Farmers and Row Houses

May 8, 2012

Last night was the monthly meeting for the Grandview Woodland Area Council, and as usual we had a good crowd and some interesting discussions.  There were two main speakers:  Roberta LaQuaglia, operations director of Van Farners Markets; and urbanist Lewis Villegas who talked about growth without towers.

Van Farmers’ Market which currently operates five markets in Vancouver is hoping to have a mini version of a market at what is known as Astorino’s parking lot near Commercial & Venables.  The whole block along Venables is now owned by Boffo Developments who are planning to build on the site, hopefully in combination with the Kettle Society.  The car park is actually owned by the City, but Boffo have suggested its use as a Farmers’ Market until development begins.

Ms LaQuaglia explained that because of size issues, the Astorino’s site would only be a market for produce (without the craft stalls and children’s areas at the larger sites), that they would not bring in a baker (so as not to compete with Uprising Bakery), and no road closures would be needed.  They are aiming for a three hour market on Sundays.

They are in discussions with the City who, it seems, is dragging its feet, and the hoped-for July start seems doubtful. GWAC approved writing a letter to the City in support of the application.  I’ll be writing too and I encourage everyone to contact the Council and get this thing moving!

Much of the second half of the meeting was taken up with a fascinating presentation by urbanist Lewis Villegas regarding what he considers “The Density Fallacy“. In other words, he believes we can achieve the densification needed to grow Vancouver without resorting to the podium towers that are such a feature of downtown (and which were recently approved in Mount Pleasant). It is a somewhat complex argument (involving measuring density by the neighbourhood rather by individual sites within a neighbourhood) but in short, he suggests rebuilding many arterial roads with 3 to 3 1/2 storey row houses, and the development of a more human-sized surface-level transit system with fewer cars but higher frequency.  This would create a number of neighbourhoods based on a radius of 5 minutes’ walking.

One of the problems is that row houses are illegal in Vancouver (something about ownership of the party wall as I understand it).  Another is that people were concerned that arterials would become canyons of all-the-same housing.  It was a fascinating discussion and, although he didn’t completely sell the crowd last night, he made it clear that there are alternatives to high-rise towers.

A good meeting.