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Smart Growth and Sustainable Development: Challenges, Solutions and Policy Directions

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In this paper, we focus on the issues related to development densities that emerged from our study of sprawl and development issues in three regions of British Columbia, Canada. We chose to focus on this aspect of the Smart Growth agenda because, while many of its other elements enjoy wide support across social interests, the goal of achieving a higher density urban fabric is highly controversial. We proceeded by collecting data on development densities and 13 indicators of community sustainability in 26 municipalities. The results suggest that the density of communities is associated with eféciencies in infrastructure and with reduced automobile dependence, with the ecological and economic implications which èow from that. However, it does not necessarily correlate with greater affordability of housing or more access to green space. In fact, if anything, we discovered a negative relationship between housing afford- ability and green space per capita and higher land-use densities. In a second stage of the research, we conducted a qualitative analysis of a subset of six municipalities and identiéed key policy issues for moving ahead with the Smart Growth agenda. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy issues that emerged from these case studies.
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Local Environment, Vol. 7, No. 4, 397–409, 2002
ARTICLE
Smart Growth and Sustainable
Development: challenges, solutions
and policy directions
DON ALEXANDER & RAY TOMALTY
ABSTRACT In this paper, we focus on the issues related to development
densities that emerged from our study of sprawl and development issues in three
regions of British Columbia, Canada. We chose to focus on this aspect of the
Smart Growth agenda because, while many of its other elements enjoy wide
support across social interests, the goal of achieving a higher density urban
fabric is highly controversial. We proceeded by collecting data on development
densities and 13 indicators of community sustainability in 26 municipalities. The
results suggest that the density of communities is associated with ef ciencies in
infrastructur e and with reduced automobile dependence, with the ecological and
economic implication s which  ow from that. However, it does not necessarily
correlate with greater affordability of housing or more access to green space. In
fact, if anything, we discovere d a negative relationship between housing afford-
ability and green space per capita and higher land-use densities. In a second
stage of the research, we conducted a qualitative analysis of a subset of six
municipalities and identi ed key policy issues for moving ahead with the Smart
Growth agenda. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy issues that
emerged from these case studies.
Introduction
The following paper is based on a study that was conducted for Smart Growth
BC, an organisation devoted to curbing urban sprawl and promoting more
compact and livable patterns of development in the province of British Colum-
bia. The study was the  rst ever to examine the extent of sprawl in that province
and to look at the experience and track record of municipalitie s in attempting to
address the problem (Alexander & Tomalty, 2001).
In this paper, we focus on the issues related to development densities that
emerged from the study. We have chosen to focus on this aspect of the Smart
Don Alexander, 2104 Maple Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6J 3T3, Canada. Fax: 604 734
2671. E-mail: dalexana@sfu.ca
Ray Tomalty, 483 rue Milton, Montre´al, Que´ bec, H2X 1W3, Canada. Fax: 514 847 8610. E-mail:
corps@web.ca
1354-983 9 Print/1469-6711 Online/02/040397-13 Ó2002 Taylor & F rancis Ltd.
DOI: 10.1080/135498302200002757 8
D. Alexander & R. Tomalty
Growth agenda because, while many of its other elements (such as improving
transport options, preserving parkland, etc.) enjoy wide support across social
interests, the goal of achieving a higher density urban fabric is highly contro-
versial (Downs, 2001a). On the one hand, it is supported by environmentalists,
transit operators and user-groups, open space advocates and some farm advocacy
groups. On the other hand, it is opposed by many property developers and
home-owners who fear that it will introduce undesirable changes into their
neighbourhoods, increase congestio n or unleash gentri cation.
Achieving higher densities in newly urbanising suburbs, in lling and redevel-
oping mature areas and preventing very low-density estate-type development on
the urban–rural fringe are thought to entail a range of ecological, social and
economic bene ts. These include:
·More ef cient use of land and less pressure to convert habitat and farmland
to urban uses.
·Reduced car use and commuting distances (with associate d reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution ) by bringing origins and destina-
tions closer together and by making public transit more economically viable.
·Greater clientele and employee base for many businesses, resulting in more
mixed land uses, which in turn are associated with a higher quality of life,
access to services and transit feasibility. A better mix of land uses may also
mean a better balance between residents and jobs, with fewer people having
to drive to work in far- ung locations.
·Reduced consumptio n of water and energy, which is typically higher in
low-density districts due to higher heating and cooling costs for single-family
homes and excess water use on lawns, gardens and cars.
·Greater ef ciencies in the provision and use of infrastructura l systems, which
are costly and consume energy and raw materials through their manufacture
and emplacement. Road infrastructure also reduces soil permeability and
contributes to  ooding (USEPA, 2001).
·Improved quality of life for a wide variety of people (seniors, children,
stay-at-home parents, etc.) by providing services and amenities closer to
home, making neighbourhood s more pedestrian-friendly and vibrant, and by
increasing neighbourhoo d security through 24/7 street surveillance.
·Improved variety of housing types, the better to accommodate a wider range
of people in various stages of their life cycles (e.g. empty nesters, divorced
singles, single parents, students, in rm or handicapped people).
·Greater housin g affordabilit y as unit sizes come down and the range of
housing types broadens (Downs, 2001b).
