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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Absurd, yes – but also the consequence of unrealized good intentions. When South False Creek was being planned in the early 1970s, the expectation was that residents would rely more on transit – and hence provision for parking could be significantly reduced. (Indeed, a special levy was applied to fund a more frequent bus service.) But the absence of parking did not result in an absence of cars – and so collective parking lots were built afterwards to accommodate residents’ needs.
The question now, given that these garages are the most obvious development sites for accommodating additional density without affecting the original housing directly, is whether the current residents would be willing to do with less parking to reduce the cost of new housing.
No, not the Robson of the last two decades. More like the Robson that emerged in the late ’70s and ’80s, just after the completion of Robson Square, when it re-emerged as the pedestrian commuter street between the West End and the CBD.
Something similar is happening on Dunsmuir.
No, not the old Dunsmuir prior to the Olympics, when it was a one-way arterial with four lanes of fast-moving vehicles on synchronized signaling from the viaduct to Burrard. The Dunsmuir that emerged after the opening of the separated cycle track in 2010 is taking on a distinct character from block to block. It feels, even with all the traffic, as a predominantly pedestrian street and cycle arterial – quieter, safer, more eccentric.
It’s the preferred feeder for the ‘academic quarter’ – from BCIT at Seymour to VCC at Hamilton, with ESL colleges, the SFU complex and the Vancouver Film School populating the blocks to the north with thousands of students of no visible majority.
It has three SkyTrain stations blocks apart. There are corporate office buildings and civic institutions like the Queen E. There is a cathedral and the country’s most profitable mall. There are restaurants and bars, from Ramon joints to the Railway Club (back again!).
It is a street still creating an identity, with an even more energetic future to come (the Art Gallery at Cambie, the redevelopment of the post office at Homer, a connection to False Creek when the viaduct comes down). It will become even more Robson-like as the residents in the eastern towers and offices populate that end of the street, and more businesses open to serve them.
My favourite intersection is at Granville, anchored by the elegant old BC Electric showroom, now incorporated into The Hudson. The pacing of people, vehicles, bikes and buses is an urban gavotte, a choreographic rhythm of traffic signals. And with downtown’s biggest gym nearby, the people watching is pretty good too.
There is a lesson here. If a separated cycle track and the removal of a vehicle lane with parking was going to kill the economics of a street, Dunsmuir should be dead by now.
In particular, the St Regis Hotel, having lost its curbside access, should be suffering. That does not appear to be the case. Indeed, it can only profit more from the changes that are occurring as a consequence of the Dunsmuir cycle track.
In which case, the owner, a prominent businessman named Rob MacDonald – he who led the vilifying campaign against separated bike lanes, and even spent close to a million dollars backing the NPA in the fight – should perhaps offer a full-throated apology, or at least a recognition that the apocalyptic op-ed that he penned back in 2011 – “Downtown bike routes are a disaster” – was maybe a tad overstated.
And that Dunsmuir is turning out way better than anyone really expected. Thanks to a bike lane.
You just can’t make this stuff up. Mizrahi developments is preselling a twelve storey boutique apartment building in Ottawa with units going from $400,000 to $2 million dollars. Now you’d think they’d take a full-page out of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper to advertise the concierge, the lap pool, the entertainment suite (which includes a dining room and adjacent catering kitchen). But no-a full-page ad on April 8 proclaims first off-“Even Your Car Gets Special Treatment”.
“When You have groceries or other packages that need to be brought in from your car, the valet will help. Your car will also be parked for you in the underground garage, and retrieved for you when needed. There is also a washing bay in the garage, so your car can be cleaned for your next outing. This kind of hospitality is usually found in a five-star boutique hotel. To make it available in your home is all part of the philosophy at Mizrahi Developments. At 1451 Wellington West, you’re part of a redefinition of urban living in Ottawa”.
And in the newspaper link, Mizrahi provides no amenity for pedestrian foot traffic, but does address “garbage smell”. “If you ask Mizrahi about the traffic at his site’s intersection he will tell you he has considered it and has consequently designed his building so pedestrians will not be affected by smells from trash left out on the sidewalk because there will be no garbage stored outside the building. ” No talk of benches, trees, semi-private spaces or softening of the ground plane.
And here’s the intro video provided by the developer. There are boats and a few bikers in the beauty shots but no walkers-and no winters. Does this define refined living in Ottawa?
According to The Richmond News (and thanks to Scot Bathgate for alerting Price Tags) there is a season of discontent with the clerks and part-time workers at the airport’s McArthurGlen designer outlet shopping mall. This mall has been doing a booming business at its pseudo European storefront facade mall, located about a one kilometer walk from the Templeton Canada Line Station.
The mall has a 2,000 space parking lot for its customers, but nowhere for employees to park free. Nearly 70 of the 600 employees have been parking their vehicles on a piece of airport owned land to the west of the mall. All was good until the airport announced that starting May 1 parking would be $4.00 for four hours on that piece of land. Since many of the part-time workers make the $10.85 minimum wage, that does represent a sizable chunk. There is another parking lot at the Templeton Canada line station but that cost is nearly $70.00 a month.
Now of course some Price Tags readers will think it seems strange that employees expected to park for free, or that the fact there was no employee parking was not mentioned in the interviews. But as the Richmond News found out, some employees came to work at the airport mall because it was “closer to her Richmond home” and “I came here to cut down on transit costs. Lots of other malls have designated parking for staff.”
In Metrotown there is a parking for employees as well as at the Tsawwassen Mills mega mall. One manager noted that the McArthurGlen parking lot was never full and it was for appearances that employees were to park away from customers. “I used to work at Metrotown (in Burnaby) and it has parking for employees. Our parking lot here is very seldom full,” said the woman, who suggested not allowing staff to park alongside the customers was all about appearances.
There is of course the ability to take the Canada line to Bridgeport Station and connect to express buses across the region from that location. It is also Sea Island policy for everyone to pay for parking on the island. Should regional malls be providing parking for employees driving to work?