Join UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning students for a full day of discussion on planning issues related to this year’s theme, Encompass. Encompass is about embracing unexpected connections and taking planning in new directions. At the 10th annual UBC SCARP Symposium we gather inspiration from diverse sources, finding fresh ideas by looking within – and beyond – the traditional boundaries of planning. Come prepared to challenge assumptions, connect innovative ideas, and broaden your scope of planning.
Urbanist, designer and artist Frank Ducote took these photos of the Vancouver pedestrian pathways along the sea wall during the weekend. These pathways are the responsibility of the City of Vancouver to be accessible and safe. While the bikeways were cleared and lauded on social media, the walkways for pedestrians? Not so much. And surprisingly when Frank Ducote posted this photo on his facebook page, seven former City of Vancouver staffers responded about the lack of cleared, safe walkable sidewalks. Walkers are the most vulnerable users and they include the elderly, disabled and children. On a brilliant snowy Vancouver weekend, they want to get out and use the city too.
One former City staff walked along Seaforth Park and onto Burrard Bridge, noting that the “sidewalk was slippery with lots of pedestrians, cleared bike paths but with no cyclists. Crazy”. Well, perhaps not crazy to support both walking and cycling as active transportation modes. But if walking is the first mode that all users do on a day-to-day basis, why can’t the City do a better job at making these sidewalks safe, comfortable and secure? It is the City’s responsibility. If the City can clear bikeways, can the same attention be given to sidewalks in the public realm? While the city is looking for volunteer Snow Angels in residential areas to help folks that cannot clean their own sidewalk, can the City maintain the public pathways in their jurisdiction? Is it time to have a clear pedestrian plan and direct focused advocacy for universal walkability issues at the municipal level?
Asking for a friend.
Time for a voyage back fifty years ago to another time and and another Mayor. Called “Tom Terrific” (and that was not always a positive term) Mayor Tom Campbell is described in wikipedia as “brash, confrontational, and controversial. During his term, the City held a referendum which authorized the then-controversial development of an underground shopping mall and office towers, now known as Pacific Centre, Vancouver’s largest development… Campbell took an assertively pro-development stance, advocating a freeway that would cut through a large part of the downtown east side, the demolition of the historic Carnegie Centre, and the construction of a luxury hotel at the entrance of Stanley Park (the Bayshore Inn) and another at the north foot of Burrard in which it turned out the mayor had invested (it is now an apartment building and never became a hotel).”
Mayor Tom Campbell was mayor from 1967 to 1972 and was not too happy with the “hippie” movement of the time. Dan McLeod of the Georgia Straight newspaper was beaten by City Police, and the Mayor stopped the 1970 Festival Express rock’n’roll tour from coming to Vancouver, saying he would shut down the festival with police intervention. He was also Mayor during the August 1971 Gastown Riot which resulted in 79 people being arrested, and 38 being charged with different offences. Stan Douglas’s art piece “The Gastown Riot” located in the Woodwards Building Atrium commemorates this event.
In 1968 Mayor Tom Campbell spoke to a CBC reporter at the Court House Steps, now the Vancouver Art Gallery about hippies, loitering, and why they were a scourge to society. At the end of the interview, one of the “hippies” quotes Shakespeare back to the reporter.
It is an interesting look back at what was considered heinous and unacceptable behaviour. And a reminder~these hippies are Vancouver’s senior citizens today.
From the always affable Daily Scot, Scot Bathgate sends this rather cheeky article from The Guardian where 26-year-old Elle Hunt who defines herself as “squarely a millennial” decides to account for all her purchases to see if she can save up for a down payment on a place. And she is in London England. As Ms. Hunt notes “House prices have grown faster than rents and incomes, moving far beyond what is considered affordable, especially for twentysomethings. The only people my age I know who have bought a house have done so outside London, as part of a couple, with help from their parents or all three. But you wouldn’t know that from the commentators who argue that a deposit would be within the grasp of all millennials – if only we would cut back on takeaway coffee and avocado toast.”
“But I find the argument that I could afford a house simply by going without luxuries for a few years hard to swallow… But I have decided to test my assumption that, as a single twentysomething committed to living in a major city, I will never be able to buy a house.”
