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Report and Panel: Getting to Groundbreaking” – Dec 4

November 26, 2014


Getting to Groundbreaking 2014 Report Release and Panel Discussion


Come to the release of the first results of G2G, a joint research venture between SFU’s Urban Studies Program, the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association, and the Urban Development Institute.



Click to enlarge.

How does housing get to the market? What role do municipal policies play? How can a more efficient approvals process help the housing market?

G2G surveyed municipalities and builders to identify best practices and barriers in the housing approval process, and recommends ways that the parties can work together to create better outcomes for municipalities, the development community, and the public.


Dec 4

8:45 – 10 am

Wosk Centre – 580 West Hastings


The Irony of ‘Peak Car’ – 2

November 26, 2014

Bringing an Agustin comment to the foreground:

The absolute number of cars registered in the City of Vancouver is indeed growing. In absolute numbers, “peak car” has not yet arrived in Vancouver.

There’s an interesting pattern to the vehicle registrations added each year, though:




So how does one explain the pattern above – and the data which indicate a drop in traffic coming into the city and, even more, to downtown?

A View from a Vancouver Window: The Dish’s Dish

November 26, 2014

Every week, Andrew Sullivan’s blog ‘The Dish‘ posts a pic from a reader which is, simply, a shot taken out of a window.  The challenge: Guess from where was it taken.  The city of origin, of course, but also the building, right down to the specific window.

PT readers will likely identify last week’s picture:




As interesting as the guesses are the comments which accompany them.  Here are some selected excerpts.

  • I have no idea where this week’s VFYW is taken and I am so glad I don’t live there.
  • I was lost on this one until I started watching The Wizard of Oz last night. It’s obviously “The Amethyst City” – the Emerald City’s less known, contrasting and under-appreciated rival.
  • Millions of empty balconies … dumbfounded by searching Hong Kong high rises. Let’s go further south for better air and patio palm trees to guess … Singapore? I bet they have windows there.
  • Is there a major city less architecturally interesting than Vancouver? It seems that every high-rise in the city is more boring than the next. Can you imagine coming home drunk to this complex of buildings? Would you even be able to figure out which was yours?

  • I immediately recognized the buildings in my hometown, which are very typical of our city. There is even an architectural style that has been coined “vancouverism” based on the glass towers and urban design principles. Vancouver is a fantastic city and with a great downtown for a mid-size city. That is what makes it one of the of the most attractive places to live and unfortunately one of the most expensive.

  • The lesson? When it kind of looks like America, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, try Canada.
  • The light is the giveway. Only one bunch of weirdos puts up yellow traffic lights with yellow frames: Canadians! Assuming the photo is roughly current, the lack of winter hellscape tells you it must be Vancouver. Which happens to have a Granville Street – the original main street downtown, in fact – on which there is one building with a mansard roof, at the corner with Drake Street.

Vancouver is clearly a favorite city for many:

  • There are so many nice things about Vancouver that it’s hard to list them all here – Stanley Park, Gastown, the skyride up to Grouse Mountain, the Granville Island Farmers Market. What I love most about the city is its unparalleled setting among the inlets and bays of the Salish Sea with the dramatic backdrop of the mountains towering above the city just north across the harbor. My favorite memory of the city, though, is awakening on a boat sailing north just off the city’s west side and witnessing an escort of killer whales just off our beam. That is a sight you never forget.

  • I’m no good at the Google Earth searches that your other readers like to do. I wanted to respond, however, because of my love for Vancouver. My husband and I visited the city in the summer of 2010 as part of our “baby-moon” (the trip you take before your first child arrives), and it immediately became the city where we would move in the event someone like Rick Santorum ever got elected president.

More on the neighborhood as it was:




  • This is a real mix of the old and new cities. Until 30 years ago, the land all those condo towers are on was at the seedy end of Seymour Street. When I lived in Vancouver as a young adolescent, that was a noted part of the red light district. Next door to the Yale Hotel was the equally legendary Cecil, noted for its strip club. If memory serves the Best Western itself stands on the site of another hotel with another strip club. That one I remember hazily from my university days – I can’t recall the club’s name, but I do remember that it served one of the best – and cheapest – hamburgers in town.

  • Redevelopment started in the mid 1980s with the Expo 1986 project, and soon enough the neighbourhood filled with shiny new towers. But the old city is still there – the Yale Hotel survived despite the demolition of the Cecil for another condo tower, and when I lived a couple of blocks away at Seymour and Helmcken, the concierge at our condo would routinely shoo the sex workers away from the front doors

And more on the hotel in the above photo:

  • The heritage building in the foreground is the old Yale Hotel, one of Vancouver’s oldest and most distinct buildings: “The historic building was built in 1888, when the City of Vancouver was just two years old. The Yale’s red brick façade, mansard roof and neon signs make it one of Vancouver’s most distinctive buildings.” For many years The Yale housed a famous, world-class blues club which is now closed, but the building just underwent an extensive historical renovation as part of a condo project (everything in Vancouver these days is a condo project).

