Ian: Interesting flip of the normal narrative.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the top 5 markets foreign buyers are searching for are Miami, Los Angeles, Bellingham (WA), Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina (HI), and New York City. All of those markets reported being hot spots for Chinese buyers in 2016. As of March 2017 though, China wasn’t even in the top 5 countries searching these locations.
Instead Canadians topped the list for each one of those cities. In fact, Canadians topped the list for all 20 of the top markets, with the exception of El Centro, California – where they came in second.
Top 5 US Markets By Foreign Search
- 🇨🇦 Canada
- 🇧🇷 Brazil
- 🇩🇪 Germany
- 🇬🇧 UK
- 🇦🇷 Argentina
Los Angeles, CA
- 🇨🇦 Canada
- 🇬🇧 UK
- 🇦🇺 Australia
- 🇩🇪 Germany
- 🇧🇷 Brazil
- 🇨🇦 Canada
- 🇯🇵 Japan
- 🇧🇭 Bahrain
- 🇬🇧 UK
- 🇦🇺 Australia
- 🇨🇦 Canada
- 🇦🇺 Australia
- 🇬🇧 UK
- 🇯🇵 Japan
- 🇩🇪 Germany
New York, NY
- 🇨🇦 Canada
- 🇬🇧 UK
- 🇦🇺 Australia
- 🇮🇪 Ireland
- 🇩🇪 Germany
Canadians Are More Likely To Be Non-Resident Buyers
NAR stats show that Canadian and UK buyers are the most likely to buy property for occasional use. Going back to 2016, 80% of Canadian, and 61% of UK buyers were non-resident buyers. To contrast, only 39% of Chinese buyers were non-resident. This means Canadian and UK citizens are more likely to buy property and not move into it. Whereas 61% of Chinese buyers are likely to buy property for relocation.
The City of Sydney Australia and the Lord Mayor Clover Moore have been championing climate change, and have led a campaign to push the sustainability agenda. Every new year there is the “Mayor’s New Year’s Eve Party” held at the Sydney Opera House. But this year the mayor is cancelling it and the $750,000 in Canadian funds will be going towards “10 new urban parks over the next year, a zero-carbon building competition, efforts to help tenants access renewable energy, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency and expanding efforts to help commercial buildings cut their emissions.”
Last year at a meeting of the C40 city network on Climate Change the Mayor noted that in order to meet the Paris Agreement, cities had to do twice as much in half the time.” Emissions cutting is part of the Sustainable Sydney 2030 Plan which will reduce the city’s emissions by 70 per cent by 2030 and be completely carbon neutral by 2050.
“People can’t see emissions reductions,” she said. But giving residents visual signs of green progress – amenities they want that also happen to cut emissions – “creates some ownership,” said the mayor, who walks in the city’s parks most days with her husband and dogs.
By “upgrading the city’s car fleet to hybrid vehicles, planting 10,000 trees, promoting car sharing, installing solar systems and water harvesting, and working with businesses to cut emissions” through building design resulted in a 25 per cent emission reduction since 2006. This reduction happened even though there’s been a 25 per cent increase in population and $26 billion (Canadian dollars) of development in the same time.
The hostile attitude of the former federal government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott did not deter the mayor. Despite the fact the Prime Minister stopped carbon reduction efforts and was seen as a climate change obstructionist, Mayor Clover Moore has served four terms as Sydney’s Lord Mayor. She received criticism that bike lanes would worsen traffic congestion-they did not. The Mayor perceives the Sydney business community as being her strongest ally.
“Leadership is absolutely crucial,” she said – and she thinks city governments are well placed to provide it, particularly with national action faltering in parts of the world. We get up in the morning and do something. That’s the fantastic thing about city government. We do things and we change people’s lives.”
Price Tags is blessed with an educated base of very informed readers, who richly contribute to the comment section. Price Tags editors want to share the following comment from reader Alex Botta, who writes comprehensively and coherently about the challenges ahead in navigating a Provincial boat potentially helmed by three different skippers.
“The urban-rural divide is now clearer than ever, and Christy helped widen it. Many of the comments following posted CBC and Globe & Mail news stories about the election results indicated absolute disdain for Metro Vancouver from the hinterlands. Several pointed out that city dwellers do not know much about rural areas. Maybe so, but I also read a huge amount of ignorance about the city and how important it is to the provincial economy. The next government must find ways to bridge that divide.
