Julie and Rick Marzolf in full Canadian Gothic, sprucing up those delightful plantings where the York Bikeway meets the PGR Greenway.
Erica Ladner getting in some overdue pruning, without any assistance from furry onlooker.
Julie and Rick Marzolf in full Canadian Gothic, sprucing up those delightful plantings where the York Bikeway meets the PGR Greenway.
Erica Ladner getting in some overdue pruning, without any assistance from furry onlooker.
By 2030, one-quarter of all Canadians will be over 65 years of age, which will have profound impacts on Canadian cities, urban life, housing and health services. The City Program of Simon Fraser University hosted a lecture on Friday March 24 on Aging, Design and the City.This well attended lecture was also available on-line and attracted an international contingent of people who joined via the internet.
Director of the City Program Andy Yan brought together a host of speakers from various backgrounds and institutions to commence the conversation of what happens to Metro Vancouverites as they age-do we stay in our houses, or do we go? And where do seniors go to, and what is the housing seniors are looking for?
Elizabeth Tang from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) noted that in focus groups across Canada, people aged 55 to 75 have a lack of concern for planning future housing. Even seniors older than 75 years of age are not thinking of changing from their current dwelling. Factors influencing their choice to age in place included their personal health status, the cost (especially in Vancouver) and the quality of life. Co-housing, where seniors have their own accommodation but share common areas and kitchen facilities appear popular, with Burnaby’s Nikkei Place, Maple Ridge’s Ridge Meadows Seniors Society and Vancouver’s PALS (Performing Arts Lodge Society) being mentioned. PALS also has a children’s daycare on site allowing seniors to have interaction with children and their parents.
Vancouver architect and developer Michael Geller noted that everyone has a different idea of the best place to age, be it in France, a fine hotel, or even on cruise ship. He identified five future trends: People aging in place with supportive governmental programs, more senior friendly duplexes and townhouses; more purpose-built rental and ownership buildings, as well as co-operative and co-housing options; enhanced buildings offering the “continuum of care” with different types of housing and levels of care; and more “alternative tenure” buildings with a mix of ownership and lease housing options.
Architect Eitaro Hirota described the work NSDA architects are undertaking in care facilities, and the importance of sun orientation and the need for communal spaces that can be private, semi-private and public. Simon Fraser University researcher Dr. Habib Chaudhury discussed the parameters needed for age and dementia friendly communities, as well as two assessment tools developed for wayfinding and walkability.
This session provided an introductory discussion on the trends and impacts of aging on the city and on services. There will not be enough age appropriate housing to go around. Just as there is a pinch in the market for young people looking for entry-level housing, there will be a dearth of housing for seniors. The Nikkei Place in Richmond houses 40 seniors with an average age of 89 years. The waiting list to get into the Nikkei Place is already eight years long. We need to adapt our policies, programs, cities and housing to reflect the growing numbers of seniors that will rely on these services in their waning years.
The Federal government’s budget came down last week and it was called “Building a Strong Middle Class”. With that sentiment, the Federal Government provided 2.2 billion dollars for Greater Vancouver transportation projects including a Broadway subway, Surrey light rail and replacing the Pattullo Bridge. These are all part of the TransLink Mayors’ 10-year Greater Vancouver transportation plan.
Surprise! As reported in the Delta Optimist by Ian Jacques the Federal government didn’t provide any funding for the single-minded Provincial government support of the Massey Bridge, so the Province will have to pony up the $3.5 billion dollar estimated cost on their own.
The Province had one more salvo for Metro Vancouver mayors who have universally rued (except for the Mayor of Delta) the placement of this overbuilt Massey bridge in a location that will have dire ecological ramifications and is quite frankly in the wrong place for the region. The Province announced they will not be matching the Federal mass transit and transportation funding for Metro Vancouver. Nope. The cities still have to find a third of the funding.
