30 July 2010

Are you part of "A huge groundswell of anger"?

| johnboy
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The Canberra Times is leading with John Thistleton’s supposition that:

A huge groundswell of anger is brewing among residents of Canberra’s inner suburbs over unit developments.

Which is curious, because as a long term inner northican I look at the developments with some hope that they might one day lead to prices low enough that I too may buy.

So maybe it’s land owners of Canberra’s inner suburbs getting grumpy?

Personally I find the character of the area suffers more when an ex-govvie share shouse is knocked down to build a multi-storey mcmansion than a block of apartments.

Dense development in the inner suburbs

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People talk of Gungahlin streets being thin, but I’ve since realised that many of the smaller loops streets in Dickson and surrounds are just as small. Unfortunately these seem to be the areas where huge blocks of units are being built.

I think the main concern is that they shove this stuff through without proper community consultation – they say they do but really it’s not done properly and they rush it so that nobody has the time to amend or protest. And it’s not just a matter of stubbornly blocking things either, the local council is meant to be a sort of small scale government so that community members can ask for amendments or say “no this carpark border is too close to the neighboring property” or what have you, but when they bulldoze over local residents they make mistakes just because nobody seems to care what they do anymore. And it affects the surrounding residents. I realise there is a need for stuff to be built occasionally but these people have no ethics

But no the main thing that angers me is the ad “If you give a shit about how people order their steak one way or the other these are the apartments for you”. which is ironic since I’m guessing the whole thing was… well at first i thought a jab at pretension but then with the steak, i thought it might be more like “hey. you’re young and pretentious. Are you gonna let DOWN TO EARTH PEOPLE get in the way of your RARE STEAK?”. I really can’t place this ad properly. does anyone know what i’m talking about? … maybe I missed that episode of gruen transfer… anyway enough about media studies, I’m not personally against development where the need arises – But the developers are having an impact on surrounding infrastructure and not doing the right thing by the community so to hell with them, why shouldn’t people kick up a stink if this is how they’re going to treat us? They have to realise that people really only throw spanners in the works if they aren’t being listened to

stonedwookie2:44 pm 02 Aug 10

belcompton is still gettin its mini sky scraper sardine living for all!

The inner north used to be better served by buses til the recent improvements/cutbacks. our bus was abolished, the next closest one had the route cut short so it no longers goes to Russel.

Similarly there is no school within walking distance of where we live. Most people would not let their 5 year olds walk many kilometres to school, across several really busy roads, one that I struggle to cross at peak hour with a pram. And preschoolers also need dropping off, as do kids at daycare.

A car free inner north sounds cute, but it will never happen.

Walking across busy roads to get to a shop is a big disincentive (Woden is ringed by busy roads – very poor urban design). A better solution would be revitalising local shops, which are often a pleasant walk through leafy streets or little parks.

Time to reopen Downer shops already!

I can understand the concerns of people who are seeing things change around them, but as has also been noted, Canberra needs to change. Do those who live in single-storey houses in the inner suburbs seriously expect that things will stay the same forever? The change to higher density in other cities has been going on for a while, so why wouldn’t it happen here? That’s like hoping that winter won’t arrive each year – understandable, but ultimately pretty deluded.

Building lots of apartments may not bring property prices down in the areas where they are built, but it may help to take pressure off the housing at the edge of the city. Somethig has to be done to relieve the pressure, and given that there’s a limit to how much we can build outwards, the next step is to build upwards.

For those who are whinging about parking, give up your cars and get off your bums. If you are lucky enough to live in much of the Inner North, then you have access to better bus services than much of the rest of Canberra. If you don’t want to, then move elsehwere and let those without cars appreciate living in suburbs where facilities are actually within walking distance.

I agree completely that our town centres should be hosting far higher density than currently exists. But as usual with the Stanhope Government, none of the policies actually fit together or think ahead. Both Belconnen and Woden have apartment buildings rising nearby, but I (and I’d imagine many others) do not want to live in them because of the 1970’s style of the shopping centres. To get to either place, pedestrians have to cross acres of carpark to do something as simple as a litre of milk.

