Housing Affordability: More Voices

Following the platform announcement by the NPA civic by-election candidate (who wants to see Vancouver-wide rezoning and higher housing density everywhere) more council candidates have joined the call.

So far, the calls for an end to Vancouver’s exclusionary zoning seem to be edging upward among many other ideas about improving housing affordability. There is also a steady drift towards improving availability and protection for those who prefer to rent.

With thanks to Mike Howell in the Vancouver Courier:

First: Pete Fry of the Green Party wants inclusionary zoning, plus support for renters:

 . . . the party’s housing plan is focused on what can be achieved with existing tools at city hall. He, too, advocated for inclusionary zoning to create affordable housing and tie that type of housing to median local incomes.

Other measures include creating a city tenants’ office to support tenants and prevent “renovictions” and short-term rental conversions, provide incentives to build “truly affordable purpose-built” rental housing and streamline building codes and zoning bylaws to develop more forms of housing, including townhouses and row houses. . . .

Fry said the Vancouver Greens would work with their provincial counterparts, which struck an agreement with the ruling NDP government, to create strategies to address speculation on real estate and build more public housing.

Second:  Judy Graves of OneCity wants new zoning city-wide, new taxes on the wealthy and on speculators, and income-based controls on rents.

Graves proposed a luxury property tax of 1.5 per cent on the wealthiest one per cent and 0.5 per cent on the wealthiest five per cent of residential property owners. She also wants all city-owned rental buildings to be rented at 30 per cent of a tenant’s income.

Creating a “flipping levy” to target speculators and opening up all neighbourhoods to inclusionary zoning, an approach that would tie affordable housing to a new development, are other ideas that Graves rolled out Tuesday as part of OneCity’s housing plan. . .

Although the party has described the plan as “made-in-Vancouver,” Graves acknowledged creating a luxury property tax and flipping level would require approval of the provincial government.

Third: Vision’s Diego Cardona puts his early focus on renters:

1. Putting the first $500,000 in excess revenue from the empty homes tax towards the Vancouver Rent Bank, which helps renters in crisis and prevents homelessness.

2. Creating a ‘Renters’ Advocate’ at City Hall. This position would be the City’s point person when dealing with the Residential Tenancy Branch, and help support renters when dealing with illegal evictions.  . . .

3. Advocating for more pet-friendly rental housing. . . .

4. Diego will support Vision’s advocacy to the BC government and will continue to stand up for renters by working to stop unfair evictions, go after bad landlords, and make life easier for renters with measures like closing the fixed-term lease loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act.

[Ed. my apologies for the partial post of this early today. Workers cut our electricity without warning this morning, and somehow WordPress posted my ab initio draft. I did not find this out until later when I dragged my portable to the local coffee shop].

SFU City Conversations on Market Day – Sep 21

SFU Market Day: Local Food, Food Security, and Saving Local Agriculture


On Thursday September 21, SFU City Conversations visits the Downtown Farmers Market at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza. This special edition of City Conversations takes place as part of SFU Market Day, an event to convene SFU students, staff, and the broader downtown community around a celebration of local food.

Locally grown and produced food is fresher, often better tasting, and sometimes even more nutritious than produce that has been shipped from around the world. But what does it take to get this fresh local produce, meat and seafood to your table? Want to grow your own food but aren’t sure how to begin? Wondering if our exceptional agricultural land is being used to its full potential? Interested in how Vancouver is protecting itself from international food disruption and increasing food prices?

Joining us for the conversation is Richmond City Councillor Harold Steves, co-founder of the Agricultural Land Reserve (Steveston is named for his family); and Lisa Giroday, co-founder of Victory Gardens. They will help us frame the issues, and then it’s time for you to ask your questions, express your opinions, make your observations. It’s a conversation!

Before and after the conversation, browse the Downtown Farmers Market and meet the 30+ farmers and producers who are there every Thursday until the end of the season. Come early for giant board games, and stay after for a dance performance from SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts. Plus, the first 50 people to show their SFU identification at the market info tent will receive $5 in market money. Enjoy the ambience, taste some really fresh food, and appreciate what our local farmers do for you and your health. You’ll find seasonal fruits & vegetables, ethically raised meat, poultry, eggs & dairy, sustainable seafood, artisanal food & crafts, food trucks, and local craft beer, wine & spirits.

