Getting under the skin

There is a c1902 house at the corner of Primrose and Booth. It’s actually a semi-detached, with one door facing Primrose and the other Booth. For as long as I can remember it has been sagging at the front corner. This is probably due to the line of peat that traces the foot of the escarpment / Nanny Goat Hill that runs from parliament, Cathedral Hill, Bronson Hill, and eventually peters out somewhere mid-Dalhousie neighborhood near Gladstone, interrupted by the syncline of the Nepean-Gloucester fault line. All along the foot of the escarpment you can spot houses that sag (these must be … Continue reading Getting under the skin

Charettes — or is it charades? — on the west side

The City of Ottawa’s CDP on the Bayview-Carling area has long been an embarrassment. Not that its key worker bee has been lacking, but rather that the city has endlessly unfunded it, delayed it, postponed it, and frustrated it, while many of the prime lots have been spot rezoned, frequently from a two or four storey height to twenty, thirty, and now forty+ stories. But there are many more sites yet to be rezoned, and the developers are lined up four deep for rezoning, so the City flew in its favourite swat team Urban Strategies, of Toronto. Here are some impressions of the George Dark — … Continue reading Charettes — or is it charades? — on the west side

Moving Toward Goal-oriented Infill (part iii)

In the first part of this series, we looked at the current model of infill and intensification. By emphasizing compatibility and incremental change, it is supposed to mollify the neighbours. If there are few infills in a neighborhood, this might work (ie, the rest of the neighborhood is economical to keep as it is). In other neighborhoods, with the passage of time, and by dint of many infills and evolution, the finished result is a changed neighborhood that has lots of minimally useful side yards, mostly paved and definitely un-green back “yards”, and too often lots of front yard parking too. Cars dominate … Continue reading Moving Toward Goal-oriented Infill (part iii)

Moving beyond compatible intensification and infill (part ii)

Neighborhoods come and go in trendiness. A trendy location in Copenhagen is the “potato fields” area, Kartoffelraekkerne. The former working housing, consisting of three storey flats, is now very popular with those whom Richard Florida would label the “creative class” (including architects, professors, planners). Of course, 1880’s worker housing doesn’t meet modern needs, so the creative types have kit bashed the three flats per building into three storey townhouses. While this is 1880’s style, and not what we expect to find in Ottawa, I am impressed by the attractiveness of the long uniform rows along the streets. There are no garages or … Continue reading Moving beyond compatible intensification and infill (part ii)

Moving Beyond Compatible Infill and Intensification (part i)

“It’s just not compatible with this neighborhood !” — so goes the cry heard every day in our fair city. It goes up whether the proposal is for a single infill house, or worse a semi, or even worse, a townhouse cluster or innovative pod of housing units. And then it becomes a banshee wail when the intensification is for an apartment building. Strangely enough, the cries are usually preceded by a faux-conciliatory “I’m all in favour of intensification but …”  We all have no doubt that the objections have nothing to do with the purely coincidental proximity of the project to the … Continue reading Moving Beyond Compatible Infill and Intensification (part i)

How shoppers get to Preston Street

A few days ago, I posted some info from the Wellington West BIA about how people get to their shops. The results were interesting to readers, including some city planners who contacted me on how to get the source info. A reader sends me this quote: [and note that at this point the street had undergone but not totally finished three years of muck and mud and noise of reconstruction, including reconstructing the sidewalks][and note also that this is a survey of local area residents, not of all the people found on the street, as was the WWBIA survey, which will account … Continue reading How shoppers get to Preston Street

Cow Plats in the Pasture

So, PWGSC held the long-awaited open house to reveal the two schemes for the cubicle farm at Tunney’s Pasture. It would be hard to imagine a worse letdown. First, the event site was unmarked from the outside; the sidewalk along Tunney’s Drive was scattered with people wondering where the event was. Once up the incredibly hostile “entry” to the Jean Talon building, with its angular steps, brutal walls, and concealed floral beds; it was into a very unwelcoming dark lobby. Have these guys ever taken energy saving to the hilt — please, someone, buy them some lightbulbs! The display room was similarly … Continue reading Cow Plats in the Pasture