Hands up how many people (especially females) feel safe walking through these areas at night? Is it what you’d call convenient? Does it count as cutting-edge urban design?

What if the bus stations were built next to apartments, and both shopping centres actually had shops, restaurants and other things open past 5.30pm, instead of just the Westfield vampires that suck the life out of any small businesses nearby? The current Belconnen “redevelopment” is just a rebuilding of access roads, and a massive wasted opportunity.

What if (even better) there was light rail linking the town centres with a park-and-ride place available at spots along the way?

Finally, as far the architecture being offered, if you don’t like it, do something about it. Get in touch with both ACTPLA and also the developers themselves. They will respond to feedback if they are smart, and they may well respond a lot faster if a group of citizens suggest a city-wide boycott of their designs in favour of their competitors….

troll-sniffer11:09 pm 01 Aug 10

sepi said :

All those parents dropping off kids have to park somewhere.

Dearie dearie me, and therein lies just one symptom of why the problem arises in the first place. How many parents actually need to drop their lazy little PS3 playing fashion-conscious darlings at school? Hardly any, it’s symptomatic of a society in decline when kids who should be getting the exercise walking or riding to school are instead treated like some sort of misplaced royalty in this manner.

Not to mention all the other gym junkies who could save a packet by doing some meaningful outdoor exercise instead of the useless machine driven crap they think is doing them good.

nhand42 said :

Let’s get Canberra back to 200,000 people. Anybody who enjoys high-density sardine living can fuck off back to Sydney.

Already there! 🙂 And I’d suggest that if you are parking your motorcycle somewhere that requires payment, you are doing it wrong, regardless of which city you are living in.

Also, what caf said

Anyone else find it odd that these multi-unit developments are springing up all over suburban streets, while Civic and the town centres have relatively few apartment blocks?

Seriously, there is almost nothing in Woden, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin or Belconnen (although Belco is starting to a few now), and what little there is is generally limited to 3-5 stories.

Surely town centres, with their existing office, retail and transport infrastructure are a far more logical place for high-density residential living.

nhand42: Stick yer head back in to #canberra sometime you old fart 😉

moneypenny26129:09 pm 30 Jul 10

I’d be less angry if the unit developments weren’t so butt ugly to look at. Plus the lack of energy efficiency and soundproofing (especially the latter) is appalling.

The newer units are very small and very expensive. You get the worst of both worlds.

Plus I think it is a bit of a pity that so many of the old cottages in Braddon, Turner, and Ainslie are being razed. The new mcmansions or dual occs are like proverbial sore thumbs around the older properties. No sense of proportion or style.

3 Elder Street Braddon and 68 Elimatta Street Braddon – I like your old stuff better than your new stuff.

Dickson is a poor location to try to force people onto street parking and out of their cars. Dickson has about 4 schools within the suburb. All those parents dropping off kids have to park somewhere. And not everyone is rat running from gungahlin to civic – plenty of people actually live in these suburbs, or have kids at school or childcare in these locations.

I doubt that anyone seriously expects that providing a lack of parking spaces will make anyone get rid of their car. It is just a neat little excuse for letting developers cram more housing onto small blocks, and not waste any with parking spaces.

nhand said:

Let’s get Canberra back to 200,000 people. Anybody who enjoys high-density sardine living can fuck off back to Sydney.

I said: It’ll only take a year or two if you let the road toll take effect, otherwise, firing squads might be the go.
Perhaps Captain RAAF might be able to adapt his cat control methods to aid human population control as well…

indigoid said :

How does it burden infrastructure, exactly?

Low density housing is exactly what Canberra cannot sustain if it is to “grow up” as a city. I’m very happy to see these apartment blocks being built. It does help to build them with parking spaces, though.