In order to explore some of these potential bene ts in the BC context, we
decided to collect data on development densities in speci c areas of the province
and to relate those data to several indicators of the hypothesised bene ts. The
areas chosen for study were those regions with historically the highest rates of
population growth, because, we reasoned, they would have the greatest oppor-
tunity to increase development densities. These areas were comprised of 26
398
Smart Growth and Sustainabl e Development
399
FIGURE 1. Regional districts of British Columbia, with study areas highlighted.
D. Alexander & R. Tomalty
TABLE 1. Indicators used in the BC Sprawl Report study and correlation with dimensions of
sustainability
Variable/Bene t Indicator Number
Population density 1997 estimate of population divided by area of taxable 1
land (minus land in the Agricultural Reserve)
Ef ciency of land use Housing unit density 2
Variety of housing forms Percentage of single detached homes as a proportion of 3
total housing stock
Percentage of apartments as a proportion of total 4
housing stock
Percentage of households in ground-oriented 5
housing units
Ef ciency of Hectares of streets, roads & alleys per 1000 people 6
infrastructure provision Sewer & water infrastructure lengths (in km) 7
per 1000 people
Mixed land use Ratio of jobs to resident employed labour force 8
(jobs/housing balance Percentage of resident employed labour force working 9
etc.) within own municipality (Census subdivision)
Car use and Percentage of workers working within 5 km of home 10
commuting distances Median length of commute for workers 11
Modal split for trip to work 12
Average number of passenger vehicles per capita 13
Housing affordability Percentage of households spending more than 30% of 14
their income on housing
Quality of life Hectares of parkland and playgrounds per 1000 people 15
municipalities in three regional districts—Greater Vancouver, Central Okanagan
and Nanaimo—which, collectively, account for 57% of the population of the
province (BC Statistics, 2002) (see Figure 1).
The bene ts indicators were chosen largely on the basis of the availability of
standardised data across the three regional districts, with the majority of the data
being drawn from census records from 1996 (2001 census data were not yet
available). Because of resource and data limitations , not all the putative bene ts
could be assessed. The indicators selected are presented in Table 1.
Low densities in some of the communities studied are re ected in the
predominance of single-famil y homes and the scarcity of multifamily housing
(as measured by indicators 3, 4 and 5), which have implication s for infrastruc -
ture (as measured by indicators 6 and 7). Data on the degree of mix or separation
of land uses, are unfortunately, not readily available. However, indicators 8–11
provide a rough proxy for the jobs and housing balance within these communi-
ties. Indicators 12 and 13 were used in an attempt to capture the degree of
automobile dependence.
400
Smart Growth and Sustainabl e Development
Research Results
As indicated in Table 2, we discovered the full spectrum of population and
housing densities. These ranged from one person per hectare to 84.7, and from
0.3 units per hectare to 34. As expected, the higher-density communities offered
the widest range of housing choices. The percentage of single-family homes
varied from a high of 89.49 to a low of 21.05. The ratio of apartments
constituted a low of 0% in one municipality and a high of 66.33% in another.
Ground-oriented housing (consisting of row houses, semi-detached and detached
homes) went from comprising 100% of all units in one municipality to 33.67%
in another.
The three most land-ef cient communities had 59.75% of their housing stock
in apartments, with 25.51% in single-family homes. The three least ef cient had
1.38% in apartments and 89.0% in single-family homes. Whereas the  rst group
had 40.23% of their stock in a ground-oriented form, the second group had
98.77% in that form.
Also as expected, lower-density communities tended to be characterised by
more land dedicated to roads. The three municipalities with the lowest ratio of
street coverage (averaging 4.07 hectares per 1000 people) had an average unit
density of 6.8, compared to 3.7 for the three communities with the highest street
coverage (an average of 25.56).
Likewise, lower-density municipalities had the most extensive sewerage and
water facilities on a per capita basis. The three municipalities (not primarily
dependent on septic services ) with the lowest sewer and water infrastructure per
1000 people (an average of 6.71 km per 1000 people) had an average unit
density of 31, as contrasted with 11.6 for the three with the highest ratio of
infrastructure (18.01). These  ndings provide preliminary con rmation that land
use and infrastructure are more ef cient on a per capita basis in higher-density
communities.
In terms of jobs–labour force ratios, for which we had incomplete data, we
found that these ranged from 1.29 to 0.37 and that the higher ratios were related
to higher densities of development. For the communities for which statistics
were available, the three municipalitie s with the highest ratio of jobs to labour
force (1.23) had an average unit density of 18.83, while the three with the lowest
(0.44) had an average unit density of 4.8.
We also collected data on the proportion of the employed labour force
working within municipal boundaries and on average commuting distances.
The three communities with the highest proportion of its employed labour
force working within its boundaries (65.91%) had an average unit density of
13.93, whereas the three with the lowest (2.22%) had an average unit density of
1.17.
The three communities with the shortest average commute (3.73 km) had an
average unit density of 3.7, whereas those with the longest (averaging 18.9) had
a density of 1.73 units. Surprisingly, some of the communities with the shortest
commutes had relatively low densities. However, these were cities and towns
that had no other major adjacent centres and thus constituted employment nuclei
for their respective regions.
