Out for a walk the other day, marveling that we’ve built a place with this in it.
The ‘Zoned Capacity’ Argument is Misleading
– We need a different conversation
At a recent event hosted by the Urbanarium, the City of Vancouver’s new general manager of planning and sustainability, Gil Kelley, had the opportunity to introduce himself to the collected nerdy-urbanists (myself included) and to introduce us to his planning philosophy. It was a great conversation and throughout the presentation there seemed to be a lot of nodding and agreement with the broad statements of both values and process.
Mid-way through, however, there was one moment that stood out as a bit of a non-sequitur. Following up on the need to take on ‘big ideas’ he mentioned briefly that we may not need to make any large interventions into the current zoning map because we already have the necessary ‘zoned capacity’ to take us to 2040. This comment lit up many twitter feeds and garnered a pointed question from the audience at the end of the event.
I don’t fault him the attempt to temper the fears or expectations of large-scale changes under his watch. What it does highlight, however, is that the idea of ‘zoned capacity’ is a real trigger in the local conversation.
How did “zoned capacity” become such a flashpoint in Vancouver? In large part it is due to the efforts of character-retention advocates who have argued (in a large number of op-eds) that we don’t need to update our zoning map (and so risk the loss of existing character homes) because there already exists enough unused capacity within our current zoning plans to absorb all of the necessary growth for the next 20 years. On its surface the idea seems both simple and compelling, and – for this reason – it has gone largely unchallenged until recently.
I’ll add some thoughts that stem from my experiences designing and building single-family homes in Vancouver:
Um, What about re-zonings?
The idea of “20 years zoned capacity” seems to have really taken flight based on a 2014 consultant report looking at multifamily zones. Buried in there is an acknowledgement that about half of that 20 years of zoned capacity will actually come from re-zonings. While single-family houses usually are built within the current zoning, by contrast a large percentage of the city’s multi-family housing in Vancouver is being done through a re-zoning process. If we have enough ‘zoned capacity’ why is this?
There’s a second acknowledgement that much of what is currently zoned might not be where the market wants to build.
By relying on re-zoning to provide half of our multifamily capacity, we’re biasing the city towards large-scale development while neglecting the so-called missing middle: duplexes, four-plexes, town houses and other forms that are smaller and much finer grained – housing types that work better in a context where there is ‘pre-zoning’ (by updating the zoning map) versus relying on spot re-zoning.
Every re-zoning exemplifies the fact that our current zoning map (our ‘zoned capacity’) is either the wrong size, the wrong type or in the wrong location. If we need to re-zone, then we don’t have enough ‘zoned capacity’ – or the zoning that we do have is out-of-date relative to today’s needs. Perhaps it’s time to take another look at pre-zoning.
Spreading the love (lane house style):
It turns out that we have an interesting example of citywide pre-zoning: The 2009 laneway house bylaw.
The laneway-houses update was unique in that density was added city-wide to the majority of the city’s ‘single family’ lots. Overnight some 60,000+ lots became eligible to add this new type of purpose-built rental and, in the years since, nearly 400 of the units have been built per year.
A map of the 2000+ built lane houses shows that they are spread evenly across the city in both the richer and (relatively) poorer neighbourhoods, and in areas with higher and lower density. Both the benefits and impacts of this new density have been able to be spread across the city, and home owners across the city have been able to age-in-place, supplement their income or provide housing for their extended family.
Why? Because the zoned capacity for lane houses is ~150 times the annual throughput.
To put it another way, in the next 20 years if we keep building 400 lane house per year, then we’ll have only used up 1/8 of the pre-zoned capacity. Yet another way to put it: the pre-zoned capacity for lane houses is ~16 times higher than the pre-zoned capacity for multi-family housing. This is why we’re seeing lane houses everywhere, but not the other missing middle housing types.
This is also why the lane house policy has allowed individual homeowners to act as the de-facto developer. Citywide pre-zoning can allow new dwellings to be infilled in small increments and even single lots. This stands in stark contrast to the re-zoning approach, which almost always involves lot consolidation and rarely allows existing owners to densify-in-place.
