Vancouver's Leader in Transition toward Strong, Resilient, Complete Communities
Hello VV folks,
I am submitting an entry to the City of Vancouver ideas competition (reCONNECT) regarding the False Creek Flats this Friday. I want to make sure that as many Transition ideas get represented as possible, so I'm asking all of you to shout out your ideas:
I've put this into our VV categories, because I know there's something every group could add to this competition. I will attribute everyone whose ideas I incorporate. It's unfortunate that the city is being so hasty in this competition, but please do not use this discussion as a place to complain about politics.
PS: Feel free to submit your own entry to the competition, if you prefer.
I know a number of people from NE False Creek and the Mt Pleasant Residents Association are submitting ideas for "the Flats" or "eastern core." Many are doing this despite the flood of residential towers now washing up on the blocks behind and to the south of Science World, towers that are a monument to unsustainable and unaffordable design, industrial land encroachment, and soon to be the core of urban blight.
A permaculturist would argue for a return of this area to its vital historical and ecological service as a wetland and catchment basin for the False Creek Watershed. Once teaming with salmon in streams coming in from all directions, this wetland is what kept False Creek a clean and immensely productive food resource for thousands of people for thousands of years.
Try to imagine the daylighting of several streams, such as the still voluminous China and Brewery Creeks, using their resurfaced water courses first as a means to cleanse this historically polluted area. (Yes, many current polluted soils regulations will have to be reinterpreted to allow for natural bio-remediation techniques.) Slowly bringing back surface water flows into False Creek will not only clean this current toxic stew, but also bring back people, with ideas, businesses, and families, a new complete community.
Urban blight is a creature of horrible city planning and the allowance or encouragement of industrial waste generation and reckless disposal options. Urban renewal must begin with a clean-up effort, aided by mother nature herself. Under the "build-it-and-they-will-come" theory of place-making, the first step must be the restoration of the "blue-ways" or water flows into and through the area.
And, with the water, every cleaner after every rain storm, life will return: fish, nutritive soils for urban agricultural crops, new businesses taking advantage of urban food production and the rail connections to the ALR for baseload supply and distribution, new tourism (both local and not-so-local) potential of a new green-space in the city, a flood of creatives in the multimedia and arts industry seeking cheaper and greener environs in which to ply their trades, small technology businesses in the computing and biological sciences fields seeking to locate at a rapid transit node between SFU and UBC.
Long depressed real estate values and low taxation in this area are the essential pre-condition for its emergence from blight. Redevelopment must be organized and financed locally, in very small lots, one at a time in order to reign in speculation and excess profiteering. Businesses or people locating or relocating there must be able to secure a financial stake in their space, such as through cooperatives.
And most importantly, no new roads will be built. There are few there now, and there will be even fewer in the future. Transit will be expanded and bike and walking paths will connect people to transit nodes. There will be no centralized trash collection at all, as all organic waste will be sought by the local food producers and producer responsibility codes will force the rest into an endless cycle of recycling.
"Vancouver's sewage composting centre"? Where is this? Or are you just referring to False Creek itself?
The City's haste in "making this happen" will be exactly its downfall, as the most sustainable things on earth, from river canyons to the Pyramids, took many generations to create. Vancouver invariably lurches from the "latest great idea" to the next, with no follow-through, let alone any real thought to anything real.
As for disaster scenarios, the flats are well above Richmond and Delta in altitude above mean sea level. The area is also more protected from ocean storms and river flooding. New construction needs to be "floated" on centrally-tethered monoslabs anyway, due to the lack of rock and clay below, and this form of integral spread foundation under lower-rise buildings is highly resilient to quake damage. The excavation of the stream beds will also provide fill to site these buildings higher. Yes, we should plan on at least a one-metre sea level rise, at least.
I think it's awesome that you're doing this! I'm sorry I just saw it and don't have a lot of time to comment right now, but one thing that I think would be great would be to set up a number of local business "incubator" centres on the site. For example, commercial kitchens that people can use if they want to get started with a food business, wood/metalworking shops, artistic studio space, pop-up stores where these new entrepreneurs could sell their wares, etc. We need to lower as many barriers as possible to the ability of people with a local production idea to realise those ideas.
And let us face it - if Vancouver is serious about becoming the greenest city in the world, anything other than an ambitious plan to transform the Flats into a "green zone" that can be a model for the world would be a massive failure of city policy and would indeed put the whole "Greenest City" initiative in jeopardy.