401
D. Alexander & R. Tomalty
TABLE 2. Population and unit density, 1997a
Population density Unit density
(ranked from highest to lowest) (ranked from highest to lowest)
Population
density Unit density
Municipality (people per ha) Municipality (units per ha)
Vancouver 84.7 Vancouver 34.0
North Vancouver City 75.8 North Vancouver City 33.9
New Westminster 55.6 White Rock 26.1
White Rock 53.7 New Westminster 25.1
Burnaby 36.6 Burnaby 13.4
Langley City 30.3 Langley City 12
Richmond 28.3 Richmond 9.1
Port Coquitlam 27.6 Port Coquitlam 8.9
Surrey 25.3 Surrey 7.9
Port Moody 11.6 Delta 6.1
Nanaimo 11.4 Nanaimo 4.3
West Vancouver 10 Qualicum Beach 4.1
Qualicum Beach 9.9 Port Moody 3.8
Delta 9.4 West Vancouver 3.7
Kelowna 9.0 Kelowna 3.5
Coquitlam 8.9 Parksville 3.3
North Vancouver District 8.5 Coquitlam 2.8
Lions Bay 8 Lions Bay 2.8
Parksville 8.0 North Vancouver
District 2.8
Langley District 6.4 Langley District 2.0
Pitt Meadows 5.2 Peachland 1.9
Peachland 4.9 Pitt Meadows 1.7
Maple Ridge 4.8 Maple Ridge 1.6
Anmore 1.3 Lake Country 0.5
Lake Country 1.3 Anmore 0.4
Belcarra 1 Belcarra 0.3
a1997 BC Statistics estimate of population divided by area of land assessed for taxation (minus land
in the Agricultural Land Reserve). Sources: Unit  gures: Government of Canada (1999) Census 1996
(Ottawa, Statistics Canada). Population and land base statistics: BC Municipal Affairs (1997) Area
and Population of Incorporated Municipalities as at December 31, 1997 (http://www.marh.gov.bc.ca/
MUNFIN/MS1997/tabl es97.html). Agri cultural La nd Reserve  gures are from “Planning for
Agriculture, Appendix 1, Land Within the ALR By Regional District and Municipality, January 1,
2000”. Document provided by Everett Lew, Statistician, Land Reserve Commission, Province of BC.
The three communities with the fewest single drivers commuting to work
(60.47%) had an average unit density of 31. The three with the highest
proportion (90.4%) had a unit density of 1.17. The three communities with the
lowest average rate of vehicle ownership per capita (0.43) had an average unit
402
Smart Growth and Sustainabl e Development
density of 13.98, whereas those with the highest rate (0.76) had a unit density
of 11.17. Thus, there is not a strong relationship between ownership of passenger
vehicles and density. However, there is some evidence to suggest that people
living in denser communities, while owning as many vehicles, may use them less
frequently in their daily lives.
The three communities with the lowest proportion of their households spend-
ing more than 30% of their income on housing (22.1%) have an average unit
density of 3.41, whereas those with the highest (36.15%) have a density of
26.63. Clearly, affordability is inversely related to density. However, denser
inner cities also have a higher proportion of poor people, who tend to gravitate
to places where social services are most readily available. The high cost of
housing in such centres may also be partially offset by lower transport costs.
The communities with the greatest amount of park and playground space per
1000 people (81.35 hectares) have a combined unit density of 2.17, while the
three with the least (1.01 hectares) have a density of 12.74. However, these
gures are not very instructive. One of the low-density communities that scores
extremely well is surrounded by a regional park, thus giving it a exceptional
ratio of 147 hectares of green space per person. The ones possessing the least
park and playground space are drawn from the high, low and middle portions of
the density spectrum, and have a variety of compensating features—ranging
from large lots and adjacent farmland to wilderness parks in adjacent municipal -
ities and oceanfront promenades. While there are compensations associated with
more dense city living not measured or captured here, the information from the
last two indicators suggests that enhanced quality of life is not an automatic
outcome of greater density.
Challenges, Solutions and Public Policy Directions
Our research, which represents merely a preliminary foray into the realities
obtaining in British Columbia communities , suggests that the density of com-
munities is associated with ef ciencies in infrastructure and with reduced
automobile dependence, with the ecological and economic implication s which
ow from that. However, it does not necessarily correlate with greater afford-
ability of housing or more access to green space. In fact, if anything, we
discovered a negative relationship between housing affordability and green space
per capita (indicators 14 and 15) and higher land-use densities. This, in turn,
suggests areas requirin g further attention in future policy initiatives. If compact
community policies cannot deliver greater affordability and a higher quality of
life, then they are not likely to be successful in the long run.
Another important point that emerged was that density is only one factor
determining the intensity of infrastructure, the location of jobs and commuting
behaviour/automobile dependence. There are also factors of regional history,
geography and economics that prevent a straightforward linear relationship from
obtaining between urban density and these other factors. This holds true as well
for the lower affordability and green space observed in more dense communities.
These were also conditioned or mitigated by factors not related to density.
Unfortunately, our data are not extensive or robust enough to enable to us to
403
D. Alexander & R. Tomalty
disaggregate density from other relevant variables. At best, we can state that a
relationship exists between land-use ef ciency and the various ‘goods’ and
‘bads’ that the Smart Growth and sustainability movements are seeking to
increase or reduce.
