Monday, January 18, 2016

Blogging Holiday and Review

Trying not to be distracted from serious business of fishing and other activities just now.

So am taking a blogging holiday. Am reviewing content. Apologies if a post you are looking for isn't available. The most popular posts are still accessible.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heritage Restoration's Hollow Ring

Devonport's Masonic Lodge. The site of much heritage angst and district scheme heritage protection controversy over plans to redevelop the historic site into luxury apartments.


Here's the development site today. Shrouded in plastic - if not in secrecy.


But wait, there's a hole in the plastic Dear Liza, Dear Liza, a hole. So I sent my little camera up for a look-see...


A void. Avoid. You can't help wondering about a heritage and historic conservation policy that allows, and does not abhor, such a vacuum. Devonport residents calmly walk past. The community runs its tongue over the teeth in its street and finds it all good. No gaps. A convenient plastic cap popped over the cavity so it all somehow feels normal. Can pretend nothing has really changed. And when the shroud is removed, the building revealed will be better than what was there, in the bone of the street, a crown no less. A gleaming shiny crown. To confirm that feeling, reinforce it. Life is good. Continues as before. All change, but no change. Not a scrap of what was there exists inside the hollow. Like a funeral without the pyre.    


There's talk of the fad of facadism in heritage - keep the facade - but remove everything behind it. But there's not even a facade here. A comment on society and what keeps us all sane and in a straight line.

A metaphor of urban neoliberalism maybe. All form and no content. All GDP and no civilisation. All economic activity for today and no long term memories of yesterday. Maybe that's what they really mean when thy speak of the post-political. But then, if that was true, no-one would've spoken out about what would be lost and what the effect would be on community with the changes to the Masonic. It's not just a building. It was a way of life. Public pubs and clubs are as much at the heart of community and civic life as are public parks and squares. And while their very existence is under threat because they are regarded as private development opportunities and because many institutions now prioritise that activity, it won't always be that way. Because people are naturally communal and have adapted over millenia to function best for the common good together. You might take the public out of the urban, but you can't take the public out of the people.


Mangawhai loses in Court of Appeal

Well I guess it's Christmas and not everything that comes in the stocking is the present we were expecting. On the 17th December 2015 Harrison, Miller and Cooper JJ delivered their decision on the various matters that had been put in front of them by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association (MRRA) relating to the PPP EcoCare wastewater scheme.

The decision is lengthy - 69 pages - and very detailed. Much of it concentrates on Bill of Rights Act matters. Justice Miller prepared the main decision. In their follow up decisions, Cooper and Harrison generally agree with Miller's findings and decision, though their reasons are not all the same.

My summary here of the decision should not be taken as gospel, but the guts, as I see it from a couple of readings are essentially these:

  • when Parliament enacted the Local Government Act with the late addition of Protected Transactions provisions, it was to deliver the option of lower cost loans to Councils. The interest rates charged would be lower essentially in exchange for ratepayers having limited powers to challenge loans taken by their council, and therefore banks would be subject to fewer risks and costs.
  • while residents had rights to challenge these loans through judicial review, Parliament always had the power to validate loans and loan processes later, and it had the power to do that despite Bill of Rights Act provisions which grant the right of judicial review - but those rights extend to process only (council compliance with the local government act duties to consult for example), and not substantive matters (ie the loan still has to be paid).
  • Mangawhai ratepayers and residents got all the vindication they were ever going to get from the findings in the High Court judicial review that Kaipara District Council had acted against the law in whole variety of ways. There is the hint of a suggestion that MRRA might have gone further in getting its pound of flesh from the perpetrators. And there is an impression that perhaps MRRA should have pursued the Office of the Auditor General for its failings - but then the Auditor General got a prize this year didn't she - for a job well done.
  • while there were process illegalities associated with the loan, which were validated by Parliament, Parliament always intended that ratepayers should still pay for those debts, and not the taxpayer.

There were some complexities in the decision relating to the fact that MRRA' membership did not include all Mangawhai ratepayers - which raised questions about precisely which persons would materially benefit from a favourable CoA finding - and an order for costs against MRRA, I believe the above pretty much sums up the decision of Miller, and likely concludes an unfortunate example of poor local governance compounded by failures in the Audit Office and the Office of the Auditor General.

Miller has cited speeches from Hansard given by Phil Twyford (for Labour) and Eugenie Sage (for the Greens) in respect to an effort by Andrew Williams (for NZ First), to explicitly exclude from the Validation Bill, provisions in respect to the outstanding debt. William's efforts did not attract the support needed in Parliament, suggesting - without really nailing it - that Parliament always intended that ratepayers would have to carry the can for their council's decisions - and that nobody else would. That is one interpretation of what Parliament did. I don't think Parliament - in respect of individual MPs - explicitly accepted that what they were doing with the validation bill was washing their hands of every aspect of this institutional failure.

I wrote some time ago about the law being an ass in respect of what happened at Mangawhai. Unsure now.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Better Auckland Pedestrian Comfort Assessment

In the quote below, (from a best practice report prepared recently for Melbourne) imagine that "Auckland" is substituted in place of "Melbourne" in this text:
In the light of urban growth, Melbourne needs to address the rising numbers of pedestrians in the central city. Walking is the main mode of transport (86%, figure 12, p. 10) and tram stops, pedestrian crossings and sidewalks get increasingly crowded at peak hours. The principal aim of the new pedestrian strategy, conducted by City of Melbourne’s strategic transport planners, is to get people to walk more by providing a suitable urban environment to walk in – a street network capable of facilitating current as well as future levels of pedestrians. This research looks at pedestrian crowding, and how it is measured and analysed in cities around the world. It reviews two specific tools, pedestrian level of service (LOS) and pedestrian trip generation. It studies London, New York and Copenhagen in more detail, and the work and experience of Gehl Architects in Copenhagen.  
It commences a discussion of how these methodologies are relevant to Melbourne and whether they are applicable and/or can form inspiration in the development of Melbourne’s pedestrian analysis. The study has found that although many cities work to improve pedestrian conditions, there is no generally adopted methodology or standard for pedestrian LOS or trip generation. Pedestrian trip generation calculations are novel and relatively unexplored....  
A majority of cities analysing pedestrian LOS use the Fruin scale from the 1970s. This method analyses quantitatively the number of people walking in a street, but ignores several important factors relating to walkability. Gehl Architects has led the way in elaborating a different and more comprehensive methodology, based on over 30 years experience. They have identified a general street crowding capacity of 13 people per meter per minute, a figure applied by London in their Pedestrian Comfort Level (PCL) assessments. The London framework combines Fruin’s crowding scale with Gehl’s experiences and sets up a comprehensive implementation guide based on area types, street features and pedestrian counts. PCL is calculated for both sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. Melbourne could implement this framework directly, if more and better counting sensors are installed, data collected from the relevant sites and area types analysed in terms of crowding acceptance.....
I've already posted information here and here about what Dr John Fruin has to say in the 1970's about the safe capacity of a pedestrian corridor or laneway. This is a summary of Gehl's more recent findings:

Gehl Architects have assessed walkability in cities all around the world, including Melbourne. Gehl defines crowding as more than 13 people per minute per meter footway width. This is based on long experience. The Architecture School in Copenhagen collected data in public spaces in Copenhagen between 1968 and 1996. They found through this research that the main pedestrian street, Stroget, in Copenhagen reached its capacity at 13 people per meter per minute. Once this level of activity was reached, pedestrians started to move along parallel streets to avoid congestion. 
Recommended pedestrian capacity:
13 person/minute/meter footway width x available footway width = no. of pedestrians/minute 
Henritte Vamberg at Gehl Architects says: ‘The comfort level drops the more pedestrians you have. The above parameter is looking at when pedestrians start walking in “lines”, when you get crushed, when you can’t maneuver a wheelchair through etc.’. What is different with this methodology is that it is based on levels of quality and comfort rather than quantity – conventional LOS methods (mentioned by Fruin) deal only with how many people a street can carry (Gehl Architects, 2004, p. 34).

