Mark Marissen: Grow Vancouver. How to fight climate change

The man who hopes to run for mayor with Progress Vancouver says that under the current mayor and council, the city's population actually shrank last year

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      By Mark Marissen

      As mayor, I want to reverse suburban sprawl and kick-start growth to ensure that Vancouver can remain the social and cultural heartbeat of the Lower Mainland.

      This is our most effective way to make real progress on our fight against climate change and to improve our quality of life. 

      I’m proud to have cochaired the first national election campaign to put a price on carbon emissions (now widely accepted as a cornerstone in the fight against climate change) and to have helped secure the federal funding for the Canada Line. As mayor, I will focus my efforts on land-use reform.

      Despite people moving to the Lower Mainland in droves, Vancouver’s population is actually shrinking under our current mayor and council.

      After decades of steady growth, Vancouver’s population took its first downturn since the 1970s, the time when city council stopped approving new homes in reaction to the creation of the population-rich West End. 

      Vancouver lost about 7,000 people last year.

      Between 2015 and 2020, Surrey grew twice as fast as Vancouver. Langley grew 260 percent faster. 

      Most younger families—and most tradespeople, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and teachers—can only hope to own a home in Vancouver if they inherit it.  And, when looking for a place to rent, they’ve got very few options that provide them with any kind of long-term security.

      They’re now driving in from the suburbs, stuck in their cars for hours, polluting everyone’s air, resulting in longer and wider highways that all of us have to pay for, challenging everyone’s quality of life.

      Why is this happening?  

      Because Vancouver City Hall has stubbornly refused to catch up to reality.  

      Apartments and townhouses—the kind of homes some families might be able to afford—are still banned on 80 percent of our residential land base, including around public schools. 

      The mayor’s election-eve “Making Home” initiative, while a modest step in the right direction, is a day late and a dollar short. 

      Not only does it fail to provide enough family-oriented housing, it maintains the current system of negotiated "community amenity charges" that are a major culprit in driving up the cost of new construction in Vancouver. (We’ll have more to say about this in the coming weeks.)

      Suburban sprawl throughout North America is being recognized as one of the biggest threats in the fight against climate change.  

      Sprawl increases greenhouse gas emissions, destroys greenspace and wildlife habitats, uses way more water, increases flood and wildfire risks, costs taxpayers billions in infrastructure, and steals hours of time away from families because of commuting.

      Urban living is itself one of the most powerful ways for any individual or family to reduce emissions and overall ecological impact. Vancouver City Hall should be encouraging urban living, not getting in the way.

      Transportation is by far the largest source of carbon emissions in B.C., at over 40 percent of the total, driven mainly by road transportation. If we’re serious about fighting climate change, we need neighbourhoods where people can walk, bike, or ride transit to work.  

      The good news is that recent studies have shown that 54 prcent of the trips taken in Vancouver involved walking, transit or cycling. We can thank neighbourhoods like the West End, Downtown, Fairview, and Mount Pleasant, where over two-thirds of trips don’t involve a car at all. 

      By contrast: walking, cycling, and transit comprised only 28 percent of trips taken throughout Metro Vancouver.  In Surrey, 20 percent.  Langley Township: just nine percent.  

      As mayor, I will work to build thriving, walkable neighbourhoods throughout our city. 

      This benefits everyone. This unlocks better transit service, supports a richer range of commercial and cultural amenities, and encourages employers to locate jobs here again.

      Urbanizing also has the added benefit of improving Vancouver’s financial sustainability. Walkable neighbourhoods cost less per household to provide services for, while generating more tax revenue per lot. 

      More than a decade ago, Vancouver declared its ambition to be the “Greenest City” and three years ago, formally declared a climate emergency.  

      These declarations led to some positive changes such as lower-carbon construction and carbon-capture projects, but these advances pale in comparison to city hall’s refusal to allow the housing we need to reverse suburban sprawl.

      I’m running for mayor because I believe a greener city is also a richer, more enjoyable, more vibrant, and more affordable city. 

      We’ll get there if we make the right decisions today.