In a second phase of our research, we explored some of the issues that
emerged from the quantitativ e  ndings by choosin g six municipalities for more
in-depth treatment. These were the City of Nanaimo and the Town of Qualicum
Beach in the Regional District of Nanaimo; the City of North Vancouver and the
City of Surrey in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and the City of
Kelowna and the District of Lake Country in the Regional District of the Central
Okanagan. These communities were chosen because they represent the range of
densities in the study area, illustrate some of the trends and challenges involved
in implementing Smart Growth, and also some of the positive initiatives that
might be replicated in other parts of the province.
In order to gather information for this phase of our research, we reviewed
of cial plans and other municipal documents and interviewed public of cials in
each of the selected jurisdictions. The six cases examined all featured quite
different characteristics and challenges. However, there were a few points which
emerged from a consideration of all of the cases. The recommendations that
follow address some of the points of concern highlighte d in the  ndings and
attempt to tackle policy shortcomings that are partly responsible for the poor
performance of some municipalities. More broadly, they address the social and
economic dimensions and issues of sustainability that were poorly represented in
the data collection process, and some of the main preconditions in the British
Columbia context for achieving the ecological, social and economic bene ts
referred to earlier in the paper.
Density and Urban Design
The  rst precondition for achieving more compact development—as can be
shown by the statistics on housing affordability and park land—is that improved
ef ciencies of land use have to be justi ed by the ability of communities to
provide a high quality of life for their residents. Many citizens of all ages are
already choosing to live ‘downtown’ because it provides them with desirable
lifestyle elements that they can’t have in a more suburban setting.
However, not all densi cation efforts in older urban cores have been equally
successful. Many people  nd that high-rise development does not meet their
basic need for a human-scale environment. Speci c recommendations for im-
proving livability include implementing good urban design that integrates
higher-density housing with existing urban landscapes through an inclusive
planning process. Positive design features include adequate open space, a
pedestrian-friendly environment, traf c-calmed side streets and ‘urban oases’
where people can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. In integrating
the built and natural environments, greenways, re-established stream corridors
and community gardens can all bring nature into the city and relieve the
predominance of asphalt.
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Smart Growth and Sustainabl e Development
Involving local residents in the design of higher-densit y projects is extremely
important. When people are consulted and their design preferences are taken into
account, initial reservations can be turned into acceptance and support for
positive change in their community. This was the case with the Longwood
development—a high-density apartment and condominiu m project in Nanaimo—
where the developer s met with local residents to work out an agreement on
modi cations to the project and neighbourhood amenities. In addition to empha-
sising community consultation , we recommend that municipalities enhance the
level of ‘social marketing’ and public education they offer on urban form issues.
In particular, they need to marshal more resources for this purpose and share
more widely what works and does not work with other jurisdictions .
Affordable Housing
Municipal statistics demonstrate that affordable housing is not automatically a
byproduct of increased density. In fact, high housing costs may be a re ection
of the desirability of denser, more diverse settings and the willingness of people
to pay to live in them. But even some lower-density municipalities are experi-
encing a shortage of affordable housing.
Some of the case study municipalities were taking aggressive steps to improve
housing affordabilit y within their jurisdiction. For instance, the City of North
Vancouver has created an affordable housing reserve fund, waived development
fees on affordable housing projects and offered city-owned lands at below
market prices for residential development. Developers are allowe d extra density
in exchange for creating affordable units.
Our recommendations include applying these practices on the widest possible
basis and encouraging senior government s to reassume their historic commit-
ment to supporting the creation of affordable housing. We need to use all the
creative ways we can muster to bring affordable units, catering to the needs of
a variety of households, onto the market if we are to ensure that more compact
development is also equitable.
Mixed-use Developments
Many dense municipalitie s score fairly well on jobs–housing balance. However,
this is not universally true. In the case of one municipality, White Rock, we
noted high unit densities (26 per hectare), but with a relatively low ratio of jobs
to employed labour force (0.69). Moreover, only 12% of White Rock’s em-
ployed labour force works within the municipality ’s boundaries. Ecological
gains achieved by using land ef ciently are offset if people have to get into their
cars and drive long distances to get to work or services and amenities. Thus, we
recommend that municipalities work at building more ‘complete communities’,
where people can meet a majority of their needs close to home.
Some of the municipalitie s surveyed were making efforts to require mixed-use
development in certain locations. For instance, in Qualicum Beach, all new
residential development s downtown must have a commercial component. How-
ever, mixed-use development is often dif cult to implement. In practice, mixed-
405
D. Alexander & R. Tomalty
use projects may be oppose d by local residents because they believe they
will generate noise, parking dif culties or other nuisances. Municipalities are
increasingly interested in performance-based zoning as a way to address this
issue. Performance-based zoning regulates land use based not on the pro-
posed use, location and dimensions of the development, but on the basis of the
actual impacts it will have on the neighbourin g residents and businesses. It
allows any land use to locate adjacent to any other use, provided it satis es
predetermined performance standards (noise, dust, hours of operation, views,
etc.).
This approach has been explored elsewhere in Canada and is in use in
countries such as the US, Australia and New Zealand where it has been an
effective means of encouraging mixed-use developmen t (Tomalty et al., 2000).
Thus, we recommend studying the applicabilit y of using performance-based
zoning approaches in British Columbia’s municipalities.
