The Vancouver City Planning Commission is pleased to present Milestones 2017 on February 5, 2018. Our third annual Year in Review public forum, it’s a look back that invariably turns into a dialogue about the future of the city.
Four leading urban thinkers and achievers will discuss 2017 decisions and events in planning and development that have been identified as possibly having a transformative influence on the evolution of Vancouver. The panellists will also offer their own ideas on proposed milestones of 2017 and respond to suggestions from the audience.
The emerging milestones of 2017 will be added to the online Chronology of Planning and Development in Vancouver.
- Sandra Singh, Chief Librarian, Vancouver Public Library
- Gordon Price, former Vancouver city councillor and former director of SFU’s City Program
- Melody Ma, leadr of #SaveChinatownYVR campaign, Chinatown activist and urban blogger
- Ouri Scott, Vancouver architect with a focus on indigenous design and sustainable infrastructure development
- Paul Kershaw, Founder & Lead Researcher, Generation Squeeze
Monday, February 5
SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts – 149 West Hastings Street
The Chinese Canadian Historical Society is hosting a public forum on the implications and benefits of earning the UNESCO World Heritage designation for Chinatown. Dr. Lee Ho Yin, University of Hong Kong, will share his expertise and experience in UNESCO-related heritage conversation and development projects.
Friday, January 19
4 – 5:30 pm
Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden
It was a perfect item for visual media: the King Tide in Vancouver last week that resulted in shortline flooding around the region.
Perhaps most dramatic was the flooding along the North False Creek shoreline at David Lam Park. (Global, above, featured some footage of exactly that area, with the small pavilion, shown above, immersed in water.)
What the coverage didn’t say was that this immersion was by design. The landscape architect of the park, Don Vaughan, intended for the highest tides to come above the walkway so that the seawall would normally be closer to the waterline than would be the case if it was raised to remain dry in the extreme case of a king tide.
Don named the pavilion “Marking High Tide” – and tells the story here. Notably, there is a large stone in the centre which allows the viewer to see the tide change from hour to hour. It’s placed so that, at the highest water mark, it will just be completely covered. (Presumably, the stone will have to be raised to acknowledge sea-level rise over time.)
It allows us urban dwellers who live in a designed environment where nature is pretty much controlled or mitigated in every respect to be aware of the natural cycles that still prevail. Don write a small poem to that effect which is inscribed in the curved beam at the top:
“As the moon circles the earth the ocean responds with the rhythm of the tides.”
Thursday January 11, 7 pm
Vancouver Public Library, Joe Fortes Branch, 870 Denman Street
Come and participate in a free and free-wheeling discussion on Vancouver’s present and future, moderated by the ever-impartial me, ha ha.
I will start from the premise that Vancouver’s human diversity and urbanity is supported by its wide range of buildings, using the West End as an example, and let participants take it from there …
For further information, visit the website for the Philosophers’ Café.
New, to me at least, in Stanley Park. The piece is unsigned, but looks like THIS prolific artist.
It’s always interesting to see ourselves through other people’s perspectives, and this article from Crosscut.com via Tom Durning contextually examines Vancouver from the Seattle perspective. Writer Gregory Scruggs observes that “Seattle area’s increases in home prices led the nation for the 13th straight month in November, the longest-ever such streak for real estate around Puget Sound. That meteoric rise has made it ever harder for the region’s booming population to buy a home. But if we think it’s difficult in Seattle, look 140 miles north to Vancouver, British Columbia, where experts say house prices are like those of San Francisco but incomes resemble those of sleepy Halifax.”
In discussing the speculative nature of the Vancouver housing market, Scruggs notes that Seattle’s new mayor is going forward with spending $100 million dollars for affordable housing, making the Utility Discount Program more accessible to low-income earners, and setting up a city-wide Rental Housing Assistance Program. Seattle also is afraid of becoming a “hedge city- a place where the global rich park their money in houses and condos that they live in part-time at best but mostly purchase as a safe place to put their assets.”
With housing being treated as an investment commodity, Scruggs sees Canadian immigration policy as allowing “well-heeled foreigners” to live in Vancouver and buy luxury condos. He points out that a Washington law discourages condo development and apartments are the norm, with locals in the tech industry “making the kind of salaries that can afford now-expensive Craftsmans, though believers in speculative influence suggest that even tech money can’t explain Seattle’s current price boom.”
Scruggs reviews the Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) research on speculative purchases, the Foreign Buyers Tax and the Empty Homes Tax, and suggests that Seattle housing will not be at the critical affordability level as Vancouver until prices rise another 20 to 30 per cent. Scruggs also spoke with several Vancouver experts including the Duke of Data Simon Fraser University’s Andy Yan who noted that because of power delegated to counties in the United States, “you are able to respond in a much more agile way than metro Vancouver”. University of British Columbia’s Business Professor Tom Davidoff notes that Seattle could adapt a Seattle-specific measure “to set high property taxes that could be rebated for property owners paying income tax at that address, or landlord with long-term tenants”.
