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Should cities start blocking urban sprawl?

Ervin

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I'm not sure I understand this definition. Are you talking about city or town boundaries or are you talking about urban development boundaries within existing towns (obviously Toronto does not have an urban development boundary other than it's border)? I'm not sure if you are asking if towns like Aurora, for example, should stop approving new developments.
I am saying that cities should prevent massive areas of land that originally separated the countryside from the city from being entirely covered by hundreds of identical houses, and as a result bringing forth the many disadvantages of low density suburbs.

I personally like the Wikipedia definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_sprawl
It's not that complicated people.

Also, thank you to those of you who have posted some informative replies so far.
 
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waterloowarrior

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I would say it's not that simple.... for instance where do the new people go, what happens to the cost of living, what about "leapfrog" development, what about current land designated for development but not yet built? The province has made significant efforts toward managing urban growth (Greenbelt, stricter PPS, Growth Plan) since the Liberals came into power. But are you proposing to stop any urban expansion? Or could slower expansion and denser, better-planned suburbs also be a good option?
 

spider

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I am saying that cities should prevent massive areas of land that originally separated the countryside from the city from being entirely covered by hundreds of identical houses, and as a result bringing forth the many disadvantages of low density suburbs.
Your solution presupposes that your "massive areas of land" surrounding a city are under the control of the city government (in this case presumably Toronto). The lands surrounding Toronto are themselves Cities, jurisdictions with goals and problems of their own least of which are making Toronto happy.
 

SunriseChampion

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Nothing wrong with some serious intensification of existingly built-up areas, starting with the inner suburbs. Now, it just has to be actively encouraged.

And I'm not talking building over strip plazas on the "Avenues". I'm talking about busting grid through streets and tearing down vast sections of 20-50 year old inner suburb subdivision. I guess zoning bylaws are a problem for turning ten suburban lots into some sort of better use including, perhaps, commercial uses but those bylaws need to be changed.

I don't know, but I do know that only fools go for box-sized backyards thinking they've made it now to some sort of land-owning paradise and such self-deluding behaviour should be actively discouraged.

I think a big problem is the rigidity of zoned land uses and bylaws.
 

Ervin

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Your solution presupposes that your "massive areas of land" surrounding a city are under the control of the city government (in this case presumably Toronto). The lands surrounding Toronto are themselves Cities, jurisdictions with goals and problems of their own least of which are making Toronto happy.
I did not say I was talking about Toronto specifically, in fact I clearly said "cities in the GTA"
do you think cities in the GTA should start preventing urban sprawl by restricting developers from building beyond specified city limits?
I am quite aware that the city of Toronto has no control over urban sprawl around the GTA, that's why I said it's going to need serious cooperation between individual municipalities.

And by the way, I am not really proposing any serious solutions. In the three posts I made in this thread, in only the last one I mentioned that I want cities to take action in preventing sprawl. I was just asking for opinions on what the best course of action would be. Why can't a person here ask a simple question without ten other people accusing them of proposing unfeasable solutions?

I would say it's not that simple.... for instance where do the new people go, what happens to the cost of living, what about "leapfrog" development, what about current land designated for development but not yet built? The province has made significant efforts toward managing urban growth (Greenbelt, stricter PPS, Growth Plan) since the Liberals came into power. But are you proposing to stop any urban expansion? Or could slower expansion and denser, better-planned suburbs also be a good option?
I thought I was asking the questions here, or does that cost money?

But to answer your question, i think by far the best solution would be to discourage driving by making it expensive, while making public transit a good alternative. But hey, we can all dream can't we? I also really like the efforts of creating greenbelts, not because they have been hugely effective or anything, but because they make some nice green space, and make the city interesting.

Nothing wrong with some serious intensification of existingly built-up areas, starting with the inner suburbs. Now, it just has to be actively encouraged.

And I'm not talking building over strip plazas on the "Avenues". I'm talking about busting grid through streets and tearing down vast sections of 20-50 year old inner suburb subdivision. I guess zoning bylaws are a problem for turning ten suburban lots into some sort of better use including, perhaps, commercial uses but those bylaws need to be changed.

I don't know, but I do know that only fools go for box-sized backyards thinking they've made it now to some sort of land-owning paradise and such self-deluding behaviour should be actively discouraged.

I think a big problem is the rigidity of zoned land uses and bylaws.
I think one thing that separates Toronto from many American cities that I have seen is that Toronto is seeing a significant rise of new condos in the midst of suburbs, so at least we're heading somewhere. Condos both low rise and high rise are obviously one of the best solutions here, so it should be greatly encouraged.

