WHY VANCOUVER’S ECO-DENSITY POLICY IS A FRAUD.By Jonathan Baker
Vancouver's Planner, Mayor and Council – the drum majors for the Development Industry are trying to persuade us that if we only let that Industry do their thing in single family neighbourhoods we will save the Pandas and spotted owls and all the glaciers will come galloping back.
Eco-Density is a copyrighted fraud.It is contrary to the GVRD's Livable Region Plan (LRP) and against common sense.
Environmental Preservation is a primary goal of the LRP which was in preparation for years and adopted in about 1996. One of the four major strategies to achieve this purpose is “to build complete communities.”
The central concept is to build a series of complete town centres. Vancouver is one of those centres. The other others are Coquitlam Town Centre, Downtown New Westminster, Langley Town Centre, Lonsdale (North Vancouver), Maple Ridge Town Centre, Metrotown (Burnaby), Richmond Town Centre and Surrey City Centre. Each of these town centres is expected to supply the housing diversity required so that people who wish to choose a particular housing type near to where they live have it available to them.
It was never a policy that people who want to live within the geographic boundaries of Vancouver ought to be immune from the law of supply and demand. To the contrary the strategy seeks to encourage people to live where they work so as to reduce commuting times. The Demand for housing was intended to be a function of jobs i.e. being able to live close to where you work.
An article by Trevor Boddy in the Vancouver Sun published on August 11, 2005 pointed out that the expansion of housing in Vancouver is at the expense of jobs. In this respect he says that it is becoming a “resort”. Much of the new housing demand results from the fact that people want to live here not to be close to work but because it is cool to do so. That is all very well but it turns the commuting policy on its head if people expect to live in Vancouver and work somewhere else.
Stephen Rees made the following comments about Boddy's article. Boddy's article is in quotes.
"...because of short sighted urban planning, downtown Vancouver may be becoming a fool's paradise. This is because people are coming to live and play here, but not to work.
Director of central area planning Larry Beasley confirmed in a recent interview that no new office tower has started construction or even been proposed for our downtown core in the new century. None. ..."
"According to condo and live-work tower developer Ian Gillespie, there is now a five to one ratio between the economic rate of return per square metre of new condominium apartment built in downtown Vancouver, versus a square metre of new office. ... I mentioned this five to one ratio to a May 26 symposium at New York's Institute of Urban Design, and the assembled developers, realtors, planners and architects could not name another city, anywhere, where the economic return from building condos so eclipses offices."
Boddy blames this on both land use policy - the lack of "dedicated office tower sites where business actually wants them - west of Granvillle" - and municipal taxes - businesses pay five times as much per square metre as residential compared to Toronto at 3.3 and Calgary at 2.7.
Boddy goes on to examine the impact on transportation - noting that the Skytrain plus RAV is essentially radial from downtown, "ridership projections for this latest line predict more people leaving downtown to work in Richmond than coming into the centre". He compares the peninsular of San Francisco (population 788,000) and Vancouver (580,000) "Nearly 900,000 people travel into downtown San Francisco daily, but only one third of this number enter our core (and our figures are essentially flat, growing at a mere one per cent annually ...)"
These comments are right. What the City needs to do is create more places to work in the down town core. Instead it is turning the city over to developers who are only to happy to buy land in single family neighbourhoods and build higher density housing thus eroding the required single family stock, and creating an imbalance in the commuting patterns.