This event is off-site at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, located at the corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets. This is a free event with no reservations, but please come early to enjoy all the market has to offer and guarantee yourself a seat.

RSVP on Facebook

City Conversations: 12:30–1:30pm
Vancouver Farmers Market: 11:00am–3:00pm
Giant Games: 11:00am–3:00pm
SFU SCA Dancers: 1:45pm & 2:30pm

Vancouver Farmers Market
Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza
695 Cambie Street

Duke of Data Andy Yan, Census Canada and Housing Affordability


In Metro Vancouver no one gets as excited as Simon Fraser University’s Andy Yan, Director of the City Program when Statistics Canada releases information.  Urbanist Andy immediately summed up the surprising gap between median income in Metro Vancouver and housing prices. With median household income at $72,662, Metro Vancouver lags way behind other urban areas, ranking 15th in Canada.  And that surprisingly low median income points out what everyone in this region knows-there is a radical disconnect between household income and the price of housing. People working in Metro Vancouver can’t afford to buy a house here.

As reported in the Vancouver Sun by Sam Cooper, Andy surmised this huge gap as “surprising to me that we have the 15th highest incomes in Metro Vancouver, even coming behind Toronto. What we learned today is in Vancouver you are living in paradise, but your wages are in purgatory.”  While noting that there was globalization everywhere, Andy observed that “The issue that urgently needs solving is to reconnect local incomes to local housing. But the difficulty is, you will need different policy for different cities.”

Nowhere is that more acute than in the City of Vancouver where average house prices are now $1.4 million dollars. Compare that with a median total household income (2015) of $65,327.  Andy also observed that in some areas like Coal Harbour and northwest Richmond wages were even lower than city-wide averages, even though housing prices in those areas were higher. And this has huge ramifications not just on accessibility to the housing market for locals, but for job retention. As Andy notes “If Metro Vancouver doesn’t tackle housing affordability, the growing risk is that talented workers won’t come to the city, and families will start to leave, I think this speaks to why we had a change in provincial government, and I think this could be a factor in upcoming city elections,” Yan said. “You can live here, but you can’t earn your wages here.”

Below are the average housing prices for several other cities in the Province from the first quarter of 2017, with the total household median income below. With comparable median incomes, housing in all of these cities is less than half the cost of housing in Vancouver.


Housing cost -Source: Landcor

Vancouver Island, $567,269

Kootenay, $339,355

Okanagan, $505,892

Total household median income, Statistics Canada 2016 Census

Victoria — $70,283

Kelowna — $71,127

Cranbrook — $72,320

Kamloops — $73,336


Percentage Change in Median Incomes by City 2005-2015 Source: Metro News, Andy Yan


Jericho Pier Renewal — Open House

The Vancouver Parks Board wants to renew the pier in Jericho Beach Park.  It’s another of the lovely treasures that are part of Vancouver’s waterfront DNA.

You’re invited to check out the initial plans and make your reactions known.

Saturday Sept 16, 11 am to 2 pm at the pier.  Or online HERE after Sept 16.


The Vancouver Park Board, in partnership with the Disabled Sailing Association, is renewing the aging pier at Jericho Beach and providing an accessible dock for sailors with disabilities.

The reconstructed pier will:

  • Provide an accessible floating dock to provide for users of all ages and levels of mobility, accommodating up to 15 sailboats for the Disabled Sailing Association’s adaptive sailing program
  • Provide seating and views of Burrard Inlet and English Bay
  • Offer recreational fishing and crabbing opportunities
  • Accommodate future sea level rise

Another day,Another document,Another Diatribe from the Liberals over Massey Bridge



You can feel the desperation of the Liberal party in this latest incident-someone in the defeated Liberal provincial party came up with  a crumpled document  that they are sure is from the NDP camp before the Provincial election. Even though it is not on letterhead, or has any identifying signatures or references, the opposition party has pounced on it to try to make a news story. Their story? That the NDP planned to implement the Transportation Plan as approved by the Mayors’ Council  which does not include the Massey Bridge.