Using the Gehl walkability metric for a 5 metre wide laneway:  13 x 5 x 60 = 3,900 pedestrians/hour.

This is a conservative - perhaps Scandanavian - approach. The Pedestrian Guidance Manual for London takes Gehl and Fruin and observations to produce a set of guidelines related to Pedestrian Comfort Levels in London. It contains two useful graphics, and ppmm (pedestrian per metre width per minute) advice, which are applicable to office, retail and mass transit pathways.....



Taking the "D" Pedestrian Comfort Level established by London Transport (assume 30 people/clear pathway width metre/minute), and applying it to the proposed downtown laneway, what carrying capacity does a 5 metre pathway have - at this "Very Uncomfortable" service level?

Carrying capacity = 30 x 5 x 60 = 9,000 people/hour

Which is less than the 10,000 average capacity claimed by Auckland Council, and much less than the peak capacity claimed in evidence to hearing commissioners of 16,000 people/hour, and makes a mockery of the 24,000 people/hour claimed by Auckland Council in further information provided to commissioners.

The London advice provides a useful tabulation of pedestrian comfort levels for different types of pedestrian environments, including mass transit pathways. This relates to the A to E comfort level carrying capacities tabulated above.



You can see there that London Transport's advice is that a service level of C+ to C is deemed "acceptable" and that planning for higher throughput means that pedestrian comfort is assessed as "at risk".

Using the "C" grade of personal comfort, gives the carrying capacity of a 5 metre wide laneway as:

23 x 5 x 60 = 6,900 pedestrians/hour

If Auckland wants to build toward its claim as "most liveable city", surely it is about time it adopted pedestrian comfort standards that are recommended in other great cities.


Gehl Architects, 2004, ‘Towards a Fine City for People – Public Spaces and Public Life – London 2004’, DM 7460245

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Precinct's Downtown Laneway: How Wide?

This posting is about the laneway proposed in Precinct's plans for redevelopment of the Auckland Downtown block bounded by Lower Queen Street, Quay Street, Lower Albert Street and Custom Street West. The picture below shows a rough plan of this laneway.....


The laneway I want to discuss here, is the one connecting Lower Albert Street through the development to Lower Queen Street. The laneway will be about 100 metres long if the whole of Queen Square (shaded in green) is sold for development, and about 60 metres long if Queen Square stays in public ownership as public space. (The other proposed laneway, running north-south, is more of a dog leg than shown here, as it has to side-step the HSBC building to get to Quay Street.)

In June this year, Precinct obtained resource consent for a development on the site that does not use Queen Square. This consent was non-notified. It includes consent for the 60 metre section of laneway. The question I want to address in this posting is how wide should this laneway be?

At the hearings that have occurred in the past couple of weeks, there have been varying widths discussed by the applicant's experts and by Auckland Council. The Road Stop notice stipulates a 5 metre width east-west laneway. Other witnesses have said 6.5 metres, and that this provides a 5 metre wide central section, allowing shoppers to look at the shops using the other 1.5 metres of width. Various submitters have raised questions about the safety of this - because the laneway will be used by passengers to walk between the bus terminal in Albert Street and the Britomart rail terminal or other buses that terminate there.

At the Plan Change 79 hearing, Blair Johnston of Warren and Mahoney Architects, (who are doing master plan and architecture work for Precinct) stated that he had worked with Auckland Transport, and that modelling showed that a 5 metre wide corridor was safe and appropriate, even up to conservative estimates of 16,000 people going through per hour.

The world authority on these matters is John J Fruin. You can see a summary of his work for New York Transit here. This is a bit dense, so I've unpacked relevant sections....
PEDESTRIAN CHARACTERISTICS
The primary characteristics needed to evaluate pedestrian facilities are walking speeds, walking distances, demand patterns, and traffic-flow relationships. The ability of pedestrians to select their own individual walking pace and speed is a qualitative measure of convenience. Walking distances define the effective service area of transit stations, with shorter distances improving passenger perceptions of service and convenience. The patterns of passenger demand affect the methods used to analyze pedestrian facilities and the applications of service standards.
WALKING SPEEDS
Pedestrian speeds, in addition to being directly related to traffic density, have been found to vary for a wide range of conditions, including individual age, sex, personal disabilities, environmental factors, and trip purpose. Normal walking speeds unimpeded by pedestrian crowding have been found to vary between 150 and 350 ft/min (0.76 and 1.76 m/s), with the average at about 270 ft/min. As a point of comparison, running the 4-min mile is equivalent to a speed of 1320 ft/min or almost 5 times normal walking speed. Walking speeds decline with age, particularly after age 65, but healthy older adults are capable of increasing their walking speed by 40% for short distances. Dense pedestrian traffic has the effect of reducing walking speed for all persons. The smaller personal space limits pacing distances and the ability to pass slower moving pedestrians or to cross the traffic stream.
Photographic studies of pedestrian traffic flow on walkways have shown that individual area occupancies of at least 35 ft2/pr (3 m2/pr) are required for pedestrians to attain normal walking speeds and to avoid conflicts with others. Interestingly, the maximum pedestrian traffic-flow volume is not obtained when people can walk the fastest, but when average area occupancies are at about 5 ft2/pr, and pedestrians are limited to an uncomfortable shuffling gait less than half normal walking speed. At individual space occupancies below 2 ft2/pr, approaching the plan area of the human body, virtually all movement is stopped. When there is a large crowd in a confined space, this density can result in shock waves and potentially fatal crowd pressures.
Fruin has developed a set of useful metrics and measures that allow walking speeds and infrastructure capacity to be calculated. These are depicted in the following two diagrams and tables:


What this tabulates is the different levels of service (LOS) experienced by pedestrians, as the space between pedestrians gets more cramped, in order to get more people through the same corridor, per hour. LOS A is the most comfortable, and LOS E and LOS F are where things get tricky. In between is a LOS that gets the most people through, and retains an optimal level of comfort - but you can see that cross flows become difficult (eg people using the north-south laneway) etc.
This graph shows this relationship quantitatively. At the top are the different LOS, with "A" to the right. Which is described on the graph as "commuter bi-directional" - people easily going in both directions. Then you have LOS "B" described as "shoppers multi-directional", and then LOS "C" described as "commuter uni-directional" - people going in similar directions, and taking up between 15 and 25 square feet/person. And so on.

Crucially, Fruin, in his piece poses this question:
Determine the recommended width of a 200-ft (61-m)-long corridor connection to a transit station with a forecasted two-way, peak-hour pedestrian traffic of 10,000 pr/h under the following conditions:
Alternative 1: commuters only, no doors entering the corridor, no columns, no other services.
Alternative 2: same volume, but with retail development along the corridor edges in a shopping mall configuration.
And provides the answers (which you can look at in the link) as follows:

Solution for Alternative 1: This requires the selection of a design LOS and appropriate design peak. Unless there are significant restraints, the approximate mid-range of LOS C, or 12.5 pr/ft min, is an appropriate standard. The 15-min peak, typically about 40% of peak-hour volume, is an appropriate design period. (Ans=6.8 metres) 
Solution for Alternative 2: The shopping mall alternative can be analyzed as (a) a corridor with additions at the edges to allow window-shopping and door-opening "lanes" or (b) on a time-space basis, assuming some percentage of the commuters will spend additional time in the corridor. For illustrative purposes, it will be assumed that 100% of the commuters walk through the corridor, but that 30% of this total stop to window-shop for an additional 1 min each. It is desired to provide a density of 20 ft2/p average within the corridor during the 15-min peak. (Ans for 'a'=8.3 metres, or 'b'=8.9 metres).
The laneway proposed by Precinct is the "shopping mall" alternative with shops lining both sides of the corridor/laneway. Thus, according to Fruin's calculations, that laneway should be somewhere between 8.3 and 8.9 metres wide, and that's for 10,000 passenger movements/hour - rather less than the "conservative" number of 16,000 mentioned by Blair Johnston for Precinct.

