Archive for January, 2007


Architect Bing Thom was scheduled to speak on “The Making of Central City and Beyond” on Thursday, February 8th at 2 pm.


The lecture will still be held SFU Surrey, Central City, 250–13450 102nd Avenue, Surrey.

Our apologies for the inconvenience.


January 29, 2007 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Open House: Metro Core Jobs and Economy Land Use Plan

Do we have enough space for future job growth? The City of Vancouver is undertaking the Metro Core Jobs and Economy Land Use Plan to ensure there is sufficient land to accommodate future job growth and economic activity in the metropolitan core.

The study has recently completed “Step Two: Projecting the Future” where future projections of job growth and demand for employment space are compared to the amount of employment space that could be built under our current zoning.

The City of Vancouver is hosting a public open house to present these findings and to hear your ideas. The open house is scheduled for:

Saturday, February 3, 2007, 10 am – 2 pm
Vancouver Public Library, 350 West Georgia Street
(North Promenade of Library Concourse)

City staff will be on hand to answer questions and collect your comments.

More information on this study is available on the city’s website at

INFORMATION: Andy Renton, Planning Assistant, 604.871.6964

January 23, 2007 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment


Frank Ducote, one of our regular Urban Design instructors, was a consultant on the nearly completed Main Street Showcase Project in Vancouver.

The entire 8km corridor was selected as one of the region’s Transport Canada/TransLink)/municipal Showcase projects to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions; in this instance by making changes that would make bus service more efficient and dependable.

Tamim Raad at Translink, Winston Chou in the City of Vancouver Engineering Department, and Phil Scott of the Planning Department were the key project participants for their respective agencies.

Main Street Showcase

Here’s a sketch for the tree grates entitled “Fins, Feathers, Fur and
Flowers” that are now being installed in Mid-Main area (around 21st to 24th
Avenues). I also designed the paving concept and various sidewalk stamps,
the themes of which vary by the fronting uses on the street. Public art is
yet to come.

Main Strete grate

The Main Street Project is a great example of addressing a big issue in small ways. By making dozens of little changes, the result is a change in the way people view their local neighbourhood, how they use transit, and ultimately how they lower their carbon footprint. But because the changes are relatively minor, they don’t get as much public profile. Still, these are details which when put together change the big picture.

January 22, 2007 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment


UBC urban-planning professor Larry Frank has been on the front lines of the sprawl debate. And the current issue of Science News has a fine cover-page story on the controversy.


Larry did much of his research in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived for many years. After moving to Vancouver, he personally experienced the consequences of the city’s different design.

The glaring difference between the two cities’ landscapes figures in Frank’s professional life as well as in his personal one….

He and other researchers have evidence that associates health problems with urban sprawl, a loose term for humanmade landscapes characterized by a low density of buildings, dependence on automobiles, and a separation of residential and commercial areas.

Frank proposes that sprawl discourages physical activity, but some researchers suggest that people who don’t care to exercise choose suburban life. Besides working to settle that disagreement, researchers are looking at facets of urban design that may shortchange health.

The story provides good background on the “sorting versus causation” debate. The first studies (only four years ago) linked sprawl and obesity:

Residents of sprawling cities and counties tended to weigh more, walk less, and have higher blood pressure than did people living in compact communities …

In 2004, Frank and his colleagues produced additional connections among urban form, activity, and obesity. The data on more than 10,500 people in the Atlanta area indicated that the more time a person spends in a car, the more obese he or she tends to be. But the more time people spend walking, the less obese they are.

Then came the counter-arguments.

University of Toronto economist Matthew Turner charges that “a lot of people out there don’t like urban sprawl, and those people are trying to hijack the obesity epidemic to further the smart-growth agenda [and] change how cities look.”

Turner conducted a study that tracked people over time, as some of them moved from one neighborhood to another. He and his collaborators found no change in weight associated with moving from a sprawling locale to a dense one, or vice versa.

“We’re the only ones that have tried to distinguish between causation and sorting … and we find that it’s sorting,” he says. “The available facts do not support the conclusion that sprawling neighborhoods cause weight gain.”

Frank and others involved in the original research were always aware of the sorting-causation distinction. And now their latest work “could split the ideological difference.”

By surveying people in a variety of neighborhoods, he learned that people who are less inclined to be active tend to live in less pedestrian-friendly locales—evidence that people are sorting themselves. But he also found that, no matter how much people like or dislike being active, they are more active when they live in compact, walkable areas than when they live in sprawling neighborhoods.

Larry has also made the point: So what if people sort themselves? We need to offer people more opportunities to live in the kind of neighbourhood where they can walk if they choose. Too often our urban design discourages physical activity regardless of people’s motivations.

“The overarching message is that the built environment is an enabler or a disabler of active transportation—of walking,” Frank says.

Full story here.

