April 9, 2013

"Density Boondoggles": Let's blame Vancouverism

A harsh critique of Vancouverism in Burgh Diaspora:

Is it density or migration? Venture capitalist Brad Feld weighs in: “The cities that have the most movement in and out of them are the most vibrant.”
The densest city in the world won’t be as vibrant as the city with the most talent churn. Yet planners and urbanists tout the former over the latter. We’ve reached the point of density for the sake of density. It is an end instead of a means to an end.
The art of the density boondoggle:
The following is the conversation held at every regional summit on Long Island:
Advocate: Let’s keep our young people from leaving! There’s a…brain drain!
Public: How do we stop it?
Developer: Build denser housing! Let’s make it…affordable! Walkable! Let’s make it…mixed-use sustainable smart growth…with a downtown, pedestrian-friendly feel.
Municipality: Development approved! …
There is a name for the Cult of Density. It now has its very own -ism. All hail Vancouverism:
Vancouverism is, at the root, a movement to go from low density, to higher density, to make Canadian and North American cities about people once again.

More here – including the too-frequent assumption that Vancouver allows densification for the young and affluent at the expense of the old and poor.  To argue that requires omitting the substantial housing investment made to ensure mixed communities.
Is it ever enough?  Nope.  But that’s not the same as:

Vancouverism is boutique urbanism, catering to a specific demographic at the exclusion of all others. People are either displaced or fall into the cracks. Bike lanes and food trucks trump the needs of seniors.

Embedded in the argument is also the assumption that not allowing densification would protect the vulnerable.   It’s all so much more complicated, dammit.

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