How about Canberra doesn’t grow? There was nothing wrong with Canberra before they started in-filling between the suburbs, with poorly built high-density housing. Now we have traffic jams at all hours, pay-parking everywhere (used to be free even in Civic), everything is crowded and expensive, and all for what? So we can get a bunch of useless clothing shops and an expensive row of coffee shops in Civic?

Let’s get Canberra back to 200,000 people. Anybody who enjoys high-density sardine living can fuck off back to Sydney.

PS: hi goid!

And it’s not only inner North.
It has already started in Woden with a number of such developments (2 ajoined properties catering for 10, 12 or 16 ‘apartments’) springing up in suburbs such as Chifley.

Now how is that staying “within the current character” of the suburb?

Braddon Boy said :

What a lot of people don’t realise is, some of the “problems” people complain about are in fact intentional. Despite what you might think, these things seldom happen without reason.

Social engineering only works when people do what you want them to do, but it doesn’t appear to be having the desired results, and is an insult to people’s intelligence.

You can’t actually force people to, say, get rid of their car – but maybe if you intentionally build inadequate infrastructure they will be frustrated into doing what you want them to.
When they don’t, you just end up with a whole heap of frustrated people and inadequate infrastructure.

I think you’ve got it wrong JB – it’s mostly the renters that are against infill. Owners are all for it, because developers buying up houses to knock down and replace with blocks of apartments are what’s responsible for house values in the area being so high. (High house values also tends to mean high rents…)

JessP said :

Winge winge winge. Its OK to build more units in ‘outer suburbs’ (hello Crace) but not in the inner areas? Get real.

NIMBYs rule! Ans also the NOTE!

We all know the NIMBYs….but there is also the

Not Over There Either group.

Have you thought that people might buy in the inner suburbs because they like tree lined streets and low set houses next door and not fukn skyscrapers…

Braddon Boy – you are correct if there is only one development. But what happens when there are 20 developments and 80 extra cars that have to be parked on the narrow roads. In front of your house, blocking the rubbish truck so your bin never gets emptied? Or people park on the next street – I doubt walking 100m from their apartment is going to make someone get rid of their car (its probably a shorter walk than to the bus stop).

These developments are within 200m of the shops, so few people are going to drive to the local shops anyway. Other than that, where do you think people are going to start walking instead of driving? (assuming, of course, that people are physically able to walk or ride). And given that they are close to the shops, they are close to arterial roads anyway, so there isnt any benefit to rat runnning through these streets (or the streets dont go anyway useful to a rat runner).

While this thread is about the inner north, remember that the same issue applies to more outer suburbs, where walking and public transport etc is much less an alternative.

Those who decry the increase in traffic should either adapt (and contribute to lessening traffic by walking and riding)

it isn’t the traffic density per se, it is the lack of effective traffic furniture to curtail unsafe traffic flows. a skinny dickson street, as cited above, has three previous single dwelling houses being demolished for thirteen units, on a route that runs just inside nthbourne, on a curve, making it both a local access road and a thoroughfare for general city-bound/outer inner north-bound traffic and some time soon, if nothing is done, a serious consequence will occur; and i don’t want that to be me, my family, anyone i know – indeed anyone at all!

i do walk locally, ride a little further and take greta care when i do have to drive – nonetheless, i have had three or four near-hits in the past month with idiots who drove as if the previous conditions remained.

i guess i am not against development, just against morons. 🙂 but the government who authorises these developments must recognise the likely effects and enact solutions, before something tragically awry occurs.

What a lot of people don’t realise is, some of the “problems” people complain about are in fact intentional. Despite what you might think, these things seldom happen without reason.

Traffic and parking for example is one thing that is intentional. Most apartments are 1-2, maybe 3 bedrooms, but almost always have 1 car park (maybe 2 if you’re lucky) allocated to them, in the basement, around the back or where ever. This alone is intended to encourage couples to only own one car, while one of them gets use to buses, walking or riding a bike.

