Having read articles lately on Planetizen and elsewhere on how the "fresh new concept” of Intelligent Cities is replacing the stale old term "smart growth", I was moved to write a comment regarding the latest such article which compared smart growth to urban renewal in terms of its stale-dated coolness, and suggested that smart growth may be passé because of its successful take-over of main-stream thought and practice.
Back when Vancouver was first discussing the concept of laneway housing as part of the EcoDensity Initiative in 2006-2008, we nick-named it "hidden density" because it didn't significantly change the way single-detached housing blocks looked from the street. We did so, recognizing that the word hidden is a relative term.
Canadian city planners and urbanists have been active in the discussion and debate over the last few weeks, regarding the Federal government's decision to change the mandatory long form census to a voluntary approach. As un-sexy as the census might seem to many (I myself never thought I'd be writing a post about the census), the national media has been all over this, giving extensive coverage to the numerous experts and professional organizations who have been unanimously critical of this move, and the effects it will have on the planning and management of cities and communities.
Among the countless stories being written on the successes and challenges of these 2010 Olympic Winter Games, not surprisingly the most interesting stories to me are those that speak to the challenges of great urbanism. As a host city, Vancouver has become a massive urban laboratory, with so many opportunities to learn, and we’re soaking it all up.
As we are coming to the end of the final week, a few examples of big experiments and learnings come to mind.
Followers of Vancouver city planning will remember that in 2008, as part of the approval of the EcoDensity Initiative, our Council approved what remains (we think) the highest green standard for private sector building design in North America. The 2008 policy requires that buildings that go through rezonings (representing most buildings built in Vancouver) must establish that their design, at approval, is capable of achieving LEED™ Silver. We actually nick-named it "Silver Plus", because we mandated that there be a minimum of 3 energy points, 1 water point, and 1 storm water point, emphasizing the things that matter most to us.
This past Saturday, I had the honour of joining a group of invited urbanists and sustainability experts, in a special dialogue put on by The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, and Vancouver's Simon Fraser University. Among other things, the event was to launch a new partnership between these two innovative organizations around research and curriculum for sustainable urbanism.
I'm sure much will be written on the observations and learning's from the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Winter Olympics and Paralympics process - at least once all those working tirelessly on it have had some time to catch our breath after next year's monumental event. As you can imagine, we're already inundated with visitors, questions and critiques, and we still have months to go and much hard work to do.
A quick post to note that on Tuesday of last week, Vancouver City Council unanimously approved bylaws to put into place Vancouver's new "suites within suites" housing option, across the City. Also referred to as "lock-off suites", these secondary suites within apartments are meant to represent an opportunity for housing flexibility, with such suites usable as a rental mortgage helper (a “mortgage helper in the sky”, as one article puts it), a separated but related unit for an elderly parent or aging teenager, a unit for a care-giver, or any other relationship an apartment owner might need.
Over various blog posts through the last few years, I've shared some of the key steps and stages leading to the eventual unanimous Council approval of Vancouver's EcoDensity Initiative. Since then the EcoDensity Charter and new policies have been changing the way we think about density, green building and site design, and our ecological footprint in and outside of city hall. We've also been moving forward on various EcoDensity actions approved in principle by Council back in 2008.
This weekend, friends, family, colleagues and admirers got together to celebrate the life, and mourn the death, of a man many consider to be the most talented architect Canada has ever produced. Frank Gehry may have been born in Canada, but Arthur Erickson began, remained and died a great Canadian. He was also one of the World's architectural greats, and a "citizen of the World".