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Why does ‘Fear of Change’ dominate our cities? - A “tragic street lamp”, “ungainly skeleton” and “a hole-riddled suppository”. This is how protesters once described the proposed Eiffel Tower in the 1880s. There was even a lawsuit submitted by neighbours of the proposed structure. They wanted to stop construction. They feared the tower would dominate the park, may fall and could attract lightning bolts to the area. Today, the tower is the most visited paid monument in the world and has becom...

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FONZIE FLATS AND THE MISSING MIDDLE
November 17, 2016

Being the ‘King of Cool’, if Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli were a millennial he would have a deconstructed coffee and some smashed avo for breakfast at the local café, Arnold & Co. With a full beard to replace his sideburns, his look would be complete with skinny blue jeans and a vintage leather jacket. Asides from coolness, his place of residence is the one thing that he and the 1950s Fonz have in common: the loft above his neighbour’s garage is the most affordable place to live.

The Qld government wants to see more of these ‘Fonzie Flats’ and other ‘Missing Middle’ housing forms such as the’plexes’ (duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes etc), row/terrace housing and medium rise apartments developed in South East Queensland (SEQ) over the next 25 years. The recently released Draft SEQ Regional Plan defines the ‘Missing Middle as “a form of housing offering greater density and diversity compatible with surrounding lower density residential environments”.

In other words, Missing Middle Housing acts as the diplomat for increased infill development. It is more compatible with low density housing forms that people are used to in Brisbane’s suburbs but still helps in achieving the region’s infill land supply benchmarks. This is important considering that the draft regional plan forecasts by 2041 that there will be 2 million extra people living in SEQ.

Missing Middle Housing has the potential to deliver good development outcomes featuring YIMBY Qld qualities such as community dividend (increased housing affordability and choice), sustainability (affordable living and ageing in place, less urban sprawl) and innovation (helping to solve a complex affordability problem). Anything that local governments can do to make it easier to supply the ‘Missing Middle’ will ultimately help improve affordability and ensure that ‘Millenial Fonzie’ still has a place to live.
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WHAT HAPPENED WITH WEST VILLAGE?
November 9, 2016 |

The community initiated a state ministerial call-in of a development approval for the West Village Project at West End. A ministerial call-in allows the relevant Minister to decide a development application; even if the local council has already made a decision. In fact, Brisbane City Council had already approved the development and it was midway through the court appeal process when called in.

Council’s approval limited the height of future buildings on the site to 15 storeys as per the local plan requirements. This was an outcome negotiated by Council during the development assessment process in response to community concerns about building height. Originally, 25 storey building heights were included in the proposed design.

The ministerial call-in was recently approved. It allows for one of the approved buildings to have a height of 22 storeys. With many residents concerned about building height, what exactly did the ministerial call-in do?

The outcome of the call-in is that taller buildings are allowed, resulting in smaller building footprints. This creates more public accessible open space which was another key concern of residents. Another outcome is that the decision has been settled without a lengthy and expensive court appeal process. A minister’s call-in decision is final and cannot be appealed in court, unlike the original approval decision by Council.

Ultimately, the approval of the West Village project enables good development outcomes to be achieved through the creation of community dividend, the promotion of sustainability, the support of innovation and the delivery of design excellence.

Community dividend is created by the provision of more open space. The approval requires that 30% of the site be publicly accessible open space. The community will also benefit from a new childcare centre, 500m2 of dedicated community space, a knowledge space/co-working hub (seed funding or space will be provided), an artist in residence program and a suite of temporary and permanent art installations.

The community and the environment will benefit from an approval condition requiring that the development achieve a 5-green star rating. Innovation and sustainability outcomes are supported too as the development has been conditioned to provide 20 publicly accessible bicycle parking spaces, 8 electric vehicle car charging stations and 10 publicly accessible car parking spaces to be used for a future car share scheme. These parking spaces are in addition to the standard car parking rates that apply to the residential and commercial aspects of the development. The approval supports design excellence through a condition requiring subtropical building design excellence.

What happened with West Village is that good development outcomes have been achieved despite the proposal exceeding the local plan height parameters. Greater building height has been offset with expansive public open space resulting in a better outcome for the community and one that remains feasible for the developer to deliver.

