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.”
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