The overlap between the Green and NDP platforms is quite remarkable. I believe they have the basic working foundations of a coalition already in place. Andrew Weaver was interviewed on The National last night. I had to watch part of the following National broadcast to make sure I heard him right. He reiterated with passion that the deal breaker issues to the Greens backing another party were: i) to take the money out of politics; and ii) and to not allow more bitumen tankers in our waters. Redirecting LNG into renewables and a number of other issues on housing, instituting proportional representation, and raising the carbon tax are also on the table. He also said he will not be bribed with a cabinet seat, and said he didn’t leave his career as a climate scientist at its pinnacle just to be bought by the promise of a place in cabinet. The interview with Weaver starts about 10 minutes in:
For the life of me, I really don’t see Christy Clark agreeing to any of these negotiating points. If she does work something out with Weaver she will obviously be doing it as a temporary measure, all the while wielding that million watt instant fake smile of hers and issuing unbelievable comments about what a good environmentalist she is, and maybe purchase a couple of green sweaters for photo-ops in front of green trees while hugging bunnies. Meanwhile, she’ll keep the curtain closed on the bursting closet of her policies on fossil fuels, biding her time until she can stab the Greens in the back and try for another strong majority even though 59% of the vote this week went to the progressive side of the ledger.
Keep in mind when the final votes are counted she may form a very slim majority of one or two seats and cancel the need for an agreement with Weaver et al, which could collapse if a couple of MLAs get the flu and miss a crucial vote. The same applies to an NDP-Green government. It may be wise for both parties to hand out vitamins and surgical masks at the door to every meeting.
If the Greens and NDP are really serious about bringing the BC economy into the 21st Century they would negotiate a two or three-term agreement to stop competing with each other in every riding and run one candidate against the Liberals in key locations, therein likely attaining majority status until proportionality is fully realized. Three terms as a BC NDP-Green coalition government will potentially change the entire nation for the better by creating hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs in renewables (potentially over 150,000 in wind power alone), in construction around greatly expanded urban transit, lowering emissions remarkably, fostering innovation labs through directed educational institute funding in partnership with industry, and so on.
Lastly, the Libs record as supreme debt creators is unsurpassed. Moreover, they are masters at hiding it beyond the reach of annual budgets. In other words, the Libs do not care one whit that their grandchildren will be saddled with the enormous burden of paying it down, probably at much higher interest rates than today. The NDP of the 90s look like fiscal conservatives by comparison. I suggest that an NDP-Green government must also address debt reduction, even if that means enacting a dedicated debt reduction tax. If they can manage to create thousands of additional jobs in the renewable energy and construction sectors and value-added measures in sustainable resources like forestry, then moderating taxes won’t be a big issue within a healthy economy. The direct provincial debt is expected to reach almost $70B at the end of this fiscal year, and $78B next year. When contractual commitments are added, we’re looking at almost $200B.
Sustainability applies as much to the economy as it does to the environment. To suggest the NDP / Greens will blow it on fiscal issues is mythmaking when you look at the evidence.”
You are not hearing a lot in the press about the Tsawwassen Mills Mega Mall, built by the Quebec Ivanhoe Cambridge. Ivanhoe Cambridge is the real estate arm of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, which is the institutional fund manager for the Quebec pension plan and other Quebec pension investors. In terms of assets, Ivanhoe Cambridge reported investments of $55 billion dollars at the end of 2015. That’s the equivalent of four proposed Massey Bridges with carrying costs, with an extra 3/4 of a bridge thrown in.
Tsawwassen Mills is similar to the other two mega malls in this Quebec pension fund’s stable, Cross Iron Mills near Calgary and Vaughan Mills near Toronto. The advertising is the same, the layout is the same, and very similar retailers. This concept may be working in the other two places-but in Vancouver? Not so much. Last night there were 18 cars in a section of a parking lot for 400. The stores during the week are empty. There is no one walking around the mall. Employees and carless shoppers huddle out to mean concrete strips on Highway 17 for direct bus routes to and from the mall, instead of waiting for the bus that meanders through the roads. There is no density close by to fortify the mall, and a lot of locals furtively go there when necessary, preferring to patronize their local merchants in Tsawwassen and Ladner. There may be life and a comforting diversity of folks there on the weekends-on the weekdays, there is no joy and no buzz. For a generation of younger on-line shoppers who can also zip to the USA for a day of shopping, it’s just not that appealing, nor easily accessible.
