Analysis of “The Development”

In this blog, there’s a page that looks ahead to the proposed mega-density development of Richmond’s Garden City lands. In the blog menu, it appears as “3. The Development.” This post addresses the need to fill out the picture with some of the thinking behind the projected figures about population, cars, schools, etc., if the development goes ahead.

In this post, clarifying notes are indented like this so that you can easily see what to skip if you don’t require the extra level of detail.

Like many of the posts in this blog, this post assumes that the reader has background knowledge of the Garden City lands issue, Richmond, B.C. One way to fill out one’s background knowledge about the issue is by reading the pages of this blog, as listed in the side menu. The posts often add detail to points that are concisely made on the pages, which are mainly columns that have appeared in the Digging Deep series in the Richmond Review.

The projections in “The Development” and this post are based on reliable sources such as expert advice, censuses, and school board reports. Further expert advice will be sought, and the projections will be modified if need be. Also, knowledgeable input is welcome in the blog comments and is being heeded. (Note: The comments are deleted after the advice has been incorporated.)

Development projections for Garden City lands

The following projections assume that Tourism Richmond’s proposed trade and exhibition centre (TEC) project will not go ahead on the Garden City lands (GCL).

Richmond Council unanimously accepted three “Richmond uses” for the Garden City Lands on December 17, 2007. They did not include the Trade and Exhibition Centre (TEC) that is a possibility under the Garden City Lands agreements. Tourism Richmond terms the project the Asia Pacific Trade and Showcase Centre, and this writer happens to think it could be great for Richmond, though not in the Garden City Lands location. Nevertheless, it is underfunded at a time when senior governments are wary of convention centre projects, and the Garden City lands are clearly the wrong location. In the unlikely event that the TEC is built, there will be about 10 fewer acres for construction and 10 fewer acres for possible parkland.

 Projected area and floor area of GCL development

If the development goes ahead, the main developer will be Canada Lands Company CLC Limited in partnership with the Musqueam Indian Band.

CLC-Musqueam acreage: 68 acres + 10.2 acres from TEC = 78.2 acres of total area

Background: If the trade and exhibition centre will not be built on the Garden City lands, the agreements between Garden City lands parties provide for CLC-Musqueam developers to receive half the TEC lands. Since the TEC lands would have been 30% of the public lands, which are commonly called the city lands, the effect is 10.2 acre reduction in city land and a 10.2 increase in CLC-Musqueam development land.

Minus up to 5% neighbourhood park dedication = 74.3 acres

A 5% neighbourhood park dedication is a Richmond development standard, and it is confirmed in the agreements.

Minus approx 12% for roadways, etc. = 65.4 acres

The 12% is a generous estimate since the city lands would include a disproportionate share of the roadways because of being scattered throughout the development. This is probably the only estimate in these projections that isn’t conservative, and it isn’t a major factor.

65.4 acres x 43,560 sq. ft./acre = 2,848,224 sq. ft = construction area

This construction area is the total of the areas of all the parcels of land where construction of mult-unit residential buildings will occur if the Garden City lands megadensity development goes ahead.

FAR of 2.0-2.5 + 0.25 amenities allowance = 2.5 (official FAR + 10% for amenities)

FAR, as explained by Carefree Cities, is a standard measure of construction density. It does not enclosed parking, balconies, service areas, etc. Those features add significantly to the amount of construction.

FAR+ (with the plus sign) is not a technical term. However, Richmond high-density includes additional allowances for amenities that total 0.2 FAR (floor area ration) that do add to the actual floor area ration of the construction but that do not count in the official FAR, which, in the case of Richmond’s High-Density Residential zoning, R4, cannot be higher than 2.0. In these projections, In this post, FAR+ includes the official FAR plus the amenities allowance. In C7, which is a possible zoning for parts of the development, there is a basic FAR of 3.0 and an amenities allowance of 0.3. In both cases, the amenities allowance is 10%, so these calculations have added that 10% of official maximum FAR of 2.5. Very conservatively assuming that the average official FAR will be only 2.25, the total will be 2.5 (2.25 + 0.25 amenities allowance).

Total floor area of the development  = 2,848,224 sq, ft, x 2.5 = 7,122,060 sq. ft.

 Residential units constructed in GCL development

For these calculations, it is assumed that the average unit plus its share of the enclosed common area that is included in FAR (with allowances included for this purpose) is approx. 1,425 sq. ft. The size of the average unit itself might then be something like 1,250 sq. ft.

Available statistics indicate that the average size of a Canadian home is between the two figures stated above. However, that average includes detached homes, whereas the proposed Garden City lands mega-density development does not.

The figures for average unit size and common area are thus intended to err on the high side if anything. An effect is the number of residential units calculated next is unlikely to be too high. That is in keeping with the intent to make conservative estimates.

