“Over the last 15 years, downtown Vancouver has become a leader in North America’s urban housing renaissance. Under Vancouver’s “living first” policy, which was adopted 20 years ago, the downtown population has increased to 80,000 from 40,000, out of a total city population of 600,000. By 2030, planners expect 120,000 people to live in the city’s shimmering glass skyscrapers, which overlook the snowcapped North Shore mountains, English Bay and Coal Harbour.”
The Zoning Policy That Worked Too Well [New York Times]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Joe

    Not likely at all.
    Vancouver’s planning commission – and local populace believe in civility and reality based discussion. Contrast that with San Francisco where myopic neighbors with no planning experience line up in droves to protest any change however insignificant.
    It would happen here if we allowed it, but we will never allow it. San Franciscans fight hard to retain the soul of SF which seems to equal the exact view they have out their front windows the day they moved into the city.

  2. Posted by zzzzzzz

    Vancouver is undoubtedly a great success, and I only wish SF’s planning policies where anywhere near as enlightened. Just one caveat, though: there’s cold, glassy same-ness to Vancouver’s residential towers. I don’t know if that’s a product of planning guidelines or a coincidence, but more architectural variety would have made the end result even better.

  3. Posted by Invented

    “It would happen here if we allowed it, but we will never allow it. San Franciscans fight hard to retain the soul of SF which seems to equal the exact view they have out their front windows the day they moved into the city.”
    Which is why half of San Francisco looks like unchanged 1950’s landscape – really, from another era. Notwithstanding the current sprouting token tall buildings, it’s like a grand scale Colonial Williamsburg. Light, quiet, quaint, no shadows — but sometimes just lacks buzz and critical mass to make this a truly great urban center.

  4. Posted by morgan

    I also thought that as wonderful as Vancuver and its recent urban center developement is, the skyline is not very imaginative and rather dull. Invented is right that a couple of “token” tower projects is not enough to turn around decades of groups fighting growth and change throughout the city. As I work both in Chicago and San Francisco, I have been watching the developement around the newly completed Millenium Park over the last four years. There are over 40 residential towers completed or under construction surrounding the park district including what is planned to be the tallest residential tower in the world (Fordham Spire), which is about to break ground. But this makes Chicagoans yawn for throughout the central city housing is shooting up everywhere on a scale San Franciscans could not imagine. But what is most interesting to me about the Chicago City Government is that the towers are NOT the primary goal, but instead they are constantly trying to encourage and allow growth in ALL the urban neighborhoods. The upgrades of landscape and hardscapes of neighborhood shopping streets, allowing infill multi-unit housing, and constructing more transit and public infrastructure. If outer Geary Blvd. were in Chicago or Vancuver, it would be a showcase street to the sea with transit, good landscaping and hardscapes, and a vibrant mix of retail and greater housing density. San Francisco I will always love, but it can seem rather provincial and stagnant from a temporary distance.

  5. Posted by Bill

    Other cities look to see how they can encourage growth – to welcome new people and families. San Francisco passes laws to prevent growth and looks with fear and apprehension on newcomers.
    Xenphobia here is so extreme that you have people from one neighborhood complaining that other neighborhoods come in and trash things.
    San Francisco prefers to act as a small collection of provincial towns instead of a large city.
    The best part is that SF looks open its own policies as “smart growth”

  6. Posted by Tom

    Bill, I could not have said it better — SF is a collection of tiny neighborhoods that often act provincially toward one another (and toward neighbors from adjacent cities). South Beach will be an interesting case study, what with the ball park bringing in lots of neighbors and yet having its own (good or not so good) character too. Just taking the best ideas from Vancouver (“eyes on the street”, etc), while maintaining the “everyone gets thier vote” and “money talks” attitudes so strong in SF won’t guarantee success. In fact those attitudes usually obtain mediocrity.

  7. Posted by Adam

    Morgan, I completely agree. I have family in Chicago so I have watched its development in weekend long glimpses over the last few years. It is truly amazing and I am surprised it has not received more press than it has. Chicago’s motto is “the city that works” and they seem to try really hard to live up to this. I know Chicago’s government places much more power in the hands of fewer, but SF really needs to speed up its processes.
    I’m not advocating knocking down Victorians to put up cookie cutter Mission Bay style track-homes, but I think the government needs to do more to market the ideas of growth and development to its citizens. Some compare any development and growth to SF becoming the Manhattan of the west, but I feel this is comparison is quite exaggerated. Anyone that has lived in Manhattan knows there is a huge difference between SF and that island. On the other hand, though, Manhattan is expensive but people actually live there. New housing becomes people’s homes, not their vacation getaways. (Not 100%, but seemingly much more than in SF) People living in SF (not just visiting) is an essential part of maintaining the environment we all enjoy here.

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