CN Rail, District of West Vancouver, and One Walkway/Bikeway

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Its one of those stories that just won’t go away-why do the railways in major cities behave in such an unfriendly  manner? As reported in Business in Vancouver  Jane Seyd in the Northshore News has written about CN Rail undertaking a lawsuit  asking for millions of dollars a year in rent to CN Rail from the District of West Vancouver..

“On Feb. 17, CN Acquisition, an arm of the railway company, filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against the municipality, stating that the rail company had cancelled the district’s lease. The suit asks for an injunction preventing the District of West Vancouver from trespassing on the land.The lawsuit also seeks damages for the district’s use of the land and for overdue rental payments.

The municipality has fired back with an application filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency, a quasi-judicial federal agency that oversees railway operations. In that, the district has asked for an order allowing the municipality continued use of the Seawalk over the CN right-of-way, “which has been used by the residents of West Vancouver for the past 50 years” and which “forms an integral part of the system of pedestrian walkways in place in West Vancouver.”

So it seems that there has been no lease or rental payments for two decades and that CN had wanted the District to pony up for a payment for that recreational walking corridor. It also seemed appropriate to CN Rail for the District of West Vancouver with a population of 42,000 to pay an annual rent of 3.7 million dollars. Since the offer from the District was $12,500 you could say the two parties are far apart in the negotiating.

It appears that since 1913 West Vancouver allowed rail corridors on their land as long as there were public crossings. The question is whether the very popular Seawalk, which was also in the lands acquired by CN Rail when they took over BC Rail in 2004 is a “crossing” or -well, something they can get some good revenue from.

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Church Rezoning versus Single Family Neighbours

 

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Cheryl Chan in the Vancouver Sun  reports on the  Dunbar Ryerson United Church located in Kerrisdale that has  a bucolic setting in Kerrisdale. The land is currently zoned  for single family  housing and is a massive block and a half in size.  The church itself needs some major repairs and the congregation went to the City to change the zoning of its property along the east side of Yew Street beside West 45th Avenue from single family to a comprehensive development zone. After that change, Wall Financial would then develop an eight storey   forty unit condominium and scaled two and half level townhouses on that part of the site which now houses the church’s community centre and an income generating rental home.

Seeing that the church badly needed funding for a rejuvenation of their stone church’s roof  and for a siesmic upgrade, this made sense. It also would allow more housing choice for seniors aging out of their single family residences and for families trying to locate into Kerrisdale.  Reverend Debra Bowman stated Vancouver needs more housing and more density. “We need a stronger capacity for multiple generations to live in this neighbourhood.”

Well this did not go well with the residents in the surrounding single family homes. With an active “NO Ryerson Rezoning” campaign those folks think the project will attract traffic and parking, even though the location is close to good transit and shopping. A resident spokesperson who has lived in the area for 40 years states the classically expected line, that density is not needed in this location, and if it was just three or four stories, that would have been fine.

This is a block and a half of land in an old-established neighbourhood where something transformative could happen that could allow seniors to age in place and new families to transition in. The No Ryerson Rezoning group are saying that increased traffic on the 45th Avenue bikeway is  another reason not to allow 40 units of housing. These folks want that “gentle density” through more costly  to purchase laneway houses and infill, and  argue that three dwelling units-a basement suite, coach house and house can be built on one lot. At some point should we start looking at these rezoning opportunities as the potential to keep people in the community and have housing diversity?  How do you present change to the people in single family homes  in the neighbourhood with a single family lifestyle?  How can we embrace change and housing choice in these residential bastions?

City of Vancouver staff and church representatives are holding an open house Monday (today) from 5 to 8 p.m. on Monday (February 27) at 2195 West 45th Avenue.

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Density and the Missing Middle-Video Now available

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Further to the talk  by Michael Geller at Simon Fraser University about  European examples of “middling” density and form (as featured here by Price Tags on Monday February 20th) the video of the presentation is now available below. Would these housing forms be more acceptable in Vancouver neighbourhoods off the downtown peninsula?

 

Video by Oscar Boyson: The Future of Cities

Herb Auerbach (author, with Ira Nadel, of “Placemakers”) passes this video along – fast-paced, funny , with a truly global perspective.  Says Herb: “Of course there are two futures for cities, the one described in the video or the less desirable future realized by Aleppo and Hiroshima.”

 

 

Especially check out “Transportation and Choices” at 5.50 and see why Shenzhen will have our lunch.

Daily Scot: Character Housing- “That’s not going to work …”

Scot links to another story from CBC on the hottest housing story at the moment, with this note: “The video is good.  Brendon Is a frequent PT commenter who started Abundant Housing Vancouver.”

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Speaking of PT commenters, two regular contributors – Michael Kluckner and Bryn Davidson – will be debating the issue at the next Urbanarium debate on March 8:

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Details and tickets here.