Until we are very clear about this, extreme caution should be exercised in the planning of this crucial link in Auckland's downtown passenger transport station infrastructure.


A History of QE Square

I needed to go into Auckland Council archives to get the real story on this contested piece of Auckland Open Public Space. It's not what I thought. And it's not what staffers thought when they prepared planning reports for the Road Stop hearing and Precinct Property's private plan change 79. Here's some edited highlights....Images are from presentations to hearing planning commissioners. This one's today.
Here's how the downtown area was in 1959. You can see it was a fine-grained piece of old Auckland. This posting shows shots of Little Queen Street. The frontage to Lower Queen Street - across the street from the CPO/Britomart railway station - was much the same.
Now for some archives. From the Town Clerk's files for Downtown. A selection tells the story of what happened. And how it happened. In this letter - which you can click and read yourself - the Auckland Harbour Board writes to Auckland City Council's mayor and councillors informing them of AHB plans to redevelop the whole of its reclaimed Downtown site bounded by Hobson, Quay, Lower Queen and Custom Street West. And of the fact it had advertised a prospectus internationally, seeking developers, and providing certain constraints which are described in page 3 of the letter...

These are that Sturdee Street and Little Queen Street would be closed, and that a "public square" would be provided opposite the CPO. Other detailed land use changes are listed. But the essence was to take Sturdee and Little Queen streets from Auckland City Council, and in return provide a public square across from the CPO.
Very shortly after writing to ACC, the AHB released a media statement to the NZ Herald containing images of the two planning schemes it had previously commissioned for the redevelopment. These are the Kennedy and Connor schemes. Both show civic squares opposite the CPO. Both also show significant public open space in the block now occupied by a hotel, the PWC building and the carpark building. Significantly, the Kennedy scheme shows a building on the site now occupied by the HSBC (initially the Air New Zealand tower), that is relatively small in footprint, and which conforms to the height control that applied to the land of 110 feet.

Here is the Connor Scheme as it was presented to the public in NZ Herald's story. NB: this story post-dates AHB's confidential letter to ACC which states that the only public space intended was the space opposite the CPO building.
The next few images are from an important internal ACC policy document prepared for the Town Clerk's office by the ACC's Dept of Works. It ends with an array of resolutions that were eventually adopted by Auckland City Council. My arrows indicate content of particular interest. This one kicks off the document. Its purpose is to obtain support in principle from ACC to AHB's downtown development scheme.
In particular AHB wants ACC to Stop Sturdee and Little Queen Streets. It explains that AHB is purchasing street access and land use rights from all those business owners that fronted onto those streets.
This map from the Town Clerk's office shows the pieces of road to be stopped - and notes all of the land titles that fronted onto Little Queen and Sturdee Streets.


Under the heading: Status of open spaces, council officers advise: "It is understood that the Board wishes to vest Queens Square in Council as a public space under agreement, or, alternatively, as a street over which a special agreement would apply to the use of this land and to the street furniture contained within it..."
The first arrow here refers, in essence, to the fact that the land area in Little Queen Street + Sturdee Street is greater than the land area in the proposed Queens Square.

The second arrow describes AHB's intention, "The scheme is so conceived and designed so that there are generous open public spaces and other amenities for the convenience of the public. These amenities include covered areas for the passage of pedestrians, covered area for bus terminii, and pedestrian malls which will ensure the safety of pedestrian traffic moving through the area...."

Under a heading in the report headed General is this bombshell, "The placement of the building, shown as office block no.1, in the plans submitted, in relation to the proposed Queens Square gives occasion for some concern because the shadow of this building will have a detrimental effect on the public enjoyment of this square...." I suggest you read the final paragraph yourself. Council officers had seen plans for what was proposed. They were concerned. The actual plans were not made public until two years later, when they were notified because they "departed from the district plan".

These are some of the recommended resolutions from this policy advice document.
Negotiations between AHB and ACC over the exact nature of the land swap and exchange arrangements proceeded in accordance with the resolutions. This Valuation Dept advice shows how the respective values of the pieces of land came into balance. Detailed documents indicate that Sturdee and Little Queen Street land was valued at 2 pounds per square foot, while Queens Square was deemed more valuable.
Interestingly, the Valuation Dept advice also notes and quantifies the increase in rates revenue that ACC will expect from the redeveloped land. As far as ACC was concerned this would be a significant financial benefit for it.

I suggest you also read (c) of special considerations. As far as Valuation were concerned, the closed streets don't owe ACC anything, because they got them "at no cost". What were they worth, however, as open public space?

This NZ Herald article reports ACC's decision to go ahead with the land exchange deal. You will see that the detail in the report accords with the numbers in the Valuation balance sheet shown above.
This advice from ACC's retained law firm Butler, White and Hanna, took a little bit of detective work to unravel. You can see that though ACC had resolved to agree the land exchange deal, there were statutory duties to discharge relating to the stopping of the two streets. The advice notes, "although unlikely, objections could be made to the closing of these two streets, and these objections might be upheld by a magistrate in which event the scheme would be held up for a period of at least two years...". BW&H suggest legislation to avoid this risk. They also note that legislation is going to be required anyway (what for...?) and that might present an opportunity for a package deal...

The fruits of my detective work answered the question. A Local Members Bill was successful in 1967. It dealt with two crucial issues. The first (in (2)) was to grant ACC the power to stop streets in the downtown area by public resolution. No need to go through a risky public notification process. The second (in (13)) took a little longer to figure out. Turns out that AHB had sold the freehold title to the developer of the Air New Zealand tower on Lot 1 in 22 November 1966. Problem was that at the time, Lot 1 contained a chunk of Little Queen Street which - at the time - was still owned publicly. Enactment of this Empowering Act validated that transaction. Made it legal later. Man oh man. It's not what you know....

This map shows how the subdivision was finalised in preparation for the whole AHB scheme development. It's a fact that after this subdivision was finalised, every building on this land was demolished. So were two fine-grained streets. The land was prepared for a modernist style redevelopment with towers and a civic square. Very important to remember that. Trying to put some aspect of that grain back - be it a laneway or an old style Lower Queen Street frontage - is inevitably in conflict with the urban form that was so dramatically established in the late 1960's. And which was designed into both the Kennedy and Connor schemes. It is also significant that the public square designed into both the Connor and Kennedy plans, and which survived in the Auckland Harbour Board plans, was the first Auckland CBD public square. Aotea Square was the next one. Auckland City Council planning has been slow to grasp, understand and embrace these opportunities.
 
Here's a closeup of the part of the downtown area that is up for redevelopment now. Only the HSBC and Zurich Towers will remain in place, and the land use scheme. Unless that is changed.
Finally the public become involved. You can read the date of the NZ Herald report. August 1968. Two years after Auckland City Council had the AHB plans for the Air NZ Tower. Two years after AHB had sold Lot 1 to its preferred developer. One year after Parliament validated that unlawful sale.

Turns out the proposed tower was 266 feet high, while the zoning allowed it to be 110 feet high. Council was in support. The public had 21 days to make its view known and to appeal Council's decision.

The Auckland Branch of the NZIA appealed, and later the Auckland Architecture Association appealed. This is a story that needs more detailed telling - based on the comments made at a recent meeting of the Urban Issues Group attended by a number of professionals who were involved and who have very detailed memories.
Reading the newspaper reports at the time, I sense that AHB media managers (with Auckland City Council in the background) held sway with NZ Herald. It pours scorn on the appellants (suggests NZ noses were out of joint because the AHB contract went to an Aussie firm). Even the PM's visit to turn the first sod had to be delayed. Shock, horror, scandal, probe!
For a variety of reasons the appeals were withdrawn. I understand that much of the information revealed here in this posting was not known to the architects and planners who mounted the challenge. They only had a short statutory period to mount their challenge and get support for it. Council and Harbour Board had carefully done their deal in the two years that led up to public notification.  
The Town Clerk's files contain other details about happened with Queen Square. This one, dated January 1973, records that the part of Lower Queen Street directly outside the CPO was declared "pedestrian mall". Plans for integrating Queens Square are also evident, and these also use the amenity yard that is the forecourt for No1 Queen Street (then AirNZ Tower, now HSBC tower). You can also see the bus turning plans from Galway and Tyler, that have returned to the current plans for bus movements in the area.

