March 22, 2022
By Carol Volkart
Imagine a city so crime-ridden that the vulnerable are afraid to go outside, where break-ins are so common that homes can no longer be insured, where companies send their workers to the suburbs because downtown is too dangerous. A city where infrastructure is so badly neglected that public buildings are falling down and crumbling pavement is never repaired. A city of dying neighbourhoods because all the attention goes to mega-projects. A city of rampant speculation, where towers of luxury housing replace comfortable homes people could afford, but fails to attract the high-paid, high-tech workforce they were built for. A city where the best choice for those who have the means is to flee.
That’s author and architect Brian Palmquist’s fictional-but-based-on-facts projection of what could happen to Vancouver by 2030 if it continues on its current trajectory. In the first of a two-part series published on Substack and CityHallWatch, he paints a chilling scenario of the eventual outcome if the current council, or one like it, is elected this fall.
But a different kind of Vancouver could emerge if voters decide they want a change, Palmquist writes in a second article. Neighbourhoods could blossom with small-scale additional housing - duplexes, secondary suites, laneway houses and other kinds of infill - if the city encouraged it by cutting fees, permits and waiting times. New housing would be built in the many areas already zoned for it; spot rezonings would be a thing of the past. Dying neighbourhoods would revive with the added population, and small businesses could survive.
Key to all this would be Neighbourhood Planning Offices located throughout the city, where residents would collaborate with city staff on how their neighbourhoods would accommodate the new housing that would be distributed fairly throughout Vancouver. Everyone would have clear data on how much of what kind of new housing each area was expected to incorporate, and how much could already be built under existing zoning. None of that information is available now.
In such a city, Palmquist writes, people would be able to develop their lots to provide housing for family and other tenants, and stay to enjoy their familiar neighbourhoods and friends instead of relocating in despair.
Palmquist says his dystopian version of the future “summarizes many of the bad choices we have already or might still make as they affect Vancouver’s livability,” and he hopes it’s not too late to make the necessary changes. “Reality will likely be somewhere between the two,” he writes.
Palmquist, a member of TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, has for the past year been digging into civic issues affecting the city’s livability and writing about them in a series of “City Conversations” published on Substack and CityHallWatch. While many of his findings are congruent with the civic party’s policies, he writes them independently based on his own research and 40-plus years of expertise in urban development.
But he often concludes his articles with the dire warning that the current council can still do “lots of damage” to the city before the October 15 election “and it will continue, and worsen, unless TEAM for a Livable Vancouver elects a majority (6 of 10) of City Councillors – less than 6 and not much will change.” He then urges readers with similar concerns to join TEAM “and work with us to restore Vancouver as a place we can all afford to call home.”
In the introduction to his latest article, he puts it starkly: “The forthcoming election in October will be our last collective chance to make many of the choices that will determine Vancouver’s future for the next generation.”