Think about that-this is the Province that insisted on a Metro Vancouver referendum to fund transit despite the wishes of Metro Vancouver mayors. This was a 7.5 billion dollar plan, with one third each being provided by the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal governments IF voters accepted a 0.5 per cent infrastructure sales tax. That initiative was sounded defeated, with Transportation Minister Todd Stone victoriously concluding “We are very proud that we fulfilled our commitment to give the people of the region a voice”. At that time the Minister also stated “Doing nothing is simply not an option. The region is going to have to decide how it’s going to come up with its one-third of the cost.”
Is the funding missing for Metro Vancouver’s transit and transportation plan going towards the Massey Bridge? And where will the Province come up with the billions of dollars for the 2016 estimated cost of 3.5 billion dollars? Surely there is a less costly solution that could include mass transit and a smaller ecological footprint.
Ralph Segal was the senior architect and development planner for the Planning Department of the City of Vancouver. He is a well-respected professional that cares deeply about the city, and who was involved in most of the major planning and design decisions in the City in the three decades prior to his retirement.
Ralph has suggested in the Vancouver Sun letters that a special public place be named after the late Vancouver architect Bing Thom, who was cited by Stephen Hume in his series on 150 Noteworthy Canadians in the Vancouver Sun as a “Visionary artist, calm philosopher who meditated every day — even while juggling complex obligations that involved hundreds of millions of dollars — business wizard, respected by all as a kind, decent man, his stunning architecture marked the world.”
Quoting Ralph Segal “Thank you to Stephen Hume and The Vancouver Sun for the profile of Bing Thom, in which are cited his many prestigious national and international awards and medals for architectural excellence. As impressive as this list is, it does not even begin to touch on the equally important contributions he has made to mentoring and encouraging innumerable individuals and groups that he has inspired with his visionary advocacy and pragmatic approach to problem-solving.”
“A fitting commemoration to all these accomplishments would be the naming of a special public place, preferably in northeast False Creek, a downtown precinct now being designed, envisioned as connecting adjacent future and existing neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside with False Creek. A prominent public meeting space named in his honour would celebrate the depth of his insights into how the art of city-building can be the vehicle that brings together people of all backgrounds and interests, furthering his philosophy of inclusiveness.”
You can read a bit of the extraordinary contributions Bing Thom has made to Vancouver and public life on this link from Price Tags. Here’s hoping that Bing’s legacy can be honoured in a place name.
A lovely Saturday afternoon.
Here’s a concept that initially one might take as satire. But then, these days, it’s hard to beat reality.
The Big Bend is a curved, 4,000 foot-long skyscraper planned on Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row. It’s the brainchild of Oiio Studio. …
The Big Bend is just an idea – for now. Oiaonomou has sent the plans to a few companies and is currently seeking investments.
Branded by Trump, financed by Russians, built for billionaires, will remain largely empty.
Don Luxton led off a panel discussion at SFU Woodward’s last night, hosted by Heritage Vancouver, with an explanation of The Future of Heritage In Vancouver – What the New Thematic Framework Means for Our City. (It’s not just about registering more Edwardian mansions and arts-and-crafts bungalows. There’s a place for lawn-bowling pitchs, aboriginal middens and gay bars.)
Don is the perfect guy to do it as the consultant to the City’s next phase in updating the Heritage Register. (He worked on the first one back in 1986, for heaven’s sake, and is one of the key go-to consultants in the province.) Indeed, maybe Don should be on the register himself: he’s been around long enough and certainly worth preserving. His contribution has been historic!
Don has less patience these days for using indiscriminate heritage preservation as a nimbyist strategy to prevent change. Indeed, his best quote came late in the evening:
“This is not a city to be in if you’re afraid of change.”
Wraps on utility boxes have been around for awhile. But typically the coverings have been, um, pedestrian – appropriate, I suppose, since they’re next to sidewalks. City scenes, leafs, whatever blends in.
This, though, on Denman near Pendrell, is a recent development that maybe marks something more offbeat:
No, not because it’s a bicycle! The images on image: public art from the Biennale.
At Main & Terminal.
“Livable Cities” brings together interdisciplinary research, creative inquiry and city planning methods to explore current city development through sound, smell and other embodied perspectives.
