“I think panic over gentrification is usually sublimated panic over risk or unfairness in the economy as a whole. We just think we can control the local housing market.”
I’ve been posting retouched Vancouver photos to Flickr, finally fixing some of the extreme shadow/highlight problems in the originals. (I took them late one afternoon near summer solstice; the high latitude means that the sun sets late, after many hours at a low angle. Further, I was trying to get shots catching both the gleaming towers above and the then-shadowed streets below. Quite a challenge, and they turned out pretty poorly.)
In any case, some research finds that the West End may not even be Canada’s densest neighborhood: although Statistics Canada won’t give me easy access to that info, Vancouver’s planning department says 31,360 per square mile for the entire downtown peninsula, including the West End; Montréal’s planning department says one census tract there (can’t tell which) nears 113,000, and the overwhelmingly low-rise Plateau arrondissement 33,918 per square mile. It pales compared to the densest tracts in Manhattan (200,000+) and Chicago (91,000), or neighborhoods (Upper East Side, 108,000; Near North Side, 48,500).
Further, Vancouver’s towers are tiny compared to those in Chicago, much less Manhattan. Their planning department cites new developments there as averaging a floor-to-area ratio [Yanks say “color” and FAR, Canucks say “colour” and FSR] of 2-4; in downtown Chicago, home of a famously lenient City Hall, many new towers reach 20 FAR, and we don’t even get the parks or schools or social housing that Vancouver demands of its developers. Sure, our apartments are larger, but not ten times bigger!
Anyhow, useful links:
* Atlas démographique et socio-économique de Montréal
* Overviews of housing development in Vancouver’s former industrial areas
* Photos of Vancouver’s skyline compared, 1978-2003
* A Seattle Times series on urban growth in Cascadia
* Alan Loomis’ essay on other urbanisms, a 2000 conference at Berkeley co-convened at CNU that partially explored West Coast urbanisms
And while we’re on a Cascadia kick, Marian Burros of the Times writes about New Seasons Market, a small supermarket chain in metro Portland which focuses on service and — surprise — locally grown food, sourcing 27% of its items from within the bioregion. Not too surprisingly, its second store is at Orenco Station, “considered a leading example of ‘New Urbanism.‘”
Doc Hatfield, a rancher, has a heartwarming quote: “Most of the ranchers are rural, religious, conservative Republicans. And most of the customers are urban, secular, liberal Democrats. When it comes to healthy land, healthy food, healthy people and healthy diets, those tags mean nothing. Urbanites are just as concerned about open spaces and healthy rural communities as people who live there. When ranchers get to the city, they realize rural areas don’t have a corner on values. I think that’s what we are most excited about.”