You Can't Be Against Dense, Urban Development and Consider Yourself an Environmentalist

Comments

1
Hear, hear.

It's still commonly believed that being "green" involves some sort of ultra-high-tech small standalone house, with expensive solar and water-treatment systems. But of course standalone houses use far more energy and require far more extensive support systems (sewer, roads, etc.) than in-city apartments, even crappy ones.

And they are fundamentally the product of a "me" mindset, not a "we" one. One eco house is meaningless in the face of 6 billion people. Any so-called solution that doesn't address the needs of MANY people is instead part of the problem.

An obvious aspect of density that is somehow often overlooked is that if you crowd people into cities, you free up more space outside them for parkland and wilderness. The alternative isn't "no houses"; it's endless suburbs. There are suburbs all the way to Darrington on 530 now, built or in the works.
2
It seems like increasing density makes city housing too expensive.
3
If anyone wants to buy the front yard of Chez Vel-DuRay, it is for sale for $400k. Of course, it's a 75 degree slope, and would probably cost about a million in engineering and excavation before you could start actual construction but that's a small price to pay to live in the fashionable Beacon Ridge neighborhood. Plus, you'd have me looking down on you all the time. Wouldn't that be fun?
4
Oh god. I fled the suburban sprawl of Orange County for downtown San Diego and have just been endlessly impressed with the difference. Sure, I'd like to have a little more of greenery visible outside my windows -- but Balboa Park (which is f'in impressive) is just few blocks away... My dog has got more enjoyable and fun walking in since I moved than she ever did in the burbs...
5
This is just what Mr. Canuck does, builds models to show how cities should be growing. We do such a bad job of building "up" rather than "out" in Calgary, mainly because we can just keep sucking up surrounding ranchland for endless single family subdivision homes. In fact, when he gives presentations, there's a big picture of me and one of our kids walking down our long country driveway, under the heading "part of the problem." Anyone who lives in a McMansion, or on an acreage, no matter how eco-friendly, is part of the problem. We should be living in walkable cities, and reserving natural spaces for people to enjoy, not to live in.
6
Good post. If you drive a Prius but oppose TOD in lite rail neighborhoods you are doing it wrong. I actually look forward to $15 gallon gas. The suburbs will wither and die and green living patterns will be reestablished.

@2 How so?
7
PS Not to start a whole new debate, but when I was growing up (born in 64) our neighbourhood had all the little shops we needed to get by until the once weekly big grocery shop. We got in the car exactly once a week. We walked everywhere, or took the T if we were going further. And I remember only two overweight kids from grade school to high school, of of whom got driven everywhere by an overprotective mom.
8
@6 actually probably by looking at NYC and Hong Kong. Problem there is there's no more development possible for geographical reasons. There has to also be consideration of job distribution and other attractive factors. But Dan's general point is correct. You can be far more efficient with everything from transportation to energy usage to product distribution in an urban environment.
9
@2: The reason you get that impression is because zoning for single-family homes is so ubiquitous. That drives up land prices for any area which is zoned for higher density, which drives up your rent if you're trying to find a place in a dense area. It's artificial scarcity, driven by restrictive zoning.
10
@7 I grew up in the 80's and had the same thing; a great main drag with everything we needed. Then came Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Office Max, etc.

The birth of the box store was the death of the main street. Maybe this development also plays a roll in the fattening of America.
11
Canuck, The town i grew up in back in Iowa has the downtown in a valley, and housing in the surrounding hills. Most of that housing is large, long-on-charm, high-quality Victorian, having been built by doctors, lawyers and merchants, who built there to be close to the hospitals, stores, courthouse, etc.

The downtown is dead, but the hospitals and courthouse are still there. Yet most well-to-do people choose to build huge homes on acreages out east of town on former farmland, which is windswept, (lots of wind generation there, btw) and has no trees, making heating and cooling expensive.

It makes no sense to me. The old houses are on sewer lines, have reliable utility service, and are designed to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. If there's a blizzard, you can get out of the house easily, instead of being stuck out in the country. But that, for some reason, is the style.

They do the same thing across the river in Omaha, but there they are fleeing the minorities and staying near the fine dining eastablishments like Applebees and Cracker Barrel. I don't know what Council Bluffs' excuse is.
12
@9,
Seems like this is one of those 'way it oughta be vs. way it really is' issues. Re-design zoning laws, reduce or eliminate government oil subsidies and urban housing wouldn't look so expensive.
13
Portland went pretty aggressive with anti-sprawl policy but it has just forced poorer folks further and further east away from the density.
14
Tour around most of Seattle's single-family neighborhoods and you will find them, for the most part, full of substantial houses, many of which have been improved at great expense.

