March 19, 2015

Development: Arts Space and Poor Doors

Ian Robertson draws attention to this proposal at 2nd and Main:

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Development

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Interesting that there is some non-market artist space, though packing two bedrooms in 615 sf certainly does not allow much space in which to actually create art, especially if two+ people were to be living there.
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Also I am somewhat troubled by the apparent spatial separation between the market and non market parts of the building … the non-market even has a door between the elevator banks to separate the spaces. In effect, the non-market part of the building has a poor door at the back of the building. More information would be required to see how this would work in practice, as at the moment it looks decidedly like the market places have access to decidedly greater facility than non-market. All the amenity spaces I see are specifically listed as being ‘Market Amenity’.
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It troubles me that the poor door style is coming to Vancouver, even as it is being phased out elsewhere for its gross unfairness.

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  1. While it is easy to condemn the ‘poor door’ concept I would caution people from doing so. As long as governments look to the private sector to build social housing, rather than make funds available, developers will need to respect market forces.

    Why shouldn’t someone paying $1M enjoy nicer amenities than someone renting for $1000 a month.

    Do those who oppose ‘poor doors’ also oppose Business Class and Premium Economy on airplanes?

    Remember, those passengers often ‘subsidize’ the balance of the plane. The same holds true for projects combining market and ‘affordable housing’.

    1. Do those who defend “poor doors” also favour separate doors for people of different races?

      I know how to build a straw man, too.

      The reality is that “poor doors” are an in-your-face reminder that the poor people are only being tolerated because the government mandated it to be so. The rich people don’t actually want to mix with the poors (which is the thrust of your argument) – they consider themselves to be above them.

      This is offensive bullshit and should be denounced as such. Poor people are no less deserving than rich people. Wealth is not a measure of character.

      1. Nothing irritates me like intentionally disingenuous, self-righteous declarations of moral superiority.

        The false outrage – “oh I cannot ABIDE this disgrace upon my decent sensibilities!” (to be read in an ironic southern drawl)

        So at what rate do you value your poignant symbolism? Maybe getting rid of the poor door means one less social housing unit. Is that a substitution you are willing to make? Maybe one more person gets a house if all the compassionate liberals can withstand the poor door.

        So humans care about status (and are willing to pay for it)? So shareholders care about profits? So if you get a subsidized unit you don’t get access to the swimming pool – what an inhumane proposition!

        How could anyone presume themselves to have a higher status, or expect more simply because they pay more? WHAT KIND OF A WORLD DO WE LIVE IN?

        1. So you do believe that wealth is indeed a measure of – if not character – at least “status”. I heartily disagree.

          On what basis do you claim that my reaction is disingenuous?

        2. I’m always fascinated by ideological impasses – we really do think differently. It’s no one’s fault necessarily, it’s just values. There’s interesting work by folks like Jonathan Haidt in psychology which argues your politics are actually innate and biological.

          Do you really feign doubt that wealth buys status? Having the fancier door is a status symbol – “look at me, I go in the rich door!” People paid good money for the right to say that! Should the government really intervene to prevent these voluntary status purchases?

          Has it come to this? – not only must we be made materially equal, but our egos must be equivalently stroked. One should not be permitted to feel that anyone is “better” than them.

          I suppose we ought to establish a Government Bureau of Status and Prominence which regulates any obscene displays of stature. First thing: nationalize and redistribute the global supply of “world’s greatest dad mugs”.

        3. No, I don’t think we need a Government Bureau of Status and Prominence. Nor do I imagine that wealth doesn’t buy status. I think it shouldn’t.

          I do wonder why people want to feel we have higher status than other people, especially based on wealth. I think the outcome for society is negative, just as it is any time we divide ourselves into “us” and “them”.

  2. Given the neighbourhood the market condos will likely be purchased by young creative professionals, who should have no issues mixing with non-market artists. Across the road on the east side of Main for example are several non-market artist lofts, and the transformation of this lower Mount Pleasant area in the last decade or so has been driven by artists.

    Seems like a baffling, unnecessary move.

  3. In the absence of full-time police presence at the Marguerite Ford disaster, just down the street, and other buildings where the police are called to every single day (Pacific & Hornby for e.g.), it’s perfectly understandable that there be some separation. This building is aiming for LEED Gold. That ain’t cheap. Lots of expensive condos have to be sold to pay for that and for the ~12% non-market portion.

    As long as the City is calling for LEED Gold and community infrastructure components paid by developers, plus costs that go to bike lanes and many other ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ endeavours, the costs of property in Vancouver will continue to skyrocket.

    Having accepted that, the wealth gap can only become wider. As that gap widens there will also be increases in all aspects of security. A new building a couple of blocks from this proposed one has repeatedly had its water feature nozzles stolen, presumably for the scrap metal value. Each nozzle costs around $800. Right now they are waiting for six replacements. We can expect that the strata council has requested some sort of impenetrable metal framework grid to enclose the nozzles, because being constantly ripped off by roving scavengers is just not sustainable. The architecture of the gates and fences in all the back alleys tells much about how private owners have to demand military style separation from those that just want to take. Who needs it? Just build a metal wall.

    1. Bike lanes are cheap. They’re not intended to be green or sustainable but rather serve a transportation need. They help make the city more affordable.

    2. The South West Coast-wide phenomenon of higher property values caused by the effects of supply/demand, demographics and speculation cannot be attributed to LEEDs, bike lanes and fountain nozzles. That’s a rather lazy, cheap comment.

      Away from the waterfront, below the penthouses, and in the absence of a 10 km view, condos are fairly average in price by comparison. Large lots with detached homes which cover 70% of Vancouver’s private lands …. that’s another story, and it shouldn’t conflated with denser areas where land use is far more efficient.