Ms. Hunt uses a money-saving “expert” to record all of her spending for a month. Realizing she needs a mortgage of around 350,000 British Pounds (which is over $612,000 Canadian dollars) the “expert” suggests she won’t be able to save up, and asks if she has a Significant Other.
Ms. Hunt records all of her purchases and thoughts over the month and at the end, the money “expert” tells Ms. Hunt that “on the basis of my salary and my spending, Lewis believes home ownership is within my grasp – even outside a relationship. I am astonished. Scanning my spending diary, he says it would be “very possible” for me to save from £400 to as much as £700 of my disposable income each month by cutting back on coffees, lunches out, rounds at the pub and holidays. “Let’s be blunt: you do not need a money-saving expert to tell you that.”
Of course it would take four to eight years to reach a ten per cent deposit of 35,000 British pounds, and that is assuming ten per cent down and prices staying stable. “But I have to want it, the money expert continues. He has pages of evidence that I do not. “The most telling point in the whole thing, for me, was this line: ‘Brought lunch in, felt smug about it.’ If you were deliberately saving for a house, that would be habitual. It would not be smug.” Elle Hunt’s journal entries of spending and wit are available here.
Like most things, when you look at pedestrian crashes and fatalities, these tragedies can be averted in a very simple way~but there is the cost to motordom of not getting on its vehicular way with the briskness drivers have come to expect. Many of the pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries happen when vehicles are turning left through a marked pedestrian crossing when the pedestrian has the right of way. You can of course go ahead and build substantial infrastructure to narrow streets and build proper infrastructure. But there is one very simple way to save lives at low-cost. That is using the “pedestrian interval” as demonstrated in the YouTube video below.
As this article in CityLab states “Leading Pedestrian Intervals” or LPI s are streetlights that give walkers a head-start before cars venture into an intersection. Given even a few seconds of priority, most people wind up at least halfway into the crosswalk—where they’re plenty visible to drivers—before cars are allowed to go straight or make turns (including the ultra-dangerous left).”
When San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle adopted Vision Zero (with the goal of no lives lost to road violence) they also used LPIs at heavily used intersections. “New York City has been a leader, adding 2,201 since 2014 for a total of 2,483 across the boroughs. Now, nearly 20 percent of signalized intersections citywide have LPIs, according to a report by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. They give pedestrians a 7- to 10-second head start. Most are located in the city’s highest-risk traffic corridors.
And there are huge cost savings. The average cost of reconfiguring a crosswalk for an LPI is $1,200. As a New York City spokesperson noted “They don’t require any trench digging, concrete pouring, or lane closures. Sometimes new push buttons and controllers are needed; often engineers simply study local traffic patterns and reprogram existing lights.”
Research is showing that the use of LPIs can reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions by 60 per cent. A 2016 study of 104 intersections in New York City saw a decline in pedestrian and bike fatalities and severe injuries of 40 per cent. A report done by Transportation Alternatives suggests that these “head-start” lights for pedestrians may be the reason for the huge decline in New York City’s pedestrian fatalities, as many are the result of vehicles failing to yield in intersections. As the executive director of Transportation Alternatives states “Dollar for dollar, this is a really smart, life-saving investment that ought to be a part of any city’s effort to eliminate traffic deaths.”
As reported in the Richmond News seniors who receive Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan benefits of $586 and $866 a month respectively are still unable to pay the cost of a bachelor apartment rental in Richmond.The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation statistics show that in 10 years a one bedroom rental unit in Richmond has risen 44 per cent to $1,185 a month.
Few people who have worked all their lives come forward to say they are living below the poverty line. But Judy Lyk, a retired social worker has. A single mother of three was unable to save for retirement and also had financial problems that led to a bankruptcy. The lack of affordable adequate housing is what Richmond’s Chimo Community Services calls a “significant contributor to domestic crisis situations.” Ms Lyk was found living in a community shelter and represents the expanding realm of homelessness. One of the first occupants of a 129 unit subsidized rental building, Ms. Lyk is left with $250 a month for food and sundries as the rent even with a subsidy for the small bachelor apartment is $880.
