Comment 119944

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted September 07, 2016 at 09:28:56

As a urban planner I agree with everything in the article but reality has a way of making things a little more difficult. The First Law of Urban Planning is same as Newton's 3rd Law of Motion. Every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction. Many of the "Bold Actions" delivered by the province have happened because there has essentially been no effective provincial opposition to the Liberals at Queens Park. As long as the Liberals stay in power things stay more or less the same. If the Conservatives get in, many although not all of these initiatives would disappear in a puff of political smoke, never to be seen again. Not that I am pro liberal or pro conservative for that matter. The reality is just that, many of these programs would have to go away because of the political need, good or bad, to be different. The new provincial government's need to be different from the old one to be as doing something by its supporters.

The article mentions building densities increasing. This is difficult in the real world as well because any time you mention that a building of increased density in comparison to what is around it is proposed, most of the residents around it don't want it at all. The people who build most buildings in this province are for profit developers. They are doing this to make money, they have to literally. I can't tell you how many times I have been at public meetings in a professional capacity and heard a resident speaking against a new development and asking me, "why do these buildings always have to be so big and tall? Why can't they just build little 4-6 story walk-ups like they used to build?"

The answer is simply profit. 4-6 story walk-up buildings would increase density and not greatly strain existing residential neighborhoods, right? However, developers need to make profit to survive. The banks whom loan the developers money demand a certain percentage profit or they will not get the loans in the first place. The building code in Ontario makes 4-7 story residential buildings almost impossible to build and make any money at all for numerous reasons. Zoning like it or not, also adds significant costs as well. The basic land price also effects things. If a land parcel is valuable enough to make multistory multi-residential buildings on it in the first place, it means that the land is too valuable and costly to build townhouses or smaller buildings on it. Sometimes in fact, well nearly all the time, developers have to add significant number of floors to developments just to make the individual units affordable to attract the target market they want to lease the buildings.

If a neighborhood would rather see a 5 story residential building instead of 15 story building on a valuable piece of land and end up getting their wish to limit that development to the lower floor height well, better get used to a building where each residential unit is significantly more expensive to own or rent than what would be possible in a larger building! When that does happen, the existing residents often find that the new residents of that building don't want the existing residents around because they are too poor and not a good fit with the people in the new building. When the residents really get what they want and many new buildings have been limited in height and density, they find that prices in the neighborhood stores start going up because the new residents can afford more expensive things than the original residents. These original residents, often the same ones who fought to stop the bigger buildings in the first place are ironically, usually the first ones forced out of the neighborhood because of the effects of gentrification their efforts helped to create.

Many of the ideas in this article are great but many that I read here would have some people up in arms. Actually so far its the ultimate anti reaction to many of the things in this article. This particular example occurs more often in the US but I have seen milder versions of it here in Canada. There is apolitical fringe that sees things like smart growth, more environmentally and economical sustainable communities, complete streets and increased community densities to help induce better standard and rapid transit services, the shift away from driving to more transit, cycling and walking all as a conspiracy or an outright social, political and economic attack on their lives, lifestyles and beliefs. The Agenda 21 people or really the anti Agenda 21 movement is a weird reactionary reality that we planners have to now deal with. To be quite honest, the internet makes it far worse because now these people can organize more effectively.

These people believe that Agenda 21 a report by the UN outlining things that could be done to make building cities more sustainably is really a blueprint to change the western civilization (primarily the US). They believe the ultimate goal is to have the United Nations take over control of everything and enslave the population in some type of Socialist or Communist system, under the guise of the Environmental Movement. These are extreme people with fringe views but they are very good at blocking projects and developments that many in this group would see as positive. Yes, I have seen mild versions of it here in Ontario as well. From my experience in Ontario it is usually present in rural areas that are quickly suburbanizing or have practices (usually farming practices of some type) that the new suburban residents don't like or morally approve of. Thus conflict has risen out of the perceived need by the newer suburban residents to regulate the activity or in the case of the rural residents, overregulate an activity that is by them, considered perfectly normal. The more fringe rural residents see this an attack on their beliefs and lifestyles and will now block any activity, plan or project positive or not that, changes the status quo. They can be very effective at it as well! Their tactics can range from the very creative to out right violent, or just incredibly obnoxious. For example, shouting and screaming and blocking all activity at a council meeting, so no work can be done at all until their particular problem is dealt with to their satisfaction, whether it is on the meeting's agenda or not. Even if they are ejected from the meeting you can find them outside constantly throwing rocks at the building and its windows to make their point and continue the disruption until the council gives in. Any attempt to stop them directly by use of even mild force is seen as an attack on democracy and is proof of their beliefs. Many honestly believe that the thing they are fighting (whatever it is) is just part of the ultimate plan the will lead to the take over of their country by some group(socialists, communists, even aliens, take your pick)! The ultimate action and reaction situation in Urban Planning.

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