Getting a Grip on 'EcoDensity'

<p>Vancouver's plans for "EcoDensity" should be better understood by the public before moving forward, according to this opinion piece.</p>
February 20, 2008, 10am PST | Nate Berg
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"As the argument goes, housing people closer together reduces urban sprawl and our ecological footprint by making better use of smaller parcels of land. Similarly, with more people within a designated area, higher density allows communities to support local commerce, amenities, and transit. This, in turn, allows for the potential creation of walkable and transit-friendly communities."

"With regards to housing affordability, the connection to density is related to housing type. In contrast to the typical homogenous single-family neighbourhoods, the belief holds that more diverse, dense house types create more diverse and affordable housing options (due to lowered construction costs, decreased development fees, and fees saved from using existing infrastructure) for a variety of households. Furthermore, this increased density would make new, more expensive energy technologies (i.e. district heating, etc.) more viable."

"Lastly, and most importantly, the EcoDensity initiative preaches the idea this density must be "strategically" located. And although there are several questions, concerns, half-truths and inaccuracies regarding all aspects of the EcoDensity argument, one of the most deceitful revolves around the seemingly harmless issue of "well-located" density."

"The creation of rules and regulations pertaining to building and development often take place behind closed doors. Aside from those brave homeowners who have delved into the murky waters of municipal affairs when applying for building permits, few of us are ever exposed to the effects that municipal policies have on the creation of a city. Jargon-based, poorly written, and overly confusing, reading municipal documents -- such as zoning bylaws -- is akin to some kindof water torture . . . slow and annoyingly painful."

"This issue becomes exceedingly important when discussing a city-wide densification initiative such as EcoDensity. For, although it is touted as pertaining to Vancouver as a whole -- and although there may, in fact, be good intentions behind it -- the reality of it will necessarily be skewed in the direction of wealthy, politically savvy communities and individuals that this city has historically always favoured."

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Published on Monday, February 18, 2008 in The Tyee
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