Downtown Bureau

Portland Plan Should Inspire Hamilton

Other North American cities are surging ahead with revitalized downtowns and booming economies. The only thing holding Hamilton back is an outdated mindset that refuses to change with the times.

By Jason Leach
Published June 17, 2010

Here at RTH we constantly preach about the wisdom that can be gained simply by learning from cities that have done things properly and are having success with the issues at which we struggle.

Portland may be one of the best to learn from. A dying downtown core lined with one-way freeways, high speed traffic and little sidewalk activity just a few decades ago, Portland is now a worldwide model of urban vibrancy and sustainable development.

Oh, and did I mention that Portland is in the USA, not Europe? It also pours rain for half the year, so it's no San Diego.

Portland's planning documents from the late 1970s would be a huge step forward for Hamilton here in 2010. However, if you're looking for even more vision, check out their new plan for 2035. Quite simply, it's stunning.

Where Hamilton sees lamentable decline:

Surface Parking in Downtown Hamilton (RTH file image)
Surface Parking in Downtown Hamilton (RTH file image)

Portland sees exciting opportunity:

Portland Likely Building Capacity(Image Credit: Portland Plan)
Portland Likely Building Capacity(Image Credit: Portland Plan)

As someone who follows local news and urban planning follies in Hamilton, I sometimes forget what it's like in the 'real world'. Other cities aren't calling two-storey townhomes on farmland 'high density infill'. Other cities have long gotten past the idea of transport trucks and high speed traffic dominating the downtown.

I keep hearing politicians and business officials on Hamilton radio stations tell us, 'downtown will never be as successful as it once was,' and other similar sentiments. They usually follow up with some defeatist noises about how the world has changed and downtowns aren't what they used to be.

No kidding. Portland, Denver, Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and a whole host of other successful cities right here in North America will happily confirm the fact that their downtowns aren't what they used to be.

The only thing holding Hamilton back is an outdated mindset that refuses to change with the times.

If you're tired of reading about how cycling is the new thing in Vision 2020 and then stepping outside to a wall of transport fumes, take a pleasant browse through the Portland Plan. I hope you'll come away inspired to keep up the good fight.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

90 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2010 at 13:33:10

Well, that kind of dense stuff only works for really big cities. I mean, after all, I'm sure Portland's population is much higher than Hamilton's. These are completely different cities. Whaddaya think we are, New York?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By arienc (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 13:49:10

Actualy, the urban areas of Portland and Hamilton are VERY comparable in population.

Portland has more suburbs than Hamilton, but Hamilton is part of a much larger suburban area. However since we're talking about density in the urban area, not the suburbs, the comparison makes sense.

Portland (2000 US Census)): Population: 529,121 Portland/Vancouver/Hillsboro Metropolitan Area: 2,241,841

Hamilton (2006 Can Census): Population: 504,599 Urban Area: 647,634 Census Metropolitan Area: 692,911

Greater Toronto & Hamilton Metro Area: Population 6,539,700

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 13:49:49

Come on, this isn't Portland. It's Hamilton!

Comment edited by jonathan dalton on 2010-06-17 12:49:56

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By z jones (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 14:18:13

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 14:47:06

Thanks for sharing this Jason. It drives me nuts that we have all these great examples of cities doing the right things but we're full of scaredy cat squelchers going THAT MIGHT WORK OVER IN UTOPIALAND BUT THIS IS HAMILTON!

We can't because we WON"T. That is all.

Comment edited by nobrainer on 2010-06-17 13:47:38

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2010 at 15:18:43

sigh

This site needs a Sarcasm tag. Poe's Law strikes again.

Yes, I realize that both Hamilton and Portland have a half-a-million people-ish each. That was the joke.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Carpe Diem (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 15:58:29

There's never been more fresh blood or fresh thinking. I'm excited to see the city change for good in the upcoming elections!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 16:03:30

Mea culpa, Pxtl - but I changed my down vote into an up vote. Also,

This site needs a Sarcasm tag.

Problem is, best way to kill sarcasm is pointing out it's sarcasm. Just. Can't. Win.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 16:27:57

This site needs a Sarcasm tag. - Pxtl

I usually just use one of these ; )

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2010 at 17:11:56

YES. So good to see this.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 17:34:42

Jason >> The only thing holding Hamilton back is an outdated mindset that refuses to change with the times.

I agree that Hamilton should strive to be more like Portland. In Oregon, they have a law that caps property tax rates at 1.5% of assessed value...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Ballot_Measure_5_%281990%29

plus a law...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Ballot_Measure_50_%281997%29


that limits assessment growth to 3% per year, save for new construction or additions. This means that if property values rise faster than 3%, the government is still limited in how much they can tax and spend. Boston has a similar law.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2010 at 17:38:52

@A Smith (anonymous)

If Hamilton had such a law, the homebuilders would find some way to pervert it such that new developments would be taxed at the rates of vacant lots, increasing only 3% per year.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Tiger Vision (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 21:45:27

Ryan: "But I'm sure there are all kinds of reasons why an urban stadium would work in a city like Boston but not in a city like Hamilton..."

Gonna assume you're not talking about lovingly maintaining a 98 (or, in Hamilton's case, 80) year old stadium. ;)

I imagine the dynamic in Kenmore Square is different than it is in Hamilton's Stipley or North End despite perceived similarities and measurable commonalities. I haven't been so I can't express the appreciation that others can.

But if nothing else, the obvious: 81 MLB game days > 10 CFL game days. However well or poorly they perform, the Jays play almost as many home games as the Leafs and Raptors combined. That sort of relentless frequency gives a venue like Fenway Park community presence. Reroute a season's worth of Molson Amphitheatre dates (around 40-50 shows) and chuck a soccer team into the mix and you'd maybe be dealing with a similar energy. There a simply a lot of bookable days from April through October.

And of course there's capacity: Crowds at a 40,000-seat stadium may be more electrifying than capacity crowds at a 20,000-seat stadium.