If you want the development of your city to be a more equitable process, and you want to avoid the appearance that only certain communities and corridor residents need to bear the brunt of redevelopment, then the pre-zoned capacity needs to be much much larger than the amount of housing you actually want to build each year.
New zones are great (if you can find them):
Tucked away in the neighbourhood plans for areas like Norquay Village and Grandview Woodlands have been some really interesting new zones created for stacked townhouses and other ‘missing middle’ housing types, but if you zoom out, it becomes clear that these pockets of pre-zoning are few and far between.
The city has 24 neighbourhoods. Of these 24, only six have so far gone through a more detailed planning process that resulted in a pre-zoning map. The other neighbourhoods (Dunbar, etc.) are coasting on CityPlan vision statements from the late 90s while relying on corridor re-zonings (and the lane-house bylaw) for their evolution.
At first glance this corridor approach seems fine, but, as the lane house policy showed, there is a widespread latent demand for new flexibility and new housing options within our one- and two-family zones. A pre-zoning approach (that complements our neighbourhood plans) would spread both the opportunity and impacts more equitably.
As we start a new conversation about the future of our city, we need to acknowledge that the ‘zoned capacity’ argument is – at best – an argument for continuing to focus on larger scale re-zonings, and – at worst – is a misdirection aimed at channeling densification into certain corridors and communities while leaving the zoning of our one and two family neighbourhoods static.
It’s time to acknowledge that the world is changing faster than our plans, and we probably need to revisit our approach to ‘zoned capacity’.
* Bryn Davidson lives and works in Vancouver. His team designs and builds custom homes for individual homeowners and their families.
Located near the stadium, and sporting pink/bronze coloured mirrored glass. Daring in this town of simple grey and green.
It’s the parq Vancouver casino and hotel complex.
Thanks to “guest” for the head’s-up.
And, from the parq Vancouver web site:
Sexy, playful, and full of promise.
Live life as it is meant to be lived – amongst friends with great food, extraordinary spaces and artful design. Plan a serene getaway to parq’s urban garden oasis, indulge in unique spa adventures, or dine and play at one of its exceptional restaurants or world-class casino.
- 517 Hotel Rooms in Two Hotels
- 5 Restaurants
- 3 Bars & Lounges
- Casino with Private Gaming Salons
- Spa and Fitness Gym
- 62,000 sq ft of Conference and Special Event Space
David Negrin of Aquilini Development and Construction Inc. will take over as CEO for FN development on 6 properties spanning 160 acres ($1 B worth) of Metro Vancouver land.
David Negrin will begin his new job Dec. 1 as head of the MST Development Corporation, which represents the interests of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Negrin’s appointment was announced Oct. 13 in a press release but Negrin was not made available to the Courier for an interview.
Thanks to Mike Howell at the Vancouver Courier.
From the web site: The MST Development Corporation currently oversees six properties totaling 160 acres of prime developable lands throughout Metro Vancouver, valued at over $1 billion.
Properties fully or partially owned by the MST Partnership are:
- Jericho Lands (west) in Vancouver
- Jericho Lands (east) in Vancouver – co-owned with the Canada Lands Company
- Heather Street Lands in Vancouver – co-owned with the Canada Lands Company
- Former Liquor Distribution Branch site on East Broadway in Vancouver – co-owned with Aquilini Investment Group
- Marine Drive Lands in West Vancouver – co-owned with the Canada Lands Company
- Willingdon Lands in Burnaby – co-owned by the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh with Aquilini Investment Group
[Update]: And thanks to Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail for reaction from around Vancouver:
They (the real estate community) see it as a sign that First Nations will now be playing a strong role in the development of that land instead of just being a quiet partner behind a private developer or with Canada Lands Corporation, the federal agency that co-owns with the MST the Jericho Lands on Vancouver’s west side and the Heather Lands, in the centre.
“This is very good news [for the First Nations],” said Jon Stovell, the current president of the region’s Urban Development Institute. “The First Nations groups have been having some difficulty finding a fit with conventional business world and their own expectations. Having a real seasoned professional will assist them.” . .