Main street’s modal split

Annie Hillis of the West Wellington BIA (WWBIA) sent me the following data. They conducted a four-day survey in June, asking 830 people found along their typical older-city main street how they came to the street, their post code, and their shopping habits. The WWBIA main street runs roughly from Bayswater westwards along Somerset & West Wellington to Island Park. The modal split numbers surprised me.  Forty six percent of those found along the street got there by walking; 26% by car; 13% by bike; twelve percent by bus (numbers throughout this story are rounded off). Only 26% by car? That’s pretty low. And … Continue reading Main street’s modal split

Free advice, worth every penny

On Tuesday I spoke to Planning Committee about the 801 Albert project. Here is what I said:  My name is Eric Darwin and I am here on behalf of the local Dalhousie Community Association. I want to draw your attention to how we access the building. In the past, most tall buildings were downtown; pedestrians used the existing sidewalks; motorists used the existing roads. Outside the downtown, new developments had a traffic impact study that focused on road traffic, as most people came and went by car. This traffic impact study looked at accessing the site and at impacts several … Continue reading Free advice, worth every penny

Shake the planning etch-a-sketch: Build that LRT to Orleans, and charge them for it

Let’s shake the planning etch-a-sketch by building that LRT out to Orleans right now.  And charging them for it. The Sinkhole Incident on Hwy 174 has high lighted the lack of access to the former St Joseph d’Orleans. And its not just the lack of road access, it’s the lack of alternatives. If the sink hole happened on the road to Kanata, there are more alternative routes. The higher road capacity pushes off the breakeven point for extending LRT to Kanata. And remember, the nearest point of Kanata is further away than the farthest point in Orleans*. In this road shortage situation, Orleans … Continue reading Shake the planning etch-a-sketch: Build that LRT to Orleans, and charge them for it

Will Council give equal space to pedestrians?

The City engineers have  voluminous tables of how much space to allocate to motorists. They use these all the time, requiring developers to provide turn lanes, traffic signals, and road widenings, at the developer’s expense, as a required part of the building approval process. Yet we are seeing more and more new buildings with minimal parking, which means lots of dependence on pedestrian access to the building. These people have to move to and from the building on the sidewalks. Yet I don’t recall the approvals of the new high rises on Parkdale, or Preston, or Carling, or anywhere else, getting into the … Continue reading Will Council give equal space to pedestrians?

Cyclists don’t shop, I guess

I’ve had occasion to cycle up to the Rideau Centre several times in the last two weeks. I noticed that there is exactly one small bike rack, on the south side, by DND. It’s not attractive for me to use because a)it’s already full, b) it’s on the far south of the street, and the bike lane is in the middle, so I’d have to cross the bus lanes, park, then cross both sets of lanes again. This is long and boring and slightly dangerous. On the north side, close by the mall: nothing. And this is on a busy … Continue reading Cyclists don’t shop, I guess

Update on the OTrain MUP

What has happened in the  two weeks since worked started on the new multi-user path (aka MUP, or bike path) running from the Macdonald Parkway by the Prince of Wales Railway Bridge south to Bayview Station, behind City Centre Building, to the new underpass under Somerset Street? (First post can be read at ). From the Macdonald Parkway viewpoint by the Ottawa River, not much has changed in two weeks. Most of the work has been going on south of the Parkway, towards Bayview Station. The contractor graded an alignment for the path, here seen looking north from Bayview Station towards the River: Most of … Continue reading Update on the OTrain MUP

California Dreamin’: Palo Alto bike boulevards

The City of Palo Alto is not far from San Francisco, in Silicon Valley. It is a university and hi tech town, with lots of cycling and cyclists. There are a number of factors that make it attractive to cycle: short-ish distances, a dappled shade on the streets from the overhead tree canopy [to be contrasted in a few posts with the San Jose non-canopy], and their bike boulevards. Bike boulevards or neighborhood greenways are rather different from Ottawa designated bike routes. In Ottawa, the green sign goes up, and most of the time, nothing else changes. It’s merely a recommended route. As … Continue reading California Dreamin’: Palo Alto bike boulevards

Waste not, want not

Andy Haydon park has a nice kids waterplay feature, a leftover from the Nepean days, the sort of admirable and interactive play structure Ottawa’s park planners love to avoid. I suspect that as bits wear out they won’t be replaced with like, but the play structure will diminish until it ceases to exist. It’s called maintenance. Adjacent the structure is a public washroom building. It has outside showers, presumably to hose off the little tykes who get their pants loaded with wet sand from the play structure. The showers have been running full tilt, for quite some time /for months /all summer, with muddy soggy … Continue reading Waste not, want not