Turncoats #6: God Has Left the Details – May 5

Turncoats is a shot in the arm. Framed by theatrically provocative opening gambits, a series of debates will rugby tackle fundamental issues facing contemporary practice with a playful and combative format designed to foment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.

Salivating over the way pieces of a building come together is a dangerous fetish. Most clear-headed people aren’t moved to tears by a carefully placed reveal or a custom handrail. They regard those who are as elitist and out of touch. The scale and speed of today’s design problems utterly dwarf the subtlety of architectural details. Don’t get lost in the pixels. It’s the picture that matters!

 

The Panel

Ian McDonald is a partner Carscadden Stokes McDonald Architects located in Vancouver. He taught at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture from 2005 until 2013, and was at one time, an aspiring Vancouver School Board candidate.

Ali Kenyon is an architect and designer at HCMA Architecture + Design. She has worked for Droog in Amsterdam, Molo in Vancouver, and curated the exhibition Tangential Vancouversim through 221a in 2012.

Mark Ritchie is a principal and co-founder of Architecture Building Culture. He has practiced internationally, run practices on two continents and was a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture and Design from 2002 to 2004.

Andrew Latreille is an architectural photographer based in both Vancouver and Melbourne whose photos have been highly awarded. He is a trained and registered non-practising architect in Australia.

 

Friday, May 5

6 – 9 pm

303 East 8th Avenue

Tickets here

 

Tide Changing in Seattle as Neighbourhood Council Input nixed by City

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Next City describes the changes occurring to the thirteen neighbourhood district councils in Seattle. These groups of activist homeowners have “held virtual veto power over nearly every decision on Seattle’s growth and development.” While in the past these homogeneous older and affluent resident councils have “shaped neighbourhoods in their own reflection” they also contributed to building a city that is livable,  although expensive.

Last July the City of Seattle cut their ties with these groups signalling “their intent to seek more input and feedback from lower-income folks, people of colour and renters-who make up 54 per cent of the city”. Instead Seattle’s department of neighbourhoods developed a 16 member “Community Involvement Commission”  which is “charged with helping city departments develop “authentic and thorough” ways to reach “all” city residents, including underrepresented communities such as low-income people, homeless residents and renters. Finally, DON will also oversee and staff a second new commission, the Seattle Renters’ Commission, which will advise all city departments on policies that affect renters and monitor the enforcement and effectiveness of the city’s renter protection laws.”

It is no surprise that in Seattle just as in Vancouver the homeowner dominated neighbourhood councils generally argued “against land use changes that would allow more density (in the form of townhouses and apartment buildings) in and near Seattle’s traditional single-family neighborhoods, which make up nearly two-thirds of the city. Including more renters and low-income people in the mix could dilute, or even upend, those groups’ agendas.”

The neighbourhoods department of the City of Seattle found “that while the population of Seattle was becoming younger, more diverse and more evenly split between homeowners and renters, “residents attending district council meetings tend to be 40 years of age or older, Caucasian and homeowners.” In the words of City Council member Sally Bagshaw “If you’ve ever gone to some of these community meetings, they’re just deadly dull, and the same 25 people have been there for 100 years.”

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Blank Boy Canvas

Walking near Nelson and Howe (808 Nelson St., Nelson Square) and discovered this fun showing.  Dozens of reproductions of a comic strip character called Tian Tian, in various sizes, altered by artists.

Tian Tian is the creation of Hong Kong’s Danny Yung. The exhibit is one of those things that makes a city a stimulating place, when serendipity meets cross-cultural fun.

Click any image to see a large version slideshow of them all.

The Blank Boy Canvas collaboration has been brought to North America in an exhibit designed to stimulate conversation about creative reasoning and the individual approach to creative execution. The three-dimensional, nearly 2 ft. casting has been given to selected artists to freely express, create or alter while exploring the theme of infinite possibilities.  This cross-cultural collaboration transcends language and denomination. Explore each artist’s creation, and learn more about them!

YouTube and an Eight Year Old Driver-joyride sojourn to McDonald’s.

