1 Transit Infrastructure: Underinvestment in roads and public transit infrastructure
2 Housing Affordability: Poor housing affordability
3 Port Expansion: Land scarcity for trade-enabling port expansion
4 Productivity Levels: Low labour productivity levels
5 Educational Attainment Rates: That fall short of the Scorecard leaders
6 Tax Rates: High marginal effective tax rate on capital
7 Head Offices: Fewer head offices than cities of comparable size
Ian: More than just a flood defence – how Vejle built a blueprint for resilience. In The Guardian:
Vejle, a city of just over 100,000 people in southern Denmark. …
Earlier this year, Vejle launched Europe’s first urban resilience strategy, which will see more than 100 city-wide initiatives – from cycle highways to flood-adapted neighbourhoods – rolled out over the next four years, in order to develop the city’s adaptability to future challenges. …
Vejle’s response to this challenge is fascinating in the context of the refugee crisis – a politically sensitive issue in Denmark as elsewhere in Europe. According to Kroustrup, the city is looking at immigration from a new perspective as a “step-up for the city to become a globalised society”, having been voted the best municipality for refugee integration in Denmark in 2012. …
In Vejle, protecting against climate, economic and social shocks takes on a very human form. Underlying all aspects of its resilience strategy is the mantra of “co-creation”, a bottom-up meets top-down approach that calls for collaboration between citizens and the municipality.
Vejle has identified three neighbourhoods that will be used as “laboratories” for experimenting with different resilience projects, from physical infrastructure, to community cohesion initiatives. A waterfront neighbourhood will become a test-bed for storm management and flood adaptation, of which a large portion will be integrated into everyday public spaces to enhance liveability – a technique already underway in citiesincluding Copenhagen – while another area with a large amount of social housing will become a laboratory for bottom-up community initiatives.
Urban designer Scot Hein tells the story.
When is a district energy plant more than a district energy plant?
Let’s reflect on the Southeast False Creek Energy (SEFC) Centre. Initially, the site for this new civic utility was to be located in the “Sawtooth Building” which is located on the site of the former city works yard east of the Cambie Bridge.
During initial design exploration for this location, city staff, along with Bruce Haden of Dialog, became interested in the use of lighting effects to tell the “story of energy.” The Light Columns at the entry to Los Angeles LAX airport were seen as an interesting visual reference for what could be a public-art-like feature. As pre-design explorations continued, it became desirable to locate the new utility building under the south Cambie Bridgehead as this was “free land,” and more importantly, this siting would not encumber future utility corridor locations for the WorksYard Neighbourhood which would be the last to develop in Southeast False Creek.
Also at this time, the City began to organize the ownership model, with the City itself being both a utility owner and development permit applicant. Planning staff insisted that the new building (approximately a third would be seen above grade) be as good as any building we might demand of the private sector. This meant hiring a skilled architect and public artist to execute the design with interest, especially as a “teachable moment about district energy”.
The City, to its credit, engaged architect Walter Francl along with Stephanie Robb for these respective roles. As the design process unfolded, it became evident that the building had an important urban design role to play in announcing its location as the intersection of the Cambie Promenade (from Cambie Village to False Creek), with the east-west pedestrian route between the existing community to the west along Spyglass and the future Worksyard Neighbourhood to be implemented as the last phase of SEFC.
The ultimate siting, and shaping of the building became the early focus of the design process with Walter/Stephanie offering the thoughtful triangular shape to creatively reconcile these urban design considerations. As various energy sources, including bio-mass, were being considered it became evident that the building must “do more”, perhaps as a teachable moment in the urban landscape. A decision was taken to use sewer heat recovery, in lieu of bio-mass, given the immediate proximity to large trunk lines that facilitated the flow of warm raw sewage. The “Confluence of Effluence”.
As the technical work advanced, it also became necessary to introduce immediate and future boiler capacity that would emit clean steam as a strategy to augment sewer heat should this be necessary in colder times. The boilers would need vent stacks to discharge clean steam when called upon. This requirement generated the wonderful result of what some refer to as “the fingernails” or the five one-meter- X three-meter-high LED panels that are clipped on to the top of each stack that rises above the south Cambie bridgehead on the east side.
Stephanie was brought on board to execute this feature. Her early thinking generated what she referred to as the “nail polish chart” which reflected a variety of features and effects for breakfast, dinner and afterwards at different times of the year. We were clearly having too much fun in those early days of the design process.
Also at this time, we began to test mock-ups for the “fingernails” at different scales and under various conditions. This concluded with a mock-up in the field. I recall commenting to both Walter and Stephanie that summer evening that we are missing the mirrored disco ball and a funky background soundtrack (read George Clinton and Parliament or Barry White).
The project was constructed on time and was awarded the AIBC Lieutenant-Governor of BC Gold Medal for Architecture in 2010. This is the highest honour that our professional association recognizes. As a side note, I understand that there were no cold showers (over 10,000 taken) during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This is where the story begins.
The LED panels were energized at occupancy with their colour and effects reflective of the real time consumptive habits for those on the system. The fingernails were our “Scarlet Letter” for all Cambie Bridge motorists and pedestrians to see just how responsible, or not, those on the system were behaving. Overly consumptive – the panels trended to red. Dialed down – the panels trended to blue. This continues to be the default mode for the system.