This of course gives the rookie Delta MLA (who has also not given up his Councillor job in Delta) the chance to rail on about congestion in the tunnel and all those folks inconvenienced by using the tunnel, which of course is all the fault of a new government. The multi billion dollar cost of this proposed bridge is more than the cost of NASA’s Cassini project, which is now sending its last photos from space.

And as the Delta Optimist observed, “The document does not appear to be official, nor confirmed party policy. However, that didn’t stop the Liberals from accusing the government of quietly planning to kill the $3.5 billion project right off the bat despite assurances from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena”.

And the rookie MLA doing the dual job as Delta councillor continues the same rant against any reasonable evaluation of the bridge, and has not demonstrated any ability to work towards the mutual interests of the region, as expressed by the Transportation Plan approved by the metro Mayors’ Council. If anything instead of getting a reasoned rationale approach to working towards mutual interests, this MLA is distancing Delta from the rest of the region in his dual roles.

Expect to see more of this posturing, so reminiscent of the way the last Provincial government treated Metro Vancouver. Here’s to a more rationale, interest based approach that would be helpful to explore the issues and ensure that transportation concerns for the Delta part of the region are addressed.



2017 Summer: Record cycling on five major routes

This just in from the City of Vancouver:

2017 summer sees record cycling volumes on five major bike routes across Vancouver

This July and August, Vancouver saw record cycling volumes on five of the city’s 10 fully protected bike routes, including at Science World, Union and Hawkes, Hornby and Robson, Lions Gate, and Canada Line. …

Over the past year, several improvements have been made to create more opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to choose to cycle to get around the city for transportation and recreation.

  • Upgrades and additions to the downtown bike network;
  • Improvements at Quebec Street and 1st Avenue;
  • Improved cycling route along SW Marine Drive (Granville to University Endowment Lands);
  • Improvements along the Adanac Bikeway;
  • The addition of the Arbutus Greenway temporary path;
  • The completion of the Seaside Greenway link between Volunteer Park and Jericho Beach;
  • Additional separation between people walking and cycling on the False Creek Seawall.

Of priority cycling routes identified in the Transportation 2040, the City has now completed Comox/Helmken Greenway, Point Grey-Cornwall section of the Seaside Greenway, spot improvements to the Union/Adanac Bikeway, and safety improvements to SW Marine Drive.


Record cycling volumes by location in comparison to previous record years:

Bike Route Previous Record (Years vary) Current Year (2017)
Record Breaking in 2017    
Science World 204,000 in August 2016 227,000 in July *
Adanac Bikeway (at Hawks) 115,000 in June 2015 120,000 in July
Hornby Bikeway (at Robson) 75,000 in August 2016 80,000 in July
Lions Gate Bridge 70,000 in June 2015 71,000 in July
Canada Line Pedestrian and Bike Bridge 28,000 in June 2015 29,000 in July
Other Major Routes and highest volume month in 2017    
Burrard and Cornwall 195,000 in July 2014 190,000 in August
Dunsmuir Street (Union and Main) 69,000 in August 2016 66,000 in August
Dunsmuir Viaduct 76,000 in June 2015 73,000 in July
10th Ave and Clark 82,000 in June 2015 70,000 in July
Point Grey Road at Volunteer Park 102,000 in July 2015 99,000 in July

*Data is not available for August 2017 due to technical difficulties with counter equipment.


Despite extensive construction work on Burrard Bridge and Point Grey Road over the last year, cycling volumes along those routes have remained high.

The highest record breaker in the summer of 2017 was the Science World location.

The bike counter at Science World was installed in March 2013 when the first bike count of 53,000 was recorded. Only four years later, bike counts at Science World have increased more than four times that amount. The highest monthly bike volume that has been recorded to date is 204,000, which was reached at Science World last August 2016. This Science World record was broken this July reaching 227,000.

The City has been collecting data on protected bike routes since 2009. Data is reported out monthly and can be viewed online. The data includes monthly two-way totals rounded to the nearest thousand, and shows mid-week averages on 10 protected bike routes.