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Remember when you got your first bike? The BBC reports on an eight year old that skipped the training wheels and went straight to driving the family car to McDonald’s, with his sister in the passenger seat. It was a  surprise when police started receiving calls that a small boy was driving a vehicle through town. “The boy drove 1.5 miles (2.4km), covering four intersections, railway tracks, and several turns, Police Constable Koehler told Cleveland news outlet Fox8.”

The kid drove right up to the drive through window of his local McDonald’s and asked for cheeseburgers and chicken mcnuggets while his parents were asleep at home.  Staff thought it was a prank. While witnesses pointed out that the young driver obeyed all traffic laws and lights, the eight year old said he had learned to drive by watching YouTube videos. No charges were laid.

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Whee. Let’s Master Plan the Arbutus Greenway

The City of Vancouver issued an 89-page RFP on March 1, 2017 for the next stage of the Greenway — final design, to take the form of a Master Plan.   It’s a map of many words to describe the Greenway’s transition from yesterday (derelict railroad), to today (the temporary corridor) to tomorrow:  the Arbutus Greenway.

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At this moment, the CoV should be in discussion with it’s short-listed proponents.  Or perhaps wrangling out contracts.

The RFP contemplates timing (selected excerpts):

  • Design workshop (charrette)  October 27-29, 2017 (optional – to be confirmed)
  • Preferred concept  December 22, 2017
  • Public Engagement Begins  Feb 15, 2018 (to be confirmed)
  • Draft Master Plan  April 9, 2018
  • Final Master Plan Report May 11, 2018

And effort (10,000 to 12,000 hours of work over 12 to 18 months).

The preliminary Project Objectives (page 17, B-8) are still subject to more public consultation, but today look like this (excerpted):

a) Enable people of all ages and abilities to safely and comfortably travel using a variety of non-motorized means between False Creek and the Fraser River: The Arbutus Greenway represents a unique opportunity to introduce safe, comfortable, and barrier-free pathways that will provide connections across the City and have limited encounters with motor vehicles. Safety and accessibility for all users will be key design outcomes against which the project will be measured.

(b) Provide opportunities for a future streetcar to be incorporated into the greenway: The City’s Transportation 2040 Plan envisions a local streetcar service using the corridor and, although it may not be added for many years, the design of the final greenway should anticipate and, to the extent possible, incorporate the physical requirements for a streetcar line. Several alignment options will need to be developed and assessed through the greenway planning process, and the greenway should be designed to minimize extensive reconstruction at the time of streetcar implementation. It is envisioned that this streetcar will be integrated as part of the region’s transit system.

(c) Provide a range of public spaces for people to gather and socialize, support community events and enable artistic expression: In addition to supporting active transportation and a future streetcar, it is envisioned the Arbutus Greenway will become a compelling linear public open space with places for people to pause, sit, gather, socialize, celebrate and recreate. Major public open spaces are expected at Broadway and in Kerrisdale, with minor public spaces where major roads intersect the greenway. Additionally there are significant opportunities to enhance public space and provide diverse gathering and socializing experiences where the greenway meets the seven adjacent parks. Art is also envisioned to be a significant element throughout the greenway. The design process will contemplate opportunities for public spaces and art on City lands both within and adjacent to the corridor.

(d) Improve connections within and across neighbourhoods adjacent to the greenway: The Arbutus Greenway project presents an opportunity to provide walking and cycling connections to and from adjacent neighbourhoods and community destinations (e.g., schools, community centres, etc.) that were discouraged, and in many cases prohibited by the former rail operation. A key component of this work is to develop context-sensitive relationships between the greenway and the seven city parks it abuts.

For me, the most fun part is in Part B (City Requirements). Starting with teasing apart the project into sections:  and adding the concept of “precincts” and specific planning areas.

RFP.Precincts

Quoting the RFP:

Kerrisdale Precinct (between W 37th and W 49th Ave) —  this area is the primary village node along the greenway, and is layered with First Nation and European settlement history. It once served as the administrative office for the Point Grey Municipality, before Point Grey amalgamated with the City of Vancouver and South Vancouver. And during the 1960s, Kerrisdale was considered one of Vancouver’s ‘complete communities’ due to its mix of commercial and residential development, cultural amenities, recreation facilities and transit connections, including the former ‘Sockeye Special’ interurban.

