The density debate goes sideways

It looks like the EcoDensity bashers in Vancouver are winning the war. They’ve changed the nature of the density debate, so that instead of talking about how to build more compact neighbourhoods with enhanced public transport in the name of sustainability, we are instead debating whether or not real estate developers are driving all of this.

The Globe and Mail’s Trevor Boddy rightly argues that the density dialogue needs to be reinvigorated. But how? The issue has become a political volleyball over the last year, to the detriment of those who are actually trying to address the issues of environment through urban planning.In my opinion, some folks who know better have thrown the issue off course in order to score easy political points against Vancouver’s ruling political class. And that’s a shame. Here’s what Boddy has to say.

Until the sour turn over the past few months, Vancouverites have been fans of increasing residential density for the best of all possible reasons: our city works better because of it; it has added value to our houses and apartments; and most of all, it makes for a green and healthy place to live.What a strange world if Vancouver derails its experiment with density in the very areas of the city that need it most, just as the rest of the planet has turned us into a verb, speaking of “Vancouverizing” their sprawl into compact urbanity.It is time to make the positive case for how density has made this a better city, and if carefully managed, will continue to do so. In the face of the culture of complaint that has arisen, there needs to be a clear declaration of how our city has improved through doing more with less.


1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Commuting, Environment, Neighbourhoods, Nimbies, Politics

One response to “The density debate goes sideways

  1. Jonathan Baker

    The Ecodensity policy is one catastrophic flop. Think of it. Vancouver has had massive increases in density in the past without divisive political battles. This could have continued if the Mayor, Council and Planners had at least given the illusion that they really intended to listen to communities. Instead with the finesse of proctologists they have told neighborhoods that they were going to have infill houses shoved up their back yards.

    When Kerrisdale was rezoned way back in the sixties, it was accepted. When Fairview slopes went from single family to multiple family, the property owners welcomed the change. Kitsilano was redeveloped. There were not to many protests about that. The public was delighted with the redevelopment of both sides of False Creek and when 5 million square feet of space was added to Coal Harbor the debate was about urban design issues but not about the merits of Density. Those were all areas ripe for development.

    EcoDensity was intentionally politicized and it has become an “Our City – not Their’s” battle. The City’s documentation is infantile. The Eco-Density Charter is like a children’s pop up book. The series of mind numbing, vague generalizations cobbled together in four pages is an embarrassment that has been sharply criticized by every neighborhood community organization.

    Few people suggest that Vancouver should not grow. How it will happen and how the infra structure is to be supplied causes a lot of concern.

    Density is one approach to the greening of the City. There are lots of other aspects to sustainability however. By coupling Ecology with Development the Council made itself look like lint in the Developer’s pockets.

    EcoDensity represents an out attack on very stable neighborhoods that are not ripe for redevelopment. The politicians, planners and their developer patrons are going to lose this battle.

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