Sprawl is our ‘inconvenient truth’

Increasing densities do not have to compromise livability. Look at Vancouver

The Globe and Mail
Byline: Jack Diamond
The two biggest factors determining our personal greenhouse- gas profiles are where we live, and how we move around. The latest census figures reveal growth in periphery municipalities at three times the rate of central cities. The nature of this development, with its heavy automobile dependence, is changing our global atmosphere.
Ontario’s contribution to this problem is visible in sprawling residential developments at the urban fringe, interspersed by commercial centres surrounded by parking lots, all connected by a vast, congested road network. Road-based transportation is Ontario’s largest, most rapidly growing source of greenhouse gases. Sprawl is driving this growth.

Visitors eye Vancouver’s density plan

ATLANTA: Delegation here to learn from city

By Elaine O’Connor
Vancouver Province
Vancouver’s EcoDensity initiative is attracting admirers from abroad — 115 U.S. politicians and planners from Georgia, to be exact.
A delegation from Atlanta is in Vancouver this week to learn how to cope with a boom in their city by following our example.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said she chose to study Vancouver because of the city’s international reputation for city planning.

Vancouver needs to keep jobs close at hand

Byline: Don Cayo
Vancouver Sun
You can quibble about the details — and it is clear that some people are digging in to endlessly do so — but the nub of Mayor Sam Sullivan’s EcoDensity vision is a no-brainer.
This is an era where concerns such as the impact of urban traffic (and gridlock) on climate change, and the supply and cost of energy have rightly come to the fore. It makes complete sense to develop policies that allow and encourage people to live closer to where they work.
The EcoDensity discussion is focused on an important half of the equation — where people will live. But what about the other half? If we succeed in gracefully accommodating a lot more residents within the boundaries of the city, as I think we can, where on earth will they work?

National editorial urges Canadian cities to adopt EcoDensity

‘It’s time to talk about urban density’

In an editorial in the February 13th National Post newspaper, Mayor Sam Sullivan is calling on municipalities as well as senior levels of government to open the debate on increasing urban density as a way to address global climate change.

“Instead of telling Canadians to simply check the air pressure in their tires to ensure better mileage, or put energy efficient light bulbs in their suburban homes, we should also be talking about how better urban planning and densification of our cities can significantly reduce our impact on the environment,” Mayor Sullivan writes.

Mayor Sullivan promotes EcoDensity in national editorial

“It’s time to talk about urban density”

National Post
February 13, 2007
national post coverAs mayor of one of Canada’s biggest cities, Vancouver, I am frustrated with the nature of the debate on global climate change in this country.

Over the past several months, I have watched as environmental organizations, government agencies and the media provide advice on how Canadians can make small changes to our lifestyles, yet continue living in a fundamentally unsustainable fashion.

Instead of telling Canadians to simply check the air pressure in their tires to ensure better mileage, or put energy efficient light bulbs in their suburban homes, we should be talking about how better urban planning and densification of our cities can significantly reduce our impact on the environment.

Political will needed to fuel change

Source: National Post, Page A08, Feb 3, 2007
Byline: Allison Hanes
Cutting industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, scientists and environmentalists insist, is the single most important way to curb the extreme weather, melting ice caps, rising sea levels and other doomsday predictions surrounding climate change.
However, energy-conscious building codes, good urban planning, tough vehicle-emissions standards and well-insulated homes are all essential policy changes that need to take place internationally, nationally and locally to slow the pace of global warming.

Its Wild Heart Broken, a City, Like Its Eagles, Rebuilds

By CHRISTOPHER MASON
Source: New York Times
Published: January 29, 2007
No matter how high the office towers and condominiums get in this fast-growing city, those who live here still cling to the laid-back way of life that draws so many to Canada’s west coast, where spandex and a yoga roll are as common a sight as a suit and briefcase.
Nothing symbolizes this dichotomy more than Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre forested oasis next to downtown Vancouver that juts into the Burrard Inlet. Its trails and pathways are an escape for the growing legions who may live in a high-rise building and conduct an otherwise urban life but who disappear by the thousands into the park’s hiking trails or jog the six-mile path along the water.
That tranquillity was shattered, though, by two recent brutal winter storms that have all but decimated huge swaths of the park, knocking down some 10,000 trees and forcing much of it to be closed as crews struggle to clear the debris.

Living large on a small planet

Source: The Globe and Mail Thu 25 Jan 2007
Byline: Gary Mason, gmason@globeandmail.com
While Mayor Sam Sullivan’s Eco-Density initiative hasn’t produced much excitement locally, it’s drawing attention elsewhere.
The program, which promotes increasing density as a means of reducing our collective impact on the planet, is the subject of a lengthy and mostly positive examination in a recent issue of Planning, a highly influential magazine put out by the American Planning Association.
Densification, of course, is not new. It has been tried elsewhere in North America with mixed to little success. People have become accustomed to their sprawling single-family dwellings and don’t like the idea of anything cramping their lifestyle. But because of the debate now raging around climate change, the timing may be right for densification initiatives that are predicated on the need to reduce our “ecological footprint.”

Keep Your Footprint Out of My Backyard

Source: American Planning Association, Jan 2007

Vancouver has been praised as one of the most livable cities in the world, and Larry Beasley, who recently retired as the city’s planning director, has now become a proselytizer for high-density living. Meanwhile, Vancouver is getting ready to go to the next level. Mayor Sam Sullivan is convinced that density is ecologically responsible and must be actively promoted. Last June, he launched the “EcoDensity” initiative, which promotes high-quality densification as a way to reduce the city’s ecological footprint. A big problem with density, though, is its unpopularity. Planners may not be czars, but they still have tools. Many cities begin by increasing density in new developments, particularly on former industrial land where there are no existing residents who are likely to object. Both Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver have had great success with this approach.

Vancouver brings the concept of eco-density to North America.

Vancouver loves density. The downtown population has doubled to 85,000 in the last 20 years; most of those residents live in slender, green glass towers sorrounded by snow-capped mountains and ocean views. Shops, community centers, restaurants and parks are within walking or biking distance, and on a sunny day the seawall along the Pacific Ocean attracts parents pushing strollers, bikers, runners, and roller bladers of all ages and income levels.