Still, here's hoping. We could certainly use some magic.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 23:01:21

FWIW, Pittsburgh and Seattle located their recently built football stadiums downtown or along waterfronts close to downtown. In fact, there aren't many cities building stadiums far away from the downtown areas along highways in suburban or industrial locations anymore. Even holdouts like Detroit and Cleveland have come on board in recent years and mothballed their suburban stadiums. Portland has a downtown stadium that they hope will house MLB someday. They were recently awarded an MLS team that will play there. It's a nice, cozy park. Their basketball/hockey arena is along the riverfront just across from downtown, still within the free transit zone and only a couple LRT stops from the heart of the downtown and a quick bike ride/walk across the river.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Portland (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 23:08:06

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Tiger Vision (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 23:20:16

How about Harbourland?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By z jones (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 23:25:59

PortlandPortlandPortland...

Yes the threat of a good example can be scary to fearful people.

Comment edited by z jones on 2010-06-17 22:26:37

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Rene Gauthier (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 09:11:51

Not gonna happen here... Nobody at city hall has that kind of vision, especially in city council and those who do are either ridculed or don't have the resources to win a civic election.

Mayor Fred just had a fundraiser and nobody knows who was there and he wasn't letting anyone know. And if there's anything this city doesn't need it's another four boring years of nothing.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 09:20:22

I'll take 4 boring decades of nothing as opposed to bad decisions and setting us back further and further. Maybe my grandkids will get to elect a progressive council that can move this city into the 21st Century.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JonD (registered) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 09:52:09

Great article Jason!

Here's what rush hour should look like... Its also a fun game. Count how many overweight people you see. Let me help. Zero! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-AbPav5E...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 10:02:37

SOB! 1000's of people on bikes, guy on a scooter, regular buses, light rail transit streaming by, one close call at 0:37 (whew!), no bike helmets, and everyone looks fit and healthy. SERIOUS NEDERLANDS ENVY!!!

Of course, this could never work in Hamilton because of all the snow we get. (sarcasm tag goes here)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By z jones (registered) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 10:08:59

Yeah but that would never ever work in a hilly city like Hamilton!!

Comment edited by z jones on 2010-06-18 09:13:13

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 10:17:09

Here's what rush hour should look like... Its also a fun game. Count how many overweight people you see. Let me help. Zero! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-AbPav5E...

Wow. Just wow.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 18, 2010 at 10:24:10

Stop it! All of you.

The envy ... it hurts us.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By AnneMariePavlov (registered) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 10:26:55

That's beautiful! I wish King & James looked like that. (Although I must again chime in like a broken record that overweight does not equal unfit).

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 18, 2010 at 13:19:20

Size and geography wise, I always likened us to Geneva, Switzerland. If you wanna see an unbelievably vibrant, low-rise city... Heck, that's why they named our bay Lake Geneva.

As for Portland, you can tell it's successful because all the usual goals of success (ie: high inner-city property values) are treated like crushing defeats by pundits.

Oh, and A Smith, I agree about limiting property taxes and not penalizing people for improving properties. But doesn't that start putting you dangerously near the point of becoming H. George instead? In any case, how about the Swiss policy that the government can't raise taxes for something without passing an electoral vote on it. Doesn't seem to have held back either business or social services anywhere near as well as our promise-and-fail system.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 23:44:15

I am all for more cycling amenities in our city. Anything to make cycling safer and easier is a good thing. However cycling will not reach the levels in Europe for a very, very long time and probably never. Utrecht has population about half of Hamilton's and an area of less than 100 km2. Geneva has a population of just under 200,000 and an area of less than 16 km2. When the city is that small and travel is so short cycling (and transit) become so much more viable. Both cities are also the major destinations in their area not a suburban centre. The snow and cold just add the detriment. We have people who commute with bikes and I applaud them for making it work but it is not main stream and is not becoming mainstream any time soon.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 19, 2010 at 09:28:23

yep, it will never work here because this ain't europe.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 19, 2010 at 11:12:04

To Mr Meister,

Please consider two facts before claiming that Hamilton is fundamentally different from those cities that have managed to encourage high rates of cycling:

Cycling in European cities had reached very low levels before efforts (such as cycling lanes) revived it as an everyday activity. When I lived in Paris from 1994-1998, no one cycled (including me), and the conventional wisdom was that cycling was dangerous and unsuitable due to heavy traffic, aggressive drivers and bad weather from November to March. The efficient Metro system was also far more convenient.

I just spent three weeks in Paris, and now one sees bikes everywhere (although still not up to the levels of the Dutch). This is because the city built cycle lanes and set up the Velib bike rental service. This transformation has occurred in a period of about five years.

If you want to compare Hamilton to a spread out city with bad winter weather, consider Berlin. It's a very spread out relatively low density city with winter weather comparable to Hamilton, and yet cycling is popular thanks to an extensive network of cycle lanes.

Finally, as a (more or less) year-round cyclist, I can definitely say that dark rainy weather is far more unpleasant to cycle in than sunny cold weather. Copenhagen in January is not cycle-friendly weather, and yet people do cycle.

p.s. When comparing densities and populations, it is important to compare like with like. Since amalgamation, Hamilton includes the metro area. Geneva's total metro population is actually 1.2 million over a very large area (my sister in law lives in a village between Geneva and Lausanne, so I know the area reasonably well). It doesn't make sense to include the rural or suburban parts of Hamilton when comparing to the central core of Geneva. If you consider Wards 1-9, the densities and distances are well-suited to cycling (and Ward 2 has densities similar to European cities).