Diane Sugars the executive director of Chimo community services observes “People have this idea of a person with addiction, or a man sitting in a doorway. It’s not that; it’s changed. It’s seniors, yes, but it’s also families who are faced with the inability to meet their rent. If they’re evicted, they struggle to find a place with affordable rent.” While an additional 130 subsidized units have been built annually in Richmond, more subsidized rental units are needed especially for families and seniors who “fall off the ladder” in a tight housing market.
As cities mature and the population ages, the classic use of cars as the main way to get places is no longer an option for many seniors. Statistics Canada has reported that in 2009 nearly 30 per cent of seniors with licences have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In 2009 that total was 20,000 people. As reported in Vox.com “Americans are getting older: 14 percent are currently over the age of 65, and that’s expected to surpass 20 percent by 2030. Modern medicine has extended people’s lifespans — and people are spending more years with less physical independence. And yet a smaller percentage of seniors move in with family or to retirement homes than in the past.”
What that means is that there are a whole bunch of senior citizens that should not be driving or cannot drive that live in areas that are car oriented, without good transit connections. Those communities that were seen as perfect for young families with station wagons and SUV’s are not easily connected by transit or alternative ride share services for people without wheels. In the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that drivers over the age of 75 are more likely to be in fatal crashes. Drivers over the age of 85 years of age are more likely to be in fatal crashes than teenagers.
Seniors who are isolated have lower life expectancies and poorer health. While 90 per cent now want to live the rest of their lives in their current home, access to shops, services and social activities like volunteering must continue. While assisted transit services like HandyDart are available, they must be booked in advance, and are often not on time. Some communities are planning ‘lifetime Communities” districts, which incorporate shops, services, parks and community centres that can all be reached by walking or a wheelchair. Other experts see Uber or Lyft as being vital to fill the gap between HandyDart and the use of a personal car, indeed even calling on cities to name ride sharing as part of paratransit services, with Uber and Lyft even delivering groceries and goods to seniors. These ride share services will provide “an easy means of getting around for people who can no longer drive — allowing millions of seniors to remain in their homes without becoming isolated.”
It is already being reported that seniors are comprising up to 40 per cent of Uber rides taken in some communities. Despite fears that the application would be challenging for seniors to use, it has been accepted, and the app now allows others to book for seniors if they do not have a smart phone. Up to twenty-two per cent of the seniors’ population are “elder orphans” without spouses or children to provide driving assistance, and ride share provides them with independence. As one ninety year old observed: “I can go wherever I want – the road is endless with Uber.”
If you have been walking on Seymour Street between Robson and Smithe you have probably heard it~kind of a high-pitched hissing noise, with a bit of a pulse to it. And no, it is not a heat pump or something related to a building’s air conditioning. That sound is actually a deterrent to keep loiterers and folks that would otherwise chat, sit near, or take up space near the parkade running the noise.
Called the Mosquito, this technology was invented in Great Britain and has a patented small speaker that produces a high frequency sound that can be heard by people who are 13 to 25 years old. That sound is broadcast at 17 Kilohertz (KHz). For older people, and in this case the Seymour Street sound, the setting is at 8 KHz and can be heard by people of all ages. There’s even a way to put place the Mosquito in a “royalty free” music channel, to ward away teenagers but attract older people. “Classical or Chill-out music that would keep the teenagers away to some extent…Launched in the year 2008, it is popular among clients who prefer to use music as one of the strategies to deal with anti social behavior!”
So back to Seymour Street~as reported by CBC News, a guy walking his dog noticed his pup was upset walking along this block. He found that the noise emanated from a box mounted in a stairwell in a nearby parkade, and was designed to deter people from gathering there. Calling these “audio pigeon spikes” a complaint was made to the City of Vancouver. And apparently others have noticed this noise as well, making walking down the street unpleasant for passersby.
“Rob De Luca, public safety director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the devices can be disruptive when used near public spaces, like a busy sidewalk.
