Vancouver, Part 1 of 3: Leaders say towers best for housing supply, green. Other considerations?

From writer Daniel Wood: "From where former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan sits on this blustery April day, the past and the future are equally visible.  Across the mouth of False Creek from Kits Point rise the towers of the West End.  They are the legacy of Vancouver's 1960s developer-cum-mayor, Tom 'Terrific' Campbell, who called those who opposed his plans to densify the West End 'pinkos, commies, and hamburgers'. "Sullivan tells me he has just come to a shocking discovery.  Considering the fact that suburban sprawl — with its spacious, energy-consuming homes and requisite commuting — is a disaster for the planet, then, to Sullivan’s mind, Campbell was right.  Stacking people was right.  Towers are good.  And all the New Urbanist, low-rise, Jane Jacobs–loving, fuzzy-wuzzy antidevelopment forces were wrong when they brought a halt to the city’s concrete and steel densification in the early 1970s.

"Sullivan says: haven’t Vancouver’s critical housing issues — almost nonexistent rental opportunities, the near impossibility of middle-class home ownership, and ongoing suburban sprawl — all been produced by the Jacobs-inspired shortage of affordable places to live within the city?

"Joseph Jones is a 65-year-old retired librarian. He first got politically involved five years ago, when the NPA approved both a 23-storey tower and a simultaneous effort by then-mayor Sullivan to rezone Jones’s adjacent single-family Cedar Cottage district for row houses.  Jones saw the mayor’s attempt at instituting his EcoDensity plan as 'neighbourhood-busting'.  He got mad.  He also got 2,340 of his neighbours mad.  The tower was built, but the rezoning was stopped.

"He echoes the view of Jane Jacobs that densification, for all its urgency, must be organic. It must be done sensitively. New buildings should assume some of the character of the neighbourhood upon which they are imposed.

"Another critic of the kind of densification that Sullivan advocates and that Vision Vancouver is tending to support is Seattle architect Jason McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council and author of 'Density and Sustainability: Challenging the Wisdom of Exaggerated Height and Density'.  McLennan understands that under the admirable banner of greening Vancouver, residential towers can be seen by municipal politicians as an excellent way to also encourage transit use and — in time — increase affordability.

"But — and to McLennan, it’s an enormous 'but' — the price of such development is often the loss of neighbourhood.  McLennan says much better and more community-friendly density can be achieved—as occurs in cities like Barcelona, Copenhagen, Paris, and Stockholm—with clusters of neighbourly, five-storey buildings."  Thorough, balanced, yet provocative article here.