 

Reboot, Renew, Rebrand that City

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With a whole bunch of other issues going on, the City has decided to change its brand. As Wanyee Li reports in the Metro News  there was a need to create a new watermark that was recognizable for people whose first language was not English. So what is rebranding? Wikipedia describes it as  a marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, or combination thereof is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, competitors, and other stakeholders.”

The Council report states that the” prime business trigger for this activity is referenced in the Vancouver Innovation Economy presentation to Council…In addition, results from a 2016 “Quality of Living Index” report conducted by Mercer and released annually states that Vancouver is ranked number five on a list of cities with the best quality of life in the world. This report stated that Vancouver ‘is among Canada’s densest, most ethnically diverse with 52% of its population having a first language that is not English.”

This is what the brand currently looks like and has served the City for about ten years. If you were involved with the 2010 Olympics, you will recognize this brand which was copiously used on the Vancouver jackets worn by City staff:

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This is what the City’s crest looks like, with two lumberjack types and their haul of fish and  an axe to chop lumber. It is a descendant from an earlier 1903 crest, and a large embroidered copy of it is vanquished in a committee room at City Hall. This crest was first designed in 1928 and was rejected by the College of Arms. By 1932, a civic committee had given up trying to register it, but it was revived in the late 1960’s and was finally approved in 1969-and in use by January 1970.

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And here’s the new proposed branding:

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The City has already trademarked the new logo which will be  going for approval on Wednesday. The cost of creating the new lettering was $8,000 or  $530 dollars a letter. This new logo  will be slowly adopted throughout 2017 as it becomes the new corporate brand of the City.

1940, Housing, And Why this Matters

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As Chris Brown reports on the CBC there has been a major brouhaha regarding the City of Vancouver’s 12,000 homes that were built before 1940. In a city that had almost a thousand demolition permits taken out in 2016 (the majority in Dunbar-Southlands) the past is getting-well, lost. Of those demolished, two-thirds  of the houses were built before 1940.

In response, the City has created a “Character Home zoning review” proposing to discourage the demolition of this older housing stock by permitting replacement houses to be sizably smaller. This has not gone over well with “Many homeowners, developers, pro-density groups and even key heritage advocates are all pushing back hard against the “preservationist” plan now under discussion.”

Arguments against the designation include stifling architectural design,  and freezing much-needed locations for townhouses and family focused higher density. The City of Vancouver’s Director of Planing Gil Kelley  notes “The younger generation is feeling sqSo opening up new options for affordability and different living option choices for them is really critical — even as people here who are older are trying to hang on to what they already know.”

There have been some issues regarding the  character home designation-how will property owners be compensated for reduced returns on the property? And if a character home is deemed to be beyond rebuilding (and there will need to be guidelines to define that) can those single family lots be filled with more family friendly and affordable higher density housing forms? And in the end, can we create a new way of looking at density in this Character Home zoning review that can move the large single family areas of the city into something that is denser and more attainable for newly formed families? Our future depends on that.

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Bad Congestion? It’s Good For You!

 

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Remember the Tom Tom Annual Survey of  Traffic Congestion suggesting that Vancouver is a parking lot of traffic?   And Minister of Transportation Todd Stone calling the Massey Tunnel one of the most congested places in British Columbia according to a Canadian Automobile Association Survey?

Business in Vancouver reporter Patrick Blennerhasset cuts through the congestion chat by talking to a transportation expert,  City of Vancouver Manager of Transportation Steve Brown. Steve notes that we need to define what we mean by congestion. Congestion can also be a very good thing-if transit or biking or walking is more efficient and gets you to a place faster, then congestion is your active transportation friend. The slower traffic, the safer active transportation users are too-while only ten per cent of pedestrians will survive a vehicular collision at 50 km/h that rises to a 90 per cent chance of survival with a vehicular collision at 30 km/h.

Steve Brown has great logic-“the key for Vancouver to continue to relieve congestion lies in creating alternative transportation methods to automobile trips…Over the last few years, we have seen a lot more concerns over congestion. And because we’re kind of falling behind on some of our transit infrastructure investments, we’re seeing that there are tending to be more trips lately relying on the road network.”

So…bolstering active transportation and transit reduces congestion, actually making driving easier for folks that want to do this. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? And that is where misinformation comes in.

“Last year, Langley City councillor Nathan Pachal compiled the 2016 Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions. He gave Vancouver a high ranking in terms of public transportation—second only to Montreal—using Canada Transit’s Fact Book 2014 Operating Data by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, which gathers its data from transit agencies across the country and Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. Pachal also called into question the accuracy of the TomTom rankings. He said during the transit referendum in 2015, discussion around congestion in Vancouver reached a fever pitch.”

And back to those Tom Tom Statistics-those are predicated upon counting the extra travel time during peak hours for a vehicle versus the time taken to travel during no traffic conditions, and then multiplied for 230 working days a year. Remember that Tom Tom’s clients are drivers, and therefore cities with freeways and highways that provide a quick exit are ranked highly, with no ranking given to alternative transit modes or active transportation.