But, of course, it is expected that a cretin percentage will ignore this and park their second car on the street anyway. This gets to a point where, all other things staying the same, an equilibrium is reached. Plenty of cars on the street mean that it will be hard to find a park, so people get the s@#ts and get rid of a car. Other people in the street, even subconsciously, find it a pain to drive through, so decide to walk or ride for the short trips. People from outside the area decide to avoid the street all together and stay on arterials, as they were intended in the initial planning.

Of course, for this equilibrium to be reached the traffic needs to be heavier then it was previously, which is where the NIMBY’s come in. So whether you agree with it or not, the planning authority does have good intentions.

Clown Killer2:03 pm 30 Jul 10

We all know the NIMBYs….but there is also the Not Over There Either group

I think they’re called BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)

Are you part of “A huge groundswell of anger”?

Yes! I’m literally angry with rage!

Lets be very clear about the majority of complaints. It is NOT that there is development. It is the SCALE of the development.

For example, there is a development in O’Connor that will demolish 2 houses and put up 12 townhouses on the same 2 blocks. Does anyone think that increases the density from 2 dwellings to 12 dwellings can, in any way, be consistent with what is currently there?

To give you an idea, that development of 12 dwellings is approx 56 dwellings per hectare (I am told – I am not closely connected to the issue). Suburbs with the standard 1/4 acre block work out to be about 8 dwellings per hectare (technically 10, but once you take into account nature strips, footpaths etc, which are not part of the 1/4acre block, overall its about 8).

So these developments are 7 times as dense as the normal canberra suburb. The new outer suburbs with the tiny 250 – 300m2 blocks work out to be about 30-35 dwellings per hectare.

Remember that this is not the high density zoning along northbourne ave or even the higher density zoning in Braddon. This is meant to be ‘medium’ density and applies to every RZ2 zone that is within 200m of any shopping centre in Canberra.

The issue is not people complaining about dual occupancy, or triple occupancy. There are plenty of crappy houses around that should be redeveloped. But look at your 1/4 acre block and imagine 6 or 7 townhouses on it. Imagine another 10 – 15 cars. Look over the back fence and imagine an unbroken wall of 8 townhouses that are less than 5m from your back fence. Basically, all of RZ2 will be turned into Braddon (except it will be 2 stories high instead of 3).

Yes there is an element of not wanting your life disrupted. People have lived in these houses for many years. The zoning changes occured in 2008 (before then, all that was allowed was dual occupancy and 2 story houses) – its not like people knew bought knowing what the risk was. Its been changed on them. Land value going up only results in higher rates if you dont want to move.

The only problem with these new developments is their lack of provision for green space. Not only small parks and the like, but buildings filling entire blocks (and here, by different developers) are fairly unappealing. London is quite a good example of dense housing (although with some notable fails) – green space is part of any development. If you’re building up, you can stick a bit of open space in the middle or around the edges, whether it’s a “housing estate” style venture, or something like the squares where the high-density housing is built around the square with a fenced park (access for residents) in the middle. I think the ratio of building footprint to landarea should be something in the region of 70%.

Then there are allotments. I personally prefer living a flat due to the fact it’s much less wasteful (and cheaper to maintain), but I really miss being able to have a vege garden. COGS have their allotment scheme, which is great, but I think it should be enhanced and backed up by local govt resourcing. Putting them in places like along Sullivan’s Creek would be ideal – someone had a guerilla garden in Lyneham last year, and it made me smile every time I looked at it.

Also, given the shoddy construction of many of these new units, some hard work needs to be done for modernising building specifications to put in decent standards for noise control (soundproofing) and energy management. It amazes me how places that are supposed to rent for several hundred a week are supposedly more attractive than nice quiet double-bricked 70s units just because of the granite kitchen counters (ignore the tissue paper wall between you and the neighbours!) And the fact non-double-glazed glass is still standard in these developments is astounding. Dense housing can be nicely energy efficient, but not if all your heating/cooling is escaping via the crappy windows.