During design, we also discussed the possibility of taking the panels off-line in favor of a more specific colour/effect. We always knew we could dial in orange for Halloween; red for Valentine’s and Canada Day. On a whim, and with the assistance from project engineer Chris Baber, I e-mailed Gary Killacky who was one of the operating engineers on site along with Kieran McConnell. I asked him if he would not mind dialing up the five panels to “pink” to announce “Breast Cancer Run for the Cure” which was to occur that weekend. I wanted to attempt this programming change as my sister Melinda was recovering from her own challenges with breast cancer. This would be my little secret.
Gary’s initial response was “What?” “Really?” And then a small miracle: Gary within about 10 minutes e-mailed me back to confirm that he had gone to the Run for the Cure Website, found the pink colour, had matched it to the Pantone Colour Website, and had made a matching lighting colour selection. The panels would be pink from Friday through Sunday. (I am forever indebted to Gary and Chris for this kind act. We continue to have wonderfully creative, thoughtful engineers at Vancouver City Hall.)
But this is where the story gets more interesting.
After a couple of years it occurred to me that we should not stop there. So I cold called Duncan Blomfield who was BC Place’s Manager for Marketing and Communications, and could influence the lighting programming of the prismatic transom that surrounds the entire stadium under the retractable roof, and simply asked him to match the Pantone colour as with the SEFC Energy Centre for that year’s Run for the Cure Weekend. Duncan said, without hesitation or needing to run this up the flag pole, yes.
With BC Place also pretty in pink, I phoned my friend at Science World, the wonderfully creative Kevin Kearns, along with Mila Cotic, who agreed immediately to do the same. Now with three significant, waterfront buildings glowing pink, we only needed to add the Olympic Plaza “Ship Ribs” to complete the ensemble. I phoned Otto Kaufman in Engineering, who did so much heavy lifting behind the scenes on the OV file, and he also agreed. So for two years we were able to enjoy what we, in the City’s Urban Design Studio, would call “Pink False Creek”.
I share this story at Gord’s insistence. It remains relevant towards a larger conversation about the value of an “Urban Lighting strategy” given our lack of seasonal light, and commanding reflective position on our waterfront. Perhaps this will generate a discussion back at the hall.
Please share with others.
Details and registration here.
Is it time yet? Can we talk about this?
Others certainly are. As in the International New York Times:
Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change is a threat to the immense tracts of forest that ring the Northern Hemisphere, with rising temperatures, drying trees and earlier melting of snow contributing to a growing number of wildfires.
The near-destruction of a Canadian city last week by a fire that sent almost 90,000 people fleeing for their lives is grim proof that the threat to these vast stands of spruce and other resinous trees, collectively known as the boreal forest, is real. And scientists say a large-scale loss of the forest could have profound consequences for efforts to limit the damage from climate change.
The charge leveled against those who have made the connection – most notably the leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May – is of insensitivity if not inaccuracy. The suffering is too real to be politicized – which is what some of those who prefer the connection not be made at all are calling it: politicization. Ideally, average Canadians will be persuaded that raising climate change in the context of those whose living depends on the oil sands is so inappropriate that it should not be discussed, ever.
Beyond that is an even tougher question: Should we as Canadians, whether through government funding or private investment, pour money into Fort McMurray to rebuild and enlarge the city so that we can double down on carbon extraction, even as the forests burn and threaten one of the world’s most valuable carbon sinks?
How can that be reconciled?
Or is it better just not to talk about it?
How many times have you thought: I’d love to sit outside but it’s kinda noisy and stinky with the cars right there?
This is my fourth post in a series on transforming our shopping districts into more pleasant places to get to safely and hang out in.
We’ve reached an awkward moment in Vancouver’s history where trips by active transportation and transit are increasing without updating our shopping districts to accommodate those modes as well.
If as of May, 2015 50% of all trips in Vancouver are made by walking, bicycling, or transit and we haven’t updated the safety for those modes in any of our shopping districts yet, is this affecting how well businesses are doing? It seems it must be.
Janette Sadik-Khan, likening a City to a business for a moment, said about updating streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
Now that an interesting amount of data from best practices elsewhere confirms these changes are good for business, it is time for the City to plan improving the streets in our shopping districts with updates such as wider sidewalks including bulges, raised crosswalks, mid-block crossings, protected bike lanes and intersections, better bicycle parking, car-free plazas, space for transitioning between modes, and other additions.
Successful business owners like Jimmy Pattison always talk about exceptional, friendly customer service being the most important step for companies. What they really mean is that the whole customer experience – from the first website visit, to ease of getting there and getting through the door, to the impression the place is clean and appealing indoors and out, through the direct customer experience until the good-bye/see you soon – should be at least safe and pleasant or even fun.
Every successful business also adapts to the times to continue to be desired. They adjust to new ways their customers reach them (both online and via other modes of travel). Businesses are not served well by being seen as on the wrong side of history on the issue of safer streets.
Reach out to the successful ones who intend to be there throughout and after these transitions. The businesses who do well for many years do the following:
- keep their awnings clean, readable, and free of green fuzz,
- ask the City to install bike racks near them by tweeting details @CityofVancouver #311,
- make sure the doors, floors, tables, chairs and bathrooms are clean,
- greet customers with a smile,
- make an effort to get to know regulars,
- are in tune with what menu items or stock their customers really want,
- have great relationships with their suppliers to get those items on a consistent basis,
- handle complaints graciously – often with follow-up check-ins,
- and always say please and thank you.
