The Kerrisdale village, about 8 blocks across, developed with low-rise to mid-rise apartments/condos from the 1940s to the 1990s. It is the model for giving a focus to the sprawling RS (single family) areas of Vancouver.
At the Urbanarium debate on March 8th about character-house retention, I argued there is little point in adding townhouses or duplexes to the RS areas of the city without giving neighbourhoods a focus – a village. Villages arose historically at crossroads; Vancouver’s current penchant for stringing density along arterials is not building communities, it’s just adding human units to our population statistics.
Furthermore, adding duplexes and townhouses to the car-captive RS zones will merely add more car captives. However, a concentration of population into neighbourhood centres (call them villages or whatever) would give a better opportunity to serve them with transit and, potentially, to create the kind of walkable communities for people at every stage of their lives – something that is definitely not happening with the strips of multi-family buildings along, say, Cambie Street south of King Edward.
So here’s a proposal to plan (properly) the RS areas:
- add density by focusing upzoning on some of the existing (green in the map below) multi-family islands.
- identify some new villages (red), zoning the crossroads about 6 to 8 blocks across, with 3 or 4 storey buildings on the commercial streets, 8 to 10 storey buildings behind them, and some lower-rise buildings providing a transition from them to the existing detached houses.
- allow the kind of multi-family conversion proposed in the character house initiative to proceed; leave the detached houses in the RS zones to evolve gradually into rooming houses and eventually be redeveloped when (if?) the city ever develops a real economy paying real wages.
- Give up the idea that you can build affordable duplexes or townhouses in a wholesale rezoning of the RS zones – there is simply no evidence of that being possible based on the experience in the RT zones.
- Accept that detached houses aren’t evil! Not everyone has to live the same way, comrade. As well, they’re the most flexible form of housing we have in the city, adaptable to all kinds of living arrangements other than the traditional nuclear-family ownership model.
The existing “villages” in green:
- West 10th/Point Grey Village: some apartments toward the Blanca Street end
- Dunbar shops: some multi-family; more could be added on side streets but there is no obvious crossroads.
- Kerrisdale: an excellent mix of rental/condo/townhouse/detached.
- Arbutus and King Edward: townhouses and car-accessed commercial; under redevelopment.
- Marpole: a good mix of long-established apartments, plus some new buildings at 70th, with a commercial area accessible to a relatively poor and aged demographic.
- Cambie: a long-established apartment area south of the Cambie shops, added to with many low-rise condos around the Canada Line Station at King Edward, but woefully inadequate commercial facilities: this new development is a real blot on Vancouver’s reputation for good planning.
- Oakridge: a long-established apartment area with a mall; dense redevelopment proposed around the multi-billion dollar public transit investment, with more redevelopment coming nearby on the Oakridge transit-station site.
- Cambie & Marine: high-density condos with little apparent relationship to the surrounding community; to the west and linking with Marpole, a fairly significant apartment area established for many years.
- King Ed and Knight – a big building next to pokey transit.
- Norquay and the Kingsway strip: it is amazing how the Nanaimo SkyTrain station is sitting in the middle of a suburban landscape.
- Fraser Lands: lots of multi-family but very little commercial with little focus, so car-captive.
- 54th and Kerr, Champlain Mall: a suburban mall with surface parking in an area with interesting townhouses and coops.
- Joyce SkyTrain station: high-density (is it a complete community, or do people take the SkyTrain to somewhere like The Drive to hang out?).
- Broadway & Nanaimo: a concentration of apartments but not much in the way of commercial.
- Nanaimo & Charles: a neighbourhood commercial crossroads with a few apartment buildings.
- Hastings east of Nanaimo: a very good commercial strip with a lot of older, affordable housing on nearby streets. Gentrification would equal displacement.
Proposed “villages” in red:
17. Jericho Lands will have multi-family and commercial, yes?
18. Neighbourhood shops at 16th and Macdonald-Trafalgar.
19. Neighbourhood shops and a few townhouses at 33rd and Mackenzie.
20. Neighbourhood shopping area surrounded by single-family at 41st and Dunbar.
21. Pearson Lands redevelopment: will it get a Canada Line stop or will everybody be both high-density and car-captive?
22. 49th and Fraser: the partly abandoned Punjabi Village area that has decamped to Kennedy Heights, surrounded by affordable single-family/extended family.
23. 41st and Victoria: a vibrant commercial area in the middle of the sea of detached houses; redevelopment would gentrify and displace many immigrant families.
24. Renfrew and 1st: a vibrant commercial area in the midst of a poor/middle class detached housing area.