Senior Citizens and Prescription Dog Walking

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Price Tags has written before about the health impact of dog ownership on enhanced levels of physical activity for dog owners. In the Netherlands, estimates of walking activity had to be increased to recognize the individuals meeting and walking their dogs early in the mornings and evenings. There’s a new study out supportive of dog walking  in the newly published Walking Connecting Sustainable Transport with Healthbook published by Emerald Press.  There is also an interesting article in  The Telegraph  where research at the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia found that  “owning or walking a dog was one of the most effective ways to beat the usual decline in later-life activity” and  “encouraged the elderly to get out and about in bad weather, boosting mood and improving health.”

In a study of 300 participants, pet owners were found to walk 30 minutes more a day than average, a surprise to the researchers. “As adults age, they tend to become less active. In Britain it is estimated that fewer than half of older adults engage in the recommended weekly quota of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity.”

We know that physical activity levels decline as we age, but we’re less sure about the most effective things we can do to help people maintain their activity as they get older,” said lead author of the paper, Dr Yu-Tzu Wu from the University of Cambridge. We found that dog walkers were much more physically active and spent less time sitting overall.”

Even in bad weather dog walkers’ activity levels were 20 per cent higher than those without pets. In their article published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers conclude that dog ownership or a community based co-operative of dog walking could keep seniors more engaged and healthy. “Being driven by something other than our own needs might be a really potent motivator and we need to find ways of tapping into it when designing exercise interventions in the future.”

 

 

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Richmond Officially Asks Province not to bridge the Massey River gap

From the Daily Scot, Scot Bathgate informs us that the City of Richmond has officially asked the Province of B.C. to cancel the Massey Bridge project. As reported by the CBC the Mayor of Richmond is sure that  no ten lane bridge is needed. Of course the Mayor of Delta is still talking about congestion and bottlenecks and the need for a bridge, using doomsday logic to scare users out of the tunnel.

Add in the Provincial Green Party and leader Andrew Weaver who has already stated that there probably won’t be a Massey Bridge as a priority.

Mix together, stir,  watch this CBC video and place your bets for  

-what will be constructed;

-how many lanes;

-and what timelines.

 

It’s a new day.

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Job Jar — Active Transportation Planner

Urban Systems has the need. Maybe you’re the best fit. A year to earn, learn and make a mark.

Check it out HERE.

Urban Systems is one of Canada’s leading active transportation planning and design firms.

Our growing active transportation practice is seeking an experienced and passionate junior to intermediate Active Transportation Planner to join our team to help create vibrant communities where walking and cycling are convenient and attractive mobility choices for people of all ages and abilities.

This position is a one-year temporary position to cover a maternity leave with the possibility of an extension depending on needs.

Seoul’s Skygarden, a Portent for the Georgia Viaducts?

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Price Tag readers made some very good comments about how New York City’s High Line is markedly different from Vancouver’s Georgia Viaducts which are scheduled for demolition if the funding can be found. The High Line was an unused railway between a few kilometers of warehouse buildings. But a better parallel is the newly opened Seoul Skygarden which is built on a former motordom “flyover” that connected several locations with the railway station.

Built at a cost of  roughly 65 million Canadian dollars, the bridge took two years to be redesigned by the Dutch architects Mts MVRDV. As written by pfsk.com it was designed to  give “qualities of walkability, neighbourliness, human scale and shared enjoyment of its places…The Skygarden isn’t the first project designed to revive Seoul; the Cheonggyecheon stream was opened in 2005.”

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Called the “Seoul-lo 7017 after the age of the original construction, the Skygarden “ is both a symbol and an instrument of the shift from car to foot. The original concrete structure has been strengthened, and lifts, stairs and escalators have been added where necessary to connect it to the ground. Bridges also connect to adjoining commercial buildings, who have to pay for the uplift in value. Other uses – cafes, performance spaces, a market – are scattered across the site.”

The overpass was planted with a “library of 24,000 plants, all native to Korea and arranged in the order of the Korean alphabet. Once plants mature, they will be sold and replaced, making the library also a nursery according to Winy Maas of the Dutch group MVRDV.