Civic Election Heat

NPA’s Bremner lays a plank in his platform for the vacant City Council seat to be filled on October 14.   Apparently not a person to be shy with his opinions, or to think small, he is proposing city-wide re-zoning to tackle housing supply, which will certainly be the monster issue in the upcoming by-election and beyond.

Thanks to Jen St Denis in Metro Vancouver:

 “There are two things that experts agree on: climate change and the supply crisis in Vancouver,” Bremner told Metro during an interview outside city hall.

“It’s time to end this pretending we can solve it with basement suites and laneway houses.” . . .

Instead of neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood zoning, Bremner believes Vancouver needs a city-wide plan, and all single family should be opened up to allow a mix of “missing middle” housing, from townhouses to duplexes to low-rises. . . .

When it comes to pushback to density from residents, Bremner believes a more careful consultation process will bring the majority of people onside, when it’s clear how more density will benefit them.

I wonder how this will play in NPA land. My impression of the traditional NPA voter is the resident of a cozy SFH, well-protected by exclusionary zoning, and probably hard to persuade about the benefits of nearby density.

Following quickly, Vision Vancouver says this:

Bremner’s campaign comments are a far cry from when he came to speak to city council on July 25th, at a public hearing for a new development at Burrard and Nelson. Bremner opposed the project, which includes 331 new units of housing along with 61 social housing units. Stating that he lived in a building across the street, Bremner (Speaker #42) urged Council to say no to the hundreds of new housing units the project would provide, instead making a passionate plea for Council to turn it down and take more time to do further traffic studies.

Plugging your Electric Vehicle into the Street Light Pole



One of the big questions as we go towards electric car technology is where all those new vehicles are going to charge. The Independent reports that several London boroughs are converting some of their street light poles to also charge electric cars. Car owners buy a charging cord with a built-in meter  that can be connected to the adapted street light pole. The meter records the cost of the charge.

Having this technology on the street means that residents who do not have off street parking are able to charge their vehicles, and also means that formal dedicated electric vehicle charging stations can be minimized. Some issues have been identified by planning staff such as  “concerns of the cost of installation, charging points cluttering up streets, and implementing dedicated parking spaces.” 

Locating the charging stations at light poles means that there is  no need for costly infrastructure for charging stations, and minimal disruption on the existing streetscape. By making charging stations accessible to everyone, politicians hope that this will further incentivize the transition to electric vehicles and  to cleaner air in London.




SFU Courses for Environmental Professionals


Natural Resources Planning Using the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation
Friday, Sep. 22; 9am – 5pm
SFU Vancouver
The Open Standards process increases team unity and long-term efficiency and effectiveness in achieving and measuring the success of conservation interventions. This class helps you to answer the question: “are we doing the right things and are we doing them well?”.

Join instructors Abby Hook, a consultant and educator who uses OS as a framework to design local ecosystem recovery programs and Emily Gonzalesa National Ecological Restoration Specialist with Parks Canada.

North Shore Rain Garden Project – FREE Community Rain Garden Workshop
Saturday, Sep. 23; 2:30pm-5:30pm
North Vancouver
SFU’s Faculty of Environment and Cool North Shore are collaborating to present this “how-to” workshop for building rain gardens in your own yard or neighbourhood. Rain gardens are a simple way to naturally filter and infiltrate urban runoff. These gardens come in many shapes and sizes, and can be made to suit the needs of every home owner and community. Learn to build one in your space!

Join presenters Deborah Jones, Rain Garden Advisor and Caitlin Pierzchalski,Ecological Restoration MSc candidate, along with other guest presenters.

Continue reading

No Democracy in Delta-MLA’s Dual Role Approved to Prevent By-election


Price Tags Vancouver reported yesterday about the dual mandate or double jobbing of the new Rookie MLA from Delta who was also keeping his Councillor seat at the Corporation of Delta. As reported in Price Tags this has raised some Delta taxpayer eyebrows, folks that would like to see a separation between the Province and the municipality, and were also looking forward to some fresh thinking in a burb that needs some new ideas on communities, sustainable economy and industry diversification.

