stores and then browse and support the smaller shops.
Consumer habits are changing and the CEO of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust which owns 300 mall type properties in Canada suggests that “secondary” malls are slowly expiring. The “primary”  “malls such as Toronto’s Eaton Centre, Calgary’s Chinook Centre or Vancouver’s Pacific Centre will always thrive, thanks to their size and location. But smaller, suburban malls won’t make it unless they reinvent themselves.”
As reported in Price Tags earlier this year, major mall holders including Ivanhoe Cambridge have been investigating building mixed use development around their shopping activities to reinforce their asset and to respond to the strong housing market.The massive, free parking lots that malls provide could be more profitable as mixed-use developments that also include offices and residences, along with regular retail.
As stated in Ms. Buchner’s article “A lot of those projects are right at the application stage and we’re going to see a building boom in mixed-use development at these shopping malls over the next five to 10 years.”  Similar to the marketing strategy employed by Starbucks, “experiential retail” built around a profoundly unique environment and experience will be the next level of  directed consumer shopping.
Examples such as “The Well” in Toronto include condos, a movie theater, a book store, restaurant and public spaces. “Market places” will provide a more European shopping experience with different retailers and food products all in one area.
Whether this will be enough to recharge retail with the changes in the way people are now purchasing products online remains to be seen. The repurposing of suburban malls as potential housing sites will provide some density to support local market retailing and provide some breathing room for continued commercial retail.

Read more »