THERE are dozens of development applications filed or soon to be filed across the North Shore, ranging from townhouses to multi-family towers, bringing with them perhaps thousands of new residential units if they go to full build out.
But there's no reason to dread, says Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University's city program, so long as local governments stick to the principles that are guiding smart development around the world today.
"Basically, it's mostly all OK - mostly," Price said. (See map of proposed North Shore developments on pages 8 and 9.)
Density, if placed along transit corridors and built with a range of housing options and price points, transportation options, amenities for people living in smaller spaces, commerce within walking distance, a heightened focus on sustainability and strong connections to downtown areas, is the best option for development, Price said.
"Where the world is going is trying to get more out of that value by getting more of a transportation mix, higher densities and more mix of uses, and the good news is it does work," he said. "It is the future. In a way, the future caught up to North Van."
The results of that kind of planning can be found in his neighbourhood, Vancouver's West End, he said. Despite admittedly awful architecture and a controversial beginning, the neighourhood now has the perfect fabric and balance of options and amenities, said Price.
The North Shore's village centres, like Ambleside, Edgemont, Lynn Valley and Central Lonsdale can absorb dense development, as long it comes with the perks that make density work, he said. What doesn't make sense for future growth is density placed in areas accessible only by cars and surrounded by parking lots which are left full of empty vehicles 95 per cent of the time, he said.
But almost every dense development is met with opposition from nearby, and sometimes not-so-nearby, residents, and that is perfectly logical, Price said. New development has little in it for the existing neighbours, or at least that is the perception, and people have a natural self interest in protecting their priorities.
"I'm not denigrating their concern. It's important, in fact, that it happens . . . With any development that occurs, it's likely to have some shadowing effects. There's going to be construction and noise. It's going to add more people with their library cards or taking seats on the busses, so there's not a lot in it for me, and the people it's going to benefit don't live there. They're the people to come," he said, putting himself in the shoes of development opponents. "So you get into a generational perspective, and I think this applies to the damn planet as a whole, to be honest, and it's a much bigger question."
While it may seem to some that developers are running amok, booms never last, Price said, noting almost no highrises went up between 1975 and 1985 in the Lower Mainland, followed by a boom in the late 1980s, a dip and huge losses for developers with the early '90s recession, and growth since then.
Asked if the cooling condo sales today foreshadow a lull to come, Price is plain: "I would certainly think so. It's nuts," he said with a laugh.