“Broadly, these things can raise some concerns,” said De Luca. “The experience can be painful for certain people. It can very much be a blunt instrument. It doesn’t discriminate on people who are offending or not offending — it hits all ears alike.”
It appears that the Mosquito devices are legal in Canada and the complaint has been forwarded to the Vancouver Police Department. It is worth checking out the comments section of the CBC article where commenters have listed other locations where these Mosquito devices are installed. And if you want to hear how annoying the Mosquito noise is, you can hear this sound by following this link.
The last Gordie Award of 2017 goes to the people and youth of Vancouver that stood up to ensure that the disenfranchised could have a shot at temporary modular housing that was to be located in Marpole. The owner of the site at 59th and Heather had agreed that the city could build two temporary structures of 39 units each to house tenants that were over 45 years of age, with many with physical and medical disabilities. Fourteen of these units would be wheelchair accessible and staff would be available around the clock. Priority was to be given to the local homeless that rely on St. Augustine’s Church nearby to eat.
Local residents received notification from the City about the location of the modular housing and several reacted in protest not wanting this housing located in their community.
Kudos to the students at neighbouring Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School who researched the issue and then spoke out. They believed in YIMBY, “yes in my back yard”. As a member of Marpole Students for Modular Housing stated “I do understand that people can be set in their ways and they aren’t open to that kind of change. But I think this is one of those changes that is important for the benefit of our society as a whole and for our community being a better place in general…“I think the majority of the fear is not the fault of the individual, but the fault of society as a whole.”
The students held their own rally supportive of the modular housing and spoke for the inclusion of the people who will be living in the housing .The project is expected to be operational in early winter 2018.
The Gordie Award for the 2017 most puzzling planning work and process goes to the work occurring around Chinatown and the public process to have people heard. There is no doubt that this neighbourhood is not only one of the oldest in the city, it also has great historical and cultural context and is of national importance. This community has also suffered from great cultural bias and abject racism in Vancouver’s history. Price Tags Vancouver and noted journalist Daphne Bramham have been writing about the “deboning” of Chinatown. Retired Vancouver city planners have come back to speak out on how the City and its development wing has got this wrong from the original context agreed to by the community and by those city planners, and need to get back to the hard-earned principles about this place. This is not about spot condos~this is about how to maintain and strengthen a community that created Canada, and do the work right.
The most puzzling planning work and process also goes to how citizens of this community were treated at City Council’s public hearings, where people with a second language were required to have their translation time counted within the time alloted for an individual to speak. When the City sent out information that it was reviewing its public process after this embarrassing incident, it was noted that the information was only sent out in English, not in the other major languages used in this city. Every voice is important, and adds to the conversation. As reporter Ms. Daphne Bramham notes:
“Vancouver’s history is so recent that some of its retelling still hurts. But that is all the more reason this unique neighbourhood and community should be given the help it needs to survive and thrive.”
Christopher Cheung has written a delightfully fun piece in the Tyee about his foray into the instagram world of people photographing~well, themselves. His office window is smack adjacent to a popular instagram location on the top of a Gastown parkade. These people all came to the top open deck of the parkade to photograph not the area, the view, but themselves. And that is where Christopher’s story begins.
“All visitors have a mobile phone or DSLR in hand. They aren’t there to photograph buildings; they are there to photograph themselves in front of buildings, dressed in a diversity of styles: preppy, street and vintage throwbacks. Most of it is for Instagram. The app has 800 million monthly users (and counting) sharing images from their lives, sharing creative content and connecting over hobbies. Celebrities, small businesses and global companies use it too. Aside from simple portrait photographers, there are other surprises. I’ve seen skateboarders record tricks on video. I’ve seen TV crews shoot fight scenes. I’ve seen teens set off a bomb of blue smoke for dramatic effect. And, strangest of all, I once saw four guys — all in black, puffy jackets — place a puppy in front of a Ferrari for photos.”
