Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Three Cheers for the Vancouver Sun

I have a new favorite newspaper. My only regret in this article is that I didn't do a good job discussing "Superstar" cities and San Francisco. Even I know that San Francisco's middle class is being hollowed out by gentrification. You would have to be quite open minded about what the words "upper middle class" mean below.

Tonight at 8pm pacific time, I'll be on
The World Today & Nightline BC CKNW NewTalk 980

to discuss these issues. I have a face for radio ---- let's see if I make any sense!

Get ready for a new-look downtown
Sauder Business School arranges 'Condos versus offices' debate

Frances Bula
Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Vancouver's 19th-century downtown is on the way out.

Instead, the city's 21st-century downtown is very likely to be a mix of residences for highly skilled local professionals and second homes for rich people from elsewhere, along with a tight core of office space for high-end dealmakers and a scattering of services for all those groups of people.

That's the provocative future UCLA economist Matthew Kahn is going to discuss this week in a debate the University of B.C.'s Sauder School of Business has put together on the controversial question of "condos versus offices" in downtown Vancouver.

"There's certainly a possibility that there's been a resortification in Vancouver," said Kahn, in an interview from San Francisco. "But why is that bad?"

The city currently has a moratorium on residential development in part of the downtown next to the central business district that was put in place after rising concern from business groups and commercial brokers that office space was under threat.

But Kahn said Vancouver could be evolving into what San Francisco already is -- an attractive downtown that is largely a home to the upper middle class.

"In San Francisco, no one is worried about its health."

He also pointed out that Vancouver is experiencing the same trends that have been documented in other North American cities. As the price of land goes up, firms leave their deal-makers downtown but move the bulk of their back-office work out to the suburbs.

Some cities, like San Francisco or New York or Vancouver, are then able to attract people to live in their "consumer downtowns."

And there's nothing wrong with that, says Kahn.

From an urban economist's point of view, it's an advantage to be able to attract skilled professional people to your downtown. Those people will then either accept slightly lower wages in order to work close to where they live, and firms that can save money on wages will be willing to spend it on the cost of space downtown. Or they will reverse commute to the suburbs.

From a public-finance economist's point of view, having about 15 per cent of residential space downtown taken up by second homes for wealthy people from elsewhere is also a benefit.

"It's a free lunch, with these people moving in, paying taxes, and demanding no services at all."

The businesses that remain downtown will be those that can survive with a minimum of space or the ones that keep their high-ranking people downtown while the rest of the work moves out to the suburbs.

"There's still a demand to be downtown for the power lunch," says Kahn. As well, there will be many jobs in the arts, culture and retail sectors that serve that downtown community.

Along with Kahn, others debating the future of Vancouver's downtown will be UBC professor Robert Helsley and Vancouver's planning director, Brent Toderian. It will be held Wednesday at UBC's Robson Square campus from 5 p.m to 7:30 p.m.

Tsur Somerville, the UBC professor who organized the panel, said he decided to tackle the topic because "people are concerned about what the downtown is going to look like." However, at the moment, the debate has been limited mostly to business groups arguing for more office space and residential developers arguing for more room to build condos.

"Urban economics tend to have a long view and a different perspective."


© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

I watched this on the news the other day and I shook my head, the government still doesn't get it!!! I wonder when people are going to start to care about this earth we live on cause one day it IS going to sh*t itself! There are other means for cars to run WITHOUT oil. Hybrids, Europe is doing it why can't we, well I'll tell ya all because the gov't is so money hungry! Well when your 6 feet under you sure can't bring the bills with you!

Globelly it is really bad. I watched this documentary on Alberta and the oil sands and the amount of emissions that was being produced from the process to get the oil out of the sands is really bad for the environment. And the government is aware of all this and it is making so much money they aren't about it stop it or even slow it down. If anything they are trying to produce more barrels everyday. By 2010 they say it is going to be in the hundreds of thousands...it looked like a war zone on TV when they showed the plant, in Fort McMurray. They are saying the amount of oil being produce is going to be more than Kwuait. They interviewed a guy who used to work there and he said he quit, because the pollution was so bad that he couldn't breathe somedays and he'ld get pounding head pains. There was this town close by Fort McMurray that is getting all the pollution when is settles from the stacks that people who lived in this town were getting cancer, which doctors reported was a rare cancer caused by the stacks pollution.

This is a province right next door to us, and all their worried about is the province's economy going down we'll they should be worried about more than that. They won't have anyone to sell it to when the earth just say's ok that is enough abuse. I think about this stuff and wonder what will it be like for my children....I don't know if I even want children living in a world like this, what is it going to be like for them. I wonder if it would be selfish for me to bring a baby into this world and let it suffer in this extremely polluted enviroment just so it can bring ME joy...when I pass away what is their future going to be like for them!! I don't know what to do about this but I do know you don't need gas to run a car, now that they have come up with the hybrid! Maybe if everyone owned one oil prices would drop out of the bottom and plants like this would close! Would it be such a bad thing you tell me. Hybrid's are so expensive because they don't want you to have one cause the gov't knows you wouldn't need gas anymore..

So that is it, I have said my thoughts, voice yours and spread the word maybe people will do more than just recycle because that ISN'T enough anymore.
Vancouver alone could be recycling 26% more garbage than they are. Re: Vancouver Sun Feb.2, 2008 pg. B3 so I guess I do read some of the paper.
Mrs. Turcotte
I do care about this world!

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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