Broadway Precinct (between W 7th and W 10th Ave) —  this area will eventually become a key transit hub with the future streetcar line along the greenway connecting to the Arbutus Station of the Millennium Line SkyTrain extension that will run underneath Broadway. This will be a major transfer location for transit users and a hub of activity for foot and bike traffic. The public space here will need to reflect emerging plans for the Millennium Line Broadway Extension and integrate the various transportation uses and any opportunities for gathering space as well.

There are two planning areas outside of the core boundaries (Figure B-1) that frame the former rail corridor but are considered part of the study area for the design work. Understanding how the greenway extends through these areas will play an instrumental role in how well connected the greenway will be with other parts of the City:

Northern Planning Area: This zone includes the area generally from Burrard Street to Granville Street and from W 5th Avenue to False Creek. The master plan will need to include a design for high-quality greenway connections to the South False Creek
Seawall, Granville Island, Granville Bridge (including a proposed Granville Bridge
greenway) and other existing bike routes, and concepts for how the future streetcar
will link to Granville Island and points east; and,

Southern Planning Area: This zone generally covers an area from Fraser River Park, south to the Fraser River, north to Marine Drive, and east to the Oak Street Bridge. Key considerations include how the greenway meets the Fraser River, future
trails/greenways east and west along the river and how the streetcar line extends to
the east towards the Canada Line and possibly further east. This area is also of
significant cultural importance to the three Nations and a location at which they have an extended historical presence, which the greenway design must acknowledge and respect.

A few random snippets from here and there in the RFP, giving hints of scope and design for the project and the resulting Greenway:

  • Raised crossings, grade separation
  • Connections and linkages to parks, schools, neighbourhoods, businesses, transit and related Greenways (both north and south)
  • Both major (@ Kerrisdale, Broadway) and minor (@ major road intersections) public space designs
  • High quality landscape furniture (seating and tables), weather protection
  • Washrooms, fountains
  • Interactive play, fitness, etc.
  • Multi-modal network planning
  • Integration of public art (optional)
  • Heritage landscape planning (Ed: those blackberry bushes?)
  • Integrated commercial activity (patios) — Ed: but no mention of special status for Creme de la Creme retail outlets — a.k.a. Smug Shoppes. 

The End of the Suburban Mall As We Know It

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Henry Grabar in The Slate reports that it was  ten years ago that the  death of  the suburban shopping mall was announced.  This was the first year in fifty that no new malls were built in the United States. “Brick and mortar” retailing has been failing, when “The Limited, a women’s clothing store, shut down 250 stores and laid off 4,000 workers earlier this year. Sears Holdings will close 150 stores, including 108 Kmarts, and Macy’s will close another 100. As anchor stores close, more and more malls are entering foreclosure. Financial instruments composed of debt from mall deals are looking as risky as their counterparts in residential debt did before the housing crisis.”

E-commerce,the rise of Amazon and online shopping has taken some of the blame. While there is increasing employment in warehousing, “department stores; general merchandise stores; and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores” have lost jobs, with clothing stores severely hit the last few months. Ironically 71 per cent of workers in ” sales and related occupations live in the suburbs, according to the Brookings Institution, about 2 percentage points higher than the average for U.S. workers.”

What seems to be successful for retail is the mix of an urban “retail corridor” in cities, with “stores flanked by restaurants, bars, and other entertainment attractions”, close to mixed use density and good public transit. But while media has blamed internet shopping for the end of the suburban mall,  retail may have been overbuilt. The challenge for suburban locations is finding alternative ways to create employment and repurpose lands to contribute to the tax base.  As Leah McLaren writes in the Globe and Mail Canadians still have not caught up with online shopping. While  10 to 12 per cent of Americans spend on the Amazon shopping site, only 6 per cent of Canadians do. Colliers reports that “online shopping sales growth can be blamed for vacancy of roughly 14.8 million square feet of mall space between 2012 and 2014.” Given that indicator, shopping malls  will be shrinking dramatically in Canada as well, as E-commerce catches on.