Warren Buffett in the Business Insider in an article written by Hayley Peterson is calling it quits on the retailing industry in the United States. As Price Tags has previously written, Canadians are a little behind the times on the online trends. Buffett sees the next decade as being completely transformative, and that the new retail is on-line.
“The department store is online now…I have no illusion that 10 years from now will look the same as today, and there will be a few things along the way that surprise us,” he said. “The world has evolved, and it’s going to keep evolving, but the speed is increasing.”
Buffett has also sold $900 million of Walmart stock, choosing instead to invest billions in airlines. This was an interesting strategy in that Walmart is morphing itself to catch up with Amazon, the major on-line retailer.
“Brick-and-mortar retailers have announced more than 3,200 store closures so far this year, and Credit Suisse analysts expect that number to increase to more than 8,600 before the end of the year. For comparison, 6,163 stores shut down in 2008, the worst year for closures on record. Stores are closing because of the rise of e-commerce and shifts in how people spend their money. Shoppers are devoting bigger shares of their wallets to entertainment, restaurants, and technology and spending less on clothing and accessories.”
Cohen & Steers released a report last week on asset management which is their specialty. “We see this retail weakness, which is occurring despite a relatively healthy economy, as part of a permanent evolution in how and where Americans spend their money,” the firm, which manages $58.5 billion in assets, said in the report. “We expect the paradigm shift taking place to dramatically alter the retail landscape, with potentially significant implications for real estate investors.”
The Provincial Election is over and the electorate gasps as results indicate that no one (yet) really has the reins of power, and the two main parties may be wooing the Greens to form a government.
The discontent that has been felt in Metro Vancouver regarding accessibility, accountability, and bridge tolls and the vague disconnectedness between the hinterland and Metro Vancouver widened in terms of voting. The previous Provincial government had treated Metro Vancouver like the poor country cousin, someone who had to be told what to do (have a transportation referendum) and why they needed it (Massey Bridge, for congestion, you know) without substantive transparent process or explanation.
Last night, all three parties had their leaders come out with speeches that strangely all sounded like victory speeches. So let’s hope that is sincere and they start to work together-to compromise for Metro Vancouver’s best interests.
While the hinterland voted for the current government’s package of dams, pipelines and jobs, Metro Vancouver voting suggested that an alternative was being sought after. It’s certainly not a ringing endorsement for the Province to continue their “big business” plan in the lower mainland with pipelines, LNG plants, and industrial expansion.
The potential for a minority government means that all three parties need to compromise, actually work together to figure out the best policy and agenda to move forward for the region. It’s a very tall order, but compromise and working it out may achieve a new order for the Mayors’ Council and Metro Vancouver to be treated on a more equitable basis by the Province. It’s the only way forward to start addressing the sustainability of this important region, not just today but for future generations.
In one of those puzzling moments, the Mayor of Delta has spoken out against the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation-which the Mayor sits on. The Mayor’s Council has released its #CureCongestionGuide as reported in Price Tags here, taking a look at all the policies put forward by the various Provincial parties and ascertaining which parties will further the development of public transportation in this region. The parties were asked about their understanding and commitment to the Mayor’s ten-year vision for Metro Vancouver which included Surrey light rail and replacing the Pattullo bridge. The Mayors’ Council had a “scorecard” and gave the NDP a 3 out of 5 points in terms of their transit and transportation platform and responses.
The Mayor of Delta is the only Mayor in the region that wants the ten lane, multi-billion dollar (estimates now suggest $8 billion with carrying costs) unsustainable Massey Bridge being built by the Province on the sensitive Fraser River delta. The proposed new bridge goes right into her jurisdiction, and the Mayor was the only positive vote for this monolith, with the other Mayors asking the Province for a reconsideration.
As reported by Ian Jacques in the Delta Optimist the Mayor stated “I really believe that we have to stay out of the politics of it and send our message strong and clear to whoever is the successor. I think this goes too far,” she said. “We need to encourage people to get out to vote, but vote as you wish. Know the facts. Here at the facts from the TransLink area, but in terms of comparing parties and encouraging people to vote in a certain direction, I have a problem with that.”
