COVID Place making
April 7, 2020

Are Seniors’ Retirement Homes Toast in the Post-Covid World?

There will be lots of changes in the Post Covid world~one that can be predicted immediately is the change in how people will perceive Senior Citizen Care Homes. There’s been lots of  marketing for these facilities which have  multiple units with a shared dining room, group activities and excursions.

What the Covid Crisis revealed is that in a case of a pandemic, care home residents are locked in, away from families and trips out. If non-verbal these residents have no way to communicate with family.  There has been stories of couples married for a half century trying to communicate through an exterior glass window. There has also been video  of a daughter playing a trumpet  below her Dad’s closed care home window in Vancouver’s west end. Her father has sadly now  passed away from the Covid virus.

During this current Covid pandemic, the virus is in over 600 seniors’ care homes in Ontario. In that province there is advice for families to take their loved ones out of these care homes during this outbreak. 

More than 80 percent of deaths in Ontario have been at seniors’ care homes.

Senior Citizens’ residences have previously been  seen as a good financial investment. In a recent survey,19 percent of investors said they had  seniors’ care housing in their portfolio. It had been touted as a low risk investment with high returns as the baby boomers are  perceived as driving demand, with nearly 80 million seniors in the USA  by 2035.

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Nature & Public Spaces
April 7, 2020

Maximizing real estate value in a pandemic

The Park Board is going to make better and safer use of the space it owns in Stanley Park:

Here’s the consequence:

Closing Stanley Park’s roads will reduce the daily number of people in the park and open up space for cyclists and pedestrians from the neighbourhood.

It won’t be just from “the neighbourhood.”  Expect Vancouverites (and those from the North Shore) to use the bikeway and greenway network to access Stanley Park too.  Indeed, recreational athletes already do.

Next step: the City can likewise reallocate road space to take pressure off the most popular (and too crowded) greenway paths.

Here’s a list of opportunities as compiled from Jeff Leigh with HUB Cycling.

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The current issue of the New Yorker, titled “Lifeline.”

Here’s my version – an image taken on March 17, 8 pm, on Swanston Street in Melbourne:

The courier – equipped with bike (maybe electric), smart phone and custom backpack – was one of many on the main street of Melbourne’s CBD that night.  It’s easy to understand why they’ve become a vital link between restaurants that can provide only takeout and customers sequestered at home.  They too are front-line workers, and their bicycles declared essential.

I have a hunch that, like our use of online communication, their employment will expand, their vehicles will innovate, their uses proliferate, and afterwards they will become an expanded part of the local economies of our newly reconsidered cities.

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Man with generator laying streetcar tracks for reconstruction of Hastings and Main lines

Here’s another great photo from the Vancouver Archives found by Diane Sampson. The generator on the wagon has a sign that reads “Danger 600 Volts Do not Touch Do Not Watch Flame”. In the foreground a man is welding tracks. He is wearing button up spat boot coverings and has steel wool for soldering close by.

The man at the wagon with the generator looks exactly like former Vancouver School Board groundskeeper Chris Foxon.  The wagon is set up with a two horse hitch, and there are two workhorses complete with harness tied up in the right hand upper corner of the photo.  There is another horse harnessed up and standing in front of the Timothy Hay sign in the upper left corner of the photo.

From 1886 to 1914 Hastings Street between Granville Street and Cambie was Vancouver’s downtown, with most of the city’s banks located on Hastings. The streetcar was operated by the B.C. Electric Railway Company who had been in operation since 1897. Since 1900, the company had increased their rails from 21 kilometers in 1900 to 170 kilometers by 1912, allowing access to large areas of land that could be developed for single family housing.

Take a look at this YouTube video below that shows Victoria and Vancouver from a streetcar in 1907. You can see The Empress Hotel being built and the Legislative Buildings in Victoria, and in Vancouver you can see the old Hotel Vancouver and the streetcars serving Howe, Robson, Powell Streets  and Kitsilano.


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A meme for our time.

World: There’s no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment. Mother Nature: Here’s a virus. Practice.
PriceTags: We’re practicing for a lot more than preparation to climate change.  At the moment, everyone on the globe is just trying to cope with a deadly virus.  But there’s also some big thinking about where all this this practicing will lead.  For one thing, it will give a more complex meaning to the progressive phrase “safe space.” Here, for example, from New York Magazine: .

