Friday, March 21, 2014

Brentwood debate continues

The debate over the Brentwood Mall Redevelopment (BMR) has picked up over the past few months as letters and articles supporting or opposing the project in local news publications have been more frequent than ever before.

The author of one of my favourite blogs, Gordon Price, was recently interviewed by the Burnaby NewsLeader where he expressed support for the project with the argument that many of the expressed concerns fuelling opposition to the project are the reasons why the BMR should be supported.

(Burnaby NewsLeader article)

Brentwood growth could help maintain quality of life: Price

The planned redevelopment of Brentwood mall has many area residents worried it will only bring more traffic to their already congested streets.
But the impact will likely be less than they might think, says Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University's City Program.
Price is a former longtime Vancouver city councillor and an expert on transportation and land use. He stressed that he hasn't read the traffic studies for the project but he's pretty clear on what some of its general impacts will be.
Shape Properties' redevelopment of the 28-acre mall site next to Brentwood SkyTrain station is proposed to include 11 residential towers, two office buildings, a public plaza and new retail space. Following a public hearing last month, Burnaby council is set to vote on rezoning for the project's first tower in the weeks ahead.
Price said the plan will have less impact on traffic than if it were for a commercial-only project. And it will have less impact than if that same amount of housing density were put into the existing community. And far less impact than if that density were located further away, such as in the Fraser Valley, which would then require people to drive through Burnaby to get where they're going.
"If you want to look at the option of accommodating growth but doing it in a way that minimizes—doesn't eliminate—but minimizes the negative impacts, then having a concentrated, mixed-use project next to serious rapid transit and some good road capacity is a pretty good option."
To put that amount of density, in low-rise apartments for instance, "you can imagine the number of houses that would have to be bulldozed," he said.
"Having a very compact community has at least this advantage: walking becomes a far more serious option for people because it's practical."
People that live in a highrise near a SkyTrain station are more likely to use transit to get around. "We've seen this occur quite dramatically in places like Vancouver and Burnaby," he said.
Another factor in why this is so: "One of the only reasons they can afford [to live there] is because they don't have a car or two cars."
For many people, buying a single-family house in North Burnaby is out of reach but if services are within walking distance, that gives people another choice of where they can live.
It's still a matter of wait-and-see on the Brentwood mall project, he said.
But "it's this type of development that actually may reduce car use. If your No. 1  priority is concern about traffic congestion or growth of cars in your neighbourhood, this may be the project to support in order to get some reduction in that. That's not out of the question."
Redeveloping parking lots, as is mainly the case for Brentwood mall, are ideal because you don't have to demolish anything, nobody needs to be evicted, land doesn't have to be assembled and comprehensive planning can be done on a larger area, he said.
Burnaby deserves real credit for its long range planning, Price said, noting its vision goes back to its apartment study back in the 1970s.
"That vision has been built out over time, it's delivering benefits, it's taking the pressure off the single-family neighbourhoods."
Not adding to the city's housing stock will only create scarcity and cause increased competition for the existing housing, both rented and owned, driving up prices even more, he added.
"If people are really anxious about growth, the irony of it is growth may well be what maintains their quality of life, their neighbourhoods and prevents people from competing with them for the existing housing stock, which they would have no choice to do if you didn't provide an option for them."

(Burnaby Now article)

Rick McGowan / Burnaby Now
March 6, 2014 09:38 AM

Dear Editor:
Re: Skyscraper stirs debate, Burnaby NOW,  Feb. 28.
In fairness to the mayor and as a regular pedestrian and cyclist, I am excited about the mayor's  suggestion "to build a bike and pedestrian path ... to connect the Heights with Brentwood."
A safe bike and pedestrian route  along Willingdon is long overdue.
On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how well Confederation Park and the pool absorb the additional clientele.
And, while I will agree with the former CEO and president of the Burnaby Board of Trade that  "rental stock is very much needed"  and is indeed "a part of this particular development," I wonder how affordable it will be in any of the proposed towers.
For example, a fourth-floor, 1257-square-foot apartment at the Jewel II in Metrotown can be purchased for $898,000. I don't know about Ms. Gering, but such a home is certainly "out of reach" for my dual income family of four.
I also agree "single  detached housing ... is out of reach for  young families," but so is the average three-bedroom apartment in a town centre.
An additional challenge for families with children is a preference investor landlords have for student renters, who are usually willing to pay more  and are shorter term.
Shape's proposal will do nothing for young families in the area.
The city has the resources to create affordable rental housing close to SkyTrain, but it doesn't have a plan or the will to make it happen.
Make no mistake about it. The bylaw amendment allowing for these 50 to 70 storey towers popping up around the city," s-zoning," is about self-interest.
The city and highrise developers can "green-wash" it all they want with cycle paths, electric charging stations and free transit passes. Or scare us with talk of doing something for Burnaby's portion of the 40,000 newcomers coming to the province every year, or of dealing with the expected incoming of 30,000 people over the next 20 years. The bottom line is that more floors equals more profits to developers and more taxes to the city to keep their unsustainable vision alive.
Rick McGowan, Burnaby
© Burnaby Now

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