The Mayor of Delta also doesn’t like that the other mayors are not supporting the Province’s Massey bridge, ostensibly designed for congestion, but really overbuilt to accommodate LNG carrying ships on the Fraser River. “It is a huge connector for the west side of the Lower Mainland and to have it totally ignored in this fashion is quite insulting frankly and quite unacceptable to me. We have been working on this current proposal for five long years and to not have any mention of a proposal of this nature in the study is baffling.”
Mike Buda, executive director of the TransLink Mayors’ Council Secretariat actually made a lot of sense when he clearly stated “Voters need to understand the kind of role the mayors’ council is looking for of the next provincial government to support that 10-year vision.” And that is true. The current Provincial government wants to conduct another transit referendum after the last disastrous exercise. While we all know that the key to affordability and accessibility in the region is good public transportation, no one needs to be dragged back into that expensive referendum process again. We need to move forward with a Provincial government willing to work in partnership with Metro Vancouver to keep the region affordable and accessible. And that means working hard and co-operatively for good regional public transportation.
But back to the Mayor of Delta-“They are talking about the Pattullo Bridge and that hasn’t been on the books nearly as long, so to my way of thinking, the argument that the Massey project is a provincial project is very thin.”
Metro News reports that Mr. Floatie has been around a while, and he has made the point quite clear at his many appearances in the Victoria area-the lack of sewage treatment facilities for this area resulting in dumping of raw sewage in the ocean is not cool.
Mr. Floatie was a six-foot costume that looked like the “organization’s acronym”, People Opposed to Outfall Pollution, or POOP. School teacher James Skwaro unveiled Mr. Floatie in 2004, and has been part of Greater Victoria’s conscience advocating for a secondary-sewage treatment facility for the region. A plan has been finally adopted to build a treatment facility by 2020, ending the daily flushing of 130 million litres of untreated sewage directly into the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Mr. Floatie’s last public engagement is in Seattle today, hosted by the Canadian consul general, the Mayor of Victoria, and area tourism representatives. I expect everyone will be flushed with success.
If you go through the Massey Tunnel, you’ve seen an increase in machinery and people wearing hard hats at that location. Students at Kwantlen Polytechnic have been following the progress, writing in The Runner Mag. Braden Klassen notes that the bridge planned by the Province with no consultation “will be funded partially by user tolls and partnerships which have not yet been announced.”
As one of the B.C. Liberals’ chosen public-private partnerships, this new bridge will be operated similarly to Port Mann. There the Transportation Investment Corporation (you know it as TReO, the group you pay tolls to on the Port Mann bridge) “operates and maintains the Port Mann, but the actual company responsible for tolling the bridge is called Trans Canada Flow. TC Flow is basically a small twig on the branch of a convoluted tree of French (France) subsidiaries, the list of which reads like a genealogy account from the book of Genesis.”
Braden Klassen examines these companies in France invested in Metro Vancouver. “TI Corp affiliate TC Flow was begat by partner groups Sanef Tolling and Egis Group, Egis Group was begat by investment groups Caisse des Dépôts and Iosis Partners, who also consist of their many affiliates and shareholders etc.” Caisse des depots is a French public sector financial institution that promotes “long-term investment…in France and abroad, particularly in projects related to energy transition.”
Klassen states that the “provincial government prioritizes consulting with corporate interests rather than the actual communities affected by these gigantic and costly initiatives…A $3.5 billion dollar investment could have paid for the Evergreen SkyTrain extension twice, with about $700 million left for TransLink..Instead of seizing this opportunity to join the clean energy movement and invest in a greener, more efficient transit-oriented solution, we’re going to build another bridge that will accommodate fossil-fuel driven transportation.”
Similar to the Site C Dam project, and Pacific NorthWest LNG, a chosen public-private partnerships will “design, build, partially finance, operate, maintain and rehabilitate the asset for a term of 30 years.” According to the government, “This procurement approach best provides value to taxpayers.”
There you have it. The Province is being fiscally responsible in building the Massey Bridge with its unannounced international corporate partners. No need for consultation if it’s the right thing, or at the right place for the Metro Vancouver Mayor’s Council or for regional growth. The Province knows what is best value-we’ve been told.