. . . Mr. Negrin’s departure from Aquilini will be a big loss for that company, said many, even though residential development is only a small part of the family’s empire that includes the Canucks, Rogers Arena, cranberry and blueberry farms, hotels and restaurants.
“It’s now clear the successes they were having were probably David’s accomplishments,” said Mr. Stovell.
On October 15, the City of Vancouver will release consultation results and the design for a temporary surface (or surfaces) on the Arbutus Greenway.
October 15, 10:00 to 2:00
Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (info boards also to be online)
2305 w 7th Ave., Vancouver
Meanwhile, the grand design of the final Arbutus Greenway is still awaits the beginning of broad public consultations.
But how broad will they be? Who will be able to get onto the Greenway, explore it and experience it for themselves, see and feel how they might use it and imagine what it could become? This is what’s at stake in the design of this temporary surface. Inclusion vs. exclusion. Personally, I vote for inclusion. I’d prefer that we hear from a broad bunch of everyone in forming the final design.
Who will sway the day on the temporary surface design? The “accessible to all ages and abilities” group? Or the “bucolic park, blackberry bushes and able-bodied walkers only” group? Or some combination, or middle ground? Or something surprisingly different?
My personal prediction is that, at a minimum, we will see an asphalt pathway the full length (9 km), with possibly a few new (or improved) local access paths here and there, so that people with mobility challenges can get to the Greenway’s temporary surface. My secondary prediction is perhaps a bit elaborate for a temporary surface design, but I would not be surprised to see some dual pathway areas: one side asphalt, the other “gravel” (apparently a slippery word that lay persons like me use to refer quite a large variety of materials).
I’m guessing that the (surprisingly few) intersections of the Arbutus Greenway with motor-vehicle roadways will remain much the same as they currently are. And I guess that these will change significantly in the final Arbutus Greenway.
And speaking of final designs, here’s a look at a section of one of Vancouver’s oldest and longest Greenways: the 25-km Central Valley Greenway (large PDF). There are a few things to note in the design of this section of the CVG. (See photos). Location is at North Grandview Hwy and E. 11th Ave.
Separated ped / bike areas, with treed boulevard between them and winding sidewalk around mature planted areas. Seating area (middle right of frame). Motor vehicle bollard, large rocks (car scofflaw discouragers). Sidewalk ramp for those using mobility aids, like the stroller at mid-frame right (top photo). Lamp posts (or is that a sculpture support for a sheet metal crow?)
(Click image for a larger version)
PT: Kenneth Chan weighs in on Tsawwassen Mills from a planning perspective in the Daily Hive – one of the first media commentators to touch the highly sensitive nature of the issue. But really, given the disastrous consequences of such a development and the possibility of other choices, what’s taken so long?
There is no question that the returns from the continued agricultural use of the lands would be severely limited, whereas commercial and real estate development generates significantly more jobs and tax revenues for the First Nation, allowing its members to enjoy a higher quality of life and exercise their full aboriginal rights.
But on a whole for the Metro Vancouver region, the economic return from this type of economic development is limited when examined on a macro, long-term scale.
Putting the land to better use
TFN has used precious, soil-rich farmland to build commercial and residential developments, types of economic development that could also be built within the existing urban containment boundary – ideally near transit. And above all, it falls out of line with the regional district’s efforts to prevent the expansion of urban sprawl and instead focus growth in dense areas.
If the lands were to be exclusively used for industrial purposes, an economic case could be made for the use of these agricultural lands, albeit it would be a highly controversial one. ..
At the very least, such a site should have been used for a type of development found nowhere else in the region, perhaps even a large world-class amusement park given that Tsawwassen sees far more sunshine and less precipitation than anywhere else in Metro Vancouver. …
While the Tsawwassen First Nation’s lands are used in the most efficient way to achieve the band’s goals, the same cannot be said for the best interests of the region.
On the heels of the Arbutus Greenway temporary surface consulting events, the City of Vancouver invites one and all to participate in more online surveys, open houses, workshops and events.
