Tuesday, June 22, 2010


One of the interesting things about public hearings is the people who show up. Some people have valid concerns and comments, but there are those who don’t like change, population growth, or official community plans. It usually works like this: people in large lot homes don’t want people with small lot homes in their neighbourhood. People in small lot homes don’t want people living in townhouses in their neighbourhood. People in townhouses don’t want people living in walk-up apartments in their neighbourhood. And people in walk-up apartments don’t want high-rise condos in their neighbourhood. The reasons are usually over parking, privacy, “undesirables” and land value with a hint of elitism beneath the surface.

On the matter of parking, these NIMBY types fail to see the connection between higher densities, increased transportation choice, and reduced parking requirements. High density areas like False Creek have more transportation choice and less parking per capita than Brookswood for example.

On the matter of privacy, these NIMBY types seem to think that everyone is interested in their person living space and will be spying on them. Let’s be honest for a moment, most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to care about yours. If you happen to have a nosey neighbour, density will not make it any worse. In fact, I’ve would argue that people are more nosey in single family neighbourhoods than in higher density ones.

On the matter of “undesirables”, if you consider seniors, young families, and working professionals undesirables than you should oppose higher density neighbourhoods. When I think of all the pot busts reported in the newspaper, how many grow-ops are in apartments and townhouse as opposed to single family homes?

On the matter of land value, higher density developments actually increase property value as they are usually combined with amenities like green space, high streets, recreation, and cultural amenities. I think many people have visions of large scale, low-income towers.

When you talk to many of the NIMBY types, they will tell you that they want transportation choice and walkable communities. They will also say that they support higher density development, just not in their neighbourhood. I had to have a bit of a laugh when I was at a Township of Langley public hearing last week. The NIMBYs from Aldergrove said they supported high-rises in Willoughby and the NIMBYs in Willoughby wanted high-rises elsewhere. Way back, I was at a public hearing in the City of Langley where someone who lived in an area zoned for medium density was complaining about medium density development. A quick look at the official community planning before moving into his townhouse would have saved him a world of grief.

Communities need a mix of housing types and uses in each and every neighbourhood to be sustainable. NIMBYism comes from a lack of understand on how changes will affect people’s neighbourhood, it's a knee-jerk reaction. Once people see the benefit of the change to their neighbourhood, they tend to unNIMBYfy. One recent example of this is the Spirit Square Bandshell in the City of Langley that almost got the mayor unelected. The strongest opponents of this project became supporters once it was built.

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