One of the great things about the readership of Price Tags is that the readers are a well-educated bunch who readily share information. Here is some of the dialogue regarding the Massey Tunnel debacle that is by informed readers concerned about this multi billion dollar overbuilding of a simple conveyance that could be easily handled by a direct twinning of the tunnel.
It has been suggested in this letter to the Delta Optimist and documented in the thorough blog written by Stephen Rees that there are other underlying factors that make the Massey Bridge look like a very expensive concept that needs to be rethought. From the letter to the Optimist written by Frank Suto:
Yesterday was a very exciting day for planners and statisticians who eagerly anticipated the new release of Census Canada data. As the Globe and Mail reporters Tavia Grant and Jeremy Agius noted, the “greying of Canada’s population is accelerating, as new census numbers show seniors now outnumber children for the first time in the survey’s history.” While 16.9 per cent of the country’s population is over 65, those 15 years and under number 16.6 per cent.
An aging population will impact all kinds of businesses that will need to cater to “older empty-nester single person households” as well as “government budgets to pensions, health care, the labour market, consumer trends and social services.”
There has been a trend through lobbies such as Generation Squeeze to advocate for better policy, affordability and accessibility for people in their 20’s to 40’s, with the thought that seniors are taking a lot of the resources. As Jen St. Denis reports in Metro News Vancouver’s high prices mean that while Vancouver attracts young people in their 20’s, who are leaving the city once they reach the 35 to 44-year-old age group.
While the City of Vancouver has recognized the need for housing for families and is focusing on lower and middle-income residents, Simon Fraser University’s Andy Yan notes that both children and seniors over 65 have been left out of the city’s new housing plan, and that both of these populations have specific needs. Metro Vancouver’s population grew 16 per cent overall between 2006 and 2016, but the number of people over 65 within that cohort grew by 35 per cent. It is clear that there is not yet strong policy representation for this growing cohort which will need specialized housing close to walkable and accessible services as they age out of their residences. Canada still has the “lowest share of seniors than in any other G7 country except the United States”.
The statistics also indicate that more seniors are moving to British Columbia when they retire, with seven of the top ten places with the largest amount of older people here. Not surprisingly four of those are on Vancouver Island, known for a salubrious climate. There is going to be a lot more information being interpreted, but the message is clear-we need to rethink the policies to allow everyone to live in Vancouver and age in place in a way that enhances liveliness and accessibility. It is going to be a tall order.
In a press release from the Musqueam Nation, Chief Wayne Sparrow stated “Musqueam has not been meaningfully consulted nor accommodated for the GMT (George Massey Tunnel) project. This project is in the core of our exclusive territory and the Provincial and Federal government have not received Musqueam’s consent.” Other media have picked up this unfulfilled duty to consult where indigenous rights and title exists.
This lack of consultation is a gaping omission given the Province’s claim through the Minister of Transportation that they have undergone a robust consultation process, even though this seems very slim on their website. And the Musqueam Nation have a very valid reason to be listened to and accommodated in any process impacting the Fraser River at this location-they have inhabited this land for thousands of years.
The proposed Massey Bridge lies squarely in the “heart of Musqueam territory and the BC (British Columbia) government has not received consent from Musqueam to proceed. It is in an area that has been occupied by Musqueam since time immemorial. GMT is surrounded by heritage sites, and other culturally important sites, including fishing areas in the Lower Fraser River that Musqueam has Aboriginal rights to fish, which are protected by the Canadian Constitution after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling (R. v Sparrow, 1992).
The Musqueam note that the tunnel removal “will add to the negative cumulative effects in Musqueam’s territorial waters in the Fraser River. BC and Canada have not considered these effects as they continue to approve projects like this”. And the First Nations is quite clear about what they think of this project: “Musqueam will not stand for the continued degradation of our lands and waters. The BC and Canadian government have much work to do with us to ensure the GMT project can proceed according to Musqueam conditions”, said Chief Sparrow. He added, “Musqueam is leading in areas of stewardship and management in our territory, and will raise the bar on all future projects in Musqueam territory. We are not against development, but it must be done in ways that include Musqueam values, and ensures the protection of our rights.”
