There will never be enough density, no city in the world can win that particular race.

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The spirit of Vancouver, themed “Vancouverism” by former city planner Larry Beasley, is vanishing in the shadow of condo towers, rampant greed and over-densification. The story is the same all over the world in every afflicted city: invasions of unrestricted global capital in the property market, hyper gentrification, mass loss of affordable housing stock, a plague of tourists, the death of small local businesses, and the rise of corporate monoculture.

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Under the banner of affordability, already affordable and functional neighborhoods with a variety of architecture, ownerships, and personalized green spaces, the new zoning creates what we already have seen in Yaletown and downtown: an anesthetized aesthetic.

It will be the same all over: Same tower architecture, same shiny surfaces, same steel and glass frontages, facing each other up to 50 storeys high along city streets. The inhabitants can see their reflections in the building opposite, thanks to minimal tower separation. Views of the surrounding Vancouver scenery will only be available for the few at the top of the towers. There will be nothing for residents in the public realm except 24 hours of overcrowding on glorified “boulevards” flanked by the same corporate retail and restaurant chains, and overburdened by car traffic. As if everyone living in the corridor works there and uses public transit or bikes.

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There are no significant planned escapes from the new density and glorified “vibrancy” in the form of designed large new parks and green spaces that are more than just mere pocket parks, overshadowed by the adjacent towers and surrounded by massive traffic.

The city is willing to squeeze its existing and future population (and millions of tourists) into the same green spaces, public pools, and water frontage walkways created decades ago for a population several times smaller than proposed. There will be no serenity left in Vancouver, except for the rich who can exclusively enjoy their decks and terraces and take in the remaining views of the mountains and the water. There will be no chance of cultivating street retail such as Main Street, West 4th, Commercial Drive, or West 41st in Kerrisdale due to the mechanisms of corporate leasing.

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There will be no more quiet, green courtyards and lawns that still exist for renters in characteristic neighborhoods such as between Oak, Granville, Broadway and 12th Avenue. The nature of replacement buildings is determined by the financing and turn-arounds, not by urban design principles, beauty, and a feeling of home for its residents. Instead, maximizing building footprints and heights will be squashing the only open spaces available and the visual variety of its existing buildings.

It is all deeply unfair and cynical to the population who already live here and who are seen as a disposable mass in order to achieve more and more density and so-called affordability. Their views are being criticized as “nostalgic”.

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However, all of this is man-made, intentional, and therefore stoppable. The next City of Vancouver council and its planning administration should develop a mind-set, process and policy that anyone who plans and builds in the city has to adhere to the strongest urban design qualities and quality density, or leave.

There will never be enough density, no city in the world can win that particular race. Just following an open-door approach to simply build large tower formats — with a certain so-called affordability rate — and allow global hyper-gentrification at the same time is easily giving away the precious location this city has to the highest bidder instead of to the best bidder. It is worth fighting for. There is only one Vancouver.

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Lothar Wiwjorra, retired urban designer/city architect, Vancouver

Regular dredging needed to safeguard our communities

As a farmer who was affected by the floods in Abbotsford, I am wondering why there is no more discussion around dredging of rivers versus better dikes. Continuous maintenance of our diking and drainage systems is critical, but all that work comes to naught unless we allow the waters in the river to be able to flow freely. Sediment buildup in our rivers is a normal occurrence and is not a result of climate change. In order to safeguard the Lower Mainland, the Nooksack and the Fraser below Hope should be on a regular dredging program.

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I understand some fish habitat is disturbed, but one must look to the greater good. As an added bonus, the amount of gravel that can be extracted would probably pay for the cost.

Armand Vander Meulen, Abbotsford


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