NY Mag: You have suggested that we need to consider a system of “green zones” — places where everyone has either tested positive for antibodies or has tested negative with a swab test. The idea being to create restricted-access safe areas where people know they won’t get infected.

Chamath Palihapitiya*: The only solution to get back to work, and get back to life as we know it, is to establish pockets of cities and towns where it’s safe.

You get a stamp in your passport, or you get a special ID card, or you get a special bracelet. Then you can go into the green zones inside of your city or town and get back to work. And everybody else stays in a red zone for a certain amount of time until you can clear that test.

You can’t get this, the last time I checked, from somebody who doesn’t have it or has had it. You can only get it from somebody who does have it. So you’ve got to test! What choice do we have other than that right now?

Essentially having your medical data as a required public document seems concerning. It sounds more like a policy designed for the People’s Republic of China than the United States.

Yeah, but we have these moments when huge cataclysmic things happen. The large overreaches against civil liberties happen in moments like this — and they’ll happen this time around. I think most of us will be okay with it.

I would want to know before I go into a movie theater that everybody there had to badge-in with a card that had updated antibody screens that showed they were legitimately not shedding something communicable. We would never have thought that before this, but now I think it’s quite reasonable. When you look at the economic damage that’s done by the rampant nature of these kinds of things, do you want that to happen again? So I think people will be very open to giving up an amount of personal freedom for those assurances about the people around them.

Whatever happens inside our borders, presumably systems like this are going to start popping up for international travel.

I don’t know what the answers are, but I suspect that I’m going to need an additional form of identification for me to cross borders. Why would China ever let me in if I didn’t take a PCR test and couldn’t prove I didn’t have coronavirus after the shit that they went through?

And why would the United States ever let anybody in without knowing? Why take the risk? Why? You take the test. You wait the five, 15, 20 minutes. You sit there at the airport. Boom! You get a stamp. You’re clear. Go. Enjoy yourself.

And what if you’re a governor of a state that has an elderly, aging population versus you’re a governor of a state that has an extremely young population? The governor of Florida just said that people who fly in from New York and New Jersey will be ordered to quarantine themselves. If that continues, we’re now locking state-level borders in the United States.

These are big implications.

Palihapitiya came to prominence in Silicon Valley as an early executive at Facebook. He made headlines a decade later when he said that he didn’t let his own kids use screens, and that he felt “tremendous guilt” about his role in building a social-media platform that was “destroying how society works.” He is now, as CEO of his own venture firm Social Capital, Read more »

Another wonderful image from Diane Sampson of a  British cars cargo from the SS “Mostun” Vancouver January 24, 1959 . This is from the Vancouver Archives Collection.

The Mostun was from Belfast and travelled a route from Belfast to Chemainus on Vancouver Island. In the photo  a Morris Oxford Estate is beside a Riley One Point Five , with a  Hillman Husky and Hillman Minx sedans behind.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s British cars were the first to market a small car that was economical as well as reliable. That market was eventually replaced by Japanese cars in the late 1960’s.

The vehicles often had their wheels removed and stored inside the car, and then packed in wooden crates. This method allowed for more cars to be packed into the boat’s hold. There is a story of a ship fire in Vancouver harbour on the ship Dongeday in 1952 that was fuelled by the wooden crates. The City’s fireboat responded and got the fire out, but unfortunately also doused the cars with a whole lot of saltwater.



Surprisingly 22  of these waterlogged and damaged Austin automobiles were dumped into Burrard Inlet near Howe Sound. A customs officer oversaw the operation of these vehicles being loaded on a barge minus batteries and tires and then winched into the water.

Of course Vancouverites saw the opportunity, and a tugboat crew was found dragging the seafloor trying to find the vehicles. A story in The Sun admonished “The legal situation is ticklish. The cars have paid no duty…and ownership is still vested with the company that had them dunked.”

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Gordon Price and I have been posting on the need to rethink open streets in the times of the Covid pandemic. We need to keep six feet or two meters apart from other people when walking and Vancouver’s sidewalks are just not wide enough. We simply need to be able to get outside for physical and mental health, and if you can exercise or do a shopping trip at the same time, all the better.

Both of us have been talking about the Greenways Plan which has  over decades reprioritized, repurposed and rebuilt urban space for pedestrian and cycling priority, from Seaside to Central Valley, from Hornby to Arbutus.  And it has a long-standing plan to do more. I have been on CBC  Radio and CTV News talking about the concept, and the Vancouver Sun carried my guest editorial on the need for greenways as open streets.