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2010-06-19 10:13:03

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jason (registered) | Posted June 19, 2010 at 14:58:30

Kevlahan, your comments make way too much sense to ever be taken seriously in Hamilton. Didn't you get the memo? Hamilton can't do the same things as every other city on earth because the rest of the world is completely flat and sunny 365 days a year.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 19, 2010 at 20:18:54

With the explosion in gasoline prices, which seems to be leading increases in crude oil by a fair bit, we've seen the beginnings of this kind of cycling revolution. Within the last two years catalogue prices for bike parts have jumped by 30-40%. Car prices and resale values, on the other hand, have dropped just as significantly. I'd say that's a pretty clear market signal that things are starting to change.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seth Bullock (anonymous) | Posted June 20, 2010 at 16:46:10

Two other striking differences about Portland:

1. It's more politically efficient than Hamilton. We have a mayor and 15 ward-specific councillors. In Portland, "the Mayor, four Commissioners and the Auditor comprise the City's six elected officials. The Mayor and the Commissioners together make up the City Council. The commission form of government differs from most other municipal governments in that its members have legislative, administrative and quasi-judicial powers. All City Elected Officials are elected at large on a non-partisan basis and serve four-year terms. Elections are staggered, with the Mayor and Commissioners No. 1 & 4 elected one year and the Auditor and Commissioners No. 2 & 3 elected two years later. The staggered election schedule avoids a complete change of elected officials in any one year, except under unusual circumstances."

http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?&a=9178&c=27481


2. It has a regional governmental agency called Metro that is apparently the only directly-elected metropolitan planning organization in the United States. Metro's in charge of land use planning, urban growth boundary, transit strategy, etc. that prize sustainability and neighbourhood quality of life. It's governed by a council president elected region-wide and six councilors who are elected by district as well as an auditor elected region-wide.

http://www.oregonmetro.gov

I suspect that both of these measures are an integral part of the success strategy that leads to documents such as the one you're swooning over. Combined, those two bodies are smaller than Hamilton's council. Our shoelaces are tied together.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 01:37:20

Our cities are fundamentally different from Europe. The single family house is quite rare in Europe. Three, four and five story walk up apartments are the norm. How many of those do you see here? Even down town there are a lot of single family homes and duplexes. Once you get out of the downtown the single family home seems to reign supreme, it is either where most people live or want to live. Yes there are exceptions, years ago we lived on Bold St. in a three story walk up that reminds me very much of Europe but that is the exception here. Use Google's street view and check out Geneva and tell me where in Hamilton we have neighborhoods that are like the norm in Geneva.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By z jones (registered) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 08:24:53

^Wow, you'll hang on to just about anything to not give up your defeatism. You say our cities can't change but the only reason they're not changing is people with attitudes like you.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jason (registered) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 08:27:56

FWIW, Portland is made up single family homes to an even higher degree than Hamilton. Other than recent condo development downtown most of their city was single homes and townhomes.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By synxer (registered) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 09:42:36

I recently visited Ottawa and was really surprised on how many things they got right.

What made me sad is how many features we share with Ottawa. We both have great hiking and walking paths, waterfront/river land, great views and great people.

My wife and I could see so many similarities to Hamilton. So many opportunities not taken.

Comment edited by synxer on 2010-06-21 08:47:52

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seth Bullock (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 11:49:22

Whether we're looking to emulate Portland or Ottawa or just Burlington, electoral reform is clearly needed in Hamilton. A leaner, smarter and more progressive municipal government made of councillors elected at large (and therefore free from the provincial concerns of current wards and the bitterly divisive urban/rural, old city/new city divisions that have created systemic gridlock, atrophied development and stymied competitive initiatives) would be able to run circles around the current squad of sitting politicians. The incumbents are standard-bearers for an immature and out-of-date system that is incapable of meeting the challenges of a new century.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 12:53:31

I am not a defeatist, however I am very much a realist. I think more cycling infrastructure is a good thing and will increase cycling. I think bicycle commuting will always be a fringe activity. There are just to many problems and drawbacks for the vast majority of commuters.

The relatively new e-bikes are likely to become even more popular although I do not know if they really count as bicycles or not.

Portland downtown is not composed of single family homes. In fact there is virtually no single or two story construction of any kind. Just what one would expect in the downtown of the largest city in the area, the destination for miles around. You can try and compare Hamilton to Portland or Geneva or Utrecht or Ottawa or Toronto but the difference with all of them is Hamilton is not the major destination all the others are. We need different solutions to our unique situation.

Blaming our downtown's woes on one way streets or lack of LRT ignores the fact that a few years ago downtown was a thriving and bustling place without LRT and with one way streets. Many things changed but not those things. In fact we have better transit now then we did then.










Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 21, 2010 at 13:19:28

Yes, that's exactly what will solve this problem: LESS democracy. It's why amalgamation worked so well to curb sprawl and corruption, right?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 14:07:18

I think bicycle commuting will always be a fringe activity. There are just to many problems and drawbacks for the vast majority of commuters.

I see more and more people cycling, despite (the often arbitrary and unnecessary) problems and drawbacks. It used to be pretty lonely out on the road. Now I pass, am passed by, and wave hi to, waaay more cyclists than before.

Some changes I have directly observed just in the last couple of years! :

Bike racks at GO stations that were usually empty a few years ago are crowded now. I look out my balcony onto city streets and cyclists are almost always riding by. When the farmer's market on Concession opened people made comments to me because I was the only one cycling there; this year whole families are riding up there on their bikes.

A beautiful and inspiring change is already in progress. Just slow because of potential cycling deliberately being kept latent but that just slows the change, it is happening anyway.

The humbling of our economy and ecosystems will only serve to accelerate this change.

Even the white house, of all places, is starting to notice. Whether lip service or sincere, it at least signals the consciousness shift that is in progress:

We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

I mean come on, you can even get CAA now.

We need different solutions to our unique situation.

It would be fascinating to more thoroughly understand the psychology that leads to this self defeating exceptionalism. It might help articulate more clearly why that is just wrong! I mean, even the Mountain is not an obstacle - see above. We seem to go over these arguments over and over again!

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2010-06-21 13:19:15

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seth Bullock (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 14:08:49

Undustrial: "Yes, that's exactly what will solve this problem: LESS democracy. It's why amalgamation worked so well to curb sprawl and corruption, right?"

I don't think that

The Portland model as outlined has almost as many elected officials as Hamilton making charting the course of things (14 to our 16). Systemic reform is obviously not going to install virtuous characters in council chambers, but making it more competitive and expecting more of our officials, while also empowering them to make bold strides when they can find consensus, could be a positive change. (At the very least, it would make for more dramatic news rather than the juvenile spats and community cable theatrics we must currently endure.)