Young Joon Kim, the current city architect who also worked as the coordinator of the Skygarden project, says that he is “very happy”. He acknowledges that not everyone is pleased about handing over road infrastructure to pedestrians – drivers of cars and commercial vehicles, for example – but says that “when you look at things over a longer period it’s clear that citizens have to have car-free zones. It’s not a kind of taste, it’s the way to go, like many other cities.”

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Richmond Rethinks Massey Bridge Crossing, Delta Not So Much

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It’s a new day but not in Delta where the City Manager and the Mayor continued their advocacy for a very big bridge last night at Delta Council. A large reader board went up at the Massey Tunnel urging everyone to Build a Bridge Now, with a website address that just goes straight to Delta Municipal Hall.

Meanwhile as Jennifer Saltman reports in the Vancouver Sun some cooler heads are thinking it through across the Fraser River in the City of Richmond. There the Director of Transportation has written a pretty comprehensive report asking for a complete review of the proposed Massey crossing options, noting the misinformation, and asking Richmond to stop all work towards a bridge crossing. The report was adopted by eight of the nine council members.

The frustration of the City of Richmond with the Province’s one sided process was evident in the comments made by the Mayor . “We have been trying to constructively comment on this proposal from the first day it was announced. We have been disregarded and ignored in the questions that we have asked” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

A ten lane bridge supportive of trucking traffic and Delta Port would lead to more industrialization along the Fraser, as well as creating traffic bottlenecks on either side of the bridge. The Richmond report examined two tunnel alternatives, one  “improving the existing four-lane Massey Tunnel and adding a second two- or four-lane tunnel that accommodates high-occupancy vehicles and transit.” 

The report also addresses the fear mongering that the Corporation of Delta has promoted in saying that the tunnel will collapse in a magnitude 6.5 earthquake. “Richmond points out that the tunnel can be upgraded to sustain a one-in-475-year earthquake, which is on par with other major structures such as the Lions Gate, Ironworkers Memorial, Oak Street and Queensborough bridges. It’s estimated that the work will cost $590 million.” While Delta stats that a ten lane bridge is cheaper than the tunnel, Richmond noted that a crossing with less lanes could be built for the same cost, and surprise, a small project “would also mitigate concerns about environmental or land impacts”.

And Delta’s stats about tunnel safety? ICBC notes that there were 270 collisions annually in the tunnel-compare that with ” the Knight Street Bridge and interchanges had an average of 420 crashes per year, and the Alex Fraser had almost 290 crashes per year.” As the Mayor of Richmond noted “Whatever the solution is at the end of the day, as long as it moves along, is expedited and it cleans up the mess that is that horror show of the Massey Tunnel, I’m in full support of it”.

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Warehousing the Disabled or Providing Independent Living?

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Yesterday I wrote about Ms. Sinenomine who has questioned why in the 21st century developments still contain “group homes” to house disabled people, instead of working towards a model that provides more independence for the individual. Ms Sinenomine noted that the group home model so popular in the mid 20th century was designed to convenience staff servicing disabled people, and really that model should be the other way around. If you have been in George Pearson Centre as it exists, it is shocking. About 230 quadriplegics and others were  housed in this former tuberculosis hospital in 2013.

Paul Caune, the executive director  of  Civil Rights Now is even more blunt in his dismissal of the group home model and its disappointing inclusion in the George Pearson Redevelopment of the 500-600 block of West 57th Avenue.  Paul notes that in the Pearson Dogwood Policy Statement that Vancouver Coastal Health is to provide “a plan for all housing and supports to replace the [George Pearson Centre] facilities which demonstrates best practices.”  Under the friendly terminology of “greenhouses” these group homes in Phase 1 of the development include four 6-bedroom apartments and four 4-bedroom apartments.  That’s 40 people who will be housed in a group “green” home situation.

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George Pearson Centre as is

 

The burden of proof is on Vancouver Coastal Health (the partner in the development) to demonstrate that apartments with four or six bedrooms is best practices for housing that promotes independence for people with disabilities in BC and/or jurisdictions comparable to BC.”

“…As disability services expert Michael Kendrick stated …”Group homes have had their day and are now at least a generation out of date and that fact will simply deepen in significance and consequence as the field progresses forward. There is absolutely no evidence that the future leading edge of best practice shows any support for group homes in comparison to person centred options.”

