Fassbender’s “transit-supporting levy:” a new way to make municipalities pay?

Transportation minister Peter Fassbender’s latest musings about a new “transit-supporting levy” imposed on transit-oriented development sound like a complex new way for Victoria to impose the entire cost of transportation investment on municipalities.

Says Fassbender: “If you build transit corridors and you invest billions of dollars in transportation, there is a benefit to densification as a result of that, and should a portion of that benefit accrue to the very transportation corridors that have helped to build that?”

Translation: if developers densify along transit corridors, shouldn’t Victoria get a chunk of that added value to pay for transit investment? As it stands, all of that lift accrues to municipalities. In Vancouver’s case, it’s used for affordable housing, parks, heritage protection and other benefits.

The Translink Mayor’s Council has already asked for legislative power to impose development cost charges for transit development. Those would be applied either regionally or along corridors to pay for the region’s share of transit investment. They are collected on all development, with or without rezoning.

Fassbender seems to be heading into new territory, contemplating some kind of density levy from the increased value of the land after rezoning. But that payment comes only when development occurs, not when transit investment occurs. The delay can be years or even decades long. And the money would be diverted from other municipal needs, forcing a reduction in amenities or an increase in taxes.

We’re a long way from the 1990s, when the NDP government paid 100 percent of the capital cost of the Millennium Line, from which several municipalities are now reaping development benefits.

Recently, NDP leader John Horgan promised to increase the provincial contribution to 40 percent, if he’s elected Premier, up from the hard cap of 33 percent imposed by the BC Liberals.

But Fassbender’s musings suggest a much bleaker scenario: a new province-directed levy that diverts scarce municipal dollars to make up a further reduction in provincial investment. After all, the minister says, ” we can’t just find money all over the place.”

New park in the heart of the city at the centre of Park Board consultation on Northeast False Creek

Removal and replacement of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts with an at-grade road system will result in a much larger future park on the north side of False Creek than is possible if the Viaducts remain. The Vancouver Park Board is working now with a major design team to see what such a park would look like.

It’s all part of the final stage of the development of the Concord Pacific lands on False Creek with a decision on the removal of the Viaducts expected by the end of the year.

One of the benefits: a much larger park than possible if the Viaducts remain, with about 50 percent more of the park on the water.

Consultations on the plan for the new park are now under way as this video spells out — make your views known.

Packed memorial marks Joe Wai’s legacy in scores of buildings in Chinatown and across Vancouver

Sun Yat Sen Garden in the snow.

Friends, colleagues and family of architect Joe Wai filled the auditorium of the Chinese Cultural Centre this afternoon to celebrate the life a man whose work touched almost every neighbourhood in the city.

The Sun Yat Sen Garden, perhaps Joe Wai’s masterwork, offered free admission today to allow visitors to enjoy the first such garden outside China itself. But as the speakers today made clear — from former Premier Mike Harcourt to Vancouver Native Housing CEO Dave Eddy — Wai’s life work was infused with a commitment to community values.

Wai’s earliest work as an activist centred on the defence of Chinatown and Strathcona from proposed freeway development that threatened to destroy both neighbourhoods. That’s where he met Harcourt and the distinctive “SPOTA houses” — named for the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association — that replaced those demolished in the name of “urban renewal” were Wai’s design.

But then there is the Britannia Community Centre, Mau Dan Co-op in Strathcona, heritage projects in Chinatown  and Skwachays Lodge, the Vancouver Native Housing and hotel at 31 West Pender, among many others, that made Wai and natural for the lifetime achievement award of the Architectural Institute of BC. Eddy made the compelling point that Wai, perhaps more than anyone else, understood the role of the two founding communities — Chinese and First Nations — in the creation of the Downtown Eastside.

Today’s memorial service was a two-hour seminar on Chinatown’s history and the turnout an indication that the debate over the community’s future is by no means over.

Big park, new seawall, new Georgia ramp, public spaces are emerging direction for post-Viaducts city

Trading the Viaducts for a new heart for the city.

A big waterfront park, a new ramp connecting False Creek to Georgia St. and new public spaces are some the exciting “emerging directions” emerging from the city’s lengthy consultations on the future of Northeast False Creek.

Central to the vision released by the city’s planning teams yesterday is replacement of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts with a new ramp connection up to Georgia that allows for expanded park space, good traffic connections to all of the city’s historic neighbourhoods and an intense mix of public spaces amid new developments proposed by Concord Pacific and Canadian Metropolitan Lands (on the Plaza of Nations site.)

The city’s consultation process is continuing — you can have your say at a new round of open houses occurring around the city.

Where the Skytrain, the Viaducts and at-grade roads now eat up vital space in the heart of the city there will be green space, intense urban development on private lands and unique public spaces both on the seawall and along Chinatown’s south edge.

Intense urban development, new public spaces.

If approved by council later this year, the plan would also open up two city blocks on either side of Main Street where Hogan’s Alley, once he heart of the city’s black and African-descent community.

The Northeast False Creek plans are being co-ordinated with new plans for False Creek Flats, the critical industrial area to the east. Taken together, the two plans will transform the heart of the city.