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Apply urgency to urban planning goals, consultant tells Langford

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goodmanson, baldwin, toderian, urban planning, langford
At the Building Cities Better presentation May 17, 2023 in Langford (from left): Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson; Matthew Baldwin, Langford Director of City Planning; and urban planning consultant Brent Toderian. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Thursday May 18, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 7 pm]

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends


The Building Cities Better presentation last night in Langford was heartily received by nearly 200 people who attended in person (the event was also livestreamed).

Vancouver-based urban planning consultant Brent Toderian of Toderian UrbanWORKS opened his remarks with a declaration about his delivery style… telling the truth with the goal of achieving best results for municipalities within and in support of their stated urban planning goals.

He insists that municipalities take an honest and accurate look at how their political goals mesh with or are accurately represented in plans, projects and strategies for the overall community as well as around the details of individual housing or commercial development projects as well as neighbourhoods.

langford mayor, goodmanson, baldwin, planning, consultant, Toderian
At the Building Cities Better presentation May 17, 2023 in Langford (from left): Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson; Matthew Baldwin, Langford Director of City Planning; and urban planning consultant Brent Toderian. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

In contrast to traditional urban planning methodology which takes the long-term over-arching view to community planning, Toderian was forceful with his point that the five emergencies currently challenging the entire globe need to be addressed in local community planning, projects and goals.

The five emergencies — a list which seemed to captivate the imagination of participants based on the many Tweets containing the image of that slide, are:

  • climate
  • housing
  • inequality
  • public health
  • infrastructure cost
building cities, crises, infrastructure
The Five Crises in current global city-building: Climate, Housing, Inequality, Public Health, Infrastructure Cost. [UrbanWORKS]

Based on the urgency of meeting those emergencies with a meaningful response, Toderian suggested that some steps be skipped, such as not requiring detailed public hearing about small townhome projects. That would presume the projects align with the City’s stated goals and objectives.

Toderian said he felt that the previous Langford council had achieved many things — they ‘got things done’, but that in future doing things to a higher level of excellence would be better for the fast-growing municipality. To underpin that, he said he feels a sense of authenticity from this new council (that has been coming up to speed since the October 2022 municipal election).

royal bay, the commons

He also made a bold statement that some levels of government mind have found disturbing… that electric vehicle technology alone is “not going to get us there” in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in time for the well-being of the planet.

Toderian spent a few days going around Langford to see the lay of the land. He said he was puzzled by the gaps in development between built-up structures or areas. The previous council’s approach was to wait until developers’ dollars could be applied to things like intersections, sidewalks and installing playgrounds, but that often left things undone in the meantime.

But the consultant was impressed with some standout good work that has been done in Langford (citing Langford Station as an example, noting it was City driven, not by a developer).

people, langford station
Langford Station moments, June 2022. [Island Social Trends]

Walkable downtown core density:

Toderian is supportive of downtown urban density but with the caveat that the surrounding pedestrian-level environment be done effectively… so people can enjoy their walking experience and find adequate commercial venues in their neighbourhood (he emphasized the proximity of schools and grocery stores in particular).

He encourages all municipalities to work on the top priorities by aligning them with each other. For example, building height impacts the pedestrian experience, and densifying the downtown core does increase the tax base but that helps with providing other infrastructure.

building cities better, langford
Building Cities Better presentation to a Langford audience, May 17, 2023.

Density, trees and cars:

In a nutshell, he proposed that good urban planning going forward is about density, trees and cars. That sounds like the approach he will be taking in his repeat (shorter) presentation tonight at Langford Council (7 pm, meeting link) and in ongoing consultations with City staff and council.

He articulated about the tree aspect that it’s not necessarily about saving specific trees but about using trees for their many other benefits including canopy for pedestrians, shade, and visual appeal.

For tall buildings to be done well, Toderian says the key factors include: location, thin vs tall, street setback, thickness/floorplate, tower separation, height and skyline, green design standards/affordability/family housing, architectural details/choice; and parking/active mobility supports.

urban planning, tall buildings, toderian
Considerations for better tall buildings [Brent Toderian / UrbanWORKS]

“Langford is a place where people are going to drive (cars and trucks) for a long time,” said Toderian, which speaks to the realistic observations he has made about this community.

Bicycle lanes:

Just painting a line within which cyclists might ride is not safe enough. Toderian recommended entirely separated bike lanes, as is done in many European cities.

bike lanes, sidewalks, Langford
Walking path & new bike lane along Kelly Road in Langford [West Shore Voice News file photo, Jan 2019]

“Sharing the roads makes it more dangerous,” the presenter said, adding that “bike lines on roads is not bike infrastructure”. He pointed out that when Calgary created entirely separate bike lines that it received a unanimous vote at council.

Public engagement:

While Toderian acknowledged the importance and value of public engagement, he proposed a balanced efficient approach to that … do enough but not too much, and move forward with projects in a timely manner.

A lot of time and energy can be spent on organized public engagement sessions. There is also public input at council meetings which is more formal and often misses the mark for addressing the widest range of input. The previous mayor and council derived most of their input from meeting with people one on one in the community. The new council had been planning several engagement events around the community, none of which have happened yet.


Who was there:

Last night’s presentation was held in the theatre at Belmont Secondary School in Langford. Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson attended as well as Councillors Kimberley Guiry, Mark Morley, Lillian Szpak, Keith Yacucha and Mary Wagner. Senior City of Langford staffers attended including Darren Kiedyk, CAO; Braden Hutchins, Director of Corporate Services; Michael Dillabaugh, Director of Finance; and Matthew Baldwin, Director of City Planning. Baldwin emceed the evening and Goodmanson gave some brief closing remarks.

Also attending among the live audience were Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA candidates Ravi Parmar (BC NDP) and Camille Currie (BC Green) as well as BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau; The Village Initiative consultant Cindy Andrew; SD62 Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull; Saunders Family Foundation President Dave Saunders; former SD62 trustee Wendy Hobbs; Colwood Councillor David Grove; Brian White, Program Head, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Royal Roads University; and some housing developers including Rohan Rupf of Keycorp Developments and Sam Ganong of Formwell Homes.

Municipal guidance consultant James Ridge of James Ridge Consulting was in attendance, and will be giving a detailed presentation on Strategic Plans at tonight’s (May 18, 2023) council meeting.

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mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends is professional regional journalism presented at islandsocialtrends.ca. Fully online as a daily news portal since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from the path of previous print publications in the west shore: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).

Since 2008, journalist and editor Mary P Brooke has taken a socioeconomic lens to reporting and analyzing the news of the west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including municipal council news as well as BC and national news impacts. [See Island Social Trends Politics Archive]. She has covered the details of local, provincial and federal elections since 2008. As of 2023 Mary P Brooke reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery.

Mary P Brooke has also focused on news of School District 62 (Langford, Colwood and Sooke) at the board level since 2014 [see Island Social Trends Education archive] and has covered West Shore Parks & Recreation over the years (particularly the transitional years 2014-2020, and again starting 2023). During 2020 and 2021 she reported daily on BC’s COVID pandemic news to build the ongoing COVID pandemic archive. Since 2021 she has been building a Food Security news archive. She is now covering the 2023 Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election.

Watch for the renewed print edition of Island Social Trends (formerly West Shore Voice News) in 2024. Advertisers welcome – inquiries. | How to be a Premium Subscriber