Urban infill / redevelopment doesn’t magically create affordability — it only make affected suburbs more expensive. Real estate prices in centrally located locations are affected chiefly by image and speculation — supply and demand equations have nothing to do with it. If anything, they might depress prices on the outer edges of town, far from the developments, because they make these seem even more remote (that’s why it’s rarely a good investment to buy in the most far flung suburbs, like Ngunnawal or Casey or Banks or Bonner) while making inner areas seem more vibrant and therefore in demand and expensive.

When was the last time you saw a poor, struggling family moving into a brandspanking new apartment development in the inner north or south? Fact is, there is just nothing the government can do to make houses more affordable for buyers, without serious consequences for everyone else — govt should focus on making quality rental accomodation more affordable, and folks who don’t have much money should just accept that a big mortgage isn’t for them and get comfortable with renting or public housing. Nothing wrong with these options. It’s not people’s birthright to own homes!

I’m all for it as long as the plot ratios are right, for living and for parking. Finer-grained zoning too to keep the denser stuff off the back streets. If the inner north holds double the population then there better be funds and zoning for infrastructure development for the extra police, schools, doctors, shops etc…. but I bet there won’t.

troll-sniffer12:03 pm 30 Jul 10

And thus we enter the realm of the whingers paradise. Urban infill areas, drawing in the self-righteous like moths to a scented candle. Well, I for one can tell you that no matter how many fora are hosted, how many community consultations or information sessions attract many or few, you will never get agreement on this issue. The NIMBYs want to continue their unsustainable lifestyle, the developers want to provide an increase in population density and a profit in the process, and almost no-one thinks outside their own little box.

I grew up on a quarter acre block backing onto what seemed like a million acres of parkland, but having ‘grown up’ further since then, I am all for the consolidation of Canberra into relatively high density suburbs while retaining the large swathes of parkland and bush. Those who decry the increase in traffic should either adapt (and contribute to lessening traffic by walking and riding) or go and move somewhere that encourages your out-of-date lifestyle based on exclusive car-based transport options. (Jerrabomberra would be a suitable start). Those who own or yearn for the streetscapes of neatly tended gardens on discrete quarter acre parcels, complete with often very inefficient housing, are more often than trying to live a dream that doesn’t exist. As an example, in the rapidly infilling suburb of Ainslie, a large percentage of the blocks were overgrown and never tended beyond a desultory mow twice a year. A lot of those eyesores have been replaced by smart looking neat body corporate-run gardens. Same thing with unit developments, most of the modern ones present a tidy and pleasant face to the street, the gardens are tended and the rubbish is removed, miscreant parking types are dealt with by the body corporates, and so on.

We can all be reactionary nostalgia-laden stick-in-the-muds but a city that does not evolve stagnates, and those who cannot adapt and become bitter never realise that being open-minded and moving with the times isn’t really that hard, it just requires an ability to think laterally and accept that not everything was perfect ‘back in my day’.

Winge winge winge. Its OK to build more units in ‘outer suburbs’ (hello Crace) but not in the inner areas? Get real.

NIMBYs rule! Ans also the NOTE!

We all know the NIMBYs….but there is also the Not Over There Either group.

Sign me up for the groundswell too. they seem to pick the skinniest streets in Dickson to build mega unit blocks on, which makes it really difficult to drive through the streets as people are parked all along the street as there is never enough parking in these developments.

It is also depressing that they market these things saying ‘lovely leafy streetscape’ and then the developers park trucks on the naturestrip right on top of the tree roots. I mean they dont’ care if the trees all cark it in a year or two.

Urban infill is a good idea in theory, but just slapping up huge block of units in little streets is not a winner. And where will all the kids go to school – my local preschool was on the closure list a few years ago, and now it is booked out already for next year and my kids can’t get in.

