Stronger Kamloops, A Small Vision: Kamloops, the Small Town that happens to be quite large; how we can keep it small and keep it prosperous
By Mitchell Forgie
What is this book about? Our taxes keep rising? Why? It is not because public servants get paid too much. It is because our well intentioned policy mountain created over the last 60 years has incentivised a development pattern that destroys value, bankrupts private individuals, lowers property values, restricts job growth, suffocates air quality, cripples our environment and creates disastrous health effects that lead to mountains of health care bills. We did this collectively, and we voted for governments that put these policies in place, and nearly every single policy on its own was well reasoned and well intentioned; often in the name of safety or economic growth. However, the cumulative effect has been to create a new problem, which is economically much worse than the problems we were seeking to correct. This economic deficit is bankrupting us and our governments; and this bankruptcy is structural to the system we have created: Manipulating public wages will not change this, nor will manipulating service levels. If we are bankrupt we have no hope of addressing the other pressing social and environmental concerns that we have to consider in the 21st century. This book will first show you how the system is failing and talk a little about what is working. Then it will show you what does work, why and use Kamloops figures and case studies to support this theory. Following is an examination of the types of policies that are directly preventing the preferable forms of development, while creating incentives for the unproductive ones. Finally, I suggest some of the types of projects that follow the logic and line of reasoning contained in this books argument and what that would look like in Kamloops. These problems are not unique to Kamloops or even the cities in our country. Cities all over the world face these similar problems. The more horizontally developed each particular city is, the worse they will face these challenges. I suspect Kamloops will surmount these challenges, and become a strong city, perhaps even a leader in our country of what small cities could try to attain. I am an optimist, but I see the flaws in our system as real and difficult challenges that need level headedness to confront. I hope that this book can be a springboard for the discussion and political will required to confront the future. 2
Foreword: Kamloops is well known to its residents as a Small Town that happens to be quite large. We love seeing our friends and family around town, bumping into past associates in Riverside Park, enjoying our climate and access to nature, and the general comfort that comes from a community with the cohesion of a small town and the amenities of a big one. Since I have moved to Kamloops in 2009, with a previous lifetime of vacations to the area from my birthplace in Edmonton, I have always found Kamloops to be a positively pretty place. I live downtown, and it is not unusual for me, or many other residents to venture up into the grasslands and rock walls of Peterson Creek Canyon, for some solitude and reflection right in the heart of the city. A short drive away, and you are nestled in cool coniferous forests around Paul Lake, or at any other number of hundreds peaceful fishing lakes. Immediately before Kamloops I spent some time living and working in London England, and experienced the best and worst of one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities. With many years of travelling to 40 countries, my arrival in Kamloops was with eyes that have seen many different ways of building and organization. Attending TRU, a local professor, Billy Collins, loaned me a book by James Howard Kunstler, “The Geography of Nowhere”. I was given a vocabulary that I so sorely needed to understand that things I found wanting and the things I saw that we’re amazing! After three and a half years of blogging, conversations, forays into property development, construction, serving in Kamloops restaurants, volunteering at dozens of events, servitude on community boards, political party participation, council meetings and hearings, conversations with planners, realtors and councillors; and probably most importantly, TRU graduates leaving the city, I determined that what Kamloops needs most is a vocabulary, like the one James Howard Kunstler gave me. This book is for that purpose. Kamloops has unique challenges, but in Canada and the region, it has an outstanding number of opportunities. I hope to highlight projects that have been done elsewhere to provide credence to my arguments. I hope to present my concepts simply and understandably. I hope above all that these concepts and
projects can be understood deeply by all of us, and that we can engage with City Hall, neighbours, businesses, developers and stakeholders in a more meaningful way. Much of the subject matter could be interpreted politically. I hope that I present everything in a way that all persons, from all realms and persuasions can understand and sympathize with the arguments here. I hope that no one will contrive me to be an author that promotes business at all costs, or conversely, as an environmentalist that wants to prevent you from driving your car and living your life. In fact I am neither of these things. I am an entrepreneur and I own a car that I like very much. Politically, I want a government that is accountable to its citizens, and one that is fiscally balanced above all else. I do not believe that any party running for office today truly understands the magnitude of the challenges facing us in this century and thus find it hard to vote for any. Whether you believe in social equality or environmental issues above all else, it does not matter if we cannot afford it. We need to be solvent and financially productive to accomplish any green technology or social program. I also understand Climate Change to be a reality, and something that we should do something about. As American politician Dick Cheney said, to bring the people of the U.S. to war with Iraq, “On the 1% chance that they (Iraq) has weapons of mass destruction, and could consider to use them on Americans, we must protect ourselves and go to war.” That war was expensive and filled with foibles. But the sentiment of the 1% precautionary principle is a worthwhile one. If Climate Change is real, whether or not humans have had anything to do with it, it is only us humans that care whether we continue to be able to inhabit this planet. So if we can improve our comfort and living situation on this planet, on the 1% chance that we are able to do so, shouldn’t we? I also believe that all of us, in Kamloops, Canada and the World are entitled to equal opportunity. What we do with that opportunity is up to us, but no one should be unfairly disadvantaged, and all of us as a community should have the ability to lend a helping hand for times when some of us need one. I have always been troubled by any conversation that associates Social, Environmental or Economic gains to be consequential to losses in another area. The “Economy” and “Economics” we’re not created to destroy the environment as the extreme left would have you believe. Nor do business owners look to impoverish others in seeking their 5
own success. Money is a storage of value that represents what we contribute to society, and when society values that thing that you created or manage, you are rewarded with money; the ultimate democracy. Also, business persons, companies and citizens are capable and willing to provide much more support than they are able to give to those less privileged, and to improve our natural environment. This book is to show a built design on how we can all meet our goals. This line of thinking was brought to me by Charles Marohn of Brainerd, MN. His organization StrongTowns was born from the engineering profession that he says has brought the United States of America to insolvency. The collapse of America has been well publicized, and we can feel it on this side of the border. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any numbers and references you would like to see.
Table of Contents: Introduction to Format 6 The Economics of the City 7 What types of places capture and 58 create value Aka City Planning for Economic Growth
Regulation is Strangling the City 114 Visioning the Future 150 Kamloops investment initiatives
All figures in this chapter relating to Kamloops Data are gathered from the following sources: ICBC online crash statistics BC Assessment Online City of Kamloops Online Property Information System
How Do We Value Land? Land is valued in two ways: Rural Land is valued primarily for its ability to produce resources. This means that persons purchasing this land buy it as a commodity, or something with interchangeable value… property a bit further down the road is not worth any more per acre than another. This is how gold, coffee and petrol is traded; gas from Petro is not generally considered any better than gas from Esso, and so consumers pay the same price at each place. It is valued for what it can
“location, location, location” came from somewhere. Urban land is a unique asset like wine, some people are willing to pay $4 per glass more for Sauvignon Blanc over Chardonnay; or like Jaguar vs. Kia, those who can afford a Jaguar may choose to pay more because they find a Jaguar better value for their dollar. In the city, we each make a number of decisions to decide how much we are willing to pay, in rent or for purchase, to live in a specific place, and it is entirely external factors that bring us to decide which location is the best value for us.
produce. Urban Land (in any form, suburban, commercial, industrial, residential) is a unique commodity. After all the phrase Buying A House: What City? -Where do I work, how much do I get paid, how easy is it to find a job, what activities does that city offer me, how big is the city, how do I perceive the people there Where in the City? -Kids schools, shopping, quality of amenities, commuting distance, commuting mode, safety of neighbourhood, quality of streets, age of neighbourhood, views, micro-climate What house in the neighbourhood? -Size, bedrooms, budget, neighbours, yard, landscaping, modernity, style, bathrooms, pool, view
The Four Environments When we think about what factors led us in our journey to where we live now, we had to first decide on Kamloops; many of us may have considered a neighbourhood and then considered a couple of houses inside that neighbourhood. We may have discussed and even argued about the location of schools, parking, transit stops, opportunities to meet friends, pubs, pools, commutes coffee shops, views, boat docks, sunshine, soil quality for a garden, size of yard, number of bedrooms, size of trees, character of the house and any other number of factors.
changing and creating how our city In the end, each of these variables can be broadly categorized into “four
looks, feels and interacts.
environments” The Economic Environment o What jobs are available in my sector? o What does a home cost? The Social Environment o I like bikes, do my neighbours? o Wine is a passion for me, do others share this passion? The Natural Environment o Hills, Mountains or Plains? o Lakes, Oceans? o Hot/Cold, Dry/Wet? The Fourth Environment: The Built Environment As citizens, planners, councillors, board members, businesses and people we really only have the capacity to directly influence one of these environments; The Built Environment. All other environments we can nudge, but only we can plant a new tree on our lawn or paint our door orange. On a larger scale, city planners determine the width of traffic lanes and the size of parks and the look of city hall. Only in the built environment are humans directly
Everything in this picture has been built and designed by humans, and placed where it is because someone made the decision that it should be there
For this reason, this book talks a lot about the built environment; how it can respond and take advantage of the other environments, which parts of the built environment are rewarded economically, how the city captures value, etc. When we say that urban land is valued by how much people want to live in one place, people compete with their dollars to earn the right to be there. The more people are attracted to a place, the more value it will contain and the more valuable it will be. As we can predominately influence the Built Environment, this book is about capturing value in the built environment.
An Example What sorts of factors can account for price differentials like this? 193 Seymour West = $148/SF 299 Seymour West = $222/SF These houses are on the same block, on the same side of the street; Comparable in size, same number of bedrooms.
Conduits Conduits are easy to identify. They are corridors, or places meant expressively for the transportation of things, goods, people, etc. They come in the form of roads, bike lanes, certain pathways, highways, train tracks, etc.
Or other downtown addresses: 659 Dominion = $201/SF 825 Pine = $231/SF 761 Pleasant = $183/SF Again, similar houses on similar lots, of a similar age, within a couple blocks of each other. Andrew Burleson of Fourth Environment has a theory about how to identify factors that affect property values. This affects the value created in an area, how much people value in aggregate over another area. He calls it the “NetAttraction Framework”. First he identifies the four environments as I have done
The Coquihalla creates value through connecting distant places efficiently
Conduits are not generally places you want to hang out in, but they generate value in the built environment on how they can connect cores together.
From there he further breaks down the
When the Coquihalla was built, it generated significant economic impact by reducing shipping times from the Lower Mainland to the Interior
Built Environment into 3 more areas:
measurable in hours.
1. Conduits 2. Interfaces and; 3. Cores
Industrial property near the highway is very valuable for trucking companies for example.
Cores are the private realm. This can be the inside of an office building, or a
Interfaces are the public realm. These are places where people make the
home, a mall, a store or factory.
transition from travelling to arriving.
These are places that the public does not necessarily have access to; they are generally privately owned and privately operated. These places have the ability to exclude people from their use, but are
Interfaces are the connective tissue between Conduits and Cores, Cores and other Cores or even Conduits and other Conduits (Train Station for example).
also used as places of life, leisure, work. Cores are very important as most of our private lives and work happens inside cores, inside the private realm. They can be inside or outside, your backyard is definitely the private realm.
17th Street in Denver, CO is a great interface, which maximizes the connections between the conduit of the street, various transportation modes, and various cores (offices, shops residences)
These are places where most use is on foot. Every trip you begin and end as a pedestrian. Cores can be more or less valuable than each other. The public as a whole has very little ability to influence what happens to Cores beyond the regulatory framework of the taxation and zoning system. It is up to a property owner how much they can and do invest in the upkeep and value of their property.
Generally, anyone is welcome in an interface. They are both publically visible and accessible. They could be inside or outside but are largely outside. They could be privately or publically owned (in the case of stripmall parking). Interfaces are also what the public can see, so the faรงade of a core influences the interface of a street. 11
Interfaces can be public squares, public parks or sidewalks. Sometimes the difference between an Interface and a Conduit can be tricky, as streets are often both. The distinction can really be made on whether or not it is safe to hang out in a place on foot. A highway is clearly a Conduit. Victoria Street is clearly an Interface.
Victoria Street accommodates transit, but primarily its purpose is to facilitate trade, commerce, and public life
Manipulating the Net-Attraction Framework to Build Value Conduits are very necessary elements of the Built Environment, the road ways that connect every part of the city to the rest, and the city to whatâ€™s beyond. The problem is that for many years huge investments have been made in sprawling conduits with little concern for the interface, and through this process a lot of value has been lost in the city. Millions of dollars and thousands of man hours have been devoted to reducing â€œcongestionâ€? and traffic by mere seconds in urban areas, sacrificing all other elements of the city to accommodate high vehicle speeds with the minimum of interruptions. In the same process many people have been disenfranchised in the way that they are able to use the city; particularly those who do not have access to or the ability to drive a private vehicle, but also those who might choose not to.
This street in Dallas has no entrances, turning lanes and no makes no attempt to foster trade, commerce of public life. This street is a conduit 6th Ave with extra lanes, extra signs, extra signals, to gain a few seconds vs. a similar road like 5th or 7th
Furthermore, in the instance of Cores and the private realm, national developers, banks, financiers and city authorities have done their absolute best to “Commoditize” the built realm, so that they can conveniently build the same stripmall, with the same tenant mix, with the same parking aprons and construction techniques anywhere in the country and achieve financial success.
longer a case-by-case entity. Therefore they we’re stable and predictable enough to be reduced to statistics, then sold as low-risk bonds, rather than the intensely unique investments that they are. Sheer statistics could bundle a couple hundred mortgages of the same houses in essentially the “same” neighbourhoods across the country into a single AAA rated bond, to be sold to long-term lenders.
The same house, same plan, same demographic, same income brackets, same view, same street, should equal same lending risk
Financial entities have tried to commoditize urban real-estate so that mortgages can be bought and sold freely on the market. In the 2008 Financial Crises this was shown in “Securitized Debt Obligations” and “Collateralized
While these types of practises have largely been exposed for the predatory practices that they are, and efforts are being made to prevent these techniques, the attempt to commoditize urban real estate has not stopped and continues
here in Kamloops.
Many bankers, developers and other stakeholders believed that the age of “location, location, location” was behind us. By building single-use sub-divisions and building them with one or two styles of homes, all with the same interface and the same demographics in mind, they figured that mortgages we’re no
Pursuing the current pattern of development has been exposed as negative in the financial cycle; however it also fails to really meet the needs and desires of Kamloops’ inhabitants. Furthermore it fails to capture the value already existing, and fails to add value into the future. 13
The City Budget The City of Kamloops, like other municipalities, receives most of its income from Real Property Taxes (64.26% in 2013). The only other large income sources are Grants (11.33%) and Fees/Rates (19.07%).
In 2012 City Revenue added up like this:
$90 million from Property Tax
$55 million from Fees $17 million in Government Transfer
$186 million total
It is important to note the two large shortfalls in the budget. The 2012 Fiscal Budget predicted: 1. $8.7 million in DCCs 2. $25.2 million in Govt Transfers Actual: 1. $3.0 million in DCCs 2. $17.2 million in Govt Transfers DCCs and The Growth Ponzi Scheme
Grants are one off payments or handouts from larger governments and so cannot be considered operating income (although most of transit is funded this way).
Development Cost Charges are fees levied against property owners whenever they improve their property. This could mean building a new house, carriage house, basement suite; anything that adds value to the property.
Fees, Rates and Sales of Services are things like your fees for the pool at TCC, parking fees or business licenses. User Fees are usually created just to meet operational expense, and do not address capital or infrastructure needs. The DCC table for Kamloops, current Jan 2011
The City calculates future DCC revenue essentially based on assumed ‘growth’, 14
as most DCCs are levied against new developments. They are collected to pay for the added burden that a new project puts on public infrastructure. On its own, loss in DCC revenue is not a catastrophic problem. It does indicate a much larger problem though; every element of the cities budget is based on future growth. Investments are made now, sometimes with debt, and depend on future growth (taxes and DCCs) to pay for the long term liability cost of repairing and maintaining the existing infrastructure.
and Property Tax Revenue does not pay for the long term maintenance liability, as we will examine shortly. Often the DCCs and new taxes collected go directly to pay for maintenance on under-funded concerns already present in the cities portfolio. Strong Towns has coined this phenomenon as the â€œillusion of prosperityâ€?. For many years we had heaps of revenue arriving on bills that had not arrived yet. Now the bills are coming in, and we spent all that money on other infrastructure that has bills coming in soon.
Lower than predicted DCC revenue is an indication that new growth is not happening at the rate expected. Thus expenditures are being made now on revenue that is projected but may not come. Fundamentally it is simple to see that growth simply will not grow infinitely at an ever accelerating rate; so our current liabilities cannot be paid for with current revenues. To re-phrase this argument, a new road in the city is usually built by a developer, and given to the city for free. Further the developer builds the water, sewer and other infrastructure elements required in the new development. The city then inherits the cost of that road and other infrastructures and their maintenance forever. The problem is that the DCCs
Charles Marohn speaks about The Growth Ponzi Scheme; his website is StongTowns.ORG
The other concern for important municipal revenue streams are Government Transfers; from Federal or Provincial Governmental Agencies, like BC Transit, or for affordable housing schemes or other infrastructure projects. This part of city funding has become very important for cities over the last decade. 15
With our â€œaging populationâ€?, complaints of underfunded hospitals and schools, taxes that are too high, and more, the leaders being elected are going to have to do more with less. The demographic that votes the largest numbers is generally the demographic that values hospitals highly, so to be elected, this likely means less money to cities and more money to hospitals. With limited money, expensive liabilities and exploding debt now riding around $1.1 billion provincially, Government Transfers may be drying up from the Province and
Taxes are Too High, Arenâ€™t They? Arnica Street is a Cul-De-Sac full of shiny new houses in Pineview. There are 24 properties, or 24 separate titles on Arnica Street. The combined value of these properties is $9.7 million. The cities current tax rate of 4.37% collects $42,389 from these homes.
Arnica Street at Street Level / The 24 titles used in model
RIH Expansion;, likely a higher priority for an aging population
The cities commitment to take care of the water lines, sewer lines, pavement, sidewalk, storm sewer and street lights in front of these houses extends essentially forever. The street was built with DCCs levied to the developer. The Province of British Columbia shows that the 16
pavement on Arnica Street should last 15 years. That means the street should need new pavement in 15 years, and likely that will be some sort of “Hot-InPlace” re-pavement, which costs $54,000 per lane (12’) per km. H-I-P repavement has an estimated life cycle of 9-11 years. When this street needs to be re-paved, the current DCCs will be ready, plus accumulated taxes to pay for the resurface. This we would call the end of the First Life Cycle. What is concerning is what happens in the Second Life Cycle. The resurface of Arnica Street at the end of the second lifecycle (roughly 25-30 years after first construction) is going to cost $45,684 at today’s rates. The percentage of the city budget allocated to Infrastructure (for maintenance, improvements and new) is 6.89%. Let’s assume that nothing has prevented the road from lasting the 10 years expected after re-surface. Let’s also suppose that not one house on this street is receiving a Home Owner subsidy on this street, even though most
15 years of taxes to pay for a road surface that is only by government projections expected to last for 10 years. That means on this street the city sees a loss of $16,484 each time the road needs re-surfacing, and supposing that none of the other infrastructure ever needs maintenance or replacing, and that no house on the street is receiving a subsidy. The math in review: 24 Titles Average Price Total Taxes /yr. % for Infrastructure Cost of HIP Life of Road Shortfall
$9,700,000 $404,167 $42,389 $2920 $45,684 9-11 yr. (10) $16,484
This is not an isolated phenomenon in the city. This is true on nearly every suburban street. Losses per Km in three other case studies read like this:
Arnica Street = $58,452 Gordonhorn Crescent = $44,257
Kyle Drive = $66,300
Averaged = $56,336 per Km
are. The percentage of taxes allocated to the road project would therefore be $2,920 per year. The resurface costs $45,684. The 24 houses on this street then take
Graphically, cumulative cash resulting in net loss (numbers are for illustration only)
The City of Kamloops reportedly serves 1,520km of roadways. The loss every year could be calculated at $8.6 million. Why haven’t we felt the full effect of this liability? New Housing starts we’re at their highest in Kamloops in 1992 (980), 1993 (1067) and 1994 (1011). For comparison, 1989 saw 381 housing starts and 2012 saw 481 housing starts. The “Boom Years” of 2007-2008 only saw 641 and 510 housing starts respectively. What this means is that accelerating new development for many years resulted in accumulating cash reserves, (illusion of wealth) which allowed the cost of maintenance to be covered by an expanding tax base. Growth simply cannot accelerate forever, and the bills are starting to come in.
Looking city wide; all the cumulative tax revenue as new projects comes online each year. A big loss of early projects seems to absorbed by the cumulative revenue of new projects. (numbers are for illustration only)
New growth over multiple life-cycles, despite population growth, continues on a losing
Kamloops is now in a position where our finances have started to feel the effect of our maintenance commitments. Despite population growth, new housing starts, increasing tax rates, increasing DCCs and taking on debt, the city is still on a trajectory towards insolvency. Our city is not alone in the spiral. 28 municipal organizations through the United States have filed for Bankruptcy at the time of writing. Every city in North America that has actively endorsed horizontal expansion will and is experiencing this. The reality is that the infrastructure costs too much, and there are not enough tax payers to split its cost. During the “illusion of wealth” we spent a lot of money on more unproductive projects, and now have no reserves. Kamloops has a lot of natural assets that we need to start taking advantage of if we want to come out ahead. Our small city has less inertia, and has a real opportunity to do so. 18
Another Cost Illustration In Edmonton, AB, one of the worldâ€™s oil capitals, the cities and public institutions are feeling this same pinch. For them, the first signs of financial paralysis are coming from the School Districts. In some new sub-divisions, the districts are flatly refusing to bus kids in to school on long bus rides that cost fuel, wages, capital costs, depreciation and wear and tear. They also are refusing to build new schools, partly because perfectly good schools sit in existing neighbourhoods empty and closed. In 2012 the City allowed 44 outlying developments to become part of the city, and thus had to expand city services like police, ambulance and fire to these communities, and the immediate cost now for the city will be $1.2 billion that they do not have, and the new taxes are nowhere near to supporting.
Neighbourhoods need some density and housing diversity to maintain a population in different stages of life. Minimum density is not necessarily efficient or productive on its own. There needs to be enough young families near established schools so that they are full in the long term. This has led a system of user fee based public transit, yellow buses, that are expensive and used by only a fraction of the population for a fraction of the day. In Parkland County, students have seen year on year bus pass fee hikes, and now in 2012-2013 school year, the monthly bus pass fee was raised $45 in a single month. Parents complain that this is too expensive, but in reality, it is their choice of where to live that has made it so expensive. They are not to blame completely however, as cities have been actively promoting suburban style development patterns for over six decades now. In Parkland County, tightening Provincial budgets (as I predict for B.C.) and rising fuel costs are blamed for the expense and resulting rise in fares; in a place where fuel is still under $1.10 per litre. The cost of horizontal infrastructure is very high. City Infrastructure like Roads, Sewers and Water are costly as a function of distance. City Services like Fire, Police, Garbage, Recycle and are
Edmonton periphery housing
costly as a function of transportation efficiency and distance. Tax Revenue is collected as a value of property. Horizontal living patterns require cars for every journey, and produce low value environments. Places where the car is the only means of transportation (the suburbs) costs for all services climb. The problem is compound; Automobile oriented interfaces are not as valued as pedestrian interfaces and thus the property values drop and with it tax value. For the city, this means they have larger expenses on infrastructure that produces less revenue. Economic Efficiency is incinerated in this environment.
Why are Suburbs only for Cars? A large part of the design of suburban developments in the last 50 years have been predominately about efforts to commoditize urban real estate, to create safe environments for cars (and thus people) and to regulate uses to keep things out of peoples ‘back-yards’. To show this difference lets compare a downtown elementary with a suburban elementary school: If you and your family live within 100 meters of Lloyd George Elementary, you could live in anyone of over 45 houses. You can walk from many directions and arrive for school in Grade 4, by yourself, safely, in minutes.
This huge expensive is hidden by the illusion of wealth, but it is not that well hidden. Most streets are well beyond their recommended re-surfacing, and we feel these as pot-holes all over the city.
Lloyd George Elementary in a traditional neighbourhood
Gordonhorn Crescent which loses $44,257 at each re-surface
If you and your family live within 100 meters of the front door of Pacific Way elementary… you don’t. The school itself is set 94 meters from the road. And across Pacific Way lay fenced back yards. These backyards, some of the
only addresses with an easy walk, are still 123 meters from the school.
It is also worth noting that Whitburn and the school are only slightly different in elevation, but the road route involves a proportionally large elevation change. If you live 200m as the crow flies from Lloyd George on Pine Street, you are 200m walking distance. A well connected grid means short commutes.
Pacific Way Elementary is isolated and cut off from homes by fences. More of this area has been developed, and the new houses we’re used in calculating the schools catchment area.
A number of studies suggest that most children and adults meander at a pace roughly 1.4m/s or about 500m in just less than 6 minutes. How many households are within a 6 minute walk of
A comparison of what “across the street from school” might mean in the suburbs and in a traditional neighbourhood
each school? Lloyd George = ~900 Pacific Way = ~200 Let’s say for example that you and your family live at 2348 Whitburn Drive. Your house, as the crow flies, is 321 meters from the school. However the walking route is 953 meters door to door.
Transit Stops fail for much the same reason. If each school represents a transit stop, a traditional neighbourhood stop has roughly 4.5 times as many homes in the same walking distance. Lot sizes and density can be similar in Sagebrush and Aberdeen, however highly connected street patterns make better connections to transit.
Shortest walking route; Whitburn to School
Why Are Suburbs only for Cars; Commercial Construction Destinations and origins have bizarre disconnected pathways in residential suburbs, as they do in commercial stripmalls, indoor malls, and other suburban style commercial developments. For example, stripmall pods around Columbia and Summit have 300m blocks (1000 feet) with no cross walks except at intersections. A person on foot, wheel chair, or bike must now trek to one intersection or another and across a parking apron which is often not connected to the sidewalk, just to get to the shop “across the street”.
Dozens students cross at Summit despite warning signs and danger.
The intersections where pedestrians are intended to cross are so often devoid of pedestrians that this is where most pedestrian and car accidents in the city happen; Drivers don’t see and aren’t expecting a pedestrian as they are about to turn left. All this adds up to the conclusion that suburban style development is intended for cars; from the ample parking, to the huge car lanes, to expensive signals, and finally to signs which literally tell you, walking is not welcome here.
“Across the Street”
Many persons, especially around the university decide that it is not worth their time to cross “safely” at the intersection crosswalks, and so fjord across 4-6 lanes of fast moving traffic. International Students, seniors, children and all nondriving demographics now have quite a challenge to patron a business, lowering the value of the place. 22
Other Services If $8.3 million in hidden budget shortfall each year is not enough of a problem consider some other distance related expenses and challenges. Obvious and directly related ones are water, sewer and solid waste. However the city has further obligations past simple
Firehall No.7 opened near Pacific Way Elementary, at a capital cost of $3.9 million dollars, and with 4 firemen, has an operational cost of over $500,000 per year. How many tax payers pay for that firehall vs. how many tax payers benefit from that firehall? The ratio does not look good for city budgets.
infrastructure. I like to feel safe. Part of my safety is the knowledge that I can call the fire department if my house is on fire. Fire response times are determined primarily as a distance from the station. Let’s say our two elementary schools are fire stations. The same connectivity issue that affects school catchments and transit stop effectiveness also impacts fire response times. Fences, Cul-DeSacs, dead ends, arterials and lack of options make every journey longer than it needs to be. Furthermore, one Fire Station at Lloyd George, if it served the land area called “City Center”, would serve nearly 20,000 persons in a small driving distance in addition to offices, light industrial, main street commercial and more. For comparison, in the single family developments outside the city center, the same driving distance would only serve about 7000 residents and some strip style commercial areas.
Kamloops This Week picture opening the new Firehall No.7
The tax burden for Fire Protection in the area surrounding Lloyd George is split 34 times what the tax burden for Fire Protection is in suburban Aberdeen. The tax weight is the same for all government services; Ambulance Protection, Police Protection, Schooling, Public Transit, sewer, water, electricity, natural gas, street lighting, etc. A recent article in The Globe and Mail by Margaret Wente laments the era of the “$100,000” firefighter, and highlights the inefficiency of time spent. She further complains about the modern infrequency of emergencies due to building code and regulations that have brought unfathomable safety to our persons. 23
Unfortunately, Wente, like most critics, fails to realize that most public expenses have everything to do with the geographic expansion of infrastructure, and that these costs should be expressed per km of infrastructure. Are public employees paid too much? Perhaps, but at $100,000 per year or at $80,000 per year, the fact remains that these firefighters are not serving a high enough population base to pay for their services, and the cost of the infrastructure dwarfs the marginal increase in pay over a private sector worker. In some cases, like school buses, the cost is borne by all tax payers but is used almost exclusively by ill-connected subdivisions and cul-de-sacs like Whitburn Crescent-and needlessly so. Fire protection is the same, the cost is spilt evenly by all tax payers, but most of the money goes to the suburbs while most of the revenue comes from urban areas. What this adds up to is recurring budget shortfalls for all city services. Most dollars spent are largely going into transportation, combined with fewer people to service within a transportation horizon. Density is part of the solution but simple connectivity as shown in the walking to
school example makes a big difference. Catchment is about connectivity as much as about density. No amount of debt can change the fundamental insolvency of our pattern of development. All fire-fighters, city officials, police officers and politicians could accept a 50% cut in wages, and we could remain in a deficit scenario. Furthermore, cutting wages reduces spending locally, which inhibits growth of local businesses, and further exacerbates insolvency. The fairness of wages is a political issue. The insolvency of our pattern of development is a reality. The connectivity issue does not stop there. A house on Whitburn Crescent or Arnica Street does not pay for its service through its taxes. A house in a traditional neighbourhood like Nicola or Pine sometimes does and sometimes doesnâ€™t. However a house on Nicola or Pine is part of a larger network that is used by all sorts of users, at all times of day, and contributes to network capacity. If there is a traffic accident on Columbia downtown, it is a simple and straightforward detour to descend or ascend a block around the collision. Someone from out of town, having never travelled Columbia, could achieve this detour easily with no advice.
If I am ascending Pacific Way, or Aberdeen Drive, or Summit Drive, or Westsyde Road and an accident occurs ahead of me, what is the detour? Do I turn left or right into these meandering curving roads, assuming a road exists here to turn into? Once there, where to? Could you explain this over the phone to
In reciprocation, arterial and collector roads often require extra infrastructure: median barriers, extra lighting and signals, wider lanes, more signage. This costs more, yet they have no adjacent tax base to pay for any of these elements!
a visiting relative? Do you know the way? In some cases, like Highland Road to Juniper Ridge, a detour barely exists! What type of risk does this pose our emergency response times if a fire occurred beyond something holding up the road? Furthermore, as part of a collective network, Nicola or Pine Street tax payers need really only pay for their portion of the network, because the next block over has a different group of residents paying for their portion. The suburbs on the other hand are arranged in a series of local roads, collectors and arterials. Collectors are often sparsely populated and arterials almost never populated. The hierarchal road system thus concentrates all traffic from local roads on one or two arterial
Hugh Allan to Pineview, millions of doallars of infrastructure, that has no adjoining properties to pay for its retaining walls, lighting, bike lanes, street lights, sewer system and sidewalk
Pacific Way; another expensive road which has no tax base to pay for it. Furthermore, it bisects the area like a river in a city, preventing connection from one area to another.
The Nail in the Coffin The ‘last nail’ is that these roads are not safe. ICBC reports in the handful of intersections around Lloyd George, between 2008 and 2012, there we’re 7 traffic accidents. The same number of intersections around Pacific Way Elementary saw 19 traffic accidents in the same period.
In fact Victoria Street from 1st to 6th, six intersections, saw fewer accidents(62) by half put together than did Columbia and Summit. 30% of Victoria Street accidents happen at 6th and Victoria; both arterials at that point. The triangle around Superstore saw 198 crashes resulting in injury or death, nearly a crash per week (39.6 per year).
More than 80% of reported crashes in Kamloops happen at just at intersections where Arterials meet other Arterials. The highest crash rate intersections with crash counts (2008-2012): Columbia and Summit = 220 8th Street and Fortune = 217 McGill Road and Summit = 163 It might seem that these are the highest traffic intersections in the city, and they are all near the top, but you would suspect that another high frequency intersection, like 3rd and Victoria, while having fewer total trips, would have correlating fewer collisions. In fact it had 28 crashes in the same period. The largest difference though lies in this comparison: Columbia and Summit, the highest accident intersection in the city, saw 86 crashes resulting in injury or death. 3rd and Victoria saw 9. 40% of crashes up town result in injury or death vs. less than 30% downtown.