There are two chief virtues in this, as I see it. One is that planning and development is a full-time concern for a select group of elected officials. Another is that the officials on council are elected at large on a non-partisan basis, arguably reducing the odds of favouritism shaping the debate. I'm undecided as to whether rotating elections would be a good thing, but at least it would seem to keep everybody on their toes more often, since half of the representatives are always looking to produce campaignable results.

I would definitely take issue with the opposite idea (not one that you suggested), that instead of a leaner municipal government, that what Hamilton needs is a larger council, presumably one weighted toward a more just representation of the lower city. Adding wards would theoretically shift the voting balance toward the old city, overcoming the suburban headlock that has been in place since at least 2000's New City of Hamilton, if not before.

Compare as you like (I'm not sure if this means anything at all):

Mississauga (pop 668,540) = 1 mayor, 11 councillors
Hamilton/Burlington (CMA pop 692,911) = 2 mayors, 21 councillors

Vancouver = 1 mayor, 10 councillors
London = 1 mayor, 14 councillors
Calgary = 1 mayor, 14 aldermen
Ottawa = 1 mayor, 23 councillors
Toronto = 1 mayor, 44 councillors
New York City = 1 mayor, 46 councillors

Any of these cities has had to fight corruption and sprawl. I don't see that as a foregone conclusion of any given bureaucratic structure. It comes down to the individual, and I'd rather have half as many bright stars than the same amount of light from a room full of dim bulbs.

I guess the thing is that we're due for a system-wide review post-2010 election, so it's something we'll start to hear about this fall. It might make an interesting issue for pre-election debates, but it might prove unwieldy. Or the incumbents might just table it until after the election, like everything else.



Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seth Bullock (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 16:59:30

Ryan: "Downtown Hamilton positively thrived when the streets were two-way and served by LRT (quaintly known back than as "streetcars"). Its long death spiral started when the streetcars were decommissioned by bus interests and accelerated when the streets were cut to one-way. The construction of suburban malls served by arterial throughways was only the final straw."

Correlation does not imply causation.

An alternate storyline might point out that the two-way street/streetcar era coincides almost exactly with the expansion of the steel industry as an economic power. The departure of streetcars in 1951 and the arrival of one-way streets in 1956 comes in the steel industry’s twilight decades (the famous Strike of 1946 arguably being a turning point), and also on the eve of the Civic Square debacle, which provided a double-whammy for downtown commerce and investment. The widespread collapse of the steel industry circa 1970 had a slow but corrosive impact on many rustbelt cities and definitely hit the economy of lower Hamilton. (Our ingenious solution, which has involved shoring up private sector job losses and tax base erosion with private sector investment, also changed the distribution of disposable incomes, and the spending priorities of a white collar professional sector are not harmonized with those of blue collar industrial workers, so downtown did not roundly benefit from the broader rescue strategy.) Jackson Square construction ground slowly on from 1967-1972; private investment languished and we filled in the blanks with public money over the following decade, building The Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Police HQ, the Central Library, the Farmers’ Market, the Hamilton Convention Centre, the Ellen Fairclough Building. And the 80s were devastating for downtown (the ‘81 Stelco strike, the ‘81-82 recession, the dawn of Lime Ridge Mall in ‘81, the Gore Park clearcut of ’84, the ’87 recession). That presumably set the stage for the wave of commercial closures in the core during the early ’90s recession, aided by the arrival of the Meadowlands and the advent of the downloading festival that was the Harris years. In short, a few years ago downtown was most assuredly not a thriving and bustling place.

That said, I’m sure that one-way streets and the absence of bike lanes didn’t help, but they’re no more the lone flaw in the equation than they are the only cure for a chronically diseased urban ecosystem.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seth Bullock (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 17:02:25

BTW, I meant to write "absence of bike lanes and streetcars"... and I'm pro-both. Just saying.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seth Bullock (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 17:04:25

And earlier: "(Our ingenious solution, which has involved shoring up private sector job losses and tax base erosion with PUBLIC sector investment...)". Stick a freaking fork in me, eh?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 17:21:50

FWIW, Portland is made up single family homes to an even higher degree than Hamilton. Other than recent condo development downtown most of their city was single homes and townhomes.

Just re-quoting this to clarify that I was speaking about entire cities, not downtowns. Hamilton's downtown is the regional centre for our region (job stats, cultural venues, civic venues, transit and density will back this up) just like downtown Portland is for them. Sure, downtown Portland looks bigger and better than ours, but it really wasn't for many decades. Go look up videos from the 50's - 70's and you'll see Hamilton in the 80's- today: one way freeways, narrow sidewalks, boarded up stores, little vibrancy etc..... their entire region has made LRT and mass transit/cycling work, not just the downtown core.
Yes, their region doesn't include a large city like Toronto 40 minutes away, but for all the possible negatives our proximity to Toronto can produce, our proximity can produce just as many positives. What we do with the opportunity is what makes our fate. So far, we've done very little except try to copy Ajax and Mississuaga.

This was near the Byward Market. There wasn't a lot of people when I took this photo, but every other day I passed this area it was packed with people talking, eating, drinking, laughing. Seems this "pedestrian friendly downtown" idea isn't just a Copenhagen thing. http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-s...

Just think of how many transport trucks could fit there if they would just get their priorities straight.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 17:23:30

You keep saying this, and it keeps not being true.

I was going to quote the same article. Everyone always says "it will take years to slowly rebuild downtown"

Well, it also took years to slowly kill it, starting with that fateful decision in 1956 to go one-way. Most businesses never recovered from that blunder. Further expropriations in an attempt to suburbanize downtown even more just put the nail in the coffin.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-21 16:23:47

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Tiger Vison (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 18:39:38

"Sure, downtown Portland looks bigger and better than ours, but it really wasn't for many decades. Go look up videos from the 50's - 70's and you'll see Hamilton in the 80's- today"

Awesome... so we could be just 40 years from a model downtown!