We can regret all we want about how 70 percent of Seattle's land area is zoned single-family, but that's our history and it's not going to change very much. There are some ragged edges of some of these single-family neighborhoods that can and should be zoned higher, but the great bulk of these neighborhoods 50 years from now are going to look very much like they do today.

The challenge to accommodate more population in Seattle is to do more creative zoning in the non-single-family areas. If all those areas were built out to their potential, we could probably double the population of the city.

There is simply no good reason to go to war with single-family neighborhoods in the name of environmentalism or anything else. Those neighborhoods can contribute by absorbing more Accessory Dwelling Units and Detached Accessory Dwelling Units, both of which are legal in those areas.
15

The city is obsolete.
16
I have no explanation, Catalina, it's a mystery to me, too. That's one of the rare pleasures (for me) of driving through parts of the US, seeing those incredible old towns with their stately old homes and historic downtown buildings. It's the same here in Calgary, there are these sweet older homes downtown that are moldering away, while beige cookie-cutter subdivisions flourish outside of town. No shops, no schools, they will fail utterly at some point when gas prices rise, but for now, I suppose they give people the chance to show off their granite countertops and 3 story foyers. I eagerly await the day that my quarter century of enforced country living (ah, who invented compromise within marriage, anyway?) will be up, and I can agitate for a move back to the city.
17
I'm missing something - how does scrapping single-family housing make urban living more attractive to families?

I love Manhattan and San Francisco as much as anyone, but living/visiting these places with kids in tow is exhausting and kind of a drag. I know a plenty of people who started families in SF and NYC, and every one of them eventually moved away because the quality of life sucked for both the kids and parents - cramped apartments, busy streets, shitty public schools, lack of green space, and a social scene that is primarily for adults.

If you want to draw families into Seattle, you need to protect single-family housing, not sell it off to condo developers.
18
you hipsters are so cute. Lynnwood till I die bitches.
19
It's not just scarcity and price that keep families out of the city. You're going to have to change a lot more than zoning regulations. The quality of schools issue along is HUGE - I know people with infants who are already contemplating which suburb to move to for that reason. Not everyone can afford private schooling, Dan.
20
*alone
21
@17, it's only "scrapping single family housing" if you believe that a multi-story condo can't house a family for some reason. I think what needs to happen is a change in peoples perception of multi-story buildings as only suitable for single people and childless couples. A 6 story condo with two bedrooms and a park and school nearby will do just as well.

I recently moved to one of those "awful" condos in Ballard, it's the only way I could have afforded to live in that neighborhood, and yet I often hear how awful the place I chose to live is for the community.

I'm glad to see that not everyone sees it that way, Dan.
22
@19: I understand the school issue but denser neighborhoods also go a long way to alleviate bussing costs and promote a closer relationship between schools and the communities they are in.
23
Schools are often funded by property taxes. When urban blight hits, property values fall, and thus tax revenues that fund the schools.

When urban property values increase, funding to the schools increases as well. And when you have more people who actually care about their children's education living in an area, the quality of the education kids get there rises - people pay attention and actually cast a vote for the school board members (where your vote actually counts).

My daughter went to city schools. She was a racial minority (white), and one of the few kids who actually paid for her lunches. In spite of this, she is now a TA teaching college students biology, making the Dean's list for her classes, and a very responsible citizen. She plans to go back to an inner city high school to teach when she graduates. Being an inner city school kid taught her so much about getting along with people who are different than she is, and about the world in general - an education she would not have been able to get otherwise.

What is needed in cities is mixed housing - single family homes, as well as condos and apartments. The single family homes will be expensive, and the condos and apartments more reasonable.
25
I can and i do, Dan. So go fuck yourself.
26
@21: Given the choice between a) a cramped 2-bedroom condo with shared walls and b) a 4 bedroom house with a yard and quiet streets, most families prefer the latter. If you ever have kids, you'll understand.

In Seattle, you can find option b) in one of the most centrally located, urban neighborhoods in Seattle, which is where I live (less than a block away from Dan, as it turns out). If you replaced all of the houses in my neighborhood with condos, I'd move somewhere else. Pretty sure Dan and every other family in the neighborhood would, too. That doesn't help cause.