Development Concentration Areas
Our research revealed a surprising consistency of vision among municipalities,
especially the desire to concentrate development in higher-densit y nodal areas
that would be pedestrian-friendl y and well-serviced by transit. What seems to be
undermining nodal development in many cases is the excessive amount of land
designated for development outside the nodes, where land values are lower and
fewer development restrictions apply. For example, assuming the population
continues to grow at rates of between 2% and 4% per year, there exists in
Nanaimo today enough residential zoned land to accommodate growth for the
next 14–28 years. Municipalities in this position acknowledge that this land will
need to ‘ ll up’  rst before the market pays serious attention to opportunitie s in
the nodes. This means that it may be several decades before nodal areas reach
the critical mass they need to develop into truly urban centres.
To accelerate this process, we believe that municipalities should consider
removing some lands from urban reserves in municipalities that have excessive
reserve capacity. Moreover, they should institute strict planning controls on
bringing any more land into the urban reserve and create strong urban growth
boundaries with a high hurdle for change. Providing incentives for in ll
development and brown eld redevelopment s will also help.
In the building-out of areas already designated or zoned for lower-density
development, most municipalities have shown little intention of achieving a
signi cantly different pattern of development . This is a mistake. Without such
changes, greater automobile dependency, social segregation and further environ-
mental degradation are inevitable. In fact, these areas represent the best oppor-
tunity for implementing Smart Growth principles because they are being planned
‘from scratch’ rather than being retro tted after an unsustainable urban pattern
is already in place (as in many nodal areas). Our recommendation , then, is to use
comprehensive Smart Growth principles in planning and designing new develop-
ments, especially green eld sites.
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Smart Growth and Sustainabl e Development
The Provincial Role
In moving municipalitie s forward on this front, the province has a major role to
play because so many of the costs associated with inef cient suburban develop-
ment patterns are borne by that level of government: highway development,
interchanges to serve new subdivisions , new hospitals, schools, higher transit
subsidies, road subsidies and so on. The province is also the only level of
government that can diffuse the competition among municipalities to attract
development interest and new residents by not making new growth pay its own
way.
Fortunately, British Columbia already has in place several mechanisms to help
set a more progressive context for green eld development. First, it has issued a
set of guidelines on transit supportive development that municipalities can use
when reviewing development applications. At the moment, these guidelines are
not taken very seriously by municipalitie s because they have a purely advisory
status. We recommend giving provincial guidelines more formal status in the
review process and linking provincial transit subsidies to their implementation.
Unfortunately, it is unclear whether the necessary leadership will be forthcoming
from the recently elected provincial government, which seems to favour minimal
interference with the market.
Development Cost Charges
Another potential lever is the system of development cost charges through which
municipalities recover some of the capital costs associated with green eld
development. At present, provincia l legislation does not allow municipalities to
structure these fees to encourage more sustainable growth. The fees are applied
on a per unit or per square metre basis, regardless of the urban design within
which the unit is embedded (cul de sacs or grid pattern , houses facing the street
or with backs to the street, mixed housing types or segregated housing types,
etc.). Some municipalitie s in the US (e.g. Austin, Texas, and Orlando, Florida)
have linked developmen t cost charges and other positive and negative incentives
to the level of sustainability promised by the developer (City of Austin, 2002;
City of Santa Monica, 1998; City of Orlando, 1999). Our recommendation is to
reduce or waive fees for subdivision plans that incorporate access to transit, bike
paths, mixed use and a range of housing types, etc.
Alternative Infrastructur e
There is a reluctance to use green infrastructur e in new development s because
it is untested. In East Clayton, Surrey, city engineer s are requiring that the
natural drainage system be backed up by a conventiona l drainage system,
making the project more expensive instead of less so. Given this uncertainty, the
province should take the lead in research and demonstration projects that show
the functionality and affordability of alternative infrastructure.
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D. Alexander & R. Tomalty
Employment Location
The location of employment opportunities is key to realising a more transit-ori-
ented urban structure . The concentratio n of jobs in urban and suburban centres
can serve as major transit destinations, justifying investment in transit infrastruc-
ture, and can provide those who live in or near the centres with the option to
walk or bike to work. In some of the regions surveyed , we found that too much
employment growth was occurring in car-dependent industrial or of ce parks
outside the designated nodal areas, drawing investment away from the centres.
This was particularly a problem in the Greater Vancouver Regional District.
Thus, regional districts and municipalities should minimise the designation of
employment lands outside nodal areas and work with the provincia l government
to provide incentives for job growth in designated centres (e.g. discounting
corporate income tax rates in these areas).
Implementation of Plans
Most of the municipalities studied for the report could boast of progressive,
Smart Growth policies in their of cial community plans and other planning
documents. However, in many cases, policy goals were not being realised ‘on
the ground’. In Nanaimo, for instance, although the Of cial Community Plan
includes statements requiring that transport demand management and traf c-
calming measures be put in place, little has been accomplished apart from a
number of traf c circles and a few speed bumps. The city also has policies in
place to encourage transit-friendl y street patterns, but in practice it continues to
develop with typical suburban patterns featuring wide roads with cul de sacs.
In addition to resistance from residents and developers, policies that promoted
higher-density, transit-oriente d developmen t in new suburban subdivision s were
also running up against barriers within the municipal bureaucracy itself. In some
cases, planners failed to get the co-operation of engineering, transport or public
works staff, who tended to be oriented towards respecting the body of codes and
standards upon which conventiona l suburban designs are based. Reduced road
widths, natural drainage systems and lower parking standards are examples of
the type of innovations that are routinely resisted by municipal staff. To rectify
this, municipalities should consider introducing a system of planning indicators
and quanti ed targets that would apply to all relevant departments within the
municipal corporation. Department heads should be required to report annually
on progress towards the targets.