January 22, 2007 at 11:51 am 1 comment

City Program Spring Courses and Lectures

Here are our upcoming SFU City Program lectures and mid-career courses. Most events take place at SFU Vancouver, with some lectures in Surrey and some courses in Edmonton and Kelowna.

Public lecture speakers include Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution, author of many books including ‘Stuck in Traffic’ and ‘New Visions for Metropolitan America’ .

Registration and additional details at .

Public Lectures:

-Bing Thom: The Making of Central City and Beyond, Re-scheduled to March 1, Surrey

-Landmarks, not Landfills: Keeping Canadian Cities out of the Dumpster, February 15

-Anthony Downs: Shaping the Region’s Future – Connecting Land Use and Transportation, March 7 (Surrey) or March 8 (Van)

-VIA Architecture Urban Design Lecture: Landscape, Waste and Urbanization, with Alan Berger, May 23

-Building Complete Communities: The Noisette New American City, May 31

-City Making in Paradise with Mike Harcourt and Ken Cameron, June 14


Urban Design: Studio I, Analytic Tools, January 25-27, Surrey

Urban Design Special Topics: Public Participation Methods, February 23-24

Urban Design: Ecological Planning and Sustainable Design, March 9-10

Urban Design: Alternative Development Standards, April 27-28

Urban Design Studio II, Synthesis of Urban Form, May 31-June 2

Urban Design: Theory and Practice, May 9-10, Edmonton

Urban Design: Visual Communication, May 11-12, Edmonton

Professional Development:

-Real Estate Development from the Inside Out, February 12-March 19

-The Challenge of Sustainable Development for Heritage Conservation, February 16

-Video Production for Planners, May 8-June 14

-Engineering for Planners, Planning for Engineers, May 11

-Three Things They Didn’t Teach You in Planning School, April 17, Kelowna

Philosophers’ Cafés:

-Bad Manners, April 12

-Buying Happiness, May 3


January 19, 2007 at 10:27 am 3 comments

Aerial Tram for SFU?

Given the access problems the Burnaby campus has faced with the recent spate of weather, maybe it is time to consider an alternative.  Portland, Oregon, is once again showing the way with the recent of opening of the Aerial Tram connecting the Oregon Health and Sciences University on Marquam Hill with the South Waterfront development.

Portland Aerial Tram

A source at TransLink did a little back-of-the envelope work:

Perhaps the Portland Aerial Tram will inspire some new thinking for access to SFU Burnaby Mountain ­ I¹ve occasionally done some calculations based on manufacturers¹ web site data and it would certainly be feasible to replace the #145 Production Way Stn SFU shuttle bus route with either a two cabintram (like Portland) or a detachable gondola (like those at Whistler. Both would be faster than the bus and have sufficient capacity. Having fully loaded artic diesel buses grind up that hill all-day (reportedly being passed by fit cyclists!) can¹t be good for anyone.

For more on the tram and related development, check out the current issue of Price Tags:


January 19, 2007 at 10:14 am 1 comment

What’s New: The Zoning Policy that worked too well

The New York Times reports on the Vancouver dilemma: the Living First policy, which has encouraged more residential development downtown, is a victim of its own success. Or rather, the victim is the lack of commercial development to provide space for jobs and to loosen up the core-office vacancy rate, now at a very low 3.3 percent.

This is not a new story – and the City has already responded with new policies – but coverage in the august New York Times makes it an even bigger issue.

You read the whole story here – but here are some excerpts:

Over the last 15 years, downtown Vancouver has become a leader in North America’s urban housing renaissance. Under Vancouver’s “living first” policy, which was adopted 20 years ago, the downtown population has increased to 80,000 from 40,000, out of a total city population of 600,000. By 2030, planners expect 120,000 people to live in the city’s shimmering glass skyscrapers, which overlook the snowcapped North Shore mountains, English Bay and Coal Harbour….

Last month, the city released a jobs and land-use study, which concluded that the downtown peninsula could run out of job space within five years under current zoning regulations.

Nevertheless, encouraging new office construction will not be an easy task, Mr. Toderian said. The Vancouver office market has a number of relatively small tenants, and he said there was a reluctance on the part of local developers to build office towers on speculation. And now the Bay Parkade project, which is a test case of the city’s new approach, has some developers suggesting that office growth is not viable….

According to the city’s jobs and land-use plan, downtown will need about 65 million square feet of space to accommodate job growth over the next 20 years. That is about 10 million more than the capacity under current land-use regulations. Class A office vacancy rates have already dropped to 3.3 percent, down from 12.3 percent two years ago, and recent transactions set a new high of 40 Canadian dollars ($34) a square foot, according to Jennifer Robertson of Cushman & Wakefield….

The land-use study will have policy implications for developers and other stakeholders, Mr. Toderian said, but he said he saw no crisis ahead. “Most downtowns would love to have our problem,” he said. “We are well-positioned to do that deeper level of urbanism.”


January 18, 2007 at 11:57 am 2 comments

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