What we can do to help local businesses – especially through this transition:
- make an effort to thank and support local businesses and their owners – especially the ones who support safer streets for all,
- avoid lecturing (or “You should…” sentences to) business owners who have no intention of changing; it’s a waste of energy; they will learn the hard way,
- go to the business manager or owner before complaining elsewhere if you have any problems: Assume If you like us, tell your friends; if not, tell us! is the motto of every business,
- spread the word about great experiences in person, on social media, and with your friends and co-workers,
- every time you visit, casually mention to the server what mode you took to get there,
- notify the City if you see loose bike racks, street lights out, plastic bags stuck in street trees, etc. by tweeting the details to @CityofVancouver #311,
- and always say please and thank you.
The City, together with residents, business owners, employees, and our visitors will need to pitch in to improve the health, safety, economic viability, and delightfulness of our shopping districts.
1) Bikeshare system area
On February 24th, the City of Vancouver announced the Summer 2016 launch of our first bikesharing program.
They explained that the initial geographical area where bikeshare bikes can be picked up/dropped off would roughly be Arbutus to Main Street and 16th Ave north to, and including, the downtown peninsula. I thought this was odd. Why Arbutus? It’s not bike friendly. Why didn’t they start at Cypress? Improvements on Cypress Street should be completed before May. It would be much safer to ride along.
2) Arbutus Corridor announcement
On March 7th the City announced a major deal to purchase the CP railway along the Arbutus Corridor and, once the old tracks are ripped out, it will become a stellar active transportation corridor of green space.
A-ha! Oh-ho! Arbutus as a western boundary within the new bikeshare system area makes more sense now. It felt like some puzzle pieces in my head were coming together. Hadn’t a City Councillor recently talked about trail connectivity?
3) What does the map say?
The City plans to upgrade active transportation on all 3 False Creek bridges within the next 5 years, G-d willing. Remember that rendering of 2-way walking paths and 2-way bicycle lanes down the centre of the bridge? Some of us want that type of improvement sooner rather than later, of course. Ask anyone who wants to walk or ride a bike to work downtown and lives in Fairview or Shaughnessy.
I always urge pedestrians and bicyclists to avoid Granville Bridge entirely for now as it’s very unsafe and unpleasant to use. There’s a narrow space for the 2 modes to share that to get to it, in some parts you have to cross traffic going quickly around a curve. Worse, I understand 2 people in wheelchairs cannot easily pass each other in that narrow space. They have to maneuver to get around each other over the deafening traffic going 80kph. I’m embarrassed by that.
One person who shall remain nameless whispered, “follow the train tracks”.
I opened maps.google.com, which took me to google.ca/maps, and followed the faint train tracks along Arbutus north from 16th, doo doo doo, to 6th Ave where I had seen bunnies many times, doo doo doo, I hadn’t really thought about where the train goes after that, doot da da doo, east to Fir Street. I froze. Ooo. Fir & 6th. That’s very close to the Granville Street Bridge!
I visualized the possibilities. My first thought: Lord’s. Oh Lord, that place has beautiful shoes! Imagine taking a stroll or riding bikes on the middle of the Granville Street Bridge surrounded by trees and gentle people to check out the store’s fascinators, stop for a nosh somewhere, smell the flowers at GIF, and get some more nail & cuticle butter at Rocky Mountain Soap Company.
Going to South Granville by booking a car, taking a bus, or riding over Burrard Street (and then what?) just doesn’t seem appealing. But the Arbutus Corridor land purchase is looking more appealing every day.
On Tuesday I cracked myself up in prep for an evening with Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK), former NYCDOT Transportation Commissioner and author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. Here are the highlights.
Whether you livestreamed it under the covers or attended at the Vancouver Playhouse, you probably had at least one moment of inspiration, imagining the delight that street transformation can bring to where you live. What if the City of Vancouver became the largest real-estate developer in town like JSK was for NYC?
Her statistics were all US based but we’re used to that. When we translate their numbers to our population, the information is uncomfortably more relevant than we would like. She included in her slides pictures of Vancouver and local examples to go with them. For those of us who attended her last visit, a few of the NYC successes were the same and still had a stunning, audible impact on attendees; she has more data to back her up now. She is confident and motivating.
Gordon Price is consistently a top-notch moderator and interviewer. He was a gracious Canadian host, animated, and entertaining. He had a great rapport with JSK. Price asked the pertinent questions and got solid answers.
What’s as interesting is who attended. At $5 a ticket, there were all ages and abilities present. I wondered how many business owners or BIA staff were there. Did Nick Pogor attend?
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch all of the electeds who introduced themselves from my perch on the balcony. I was pleased to see Vancouver’s Deputy Mayor Heather Deal front and center, who is also a Councillor Liaison to the City’s Active Transportation Policy Council and Arts & Culture Policy Council, among others. It was announced for the first time publicly that Lon LaClaire is the new City of Vancouver Director of Transportation. He introduced JSK. At least one Park Board Commissioner attended.
