Tag Archives: urban planning

On Virtue Signaling as City Zoning Policy

Remember Justin Trudeau’s promise for more “evidence-based” policy making? Supposedly evidence-based means an objective analysis of historical evidence and facts to support the creation of policy. What a superb idea. As conservatives we’d embrace this approach, seeing as how conservatism should be at its heart about balance, stability and rational government.

But what we’re more likely to see from your standard leftie is “virtue-based” policy making.   We talked about virtue-signaling in the last post. Now let’s examine a microscopic example of how virtue-signaling doesn’t just infect our social media with misplaced outpourings of grief and support for victims and causes, but also our policy making at something as mundane as a city planning level.

See the picture of these fine young urban planners? Four young professionals about to transform a city of 250,000 into a modern green-topia of cyclists, bus riders and LRT users. The ordinary car powered by a combustion engine? Evil. These four become nauseous at the sight of one in the city core. So here’s what they propose to do with their new city zoning by-laws; make it impossible to find a spot for any cars.

“The proposal would require no parking for the first 100 units and then 0.9 spaces/unit thereafter.”

The practicalities of this are almost insane – would you spend $300k+ on a condo apartment that doesn’t provide you at least ONE parking spot?  No.  So two things will happen; the market for older apartments with one or more parking spots per unit will skyrocket and developers will either abandon the idea of building condos or, what is more likely, find ways to pay off politicians for by-law exemptions.  It actually opens the market for corruption.

As an example you don’t have to stray too far – the Ontario Liberal government’s Green Belt legislation was supposed to curtail development beyond certain boundaries and prevent urban sprawl, a noble goal but what’s been shown is that in practice all it did was put some more friction in the system that could be overcome with a little green, and not the environmental kind. This is evidenced by the fact that the number one financial contributor to the Ontario Liberals is in fact developers.

And I guess we’re all supposed to work at City Hall and live downtown so we can walk to work in -30C temps.  You can only bike in this country for maybe six months of the year.

So what’s this about then? It’s not about the actual ability to get rid of cars; it’s about the virtue-signaling of one community of urban planners to another, so they can go to conferences in the future and compare impractical and failed ideas and pat each other on the back about all the supposed good they’re doing. As time trudges maybe one or two at the most of this daring foursome will attempt to stick their goals with puritanical zeal and be real pains-in-the-ass to your typical downtown developer, but the others will kowtow to political pressure from developers savvy enough to throw fundraising dinners for the mayor and councilors and get their bylaw exemptions via the backdoor. And the additional cost of application delays and fundraising will just be passed on to the consumer, making the market for condos and housing in general all that more expensive and unaffordable .  Cue the stories about how young people are priced out of the housing market.

There are plenty of market-based solutions to curbing urban sprawl and incentivizing people to use mass transit and alternative modes of transportation.  But those kinds or solutions are devoid of any kind of virtue-signaling because using the free market and letting urban development evolve according to market forces doesn’t provide fodder for fawning news articles that get circulated to your peers around the country.

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