The Commercial Drive Complete Street Project kicks off with:
Phase 1: Ideas and Information (Fall 2016)
- What we’ll do: Launch the community engagement process, identify transportation improvements, and present complete street design principles
- Who we’ll consult with: Residents, Grandview-Woodland Transportation and Neighbourhood Parking Stakeholder Advisory Group (G-W SAG), local businesses, and other civic advisory committees
- What we’ll create based on feedback: Complete street principles and draft design concepts informed by community and stakeholder input, technical analysis, and City priorities
Thursday, October 20, 2016 3-7:30 pm (Details HERE)
Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive
Saturday, October 22, 2016, 10am – 3 pm (Details HERE)
Wise Hall, 1882 Adanac
Remember: there are only two completely fun and future-proofed responses to this Commercial Drive Complete Street Project:
- Eyeball-bulging outrage if any road space, of any kind, is to be repurposed from motor vehicle exclusivity.
- Head-bursting apoplexy if any consideration at all, of any kind, is to be given to bicycles.
HERE is a brief glimpse of Complete Street concepts, if this topic is new to you.
And finally, from the City of Vancouver’s web site introduction to the Commercial Drive Compete Street Project:
The Commercial Drive Complete Street project aims to increase the safety and comfort for people driving, walking, cycling, and taking transit in the area – while ensuring that core service and delivery activities on streets are still accommodated.
Commercial Drive is the heart of the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, and famous for strolling and enjoying the rich variety of independent shops and services. “The Drive” is a popular destination for local residents and regional visitors.
Creating a complete street and a cycling path for people of all ages and abilities along Commercial Drive are goals of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.
She got there first:
|MEDIA ADVISORY – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – OCTOBER 4, 2016
Councillor Carr Moves to Oppose Use of Vancouver Development Levies for Transit
Vancouver – At today’s Vancouver City Council meeting, Councillor Adriane Carr submitted a notice of motion that welcomes more provincial funding for transit in the city but opposes tying it to density upzoning along proposed transit routes or using development fees to help pay for the transit. She raised these issues with Provincial Cabinet Ministers at the recent Union of BC Municipalities convention in Victoria.
“Such contingencies undermine the City’s authority for zoning and planning, the integrity of the public planning and public hearing processes, and would make it impossible for the city to adequately fund desperately needed affordable housing and other essential public amenities,” said Councillor Carr.
The text of Councillor Carr’s motion is as follows.
Ensuring Vancouver Development Levies are Not Used to Fund Transit
1. The City of Vancouver depends on development fees, including Development Cost Levies (DCLs) and the Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) from higher density rezonings to fund important civic services and infrastructure including parks, childcare facilities, and affordable housing;
2. Over the past six years, Council has allocated approximately $671 million of CACs towards affordable housing, heritage protection and community facilities such as childcare, libraries, neighbourhood houses, and community and seniors centres in the neighbourhoods affected by development, yet even this spending falls short of meeting the growth in community needs given the number of new residents that the developments bring;
3. In 2015 the City collected $99.8 million in DCLs, with Council allocating $25.6 million for social and supportive housing, $23.6 million for engineering infrastructure, $9.2 million for parks and $6.6 million for childcare.
4. The City does not use development fees to fund transit, which has always been funded by the provincial and federal governments;
5. The City would not be able to deliver the essential public amenities currently funded by development fees if development fees were used to fund transit development;
6. There was indication at the recent Union of BC Municipalities conference in Victoria that the Province is considering tying provincial funding of transit projects to municipalities that upzone density along proposed transit routes and that use development fees to help pay for transit.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
Mayor and Council inform the Premier and Cabinet that:
A. The City of Vancouver enthusiastically welcomes more provincial funding for public transit in our City and in Metro Vancouver;
B. the City of Vancouver opposes making provincial transit funding contingent on density upzoning as that would undermine the City’s authority and responsibility regarding land use planning and zoning, including the public process of developing local area plans and the public hearing process;
C. the City of Vancouver opposes making provincial transit funding contingent on the City’s use of CACs to fund transit as that would infringe on the City’s authority and responsibility to implement public amenity strategies as embedded in local area plans and would make it impossible for the City to adequately fund affordable housing and other essential public amenities.
