The new Kwench co-working space on Store Street recently hosted a panel discussion on urban design in the age of sustainability.
Moderated by Lisa Helps, the panel featured Luke Mari of Aryze, Christine Culham of the Capital Regional Housing Corporation, North Vancouver Coun. Mathew Bond, Jayne Bradbury, co-owner of Fort Properties, and principal architect Erica Sangster of D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism.
The panel discussion was followed by a keynote talk from Chuck Marohn, founder of the Strong Towns movement, who gave his Strong Towns Curbside Chat presentation. It’s a description of how we, as a North American society, got to where we are today in terms of our development pattern and how that affects the financial wealth of our places.
Over the course of his presentation, Chuck talks about infrastructure and what it costs per foot of street, including what is under the street. He asks us, the next time we are taking a walk around our neighbourhood, to count as we take steps.
Our infrastructure can cost $5,000 per average step, and if you start counting as you walk, that’s $5,000, $10,000, and quickly becomes $150,000, etc. As we are doing that, ask: Is the new development that I see on either side of the street paying for what I am walking on over the course of its expected lifespan? Most likely not. In fact, this is a subject that Oak Bay has breached in the spring when it hiked tax rates by almost 7.5 per cent.
Especially think about this when it comes to cars and parking. We as a society think we are paying what it costs to drive and park, through property taxes and gas taxes, but in actuality, we don’t.
Never mind counting things that we are not asked to pay for as part of our driving trip. Such costs are climate change, air pollution and hospital costs for the 100,000 or so Canadians that are killed or injured by automobiles every year.
Here in Victoria, there is an organization called Island Transformations Organization (ITO) and it is trying to change the conversation on parking. In addition to the negatives autos cause to our society, the parking that municipalities force every development to provide cause housing prices (and the cost of everything related) to be higher than they need to be.
Island Transformations is recommending that municipalities abolish parking minimums, impose parking maximums and charge developers who build close to the maximum amount of parking. Dedicate those funds to walking, cycling and public transportation.
This very model is already underway in Mexico City, where the cost of parking spots is already recognized.
Island Transformations Organization