Monday, December 1, 2008

The Opportunities for Urban Density - Part One

Part One of a Three Part Series

I'm behind in my writing projects. When security consulting work rains, it pours. As this is a labour of love for Nathan and I, sometimes life overrules this blog. We try not to though!

Last Thursday morning I got up before the sun and made my way to BCIT in downtown Vancouver. MetroVancouver sponsored a Sustainable Community Breakfast entitled, "The Opportunity for Urban Density". Three speakers presented some excellent information and included:

Ms. Ronda Howard, Assistant Director of Planning - City of Vancouver

Mr. Norm Shearing, VP of Development for ParkLand Homes

Mr. Jean Lamontage, General Manager of Planning & Development - City of Surrey

The information at this breakfast was exceptional as always. As transit advocates, we welcome this kind of forum and the information presented. It's a shame that more members of the general public don't attend these events, as they are attended mostly by people working in the field of planning, development and government. When people attend these events on a regular basis, they begin to understand much more about efficient/highest land use and the need for walkable neighbourhoods that support good public transportation networks. I encourage you to view and digest these cutting-edge community planning slide shows.

Ronda Howard must help the mature City of Vancouver find density opportunities. Vancouver is doing this by allowing home owners with garages in laneways to develop those garages as apartments and offices. Ronda calls this "Hidden Density". From a crime prevention standpoint I love this idea, as it brings more eyes and ears to a part of the street that often goes neglected and unobserved. The more natural surveillance and "legitimate users" we bring into an area, the safer our communities become.

Ronda communicated that there is also some "Gentle Density" available by seeking out "Neighbourhood Centres" which many of us in Langley call the "Urban Village concept". These are basically complete and walkable communities that provide housing diversity, shopping and other needs into a compact community village.

Lastly, Ronda spoke about "Invisible Density", which are secondary suites. Many areas of Vancouver will soon allow for a secondary suite plus a lanehouse, creating quite a mortgage helper for the homeowner, but perhaps more importantly, affordable housing options for more people. With many single-family homes in Vancouver costing more than $1M, options are needed for the masses. This is VERY smart growth that Ronda Howard and her team are planning.

More to come tomorrow!

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