In what I see as an introduction to the big one (Jericho), City of Vancouver has this on tap to launch its part of the planning process.
- October 13: A walking tour of the site (5-6.30pm) with staff and the team. Meet at the Fairmont Building (Heather & 33rd).
- October 15: An Open House & Artist Session on October 15 (11am-4pm) at VanDusen Garden Floral Hall. Learn more about the process, the proponent team, and City objectives. Sign up for a visioning workshop (1-4 pm) where an artist will sketch your ideas.
- October 17: An Open House & Illustration Viewing on October 17.(5.30-8.30pm) at VanDusen Garden Floral Hall (Rate the artist illustrations)
Personally, I am looking for transit-oriented development, and significant affordability. That is, moderate density to resemble that density now under construction on nearby Cambie St. But more.
Plus significant impetus, if not actual money, from the proponents to link their final design and its density to transit; to mandate construction of a Canada Line station at 33rd Ave and Cambie.
Hopefully, these proponents (CLC and MST Partnership) will be more visionary than others have been — notably those involved in the Tsawassen Mills mall, and its 1950’s style motordom-dependent development. To use the words of the Heather Lands proponents:
Aspirations: Design a healthy and liveable community… emphasizing the human scale, and positive social interaction, prioritize walking, cycling, and transit.
The City, meanwhile, has existing thoughts around the future of this site:
Riley Park South Cambie Vision (2005): … provides general direction to increase the supply of ‘ground-oriented’ housing units with access to either a front or rear yard, to meet the demand for mature households as an alternative to basement suites or apartments.
Cambie Corridor Plan (2011): . . . establishes an urban pattern along Cambie Street that optimizes investment in the Canada Line, creates complete communities with a mix of housing types and employment space . . .
Saturday, October 15
10 AM to 4 PM
Roundhouse Community Centre
Michael Alexander wrote down observations from our new city planner, Gil Kelley, at his Urbanarium intro talk:
- Where do we want to go?
- Strong, detailed incremental planning.
- Area plans— what were best practices?
- Planning has shrunk. We need to be leaders, not just regulators.
- There has been a collective layering of bylaw accumulation. Consolidate and clarify.
- There’s a generational divide over density, lifestyle, cars.
- Don’t rehash CityPlan, but figure out how to knit together what we have.
- CAC’s are great. We need to do best allocation, and insure public understanding.
- A renewable city strategy, to come.
- We’re getting better architecture after a period of sameness. More inventive.
- Focus on the ground plane and the space between buildings.
- The City needs better cooperation with Translink and Metro Vancouver. Regional compacts.
- How are we addressing our housing needs? The ‘missing middle.’
- We need to expand our downtown core planning.
- Waterfront hub! The embarrassment of Granville Street ending into a parkade.
- More diverse and regional job base.
- Importance of the Broadway Corridor and transit to UBC.
- The opportunity of the Jericho Lands.
- Impact of the Millennium Line extension and development.
- Main Street: keeping its moderate scale
- Seismic retrofit for a renewable city
- Regulatory review and budgeting
- Public engagement: what works? Tours.
- Feedback loops for planning and engagement
A long list, not in any particular order. He did emphasize the waterfront, and I was struck by his comments on regional cooperation.
He noted that he worked in Portland, which has very tight regional planning and decision making, and the San Francisco Bay Area, which is fragmented (105 municipalities; 26 transit agencies, multiple water, power, waste collection and disposal).
PT posted on an item on the Barcelona proposal to create “mini neighbourhoods around which traffic will flow, and in which spaces will be repurposed: The Transformation of Barcelona’s Eixample
The New York Times reports an update: What New York Can Learn From Barcelona’s ‘Superblocks’
Beginning in September, city officials started creating a system of so-called superblocks across the city that will severely limit vehicles as a way to reduce traffic and air pollution, use public space more efficiently and essentially make neighborhoods more pleasant.