The difference according to Paul Caune is that “Group homes can only give disabled people a room of their own, instead of what they need to live with freedom and dignity, which is a home of their own.”   Since Vancouver Coastal Health, which will be running the “group homes” told the City of Vancouver that the “project provides capital and housing that will allow us to use our operating dollars to continue to create models of care and housing to promote independence for people with disabilities, ” you’d think that the disabled folks that would be housed in these group homes would be consulted.

Paul Caune concldes: “BC voters with disabilities are in desperate need of housing that will enable their independence. The Pearson Dogwood Redevelopment is a great opportunity to meet a little of that need. The voters of the City of Vancouver mustn’t allow Vancouver Coastal Health  to waste this opportunity.”

And as Price Tags Editors note, it is the 21st Century. You can read Paul Caune’s full statement here.  

You can also check out Ms Sinenomine’s latest blog entry which includes from the United Nations Social Policy/Development Disability Article 19 which is the right to live independently and within a community. As Ms Sinenomine states:“There is no other group of adult citizens in this country, not convicted of violating criminal laws, who are forced to fight for their right to live in the community, except disabled people.”

 

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Source: George Pearson Residents

Vancouver Mural Festival — 2017

August 7 – 12, the festival and it’s artists will create 50+ new murals in East Vancouver.  My guess is that work is already well underway.

HERE is an intro to 2017’s mural artists.

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You can set up a guided tour HERE, or make up your own from the site map. 

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Guided tours — click to enlarge.

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Or dig into the VMF’s EVENTS. [Click to enlarge]

 

 

The festival has a long and impressive list of sponsors and partners reaching well beyond the corporate establishment.

Are Group Homes for Disabled a Relic of the 20th Century?

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You may be following Ms. Sinenomine on Twitter, she is an advocate for disabled rights and writes extremely well. She is also an individual that reminds us of our collective responsibilities to ensure that everyone in our society has the same rights and freedoms enjoyed by able bodied persons. In her latest blog entry Ms Sinenomine  writes an evocative piece opposing the use of  “group homes” for disabled folks which are envisioned in the current rezoning application for the old George Pearson Centre, located in the 500 to 600 block of West 57th Avenue (between Cambie and Oak Streets).

As she notes: Group homes, like other institutions, operate based on the convenience of those working in them. They have shift changes, designated rooms for ‘soiled laundry’ and medications – they are workplaces not homes. Having your own bedroom with your own bathroom is great if you are 16 and living with your parents, it is not independent living for a disabled adult. As a disabled woman who had, and likely will have again, complicated medical needs, I want my own apartment, not a mini-institution with better decor.”

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“Thus, unlike many discussions about development in Vancouver, the issue here is not density it’s history. Far too much of the history of disability is one of grave harm in the name of help. Institutions are a large part of why and that history and that harm continues to this day…Most people would agree that in 2017 we should not be building institutions for disabled people. We need social housing, specifically individual private apartments, for all disabled people – with attendant care as required – integrated into the community.Vancouver should follow best practice and the group home model for disabled people is not best practice and it most definitely is not world class.”

“…There is one other thing about institutions…They erase the boundaries of you until you can’t tell the institution’s ideas from your own. The lesson you learn, sometimes subtly, sometimes directly, is you don’t know what is right for you, they do. ” Miss Sinenomine also notes that cities like Toronto included wheelchair adapted units with on site attendant care in social housing since the 1970’s.”

Should inclusion of group homes in the new George Pearson rezoning be rethought so that disabled individuals can live in units as part of the community, not separated from it?

 

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Back to the Bridge and the “Rotting” Tunnel Vision

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Rush hour traffic moving through the Massey Tunnel in Vancouver

You would hope that the Vancouver region could work on a cohesive vision of accessibility and affordability that includes actively listening to the Mayors’ Council and Metro Vancouver and their long-term plan. But in Delta with their 100,000 plus population and reliance on all things vehicle and related to the Port, an analysis of the best approach at the Massey Tunnel crossing holds no compromise-they want their bridge.