Drawing people out of the suburbs and into the city - i.e., promoting density - means a city should have a mix of single- and multi-family options. As fabulous as NYC and SF are, they should not be held up as the only model of urban living.
27
And once again, Doorknob Danny ties himself up into knots trying to justify the fact that he is a grown man who can't drive a fucking car.
28
@26, That's a false choice, since the price of a 2 bedroom condo is much less than that of a 4 bedroom house in the same neighborhood, generally. In my own case, it would have cost me 100s of thousands of dollars more to purchase a house of the same size, perhaps with a yard as bonus.

Also, this isn't a choice of one or the other. This is a choice of whether to promote the existence of denser living structures over less dense ones, going forward. Single family homes won't just disappear over night.
29
Two things: One, it's possible and even wonderful to raise kids in a city. Downtown Philly has tons of kids and as #23 said if parents live in an area they are likely to care about the quality of the schools in that area. It's short-sighted and wrong to just say the "If you had kids you'd understand wanting to live in the suburbs." preference applies to everyone.

2: My only quibble with the long quote is this: that we need to build new housing to make up for depreciation of OLD housing. To use the enviro-term, existing buildings contain a huge amount of embodied energy. Renovating old houses is far less consuming of resources than is building ANY new product, regardless of density/access to transit etc. of the new build. Many, many close-in city neighborhoods already have those green-positive aspects of transit, walkability, commercial/residential mix - they just need to be rehabbed.
30
"zoning regulations that ... make in-city homes ... expensive"

In-city housing isn't any more expensive than suburban housing (at least in Seattle). And, the main factor driving up housing prices isn't lack of supply, it's greedy banks lending way too much money to greedy, delusional, and financially ignorant people. That bubble has burst, and the situation is correcting itself in a big way, as Zillow constantly reminds me.

If anything, the problem is that demand for suburban housing is still larger than demand for urban housing, at least among families. Removing single-family housing from the city only makes the problem worse.

Anyway, I agree with the goal here - promote urban living - just disagree on the tactics.
31
It's an interesting problem, and I agree with those who say it's not a question of one thing or another. Increased density isn't just for urban areas - it's for existing suburbs as well.

I live in Richmond BC, a suburb of Vancouver that was first really developed in the fifties and sixties on existing farmland. Apart from a few old farm houses, most of the original housing stock was standard mid-20th century sprawl housing - detached homes on large lots.

Over the past ten years, this housing stock has increasingly been replaced by in-fill townhouse and condo development, along with smaller, more closely packed single-family homes. Where I live, there were once three homes. Three years ago they were torn down, the lots were joined and then subdivided, and there are now eleven houses. Most of them have at least one suite inside, so there are probably twenty different households now where there used to be three.

All on existing water and sewer lines, with existing road and transit infrastructure, schools, shops, etc. And I have a lawn that I can mow in five minutes.

Even with the development done to date, I would guess Richmond could easily house twice as many people as it does now, without breaking new ground anywhere.

Density: It isn't just for downtown.
32
@28 In many metropolitan areas, if you go far enough outside of the city, like 40 or 50 miles, you can get the 4 bedroom house in the middle of nearly nothing, for the price of the two bedroom condo in the city.
33
To all you people complaining about how dense high rises aren't good for families: perhaps you should maybe sacrifice SOMETHING for the environment. Eventually, we're not going to be in the position to choose more sustainable living. We'll be forced to through circumstance. Maybe life isn't always about YOUR pleasure, convenience and happiness. God forbid any American sacrifice anything to make the world better for everyone.
34
Density does not equal affordability. We need to maximize density AND affordability by incentivizing or requiring affordability in any new development in Seattle.

@2 You're right. Portland made the mistake of giving away building height in the name of anti-sprawl environmentalism but sacrificed affordability in doing so.

@ 9 You're also right. We also need to increase supply of developable land by chipping away at the single family zoning which has become a political third rail here. Thank God for Sally Clark for her willingness to take on some of these tough issues but I wish she would be a little bolder.