Since most of us would doubt that four duffle coated men would put a small white dog in front of a Ferrari and photograph it on the roofdeck of this rather derelict rooftop parking lot, Christopher provides the photo. Surprisingly even though his office window overlooks the parkade he is largely ignored by the instagrammers. It seems, just like in real life, when someone is in pursuit of a great photo of themselves outside distractions are superfluous. Even taking photos of the instagrammers taking photos was mostly ignored.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think to document these visitors earlier — especially the ones who set off the blue smoke bomb. But from then on, I was determined to capture all who came up to the rooftop to visit.”
And of course Christopher placed his photos of people taking photos on instagram at @lotspotting. He also has a fullsome discussion on the use of instagram in rediscovering these lost corners of the city, and revisits the magic of Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog in the candidness and reality lacking in the instagram staged photos.
“Urban windows are a curious thing. They are part of the voyeurism that is life in a city. Looking through them from the street or looking through one at the street stirs both isolation and intimacy. American artist Edward Hopper captures one such window in Nighthawks, which has become an iconic image of urban loneliness. The painting shows four figures in a downtown diner late at night. They are appear to be strangers, but are sharing a moment together. The perspective is from the outside looking in. Instagram isn’t so different from urban windows.”
Everyone was pretty excited when Statistics Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released a batch of data suggesting that up to 20 per cent of newly built row houses and condos could be owned by foreign investors who do not live in Canada. But as Dan Fumano observes in the Vancouver Sun there may be more to the story, just as Price Tags Vancouver commenters have been noting in their own observations of what was looked at~and what was not~as part of defining who was buying what.
Calling this first data release ““the tip of the iceberg,” Haig McCarrell, director of the Statistics Canada division overseeing the Canadian Housing Statistics Program (CHSP) suggests that the next data release in the Spring of 2018 may contain further research clarifying some unanswered questions. Non-resident property ownership does not define what happens to that property, and also does not define other ways of registering the title to such property.
“For example, a property owned by a B.C.-incorporated shell company with foreign owners would, for the purposes of this month’s release, count as Canadian-owned, McCarrell said. Eventually, StatsCan wants to determine how much Canadian real estate is owned by “resident corporations with foreign owners.”Another area where McCarrell hopes to shed light is overseas residents buying Canadian properties in the name of spouses or children.
If a foreigner buys a Canadian home with money generated overseas, and puts the property in the name of a child attending school in Canada, it would not count as foreign-owned in this initial StatsCan study. McCarrell said future CHSP research could compare tax filings and property title records to find, for example, certain neighbourhoods with disproportionate numbers of multi-million properties owned by “students” with no declared income.
There’s no doubt that Vancouver’s market is unaffordable to people trying to work and live here. How this is happening and who is holding the property is important. Shell companies that are registered in Canada holding housing units would also be defined as Canadian owned, not foreign, and foreign ownership is defined as anyone whose principal residence is outside of Canada, regardless of country. McCarrell is also looking at the Victoria and Kelowna housing markets as well. The data will provide some benchmarking and will inform decisions on policy on how to create and manage housing for the folks that actually need to live here, and provide needed guidance on where to curb speculation on Vancouver housing as a commodity, not a necessity.
Source: Statistics Canada
“People are being excluded from specific parts of the region by income. That’s always gone on, but it’s massively going on now. This is a spatial segregation of people.”
Dr. Hulchanski was critical of the federal government’s newly announced Housing Strategy which has a confusing set of objectives, but believes more locally supported policy like Vancouver’s new housing plan is important. The local strategy envisions 36,000 housing units for those earning less than $80,000 a year. He also described the impact of private and public trends and policies in cities, noting ” A just city demands that all developments must be in the service of everyone.”
There are a lot of unsung heroes in Vancouver that care deeply about place and culture, and recognizing that some elements of the City are important enough to fight for. Melody Ma is one of the emerging voices in Vancouver who quite simply, calls it like it is. The City of Vancouver has just announced a public process review~but as Melody points out on social media, this process is being announced in English, despite the fact that there are significant other language groups in the city. When the public hearing for 105 Keefer was held, people who required English translation to speak to Council had that translation service counted as within their alloted speaking time. Melody and Nat Lowe spoke up about it, and made others aware of this.