Why does 3rd and Victoria see 9 casualty crashes in 5 years while 6th and Victoria sees 18 in the same period, despite similar traffic counts? Furthermore, 6th and Victoria has extra lanes for turning, which is supposed to make streets safer. The answer lies in traffic speeds. Fast traffic = more collisions off of freeways. More hazards, narrow lanes, pedestrians present = slow traffic. Slow traffic = fewer deaths and injuries. Arterial streets with their “forgiving design”, wide lanes, turning lanes, turning signals and large ‘clear zones’ so cars which leave the road can ‘recover’, are supposed to be the safest roads we can build, yet they are the opposite of 26
that. Thomas Vanderbuilts book Traffic and Jeff Specks Walkable City both do excellent analysis on this subject. These roads also fail to produce value, which makes them financially unsustainable. They rarely, if ever, achieve traffic capacities much higher than smaller roads with fewer signals. They almost always have a lower average speed when driving through them due to long waits at signals, and when trying to traverse them, from one retail outlet to another on the other side of the street, are complete failures compared to traditional road networks. Imagine the route from Save-On-Foods to Winners. How many signals is that? How slow do you travel through those parking lots?
A walk door to door would be only 2 minutes, but the pedestrian experience is so forbidding, undesirable, hazardous and convoluted that a walk in reality, should you take it, would be as long as the car trip.
Besides the parking aprons that make “across the street” so distant, the four lanes of traffic with no true intersection in the middle of a 1000 foot block result in places being farther away than they need to be. You are not allowed by any means to cross straight across Columbia here, on foot, bike or car.
What are “Arterials” good for? Statistics; Traffic Engineers love to gather reliable data from single-use, single destination collectors. Traffic studies in traditional networks are completely unpredictable because each street can be substituted with many others in any trip.
Save-On, not an unusual trip, both have Columbia Street addresses, and are “across the street”. All 5 routes involve convoluted paths, with waits at intersections. Given that most accidents happen at intersections, it is also a dangerous path.
“Groceries to Clothing Store” The same type of journey on Victoria
Further Failures While this author is primarily concerned with the financial implications of the current style of development, much study and work has been done on other impacts of 21st century sub-urban development, many can be found in a book called “Walkable City” by Jeff Speck. Some of these negative effects include:
Air Pollution Storm Water Run-Off Loss of useable green space Loss of animal habitat Segregation by income level Obesity/Heart Disease ADD/ADHD Drinking and Driving Energy Dependency Carbon Emissions
Difficult Business Environment
How could the suburbs create a difficult business environment? A Westsyde example: The Westsyde Pump and the Westsyder operated as successful pubs for many years, and yet one closed its doors recently. Newspaper articles suggest that new liquor laws enforcing drinking and driving laws kept people away, despite population growth in the area. Two pubs survived there with less population that today, yet drinking and driving regulations we’re enough to put a pub under. A walkable environment would have created more opportunities for pubs in the area; as well as more opportunities for neighbours to have chance social encounters outside the house. This story is simplistic but telling. Walkability lends itself to further opportunities for foot traffic, and foot traffic commercially means better business viability. This is why even in auto-oriented environments, businesses still choose to huddle together in walkable indoor malls, or strip centers, because they function more profitably by increasing their exposure to persons with other needs in mind. This is analysed further soon.
It’s not just forward thinking academics that have been noticing the cumulative health effects of Sprawl. Nearly every province now has official documentation pertaining to the costly and challenging health effects of sprawl and auto-oriented sub-urbs.
What about the Environment?! For some people nothing is more important than the environment; its preservation and associated issues like carbon emissions, agricultural land and energy conservation. Many of these types of advocates often campaign against ‘development’, of any kind, and this is a mistake. Development at the edge of the city, no matter how “sustainably” designed, is still new development at the fringe that is not well connected to functions of the city, and thus does cause all the traffic, driving, associated emissions and land depletion that is incurred in edge development, and should in general be spurned at all costs. What does work, for emissions and land conservancy is densification and expansion of alternative transit options for those who like them. Consider this
As Oslo shows us, density is not a requirement of efficient systems, but density is a good indicator of efficiency. I was a panelist at a screening of an Urban Agriculture film called Urban Roots. There a city gardener debated that densification projects like Laneway Homes and Mid-Rise Apartments we’re taking green space out of the city. I disagree with this argument for three reasons. One; useless private green space in the city is not a true carbon sink, and is doing little to negate environmental concerns of urbanisation. Two; many people do not value those lawns which use excessive amounts of water and drive uses further apart, necessitating extra driving. Three, low density development always eats up natural and agricultural green space at the edge of the city; green space that is far more environmentally productive.
Consider the previous image, of solar paneled, wind turbined, electric car driving, sustainable suburbs against the hyper dense city surrounded by nature and agriculture. If this seems unlikely, you need only experience cities everywhere else in the world outside North America and Australia. Let’s look at London:
London’s 1935 Greenbelt (Urban Growth Boundary) sees dense row-housing, urban parkland and mid-rise buildings right to the boundary, where London terminates in complete countryside. This is common in most areas of the world. Seattle and Vancouver are world celebrated for their walk-able, dense, liveable and sustainable downtowns; however cities of their size in the rest of the world do not have hour long approaches through single family housing sprawl. The transition of ‘city’ to ‘countryside’ facilitates access to nature, superior air quality and environmentally
The Choice to Live in the Burbs We live in Canada and we expect the freedom to live where we want. If where we want to live is in the suburbs, than that is where we should be allowed to live! The most basic theory of economics would indicate that more of us prefer urban areas however, and this is true across the whole country. As mentioned in the beginning, urban land (whether on the periphery or the center) is a unique good. Imagine that each house that goes up for sale is a single painting on auction. That painting goes to the highest bidder and a group of people that might like to own that painting compete with their dollars to own that painting. A house is the same, and each and every time, controlling for size, the citizens of Kamloops pay more to live downtown. Averaged the price per square foot for a downtown single family home is between 30%-50% more expensive than Aberdeen, Westsyde, Brock or Dallas. Perhaps more people want to live downtown than is popularly believed.
sound lifestyles for its dwellers.
If the economic equation weâ€™re corrected, so that each properties taxes near the center of the city weâ€™re greatly reduced to reflect their tax burden on the city while the periphery was similarly taxed more to pay for the luxury of space and private amenities; I suspect many at the margin would likely leap to live downtown.
Green Door, 6 new 1488 Sq. Ft. downtown townhomes on St. Paul, for sale for $252 per square foot. ($375,000)
In the current taxation system many incentives prevent the construction of reasonably priced downtown housing. Because it is in demand, and there are plenty restrictions preventing new housing units downtown, the price climbs. What few people really understand though is that hundreds more regulations prevent Victoria Street-esque pedestrian environments from being created outside of Victoria Street. Creating new pedestrian oriented places like Victoria Street is illegal.
This brand new Carradale Court home, detached, with larger yard and 1981 Sq. Ft. asks $175 per square foot. ($346,900)
Much study, notably by Richard Florida has shown thousands of statistics and surveys to show that many demographics prefer walkable living; including retirees, young singles and even young families seem to prefer more traditional, walkable urban areas in the
Your choice: Pay to live downtown or live in your car in the suburbs.
21st Century. The Plaza Hotel is completely illegal to build today, on Victoria Street or anywhere else in the city. It is buildings like this that make downtown vibrant and exciting.
Downtown Performs Better People pay more to live downtown and the city has far fewer financial commitments to maintain it, so thus is performs better. Partly it is the way it was built: It was built slowly, over decades, with savings and investments, and with small scale additions and small scale failures. Rather than as a big project, financed to the hilt, which tries to plan for every eventuality; Downtown was built with intelligent responses to problems as they occurred, rather than trying to create solutions for problems that may not exist. Failures happened but they we’re easy and cheap to fix. This is why walkable mixed use areas in the whole world look generally the same, they are built using a formula that was refined over thousands of years all over the world. It is only recently that we decided to complete change the process, codes and manner in which we design and build our habitat. By the necessity of investing savings, buildings have to work, to be flexible, and to be many things at different times to different people. They need to maximize every square foot of value. Thus commercial buildings cover close to 100% of the lot, to capture as much value for the landlord. Uses are mixed, where retail and services may occupy ground floor premises, a mixture of other
services, offices and residents may occupy the floors above.
“The Inland Cigar Factory Building” in fact manufactured cigars from the many tobacco plantations once occupying the valley. Since then the simple and easily renovated structure has housed retail, offices and residences
Downtown high density residential may be next door to light residential without de-valuing property or being an “eyesore”. The mixture of uses puts people and activity on the street at all hours, making safe and vibrant places and options for living close to work, for those who prefer it. A connected street pattern is built upon, maximizing accessibility for pedestrians, cyclists, deliveries, cars, workers, etc.
The highest performing blocks in any metric: city tax value, private investment, land value and lease rates, density, sustainability; are the places which facilitate the maximum amount of pedestrian comfort and accessibility. Even malls, like Aberdeen mall, nurture this type of pedestrian accessibility to facilitate sales. The areas that attract the most people attract the highest rents. These high value locations contain patterns that are examined next. You can tell that a place has high value, as it is where people will stage civic events, or gather to raise awareness for issues. These are places where people come to just enjoy the company of others, and are comfortable being in. The designers and managers at Aberdeen Mall have generally done better at building public space than our city planners have in the last few decades. Dozens of events happen in the mall, from choir singing to flash mobs.
The “public square” at Aberdeen Mall, filled with people during a Flash Mob in 2011
Victoria Street Infrastructure Examples To clearly illustrate the case for how pedestrianized areas perform better, consider two blocks of the same street, 400’ distant; The south sides of the 300 block and the 500 block. Both streets are downtown and are accessed by similar capacity streets. Neither have better views than the other. Both have the same sun orientation. The following attributes are the subject of the next chapter: 300 Block Characteristics
Street Trees 18 Hour Mixed Uses Setback is to the street front Paving Stones rather than concrete Two Traffic Lanes Mid-Block Pedestrian Crossings Lots of doors, entries into many places Wide Sidewalks with seating Small lot frontages
300 Block Victoria
500 Block Characteristics
Large Lot Frontages No Street Trees No seating areas Few doors to the street Four Traffic Lanes
Primarily Evening Uses
The far better pedestrian orientation on the 300 block of Victoria Street creates an Interface that is very productive. In commercial settings, it translates into more persons by the window, becoming potential customers. That drives up revenues in businesses, which drives up rents, which drives up property values, which drives up tax revenue.
500 Block Victoria
300 Block Value 10 Titles $341,000 to $6,796,000 Total Value of $14,111,000
Value per Square Meter; $2,818 500 Block Value
4 Titles $636,000 to $1,177,000 Total Value of $2,900,320
Value per Square Meter; $720
Here the 200 Block of Victoria creates high value, allowing many users at different times and for different purposes. It is well connected to the rest of the city, and produces superior business success, as well as superior tax revenue from the city per dollar of infrastructure invested.
As the city adds improvements to further enhance the pedestrian experience here, the more people are attracted here, and the property values climb higher, and the investment is recaptured. In addition, the places that already have this high value can pay for the improvements themselves on the street through tax revenue. High value locations, like the University, also charge for parking, expanding the income stream. It is these locations that subsidize the rest of the city’s infrastructure commitment.
How Does the Optimal Block Compare to Strip Mall Developments?
Cityview 1801 Princeton-Kamloops HWY
Total Value of $15,656,000
I wanted to compare two closely located streets to give an indication of how different patterns perform when most
Value per Square Meter; $499.61
variables are accounted for. Not accounting for locational variables, let us compare some of the city’s “best performing” sub-urban style developments to the 300 Block: 300 Block Victoria
Total Value of $14,111,000
Value per Square Meter; $2,818
Total Value of $9,420,000
Value per Square Meter; $264.86
Chapters/Staples 1395 Hillside Drive
Total Value of $23,750,000
Value per Square Meter; $668
Westsyde Shopping Centre
Total Value of $2,838,000 Value per Square Meter; $135.74
Sahali Centre Mall
Total Value of $10,033,000
Value per Square Meter; $191.02
As you can see from all these examples, these auto-oriented places do not perform nearly as well for the tax base, despite actually costing on average a larger burden on city infrastructure; Semis needed to service the big box stores, traffic problems, undercutting transit effectiveness, increasing car accidents and excessive storm water run-off, to name a few. Just as in the 500 block of Victoria Street, the monotony of property values reduces the investment market to a very small number of investors. Few Kamloops companies and investors are able to participate in a market which requires $9, $12 and $23 million to enter; therefore the entities which own these malls are not from Kamloops. To ‘reduce risk’ national and international businesses fill their premises.
The monotony of businesses further limits the abilities of local entrepreneurs to enter the market as business owners. The popular Oriental Express restaurant in Kamloops has had two locations so far. First located in Aberdeen, they we’re not granted a renewed lease, and then moved to Westsyde, where they have again not been granted a renewed lease. Finally they have opened for a 3rd time on 8th Ave near Halston. Perhaps Oriental Express were difficult tenants, however large national investment groups that own stripmalls restrict the type and style of tenants that occupy their spaces, preventing those businesses from ever owning the building that they operate in. Large stripmall style commercial developments deliver small fractions of tax revenue per dollar of infrastructure maintained as compared to downtown, and also prevent local entrepreneurs from opportunities to build wealth and capture value for the city and its natural environment. Finally, it prevents a large barrier to entry for local aspiring retailers; aspiring restaurateurs, jewellers, clothiers, grocers and any other number of retail tenants are prevented from entering the market, because the landlords demand non-competitive leases, collateral and criteria based on portfolios rather than unique assets.
Land Value Stripmalls are not so much the result of consumer’s wishes for big-box style retail, nor the folly of bad planning. The comparison of land values I have presented show that as a population in total, we value developed, urban areas more than we value stripmalls. The Tax Authority also clearly values dense, urban nodes more as well. But to phrase the information more accurately, the Tax Authority directly subsidizes and incentivizes strip style developments, and much more than you think they could. A km of road paving or a meter of pipe, costs the same, regardless of where it is laid. Therefore, the cost of land, bare simple land with no improvements should cost the same no matter where in the city it is laid as well, should it not? After all, the city expense is more or less the same to service bare land anywhere in the city. The Tax Authority does not seem to agree though, as the more land used, the less that land is assessed at per unit. So if you have a downtown house, let’s say on Battle Street, between 1st and 7th, your land is valued at roughly $1.2 to $1.6 million an acre. If however you have a house in Westsyde, your land is only taxed at
$500,000 per acre. Same dirt, same services, nearly 1/3rd the taxable value on land. That said, some far flung suburbs (read affluent ones) do have a more realistic land value attached to them, with Aberdeen properties having their land valued between $900,000 and $1.2 million. Valleyview, predominately middle class has a value on residential land around $850,000 per acre. Building on the periphery on larger lots has built in incentives from the tax authority. A correction to a flat value tax on residential property throughout the city would see about a 20% drop in residential taxes downtown. While residential properties in the burbs receive a land subsidy, the same discrepancy is made huge in commercial properties. Two properties downtown and their land value per acre downtown: 371 Victoria Street; $2,714,285 301 Victoria Street; $2,721,428 And in the burbs; 1395 Hillside Drive; $698,973 Cityview; $620,801 Valleyview Square; $697,843 Averaged; Downtown; $2,717,857 Burbs; $672,539 37
In other words suburban, large commercial developments are taxed on $2 million per acre less than downtown properties to conduct the same businesses. Or downtown land is taxed 304% more than suburban land. That means to develop downtown you must pay 304% more tax per acre. Perhaps big boxes on the periphery are subsidized by accident in our current tax system. Development Cost Charges, or the ‘impact charge’ that is levied against a developer, is once again, levied regardless of where in the city the development is located. So despite the cost of a downtown street having been amortized out and paid for many decades ago, the developer on that street pays the same as a developer on the periphery. No amount of nice words in an Official Community Plan, or development incentives suggested in such a plan can even remotely approach a subsidy that this type of assessment discrepancy gives to developers. Downtown developers would need to have the land they are developing on de-valued by the tax authority by over 75% to approach the subsidy that peripheral developers get, not including the other requirements
The Job Situation While these large corporate developments clearly obstruct local investment in the Kamloops market place, they also wreak havoc on job and job growth possibilities nearby for most members of the population. In one acre the 300 block of Victoria Street contains more jobs than the 9 acres of the 1395 Hillside Drive (Chapters, Staples). The 1 acre of Victoria Street also delivers all the same services and thus the same job opportunities as 1395 Hillside Drive: Bookstore, Coffee Shop, Clothing Store… but also includes an optometrist, eyewear store, lawyers office, accountants office, property management company, bank, fast food, lingerie, body art, live music venue… All these businesses have different hours of operation, different demographics and drastically varying pay scales, compared to the almost entirely low wage jobs contained in the box store models of commerce in 1395 Hillside Drive.
that downtown development requires. This one downtown building holds 8 businesses
Furthermore, when areas are only ‘open’ for certain hours, only certain businesses operate there, and infrastructure in the area is only used for small periods during the day. Most dramatically parking is used during part of the business day, but most of the 24 hour day, it is left completely vacant. Downtown, parking is used throughout the day by different users.
Harvard University conducted a study across the United States that examines Social Mobility; the percentage of people born in the Socio-Economic bottom of the population and later in life achieve the Socio-Economic top. The study was called the “Equality of Opportunity Project”, and it found despite the United States being thought of as the land of opportunity, the U.S. worldwide actually has nearly the lowest likelihood of actually changing your lot in life. Thankfully Canada is near the top, and different government policies are absolutely at the root of many of these problems. What the Harvard Study did different however was to look at this information at a finer grained geographic variable, census districts.
Even at mid-day this parking lot sits empty. It still costs money to light, to pave, to maintain, to service storm water run-off, in taxes. The cost is borne in the transactions you make, and it costs you.
Limited opening hours reduce the nearby workforce of a commercial area due to scheduling challenges, or the types of jobs available. This means people in the suburbs need to travel long distances to arrive at employment that fits their schedule, education and experience. Those distances are likely only traversed easily by personal automobile, a car that costs the employee money, the city money and is only used for perhaps 20 minutes during the 8 hour work day.
Taken from Equality-Of-Oppurtunity.org
The top 10 we see Dense, Walkable cities like Seattle, Boston and NYC. These cities see approx. 10% of their bottom 10th of society climb to the top 10th. In the bottom three we see Atlanta and Cleveland, all with less than 5% social mobility. Some primarily agricultural districts in the mid-west actually out-perform cities; and on second thought, this makes sense as income distribution is very small. The richest fifth of the population makes relatively smaller multiples of the lowest fifth of the population. However in cities like NYC and Boston, which are home to many of the world’s richest persons, with daily incomes that are multiples of the annual incomes of the bottom fifth, can manage to maintain such high levels of Social Mobility. Urban Planner Kevin Lynch talks in his book Image of the City about the importance of geographical boundaries between neighbourhoods within a city and their social impact. What he is talking about here is income segregation and how it is propagated by the model of financing and planning suburban housing projects. “The spatial information people use to create boundaries can be important to perception as other more culturally entrenched symbols. In cities where many incomes, jobs, lifestyles are accommodated within each identifiable
neighbourhood, these create a means of building a [healthy] individual identity that is shared by those who live and work inside [neighbourhoods].” In other words, someone growing up on the North Shore may “other” a person in Aberdeen, and the reverse as well, creating barriers to social mobility. When a person needs to cross from their “poor neighbourhood” to a “rich one” to receive basic needs like healthcare, this reinforces personal identity issues of helplessness (argues Lynch). In dense, mixed-use areas that have a broad spectrum of housing types create opportunities to move vertically in the socio-economic realm. Whether this is a cause of social relationships between neighbours as Jane Jacobs argues or of neighbourhood identity as Kevin Lynch suggests, the correlation is evident.
One block on Battle has a $840,000 house, a big house of rental suites, small two room pre-war houses and middle class median priced houses. These suburban houses are about the same price.
Spread-out suburbs restrict job schedules and transit modes. They favour commerce models of low pay and low skill. National retail filled stripmalls also limit job growth opportunities in Kamloops. Perhaps you started working at Chapters bookstore in Kamloops, and you have found you quite like it. You work there for a few years and are lucky enough to make it to Store Manager. While still fairly low-paid, with a hunger to grow within the company, you find that the only way to move up in the company is to move to the Provincial Office in the Lower Mainland. There is no more room for you to grow and stay with your friends and family in Kamloops. This means that when you leave, you are taking your talents and life out of Kamloops, and you are leaving your social network behind, for a marginal increase in pay and responsibility. I have no problem with businesses that grow and evolve then eventually franchise but development models that only allow for national franchise, corporate modelled companies is unacceptable. Traditional planning models, of variable sized lots, connected street grids, manageable sized investments and failures, promote
The Private Investment is Poor Too! In suburban style mall developments, the private investment is also depreciated unnecessarily. As new malls open, old ones fall out of favour, and places like the Sahali Center mall sit largely empty, propped up only by a couple anchor tenants. It is well documented that over half of malls in North America operate at below 75% occupancy. This led the state of Vermont to introduce a bill requiring any new mall developments to float bonds before construction, that the proceeds of which would be used for demolishing of other malls which fail as a result. And this shouldnâ€™t be a surprise. Colliers International reports that Canadians enjoy nearly 15 square feet of retail space per capita, and this is only surpassed by the United States at 27 square feet per capita. For comparison the rest of the developed world operates at around 3 square feet per capita, and the world average is 1 square foot per capita.
growth from within Kamloops.
Canada has clearly more square feet of retail than can be sustainably financed, and thus all over Kamloops we have commercial properties in every neighbourhood falling into decrepitude. These buildings still require infrastructure maintenance that the tax-payer is given the bill for, and privately it is bankrupting landlords locally and nationally. Further to the insolvency of the business model at high vacancy rates, these commoditized investments intend to remove place and location as a variable in each property transaction. They nearly accomplish that; every mall in every town looks the same. But what they really accomplish is one mall never really gaining any particular geographic asset over another one, and thus no capital gains are ever realised. The sale of a stripmall rarely ends with a large windfall stemming from an appreciation in the value of the property. It is much more likely that the sale of the mall is simply attempting to get a losing
Further investment gains are lost simply by paying no attention to the geographic and social sensitivities of each site. Questions could be asked like; What mountain could this new street frame? Where will my employees live? How could this site maximize views for residential customers or restaurant patios? How could I utilize my site to connect a common origin and destination, thus generating traffic past my businesses doors? Where could I create a diversity of investment opportunities, so that investors from middle-class residents, to property investors, to institutions and charities and out of town investors all find interesting, attractive and favourable?
Furthermore, by restricting the uses and tenants of a particular mall site, only a very narrow demographic is ever likely to enter and utilize the stripmall, and the businesses inside lose out on the single most important marketing mechanism;
The most interesting walking journeys in the world, whether it be through nature like the hike to the teahouse at Lake Louise, or down the streets of Barcelona Rome, Nantucket, or Sun Peaks; there is a varied and diverse rhythm to the feeling of places as you travel through them. Strip Malls, and even interior malls are a cacophony of monotony, extended and repeated across the city, creating a series of no-place, that hardly invites
asset off the books of a large company.
Why does the City Allow, and Even Encourage so many large Subdivisions and Other Large Projects? Private companies, especially those seeking public investment, understandably prefer predictable returns. In investments the scale of $25 million, predictable returns are understandably important. In a system of large investments only, failure can be catastrophic. Therefore these companies repeatedly create the same thing and replicate past success. City Regulations incentivize large scale development and sometimes add tax rewards and other direct incentives. Investments from the private sector therefore come almost exclusively from large project investments. The City loves large projects partly because they provide predictable returns; there is a comfort in a Private Equity portfolio of hundreds of millions. It could be supposed that the financial security of a big company like Wal-Mart is why cities allow Wal-Marts to open. The city thinks that the Wal-Mart won’t close and result in a row of boarded up buildings like you might see on Tranquille, despite the absolute knowledge that Wal-Marts opening and subsidy is the direct cause of those small business bankruptcies.
These large projects also simplify many aspects of City administration. One title for property tax simplifies tax handling. The Assessment Authority likes neighbourhoods to be mono-use and mono-scaled properties to simplify assessment and tax rates. Further to that, city planners don’t like to waste their time dealing with local investors that may or may not get a project off the ground. A large equity firm will unquestionably build. Planners prefer large projects because the solutions can be painted over in large brush strokes, eliminating as much variation and detail as possible. Simply apply the Official Community Plan check list, and voilà, ideal development right. This thought process has led to such silly investments as City View shopping center, a major commercial project that replaced a hotel with a strip-mall, without greatly increasing the value of the property. Furthermore the new stripmall increased the amount of available retail in the city, de-valuing other retail in the city that already sits on the verge of solvency. But they planted some “native plant species” for storm water run-off (which barely makes a dent in the stormwater run-off from a massively paved and empty parking lot) and making the environmental lobby happy. Plus they added some bike racks to make the 43
cyclists happy! In the end the developer installed bike racks they wouldn’t have if the OCP didn’t require them, but the OCP is unconcerned with whether anyone would use the bike racks. The model of planning and implementing with no encouragement of site specifics depreciates every private investment in the city.
The most significant reality is this: The city has huge commitments to sustaining public infrastructure like buses, police, ambulance, water, sewer and roads into perpetuity. The city depends upon new growth and new tax payers to disguise the realities of dramatically escalating operational costs as everything gets more expensive (gas, electricity, vehicles, pavement, etc.) while the value of properties remain essentially constant.
Native plant species, doing their best to compensate for the storm water generated by the large paved area
The same feedback loop that prevents Strip Malls from experiencing Capital Gains, also works more subtly in the worth of residences. Since the average price of a home in Kamloops is not climbing in proportion to the cost of maintaining the infrastructure, new revenue is needed. That new revenue is achieved by building new homes to tax. Those new homes need new infrastructure however, and so the commitment for that infrastructure remains on a 25 year lag behind the new revenue, and the “illusion of wealth” is perpetuated.
The OCP required bike racks, behind one of the buildings, away from store fronts, and clearly well utilized. It is interesting that in “City View” shopping center, a customer dragged a patio chair to the service entrance in order to actually see the view
Administration seems to believe that going after ‘big fish’ appears to be a much simpler task that trying to garden growth from within. The city directly employees and contracts firms with the only purpose of attracting large scale out of town investment through mines, warehouses and other capital intensive 44
businesses. This is often disguised as seeking “jobs” but as we all know, many of these jobs are low-paying, lowsecurity and provide little to no opportunity to stay in Kamloops and grow your career. Why does the City of Kamloops have a whole organization called Venture Kamloops to achieve this “business attraction?” Simply to attract new tax base to try desperately to minimize annual tax hikes. It is worth noting that a visit to the Venture Kamloops website makes no mention of jobs created, and their effectiveness is measured completely in dollars of infrastructure invested. Venture Kamloops ‘achievements’ are listed as ‘Major Commercial Projects’. The city is attempting to minimize this gap by leveraging debt. The 2013-17 Financial Plan identifies 35% of Capital Project Funding from increasing debt. The cities total debt will rise from $96 million to $122 million from 2013 to 2014.
Despite increasing debt, major commercial investments, and a generally stable economy, the Kamloops Property Tax Rate has increased more than inflation every single year since 2003 with the only exception of 2006. The City thus sees big fish as important to try keeping buoyancy in the City of Kamloops coffers. The city has actually invested time in surveying Kamloopsians on how they would like to deal with these insolvencies. City conducted surveys suggest that 53% of Kamloopsians prefer a tax hike, against 34% of people that prefer service cuts. The same document suggests that 53% of people prefer user fees rather than taxes to pay for city services. However in 2003 68% thought of tax increases as favourable, and that ratio has been dropping each year since. I suspect that few of the 400 persons responding to these surveys are aware of quite how challenging the future looks for Kamloops and other local units of government across the country and continent.
Pay for What You Use Or Is there Another Way? Perhaps it is time for User Fees on Ambulances or Police calls that relate to KMs driven? Or perhaps the School District will have to abandon bus service, and concurrently stop the construction of any more school facilities. It is clearly my point of view that the productive areas of the city should no longer be required to subsidize the sprawl. The morality of exploring user fee systems for so many city services is perilous at best, and it is a highly politicized topic which could cause much division. For this reason I avoid discussing user fees for roads and services and instead it is my belief the answers lie in simply building upon investments we already made, capturing value from assets we already contain. If we live in a productive development pattern, services could increase, with stable or dropping taxes rather than the converse.
What investments individually, as neighbours, as a government or as a region, could be made into our built environment to capture value from the other environments? In our Natural Environment; how can we leverage our fishing lakes and our access to the outdoors? How can our brand as a worldwide biking destination be expanded upon? What views can we capitalize on? One might be surprised to know just how many creeks have been buried under Kamloops in favour of uninterrupted driving. What other activities could our hot days and sunshine support?
The Hay Bale BBQ at Harpers Trail; capitalizing on the climate, the vineyard, the wildlife, local musicians and chefs
If we remember back to the four environments at the start of our book; how can we, for little or no cost, planning, passion and small investments better leverage the assets that we already have? Assets we spent the last 50 years ignoring. Canada Day at Riverside Park, an amazing view + amazing market
In our Social Environment; Kamloopsians are famously friendly, and in fact our Tourism Kamloops documents focus unfortunately almost entirely upon that. Our climate has brought many transient people to live here, what assets do they have, what services could that type of person contribute? Kamloopsians are socially connected in a way I have never experienced before, how can we leverage our networks? We have a large international university, what knowledge do internationals bring with them here, what vitality could they inject? What types of class projects could contribute
Kamloops permanently? What do they want to spend their money on? What types of opportunities are they looking for?
Popuphood in Oakland, CA allowed Kate Ellen to test her jewellery concept temporarily, creating a unique economic opportunity for her creative gifts
to a dynamic system of public spaces? It is important to remember that the financially strong and viable societies around the world for thousands of years have one thing in common; they were built with thousands of small, individual investments of savings, investment, sweat and passion. None weâ€™re built attracting big fish, they made big fish.
Architecture students in Bergen, Norway fill this square with interactive design projects, contributing to the community
In our Economic Environment; we have abundant natural resources that attract huge foreign interest, what types of investments could we encourage from such groups? Most international students leave, why would they want to relocate to
Popuphood, probably one of the largest scale investments of its kind in the world, knows that the barriers to entry for local entrepreneurs prevent so much social capital from being invested locally. They also know that stripmalls simply do not allow for local investments to be realised.
To take advantage of these environments a few preconditions are necessary, and some of them have been hinted upon already: 1. A series of well-connected communities 2. Walkable communities that can be experienced on foot 3. Mixed-Use areas with 18-Hour uses to maximize capital investments 4. Many types of public spaces in which to host events and highlight Kamloops assets How to compose a community that has these conditions is the subject of the next part of the book. When Popuphood started, it was simply a series of vacant storefronts that weâ€™re temporarily occupied in walkable, prewar Old Oakland. Now Popuphood consults other communities on how to build vibrant local economies, and a huge part of that is building pedestrian plazas.
The Cost of Car Ownership The CAA reports the cost of owning a dependable, budget automobile (Civic LX), driving 12,000km per year at $7,723.72. For context, Canadian citizens drive on average 15,300 km per year. For a family with a gross income of $24,000 (Full Time at $12/hr) that leaves only $1350 per month left over for food, accommodation, clothing and discretionary purchases. Many of these persons need to live in the suburbs to find accommodation they can afford, and transit does not serve their needs in these low density areas. Cars can be bought and operated for under $8,000 per year, but how dependable is that transportation? Our city and province cannot support government commitments to car infrastructure; the poorest amongst us are further inhibited in â€˜getting aheadâ€™ by their car commitments. The plight of the poor in automobile environments goes beyond employment. Children cannot transport themselves to extracurricular activities, especially if a parent is working shift work. The nearest park land could be a dangerous walk away. Kamloops contains magnificent parks, but many people need to drive to use them. For those unable to own their own pool, a public one may be completely inaccessible. 48
The Parking Subsidy The city absolutely subsidizes and then further requires auto use. It accommodates new population almost completely in the suburbs; The OCP calls for 81% of population growth to be absorbed in periphery neighbourhoods. Cars are in use for approximately 5% of their lifetimes and the remaining 95% of the time is spent in storage. The city thus places strict regulation on how to accommodate all the required cars when they are not being used. One man has been studying this often ignored element of modern urbanity for four decades now, and his name is Donald Shoup. Parking Requirements are a large factor preventing Downtown from adding many of the much desired residential units that businesses and potential citizens desire. They also prevent sub-urban development from creating new connected, pedestrian oriented spaces. Multi-Family city bylaws show these types of parking requirements:
0.85 spaces per bachelor unit; 1.1 spaces per 1 bedroom unit; 1.6 spaces per 2 bedroom unit; 2.15 spaces per 3 bedroom unit; plus 15% for designated visitor parking.
