Mount Pleasant Community Plan hits the 19-storey Wall

Presentation to the Rise Tower, Mount Pleasant Public Hearing:

I have been a property owner in Mount Pleasant since 1988. I attended the open house at the community centre last year, had an extensive discussion with the lead planner, and came away perfectly impressed with the fact that it would be… business as usual.

Mr. Mayor, there is a cancer spreading over our city.

Unless it is stopped, CD1 zoning will ravage our neighborhoods. Not just Mount Pleasant, but all our neighbourhoods. The site-by-site re-zoning approach points to the weakness of planning practice & process at our City Hall.

  1. Mayor and Council please instruct staff to remove the Rise Tower, and lower the podium. Start amending the newly minted Community Plan right now, with this application. Retool the planning process with charrette-based planning, and community plans that look like form-based codes.
  2. Mayor and Council please instruct staff to build Mount Pleasant as a human-scaled, walkable neighbourhood, with livable streets.

Some Comments Specific to The Tower.

The same building form that works downtown will destroy our neighborhoods. A scale that may be appropriate in the tower zone is being proposed in places where it will threaten the social fabric of the community. This is because a hermetically sealed, and vertically extruded building form, like the Rise Tower, puts as much distance as possible between the private condo above, and the public street below.

The Density Fallacy.

We are told that we need to build hi-rise to achieve hi-density. This is a fallacy.
Measured on a site-by-site basis the towers always provide more density. However, measured at the scale of the neighborhood as a whole, towers and 3.5 storey urban houses achieve equivalent density.

Our analysis shows that there is enough space on Single Family Residential lots fronting arterials to double the entire city-wide population, building just 3.5-storey, fee-simple product. The real difference is that urban houses deliver what towers cannot. Urban houses build hi-density neighbourhoods with human scale.
The conclusion is clear: we don’t need to build The-Rise to achieve hi-density.

The Streets.

Broadway, Main Street, and Kingsway each carry between 40,000 and 60,000 average daily trips (ADT). Studies have shown that the livability of a street falls after 16,000 ADT. At 20,000 ADT streets fail to support social functioning.

The Planning Process.

  • The plan designates Three Hot-Points for re-development. Mount Pleasant residents support increases in density. We just don’t support landing big chunks of it on just three sites.
  • The plan locates the rest of the new density along the arterials without addressing the issue of the “livability” of the arterial street.
  • Mayor and Council, we need to retool the planning process. It should be changed to include charrette-based public consultation, embrace human-scaled urbanism, and reject the Modern planning paradigm for the neighbourhoods.
  • Podium-towers-and-Skytrain are out of keeping with the form and character of neighbourhoods platted with cottage lots, and serviced by streetcars.
  • Compatible ways to intensify garden city neighbourhoods, one hundred years old, are available. They are just not available here.

It is time to strike out in a new direction.

© Lewis N. Villegas, Vancouver, February 2012

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