Number of residential units = 7,122,060 sq. ft. ÷ approx. 1,425 sq. ft. = 5,000 units

Population and parkland

According to the 2006 Canada Census, the average household in Richmond has 2.8 residents. For 5,000 units, the conservative estimate of population is 14,000.

However, remember that that is the bottom of the range, a conservative estimate in every way. The upper part of the reasonable range would be over 20% higher, or about 17,000.  This means that the projected population range is 14,000-17,000.

For example, since developers typically want to build to the maximum in this sort of situation, the actual floor area could be considerably higher. Also, since people are likely to make do with smaller homes as the price per square foot rises, the average size of the units could easilty be 10-20% smaller than in the projections.

For some purposes such as the provision of parkland, which cannot be easily increased if the population turns out to be higher than expected, it would be prudent to plan on the basis of the higher end of the range. In the case of parkland, with a requirement of 3.25 acres within the City Centre per thousand people in the City Centre, it would be appropriate to set aside 55.25 acres of parkland in the City Centre for the Garden City Lands population of the development goes ahead.

Reminder: These projections are based on the assumption that the trade and exhibition centre (TEC) will not be built. In the unlikely event of it going ahead, there would be less development land and less parkland. The two adjustments pretty much cancel each other out. In round figures, the population would be 12,000 to 14,500. The prudent amount of parkland to set aside would be at least 47 acres (14.5 x 3.25 = 47.125) out of the 47.6 acres available. In other words, essentially the entire amount of parkland would be needed for the new Garden City Lands population.

It is important to note that the new population of the Garden City Lands would be creating an overall parkland deficit for Richmond. The reason is that the standard for parkland for Richmond residents is 7.66 acres per thousand. That standard is the same for City Centre residents as for residents of any other part of Richmond. The City Centre difference is that 3.25 acres per thousand (out of the required 7.66 acres) must be within the City Centre, with the rest being anywhere in Richmond. Even if we use a low-end estimate for the Garden City Lands of 12,000 new residents, the parkland required for that population is 92 acres. In the example we have been using, that would involve buying over 44 acres (92 – 47.6) somewhere else in Richmond. Since the recent cost for purchasing parkland in developed areas has been $2.5 million per acre, it would cost the taxpayers of Richmond $110 million to remedy the parkland deficit caused by the Garden City Lands.

Vehicles added to Richmond roads by GCL development

At the current Richmond average: 5,000 x 1.74/household = 8,700 vehicles

Reduced estimate because of Canada Line, etc.: 5,000 x 1.4/household = 7,000 vehicles

A number of factors affect likelihood of the reduced figure, 7,000 additional vehicles on the Richmond roads. Partly because of the Garden City lands development, the extreme congestion of Richmond roads in a few years would make GCL residents more likely to use the Canada Line if they need to travel in its direction. On the other hand, some sort of shuttle service for the city centre and the Garden City lands would have to be added to the plans, because the walking distance to a Canada line station would be too great for many people. Furthermore, there will be a great deal of car use to take children to school if no schools are built on the Garden City lands.

These figures are all conservative. It is entirely possible that the number of vehicles would be over 10,000, especially if the population is at the high end of the likely range.

Schools for Garden City lands development?

GCL elementary students, at recent average/household = 1,000 students likely

GCL secondary students, at recent average/household = 880 students. After downward adjustment (forecast on the basis of elementary enrolment) = 625 students more likely

Minimum number of new schools required for GCL = 2 large elementary

The average Richmond elementary school has roughly 325 students, and 1,000 students would fill three such schools. The conservative estimate of only two large schools is a downward adjustment because of three factors: a possible further downward trend in students per household, a possible minor decrease in number of households in the GCL development, and the school board’s possible choice of very large schools instead of average-size ones. However, if the development goes ahead, there could be very different effects from other factors:  the GCL demographics could easily include a higher-than-average proportion of young families; there could actually be more than 5,000 households because compact homes (with smaller average floor area) will become a necessity; and the school board could want to avoid very large schools for educational reasons.

A detail: Probably some students would go to French immersion, perhaps at Anderson Elementary, which is not far from the Garden City Lands. That would reduce the number of students attending elementary school on the Garden City Lands. However, even if the number of elementary students is reduced to 800 in one way or another, there would still be a need for two large elemenatary schools.

A final detail: Maximum number of schools required for GCL = 3 elementary + 1 secondary.

Your input

Every effort has been made to ensure that the projections in this post express the truth insofar as it can be gleaned at this time. In addition, feel free to use the comment feature to provide your constructive advice. It will be heeded.



1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Wally Dunsmoor Says:

    The link on this page “Garden City Lands” to Google Maps doesn’t work for me (Mac) on any of several browsers. I’ve created a new map link that should work.,-123.11926&spn=0.010802,0.014098&z=16

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