And then in April 1976, Queen Square was also declared pedestrian mall. And the whole area between the CPO and the downtown shopping centre was named Queen Elizabeth Square. This is the first reference I found for the name: Queen Elizabeth Square. Queen Square - as it was known for almost 10 years - makes up about half of Queen Elizabeth Square.
There are many reasons why this history is important. At the very least, if we don't learn from it, we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

We can make this space work better. It often takes time to get public spaces to work well. Aotea Square is going through a redesign now - triggered by changes to Council's civic building. It's been through previous redesigns. In my opinion, it won't be successful until more buildings that surround it are activated onto the public open space. Which is one of the urban design aspects that everyone agrees upon for Queen Elizabeth Square. I'm writing this in New York. Most of its civic squares are surrounded by tall buildings. It means that parts of the all of these squares are in shade for part of the day. It also means that sometimes they are windy, sometimes they are sheltered. Depends on the wind direction. Same is true for Queen Elizabeth Square in Auckland.

A year ago I modelled Queen Elizabeth Square without the the bus terminal that was imposed there, across the pedestrian mall, when the CPO was transformed into a railway station. Here are a few of images from that model.








The main thing that I've taken away is the bus interchange and through road which bisected the square's Pedestrian Mall status. The interchange includes a glass covered canopy above bus-shelters which also served as a sheltered walkway for people accessing ferry services from downtown. This is gone from my renderings because Auckland Council's plans are to re-locate the QE Square bus interchange. This will be done by expanding the Britomart bus interchange (behind the heritage CPO building which functions as the railway station), allowing buses to turn in and out of Galway and Tyler Streets, and constructing a new facility at the bottom of Lower Albert Street.

The key to transforming the feel of this space is to ensure that the ground floors of the rebuilt shopping mall are open to the square and activated, and the ground floor of the HSBC building (once it's lost its internal carpark floors) is also activated onto the square (onto the space where the Kauri trees are now). To sell Queen Square now would be to add insult to the injury that Auckland Harbour Board in cahoots with Auckland City Council inflicted on an unsuspecting Auckland Public almost fifty years ago. Now's the time to repair that urban damage and build a postcard civic space downtown.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hanoi: Density through land use planning

Just why are Hanoi’s houses so narrow? Like many oddities or inconveniences, one need look no further than government regulation. For centuries, governments in Hanoi used a method of determining property taxes based on the width of the property from the street. The wider your home, the more you paid. Not surprisingly, people responded by building houses so narrow that two people can barely stand next to each other in some of them. But it has led to interesting density outcomes, and little in the way of highrise.

Here's a useful paper about Vietnamese housing and buildings combining shop and home. I've quoted from it in this post.

If you're interested in recent Vietnam property tax and land ownership reforms - here's a good paper.
There are two main things you'll probably notice about the architecture in Hanoi. Firstly there are the foreign influences, particularly from the French colonial period.  This is especially apparent in the Old Quarter of Hanoi where people buy houses with very narrow frontages so that they minimise their tax burden while having a place to display their merchandise to passers by on the street. These buildings are sometimes referred to as "tube houses" - some run through from one street to the next - and often include courtyards partway through to improve air flow. Tube houses tend to be long and low - rather than tall and high. But the property tax outcomes are similar.

DECREE No. 188/2004/ND-CP OF NOVEMBER 16, 2004: On methods of determining land prices and assorted-land price brackets. This reform is from the communist run central government. Note that Vietnam - like China - has adopted various market policies.

Article 10.- Classification of urban areas, streets, land positions in urban centers of each specific land category for land price determination For urban residential land, non-agricultural production and/or business land and other non-agricultural land categories in urban centers such as land for construction of working offices, construction of non-business works; land used for defense or security purposes; land used for public purposes, including traffic land, irrigation land; land for construction of cultural, medical, education and training, physical training and sport facilities in service of public interests; land with historical and/or cultural relics, scenic places; land for construction of other public works as provided for by the Government; land used by religious establishments; land with works being communal houses, temples, shrines, small pagodas, worshipping halls, ancestral worship houses; land for cemeteries, graveyards and other non-agricultural land as provided for by the Government shall be graded according to types of urban centers, types of street and land positions for price determination. 1. Urban centers include cities, provincial capitals, district townships, set up and graded under decisions of competent state agencies. Urban centers are classified into 6 grades: special-grade urban centers, grade-I urban centers, grade-II urban centers, grade-III urban centers, grade-IV urban centers, grade-V urban centers according to the current regulations of the State. For provincial capitals, district townships not yet graded as urban centers, they shall be classified into grade-V urban centers. 2. Classification of urban streets Types of street in each grade of urban center shall be determined mainly on the basis of profit-generating capability, infrastructure conditions convenient for daily- life, production, business, service, tourist activities, on the distance to urban centers, trade, service and tourist centers. Streets in each type of urban center are classified into different grades of street with ordinal numbers from No. 1 on. Grade-I streets apply to land in the hearts of urban centers, trade, service and/or tourist centers; have the highest profit-generating capacity and the most convenient infrastructure conditions; the following street grades from grade 2 onwards shall apply to land not lying in the hearts of urban centers, trade, service and/or tourist centers, with lower profit-generating capability and less convenient infrastructure conditions. In cases where a street consists of various street sections with different profit-generating capabilities, different infrastructure conditions, such street sections shall be graded into the corresponding street grades. 3. Land positions in every street grade of each grade of urban center shall be determined on the basis of profit-generating capability, infrastructure conditions favorable for daily-life, production, business and/or service activities, on the distance to traffic axes. Land positions in each street grade of each urban center grade shall be classified into positions from No. 1 on. Position No. 1 shall apply to land adjacent to streets (with frontage) with the highest profit-generating capability, most convenient infrastructure conditions; the following positions from No. 2 onwards shall apply to land not adjacent to streets, with lower profit-generating capability and less convenient infrastructure conditions.

A detour via a semantics study allows for a better understanding of the particular concept of the street within Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese language provides a categorization of the world characterized by the use of classifiers for nouns, according to whether they are living things ( con ) or inanimate objects ( cái ). It is quite revealing that the common name for “street” is therefore “ con đ ườ ng ” and not “ cái đ ườ ng ”. The street is thought of in Vietnamese as an active being. The social practices contribute to define the street’s identity and they accompany its metamorphoses.


There are many alleyways like this. They feel a little like designs you see in Dubai - keep the hot sun away from street level - and promote air movement. Though the alleyways of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh Cities are places of trade, their functional organisation has a different nature.The alleyways are characterised by their lack of sidewalk, which does not prevent them from having a strong commercial use but requires a different spatial organisation. The households with small shops on the ground floor use the space in front of their houses to display goods or install tables and chairs if they own a coffee shop.Alleyways are most of all defined by the presence of hawkers or temporary market places that succeed each other throughout the day. Crossroads are considered the most strategic place to invest in, and every blind wall is considered a location to be freely used for trade. The alleyways’ urban space corresponds to what the urban sociologist Tôn Nữ Qu z nh Trân identifies as the “quiet city” as opposed to the “dynamic city” of major arteries (Qu z nh Trân, 2007). This distinction is mainly based upon the criterion of urban rhythm.

This is a communal space shared by several houses off a common laneway in an old part of Hanoi.
Interesting. These are streets where social encounters and exchange are the 'commons' that local people value, and which shapes and maintains social cohesion and organisation. Lose that, and you lose the heart of urban civilisation.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Blogging Holiday and Review

Trying not to be distracted from serious business of fishing and other activities just now.