This is being discussed for Metro Vancouver as part of the BC Housing Affordability Fund with the current Provincial government. As Tom Davidoff states this fund would flush out who is legitimately in the housing market. “If you’re not paying income tax at that address and you’re not a landlord, then what are you?” Davidoff asks. “You must have brought the money in from elsewhere.”
The full text of the article is available here.
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”.
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.
Urban reporter Jen St. Denis with Metro News has been following the controversy regarding different doors in developments for separate entrances to the lower income or subsidized units and the market units. This discussion was precipitated by the design of the Harwood located at Thurlow and Burnaby Streets in the West End that will have 82 market condo units and 39 social housing units. On the City of Vancouver’s rezoning website the developers describe Strand and Intracorp as “partnering together to develop real estate communities that enrich the fabric of the neighbourhoods they are built in. Through their partnership, Strand and Intracorp are committed to delivering a community that complements the West End’s textured character, while establishing itself as a landmark for the neighbourhood.”
However this proposed development has two separate entrances~one for market housing, and one for social housing. This has been done before in other developments in the city, and has attracted some criticism. Other developers like Bosa in False Creek have built the social housing component as separate buildings, with kitchen windows handily looking over the enclosed children’s playground. In Olympic Village social housing is in a stand alone development, and designed to blend in with the rest of the area.
Not only does the Harwood have two separate entrances, but it is also being designed with two separate playgrounds at opposite sides, impenetrable to each other. As Jen St. Denis notes “That concerned Judy Graves, the city’s now-retired advocate for the homeless.” Judy Graves said “The concept of segregated children’s playgrounds disturbs me greatly.”
So why are social housing units separated in Vancouver developments? Developers who agree to build social housing in their project get extra building density. While they will sell off the market units which will be governed under the BC Strata Act, the units that are social housing units will be rented out, and will be governed under the Rental Tenancy Act Keeping electrical and maintenance systems separate helps with the administrative requirements for both strata owners and social housing managers. Of course developers also want to ensure that they can sell condos without any buyer fears about the proximity of “social” housing. The city’s social housing rentals fall under the purview of BC Housing and income limits of $42,500 are allowable for a one bedroom, and $64,000 for a three bedroom. As Judy Graves notes in an email , most of the social housing at The Harwood would go to “professional parents”.
Gil Kelley the Planner for the City of Vancouver observes ““In general, sometimes it works well to have separate buildings, in other cases it doesn’t, and we’re going to be looking at these kinds of design rules to make sure this is housing for everyone at all levels of income.”
The New Zealand Police have approached recruiting 400 new police officers in a different way by filming “real-life social experiment” videos involving urban issues that officers deal with. Some of the videos highlight individuals at risk, including the first in the series where a young boy is eating food out of a trash bin. The video shows the real passers-by who ignored the little boy, and highlights the women that stopped to speak to the young actor.
“Police want to attract more women, Māori, Pacific Islanders, and people from all other ethnicities and backgrounds to better reflect the communities we serve,” Commissioner of New Zealand Police Mike Bush told Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service.We have filmed a series of real-life social experiment scenarios exploring issues our officers deal with daily — involving the safety of the young and the vulnerable people in our communities.”
The latest in the series is going viral~it’s a James Bond look at New Zealand policing, but also gives a glimpse of Kiwi downtown and suburban, streets, a pedestrian crossing, and a police cat. Seriously. “Filled with kilted drummers, pelvic-thrusting dance parties and entirely gratuitous flipping stunts, the quirky clip features about 70 officers trying to lure in new coworkers through the nearly 3-minute-long video’s fresh approach.”
You can view the video below or here.
As reported by Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail and as posted on the City of Vancouver website the City is finally developing a ten-year strategy to create thousands of new rental units in the city and to ensure these units are scaled to income with the hope of providing accommodation and lowering speculative building. You can view the report here which also includes four separate accompanying indexes. Yes we are also a year away from the next municipal election in Vancouver, one that could be challenging for the current council as housing affordability, accessibility and homelessness have increased to alarming levels.
As Ms. Bula observes “Ultimately, city planners say they want to see 72,000 new units of housing built in Vancouver in the next 10 years, but in specific categories.They have set targets of 24,000 purpose-built rentals, 12,000 social-housing or co-op units and 36,000 ownership units, which would include coach houses as well as condos. It is expected that about 12,000 of those purchased units would end up being rented out. About half the units in the plan are geared to households with less than $80,000 a year in income.”
Some of the concepts have already been debated including incentivizing development potential if 20 per cent of units in a building are accessible to citizens making low incomes. And there’s a proposal to permit homeowners in single family areas to build infill houses and add up to two units in older homes built over 75 years ago.
New ideas include constricting development speculation and demand by spelling out rental and subsidized housing requirements in areas with new neighbourhood plans. With the achievable market units already clearly outlined, developers “will be less likely to pay exorbitant amounts of money for land – something that happened in recent years along the Cambie corridor after it was rezoned for apartments to create density along the Canada Line.” Areas where this strategy will be implemented include the Broadway corridor and the three SkyTrain station precincts.