Restaurants require 5 stalls per 4 seats. Retail uses require 4.5 spaces per 100m2. An elementary school needs 1.5 stalls per room. The document on how to build an approved parking space is 11 pages long and included paint colours, width of line, width of stall, turning radius, surface material, height of cubs, required â€œlandscape improvementsâ€? and more. The arrival at the number of parking stalls the city requires and the size of the parking stall is generally based on the largest automobiles and usage at the busiest time of the day on the busiest day of the year. What we are left with is parking lots that cover huge areas of land, separating uses and costing money, which are mostly empty, most of the day, most of the year. In the center of the city, where land is dense and valuable, parking must be accommodated in structures or underground. Let us pretend that we are in a business partnership, we own a lot downtown on Seymour Street. Looking at the price per square foot that downtown apartments are selling for, we make a simple calculation. We could build a little 8 unit apartment building with a shop on the ground floor, make some money, and improve our property!
We approach a contractor for a quote and they high-ball us at $200 per square foot and downtown apartments sell for $250-$325 per square foot. Great we
People need to park! Right, many do… but once downtown within a couple blocks walk of over 200 businesses and workplaces, many also don’t or could
choose not to.
Now we approach an architect and ask them to design a building for us. The architect tells us we should meet with the city to discuss the development, as the city will require a “Development Permit” process to be completed before being given permission to apply for a building
How many people looking to buy a condo downtown would leap at the opportunity to save $60,000 or 5-8 years off their mortgage in exchange for giving up their car? Not all, but some. How many might like to live downtown if apartments we’re $60-120,000 cheaper?
permit. So we proceed to the City. We meet with a number of the cities planners; they discuss form, character and most importantly, parking requirements. Now we talk to a contractor, what does a parking stall cost to build? Well approximately $60,000. We run the numbers again and determine that to absorb the cost of the required parking stalls and still make a return on investment; we need to build 30-50 units. That is beyond our means, scope and the absorption rate of the Kamloops market, and instead, our empty surface parking lot downtown remains vacant. The parking requirement has made what we thought a little project into a prohibitive venture.
If we assume the standard middle class household, the CAA calculates owning a Toyota Camry, driving 18,000km per year at $10,452; or $28 per day. A downtown resident without underground parking and the associated car then has $61 per day of extra income to spend how they like, on cabs, rental cars, entertainment, travelling, home improvements, etc. At the end of the day, is it not the investor, the person taking all the risk building a development to judge how many parking stalls he or she needs to make a profit on their building project? If they want to build 5 parking stalls per unit, they are allowed to do that under parking regulations, but if they want to build less than 1 stall per unit; that is completely illegal. If the units don’t sell, the developer bears the burden, not the taxpayer. 50
This same phenomenon exists all over the city. If you want to have a legal basement suite, you need to have 3 offstreet parking stalls on your site. Stacking the parking is not allowed. This of course is in addition to the 2-3 stalls of on-street parking provided by city parking in front of the property. This
include an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. A few foodconscious cities like New York and San Francisco might prohibit free desserts, but most cities would continue to require them. Many people would get angry at even the thought of paying for the desserts that they had eaten for free for
adds up to a lot of parking.
The parking ratios mentioned earlier hold true in all developments; stripmalls, row housing, etc. This means a whole lot of parking that is rarely used, sometimes only a couple times each year. The parking standard is applied blindly throughout the city without regard for context, or cost; at a minimum cost of about $4000 per surface stall, someone is paying for a lot of parking. That someone is all of us. It is part of the price of a movie ticket, our taxes, meals and groceries. Donald Shoup phrases it
There seems to be an uncanny amount of parallels in this short excerpt relating to the Kamloops parking situation. Required dessert is the same as required parking. Required ‘minimum calories’ are the same as 11 pages of regulation to the size and shapes of the stalls. These regulations distort the market in exactly the same way. People getting angry about having to pay for something they
quite well when he writes: “If cities required restaurants to offer a free dessert with each dinner, the price of every dinner would soon increase to include the cost of the dessert. To ensure that restaurants didn’t skimp on the size of the required desserts, cities would set precise ‘minimum calorie requirements.’ Some diners would pay for desserts they wouldn’t have ordered had they paid for them separately. The consequences would undoubtedly
‘got for free’ for so long. Parking was never free. Now the economic equation is changing and parking can no longer be a burden split and covered by society at large. Parking needs to be the driver’s problem. Carless families should not subsidize a single car family, and a single car family should not subsidize a four car family. For the exceedingly right leaning, it means the government is not handling another element of your life not to your liking. For the left leaning it means that environmental and social costs of driving are being internalized. 51
Shouldn’t a shop owner be allowed to provide parking to lure customers? Fair enough, but it should not be required. Shoups studies suggest that the subsidy for ‘free-parking’ would have a similar impact of $0.33 to $0.98 gas tax. Right now we have a government that designs road patterns only for cars and requires huge amounts of parking; distancing uses even when they are mixed, further inducing road demand and parking demand. The planners, health care professionals and even politicians say, ‘driving isn’t what people should be doing; it’s bad for the environment, for sociability, for those who cannot drive (economically, young, old, disabled) and we cannot afford it’. They respond with a gas tax, and a carbon tax, to try to stop us from engaging in the very behaviour that they subsidize us to do in the first place. What is the result? Heaps of money spent and no tangible results.
Tranquille I have spent a lot of this chapter comparing the “ideal” maximum value creator that is the 200 and 300 blocks of Victoria Street as the model for growth. Tranquille Road on the North Shore was built in the same incremental growth pattern as Victoria Street, but has fallen out of favour with most of the cities investors, business persons and clients. This has stemmed from many changes in mobility, demographics and also bull dozing the best parts of Tranquille in an effort to compete with new strip developments. Despite its mismaintenance, fringe businesses and general decrepitude in comparison to shiny and new City View shopping center, nearly every single building remaining on Tranquille outperforms City View controlling for size. For example, the hotel that contains Kamloops’ only strip club is assessed at $3,952,173 per acre or $978 per square meter. That is nearly double the value of City View at only $2,022,739 per acre or $499 per square meter. On Tranquille we have the unique opportunity to compare properties that are literally the street from each other, and controlling for the variable of size, are able to show that every single building, built with the parking in front, is 52
a lower performer financially than a neighbour that preserved the traditional pattern of development. For example, 517 Tranquille Road, also known in 2013 as Rexall Drugs is worth $488 per square meter. Directly across the street at 518 Tranquille Road, the Lotus Inn restaurant is worth $1,108 per square meter. Putting the cars in front cut the value of the property by more than half! On average, cars in front have a value similar to strip malls throughout the city at $507 per square meter and cars in the back have an average value of $902 per square foot.
517 and 518 Tranquille Road across from each other
Tranquille needs a lot of love to bring it back to the commercial success it achieved many decades ago, but the lucky part of Tranquille is just how much of the traditional development pattern remains in place. Adjusting the dimensions and removing off street parking adjacent to the sidewalk are
The type of parking in front that Tranquille needs to abandon to bring pedestrians and shoppers back to its streets
Tranquille has far more interesting geometry than downtowns gridded streets, much more likely connections to the river, flat land, and simpler opportunitiesâ€™ for diversified housing stock. Tranquille also once operated as a pedestrian street, and so a return to that form of development is lower hanging fruit than the stripmalls up town. The city has many opportunities to see large returns by investing in Tranquille Road. Simple investments and relaxed regulations could see properties on Tranquille double or triple in value and quickly.
tantamount to achieving that success. Tranquille and MacKenzie, one of the many irregular intersections that could be a joy for pedestrians and a dream for architects
A Note on Politics My arguments agree with libertarians; those amongst us who value personal freedom highly. Of course, if one owns their land, why should they be prevented from doing something on it that they like? So why can’t I build a duplex the same size as my neighbours single family house? Furthermore, the ‘over reach’ of city planners and engineers into micro managing and social
a government; also that the cost of that property should reflect its burden on the tax-payer. The whole city will not become towering sky scrapers. There is no market for dozens of tall buildings all at once.
conditioning is clearly appalling. Financial Conservatives, who value business friendly environments, cannot refute the numbers and figures that I present. Furthermore, no financial conservative would ever support government programs that subsidize so much with no tangible gain to society or individuals. Where I meet the most challenges to our Stronger Kamloops approach is in the realm of both the conservatives and “progressive” liberal types. The Stronger Kamloops approach of fiscal strength through better development is often responded to by many with the attitude that any development is bad development. Some people like things the way they are, and don’t want that to change; which is why I suggest that the type of house and neighbourhood you live in should be your choice, not that of
Kamloops is not about to become concrete canyons like NYC
For those who only care about climate change and believe that development of any kind is unsustainable, I ask you to consider the current path of development. It is eating up farmland on the fringe, and necessitating transportation options that require fossil fuels for most trips. It is reducing citizen’s access to nature by placing it further away. In reality we need to adopt processes and patterns of developments that can meet most peoples demands for comfortable living that provide them with the status symbols they want to own. We need circumstances that further the environmentally sensitive path while operating in a normal market. 54
One criticism of my infill approach to urbanism is the apparent paving over of what could be urban gardens. Infill housing and densification obviously reduces the sizes of yards. If we take the 40% lot coverage ratio, and assume that houses are built to full size, and the remaining 60% is left as yard, it is not as effective as building built to 80% of smaller lots, leaving untouched nature on the periphery. The reality remains that urban agriculture is not a desire or reality for most others. How citizens get around and live in the city is important, far more than a handful of salad greens and tomatoes. Furthermore, spread out single family lots where everyone drives a Prius and has solar panels does nothing to make the city solvent. Nor does it truly address the embodied energy in all this material production, nor does it allow kids or seniors to transport
For many environmental types, there is a common thread of dis-trust of any â€œbigbucksâ€? developer. We as Canadians pay more money for things that we value more. We work for others to get paid. That developer is working for you to get paid and in most cases want to make the most money possible. For this reason they will create the highest value development they can, as long as it is possible to do so. As we have seen, in many cases our own city planning authority artificially subsidizes and encourages this type of development however. Many local, small, would-be developers might be very happy to create meaningful and fantastic developments, if only they were allowed to enter the market. That could include home-owners that want to build a carriage house, or separate into a duplex.
themselves without a car.
Backyards like this are not valued very highly, and they are not environmentally productive either
A Laneway House built for a family member in the Sagebrush neighbourhood. The kind of inclusive and sensitive development that middle class home owners can participate in
That could mean someone who wants to expand a small apartment building that they manage now. Currently the market is skewed heavily in the favour of outof-town developers that are not even allowed to build high value developments. At the end of the day it is important to remember that if someone today wanted to create something of such a high quality as Victoria Street, they are simply not allowed to do it. Yet the city’s plans, philosophies and citizens are asking for it, verbally in charrettes and with their wallets.
A Note on Home-Building During the suburban expansion of the last 60 years, Home Building and Home Builders have greatly changed their roles in our society, changed their nature and changed their organization and tactics. Home Building in the suburbs has a huge advantage, it allows small general contractors and trades people to be self-employed and find a little niche in which to fit. This is simply achieved by a developer simply buying land, subdividing and selling. The organizations that build the homes can be of many sizes, and collectively they have organized as the Canadian Home Builders, which both nationally and locally have become powerful and important lobbies.
The kind of development that North Shore Residents would like to see based on the North Shore Community Plan. However this type of small scale development is largely illegal throughout the city based on various regulations, cost-prohibitive requirements and over burdening processes to receive exceptions
Artists downtown paint the types of pedestrian environments we dream of, but are illegal
Construction in the last half century is understood to be an economic indicator. Unfortunately this indicator is not well understood. Construction is a “trailing indicator” meaning that when an economy is strong, citizens and businesses hire trades people to make investments that they now have the money for. However many people seem to think that Home Building is a “leading indicator”. Governments are encouraged to make “loss-leaders” of construction and infrastructure projects to “stimulate” the market. 56
Home Builders appear to have a lot to lose if the costs of the suburban homes they are building needed to internalize their long term costs. Many of these builders are not large enough, or do not have the knowledge and expertise to compete in a different market. This is often a factor of scale (apartments, row houses, etc.) or expertise (large scale HVAC systems, non-stick frame construction techniques). This means that the suggestions of this book seem to run contrary to a powerful group of Home Builders and to many peopleâ€™s livelihoods. This is not true. It is important to understand that currently Home Builders are the most competitive and self-empowering sectors in Kamloops, and do not deserve to be marginalized. It is one of the few industries that have a large amount of social mobility and encourage entrepreneurship. Their skills, craft and expertise should not be legislated away. As we touch on in the third part of this book, regulation is preventing them from participating in different markets that agree with the philosophy and goals of this book.
The Problems Summed Up While all the financial struggles detailed here are alarming, it is important to realize that this is a problem that will play itself over long periods of time. There are many other externalities that are also mentioned, like pollution and resource scarcity, but fundamentally, if we do not have our financial house in order, as a city or country, we will not be able to confront these other problems. Cities are complex mechanisms; however the 28 civic institutions in the United States that have filed for Bankruptcy Protection in the United States should not be ignored as a different countryâ€™s problem. While many cultural differences exist between Canadians and Americans, and our oil, coal, gas, gold, water and other resources assure some economic success for many years to come, it is important to realize that our governments are already suffering the same budget crunch that these American cities have; for the same reasons, despite our resources. During colonial times, Spain was undoubtedly one of the worldâ€™s largest powers; however their infrastructure and luxury brought a hundred years of depression, and now near bankruptcy upon its population. 57
All is not lost. Simply a paradigm shift is required. Rather than attracting “growth” in the form of population increases, or increasing the tax base through subsidized investment, we need to think about how we can add value to the systems that we already have. We need to increase the value of the property we have already developed without extending new infrastructure. We need to build better connections inside our existing systems. We may see new population growth as Portland, OR did when implementing such principles, or as did Philadelphia, PA when they shifted their paradigms this way. This is not just stuff for big cities either. Asheville, North Carolina has become an international foodie mecca, generating millions of visits for its sidewalk cafes, micro-breweries and galleries, at a population of 84,458 (2011). Or Branson, Missouri with a population of only 10,520 (2010) is literally the live entertainment capital of the world with 49 live theatre venues operating. Roger Brooks identifies Branson and Asheville’s success as tourism destinations nearly entirely on the pedestrian oriented framework that is a platform for capturing value. Brooks also cautions however that you always have to put local communities first, and
Asheville, North Carolina. Small, well connected pedestrian streets that contain world famous restaurants with a population smaller than Kamloops.
Branson, Missouri: Population 10,000. A downtown that generates 8 million visitors per year (2009)
We must remember that it is us we have to take care of first, before embarking on grandiose tourism campaigns, or recruiting Richard Florida’s Creative Class. While Kamloops has great things going for it, we may not see increases in tourism or immigration, and we can no longer afford to depend on these income streams to generate a strong and stable local economy.
tourism may follow. 58
We must get our house in order before making any more wild investments in new roadways or subdivisions. Our place needs to pay for itself now, and new growth should not be assumed under any development pattern. It is important that we turn once flourishing places (Sahali Center Mall, Valleyview Square, and Tranquille Market) into places that can be economically healthy and profitable again, and receive new tax revenue that way. It is important that all new civic investments directly increase the values of the adjoining properties, and all properties in the city. We should allow under-developed properties the opportunity to shoulder their share of the tax burden. In the next section of the book I will look at what types of places have been shown to return direct economic investment, and which types of places have direct economic returns. These places have patterns, and they work all over the world, including in our own country. In the third section of the book, I will look specifically at what types of regulatory hurdles are standing in the way of successful development.
Introduction I hope that in the first chapter of this book I have brought some enlightenment to consecutive annual tax increases. Since I have been involved in society politically, each and every party and politician is keenly aware of the dismal financial situation that our governments are stuck in. Many provide all kinds of suggestions for symptom relief, but few if any really acknowledges, understand or is even aware of the underlying cause of the problem: we are consuming too many resources and do too many things that are completely unproductive. Our
pattern of development consumes large amounts of resources with little or no return on investment, and little choice to explore any other options. The good news is that eliminating these unproductive things from our lives does not mean that we cannot go on living in a civilized, sophisticated and exceedingly comfortable civilization full of opportunity and the pursuit of
According to Evalue BC, this downtown property utilized as surface parking for RIH staff is worth over $2 million.
Most of the elements of these successful places revolve around the creation of walkability. Every trip begins and ends as a pedestrian, walking from your house to your vehicle, or from your vehicle to a store or other destination. In commercial development it is the capture of these pedestrians that translates from higher revenues to higher rents, to higher property values, to higher taxations.
This chapter is all about characteristics of places that capture value, that enrich our cultural opportunities and create entrepreneurial pursuits for our citizens. This chapter is about allowing seniors, children and differently abled a more
In residential areas it means that services and destinations are closer, it means streets are safer, job opportunities more plentiful, transportation choices more numerous and neighbourhoods more desirable. Convenience to amenities translates directly into high property values. The quality of the interface, low traffic speeds, mature trees and well maintained house fronts also translate
independent life. Itâ€™s about opportunity!
directly into property values.
For the city as a whole, it means more density, as in more tax payers for fewer infrastructure commitments. It also means liveability; reduced pollution, cleaner air and insulation from economic turbulence; a wealth accruing population and a Human Scaled city. Will people walk? In many places where every rule in this book is broken, there is still holes cut through fences, paths beside arterials and jay walkers that seem to suggest that for many reasons they will walk whether the city allows it or not.
need to cross a dark, unlit field, cross 45 lanes of fast moving traffic, in some cases crawl over concrete barriers (using the no-jay walking sign as a handhold) and then navigate a narrow shoulder beside fast moving cars entering or exiting the â€œfree-wayâ€? of Summit Drive. Most of these people are students, and do not own cars. Others also fall in to the rational person category, a person with no ideological motivation to walk from home to the university, but they do so anyways. Why? The walk meets three requirements over the alternative of driving: 1. Faster (the car journey is a very disconnected one) 2. Cheaper (parking costs money) 3. More Convenient (donâ€™t need to look for parking) For some, a fourth variable may also be the expectation of drinking after class on campus.
A hole cut in the fence beside the Douglas Street sub-station. Cut by middle aged, middle class folks that just want to walk their dog.
Currently most people in the burbs which choose to walk, bike, take transit, or get around any way other than the automobile do so for one of two reasons. They are passionately ideologically motivated; or they do not have a choice. Students, who walk from townhomes and apartments on Dalgleish
Something crazy has happened in the fall of 2013 though. The university raised its parking rates one dollar. From $4 to $5; a 25% increase in the parking rate. Now there is parking problems all around the university as students and staff save themselves the few dollars and hassle of finding a parking stall and instead clog streets like Laval and Dalgleish with their cars, finishing their car trip with a 10 61
minute walking trip. Amazingly students at TRU are given FREE transit passes with their U-Pass, and yet find driving and parking 10-15 minutes’ walk away a more convenient and faster option than taking transit! This is an indication of appalling service for sure, but also of a detrimental mis-understanding by the city; the University and the area around it is in fact a pedestrian space that economically reacts like downtown. Not only do the city and other stakeholders have a huge latent demand for parking that can be paid for with meters on local roads like Dalhousie, Camosun Crescent, Summit and McGill, but a fundamental flaw in zoning that does not allow the mixed-uses necessary to capture value in the surrounding areas. As Donald Shoup would remind us, if parking is full-up, then we are not charging enough for it. As Roger Brooks would remind us, not having enough parking is a good problem; the opposite suggests it’s not worth being here.
This facebooker is clearly unhappy about the clogged parking in the surrounding streets.
Many different authours have suggested different requirements for a normal, nonideological pedestrian to choose to make trips on foot. Jeff Speck, one of the founding members of the Congress for the New Urbanism suggests these requirements; a walk must be: 1. Useful (connects your origin and destination) 2. Safe (feels safe and is safe) 3. Comfortable (the setting is enjoyable) 4. Connected (the path is simple and efficient, free of artificial obstacles) 5. Interesting (full of things to experience) A UK report by the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions has more specific built environment prescriptions for walkability: 1. Character – a place with its own identity 2. Continuity and Enclosure – a place where public and private spaces are continuous and clearly distinguished 3. Quality of the Public Realm – a place with attractive and successful outdoor areas [rooms] 4. Ease of Movement – a place that is easy to get to and move through 62
5. Legibility – a place that is easy to understand 6. Adaptability – a place that can change easily (uses and activities) 7. Diversity – a place with variety and choice (housing, retail, jobs, etc.) Steve Mouzon, authour of the blog and book the same name, Original Green,
are attracted to like compass needles towards north. The final word is that places which capture value, locally and for visitors, are places which resemble the best downtowns in the world. This is a pattern of development that has survived successfully for a thousand years and not by accident.
All of these suggestions combine to form the basis of the narrative that I provide in
I would suggest that a successful and fiscally strong Kamloops would be about creating numerous, medium density, mixed use centers around the city that are well connected. In ‘A Pattern Language’ the authours call this concept a City of Villages. This concept generally runs through the most successful cities by any measurement in the world. The whole city doesn’t need to live in dense condos and not every corner needs a pub, but the system does need to allow for each member of the population to live their ‘best life’ and the system needs
to capture that value.
Roger Brooks, a well-respected tourism destination marketer that has worked in Whistler and has consulted Kamloops’ own KCBIA on how to make downtowns better has a 20 point program for successful downtowns. His points include on-street parking, plentiful sidewalk dining and quality public plazas. Rogers suggestions completely rely on pedestrian oriented, activated, vibrant public space that locals and tourists alike
Some of the suggestions to follow are simply behaviour or characteristics that indicate success. Other concepts are more prescriptive, suggesting specific changes that have shown success here and elsewhere. They combine to create a great city that creates and captures value; for businesses, citizens, industries and investors. It creates opportunities. It
suggests these criteria: View Changes Street Enclosure Window of View (Lineated Perspective) Shelter Goals in Middle Distance People Magic of the ‘Place’
is healthy and active.
A Sense of Place Most of the items in this chapter refer to elements of place, but it is important to understand what place is. Places have borders. Borders can be created or natural but they must be clear to everyone. A civic park or square is a place; a retail street can be a place. When a geographic area can be identified easily as a place, it immediately increases in value. Consider some of the highest value places in the world “Times Square”, “Fisherman’s Wharf”, “Stanley Park”, “Lake Louise”, “Trafalgar Square” or “Pike Place Market”. Everything is expensive in those places.
Places need to be: Useful (full of uses) Connected (internally and externally) Safe Comfortable
Interesting Some indicators and elements of places like this are detailed next. Some places, like Lake Louise are so interesting and so iconic that they attract people despite being fairly dis-connected from the world. Nearby Lake O’Hara does not attract nearly as many visitors and does not demand nearly the dollars that Lake Louise does. Lake O’Hara is not as comfortable, connected or safe as Lake Louise is.
Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf
If you can capture a sense of place on a single block of a single residential street, you can create appreciation in property
This neighbourhood group in Portland, OR has taken it on themselves to create their own sense of place. They are painting the most important intersection in the neighbourhood with a large diorama and adding benches, trees and crosswalks.
Interestingly jaywalking is one of the best indicators of places that have become successful. If many people, not just risk oriented types, are seen crossing the road at unmarked locations frequently,
Crosswalks are present in environments that are exactly the opposite of places where people jay-walk. Kind-of… Crosswalks are often situated at places of common pedestrian fatalities or places where jay-walking infractions are deemed excessive. This means that cross walks are often located in places where pedestrians were not allowed. Movement of vehicles is deemed the priority but pedestrians appeared anyways and because the pedestrians could not be deterred, a cross walk was
something is going right. And interestingly, places where this happens are places that demand much higher office and retail rents, higher property purchase prices and have the safest pedestrian accident statistics. Why? Places where we on foot feel comfortable crossing just about anywhere share a number of common
This creates a place in which businesses are easy to access from anywhere within sight. This translates into more customers walking through the doors, increasing revenue and increasing property values. These places are social, it is easy to identify faces across the
Cross walks are expensive, and where they are installed should be the result of careful consideration of whether this might actually be an important pedestrian corridor. Often cross walks are installed where they are not needed. In cases like 6th Ave. downtown, cross walks are not needed at all. The street at 6th Ave. should realize that it is already a pedestrian street that’s primary purpose is to carry pedestrians. For this reason it should be the size and proportions of a pedestrian street, and then cross walks would not be needed. 6th Ave. is littered with cross walks every few hundred feet; partly because there is many accidents here involving pedestrians, and partly
street and greet friends.
because there are so many pedestrians.
characteristics: There are destinations on each side of the road Traffic Lanes are narrow (under 2 or 3 seconds to cross) Traffic is slow (eye contact can be made with drivers)
Pedestrians favour corridors for two reasons; important destinations are otherwise inaccessible easily on foot by any other route and/or a journey by foot is faster, cheaper and more convenient. For example: Dalgleish and TRU or a residential area separated from a dog park by a freeway or arterial. These routes are desire lines, the easiest connection, and so the best used. In the case of 6th Ave, much value is lost by not creating pedestrian crossings and facilities that capture value. Furthermore the crossings often fail in their intention of easy and safe pedestrian crossings. The pedestrian crossing experience seems to be the most dangerous due to two seemingly separate variables, which are actually the same variable: 1. High Traffic Speed 2. Motorists not seeing the
times. As comical as the image of men in suits and women in dresses taking their lunch on a Victoria Street bench draped in neon reflective sashes is ludicrous and hilarious, the City, RCMP and ICBC are serious about encouraging pedestrians to be safer on our car-only roads by wearing reflective vests. We all know that no one is planning on actually wearing a reflective vest yet year after year well paid government employees embark on these projects. This safety campaign is directed at walkers despite walking being safer in every possible metric; even ignoring any added physical or mental health benefits; walking is thus advertised as a dangerous activity. By placing the responsibility on the pedestrian, it is once more reiterating that roads are for cars and the people driving them, and they are the priority.
pedestrians The RCMP and City has a program each year which tries to raise awareness about pedestrian safety. They embark on campaigns, such as this year, â€œGet Your Glow Onâ€? Road Safety Campaign. Of course the name implies that roads are dangerous, which they are, even though we know that they do not have to be. Further to that, as the name implies the premise of the campaign is to encourage pedestrians to wear reflective vests at all
The worst part is that many studies have shown reflective clothing to have little to no effect in pedestrians or cyclists being spotted when traffic speeds are higher than 50km/h. Here lies the truth of the matter.
An Australian Safe Driving study makes this comparison. A stationary person has â€˜primary visionâ€™ between 10-20 degrees horizontally. The stationary person also has peripheral vision near 180 degrees. Peripheral vision means that we cannot really make out any detail, but something moving or changing quickly would attract our primary vision. As we speed up, both our peripheral and primary vision narrows. The Australian study suggests that nearing 100km/h our peripheral vision may even be as focused as only 40 degrees (20 each side) and less than 5 degrees for our primary vision. Other studies suggest even narrower fields of vision at speed. Vehicles further complicate this situation for drivers as they also dull the senses of hearing and smell, which are also very important when navigating terrain.
Traffic engineers have known these numbers for quite a while. In fact they have refined these numbers to a very exact science, which is why every city engineering department in the country has 6” thick binders about the radius of turns, the width of turning lanes, and eliminating and ‘fixed-hazardous objects’ near the roadway. Any of the arterials in Sahali mentioned before are great example of this. They minimize any visual interruptions so that a driver can make a decision about whether or not to yield when making a right turn at an upcoming intersection.
If drivers maintained the speeds they drove on the ‘dangerous’ roads before all the “engineering upgrades”, these measures would in fact make streets safer. Instead drivers drive faster (in psychology this is called Risk Homeostasis) and the streets end up just as, or more dangerous for drivers and completely inhospitable for any other road user. This is because all the road users are only looking at a very narrow primary field of vision, combined with an environment that suggests drivers always have the right of way; drivers driving quickly aren’t being rude to pedestrians waiting at a sidewalk, they simply do not see them. They do not see them not because they are bad drivers, simply because they are human and subject to the limitations of our bodies and our judgement. Highways with few interchanges and relatively constant speeds allow the math of traffic engineering to create very safe roads.
The M 25 around London is surprisingly safe, despite high traffic volumes and speeds. The key is in limited access and constant speeds
However higher speeds and the resulting narrowed vision is a recipe for disaster on arterial roads where there are too many cars doing different speeds, entering, exiting, changing lanes etc. Slowing speeds and reducing lanes, while adding new connections is the only way to build network capacity for automobiles while facilitating value capture from the adjoining private properties and finally being safer roads. On high design speed arterials vehicles are travelling quickly and cause a lot more harm; when they do hit something or someone it’s less likely to be a ‘fender bender’. Lastly, let’s not forget the obvious that slower speeds mean more reaction time. High speeds off of a highway result in an accelerating feedback loop of danger and property
single vehicle spends 30 seconds waiting for a pedestrian to cross all 6 lanes for fear of a traffic fine. This does not help drivers, and it does not help pedestrians. What does work? Narrow, well connected roads in pedestrian areas: Jay-Walking environments. What would happen if 6th we’re narrow, with trees, parked cars and only 14 feet of roadway to cross rather than nearly 100 feet? Cars could continue at all times; slower but unimpeded. Cars at cross streets could join traffic or cross 6th easily. Finally pedestrians would cross when-ever they chose where-ever they chose, safely.
depreciation. Finally, in most cases, like left hand turns at controlled intersections, a reflective vest would not have helped the driver see a pedestrian anyways. Ultimately big, marked, pedestrian controlled cross walks do not really work. They are also expensive, and subjectively they are ugly. They impede traffic flow. Many times on 6th you will see a number of cars blow by a waiting pedestrian while another car sits and waits. Finally the coast is clear and a
6th Ave on a Monday afternoon. Empty parking stalls, wide traffic lanes, speeding cars; millions in infrastructure that is dangerous and deprecates the properties around it. Meanwhile, most users, pedestrians are sandwiched on a sidewalk not wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass easily
Terminating Vistas The identity of a place takes a lot from what we can see. Often, we have a particular perspective or view in which we see things. Traversing the city, this is often in the direction which we are travelling. Quite logically, we look where we are going; to see hazards in our path.
Photos are filled with Terminated Vistas; mountains at the end of a valley or the Arc de Triomphe terminating the Champs Elysees. A Google image search of Kamloops reveals that the yellow footbridge over the train tracks is one of the most photographed sites in Kamloops.
We are only really capable of detailed vision 100m distant. If a street rides the curvature of the earth into the distance, there are lost opportunities to capture value. Architects go to lengths to attract the eye, but we do not look at what we do not see. Buildings that terminate the street are framed by the buildings enclosing the street. Immediately terminated vistas easily generate ‘place’ and do not need gimmicks.
The yellow bridge terminating the vista from Victoria on 3rd
Retailers know this, which is why anchor tenants at malls are always given the end of the hall. They terminate the ‘street’ in the mall, and command the highest rents. Terminated Vistas also create destinations; landmarks to find your way.
Terminated Vistas generate value not just in cities, but in nature. It is the glacier at Mt. Victoria at the back of the lake which makes Lake Louise one of the most photographed and visited sites in Canada. It is also what makes the Chateau Lake Louise such a special and valuable property. If the Chateau was mid-lake off to the side it would not be nearly as culturally or financially valuable.
Sears and The Bay define the entire Aberdeen Mall, and how you orient yourself within the mall. They are landmarks, and are unmiss-able as you walk the malls halls.