The Musqueam values are being echoed by others who have done their due diligence and realize the ecological degradation of the lands and the river that will occur, including the damage to the river in the removal of the tunnel and further dredging to accommodate larger ships.The Province will say they are not doing this work which is partially right, because in this shell game the dredging would be under the auspices of the Port which is a federal authority.
When the stewards of the land, the Nation that has solidly lived here for thousands of years before Canadian Confederation speak, we all should be listening. The fact that this First Nation was not actively consulted is surprising. As the Musqueam First Nation says on their website, colonization resulted in “our traditional and customary system of authority quickly became secondary without the awareness of native leadership“.
It looks like the Province is still going bull-headedly on that same path, regardless of the devastating impacts on the Agricultural Land Reserve, the sensitive eco-system of the Fraser River delta and its shoreline, the wishes of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council and the interests of the First Nations who have rights to this Territory.
Sandor Gyarmati in the Delta Optimist reports that the Premier knows what is good for you and the Massey Bridge will “make a huge difference in the lives of those who live south of the Fraser”. Now that is kind of strange thing to say when you are defending the expenditure of $3.5 billion dollars (projected to go over budget according to many sources).
There are other alternatives that would have made a huge difference in the lives of everyone north and south of the Fraser River, including placing this bridge in an area to the east that is not impacting the most arable farmland in Canada. They could have seriously looking at other alternatives to the bridge such as twinning the tunnel, and simply doing some things that are done globally in other “congestion” situations, such as limiting truck traffic during peak times, or getting the port to operate on a 24 hour basis, like every other port in North America. Under the thin veil of talking about “jobs” and “congestion” it is assumed that citizens are not smartly analyzing the lack of public process and the wrong-headed direction which right from the start has nixed the tunnel. And no one is saying the real reason for the tunnel being taken out, which is for the Port (a federal not provincial agency) to dredge and industrialize the Fraser River for deeper, bigger boats carrying coal and liquid natural gas to Asia. It is all a very 20th century approach. A $3.5 billion dollar 20th century approach.
But never mind that, here is the Premier’s response last week in Delta. “I would argue, even more importantly, you can cross the river on the bridge and know you’re doing it safely with your kids in the car. It (current tunnel) so desperately needs seismic upgrading, I worry about people using that tunnel now. I think that will be a big improvement for people in South Delta”.
This is all a little weird as the previous Minister of Transportation stated that the tunnel was good for decades. But now it is the “s” words, safety, seismic, to go with “jobs” and “congestion” and spending $3.5 billion dollars for a bridge determined by the Mayors’ Council to be in the wrong place. But back to the Premier. “I promised that we would do this four years ago before the last election. We have spent four years with the scientists and geotechnical people and consulting with the community, and four years later we’re getting on with it..When I promise to do something, we get it done.”
You can take a look at the document list and the skinny public process here. This is one of those projects where the end, a bridge, was kind of foregone conclusion. There’s been a couple of meetings here and there, but no active dialogue or response. And in terms of addressing the fact that all the Metro Vancouver mayors except for the Mayor of Delta did not want a bridge located here? Nothing.
But on to the “benefits”. The Premier states you will have “reduced congestion” (which could be solved by more transit and eliminating trucks at peak periods in the current tunnel). You will have “improved safety” (of course you also have ten lanes of traffic). And my favourite-there will “13,000 fewer tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions”, because instead of idling at peak times all those vehicles will be proceeding at speed. There’s no factor for the increased emission resulting from the induced vehicle demand a new bridge will bring. And strangely, no comparison to the Port Mann bridge, or whether this is really worth $3.5 billion dollars.
Sometimes when you promise to do something, you have to make sure it is the right work, not just doing the work right.
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.”
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?
London England is always slightly ahead of the curve and the Evening Standard reports on the cutting edge work of a community alliance formed by “London Living Streets, 20s Plenty for Us and Living Streets”, to make them more comfortable and safer for all users. They are calling for “segregated cycle lanes, the removal of gyratory systems and a default, London-wide 20mph speed limit.” as well as a ban on those large digital advertising signs, the removal of central white lines on roads, and the use of speed cameras on all bridges.
By introducing these concepts as well as narrowing streets and full time, capital-wide road-pricing they believe that fatalities and serious injuries can be alleviated. Other recommendations are regulating autonomous vehicle speeds, and ensuring that trucks have side baffles to ensure that pedestrians and cyclists are not dragged under the truckbeds at corners.