It is therefore no surprise that the Vancouver Sun writes that malls “are fighting for shoppers with one things their web rivals can’t offer: parking lots”, by using them for carnivals, concerts and food truck festivals. Tsawwassen Mills which has had spectacularly empty parking lots featured a carnival on site this month. They are also now running a “shopping shuttle” picking up prospective shoppers in downtown Vancouver for a day of mall shopping at the Mills.  But will shuttles provide enough consumer traffic for that long drive in the face of the quick access of E-commerce and Amazon? Is this a portent of changing consumer tastes?

 

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Walk Across the Street Safely-Once you are 14 years of age.

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There were two pieces of advice moms universally give their children-don’t run with scissors, and to look both ways when you cross a road. Research from the University of Iowa indicates that the latter piece of advice is especially important, as it appears that children “ lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to cross a busy road consistently without putting themselves in danger.” Children from the ages of 6 to 14 years were placed in a realistic “simulated environment” and asked to cross one lane of a busy road several times. The video below shows one child taking part in the road simulation

The research shows children under certain ages lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to cross a busy road consistently without putting themselves in danger. The researchers placed children from 6 to 14 years old in a realistic simulated environment (see video) and asked them to cross one lane of a busy road multiple times.

“The crossings took place in an immersive, 3-D interactive space at the Hank Virtual Environments Lab on the UI campus. The simulated environment is “very compelling,” says Elizabeth O’Neal, a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences and the study’s first author. “We often had kids reach out and try to touch the cars.”

The results: When facing a “string of approaching virtual vehicles travelling at 25 miles per hour (considered a benchmark neighbourhood speed) , children had to cross a nine foot road 20 times. Researchers found that six-year-olds were struck by vehicles 8 per cent of the time; 8-year-olds were struck 6 per cent; 10-year-olds struck 5 per cent of the time, and 12-year-olds were struck 2 per cent. Children aged 14 and older had no accidents. With 8,000 injuries and 207 fatalities involving children under 14 in the United States in 2014, this study showed that perceptual ability and motor skills are not as developed in children, and they need larger gaps in traffic to access traffic speed and have compromised  crossing ability.

 

“They get the pressure of not wanting to wait combined with these less-mature abilities,” says Plumert, corresponding author on the study, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, published by the American Psychological Association. “And that’s what makes it a risky situation.” Recommendations include educating children to be more patient waiting, and requesting city planners to  demarcate intersections where children will cross with age appropriate “crossing aids”.

 

 

End of the Single Family Neighbourhood? Greater Vancouver Board of Trade

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The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade had a forum on  housing affordability and how to get young people living in the Metro Vancouver area. Encouraging transit accessibility and enhancing housing affordability is mandatory if Metro Vancouver is to thrive.

Glen Korstrom in  Business in Vancouver describes this forum as having two main approaches. The first is for municipalities to ” eliminate all single-family zoning while encouraging more townhomes, row houses and other gradual forms of densification in those neighbourhoods.” The second is to speed up building approvals and processes so that the 110,000 estimated units that can be built with existing zoning already in place can be expedited. Both approaches are radical-the first challenges the bastions of green lawned single family neighbourhoods; the second means honing municipal approval systems already decimated by retirements and inadequate staffing numbers.

“Why not rezone all the single-family zoning in the whole city in one day?” asked Reliance Properties president Jon Stovell to echo an idea espoused by Tsur Somerville, senior fellow with the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business’ Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.”

Allowing rowhouses or townhomes to be built in any single family neighbourhood would be politically challenging-but as City of Vancouver George Affleck suggested  “But we don’t need to do that. There’s enough density to meet the demand that we have in the city if we just loosen up the process for these places to be built and make it easier for smaller developers.”

What is interesting is such a radical idea brings out the importance of supporting seasoned developers that can do it right, and expedite development approvals for those builders across the region. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade stated “We can give incentives to people who want to do developments around transit. The linkage between housing affordability and transit is undeniable, so if someone is going to build a three- or four-storey condo complex near transit, put them at the head of the line.”

Some of the other recommendations that have come forward will get some eye rolling from city hall administrators-allowing bonus density to encourage more density; “pre-zoning ” transit-oriented sites during the planning process; and ending the process of negotiating community amenity contributions (CACs) individually with each project.