Municipal Expenditures
Finally, there is the issue of municipal prioritie s as expressed through budgeting
decisions. In most of the cases pro led, municipal commitment to auto-oriented
development—in spite of the many Smart Growth policies containe d in of cial
community plans—is clearly signalled by the large share of the municipal budget
dedicated to road improvements or maintenance. In some cases, token gestures
have been made to fund other transport options, but not enough to dislodge the
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Smart Growth and Sustainabl e Development
car as the king of the road. For example, Surrey’s 1999 Transportation Plan
indicates that 91.2% of transpor t expenditure to 2008 will be on the road system.
Only 8.8% will be spent on improving the pedestrian environment, bike facilities
or transit facilities. Therefore, municipalitie s should give serious consideratio n to
redirecting municipal expenditures towards more sustainable forms of trans-
port—e.g. developing bike paths, improvin g the pedestrian environment, multi-
use trails, better transit facilities. These measures are required to make further
progress on Smart Growth and will ultimately make urban living more rewarding
and sustainable.
Conclusions
In the shifting language of policy discussions , Smart Growth provides an
opportunity to implement some of the historic concerns of urban sustainability
advocates. One of the challenges is to begin to quantify sprawl and its effects in
order to build a case for compact communities. As might be expected, our
research data revealed that a link exists between density and the ef ciencies with
which land and infrastructure are used. Moreover, people living in lower-density
communities also tend to commute long distance s to work and other destinations,
and are more dependen t on their cars for mobility than those living in higher-
density communities. These relationship s buttress the arguments of Smart
Growth advocates that smarter development is more environmentally sound and
 scally prudent.
At the same time, when data reveal that not all parameters are directly
improved by compact development—as they did in our study—it behoves us to
come up with proposed policy measures that can enhance the performance of
new development activity. In this way, we can encourage the synergistic
development of greater urban sustainability in all three dimensions: ecological,
social and economic. Our recommendations to municipal and provincial govern-
ments are made in that spirit.
References
Alexander, D. & Tomalty, R. (2001) The BC Sprawl Report 2001 (Vancouver, Smart Growth BC).
BC Statistics (2002) British Columbia Municipal and Regional District Population Estimates, 1996 to 2001
,http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/pop/pop/mun/mun9601e.htm ..
City of Austin (2002) Smart growth matrix ,www.ci.austin.tx.us/smartgrowth/matrix.htm ..
City of Orlando (1999) Applicability of vehicle miles of travel to transportation planning (Orlando, FL,
Planning and Development, Transportation Planning Bureau).
City of Santa Monica (1998) Green Building Guidelines, 20 November (Santa Monica, CA).
Downs, A. (2001a) What does ‘smart growth’ really mean?, Planning, May, pp. 20–25.
Downs, A. (2001b) Con icts between smart growth and housing affordability (speech to Annual Conference
of the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Planning, Cleveland, Ohio, 8 November)
,www.anthonydowns.com/cleveland.htm ..
Tomalty, R., Hercz, A. & Spurr, P. (2000) Municipal Planning for Affordable Housing. (Ottawa, Canada
Mortgage and Housing Corporation).
US Environmental Protection Agency (2001) Our Built and Natural Environments: a technical review of the
interactions between land use, transportation, and environmental quality, January (Washington, DC,
Development, Community and Environment Division).
409
... Having emerged at the end of the 20th century as an alternative, flexible approach to managing urban growth, the topic of smart growth is now well researched. Studies have explored varying perspectives of smart growth as a planning agenda (Downs, 2001;Naldi et al., 2015), documented its historical development and application as a policy regime (Filion, 2009;Chapin, 2012;Jackson et al., 2012;Grant, 2018), and advanced approaches for measuring policy outcomes (Alexander & Tomalty, 2002;Edwards & Haines, 2007;Randall & Baetz, 2015). In Canada, the depth of smart growth research is well reflected in case studies of large, typically southern metropolitan urban centers like Calgary, the Greater Toronto Area, and Metro Vancouver (Filion & McSpurren, 2007;Grant, 2009;Filion, 2009). ...
... Land-use entropy index Policy 8. Housing mix Alexander and Tomalty (2002), Randall and Baetz (2015) Percent of dwellings that are single detached housing Objective 7.5.2 -Support development of a full range of housing types and tenures so that people of all ages, income levels and abilities have housing choices throughout the community. ...
... parcel size, percentage of employed labor force working within a census subdivision, housing affordability, street connectivity, availability of open space, access to amenities, and presence of walkable infrastructure (Johnson, 2001;Alexander & Tomalty, 2002;Talen & Knaap, 2003;Downs, 2005;Edwards & Haines, 2007;Filion, 2009;Dur et al., 2014;Randall & Baetz, 2015). For the dimension of mobility, which can include aspects of accessibility, indicators include availability of public transportation stops in a given area, the distance to destinations using cycling, walking, or public transit infrastructure, the ratio of different transportation mode types within an area, the average commuting distance with an area, and the frequency of public transit service (Alexander & Tomalty, 2002;Filion, 2009;Dur et al., 2014;Khan et al., 2016). ...
