Chuck Brook & Gordon Harris on Incrementalism, and the Change We Fear
Play • 47 min

“You don’t hold referendums in small communities on a case-by-case basis—you do what you were elected to do, and make difficult decisions for the greater good.”

For anyone following politics in Metro Vancouver these days, this is become the sentiment of some in the planning profession. It’s a message about (and even directed towards, even if not in so many words) the many new, inexperienced members of council in city halls across the region proposing, and making decisions about, the very real housing and development challenges in all of our backyards.

It’s also quite possibly parting shots from the Baby Boomer professional class that, by some measures, could be implicated as much of the source of our current housing and transportation problems in the first place. But not Chuck Brook and Gordon Harris — these are the guys walking the talk.

Brook, former heritage planner in Winnipeg, and then senior development planner for the City of Vancouver during the tail-end of the Ray Spaxman era, is an ardent supporter of what’s often called “infill projects” — the re-development and, often more efficient, use of existing land in an urban environment, for greater density and mixed use. Brook himself is notorious for the relentless pursuit of greater FSR; his career is marked by consistent efforts to increase the amount of liveable floor space that can be developed on a piece of land, relative to that overall footprint. When you think of changing the scope and character of a neighbourhood to accommodate more people, this is your man.

Harris is President and CEO of SFU Community Trust, which oversees UniverCity, the award-winning sustainable community next to the Burnaby Mountain campus. It’s just one of the many projects—some global in nature, many familiar to residents of Metro Vancouver as part of daily life—for which his team has provided planning, market analysis and strategic development consulting work, as part of a similarly persistent approach to sustainable urban development.

They’ve both also contributed to their local communities in countless other ways, and they’re almost ready to move along. But not before they spend the better part of the next decade or two trying to solve the now classic problem: who’s going to be living in this place in 2030? In 2050? What will they need? How do we build that society today, in such a way that, beyond not exacerbating current problems, we might actually mitigate or (in some way) resolve some of the very, very bad problems likely coming our way?

And does incrementalism mean changing the what we develop, or the way we develop it?

In this episode, Gord gets Brook and Harris to unwrap “the pill we have to swallow”, with some pointed words for the District of North Vancouver.

**NOTE: Audio quality improves at 13mins**

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