What will be important will be developing a balance between developers’ wants, community needs, urban design and livability, so that the finished product becomes part of the  place we all want to live in-an affordable, accessible-home.

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Bike the Blossoms — a Vancouver Tradition. Saturday April 29

Bike the Blossoms
One of the loveliest and liveliest family-friendly events of the year.  A mass ride through Vancouver streets burgeoning with blossoms.  Bike the Blossoms, my fave event of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. With thanks to Velopalooza.

FREE Event – Saturday April 29, 2017
Time: 11am-1pm
South side of John Hendry Park (Trout Lake), 3300 Victoria Drive (@ E 19th Ave., close to Lakewood Dr.)

Be sure to get there early to sign the waiver, unless you do it online.

Is Driving a Privilege or a Right?

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The National Post‘s Chris Selley tells the story of a woman in Toronto who by mistake drove a Mercedes SUV into a booth at Toronto’s City Place Urban Market, killing  one of two sisters in the booth. For this crime, the driver was given a $1,000 fine and a six month driving ban, but could still use the car for work and medical appointments.In another example, a driver who hit and killed a six-year-old child legally walking in a marked crosswalk. The penalty?  A two-year driving prohibition and a $2,000 fine.

A driver talking on a cellphone received only 20 days in jail and a two-year driving ban for killing a senior crossing a street on a green light. Why? Because under the Criminal Code “generally speaking, we shouldn’t be throwing people in jail for making careless mistakes, as opposed to for gross negligence or genuine intent to cause harm.”

The consequences resulting from killing by careless driving are still early twentieth century. You were inattentive, you didn’t really mean to kill the person. But in ” Ontario, the Burlington MPP and cabinet minister Eleanor McMahon tabled a private member’s bill last year that would create a new offence: “careless driving causing death or bodily harm.”McMahon’s late husband, OPP officer Greg Stobbart, died in 2006 after a driver struck him while he was cycling. The driver, Michael Duggan, had five convictions for driving with a suspended licence, four for driving uninsured, and a criminal record to boot. He had only just gotten his licence back — and only lost it again for a year.”

“People rarely feel gratified by someone who kills their loved one and walks away with a $500 fine,” says McMahon. “I want to recognize and honour that feeling of egregious resentment that people feel, that the law really … isn’t reflecting their sentiments.”

Is it time for the updating of Provincial highway and traffic acts to reflect the true  impacts of killing pedestrians and cyclists on the street? How did it happen that the maiming and murdering of innocent street users are still not reflected in the consequences? How did driving become a right?

Massey Bridge, Billion dollar Boondoggle?

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Imagine in fifty years what people will say about the decision-making occurring in Metro Vancouver. For some reason the Province has decided that the Metro region, the largest in the province is not an equitable partner and needs to be told what to do, despite the fact that there is a Mayor’s Council, a regional government, and TransLink, all committed to making the region accessible and affordable.

Those two elements are fundamental in the sustainable stewardship of the region. But not to the current government-it is all about those two second soundbites-Build a Bridge. Create jobs building a Bridge. Maybe build another bridge at Oak Street. Don’t consult with what is really needed. Don’t analyze why twinning the tunnel might be effective. And don’t tell citizens that the tunnel is being removed to provide deeper draft access for boats carrying hazardous items like LNG (liquid natural gas) to Asian ports.

The Premier continues to wear a blue hard hat when talking about her bridge. The blue hard hat is the colour of hard hat traditionally given to probationary workers that don’t know the job site, and require active supervision. Not listening to the Mayors’ Council, ignoring the regional plan for growth and spot building bridges in the wrong place serves no one.

As reported in the Delta Optimist a faction of local residents are continuing to speak out about this billion dollar blunder.  “Saying there’s a crises situation when it comes to the Fraser estuary and its sensitive habitat, biologist Otto Langer warned the new industrial era on the river, as well as the bridge, will completely wipe it the estuary in a few decades. He also said the federal government has also let the citizens of B.C. down. Richmond Councillor Harold Steves said the government’s “lies go on and on” and that he’s never heard so many untruths about a project before the bridge plan. He noted the structure will open up Delta and Richmond farmland for industrialization.”