Evan Duggan in the Vancouver Sun has written about Ms. Ma who leads the #SaveChinatownYVR group, an organization attempting to hold onto the 130 year history of the Chinatown neighbourhood, which is the largest and most intact Chinatown remaining in North America. (In San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake that Chinatown was rebuilt with Asian references by architects who were not Chinese and who had never been to China.)
Chinatown is not only one of the City’s oldest neighbourhoods, it housed the people who fundamentally built Canada by working on the railways. Price Tags Vancouver has written about the neglect and “deboning” (as noted columnist Daphne Bramham calls it) of this area which was the focal point for the 17,000 Chinese labourers who built the railway. This has also the place where their descendants said no to the development of a freeway cleaving Chinatown in the 1970’s. There’s been abject racism, and bias to this area’s conservation~but there is also a resiliency and cultural pride in Chinatown that is captivating.
As Melody Ma observes“It’s a place … where I went to Chinese school every day, where I learned Chinese dancing every weekend. It’s where I found my identity.” Ma’s involvement with 105 Keefer Street has reawakened a younger generation in Chinatown about the importance of structure, use and function of buildings in this historically signficant areas. “This is a gateway site in Chinatown,” she said, standing next to the war memorial. “If you could imagine a 13- or nine-storey building overlooking this site, it is going to be pretty massive. It is on a site that is surrounded by these amazing cultural assets,” she said, referring to the Chinese Cultural Centre and Dr. Sun Yat-sen Gardens.
A new generation of people with attachments to Chinatown are now actively reviewing developments that could displace Chinese businesses and disrupt Chinatown’s history. Chinatown is of international importance and is nationally significant as a historical neighbourhood that was the core for a group of workers that built Canada. While the City of Vancouver is now persuing World Heritage status through UNESCO, Melody Ma looks at the Mah Society building at 137 Pender Street as a key example of a renovation in keeping with Chinatown’s traditions: It embodies all of the aspects and characteristics of what I think a lot of the community is looking for,” she said. “On the bottom floor … you have Jade Dynasty restaurant, which is a culturally appropriate business. Locals enjoy it, tourists enjoy it, it’s packed on the weekends. On top, you have social housing. … It’s not just limited to Chinese seniors. It’s open to everybody.” As Ms. Ma also notes, “We need to think about cultural implications, and it is more than just a facade”.
It appears that there are two population cohorts being severely pinched~younger people trying to find a place to live in Vancouver with salaries that are not rising at the epic speed of housing costs, and seniors who may not own their own home and find limited income to pay for rents. On the weekend I went to a suburban Starbucks and noticed an older SUV idling in the parking lot. There was a Christmas wreath in the window, and two older women in the front seats. They were clearly living in the car, and had driven up to Starbucks to access the free wifi.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun “while the debate over the city’s housing crisis often focuses on millennials, people who work with seniors say elderly adults have lower incomes and fewer supports to withstand being displaced from their homes. “People end up living on the streets, or living in their cars, or crashing with friends, sleeping on the couch,” said Linda Forsythe, a board member of 411 Seniors Centre Society. “That used to happen a lot with young people,” she said. “They could tolerate it quite well, and sort of get on with their lives, whereas, with older people, you don’t have a chance to make more money. That’s the problem.”
There is a provincial grant to help elderly renters called Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters or SAFER. The subsidy ONLY applies to rent up to a certain “cap”, which “in the Lower Mainland is $765 a month, even though the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,223, according to the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation.” And in Victoria or Kelowna? The rent cap is $667.While rents have risen by 45 per cent over the past ten years, the cap has only risen by 9 per cent according to Isobel Mackenzie, B.C. ‘s seniors’ advocate.
Seniors who own homes and condos can defer their property taxes but may have challenges paying for strata fees, extra assessments or utility costs. The seniors’ advocate is even saying that seniors are ending up in residential care because they cannot pay for their rent. The B.C. government does intend to build 114,000 affordable housing units with 2,400 slated for seniors. But for seniors that are one or two bills away from not being able to pay their rents, upping the cap for subsidy for rent may be essential. The challenges are compounded for immigrant seniors who also face a language barrier in determining what services they are eligible for and how to access them.
