First of, two interesting pieces of information shared by Kevin and Brent over drinks in Vancouver:
– Average age of person living in Vancouver : 42
– Money spent in the Vancouver economy by each boat that docks in the city: 3 million dollars !
My fellow director Matt Shillito used to work in Vancouver’s City Planning Department and suggested that we should meet up with Kevin who is Assistant Director of Planning for Vancouver City and exchange notes.
That we did and the conversation was long and animated. In summary we learnt the following: The Vancouver City Planning Department is a highly skilled, well funded and proactive organisation. The public sector appears to be very much on the front foot and to have the controlling hand in the development process. They set clear parameters within which developers must operate and in return for the grant of planning or a rezoning permit developers are required to give up to 75 % of the uplift in land value to the City ( to pay for social and community infrastructure), where relevant to replace all existing public housing on a particular site, to deliver 20 per cent of all new housing as affordable, to deliver the public realm aspirations set by the City and to respond positively to the design advice given by the City.
The scale of development and the speed at which it is being delivered is impressive. On the previous day of our meeting Kevin had just finished a public hearing for a mixed waterfront development that will deliver two million sqft of floor space and a public benefit contribution of 320 million dollars and 20per cent affordable housing.
Impressive yes and the levels of investment in this new wave of city development are vast, coming mainly from Asia . However that is it , much of the land being released is undeveloped land , which is either owned by the City or has been held by the few for long periods. They do not have the complexity or the history of landownership and redevelopment that exists in London and they have lots of space and hence the ability to plan and take control of the process is more feasible.
As Claire pointed out when she visited in 1983 Vancouver was a small town, far away from anywhere and with no shiny big towers. Thirty-five years later it is a very different place, capitalising on its many physical assets and proximity to Asia.
Having said all that what a fun and stimulating place to be a planner. Kevin’s positivity and passion for the City was great to see and we could learn much from how they do things.