Much of Kamloops urbanity is a grid though, and how can we create terminated vistas in our most successful pedestrian area, downtown? First of all, most of the Avenues do terminate at some point, so there are opportunities. Lansdowne village could reengineer their parking lots (if parking requirements we’re dropped) to terminate 4th, 5th and 6th, pulling tourists down from Victoria and perhaps actually filling some of their vacancies. Leon Krier has many notable sketches, and the following is one of his for retrofitting plazas and terminating vistas into established grids:
Landmarks & Way-Finding How do you explain to a visitor how to get from where you are, to where they want to be? What is easier; “Travel up Columbia to McGill…” or “Travel up Columbia to the Husky…”? A visitor may have difficultly identifying McGill Road as they travel towards it, especially at speed in a car; but it is hard to miss a big, identifiable building like the Husky. There are many ways in which we find our way across the city, whether it is an area known to us or not. If a visitor cannot find their way to the exciting opportunities in our city, or are not attracted by something to venture further in aimless saunter, what impression will they have of Kamloops? As Kamloopsians, what sorts of entertainments do we deny ourselves by travelling specifically from origin to destination and be denied any valuable journey in the middle.
Seven Dials near Covent Garden in London is an easy and convenient meeting place. There is a central, identifiable feature and there is plenty of seating. This meeting space generates sales for the surrounding pubs, restaurants and shops. Mall designers add central meeting plazas to malls for the same reason.
Landmarks are pivotal in creating productive places. Places that have an identity beyond “The intersection of”, but instead foster some type of feeling and identity, like “Times Square” or “Commercial Drive Station” or “Picadilly Circus”. These are where you meet, and where you linger. In a commercial place, it is where you spend money. These things also build your brand as a city. I do not need to attach a geographic location to such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, CN Tower or Mt. Rushmore for you to know what they are and where they are. This works at different scales for different demographics and different interests. I think most people who have been in Kamloops for any length of time can recognize the following picture, and have probably gone there to see it, and spent money nearby when we did:
For a neighbourhood, these are places by which you define yourself; a park, or a statute or activity or lifestyle, or cultural
Enclosure Enclosure is a difficult concept to get right, as it is it is intricately entwined with two other concepts: Permeability and View Changes, more on these shortly… When you are on the street, square or park, a successful place will feel like an ‘outdoor room’. Enclosure creates this feeling. It means ‘no missing teeth’. Mall designers understand this. They expand store fronts to take up the maximum amount of store front. As a result the space is well defined horizontally.
Unfortunately missing teeth aren’t too attractive on people either.
The 400 and 200 blocks of Victoria Street receive the same sidewalk treatments as each other, both have street trees which are lit, both have dozens of businesses, both have old and new buildings; everyone understands that the 200 block is more appealing. This is a result of continuous and consistent enclosure. Most of the buildings are 2 stories, most of the buildings are a consistent width but most
importantly, the buildings are one continuous interface on both sides of the street, enclosing the street. This is different from the surface parking lot that takes up a full third of the 400 block. Spaces also need to be designed vertically. In the seminal book “A Pattern Language”, it is suggested that the height of the buildings should be high as or higher than the width of the street in a ratio between 1:1 and 1:4. Humans evolved living not on grasslands or in forests, but on the forests edge. We find evolutionary comfort and protection in having limited and focused views. Rooms have 4 walls, not just two, so it is important to not suggest that a street like Victoria can continue forever. It needs to end, and at its end, it needs to become something different. End to end the place needs to be short enough that someone on foot continues to the new
While this narrative is primarily concerned with the most urban, mixeduse downtown areas, enclosure is important on low density residential streets as well, though it can be accomplished differently. Small side yards are still important, consistent setbacks from the road are also important. Alleys, with service entrances in the back and front doors to the street are also important; suggesting that people live on a street rather than cars. Roof heights should ideally be fairly similar as well. Street Trees can also accomplish elements of this enclosure as well, especially when planted in a consistent spacing along the sidewalk. Jim Kunstler says, “Your ability to create places that are meaningful… depends entirely on your ability to define space with buildings.”
place beyond before turning around.
London’s Covent Garden appeal as a tourist destination results in part from its clear borders, created by the buildings surrounding it, making it an effective outdoor room that tourists and locals use in all seasons
Sun Peaks Village is made so successful and beautiful by the consistent enclosure on each side of the street. On your next walk around Sun Peaks, notice how the village is designed to have terminating vistas every few hundred meters
Permeability and Blank Walls A place can be well enclosed, with no missing teeth, but it may seem the opposite of friendly and inviting. A dark pedestrian tunnel under a train track may seem a pretty forbidding place, especially at night. A street can have similar characteristics. Where ‘missing teeth’ are one problem, blank walls are another. A blank wall, no matter how well decorated, indicates many things. One is that nothing interesting happens down this way, it is a conduit to somewhere else, not an interface. Evolutionarily it may also suggest a lack of escape routes. Simply that whatever happens in the building and the street here has nothing for you, and it sucks the life out of that street. Successful streets, plazas and interfaces need to be enclosed, but they have to be permeable. There has to be lots of doors and windows open or closed, to make them work. They need to be accessible by many routes and methods and thus permeable by conduits as well. In Canada this usually means that places need to be permeable to auto-traffic, as we have not yet built a culture or an environment capable of ‘pedestrian
Our own TNRD library downtown has done an excellent job of removing any accesses to the street, and thus the building is not permeable. When meeting the street, every building should make the maximum effort to introduce the maximum number of doorways to its front. These could be store fronts, residential or office lobbies or anything really. Windows are important too. The idea is to maximize the permeability of the private and public realms. This is shown to always increase commerce and street life. A further element of permeability, particularly for commercial areas, is that of merging the indoor and the outdoor. This is what brings otherwise passive public areas to life. Sidewalk dining is an important element of this, and this can be accomplished in many ways. ‘Brick & Mortar’ restaurants can have ample patios in the public realm, which brings people on to the street, energizing the public realm, and generating value for all. Public seating can also be used by patrons of food trucks, buskers or other more temporary style vendors, like the farmers market. The city can charge rent for these spaces, and thus manage their impact on the public realm.
Back in Covent Garden, upstairs pub patios generate revenue from the buskers below, while the buskers below generate revenue from the pubs patrons. Each pay rent or tax to the city, and both are rewarded for contributing to the public realm.
View Changes are very important to generating interesting public spaces. The more often your perspective of a place changes, the more interesting it is to walk through. This can be exhibited in changing store fronts, changes in block direction and new terminating vistas. Well enclosed space is nearly a precondition for this level of development. Imagine yourself walking through Riverside Park from ISC along the path. You first enter a large, tree enclosed lawn, then a view looking west towards Cinnamon Ridge, then the childrenâ€™s water park. Next views up the North River followed by another large tree enclosed lawn. Different things can be happening simultaneously in all these areas, and there is an element of discovery as you pass into each. This is a rewarding walking experience that is well treated in many of our cities parks but not in many of our cities urban areas.
This coffee vendor near Angel, London is generating revenue by providing a quick coffee to residents heading towards the Tube. He pays rent to the city, contributes vibrancy and activity to the public realm while providing a service to residents.
Street Widths are probably the most important factor to foster view changes. A narrower street, by simple geometrics has more view changes. 4 lane arterials with huge grassy meridians are designed for you to see Wal-Mart a couple blocks away. Places for people are designed so you can see a friends face across the street. 75
Human Scale ‘Human Scale’ is the two words that best sum up these concepts so far. Designing the city, the size of the conduits, interfaces and cores, is about designing them for the size of the human, travelling at the speed of a human. Signs should be interesting to read as we walk by, not dwarf us trying to reach out to the speeding auto-commuter. Window displays show products that we are meant to use, and so as we walk by we can look at all the wares we might like to purchase. Few stripmall retailers bother with any window display-short of giant discount ratios. Managers know that no one will see displays anyways. Little is left to a stripmall tenant short of radio Victoria’s Fan Tan Alley generates completely different perspectives of its shops every step. The narrowness of the street completely changes your perspective of each feature with every step.
The meandering village at Sun Peaks provides new views around every corner, providing discovery for new travellers and reflection for long-time residents.
ads and brand recognition. Connections should be made for a person on foot, at the human scale, where a block takes a minute or two to traverse, rather than 1000’ auto blocks that turn any foot traffic into a relative hike. Paver bricks add texture and nuance to a main street, but contribute nothing to a motorist at 120 km/h. Giant structures can be awe inspiring, like the House of Parliament, but the details are still fine grained that on closer inspection continue to pay dividends; Dollarmania signs don’t offer the same reward. 76
Is this sign really appealing to passing downtown pedestrians ?
The city and the developer clearly made attempts at pedestrian infrastructure here. However, we can see tons of impermeable surfaces, no reason to walk here, and dwarfing proportions for no reason
17th Street mall in Denver, CO has larger buildings but with Human scaled proportions. The pavement is textured with bricks, and pedestrians are shaded by trees. All the street level buildings are permeable, and the place is magnificently enclosed.
No strip-mall retailer would reach out to a passing motorist with a display like this one at Castles and Cottages on Victoria Street. However this display in a quality, human-scaled interface like Victoria attracts dozens of customers from passers -by to in the store each day. Bethesda Row, Maryland, USA; newly built, human scaled
Street Width Street widths are generally a fairly contentious topic littered with counterintuitive science. To encourage Jay-Walking, bike culture, disabled access, view changes, community and commerce, streets should never be wider than 2 (narrow) traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes. Sidewalks should be wide so that parents with children can pass elders in wheelchairs easily. The area of the street devoted to pedestrians should always be greater than that devoted to cars in commercial areas. Always. In residential areas which have quieter streets that don’t need to facilitate crowds of people should have road widths wide enough for parking, and two cars to pass each other; barely. In some cities, even in North America, it is arguable that a narrow single lane road, where pedestrians share the road with the handful of cars that may pass is
Traffic lanes should be narrow. Narrow lanes create slow traffic, enabling pedestrian crossing, and safe bike environments. Slow streets are safe streets, where children are safe to walk about and explore on their own, learning independence and responsibility… also burning energy! Urban researcher Victor Dover has conducted much study and concluded that narrow streets in almost every case increase real estate values. This is the case not just in old towns such as Philadelphia or Halifax, but it is true in new developments. Swift Street in the South Main development of Buena Vista, Colorado has been one of the city’s most successful real estate developments built since 2008. The street was named after Peter Swift who was the traffic engineer that fought against the ‘code’ to create a narrow street in this new mixed-use neighbourhood. The developer has seen nothing but financial success.
Kauffman Street in Philadelphia is a quiet and dense residential street. Single traffic and parking lane; Pedestrian friendly.
Swift Street, CO; as seen on Google Maps
It is important to realise that for small streets like this to be successful they need to be part of a rich mix of streets and connections. Like Victoria’s pedestrianized Market Square, such a place needs to be attached to all kinds of uses and connections, or else it would fail. In Kamloops, the vacant land in our downtown, combined with our heritage alleyways, provides an opportunity to re-imagine some of these spaces as small, quiet primarily residential streets in the heart of the city. In London, UK, mews houses or carriage houses we’re built behind the Victorian mansions that faced the street, and they housed horses, cars and servants above. Today mews houses are some of the most valuable real estate in the entire city, as the front of a property can face a high density, mixed use, busy and vibrant corridor like Regent Street, and in the alleys behind lie quiet residential streets only a minute or two from ‘the action’. Narrow streets are quiet streets.
These little mews houses are tucked away behind 6 story buildings in the bustling Camden area of London.
James Howard Kunstler has called suburban arterials “auto-sewers”. The initial implication is obvious in that they are ugly. In the secondary however, he is implying that designing and sizing streets to the amount of sewage, or cars that they are expected to take is completely reverse from how you capture value in an urban area. The sizing of the street needs to be about how the space will be used, and what uses will capture value; not about how many cars can we get through this area at speed. In his 2004 Ted Talk, “while our young men and women are [overseas] spilling their blood in the sand [for our way of life]… I hope that their last thought is not about the curb cut between chucky cheese and the target store. That’s not good enough!” In other words, we need to build streets that are intimate, loveable, and our own; places that we care about.
Not all roads need be narrow pedestrian corridors. In many places a road has been built not for urban residents and their activities, but instead to connect to meaningful places. The Coquihalla generates value from the ability to
Cars or People – No Compromise?
Columbia in Sahali, with lanes that try to encourage commerce while trying to move many cars with great speed, accomplishes neither well. Charles Mahron of Strong Towns calls arterials “The Futons of transportation options-an uncomfortable couch and an uncomfortable bed.” Plentiful, narrow streets accommodate everyone the best; high network capacity for all types of transportation options; higher property values; places that people love and care
Victoria Street is a place for people, and I think every citizen of Kamloops can recognize this. The Trans-Canada is a place for cars, again quite easily apprehended. What about Columbia Street or McGill? McGill has large residential densities, commercial store fronts and a large pedestrian oriented campus… Yet it provides 4-6 very wide traffic lanes with no street trees and “severe jaywalking problems”. The city has responded by erecting signs indicating not to jay walk… Is this a car place or a pedestrian place? The city has attempted to do both--providing sidewalks, mixed uses and signalized cross walks; the result? A dangerous street with many accidents and general
for; and safe places.
congestion. Is there something better?
quickly connect distant places.
650m travelled on Victoria Street, by Google Maps is a 2 min drive. 650m on Columbia in Lower Sahali is a 3 minute drive. I challenge you to actually drive from the intersection on McGill past Notre Dame in 3 minutes. A wait at the signal can be over 2 minutes. On relatively un-signalized Tranquille the same Google map says 650m should take 54 seconds; 2 traffic lanes are carrying more cars at an average faster rate… perhaps a people place can be a car place too, it just depends on the This Oslo street was built in 2012, and accommodates people first, and automobiles second
Shared Space It seems like a worthwhile time to take a moment to talk about Shared Space. Shared Space as a term was coined by Hans Monderman, a famous Dutch traffic engineer. His work was primarily influenced by classical central districts in France, where curbs weâ€™re extremely small or non-existent while signs and signals weâ€™re similarly absent. He suggested that by introducing elements of perceived risk, motorists would slow down and would thus make space for more vulnerable road users. Since that time, the Shared Space movement has caught huge implementation throughout Europe, in big cities, like Londonâ€™s High Street Kensington Project and regenerating small town business centers, like Poynton near Manchester.
Ultimately, from a Traffic perspective, Shared Space is a concept which maintains the average capacity of a four lane road way with signals, on only two
lanes. This is accomplished a number of ways but primarily by slow steady traffic movement that does not wait at signals. Pedestrians can cross one lane at a time, and very quickly, so vehicles are not waiting, and neither are pedestrians. In the philosophy of Hans Monderman, he believed that if each user of the road or public realm is given the responsibility to negotiate the road for themselves, on equal footing, each person will end up with the greatest success. While Canada has few formal experiments with Shared Space, we actually live it in an inferior form nearly every day. Strip mall parking lots are shared space corridors, which see few if any pedestrian accidents, and not much more than paint scrapes when people do manage to bend fenders. We also meet nearly this phenomenon on Tranquille Road, where nearly no intersections are marked, but traffic is slow, and pedestrians and vehicles alike make fairly smooth movements through the space. Finally the roundabout on Lorne in front of the Coliseum was engineered with Shared principles in mind, eliminating curb cuts and signs, and making no clear right of way for any road user. These types of intersections are fantastic at recognizing that different times of day and different events will have different rushes of road users, and this 81
configuration can then accommodate them when needed, but quickly return to different uses without need for any conscious intervention.
At the turn of the 20
century, all of Kamloops was
designed as shared space, with all road users present. At only a few thousand people, with only a few streets, this portion of Victoria Street is far more lively and productive than what has replaced it today
With very restricted, painted and signed directions of how to inhabit the intersection of First and Columbia, we have arrived at a place where no one inhabits the intersection
In our fairly sprawled and suburban pattern of development, Shared Space likely has few high return locations for such a project at this time. I will mention a few in a moment, but Shared Space, and the meeting of all the other concepts that it entails, should be at the forefront of new developments. I see the intersections on Victoria Street at 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and likely 3rd as perfect locations for experiments in Shared Space schemes. I make this deliberation from the simple observation when walking Victoria to work every day that often pedestrians are waiting at a red light, alongside 2 or 3 cars waiting, while there is no cross traffic. Moments later the situation is reversed for the side street. Both vehicle and pedestrian movements could be improved through shared space concepts, like the roundabout we already have at Lorne and 3rd, or simply with four way stops. Victoria does not have pulses and single direction manageable traffic like an Arterial would; thus the need to manage traffic in this space should be very little. At $350,000 for each intersection to install signals, what could that investment do to improve the quality of the public realm in a way which improves the value of the city in aggregate?
Perhaps the little plaza in front of the Library at 4th and Victoria could become a large one if integrated with the rest of the intersection. The fantastic patio at the Grind and the new pool on top of Hotel 540 would be ideal audiences for buskers to play to. This interaction would lead to increased movie sales at the Paramount, and increased attendance at the Kamloops Art gallery, rather than dividing the public realm for a few
hospital could have immediate access to so many new potential businesses, and entrepreneurs could access directly a whole new demographic. Currently Columbia severs the hospital from the city, having the effect that the Hospital is an island, separate from its neighbours. Further it creates a supremely monopolistic and captive market, which is why Café Motivo in the hospital reportedly pays the highest retail rent per
vehicles to bisect it.
square foot in the City of Kamloops.
In a different project, the city plans to spend many millions to add turning lanes and widen Columbia Street downtown. Further to this, they intend to close the east facing left turn option on to Second Avenue. As we know, severing connections destroys value, and network capacity. Besides, adding a Lane to 100-600 Columbia Street will do little to nothing to alleviate queues at signals. In fact the extra lane will just add further lanes to turn across, thus making the turn more dangerous, blinder, and less easy to make. It will speed up traffic further, and exacerbate the ‘traffic sewer’ problem already existing. Shared Space on this street could reignite Columbia as a pedestrian mecca tied directly into a new provincial investment in Royal Inland Hospital. The doctors, patients, nurses, administrators, visitors, service staff, and all others at the
Would a shared space scheme on Columbia cost drivers a few minutes in travel times at certain parts of the day? It could. It could also save other driver’s time, especially those turning left. Would there be congestion of people and cars? Again, possibly, but congestion in urban areas is an indicator of success, that people want to be there, and so they spend money there, and the public realm is appreciated in value. Not adding a lane would also save over $10 million! By adding a lane real estate values would likely depreciate further, and so the city would see a reduction in revenue and an increase in current capital costs as well as long term maintenance costs. The alternatives; doing nothing or even reducing the number of lanes would be both financially more sensible, and 83
require far tamer investments; starting at nothing. Reducing the road to two lanes could be as simple as adding on-street parking with meters that would instantly more than compensate the small investment in new striping on the street. It would also create new short-term parking for the streets businesses that is usually choked by persons visiting the hospital. It could be as complicated as an integrated Shared Space round-about system with trees, paver stones, onstreet parking, public plazas and other landscaping. Both of these options would cost less than another lane and produce a direct and measureable return on investment, safety and network
would suggest that if ISC was generating lots of revenue downtown during game nights, stores would remain open in the hours leading up to games, but they don’t. The hospital on the other hand, already exists, is used all day every day by every demographic imaginable, every income, every group, and will only grow and continue to be used by everyone. This is a real opportunity to generate some serious wealth for surrounding property owners, and the city’s coffers. To realise this opportunity we need to establish an interface around the hospital that will capture that value, not destroy it.
capacity. The opportunity that a hospital, especially a regional hospital downtown, has as an asset to leverage is huge, far greater than a stadium or arts center. Some cities suggest that a Stadium could be a great tool to leverage for ‘investment’ and the ‘economy’. As we know, they are talking about the ability of the stadium to generate foot traffic, just like our stadium generates foot traffic. Some cities, like Pittsburgh, have an incredible entertainment district surrounding their stadiums, but in general, including Interior Savings in Kamloops, games and events rarely translate into commercial success. I 84
One-Way Streets It is not my intent to analyse at length technical details of traffic engineering. It is a profession that is complicated and educated. Unfortunately I need to question the underlying logic and narrow focus of Traffic Engineering, because it so often fails to do what it intends to do, and in the meantime it often ruins successful pedestrian environments over-night. Two-way street into a oneway street conversions are the perfect example of this. One way streets, in the words of Hans Monderman, are like the barrel of a gun. “If you design streets like gun barrels people will drive like bullets”. As we know, high traffic speeds destroy pedestrian environments and thus property values. The poster child is Seymour Street.
Once the proud address of the Hudson’s Bay and the Elks Club; now the address of a poorly attended Adult store, smoke shop, vacant real estate, empty parking lots and generally marginal businesses, thrift shops and halfway houses. These businesses are always components of a city and have their audience but concentration in particular places is often indicators of low rents and pathetic commercial success. One-Way Streets (like a divided highway) are great options for moving cars quickly with limited access. They get people into and out of places quickly. Commerce happens best where people stay and explore. Then again, some of the world’s best walking cities, like London, Barcelona, and downtown Philadelphia all contain hundreds of one ways. These one ways are not two and three lanes wide with timed signals that require 60km/h speeds though. These are single, narrow lanes, with parking, that accommodate local, slow moving traffic in a way that provides a finer grain of connection.
Despite the pretty sunset, this “gun barrel” designed merge onto Victoria West sees dozens of cars screech away from this intersection every day. No obstacles, straight line and a wide travel lane results in persons speeding that otherwise would not
If it means 200’ or even 100’ foot blocks connected by single lane one ways, it generates far more value than 400’ 85
blocks connected by 2 or more lane roads. For context Kamloops blocks are
One more and we have 6 routes:
400â€™ by 200â€™. Furthermore, if the primary route is disabled, the more streets, the more routes there are to take. He shows this formula:
At 4 by 3 we have 35 unique routes:
It is further illustrated here. If there is one road from Origin to Destination, there is one route and we all use it:
One more road doubles our routes:
Narrow, one-lane roads open to vehicles but are also easily accessible to bikes, and pedestrians, breeding high property value and fascinating urban environments in the Barri Gotic, Barcelona
Placemaking Meets Connectivity Many narrow streets increase connectivity and breed commerce and property values. Well-connected average capacity roads create far more entire network traffic capacity than a few high capacity roads. More roads mean more intersections. More intersections create view changes and are thus more interesting to be in. This breeds further commerce and value.
Rome from above, looking at the Piazza Navona, is well connected to the city, and boasts a thousand intersections per square mile
We also know that terminating vistas help us to create place, and creating terminating vistas could easily be thought of as a dead end. They could be a T intersection at the end of a street, but they could also simply be a change in the design of the street, a corner in the road that restricts the view or a sizeable interruption in the road like a square or plaza, or an irregular intersection.
Irregular intersections are created where roads donâ€™t meet at perfect 90 degree angles. The secret of the North Shore is how many of these intersections exist there. Try to imagine a famous world landmark that does not terminate a vista; it is difficult. Not only do more intersections provide more opportunity for landmarks and thus more value to capture, it also increases connections thus improving network capacity and reducing travel times.
A number of intersection types as shown by Jeff Speck. Any of these only happen and are effective in smaller, tighter connected street networks with slow, constant traffic speeds.
A proposed development at Spirit Square, terminating MacKenzie Ave and generating interest in the Square and traffic for ground floor retail uses
The Grid Most of the theories posed here are results of decades of measurement and studies by the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the CNU is still to this day conflicted internally about the merits of the grid. The grid makes terminated vistas more challenging, and in many ways limits travel directions to NorthSouth and East-West, even though most traffic might really want to go in some variation of that. Paris under Haussmann had its medieval, congested grid bisected by great wide boulevards running in straight lines at obtuse angles to the existing grid, all terminating at central monuments like the Arc De Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower. Many prominent critics like James Howard Kunstler and Leon Krier often embrace Paris as being the height of modern urbanism. Hausmann however achieved this â€˜utopianâ€™ vision through the eviction of thousands of tenants, and the raising of hundreds upon hundreds of homes, a project that in absence of a dictator would likely be political suicide today. Similarly to accomplish such a project in Canadaâ€™s property rights system would require decades and huge amounts of capital and it assumes that we all agree that the formal bisected grid of Paris is a positive way in which to grow.
Though some oblong medieval fossils still exist in the Paris street network, the clear connection of long straight boulevards terminating at important landmarks is apparent in this picture showing the Arc de Triomphe
Many critics also love London, a city as ancient as Paris, established as a port city by the Roman Empire over a thousand years ago. London is the antithesis of Paris, with meandering streets that are never straight, address numbers on buildings that often have no relation to their location on the street, narrow alleys, thousands of small passages, dead ends and bottlenecks.
Looking east with the Old Street roundabout in the bottom right, London is a maze of bizarre paths and trails
Both cities, known worldwide for their walkability and celebrated amongst all classes for this characteristic, contain all of the other important elements in this chapter; Safe wide sidewalks, slow traffic speeds, terminated vistas, varieties of streets, lots of connectivity on foot, mixed uses, transportation options, public parks and density. What they also have is a system of growth that supports incremental development and small scale investments. They just add on to the existing network when they see a need for expansion or they make small changes at the block level, like adding a suite or improving a passageway, adding value to what exists already. In Kamloops a developer is responsible for providing all the services to new houses, like water, sewer, street lights and pavement. However, in the suburban model the city usually pre-empts this with providing large investments of arterial access, usually before the subdivision even starts
In a grid or traditional street network, like London or Paris, when the private sector has organized the capital to continue horizontal growth, this can be accommodated simply by extending the length an existing street that is already well connected to an existing network, that is already paying for itself. The arterials to Pineview are nothing but a crippling liability right from the word go. Pineview is connected to the city by exactly two routes; an increase in density in this area to attempt to cover the costs of the infrastructure in the area will just exacerbate traffic problems in the future. Try to pour a box of rice crispies though a funnel all at once… that’s why they call it a bottle neck. If this same development had been tacked on to the end of an existing network of interconnected blocks, the traffic could be accommodated over many routes, with many transportation options. Now Pineview cannot grow and cannot breakeven without huge challenges.
construction; for example Pineview. The problem with this type of investment should be clear at this point; huge public investment with no guarantee of return, no immediate tax base on the new infrastructure. Instead we are left with hopes of induced growth. Furthermore suburban arterial and pod construction is anti-connective for all citizens.
Copperhead and Hugh Allan, Pineview’s only connections
Anti-Connectivity Connectivity is shown to increase value and it is important to understand things that are anti-connective. Think back to the Whitburn Crescent example and walking to Pacific Way Elementary. We can see how Cul-DeSacs are immediately anti-connective. Any dead end is anti-connective. Large private structures are also anticonnective like large lot Strip Mall or other mall construction projects. If large structures provide good pathways through the area, like the University, it can be a positive contribution to the urban fabric however.
North Hills Mall, not an easy or happy traverse from one side to the other if the mall is closed
High-Traffic corridors, like Columbia downtown can split otherwise connected areas in half. The number of people who walk from the 600 block of Nicola for their food from Coopers is more than four times the number of people from the same block of Pine, only 400 feet further away. Columbia is a huge perceived barrier to cross.
Arterials are anti-connective beyond simply being high-traffic and uncomfortable places for pedestrians. Arterials elongate distances between points even further than they may be otherwise (Whitburn example). Access is limited by code so high car speeds ‘can be safely maintained’. This means that blocks coming close to the Arterial will terminate so as to not enter the arterial, which is clearly anti-connective. The reason access is limited is to allow cars to ‘safely’ travel at higher speeds. The city ‘design speed’ of an Arterial Road, like Westsyde Road, or Aberdeen Drive is 70km/h. Assume that most will travel about 10km/h faster than the design speed and the RCMP wonders why everyone likes to drive 80km/h on 50km/h roads. Of course the solution, ‘to keep our kids safe’, is to post a speed limit of 50km/h and signs such as ‘please don’t speed in our neighbourhood’. In the words of Hans Monderman, “these are your roads, and you are the ones speeding on them’. When the road is designed to the same standard as the freeway you just got off (Mt. Paul Way), why should you think you need to slow to 50km/h from 80 or 90? You can see that as a motorist it is safe to travel faster, but every other road user is marginalized in the process, including your tax dollars. 90
As discussed before, Arterials function much worse that the traditional street network when you are trying to cross them, as seen in the Save-On to Winners vs. Fratellis to Torino Menswear example. Furthermore we have just seen how Arterials cut neighbourhoods into pods. Arterials also cost much more than normal roads, and yet have no private properties that are contributing directly to subsidize their infrastructure, and are thus losing financial propositions. I want to add one final touch to the argument against Arterials, which deals with almost everyone’s favourite word when discussing traffic; congestion. Arterials are supposed to cut down congestion. Queues at traffic lights would suggest that they do not, but that is not where the real congestion occurs. The stripmalls that accompany Arterials have literally the highest congestion of any place in the city. The parking lots of Walmart, Winners, Save-On, Superstore, etc. are easily the most congested places in the city by cars, and other forms of transportation aren’t really options in these places. Walking is nearly out of the question.
Loitering Jan Gehl says, “Judge the quality of a city not by how many people are walking in it, but by how many people are standing and hanging around and enjoying the city”. Of course, for spontaneous congregation to occur, walkability is a necessity. However, loitering should not be a marginal activity regulated by bylaws. If spaces have fantastic infrastructure to support the enjoyment of humanity, people of all kinds will want to hang out in urban environments. A trip to Covent Garden in London or Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco demonstrates that even pan-handling can be an entertainment and provide pride to people rather than an inferior activity to cast your eyes away from.
The amenities, and quality of the public realm in Helsinki bring people in to the streets all year, even in the snow.
Places to loiter need to be mostly without auto traffic, they need enclosure, and protection from the elements.
Places to sit are especially important. From the most simple philosophical point of view, if there is nowhere to sit in the public realm, the design of the street is simply telling you to do your business and leave; ‘don’t hang around here’. Places to sit can be benches, planters, art projects, window sills and more. After diversity of sitting options, the most effective seating choice is moveable chairs. We all like to adjust our chair, just so, to make the space and perspective our own. These chairs do not have to be fancy, and they can be different depending on the space and application.
Some vigilante types decided to install these chairs on Victoria Street to provide a place to sit, and bring awareness to how we use the public realm
The public realm needs services; bathrooms, a place to get coffee, a reason to be there. The private sector can offer these services, and the public sector can provide an interface for mutual benefit. It is important to understand the profound relationship that
public and private space have with one another, and that each has something important to make a cohesive and successful whole, and neither sector is generally very good at the others job. Great places to hang out in can terminate a vista; they can be parks or plazas, and the private and public realm should be blurry.
The Inner Harbour in Victoria provides fantastic interface for tourists to navigate the city from, great landmarks to define the identity of the city, views and foot traffic for private business to profit from and buskers to entertain in while increasing property values and tourism capital for the city. In the absence of private businesses like restaurants these places would be unpopulated and dismal. If it we’re not for the public investment in quality pedestrian streetscapes, the private businesses would pay less rent and attract fewer customers. This relationship between the public and private sector here is a positive feedback loop of financial success for Victoria.
Some suggest that it is in the character of Canadians to prefer the privacy of their own outdoor spaces, and avoid ‘crowded’ public areas. Yet many people, consciously or not, try participating in the public realm every day. In most Kamloops examples 92
however the public places are technically private property, thus subject to that property owners exclusions, like Aberdeen Mall. Only available at certain hours, and is created for the sole purpose of generating value for a very specific group of shareholders. Operating businesses are good for public space, but public space should not be left to private owners alone. Despite a lack of accessible and useable public space, Kamloopsians still try to occupy private space in this way. Examples of occupying public places which are privately owned are seniors who use Aberdeen Mall to go walking in the morning; another is the stoop in front of Scoopz Ice Cream. Scoopz generates considerable foot traffic, based on its proximity to the park, yet is unable to provide adequate seating for all of its customers. The “public” realm in front requires a lot of signage to tell patrons that they are not welcome to loiter here. Yet if this space we’re to be utilized for more pedestrian purposes, with more seating and more tree coverage, these vacant spaces could transform into retail services that could benefit from all the foot traffic. Instead most of the area is left for parking, required by the city.