The Vancouver Sun and Jennifer Saltman report on the meeting held with Delta’ mayor and city manager  with the editorial board of the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers.  You wonder if that editorial board was able to keep a straight face with the pronouncements that were pretty positional from Delta’s top brass. They maintained that “replacing the George Massey Tunnel should be a priority for the new provincial government because it’s old, congested, dangerous to drivers and first responders — and will not withstand even a moderate earthquake.”

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“This tunnel’s rotting. Are we just going to let it rot?” Delta Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie said.”  The Delta contingent trotted out the same rationale as previously reported in Price Tags-the tunnel is too old, a bridge can stand a stronger earthquake, a new tunnel will disrupt farmland and be more expensive. Nothing new here-in fact all the other mayors in the region opposed the Massey bridge project because of its impacts on regional livability, the lack of a transparent public process, and changing and insufficient background information access. But never mind that, the Mayor of Delta believes that the Mayors are not dealing with the proposed bridge because it is a Provincial initiative.

Meanwhile back in Delta the lack of consultation with local residents over the Massey crossing has been further flamed by Delta City Hall’s full-page ad in the Vancouver Sun advocating their position of “Bridge Good” and “Tunnel Bad”. As Nicholas Wong (who ran as an independent MLA in Delta) notes  “Christy Clark announced the bridge in 2013, years before any inquiry was done to evaluate alternative options. Also remember, the real cost of the bridge was purposely withheld by the Liberals and redacted in the project’s public documents. Where is the due process? Despite this, Delta still thinks all necessary information is publicly available. Our rookie MLA (Ian Paton, who is strangely serving a dual role  as an MLA AND a member of Delta Council) even went so far as to say this practice of redacting documents and withholding information, like the bridge proposal has, is “just how you do business.”

Delta can pay tens of thousands of our tax dollars to call out others for spreading rumours and misinformation, but turns around and uses statements from a report more than 28 years old as evidence for its position. There were supposed to be two phases of seismic upgrades to address those exact concerns.”

“This is by no means the extent to the unjustifiable information being put forth by those in favour of a bridge. They can continue to call this misinformation all they want, but all I did was take the time to read their own documents.

After years of research and extensively reading the documents presented on the bridge proposal, I understand how drastically any replacement option will impact our community. If anyone has any information that I do not have or questions about where or how I derive my facts, please get in touch.”

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Affordable Rental Housing Program through Vancouver Developers?

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Image: Daily Hive

Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail reports that the City of Vancouver will be requiring developers to ensure that roughly 25 per cent of units in new projects are “rented at rates affordable to those earning $30,000 to $80,000”. The City has faced some criticism for their eight year old “Rental 100” program that offered incentives for developers to build rentals, but also resulted in gaspingly high ‘low’ rents, including $1,360 for an east side studio. Developers will be offered an increased density bonus in exchange for the creation of affordable rental units.

Developers will be allowed to build this fall in an experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of 20 to 25 per cent of units being custom-built for affordable rental housing. Rents could range from $750 for people earning $30,000 to $2,000 a month for people earning $80,000.

Without the legal controls to reduce rents as in the United States, the Province has no regulation to give building owners a property tax break. Head planner Gill Kelley will experiment with increased density, lower parking requirements, and lower development fees to ensure a pro forma supportive of creating a building with 25 per cent affordable rental stock. Inclusionary zoning could also be contemplated, where developers are told outright that a percentage of the apartments in a building are for affordable rental in return for a density increase.

“Asked why his party did not move sooner on a policy like the one to be announced on Sunday, Mr. Robertson said Vision set precedents in the country with its previous incentives, which have boosted rental construction by hundreds of units a year, and with a rental-only zone in the Downtown Eastside.”

Is this too little too late? Frances Bula reports that the Mayor wrote the Urban Development Institute stating that new requirements were coming, and that they
should avoid over-paying for land in the current out-of-control market…We are writing to express concerns about the amount of speculative behaviour in the real estate market,” the mayor wrote to the Urban Development Institute on July 20. “The purchase prices we are seeing reflect a housing market that is disconnected from local economics, and will lead to proposals that will be challenged to meet the City’s requirements for affordability.”

Affordable rental policy will require another level of bureaucracy to ensure that the units are rented out correctly to those income scales, and the incomes monitored to ensure the rents are correctly adjusted-as well as managing what could be a very very long waiting list.

