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School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 4 – Changing Expectations

This is the final installment in a four-part series about the demographic, housing and land use contexts of troubled public schools. Here are links to parts one, two and three.

North Americans are culturally attached to the single-family house, especially for families with children. Thanks to Barrie Sutcliffe for this great photos of houses on the outskirts of Edmonton, Alberta.

In many core cities, insufficient affordable and suitable housing for families provides a push for young families to leave urban neighbourhoods for the suburbs.

The pull of suburban environments is the other side of the coin. 55% of Canadians live in a house, and many believe that young children have the best outcomes in a single-family house with a private yard. Cultural attachment to … Continue Reading

School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 3 of 4 – Intergenerational Neighbourhoods and Housing Diversity

105-year-old Sir William MacDonald Elementary School was one of 11 Vancouver schools threatened with closure in 2010. Thanks to Sqeaky Marmot on Flickr for this great Creative Commons photo.

Wrestling with the conundrum of why growing cities like Vancouver face declining public school enrolments, the first two posts in this series suggest links between municipal and regional populations of school-aged children and the affordability and suitability of family housing. Today’s post explores the value of intergenerational communities in both urban and suburban contexts, and considers how housing diversity may influence demographics at the neighbourhood scale.

Urban Context
Researching the dispersal of children across local neighbourhoods, the Curious Dad newspaper column found that Vancouver’s east-side communities house the most young children, while … Continue Reading

School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 2 – Family Housing

This is the second post in a series exploring demographic, housing and land use contexts of troubled public schools in the City of Vancouver and its suburbs.

Last week’s post showed that, though the proportion of Metro Vancouver’s population made up of school-aged children is declining, that decline is occurring more rapidly in the central City of Vancouver. More suburban in character, the City of Surrey (pop 400,000)  is home to the only public school district in British Columbia where enrolment is actually increasing.

Canada-wide statistics show that these trends are not unique to Metro Vancouver. One analysis of 2006 Canadian census data showed that “27% of first-time parents made the move out the city and very few moved in.” A Statistics Canada report suggests that “one of the explanations for … Continue Reading

School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis – Part 1

This is the first post in a series exploring demographic, housing and land use contexts of troubled public schools in the City of Vancouver and its suburbs.

Kids attending public schools in Vancouver, Canada are back in class today after an extended two-week spring break. In previous years, spring break was just one week long, but school districts around BC are experimenting with their instructional calendars in desparate attempts to save money on heating, school buses and wages.

Edith Cavell Elementary School in Vancouver sat empty for two weeks this year during an extended spring break. Creative Commons photo by author.

Recent years have not been easy for public schools in Vancouver. A local newspaper identified threatened school closures as one of the top news stories … Continue Reading

Vancouver Master Plan Project

This fall, I had the honor of participating in the creation of the first large-scale master plan for the city of Vancouver, Canada since the 1920s. Fourteen landscape architecture and three planning graduate students contributed to the plan, which tackles envisioning how the lower density portion of the city outside the downtown core will accommodate the growth expected over the next 40 years. View the finished document here (35MB PDF file behind the link). 

Student Mary Wong’s depiction of a Production, Distribution, Repair Typology transitioning to an existing single family home with residential densities in between. Used with permission.

Professor Patrick Condon’s recent book Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities provided a basis for the interdisciplinary studio, and Condon required that the plan reflect a doubling of Vancouver’s population … Continue Reading

Snapshot: Closed Schools

Snapshot_Abandoned Schools_091101
Over the course of a few decades, a neighbourhood’s demand for school infrastructure can change dramatically. Changes in population size or composition fuel the need for new schools or erode the viability of existing ones. The effects of these demographic changes are highly localized, since the residential catchment area of an urban elementary school is generally less than a one kilometer radius around the school site.

Cranberry School in Powell River, BC, shown above, was closed in 1983. Its playing fields are still maintained and used by local sports teams, but children from the Cranberry neighbourhood now attend school in other parts of Powell River. To the dismay of local heritage preservationists, the Cranberry School building, built in 1930, sits empty … Continue Reading

Resilient Cities Conference: Paul Hawken on innately resilient cities, eco-porn, and peak energy

The first morning of the Gaining Ground, Resilient Cities conference concluded with a presentation by Paul Hawken, renowned author of Natural Capitalism, the Ecology of Commerce, and Blessed Unrest. His remarks followed up on Mayor Gregor Robertson’s introduction of Vancouver’s Greenest City Initiative, so he opened by teasing Vancouver about our good-looking and charismatic mayor, whose work he takes seriously.

Creative Commons photo of Paul Hawken from 2007 by the Rainforest Action Network.

Creative Commons photo of Paul Hawken from 2007 by the Rainforest Action Network.

Hawken’s hopeful message is that resiliency is innate to cities, which are the most effective and natural epicenters of change. Humans’ most complex creations, cities are resilient for the same reason that ecosystems are resilient – with complexity comes efficiency. Culturally, … Continue Reading

CIP Niagara Conference – Old Age Ain’t for Sissies

This afternoon’s session, entitled “Old Age Ain’t for Sissies and What that Means for Planners” was a full house. The enthusiasm shown for this topic indicates that planners are very aware of impending demographic changes that will require accommodating aging communities to become a planning priority. The moderator, Don May, opened the presentation with a mind-boggling time-lapse series of Canadian population pyramids from the late 19th century. (You can see a similar series of pyramids online here.) Canada expects an 86% increase in its senior population over the next 20 years; by 2041, one in four Canadians will be over 65.

Age-friendly cities need physical accessibility as well as intergenerational tolerance. Creative Commons photo by Dr. Scott Crawford.

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