Street Trees are very important elements of productive environments most anywhere in the world. Street Trees protect pedestrians from the elements, like subduing wind plus filtering and shading sunlight. Trees also reduce the heat island effect that urban environments can create. A consistent canopy of trees is shown to reduce ambient temperatures on a street 3-6 degrees Celsius, which is a big difference on those 35 degree days. The US Department of Agriculture has calculated that one mature tree has a cooling effect, “equivalent to ten roomsize air conditioners operating 24 hours a day.” Tress protect pedestrians from moving cars on the street, both literally and figuratively; they create a fixed barrier and because of perspective, a visual barrier between a pedestrian and the cars. 93
Trees on a residential street will often suggest to passersby that this is â€˜wealthierâ€™ street, and in fact studies in Portland, Miami and Vancouver have all shown on average that a street tree increases the value of a house by $8,870, equivalent to a small bedroom. A Philadelphia study shows a 9% increase in value when all other variables are controlled. The City of Portland extrapolated this information and discovered that their $1.28 million dollar street tree planting and maintenance budget returned $15.3 million in annual property tax revenues, an investment return of 12:1. Trees have further side effects; they absorb both carbon and pollutants right at the source: the tailpipe. Located as they are, studies show that an urban street tree is ten times more effective at pulling CO2 out of the stratosphere than a distant tree. Furthermore, we experience the city with all five senses, and trees are important bird habitats. Perhaps our auditory experience can be improved with the
existing sewer lines, and just how much water they can handle. Finally, trees enclose the street. They provide walls and a roof for a high quality outdoor room. In the best case, trees extend over the road, and the perspective down the street is reminiscent of cathedral arches. They create place. At one time, streets had names that indicated something about their use, purpose and place. Poulty in London is where the chicken market was. Station Road all over the UK runs in front of that towns train station. Guess where Cathedral Avenue might take you? On residential streets, Cedar Ave would usually be lined with cedars; Birch in birch; Oak in oak. These types of investments create place and value for the homeowners, for the neighbourhood, and for the city. Off Schubert drive is a series of roads named after trees, what type of appreciation might the city see from a simple investment of said trees on to those streets?
fluttering and chirping of finches. Trees are important in absorbing storm water run-off. A city with 25% tree cover can reduce their run-off by 10%. This is important when considering the impacts of adding density and distance to our 94
On Street Parking On-Street Parking is important in successful places as very few cities in this century flourish completely car free, so cars must be accommodated for storage. In the words of Donald Shoup, “cars spend 5% of their time in transit and 95% of their time in storage.” While so much of this book and others exhaust the roles and limitations of moving cars, what cars do when their stored is similarly important. On-Street Parking functions best in commercial areas as “short-term” parking. These stalls allow a person to find a stall quickly for a meal or errand. Like street trees, parked cars protect the pedestrians from moving cars. Cars which pull in and out of parallel stalls create a complex environment which motorists intuitively move slowly through, further nurturing a pedestrian environment.
Parking should be priced as such that when arriving at a destination there is always one or two empty parking stalls on each block. In this way, no one complains that there is no parking available, and visitors to the area have incentives to use other forms of transit, conduct transactions quicker, or park further away, generating foot traffic past other businesses. San Fransico actually has parking rates change block to block and month to month, to accommodate different volumes and demand at different times of the year.
Sfpark.org shows where parking is available in San Francisco and how much it costs, in real time.
Most parking functions of the city should be able to be accommodated on the street, with the limitation that they are priced accordingly. Free or cheap parking does not promote growth of business nor of property values. We have already explored the hidden costs of the parking subsidy, and all that remains true
The cost of parking can be a politically difficult problem to address, as business owners are often frustrated by the fact that their downtown customers and employees are forced to pay, and thus dis-incentivized to shop/work there, while sub-urban complexes have ample
in On-Street parking scenarios.
parking ‘free’ for patrons.
To overcome this misconception politically, many places have addressed this through passing all on-street parking revenue right to the businesses on that block. Westwood Village in greater Los Angeles was a struggling traditional shopping district, until the city removed the free parking subsidy and installed parking meters on the street. All revenue from the meters was passed right to the blocks that the meters we’re on; used to invest in sidewalks, cleaning, graffiti removal, plantings, fountains and more. That same shopping district has gone from poor, decrepit and largely unoccupied into one of the most active and lively commercial areas in L.A. Now the parking meter money affords the street to steam clean the paving stones twice a month, and have all litter, garbage and graffiti removed nightly. This is true value creation, and all thanks to paying a few dollars for parking on a trip. In residential areas, the average lot front contains 2-3 parking spots. In a parking pass system, those spots are for the use of the home-owner and their visitors. They have a similar insulating effect as on-street parking does in Commercial Areas, encouraging pedestrian activity. Residents are also encouraged to use their front doors, which bring more neighbours onto the street and into view
of each other; reinforcing safe, friendly neighbourhood principles. If a property owner wants to provide more parking on site, that is completely the will of the property owner, but the owner should not have to provide parking on site, thus leaving subsidized parking empty on the street. Empty streets encourage speeding cars, which begets unsafe streets, which lowers property values. Empty parking stalls all over the city cost between $4000 for a basic surface stall, $40,000 for a structured stall and $60,000 for an underground stall. When most stalls are empty most of the day, this is not a financially efficient system and something that the market left to itself would never allow. A free good is never in high enough supply, “if pizza we’re free, there would never be enough pizza”. In a system where off-street parking is left to the property owners judgement, and on-street parking is provided for a fee, the costs of parking start to become internalized, and as shown across dozens of cities and projects, even a couple dollars will keep someone out of their car and make different choices about mobility. Most of all however, onstreet parking in most cases is necessary for long term financial success and good, comfortable, accessible pedestrian environments. 96
Safety Jaywalking is an indication of high pedestrian success and also of pedestrian safety. I talked about the disastrous and counter-intuitive danger of arterial roads in the first chapter. Now I want to dive a bit further in to some other supporting statistics. In Canada 2,209 persons died in traffic accidents in 2009. 11,451 persons we’re seriously injured. Per Capita that is 9.5 persons per 100,000. In Kamloops in 2012 there we’re 594 traffic accidents causing injury or death. Getting in our cars is absolutely the most dangerous thing that we do collectively as a society. Automobiles are the number one cause of death in North America for persons aged between 1 and 34 years. Many people move to the suburbs for the “safety” that it will bring their family. Dr. Richard Jackson asked the question, “In what kind of community are you most likely to die in a pool of blood?” He points to the work of Alan During who studied Vancouver, BC; Seattle, WA and Portland, OR with two variables, traffic accidents and crime. His conclusion is that you are 19% safer in inner-city neighbourhoods than you are in the suburbs. William Lucy of the University of Virginia found in the state of Virginia, adding up all the traffic accidents and
murders in different neighbourhoods discovered that 8 of the safest communities we’re low income inner city neighbourhoods, while all 10 of the least safe places we’re all low density, single family suburbs. If the health benefits of walking rather than driving as it relates to obesity, mental health, diabetes and other health risks are not apparent by simple logic, I would point you to the work of Howard Frumkin, Lawrence Frank and Richard Jackson and their book Urban Sprawl
and Public Health. The cost of this ‘Car’nage is unmistakeable and almost immeasurable. For our provincial insurance body, and our provincial health care system, car accidents cost hundreds of millions per year, money that I would rather not spend as a tax-payer; and friends and family I would rather not loose. Streets are complicated places, but statistics can point to the types of places that seem to foster road safety, and those which don’t. For the best statistical comparison we must look south of the border. Denmark, the UK, Japan and most European countries have fatality statistics in the 5.1-5.8 per 100,000. These are all places with excellent transit, very high traffic congestion and walkable public realm. 97
One of the lowest in the world: New York City at 3.1 per 100,000.
sky-diving today, you would be more likely to be injured or die driving to get there than actually jumping out of a plane.
In some ways it is hard to imagine that New York Streets are some of the safest in the world. As we know now, safety is mostly about low speeds, and no one would ever consider driving 60km/h or more on a street like this.
San Francisco and Portland both compete with New York, with rates of 2.5 and 3.2 per 100,000. Meanwhile autooriented Tampa and Atlanta have whopping 16.2 and 12.7 per 100,000. Dallas has a downtown that has been completely gutted and arranged for the car and statistics there are 14 traffic deaths per 100,000; downtown Dallas is still safer than all of its suburbs. Even if you are skeptical of the safety of an urban environment, the statistics do not lie, and driving your car for every trip should not be assumed as the only way to live. In a year, more people in Canada die in their cars than in the whole world sky diving. An apple to orange statistic, but it is worth noting that if you went
Walkers are safest in low traffic speed environments. Traffic speed is the most important element here. There are dozens of approaches to slow traffic speeds, even without reducing traffic capacity. Roads can be safe places, for drivers and pedestrians; as Portland and San Francisco show us. Both of these places have very high Walk-Scores and have the highest rates of bicycle commuters in North America. This is not because people in San Francisco are hippies. The city saw a real benefit, financially and otherwise to investing in low-impact commuting like walking and biking, and had the political will to make it happen. Bottom line, for a place to be successful, people need to be and feel safe. Not just from crime, but from the much more risky automobile. New standards for urban roadways are required to bring this safety to people.
Maybe cars should have warnings like cigarettes?
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design AKA CPTED
Activity Support – encouraging the intended use of public space by
CPTED (pronounced Sep-Ted) is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behaviour through the design of public places. The strategies “rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts”. For fascinating stories on the subject, Malcolm Gladwell’s account of ‘Peak Crime’ in New York City in his book
Tipping Point is extremely compelling. The term was coined by criminologist C. Ray Jeffery and was based off the works of Jane Jacobs (Death and Life of Great American Cities) among others. The City of Kamloops planning department and the RCMP have both whole heartedly endorsed the concept during its 50 year development. The national RCMP website describes some principles of CPTED as such: Territoriality – fostering residents’ interaction, vigilance, and control over their neighbourhood (aka breeding neighbourhood identity, places that people care about) Surveillance – maximizing the ability to spot suspicious activity and people, or in the theory, the feeling of being spotted if you we’re to engage in criminal activity.
Environment – a design or location decision that takes into account the surrounding environment and minimizes the use of space by conflicting groups Urban space, like the residential streets of Pine or Nicola have dozens of houses each facing the street, which people often leave by front doors and thus know the faces of their neighbours. These houses and their owners, through occupation feel ownership of the space and take care of it. This ownership is apparent to anyone walking this street at any time of day, and due to the hundreds of windows (the eyes of the buildings) they feel observed, and crime rates fall. Where do crime rates flourish? In dense areas with missing teeth and limited uses. We can identify them easily in a simple walk along Victoria Street: The dark vacant properties that see little light and little observation. Even though they may not contain any illicit activity at a particular moment, any aging lady can clearly point out the areas of the city that they find uncomfortable.
(read; permeability and enclosure)
Crime also flourishes in less dense places, particularly suburban places where offenders do not feel like they are being observed. Comedian George Carlin, talking about school shootings in the United States said, “we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, yet more problems”. In context he was not referring directly to suburban living, but most shootings are in suburban schools and suburban malls, statistically completely dispelling the myth that the inner city is a place of violence and danger. Intentionally or not, Carlin is referring directly to the pattern of living in the suburbs, and the way of life there; it is full of myths. The car promises freedom but delivers bills, danger, violence and death. Big houses promise luxury but deliver prison to those
that does not only fail to deliver what it promised, but actually is threating lives. The RCMP knows it; the Paramedics know it; our city planners know it. What everyone seems to have missed is how our modern systems of government have so unfairly subsidized it, that we cannot live any other way. The knowledge and design principles of CPTED are subscribed to in every fiber of each planning document, yet fail to be understood, implemented or enforced in any Canadian community which I have visited. Despite some of the conflicting ideas in the specific prescriptions of CPTED, the ultimate resounding truth is this. Get people in public places to make them safe. Where there are people in troves, crime, especially violent disappears. Where do you feel safer, in a crowded theatre or a brightly lit, empty street? No murder has ever been recorded in Times Square.
who clean and maintain them. Most importantly, Carlin says, “more experts, yet more problems”. Our ancestors laid out Kamloops, as they did every other city in this world, based on a pattern of living that we practiced since ancient Londonium, Rome, Greece and Xi;an. It is our generations that have thrown this knowledge out the window in favour of perceived privilege and luxury
Modern day Leister Square at night in London; No murder has ever been recorded in this well-populated public space, despite homelessness, alcohol and density.
The Culture It is important to drop a line here about culture, as so often issues such as walkability and “transport-alternatives” (the phrase itself seems to assume that people have always driven cars for every trip) are politicized and thrown out as leftist or hippie. This book is about choice. It’s about building an environment that allows each of us to make decisions that we already make, with our wallets, hearts and minds, to live how we want to live. The bottom line is when choosing how to get from point A to point B 99% of us choose the
Main Street USA, aka Disney; hot temps, no cars, well enclosed and notice the terminated vista
method that is all three of these things: 1. The most Convenient 2. The Fastest And 3. The Cheapest Period. Remember, we start and end every trip as a pedestrian (very convenient). Plus walking is free, so if walking is the most enjoyable, the most comfortable and the fastest, we will walk. I often hear the adage in Kamloops, “It’s too hot/cold/windy” here to walk. However Kamloops residents flock to the 40 degree days in Disneyland to walk around a fantastic urban environment there. Similarly thousands flock to walk around Quebec City in the cold winter.
This is from a tourist brochure recommending winter honeymoons in pedestrian paradise, Quebec City. Notice the enclosure, the human scaled stores, signs and snowflakes
Many more enjoy all the riches of the “windy city” Chicago. In Copenhagen, further north than Prince Rupert, sidewalk cafes are open 12 months of the year, and the city accommodates 55% of all trips by bicycle even in January. Furthermore, the city reports that 55% of bicycle commuters are female. One bridge in Copenhagen sees over 36,000 bicycle trips per day. Are the Danes tougher than we are, or do they 101
just have a place that people prefer, or make the choice to walk and bike around? After all, Molson commercials would have us believe that no other countrymen on the planet are as tough and immune to the discomforts of cold as Canadians! But really, as I suggested in the introduction, many people in Kamloops are already walking, but often dangerously. As mentioned before, much debate has surrounded the constant Jay Walking that exists across McGill and Summit Drive, by students and faculty accessing the university on foot. In the cities pedestrian plan, a $4-6 million pedestrian bridge is suggested to cross Summit, about 100 meters below the existing signalized cross walk at the intersection. Other suggestions that have occurred in the community is to erect a large fence in the meridian or on either side of the road to keep pedestrians off the road; as if the 4 foot tall concrete wall in the meridian wasnâ€™t an obstacle, dangerous on its own.
However this is not the only location that Jaywalking occurs prominently around the university; a confluence of demographics and a mix of uses almost guarantee a large number of walkers in this area, yet the only thing on the cities mind is to maximize the speed of automobiles on Summit, even though Summit is a known location of many vehicle accidents due to excessive speeding. There is much value lost here, but the culture remains that many people in this location want to walk, and many more might walk, given an alternative that is safer and more enjoyable than driving.
According to these images Canadians love the cold
Existing barriers and signage on Summit Drive
Bikes and Bike Lanes Bicycling is a great mode of transportation: It is extremely economical, can be very quick, in short and medium distance journeys can be more convenient than a car, it has no emissions, takes up very little space on the road and is considerably safer and healthier than driving a car. Nurturing a strong bicycling community should be a priority for every city which is trying to negotiate the expenses of automobile infrastructure, the health problems of obesity (especially in children) and making efforts to control air pollution and carbon emissions. Biking should absolutely not be on the top priority list for a city trying to recover some financial solvency. Bicycling in the city can have two capacities, for transportation or for recreation. For recreation, Kamloops has extremely good facilities, including the Rivers Trail, as well as Mountain Bike facilities that attract visitors and admiration worldwide.
For transportation, bikes operate the same way as a vehicle in a conduit, and thus do not add value to the interface of a building the way that the pedestrian interface does. Streets that are well proportioned and defined for pedestrian activity inherently promote slower vehicle speeds, and become happy places for cyclists of all abilities without any added infrastructure. In some cases, like Valleyview Drive, bike lanes can offer a cyclist a combination of pride in cycling and safety, but on a street like 5th Ave, a bike lane would not encourage further cycling. Therefore, in the end, by creating a city for walkability, you are most of the way to creating a city for bicycling, which is this authors argument to not spend too much time or money on infrastructure specifically for bike lanes. A bike lane inherently suggests that the road is for cars and long distance, high speed travel; thus warranting separate and safe spaces for cyclists. This increases the infrastructure commitment of the city while serving users that would be using this road anyways, rather than alleviating the infrastructure commitment of the city by shortening the length of trips and minimizing the number of trips.
World famous! Kamloops Bike Ranch
Interestingly, studies in Baltimore and Portland have shown a 60-100% increase in jobs per dollar spent on bike or pedestrian infrastructure, so bike infrastructure investment does make more sense than driving infrastructure. What that means is that a street engineered for vehicle traffic is assembled by small crews operating large machinery whereas pedestrian and bike infrastructure by contrast is a fine grained, more precise enterprise, and require more man hours per dollar spent. Pedestrian and bike infrastructure are generally much smaller projects than road projects as well, which translates into less money spent anyways. When a city invests in a street, especially with the ill-advised philosophy of â€œjobcreationâ€?, the bike/pedestrian dollar goes twice as far to generating immediate jobs, and as we have shown, goes much further to long term success. Before one mistakes me as having something against cyclists, you are completely wrong. I was a bike courier in London, UK for a few months, navigating the dense downtown traffic of one of the worldâ€™s largest cities. The more fine grained, walkable and mixed-use a space is the more appropriate bike travel is for long distance journeys. A person on bike needs very little services for storing compared to any kind of motor
vehicle. They also take up much less space on a road which has a very high value per square foot. My suggestion is simply that if you create a city for people, you will also create a city for bikes. Why am I talking about Bike Lanes, and biking infrastructure anyways? As we move towards a city that is denser, more walkable, with a finer grain of transportation, that provides more options, bicycling can become a way for many to participate in this shift. If parking requirements are lifted for example, and someone does frequent trips of a medium length that no-longer provide free parking at each end, a bike can become a valuable transportation option for that person. Also, simply as a function of dimension, persons on bikes take up much less area in conduits than single or even full occupancy cars, and so take better advantage of expensive road infrastructure. Furthermore, cycling, other than some expenditure on education can require almost no investment from government at any level (ICBC, the City, etc.) and can return a realistic quick, convenient and cheap transport choice.
The Walk-Shed One of the largest mistakes that planners make is the assumption of the “quartermile” or 400m ‘walk-shed’. A walk-shed is the limit at which the average person might be willing to walk for any particular journey, and in Kamloops the assumption is a 10 minute walk, or about a km. That is roughly 2.5 blocks of Victoria Street or a return trip from the Bay to Sears in Aberdeen Mall. Not very far at all. Steve Mouzon of OriginalGreen.org delivered a pointed and succinct lecture debasing this theory at CNU20. He looked at different street types and determined that in fact different qualities of streets encouraged people to walk further or not at all. His point form interpretation of walk appeal reads like this: View Changes Street Enclosure Window of View (Lineated Perspective) Shelter Goals in Middle Distance People Magic of the ‘Place’ More or less like the points starting this chapter.
He devised a hierarchy system of “walkability” and the size of the walk-shed. Some highlight characteristics of each: 1. The ‘London Standard’ is a 2 mile walk-shed; most people are willing to walk 2 miles, or 3km for many trips. These streets are well enclosed, very interesting, very safe and well connected. Not just for big cities either, areas of Philadelphia, Alexandria, Sun Peaks and Kamloops have areas which sees trips this long every day. 2. The ‘Main Street Standard’ is a walk shed of 3/4 mile or 1km. 3. The ‘Traditional Neighbourhood Standard’ is the 1/4 mile walk-shed which occurs in places like Battle, with 33’ lots and mixed housing types. 4. The ‘subdivision standard’ is 250 feet. That means residents will walk about 5 houses down before getting in their cars. This may sound familiar for some. 5. The ‘strip mall’ standard is simply no walkability. 99% of people on a bell curve will walk only from their car parking stall to the destination, and will under no circumstances ever walk any further than that. “There is no reason to explore any further… because that space has no view changes, no enclosure, no 105
window of view, no shelter, no middle distance goals, no people
(195m) or to Riverside Park (250m) would be much more likely to drive. What
and no magic.”
would you do?
Where this hierarchy becomes interesting is when it is mapped on the streets of town. When you map the trip that could be taken on Kamloops Streets from the intersection of 3rd and Victoria, you find that some quite far trips would be considered by many a worthwhile walk, while other obstacles, may end a potential walking trip very quickly to a destination that is less distant. For example, this map suggests that a person who finds a parking stall at 3rd and Victoria might be quite comfortable walking to ‘distant’ locations such as the Paramount (355m) for a movie, or City Hall (360m) for an errand without getting back in the car, but on shorter journeys to Pratts Pharmacy at 3rd and Nicola
When examining my subjective map of the ‘walkability’ of the public realm on many downtown streets, we find that high walkability and high value land show an immediate correlation. Only little improvements might be needed to greatly impact the walkability of the whole network. Corridors like 6th St, or the 500 and 600 blocks of Victoria could be easily built to the ‘London Standard’ and multiply the number of pedestrians walking or cycling downtown. Eliminating elements of the stripmall standard, as seen on Lansdowne, could greatly increase the connectivity of Kamloops’ downtown commercial district to the rivers (and parks) nearby.
Housing Diversity Admittedly a huge element of this book is about the interface, and a little of this book is about conduits. Interface is clearly important for creating public value and attractiveness for an area, and conduits are important for getting people around. Cores are a little different, in that though they are part of the built environment, and we as humans do have a direct ability to influence their value, only those who own the cores are allowed to make changes. In this way, and due to the public nature of this book, what goes on inside people’s homes is left at that; what goes on inside people’s homes. But there is one mantra that has found its way into the consciousness of today’s builders, planners and citizens, and that is a very restricted view of what housing can be. In the last 25 years in Kamloops we have basically seen developments of four kinds, and zoning ordinances that suggest these are the only housing types
buy in each street or neighbourhood. This led to a situation where all your neighbours tended to be of similar demographics and incomes. This may not be so bad if you do not want to expose your children to ‘poor people’ but it is terrible for everyone else. To remedy this situation, city planners all over the country require a mix of housing sizes and types in each new area. Often this is executed at way too large of a scale though, and the mixed housing types are not “neighbours” but instead easily identified as ‘others’ in the community. With no further mixing of uses or fostering of walkability, an apartment building in an arterial accessed subdivision doesn’t solve very many social problems, and instead just complicate traffic problems.
a person could live in. They are: 1. Single Family House 2. Duplex 3. Townhouse Condo Pods 4. Apartment For a long time these housing types we’re arranged by size and type, further refining the demographic of who could
This City of Kamloops generated zoning map shows very clearly how each income type is segregated into housing type pods
Once efforts towards connectivity, mixed-use and walkability are established in an area there are opportunities for all sorts of housing types that can accommodate at market rates all sorts of residents: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
Apartments Above Shops Cottage Clusters Row Housing Fourplexs Carriage Homes High, Mid and Low Rise Apartments Live/Work Units Lofts
9. Courtyard Housing These are just a few of the housing types that can be built by all manners and sizes of builders, and house people with all sorts of aesthetics and aspirations. Diversity of housing stock in a neighbourhood increases the number of people who would like to live in an area, and increases their willingness to pay. In each and every study, in many countries, they all show conclusively that housing diversity in a well-connected area adds value to neighbourhoods and raises property values.
City of Villages When you add up all these important concepts that come together to make well-connected, walkable, bikeable, safe, diverse, inclusive, dynamic, valuable neighbourhoods, what you end up with is a ‘City of Villages’. This is what it takes to keep the small town feel of Kamloops, to breed and nurture it, while moving towards a financially and socially strong position. Neighbourhoods like Sahali become destinations in and of themselves, places that visitors would identify as a place to visit; like visiting Vancouver and wandering Gastown, Yaletown, Granville Island, Commercial Drive or others. London and New York are both cities that have absorbed literally hundreds of villages in their expansion to be the world’s most valuable and exciting cities. As each town was absorbed the fabric of that community remained intact; In fact they bred neighbourhood identity. The cities fostered that sense of place, rather than losing it to formless sprawl, and now areas like SoHo, Tribeca, Harlem, Camden, Kensington, Holland Park and the East Village are known worldwide by persons who have never even been to them.
Cities offer humanity an amazing ability to leverage the talents, skills, ambitions and dreams of those around us. But we need to have a strong foundation on which to build, and we need to know the people around us. We can only do this in a city of villages. No more should â€˜subdivisionsâ€™ be created in our city, but nurturing of our neighbourhoods should be the priority. Ten years from now, if I ask you for directions to the center of Aberdeen, that should be a clear place for you to describe to me.
As Leon Krier imagines in this sketch, the city is all the elements interacting with each other, just as the nervous system, circulatory system and digestive systems of our body interact with each other. We should breed many of these.
The Transit Role With all this talk of transportation alternatives it is pretty incredible that Transit (Buses, Cabs, Car-Share) has not come up at all. That is because successful transit needs to be profitable transit. Profitable transit needs to connect the villages of the city, and those villages need centers, mixed-uses, a large catchment of people, and internalized costs for all other road users. We have a long way to go before transit in Kamloops can compete with the personal automobile, and as we move towards a Stronger Kamloops, it will have just as much struggle against walking and cycling. Transit will never create pedestrians. In many cities, including ours, transit advocates suggest that to get people out of cars, or to reduce congestion, or any of the other great arguments for transit, we need to make more investments in transit. The reality is, until you have multiple places, full of people on the street at both ends of the trip, transit will only serve those who have to use it anyways. I am arguably one of the most passionate anti-cars-at-all-costs advocates in the City of Kamloops, I want more than anyone for Transit in Kamloops to be respectable and 109
frequent. I want to go to a movie, out for dinner and drink a bottle of wine and simply get on the bus with a few moments notice. The reality is that transit needs to be in-demand, not create demand by having a large supply. In our small city, with low traffic and cheap parking, if money were no object, what would we need to do to make
Bus manufacturers make dozens of sizes of bus, and we need to utilize more of those. Popular routes must maintain short headways well into the evening, or transit is not useful for those outside a very specific commute.
transit widely used? Urbanity; all significant stops must be in the heart of the action, directly in the busiest pedestrian areas, not a block away or across a parking lot. Riders should be able to fall into the bus from a stool at the coffee shop Clarity; routes that are simple and straightforward. A rider should be able to map in their mind the path. This is very important for a driver becoming a transit rider. If the time on the bus is spent thinking, “this is a pointless diversion for just 2 riders”, they won’t get back on the bus; which reminds us why significant pedestrian areas need to be at each end of the line. Frequency; a rider should not need a schedule. You should be able to walk to a transit stop and wait less than 10 minutes for the next bus. If this type of frequency cannot fill a bus, then replace them with vans.
A small bus called the Eolo
Pleasure; we must remember that public transit is public space, and it runs through public space. Windows should be see-through both directions to engage with the public space. Transit riders should not be hidden like inmates. Seats should face each other rather than the front as much as possible. This encourages sociability. Young people (students) taking the bus like sociability; over cars it has a huge advantage by encountering potential partners in transit. In San Diego summers, bus windows are removed; perhaps better windows might increase the charm of a downtown bus route, when the rider can call to someone outside. 110
The time is coming when this type of transit could be implemented, and at current budget, large steps could be taken to improve the system as it is. A design charrette or open houses is not necessary to achieve this basic level of
more. Would we meet their requirements to even consider Zip Car in Kamloops?
sensible service. Transit subsidy will continue to be a very important for a huge demographic of the population on our journey to an inclusive community. Right now there are too many obstacles preventing current transit riders from being able to drive but in fairness to those who have no choice, we must maintain transit service. The good news for those who like to drink wine with dinner, is the closer we get to that Stronger Kamloops, the cheaper and more frequent all types of transit will become, from Taxis, to Buses to other forms that may come to be. Car Share Car sharing seems to be getting a lot of buzz, and has been implemented already in Kelowna, but like transit, it needs to be in a city that is already, resolutely car-optional; Kelowna and Kamloops are not. Zip Car is a company that operates carsharing; for-profit. They only operate in a handful of cities despite invitations and incentives to participate in hundreds
Zip Cars parked in San Diego, CA
First of all they require the best dedicated parking stalls at all the important locations. Considering many of the commercially important locations in Kamloops are on private property, it is a gigantic mess of agreements to make this plausible. Will Save-On, Aberdeen Mall or Superstore re-allocate a handful of stalls right outside the door to facilitate car sharing? Likely not. Second they need to see that TaxiServices operate in a large way with low â€˜call-faresâ€™; meaning that most taxi fares are simply achieved by putting out your hand and getting in the cab. Even on our most urban street, Victoria, you cannot simply hail a cab; you have to call for one.
Thirdly, cities in which zip-car operates successfully, peak parking rates in the areas in which people using Zip Car often top $7 per hour on street (we just doubled our parking rate to $1 an hour), already maintain some level of congestion charging and have no parking requirements on urban construction. A large number of the population needs to be looking for a more cost effective alternative before Car Sharing can even hope to become yet another of the losing subsidies that our government funds. Further to the criteria of Zip Car, letâ€™s consider when people might need their cars. They would likely need them when getting groceries from home. In that case the cars need stalls very near to residences so that customers can pick them up. Where in this city is there a high concentration of people who would be able to easily walk to pick up that car? Perhaps where I live in Victoria Landing downtown? Every apartment whether 1, 2 or 3 bedroom, with only a couple exceptions is a 1 car house and so has far fewer cars per inhabitant than most anywhere in the city. That said, in one of the most urban buildings downtown, no one has made the move to be car-free. And that is only 40 or so households. So if the most urban inhabitants in Kamloops would not be
patrons of a car sharing service, who would? How would they get to the car they are supposed to share a few blocks away? If they are parked at a commercial place (read; destination) one would have already arrived where they wanted to go before being able to access the car. When we talked about anti-connective suburbs and their poor catchment for Transit, Schools and city services, the exact same problems arise here, only worse this time, because everyone in the burbs that can afford a car already has one, and they are not going to give them up for car sharing. Zip Car would never choose to operate in Kamloops, or Kelowna, and a carshare program is highly unlikely to succeed. Public funds should be prohibited from such an endeavour, and perhaps with profitability on the mind, the private sector will probably reconsider any investment in such a scheme.
Involvement This chapter has posited all kinds of ideas about the built environment and what makes cities successful. It has also argued against some popular ideas that some people think will be successful but are shown not to be. There is one element of the truly great city, the financially successful ones, the ones breeding credibility and following all have, that result in changes to the built environment, but start at a much more base level. That is the involvement of the public, particularly young people. The millennials, the 20-30 year olds amongst our population, with fiery passion, fierce energy, confidence, risk oblivion and nothing-to-loose need and want to add their two cents to the conversation. The same way that many baby boomers cannot dream of playing video games, texting on a smart phone or using computers with the fluency of most twelve year olds; young people do not know how to negotiate this world of bureaucracy, process, zoning, coding, bylaws and restrictions. Digital natives grew up interacting with technology as they learned to talk; baby boomers spent their careers adding layers and layers onto the law books, and now young people enter adulthood into a world full
of paper and paper pushers that they do not understand. The problem is that every contribution that these people want to make is no longer allowed, and the rules are unfailingly, and at great expense actually enforced. Everything needs a building permit, sprinklers, engineer report, liquor license, sign variance, firewalls, grease traps, minimum lumens, railing heights, on and on and on… and nothing happens. The innovative and creative, who generate the city’s cultural capital, that the private sector capitalizes on cannot innovate or create. Furthermore, this same process has destroyed small developers. When Kamloops was smaller than a few hundred people there was two developers; Mara and McIntosh. Later there we’re hundreds. Now the story is the same all across the country, there is only a handful of huge developers left, because the small guys can’t sit in months’ worth of public hearings, variance boards, rezoning applications, traffic engineering, public/private partnership funding, parking variances, doorway location meetings, cladding material consultations, on and on and on. We need a system that restores the rights to develop to the young and risky. 113
Conclusion What does it take to make a strong and resilient place, in the grain of the block to the size of a neighbourhood and then across a city and even a region? It’s about connections, and lots of them. It’s about facilitating interactions, face to face, between businesses and between cultures. It’s about building to a Human Scale. Building a place for walking is a great place to start, and most of the rest follows. Walking needs to be:
Safe Comfortable Useful Connected
Interesting This chapter has all sorts particular design incentives to encourage walking, but the important ones for all road use is simply: Mix the Uses Connect the Uses Seek network capacity not road capacity or car capacity Diversify Housing Options Once these needs are met, we are in a position as a city to nurture more centers of density, to work towards that ‘city of villages’.