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Smart growth promotes urban sustainability by encouraging increased densities, mixed use, walkable design, and access to diverse transportation and housing options. This study applies literature-derived indicators to examine urban change in the city of Prince George; British Columbia’s northern capital. Findings illustrate that key growth nodes have largely performed (e.g., densified) at or below the level of their surrounding neighbourhood over time despite a robust set of policy tools associated with smart growth. This research is one of few to examine smart growth in a northern urban context, and situates the concept within the slow growth/no growth realities of many rural and remote regions.
... During the last two decades smart growth is crystallised in state policies, and strategies, which promote the twin (green and digital) transformation of companies, organisations and economies. In the respective literature smart growth and sustainable development are presented as interconnected notions (Alexander & Tomalty, 2002). This is why smart growth is associated with an array 'of very different policies, not all of which are necessarily compatible' (Ye et al., 2005). ...
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The term smart growth is associated with the necessary paths to achieve a sustainable course of economic development. Though being a modern term, it crystallises the tradition of the classical political economy regarding the role of technical change, population control and sustainability. John Stuart Mill is the classical economist who provided the theoretical framework of the term. By stressing the role of knowledge and environmental protection, core tenets of smart growth, he illustrates the macro (long-run) perspective of economic development. His notion of the ‘Stationary State’ includes these elements which are driving smart growth. By showing the differences into the mechanics of knowledge J.S. Mill shows that the historical distinction between ‘West and East’ countries is seated on the uneven diffusion of knowledge among people.
... Furthermore, some forerunner countries like Australia or Singapore adapted strategies to impelement the LIDs to reduce the impacts of the stormwater runoff within the cities [15,16]. While most of the implementation strategies focus on newly built areas [14,17], few address the transformation of already existing urban areas [18,19] towards decentralized management approach of stormwater management. ...
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Cities worldwide are facing problems to mitigate the impact of urban stormwater runoff caused by the increasing occurrence of heavy rainfall events and urban re-densification. This study presents a new approach for estimating the potential of the Management of Urban STormwater at Block-level (MUST-B) by decentralized blue-green infrastructures here called low-impact developments (LIDs) for already existing urban environments. The MUST-B method was applied to a study area in the northern part of the City of Leipzig, Germany. The Study areas was divided into blocks smallest functional units and considering two different soil permeability and three different rainfall events, seven scenarios have been developed: current situation, surface infiltration, swale infiltration, trench infiltration, trough-trench infiltration, and three different combinations of extensive roof greening, trough-trench infiltration, and shaft infiltration. The LIDs have been simulated and their maximum retention/infiltration potential and the required area have been estimated together with a cost calculation. The results showed that even stormwater of a 100 year rainfall event can be fully retained and infiltrated within the blocks on a soil with low permeability (kf = 10−6 m/s). The cost and the required area for the LIDs differed depending on the scenario and responded to the soil permeability and rainfall events. It is shown that the MUST-B method allows a simple down- and up-scaling process for different urban settings and facilitates decision making for implementing decentralized blue-green-infrastructure that retain, store, and infiltrate stormwater at block level.
... Prior studies on the link between density and different aspects of urban social sustainability yielded mixed and inconclusive results. While some studies have found that high density has a diminishing impact on feelings of safety, residential satisfaction and sense of place (e.g., Larimian 2015;Dempsey et al. 2011), other findings emphasise the advantages of compactness such as providing accessible facilities, more affordable housing, efficient public transportation systems, and reduction of carbon emissions (e.g., Alexander and Tomalty 2002;Boyko and Cooper 2017). ...
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Despite its theoretical and practical significance, urban social sustainability research lacks robust definition, conceptualisation and measurement. In addition, the factors influencing people’s perceived feelings about their neighbourhood are underexplored. The aim of this study is two-fold: First, to develop and empirically test the urban social sustainability (USS) measurement model at the neighbourhood scale that captures the multifaceted nature of this complex phenomenon. Second, to use the proposed USS model to examine the role of different physical (urban form) and personal (socio-economic) factors in promoting or weakening various aspects of neighbourhood social sustainability. We conducted factor analysis for testing the dimensionality, validity, and reliability of the USS model. Multiple regression analysis was also used to test the practical implications of the model. Our findings from 251 respondents in five case study neighbourhoods of Dunedin city, New Zealand, provide evidence that the effects of physical and personal factors can differ according to distinct USS dimensions. We found that out of the four physical factors, quality of urban design is the most influential factor, having a significant positive influence on three USS dimensions and the overall urban social sustainability. Among the personal factors, length of residence in a neighbourhood has the most influence on different USS dimensions.
... Advocates for densification have argued strongly that densification is an inclusionary process. Densification is said to bring more people closer to urban opportunity (Alexander & Tomalty 2002); improve the economy and create jobs by increasing economies of scale; increase social vibrancy and mix (Tonkiss 2014); increase access to urban services; and protect the welfare of future generations, by reducing per capita resource usage and GHG emissions and navigating climate change (Williams et al. 2010). The contributions to the book do not necessarily challenge this position on density, but they do add complexity to the discussion. ...