I kid. Bring on the seismic change in planning philosophy and development practice.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seth Bullock (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 22:53:25

@ Ryan / @ Mr. Meister:

I mistook the "downtown was a thriving and bustling place without LRT and with one way streets" vs "Downtown Hamilton's long death spiral started when the streetcars were decommissioned by bus interests and accelerated when the streets were cut to one-way" to be the kernel of the disagreement. Apologies to you both for the error. I meant no offense. It was not my intent to take potshots at straw men, but I obviously should have paid closer attention.

Unrelated to anything save my earlier hypothesis about the fluctuating fortunes of the steel industry (and industrial cities more broadly), it occurs to me that Hamilton's industrial might have done well by the market demands of 1914-1918, 1939-1945 and 1950-1953. And also that the 1946 Stelco strike was a landmark moment in Canadian labour movement, popularizing collective bargaining. And that the Canadian Labour Congress was another legacy item of the year 1956. Although this is not an anti-labour, anti-union argument. And certainly not a pro-Pinkerton argument. Just some pieces in the complex and convoluted puzzle of our city's long-fading industrial glory, possibly conceptual starting points that are obvious to everyone else but me. So again, forgive my naivete.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 22, 2010 at 09:34:35

It was not my intent to take potshots at straw men, but I obviously should have paid closer attention. - Seth Bullock

You may have missed the mark a little Seth but they were still well thought out statements that made some excellent points!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 10:53:43

Please do not re-write history. I was downtown a lot in the late 60's since we lived on Cannon St. for a while. Even through the 70's it was a vibrant bustling place. Remember the lineups at the Black Forest Inn? Now the place is mostly empty a lot of nights. Society changed and downtown did not. Centre mall went from a plaza to a true mall. Housing changed, the suburban dream of a white picket fence and a real backyard really took hold. City Centre was built because somebody thought that the success of Jackson Square and the towers could be expanded. Even they were caught unawares when the whole thing changed. Our downtown was not the only casualty of the times. Does anybody else remember Robinsons If it were then your argument against one way streets would have a lot more plausible tone. Hamilton's downtown's collapse was echoed across the continent. A sign of the times, the result of a changing society.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 11:16:13

Hamilton's downtown's collapse was echoed across the continent. A sign of the times, the result of a changing society.

.....the result of bad planning and auto/oil interests leading government policy for 5 decades across the continent.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 14:34:51

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2010 at 15:00:15

A. Smith asks >how will two way streets or free LRT make people create better businesses?

Leaving aside LRT, look at James Street North, which has become a better place now that it's not an expressway and now has much more business. I dare say that the one-way urban expressway was holding it back.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By zookeeper (registered) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 15:05:48

Moylek, your well intentioned comment is wasted on a troll like A Smith. Please don not encourage him by assuming he is willing to discuss the issue in good faith. He is not.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 15:47:39

Ken, two way streets may be a great thing to promote business, but why do these decisions have to be made by the government? Why can't the people who live on the street and directly benefit from the changes make them? Are, we the people, so stupid that we need some urban planning junkie like Ryan McGreal to tell us the best way to configure our streets to create the best economic environment?

The government tells us that education is important and therefore we allow it to spend massive amounts of money giving us a one size fits all curriculum. What if some people would rather learn what THEY want, not what McGuinty wants. What if people would rather spend that money tinkering in their workshop? Tough shit, that's not allowed because the government says so. WTF? What happened to our God given freedom to craft our own lives using our own inclinations, talents and income?

Or how about our "FREE" health care system. We spend billions giving free health care, regardless of how life threatening the situation is, which means less money in everybody's pocket to spend making their business better, investing in new products or simply buying ice cream for their kids. It once again assumes that the government knows better than the individual how their own money should be spent. How can that be possible? Is the government able to read people's minds?

Prior to 1932, our society produced far more life changing inventions than we do today. Take a look at the number of BIG inventions that were created prior to the welfare state...

http://inventors.about.com/od/timelines/Timelines_of_Invention_and_Technology.htm

Today we get go into a frenzy over the creation of things like the IPhone or Twitter. Where is the guy building the cold fusion reactor, transporter or space ship? These things are all possible, but as long as we allow the government to allocate capital and tell people what they should be learning, which is to get a job and pay taxes, it will be a very long time before these come into existence.

People that trust in other humans don't feel the need to have large government. Big government is only desired by those who want to control the lives of others, either for their own benefit or because they feel that others are incapable of living their lives without the help of the elite. These people are either evil or arrogant, both bad qualities.


Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By z jones (registered) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 21:19:52

Quasi interesting comment dissolves into crazy-ass libertarian screed. Film at eleven.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 22:01:59

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2010 at 00:46:13

Make any major change like the traffic flow and people will complain. I find it amusing that you gladly quote people who complain when it coincides with your believes and ridicule them when their complaints oppose them.

I am not sure who David Proulx is besides the author of a book about Hamilton and why you decide to quote and ridicule him?

Renewal v. Revitalization cute little play on words but really just a matter of linguistics. If it makes you happy to call it all revitalization then revitalization it is.

You cannot change the fact that during the late 60's and well into the 70's downtown was a thriving bustling place with one way streets and no LRT.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2010 at 00:49:35

A Smith - cell phones, personal computers, the internet how is that for 3 tiny little life changing inventions since 1932?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:14:13

Today we get go into a frenzy over the creation of things like the IPhone or Twitter.

Yea, cause the ability to carry an insanely intuitive, high powered computer around in your pocket and communicate with people from every corner of the planet is just another ho-hum day in the life of inventions.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 25, 2010 at 15:24:20

Where is the guy building the cold fusion reactor, transporter or space ship?

Here, here, and here.

Comment edited by UrbanRenaissance on 2010-06-25 14:24:42

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2010 at 19:46:51

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By doc oc (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2010 at 20:39:49

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2010 at 00:58:02

As somebody who's put many years and thousands of hours into researching the relationship between society, economy and technology, this kind of simplistic rant is altogether insulting. Technology is not a simple subject. It doesn't "just happen" historically, in proper order, and according to some grand design.