Many of these design challenges are quite easy, some are much more challenging. Some are very fine grained, others are very broad based. Building a well-connected, mixed-use, walkable city will generate value for those that are already living here. It will create new attractions for the thousands of International Students at TRU. It will facilitate multipliers of tourist dollars coming to Kamloops through the Tournament Capital Program. It will reduce the per capita tax burden of our infrastructure. It will reverse the trend of successive tax increases. However a huge amount of bureaucracy stands in the way of this success. Many developers would naturally maximize density for example, simply because they would make more money; most people, in general, pay more for ‘house’ than they do for ‘yard’. City incentives encourage large scale developments by corporations that are not here to ‘invest’ in Kamloops. Their dollars spent here never have any hope of capital appreciation, and thus never intend to add value. This is surmountable; city planners need to build some back-bone against national developers, and concurrently create positive opportunities for local developers who see the benefit of truly creating an investment in Kamloops. 114
The next chapter is about all the money the city does not need to spend, all the time its employees could save rather than shifting paper on regulation that is hurting local investors, citizens and the city coffers. Density and intensive development of smaller sites can alone provide a much higher return on investment for city infrastructure, but I am sure that no one would want to advocate for dense concrete canyons. Instead, combined with fantastic public spaces, great interfaces, diversity of housing options, connected amenities and parks, we can add more value to buildings, properties and the city, while increasing the options for transportation, housing and eating, while creating positive circumstances for businesses, creating jobs, lowering pollution, increasing air quality and creating a Stronger Kamloops. Many of the things that need to be done, we need to be allowed to do before we can proceed.
These three images of Seaside, Florida, incorporated in 1980 show just how urban, dynamic and economically successful new places are able to be if allowed to be so, imitating patterns of development that are centuries old. Seaside was built with almost no debt, and currently holds no debt. It is more than a resort community; it is a small city that serves as an economic incubator for the region
Calaya, Guatemala; all newly built
Introduction Now that we know what makes fantastic places, I want to talk about all the road blocks that are in the way of creating the very places that capture the most value. It is often not the lack of investment capital, nor the absence of creative ideas, or even a customer to purchase a product. In most cases, it is actually a burdening bureaucracy with wellintentioned regulation that is enforced blindly with little heed of intent or outcomes that gets in the way. Other times it is great plans that are produced in the thousands of pages, at great expense, and then simply shelved. In either case it is often sited that a lack of money is to blame for the inadequacies of city services and projects.
“If we spent more on transit, we could relieve traffic and help the lower income levels participate in society. We could also lower our carbon footprint and air pollution per capita.” “If we simply had more subsidized housing, then we would have fewer homeless, or we could prevent people from ending up homeless in the first place.” When transit fares in Kamloops pay less than 33% of the cost of the ride, and the government tax commitment in 2012 was over $10 million, transit could be better 116
served buying everyone in need an electric scooter or taxi vouchers. Pollution could be better abated buying everyone in Kamloops Solar Panels. Instead, the lowest hanging fruit, for achieving a more financially successful city, moving towards a time of successive, business and resident friendly tax decreases each and every year, is in relaxing and in most cases abolishing outdated and ill-considered regulations, that themselves are not business friendly. Furthermore, this future of financial success does not need to be at the expense of the Environment, those in need, our valued parkland, our air quality or our quality of living. Most recommendations and concepts in this book are lifted from Social and Environmental groups with goals of enriching the culture of our city; the vibrancy of our streets; the inclusiveness and equal opportunity of everyone; to lower our environmental footprint; to attract tourism and investment; to improve access to all the city has to offer and to truly be the best that
Parking Requirements I would suggest that no single city ordinance on its own hinders the efficiency of the free market, walkable development and transportation alternatives more than Parking Requirements. As detailed before, both strip malls and downtown high-rises are affected, as are any other type of development in the city. Mall parking lots only achieve 40% capacity on any given day and sit empty all night. Downtown apartment dwellers pay $40,000-$60,000 added on to the cost of their property to have â€œfree parkingâ€? downtown, while dozens of stalls sit vacant 12 hours a day outside the door. In Kamloops we require a certain number of parking stalls and then limit the density so that it never fills up. In Europe, they limit the parking stalls (thereby limiting congestion on the roads) and put a minimum on density.
This part of the book simply shows all the money that doesnâ€™t have to be spent to create this productive future that we
This approach may not be palatable for the average Kamloopsian now but the first step is to leave parking to the free market, which means no parking requirements of any kind. Perhaps in the future a limit on the maximum parking allowed may be encouraged, but never a
Kamloops can be.
This is true in residential areas as well, especially in places where alleys were not built to accommodate services behind the homes. On a 33 foot lot, requiring 2 or more off street parking stalls usually destroys two potential on-street parking stalls, needlessly interrupting the pedestrian route, and turning a public accessible good into a private good that is only used by one user.
area, again it’s the free market, and now parking permit prices can start to climb. As they climb, people who may have driven their 8 block commute now feel it is better to walk or bike. Someone who works out of town can buy their parking pass and continue their commute. An average 600’ block of downtown houses at 33’ a house has 15 house, and 40 parking stalls outside the door. If 15 houses cannot make do with 40 stalls, plus any extra stalls accessed by the alley in the back, we have a very very serious problem.
The 600’ of 700 block of Battle. Lots of empty parking according to this 2012 aerial photography provided by the City ‘Snout Houses’ like this one eat up many of the parking stalls on the street that we’re once a public amenity
If all or most residential parking is onstreet, then how does each home-owner ensure parking for themselves? The answer to this is simple: Parking Permits. Currently parking permits are free, and are present in areas which are built in the traditional development pattern, thus financially solvent and provided free of charge. Empty parking stalls are available for overnight or 2 hour use. If parking does become a problem in the
Many suburban dwellers will rebut me saying, we have too many illegal basement suites and our street are completely clogged with vehicles now, you cannot possibly suggest we get rid of our on-site parking. To this I would reply that I am endorsing no such thing. Most suburbs are so disconnected and fragmented that they require automobile use, and increases in density absolutely create disastrous parking problems. However it still remains the landlords problem. If they have three cars and 118
three parking stalls, and want to create a secondary suite, then they must give up a car to the tenant, find a carless tenant or buy a neighbours parking pass. How really needs a car is left up to the market, rather than required and subsidized by the city, and thus no one can complain of lack of parking. If you want to have visitors, and they need parking, they will find it because parking passes are limited to fewer stalls than the street has. The market can take care of the parking problem, and it can do it profitably, rather than the city subsidizing a problem that is further creating demand for the very thing it cannot afford. Alternatively they could reduce road widths to only 14â€™ and provide no on street parking at all, and leave all parking to land owners? Commercially the story is not much different. The Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association, paid in to by all Central Business District Businesses, advocated in 2012 for a controversial parking lot adjacent to Riverside Park. The KCBIA argues that downtown businesses are not able to compete with stripmall businesses on the periphery due to a lack of parking. This is partly true; many people find strip malls near home more convenient than downtown. Conversely many people park at Aberdeen Mall and walk around and do
not complain. Ultimately Downtown will never compete on the issue of parking when a parking stall across the train tracks from the business downtown costs $40,000+ per stall, and stripmalls will never have a â€œlackâ€? of parking until they no longer are subjected to parking requirements, and thus limit and charge for parking as the market bears/demands. Getting cars in and out of downtown faster and more conveniently is not the answer to generating a more profitable downtown. More residents is; More feet on the street in front of the businesses. To attract more people downtown, the public realm needs be complete, connected and welcoming, as explained in the last section of the book. But eliminating parking requirements will allow many more types of investors to make more intelligent investments in downtown residential. More investors making more residences downtown translates into more residents.
The Scale Problem Parking Requirements are not the only problem with creating new residential downtown. While the fixed cost of a parking stall adds to the cost of each unit, reducing the number of people able to purchase it, and decreasing the profit margin per unit, many other building code issues prevent successful multifamily developments downtown. These issues are troublesome in their quantity rather than their specific qualities. They are only well understood when you actually try to build downtown, or build elsewhere with walkable, mixed-use downtown inspiration in mind. Reading the zoning code on its own, many of these regulations will seem sensible, based on the logic in which they we’re implemented in the first place. For example, one of these is the issue of fire escapes and elevators. In the 1980’s great leaps we’re made in an attempt to include those with mobility challenges to join society with the rest of us. This included wheel chair ramps and elevators. We have misunderstood the mobility argument, and instead have created huge, expensive, subsidized special transit systems, car upgrades and improvements; while incarcerating seniors in their own homes and turning parents into taxi drivers.
When a small building owner looks to renovate a vacant building into something productive, the city replies with, what are you going to do about that 3” step near the front door? How will a wheelchair get in? BC Building code also requires two independent, continuous stairwells for fire access; both have to be wide enough for a possible fireman and escapee to pass at speed. This eats space, a minimum of 300 sq. ft. per floor of floor space available to sell. This further drives up the cost of each unit. Using stairwells of existing, adjoining buildings generally is not allowed or is very difficult, at least near impossible to negotiate. Furthermore, in between uses, for example, between an office or shop and a residential unit, very expensive and complex fire and noise retardant floor systems, like reinforced concrete, MUST be used. These are expensive, and discourage mixed uses. These examples and more combine to make dense property development a game of scale. The sheer cost of all these mandatory, non-saleable square footage, means that the amount of goods that need to be sold to cover the common fixed costs increases higher and higher. 120
This prevents small local investors from participating in the market. It prevents small increments of development creating exciting and diverse spaces; small buildings that people love and cherish and put their heart and soul in to; and furthermore, in an increment and size that people are actually able to afford to put heart and soul in to. So it keeps small would-be developers out of the market place. For large scale developers, even if Kamloops could support large sales of a hundred or more apartment units at a time, to make these big projects move forward, there are actually more restrictions that put caps on Floor Area Ratio, density, lot coverage, building heights, etc. that challenge even big developers to enter the market. Furthermore in Kamloops, we can only support so many new housing units per year with growth (known as the absorption rate, which is around 500 units per year in Kamloops), and thus it even increases the risks that large developers are taking on. Back to that small developer looking to do a small little reno, re-inhabit an old building, or simply construct something new on a small lot; have they thought about regulations regarding ceiling heights, sprinklers, firewalls, stairway grades, bathroom sizes, bathroom numbers, parking stalls, turn radius,
width of hallways, railing heights, ventilation requirements, insulation retrofits, window size standards, bar heights, table heights, fire capacities, minimum hand washing sinks, separate mop sinks, public hearings, development guidelines, acceptable colours and names, deposits, liability, permitted signage, doorway orientations, acceptable floor sealants based on use, moisture barriers, minimum lumen and lighting requirements, on and on and onâ€Ś I can imagine now, John Doe, 22 year old entrepreneur, managed to coddle $10,000 into their bank account to open a 400 sq.ft. coffee shop. What is their response when the city requires a $5000 sprinkler system and a 180 sq. ft. handicap bathroom? Not to mention a mop sink, three dishwashing sinks, a bathroom sink and a separate handwashing sink. 5 sinks in 320 sq. ft.! Should we abandon building inhabitants to death if the building should be on fire? Absolutely not. However it is quite reasonable to look at each building proposal with an eye toward creativity when looking at fire escapes. Is it reasonable to assume that 8 tenants in an 8 unit building would abandon it before the fire department even arrived? Could we then consider narrowing the stairs? 121
Private Sector Pre-Disposition While the regulated market creates incentives for large scale developments, and dis-incentives for small scale development, all development has a predisposition to find a niche to maximize the most value possible. In this way every developer, whether it a single home builder building a spec house, or a large scale subdivision, each developer wants to get the most amount of money for the least amount of investment; aka provide the most value. A saavy developer would know that while some people really value a large back yard, many different people also despise anything that resembles yard work. Despite this, in every part of the city other than the Central Business District and Tranquille Market, mostly the city only allows maximum lot coverage of 40%. Even RM-2 the cities medium density zone, allows maximum lot coverage of 40%. This produces rows of disconnected apartment buildings like we see on Arrowstone Drive. These are places where people are living in comparable densities to downtown living, in apartments similarly sized to downtown apartments, yet still have to rely on vehicles for most trips, and live on streets that have no life or vibrancy.
Arrowstone Drive; buildings are downtown densities, but maximu m lot coverage and minimum setbacks create isolated pods rather than vibrant enclosed streets
Many other prominent zoning codes also include further sub-conditions like “12% of lot area to a maximum of 80m2”. It is always about preventing intensive development of any type. This means all properties will have 60% or more of their land devoted to something that is not a building. In many cases this is a yard, which some people do not value or do not have the resources or knowledge to care for. As a result hundreds of yards are paved over, unkempt or “xeriscaped”. Furthermore the city is spread out, leaving huge amounts of land that people do not value left un-utilized. A developer, knowing this, would immediately remove many front yards, make far smaller and better defined back yards, reduce side yard setbacks, and generally create enclosure and smaller lots that lead to higher density and better walkability. The decision to buy this house would be left completely to the client. Clients who wanted large yards 122
could take them from people who see them only as a burden.
values. In residential areas, setbacks could be back from the road, but developers will only set back as far as their demographic values (and thus is willing to pay for), often much less than the cities regulations. In commercial areas, while parking requirements deliver the number one punch, maximum lot coverage, maximum building height and maximum density deliver the knock-out punch.
One of the many houses on only one block of St. Paul downtown; backyards that the occupants clearly do not value or do not have the resources to maintain
Setbacks, lot coverage and density are something that the private sector can easily be left to take care of on their own. For enclosure it is important to maintain one setback per street. The market value of the land determines the density a developer can build on it, and the developer will maximize that value, thereby raising all neighbouring property
The cities â€œArterial Commercialâ€? C-6 zone, allows maximum coverage of 50% and a maximum building height of 6 meters or 2 stories. They also require a minimum lot area of 450m2. Further to all this, if adjoining a separate-use, like residential, it is required that a fence be built to separate the uses. As the landlord of Tudor Village on Summit Drive, I would be pretty unhappy about having to build a chain link fence to keep all of my potential customers in the apartments on Arrowstone out.
High-Value buildings like this one are illegal in 90% of the city
With an increase in the density of tax payers, the city is better able to afford better public parks, squares and other outdoor infrastructure that everyone can use a bit of, without having to have any personal commitment to maintain it. If commercial developers weâ€™re allowed to build connections to the potential clients in the neighbouring areas, would they not want to increase the capture rate of clients in the immediate area? Once again we encounter a situation, where left to its own devices the private sector would intuitively complete the cities goals. Goals that are both embraced in the Official Community Plan yet prevented in the City Zoning Ordinances.
Official Community Plans, Design Charrette and Public Consultation In 2013 the City of Kamloops is embarking on a revision of Kamplan the guiding planning document for the city, which is expected to cost around $250,000. This plan will take about 2 years and is overseen by the cities planners and engineers with public input. The last Kamplan was put together in 2004, and its goals generally echoed that of this book. However since that time the regulations standing in the way of its completion have not been addressed. The theory behind the plan I expect will not generally change, but its continued ineffectiveness will remain unchanged. No matter how much public consultation is engaged in, and no matter how many plans and best practices are assembled, government restrictions at every level continue to make those goals illegal and unattainable.
Sun Peaks, all built since 1990, employs the requirement of pedestrian active places like permeability, encolsure, view changes and human scale. No public planning needed
In the private sector, when EcoSign master planned Sun Peaks, they planned with pedestrian orientation, and mixeduses in mind. They knew from experience in Whistler that this public realm produced profits. They oriented the village walk to have patios and windows to see items for sale. They changed the width of the street, and the direction of the street to maximize street views, and to create an interesting public 124
realm. The village at Sun Peaks continues to impress the very same people who live in Suburban Kamloops. It is beautiful here they say. In this case there was no public process; the Sun Peaks Resort Corporation built the village in a way that has proven to be successful for hundreds of years. The City of Kamloops, like most modern governments are accused constantly of not responding the public’s wishes. In the context of this book it is most relevant to the public hearing process and the public planning process. The City invites the public in both cases to respond to public projects and provide feedback. There are so many problems with this process and let’s start at 1: 1. The City does not state what it cannot do If Peter Milobar is a great Mayor, he is great for one reason. He tells people no. In Public Hearings, considering rezoning or development permits, he tells people that we cannot do this or this, and he tells the public that he weighs alternatives subjectively and often goes against the opinion (NIMBYism) of the many that stand before him and relies on the truth of his staff’s recommendations.
Unfortunately this same logic and reality has not yet found its way into the city’s planning process. If you we’re one of the many hundreds of us who have attended public input sessions about the new parking meters, or the performing arts center (aka Lorne Street Parkade), or Riverside Park plan, or budget hearings, etc. you will understand what I am talking about henceforth. First of all, a few hundred people is not even a large enough number to constitute an official poll, so how it can be taken seriously as public input is beyond me. Furthermore the handful of people that turn out to these expensive little meetings are often the same people; once again, hardly an indication of public opinion. Worst of all these ‘public opinion’ meetings are conducted like a restaurant order. The moderators constantly say things like, “money is no object, take your most ideal imaging and put it on this chalkboard.” After that, they might distill everyone’s blue sky ideas in to a set of five or ten ‘keyconcepts’ that echo the direction that they are already taking the plan, and then poll the attendees on their preferences. Now the attendees feel like they have placed an order for ‘lessgraffiti’ or more ‘off-leash areas’ or worse yet ‘a better economy.’
This is the same public that is so disappointed when they do not get their wish. The local government, if they could, would give everyone high paying jobs, eliminate poverty and have graffiti only visible to those who want to see it. But they cannot. What these types of meeting do is alienate the few intelligent, well connected and powerful people from participating with the city, which could actually make a difference. Instead of ‘blue-sky’ ideas, when someone suggests something not capable of being accomplished one year from the meeting, tell them it is not possible. Eliminate those from these meetings that campaign for ideological purposes that the political middle will never deliver.
2. Government enacts regulation to deliver results If there is a popular uprising in your neighbourhood to lower traffic speeds, the city enacts an ordinance that says traffic speeds should be lower. They do not say that you are the very residents speeding. They do not say that the road is improperly engineered and encourages speeding. If the road is actually shown to be dangerous, the traffic engineers will straighten, widen and remove on street parking, so that the driver has increased reaction time. Thus the ‘standard’ is blindly enforced, making the situation worse. Instead the city needs to look at their plans, like encouraging density, or carriage houses, or mixed-uses, and look at all the regulations standing in the way! As we have seen, the ‘incentives’, mandated by the city to develop are so contrary to their plans that any development incentives are meaningless.
3. Simply allow the private sector to do what you want to get done I jump started a project a year ago with the Rotaract Club of Kamloops to renovate, at no cost to the city, the Concession Stand in Riverside Park. The suggestion was not to change the use of the park in any way from how it is currently being used, only to change the exterior of the building from a grey construction of Concrete Multiple Units (Cinder Blocks) to a new cladding of horizontal cedar planks, with some shade devices like a Pergola added.
The fundraising for the project was to be done entirely through Rotary, donations and volunteer labour. The City of Kamloops Parks department turned this offer down, for the reason that they did not have a plan to deal with such a donation, and so they embarked on a $200,000 plan to engage the public to determine that in fact, many people weâ€™re unhappy with the look and the
Now over a year delayed, and just a couple hundred thousand dollars poorer, further meetings and wages are directed to determine what the design of such a project may take, to step on as few toes as possible. Another story, at Brownstones Restaurant, liquor has only been served on half the patio for the summer of 2013. This is because of an 8mm difference in the height of the fence separating the patio from the pavement from what is considered the â€˜standardâ€™ (1.06m). For the last four years, the fence was within the standard (0.9m), but the liquor board and city in 2013 changed the standard. The motivation to change the standard is not clear, but miscommunications between city staff and BC Liquor Board staff have prevented liquor service for months, diminishing revenue for the business, and detracting from the patio that city documents suggest increase the appeal and vibrancy of city streets.
service of the Concession Stand. The offending, illegal Brownstone patio
Furthermore, patios are not allowed on the street between October 31 and March 31, 5 months of the year. Why someone could not enjoy their coffee outside on a sunny February day is unknown to me. One city official told me it was for snow removal, yet the city has no sidewalk snow removal program in place… Lastly on the patio issue, why is an expensive and rigid yet removable railing required at all. Many cities get away with simple ropes, and others like
searching for a profit will be able to figure out what is actually feasible in each location. You can zone arterial commercial or light industrial or high density all you want. The developers will build what will sell, and the persons and businesses buying will buy what will produce value for them. The city has no place trying to anticipate preferences or zoning mixes.
Miami Beach, have no separation at all.
Miami Beach patios, with the public sidewalk running right through the center of the commercial area
Finally the private sectors ultimate goal is to make money and produce value. They will accomplish that in ways that people value, and thus ready to give up money for. In all the cities plans the recommend percentages of this type of business or this type of housing or this type of industry. Why do planners seem to think that anyone other than the private sector
The moral of the story is that our taxes rise each year for further bureaucracy that does nothing but diminish the capacity of our urban areas to be vital, to frustrate and confuse business owners and employees, cost money while diminishing returns. There-in lay a couple of the simplest problems within the city “system”. First of all, anything published as an “official plan” is meant to be “comprehensive”. Comprehensive=complete; the dictionary 128
definition, “including all or nearly all elements or aspects of something.” Only a handful of committee members really get to make these decisions, and they are often people that have two or three years to sit in committee meetings. Who then does this comprehensive plan service? Do we really believe that any plan could ever actually address all aspects of something as complicated as a city? My grandfather always told me, “Any job worth doing is worth doing well.” A beautiful bit of advice, but I would suggest that in the bureaucracy of today’s city governments, we need to accept that “Any job worth doing is worth doing and getting done!”
address it, try it and see if it works. They try for the lowest hanging fruiting first, the least costly option, and see if it works. If it does, it might be built upon, or it might be seen as adequate to address the problem or it might be scrapped. Importantly it was done quickly, and with little cost. Despite thousands of hours and thousands of dollars spent to realise that students want to cross Summit in a straight line to the university, and will do so at all costs, the best the city has done is a couple years of planning is to develop a sketch of what a very expensive pedestrian overpass might look like. What could have been done already 5 years ago was simply painting lines for a cross walk and adding some signage to show that the cross walk was there. Problem solved for a fraction of the wages that have been spent on planning.
Visiting Spirit Square on a sunny weekend afternoon, and not even the winos can be seen here. So much for comprehensive planning
This is where the private (including nonprofit) sector comes in. When the private sector sees a problem that can be addressed, they formulate a plan to
Scrum, or Agile Method is how software giants like Google, or tech companies like Gore-Tex rocket ahead to lead the pack. Constantly evolving small changes and initiatives
A further problem is that councils change every three years, and the only projects that survive council changes are big ones, like a performing arts center. Smaller projects die, and often the new candidates are elected based on the ineffectiveness of the last council members. I have identified that we need way more seating in important pedestrian places; Summit Drive at the corner of McGill, or Victoria Street, or 4th Avenue, or Spirit Square, possibly along MacKenzie towards MacArthur Island. What areas would get the most bang for the buck? I would get some low cost benches donated from Home Depots seasonal overstock, drop them off and see if anyone sits on them. If they are used, then invest more in better, more permanent benches, and test the temporary benches in some new locations: Maybe 6th Ave above Columbia, or along a major trail in Peterson Creek or Kenna Cartwright, or perhaps around TRU Campus, or
The Downtown Renovation Problem Before zoning codes, people intuitively built complimentary activities near to each other. In the case of The Bank of Commerce Building at 118 Victoria Street, bachelors employed by the company weâ€™re provided housing above the bank. Other commercial services located beside the bank and mechanical and storage facilities located near the train tracks. The early, generalist and uneducated settlers of Kamloops intuitively arranged the city to be very mobile, efficient and productive. With zoning codes, uses are separated as much as possible, and so buildings like the BMO building at 200 Victoria are 10 stories of one use. While the desperation of downtown landlords to fill their offices is well publicized, residential in downtown condos continues to be the most successful sale and rental market in the city. CMHC statistics show downtown condos in Kamloops as one of the
lowest vacancy rates in the province.
If the city needs one plan, it is simply a liability/due diligence advisory group to encourage and help neighbourhood activists to invest in their community, rather than make big plans that do not really address the problem and cost lots
Why donâ€™t the owners of these vacant buildings simply renovate some or all of
their offices into apartments? The answer lies in what it takes to change the use of your building. In the rest of the city, changing uses means applying for a re-zoning. Downtown the 130
CBD zoning allows anything, yet a Development Permit is required to change a use, and the procedure is almost exactly the same. First as a landlord you need to hire architects, engineers and consultants to create a report showing every way in which your building does not meet the most current building code (and parking requirements). These consultants create a plan for how you are going to bring all those infractions up to today’s standard. This costs a lot of money. Then you need to pay many thousands of dollars to apply to the City for a Development Permit Application. City officials spend a few months revising the proposal, advise changes and then bring
In Los Angeles, the revitalization of downtown began with exactly this ordinance change: Allowing the repurposing of old buildings for new uses with no mandatory renovations, reports, parking changes, applications or hearing; Just a building permit for new infrastructure and materials. One of the most modern, significant housing types was created in vacant warehouse space in L.A. at this time; ‘loft’ apartment’s aka industrial conversions. High Ceilings, Open Concept and other significant design movements that have changed urban housing across the continent over the last two decades began with this simple change.
the plan to a Public Hearing. At the Public Hearing citizens provide council with feedback on the proposal which was summarized only a few minutes before. Then 9 councillors will vote on whether to allow your project. (Hopefully the media hasn’t speculated on your project before this point.) Months of planning and tens of thousands of dollars later, 9 people decide the fate of your project in 60 minutes or less. No wonder no one is trying to change the use of their building and get more people downtown!
Converting industrial buildings like this into residential lofts started when L.A. repealed restrictions on use-changes
Today Downtown L.A. boasts tens of millions in rejuvenation efforts from the private sector that led to a successful 5day farmers market, high rates of bicycle and pedestrian activity, lowered traffic 131
accidents, a for-profit streetcar and a particularly fantastic project by a large national investor; The Grove. While the Grove is just like any other chain occupied mall development, it is also different. It is open aired, boasts dozens of connections to local roads and housing, has little parking, completely pedestrianized roads, 18 hour uses and has become the center for culture in all of Los Angeles. It started with small investments in existing buildings.
Traffic Studies As was lamented earlier, the Traffic Engineer has had one of the most recent, perpetuating and profound effects in preventing mixed-use walkable environments. The first way the traffic engineer accomplishes this is in travel lane widths for moving cars. The average vehicle is about 6 feet wide. And city standards require that lanes on almost every street in the city be 10-14 feet, and in the case of some arterials, they are even wider than that. As long as city traffic engineers set standards for urban road construction similar to highways, we will get nowhere in the connection or value creation that the pedestrian realm has to offer. So many great public projects get bogged down with simple things like Traffic Studies. Parks get approval for upgrading, but car counts on neighbouring roads are somehow considered almost mandatory before any project can proceed; as if managing current failure is better than managing future success.
The Grove, a walkable commercial area in the center of newly walkable L.A.
As suggested in the first chapter, the solution to solving congestion issues lies in simply connecting places, no traffic study needed. When someone suggests a multi-family development somewhere, do not say it requires a traffic study; just 132
ensure that it is well connected to the existing network. In fact, if there is few parking stalls on site, fewer of the residents will be able to use cars, and fewer cars will be on the road to begin with. Pedestrian or cycling infrastructure should similarly never be subject to a ‘traffic study’. If it reduces lane widths, that is good for every purpose we can imagine, from private sector viability, to everyone’s safety, to higher average speeds, to reduced need for signals. Many city intersections are being considered for conversion to traffic circles, as they are safer, better for pedestrian use, facilitate higher average traffic flow and require no signalization. Yet traffic counts and behaviour studies are required before up-grading. Mike Lydon, authour of The Smart Growth Manual simply heads out to the intersection in question and uses pylons and observation to determine if an intersection will function well as a
Finally traffic counts are done on major roadways continuously, to determine when it might be necessary to add another lane. Yet from what we have discussed, we know adding a lane never really helps for any significant amount of time or at all. Furthermore, if every time there is a slight bottle neck in the system that adds minutes, or single digit percentage points to the length of a person’s driving journey, a multi-million dollar investment in a new lane hardly seems like the appropriate approach. Not only does it cost money, but we are talking about huge sums of money to reduce the length of a drivers commute by minutes, but usually seconds. There is no economic benefit from this. No one has a better day because of this. The ability of any other type of transportation to compete with hugely subsidized driving continues to be castrated though.
roundabout. Usually it does.
Traffic Circles like these in Portland also facilitate smooth and quick bike traffic, while keeping car speeds low. The nature of the roundabout prevents the need for any road users to come to a complete stop very often
Not all Density is Created Equal When one plops down a new highdensity structure in an area that has no capacity to accommodate any trips by means other than the car, the new development will absolutely create new parking and traffic problems, the concern of every civilian at a public hearing. Combined with the fact that commercial uses are used primarily during the day, and residential uses primarily during the night, all the traffic leaving or entering an area uses only half the road, all at once. It is not that the road is not large enough to handle 17,000 car trips per day… it is just not able to handle half those trips on one half of the road in a one hour period and be vacant the rest of the time. The solution is simply mixing uses, so that each neighbourhood has a reason to be leaving or going at many times in the day for many different users. In addition that same neighbourhood should provide enough accessible amenities so that some residents, most days, don’t need
Mixing uses in most areas is not allowed by the city. The city does want to see increases in density in all areas of the city to partly address the very budget shortfalls mentioned here. The city also calls for density increases in all neighbourhoods, as density is considered by many as something to be avoided at all costs, and thus many shun it in a NIMBY reaction; so the city doles out the ‘density increase’ more or less evenly, ‘-ish’. Importantly though, density is only a bad thing when it lands like a UFO in a single family, single use neighbourhood. When it is created in a cohesive way with mixed uses, it can provide a center for the neighbourhood; create pride and community, while diversifying housing choices in all locations in the city; all the while increasing the convenience and services available nearby to existing residents.
to leave the area at all. While alleviating traffic problems, this could easily be seen to encourage neighbour relations and create a community that knows each other and looks out for one another. (Remember CPTED)
This large, high density structure is a Seniors Home in Pineview, which likely will not generate the same traffic a normal apartment building would; however this type of density is the only kind of density that radically creates traffic on roads, and exacerbates the problems of isolated, poorly connected suburban pods , especially for immobile seniors
Some other types of housing are quite good at absorbing density into existing areas, and do not require any large influx of people and services. One of these options is Accessory Dwelling Units. These could be in the form of basement suites, laneway homes, apartments above shops or home based businesses. These types of units are allowed in Kamloops, but often involve large hurdles to achieve, just like changing uses of land. Furthermore, a house with a basement suite cannot have a second basement suite, even if the square footage would allow it. A house with a basement suite is also not allowed to build a laneway house. So really this â€œnew initiativeâ€? is really only allowing a duplex, where a duplex would often be easier to build and a superior product for all occupants. Duplexes or higher density are also not allowed in areas of single family, which rules out most of the city. Examine the houses on the next page which were
built before zoning codes. Which one has 5 units, or 6 units, and which has 1 or 2? Allowing incremental density, in the form of Laneway Homes and basements suites, even both at a time, diversify the housing mix in a neighbourhood. It does not just change the income level of a person who can live in a certain neighbourhood; it changes the time of
life that someone can live in a certain neighbourhood. Downsizing baby boomers can sell or rent the big house in retirement, or future doctors and lawyers attending TRU can afford to live downtown on student loans. The city and developers need to realise and encourage the benefits of small incremental adjustments to density through-out the whole city; as opposed to the Pineview example where a gigantic seniors apartment structure is planted in a neighbourhood poorly connected to the rest of the city, because the city demanded mixed-density in the total Pineview development. Not every 135
neighbourhood needs density, but the ability to handle density should be at the finest grain possible; unit by unit, not broadly demanded on acres of new development that is not capable of supporting it. Furthermore incremental development in the form of basement suites and laneway homes is completely in the pocket book of a private person, not the city. The city gets new taxable value, usually about $150,000 worth, for absolutely no expanded infrastructure. It should not just be a free for all, but simple guidelines that remove the bureaucracy, the development cost charges and the expensive architects from the equation should be expedited. I say this as a person who directly makes money from custom laneway home building; I will lose business should something like this happen, but it is simply the way that the city needs to adapt to the 21st century. With all the rigmarole currently required to legalize and build a laneway house or basement suite, the venture isn’t even usually lucrative. The very thing that could be a good “mortgage helper”, could add density in a sensitive and fine scale, add value to blocks and taxable value for the city, is burdened completely by
Let’s look at what seriously basic laneway house for rental with NexBuild (the company I sell Laneway Homes for) might look like. It is 2 bedrooms with 1.5 bathrooms; about 750 Sq.Ft. By city regulations it needs to be architect designed to resemble the house which property it is on. The city spends many hours reviewing the design, and charges $4000 for their services; we charge $3500; getting you to public hearing: Costs of a 750 Sq. Ft. 2 Bed
Deisgn Stage: Rezone Package City Fees Construction Drawings
$ $ $
3,500.00 4,000.00 5,000.00
Site Work + Landscaping Building Construction
The house, with minimal landscaping and no furniture, costs $193,500. If you finance the building costs from your exiting equity: Cash Flow - Scenario 1 - Build Costs Financed
Expenses: (3.5% Interest Rate; 25 years; 903.68 askaaron.ca) 120.00 (8.0592% of $150,000) 50.00 58.75 4.9% CMHC 2012
Financing Payment Tax Increase Maintenance Budget Vacancy
$ $ $ $
Return on Investment
excessive regulation. The return is less than a GIC, and in 2013 that is saying something. 136
If you have around $200,000 laying around for a laneway house, this is what your costs look like: Cash Flow - Scenario 2 - Cash Purchase Expenses: Tax Increase Maintenance Budget Vacancy
$ $ $
120.00 50.00 58.75
Return on Investment
In all zoning types there is always a minimum lot size. This, like maximum density and lot coverage has the obvious effect of creating high barriers to enter the property market.