“Some of these policies have been considered before but it has been very piecemeal,” said group spokesman Jeremy Leach. “We have already seen support for this from the new Mayor’s administration and Transport for London but we want them all pulled together under an effective ‘Vision Zero’ policy. We know from looking at other cities that these measures work. It would be daft not to try them.”
In 1989, Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase “third place” in his book The Great Good Place. The “third place” was the importance of “cafés (not to mention pubs, piazzas, beer gardens and teahouses) as gathering places essential to our individual mental health and that of society as a whole.”
How many times have you gone into a coffee shop only to find every available table taken by a human hunched over a laptop, often with a set of headphones plugged in? The BBC News reports on a new trend-a cafe where “ people stand and chat, sipping wine and beer while children sit and play board games. The café, called Kibbitznest, is a wi-fi-free zone. It’s the latest in a string of cafés shunning internet usage in an effort to encourage face-to-face conversation.” In a society where the average person spends ten hours with media a day according to a 2016 Nielsen report, a “third place” is urgently needed. “Cafés like Kibbitznest harken back to the original purpose of coffee shops — to act as places for lively debate and intellectual discussion and, above all else, social interaction. Cafés were initially a “third place” after home and work, where people could talk and spend time with friends.”
In one American coffee shop, getting rid of wifi and banning laptops increased sales by 20 per cent. Hiring baristas that were conversationalists, lowering counter heights, and taking off food label information encouraged customers to ask questions. These cafes are spirited places for public debate and conversation-perhaps proving that everything old can indeed be new again.
If you have ventured out to this mall which takes up 1.2 million square feet of real estate, you will have noticed that it is very much the same kind of mall reminiscent of the last century. It is located very close to the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal on the Delta flood plain which did contain the most arable soils in Canada. It has no density around it, and while there are transit connections, it’s still a hike to get there from anywhere. To attract employees the mall has laid on its own bus to move employees from Scott Road Station in Surrey. This mall is really designed with its 6,000 parking spaces for people with vehicles prepared to drive a long way and go for a day shopping. It’s so twentieth century.
The mall is very lightly used by consumers on weekdays. There is such little mall traffic that the whole place shut down early with some of the winter snow storms in order to get employees safely home. Most evenings the mall is fairly empty. The idea of pedestrians walking to the mall was never really thought of, despite the fact that Tsawwassen is just across the seven lane highway. Price Tags has previously written about the accessibility challenges for pedestrians and cyclists.
As reported in the Delta Optimist the Corporation of Delta has been lobbying for a five million dollar pedestrian overpass at Highway 17 and 52nd Street to get pedestrians safely across the street to the mall. This intersection has been fabulously overbuilt by the Province in true super highway style, with dedicated right lanes on and off of 52nd Street, despite the fact that traffic is throttling down to a municipal two lane road. Pedestrians and cyclists have to cross 40 meters across seven lanes of traffic and two turning lanes, leapfrogging to tiny cement pedestrian refuge “islands”. There are lots of improvements that could be made at grade to make it easier for pedestrians to cross to/from the mall that would not require a huge pedestrian bridge. But that is not in the purview of Delta, or the Province. It’s all about that five million dollar pedestrian bridge.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone wrote the Corporation of Delta stating he’s been evaluating the intersection and “These assessments found that pedestrian volumes were lower than the forecasted volumes which were considered when the business case was undertaken to address the merits of a pedestrian overpass. In addition, staff did not observe pedestrian overcrowding on the traffic islands or any other pedestrian related safety concerns.”
And here’s the best part- “The current intersection improvements, like similar intersections within the Lower Mainland, provide adequate accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists.” Even the Delta Chief of Police has weighed in, noting that in his expertise the length of the intersection, the signal timing and traffic speed make pedestrian access across Highway 17 challenging. Meanwhile, Tsawwassen Mills Mall motors on, looking for those last-century consumers willing to spend a day at the mall.
Little parklets are those exciting hacks of previous parking spaces morphing into things that well, ordinary people walking around can use. And one of the finest hacks as reported in City Lab is this absolutely brilliant reuse of a 24 foot sailboat now docked in a Ballard neighbourhood street outside a Seattle donut shop.