There was at least one City Councillor from New Westminster, Patrick Johnstone there – a fan of 30kph. I was tickled that Nathan Pascal, City Councillor for Langley City was there in his first week on the job! I was even more delighted to hear that the Mayor of Abbotsford Henry Braun was there. It symbolizes a shift in decision-makers toward at least open ears and at most safer, healthier city centres in the Lower Mainland.
The first rule of Hollywood is: Always thank the crew.
JSK started by thanking the 4500 within New York City’s Department of Transportation. She acknowledged that they implemented the changes her team tried – often quickly. Being fast and keeping the momentum up is key.
Interview well. Be yourself. Be bold.
When JSK was interviewing for the top transportation job with then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he asked: Why do you want to be Traffic Commissioner? She answered: I don’t. I want to be Transportation Commissioner.
A City’s assets – the public realm – need to reflect current values. Invest in the best use of public space.
JSK on streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
“We transformed places to park [cars] to places people wanted to be…we created 65,000 square feet of public space with traffic cones.” “Broadway alone was 2.5 acres of new public space.”
JSK talked about the imbalance between the space for cars and space for people. Crowded sidewalks of slow walking tourists that fast-walking New Yorkers were willing to walk in car lanes to pass or avoid. In Vancouver, we already see this imbalance in our shopping districts and entertainment corridors.
She appreciated working for a Mayor who would back her up on her bold suggestions and who asked her to take risks because it was the right thing to do.
Consultation + Visualization = Education + Transformation
“People find it hard to visualize from drawings and boards. Create temporary space and program it.” Basically: traffic cones, paint, and planters are your friends.
“We need to do a better job of showing the possible on our streets.”
“Involve people in the process…Just try it out. Pilot it. We [all already] know the streets aren’t perfect.”
She estimated that once [in 5-10 years] shared, driverless cars are operating in our cities, most of our on-street parking won’t be needed. In the meantime, one of the many community requested programs is time-of-day based pricing for on-street parking. Of course, the higher turnover of vehicles is better for business.
Even better for business is putting in bicycle lanes. Some of the areas where businesses were most opposed have some of the highest bike volumes now.
It takes 4 things to increase bicyclist volumes significantly and NYC does them all.
- a network of bicycle infrastructure (and traffic-calming design)
- lower speed limits (and traffic-calming designs help)
JSK saw 3 of the above steps to fruition. Mayor de Blasio lowered speed limits to 25mph in November, 2014.
When Broadway closed to cars and opened to people, in Midtown:
- pedestrian injuries decreased by 35%
- motorists injuries went down by 35%
- vehicle travel times increased by 17%
- protected bike lanes brought a 50% increase in sales
Ciclovias, Car-free Spaces and Street Art
“The Public Domain is the Public’s Domain.”
“We asked the community where they wanted plazas and they took ownership of them.”
“The canvas of our streets was transformed by artists.”
Ciclovias involve closing streets to vehicles and allowing people to roam on them via any active transportation mode, often on weekends. In NYC it’s known as Summer Streets. Every Saturday in the summer from 7am-1pm they have about 300,000 people take part. Small businesses along the way have seen sales increase by 71%.
On making parts of Robson Street a car-free space, JSK said: “Try it; you’ll like it.”
Three words: Dedicated. Bus. Lanes.
These are enforced by cameras. Green traffic lights are synchronized with bus use. Like in Colombia, they have off-board fare collection. [Senior planners at TransLink would love dedicated bus lanes on Georgia Street, Hastings Street, or Broadway in Vancouver.]
NYC needs to up our game on the following:
- more bikeshare next to low-income housing and public housing
- #VisionZero “Our streets are sick. Thousands are dying and people are blasé about it. In any other field you would lose your job if that many died.”
- seamless, integrated, multi-modal transportation (all on one card/app) like in Helsinki
- congestion pricing. The state capital is less urban and turned down their request for it. Plus people hate both “congestion”and “pricing”. The rebrand is MoveNY. JSK said paying more to drive to Manhattan is “inevitable”.
Migration Astonishment: 1M here, 1M there
I was astonished (and by the looks of it so was Gordon Price) that NYC estimates that they will have 1 million more people living there by 2030. That’s the same number we expect in Metro Vancouver by 2030! Clearly, the impact here will be a much larger transformation. There’s a lot of work to do.
JSK advised: “Leverage the density. Recognize the value of density.”
“People want safe streets (and affordable housing) and are ahead of politicians and the media.”
“Inaction is inexcusable,” JSK said.
There was much anticipation before the federal budget was unlocked yesterday. Many of us were particularly interested in how much money would go towards transit investments in our region and whether the 33.3% x 3 percentage split for transportation infrastructure amongst federal, provincial, and municipal governments would be adjusted.
At first I was underwhelmed by the initial commitment of $370M for transit projects in Metro Vancouver. It doesn’t seem like much for the next 3 years. I have been assured by those in the know it’s a great start for the planning and design of projects in The Mayors’ Plan (pedestrian and bicycle improvements, subway and LRT, for instance) with more funding to come after that. That depends on re-election, of course.
The federal government also announced it will cover up to 50% of transit project construction costs. It seems to me, assuming the provincial portion remains at 33% and the max of 50% doesn’t depend on the provincial portion changing*, 100%-50-33=17% for municipalities – a long overdue improvement in the funding structure.