It is a reasonable return if you have a cash investment, but that does not make it a mortgage helper. Laneway Homes therefore only economically make sense in the current Kamloops economy for people whose purpose is not rental, but instead emotional. It could be because they believe in the project, or they want swanky guest accommodations in their pre-war downtown house. Others have built them for family members; disabled, aging or low income. Few have built them for rental income; Renters do need a place to live, and all of us have rented at one time or another, but regardless, restrictions need to be eased. Currently laneway homes still need to adhere to maximum lot coverage rules, maximum heights, maximum footprints, 3 on-site parking stalls minimum. These regulations restrict the number of lots that can even be built on, before strict
The smallest allowable lot size for residential is 464 square meters or 1/10th of an acre. Keeping in mind that the same zoning only allows one unit at 40% lot coverage, that unit would have to be 450 sq. ft. That is a tiny house, but manageable, and even preferable for some at different times of life. The reality however is someone looking for no yard and a unit this small is really only allowed to live in a couple large apartment buildings in the whole city, as otherwise it is illegal. For all investors to be able to participate in the market, tiny lots with no minimum lot coverage need to be allowed, so that the local tailor can own the building that they operate their business in. Conversely, old residential areas can see new housing stock added in lanes and other poorly utilized parts of the neighbourhood by allowing ownership of more diverse housing forms. In fact, to achieve investments in value per square foot of land, it would be far more productive for the city to place a limit on the maximum lot size.
aesthetic review and public hearing. 137
Small Homes Nomad Homes is a start-up enterprise out of Vancouver that manufactures factory built homes, that can easily achieve net-zero for only $25,000. They meet every fire-code, insulation code, plumbing code, etc. in Kamloops except one. They are too small. Kamloops indirectly requires that a home be over 400 sq.ft. If the small lots I described weâ€™re allowed, you are barely allowed to build a small house on them! A 10 year mortgage on a house like that is only $246.92 a month! That means first year university students on the property ladder. Why is this illegal?
The Homelessness, Subsidized Housing Feedback Loop Subsidized housing is full of problems, and it is a forever, never ending feedback loop of misinvestment. An important element of the need for subsidized housing is the in-ability of the market to supply affordable housing. Many elements of that inability stem from many of the same regulations that we have seen here among some others. More houses having secondary and tertiary units would increase the supply of rental housing, and many small investors would be interested in making this a reality if costs and regulations weâ€™re not so prohibitive. Government makes providing affordable housing illegal, and then is burdened with the bill of providing affordable housing. Not the first time we have heard this. For others home ownership could be more affordable if additional revenue streams were available to new home owners to leverage the value of their property. It is not uncommon for young people to buy a home and rent out the rooms, however as maturity sets in, it is uncommon for persons to want to continue living communally. Simple, non-political rules which allow basement suites and duplexes everywhere in the city facilitate this change; as do small
Nomad Homes marketing pictures
The Unsuccessful Provincial Local Growth Plans The Province of British Columbia knows just how cash strapped its municipalities are, and would love to help any way they can. When the economy is slow, they introduce the B.C. Jobs Plan, to inject money into the economy to try to ‘preserve growth’ (the only thing that can possibly help them repay their debts at the provincial level as well.) All too often that “investment” is in the form of local infrastructure improvements. These “improvements” over time often seem to have exactly the opposite affect though. When an infrastructure improvement is done, which almost always means car mobility improvement (even when building a pedestrian bridge); it is a onetime investment, that often the city then takes possession of the long-term obligation of that project. New water mains to far flung areas are one example of this, or new lanes on important arterials. This provincial funding exponentially expands the maintenance obligation of a city that already cannot afford its current obligation. Logically, it further cripples the city’s ability to ever possibly level off tax rates.
Furthermore, infrastructure investments, like a new walking bridge over an inflated roadway (.ie. TRU) only provide some employment for a small amount of time. As much as 40% of the capital immediately disappears from the city and the province in the choice of materials and fuel consumption. Of the wages that are paid, hoping to create a multiplier effect in the city, assuming all wages were invested back into the city, the tax base would still never expand far enough to generate new tax revenue to ever remotely recoup the cost of the investment. The Province is destroying the local governments’ ability to rein in expenditures of infrastructure commitments and investing money that they never have a hope of ever recovering in the form of income or sales tax. To recover that money they will have to increase tax rates, and increase them some more, and I am not sure any logical person could ever suggest that higher taxes, paying for unproductive infrastructure, has ever improved the economy of anywhere. If you suggested to anyone that they should build a structure that costs $5 million, and will only result in revenue of $500,000 (optimistically) in new tax base (property, income, sales) for the sake of jobs, they would suggest that you are 139
insane. How can a government structure that is entering bankruptcy possibly believe that it is improving the economy by creating financial commitments for all tax payers that cannot be supported? The following pedestrian bridge in Dallas is one such investment. It connects a small community of houses along the river, which do not generate the tax revenue to sustain their roads or sewers, to a small traffic island on the other side because. Well no one knows. There is bus stops on the road nearby, but the buses donâ€™t bother pulling in to this expensively brick paved court, as there is no one walking here to catch the bus to justify the diversion. After a teenager in Edmonton dropped a rock off such a bridge killing a bus driver, it was further invested in to enclose the bridge with chain link. The bridge is not beautiful, in fact at night seems dangerous. It serves no one. It was very expensive to build. It solved no problem. It connected no one to nothing, and now the city is stuck paying for expensive infrastructure that returns nothing on the investment. There are literally hundreds of such examples across the city and across the province. Thank you B.C. Jobs Plan.
See the bus stop there? With no sidewalk at all?
Food Trucks and Temporary Uses Not many things in modern city life have been shown to be as successful for attracting people to a place as food trucks. Japa Dogs on the Streets of Vancouver are famous, and here in Kamloops Cat and Jos Pig Rig attracts customers to bizarre, ugly and otherwise antipedestrian places all over the city, and they make a living doing it.
attract anyone to it. It is not enclosed or defined, it is not interesting, and there is no seating, so it is not comfortable. What could a couple of food trucks and moveable seating instill in to these types of places? It is important to remember that The Bay did not start as a huge national department store retailer, but as a series of ramshackle outposts though out rural Canada, and it was well funded! The original Wal-Mart was simply Waltons, a small main street pharmacy and grocery store, and still has secondary uses above!
Imagine the power of a food trucks and similar, trendy businesses to attract people to completely unused, or underutilized areas of the city; places like Spirit Square on the North Shore. Spirit Square is pretty much the cities only urban plaza of any type in the whole city. It cost lots of money, and is not even used by homeless people. The farmers market couldnâ€™t make a go of it here. Why? It doesnâ€™t connect anything through it. There is nothing within it to
Just as residential needs small lots to allow all investors to participate, and truly progressive city needs to allow all manners and persuasions of entrepreneurs to enter the market at the lowest rung possible. Only then can budding small business owners actually afford to make the mistakes necessary to 141
succeed in business. Unfortunately the best cities for cultivating small, vibrant, self-employed business communities in North America in the last decade have been places that have a complete dysfunction of government, or complete hands off approach like Detroit, Asheville, Portland or Austin. In these places, when someone is doing something small scale and potentially dangerous rather than enforcement, they instead look the other way. As ideas and movements gather steam, they help them make the transition from little cart in the market to actual tenant. Food Trucks incubate business exactly like this, and the only place they have a strong possibility of success is Downtown, and that is the very place they are not allowed. They also have the ability to bring new vitality and excitement
In Kamloops, Kamloops Innovation Center on Tranquille Road is helping idealistic, na誰ve, passionate, riskoblivious budding business persons in the tech sector into serious entrepreneurs by providing small cost, small risk steps and guidance along the line from idea to concept to plan to execution. This type of development does not need to be reserved for tech products. Pop Up Hood in Oakland has done the same with retail and restaurants; the city has underwrote long term leases on whole blocks, providing small commitments, short term leases, as small as a month and 4 sq. ft. to everyone who has something to contribute. The city does not lose money on this venture, and it breeds the selfactualizing dream of being your own boss into hundreds.
downtown, so the relationship is mutual.
Cat and Joes Pig Rig, a food truck in Kamloops, parked in a location where they must be looked for, rather than encountered, bringing vitality to nowhere, and undercutting their potential revenue and success
CookieBar, NYC. Mother and Son would rent 4 sq.ft. of other peoples stores to sell their cookies each day, and people would follow them around the city
Temporary Buildings Not all buildings need foundations, especially buildings that are housing commercial uses; occupied by people that are alert, sober and awake in the daytime. Hudsonâ€™s Bay outposts had dirt floors and so do our campgrounds. A one story commercial shelter anywhere in the city should not require any building permit, and unless completely indecent, should not even require a business license. While not a permanent solution, temporary buildings, on piles or dirt floors, break down barriers to entry which allows value creation in the city. When they city truly endorses this step in entrepreneurship, we will see the transition from RV in a vacant parking lot fruit stand, to legitimate businesses which become local institutions.
Temporary Buildings of the kinds I am suggesting would not need to be heated or air conditioned or even insulated. The built form of the structure would be simply to provide basic security and shelter to the businesses inventory or merchandise.
These shops in Seaside, Florida are simply metal roofs and paver brick floors sitting on pilings with no foundations or insulation. They are simple and cheap and achieve their goals of reducing barriers for lower rungs on the ladder to entrepreneurship. Getting these types of tenants in business is a fast way to create value in your community and empowered citizens that care about their streets and communities.
Wynwood Walls, made of shipping containers in Miami, started as a temporary graffiti installation on a property developerâ€™s vacant land waiting for approvals, which instead became an art institution
What does a Successful Place Look Like? The path forward is not a clear one, nor an easy one. I am fairly confident that at least one sentence in my book has offended every reader, their way of life, their politics or their sensibility. I have suggested that simply suspending many of the needless and expensive activities of the city, and eliminating zoning requirements that are restricting forward momentum will solve problems. In many ways that de-regulation of those specific requirements should do a lot to help the best developments and investments move forward. I subscribe to a doctrine of financial conservancy, and I believe that we need to make savings as a city, and leverage the lowest hanging fruit to gain the most immediate, and lasting investments, that pay dividends again and again. The way forward could use some help from certain regulations being expanded however. These are regulations however that would generate more revenue for the city while furthering its own democratically created goals. It would also continue to leave choices in the hands of the citizen rather than a planner.
Land Tax In our pattern of development which offers little choice from driving, I have argued that the Carbon Tax will do little to change behavior, only cost tax payers more money. I have further shown that the effect of pay parking, which can be immediately invested in improvements at the destination, can in fact have far more pronounced affects while internalizing costs that need to be paid anyways. Land Tax, or Land Value Tax could have a far faster, and more profound effect on the built environment even than paying for parking, without essentially asking the public for any more money than is already collected for property tax. Its effects would increase the quality of the Interface, density of the city, and capture more value per acre of infrastructure for the city. This means less commitment per taxpayer, and thus lower taxes or increased services. What is this Land Value Tax that I am suggesting? On the Assessment that I receive each year for my downtown apartment I am given two figures. One is the Land Value, and the other is the value of the Improvements. Combined make the figure I pay tax on. What I am suggesting is that the Land Value of the bill be taxed with more weight than the Improvements. 144
This property on Seymour is a surface parking lot, and its taxed $5775 each year for that, as the improvements do not even meet a threshold to be taxed
The reason is simple. A parking lot is taxed very little, but creating productive uses, like warehouses, retail stores, housing, etc. is actually discouraged, because they are taxed more. Improvements lead to higher taxes and thus higher expenditure with added risk of not finding immediate income to cover the higher expenses. With this in mind the City has Development Areas, such as Tranquille Market where they offer tax-free periods for developments that meet certain criteria, like mixed-use and meeting a certain density. However in most of the city this is not the case. This is also only a Carrot approach, one in which existing property owners have some incentive to develop, but really only if they weâ€™re
With the Land Tax approach, with emphasis being shifted more heavily on the Land portion, Improvements are taxed less than not improving in relation to each other, creating incentives to develop. Letâ€™s use an example. We have two properties, and their specifics are shown below: No Improvement Land Property Total Tax Collected Effective Rate of Total Improvement Land Property Total Tax Collected Effective Rate of Total
Property Tax @ 10% $ 200,000.00 $ $ 200,000.00 $ 2,000.00 10% $ $ $ $
Land Tax @ 25% $ 200,000.00 $ $ 200,000.00 $ 5,000.000 25%
200,000.00 600,000.00 800,000.00 8,000.00 10%
$ $ $ $
200,000.00 600,000.00 800,000.00 5,000.000 6%
In both cases the city collects the same revenue, $10,000. However in the Land Tax example, the $600,000 improvement has lowered the effective tax rate on the whole property to just 6%, whereas the empty, unimproved lot is paying 25% effective tax on the total value. If the owner of the unimproved lot weâ€™re to build a building, their tax rate would not change, and their effective tax rate on the total value of the property would drop. This type of system would not automatically raise the rates in poorer areas where people could not afford improvements however, because the
considering this in the first place. 145
land assessment in those areas would remain low. In high demand areas, like downtown, where people are market proven willing to pay a significant amount more for a square foot of building, sitting on an empty lot becomes exceedingly unattractive. Consider what was knocked down to make way for the parking lot at 310 Seymour Street:
The Empress Theatre; a strong, sturdy neo-renaissance brick building which stood for 42 years until 1954 at 310 Seymour
Many buildings weâ€™re knocked down because the cost of maintaining them combined with all the promise the automobile brought in the 50â€™s and 60â€™s, it seemed purely sensible to knock down such buildings. It is important to not discount the effect that tax policy has on what rational choices we each make, from living in the suburbs to historical preservation.
Anyways, back to Land Tax; Land Tax would encourage property owners to develop their property in any way that could collect new revenue, but they will not be penalized from the city for that investment. This would obviously generate new investment in vacant land, generate new density of residents and businesses, and to meet market demands, would do so in a small increment and intelligent response to what the market is looking for. The developers and land owners would make small scale, fine grained, context sensitive decisions, rather than a thousand foot above ground mandate from the city. By its very nature this would produce more diversity of building types and businesses, more diversity of investment and scale and innovation in a local lending market. Best of all the risk to the city at large is very small. Property owners that are not able to or not willing to develop their land now have an incentive to facilitate a sale or partnership with someone who is willing to develop. Sitting on a property as a retirement fund is no longer as lucrative of an investment. In the meantime, good buildings are not knocked down to make way for something only slightly more valuable, or quite often, less valuable.
In the ratios that I have described, going from a 10% property tax to a 25% land tax, properties break even at a 50% investment, meaning that they return to the same effective rate on the total property of 10%. This means that intensive development is encouraged, but if your property is only slightly improved, you would not see any increase in your tax rate. Break Even - Example Property Tax Land Tax Land $ 200,000.00 $ Property $ 300,000.00 $ Total $ 500,000.00 $ Tax Collected $ 5,000.00 $ Tax Rate 10.0% Effective Rate of Total 10% % investment needed to break even 50% Break Even - Kamloops Actual Property Tax Land Tax Land $ 200,000.00 $ Property $ 300,000.00 $ Total $ 500,000.00 $ Tax Collected $ 2,250.00 $ Tax Rate 4.5% Effective Rate of Total 5% % investment needed to break even 50%
which already have city services, but are paying almost no tax. Below my ‘tax efficient improvement’ ratio of 50% over land value, there are many thousands more. Many of them are tear down shacks on downtown streets, or vacant lots anywhere. For interest’s sake, here are a number of random properties selected from the south side of the river:
200,000.00 300,000.00 500,000.00 5,000.000 25.00% 10% 50% 200,000.00 300,000.00 500,000.00 2,250.000 11.25% 5% 50%
As can be seen in the tables here, in Kamloops, with its current ~4.5% tax rate, a change to a ~11.25% land tax rate would see the same incentives created, assuming that the average Kamloops property currently has 50% more invested in improvements over land value. The average property sees much more investment than this, but there are properties all over the city that do not. The Canadian Home Builders Central Interior released a report on residential lots in Kamloops with Improvements under $50,000 in 2011. There were almost 1000 ‘empty’ lots in Kamloops,
Property 1395 Hillside Drive 301 Victoria Street 1947 Arnica Street 721 St. Paul Stret 293 Arrowstone Drive 661 Battle Street 669 Battle Street 250 Columbia Street 184 Greenstone Drive 927 Munro Street
Gross Land $ 6,130,000.00 $ 762,000.00 $ 127,000.00 $ 151,000.00 $ 808,000.00 $ 141,000.00 $ 165,000.00 $ 157,000.00 $ 202,000.00 $ 203,000.00
Gross Improvements $ 18,401,000.00 $ 6,286,000.00 $ 247,000.00 $ 145,000.00 $ 2,850,000.00 $ 208,000.00 $ 417,000.00 $ 133,000.00 $ 283,000.00 $ 117,000.00
Gross Assesment Investment Ratio $ 24,531,000.00 200% $ 7,048,000.00 725% $ 374,000.00 94% $ 296,000.00 -4% $ 3,658,000.00 253% $ 349,000.00 48% $ 582,000.00 153% $ 290,000.00 -15% $ 485,000.00 40% $ 320,000.00 -42%
As you can see most ‘normally improved’ proprieties where people live meets or nearly meets the threshold of investment needed to actually have their effective tax rate lowered with a Land Tax system. With pockets of under-invested and vacant land filling in, new dense and mixed-use nodes receive more incentive all over the city, not just downtown. Property trades hands to those who want to build and contribute. The entire value of the city, both improved, and the land it is built on rises in value. It is important not to consider jumping all in to a complete renovation of the tax system, which is why I suggest simply weighting the land value portion of the tax higher, year after year, heading in 147
that direction. If the tax system we’re to change all at once, we might see too many properties hit the market all at once, because the carrying cost is too high, and see a mass de-valuing of the land value of the real estate, and thus destabilizing tax revenue. A standard commercial strip-mall along an arterial with parking requirements lifted on my development would now take a good look at its land. Previously they were paying little to nothing to have huge parking aprons. Now those parking lots are costing a fortune compared to rent producing buildings. Eventually I would increase the density of the structures (increased rent revenue), charge for parking stalls (supplementary income) and not actually lose any customers. This would blaze the trail on responsible auto-mobile use, while creating investment value for the city, while decreasing risks for developers. The most convincing argument against land taxes that I have heard regards the ability of the tax assessment authority to determine the value of the land. B.C. Assessment already has metrics they use to determine land values based on the sales prices of neighbouring properties and isolating variables to determine Land Value in a market based approach.
The Last Word on Land Value As was shown on page 25, Land Value, we see that suburban large scale developments see huge subsidies, especially further from the center in the form of really cheap land; subsidies that make periphery development unnecessarily attractive. When valuing land, the algorithm used to determine its value should internalize the cost of the infrastructure to maintain it to some extent, and not be completely market driven. After all, an acre of infrastructure is an acre of infrastructure. My apartment downtown is 650 sq. ft. or 60 square meters. Apparently my small percentage of the lot that 619 Victoria Street sits on is $111,000. Or in the context of my apartment, I pay tax on my land value equivalent to $1850 per square meter. Consider that someone on Arnica Street in Pineview pays only $205 per square meter of land used. I pay 9 times higher tax per square meter despite using far less of the city’s infrastructure and services. 1947 Arnica Street pays tax on a land value of $127,000 for a 619 Sq. M. lot. I pay tax on $111,000 of ‘land’ ten stories in the air which is only 60 square meters. We must remove this subsidy to remotely attract any type of development recommended in this book or our OCP. 148
Case Study; Mansard Roofs I think it is really worth making the point how serious tax policy truly affects the built environment and how we live. In late 18th century Paris, buildings we’re taxed based building height, measured to the cornice line of the building. So some clever developers, including Mansard himself, pioneered what is called the Mansard Roof. One or two stories built with dormers in to the roof of the building. When the tax man came, they simply pointed out that those windows are in fact above the roofline, and thus tax exempt. These roofs are now an icon of Paris and imitated worldwide.
Pay For Parking in the Burbs? City sewers are a fairly expensive endeavour, and in a city as dry as Kamloops, Storm Water Run-Off systems are only needed a couple times a year. Bang for the buck is very low. The city requires that 5-15% of every development be landscaped, and incentives are in place for “native plant species” to minimize the need for capacity in the sewer system. In commercial areas 15% of a development or more likely 5% being landscaped has no real effect when the rest of the lot is non-porous concrete or asphalt that sends all that moisture straight into the sewer system. Surface parking costs the city money; if Land Tax seems unattainable politically, a simple rider to charge all properties in the city for each parking stall could be a compromise. Of course this would be extremely un-fair if parking minimums we’re to remain in place, but with parking minimums repealed and a tiny cost per stall, property owners will start to work with the city about how to engage with other modes of transport, because the public cost has become their problem. When liquid and agile private property owners are compelled to find efficiency, efficiency is often found very quickly. 149
Urban Growth Boundaries Much is made of Urban Growth Boundaries and Greenbelts around the world. Metropolitan London was one of the first cities in the world to implement this artificial barrier to growth. Remember that we are already financially way past the limits of our growth; an Urban Growth Boundary is a line which says this side is the country, this side is the city. The city side can be as developed as it likes, the country side is reserved for parkland, wildlife, agriculture, certain industries and other non-urban uses.
This Google Earth image of London near Uxbridge shows London built to around 3-4 stories with mixed urban uses comes to an immediate end, and what is beyond is active farmland
Kamloops does not have a growth boundary, primarily because the lure of the new property tax is too much, and the costs of the new infrastructure maintenance commitment too distant. Urban Growth Boundaries require some level of cooperation from the Regional Authority, in our case the TNRD, to not allow subdivisions to be built on the edge of town. However, as the libertarian that I am, I don’t really have a problem
with someone putting up a new subdivision outside city limits, like Rivershore Golf Club, or a set of cottages on Monte Lake, as long as there is no governmental or public commitment to maintaining the infrastructure. People can live where they want if they are willing to pay for it. The Urban Growth Boundary that I suggest is simple. The roads that we have built and maintain now are the roads that we will build and maintain into the foreseeable future, or until we have reached a point of near non-existent tax commitment by the city’s residents. The same goes for fire stations, ambulance stations, water mains, etc. If you want city services, then you have to live in the city. If you want to live in the country, than you can live in the country; with a septic tank, well, water filtration system, paying for your own new power polls or solar panels, and if you like the luxury of paved roads, I am happy to let you spend the $75,000 per lane per KM cost of paving, and let you maintain that road as you see fit. The reason for a boundary such as this is two-fold; One, we now know what our infrastructure commitment will generally be as the city’s population grows or falls. The amount of infrastructure in 150
place will remain generally the same in terms of costs, and there won’t be new ones. This means we can predict with some accuracy what we will owe in 10 or 20 years. In cases of adding capacity to the systems, upgrades can be localized and specific, rather than needing to upgrade a whole main to add a branch at the end. In the case of densification that bigger main will service increased property values already on that main. The new main will expand the value of that land, which with a land tax will now induce further value addition. The new tax value will be much more likely to recover costs, than new speculative improvements on new infrastructure. Second, in every example of an enforced growth boundary anywhere on earth, from London, UK to Portland, OR, it has resulted in a diversity of transport modal shifts, skyrocketing capital gains on private property, increased tax capture, and surprisingly, accelerated population growth. After the establishment of the growth boundary in Portland, combined with significant investment in biking, public transport, the public realm and the abolishment of parking requirements, the city has seen unprecedented economic and population growth for many decades. In Social Mobility, Carbon Footprint, Air Quality, free time, entrepreneurship, investment, quality of
life and economic performance, Portland has surpassed nearly every city in the United States. All the competitors leading in these same statistics have also implemented mixes of similar principles, like Denver, Colorado; San Francisco, CA; New York City (it wasn’t that long ago that NYC was an appalling place to visit). I hear all the time, those places are big, and Kamloops is not. What about Asheville, North Carolina or Seaside, Florida? Land Tax is both a Carrot and a Stick to promote investment, development, densification and financial resiliency. The Urban Growth Boundary simply shifts investors’ attention in on the city, rather than to Greenfield sites on the periphery. When I suggest that no new roads be built, I wish to clarify that new roads within the existing city network, could be fantastic investments, like connecting Pineview Valley to Aberdeen and its Firehall and School. Another example, if a proposal was made to join Arrowstone Drive to Summit at 2 or 3 new locations, connecting the residential and apartments to the commercial area, I would suggest that to be a great investment, especially should it be tied with the densification and mixing of uses in the commercial area. 151
Form Based Codes As I have shown in a number of different ways here, zoning codes often seem to present many problems to creating successful urban form. However, as the person that I am, I cannot point out a problem without talking about alternatives. The solution that I seem to be suggesting so far is that conventional zoning does not work. This is true, and even with many regulations removed, such as parking minimums, maximum lot coverage, minimum set-backs, there is still the questions of use. If every area is allowed to mix uses, especially in identified centers, then there not much left of zoning codes. City officials will not swallow this pill, as in many cases it puts them out of a job. City Councillors likely would not accept this, because they don’t likely always see how zoning affects urban form and how we use the public realm. In most cases, a councillor views zoning as a mediation process, where they attempt to balance the needs of the public with the desires of a developer. In many cases the mayor or a councillor will very reasonably suggest to a fearful and upset public that what the developer wants to do by changing the zoning is likely better than what they could have done legally with the past zoning.
This type of reaction and mediation was shown at the Public Hearing for a small multi-family development at 916 Fernie Road. 20 Residents attended to rally against the developer, claiming such concerns as “people already travel 70km/h on this road, this will just make it worse”. Councillor Pat Wallace was quoted saying, “it’s like Mario Andretti’s speedway”. Unfortunately she, with Councillor Nelly Dever suggested that the roads on this street are too narrow. In fact the opposite is true. The road is too wide, and all parking is accommodated off-street. We know that it is these very residents driving so fast, it is the complete absence of pedestrian infrastructure and design speeds of 70km/h that encourage people to drive this fast and finally, new cars on the street would increase congestion and slow traffic speeds. Despite these concerns, many councillors actually backed up their arguments for allowing the development to proceed based on the drawings submitted by the developer. In the end, the project is moving forward, largely based on the fact the 12 unit development was built with similar form and character to the 6 units that would have been allowed anyways under the previous zoning on the site. 152
In another example, a Carriage House was presented before council, and was rejected based on the form. The house was too big, or didnâ€™t have features, like a garage, that some councillors believed necessary, but the same house, when presented at appeal with neighbours houses for massing context was allowed to proceed. Perhaps what council is looking for in moderating has actually much more to do with form than with use. Form-Based codes are gaining huge traction on our continent, and they are concerned completely with the urban form, and very little with what uses the property is used for. An appropriately sized small condo development with a corner store, hair salon and coffee shop in a neighbourhood like Sagebrush could be a fantastic fit, as long as the scale and size of the building is appropriate. This change in perspective could allow council and city administrators to sleep a little easier, knowing that they have some say in the moderation of public vs. private interests, while better allowing developers, builders and property owners to move forward on projects that build value for the city and its
Conclusion This chapter basically prescribed two streams in which the city can achieve its goals and become more financially productive. They fall in two categories: 1. Removing Barriers And 2. Correcting bad incentives There are thousands of other ways that the city could become more effective in its governance, while making more financial sense, but this is a good start. Some numbers to consider: If values in Sahali were brought to the level of Tranquille, from $613 per square meter to $902 the city would receive a 68% more tax for the same infrastructure commitment. In dollars that means these malls would increase in value from a combined $147 million to $216 million, an increase of roughly $70 million; to the quality of Victoria Street? An increase of 359% or $380 million to $527 million.
Ways We Can Invest Now that we can see what steps Kamloops might take to become a more productive city, and have a deeper knowledge about the motivations and goals of different stakeholders, it might be worthwhile to explore some local projects that I can see adding value in Kamloops. Some of these things are constructed, in that they have a direct and immediate physical manifestation. Others are initiatives that can be taken to encourage personal investment in the neighbourhoods where people already live. Most of my suggestions are downtown. This is simply because these are areas that already have well connected streets and have a lot of value to be gained for very little investment. They are low hanging fruit that can be discovered easily with few stakeholders.
This section of the book is currently waiting for concept illustrative additions by local Artists, Architects and Designers. For now, use your imagination!
The other areas of the city, like Sahali, Westsyde, Heffley Creek, Valleyview and others have plenty of potential, but the large lots, primarily private out of town companies and rigidly suburban population would be a far tougher sell for these concepts. Worthwhile, and publically created, they could be very successful, but the results are not so easy to achieve, and benefit far fewer people. 154
Tactical Urbanism A very intelligent and motivated New Yorker, Mike Lydon has popularised the term â€˜Tactical Urbanismâ€™ in planning and activism circles in the last couple years. Tactical Urbanism can encompass sanctioned to vigilante activities that promote vibrancy in urban environments. His booklet by the same name is available free online, and his talk at (x)po is a fantastic introduction to his work. Mike also works as a consultant to cities and their public investment projects. Locally, projects such as Public Produce â€“ the installation of edible landscapes in urban areas are an example of tactical urbanism, as was the yarn-bombing on Victoria Street. The principle idea behind tactical urbanism is a principle that government everywhere could take a nod from. This is the concept of allowing and even encouraging low-level, low risk experiments (aka Short Term ACTION)
not end, and the project was a resounding success. After re-opening the street to cars for a short while, the city then painted the road red, added some fancier traffic bollards, some umbrellas (nothing expensive) and gathered public opinion, at the site, about the future of the square. Again feedback was optimistic, positive and encouraging. The Times Square Alliance, the Business Improvement District around the square registered unprecedented gains in sales at retail and restaurants when the site was pedestrianized. Now the city has reconstructed the square to be fully pedestrianized with new facilities and amenities to further enhance and diversify the ways in which the square can be used.
that can translate into long term change. New York City did this when considering the pedestrianisation of Times Square in 2009. Rather than invest time and money in public process, they simply showed up one morning with traffic cones, folding aluminum lawn chairs and closed the road for a couple days. Despite many doomsday warnings, the world did
In this example, the city used Short Term action to help make the step, rather than planning everything, and accomplishing little. 155
Citizens in Kamloops have the opportunity to engage in all sorts of activities that would enrich the public realm in Kamloops, which would add value and excitement to their neighbourhoods. These could include installing all the bike racks the city has talked about installing, or painting crosswalks where everyone seems to be jay walking.
Tactical Urbanism and Kamloops In 2013, the City of Kamloops planned a great plan. As part of the Lorne Street improvement project, it was imagined that the 5 way intersection of Victoria, Victoria West, Lorne, Lansdowne and First Avenue could be a public plaza in front of City Hall. Further to this, connectivity could be improved by connecting First Ave, and Seymour to Lorne, allowing better connectivity. Furthermore, better pedestrian connections would be created to link Victoria Street with Riverside Park. Lastly, elements of the plaza would terminate the vista of the 100 block of Victoria Street, creating value for the entire 100 block.