Critics also “disputed a number of government conclusions including the claim the tunnel is at the end of its design life, noting that back in 2009 former Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon had declared the current tunnel was good for another 50 years.” 

So why is this bridge in the wrong place being built?

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Medicos Speak Out

The British Medical Journal published an editorial on April 19, 2017, advising as follows.  The message is hard to miss.

Governments should do all they can to encourage commuters to cycle or walk

Except of course, here in BC, the current Provincial election campaign features no promises containing a hint of a whisper of this thinking.  Instead, we see the major parties competing with each other to out-promise vote-catching bribes to encourage motor vehicle commuters.  “Cities In a Sea of Green” has been supplanted by “Bedroom Suburbs, Commuting in a Sea of Despair and Asphalt”.  Population health and health costs be damned.

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Governments should do all they can to encourage commuters to cycle or walk

Physical inactivity increases the risk of many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.1 Many adults are not attracted to sports and other leisure time physical activities but may be motivated to integrate physical activity into their everyday lives. Commuting by walking and cycling are such activities. In Denmark, cycling is embedded in the national culture for two reasons: it is easier to navigate cities by bicycle than by car, and taxation on new cars is punitive.

A link between cycling and health benefits has been clear for some years — my colleagues and I first reported in 2000 that all cause mortality was 30% lower in cyclists compared with non-cyclists after multivariate adjustment.2 Since then, many studies have consistently reported lower rates of cardiovascular disease,34 type 2 diabetes,5 cancers,4 and mortality6 associated with cycling compared with not cycling. Other studies have shown that walking is also associated with health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all cause mortality.7  . . . .  

. . .  The findings from this study are a clear call for political action on active commuting, which has the potential to improve public health by preventing common (and costly) non-communicable diseases. A shift from car to more active modes of travel will also decrease traffic in congested city centres and help reduce air pollution, with further benefits for health.

Thanks to Kay Teschke for the link.

Return Of the Zombie Villain

Yes, folks, the dope-smoking HIPPIE has returned from its societal graveyard to menace our land. Perhaps you thought this anarchy-promoting villain had died a merciful death in the ’70’s, along with tie-died t-shirts, bell-bottom jeans, communes, peace, love and flower power.

But here they return in a classic PostMedia headline.  Ripped from the dusty cobwebbed vaults of yesteryear.

Keep the hippies off the grass. Find them a proper venue and give them a permit already.

When it comes to riling up the readers of PostMedia’s Vancouver Sun newspaper, it looks like a return to these happy journalistic memories for Matt Robinson.  It’s sure to induce a suburb-wide wonderful glow of nostalgia and a cozily familiar frenzy of pearl-clutching, tut-tutting and sharp intakes of breath.

Here’s two photos from the 2016 event.

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For those interested, here’s a report from the GM of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation (March 1, 2017) on the permit application from the Vancouver 420 Events Society for the April 20, 2017 event at Sunset Park.  It’s dull as day-old dishwater, of course, with no warning of the insidious resurrection of HIPPIES.  There is mention of Park Board bylaw problems (yawn):  smoking in the park, selling stuff.   Plus concern for health, safety and so on.

While both groups acknowledge the challenging aspects associated with the 420 celebration and protest, they also recognize that the event will occur regardless.  Further, with the impending federal legalization of marijuana, there is recognition that in the foreseeable future, the 420 initiative will likely shift from being a protest to a legal celebration. . . .

.  .  .   CONCLUSION Staff are aware that the 420 celebratory and protest event will be occurring at Sunset Beach Park regardless of whether the Park Board approves the special event permit and by-law exemption that has been requested by the organizers.  As such, the Working Group and Steering Committee continues to refine operational plans that are informed by past learnings.  While taking a provisional approach may provide more mechanisms to regulate the event, staff will use whatever tools are available to ensure that public health and safety is the first priority and that impacts to the park and local community are mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

Personally, I see the recent 420 events as a shrinking protest or celebration, and a growing marketing event at which proto-businesses vie to create and elevate their consumer brands in the impending post-legalization marketplace.  There are major fortunes waiting out there for those who make it to the top of the heap brand-wise.  Not to mention behind-the-scenes business opportunities (see below).

