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Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

The trouble with Marpole

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Marpole is the news these days (see here and here), joining Cedar Cottage and Grandview as neighbourhoods that claim that consultation has been poor and that the proposed rezoning sucks.

I have a certain sympathy for Grandview and Cedar Cottage.  These are neighbourhoods that have an established character, neighbourhoods that “work”, to use the expression of one of the participant at a community meeting.  But even then, these groups do not oppose densification as such.

But Marpole?  I briefly lived there when I first moved to Vancouver.  It struck me as a blend of non-descript low-rise appartment blocks in the South, and 60’s style soulless bungalows otherwise.

Apparently the bungalow owners are resisting change.  They live in sprawling ranchers on 50 foot wide lot, in a neighbourhood that reminds me of “back-to-the-future” Americana.  I find it hard to develop much sympathy.  It’s, at best, a fear of the new and, at worse, an example of selfish NIMBYism by folks who are doing just fine, thank you.

And the rezoning proposal is intended to spur the construction of townhouses and rowhouses, not towers in the middle of nowhere.  That is precisely what is needed to increase the housing stock while preserving a liveable character.

Some fancy rowhouses along the bike path.Not bad, if it's the future Marpole.

Some fancy rowhouses along the bike path.Not bad, if it’s the future of Marpole.

I’ll grant a point to resident Mike Burdick: “Do the transit routes first, then take a breath and see if we need to do more.”  Sure enough, there is a crying need to upgrade transit, in Marpole as well as everywhere in the Lower Mainland.  But this is a nice cop-out: if transit is beefed up before densification, it will be too costly; so waiting for transit to magically materialize first before densifying is the same as opposing development, period.

The other thing that strikes me in all these protests is the fear that if rezoning takes place, density will double overnight.  Take a deep breath, people.  It happens progressively, so much so that changes may not even be noticeable, as in the case of laneway houses.  Tall towers happen quickly, once a project is approved; but townhouses and rowhouses rely on slow house sales in order to proceed in single family houses neighbourhood.

I went for a ride along the Heather street bike path.  I saw many of the same old ranchers that I’d remembered, but also some new houses.  I almost fell off my bike laughing when I saw what I’ll call the Monster of Marpole: an astounding fantasy of brassy showiness and bad taste.  And that’s the Marpole that these folks ask me to support?   Uh, I’ll pass.

The Monster of Marpole

The Monster of Marpole

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Written by enviropaul

August 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm

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