So am taking a blogging holiday. Am reviewing content. Apologies if a post you are looking for isn't available. The most popular posts are still accessible.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heritage Restoration's Hollow Ring

Devonport's Masonic Lodge. The site of much heritage angst and district scheme heritage protection controversy over plans to redevelop the historic site into luxury apartments.


Here's the development site today. Shrouded in plastic - if not in secrecy.


But wait, there's a hole in the plastic Dear Liza, Dear Liza, a hole. So I sent my little camera up for a look-see...


A void. Avoid. You can't help wondering about a heritage and historic conservation policy that allows, and does not abhor, such a vacuum. Devonport residents calmly walk past. The community runs its tongue over the teeth in its street and finds it all good. No gaps. A convenient plastic cap popped over the cavity so it all somehow feels normal. Can pretend nothing has really changed. And when the shroud is removed, the building revealed will be better than what was there, in the bone of the street, a crown no less. A gleaming shiny crown. To confirm that feeling, reinforce it. Life is good. Continues as before. All change, but no change. Not a scrap of what was there exists inside the hollow. Like a funeral without the pyre.    


There's talk of the fad of facadism in heritage - keep the facade - but remove everything behind it. But there's not even a facade here. A comment on society and what keeps us all sane and in a straight line.

A metaphor of urban neoliberalism maybe. All form and no content. All GDP and no civilisation. All economic activity for today and no long term memories of yesterday. Maybe that's what they really mean when thy speak of the post-political. But then, if that was true, no-one would've spoken out about what would be lost and what the effect would be on community with the changes to the Masonic. It's not just a building. It was a way of life. Public pubs and clubs are as much at the heart of community and civic life as are public parks and squares. And while their very existence is under threat because they are regarded as private development opportunities and because many institutions now prioritise that activity, it won't always be that way. Because people are naturally communal and have adapted over millenia to function best for the common good together. You might take the public out of the urban, but you can't take the public out of the people.


Mangawhai loses in Court of Appeal

Well I guess it's Christmas and not everything that comes in the stocking is the present we were expecting. On the 17th December 2015 Harrison, Miller and Cooper JJ delivered their decision on the various matters that had been put in front of them by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association (MRRA) relating to the PPP EcoCare wastewater scheme.

The decision is lengthy - 69 pages - and very detailed. Much of it concentrates on Bill of Rights Act matters. Justice Miller prepared the main decision. In their follow up decisions, Cooper and Harrison generally agree with Miller's findings and decision, though their reasons are not all the same.

My summary here of the decision should not be taken as gospel, but the guts, as I see it from a couple of readings are essentially these:

  • when Parliament enacted the Local Government Act with the late addition of Protected Transactions provisions, it was to deliver the option of lower cost loans to Councils. The interest rates charged would be lower essentially in exchange for ratepayers having limited powers to challenge loans taken by their council, and therefore banks would be subject to fewer risks and costs.
  • while residents had rights to challenge these loans through judicial review, Parliament always had the power to validate loans and loan processes later, and it had the power to do that despite Bill of Rights Act provisions which grant the right of judicial review - but those rights extend to process only (council compliance with the local government act duties to consult for example), and not substantive matters (ie the loan still has to be paid).
  • Mangawhai ratepayers and residents got all the vindication they were ever going to get from the findings in the High Court judicial review that Kaipara District Council had acted against the law in whole variety of ways. There is the hint of a suggestion that MRRA might have gone further in getting its pound of flesh from the perpetrators. And there is an impression that perhaps MRRA should have pursued the Office of the Auditor General for its failings - but then the Auditor General got a prize this year didn't she - for a job well done.
  • while there were process illegalities associated with the loan, which were validated by Parliament, Parliament always intended that ratepayers should still pay for those debts, and not the taxpayer.

There were some complexities in the decision relating to the fact that MRRA' membership did not include all Mangawhai ratepayers - which raised questions about precisely which persons would materially benefit from a favourable CoA finding - and an order for costs against MRRA, I believe the above pretty much sums up the decision of Miller, and likely concludes an unfortunate example of poor local governance compounded by failures in the Audit Office and the Office of the Auditor General.

Miller has cited speeches from Hansard given by Phil Twyford (for Labour) and Eugenie Sage (for the Greens) in respect to an effort by Andrew Williams (for NZ First), to explicitly exclude from the Validation Bill, provisions in respect to the outstanding debt. William's efforts did not attract the support needed in Parliament, suggesting - without really nailing it - that Parliament always intended that ratepayers would have to carry the can for their council's decisions - and that nobody else would. That is one interpretation of what Parliament did. I don't think Parliament - in respect of individual MPs - explicitly accepted that what they were doing with the validation bill was washing their hands of every aspect of this institutional failure.

I wrote some time ago about the law being an ass in respect of what happened at Mangawhai. Unsure now.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Better Auckland Pedestrian Comfort Assessment

In the quote below, (from a best practice report prepared recently for Melbourne) imagine that "Auckland" is substituted in place of "Melbourne" in this text:
In the light of urban growth, Melbourne needs to address the rising numbers of pedestrians in the central city. Walking is the main mode of transport (86%, figure 12, p. 10) and tram stops, pedestrian crossings and sidewalks get increasingly crowded at peak hours. The principal aim of the new pedestrian strategy, conducted by City of Melbourne’s strategic transport planners, is to get people to walk more by providing a suitable urban environment to walk in – a street network capable of facilitating current as well as future levels of pedestrians. This research looks at pedestrian crowding, and how it is measured and analysed in cities around the world. It reviews two specific tools, pedestrian level of service (LOS) and pedestrian trip generation. It studies London, New York and Copenhagen in more detail, and the work and experience of Gehl Architects in Copenhagen.  
It commences a discussion of how these methodologies are relevant to Melbourne and whether they are applicable and/or can form inspiration in the development of Melbourne’s pedestrian analysis. The study has found that although many cities work to improve pedestrian conditions, there is no generally adopted methodology or standard for pedestrian LOS or trip generation. Pedestrian trip generation calculations are novel and relatively unexplored....  
A majority of cities analysing pedestrian LOS use the Fruin scale from the 1970s. This method analyses quantitatively the number of people walking in a street, but ignores several important factors relating to walkability. Gehl Architects has led the way in elaborating a different and more comprehensive methodology, based on over 30 years experience. They have identified a general street crowding capacity of 13 people per meter per minute, a figure applied by London in their Pedestrian Comfort Level (PCL) assessments. The London framework combines Fruin’s crowding scale with Gehl’s experiences and sets up a comprehensive implementation guide based on area types, street features and pedestrian counts. PCL is calculated for both sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. Melbourne could implement this framework directly, if more and better counting sensors are installed, data collected from the relevant sites and area types analysed in terms of crowding acceptance.....
I've already posted information here and here about what Dr John Fruin has to say in the 1970's about the safe capacity of a pedestrian corridor or laneway. This is a summary of Gehl's more recent findings:

Gehl Architects have assessed walkability in cities all around the world, including Melbourne. Gehl defines crowding as more than 13 people per minute per meter footway width. This is based on long experience. The Architecture School in Copenhagen collected data in public spaces in Copenhagen between 1968 and 1996. They found through this research that the main pedestrian street, Stroget, in Copenhagen reached its capacity at 13 people per meter per minute. Once this level of activity was reached, pedestrians started to move along parallel streets to avoid congestion. 
Recommended pedestrian capacity:
13 person/minute/meter footway width x available footway width = no. of pedestrians/minute 
Henritte Vamberg at Gehl Architects says: ‘The comfort level drops the more pedestrians you have. The above parameter is looking at when pedestrians start walking in “lines”, when you get crushed, when you can’t maneuver a wheelchair through etc.’. What is different with this methodology is that it is based on levels of quality and comfort rather than quantity – conventional LOS methods (mentioned by Fruin) deal only with how many people a street can carry (Gehl Architects, 2004, p. 34).

