By samanthaorwell on February 3, 2008 - 12:17am
Read full blog here: http://thevancouvermanifesto.blogspot.com/
I'm really interested in accessible neighbourhoods and well-built neighbourhoods that people just like to be in.
Vancouver has great neighbourhoods which sum up a lot of ideal qualities. Good neighbourhoods are more than just amenity rich (although amenities are a key component). My personal shortlist of key components include (and do not exhaust at):
1) Diverse and competitive amenities: Not only amenity rich, but amenities must be both diverse and competitive. People need access to a range of different shops and services to encourage and ensure you don't have to leave your neighbourhood for anything and so you will multitask in one space. If you have to run many errands in a day and they are in more than two nonadjacent neighbourhoods you afre more likely to use your car. In addition, amenities must be diverse. It is simply not enough to have a huge Walmart and say that there is everything you will ever need in one place. [ok, that was a bit of a slag on Walmart- the same could be said about a Canadian Tire coupled with a Shopper's Drug Mart]. It's a bit lame to have a single consumer warehouse. And it's also not a good idea to have dozens of obscure independent shops. Neighbourhoods need both. I think the ost successful aspect of Kitsilano along Broadway is that you have all those small Asian run grocery stores that keep prices competitive (especially with produce) and then you have a single big grocery like Safeway to get the stuff you simply won't be able to get a tthe smaller stores. It's a nice variety.
Density: Density and availability to amenity rich environments sort of go hand in hand- they do not build housing they cannot service those residents. But density, moreso, brings the plain presence of people. Why do we every go out anymore? really? everything is at the touch of a fingertip at a computer. Anything you could ever want can be delivered to you nowadays. We go out because we like the contact of people. Friends and strangers alike. So, in a very Jane Jacobs sort of way, the extremely dense New York type pedestrian traffic is a vibrancy people love to breathe in.
Open streetscape: I think the best examples of some streetscapes I've seen were in Australia. I imagine Europe would be in first place but I cannot say since I have never been. Autralia did something so smart and it really made both the walking and sitting experience much more enjoyable. In Australia, they place the patio of restaurants and coffee shops on the far side of the sidewalk right against the car traffic (which is separated by a simple unobtrusive fence). This really makes the pedestrian experience uch jore interactive- pedestrians walk in between patio and an open restaurant door. One would think it odd (and inconvenient for servers) but it's such a simple change that makes the world of difference when walking along the street. You're sort of taken in by the restaurants and it feels much like you are part of the consumption experience even though you aren't actually 'in' the retaurant or cafe. Open streetscape doesn't end there though. Availability of street furniture, cafe's and the feel like it is okay to loiter is a really good thing. Vancouver is a bit of a loiter-hating city, which is quite unfortunate. My favourite thing to do on ost days is nothing. Nothing and people watching. And I challenge other people to say that they don't enjoy some good people watching while doing nothing. Nice big sidewalks aren't even a requirement, really. For example, San Francisco, and especially the North Beach neighbourhood has painfully narrow streets- but it their streets do the same thing. Pedestrians are so extremely close to the patios that they are taken in by the experience. It really is quite charming.
Youth and diversity: Now I hope this isn't starting to sound like a Richard Florida book, but honestly, young and diverse people create the bet neighbourhoods (for eg The Drive and South Main). Peopl often say that youth bring in a type of vibrancy and they just plainly have energy. I feel that to be true, but moreso I think they also bring in a feeling of continuity. I think people sort of become divorced from the future, and a feeling for future wellbeing when they are not in th epresence of youth. And I am quite literally now talking about youth as in children and adolescents. There' s such a Children of Men syndrome in places that don't have a real visible presence of youth. People are sort of just in it for themselves and forget about social justice and long-term wellbeing. I think the presence of kids force us to think about our futures and force us to want to do better in our everyday on behalf of a generation that must inherit all the shit we leave them with. It is sort of like when you're on the bus and you forgo your usual swear word because there's a little kid on the bus. I think even in some of the worst people with some of the worst character, in the presene of a child they will restrain some of their bad nature and, to some degree, attempt to set a good example, or at least not an overtly bad one.
An air of nice: How do develop "nice"? Well I have no idea. But I know you have to have it. Vancouver is on the verge of being a bitchy city. People constantly complain about the anti-social behaviour and snobbiness (usualy referring to the women of the city) that occurs in our fair city. Think of it this way. You are in a really packed club. It's a nice club. Music is great, drinks afre cheap, there are a lot of hot people. But everybody is shooting eachother the skunk eye. And nobody is approaching eachother. Here we have the classic Vancouver nightclub. Who wants to be in a place like this? Yes it is amenity rich, yes it is dense, yes there are young hot people- but what does it all matter if nobody is interacting? Now let us change venues. The local Irish pub (which I still contend is the international venue of nice). At the local irish pub people drink unpretentious beers, sit at the common bar or share huge tables and they chat it up while listening to the predictalbe irish tunes. It's good times. Whenever you go to a new city and know nobody, or are travelling- go to an Irish pub. I guarantee that people will drink and be merry no matter what city.
So, back to my main point. There are soo many factors that make up a good place. And not only that, but there is a synergy of place that one cannot quantitatively measure in any way. So when I came across these two websites, I was just very upset with the "score" I got from my nieghbourhood. Below are the websites for a Walkability score for your neighbourhood and a driveability score. It's so erroneous that it hurts. check it out:
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