Image by David Jackmanson on Flickr CC BY 2.0
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LACK OF GREEN SPACE AN URBAN MYTH
September 21, 2016 |

Thank you to Jane Pinder and the team at The Courier-Mail for a great piece at the weekend that revealed good development actually leads to increased greenspace rather than destroying it.

Developers are often accused of snatching up every last piece of land to build tiny boxes. However as this article shows, most developers use greenspace to enhance their developments, providing social amenity and a sense of community.

YIMBY is all about celebrating good development, that makes for better living and it’s great to see more and more developers engaging experts such as David Ulhmann with a green star community accreditation to achieve the maximum benefits from open greenspace in their projects.
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EVOLUTION OF NEWSTEAD NORTH
August 12, 2016 |

It is a continuously evolving precinct within 3kms of Brisbane’s CBD that used to be home to the commander of the Beagle (of Charles Darwin fame) and is now the corporate home of Virgin Australia.

We are talking about Newstead North. A mix of residential, business and light industrial uses.

Brisbane City Council is currently drafting the future of Newstead North in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan. The community recently had the opportunity to provide feedback on the strategy informing the draft neighbourhood plan.

YIMBY Qld submitted feedback on the draft strategy and here are our key recommendations:

-Extend the areas identified for Mixed Use zoning to allow for inner urban growth;

-Include incentives for excellence in design, innovation and sustainability in the planning scheme to better embrace local and global opportunities when they arise e.g. through reduction in levels of assessment and/or introduction of height bonuses built into acceptable outcomes. The combination of the proposed zoning and intended building heights of up to 8 storeys does not give adequate consideration to the incentives and flexibility required to inspire projects featuring world-class design excellence, sustainability, innovation and community dividend; and

-Encourage a broader base of potential employment generating land uses within mixed use zonings and low impact industry zonings such as art galleries, art spaces, educational uses, incubator activities, indoor sport and recreation and boutique theatres.

Ultimately, we believe that the precinct can continue to evolve and become home to more leading projects and showcase developments that inspire the community and visitors alike, positively contributing to Brisbane’s competitiveness on the world stage.
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SINGAPORE – A TRUE WORLD CITY
August 5, 2016 |

“Our challenge was to create a vital public place at the district – urban scale, in other words, to address the issue of mega scale and invent an urban landscape that would work at the human scale.”

This is how world renowned architect Moshe Safdie described his most famous work – the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

The five-billion-dollar development opened in 2010 – just four and a half years after construction started – creating jobs, increased tourism and generated revenue for the government.

Basically everything you would hope a visionary development would do.

Why then do we face such relentless opposition to similarly iconic developments in Australia?

I’m in Singapore this week to see first-hand why this city lays claim to the title of The Garden City.

Described as a practical utopia, Singapore has a population almost three times that of Brisbane.

The city gained independence from Malaysia more than 50 years ago and is a social and political experiment, where the government sets goals of creating affordable housing and home ownership. The experiment appears to be working with the city at near full-employment which is a unique achievement on a global scale.

Singapore is a city with plentiful greenery, tree lined boulevards and parks, reinforced by design standards requiring greenery and public spaces on multi-levels.

The city has also implemented a Green Mark Rating System on buildings, with an increasing emphasis on reducing energy and water usage.

While in Singapore I am keen to look at the work of local architects, WOHA. I want to learn the latest on what they are doing and how it compares to their proposed development in Brisbane.

Obviously there are cultural differences between our two cities however this shouldn’t translate into massive differences in planning policies. juxtaposition

Despite its population and desire to be a world leader in cutting edge design, Singapore has proven it is possible to balance the new with the old.

Its modern skyline is a juxtaposition of modern towers with the lower density heritage buildings of Chinatown.

In fact, the Marina Bay Sands development is inspired by great ancient cities that were ordered around a vital public thoroughfare. It is focused on pedestrian mobility, particularly along the two central movement spines in the surrounding area.

This sounds very much like what has been proposed with the Queen’s Wharf proposal in the Brisbane CBD only on a slightly smaller scale.

It fascinates me that, despite the growing examples of how such projects provide both community and economic benefit to the great cities of the world, we are continually hamstrung by the vocal minority voice of the NIMBYs.

During my visit to Singapore I will also be looking at a number of examples of how they continue to produce innovative green building outcomes and how these can translate into better planning outcomes for Brisbane and the South East.