The thinking behind prioritizing walking on connected streets throughout the city has already been done in Vancouver, where 25 years ago the Urban Landscape Taskforce, which included several landscape architects, came up with the ambitious Greenways Plan. What they termed “greenways” are actually a network of linked, traffic-calmed “green streets.” There are 140 kilometres of greenways, with a network of 14 city greenways that go boundary to boundary.

That Urban Landscape Taskforce that came with the concept of a green street plan to link streets, parks and rights of way for pedestrians and cyclists was headed by the remarkable Moura Quayle.

Moura Quayle was the founding Director of UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and is a professor in the Sauder School of Business. Her book “Designed Leadership” was published by the Columbia Business School Press. Moura has also been the Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems as well as the Deputy Minister of Advanced Education. That’s just a few of the things that Moura has done, and as anyone knows that has met her, she is thoughtful and very engaged in applying strategic design into innovation in many different fields.

It’s no surprise that Moura had a copy of the Urban Landscape Taskforce’s plan close at hand and wrote to us to say:

“Thanks for promoting this great idea. It makes so much sense to build on the existing system and network and think about not just using it now for our need for “more space” but also for how we are going to emerge into the “new city” with “new transportation priorities” that result from the probable continuing need for space between us.

Thanks for your continuing promotion of walkability and the greenways system. I was compelled to go back to the Urban Landscape Task Force report of 1992 and the “Principles for Decision-Making” that we wanted Council to embed into their governance practice. Many of the principles are relevant today to your idea of expanding the greenway system to meet our current needs.

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In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department,  AirBnB actually is approaching the Canadian government  for “tax breaks”. As you can well imagine, there’s a lot of cancelled reservations for short term accommodation because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I have previously written about AirBnB which rents furnished units in places all around the world. Four years ago Iain Majoribanks was studying the impact of AirBnB on the Vancouver rental market while at the University of British Columbia.

He found that  Airbnb has a centralized control of all listings and charges a 9 to 15 per cent service fee on all bookings. The company conceals the location and identity of the hosts offering rooms, making enforcement challenging for municipalities. He surmises that 99.3 per cent of all Airbnb Vancouver stays are less than 30 days.

Now the City of Vancouver has new regulations for short-term rentals but it still appears that some “hosts” are renting out different units, despite the fact that Vancouver by-laws allow short-term renting of only your main house.

 Jen St. Denis reports for CTV News   that  Airbnb Canada has “asked the federal government for a series of tax breaks to help short-term rental hosts make up lost income from cancelled bookings during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Of course one of the things these rental hosts could do immediately is rent long-term to local residents. As The Guardian’s Rupert Neate writes, in Great Britain “landlords have flooded the rental market with their Airbnb flats…The number of new rentals Property portal Rightmove has on the market in the week the UK lockdown started increased by 45% in London, up 55% in Brighton, 62% in Edinburgh and 78% in Bath. It’s a similar story the world over with a 61% increase in Dublin and 41% in Prague.”

Meanwhile back in Canada hoping to keep AirBnB hosts mastering the short stay instead of providing month to month rentals,  AirBnB trotted a four page letter to the federal government. That letter asked for GST/HST business expense credits for hosts, income tax reductions, short-term loans or mortgage deferrals, requested that hosts  get Employment Insurance benefits  and  federal tax deferral. If that was not enough of an ask, AirBnB asked for a government paid tourist initiative to reboot the short-term stay business.

It seems a little odd when all these AirBnB owners need to do is rent their extra space out to longer term tenants. And the Duke of Data, Simon Fraser University’s City Program Director Andy Yan said it best:

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In the post below, Price Tags is advocating that the existing and planned Greenway network be designated for both social distancing and social inclusion – a common space to share together, with enough room to maintain separation.  In other words, the streets and paths that, with reduced or eliminated vehicle traffic, become the places we need to enjoy the spring, get some exercise on foot and bike, and reduce the mental risks of depression and anxiety.

For our City leaders, it’s a fast, affordable and unifying action they can take now.  And here’s the thing: people are going to do it anyway.

April 5, Chilco Street

We don’t need to be told: keep a two-meter distance when walking, even further on bike.  We just need the space to do it properly.  We need to formalize what citizens will do on their own.  To make it safer by providing direction, instructions and signage in order to avoid conflicts with vehicles.

We can even set a goal: This spring, walk or cycle the complete greenway network.


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