Using the Gehl walkability metric for a 5 metre wide laneway:  13 x 5 x 60 = 3,900 pedestrians/hour.

This is a conservative - perhaps Scandanavian - approach. The Pedestrian Guidance Manual for London takes Gehl and Fruin and observations to produce a set of guidelines related to Pedestrian Comfort Levels in London. It contains two useful graphics, and ppmm (pedestrian per metre width per minute) advice, which are applicable to office, retail and mass transit pathways.....



Taking the "D" Pedestrian Comfort Level established by London Transport (assume 30 people/clear pathway width metre/minute), and applying it to the proposed downtown laneway, what carrying capacity does a 5 metre pathway have - at this "Very Uncomfortable" service level?

Carrying capacity = 30 x 5 x 60 = 9,000 people/hour

Which is less than the 10,000 average capacity claimed by Auckland Council, and much less than the peak capacity claimed in evidence to hearing commissioners of 16,000 people/hour, and makes a mockery of the 24,000 people/hour claimed by Auckland Council in further information provided to commissioners.

The London advice provides a useful tabulation of pedestrian comfort levels for different types of pedestrian environments, including mass transit pathways. This relates to the A to E comfort level carrying capacities tabulated above.



You can see there that London Transport's advice is that a service level of C+ to C is deemed "acceptable" and that planning for higher throughput means that pedestrian comfort is assessed as "at risk".

Using the "C" grade of personal comfort, gives the carrying capacity of a 5 metre wide laneway as:

23 x 5 x 60 = 6,900 pedestrians/hour

If Auckland wants to build toward its claim as "most liveable city", surely it is about time it adopted pedestrian comfort standards that are recommended in other great cities.


Gehl Architects, 2004, ‘Towards a Fine City for People – Public Spaces and Public Life – London 2004’, DM 7460245

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Precinct's Downtown Laneway: How Wide?

This posting is about the laneway proposed in Precinct's plans for redevelopment of the Auckland Downtown block bounded by Lower Queen Street, Quay Street, Lower Albert Street and Custom Street West. The picture below shows a rough plan of this laneway.....


The laneway I want to discuss here, is the one connecting Lower Albert Street through the development to Lower Queen Street. The laneway will be about 100 metres long if the whole of Queen Square (shaded in green) is sold for development, and about 60 metres long if Queen Square stays in public ownership as public space. (The other proposed laneway, running north-south, is more of a dog leg than shown here, as it has to side-step the HSBC building to get to Quay Street.)

In June this year, Precinct obtained resource consent for a development on the site that does not use Queen Square. This consent was non-notified. It includes consent for the 60 metre section of laneway. The question I want to address in this posting is how wide should this laneway be?

At the hearings that have occurred in the past couple of weeks, there have been varying widths discussed by the applicant's experts and by Auckland Council. The Road Stop notice stipulates a 5 metre width east-west laneway. Other witnesses have said 6.5 metres, and that this provides a 5 metre wide central section, allowing shoppers to look at the shops using the other 1.5 metres of width. Various submitters have raised questions about the safety of this - because the laneway will be used by passengers to walk between the bus terminal in Albert Street and the Britomart rail terminal or other buses that terminate there.

At the Plan Change 79 hearing, Blair Johnston of Warren and Mahoney Architects, (who are doing master plan and architecture work for Precinct) stated that he had worked with Auckland Transport, and that modelling showed that a 5 metre wide corridor was safe and appropriate, even up to conservative estimates of 16,000 people going through per hour.

The world authority on these matters is John J Fruin. You can see a summary of his work for New York Transit here. This is a bit dense, so I've unpacked relevant sections....
PEDESTRIAN CHARACTERISTICS
The primary characteristics needed to evaluate pedestrian facilities are walking speeds, walking distances, demand patterns, and traffic-flow relationships. The ability of pedestrians to select their own individual walking pace and speed is a qualitative measure of convenience. Walking distances define the effective service area of transit stations, with shorter distances improving passenger perceptions of service and convenience. The patterns of passenger demand affect the methods used to analyze pedestrian facilities and the applications of service standards.
WALKING SPEEDS
Pedestrian speeds, in addition to being directly related to traffic density, have been found to vary for a wide range of conditions, including individual age, sex, personal disabilities, environmental factors, and trip purpose. Normal walking speeds unimpeded by pedestrian crowding have been found to vary between 150 and 350 ft/min (0.76 and 1.76 m/s), with the average at about 270 ft/min. As a point of comparison, running the 4-min mile is equivalent to a speed of 1320 ft/min or almost 5 times normal walking speed. Walking speeds decline with age, particularly after age 65, but healthy older adults are capable of increasing their walking speed by 40% for short distances. Dense pedestrian traffic has the effect of reducing walking speed for all persons. The smaller personal space limits pacing distances and the ability to pass slower moving pedestrians or to cross the traffic stream.
Photographic studies of pedestrian traffic flow on walkways have shown that individual area occupancies of at least 35 ft2/pr (3 m2/pr) are required for pedestrians to attain normal walking speeds and to avoid conflicts with others. Interestingly, the maximum pedestrian traffic-flow volume is not obtained when people can walk the fastest, but when average area occupancies are at about 5 ft2/pr, and pedestrians are limited to an uncomfortable shuffling gait less than half normal walking speed. At individual space occupancies below 2 ft2/pr, approaching the plan area of the human body, virtually all movement is stopped. When there is a large crowd in a confined space, this density can result in shock waves and potentially fatal crowd pressures.
Fruin has developed a set of useful metrics and measures that allow walking speeds and infrastructure capacity to be calculated. These are depicted in the following two diagrams and tables:


What this tabulates is the different levels of service (LOS) experienced by pedestrians, as the space between pedestrians gets more cramped, in order to get more people through the same corridor, per hour. LOS A is the most comfortable, and LOS E and LOS F are where things get tricky. In between is a LOS that gets the most people through, and retains an optimal level of comfort - but you can see that cross flows become difficult (eg people using the north-south laneway) etc.
This graph shows this relationship quantitatively. At the top are the different LOS, with "A" to the right. Which is described on the graph as "commuter bi-directional" - people easily going in both directions. Then you have LOS "B" described as "shoppers multi-directional", and then LOS "C" described as "commuter uni-directional" - people going in similar directions, and taking up between 15 and 25 square feet/person. And so on.

Crucially, Fruin, in his piece poses this question:
Determine the recommended width of a 200-ft (61-m)-long corridor connection to a transit station with a forecasted two-way, peak-hour pedestrian traffic of 10,000 pr/h under the following conditions:
Alternative 1: commuters only, no doors entering the corridor, no columns, no other services.
Alternative 2: same volume, but with retail development along the corridor edges in a shopping mall configuration.
And provides the answers (which you can look at in the link) as follows:

Solution for Alternative 1: This requires the selection of a design LOS and appropriate design peak. Unless there are significant restraints, the approximate mid-range of LOS C, or 12.5 pr/ft min, is an appropriate standard. The 15-min peak, typically about 40% of peak-hour volume, is an appropriate design period. (Ans=6.8 metres) 
Solution for Alternative 2: The shopping mall alternative can be analyzed as (a) a corridor with additions at the edges to allow window-shopping and door-opening "lanes" or (b) on a time-space basis, assuming some percentage of the commuters will spend additional time in the corridor. For illustrative purposes, it will be assumed that 100% of the commuters walk through the corridor, but that 30% of this total stop to window-shop for an additional 1 min each. It is desired to provide a density of 20 ft2/p average within the corridor during the 15-min peak. (Ans for 'a'=8.3 metres, or 'b'=8.9 metres).
The laneway proposed by Precinct is the "shopping mall" alternative with shops lining both sides of the corridor/laneway. Thus, according to Fruin's calculations, that laneway should be somewhere between 8.3 and 8.9 metres wide, and that's for 10,000 passenger movements/hour - rather less than the "conservative" number of 16,000 mentioned by Blair Johnston for Precinct.