Brands getting major visual space in 2016 included:  The One Stop Shop, Dirty’s 100% Organic, Dab City, Mary Jane’s, CCHQ (Cannabis Culture Headquarters:  “head”, get it?), CannaBliss.

Behind-the-scenes businesses are moving right along:

Invest In Cannabis  (articles on Marijuana ETF’s, US Sales figures, VC-backing opportunities, and so on)

Hill and Gertner Capital Corp::  a merchant bank with design and brand experience, and active involvement in rising brand Tokyo Smoke. A fascinating read.

Is a Dot.Bong Bubble In the Air?:  warns the Globe and Mail about marijuana industry investors, and the usual scam companies:

The hype surrounding this new sector has seen junior mining companies rebrand as medical marijuana firms almost overnight. Amid a flurry of press releases from companies touting future production, stock regulators in Canada and the United States took the unusual step of warning investors to tread carefully around medical marijuana stocks, fearing a bubble is forming and that stock manipulations among small companies on venture exchanges and over-the-counter markets may be taking place.

To round out the breadth of the scene:

From Global News:   The cannabis industry is sparking an interest among investors.

Connor Cruise, CEO of Brassneck Capital Corp., invested in a licensed cannabis company and helped take it public.

“There’s a lot of upside to this,” he said, adding spin-off industries could also thrive as Canada cultivates its pot industry and the government moves to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

“Everything from lighting to fertilizers to technology companies,” he explained. “A lot of larger companies haven’t touched this space because it’s been a grey or black market. But now with it getting legalized, you’re going to see more of that come into it and I think that’s great.”

Marijuana growing companies are also proving to be a safer bet than some more traditional resource investments.

“If you take a look at the stock markets, oil has gone down, but all the marijuana stock have held steady .. last six months,” said Justin Dhaliwal.

For those interested in social satire, here’s a free idea.  A piece on the total corporatization of a future 420 Event — sort of a Car Show or Boat Show or Home Show for the cannabis industry. Imagine the hilarious dislocation and conflict between the marketing crowd (grinning cubicle drones) and the hard-core pot underground holdouts.  Hours of fun.

Oh yes, and a chance to put HIPPIES on display again.

Ontario-Changes to Rentals, New Foreign-Buyers’ Tax

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The Globe and Mail reports that  some aspects of Vancouver’s foreign-buyers regulation have been embraced in Greater Toronto’s “Golden Horseshoe” the area from Peterborough to the Niagara region that houses a population of over 9.25 million people.

Effective today a new measure similar to Vancouver’s foreign-buyers tax will apply to buyers who are not Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Foreign companies will also not be exempt. The tax will be 15 per cent of the value of the purchase in a market that already has 8 per cent of home owners being non-residents. Those folks will also need to prove “ that they have a legitimate reason for buying property in Ontario that goes beyond investing. The tax is not aimed at new Canadians, according to Premier Kathleen Wynne. It will be reimbursed to buyers who become permanent residents within four years of a sale, and won’t apply to international students enrolled full-time for at least two years or someone who has been legally working in Ontario for at least one year. To qualify for a rebate, the property must also be considered someone’s principal residence.”

What is also interesting is that Ontario is planning to bring all rental apartments under rent control, meaning that rent hikes will be held “around inflation, and capped at 2.5 per cent a year, although landlords can still apply for special increases if they do renovations or upgrades. Rents can be raised when a tenant moves out.” Lease agreements are going to be standardized, and provisions when tenants could be vacated if  the landlord wanted to move in are being tightened, with compensation now required for such lease termination.

Ontario has also announced a $125 million dollar program to rebate development cost charges to boost new apartment building construction, targeting areas where housing need is greatest. Powers for a vacant home tax enactment are also being given to the City of Toronto and other municipalities with housing shortages. The challenge of “paper flipping”, called “assignments” in British Columbia is also being investigated where titles of condominium units are sold with a market lift prior to the occupancy permits being granted.

These are measures towards providing housing affordability and accessibility in a market that is “saturated with families…who are not able to buy and are forced to rent indefinitely.” Diverse development is needed to accommodate a range of different family types and household sizes and incomes.

