Comment 119946

By RobF (registered) | Posted September 08, 2016 at 10:18:27

I have to agree with the general thrust of Haveacow's comment. The province is pushing an intensification/TOD agenda, but there is always a limit to how far, how fast changes can be realized in a pluralist, multi-stakeholder system in which property-rights dominate land-use planning.

My experience is that even the most modest forms of intensification are strongly resisted by what might be called "near neighbours" ... mainly the property owners adjacent to the property.

The most dangerous and counterproductive arguments against intensification via selective redevelopment and infilling relate to traffic. In the immediate term virtually every new development will increase traffic, but if the aim is to increase TODs and the viability of the overall mass transit system (among other benefits), then more compact built form and higher densities is absolutely necessary. The interim problem of increased traffic is potent if a statutory planning process is involved, because it can be used at the OMB to demonstrate harm to property values and enjoyment of property. For dedicated urbanists the threat is obvious: if density increases are straightforwardly tied to traffic impacts on immediately surrounding areas and accepted by the OMB then continued sprawl is basically a mandated result.

Where I disagree with Haveacow is with regard to the needs of developers and land speculators as relates to height and density needs to make projects "work". I don't feel that it is up to residents to accept excessive spot density increases or tall buildings for that reason. There may be other justifications that I would accept. And the question of what is an optimal density for a site and area is not a science in my view of planning and urban design ... indeed what is desperately needed is a recognition that height and density is also a political question that involves trade-offs of various sorts -- a lot of value judgments are embedded in planning and urbanistic discourse.

Modern planning has a mixed history. Though I find the local resistance to good intensification projects frustrating, I'm more strongly opposed to a return to the technocratic style of planning that resulted in citizen revolts in the 1960s and 70s ... I live in a neighbourhood in which the grand planning scheme resulted in the expropriation of over 600 houses. At a recent community meeting about a 4-storey project one elderly resident yelled 3 stories and no higher, that was the agreement we made with the City after urban renewal (that a new secondary plan has superseded that if it was indeed the case is another story ... the current plan permits up to 4 storeys on the site in question, while the outdated zoning doesn't).

If we introduced mandatory minimum zoning the problem would be determining the appropriate heights and unit densities ... that is probably a conversation we should have, but won't because it is too risky politically. Outside of urbanist circles intensification is generally unpopular and the Liberals are already feeling vulnerable on a number of fronts.

Comment edited by RobF on 2016-09-08 10:23:35

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