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The idea of density is a crucial element in the way cities function and is a well-established concept, discussed extensively in policy and scholarly literatures. However, density remains a vital topic, with the COVID-19 pandemic restoring an immediacy to the debate. The origins of modern city planning lie in attempts to reduce density. Sir Ebenezer Howard, social reformer and pioneering town planner, was clear in his purpose. He writes in his introduction to Garden Cities of To-morrow that,“It is deeply to be deplored that the people should continue to stream into the already over-crowded cities”(Howard 1902: 9). Lewis Mumford (1938: 488) was insistent, for example, that,“Limitations [our emphasis] on size, density and area are absolutely necessary to effective social intercourse; and they are therefore the most important instruments of rational economic and civic planning.” In the immediate post-World War II era, and in response to an experience of wartime vulnerability, the dominant push in planning was for the decentralisation of people and activity away from major urban areas. However, from around the 1960s, attitudes to density were re-assessed, influenced for example by the work of Jane Jacobs, which pointed to the urban vitality and sociality produced through density (Jacobs 1961). This also meant that the conflation of high densities with residential overcrowding and urban pathologies, such as crime and disease (Choldin 1978; Kirmeyer 1978), was questioned. Authors noted the complexity of the idea of density, its multiple meanings and measures, and their implications–in particular, the difference between built and population density, and …
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What is the role of housing price risk in explaining the timing and the extent to which development sprawls at the urban fringe? Price risks create a real option, which incentivizes developers to delay development, thereby slowing down urban sprawl. We interpret satellite imageries of Toronto in 1986–2016 and match the changes in land‐use/cover with residents’ socioeconomic status as well as price and risk data. We find that higher‐risk areas experienced 3–5 percentage points slower growth in urban coverage in 1986–2016; if policy is to stabilize price risk, urban coverage could have increased by 7.02–9.79 percent.
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This article has been withdrawn: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (https://www.elsevier.com/about/our-business/policies/article-withdrawal). This article has been withdrawn at the request of the Editor in Chief. Subsequent to acceptance of this special issue paper by the responsible Guest Editor Sundhararajan Mahalingam, the integrity and rigor of the peer-review process was investigated and confirmed to fall beneath the high standards expected by Microprocessors & Microsystems. There are also indications that much of the Special Issue includes unoriginal and heavily paraphrased content. Due to a configuration error in the editorial system, unfortunately the Editor in Chief did not receive these papers for approval as per the journal's standard workflow.
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Throughout the U.S., the term "smart growth" is being adopted by groups trying to change what they regard as the undesirable impacts of "suburban sprawl." Under the umbrella of this appealing term, groups with very different goals are trying to create the appearance of a united front. But in reality, that umbrella is being pulled apart - to the detriment of public policy and the public itself. Still, there is always cause for optimism. Even with different goals, the different groups may be able to reach a middle ground, especially if they keep in mind that each region of the country has unique needs and wide choices.
Applicability of vehicle miles of travel to transportation planning
  • City
  • Orlando
City of Orlando (1999) Applicability of vehicle miles of travel to transportation planning (Orlando, FL, Planning and Development, Transportation Planning Bureau)
Green Building Guidelines
  • Santa City Of
  • Monica
City of Santa Monica (1998) Green Building Guidelines, 20 November (Santa Monica, CA).
Municipal Planning for Affordable Housing. (Ottawa, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
  • R Tomalty
  • A Hercz
  • P Spurr
Tomalty, R., Hercz, A. & Spurr, P. (2000) Municipal Planning for Affordable Housing. (Ottawa, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation).
The BC Sprawl Report Smart Growth BC) British Columbia Municipal and Regional District Population Estimates Smart growth matrix Applicability of vehicle miles of travel to transportation planning
  • D Alexander
  • R Tomalty
Alexander, D. & Tomalty, R. (2001) The BC Sprawl Report 2001 (Vancouver, Smart Growth BC). BC Statistics (2002) British Columbia Municipal and Regional District Population Estimates, 1996 to 2001, http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/pop/pop/mun/mun9601e.htm.. City of Austin (2002) Smart growth matrix, www.ci.austin.tx.us/smartgrowth/matrix.htm.. City of Orlando (1999) Applicability of vehicle miles of travel to transportation planning (Orlando, FL, Planning and Development, Transportation Planning Bureau).
British Columbia Municipal and Regional District Population Estimates
BC Statistics (2002) British Columbia Municipal and Regional District Population Estimates, 1996 to 2001 , http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/pop/pop/mun/mun9601e.htm..
  • D Alexander
  • R Tomalty
Alexander, D. & Tomalty, R. (2001) The BC Sprawl Report 2001 (Vancouver, Smart Growth BC).
Applicability of vehicle miles of travel to transportation planning
  • Orlando City Of
City of Orlando (1999) Applicability of vehicle miles of travel to transportation planning (Orlando, FL, Planning and Development, Transportation Planning Bureau).
Con icts between smart growth and housing affordability (speech to Annual Conference of the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Planning
  • A Downs
Downs, A. (2001b) Con icts between smart growth and housing affordability (speech to Annual Conference of the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Planning, Cleveland, Ohio, 8 November) , www.anthonydowns.com/cleveland.htm..
Our Built and Natural Environments: a technical review of the interactions between land use, transportation , and environmenta l quality
US Environmental Protection Agency (2001) Our Built and Natural Environments: a technical review of the interactions between land use, transportation, and environmenta l quality, January (Washington, DC, Development, Community and Environment Division).