Elizabeth Murphy: A sustainable future requires a new approach.

Opinion: Planning should provide for the needs of society, not just promote unlimited growth.

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There are many different ways in which the necessary urban growth can be accommodated. In order to achieve positive results that avoid negative impacts on the climate, affordability and viability, growth must be managed very carefully. This requires a holistic approach to planning that takes into account the local context of each neighborhood.

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Vancouver, however, continues arbitrary urban sprawl without a neighborhood context. The Vancouver Plan simply implements the previous Council’s initiatives without any meaningful planning process.

One of the “quick starts” on the Vancouver plan, due for public consultation on Nov. 2, is called Streamlining Rental Housing. This city-wide conversion of up to six storeys is for rent in all C2-zoned shopping areas and pre-approved point changes on arterial and off-arterial in single-family RS / RT zones. These can include several construction site collections of up to a whole block per. project, without restrictions on the number of projects in any area. This has no neighborhood context, no notification of affected residents or consideration of the accumulated impacts of other developments that may occur in these areas.

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For example, this redevelopment policy affects West Point Gray, but does not take into account the redevelopment of the 90-acre Jericho Land, which alone is proposed to increase West Point Gray’s current population by 250 percent. There are no plans to assess the impact on the neighborhood and infrastructure as a whole.

The city must first consider the broader consequences of growth. The council asked for more transparent data to recalibrate the housing targets, which are currently almost three times what can be justified by a census of around one percent per year. This critical work needed to guide the planning has not yet been completed.

Over a year ago, there were calls to pause and turn. Dr. Ann McAfee, and recently Larry Beasley, the former City of Vancouver co-director of planning, have said it’s time for cities to reconsider the future impacts of COVID-19, especially with the shift to at least part-time work from home and how it affects housing, office and transportation plans in the Greater Vancouver area. A sustainable future requires a new approach.

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Climate change: There is a need for environmental impact studies for incorporated carbon in all development and transport infrastructure. Embodied carbon includes all the supply chain’s impacts on the environment of resource harvesting, manufacturing, transportation, demolition, groundwater, landscaping, urban forestry, construction, services and energy consumption. The focus should be on the three Rs to reduce, reuse and reuse as much as possible, such as adaptive recycling of existing buildings. Planning should provide societal needs, not just promote unlimited growth. For example, an underground extension to the University of BC, which is not a regional priority now or possibly ever, is being used to justify huge tower developments at Jericho Lands, both of which would add significant built-in carbon.

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Affordable price: After a decade of record-breaking reorganization and development, Vancouver is one of the most insurmountable cities in the world. Spot shifts, land assemblies, displacement, speculation and land inflation are contributors. We have to do things differently. Most new large market rental projects are sold to real estate investment funds (REITs) with huge profits that inflate surrounding land values ​​and rents.

Level: Planning must consider what growth scale can be supported by existing facilities such as schools, town halls, parks, libraries, day care centers, utilities and services. Adding new development next to a school does not mean that the new residents will be able to get their children into the school, which often requires them to compete in a lottery. The school board makes this worse by closing local schools to housing construction. Without increased local school capacity, most parents have to commute their children across town to other schools regardless. The same with community center programs.

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Just adding more density does not make the neighborhoods complete or walkable. Although transit is close, busy parents often still drive their children to school and other programs just to fit into a tight schedule. Most households will still require at least one vehicle. Proposed removal of on-site parking minimum moves parking out on the street and removes options for charging electric cars on-site.

All neighborhoods are overwhelmed by intermittent random alterations without neighborhood-based planning or transparent accurate data.

To be a livable, affordable, and sustainable city, Vancouver must build to actual needs, on a scale and location appropriate to each neighborhood with meaningful community input, supported by affordable electric transit, facilities, and services. Pause and pivot is what needs to happen to deal with climate change and affordability now.

Elizabeth Murphy is a project manager in the private sector. She was a former property development officer in the City of Vancouver’s housing and real estate department and for BC Housing.


Letters to the editor are sent to sunletters@vancouversun.com. The editorial page editor is Hardip Johal, who can be contacted at hjohal@postmedia.com.

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