Under the plan, the superblocks will be overlaid on the existing street grid, each one consisting of as many as nine contiguous blocks. Within each superblock, streets and intersections will be largely closed to traffic and used as community spaces such as plazas, playgrounds and gardens. Ms. Sanz said that at least five superblocks were expected to be designated by 2018.
An intersection in El Poblenou, a section of Barcelona, that was transformed into a playground with a soccer field and sandbox.
Barcelona’s system of superblocks — called “superilles” in Catalan — would go well beyond the pedestrian plazas that have sprouted up on the streets of New York City. While those spaces have carved out more room for pedestrians in busy corridors, the superblocks represent a more radical approach that fundamentally challenges the notion that streets even belong to cars. …
Marta Louro, 40, a teacher who lives next to an intersection, said the superblock would make streets safer and reduce pollution. “It gives priority to the pedestrian,” she said. “I believe it’s very important that people have space.”
But others have expressed concerns that they will have to walk farther to a bus stop, or will have a harder time using their cars or finding parking. “It’s not a bad idea,” said Oriol Sanchez, 25, a waiter who drives to work. “But for me, it’s a problem for my car.”
Visitación Soria, 78, said the superblock would not be embraced by everyone. “People like their cars,” she said.“People are already saying there’s a problem finding parking, and this will make it worse.”
The plan for a superblock in the El Poblenou district
The superblocks are part of a comprehensive program to improve the city’s transportation networks and reduce their environmental impact, Ms. Sanz Cid said. The effort, called the Urban Mobility Plan, includes increasing bus service, extending train lines to the suburbs and tripling the number of bike lanes. …
In Gràcia, where more than two-thirds of the streets were turned into public spaces, car traffic has dropped to 81,514 trips annually from 95,889 before the superblocks were established. Street life is thriving: Pedestrians now make 201,843 trips annually through Gràcia, up 10 percent from before the superblocks. Cyclists make 10,143 trips annually, a 30 percent increase.
An interview with Gil Kelley by Naoibh O’Connor in the Vancouver Courier.
Q: Obviously affordability is one of the key issues facing Vancouver whether you want to rent or buy. How will you approach it? Some people criticize the city for protecting single-family neighbourhoods too much to the detriment of people who want to move into the city, while other long-time residents feel their neighbourhoods are being destroyed and don’t look like they used to. How do you bridge that gap or deal with that issue?
A: I guess I would say it’s not an either or choice and I would resist that framing of it. There is room for gentle infill and change within lower density neighbourhoods, but it doesn’t mean radical change. We’ve got a lot of capacity yet to be tapped in the corridors and station areas and even in the core city, so I want to resist that kind of framing. That said, there’s probably a generational shift coming where some of those single-family homes will be re-occupied by families, instead of older adults, where there might be a desire to add a laneway, cottage or accessory unit to help with the mortgage. That kind of gentle infill, those numbers actually add up over a broad landscape, so I’m not certain yet that we need to go in and wholly upzone single-family neighbourhoods. Maybe widening the corridors a little bit is one thing, but I need to look more closely and get a little bit smarter about the lay of the land here before I can answer your question definitively.
Vancouver could use this … allow everyone to see the real-time effects on view cones, shading, etc.
From dezeen: Cilvia reimagines London planning process as video game:
UBC Economist Tom Davidoff has some thoughts about how to deal with housing unaffordability. His ideas involve increasing density within the vast swaths of Vancouver land that are now zoned for extremely low density. Plus complex review of real estate taxation, CAC’s and political responsibility for control of land usage.
His ideas presage a political challenge to shift hearts and minds from the entrenched viewpoint that living in a single family home is the inalienable birthright of every person in Canada. Not to mention the simple resistance to change from the status-quo — those now comfortably housed in Vancouver’s old car suburbs.
To my thinking, it’s a better solution than pushing car suburbs onto the ALR.
Davidoff would like to see the province step in to mandate density targets. He suggested municipalities could then hold auctions in which developers could bid to build to those density targets.
Instead of developers contributing a community amenity contribution, which are set by the city and are different for each project, Davidoff proposed the affected community come up with the amount they expect to be compensated for “the economic loss if you allow townhomes, if you allow condos.”