“Lola-Dawn Fennell, executive director of the Prince George Council of Seniors, recently told a House of Commons committee that most clients come to the centre in crisis.“When you are already stretched to your monthly income and emotional and physical limits, a broken-down furnace or a bill collection notice or one more hour of caregiving can become a last straw,” she said. “Yes, we see suicidal seniors.”
In the thinking out of the box department newly minted City of Vancouver Councillor Hector Bremner introduced a motion at Council to rezone West Point Grey as a new zone for rental residences. Bremner was specifically looking at the zoning of the area north of 4th Avenue and west of Blanca which borders the University of British Columbia lands. Why? Because the zoning on that land means that lots must be 12,000 square feet. Minimum. To give you an idea of how massive that is, the normal city lot of 33 feet by 120 feet has 3,960 square feet. This West Point Grey area requires footprints three times the size of the standard city lot. Of course lots of influential people live there too that have no interest in new rental zoning. There are current for sale listings for residences in this area ranging from $14 million dollars to $28 million dollars.
As reported by Matt Robinson in the Vancouver Sun Bremner stated “This is a chance for this council to put its money where its mouth is and … actually take action and say mandated mansions in the 21st century is not more important than creating housing right next to UBC…I saw just how dilapidated and derelict many of them are. The rest are owned by numbered corporations, largely out of country, passing amongst each other to avoid property transfer tax”.
Councillor Bremner says he has reviewed the financials and believes six storey residential buildings would be viable in this location. His aim was to turn 150 acres into rental housing zones with a potential of 10,000 units. Councillor Bremner’s motion also mentions the fact that smaller units would benefit seniors, housing could be created for UBC students, and that this motion was entirely in keeping with Council’s expressed policy identifying potential changes in low density residential neighbourhoods as a high priority. The West Point Grey Residents Association was not too happy, and suggested that the land price was too high to be used for constrained social housing funding.
In a letter to council, the West Point Grey Residents Association expressed “dismay and opposition” toward the idea. It faulted the motion for lack of consultation and stated that scarce social housing funds would be squandered on purchases of such high-priced land. This does however commence the conversation of where the City’s new Ten Year Housing Strategy will land, and who will decide the equitable distribution throughout lower density residential areas.
As reported to the World Economic Forum cities with large aging populations such as Singapore and Paris are trialling experimental self-driving buses. Japan is undertaking a demonstration project in rural Nishikata which is 115 kilometers north of Tokyo, which has limited bus and taxi services. Should the trial be successful Japan could launch these autonomous vehicles in the next 12 years, providing shuttle service for seniors.
One company which is making autonomous vehicle software noted why the autonomous transit was necessary . “Smaller towns in Japan are greying even faster than cities, and there are just not enough workers to operate buses and taxis”.
The driverless shuttles take seniors from a service area to a complex with multi health care services. Curiously the town of Nishikata has an age breakdown close to the country of Japan, with one-third of residents aged 65 years or older. Seniors are increasing in population~overall population has shrunk nearly 5 per cent.
The actual shuttle goes a turtle’s pace at 10 kilometers per hour, and the vehicle is being monitored for road safety in different climactic conditions, as well as how the vehicle deals with obstacles in its path. For aging places without resiliency in younger population growth, the automated shuttle may take the place formerly occupied by family members getting seniors to and from services and shops.
From Britain and the BBC News comes this interesting piece that may also have impacts on how we design and think about city streetscapes. In Britain, the walkers used by the disabled and seniors are called “Zimmers” after a manufacturing company that used to produce them. One care home worker noticed that these walkers are all designed and made in a slate grey colour, the same colour that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have trouble differentiating and seeing. Undertaking a project called “Pimp My Zimmer” volunteers came into the care homes to paint and modify the walkers with art so that each one was individually identifiable as being unique to the owner. The simple act of colouring up walkers and walking aids meant that seniors with dementia felt more confident at identifying their own walking device, and actually used it more, of course creating more sociability and well-being. Trips and falls were also reduced with the use of the colourful personalized walkers that were no longer the imperceptible colour of grey.