My federal budget scoop on Monday about The Mayors’ Plan, directing our regional requests for federal funds, continues to be good scoop. The Mayors’ Council put out a PDF statement on the federal budget yesterday. The federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sohi meets our Mayors’ Council tomorrow. My source tells me we will get more details after that meeting. Stay tuned.
*The BC provincial election is May 9, 2017: contact BC political parties now urging them to put sustainable transportation in their platforms.
Should this sort of scene survive in Greenest City? By “this,” I mean the year-round heated outdoor patio in Vancouver, at 50 degrees north latitude, where outdoor sitting used to be a 5-month gig. Will the Green Police shut them down, or is “green” merely a metaphor for a particular kind of lifestyle?
These sour, no-fun thoughts were prompted by a chance meeting on the street with a neighbour who is renovating a century-old Grandview house and getting the full blast of new “Green” building-code requirements thrown at her. She has a thousand-square-foot house on a half lot – I’ll bet her heating and electricity bills are under $1,000 a year total – and yet the city is demanding she upgrade her walls to R-20, which she can’t do with the house’s vintage 2×4 framing.
Given that 4% of a house’s heat loss, typically, is through its walls (and 3% through single-glazed windows), her efforts will cost her a fortune, possibly doom the house, and save a piddling amount of energy year-over-year compared with the constant consumption of natural gas in cafés such as this one.
The city wants “Green,” which means in part to re-use and adapt rather than demolish, but has adopted a building code and enforces it in a way to make renovation onerous if not impossible. Is “the greenest building the one that’s already built” in Greenest City?
The issue was explored recently in “Reno vs. Demo: When is it easier to just start over?” by Bethany Lindsay in the Sun. The article was a depressing, realistic view of the myriad hoops the city makes renovators go through – whether it’s for ‘heritage’ or just upgrading.
Geoff Glave was one of the homeowners interviewed for the Sun story.
“There’s a lot of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over demolition of what I would consider perfectly fine houses in Vancouver,” Glave said. “I think if the city wanted to encourage renovation, they certainly could by making it a more cost-effective option than tearing the whole house down and sending everything to the landfill and starting from scratch.”
In Vancouver, the costs really start to add up as a renovation project becomes more extensive. Once construction costs exceed $5,000, the builder will need to meet certain new energy-efficiency requirements. Over $50,000, and walls may need to be deepened to allow for thicker insulation, while the building will require sealing around spots like windows and doors to prevent heat leakage.
When the project reaches about $95,000, city engineers will usually order a new sewer connection at a cost of $16,000 as part of an ongoing, long-term plan to separate rainwater from sewage. If the renovation hits 50 per cent of the replacement value of the home, a sprinkler system will have to be installed.
And any new addition to a home will have to meet all modern building codes, which include triple-glazed windows and accessibility requirements like wider doors and levers instead of doorknobs.
From a sustainability point of view, they said that the city would prefer to see people maintaining as much of their homes as possible, rather than sending piles of demolition waste to the landfill. Preserving historically significant homes is also a priority.
But they insisted that while renovations are more expensive in Vancouver than in the rest of the region, there are good reasons for the costly updates required by the building code.
‘We’re not doing things just for fun. We’re doing things because they’re safety improvements, they’re environmental improvements. They’re things we need to do anyway,” said Doug Smith, Vancouver’s acting director of sustainability. “What typically happens is we’ll do it and then within 10 years, other municipalities will catch up and do it as well.”
Making homes more energy efficient goes a long way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he maintained, while retrofitting homes to be more accessible is essential as baby boomers hit their retirement years.
When does safety become nannyism? When do the energy inputs into a renovation far exceed any potential savings of greenhouse-gas emissions? And, vis-à-vis the café on The Drive, when is the system fair?
The death spiral of Postmedia and its newspapers is well-documented. But here’s some useful perspective from an odd source on the decline, and the rise of new media (particularly in Vancouver), and its effect on the Alberta oil industry. And some perspective from Vancouver and elsewhere.
Markham Hislop writes in the industry trade mag “Alberta Oil, the Business of Energy“. It’s almost funny, because he complains (at first) about “how the Vancouver School is distorting media coverage of the energy sector”. But there is something to be learned here, he writes.
“A cynic might argue that traditional media already do a pretty good job framing energy news to favor industry’s interests. But the B.C. experience suggests a well-organized environmental opposition coupled with alternative media trumps traditional news and advertising. If industry is looking for new strategies as it seeks approval for Energy East, it could do worse than emulate the Vancouver School.”
It is my belief than among the forces leading to the upcoming demise of Postmedia are its obvious fealty to business interests, a right-wing point of view, and continuous framing of “news” to serve these interests. Even as the audience is changing, getting hipper, and not buying the 1950’s paradigms of what’s important, who we are and how we live. But now, here are new media outlets serving this new audience, who have a fresh set of concerns, and a very different idea of who we are and what we want in our future. And you don’t have to be a cynic to get this narrative.
Here’s Linda Solomon, publisher of the Vancouver Observer, responding in an e-mail newsletter to Hislop’s article:
The sunset industries (fossil fuels and old media) are heavily invested in fading values, attacking sunrise new media companies like National Observer that embody forward-thinking values . . . .
. . . As Lawrence Martin wrote in his article entitled ‘Canada’s media: A crisis that cries out for a public inquiry’ published yesterday in The Globe and Mail, “…it’s a joke to think a healthy democracy can be restored given the continuing depletion of the one industry that holds business and government to account.”