While Vancouver ranked as the 34th most congested cities for vehicle users according to Tom Tom, “the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, has ranked Vancouver 157th worldwide in terms of traffic congestion.”  Why? Because INRIX a Kirkland, Washington-based transportation analytics company, analyzed traffic congestion in 1,064 cities for its second annual report. Its methodology calculates congestion at different times of the day in different parts of a city using 500 terabytes of data from 300 million different sources covering over five million miles of road. ” This is a much more sophisticated analysis on “overall travel times” as opposed to peak versus free-flow times.

But neither of these two approaches factor in active transportation or transit, and measure a city’s performance by the efficiency of this type of movement. While Tom Tom may be getting a lot of attention, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard is perhaps a more accurate gauge. Here’s to an index that also factors in other users besides vehicular.

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INRIX Global Traffic Index Scorecard:

  •   Los Angeles
  •   Moscow
  •   New York
  •   San Francisco
  •   Bogota, Colombia
  •   Sao Paolo, Brazil
  •   London, England
  •   Magnitogorsk, Russia
  •   Atlanta
  •   Paris, France

 TomTom Traffic Index ranking:

  •   Mexico City
  •   Bangkok, Thailand
  •   Jakarta, Indonesia
  •   Chongqing, China
  •   Bucharest, Romania
  •   Istanbul, Turkey
  •   Chengdu, China
  •   Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  •   Beijing, China
  •   Changsha, China

This Just In: UDI State of the Market 2016 Report

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Multi-Family Housing shortage still a major issue

AFFORDABILITY IS NOT EXPECTED TO IMPROVE

Feb. 20, 2017

VANCOUVER, BC —Only eight new townhome units were completed and available for purchase across the entire lower mainland region at the end of December, according to UDI’s latest fourth quarter State of the Market 2016 Research Report on population growth, new home sales and supply.

“The report confirms that doing nothing, blaming foreign buyers, or introducing new, punitive taxes have not made housing more plentiful or affordable for home-seekers,” says UDI President & CEO Anne McMullin.

“We need more houses for more people, especially along rapid transit corridors,” she added.  We have plenty of available land, but 85% of it is locked up as restrictive, single family zoning, meaning no multi-family condos, townhomes, rowhomes, duplexes or even sales of laneway homes are permitted. Coupled with years of delays in multi-family building approvals, rising land costs and lack of available land to build on, aside from industrial, agricultural and park land reserves, home-seekers can count on prices to keep rising,” she added. “We all have to share in the solutions and consider the greater good and community health.”

She cautioned that when interpreting this report, the best measurement is what new housing is currently “available”, not just how many “housing starts” exist; they’re often pre-sold before they’re even built.

Report Highlights:

  • Eight townhome units available and unsold across the Metro Vancouver. This is not a typo. See chart 8.4 on page 14.
  • Metro Vancouver currently has only 26 concrete condo units completed and unsold. See graph 6.4 on page 12.
  • Metro Vancouver population up 30,700 over the past year.  Current population is now estimated at 2,177,200 residents See chart 1.1 on page 7.
  • Rental vacancies are continuing to be wafer-thin across Metro with most municipalities having a less than .6% vacancy rate. See chart 5.6 on page 11.
  • Wood frame condos show a 92% decrease in inventory compared to that same fourth quarter in 2015 and also represents a six-year low. See chart 7.4 on page 13.

More Hum; Less Varoom

The Economist reviews the speed of change in motor vehicles.  The internal combustion engine’s replacement by the electric motor is happening faster than expected. It often seems that technical progress exceeds expectations, while we humans change slowly.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons

The implications are clear.  More electrical energy usage; less fossil fuel usage, leading to demand reduction.  Greater impetus to “leave it in the ground”, and growth of such stranded assets as an issue for utilities, fossil-fuel corporations and the governments that subsidize and enable them.  If, that is, we can overcome resistance to change by fossil-fuel companies, their captured governments, and their well-funded propaganda agents. And if we can continue to take advantage of the dropping costs for renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The demand reduction scenario is especially concerning for Alberta’s highest-of-all high-cost tar sands industry.

THE high-pitched whirr of an electric car may not stir the soul like the bellow and growl of an internal combustion engine (ICE). But to compensate, electric motors give even the humblest cars explosive acceleration. Electric cars are similarly set for rapid forward thrust. Improving technology and tightening regulations on emissions from ICEs is about to propel electric vehicles (EVs) from a niche to the mainstream. After more than a century of reliance on fossil fuels, however, the route from petrol power to volts will be a tough one for carmakers to navigate. . . .

Ford’s boss is bolder still. In January Mark Fields announced that the “era of the electric vehicle is dawning”, and he reckons that the number of models of EVs will exceed pure ICE-powered cars within 15 years. Ford has promised 13 new electrified cars in the next five years. Others are making bigger commitments. Volkswagen, the world’s biggest carmaker, said last year that it would begin a product blitz in 2020 and launch 30 new battery-powered models by 2025, when EVs will account for up to a quarter of its sales. Daimler, a German rival, also recently set an ambitious target of up to a fifth of sales by the same date.