Counterpoint — Growing Up Wealthy

West Vancouver’s British Properties is in many ways an opposite world from the West End. Charles Gillis writes in Maclean’s about children and their social development in this exclusive and wealthy ‘hood.

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Photo by Simon Hayter

But the area’s soaring property values have been eclipsed this fall by a different, equally dramatic measure of well-being: fully 43 per cent of kindergarten-aged kids from the neighbourhood qualified this year as “vulnerable” on a standard index of childhood development, according to an annual state-of-the-city report—a third more than last year and four times the level seen 10 years ago. The kids were assessed on the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a tool used by all 13 provinces and territories to measure school readiness based on language skills, emotional maturity, socialization, physical health and general knowledge. Officials with the West Vancouver Community Foundation, the non-profit organization that publishes the report, believe language is the biggest factor. About 41 per cent of residents in West Vancouver are first-generation immigrants, they note, and the number is steadily growing.

But the language barrier alone doesn’t explain the slow development of the Properties’ pre-schoolers. The neighbourhood remains a redoubt of the world’s blessed and clever, from software tycoons to famous architects. Its sons and daughters enjoy every advantage over their less wealthy peers, be they excellent genes or infinity pools in which to learn the dog paddle. Yet the proportion categorized as vulnerable puts the area on par with low-income immigrant neighbourhoods such as Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park, whose residents face the same linguistic challenges and a fraction of the disposable income to address them.

It’s been enough to make community leaders in West Van reconsider assumptions about money’s power to close social and cultural gaps. Nancy Farran, chair of the city’s community foundation, has gone so far to suggest that the trappings of wealth themselves—live-in nannies, perimeter fences, winding approaches guarded by electronically controlled gates—discourage neighbourhood youngsters from socializing, deepening the linguistic divide. . . .

. . . .  Though prices in the Properties remain at historic highs, he notes B.C.’s 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers has sliced into sales volumes, suggesting a reckoning that, from a community perspective, could be salutary. It would at least provide a breather, allowing those who came to stay to rethink the value of a lifestyle so exclusive that their children seldom venture beyond the hedges.

City Talks Snowmeggedon in July

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It may be July, but a lot of us have not forgotten what last winter was like, with icy sidewalks, snowy streets, and abandoned garbage collection as sanitation crews struggled to get up and down laneways. The CBC reports that the City of Vancouver has  learned from the disastrous glacial pace of the salt trucks and plows, and are planning an increased budget for more materials and more vehicles for this winter season. There’s some interesting information too-last winter was classified as a one in thirty year event, with the longest continuous  stretch of days with temperatures at 5 degrees or below-42 days.

The Council Report   outlines a strategy to prepare in advance of a snow event and then to follow-up when one occurs. There is priority for emergency routes and “pedestrian paths associated with Priority 1 bike lanes” which will be cleared in under 12 hours. Within 48 hours, school routes, collector streets and transit routes will be cleared; and within 7 days,  remaining emergency routes and arterial sidewalks will be cleared.

The City is also contemplating fining folks who are driving in Vancouver’s snowy conditions without snow tires. As the report notes: “Some of the obstacles to snow clearing included people driving ill-equipped private vehicles that blocked traffic and snow clearing equipment. In addition to providing clear messaging about travel during snow events, the following is recommended:

Amendment of the by-law to fine drivers that are on the road in snow conditions without winter tires;
Installation of signage at entry points to the city to reinforce that vehicles need to be properly equipped to drive in the city during snow events; and
Inclusion of information about public responsibilities for winter driving readiness in the City of Vancouver with City tax receipt mail outs.”

Taryn Scollard who wrote the Council report noted to the CBC:  “It’s about those who have caused disruptions,” she said. “It’s essentially trying to help people understand to play their part. Certainly on those snow days if you choose to not get winter tires then perhaps you stay home, take transit or bike or walk.”

The City will also be upgrading their response to people who have not shovelled the sidewalk in front of their residential properties by 10:00 a.m. every day as specified in the bylaw.  While most people hope that last winter’s long stay won’t  be repeated soon, the council report does mention that “these more extreme weather events may become more frequent in light of climate change.” 

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Growing Up In the West End

Lots to think about in this article by Christopher Cheung in the Vancouver Courier.

  • A lovely counterpoint to the relentless car suburb and freeway propaganda that dominates such discussions far too often.  From a family and kids point of view.
  • A celebration of Vancouver’s success at building a human-friendly and wonderfully livable place.  On a large scale, too.
  • Amid vast and vicious howling that made recent bike lane noise sound like lone sparrows, the City traffic-calmed the West End in the 1970’s.  Many blocks of asphalt became mini-parks, and rat-running commuters were taken off residential streets. Today, my estimate is that West End residents would take down city hall, brick by brick, and throw it off the Burrard Street bridge if anyone even suggested reversing this traffic-calming.
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West End back yard, one of many:   click to enlarge the photo.

Sample quote from the article:   The West End has bustling strips of convenient local businesses with everything from gay bars to delis to laundromats, but tucked behind them is a different treasure: the neighbourhood’s residential streets.

Cotic-Ehn says walking them can be like being “in a bubble” because it’s so calm and quiet.