Over the coming days I will post more from Singapore along with images of some of their iconic architecture.

Natalie Rayment
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SIGNS OF YIMBY FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
July 15, 2016 |

You know your movement is gaining traction when the US President gets behind it.

Media outlets following last month’s world first YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) conference in Boulder Colorado highlighted the fact that even President Obama was in favour of freeing up planning laws to encourage good development.

In his piece in The New York Times on July 4, Conor Dougherty highlighted the impact increasingly restrictive zoning regulations have on housing, contributing to price rises across America and locking new buyers out of the market.

“In response, a group of politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown of California and President Obama, are joining with developers in trying to get cities to streamline many of the local zoning laws that, they say, make homes more expensive and hold too many newcomers at bay,” Conor wrote.

He highlights that, when zoning laws get out of hand, the damage to the economy and society as a whole can be profound.

“Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like maintaining neighborhood character or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest”.

“So far, the biggest solution offered comes out of California, where Governor Brown has proposed a law to speed up housing development by making it harder for cities to saddle developers with open-ended design, permit and environmental reviews. The Massachusetts State Senate passed similar reforms. And President Obama has taken a more soft-touch approach, proposing $300 million in grants to prod local governments to simplify their building regulations.”

The New York Times was just one of many local and national media outlets that covered the conference across the US. There was an eclectic mix of conference media, with Boulder’s The Daily Camera joined by journalists from Forbes, Next City and The Times, representatives from the Urbanist and a gaggle of bloggers.

The Daily Camera, was the first on the newsstands and, despite placing YIMBY QLD representatives Natalie Rayment and Mia Hickey from Wolter Consulting in Melbourne rather than Brisbane, did a great job in promoting the YIMBY movement and suggesting this could be the first of a series of YIMBY conferences.

Los Angeles based Next City published an article by Josh Stephens calling out the NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitude and introducing the YIMBYs cropping up all over America, as far north as Sitka in Alaska and even across the Pacific to Brisbane, Australia.

“NIMBY fervour fundamentally stems from fear of change, fuelled by ignorance about potential benefits of greater density and more economically diverse communities.” He describes YIMBYs as “a loose affiliation of activists fed up with what they consider undue political influence of NIMBYs”, and “over what they see as a wide gulf between responsible housing policy and the political realities of development”.

Forbes, while taking a tongue-in cheek approach, highlighted the fact that the YIMBY movement crosses the political divide, observing that neither side seems to have noticed they are fighting the same fight. Another short article followed, helping their readers understand the term YIMBY.

Articles have also cropped up in Canada, New Zealand, northern Europe and here in Australia.

The Wolter consulting duo were the only Australians to attend the conference and appear in the #YIMBY2016 video circulating the globe. They were also featured in the Urban Developer, posted before they set foot back on Australian soil.
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SHAPING THE CONVERSATION
July 7, 2016 |

What will South East Queensland look like in 50 years’ time? We know many of us would like to see people riding hover boards Marty McFly style through Queen Street but more importantly, what we would really like to see is a place full of vitality, that is environmentally sustainable and equitable.

That is why YIMBY Qld lodged its first submission on urban policy last week for the State Government’s ‘Shaping SEQ’ review of the current South East Queensland Regional Plan. The feedback received by the State will be used to help develop a new, 50-year regional plan.

Our submission focussed on the following key ideas to shape the future of SEQ:

-Celebrate Good Development – share and highlight development outcomes that showcase design excellence, innovation, sustainability and community dividend;
-Outcomes Focused – encourage excellence in design, innovation and sustainability by reducing the levels of assessment and/or allowing for more density in the right places to better embrace local and global opportunities when they arise;
-Reducing Sprawl – by encouraging higher density development around major public transport and activity centres to improve efficiency in our use of land, to promote walkable neighbourhoods with less car dependency, to improve affordability and to increase vitality in urban life;
-Housing Choice – Support the delivery of different dwelling types to ensure that people can choose the type of housing that is right for them with the ability to ‘age in place’;
-Night-time Vibrancy – in our CBDs, lifestyle nodes and key global precincts. Improve liveability by reducing restrictions on hours of operation and improving pedestrian safety around centres to increase their vibrancy.

