Brent Toderian's blog

Brent Toderian is an international consultant on advanced urbanism with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS, Vancouver’s former Director of City Planning, and the President of the Council for Canadian Urbanism. Follow him on Twitter @BrentToderian

Testing Vancouver's Urbanism by Pedal and Foot

I occasionally get accused locally of being too much of a "booster" for Vancouver's success and reputation in city-building and urban design. Although I usually tend to mix in a healthy dose of "constructive candour" on how we need to improve, if there's truth to this accusation, I'd say I come by it honestly. First off, I've been an admirer and careful student of the Vancouver approach to urbanism, as imperfect as it might still be, long before I arrived in the City as Director.

Vancouver's New Policies for Greener Buildings and Large Sites

In my recent post outlining Council's approval of the EcoDensity Charter and Initial Actions I referenced that two new rezoning policies approved by Council (Actions A-1 and A-2) may give Vancouver the highest green requirements for private-sector building design and large site design in North America. Here are these two policies that are in effect as of May 13, 2008. 

EcoDensity Approved in Vancouver

After two years of intensive dialogue and debate, education (in all directions) and idea-development, Vancouver's concept of EcoDensity has been translated into Council-approved policy and actions.

In past posts I've outlined aspects and steps of this challenging process, which has been tackling head-on what many consider the most controversial but critical aspect of urban sustainability, "density done well".

Is Vancouver a 'World Class City?' (And Is It Making Us Too Expensive?)

In his annual tour-de-force presentation on the state of Vancouver's housing market recently, marketing guru Bob Rennie (referred to often as Canada's "condo king", and thus often accused of having a vested interest in a continued strong market for condos here in Vancouver) had some new, controversial points that are still being debated locally. Perhaps the most provocative was his call to action for the development industry to get back into building housing that is more affordable to ordinary Vancouverites (as opposed to being geared to the international market - his comment was that we know how to serve that world market, now we need to show that we can serve the local market better, or words to that effect). Given that he included details like "capping developer profit at 10%", I found his comments pretty brave in front of an audience of 700+ developers and clients.

Public Input by Blog (Or, 'Care to Comment on the New EcoDensity Charter?')

I believe it's very likely that within a few years, planning departments will be using blogs, and perhaps other social networking site options, as approaches to public input on planning policy or development applications.

Perhaps some are doing it already?

The Case for Density in Sustainable Cities

One of the many signs that green development and design is reaching a tipping point toward becoming business-as-usual, is the quantity of articles and writings on the subject in what might be considered "mainstream" land development publications. Case-in-point is the current Issue of Urban Land, the Green issue. This attention is a good thing, despite the growing need to ensure that developments that play the green card, truly do walk the talk. 

The Link between Density and Affordability

 Since its launch, one of the three primary goals of Vancouver's EcoDensity Initiative has been to use density, design and land use to strategically assist with the City's growing challenges around affordability. Over the course of the long public dialogue, we've heard many comments and questions on the relationships between density, supply, type of housing and affordability, and it’s been a very hot topic.  

Media Density Discussions are Needed for Cities

Can any North American city have a meaningful public discussion about sustainability, about its "green-ness" or ecological footprint, without having the challenging but necessary public discussion about the city's density? 

Many are still trying to. Many freely trumpet smart growth and sustainability without the tension and trouble that comes with discussing the "d-word" openly, and thus avoid the necessary heavy-lifting. Few politicians, and embarrassingly not enough city planners, are willing to tackle the density issue publicly, as it is still what Sustainable Urbanism author Douglas Farr calls the "3rd rail" of sustainable city building.

A Next Level of Urban Achievement in Vancouver?

Long before I arrived here, I've been a fan and student of Vancouver city-building.  

Does Vancouver need (or want) Iconic Architecture?

Like many world cities, Vancouver has a growing discussion on the issue of "iconic" architecture, one that I've been a part of and encouraging. This despite the fact that, like many urbanists, the word iconic actually makes me nervous.  

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