Until we are very clear about this, extreme caution should be exercised in the planning of this crucial link in Auckland's downtown passenger transport station infrastructure.


A History of QE Square

I needed to go into Auckland Council archives to get the real story on this contested piece of Auckland Open Public Space. It's not what I thought. And it's not what staffers thought when they prepared planning reports for the Road Stop hearing and Precinct Property's private plan change 79. Here's some edited highlights....Images are from presentations to hearing planning commissioners. This one's today.
Here's how the downtown area was in 1959. You can see it was a fine-grained piece of old Auckland. This posting shows shots of Little Queen Street. The frontage to Lower Queen Street - across the street from the CPO/Britomart railway station - was much the same.
Now for some archives. From the Town Clerk's files for Downtown. A selection tells the story of what happened. And how it happened. In this letter - which you can click and read yourself - the Auckland Harbour Board writes to Auckland City Council's mayor and councillors informing them of AHB plans to redevelop the whole of its reclaimed Downtown site bounded by Hobson, Quay, Lower Queen and Custom Street West. And of the fact it had advertised a prospectus internationally, seeking developers, and providing certain constraints which are described in page 3 of the letter...

These are that Sturdee Street and Little Queen Street would be closed, and that a "public square" would be provided opposite the CPO. Other detailed land use changes are listed. But the essence was to take Sturdee and Little Queen streets from Auckland City Council, and in return provide a public square across from the CPO.
Very shortly after writing to ACC, the AHB released a media statement to the NZ Herald containing images of the two planning schemes it had previously commissioned for the redevelopment. These are the Kennedy and Connor schemes. Both show civic squares opposite the CPO. Both also show significant public open space in the block now occupied by a hotel, the PWC building and the carpark building. Significantly, the Kennedy scheme shows a building on the site now occupied by the HSBC (initially the Air New Zealand tower), that is relatively small in footprint, and which conforms to the height control that applied to the land of 110 feet.

Here is the Connor Scheme as it was presented to the public in NZ Herald's story. NB: this story post-dates AHB's confidential letter to ACC which states that the only public space intended was the space opposite the CPO building.
The next few images are from an important internal ACC policy document prepared for the Town Clerk's office by the ACC's Dept of Works. It ends with an array of resolutions that were eventually adopted by Auckland City Council. My arrows indicate content of particular interest. This one kicks off the document. Its purpose is to obtain support in principle from ACC to AHB's downtown development scheme.
In particular AHB wants ACC to Stop Sturdee and Little Queen Streets. It explains that AHB is purchasing street access and land use rights from all those business owners that fronted onto those streets.
This map from the Town Clerk's office shows the pieces of road to be stopped - and notes all of the land titles that fronted onto Little Queen and Sturdee Streets.


Under the heading: Status of open spaces, council officers advise: "It is understood that the Board wishes to vest Queens Square in Council as a public space under agreement, or, alternatively, as a street over which a special agreement would apply to the use of this land and to the street furniture contained within it..."
The first arrow here refers, in essence, to the fact that the land area in Little Queen Street + Sturdee Street is greater than the land area in the proposed Queens Square.

The second arrow describes AHB's intention, "The scheme is so conceived and designed so that there are generous open public spaces and other amenities for the convenience of the public. These amenities include covered areas for the passage of pedestrians, covered area for bus terminii, and pedestrian malls which will ensure the safety of pedestrian traffic moving through the area...."

Under a heading in the report headed General is this bombshell, "The placement of the building, shown as office block no.1, in the plans submitted, in relation to the proposed Queens Square gives occasion for some concern because the shadow of this building will have a detrimental effect on the public enjoyment of this square...." I suggest you read the final paragraph yourself. Council officers had seen plans for what was proposed. They were concerned. The actual plans were not made public until two years later, when they were notified because they "departed from the district plan".

These are some of the recommended resolutions from this policy advice document.
Negotiations between AHB and ACC over the exact nature of the land swap and exchange arrangements proceeded in accordance with the resolutions. This Valuation Dept advice shows how the respective values of the pieces of land came into balance. Detailed documents indicate that Sturdee and Little Queen Street land was valued at 2 pounds per square foot, while Queens Square was deemed more valuable.
Interestingly, the Valuation Dept advice also notes and quantifies the increase in rates revenue that ACC will expect from the redeveloped land. As far as ACC was concerned this would be a significant financial benefit for it.

I suggest you also read (c) of special considerations. As far as Valuation were concerned, the closed streets don't owe ACC anything, because they got them "at no cost". What were they worth, however, as open public space?

This NZ Herald article reports ACC's decision to go ahead with the land exchange deal. You will see that the detail in the report accords with the numbers in the Valuation balance sheet shown above.
This advice from ACC's retained law firm Butler, White and Hanna, took a little bit of detective work to unravel. You can see that though ACC had resolved to agree the land exchange deal, there were statutory duties to discharge relating to the stopping of the two streets. The advice notes, "although unlikely, objections could be made to the closing of these two streets, and these objections might be upheld by a magistrate in which event the scheme would be held up for a period of at least two years...". BW&H suggest legislation to avoid this risk. They also note that legislation is going to be required anyway (what for...?) and that might present an opportunity for a package deal...

The fruits of my detective work answered the question. A Local Members Bill was successful in 1967. It dealt with two crucial issues. The first (in (2)) was to grant ACC the power to stop streets in the downtown area by public resolution. No need to go through a risky public notification process. The second (in (13)) took a little longer to figure out. Turns out that AHB had sold the freehold title to the developer of the Air New Zealand tower on Lot 1 in 22 November 1966. Problem was that at the time, Lot 1 contained a chunk of Little Queen Street which - at the time - was still owned publicly. Enactment of this Empowering Act validated that transaction. Made it legal later. Man oh man. It's not what you know....

This map shows how the subdivision was finalised in preparation for the whole AHB scheme development. It's a fact that after this subdivision was finalised, every building on this land was demolished. So were two fine-grained streets. The land was prepared for a modernist style redevelopment with towers and a civic square. Very important to remember that. Trying to put some aspect of that grain back - be it a laneway or an old style Lower Queen Street frontage - is inevitably in conflict with the urban form that was so dramatically established in the late 1960's. And which was designed into both the Kennedy and Connor schemes. It is also significant that the public square designed into both the Connor and Kennedy plans, and which survived in the Auckland Harbour Board plans, was the first Auckland CBD public square. Aotea Square was the next one. Auckland City Council planning has been slow to grasp, understand and embrace these opportunities.
 
Here's a closeup of the part of the downtown area that is up for redevelopment now. Only the HSBC and Zurich Towers will remain in place, and the land use scheme. Unless that is changed.
Finally the public become involved. You can read the date of the NZ Herald report. August 1968. Two years after Auckland City Council had the AHB plans for the Air NZ Tower. Two years after AHB had sold Lot 1 to its preferred developer. One year after Parliament validated that unlawful sale.

Turns out the proposed tower was 266 feet high, while the zoning allowed it to be 110 feet high. Council was in support. The public had 21 days to make its view known and to appeal Council's decision.

The Auckland Branch of the NZIA appealed, and later the Auckland Architecture Association appealed. This is a story that needs more detailed telling - based on the comments made at a recent meeting of the Urban Issues Group attended by a number of professionals who were involved and who have very detailed memories.
Reading the newspaper reports at the time, I sense that AHB media managers (with Auckland City Council in the background) held sway with NZ Herald. It pours scorn on the appellants (suggests NZ noses were out of joint because the AHB contract went to an Aussie firm). Even the PM's visit to turn the first sod had to be delayed. Shock, horror, scandal, probe!
For a variety of reasons the appeals were withdrawn. I understand that much of the information revealed here in this posting was not known to the architects and planners who mounted the challenge. They only had a short statutory period to mount their challenge and get support for it. Council and Harbour Board had carefully done their deal in the two years that led up to public notification.  
The Town Clerk's files contain other details about happened with Queen Square. This one, dated January 1973, records that the part of Lower Queen Street directly outside the CPO was declared "pedestrian mall". Plans for integrating Queens Square are also evident, and these also use the amenity yard that is the forecourt for No1 Queen Street (then AirNZ Tower, now HSBC tower). You can also see the bus turning plans from Galway and Tyler, that have returned to the current plans for bus movements in the area.