For those who want to dig in a bit deeper, the Walrus has published THIS article by Margo Goodhand, former editor of the Edmonton Journal. It’s a chilling business and public interest perspective on the rapid downward slide at Postmedia. And a clear explanation of the danger – consolidation of the source for content, with a few exceptions:
People may not notice. How do you measure the slow gutting of a metro newspaper, the largest newsroom in town?
Court and crime and car crashes stay in the headlines because they are cheap and easy to cover. What disappears is the substantive stories that contribute to a community’s sense of self and worth; programs that require a spotlight, business and arts trends, political coverage and context.
I think that people do notice, and are turning to new sources for opinion, spotlighting and information about this new world we slowly realize will have to emerge.
Expect more from Ken on Price Tags, as he broadens the base of interests you can find here, notably media and energy which he nicely combines in this post.
And further to the post above, why can’t CBC TV help fill in the vacuum created by the decline of advertising-based media which, in the case of PostMedia, are being sucked dry for their remaining asset value by hedge funds. CBC has done well on radio, but it can’t seem to break out on TV news.
AT THE NEXUS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT:BRINGING THE GLOBAL AGENDA HOME
A roundtable discussion
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11
5:30 – 7:00PM
Please register at: Room 1420-1430, SFU Vancouver
515 West Hastings Street
In the wake of the agreement reached at the 2015 COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris and the newly launched UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this roundtable discussion will explore how academics, NGOs, the City of Vancouver and the federal government will contribute to global change. Speakers will highlight initiatives contributing to the SDGs and how these global goals can and must be realized not just in the developing world, but also in our own city and country.
Joanna Ashworth, Director of Professional Programs, Faculty of Environment, SFU
Keeping Score: UN Sustainable Development Goals
Michael Simpson, Executive Director, BC Council for International Cooperation
Partnerships for the Goals: Joint Canada-Africa Research and Training Networks
Zabrina Brumme, Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU
The Role of Cities in Addressing Climate Change
Mark Roseland, Director, Centre for Sustainable Community Development, SFU
Gender Equality and the SDGs: Best Practices for Building Long-Term Sustainability in Human and Gender Rights
Laura Parisi, Associate Professor, Women’s Studies, University of Victoria
The Honourable Pam Goldsmith-Jones, MP West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
UPDATE: Another speaker – Feb 18
From the Daily Scot:
Here is another book that I believe belongs on the shelf of anyone who loves the built environment.
Authors: Julie Campoli. Published in 2012 by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
Made For Walking highlights the urban design elements that comprise some of North America’s most pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods . The author starts by describing our current situation of sprawl across much of the continent in the “Everything is Somewhere Else” chapter. We quickly jump from the depressing outcome of Motordom to great potential by learning about the Five D’s and a P and all aspects of neighbourhood form brilliantly communicated with figure-ground diagrams, maps and entire street elevations.
The highlight is the Twelve Places Made for Walking chapter, providing case studies of great communities from LoDo in Denver to Flamingo Park in Miami Beach. In addition Miss Campoli also takes readers for a tour around our very own Kitsilano. I highly recommend Made for Walking if you want to enhance your city-building toolkit, learning about great low-carbon neighbourhoods in our own backyard.
From the Daily Scot:
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Founder and Co-Executive Director of LOCO BC Amy Robinson for quite a few years now through my sister. Amy and her team are passionate about all things great about local businesses, their under-appreciated economic contributions, how they support local jobs and communities, and all the great sustainability aspects that come with supporting people in your own backyard.
Amy and her team put together the following article. Please also check out what LOCO BC does by visiting their website: www.locobc.com
Will Densification Bring an End to Independent Business in Vancouver?
by Amy Robinson
Our unique neighbourhoods and local business community are at risk of gentrification in the race to densify our housing stock without including better planning for ground floor retail spaces.
Ground floor retail businesses influence how we interact with our city, whether walking, cycling, driving or on transit. Development along commercial corridors is increasingly creating a gentrified retail environment and Vancouver risks losing the unique character of its neighbourhoods.
Residents feel the change when new condos bring lifeless, large format retail spaces to their communities. When Shopper’s Drug Mart set up shop on Main Street at the corner of 18th, residents appealed to the company to make more of an effort to fit into the neighbourhood.
Residents are asking that new retail on the street better reflect the historic and eclectic character of one of the city’s oldest streets. “We can’t stop development, and that’s fine, but they are one of the first, not big box, but chain kind of stores to go in on Main Street, so they will have a big influence on how future ones might think that they’re going to develop there.”
The company replied to community efforts by saying they were simply leasing a space in a development whose design was approved by the city.
Ironically, one independent business that attempted to make another commercial condo space further down Main Street more unique was taken to task by the city. Popular independent restaurant East is East (Chai Gallery Restaurant) erected a wooden awning to reflect their business concept, one “built on using natural, sustainable materials in all aspects of the restaurant – in both design and cuisine”. The company was denied an occupancy permit that delayed opening. The restaurant refused, saying the city was “forcing us to change our nature-inspired design and use non-organic materials compromises the heart of what East is East stands for…[we are] building a new and expanded venue to bring world-class music, art and culture to Main St. However, the city planning department is demanding that we change our façade and outdoor patio to match their sterile vision of Main St.”