There are lots more comments here, but you have be to a paid Dish subscriber to see them all.  (The blog is worth it.)


The Straight and Narrower: Lanes widths in Toronto

November 26, 2014

Last month, Walkable City author Jeff Speck posted a widely read piece in CityLab:

Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now

… the single best thing we can do for the health, wealth, and integrity of this great nation is to forbid the construction, ever again, of any traffic lane wider than 10 feet.

Well, guess what?

From The Globe and Mail:

Toronto to narrow traffic lanes in hopes of increasing safety

The city has just finished a new policy for lane widths, guidelines that will be rolled out gradually across Toronto.

It will mean that, over a period of years, the lanes on streets across the city will be redrawn. A city official said current widths can encourage drivers to go faster than necessary. The new lanes will generally range from 3 to 4.3 metres, (9 feet, 10 inches to 14 feet, 1.3 inches, depending on location. …

The change comes amid a drumbeat of concern about congestion, and after an election in which traffic problems were at the front of voters’ minds. Asked about possible outrage from drivers over a city policy designed to slow them down, Mr. Buckley said adjusting the timing of traffic signal schedules can mitigate the effects.

“Our goal here is to continue to try to maintain [traffic flow] at safe and context-sensitive speeds,” he said. “And in the downtown core, do you need to be going 50 [kilometres an hour]? Probably not. If we can keep people moving at 30 K or 40 K, smoothly, they’ll be ecstatic [about] that.” …

Factors that might prompt a divergence from the target include parking, cyclist or truck volumes and the character of the neighbourhood. The guidelines stress, though, that the target should be “pursued wherever feasible” and that going to the maximum or minimum allowable widths would require “strong and valid justification.”

Anyone know what the policy is in Vancouver?

The Daily Scot: Guts

November 26, 2014

Scot discovers:

This is what the guts of the Skytrain line look like when severed.



“Efficiency & Joy” in Downtown Vancouver

November 25, 2014

This is not your father’s Downtown Vancouver Association - assuming your father was an aging businessman who lived in a North Shore suburb and for whom Downtown Vancouver was only a place to work.  And to park.

Founded in 1946, the DVA “dedicated itself to promoting the economic, social and cultural development of Downtown Vancouver.”  Superseded by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, it lost its focus.  Under a new generation of leadership it has tried to reinvent itself to reflect the reality of what is now more broadly known as the Metrocore, covering not just the Downtown Peninsula but also the business and residential districts on the south as well as north sides of False Creek.

This morning at BCIT, it presented the results of the ‘Round-up’ – a conversational quilt conducted over the last half year in a dozen or so workshops, having already identified transportation as key to the future of the core – and the DVA’s relevancy.

Knowing that when the question and funding proposition for the upcoming transportation referendum is announced (likely in mid-December), there will be a ‘fast-brain’ response when citizens across the region consider Who pays for What.  The intent of the Round-up was to ‘slow the brain down,’ and through dialogue connect the importance of transportation to housing, public spaces, neighborhoods, culture, health and the economy – and how that might translate into a vital and vibrant metrocore.

A place, in two key words, that was “efficient and joyful.”

That’s the distillation of all the ideas and propositions – but here, for you policy wonks, are some of the phrases I jotted down:

  • Public transit is actually an investment in all modes of travel.
  • And all modes must be normalized to create a seamless shift so that car ownership is unnecessary for many.
  • Transportation is social policy.
  • Transit is a brand – an association with the city.
  • There is good congestion and bad congestion.  The accessible city may be a congested place – but it is the body heat of congestion, not of unnecessary delay.
  • Goods movement needs the right balance for delivery.
  • Good systems are the connective tissue of a successful place.

Those are not phrases that would have emerged from the DVA of decades past, when transportation policy was mainly about how vehicles could get easily in and out of the downtown, and find cheap parking when there.

This transformation of the DVA is the result of a decades-long policy shift and the inarguable benefits that have accrued to this city because it rejected the dominance of the moving vehicle over the creation of great public spaces and livable, dense neighbourhoods.  The old paradigms, based largely on a single-use, suburban perspective, became irrelevant – and the DVA was in danger of the same irrelevance by association.

It seems to have found a new voice, the words to speak and a purpose to mobilize a new membership: to help win a referendum that is essential to a centre that is part of a bigger region – a metrocore.  And that place, in the words with the biggest font and the most appeal, is efficient and joyful.

Fall in Yaletown

November 25, 2014



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