We believe that good development can deliver the outcomes we need to realise our vision for the future of SEQ. Ok, so maybe not the hover board bit but good development can help to deliver a more vital, sustainable and equitable SEQ.
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FINDING YIMBY AUSTRALIA
July 5, 2016 |

The YIMBY, or Yes In My Back Yard movement is gaining momentum around the globe, and most people don’t realise they’re a part of it.

It’s a movement that celebrates good development that enhances everyday life in our cities. It’s just never been given a name before.

YIMBY was born in New York in an effort to counter the vocal minority of self-serving NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) activists who put their own beliefs ahead of the community.

Australia is embracing YIMBY with the team at Wolter Consulting Group spearheading the movement in Queensland.

I recently travelled to Boulder Colorado with Senior Planner Mia Hickey to attend the world’s first YIMBY Conference, #YIMBY2016. As the only international delegates to attend the conference it was fascinating to listen to local politicians, advisors, community activists, transport groups, social housing providers, the development and business community, journalists, students and environmental warriors.

We heard first-hand the impacts of NIMBYism in American’s car dominated, urban sprawl cities and how ordinary Americans have embraced the YIMBY movement. Together, the group found common ground in the YIMBY message.

Sonja Trauss, founder of BARF (Bay Area Renters Federation) in San Francisco, delivered a powerful message and detailed how she is campaigning against the protesters who are fighting to stop good development in their city.

In the face of an unprecedented housing affordability crisis, Sonja is battling to roll back land use rules that will benefit the entire community and deliver important social and environmental benefits.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between Sonja’s message and the challenges we are facing at home, particularly the affordability of housing, which is already beyond the reach of many Australians, and the challenges facing our urban planners, both at home and abroad.

What Mia and I discovered at #YIMBY2016 is the way to advocate and explain the benefits of good development is put a human face to the narrative and talk about the stories, not the storeys.

YIMBY is a sleeping giant in Queensland and with your help I’m confident the silent majority who don’t realise they’re advocates for the movement become vocal supporters.

I encourage you to follow our blog, get behind the movement, share ideas and showcase examples of good development in our backyard.

Natalie Rayment, Co-founder YIMBYQld
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LET’S TALK ABOUT THE STORIES – NOT THE STOREYS
July 1, 2016 |

Sara Maxana posed a serious question to the world’s NIMBY practitioners when she spoke at the world’s first YIMBY conference in Boulder Colarado.

Sara was telling her own story and how she would love for her children to live in the city they grow up in. Before her divorce they were one household, now two, and by 2026 will be four, when her two children are ready to start their own households. They are the face of growth in her city.

One of the local anti-development activists in Seattle calls development a cancer. Sara put it to them, “Does that mean my children are the cancer? Because they are the real face of growth in any city”.

Sara tells the human story of growth. It is the new tech workers who have found a job in her city. It is the young couple who want to live close to facilities, lifestyle precincts and good schools and it’s her own family.

In response to the increasing housing crisis, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray gathered a stakeholder group of community leaders to help develop a bold agenda for increasing the affordability and availability of housing in the city, which culminated in a published report with 65 recommendations, titled “HALA – Seattle Housing Affordability and Liveability Agenda”.

Recommendations varied widely, and included increased land zoned for multi-family housing, more variety in housing types in single family areas, parking reforms, tax exemptions, approval process improvements. Ultimately it had a simple message – “abundant housing for everyone”, with the aim of creating 50,000 new units, 20,000 of which would be affordable.

Facing this housing crisis, Sara’s key message is to become a bridge builder, not a steamroller. She wants to share her powerful story and bring the community on the journey with her, to create new local policy makers in her city who understand the facts and recognise the human face of growth.

Our take home message from the #YIMBY2016 conference is that we too need to change the narrative about development and urban policy in this country. As Sara reminds us, it is time we talk more about the characters in the story of growth, than the change in character. She asks ““when does the car parking spot in front of my house become more important than the opportunity to make a new friend?”

Our question would be – “Is it time we start talking about the number of stories in a new building, the stories of the newcomers, and not only the number of storeys?” The real story of growth, the human story, is not being told in Australia.

#yimbyqld is about changing the conversation about urban policy and growth in our State. It is about informing the community about the planning process, leading the conversation about growth and the benefits of good development, and inspiring good development in the right places. #yimbyqld is about changing the urban narrative. Join the conversation at yimbyqld.com.au and on Instagram and twitter.
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