Holden Caulfield11:04 am 30 Jul 10

I’m angry that there are no signs the O’Connor shops are going to get tarted up/refreshed/developed. A couple of extra coffee shops might be nice, haha.

Anyway, I guess the more medium density development there is, the more likely it is the shops of the inner north will get updated.

headgroggogwog10:57 am 30 Jul 10

Didn’t Stateline do the same story a few weeks ago?


Very unusual for John Thistleton to do anything critical of developers! He didn’t touch the stuff about unit construction problems (a RiotACT favourite and another one Stateline banged on about).

The suburban story is not an anti-development/density issue, it’s more a sense of frustration from many of us at seeing developers pushing the limits, building complexes that are too big for quiet back streets, knowing they have the planning muscle, legal back-up and the cash to bash it through the ACTPLA system.

Developers are allowed to build multi-unit complexes in areas zoned ‘RZ2’… The problem is many of these projects are of an inappropriately high density when the zoning intentions are much lower.

Barr said this on the Stateline show and reckons he’ll ‘tweak’ the rules if enough people jump up and down.

How does it burden infrastructure, exactly?

Low density housing is exactly what Canberra cannot sustain if it is to “grow up” as a city. I’m very happy to see these apartment blocks being built. It does help to build them with parking spaces, though.

georgesgenitals10:55 am 30 Jul 10

To be afir, having tradies everywhere is a pain. The do park everywhere, leave rubbish everywhere, leave their tools everywhere, connect extension cords to any unsecured external power outlet, and make a lot of noise.

I’ve lived in a new area that was being built once, and the tradies were the main problem.

the aspect i decry in the development of the inner north is the complete lack of commensurate development of traffic infrastructure; and drivers’ incapcity to drive (or park) to conditions when these areas become more congested with more on-street parkers and pedestrians using their previous ‘rat race’ route…

Unfortunately there is a contingent called NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) They’re mainly, middle-aged homeowners who think that they should be able to live on a quarter acre block and access services they can walk too at the same time as being able to park their car easily and for free wherever they go.

The unbelievable escalation in house prices over the last seven or more years causes not just homelessness but en mass anxiety, feelings of failure, relationship breakdown and family tension. The NIMBYs don’t seem to understand this. Nor can they seem to get it through their heads that higher density housing makes accessable community services more viable.

A bunch of people are whining because the (empty) carpark in Hawker is going to be used for development – not much more than NIMBYism in that.

It’s fair to say that I’m part of the groundswell. I’m well over it (the development of that sort). In terms of amenity it impacts in a most detrimental manner. I happen to reside (rent), on my own, in an ex-govvie right next door to 5 new units. I have 12 or so going in just down the street, 8 around the corner, 12 down the street and around trhe corner and (what seems like) 9, 872 over the back fence (with more to come I’ll wager). Sometimes, I may as well have a used car yard on the footpath next door (I have returned home late from work one night to find a car parked — yes! parked! — in my driveway preventing me and my vehicle’s access to the property). So, in some respects, the developments become little different from being essentially a huge share house anyway.

I’ve seen this movie before in inner city Brisbane (New Farm, Fortitude Valley, Teneriffe, Newstead, West End, South Bris and, eventually, Annerley). It burdens infrastructure to snapping point and shatters amenity. It never brings prices down, John . . . never. If it does, it’s years and years down the track, after the place has been rendered akin to a slum through the complete degredation of what amenity existed before. Rather, the developers and agents drive the values up and investors and speculators are happy to pay anything for what they consider land value only (knowing they’ll get a ROI easily). Form the Canberra Shire Council perspective, this is more about collecting change of use charges than proper ‘town planning’ (and I reckon I could find a planner or two, from those I know, who would agree).


georgesgenitals10:28 am 30 Jul 10

Why would the land owners get grumpy? As more units and townhouses are built, the number of traditional houses on blocks gets relatively lower, thus making the land more valuable. There will always be people who don’t like progress, but the Inner North is on a slow march toward becoming renewed with medium density housing.

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