Although this has little to do with the actual design of the site, I think that we should take a page from the Chinese Special Economic Zones (which were created to allow experimentation in free market economics and encourage foreign investment) and designate the Flats a Special Sustainability Zone. It would be equipped by design with the elements it needs to be sustainable and help the city reach sustainability and resiliency, but it would also operate under a very different tax structure than the rest of the city, namely, enterprises operating in the zone would be taxed for practices that are unsustainable or produce negative externalities on either the city or the environment. For example, businesses would be taxed based on the CO2 emissions attributable to their activities and products, including CO2 emissions attributable to any imported goods or half-fabrication that they use, to their employee commutes, etc. Indeed, they may be taxed based on any reliance at all on non-renewable energy sources or hydro. Similar tax incentives can be put in place to encourage recycling, the payment of living wages to employees, and more. Essentially, businesses in this zone that can achieve the kind of world-leading sustainability that we are looking for could be rewarded with 0 taxes. Preferably we could get the federal and provincial governments on board to cooperate, amplifying the effectiveness of the tax policies..
In terms of design, I think that multi-story industrial zoning is called for, because industrial land is scarce in Vancouver and the same amount of land will need to support many more jobs as our population grows and we find we have to start making stuff for ourselves again. Green roofs would be awesome, and should not only be decorative but part of a serious food-production system: vegetables, bees, chicken, heck why not goats! Some roofs may even feature greenhouses. We should even be thinking of green walls in addition to green roofs, making the Flats a showcase for vertical gardening techniques.
Due to the central location of the Flats, this would be an ideal location for a city-wide waste recycling centre. Not just a depot, but an actual recycling centre where recyclables are made into new materials and products.
In order to foment local economic loops, I think it is important to strategically cluster together enterprises dealing with different stages of the value chain. For example, to promote a local food industry one would want food producers (from the green roofs/walls), food processors, and wholesalers/retailers all together.
This is interesting: I was just reading the Greenest City Action Plan, and it already contains the idea for what it calls "Low Carbon Economic Development Zones", and even suggest that the Flats could be such a zone! I have copied the section of the Plan on these zones below:
Low-Carbon Economic Development Zones
Vancouver should establish a number of Low-Carbon Economic Development Zones, areas designated to serve as magnets for the development of low-carbonbusinesses, technologies, products, and services.These zones would attract investment capital, researchand development funding, grants, and otherfinancial resources for advancing renewable energy,energy efficiency, and other low carbon technologies,materials, practices, and processes. These zones willalso serve as real-world laboratories for the implementation,monitoring, and evaluation of policies intendedto reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As othergovernments create these zones, opportunities forcooperation, knowledge exchange, and partnershipswill proliferate.The opportunities are immense. In 2008, globalfinancing for clean energy surpassed fossil fuels,with an investment of $155 billion.13 The global cleanenergy market is forecast to grow to $350 billion by2020.14 According to the UN Environment Programme,investments in energy efficiency in buildings couldgenerate between two and 3.5 million green jobs inEurope and the US alone in the years ahead.A Low-Carbon Economic Development Zone could belocated in the False Creek Flats, including land zonedfor cradle-to-cradle manufacturing (no toxic elementsand no waste), a multi-million square foot DigitalVillage (the new version of a Science and Technologyindustrial park), the Great Northern Way Campus (focusingon digital media and sustainability), and theDiscovery Parks lands. The zone would be a demonstrationand experimentation place for leading edgegreen building and landscape design and construction,clean transportation, zero waste management,and renewable energy. It would foster relationshipsbetween business, educational institutions, and thepublic sector.A False Creek Flats Low-Carbon Economic DevelopmentZone could also include:
• The proposed Light House Centre of Excellencein Green Building Design;
• The new permanent farmers market and foodprocessing centre proposed by Eat Local, theVancouver association of farmers markets; and,
• A focus on environmental art, through commissionedart work such as at the VCC Skytrainstation, and the Means of Production artistsgarden in China Creek Park.
Coordinating these efforts with the City, the VancouverEconomic Development Commission, and otherpartners could create the synergy for a new model ofsustainable low-carbon development. Toronto’s DiscoveryDistrict—a 2.5 square kilometre research parkin downtown ‘where business and research meet’—offers an interesting model.15 The Discovery Districtis home to MaRS, a non-profit innovation centreconnecting science, technology, and social entrepreneurswith business skills, networks, and capital tostimulate innovation and accelerate the growth andcreation of successful Canadian enterprises.