City and parks planner Alan Duncan created the “Wellness Walkways” a special treatment of the walking environment around Mount Saint Joseph Hospital and the adjoining care homes in Mount Pleasant. Using non glare concrete sidewalks with saw cut joints, generous garden beds with plants for smell and touch, and benches that wheelchair users could transfer to, Duncan created a safe comfortable environment that had strong visual and sensory cues for seniors.
In the City of Vancouver sidewalks are left grey, and powdered textured paint or colour is not used to change the colour. With an expanding seniors population that will be using walking as a main mode for transportation perhaps it is time to experiment with making surfaces for walking more colourful and bright, and enhancing colour and form on street amenities such as benches, wayfinding and receptacles. As cities examine how to keep an aging population more active and fit, and encourage sociability at any age, splashing colour on sidewalks and surfaces could encourage walkability. The BBC video about “Pimping My Zimmer” can be viewed here.
The Vancouver Foundation produced a study in 2012 that looked at the “strength of connections and engagement” among Metro Vancouver residents and concluded that residents had a sense of social isolation and often did not know their neighbours well.A follow up “Connect and Engage” report has just been released by the Foundation. This report examined the “sense of belonging, level of community participation, and the difference between loneliness and social isolation” in 2017.
With over 3,800 people across Metro Vancouver being surveyed this summer, the study found about 25 per cent of people feel isolated, and that there has been a marked decline in community life. The results reported are startling. “While only 14% of all Metro Vancouver residents report feeling lonely either ‘almost always’ or ‘often’, this figure rises to 30% among people age 18 to 24, and 38% among people living in households of less than $20K. Yet the same groups are also more likely to identify new ways to make friends, and highlight finding people with similar interests, more personal time, people being friendlier or more approachable, more community or common spaces, and having more financial resources as important factors.”
Social resiliency is also being defined differently, as “traditional” neighbourhood activities such as using local libraries, recreation centres and churches are declining in interest while local neighbourhood or cultural events are favoured. And positively 9 out of 10 respondents say they have a dependable person to rely on, and 86 per cent have close relationships “that provide a sense of emotional security and wellbeing.”
How do citizens in Metro Vancouver define connection and social engagement? The short video below or here describes the Vancouver Foundation’s findings.
We have just entered the dark cold rainy months of winter, and Vancouver is in an unusual situation. Unlike most large Canadian cities we do not normally get snow and live in a habitat with lots of tall trees and a lot of rain. These factors make walking in Vancouver’s low light winters a challenge. Snow does provide some light bounce, and does make cars go slower. In 2016 nearly one pedestrian a month was killed on the City of Vancouver streets. Most were over 50, and most were men. The majority of pedestrian deaths in the Province died while legally crossing the road in a marked intersection.
An interview by the CBC last week points out that 40 per cent of all pedestrian deaths in the Province occur in November, December and January. Of that amount 61 per cent were over 50 years and more than one-third were over 70 years of age. The 2017 numbers for pedestrian deaths are not released yet from the B.C. Coroners Service for the Province. Price Tags has recently written about the fact that pedestrian signal crossing time is not long enough for many seniors, and that the standard crossing times for the elderly are being internationally challenged.
On a per capita basis, Vancouver has a worse record of killing pedestrians than the City of Toronto which is actively campaigning to reduce road violence. “A recent survey released by ICBC revealed that nine out of 10 drivers worry about hitting a pedestrian at night, particularly in wet weather, while eight in 10 pedestrians don’t feel safe in those conditions.”
The Provincial Medical Health Officer has written Where the Rubber Meets the Road trying to halt the 280 annual deaths (47 in Metro Vancouver) from automobiles in the Province, and the 79,000 who are injured. Vulnerable road users, those using active transportation have increased in fatalities, comprising 34.9 per cent of all fatalities in 2013. Road design, speed, driver behaviour and visibility are all aspects of road safety and achieving Vision Zero as set out in Europe. The safety of vulnerable road users is now a public health priority in British Columbia and in Toronto, and we need to design our streets and slow down vehicular speeds as if every road user’s life truly does matter. Because one pedestrian death a month in the City of Vancouver is just not acceptable.