Presented by Simon Fraser University and hosted by the City of New Westminster, this one-day symposium will take up various disciplinary approaches, including architecture, community development, and socio-cultural issues.
Communities in flux across the Lower Mainland present unique opportunities to engage with city planning strategies, urban densification, and the impact of soundscapes, smellscapes and mobilities on local urban environments.
Visiting Scholars include Mel McBride and Randolph Jordan. Evening concert curated by Barry Truax.
Thursday, April 13
9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Anvil Centre – 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster
General Admission: $10
Seniors 55+: $5
Students: Free with valid student ID
Tickets include access to all Symposium events, including panels, presentations, workshops, and evening concert.
Workshops: Free and open to the public (with registration)
To reserve your spot, please note first and second workshop choices when completing registration.
Tickets are available via Ticketsnw.ca
The sad case of Point Grey Road.
by Patrick Condon
You would think the City of Vancouver was out to make us all raging nature haters. How is it that the provision of a simple thing like bike lanes has made city voters so apoplectic that it ranks at the top of the pile of election wedge issues. Its like getting upset about crosswalks. You have to try really hard to make folks mad about, or even notice, public infrastructure. But somehow the city seems to accomplish this feat again and again.
The newest catalyst for resident apoplexy is, yet again, Point Grey Road. Residents there are furious about a six meter wide sidewalk and tree boulevard strip currently under construction on the north side of this street – in most cases on land being taken back from lavishly planted front gardens that had gradually forested over unused city land.
Point Grey Road is, of course the street that the City closed to through car traffic to complete the City’s “sea wall” along the Kitsilano district’s shore. This original effort was understandably applauded by homeowners along this “golden mile”, but dismayed residents of other parts of the city and region who had become accustomed to going there for a Sunday drive to enjoy the attractive ocean views and, to some extent, gape at the homes and gardens of the well heeled.
In this more recent case the homeowners garner little sympathy from the broader populace, given that the street closure seems to have been a factor in the fantastic increase in property values there. Spurious safety concerns raised by golden mile residents ring hollow when the 10,000 daily trips which once passed their drives now inflict residents living along nearby 4th avenue.
This is all the more sad because none of this really had to be this way. The City lately seems incapable of anything approaching a light touch when it comes to their Greenest City agenda. The current approach to Point Grey Road is emblematic of this failure of imagination. Truly sustainable cities emerge with a much lighter hand. The City’s ham handed approach unnecessarily disrupts existing cultural and urban ecosystems, and, in the process, racks up unnecessary political and capital debts. Its sad. A much lighter approach to Point Grey Road was always available. But a lighter approach would have required a more holistic sensibility which, i would argue, the City lacks. A more truly sustainable approach would be accepting of “both and” solutions rather than the current “one way my way or the highway” approach.
The City’s approach to designing and building green infrastructure seems similar to the much maligned approaches taken by highway engineers of the 1960’s. Those folks happily ripped up city blocks for flyovers and cloverleafs, and leveled every neighbourhood in the freeway’s path. There is thus not a small measure of irony in using these same design approaches for green infrastructure in the only city that stopped a highway from gutting its downtown.
What would a lighter approach have looked like on Point Grey Road? Well i suppose the City could have started off by at least trying the one way street proposed by citizens prior to the City’s controversial and precipitous complete street closure. That plan could have been implemented with a can of yellow paint to mark the bike way and a few signs. If that proved inadequate after a few years then some new signs and some more paint to divert the one way traffic to 4th ave could have worked. This is the kind of “tactical urbanism” strategy famously used by Jannette Saduk-Khan, New York City’s transportation commissioner, who first used a can of paint and some movable chairs to close off Times Square in New York City, a move that both proved what was possible and allowed for low cost real time experimentation to get it right.
But instead we got a very over-engineered grey street, with green functions (walking, biking) rigidly, unnecessarily and expensively separated. We could have had a “complete” street instead, one with wheeled circulation functions more mixed and existing trees preserved. We could have had a street that enhanced rather than degraded ecological functions, a street that added habitat rather than removed it, a street where storm water was cleaned and infiltrated into the water table rather than discharged unmitigated into English Bay waters.