Chai Gallery’s sign may not be your thing, but it represents a fight to save the independence and spirit of local business in the city. In Hastings Sunrise, Dunbar, Marpole, South Main Street, Strathcona and other parts of the City, entire City blocks of local, independent retailers are being evicted to make room for new developments that provide increased housing density. That loss means that unique independent businesses are often being replaced with chain stores that leak wealth from our local economy.
Local businesses contribute more to our economy because their ownership is here (circulating profits), their management is here (circulating wages from good jobs), and they more often use local suppliers (circulating their purchasing dollars). Big chains have dispersed shareholders, corporate head offices elsewhere, and centralized supply chains that don’t support local suppliers for their marketing, web development, office supply, banking and other needs. The vast majority of dollars that flow into multi-national chain stores flows right back out of our community. Research shows that when consumers spend $1 with a chain, only 18c stays in the community, versus 45c for independent business. That’s 2.6x more local recirculation of dollars by local businesses!
Another example of the fight for unique, independent retail is being fought on West Broadway. Block after block of vibrant local businesses are being replaced with four and five story developments. Popular locally owned stores like Kids Books are being forced to move in order to make way for new development. One only has to look at similar developments east and west of that block for an example of what’s coming. These developments are filled with Shopper’s Drug Mark, McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s and the like. The convenience of these types of stores comes at the cost of local economic development as well as neighbourhood character.
Some of the constraints to local businesses relocating to these new developments are:
- The floor plates are designed for larger format chain stores who can afford large lease contracts
- Developers require proof that the tenant has several years worth of rental income in the bank
- Rents are too high in newly developed properties
How do we create opportunities for local economic development as we grow our cities? We’d like to see Cities need to search for best practices, and also engage residents and businesses into a conversation about what kind of planning is needed to keep independent businesses in our communities. Without this effort we risk losing them and the ways they create wealth, forever.
A link to The New Yorker from Tim Pawsey: an article with “echoes that resonate.” Some assorted quotes.
Will the government’s efforts to pierce the veil of anonymity in real-estate transactions also burst the Manhattan housing bubble?
Last year, when consultants from Deloitte surveyed Swiss watch executives, eighty per cent of them indicated that demand was down “due to anticorruption legislation”in China. This question of how one country’s graft might fuel the economy of another arose again last week, when the U.S.Treasury Department announced an initiative to track the secret buyers behind the trade in luxury properties in New York City. …
Sleek and skinny super-luxury buildings spring up around Central Park, and single apartments sell for nine-digit figures, adding credence to the caricature of Manhattan as a club for global plutocrats.
For many New Yorkers, this is not, in fact, a godsend: exorbitant prices in the tens of millions of dollars pull up prices in the lower end of the market, driving working- and middle-class people out of the city. And as a contemporary Jane Jacobs might observe, had she not been priced out of the West Village, billionaires don’t necessarily make good neighbors.
Because luxe Manhattan real estate generates a good return, many people don’t actually live in their investment properties.If they’re not residents, they’re paying no local income tax here, and because of a steep tax abatement on certain luxury properties, they can often pay very little in real-estate taxes. …
On the upside, you won’t actually see these neighbors very often—because they aren’t here. According to the Census Bureau, throughout a sweeping stretch of midtown—from Forty-ninth to Seventieth streets, between Fifth Avenue and Park—nearly one in three apartments is completely empty at least ten months a year.
… real-estate ownership in the city “can be made as untraceable as a numbered bank account,” a developer concludes,“The global elite is basically looking for a safe-deposit box.” …
Today, while banks are obliged to institute “know-your-customer”safeguards against money laundering, real-estate professionals are not. …
The new regulations will oblige them to be interested. The effort will begin by focussing on two real-estate markets—Manhattan and Miami—and requiring title-insurance
companies to identify the “beneficial owners” behind the shell companies and L.L.C.s involved in a transaction, in order to determine who the actual buyers are.This
information would then be reported to Treasury. If officials can definitively establish that any of these apartments or houses were purchased with funds that were misappropriated or otherwise tainted, there could be a basis for seizing the property, through the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. …
There’s no reason to think that, on its own,Treasury’s efforts to pierce the veil of anonymity in real-estate transactions might also burst the Manhattan housing bubble.
But if I were a real-estate professional who catered largely to wealthy foreigners,I’d be thinking about the lesson of those Swiss watchmakers.
Full article here.
Vancouver is a young city. While this means we don’t have our own Arc de Triomphe (though some seem to imagine we do), we are lucky that if we let ourselves, we get to stand on the shoulders of giants.
I wrote about Design Thinking the other day, the great thing about this is that, somewhat like the scientific method, it establishes a systematic way of thinking which sometimes demands creativity, and at other times introspection, it involves the sharing of ideas, and the ability to learn from others.
What it does not involve is reinventing the wheel because you didn’t notice that someone else already did.
We get to see the runaway effects of a city growing increasingly unaffordable when we look at London. [see: There are now only 29 (yes, twenty-nine) homes in London deemed ‘affordable’ for first-time buyers]
We get to see how to design bike paths by studying the Dutch or the Danish.
We get to see how the city can build affordable housing by looking at Vienna (or Singapore).
We get to see how to deal with foreign money by looking at Singapore (or Sydney).