Immediately the same afternoon The Delta Optimist wrote that the new MLA Ian Paton, a stalwart supporter the Massey Bridge was also keeping his council seat to prevent an election. Yes you read that right. This has nothing to do with democracy-“Mayor Lois Jackson said by not having a by-election to fill his council seat, it will save the municipality $250,000.”  Imagine, there is over a year in a mandate, and there is no democratic will  to gain an  interested and eager member of the community for that Councillor seat. Who might have some good ideas. But by not doing the right thing, the Corporation will save money.

Mr. Paton stated that both the Mayor and the City Manager asked Mr. Paton to also continue his Councillor position despite the conflict of interest of being an MLA.  Mr. Paton says “I’m as keen as mustard to be on Delta council. I get up every morning and my first hour or two is dealing with municipal issues. I’m more than capable of doing both jobs and doing both jobs very well.”

It is uncomfortable  that Delta Council and the Liberal party leader are happy for Mr. Paton to do his dual role and do not see the conflicts this represents. Meanwhile on Monday evening a block of residents approached Delta council with a lengthy signed petition for a street closure with  traffic calming,  as they were severely impacted by  vehicles short cutting to arterial streets. Delta staff had no solution, saying that the street did not come up as a major crash site with ICBC statistics.  Of course it does not, it is a residential  street where speeding cars are ending up in side yards and taking out hedges.   But this is also an example of the increasing disconnect perceived between Council and Delta residents, and the  need for more community building and working with neighbourhoods, looking at innovative solutions.   Sometimes the solution is not to save money, but to actively work with the community, be part of change, try new concepts. That new kind of thinking is also needed with the Massey Bridge in abeyance. Having a newly elected  independent Councillor that does not represent the “same old” approach would be a good first step.


The Musqueam: Identity and Wealth

It’s the latest piece of public art in downtown Vancouver, just installed in the entrance lobby of SFU Harbour Centre:

The backdrop will eventually reveal a more suitable setting, I presume, but this is already a powerful piece – a welcome figure by Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow:

You are being welcomed by one of the “noble, influential, and wealthy members of the community” wearing a nobility blanket, symbolizing “the wealth, power, and prestige of the wearer.”

This is a theme I have seen before, notably at McArthur Glen, the faux shopping village near the entrance to YVR.  On the northern edge of the complex is a seating area surrounded by plaques that acknowledge and explain the Musqueam history and presence on this territory.


“We are wealthy, high class people and have always been on this land.”

The current wealth and satisfaction of the people of Vancouver is not just a post-settler phenomenon; it’s a reflection of the fortune and circumstance of its abundance and location, going back to post-glaciation – and explains why so many people desire to have a piece of it or make it their home.

The Musqueam culture reflected that abundance in its economy, identity and art.


Metro Sustainability Breakfast – Regional Growth Trends

As Metro Vancouver residents, we all have an interest in the way our region grows. Recently released results from the 2016 Census provide a benchmark for measuring and interpreting how growth is shaping our region. Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy, in collaboration with municipal Official Community Plans, is an agreement among member municipalities that anticipates growth and establishes goals and strategies for another one million residents over the next 25 years.

Are we on track?

Speakers for Sept 20 – City of Vancouver:
  • Terry Hoff, Acting Division Manager of Growth Management & Transportation, Metro Vancouver
  • Chris Robertson, Acting Assistant Director of City-Wide & Regional Planning, City of Vancouver
  • Michael Ferreira, Managing Principal, Urban Analytics
Speakers for Sept 28 – City of Coquitlam:
  • Heather McNell, Director of Regional Planning & Electoral Area Services, Metro Vancouver
  • Andrew Merrill, Manager of Community Planning, City of Coquitlam
  • TBC
Speakers for Oct 4  – Township of Langley:
  • Terry Hoff, Acting Division Manager of Growth Management & Transportation, Metro Vancouver
  • Don Luymes, Director of Strategic Initiatives, City of Surrey
  • TBC, Township of Langley

Daily Durning: Bike Barometers in San Francisco

Old hat here, but they seem excited in SF.  From Governing:

Bike commuting is the fastest-growing mode of transportation. And San Francisco can attest to that.

Every time a cyclist rolls past one of the city’s digital bike counters – or “bicycle barometers,” as they are officially called – the daily and yearly totals tick up. In 2016, there were an estimated 82,000 bicycle trips taken per day in San Francisco. That number has been steadily rising since 2006, when manual counting of bikes began.

