That big blob in the centre of this image is now a mass of big box stores built in Burnaby
We often think that in 2010, most of our local politicians are fairly enlightened when it comes to the environment. It's assumed in many quarters they won't promote policies supporting increased carbon emissions when planning the future of our cities. That's why a story in the Vancouver Sun today really caught my attention. The headline reads "Country living, city life". It's all about a new residential development underway in Burnaby's Big Bend neighbourhood (see photo above).
If you're not familiar with the Big Bend area, not long ago it housed little more than a lush verdant landscape, some berry farms and the occasional bald eagle. Within the last few years, Mayor Derek Corrigan and his council have approved a massive amount of new development - mostly big box car dependent stores. The green space that once occupied this area has been torn down in favour of massive paved parking lots and retail.
Over the last few weeks, city crews continue their never-ending work to widen sections of Marine Way to accommodate the growing number of single-occupant vehicles that now regularly clog the corner of Byrne Road and Marine. The whole area simply looks and feels ugly. That is unless you love that suburban big box store feel in the middle of a bunch of agricultural land.
Now comes a new residential development which one could argue was inevitable given Council's penchant for slapping in just about anything they can into this neighbourhood. Unlike Vancouver, which up until a while ago was moving toward making density its main policy tool to lower its carbon footprint), Burnaby appears to be going in the opposite direction. Case in point, here is a quote from the Vancouver Sun's story:
The first phase is scheduled to be ready for occupancy by the summer or fall of 2011, with the remaining homes ready over the year after that.
It's the opposite of the trend toward ultra-high density housing seen in so many other urban areas; if you do the math, there's more than 5,500 square feet of parkland per home on the property.
If you didn't know any better, you'd think the story was shouting out saying, "we love the kind of low density and green space that each Shaughnessy home has provided Vancouver residents, and we're going to replicate this out here too."
Just imagine how much farm land we would need to pave over in the Fraser Valley if every development was built with 5,500 square feet of green space per dwelling. Before long, every piece of land from Stanley Park to Hope would be covered in car-dependent low rise single family developments, freeways and big box stores. Very hard to imagine how that would help us to become the "greenest city in the world" or one of the most sustainable regions on the planet.
I would have thought the days of these types of low-density developments, particularly close to the urban core, would have gone the way of the Dodo bird. Rather, Mayor Corrigan and his council are touting this as the future of Burnaby. Quite disappointing.
I don't blame the 96 people who will be able to purchase their low density home on this 12 acre parcel of land. I don't even blame the developers for promoting this type of development. Nope, it's the leadership at City Council that should be held accountable for building these kinds of neighbourhoods in the first place.
Yes the calendar says we're in the year 2010. However, that clearly doesn't mean everyone understands that poor planning decisions today can have massive ramifications on our environment in the years to come.
- Post by Daniel