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New Bikes in 1899

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While looking for something else on microfilm in The Province from September, 1899, I came across an article on new bicycles. Even more than today, there was a tremendous bicycle craze at the turn of the 20th century that only faded about 1908 when Henry Ford’s Model T made cars relatively affordable.

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And knowing that many PT readers have the same love of bicycles as bears have for garbage cans, I thought this would be a suitable post for a summer Friday afternoon.

 

You Can Buy a Vancouver Laneway House!

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As reported by Jen St. Denis in the Metro News there’s some big changes coming for single family homes that add laneway houses to their properties. In some areas, laneway houses will be allowed to be stratified and sold, but ONLY if the original character home remains on the same lot.

This is a big, but not unexpected change. Originally the laneway house concept came out of the CityPlan process as a way for older home owners to have a “granny flat” and leave the house for the kids. But like the basement suite which went from unauthorized to allowed in single family zoned areas in the city within a decade, City Planner Gil Kelley notes that the new proposed strata coach house  provides ” a set of enhanced options for more units on lots in the low-density zones. These would be the option of individual owners coming forward, so it’s very much single lot owner driven infill development — it’s not developer sponsored.”

Laneway houses that are already built or lots where the original house is NOT a character house will not be allowed to strata the laneway house.  On the westside there has been a trend to demolish character homes and replace them with much larger ones. The proposed zoning would apply to all RS (single family) zoned areas. As Gil Kelley notes, if one or two per cent of homeowners build new laneway houses, that could “represent thousands of new homes for rent or ownership”.
Also noted in the Council report going up next Tuesday was that in the RT zoning areas in Mount Pleasant and Woodlands, the number of units on a single 33 foot lot will increase to three units from two units. This will be accomplished by “a new detached form for duplexes that allows for two separate houses on a lot, with a larger house at the front and a smaller house at the lane:” essentially, a coach house behind a main house”. 

These are small but important changes to provide a variety of different housing forms as the city deals with affordability and accessibility to housing in the city. While the Council report goes to Council next week, the changes will not be enacted until after a Public Hearing,  expected this September.

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Summer Nights and Lighting the Dome

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In the “cool things to do for kids of all ages” department The Daily Hive reports on a very innovative light installation at Science World. Every weekend throughout August you will find a sphere like model of the Science World dome next to Olympic Village’s Tap and Barrel. By touching the model dome you can create colours and patterns on the actual Science World dome. Called “OH!” the public will be able to interact with the installation every Friday and Saturday through August.

Alex Beim of Tangible Interaction, the company that designed the installation says “What I really want is for people to be present in the moment, and feel connected to the city and people around the installation. The goal was to create a space for social interaction and we feel that OH! does just this.”

OH! Science World Public Light Control 2017
When: 9 pm to 11 pm during the following dates:

Friday, August 4 to Sunday, August 6 (Pride Weekend)
Friday, August 11 and Saturday, August 12
Friday, August 18 and Saturday, August 19
Friday, August 25 and Saturday, August 26
Where: False Creek seawall at the Olympic Village, next to Tap and Barrel (1 Athletes Way, Vancouver)

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The Friday File: Handyman Goes Rogue with Eight Steps and $550 versus $150,000

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We can all relate to this-as reported by CTV News  several neighbours had fallen down a steep dirt path to a community garden located in Tom Riley Park in Etobicoke, Ontario. After the municipality was alerted, the city took a look at the small slope and declared that yes indeed, a little stairway was needed. The city estimated the cost of the proposed stairs at 65,000 to 150,000 dollars.

A retired mechanic named Adi Astl thought he could do this cheaper and faster. Amassing $550 from his neighbours, he built a set of stairs down the slope of the community park. But these stairs, while practical, are not built to municipal standards and “Toronto bylaw officials have taped off these privately-built stairs”.

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“I thought they were talking about an escalator,” Astl told CTV News Channel on Wednesday. Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. Astl’s wife, Gail Rutherford, says the stairs have already been a big help to people who routinely take that route through the park. “I’ve seen so many people fall over that rocky path that was there to begin with,” she said. “It’s a huge improvement over what was there.”
Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year. “To me, the safety of people is more important than money,” Astl said. “So if the city is not willing to do it, I have to do it myself.”