In the 1970s, the city began adding road diverters and mini-parks in the West End.

“It was called traffic calming, but it was really public space making, knitting the fabric to a human scale,” says Sandy James, a former planner at the city for 28 years.

Maintaining a human scale means prioritizing the human experience in urban design — creating places where people feel welcome. That means safety for pedestrians but also convenience and delight, inviting people to slow down and stick around.

“All the buildings are a bit different in the West End,” James says. “There’s visual interest. They have a different rhythm.”

There are heritage single-family houses (the West End was the city’s elite neighbourhood before Shaughnessy), masonry and wood-frame apartment buildings and concrete highrises. Their colours are everything from forest green to cream to pink to lime. And tying them all together are mature, leafy trees.

Maintaining a human scale also paves the way for street life, even in residential areas. The West End has lush side gardens, bulletin boards covered with notes and well-used apartment porches with plants and furniture. Good neighbourhoods like this allow residents to express themselves.

And yes, that’s PT’s own Sandy James quoted above.

CRA Flipping out on Flippers

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Source: Globe and Mail

Darryl Greer of Business in Vancouver reports on a practice that has been so universally accepted that even folks employed in banks were doing it-buying condos before they were built, and then “flipping” or selling the presale contracts before the buildings were ready for occupancy.  All of this was completely legal with the Income Tax Act. But the Canada Revenue Agency  (CRA) was not happy.

In what will be a “landmark” case  the CRA has asked that the landowners/builders of the PCI Gateway project at Marine Drive and Manitoba “hand over information or documents on buyers who assigned their contracts prior to completion.” The CRA has to get this information from the original developer because it cannot “obtain the identities of the unnamed Assignor(s) from [a] publicly available source.”

As Darryl Greer notes, “Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) spokesman David Morgan explained the rationale behind the applications. In general, people who buy and resell homes in a short period for a profit may be engaged in property flipping. The CRA acquires and analyzes third-party data and uses this information to identify whether all income from property flipping is being reported correctly. The profits from flipping real estate are generally considered to be fully taxable as business income. The facts of each case determine whether such profits should be reported as business income or as a capital gain.”

So how much did prices rise during presales of these condo units?  At the Residences at West project at 1783 Manitoba Street presales started at $294,900 for a one bedroom. Today  a  one bedroom on a top floor “was assessed at $816,000, up from $620,000 a year prior.”  The building was completed in 2015 according to the BC Assessment Authority.

The developer behind the project states: “They’ve (the CRA) requested some information and we are not going to provide or disclose any information on our purchasers or the purchase contracts without being assured that they have proper authority to get that information. If they have to go to court to get that, then so be it, and if they get that authority, we will co-operate, but only to the extent we’re required to.”

Stay tuned. Those days of flipping condo assignments with no tax implication before occupancy may now be numbered.

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Pressing That Pedestrian Button

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As reported in the Boston Globe, more American cities are taking the attitude that their city traffic flows  well without the intervention of  pedestrians touching  the  walk/don’t walk push button.  Imagine-remember all those times you were visiting New York, Seattle and London and thought that merely pressing the pedestrian walk button somehow gave you unbridled priority over vehicular traffic? Um, no. Those cities have already decided their light cycles on many major streets.

Even those wonderful Belisha beacons (as in the photo above) are being retired in Great Britain. They are named after Leslie Hore-Belisha the British Minister of Transport that first installed these lights in 1934.

But back to Boston. In Boston  “the city sets most traffic signals, particularly during the hectic daytime hours, to a schedule that gives people on foot a chance to cross at regular intervals, while ensuring that drivers get their turn, too.”  And thinking that walkers are understandably dismayed at hitting fake “placebo” buttons to cross the street, “Boston officials say the setting is actually aimed at making life easier for walkers by eliminating the need to push a button at all.”

Because of heavy traffic volume in many downtown cores pedestrian crossing time is just incorporated in the intersection timing. “A lot of these intersections were at some point designed more for motor vehicle movements, and later on cities said, ‘Oh, we want to make this more for pedestrians,’ ” said Alex Engel, of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Now many traffic lights are simply programmed assuming that pedestrians will be crossing on every cycle. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for walkers, and does slow down and pulse traffic on major streets. As Gina Fiandaca the commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department states “Ideally, the signal functions in such a way that you minimize the wait time for pedestrians, ” Surprisingly Ms. Fiandaca did not give a list of pedestrian intersections in Boston that are on this automatic light cycle.

New York City has removed hundreds of nonfunctioning pedestrian push buttons. It is an odd experience to be on a street without the button, but the cycle time and the walk time in New York City is fairly generous.  There’s also an interesting story about Winnipeg who was required to remove pedestrian activated buttons in response to a lawsuit undertaken by an advocacy group for visually impaired and disabled wheelchair users. The  2008 settlement meant that most pedestrian buttons downtown have been replaced with an audible message button. However buttons are still in use in other parts of the city.

But why keep pedestrian push buttons on traffic poles if they really don’t change the traffic cycle? As one Bostonian said “They’re there to calm the tourists.”

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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.

Three bedroom challenge