The City will change regulations to allow more than five people living in a house that are unrelated, and will create a “tenant-protection” manager at the City who will ensure that tenants are not evicted for renovations if those permits are not actually in place. This ten-year strategy is a game changer for the City of Vancouver which has been criticized for slow response on these important issues. The report is scheduled to go to Council next Tuesday the 28th of November. Staff has indicated that the actions contained in the report will be immediately acted upon if the report is approved on Tuesday.
Bridge Warming is a free event created by CityStudio students in partnership with VIVA Vancouver.
Lights, music and extreme coziness…
Twenty students from SFU Semester in Dialogue at CityStudio have partnered with VIVA Vancouver to create engaging and thought-provoking projects underneath the Cambie Bridge. Bridge Warming shows the potential of Vancouver’s covered spaces for year-round events.
-Join us for an interactive jam session at our pop up performance space.
-Share your thoughts and creativity on our participatory chalk walls.
-Visit our outdoor living room for sharing skills, books and stories.
-Hang out in Vancouver’s first large-scale public blanket fort (Feat. complimentary hot cocoa)
-Discover how native plants contribute to urban biodiversity in a miniature cityscape garden.
-At sundown, Hfour brings awe and wonder back to our oversaturated world. Be immersed in projections and lighting, alongside live music to end off the night.
Everyone is welcome at our free event
Underneath the south side of the Cambie Bridge, between 1st and 2nd Avenue – near Olympic Village Station
In an area of light industrial and old buildings, near 5th and Columbia, things can look dowdy. Except for several businesses that have taken advantage of Vancouver’s talented mural artists. Note the bench, which apparently attracts unwanted smokers.
The sign implores: “Please don’t smoke here. Thank you. Artists with allergies.”
As usual, click to enlarge.
A totally unscientific survey of mural trends in New South Wales: I didn’t see a single “pictorial” mural, like the almost-photographic assemblages of faces, animals and scenes that have become so common in Vancouver (many of them seemingly scaled-up, projected and painted from Photoshop images). Instead, abstract patterning seems to be the norm…
A lane in Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains about 100 km. west of Sydney
Two in trendy Newtown (Inner-West Sydney). The graffiti-like quality of the second one seems to invite additions – maybe this is the idea, that the art evolves organically and isn’t “owned” by anyone, which would fit with Newtown’s radical aesthetic.
When Galen Weston took over the management of Loblaw Companies Limited in 2007 many people wondered whether a younger person could put an innovative spin on an old established business-groceries. Weston refreshed the brand and emphasized corporate social responsibility and the environment bringing the grocery giant and affiliated stores including Superstore, T & T, Shoppers Drug mart, No Frills, Joe Fresh and Super Valu into the 21st century.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun the Loblaws brand is now taking another major shift by closing 22 stores and introducing home delivery to its markets. Calling the home delivery “new ways to make shopping easier” CEO Galen G. Weston is ramping up this service at the same time that Amazon has acquired thirteen Canadian locations through Whole Foods, suggesting that home grocery delivery could become commonplace as these two grocery giants jockey for market share. Loblaws is “partnering with California-based Instacart to deliver food and other pantry staples from Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, and T&T locations to customers in Toronto starting Dec. 6 and Vancouver starting in January.”
Grocery delivery has been rare in Canada, with limited locations offering the service. Locally Stongs on the west side provides grocery delivery, as well as Save-on-Foods. Last March Walmart stated that it would offer limited delivery to some areas of Toronto, while many grocers have focussed on online orders with in-store pick-up. Home delivery of groceries will eliminate one more reason to own a car, and could change how groceries are marketed, sold and delivered across Canada.
Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the “Fight For Beauty” art exhibition hosted by Westbank developments at a downtown hotel. The theme of this free exhibition is the “fight” it takes to create and build cities and communities as interpreted by the art. There’s sculpture and film, and there are also models of some of the projects that Westbank developments have undertaken in their work in Vancouver.
In a direct juxtaposition to this exhibition Vancouver Art Gallery’s “Offsite” space on West Georgia has artist Asim Waqif installing a work he calls “Salvage” made up of the items that Dorothy Woodend of the Tyee calls “the remains of obliterated houses and destroyed buildings, the refuse and discards of a city in the midst of wholesale change. The construction largely resembles a M.C. Escher drawing come to 3D life.”
The artist has created an intriguing and curious collection out of the ordinary stuff found at construction sites and the transfer station including “old doors, dead keyboards, the remains of a shingled bit of roofing, glass jars and bottles, a bicycle and what looks like a stuffed chicken. ” Somehow there is harmony out of the use of these objects that resemble interiors that are strangely familiar and somewhat comforting.
But the exhibit also talks to our trashing of materials in demolishing the old for the new, and has a direct allegory to the loss of our urban fabric and our acceptance of new shiny replacements for that which was at one time familiar. As Mr. Waqif observes in the City of Vancouver “residents, businesses and institutions threw away approximately 351,000 tonnes of garbage“. His exhibition hints at what we have lost, and what could be recycled. It’s an interesting allegory, in the face of buffed new buildings defining Vancouver’s “modern times”.