There was a time not so long ago where the City was pursuing these simpler green infrastructure strategies; notably at its Crown Street Green Street Project of 2005. That seems like a different world now. Take a look at that sustainable street with its naturalized drainage and no need for storm drains and expensive curbs and pipes. Would Point Grey Road not have been the natural place for a public display of this lighter green touch? a project that could have been implemented for a fraction of the cost of the current project? and a project strategy that you can easily imagine working around existing mature trees rather than savagely clear cutting every shred of green within the right of way?
Sadly our chance to get it right on Point Grey Road has passed. But there is, I believe, a larger issue here. Its not too late to engage in a fundamental rethinking of what it means to be the Greenest City. Its not too late to recognize that a green city is an efficient city, a city that looks for the most modest and easy to realize solutions possible; a city that finds the solutions that emerge most easily and almost by themselves; a city that analogically follows the judo maxim of “Maximum efficiency, minimum effort” rather than the smash face brutality of over engineered solutions evident at Point Grey Road.
The proliferation of unneeded urban highways in our North American cities is just the most obvious example of the problem with the smash mouth tactics of failed urban engineering. We should not repeat that mistake in applying “green” infrastructure to the fragile ecosystem of the city.
In the end, the world’s “greenest city” must, to be worthy of the name, be a city that works with not against ecological systems, and works with not against its most dominant species: its citizens. We should have learned by now that its a mistake to depend on technocratic responses to narrowly defined problems. In the end, a green city becomes and stays green by always seeking the lightest possible way to achieve both its ecological and political ends. And those ends are enhanced by an open and holistic citizen focused process. The planning for Point Grey Road has more than once failed to meet this green standard. To be the greenest city means learning to avoid this mistake.
Nic Slater posted this excellent three-minute video, produced in Great Britain but with much relevance to the situation with the proposed Massey Bridge. You just can’t build your way out of congestion with roads, and eight out of ten of these massive projects take out vital ecological habitat, and two-thirds of the projects destroy landscapes that were culturally important. Road building also means that people move away from town centres where they can cycle and walk.
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?
Leave a gift, take a gift.
Inspired by Afeatherway.com (a free trading platform).
Located on the new, improved Point Grey Greenway.
More new lighting on Robson – but this time from below, at 545 Robson.
These glass sidewalks are a contemporary reference to ‘vault lights’ that used to illuminate the areaways underneath – a tradition that goes back to the founding of the city.
Justine Murdy explains that since Vancouver’s incorporation in 1886, property owners in the downtown area ( i.e. The CBD, Gastown, Chinatown) were charged “taxes for sidewalks that aligned their lots, even though using the space above the sidewalk wasn’t permitted”.
Some property owners took advantage of this and decided to use the spaces below the sidewalks to expand their basement space. Murdy explains that “by paying a minimal encroachment fee to the City, basements could be extended into the area under the sidewalk” past the building wall up to the street wall.
By the time areaways came into use in Vancouver, many other cities in North America and the UK were already using glass prisms to safely illuminate these spaces. The idea of lighting otherwise dark and dank areas with “pure, healthful, white light from wall to wall” was very appealing in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
Eventually the City made them illegal and over time required the areaways to be filled in. Safety argument, no doubt.
But when Woodward’s was being redeveloped, Jim Green made the case, with support from the heritage community, to allow for their replacement. (At least I think that’s the story. Maybe John Atkin or others can correct or provide more detail.)
In any event, it’s nice to see this contemporary interpretation: green light in a grey city.
Spring-like day; spring-like colours. Thank you earth. This lifts my spirits immensely.
New lighting on Robson – all sparkly blue and white – filling the crowns, encircling the trunks, giving the street a boost before it loses momentum (empty storefronts!) by Jervis Street.
Robson’s prestige is being eroded by Alberni, a block north where the high-end girls have gone to play. Once just an extra-wide alley for through traffic and entrances to surface parking, Alberni’s sparkly stuff is now the jewelry at Tiffany and Cartier.