You are looking at the Endurance, which now “ only ‘floats’ on the road,” says Megan Helmer, a public-arts enthusiast whose husband founded the donut shop. “The keel has been removed, and the base of the hull cut and placed on cedar decking.”
Seattle actually has a City Department of Neighbourhoods that provides grants for such endeavours. With additional crowd sourced funding, Mighty-O Donuts and community volunteers began constructing the parklet.”
“The Mighty-O parklet is a great example of what SDOT’s parklet program is all about,” says Brian Henry at the transportation department’s Public Space Management Program. “They brought the community together to talk about what kind of public space should be created, and designed something that reflects Ballard’s maritime character and history. It shows how a neighborhood business can lead the way in enhancing the public realm, and creating more space for people.”
Seattle now has nine parklets that have developed in the last four years. This parket came after “one that encouraged leisurely reading with nearby “little free libraries” and another where people could paint stuff on a board with water and watch it evaporate to “witness the sobering truth that nothing in life lasts forever.”
Each one of these ideas is so wonderfully perfect.
The website h2020 has a very interesting examination of “traffic evaporation”-what happens to all that traffic when you close urban expressways in cities? The Paris Region Planning and Development Agency (IAU Île-de-France) has been examining the impact of these closures in large cities around the world, and has come up with some startling conclusions.
“Despite the initial fears, the removal of fast lanes does not worsen traffic conditions beyond the initial adjustments,” explains Paul Lecroart, urban planner at IAU and a specialist on this issue. “In all the cities studied, the evaporation of traffic is an important element to observe”. Here is what is interesting-when a fast lane is removed, overall traffic decreases by 14 per cent after several months. Why? “The reasons that lead to traffic evaporation can be several, one of them is the so-called “induced traffic“: when you create a fast lane, you automatically create traffic.”
Another study in 1992 by the Ministry of Transport in France estimated that the creation of a French motorway increased car volume by 40 per cent. Take the motorway away, and in the long term, traffic decreases. “The reduction of traffic is mainly due to behavioural change: people start adapting to the new spatial configuration. The behavioural changes that brings ‘traffic evaporation’ are: change of itinerary and of schedules, the frequency of travel, the mode of transport (shifting from cars to two-wheeled vehicles, bicycle, etc.), but also car-pooling, new family organization, moving or working remotely.”
The French term of “traffic evaporation” is related to the Braess paradox which states” that adding extra capacity to a network may reduce overall performance and increase travel times. As in a game structure, if drivers have the possibility to choose their own route autonomously they will behave selfishly. This means that each driver will aim at improving its respective travel time by arriving first: all drivers will take the new “fast” road and will thus cause congestion.”
Take away the “fast lane” and you reduce that congestion, as seen in Paris’ work reclaiming the right bank of the Seine for pedestrians and cyclists which you can view here. A YouTube explanation of the Braess paradox is linked below.
The Guardian comments on the “Oculus”, the 1.4 billion dollar mall linking New York City’s One World Trade Center, the subway lines and trains. Michael Sorkin, an architecture professor at New York’s City College pinpoints the new trend in these downtown shopping malls which he notes “is virtually indistinguishable from Dubai duty-free. The effect is compromising and imperial – a real estate formula.”
The 100 shops contained in this downtown mall are the same multinational shops you’d see anywhere in the world. But what is curious here is that while malls in suburbia are declining, the urban mall contains a commercial mix that integrates “so seamlessly into its urban surroundings that it can be difficult to draw any line between city and mall whatsoever. London’s Boxpark, Las Vegas’s Downtown Container Park and Miami’s Brickell City Centre are examples of mall-like environments that try to weave into the street life of a city.”
Using the principles that attract people to downtowns, these urban malls attempt to offer a physical experience that is different from that of being online. As one mall builder noted “Customers prefer to be outside and to feel less artificial”. Landscaping, paving of open spaces and how the space will be used for public space is now taken into account.
There are also cost savings with these urban malls, where spaces and buildings are exposed to open air and are naturally ventilated, as opposed to heating and cooling the massive big box mall.
Hong Kong has over 300 shopping malls built with subway stations and as part of skyscrapers. Hong Kong’s transit system also develops property so that transit riders can seamlessly move to shopping experiences and to the office. But is this the way forward, with international brands and downtown shopping experiences? And how can independent shop keepers and regional stores compete with the international brands?