This man in Paris asks 0.10 Euros to put a crosswalk down wherever you would like to cross the street
I am not suggesting that we pedestrianize Victoria Street. In fact I would suggest that would likely be a disastrous step to pedestrianize any street in Kamloops for any period of time; Kamloops simply does not have a walking culture, or the facilities yet to support one. I have dozens of other little ideas that fall into this tactical urbanism ideal, and many are detailed next.
After public input, countless meetings, lengthy surveying and planning, the grand project went to tender. The budget for this “little” project was $1.8 million, but the only firm to tender for the project expected $2.2 million: $400,000 over budget. For this reason, the project has been delayed until 2014 to wait for different competitive bids. If anyone has ever ate on the patio at Brownstones Restaurant on this corner you will be very familiar with the motor bikes and muscle cars squealing the tires as they tear away down the seeming “freeway entrance 156
rampâ€? that is the start of Victoria West. This deters business and makes this location uncomfortable. Further to this the elements of City Hall, the Train viaduct, the Old Courthouse and 118 Victoria Street, the termination of Victoria Street, and the logical connection of downtown to Riverside Park, this site should be the highest quality location of the public realm in the whole city. Rather than scrap or delay the project further, the city could simply add some bollards, some paint, some moveable chairs that weâ€™re overstocked by a local business and presto, in the meantime, plaza achieved. Not complete but achieved. The city already has had formal documentation supporting this plaza for over a decade, maybe it should get done! The City needs to stop thinking of million dollar solutions for thousand dollar problems. Investments in city infrastructure need to have a direct and measurable result from investment. Investments need to be small, with allowance for failure, rather than planned by committee, costing lots and never producing results that are not measured
500-700 Victoria Street The first thing that we all know about Victoria Street between 5th and 8th is that it is shaped like an Arterial: Plenty of surface parking, even in front of buildings; 4 wide traffic lanes, signalized intersections, and poor quality sidewalks (though they are wide). The reality is that despite the wider and more numerous travel lanes, this road actually carries fewer vehicles than narrower blocks of Columbia or Tranquille. Furthermore, judging by the Central Business District Zoning, mixed 18-hour uses, dense residential and parking meters, it would seem that this is a place of commercial success, best achieved on foot. These blocks feature two Kamloops hotels that see tens of thousands of international guests each year; when they walk downtown to get dinner this is the street that they base their impression of Kamloops on. These couple blocks also see large development lots that are for sale, and plenty of lots that are underdeveloped or simply surface parking.
anyways. 500 Block now
Beside Memorial Area, Peterson Creek makes a brief foray into daylight on publically owned land. Finally, this is the second densest residential block in the entire city after Battle at 4th Ave; and the
Clearly this is a block that could see huge value creation by investing in the public realm; especially considering the amount of real estate that is simply laying and waiting to be re-ignited to
densest if you include hotel rooms.
useful and viable purposes. The clear first step in a broad sense would be to close two of the traffic lanes. What we have learned though is that interesting urban places change their form and character over time, so simply extending the wide-sidewalk, paving stoned, mid-block cross walks of lower numbered Victoria Street addresses, there is an opportunity to realise a new type of space in this location. For this reason, I would suggest that the two middle traffic lanes be closed, creating a pedestrian corridor in the center of the road rather than on the periphery of the road. This type of boulevard has seen much success in northern European cities like Helsinki and Oslo, and would be a great fit in this location.
The area that could see a great public space, well enclosed and enriched with new pedestrian facilities and accompanying private sector investments on vacant and under-developed lots
The best part of this approach is that it could be approached tactically. When the city simply repaved a block of Nicola it cost nearly $100,000. For only a few thousand, the city with volunteers could lay down temporary coloured paint in the middle of the road, with planters at 158
spaces near the edge, combined with some benches, and viola, new pedestrian park and pathway in the center of the city. Now visitors turning around when looking east down the 500 block of Victoria, are rather enticed to walk further. This is expanding the Victoriaâ€™s walk-shed, and encouraging business. If the project fails, it is simply a matter of moving the planters and washing off the paint. If it is a success, money will become available to expand the project, plant permanent trees, and upgrade the pavement. In fact, if one really wanted to encourage small business, and vibrancy on this street, stalls could be created in this meridian for food trucks, and places for said trucks to install moveable chairs. Furthermore, rent charged to these food trucks, or buskers that may want to use the area, could pay for all of the improvements! Now a street usually devoid of people and cars can become a vibrant new center for the city, and perhaps investment in vacant and underdeveloped properties. These streets actually pay enough tax that they could fund this project on their own, if so much of the revenue wasnâ€™t directed to
subsidizing sub-urban streets, but that is beside the point.
There is another asset that exists in this area however, and that is Peterson Creek. Currently a largely abandoned and poorly lit pedestrian path exists between the arena and the creek, mostly for a fire escape. This site has the further ability to build on the pedestrian realm of Victoria, and to be inhabited by farmers market style booths, non-profit performing stages, food trucks and other uses. A vacant lot against the train tracks could easily terminate the vista of this little park, creating a truly unique outdoor space in the heart of urban Kamloops. This newly defined and pedestrian space could even hold sculptural art exhibits from TRU; making urban and emotional connections for students in the city. Again this grand vision could be achieved through simply renting out multiple stalls on the site for food trucks, adding some seating and perhaps a porta potty.
Victoria 2.0 Vicotria Street 2.0 is not merely a decent and quaint pedestrian street anymore. With fantastic hotel and residential uses at the 7th ave end, view changes in the middle and City Hall Plaza/Riverside Park well connected to the other end, with minimum public sector investment, downtown Kamloops is an urban force to be reckoned with. Foot journeys from one end to the other are vibrant, exciting and safe at all hours. Tourists now remember Kamloops as a city, not just a stop on a train or a place they once had a tournament. Signage welcoming you to downtown Kamloops would be absurd in its creation, because the actual image in front of you would be clear. I have arrived in downtown Kamloops. All this without sacrificing any parking stalls, any traffic capacity, but instead creating
6th Ave If my future boulevard vision weâ€™re to be realised from 5th to 8th on Victoria, 6th Avenue would be a great opportunity to continue such a boulevard. When we entered the discussion in the first chapter about â€˜anti-connectiveâ€™ places Columbia Street was highlighted as just such a corridor. 6th Ave is fairly anti-connective in its small sidewalk configuration. It requires large, expensive cross walk apparatus to hold a couple cars for 30 seconds for single pedestrians. Despite its car configuration its place which sees a huge amount of walking trips each day, generated by the walkable blocks that join it, and the density and demographics living there.
private sector opportunities.
6 Empty traffic lanes on 6th
The RCMP office building on the corner of Battle has a beautiful little pocket park constructed in front of it: fountain, benches, flowers and all, yet most city dwellers are unaware of its existence, simply because it has no connection to the surrounding area. 160
A series of boulevard features could bring this little parklet into a series of public spaces and accessibility.
those who live nearby (which is a lot, many thousands are within a couple blocks). The best part is, rather than having 6th Ave devalue the real estate that abuts it, it would make the value of those properties much higher!
The unused little pocket park at the RCMP building
Across from the RCMP building are a variety of medium density walk-up apartments, great housing for students or low income families. Behind the RCMP station is a large surface parking lot that is just waiting for the value to be added
Slack Lines and Interactive fountains in Norway, the type of human scaled installations that would bring 6th Ave to a kid enriched pedestrian oasis in the center of the city
to add similar density there. As 6th makes its way across residential areas, it makes sense that rather than intensive commercialization, that instead the most be made of the crossing of Peterson Creek near Columbia, or play areas for kids, or social interactions like chess boards, horseshoes, croquet or other easily installed durable outdoor games. 6th Ave is re-made from automotive sewer, and a poorly utilized one at that, to a vibrant neighbourhood center for all
Finally, in the walk-shed theory, that different types of road provide facilities for longer walking trips, this enjoyable and visible walking corridor would bridge the gap from the non-walking south side 161
of Columbia, bring more people on foot into the downtown core. Furthermore, this expansion could pull the downtown transit exchange into a meaningful place within the city, rather than an afterthought crowded in the corner.
Vic Sixth; the new center of Kamloops With all this imaginary new dynamic investment that could happen on 6th and Victoria with pedestrian boulevards, the intersection of the two would see more and more and more traffic. Many new businesses would surround the intersection, and soon vacant lots would be built on, for residences, offices, entertainment and more. This intersection has to ability to be a fantastic shared space intersection that could hold a monument which tourists would flock to and residents would relax in. Like Eros at Picadilly Circus in London, or the Spanish Steps in Rome, this could be the meeting place, the landmark on which travel downtown is referenced from.
Eros in Piccadilly Circus
The incredible thing is that this doesnâ€™t have to cost millions. This future that is realised is one that could happen with a 162
few small scale investments in planters, bollards, paint, chairs and bike racks. If the vision is strong, and the idea received well, the private sector will scramble to participate. If a civic investment has true value; non-profits, rotaries, chambers, homebuilders, corporates and citizens will be happy to come to your aid. If they are not, then the investment is not worth making.
4th Ave Like 6th Ave, 4th Ave connects an incredible amount of residential density to commercial density. Despite being one of the most developed and valuable 2000 feet in the entire city, including the 3 highest density residential towers (Oaks, Pines and Acacia Towers) in the city, high end apartments at the Dorchester, the downtown YMCA, a new 6 story tower on St. Paul, the downtown Coopers Foods, a couple fantastic Heritage Buildings, restaurants, an art gallery and the old Bay building (now occupied less than 30% by the Daily News) and terminates in the Courthouse, Hospital and a park: Fourth Ave is a devalued and poorly invested in street in Kamloops. In this chapter it might seem like a lot is made of block to block variations in form, but it must be remembered that on foot, these block to block changes are the difference between $20 per square foot rent businesses that succeed and $8 per square foot businesses that fail. It is the difference between $150 per square foot residential properties that canâ€™t sell and $300 per square foot properties that sell the same day they are listed. High value land can afford very intricate and fine grained investments, low value land is not thought about.
Fourth Ave at the North end; quality heritage buildings with poor vacancy due to poor public interface
Reasonably good park space with mature trees that terminates 4TH at the south end, but split off by 4 lanes of high speed traffic on Columbia with no enclosure
Anyways, Fourth Ave has a lot going for it, and is very well utilized despite being underinvested in the pedestrian realm. The reason is clear, there are many reasons to be here; residences, the YMCA and a large grocery store. Like 6th, 4th has many vacant and under developed lots ready for investment, shown in yellow in the last diagram. It also has many marginal business spaces that are ready to see improvement. What does 4th need now? Street Trees have got to be the number one. How to pay for it? Extend parking meters and on-street parking up the whole street, end to end. 4th has many places that parking has been eliminated for turning lanes, which is completely needless and unnecessary.
4th end to end; green mixed-use nodes, blue office nodes, orange high residential nodes, YMCA in the middle. 2000 feet of potential
Next, the sidewalks are not wide enough for real patios next to businesses, so open up the parking stalls to be patios across from the businesses. Erwins Bakery, the old Felix on Fourth, these are businesses that could see a lot of value added with patios, and could add a lot of value to the public realm and the street as a whole. It is important to remember that for profit, the private sector wants to add value to the public realm. If a business is renting a couple parking stalls for a patio, then they are producing direct revenue for the city. They are also increasing the value of the properties around them, creating indirect revenue for the city. In the end, all the land is valued higher, businesses flourish, and our city is worth more. It is more valuable emotionally, and thus it is in reality more valuable monetarily. Fourth could also use pedestrian islands at key intersections, or even all of them, to create safe, efficient short pedestrian crossings. Fourth really does not need much to become exceptional.
Columbia Street: 1st to 6th Columbia is likely the most difficult street in which to convince everyone that it needs to be smaller rather than larger. At time of writing, over $10 million has been allocated towards expanding Columbia from 4 traffic lanes to 5. I believe that what really needs to happen on Columbia is nearly the exact opposite. The curb lanes should be parallel, on-street parking producing meter revenue. The engineering departmentsâ€™ argument for the expansion of the road to 5 lanes is predominately due to speed changes created by cars making left turns into any of the avenues along Columba. Every traffic engineer knows that standstill traffic beside fasting moving traffic is a recipe for accidents, and so their over-engineered solution is more traffic lanes. One moments logic would suggest however that the few cars making left turns are not held back by excessive traffic so that they need their own lane to turn, but rather a two-fold problem: 1. All oncoming traffic comes in predictable and long spurts created by traffic signals which release all the traffic at once. 2. Having to navigate not one, but two lanes of oncoming traffic. Often the 165
immediately visible lane will be stalled at the next blocks light making room for you to turn left, but the right lane remains empty, and your view is obscured, preventing safe left turns. So in fact it is not traffic volume that is the problem on Columbia, but how that traffic is organized. It is also important to remember that a â€˜Central Business Districtâ€™ does not mean that only one place in the city can have a high density of uses and business. Columbia Street has proximate higher residential density than Victoria in the same blocks (thanks to The Pines, The Oaks, The Dorchester, Nicola Towers, Acacia Towers, Mosaic and a handful of other medium density apartment buildings). It also has a huge commercial and institutional density at Ponderosa Lodge, the Courthouse, Royal Inland Hospital, Interior Health Offices, a couple hotels, City Facilities buildings, Peterson Creek Crossing, and restaurants. Every private sector business either survives by shielding itself from Columbia (Starbucks) or exists on the brink of decrepitude (Howard Johnson Hotel).
Why this street has been imagined as a thoroughfare with no mixed-use commercial value to the city planners is a wonder to the author. Yet Columbia is a street that already has all the variable in place for an incredibly successful place, yet it is falling apart through direct devaluation from city infrastructure projects. In the short term, Columbia should simply have on-street parking installed. Next Street Trees should be installed. If turning vehicles remain a challenge, traffic circles should be installed, not lanes or lights. One of the challenges with Columbia Street is that 90% of its traffic travels straight along it, and only a small amount of the traffic enters and exits from the perimeter. The signals that stop the flow of traffic for a couple vehicles to enter or cross the street are unnecessarily disruptive to traffic flow. The solution is simply a traffic circle, that can accommodate a couple vehicles entering from side streets when needed, and oncoming traffic needs only to slow down momentarily for someone turning left across traffic. Traffic circles are shown in every case to lower traffic accidents, increase safety, and create environments that persons not in cars can navigate easily.
In the future Columbia could be a Shared Space Street; with the highest value real estate, hotels, and hospital services in the entire city.
1st Ave First Avenue is probably one of the more speculative projects in this little portfolio so far. First Avenue appears on my radar not because there is plenty of underdeveloped real estate. There is actually very little. This street contains the Old Courthouse, an entrance to the downtown Farmers Market, and some of the highest value homes in the city in the West End. What is interesting about 1st Avenue is the sheer paved area that the city maintains, yet is inherently useless. To access the one-way First Avenue, you must turn right off of one-way Seymour, or go straight in the right lane of First Avenue below Victoria. First Ave is one-way and three lanes wide, with no on-street parking (due to the steep grade). This means of the three paved traffic lanes; one is immediately inaccessible and another one is superfluous.
First Ave carries no line-ups at intersections, so three lanes are not needed for queuing, except for perhaps where it meets Columbia. What First Ave does have is incredible views of the meeting of the Thompson Rivers, only a few minutesâ€™ walk from Victoria Street. Here lies an opportunity to add value to the city by creating new park space, new publically accessible views, and new utility within under-utilized infrastructure. I would argue that a sensible improvement to be made would be to expand the sidewalk on one side of the road to be the width of the two travel lanes, with new trees added, some stairs, benches for resting and platforms for viewing. In areas of steep grade, little shops and studios could even be located under the platforms. This improvement would undoubtedly add walkability to areas of the west-end, and thus bring up property values directly adjacent to 1st. More importantly, it would reduce the cityâ€™s commitment to sewer and car infrastructure on this street. Instead, water features that work with the rain could be installed, capturing rain, directing it into ponds and into tree beds. Further, small waterfalls and other gravity fed water features could be created, making walking in the rain an
Steep grades and their treatments are the subject of iconography all over the world, from the Favelas of Brazil, to switchbacks in urban San Francisco. It is important not to replicate others success, but to look as inspiration and imagine how the principles can be put to work for us here in Kamloops. In the generation of Social Media, Facebook and Instagram, each and every picture that inspires an international student to put Kamloops on the web, is one more little drop in a building wave of Kamloops as the 21st century small city to be in. Every opportunity that we can create unique public spaces which citizens grow with, build lives in and reflect back upon attract little attentions that translate into a sense of place, and that sense of place is what makes places like Times Square so valuable; not only for tourists but also for residents.
activity, rather than a burden. 168
Seymour and Lansdowne While dissecting all of these little downtown streets, it is pretty hard to ignore the elephant in the room, Seymour and Lansdowne. Both of these streets are one-way, have huge swaths of surface parking and parking structures. These streets also perform dismally commercially. Lets look at one example: 355 Lansdowne Street. You may have known it since 2009 as Charlies, Chrome City, Rivers and more.
Many people tried to run this premises as a night-club, yet it couldnâ€™t make a go of it, no matter how low the lease rate went. As a night club, you need to have plenty of girls to attract guys to spend money. Girls do not want to walk down an otherwise vacant street that is poorly lit. Remember CPTED, this street provides plenty of places for someone to hide (parking lot, alleys, behind bushes, etc.) For these same reasons no business will be successful here, until this street is well enclosed with continuous doors and windows to the street, other businesses (at ground level in the parkade for example), better lighting and has street trees. At that time, this entire block could be an important component linking downtown closer to the river.
It has been through 4 tenants and now vacant for over a year. The City has assessed the property at $1.3 million, yet at $799,000 the property has been on the market for over a year. No one in the private sector is going to pay for a building that is completely devalued by the high speed one-way street, but being beside a dark and industrial parking structure is the kiss of death.
Until that time, the city will continue to tax the owner of 355 Lansdowne Street right into bankruptcy, and the city will continue to have unproductive and pathetic return on investment on these streets. I am not ignorant of the pulp trucks that service the cities single largest taxpayer, Weyerhaeuser which pays over $6 million per year, and the one way streets here may be important to them. Fine, just make the one way only one-lane wide, and introduce other improvements, like benches, landscaping, a terminated vista 169
or two, better integration with Lansdowne Village, among others. Give people a reason to want to be here, and watch the private sector grow that investment. If the pulp trucks take an extra minute or two to make it to the pulp plant, will the city lose millions in tax revenue? Probably not, but they will gain in downtown property value and business gardening, profitability and attraction.
McGill Corridor and the University Village McGill is a street like Columbia, it already has all of the elements needed to be extremely successful, however street geometry, lack of on-street parking, high traffic speeds prevent it from being an iconic and vital public place. As always, the city puts together fantastic plans which sit on the shelf and never get used. In this case, the Southgate/McGill Corridor Plan; its 33 pages suggest that McGill should try to integrate the University better, but never mention that a 4-5 lane arterial road might be in the way. Actual recommendations involve some trees, some nice drawings of large car-oriented signs and lawns at the university and transit shelters (once again believing that transit brings people). It also suggests an â€œindustrialhigh-techâ€? district beyond. Investments so far have included the $9.6 million dollar Hillside Drive connector, a street with absolutely no adjoining tax base to pay for its sidewalk, lighting, storm sewer and two traffic lanes. It also included the creation of a TRU transit exchange. The new exchange is located, like the downtown one, completely away from the action, and so most bus users on Campus do not use it, and instead use the stops near to the buildings in front of Open Learning. 170
Once again, the simple and cheap bus stop is working better than the master planned and extremely expensive bus exchange. It also encourages the preservation of open space at the entrance to the university, preventing the enclosure of McGill to become the “Main-Street” that the plan identifies. The University Master Plan of the same era (2003) also make such smart suggestions as building a parkade on the North facing slopes, defacing the best views on the campus, while locating new “research buildings” in a little valley to the west between Purolator and a cliff, a large distance from parking, transit or the rest of the university.
In 2011 the university contracted EcoSign, the same planners as Sun Peaks to redraw their plan, and thankfully the parkade on the best view property was dropped
In the end, the obsession with making maps and attaching uses to boxes in reflection of a handful of committee member’s points of view is absurd. Clear connections that connect places of importance in direct and sensible straight lines need to be created. Then they need to be enclosed with value adding amenities, like shops, pubs, community facilities and housing. The local private sector needs to have a meaningful presence on Campus. Currently the universities handful of monopolistic contracts is awarded to a handful of highest bidders. Local café owner Ian Harding made a bid to open a new location of Café Motivo on campus in the new House of Learning building, that too at an extraordinary lease rate, but was denied to the highest bidder, Tim Hortons. Old Mains new third floor “food-court” is leased entirely to one group of fast-food conglomerates. The universities food and beverage services are notoriously mis-managed by national Aramark. Meanwhile the campus Culinary Arts program feeds a handful of staff and students in an outof the way location, and struggles to cover its costs. Instead, identify a couple of well enclosed outdoor spaces on Campus, invest in them, and preserve them. Add new fruit trees. Add activities like boche 171
ball, or croquette to encourage active, public outdoor sociality. Enclose the paths between the new spaces with 2 or 3 story buildings that have retail uses on the ground floor, which are rented to the private sector with no monopolistic practices allowed. Add benches, and put new student housing above. Connect these new â€œstreetsâ€? to paths that connect the rest of the city, like a cross walk to Dagleish. Economic Gardening; Perhaps create a number of small spaces in the buildings, for really low rent, and short leases that allow aspiring business students to try a retail concept before fund-raising for more permanent long term success; or for a culinary arts student to try a new restaurant type. The possibilities of this approach are endless and work to create active campus life that will breed
Connecting The University to The City: 1. Bike/Pedestrian Corridors to Downtown Currently there is exactly three sensible ways for a student from TRU to get downtown on foot or by Bicycle. All involve fairly steep slopes, and many are difficult to navigate due to ill connected street patterns. They are: 1. St. Paul West Multi-Use Path 2. Battle Street 3. Columbia Street Columbia, despite a hazardous, hot, exposed and uncomfortable pedestrian environment sees many cyclists and pedestrians for the sheer reality that it is the simplest connection between the commercial, university and residential densities of Sahali.
opportunity and loyalty in Kamloops. The university will grow with students, but it can also grow just like every other area of the city, in fact should grow the same; with infill, enclosure, connectivity and environmental investment. Columbia
Battle Street is less well used, due to its steep nature. Further it is not obvious from either end that a connection exists here. Better human scaled signage could improve this. 172
The city needs an easily accessed map of the city for users to quickly reference and be able to way find. It should be coordinated with human scaled signs at important junctions. Colour coding bike routes on the paint markings left on the street could further simplify navigation. Battle
The same lack of information prevents the St. Paul West corridor from being an effectively used connection. It is likely the easiest approach on the climb to the university; it just needs more information on making the connection. Further to this, the Bicycle Map of Kamloops, make no connections for a user beyond the end of the shared path going west. Some of this information can be very valuable, like for example, snaking up Strathcona Terrace will ease the angle of the hill.
Walk Raleigh, cheap signs that do the job. Nothing complicated.
Other fantastic corridors exist, that could be developed into higher density residential along a road that could make good connections to downtown and the university, and that road is McGill, going east of Columbia. The end of this street ends at Peterson Creek Park, where a very low angle pedestrian and cyclist connection could be easily made. With good signage and way finding, this connection could also improve access to the university from areas east of Downtown.
Car Free and gently sloped St. Paul West
2. Transit Oriented Development, The Tournament Capital and the Gondola This is a project that I have invested a lot of time and passion in to so far. It all started very early on when I moved to Kamloops. It has a long story that led me to see some ways to better integrate the University in to the rest of the city, while also working on the North Shore to better use its existing infrastructure. Kamloops has challenging topography for any type of transit system. It is bisected by two rivers, and has many steep hills. Ask any bus mechanic and you can hear all about the stress Kamloops buses undergo compared to a nice flat route somewhere like Kelowna. When I was thinking about Kamloops, and its transit alternatives I looked at these variables of existing investments: 1. Tournament Capital Program at MacArthur Island 2. Tournament Capital Program at TRU 3. Student Life, Housing and Transit at TRU 4. Extreme concentration of Hotels near Aberdeen Mall 5. Intensely underused land/parking near Aberdeen Mall 6. The â€œbiking handicapâ€? in Kamloops resulting from all the hills 7. Need for a center to Aberdeen
I had seen before a tram in Portland, OR that connected the newly revitalized Pearl District with the University up the hill across a freeway. In Kamloops a gondola could connect the North Shore, an area deserving and witnessing revitalization, with the University on the Hill which has no easily accessed residential or pedestrian commercial areas. It has to cross the river and negotiate steep terrain but that is easy for a gondola. In Portland, much concern and outright protest was organized against a gondola that cut across numerous residential areas, giving some gondola locations views into residentâ€™s back yards. In Kamloops, the gondola from MacAruthur Island to TRU would not cross any private property, other than the university. It would also serve to connect the TCC to MacArthur Island, increasing the ability of Kamloops to hold different types of events, and making participation for attendees simpler. Furthermore, Gondolas are relatively cheap to install and operate. They require minimal staffing per rider as compared to a bus, far cheaper per rider maintenance costs, use a fraction of the fuel (riders going up are counterweighted by riders going down), less noisy, infinitely more frequent, more 174
permanent (easier to finance) and functions as a tourist attraction, generating added revenue. For cyclists in Kamloops, this solves the hill problem. Someone can cycle to the bottom station from Downtown, ride up, conduct business, and ride home. Importantly for many it would pass the transit test: 1. It is faster than a car: 4 minutes on gondola (2,300m at 8 m/s) vs. 12 minutes in car (Google maps 2013) 2. It is more convenient: park once for one fee, it leaves and departs every few seconds 3. It is cheaper: A fare on the gondola could be part of transit passes, student or faculty passes, or individual, and likely less than parking at either end But beyond the most basic of marginal decisions, the gondola is fun, interesting, safe, iconic, unique, useful and can be leveraged for other investment. But why stop there?! Aberdeen Mall, as a business is not the highest performing center in the world. Retailers are not exactly bashing down the doors to open in the mall, and rumours of financial troubles are frequent.
Even if this weâ€™re not true, any mall owner would love to see more potential customers through the door, to charge higher rents, especially tourists! Wouldnâ€™t Aberdeen Mall just love a landing of a gondola right near its entrance then? Furthermore, the circuit of Rogers Way contains a large concentration of hotels. By creating effective connection between the hotels, conference center, mall, university and tournament capital facility, the overall Kamloops package in attracting tournaments, sporting events, conferences and more would be unparalleled by cities even four times its size! In this proposed gondola extension only 5 commercial properties have their airspace infringed, and they are not the sort that value privacy. Negotiation could be difficult but much less than a few hundred homes might be. The gondola investment could be leveraged to springboard well planned mixed use nodes at each station, and the sale of parcels for development could fund huge parts of the project in the private sector, without asking the tax-payer for anything. The gondola could be so cheap to run, that it could actually function as profit generating transit. This is a win. 175
Valleyview Bicycle Interchange
Congratulations Kamloops City Council; This project stayed alive through multiple elections, through set-backs, through media bawking and budget over-runs,
Kamloops gets its name from the meeting of the rivers. A visit to the Inner Harbour of Victoria or Southbank in London shows how water bodies can be leveraged to create the highest value real estate in the province, world and city. Instead, our waterways are home to cheap industrial buildings, poorly maintained mobile home parks, rail lines, endless city green spaces, surface parking, weeds, homeless persons sleeping quarters, a pulp mill, the airport, a couple of seniors homes and some
only to be ultimately fairly useless. While the infrastructure is lovely, and the beautiful solar powered glass bridge an improvement to no bridge, few cyclists and pedestrians are really using the infrastructure. Besides, many questionable and un-safe installations weâ€™re installed at each end of the bridge, and finally, there is absolutely no integration at the west end of the bridge into a sensible and legible continued bicycle or pedestrian path. All that is really needed here, to get some investment out of the dollars invested is to establish an uninterrupted bicycling link to downtown. Expensively this could be accomplished with signed, divided bike lanes on Victoria Street until 5th. More simply, the existing shared bikeway of Nicola could just turn the stop signs and better sign the route to downtown so that bikes do not have to stop at every single intersection on the way. Why make the huge investment if the simple changes needed to make it
private residences. Nowhere in that list does there seem to be space for well attended restaurant patios, or enriched and vibrant plazas for buskers, high value condos, adult oriented beaches, or other commercial uses that can generate vibrancy, identity or value from the cities natural surroundings. Riverside Park is one of the most fantastic places that the city offers a tourist, by why does music in the park play with trains as the background instead of the rivers and North Valley? Why are the bathrooms and concession open rarely, poorly maintained and ugly? When a local entrepreneur suggested that they run a river floating business, taking tourists and locals alike up river to float back to
effective are left un-done? 176
Riverside Park was it dismissed as profiting off of a public amenity? By the same argument, the City of Victoria should tear down the legislature and prevent pictures from being taken. It should also close down the water taxis, and whale watching tours, fishermanâ€™s wharf and its little shops, the buskers who play along the promenade and replace it all with bushes. This old city knows however just how well in can leverage that value to create a dense, sustainable and economically successful city that has a low impact on the total area. I get rather defensive about friends who say Kelowna is so much nicer than Kamloops. You can get great meals on the lake there, stay in hotels with lake views and go boating on the lake. In Kamloops, you should be able to do all of those things, but you canâ€™t. Besides
Someone wants to open a floating business in the park! Encourage it! Just charge them rent, or better yet, profit share! Let the public profit off of this private enterprise, and let the private enterprise add value to the city. Take that revenue, like parking revenue, and invest it in new paths, better washrooms, more frequent cleaning, etc. What could riverfront real estate in Kamloops look like?
rivers are better, you can also float them!
Spirit Square Spirit Sqaure, as mentioned before is one of the only urban public places in the city. It is supposed to be a place to have little concerts, farmers markets or other events. The property beside Spirit Sqaure is for sale, and for cheap. The other side of Spirit Square is two houses, owned by one person who has done large developments in Kamloops before. Across the street from Sprit Square, most of the houses are owned by one other person. All the property
surrounding is C-1T, zoning that allows most uses and high density, similar to CBD zoning. There is not much coordination that needs be done here to make a fantastic development. This is what happened when this development was to look like, generally:
safety into the square, creating ownership and a feeling of being watched. When this development was suggested, the city said that absolutely retail uses could not access the square directly. Furthermore the city wanted to see a shadow study, which was provided at some expense. Finally the city said the buildings weâ€™re too large for what they weâ€™re envisioning, and we would have to do two levels of underground parking to meet the cities requirements. A non-starter is what one city planner called this project. The very project that could have brought people in to the cities expensive, yet useless square is denied for the reason that it would do just that. Communities in Bloom and Neighbourhood Grants
The buildings here are to enclose the square, creating permeability between the uses, and enriching the public realm. Ground floor commercial uses front the square, creating opportunities for restaurants and shops to bring people in to the square. Residences above instill
If there is one initiative that the city has super right, it is the Communities In Bloom grants that are handed out each year. If you have a project that is small dollars that you want to make a difference, you can apply to the city and they will match your funding up to $5000. Simply apply on the cities website Kamloops.ca.
This program deserves to be expanded, and not just for cute gardening ideas, but outright streetscape transformations, incubating businesses that have public gains at their center, alley clean-ups, art installations, etc. These little projects are the low risk impassioned effort of citizens, and they will generate amazing return on investment. A program like this is something that thousands of cities hunger for, and it is great to see it in place here!
These are the discussions that we need to be having and all of us need to be communicating with another. Kamloops is a beautiful place, letâ€™s leverage that for ourselves and make it stronger. As a final word, most of what I have wrote here are not ideas that are original to me, some have my flourish and context added in, but for a true understanding of all that is here, I highly recommend the work of Roger Brooks, Charles Mahron, Andrew Burleson, Andres Duany, James Howard Kunstler, Howard Blackson, Donald Shoup, Peter Calthorpe, Jane Jacobs, Peter Barber, Jeff Speck, Thomas Vanderbuilt, Malcolm Gladwell, Mikael Colville-Andersen, Steve Mouzon, Hans Monderman, Billy Collins and more I could never completely list. Thanks and be well!
Conclusion I have a thousand ideas for this city, and others have thousands more. It is time that we are given the freedom to make differences. It is time that we have a rallying purpose to center our efforts on, and reflect on our successes and failures based on similar understanding and goals. These ideas here are big ones, there and hundreds of smaller ones. There are even bigger ones too! 180
Published on Oct 25, 2013
This book is about Kamloops, but it is also about any small city that has taxes that rise year after year; and the problem is perceived as a...