The welfare state versus technological development? The amount of money spent on technology since 1932 is staggering. The problem is that most of it was developed either for the military or big industry (usually both, by both). Prior to that, a very large part of invention had been done by individuals - tinkerers, scientists and ameteurs. Look at the Wright Brothers, for instance. But over time we made the transition from a largely "open source" society to one based almost entirely on proprietary technologies only understood by a handfull of professionals. Though A Smith's example isn't a very good one, a lot of people study this kind of thing have come to a similar conclusion - the rate of invention and innovation has been dropping for quite some time. And that's exactly what you'd expect with a much smaller percentage of the population understanding the basic workings of its technologies. Thankfully the internet, and hackers, are now starting to turn this awful time.

If you want a better simplistic comparison, look at what's happening between Linux vs. Windows. All the money in the world just can't beat grassroots development.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2010 at 02:14:35

A Smith - A very arbitrary list at best. The single most important invention for mankind was the wheel and it is not on the list. How did the printing press not make the list? How can the internet not make any list of the most important inventions? As more and more inventions are made our technology becomes more and more complicated making it more and more difficult to invent something relatively simple. The Gutenberg Press was a real society changing invention. Compare that to a modern color inkjet printer. The inkjet is very nice to have and makes our lives easier but not revolutionary like the Gutenberg. I could probably make some kind of rudimentary typeface press in my shop given some time but an inkjet printer would never happen. Yet the Gutenberg is by far the most revolutionary invention. Like I said a very arbitrary list with lots of room for many arguments.

Undustrial - I am not sure what your reference to Linux v Windows relates. Linux family of OS's is really only a factor in servers which are run by a tiny group of people who are computer savvy and can actually use it. Windows is used by hundreds of millions all over the world. Not really any kind of comparison.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2010 at 12:11:32

I was talking about the quality of programming, not the market share. Though with Linux growing by 40-80% per year in personal computer market share (compared to windows, which is falling). Microsoft didn't hit it big because of good programming - they stole all their half-decent ideas from others like Macintosh, and wrote out all the decent parts of their system years ago (like the MS-DOS prompt) in favour of flashy graphics, like Vista, which really served no practical purpose other than to force people to buy new computers fast enough to run it. The only reason Windows still runs the market is because a few decades back Bill Gates signed the mother of all sweet deals and it's still nearly impossible to get a PC without windows on it. This kind of inertia does not last, however, and soon enough they'll go the way of AOL.

And as for the wheel, it is far from the most important invention. It was virtually absent in most of the wold until a few hundred years ago, especially the Americas. Contrary to popular scientific mythology, societies didn't lack the wheel because they "hadn't invented it" (as wheels often existed in toys and whatnot even in societies which never used it for transport), it wasn't used because THEY HAD NO SUITABBLE ROADS (some did exist in Central America, with the Mayans for instance, but they were centrally planned by people with little local knowledge and so weren't very practical for most people), and on uneven terrain animals (dogs, horses, donkeys etc) or sleds were always much more effective. I'm bringing this up because it really hits at the core of the issue - an invention only exists as a part of a larger technological and social system, without which it's just parts and blueprints.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2010 at 13:47:59

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2010 at 20:22:42

Technological "progress" simply is not necessary for human life and society. Finding the right mix of technologies that work together is. That's why so little of it has gone on historically (and prehistorically). Adopting new technologies en mass is costly and chaotic, and has led to the collapse of many Great Civilizations who didn't totally understand their implications (read Collapse by Jared Diamond for some great examples). I don't disagree that certain new technologies (eg: spaceships) would be nice, but they're by means a NEED in the way that food, water or energy are.

Some evolution is fairly natural - people learning to make, use and repair a technology will inevitably find better ways to do things. Technologies diffuse as people travel, migrate and trade. And plants and animals bred through constant generations of agriculture will (and always have been) improve genetically in terms of traits we desire like drought tolerance or yield. For all of that, it's simply important to let people do it. And the kind of proprietary, totalitarian control that Apple uses with their iPhones would be a pretty good example of how modern elites keep the needed skills and abilities from people who would otherwise find ways to make them better (and still often do - I'll never forget the first time I saw a dude playing Doom at the bar on a Nano).

Wanna really encourage design innovation? Abolish patents. Use the registry to house a grand collection of open-source designs and improvements, starting with the old patent records (which are actually often a great read). Next add a wealth of digital copies of textbooks and industrial publications on a wide variety of technological subjects. And then encourage users to share the site and situation-specific innovations they've developed, and "peer review" each other's works like academic papers.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By highwater (registered) | Posted June 27, 2010 at 20:58:53

Wanna really encourage design innovation? Abolish patents.

Shit. Read that the first time as "abolish parents". Although that might work too.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2010 at 21:18:01

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2010 at 00:44:02

hey Ryan, you took the words right outta my mind. I couldn't have said it any better. Bush, Obama, they're all the same. both fit your description nicely, well maybe change a few words, ie Christian becomes femminism, etc. Libertarian? Wee little old Ron Paul is a problem? Anyway, a pox on both houses, all -isms, and particularly Goldman Sachs, buyer of all presidents. But since Bush bought GM, I'm surprised you got so wound up. Sophistry? gimme a break. I was just trying to understand the A Smith phenomenon and the neat Athenian idea. Ya missed the mark on that one bud.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 08:58:01

Someone once said that the poorest people in America live in luxury compared to kings of 3-400 hundred years ago. - A smith

That person was an idiot.

Kings have never slept under bridges wrapped in soiled blankets.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 09:05:30

To try and dismiss that eight-year, right-wing fustercluck by calling it "socialism" is to deny the truest legacy of the libertarian, pro-business, fundamentalist political movement in the United States. - Ryan

It was a form of "socialism" ; )

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-06-28 08:05:58

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 10:55:55

Ryan, I wish Bush had been pro-liberty, unfortunately he put more faith in the government to create jobs and economic opportunities...

GDP 2000 - $9,951.5B
Total Government Spending 2000 - $3,021.5B
Percent of GDP - 30.36%

GDP 2008 - $14,441.4B
Total government Spending 2008 - $5,025.0B
Percent of GDP - 34.80%

Obama is continuing the madness...