@30 Take a look at the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index of our area and you'll see that the combined cost is more expensive outside of Seattle. That is not family friendly.

http://htaindex.cnt.org/mapping_tool.php…
35
"You Can't Be Against Dense, Urban Development and Consider Yourself an Environmentalist"

Sure you can, if you also support drastic population control. I agree with the points if we take it as a given that the population will continue to expand. On the other hand, an anti-urban-development policy is perfectly consistent with an environmental ideology if one also supports measures to rapidly reduce the human population to less than 1 billion. Those measures have features that an overwhelming majority of people would consider objectionable: given the fact that most people do not voluntarily decide to not procreate, or even to procreate only to the extent that they replace themselves, this would require a massive forced-sterilization and/or -execution program. This isn't going to happen, but the theoretical possibility allows for one to maintain an internally-consistent ideological framework that's both anti-urban-development and pro-environment. Now, I think you could say, "You Can't Be Against Dense, Urban Development and Consider Yourself an Environmentalist, Unless You're Also In Favor of Widespread Homicide On a Scale That Would Make the Holocaust Look Like a Paper Cut".

If development SOMEWHERE is truly inevitable, I agree with Glaeser, though the perspective that this will have a significant impact on environmental degradation is like the rest of the "green" initiatives undertaken from the standpoint that we can somehow support industrial/post-industrial standards of material wealth for all 6.8 billion people: patently absurd. Industrial production for this many people is not sustainable, and we cannot support the survival of this many people without industrial production, which means eventually a whole lot of people (well, a lot more than do now) are going to die from starvation, dehydration, exposure, and at the hands of other people who are trying to avoid those fates themselves (barring the deus ex machina solution of a clean, unlimited, and ubiquitous energy source that way too many people seem to think is just around the corner).

I'm not necessarily convinced that we need to treat continued "development"/expansion as inevitable, but I also see no reason to suspect that a focus on urban density instead of sub/urban sprawl is a bad thing. Ultimately, it's still shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, though. We're going to hit a new, lower population equilibrium at some point; it's really just a question of when and how the transition is going to occur. Odds don't look good for the least-bad option.
36
@32, again, that's a false choice as the conversation here is obviously about whether to continue to support single living families in dense cities or to support the building of more dense housing structures in those same locations.

A condo in the city is going to be cheaper, by size, than a house in the same neighborhood, most of the time. The use of that vertical space; the benefit of that density, is better economic and environmental value.
37
When a friend from Pittsburgh came to visit me in Wallingford, she asked me, "Is this considered part of Seattle?" She thought it might have been a suburb, and I couldn't blame her.
38
So I take it Dan's going to be moving his family to a two-bedroom condo any day now.
39
Seattle does have a huge inventory of single-family homes, many of which are charming and work quite well for urban living. I'm all in favor of density, but we don't have to start a war on single-family neighborhoods to make it happen.

As someone already said, proper development of the existing non-single family home neighborhoods could double the residential population of the city. On top of that, we should rezone around transit stations and major roadways (such as Lake City Way) and arterials if they aren't already non-single family in character approve upzones for abandoned or undeveloped lots to encourage existing property owners to develop something better for the neighborhood or sell to someone who will.

The thing is, I don't actually see a lot of destruction of single-family homes in the city. I think that fear is there but if anything we do too much to prevent good development and increased density. Maybe the key is to engage single-family neighborhoods in the benefits of dense development of adjacent arterials and retail corridors to concentrate development away from their homes but close enough to improve the lives of people in single-family homes. The preservation (and improvement) of their neighborhoods is wholly consistent with increased density.
40
@26 I thought Dan lived on that island outside of Seattle, is that considered urban Seattle? I kind of assumed it was what Cape Cod is to Boston...but with more dreadlocks...
41
I have a kid, I live in Seattle, I wouldn't have it any other way. My "cramped" apartment fits me and my kid and our bikes, I don't really see the need for any more space. I guess if I had an extra kid maybe I would want some more space. My upstairs neighbors have three kids and only one more bedroom, and it does seem a little cramped up there. I make a little over $20,000 a year. My ex lives with roommates in a big old house which now houses four single grownups and a half-time kid, plus some dogs. I guess it's technically a single-family home, but it's urban living.

I grew up in the country, not the 'burbs. I had lots of space to roam, which was nice, but nothing but rednecks for company and nothing to do except wander around the woods. Once the teen years hit, that gets old fast. Until you could drive a car, you were trapped within biking distance of your house, and most of my friends lived more than 10 miles away with at least a thousand feet of elevation change.

It costs more to live in the country or 'burbs because your car is your life. Once you ditch the car, the city is very affordable. Everyone complains about the bus, but then everyone complains about traffic when they're driving too.

So anyway, unless you're a farmer you ought to live walking distance from a grocery store.
42
Portland housing has always been expensive. Gentrification causes the poorer folks to move.
43
You can be an anti-density enviro if you're a ZPG advocate.

You can also be an anti-density enviro if you think we don't need 2400 sq ft of house per person, but should have native plants and a nice 600 sq ft house instead.

There are OPTIONS.

One shoe does not fit all.
44
Oh, and your major impact is was and always will be ... your car.

If you commute 2 hours to/from work, half of your impact is from that.

Either move closer to work or bike/walk to work or use transit.

These are all options. Being vegan has far far less impact than your choices in housing and travel.
45
Canuck, Dan and Terry lived on a nearby island many years ago. Now they've got a nice big 1904 million-dollar house on one of the loveliest, leafiest single-family zoned streets of Capitol Hill, bless them.
46
Thank you, gus! (I was thinking maybe "urban" meant something else there...) You know, reading this blog is a bit like reading the Globe & Mail, I'll see an ad for some amazing show, and think "Yes!" and then the fine print says "Toronto." Sheesh, book nights, dirty librarian drinks, Megan's cupcakes, "The 25 best places for Pho!"...you Seattlites (is that what you are? Seattlards? Seattlettes?) have a pretty cool sounding town. Hmph.
47
Canuck, it is a cool town. The area Dan lives in especially. It's quiet and hushed yet super close by bus bike or stroll to everything bustling and dirty librarians. As a young boy my family home was not too far away, back when "white flight" to the suburbs left the neighborhood full of working-class families like mine, hippie communes, and a sprinkling of vanguard gays - I'd move back there in a heartbeat if I could only afford it.
48
from a fan and an urban planner, THANK YOU! yes, we need to accommodate more people in smarter ways in smaller spaces, or else we're screwed.
49
Really, that's the best of both worlds, gus. An old house with character, a walk away from all the fun stuff. But you're right, outpriced for most of us mortals...same thing in my beloved old Cambridge...

and apropos of nothing (well, procrastinating real work while surfing YouTube, to be exact), here is a sweet video interlude for your afternoon:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dysG12QCd…
50
@49, that is completely delightful. Cosmo Jarvis, huh? Yo-ho, Sebastian...he's adorable.
51
Anyone who thinks raising kids in dense housing is a good idea needs to spend some time living underneath a family with kids. Hard to sleep with those heavy-footed toddlers banging around and throwing things from 6 am to midnight every day. I don't know where they get the energy. :P

52
@51- I live under a family with three kids. It's cool. Better than 20 year olds, at least.
53
Why is the conversation always small condos versus large homes? Large old homes subdivided into spacious condos work really, really well and are popping up all over my fair (height-restricted, historic preservation obsessed) city of DC. In some of the hippest parts of the city, you can find numerous three- and four-story victorians that are now 2-3 condo buildings. When a 4-story becomes 2 units, you usually see 2-3 beds per unit, and they put the lower unit's bedrooms on the lower floor and the upper unit's on the upper floor, so everyone can sleep in peace despite the other residents' schedules. What is sacrificed are massive baths with garden tubs, room for an 8-seat dining table for a family of 4 (why in the first place?), and walk-in closets.

I never quite understood why all that was necessary in the first place. I have lots of closets because my hallway is narrower than most (lined w/closets), my understair area has been converted to a closet (as opposed to just closed off), and my standard closets were well-designed with under-$100 closet systems to maximize their capacity. I have an extra-deep jacuzzi tub that is made workable through careful engineering (the bottom is lower than the floor, so I can get in it w/o needing a space-hogging step). All this in under 700 comfortable square feet. Of course, prioritizing is important...my living area is huge while the bedrooms are *just* large enough for the basics (bed - queen in the master, twin in the second...I actually have a small sleeper and desk in the second for guest room/office - dresser, nightstands). I always lived in small homes, and was always amazed when I would go to friends' homes and they had anything larger than a twin bed as a child/teen. Let's ask ourselves: do our children really need a queen bed? Are we willing to destroy the planet and our finances so they can have that bit of luxury? Do we need more space for crap, or could we cut down to what we really need for basic comfort? Is it really such an inconvenience to keep the towels 5 feet from the bathroom in a closet installed in what would have been wasted space instead of adding dead space for a closet or cabinet in a room we really spend very little time in? Small changes in our living habits can make urban living quite convenient and comfortable.
54
2200 sq ft with 1.63 acres of forest...tell me where i'm gonna find that in the city? it makes the drive worth it for me. you guys can have your pollution, crime, noise, etc. i'll take the quiet of the 'burbs.
55
Someday we're going to have to scrap Seattle's ridiculously anti-green zoning regulations (70% of the city is zoned for single-family housing)—zoning regulations that create sprawl, make in-city homes scarce and expensive, and push families out of city and into their cars.

I realize that for most people their opposition to non-single-family zoning is likely based on more than aesthetics but that would be my main objection. I'd welcome attractive, nicely-designed multiple-unit buildings in my neighborhood but the problem is that the vast majority of apartment buildings and condos in Seattle are hideous.
56
As a resident of the SF Bay Area, I find the idea that we have "great public transportation" laughable. We have public transit which ranges from "decent" to "utterly useless"--I wouldn't call any of it "great."
57
@56: All things are relative. MUNI is shit if you just moved from New York. But SF seems like Paris when compared to the übershit that passes for transit in Seattle.

58
You know, Dan, there is one thing more environmentally hostile than opposing all dense development: building a ton of high-density development while your city's transit system remains a worthless dungheap.

Which is exactly what happened during Seattle's last building boom.

The result is a more densely-populated city where everyone still drives, pouring thousands of extra cars onto streets of pre-existing capacity and creating carbon-spewing gridlock. Gridlock that makes the existing transit worse than it already was! And if any of the new high-density residents do choose the bus, the additional ridership (filtered through Metro's one-door, slow-ass-cash-payment-favoring, and other asinine operational policies) slows it down even further.

You can't argue that density will work without insisting that Metro clean up its act -- no, the smoke-and-mirrors RapidRide for which we've taxed ourselves since 2006 won't make a dent -- and that the city and county work out their transit funding priorities, and that Olympia stop politically dicking around with the mobility interests of the state's major economic engine.

59
Somebody earlier had it right: No need to change the zoning all that much; just take full advantage of the pockets of retail/multi-use zoning that exists in most of Seattle's single-family neighborhoods already. Places like the retail strip in Ravenna around 25th and 65th, or the spot on upper Fremont between the old Buckaroo and 46th. Or that little pocket in Tangletown. Or the one down on 19th and Aloha near Vios. Or a dozen other places around the city that are currently underutilized.
60
...something like 20% of Seattle surface is taken up by parking lots and parking spaces.

Just build on top of those, not all of them of course, but Seattle has a glut of infill to build on compared to other cities. You don't have to declare war on single family homes just yet.

Besides, in my experience, most family neighborhoods in Seattle are remarkably walkable. Not San Fran walkable, but doable.
61
@54- I grew up on 100 acres of woods. 1.6 acres bullshit, I'd rather have zero acres and a walk to the grocery store.
62
Interesting input, Backyard Bombardier @31 -- the guy from Richmond, BC. I just spent the weekend in Richmond and wondered about its development history. I suspect the rezoning of the post-war single-family neighborhoods occurred back in the 60's or 70's, latest. Back before the SF houses became too expensive to tear down -- the situation today in Seattle.

I could quibble about design standards in Richmond (apparently none) and a few other things, but it's clearly a vibrant place, and the number and variety of restaurants and other eateries boggles the imagination. You could live there for years, eat out at different places 3 times a day, and still not hit them all -- and the area I'm speaking about is all within walking distance of 3rd Road, the route of the Canada Line that zips you right into downtown Vancouver.
63
@57 I am jealous of Seattle's transit, here in the northern suburbs of Columbus, Ohio.

(god i miss New York...)
64
@56: It is an odd phenomenon that people in a city with mass transit always think their city's mass transit is horrible, while people who live in any other part of the world think it's great. I've seen this with Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York...
65
@61 Dwight: Agree! Walking distance to a grocery, pub, park and restaurants + no lawn care = priceless. We live on 8 acres next to a Provincial Natural Area, and it's nice and quiet, and we have to get into a car to do ANYTHING...nature's great, except for when you can't leave it without $10 worth of gas every trip...can't wait to move back to the city.
66
@62: Thanks. I agree with you on the design standard - my house is many things, but "pretty" isn't one of them. I also think that one factor affecting the redevelopment here is that the original housing stock is mostly cookie-cutter 50s-60s suburb style - nothing that could be considered "heritage". No one will miss it when it is gone.

Richmond will never be an architectural mecca (though the new skating Oval they built for the Olympics is pretty nice) but in terms of bridging the gap between single-family-on-an-acre sprawl and forty-story-condo-tower densification, it seems to be working.
67
I'm green and all it took was a few gallons of lead paint. Most of my money goes to the beautiful granite in Edmonton.