Also here's a graph I found on Wikipedia:

Toronto is the obvious outlier here, hopefully moving closer to the European cities. Also interesting to see that Australian cities have the same area per person as American cities, but use less gas. Is it because it has more public tansportation?
 
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Second_in_pie

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Nothing wrong with some serious intensification of existingly built-up areas, starting with the inner suburbs. Now, it just has to be actively encouraged.

And I'm not talking building over strip plazas on the "Avenues". I'm talking about busting grid through streets and tearing down vast sections of 20-50 year old inner suburb subdivision. I guess zoning bylaws are a problem for turning ten suburban lots into some sort of better use including, perhaps, commercial uses but those bylaws need to be changed.

I don't know, but I do know that only fools go for box-sized backyards thinking they've made it now to some sort of land-owning paradise and such self-deluding behaviour should be actively discouraged.

I think a big problem is the rigidity of zoned land uses and bylaws.
Great post to paint my views on :)

I'm agreeing that it's the inner suburbs that need intensification the most, generally because they have the infrastructure and establishment to do so. Intensification in the outer suburbs (especially border farmland areas) would be cool and is possible, but at a much smaller scale.

Yes. Intensification shouldn't just mean tearing down the ugly main street buildings and replacing them with 10 story condos. It should be completely ripping out some areas and redeveloping them for high density. That could just mean replacing houses with 3 story flats, maybe replacing them with. We don't need to be just looking at pretty little "european avenues" without realizing that out from those avenues are rows of high density housing in the form of flats and other dense housing. I honestly think that Toronto could pull that off well.

I'm not against "suburban housing". It's a legitimate lifestyle that I don't have a problem with, and can understand why someone would prefer it. I'm impartial to it, assuming that I have a family to fill with it. McMansions I don't get, but cutesey 50's-70's suburban homes are okay with me. The problem is the quantity of them. It's become a total plague. Suddenly, everyone wants to live the suburban dream. I think to most people, giving them high density living that actually suits their needs (none of this CityPlace $500k closet bull,) would actually choose it. There's a balance. Some people want skyscraper condos overlooking the lake and next to the core, some people want flats overlooking bustling commercial streets, some people want a nice quiet home.
Culture's probably one thing, but I honestly think you could sell a 3 bedroom, $300k apartment in a modern 4 story building to many suburban house owners. The government just needs to find a way to get it started. From there, a healthy balance can resume.
 

maestro

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Culture's probably one thing, but I honestly think you could sell a 3 bedroom, $300k apartment in a modern 4 story building to many suburban house owners.
Sorry, but I don't see too many freehold owners settling for condominium ownership. What we will see are more freehold townhouses with rooftop terraces as yards and covered or underground parking under a common elements corporation. Medium to Highrise will always be a niche market. Wood is just so much cheaper than concrete.
 

Second_in_pie

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^^ I'm going to have to disagree with you right there. Give them a modern condo/apartment with a balcony and enough space and you might change their mind. The problem is that a vast majority of the condos and apartments in the city are tiny. Really, the only big ones are the older ones, and those are generally in poorer areas that people want to avoid, especially if they have children. I'm not saying that condos need to be like full sized houses, but they need variety. Condos right now may only be able to fill a niche market, but it doesn't have to be like that. Look at European cities, where many families comfortably live in flats. It's all about building it right.

Toronto is the obvious outlier here, hopefully moving closer to the European cities. Also interesting to see that Australian cities have the same area per person as American cities, but use less gas. Is it because it has more public tansportation?
i wonder, how do other Canadian cities hold up on that graph? If Toronto uses that little gasoline, I wonder what Montreal or Vancouver uses.
 

Admiral Beez

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^^^When I say urban sprawl I mean the most commonly used definition which is: Building homes outside of city limits and expanding the area of the city
That's how all cities since the beginning of civilization have been doing it. A settlement is founded, and then expands its borders as population expands. Here's front street in 1804. By your logic we should never have expanded Toronto outside of these city limits.

 

TrickyRicky

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Ervin,

Hey, this is a great topic of conversation and debate but I think that some of the posts that question the underlying assumptions from your orginal post are important. People act in their own interests and it is important to understand that as we travel through different phases in our life cycle we have different priorities, goals, tolerances and responsibilities. I think in general most people dislike sprawl and yet in general people desire a piece of land and their own house to be master in as they choose. The intent and desire of the individual can be positive while the collective outcome of their actions can be negative and have an undesirable impact on everyone.