GDP 2010 1st Quarter - $14,592.4B
Total Government Spending 2010 1st Quarter - $5,483.6B
Percent of GDP - 37.58%

If you look at the growth rate of government spending vs overall economic growth since 2000, here is what you get...

Overall economy - 46.6%
Total Government Spending - 81.48%

As you can see, the last ten years have been all about growing government spending. If a true libertarian would have been in power, government spending would have grown less than the 46.6% and far less than 81.48%.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By zookeeper (registered) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 11:39:02

Oh Ryan, now you're feeding the troll!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2010 at 11:49:52

Kiely, that link is a keeper. Thanks. It didn't mention banking but then it was written in 2002 before banking exposed itself as one huge villan. A term i've heard recently is 'money democracy'. My takeaway -

Civic and political movements must call for a decent separation of corporation and state.

Nicely reminiscent of 'church and state' (though my thoughts on that subject have been drifting oppositely of late) but how is that separation to be accomplished? As messy as the first? I didn't see many main streeters at the G20 protest (wasn't watching though). We need change, especially here, but it seems we're stuck. The Athenian idea seems like a fundamental/ real way out of our mess and I wish someone would comment on it, even if its a long shot. Canada is still a young country so fundamental (constitutional) changes are still possible?

PS. Somewhere I read a similar thing about the lifestyle of medieval kings. Technically you are right of course but lets pretend the homeless are just crazy to be out there which means the definition of poverty becomes someone on welfare. An arguable case? ;-)
Cheers

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 12:57:37

Ryan, here is the wikipedia definition of libertarianism...

"Libertarianism describes a range of political beliefs that advocate the maximization of an individual's ability to think and act with few constraints from large social structures, such as government, and the minimization or even abolition of the state"

Did you notice the word "minimization"? What that means is less, not more. In particular, it means less government spending, not more government spending. Under Bush II, government spending increased faster than private spending.

Here is a quote from wikipedia explaining what Keynesian economic policies are about...

"Keynesian economics advocates a mixed economy—predominantly private sector, but with a large role of government and public sector"

From 2000 to 2010, U.S. government spending increased from 30.36% of GDP to 37.58%. If you were to choose an economic school of thought that best describes the last ten years, what would you say it was closer to, Keynesian or libertarian?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 13:07:19

Yea, cause the ability to carry an insanely intuitive, high powered computer around in your pocket and communicate with people from every corner of the planet is just another ho-hum day in the life of inventions. - jason

True Jason, but let's try not to worship the "gadget".

: )

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2010 at 15:48:26

To me, every time I pick up a micro SD card I get a feeling of "Holy crap, I live in the FUTURE!".

I mean, it's just a storage device... but I remember being a kid when having over a meg on a floppy disk was an awesome new thing. MicroSD cards store several gigs of data in a space smaller than my thumbnail. That blows my mind.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2010 at 17:04:07

Ok A Smith, lets duke it out. You keep getting downvoted, called a troll etc. and I don't want you beating my record! Seems there is good reason since you keep up pointless philosophical arguments, though I usually enjoy/ agree with your sentiment. The problem is that Ryan started a legit topic wrt Hamilton and you hijack it into endless non specific debate. I wouldn't care except that an election is coming up and someone needs to break the logjam - or should i call it couchpotatojam - or Hamilton can't fix itself for another 4 yrs. The problems you allude to are getting serious. So I want to challenge you to be specific about what you would do with Hamilton if you were mayor. Don't just give us the definition of libertarian. You have to recommend a practical plan that addresses real world requirements. Pick just one topic/solution and address the various pitfalls that are sure to come up. If you say, just let business take care of it, well, what if they don't, nothing happens and the problem remains? If you want lower (city) taxes as do I, how low, how can that be achieved? If you want individualism, how many different individualisms can there be before chaos reigns with nobody wanting to give ground? Hey, even an urbanist like Jane Jacobs promotes diversity (=individualism?), which is fine by me too. Is there any city anywhere that has tried libertarian ideals? Is libertarianism good for a technologically & culturally complex world? Ryan has posed a lot of questions/ issues on his site and i feel we owe it to him and our city to address issues with specific recommendations, not general philosophies. I believe your contribution could be quite innovative and hope you will rise to this challenge.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2010 at 23:39:11

Bob, how about scrapping zoning regulations for starters? Let consumers and businesses decide what buildings should be built and where. To do otherwise is to deny consumers the freedom to buy what they want to buy and for businesses to maximize their profits.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted July 01, 2010 at 12:13:00

A Smith: - Zero zoning means that a body shop or other metal (or flesh) pounding place can set up shop next door to your house. Just when you retired, hoping for peace and quiet. Think of the next 25 years of pounding, unable to sell because nobody wants your place any more. You happy with that?

The problem with Ayan Rand libertarianism is it is absolutist and rather naive, only useful on a philosophical level dealing with socialism's economic effects. Politicians more or less have to be real world types - to our detriment in our money-democracy.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted July 01, 2010 at 15:25:29

The problem with Ayan Rand libertarianism is it is absolutist and rather naive, only useful on a philosophical level dealing with socialism's economic effects. - Bob Innes

Well said Bob!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 01, 2010 at 16:07:21

Bob Innes >> Zero zoning means that a body shop or other metal (or flesh) pounding place can set up shop next door to your house

In theory, yes. However, what incentive would an industrial business have in moving to a residential area, far from other businesses that support it and customers that use it? Also, land tends to be less expensive in industrial areas because of the negatives you imply, further reducing the chances that an industrial business would locate there. The only reason why homes might move near industry is if people wanted a cheap place to live, but that would be their personal choice.

The types of businesses that would locate near residential areas would be those that benefit from being in those areas and are willing to pay higher land costs. Things like variety stores, restaurants, or other retailers. The kinds of stores that people like to walk to and share time with friends.

>> Politicians more or less have to be real world types - to our detriment in our money-democracy.

Government gets paid for taking other people's money, creating zero profits and subsidizing money losing businesses and you consider them "real world" types? That's funny, you almost fooled me.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted July 01, 2010 at 22:55:10

A Smith I had to chuckle at your ending - i think you're trying to fool me!