We get to see the effects of the conversion of streets to highways by looking at Miami or Pheonix and realize that Vancouver is fundamentally not really all that unique:
From the beginning of urbanized America, streets functioned to provide mobility in many ways:
People walked to work, trolley, horse-drawn then powered moved workers from factories and offices to home. Trains played a role in commutes. Bicycles incited a pedal power mobility craze for a while.
Then the automobile came along. By the 1950s, roads became the sole domain of automobiles. The automotive industry even created the term “jay walking” and launched a campaign to demonize people on foot. Sidewalks shrunk and beautifully landscaped medians were torn out to create more lanes for automobiles.
Trolley lines were ripped out and replaced with buses. But buses were devalued and branded as last ditch transportation for the unfortunate. Only the sedan was fit for the upwardly mobile middle class American. Crosswalks were diminished. Those brazen enough to move around on two feet were seen as merely an impediment to moving more cars faster.
Government loans encouraged suburban single family homebuilding, giving rise to the super highway, and when highways weren’t enough, surface streets – even the most picturesque and historic – were overhauled to turn them into another layer of de facto highways.
(Anything seem familiar in these? … if not, as Gordon has written, Motordom 2.0 is around the corner)
We get to learn how to install a bike share by looking at New York City (or Paris, or Montreal) … and get to see what happens when you have a combination of bike-share and helmet laws by looking at Melbourne.
We get to see why limits of pollution are a good idea by looking at Beijing’s air quality (or this last week, Salt Lake City), even if we don’t read the Governator Arnold’s words last month, and why putting all our stock in LNG isn’t the best idea:
I, personally, want a plan. I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.
And we get to look at things like fare gates in transit, and see if you install them, you have to make provision for the fact that when you put up a barrier, you put up a barrier, and some people won’t be able to deal with this fact. Again, in this we’re not unique, John Graham’s comments yesterday show one solution, but I can’t imagine its a cheap one.
The point of this is that in some ways, Vancouver is exceptional, we have an environment that many people would kill for, mountains that many dream about, and are generally pretty nice people. We are not, however, really that different from anywhere else except for the number of Learners permits on Lamborghinis … so let’s be creative and do RAD SHIT as often as possible, but let’s also learn from others just as often, from both their success, and their failure.
Finally, if something is a success, can we please accept it as such … just please, take it at face value as a ‘good’, and please stop treating it as a failure, or a reason to fight.
We can look a lot further if we stick with the giants.
It’s no surprise that people have a hard time knowing what to think, as the climate talks continue in Paris. The messages are prolific and span a wide spectrum.
Move Along Folks, Nothing to See Here
The Friends of Science Society says it has spent a decade reviewing a broad spectrum of literature on climate change “and have concluded that sun is the main driver of climate change, not carbon dioxide.”
It’s worth mentioning that this group, Friends of Science, is attracting complaints filed to the federal Competition Bureau and elsewhere. These complaints allege, among other things, that:
The confusion they sow makes low-carbon technologies less competitive and distorts capital investment toward high-carbon industries, risking a carbon bubble
2. Something’s Happening, But Let’s Be Careful
Jeffry Simpson writes in the Globe and Mail
Canada has always punched above its weight in producing carbon emissions, but below its weight in reducing them. This sorry state of affairs cannot be reversed overnight, not in a country that produces so much fossil fuel, the demand for which will be considerable in Canada and overseas for a long time to come. . . . . . .
. . . . Carbon pricing is the way to go. A yellow light, though. Be careful how it’s done. Capital is mobile. It can flee from jurisdictions with carbon pricing to those that don’t. Good intentions poorly designed can bring pain.
3. This Could Really Hurt the Bottom Line
Shawn McCarthy in the Globe and Mail covers Al Gore’s recent remarks in Paris about the financial consequences of an agreement to hold global temperature rise to 2C:
The global financial system faces a growing risk from the world’s response to climate change that will “strand” fossil-fuel assets, including much of Canada’s oil-sands reserves, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said on Thursday.
The National Observer covers the same ground in a different way.
Dirty fuels, by contrast he says, have become less competitive to wind and solar due to unforeseen technology advances, but also because of new carbon restrictions being imposed by nations this week in Paris to curb planetary warming to less than two degrees.
Fossil fuel companies are at risk of becoming “stranded assets,” Gore said.
“Many do understand, there are multiple pathways to stranding. Action at this conference is one. Action by the state of California, and Ontario and Alberta by the European Union and local governments [are others].”
COP21 is literally a tough negotiation over how to divvy up the room that’s left in the atmosphere for global warming pollution while the world transitions to a zero-fossil fuels economy.
4. This Could Get Ugly
Naomi Klein, as reported in the National Observer by Mychaylo Prystupa.
. . . . Klein says current country emissions targets at COP21 are “completely unacceptable.”
She’s not alone. Few here at the summit, including scientists and the UNFCC, believe the climate targets proposed by nations will be enough to keep global warming below two degrees —the summit’s official goal. The hope is, the final agreement will include a mechanism for “ratcheting up” stricter climate targets in five years time. . . . .
. . . . .”We know we are up against forces which have a huge amount to gain from inaction. When you look at the sponsors of the [COP21] summit, the fossil fuel companies, there’s trillions of dollars to lose if we have a response to climate change that acknowledges we have to leave the vast majority of reserves in the ground,” said Klein.