Even Thurlow between Robson and Georgia was, in the 1970s, lined with surface parking lots. That’s changed:
The above shot is the podium of The Carlyle, a 20-storey rental block built in 1989 – targeted to middle-income urbanites willing to actually live in the CBD. While it demonstrated it was still possible to build market rental, the Carlyle remained an outlier for several decades, with a constant change of retail tenants in its podium.
Once a 7-11:
And now a Prada.
Both Peter Ladner in Business in Vancouver and columnist Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun have featured comments made by Larry Beasley, the former Co-Director of Planning at the City of Vancouver. Larry is a thoughtful and analytical planner whose mindfulness shaped the downtown peninsula into a world-class paradigm. I’d also credit him along with his engaged and artful planning staff in refining the concept of Vancouverism-the mixed use form, space and structure that is admired by many.
It’s no secret that even though there were over 27,000 Metro Vancouver unit building starts in 2016 (which is 57 per cent over the 10 year average) that not enough people are getting housed. As Peter Ladner notes “With the average household at 2.6 people, that’s enough supply for almost 70,000 new people, but population growth last year was 30,700 people. We’re building more than enough to accommodate local population growth, but not investment demand.”
In a global economy where housing is being bought for an investment instead of as necessary accommodation, there is not enough housing to go around. The foreign buyer’s tax and increasing property taxes could add to the supply, but more is needed.
Larry Beasley “has concluded that we need to build out a “third sector” to deal with middle-class affordability: new supply that’s secured for locals and for certain groups of consumers.” Larry is thinking of a “semi-market” housing targeted to middle-class income earners. One example would be reviving self-owned co-ops, where some units subsidize other units. Or we could follow Melbourne’s requirement for new big job centres to include employee housing. Or ramp up inclusionary zoning to require new high-end condo developments to include some fixed-price units. Madrid and Whistler are two places that have created non-profit home ownership: homes sold to local workers to build equity, but they can be sold only at a pre-determined rate, with little or no profit.”
Larry Beasley describes this third sector of housing as “semi-market, and could include co-housing which includes some shared living space. Such a third housing sector would require collaboration between governments, developers, banks and non-profits. Most notably, such housing could include “as much as 30% of the housing market, securing the kind of affordability that would guarantee the diversity of our region for years to come.”
The New York Times notes that San Francisco, with a population of 865,000 has “ roughly the same number of dogs as children: 120,000. In many areas of the city, pet grooming shops seem more common than schools.” San Francisco’s technology boom has resulted in high prices and families fleeing the city, with the” lowest percentage of children of any of the largest 100 cities in America, according to census data, causing some here to raise an alarm.”
In 1970, about 25 per cent of the population was composed of children, with 90,000 pupils in public schools. Today that figure is 53,000 kids in school, with kids comprise 13 per cent of the population. By comparison, New York’s population of kids is 21 per cent, and Chicago’s is 23 per cent under 18 years of age.
California, which has one of the world’s 10 largest economies, recently released data showing the lowest birthrate since the Great Depression. “Sometimes I’ll be walking through the city and I’ll see a child and think, ‘Hey, wait a second. What are you doing here?’” said Courtney Nam, who works downtown at a tech start-up. “You don’t really see that many kids.” And in an interview in 2016, the co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel described San Francisco as “structurally hostile to families.”
“A report released on Tuesday by the San Francisco Planning Department said the building boom in the city, which for the most part has introduced more studios and one-bedroom apartments, was unlikely to bring in more families. For every 100 apartments in the city sold at market rates, the San Francisco school district expects to enroll only one additional student, the report said.”
Urbanist Richard Florida notes that as jobs become more specialized and longer hours are required, people are putting off having families. Initiatives such as San Francisco’s requirement to offer six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents, is designed to encourage families with children.
Meanwhile back in Metro Vancouver The Richmond News reports that the City of Richmond has voted down a Girl Guides campsite slated to replace the off-leash dog park at McDonald Beach Park on the Fraser River. As one relieved dog owner stated “This is a great place for socializing,” despite the fact that off-leash Iona Regional Park is nearby. Reasons offered for excluding the children’s camping included airport noise and fire ants.