      1. “The South West Coast-wide phenomenon of higher property values caused by the effects of supply/demand, demographics and speculation cannot be attributed to LEEDs, bike lanes and fountain nozzles. That’s a rather lazy, cheap comment.”

        To be fair to Eric and economics: In terms of supply and demand (which to be clear are the relationships between price(Y) and quantity supplied/demanded(X) ), LEED requirements would have the effect of shifting the supply curve to the left, meaning that for any given price range fewer units would be supplied. This shifts the intersection of the two curves up and to the left meaning that you would expect higher prices and fewer units constructed.

        1. Matt, my suggestion is that the higher price of land in Vancouver IS the fundemental affordabiity question, not LEEDs, which remains a secondary factor. Land has been shifted on the x-y axes for 15 years now.

      2. The nozzles story may be a cheap shot but is an absolutely typical anecdote. Even closer to the project proposed is the social housing building across the street, behind the gas station. The police were repeatedly called during construction of Mechanica next door because of things being thrown from windows into the construction site. Go two blocks east to the live-work studios with the red balconies at Scotia and ask them about the roving thieves that break into the cars behind two sets of metal doors in the basement. All these things cost money in new and more secure buildings. Anyone who builds or renovates in Vancouver is also familiar with the extensive fees. The latest being the new costs for sorting and segregating garbage. It all adds up to a very expensive city to build, buy and live in.

        No wonder young people look to the inevitable sprawl in Delta, Langley, etc. for an affordable home. No wonder they need a car too.

        1. You are focusing on one or two anecdotal stories about severe cases and applying them to the entire Burrard Penninsula and regional land economics. If I felt like it I can cite over 20 housing co-ops and many, many more subsidized housing projects that fit very well into the community and are good neighbours.

          1. I’m talking not about one or two severe cases at all. I know people that live all around the area and have done for years. We all know that it’s a gong show down there.

            If you look again, see that I’m also talking about buildings that are mere minutes away, or even across the street from the subject property being discussed.

    3. You are also taking one story about one housing complex (Marguerite Ford) and elevating above all subsidized housing. Ford’s issues revolved around the temporary lack of needed on-site medical and social work services for the hard-to-house when it first opened, hence the police presence, something that is the exception because of its special needs, not the norm. It’s also an old story.

      There are thousands of units of social housing that are stable and quiet. Housing and artist’s co-operatives are self-managed and quite well run because the residents have an equity stake. Co-ops are not perfect, but they are better than most because residents have input into the committee management structure. Senior’s housing should never be knocked, especially considering there were no pension plans for our housewife mothers who spent decades without employment benefits. There is also social and assisted housing for people with disabilities. It’s often hard to tell the difference between buildings with subsidized units and their neighbours.

      Mixed use + mixed income is a most equitable and socially representative urbanism, and it will no doubt be refined as Vancouver matures and figures out where to put the doors.

  4. I think it’s a statement of what Vancouver has become.

    Housing used to be a place where people lived. Now, it’s first and foremost an investment. Property values have become more important than community.

  5. The separation is probably for practical and financial reasons.

    The CONDOS will be owned and operated by the strata corporation and its owners.

    The NON-MARKET artists studios would be owned by the City (?) and operated by an arts or housing society(?).

    Unless the NON-MARKET studios PAY the same STRATA FEES as the CONDO owners (or the city subsidizes to the same extent), then they don’t share in the BENEFITS and the BURDENS of using, maintaining and repairing the common areas and amenities of the CONDO.

    Adding the STRATA FEES to a NON-MARKET rent would [obviously] bump up the cost of the rent.

    Simple.

    1. Good points. Legal and insurance issues would differ. Only the market section and those owners would come under the Strata Act.

    2. The artists and other lower income people who move into a neighbourhood and make it livable/desirable provide an amenity to those who develop and take advantage of this desirability later. Why should they then be excluded because they can no longer afford this amenity. Should they not then share in the developed gains?

      1. That’s an academic argument.

        The renters would have to crystallize their interest – by investing their own money – before they can take the benefit (and the burdens). Otherwise, they’d be able to exit (i.e. avoid burdens) without consequence. They can’t get something for free (and if you argue they’ve lived in the area helping to bring it up – well, so have the condo owners who are also “creating” a viable neighbourhood PLUS they have their teeth in it monetarily).

        In the current market it may not seem like it, but their is risk in buying real estate. Just ask some leaky condo owners.

        1. You’re correct, it is an academic argument. But the endless repeating of the argument that because they pay less, they should get less is also a flaw of arithmetic. Developers typically don’t put in non-market units for the good of their health, they do it because they get to add more market units, and make more money. The very presence of the non-market units is payment enough, as they have enabled that much more market, and so having an area of have vs have not within the building seems crass.

          If payment were required, why can the leaseholder not cover the common facility charges + insurance? It certainly costs more to have redundant facility (a market and a non market weight room, for instance) than it does to just have one for everyone. There has to be a legal framework which would allow any Strata Act issues to be resolved. After all, if the building does become leaky, there would have to be a framework for the owner of the rental units to be partially responsible. This means that resolving further issues of amenity space use should be trivial.

          To the argument that we all accept first class vs coach on an airplane, true, we do. We do not however accept a street suddenly becoming privatized and gated. Point Grey might be first class living but there isn’t a prohibition against entering the neighbourhood. Within a single building the dividing line lies somewhere in the middle. But to segregate the building internally into a have vs have-not zone seems to be on the wrong side of the dividing zone.

  6. How does the poor door notion jive with the remarkable Woodwards development, which has a two tower format. One for the market component and the other for the non-market? Seems to work fine.

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