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'new' urbanism in a big-city context: vancouver

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
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#21
OfficialPlanner said:
Really? I could quote city politicans, neighbourhood associations, urbanities, columnists, even the former chief planner which has wrote in to City Council several times about tampering with the new Official Plan.

I don't think anyone is really happy with the current evolution of the city.
I guess it really depends on how you define "mess". I tend to equate that word with uncontrolled development, lack of regulation/oversight, etc. You are right in that there are many problems in Toronto and that a lot of people are unhappy with the planning process as it current exists (e.g.development approval by OMB instead of Council). I would hesitate to call it a "mess" though. The city is going through some challenging times but I would say it is more of a goverance/fiscal mess than a planning mess. Growth is occurring largely where it should - you can debate the architectural merits of individual projects until you're blue in the face, but currently the municipal government does not have the power to dictate aesthetics. Not surprisingly, the quality of "public" buildings being constructed far outweighs the quality of most private developments right now.
 
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#22
Tranplanner said:
I guess it really depends on how you define "mess". I tend to equate that word with uncontrolled development, lack of regulation/oversight, etc. You are right in that there are many problems in Toronto and that a lot of people are unhappy with the planning process as it current exists (e.g.development approval by OMB instead of Council). I would hesitate to call it a "mess" though. The city is going through some challenging times but I would say it is more of a goverance/fiscal mess than a planning mess. Growth is occurring largely where it should - you can debate the architectural merits of individual projects until you're blue in the face, but currently the municipal government does not have the power to dictate aesthetics. Not surprisingly, the quality of "public" buildings being constructed far outweighs the quality of most private developments right now.
Don't get me wrong. Toronto is a very beautiful city. It's just I'm very dissatisfied - along with many others in the city right now - about the majority of the new developments in the city and the lack of a real plan to improve the traffic mess or the overcrowding on the TTC resulting from these new developments.

For example, having minimum parking requirements instead of letting the market decide (and deter) parking in the downtown area, or allowing high-density suburban developments in areas not served by transit, but them limiting developments to a 3 to 5x FAR directly above a underused subway line.

I say it lacks a real plan because they're are endless plans on the book, but none of them is backed with real $$$. I don't care how good the plan is, if there is no money then it's redundant.

Ideally, development fees should help go towards funding Toronto's infastructure needs, but instead we see council dumping half a million here and there from development fees on Dumbass Square instead of towards the TTC and the road network. These are vital to the healty of the city - Dundas Square is not.

If you don't agree with any of my points, then I guess we'll just have to agree on disagreeing. Toronto wants to add a million new residents without building any major new roads and hopes the money for subways and light rail will just drop from the sky; It's not pratical. I'm sure you read the reports that due to the traffic mess, it's costing Toronto billions of dollars a year in gridlock. Bussiness are starting to flee for the suburbs due to this gridlock along with the unspoken promise of constant tax hikes.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
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#23
OfficialPlanner said:
Don't get me wrong. Toronto is a very beautiful city. It's just I'm very dissatisfied - along with many others in the city right now - about the majority of the new developments in the city and the lack of a real plan to improve the traffic mess or the overcrowding on the TTC resulting from these new developments.

For example, having minimum parking requirements instead of letting the market decide (and deter) parking in the downtown area, or allowing high-density suburban developments in areas not served by transit, but them limiting developments to a 3 to 5x FAR directly above a underused subway line.

I say it lacks a real plan because they're are endless plans on the book, but none of them is backed with real $$$. I don't care how good the plan is, if there is no money then it's redundant.

Ideally, development fees should help go towards funding Toronto's infastructure needs, but instead we see council dumping half a million here and there from development fees on Dumbass Square instead of towards the TTC and the road network. These are vital to the healty of the city - Dundas Square is not.

If you don't agree with any of my points, then I guess we'll just have to agree on disagreeing. Toronto wants to add a million new residents without building any major new roads and hopes the money for subways and light rail will just drop from the sky; It's not pratical. I'm sure you read the reports that due to the traffic mess, it's costing Toronto billions of dollars a year in gridlock. Bussiness are starting to flee for the suburbs due to this gridlock along with the unspoken promise of constant tax hikes.
Not disagreeing, but from the above I think it's fair to say that Toronto is in an "implementation" mess, not a "planning" mess. Do you know how frustrating it is as a planner here to be working on all these great projects and yet know in the back of your head that they will eventually be compromised due to lack of $$$, resources, or political will?

I think we made a big mistake by not revamping the Zoning By-Laws at the same time the new Official Plan was created. But to do so was far far beyond the resources of City staff at the time.
 
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#24
Not disagreeing, but from the above I think it's fair to say that Toronto is in an "implementation" mess, not a "planning" mess.
That's a very fair statement.

Do you know how frustrating it is as a planner here to be working on all these great projects and yet know in the back of your head that they will eventually be compromised due to lack of $$$, resources, or political will?
It's this reason alone which turned me off from having a planning career in the public sector. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to work on a project for months then have it thrown in the trash do to politics or some other BS. It happens far too often in Toronto.

I think we made a big mistake by not revamping the Zoning By-Laws at the same time the new Official Plan was created. But to do so was far far beyond the resources of City staff at the time.
That's probably why the OMB gets away with doing Toronto's planning now. I guess it's not so bad as they remove the politics and judge strictly on merit. ie Fort York Neighborhood and Minto.
 
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#25
christopher dewolf said:
another new waterfront park, which was still under construction when i took this photo (i shot it through a chain-link fence), has opened at the end of richards street.
great pix! FYI: the park mentioned here (George Wainborn Park) is featured in this month's Landscape Architecture magazine, which I just received today, the same day I first read this thread. Unfortunately, it is not available online, but please support the industry and buy a copy at your local newsstand.
 

Luca

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#27
Skyscrapers.....hmmmm

Overall, the photos show what looks liek a dense, diverse city.

However, I am a bit surprised by the enthusiasm for the very tall condos/skyscrapers.

Most people intersted in urban form would agree that cul-de-sacs and lollipos are a bad idea and that gated/non-connected communities pose problems, yes?. A skyscraper is exactly the same thing, only vertical isntead of horizontal. less sprawl, agreed, but also more weird convection effects, shadow and other issues. Indeed, the only way they can be bearable is if they are thin. But then, you waste the space you wanted to save. Rather than a dozen thin skyscrapes why not continuous 4-5-story townbhosues and apartment buildings? Aside for safety/firefighting considerations, the scale is much more human and you don't have to mandate pediments. To me, for a large modern high-density city, New York circa 1880s is about perfect as urban form. That or 18th century London urban garden squares. Quite dense AND green space AND gorgeous. If one is ideologically opposed to Palladian architecture on the grounds of aesthetic excellence, then why not go for Art Deco or even the sunnier strands of Bauhaus cubism?
 

jordanb

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#28
How is a skyscraper the same as a gated community? I've heard this argument before and I don't really buy it. If that were the case, then any building with locked lobbies and passageways is a gated community (which is to say, most of those 4-5 story buildings).

The problem in Vancouver is that the vast majority of the city is single-family sprawl. But now there is significant demand for more housing. The city has (very progressively) adopted a policy of dense inner-city growth in order to limit the amount of greenfield sprawl. But the amount of developable land is very small (just the abandoned industrial zones around the center).

The skyscrapers provide enough density to ensure that a large amount of new housing in the region is infill, and the podiums ensure that the new neighborhoods aren't just density sans urbanity, as it were. Sure, if they were designing a new city from scratch, this would be a less-than-optimal solution. But given the constraints that exist in Vancouver, it works very well.
 
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BKM

Cyburbian
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#29
Luca said:
If one is ideologically opposed to Palladian architecture on the grounds of aesthetic excellence, then why not go for Art Deco or even the sunnier strands of Bauhaus cubism?
How could one even be ideologically opposed to neoclassicism? :-o

(Just Kidding). As long as the neoclassicism uses quality materials and PROPORTIONS! (I like Art Deco, too, and I would not be opposed to seeing Tel Aviv circa 1935)
 

Luca

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#30
BKM said:
How could one even be ideologically opposed to neoclassicism? :)
:-c maybe, like, 99% of architects ?????

why? (reporting thigns I ahve actually heard/read) It is Eurocentric, it's pastiche, it's unoriginal, we can't afford it, no one can build those things anymore, the Nazis liked it so it must be evil, we can't jsut keep building edifices in the same way copying the past.

think Paternoster Square, think the riverside at Richmond.... I'd say neoclassical is almost "forbidden". Roll on 'glass canopy' Foster and his tacky little henchmen.
 

christopher dewolf

     
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#31
jordan has it -- in an ideal universe, cities would be more like paris and less like vancouver. but considering market demands and geographical constraints, i say that vancouver has done an exceptional job: combined two/three-storey podiums with extremely thin towers. it's worked, too: the streetlife in vancouver's downtown peninsula is just as consistently vibrant as in more established cities like montreal or toronto.
 
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