Mayor of Toronto John Tory did acknowledge that the city’s estimate for the stairs was “completely out of whack with reality.” Meanwhile Mr Astl’s stair have been cordoned off and he’s been admonished that private citizens can’t build public structures. Meanwhile in the common sense department, area resident Dana Beamon noted she’s pretty pleased with Mr Astl’s stairs. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.”

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Massey Crossing Tunnel Vision,Locals Speak Out about Bridging the Gap

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There is now direct crossing controversy in Delta where the editor of the Delta Optimist has gone on record favouring the option of an overbuilt Massey Bridge for safety reasons-strangely advocating exactly the points put forward by the Delta Mayor and City Manager in their thousands of dollars paid ad in the Vancouver Sun. This crossing upgrade is not supported by the Mayors’ Council or Metro Vancouver. Commenters immediately took the editor to task as being a spokesman for the Corporation of Delta.

The editor said: “Delta has focused its persuasion efforts on the need to safeguard the public and the economy, particularly as it relates to the tunnel’s seismic situation, as well as the costs and shortcomings of other crossing options…it’s not technically feasible to upgrade the tunnel to meet current seismic standards, a finding of a report done a decade ago after the first phase of seismic work had been undertaken. A more recent report says the tunnel would only be able to withstand a one-in-275-year earthquake, which is far below today’s one-in-2,475-year standard. As far as building a new tunnel rather than a bridge, a favourite rallying cry of project opponents, reports in Delta’s package show it would be more costly ($4.3 billion vs. $3.5 billion), have greater environmental impacts and take far longer to get the necessary approvals.”

Now  there IS a response from Delta residents that believe they have been (no pun intended) railroaded into a bridge that does not serve their purposes. As one reader noted he was aghast that Delta would speak for the taxpayers of that municipality without asking them. As the reader wrote “In the bridge case, there is ample evidence that the community is very disturbed at the prospect of this huge bridge” and asked for some direct community consultation.

Meanwhile in Richmond a letter writer to the Richmond News noted  “There is no doubt the Fraser crossing needs to be improved in order to be effective for all traffic and transit needs. However, the safety record of the tunnel speaks for itself. If “the potential for a catastrophic failure of the tunnel is real,” why are the Dutch with a similar and older tunnel not concerned with its safety?” The writer also noted that in an earthquake “The road system as it exists will fail before the tunnel will. In the event of a serious earthquake, it will make no difference if a bridge is safer than a tunnel. The bridge, should it survive, will not serve any purpose. If Richmond has the catastrophic results that are predicted with an earthquake of this magnitude, the crossing will be inaccessible and irrelevant…The fact is that in a seismic event as major as this report discusses, the real issue of the crossings will be how to evacuate and support the affected areas and people, not the economy of Delta or Surrey.”

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Housing Starts Fall in Vancouver

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Business in Vancouver reporter Frank O’Brien reports that housing starts-the construction of new housing in the City of Vancouver has fallen by 80 per cent when compared to the first half of 2016. The figures are from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)  and show that starts have declined from 5,784 to 1,860 units.

While it is  not unexpected that single family detached housing starts have declined from 708 to 462, the surprise has been in condominium apartments, which fell from 3,290 in the first half of 2016 to 880 in the first half of 2017.  That is 73 per cent less. Despite very high construction levels, a report from the Urban Development Institute found that there was little inventory of  unsold condominiums.

“Total housing starts across the Metro Vancouver region also fell, but by a smaller margin, to 12,200 units so far this year, compared with 14,840 in the same period a year earlier. Increases were seen in the larger suburban communities of Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam and New Westminster.

Eric Bond, CMHC principal market analysis in Vancouver, noted that the number of homes under construction hit a record high of 39,141 units across all of Metro Vancouver in May and remained near that level in June. He suggested the downturn in Vancouver starts may relate to developer fatigue. The constraints on builders are very real in terms of the availability and costs of equipment and materials, which means further increasing the pace of construction is challenging,” Bond said.

Vancouver developer and architect Michael Geller said the lack of condo starts in Vancouver may be linked to a current backlog of applications. “[The developers] are probably waiting for permits.”

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