Saturday, June 24, 2017

To create density do we need to build towers?

FRANK MURPHY I live in the Old City which is as close as Nanaimo has to a medium density urban pocket. All the benefits of compact city centre living are here. Within an easy walk: transit, shops, pubs and restaurants. I’ll stop now before this turns into an ad.
But here’s the thing: density’s driven by both good public land use policies at City Hall and market demand. Towers may be the right choice based on those things. So 2 things to consider —
The City of Nanaimo’s Downtown Waterfront Lands Initiative established that heights restricted to between 4 and 6 storeys would easily accommodate the number of residents over the near and long term.
 And the City’s projection included in last week’s open house is for population growth of about 1,000 a year. So back of the envelope if they’re all newcomers (as opposed to birth rate exceeding the rate us old farts are kicking off, but let’s say all newcomers) and family size averages let’s say 3 we need 333 homes a year. Let’s say half of those families want to live downtown (it tends to be a smaller ratio) so for all of the downtown area we would need 165 new homes per year. Let’s say half of those want to live on these waterfront lands and you get 4 storey buildings built over time as demand dictates. (And it's clear the market has not built anywhere near this supply over the last number of years.)
So anyway, that’s why I say yes to density. Yes to better land use policies (let’s re-instate the Urban Containment Boundary across the southern greenlands that was eliminated about 10 years ago) and yes stop sprawling into forested lands..
But there’s no need for towers on the waterfront. Or any developer driven residential projects on the portion of the site closest to the waterfront as has been recommended by City of Nanaimo Staff.
These waterfront lands (the portion on the map identified as residential east of Front St) should be public space protected from development forever.

Take a look at the visionary work being done by cities like Hamilton ON to redevelop old economy waterfront lands.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Demand an open design competition
before we loose this city-building
chance-in-a-century opportunity


@CBCUnreserved tweeting all 94 #TRC recommendations: 1 ea day Here's 1 - 10


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sneak peek at the South Downtown Waterfront master plan. How do you like 11 storey towers on the publicly owned waterfront?



Thursday, June 15, 2017

On "fiscal responsibility"

The federal Minster of Defence a few years ago held a press conference surrounded by bigwigs from the Departments of Defence and Finance. They were there to announce the decision to not proceed with a large expenditure for new equipment and personnel. Canadian Armed Forces had been lobbying hard to get budget approval for this huge initiative. A quote from the Minister has stayed with me since: “Sometimes, you have to tell the Generals, ‘No!’”

The public demands it and every candidate running for office claims confidently to be "fiscally responsible." The City of Nanaimo chart, above, shows the allocations of a typical household's property tax and user fee payments to the City treasury. It illustrates that 53% of the revenues collected are applied to only 3 areas of City activities: Police, Fire and Engineering / Public Works.
Question then to candidates running in the July 8 by-election: In you view, are these proportions about right, or are they out of whack? And supplementary, if you feel they are disproportionate how would you adjust them? And regardless of your first answer, if you were elected to Council and the time came to be the steward of public funds and review expenditure appeals from City Departments, and oversee ongoing negotiations with the unions involved would you be prepared to "tell the Generals, ‘No!’?”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

On-line course —
Democratic Values in Planning
Urban Design for the Public Good:
Dutch Urbanism. Week 3.

Reading the Landscape, a method of “reading” the landscape as input for designers. Illustrating two basic principles in Dutch Urbanism: its contextual approach and the connection of regional and local scale. A landscape can be dissected into three layers: a natural layer, a cultural layer and an urban layer. Analysing a landscape in this way can help to find or pinpoint the spatial identity of a given place. Planners and designers can incorporate this information in new designs. Using the “identity” of a place in design is important in a fast urbanising world where local identities may be at stake.
The 3 maps that follow illustrate each: 1. The natural layer, showing Nanaimo's siting on the Strait of Georgia, the Millstream River, right in the picture. 2. The cultural layer. This map is from the 2008 Downtown Urban Design Plan and Guidelines showing the nature of each precinct in the city. 3. For The Urban Layer I've chosen, perhaps ironically, an 1891 map showing the distinctive street grid pattern that fans out from the central waterfront.




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Let's do the new building at Franklyn
and Wallace a favour...

More people living more compactly downtown has many benefits, from a lower carbon footprint per capita to a lower per capita cost to deliver City services.  For our increasingly medium-density downtown to succeed to everyone's benefit, we need to devote more resources to the public realm.
Here's a couple of suggestions that could be immediately prioritized by the City of Nanaimo to improve the public realm around the new building at Franklyn and Wallace Streets, which will bring 46 new multi-family housing units to the Old City neighbourhood. The redesign of both Franklyn and Wallace Streets and the creation of a new urban square at the City Hall grounds across the street.
Here's Streetmix sketches of Franklyn and Wallace. Specs from the 2008 Downtown Urban Design Plan and Guidelines. I've moved the bike lanes away from the vehicle realm and placed them snug to the sidewalk. This has proven to be a safer alignment, avoiding cyclist injuries caused by "dooring." These safer, more inclusive street design specs have been in place now for almost 10 years but none have been enacted. Nanaimo needs downtown demonstration projects to show how a "complete street" benefits all users.



Next time you get a chance and are near City Hall on Wallace, walk to the edge of what is now a small parking lot on the City Hall grounds, facing the grounds' carefully maintained landscaping and gardens. You'll see a dramatic panoramic view of downtown across to the harbour. It's past time to eliminate this parking, and restore the Dunsmuir St. sidewalk it claimed, and create here a new public square. An important neighbourhood enhancement and a more appropriate use of our City Hall grounds than the parking of a few cars.


Thursday, June 8, 2017