These are major changes in acknowledging the need for housing affordability and accessibility to appropriate housing-but is it too little too late for Toronto?

housing

Cote on Congestion: Beyond ‘cap’ or ‘scrap’

An op-ed in The Sun from Jonathan Cote, the mayor of New Westminster and chair of the Funding Strategy Committee for the TransLink Mayors’ Council.

Transportation has become a big issue in the provincial election campaign. …

However, the debate so far has focused on whether to continue charging tolls for crossing certain bridges. The B.C. NDP proposes to eliminate tolls altogether, while the B.C. Liberals want to cap the amount charged per year at $500. …

But the so-called “cap” or “scrap” policies won’t help affordability of transportation over the long term, nor improve our region’s quality of life.

… those of us who have a role in shaping the future of transportation in Metro Vancouver must agree on some key principles that should guide all of the decisions we make — independently and collectively. These principles are:

1. Mobility. Changes to our transportation network must improve mobility for people and goods in the region, by providing more choices, reducing travel times and improving the experience of users.

2. Accountability. Every dollar raised from fares, fees, taxes or other revenues intended for transportation must contribute to improvements that benefit the travelling public and that will help meet our objective of reducing congestion.

3. Fairness. Benefits of new transportation infrastructure and services, and revenues to support them, should be applied in an equitable way throughout the region. Our transportation network is integrated — all users should contribute to maintaining it.

4. Affordability.  A high-quality transportation network that improves mobility gives residents more choice where to live and work, which helps combat the region’s housing affordability challenges. At the same time, building and maintaining this network must respect taxpayers by making smart choices to keep costs low, and maximize return on investment.

5. Engagement. Metro Vancouver residents and businesses should have a say in establishing priorities and making choices about transportation improvements, and how those improvements are paid for.

So where do we go from here? An important study is about to begin later this spring that will provide recommendations on a made-in-BC solution for pricing transportation in this region, and will tackle the issue of tolling head-on. The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission — led by experts and local community leaders — will undertake extensive research and public consultation, and look at best practices from other jurisdictions around the world. …   Once the commission completes its work and residents have had their say, the Mayors’ Council and provincial government can then make decisions about the best way forward. …

During this provincial election campaign, the Mayors’ Council is asking the major parties to clarify their commitments to Phase Two of the Vision. In addition to new rapid transit projects in Vancouver, Surrey and Langley — which the federal and provincial governments recently committed matching funding for — the Phase Two plan includes replacing the aging Pattullo Bridge; upgrading the existing SkyTrain system to deal with growing demand; expanding bus service; improving HandyDART service; ongoing improvements to road conditions for drivers, and safety improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. More information is available at CureCongestion.ca.

 

 

Data Heaven (American Cloud)

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Okay, data nerds, go crazy.

Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove – The New York Times  

On Tuesday, Mr. Ballmer plans to make public a database and a report that he and a small army of economists, professors and other professionals have been assembling as part of a stealth start-up over the last three years called USAFacts. The database is perhaps the first nonpartisan effort to create a fully integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments.

Want to know how many police officers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates? Want to know how much revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect? Want to know what percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it? That’s in there. You can slice the numbers in all sorts of ways.

The Futility of Knowledge

In contrast to former Microsoft chief Steven Ballmer’s belief that putting data into the hands of citizens will help democracy, a new book – The Knowledge Illusion – argues that more individual knowledge isn’t going to help. 

People Have Limited Knowledge. What’s the Remedy? Nobody Knows – The New York Times 

According to Sloman (a professor at Brown and editor of the journal Cognition) and Fernbach (a professor at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business), providing people with more and better information is unlikely to improve matters. Scientists hope to dispel antiscience prejudices by better science education, and pundits hope to sway public opinion on issues like Obamacare or global warming by presenting the public with accurate facts and expert reports.

Such hopes are grounded in a misunderstanding of how humans actually think. Most of our views are shaped by communal groupthink rather than individual rationality, and we cling to these views because of group loyalty. Bombarding people with facts and exposing their individual ignorance is likely to backfire. Most people don’t like too many facts, and they certainly don’t like to feel stupid. If you think that you can convince Donald Trump of the truth of global warming by presenting him with the relevant facts — think again.