Today, there are 75 counters – some with digital displays, some without – throughout San Francisco. City planners use the data to better understand how bicyclists use roads and bike lanes.


The Massey Bridge, The Mayor of Richmond and the MLA that still wants to be a Councillor



Back to the south of the Fraser River where the Massey Bridge is getting a serious rethink by the Province, who are evaluating whether a nearly 4 Billion dollar bridge  located on the sensitive river delta in the wrong place for regional growth is the right thing to do. As Graeme Wood in the Richmond News reports  the Mayor of Richmond Malcolm Brodie expressed gratitude for the pause, saying  “The current government appears to be listening to our concerns that we’ve been expressing over and over for the last four to five years.”

Mr. Brodie is hoping that the Province will consider a twinned tunnel to achieve eight driving lanes. Costs for a twinned tunnel or a bridge are similar, but the tunnel will preclude the port from having large ships navigate upriver. A tunnel would also get rid of the huge highway interchange planned for Steveston Highway.

The Minister of Transportation says that there “was not a thorough business case, a thorough look at all the options.”   The proposed review will  involve the Metro Vancouver mayors and  “focus on what level of improvement is needed in the context of regional and provincial planning, growth and vision, as well as which option would be best for the corridor, be it the proposed 10-lane bridge, a smaller bridge or tunnel.”

Meanwhile in Delta  the Mayor and Council headed up the “We Need A Bridge” campaign counter to the expressed vote of every other mayor in the region.  But residents are starting to notice that their new rookie MLA Ian Paton is serving two roles-he has not given up his position as councillor for the corporation of Delta, and attended the last council meeting via Skype.  The next civic election will not happen until October 2018. While Mr Paton continues in his dual roles he is also lashing out at the work stoppage  on the bridge, repeating  the earthquake in the tunnel safety scenario and reiterating the fact that the tunnel gets congestion. No mention that the congestion, like water, will just plug up closer to Vancouver with a ten lane bridge. You just can’t build your way out of congestion. It doesn’t work like that.

Mr Paton’s refusal to give up his councillor position despite being an MLA brought out a strong reaction from a resident who stated in the local paper “As a taxpayer, it is money well spent to have a by-election and it is unacceptable that Paton continues to draw a salary as councillor at the same time drawing a salary as MLA. Paton quite simply cannot function objectively in the two roles at the same time.”

The practice of dual mandate or as the British call it double jobbing is against the law in many places, but not in British Columbia-or Belgium. You can’t serve as a member of parliament and be a member of the provincial legislature.  But you can be a member of the provincial legislature and a municipal councillor.  The Province of B.C. did try to enact dual office prohibition legislation  but it did not pass a second reading.  There is one  precedent  from twenty years ago when MLA Jenny Kwan also served as a city councillor for a very limited time. But for an emerging municipality like Delta which needs critical thinking about diversifying the economy and energizing new industries, it just makes sense-two heads at two different levels of government are always better than one.




Bait Bikes and Project 529 Expand to Richmond



The Richmond News reports on a new wrinkle to deter bike thieves-the City of Richmond RCMP have “bait bikes” and they are using technology to thwart would be thieves and counter bike thefts.  “Specially equipped bikes provide police with real-time monitoring capabilities and greatly assist officers in coordinating a safe recovery of the bike and apprehension of the offender. There is nothing that would identify a bait bike to a thief and for all intents and purposes, they look identical to a non-bait bike.”

As part of  Project 529, a national bike registry, cyclists are encouraged to register their bikes through a simple smart phone app, or at any Community Policing Office so that the serial numbers are recorded should a bike be stolen.  The actual bait bike program has already been running through the Vancouver Police Department and the  North Vancouver RCMP .  Bait bikes are equipped with hidden GPS trackers that activate once a lock is broken and the bike is in motion. While in Metro Vancouver bait  bike thieves can be pursued by officers on bikes, in Washington County Oregon they use squad cars to track them down. Here’s a news clip on the Washington County Sheriff’s Office approach, complete with the bait bike sound alert received by the Sheriff’s deputies.