While i agree with your "Government gets paid for taking other people's money, creating zero profits and subsidizing money losing businesses", that's simply not all they do. Unless one thinks a world/ nation/ city without government is practical, even a libertarian should be able to list a number of essential services rendered by government, starting with being a forum to resolve differences, keeping the peace, etc. which implies, guess what....rules! I think we agree though that modernity has created gummerment as a slothful octopus extending its tentacles everywhere as it assumes more and more power - and taxes - as directed by real worldly politicopathic operators manipulating public sentiment to their ends. Charles Adams in his various histories of taxes shows how tax trends only in one direction and with a predictable and unfortunate consequences. So I enjoy and appreciate your posts as a needed counter to that trend. Its just that it bogs down in the detail.

Your zoning comment is interesting in that i hadn't really thought about industrial land being normally cheaper but i suppose it makes sense. Maybe because taxes are higher, much higher which is Hamilton's main problem imo but that's another issue. But, unfortunately for your argument, your economic logic did not prevent that fellow next door starting up a body shop. Fact was, he was laid off because he drank too much and his friends want their cars done on the cheap. He has no capital to set up his own business and is too disorganized anyway so a backyard operation is about all he can handle. His helper is also a drinking buddy so the car banging is replaced by drunken swearing in the evening, to the distress of the family with children on the other side of the operation. Without zoning rules, you will have no peace for years, your blood pressure rises and your golden years become a nightmare.

In your situation, Ayan Rand would take the proceeds of her prodigious book sales and pay the boozer a premium just to get him out.... but then the neighbour on the other side of you, seeing how its done, does something similar - just to get the premium. And the neighbour behind and ......

Without government and rules, you could of course organize a posse, a vigilante squad, a gang, a mob but the results are not usually predictable. Something flammable might be coming your way.

I think you have to agree this is a problem a libertarian without a lot of money cannot wiggle out of, eh? But perhaps there's no such thing as a disadvantaged member of this species!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2010 at 00:10:30

Bob, zoning rules are different than how I understand the concept of protecting private property. For example, if your neighbour is sending vile language into your yard, so much that it is obvious they are making it impossible from you enjoying your backyard, then I agree that is where the government should step in.

However, if that auto shop can conduct business in a reasonable manner, without your property rights being abused, shouldn't he/she have that right? It may even be that having a local auto shop is better for the neighbourhood. He may be able to charge less in fees, due to the fact that his costs are less.

Let's say somebody wants to open a small restaurant in a part of their home. They are just starting out and don't want to lease equipment and space. As long as there were no parking issues, noise complaints, etc, wouldn't that be a good way to make the neighbourhood a better place to be? Instead of row after row of houses, throw in some small shops and gathering places.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2010 at 00:13:23

Undustrial - So the wheel is no big deal, an interesting opinion. With the wheel comes not just transportation but industrialization. The pioneers took wagons all over this continent without anybody building roads for them. Occasionally they had to stop and build bits and pieces of road to get by obstacles but usually they went were they could. With wagons they were able to carry more things longer distances, one of the reasons the natives did not stand a chance. Imagine trying to move a 1000 pound cannon without wheels. Or woman and children from the east coast to the prairies and beyond without wagons. Much later we got roads. Mostly trails became roads with use. Centuries later with the advent of the modern automobile roads, as we know them today, really started being built.

Without the wheel can you build a mill? any kind of factory? The wheel and its derivatives are incredibly important building blocks of our society.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted July 02, 2010 at 01:27:45

ASmith. Your response leads to the question - what was the original premise? If you bought when zoning laws existed and expected quiet enjoyment then no amount of the public good you describe will compensate for you having to listen to unavoidable banging. Noise was a cost the body shop and its customers externalized. Then consider zoning laws not existing as is the case more or less at the edge of small towns. Such properties, because of the possibility of noise and other problems, can never rise to the same level as where residentiality is assured. All parties therefore have an interest in creating zoning where none existed. Those with clout use government to raise standards for all at the cost of liberty for some. A free market response, no?

The point you raise is a good one though and is promoted by Jane Jacobs - diversity is a public good. I've seen a few examples around town and in Toronto. Anomalous warehouses, shops, even industrial buildings are grandfathered into residential neighbourhoods (non conforming use). It can work and answers the question of where the oddballs should go. It works better when there is a club handy that keeps behaviour reasonable, especially in crowded areas. Bylaws handle the normal stuff but the ultimate club is zoning. Zoning should be flexible, but not absent. I'm sure that that flexibility decreases the further from the lower city one gets. Your neighbourhood?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Miket (anonymous) | Posted July 05, 2010 at 02:00:44

Dense downtowns were a devlopment required by business needing to be in close proximity to one another. Prior to the telegraph and then the telephone much business needed to be conducted in person. This need led to a concentration or the Central Business District in cities prior to the depression. Busness (industrial, office and service) all needed to be near one another to ensure their access to the markets and skills they required. The need for close location led to the development of the skyscraper and the multistory factory enabling more people to be in close contact as this was required at the time. Even the main transportation network of the time rail led to this concentration due to the nature of its movement and the need to move goods was too great to rely on the inadequate road transportation of the day. The downtown retail environments (multi story department stores) were also an outgrowth of similar factors and demographic changes that were occuring in the early 20th century.

Unfortunately Hamilton let its dense core go and our planning with a bias to easy vehicle access and distributed shopping, etc. will not bring it back. The end result of our planning style can easily be seen in many of the Rust Belt cities such as Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, etc. We have many unique problems - some solvable some not problems that Portland does not have including; location to Toronto, our Rust Belt / Heavy Industry image, laws and the OMB, an aging demographic, etc. Pittsburgh may be a better model for revitalizing an Industrial city.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Auhnuld14 (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2010 at 22:45:43

Jason Leach continues to inspire me with his accounts and visions of the potential Hamilton has to offer and his vision for what that might look like. My hope is that he will contribute more regularly to this site and hopefully, run for municipal office here in the Hammer.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds