Thursday, June 19, 2008

Workshop Last Night

I was impressed with the workshop we hosted with Smart Growth BC last night. I have never done a workshop with a graphic facilitator, and have to say that it adds a whole other dimension to see your thoughts turn into picture.

Avril Orloff, the artist, did a great job of capturing our ideas into a mind map. We hope to have the graphics posted to our website in the next week or so.

Smart Growth BC started the workshop by giving a presentation about building smart growth communities. They explained that the world is changing: oil prices, climate change, and our aging population. They then talked about how our communities changed from people-centric to car-centric after World War II. One interesting slide they presented was a walkability index of communities in Metro Vancouver.

The five most walkability communities are Vancouver, New Westminster, White Rock, City of North Vancouver, and Anmore. The five least walkability communities are Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Surrey, and City of Langley.

Smart Growth BC talked about the 10 principles of Smart Growth.

1. Mix land uses. Each neighbourhood has a mixture of homes, retail, business, and recreational opportunities.

2. Build well-designed compact neighbourhoods. Residents can choose to live, work, shop and play in close proximity. People can easily access daily activities, transit is viable, and local businesses are supported.

3. Provide a variety of transportation choices. Neighbourhoods are attractive and have safe infrastructure for walking, cycling and transit, in addition to driving.

4. Create diverse housing opportunities. People in different family types, life stages and income levels can afford a home in the neighbourhood of their choice.

5. Encourage growth in existing communities. Investments in infrastructure (such as roads and schools) are used efficiently, and developments do not take up new land.

6. Preserve open spaces, natural beauty, and environmentally sensitive areas. Development respects natural landscape features and has higher aesthetic, environmental, and financial value.

7. Protect and enhance agricultural lands. A secure and productive land base, such as BC's Agricultural Land Reserve, provides food security, employment, and habitat, and is maintained as an urban containment boundary.

8. Utilize smarter, and cheaper infrastructure and green buildings. Green buildings and other systems can save both money and the environment in the long run.

9. Foster a unique neighbourhood identity. Each community is unique, vibrant, diverse, and inclusive.

10. Nurture engaged citizens. Places belong to those who live, work, and play there. Engaged citizens participate in community life and decision-making.

You can read more about smart growth at Smart Growth BC’s website.

After their presentation was complete, people broken into groups and answered some questions. Some of the question and answers we received included:

What kinds of development and where should be focusing our future development?
-Build on a people scale
-Urban growth boundaries
-More wood construction – less steel & concrete
-Build in our old community centre
-User semi-used land like industrial and commercial better

How can we build communities that reduce our carbon footprint?
-No more than 10-story buildings
-Urban Villages
-Age in Place
-Live in compact downtown cores
-Build smaller house that use less energy

How do we build communities that focus on accessibility for all and not just mobility
-Restore interurban light rail, and use that to guide development
-Change from highway-oriented development to walkable development
-Clearly marked biking routes
-Traffic Calming, roads are too wide – too many parking lots

How can we handle a doubling of population with minimal impact on green space and ALR? land?
-Mixed-use, new residential development should have commercial space attached
-Infill development on existing commercial property

We then mapped our ideas, and then listened to some presentations about sustainable transportation and smart growth.

After those presentations were complete, we were asked to answer some more group discussion questions.

What kind of public transportation system would you like in the South Fraser?
-East/West and North/South public rail network
-Run from Chilliwack to Vancouver
-Grid-based, frequent, multi-modal transit network

What would it take for your to stop driving your car?
-Would have to live in a walkable community
-Make bike lanes and trails safe (clear distinction between bike lanes + car lanes.)
-Everything in close proximity
-Retrofit older neighbourhoods for transit

How do we build communities that support all modes of transportation?
-Change the culture
-Build transit first. “Build it and they will come.”
-Mixed land use
-Neighbourhoods need to be consulted!

How to we need to change our transportation system to provide accessibility to all?
-Frequency of transit is a big need.
-Provide accessible transit at-grade that will serve wheelchairs, strollers, bike, and low-mobility passengers
-More transit
-Strata transit U-Passes
-More creativity in transit funding

What transportation modes are underserved in the South Fraser?
-Everything expect cars!

This was a great event, and it is something that agencies like Translink and the Ministry of Transportation should be doing more of before declaring plans for our region.

We are planning on partnering with Smart Growth in the fall to work on a more focused interactive (Lego may be involved) workshop. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

benefitable post

Anonymous said...

The walkability index seems strange to me.

The top 8 municipalities don't have a square inch of ALR land among them, which makes me wonder how it was calculated.

But it was a great night!

Joe Zaccaria said...

I think the ALR comes into play, but there's no way you can walk in many places in the Township right now and get your daily needs. I think the only exception are those new village apartments behind Marketplace IGA in Walnut Grove and other similar developments. The litmus test I think is whether you can get a good amount of daily needs within a 5-10 minute walk. So, the City of Langley works that way for many people that live in the right corridor. I believe this is why we need more mixed use in the Township, as those daily needs stores can service the new density along places like 208th. Although the Township was smart to develop walking trails in these new communities, with connections between developments, we desperately need to see some small businesses in those areas!

Anonymous said...

Joe, I understand the concept of walkability, but it doesn't seem fishy that the top 8 most walkable communities don't have any ALR land among them?

Joe Zaccaria said...

As these calculations HAD to look at overall area within the municipality, the ALR would certainly strike a significant blow to communities like Langley as you say. Maybe we can change this with streetcars and the Interurban?

You have to also wonder how much weight is put to each amenity. For example, does a supermarket get more "points" than a park? There are obviously some subjective elements to the calculation. But we must get "credit" somehow for being the keepers of the ALR.

Nathan Pachal said...

Just for fun, what areas in both Langleys would you think of as walkable?

I'll go first: Downtown Langley, Fort Langley, Aldergrove, the area by the movie theatre by 200th.

Anonymous said...

All 4 of those. Some portions of Murrayville--for example, within a 5 minute walk for me is a library, IGA, 2 coffee shops, a school, a park, a farmgate butcher, the hospital and offices. Walnut Grove Drive, between the pool and park and the commercial area.

Good point about weighing walkability. And a newer coffee shop should probably be scored higher than a run down one. Crime stats need to also be included...

Joe Zaccaria said...

I would add the area surrounding the Township Hall. People in that area (66th, 68th & 203rd) routinely walk to Save-On, WalMart, area restaurants, sometimes COSTCO for small items, etc. I previously lived in Sunridge when it first opened on 68th, and that 203rd hill was not pedestrian-friendly before the road dedication. Those areas are connected by green spaces with walking/cycling trails and passageways between the various developments.

There's also the Fraser Hwy. & 208th neighbourhood around the Safeway, unless you lump that in with Downtown Langley City.

Nathan Pachal said...

I lump that in with Langley City. (Everything from 200th to 208th from the river up is pretty much walkable.) I'm within a 10 minute walk of Safeway and IGA, and 15min walk from Pricesmart. (Two of which I saw being built/renovated.) Luckly, we don't have run down amenities in either of the Langleys... (I'll admit there are some rundown residents in Langley City and Aldergrove, but that can be expected in older, working class communities.)

Anonymous said...

Good point about Willoughby, Joe. When we lived in Amberleigh we alked everywhere.

And we should add Langley Meadows--easy access to the mall and the rest of Willowbrook. Our first place as a married couple was an apartment in the Rockport near Willowbrook. We would walk a lot, even down to Chapters...