And then in April 1976, Queen Square was also declared pedestrian mall. And the whole area between the CPO and the downtown shopping centre was named Queen Elizabeth Square. This is the first reference I found for the name: Queen Elizabeth Square. Queen Square - as it was known for almost 10 years - makes up about half of Queen Elizabeth Square.
There are many reasons why this history is important. At the very least, if we don't learn from it, we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

We can make this space work better. It often takes time to get public spaces to work well. Aotea Square is going through a redesign now - triggered by changes to Council's civic building. It's been through previous redesigns. In my opinion, it won't be successful until more buildings that surround it are activated onto the public open space. Which is one of the urban design aspects that everyone agrees upon for Queen Elizabeth Square. I'm writing this in New York. Most of its civic squares are surrounded by tall buildings. It means that parts of the all of these squares are in shade for part of the day. It also means that sometimes they are windy, sometimes they are sheltered. Depends on the wind direction. Same is true for Queen Elizabeth Square in Auckland.

A year ago I modelled Queen Elizabeth Square without the the bus terminal that was imposed there, across the pedestrian mall, when the CPO was transformed into a railway station. Here are a few of images from that model.








The main thing that I've taken away is the bus interchange and through road which bisected the square's Pedestrian Mall status. The interchange includes a glass covered canopy above bus-shelters which also served as a sheltered walkway for people accessing ferry services from downtown. This is gone from my renderings because Auckland Council's plans are to re-locate the QE Square bus interchange. This will be done by expanding the Britomart bus interchange (behind the heritage CPO building which functions as the railway station), allowing buses to turn in and out of Galway and Tyler Streets, and constructing a new facility at the bottom of Lower Albert Street.

The key to transforming the feel of this space is to ensure that the ground floors of the rebuilt shopping mall are open to the square and activated, and the ground floor of the HSBC building (once it's lost its internal carpark floors) is also activated onto the square (onto the space where the Kauri trees are now). To sell Queen Square now would be to add insult to the injury that Auckland Harbour Board in cahoots with Auckland City Council inflicted on an unsuspecting Auckland Public almost fifty years ago. Now's the time to repair that urban damage and build a postcard civic space downtown.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hanoi: Density through land use planning

Just why are Hanoi’s houses so narrow? Like many oddities or inconveniences, one need look no further than government regulation. For centuries, governments in Hanoi used a method of determining property taxes based on the width of the property from the street. The wider your home, the more you paid. Not surprisingly, people responded by building houses so narrow that two people can barely stand next to each other in some of them. But it has led to interesting density outcomes, and little in the way of highrise.

Here's a useful paper about Vietnamese housing and buildings combining shop and home. I've quoted from it in this post.

If you're interested in recent Vietnam property tax and land ownership reforms - here's a good paper.
There are two main things you'll probably notice about the architecture in Hanoi. Firstly there are the foreign influences, particularly from the French colonial period.  This is especially apparent in the Old Quarter of Hanoi where people buy houses with very narrow frontages so that they minimise their tax burden while having a place to display their merchandise to passers by on the street. These buildings are sometimes referred to as "tube houses" - some run through from one street to the next - and often include courtyards partway through to improve air flow. Tube houses tend to be long and low - rather than tall and high. But the property tax outcomes are similar.

DECREE No. 188/2004/ND-CP OF NOVEMBER 16, 2004: On methods of determining land prices and assorted-land price brackets. This reform is from the communist run central government. Note that Vietnam - like China - has adopted various market policies.

Article 10.- Classification of urban areas, streets, land positions in urban centers of each specific land category for land price determination For urban residential land, non-agricultural production and/or business land and other non-agricultural land categories in urban centers such as land for construction of working offices, construction of non-business works; land used for defense or security purposes; land used for public purposes, including traffic land, irrigation land; land for construction of cultural, medical, education and training, physical training and sport facilities in service of public interests; land with historical and/or cultural relics, scenic places; land for construction of other public works as provided for by the Government; land used by religious establishments; land with works being communal houses, temples, shrines, small pagodas, worshipping halls, ancestral worship houses; land for cemeteries, graveyards and other non-agricultural land as provided for by the Government shall be graded according to types of urban centers, types of street and land positions for price determination. 1. Urban centers include cities, provincial capitals, district townships, set up and graded under decisions of competent state agencies. Urban centers are classified into 6 grades: special-grade urban centers, grade-I urban centers, grade-II urban centers, grade-III urban centers, grade-IV urban centers, grade-V urban centers according to the current regulations of the State. For provincial capitals, district townships not yet graded as urban centers, they shall be classified into grade-V urban centers. 2. Classification of urban streets Types of street in each grade of urban center shall be determined mainly on the basis of profit-generating capability, infrastructure conditions convenient for daily- life, production, business, service, tourist activities, on the distance to urban centers, trade, service and tourist centers. Streets in each type of urban center are classified into different grades of street with ordinal numbers from No. 1 on. Grade-I streets apply to land in the hearts of urban centers, trade, service and/or tourist centers; have the highest profit-generating capacity and the most convenient infrastructure conditions; the following street grades from grade 2 onwards shall apply to land not lying in the hearts of urban centers, trade, service and/or tourist centers, with lower profit-generating capability and less convenient infrastructure conditions. In cases where a street consists of various street sections with different profit-generating capabilities, different infrastructure conditions, such street sections shall be graded into the corresponding street grades. 3. Land positions in every street grade of each grade of urban center shall be determined on the basis of profit-generating capability, infrastructure conditions favorable for daily-life, production, business and/or service activities, on the distance to traffic axes. Land positions in each street grade of each urban center grade shall be classified into positions from No. 1 on. Position No. 1 shall apply to land adjacent to streets (with frontage) with the highest profit-generating capability, most convenient infrastructure conditions; the following positions from No. 2 onwards shall apply to land not adjacent to streets, with lower profit-generating capability and less convenient infrastructure conditions.

A detour via a semantics study allows for a better understanding of the particular concept of the street within Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese language provides a categorization of the world characterized by the use of classifiers for nouns, according to whether they are living things ( con ) or inanimate objects ( cái ). It is quite revealing that the common name for “street” is therefore “ con đ ườ ng ” and not “ cái đ ườ ng ”. The street is thought of in Vietnamese as an active being. The social practices contribute to define the street’s identity and they accompany its metamorphoses.


There are many alleyways like this. They feel a little like designs you see in Dubai - keep the hot sun away from street level - and promote air movement. Though the alleyways of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh Cities are places of trade, their functional organisation has a different nature.The alleyways are characterised by their lack of sidewalk, which does not prevent them from having a strong commercial use but requires a different spatial organisation. The households with small shops on the ground floor use the space in front of their houses to display goods or install tables and chairs if they own a coffee shop.Alleyways are most of all defined by the presence of hawkers or temporary market places that succeed each other throughout the day. Crossroads are considered the most strategic place to invest in, and every blind wall is considered a location to be freely used for trade. The alleyways’ urban space corresponds to what the urban sociologist Tôn Nữ Qu z nh Trân identifies as the “quiet city” as opposed to the “dynamic city” of major arteries (Qu z nh Trân, 2007). This distinction is mainly based upon the criterion of urban rhythm.

This is a communal space shared by several houses off a common laneway in an old part of Hanoi.
Interesting. These are streets where social encounters and exchange are the 'commons' that local people value, and which shapes and maintains social cohesion and organisation. Lose that, and you lose the heart of urban civilisation.