“If we do contributions for density that way, we extract as much wealth as we can from wealthy homeowners and builders, and we give a lot of benefit to locals so they have a reason to accept density.”
Thanks to Jen St. Denis in Metro
In this 33:48 video Prof. Davidoff discusses his ideas in much more breadth and detail. With PowerPoint slides too!! At 24:30, things get interesting with recommendations on a market-based approach to densification.
In 31 years, so much empty space no longer empty. Thanks to occasional PT author Michael Mortensen for the tip.
Note: video requires Flash plug-in.
October 8: Ian Gillespie’s proposed redevelopment of the Safeway east of the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station, which has been identified as a key site in the Grandview-Woodland community plan.
The information session will be held by developer Westbank Projects (Ian Gillespie) and Crombie REIT, the owner of the Safeway site, at Federico’s Supper Club, 1728 Commercial Dr., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Here are some hints as to what to expect: the redeveloped old Safeway site at Granville and 70th in Vancouver. Another is underway (early stages) at the Davie / Cardero Safeway in Vancouver’s West End.
Just as we are head towards the dark months of the year, this article from the Washington Post provides background on the American Medical Association’s warning that streetlights — such as those in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Houston and elsewhere — emit unseen blue light that can disturb sleep rhythms and possibly increase the risk of serious health conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. The AMA also cautioned that those light-emitting-diode lights can impair nighttime driving vision.
Everyone is on the LED bandwagon, including the street lighting in many metro municipalities. The City of Surrey is spending 11 million dollars on upgrading street lighting to LED, with an expected energy savings of 1 million dollars a year. Surrey will be one of the first municipalities to be completely converted to this new light technology.
Know to be cost efficient these lights last 15 to 20 years, not two to five like the previous high-pressure sodium street lamps, and the light is spread more evenly. New York City has responded by using a bulb with less intensity for street lighting intensity bulb that the AMA considers safe.
There was an early Federal push in the USA to adapt to and use LED lighting, and it appears the higher intensity of these earlier lights are the problem. Lighting is measured by color temperature, which is expressed in “kelvin,” or “K.” The original LED streetlights had temperatures of at least 4000K, which produces a bright white light with a high content of unseen blue light.
Now, LEDs are available with lower kelvin ratings and roughly the same energy efficiency as those with higher ratings. They don’t emit as much potentially harmful blue light, and they produce a softer amber hue.
Researchers have indicated that blue-rich outdoor lights may decrease the hormone melatonin which balances sleep and regulated the body’s circadian rhythm of the sleep and awake cycle. Researchers note that the real challenge may be that humans have not evolved to see light at night. The AMA also expressed concern on the impact of this light on wildlife, animals and birds.
It’s an example of the early adoption and embracing of a new technological improvement without rigorous testing of potential health impacts on human as well as other animal and bird life.
Don’t forget: Urbanarium’s sold-out event at the Vancouver Playhouse, Wednesday Sept 28 5:30 – 9:00. You’ll get a chance to hear from Gil Kelley, Vancouver’s new General Manager of Planning, Urban Design, and Sustainability. If you’ve ponied up your $10, don’t miss this opportunity.
Gil will speak on: West Coast Cities: On the Leading Edge of Change. Followed by a Q and A and a reception in the Playhouse lobby.
5.30 – 6.30 Networking and No Host Bar
6.30 – 8.00 Talk and Q+A
8.00 – 9.00 Reception
Vancouver Playhouse, 600 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, BC
The City of Vancouver invites you to get involved in discussions on housing. Monday October 24-29.
The key principles and themes of Re:Address will be focused on exploring ways to best deliver a diversity of long term housing solutions that are resilient, future focused and most importantly, targeting the needs of those people who live and work in Vancouver.
. . . The City of Vancouver’s first international housing summit will bring together 500 thought leaders and experts from around the world to explore ideas and solutions to accelerate housing affordability in cities. The full day of activities will include opening and closing keynotes, mayors’ roundtable, panel discussions and short presentations. Topics of discussion will include Indigenous housing innovation, new global economic models, shifting generational needs and wants and the growth of the non-profit sector.