The discussion about development boundaries reminds be of the campy 70's movie Conan the Barbarian where a young James-Earl Jones says to a younger Arnold, "Do you want to know the riddle of steel? Steel is weak...". Development boundaries are weak because they do not address the underlying mechanism. If you want to limit sprawl you need to tip the balance in peoples minds where they no longer see suburban living as necessarily something that is in their best interests financially and conceptually. Development boundaries by contrast are like throwing a boulder in the ocean to stop the incoming tide.
 

lead82

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One other reason people like freehold, be it house, or townhouse is that they can avoid the ever growing condo fees. That's one problem with the existing condo market today. Most buildings have too many amenities that few ever use, and the fact that they exist cause quite high condo fees. Fees are on average getting close to $0.60 per sq ft these days. With HST, some will go even higher. People feel that in a freehold, you control your spending on how much gas, heat, electricity you use. More control of your costs. Yes, there are some house repairs that must be budgeted for, but most people can do this.

I would like to see more bare-bones condo apartments built in the city with low fees (< $0.35 per sq ft) that are larger, say 2br 1000-1200 sq ft, and 3br 1200 - 1500 sq ft. Build them in the price range of $200K - $300K and they will sell like hot-cakes all over town. The only problem is no one is building such units because the city doesn't zone land that is cheap enough for a development to make money on such buildings. The only land sold for condo's is expensive, usually near subway stations. Thus, the developer only builds tiny units catered to single and childless couples. If they do build a 3br unit, then it costs like $600K. Why would anyone spend $600K on a 3br condo, with like $1000/mth condo fee, when you can get a much bigger town-house for similar size, that is a freehold, and may even have a small yard or roof-top patio?
 

W. K. Lis

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Back in 2008, crude oil was over $125 a barrel. Remember the price of gasoline back then? Then the recession hit, and the price of crude oil went down to under $50 (but only for a short time) and the recession hit us. Today, crude has gone back up, over $80 a barrel.

As the price moves, so does the price of fuel. As we get out of the recession, the price of crude oil will go up and the price of fuel with it. That means transportation and sprawl will get more and more expensive. We had only a hint of those prices back in 2008. It maybe cheaper to own a house in the sprawl, but if one has to constantly use a motor vehicle to get a litre of milk or a lottery ticket, it will get more and more expensive just to live there day to day.
 

valkoholic

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Banning sprawl is tough, but if we ever wanted to really change behaviour in Ontarion it would be one of the solutions. If sprawl were banned without other measures the costs would be enormous (the big sales pitch for sprawl is its abaility to produce affordable housing). Others measures would include:

- requiring municiaplities to develop plans to allow intensification of existing suburbs (i.e. the opposite of Toronto's official plan) in order to keep housing costs down
- banning high-densitit uses in areas with poor transit (for example. the RBC call centre at the west end of Mississauga)
- ensuring the ban includes Toronto's commuter-belt Cities (Barrie), otherwise you're doing more harm than good by increasing travel distances
- massive investment in transit paid for by highways tolls

I'd love to see this happen, but I'm realistic enough to know it won't.

Too bad too, because we're about to build two new giant suburbs in Ontario (North Oakville and Seaton). The employment districts in these two alone will generate 90,000 car-trips per day. That's 18 lanes of expressway.
 

Glen

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Lawrence Solomon had some interesting comments in a Financial Post editorial.

http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=319828

Property taxes might have been expressly designed to encourage production of greenhouse gases......

Residents of New York, for example, generate just 29% of the per-capita emissions that Americans as a whole produce. London does even better in eschewing emissions, besting New York by 20%. Canada's major metropolis, Toronto, cannot hold a candle to either city, with per-capita emissions 35% above New York's and 62% above London's.........

Instead of welcoming the inherent efficiency with which valuable downtown properties are used, cities punish them by taxing them on the basis of their high property values, rather than the actual costs of providing properties with municipal services. The tax on valued property encourages the use of low-value property further and further away, not just away from downtown but also in suburbs and beyond........

And worse. Businesses pay especially punitive property taxes, encouraging them to relocate outside the city boundary, and then commute into town to provide services to their city customers. After they leave, their staff and suppliers tend to follow them over time, contributing to the well-known hollowing out effect that cities experience. The hollowing out worsens because, when these taxpayers leave the city, the tax load must fall on the city's remaining taxpayers, increasing their tax burden and encouraging further departures......
The last point is especially interesting in that I have raised this point with city councillors before. Higher taxes are coming to Toronto. Whether they sift the burden away from or watch business stagnant and or leave, higher taxes are coming
 

kettal

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Also here's a graph I found on Wikipedia:

Toronto is the obvious outlier here, hopefully moving closer to the European cities.
Am I reading this right? Toronto has higher population density than New York?
Also interesting to see that Australian cities have the same area per person as American cities, but use less gas. Is it because it has more public tansportation?
All those Australian cities have regional rail systems, with a station in almost every suburb.
 

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