January 27, 2021

SFU Free Webinar Today: Not Back to Normal: Housing Post-Pandemic

Normal was not good enough before the pandemic — especially when talking about housing affordability, access and sustainability. Our Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy is currently under review, toward a revised Metro 2050 plan. How should we think about key aspects of this and other local and regional plans, in light of the pandemic? For example, strategy 4.2 of our regional plan seeks to “develop healthy and complete communities with access to a range of services and amenities.” For those struggling, now as before the pandemic, to find housing that is suitable for their household, affordable and in good repair, and located in a neighbourhood where they can access what they need, changes are needed in the direction we are heading, away from what was sadly considered “normal” pre-pandemic.


Yushu Zhu
Assistant Professor, SFU Urban Studies

Yushu Zhu is an Assistant Professor in Urban Studies and Public Policy at SFU. Her research focuses on housing and community issues against the backdrop of urbanization and globalization. She pays special attention to communities of immigrants, low-income populations, and ethnic minorities.

Guest speakers
Laura Colini
Senior Policy Advisor, EU UIA/URBACT

Niamh Moore-Cherry
Associate Professor, School of Geography, University College DublinErin Rennie

Erin Rennie
Senior Planner, Metro Vancouver

Rebecca Schiff
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Health Sciences, Lakehead University

Sierra Tasi Baker
Sky Spirit Consulting

TODAY Wednesday, January 27, 2021 5:00 PM

For more information and to register click here.

Read more »


This special Virtual Symposium is being introduced by Professor  Nisha Botchwey, Georgia Institute of Technology who has done outstanding work in the health and planning intersection.

In order to open a proposal call for juried articles for the Journal of American Planning concentrating on health, the  association is hosting a free webinar to discuss the track record of innovations in promoting public health through city planning and design, to assess the current state of practice, and to consider next steps in the progression of the field.

Urban Planning and Health Imperatives
In the early 2000s, there was a renewed appreciation for the relationship between the built environment and public health. Subsequently, empirical analysis, pedagogy, and professional practice linking the fields has increased exponentially.  A seminal 2003 American Journal of Public Health special issue, “Built Environment and Health,” drew on these emerging ideas with a research agenda that inspired and identified best practices in designing new communities and revitalizing old ones to promote physical and mental health. Since that time, considerable research on these issues has been published, and the implementation of recommendations resulting from this body of work has transformed health and quality of life in communities, cities, and regions around the world. Unfortunately, many places remain tethered to unhealthy urban form and unequal opportunities to realize improved wellbeing and quality of life.   

Despite clearly established associations and visionary healthy place making over the past twenty years, the need to continue this work has never been more evident.  This JAPA Special Issue seeks to outline the transformational role urban planners have played, and can play going forward, in ensuring healthy environments for all.    


Richard J. Jackson, MD

Professor emeritus, UCLA
Former Director, CDC
National Center for Environmental Health

Lois M. Takahashi, PhD

Houston I. Flournoy

Professor of State Government
Director, USC Price School in Sacramento

Date: Thursday, January 28, 2021

Time: from 10:00 to 1:00 Pacific Time.

This will fill up quickly. You can register at this link.


Read more »

During the start of the Covid pandemic, bus drivers had a particularly hard time finding places to use washrooms. When the shutdown commenced last March, there was still not a lot of information out about the Covid-19 virus, and many businesses were hesitant to allow the use of their washrooms by people other than their own customers.

Saramaya Jasaitis sends this article about the Wallflower Diner at 2420 Main Street who right from the start invited bus drivers and others that needed to go to use their facilities.

Owners  Heather Szilagyi and Eric Neilson opened up their washroom early in the pandemic, as Miranda Fatur reports in CityNews.

These are the kind of business people we all need to support, in that they directly realized the challenge of lack of washrooms for the most vulnerable of residents. “People are already marginalized, and we don’t want to contribute to marginalizing [people] even further.”

It’s not easy to open up your washroom facilities in a restaurant, and the Covid protocols require a lot of extra maintenance in those areas. I have over the last several years written about the fact that this city does not provide public washrooms anywhere in urban places where it would just make sense for people in the downtown who are seniors, who are vulnerable, who have children, or just plainly need to use the facilities.

As covered in the Vancouver Sun, five years ago  Vancouver councillor Elizabeth Ball put forward a motion, inspired by the  Vancouver’s Seniors Advisory Committee for public washrooms, which stated: “Access to public toilets is a basic human need and is a critical feature of any age-friendly city.”
As noted in the motion, public toilets help older adults and those with medical issues feel comfortable going out to run errands, exercise and socialize, “thus encouraging healthy, active aging”.  

Public washrooms also assist people to use transit if there are facilities at the transit stations. But somehow providing public washrooms as an amenity was something not valued by this city, and while there may be over 90 washrooms in public parks, those are NOT in downtown urban areas or places that people frequent for accessing shops and services.

It is certainly not helpful for a current City Council member to state to CityNews “The lack of washrooms, and defecation on streets, points to the biggest issues like housing. So washrooms are just band-aiding the issue.”

That is absolute nonsense.

Read more »

The SFU Urban Studies Program invites applications for the position of Sessional Instructor – Summer 2021

URB 497-691 International Field Studies – Comparative Urban Sustainability: Nordic Region

DURATION: May 7 – Aug 31, 2021
SEMINAR TIME: Tuesdays, 5:30-9:20 PM


Details here.

LOCATION: Online, with up to 4 in-person meetings in Vancouver, as allowed under public health restrictions
CONTACT HOURS: 4 (9 Undergraduate and 6 graduate credit units)

Read more »

Sixty years ago a Vancouver tourism film was released that catered to couples, and recommended the Vancouver area for people who were coming for honeymoons. This film has survived, and has been reposted on YouTube with its original title which (not too surprising) is called “Vancouver Honeymoon”.

There is a lot of insights in the film, some cringeworthy, others nostalgic. The film shows a residential area that looks fairly typical of new 1950’s subdivisions with small trees and shrubs~can you identify where that is?

In Stanley Park kids are attending “traffic school” where you get to drive around pretend “streets’ in a little car, with a real live police officer helping you learn how to “drive”. No surprise the training seems to be only from a driver’s perspective, with no pedestrians or cyclists.

Summers at the beach look very Santa Monica, with low tide, lots of kids and activities, and the commentator does hint that Vancouver has good temperatures all year round. You can apparently hook an eighty pound salmon without trying, and if you are the wife, it is “beginner’s luck”.  There is a scene at a take out White Spot with the waiter bringing out a specially designed tray to hook to the car window.

Read more »

Did you know that City of Surrey Road Safety Team was recently awarded the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers (Greater Vancouver section) Mavis Johnson Award for the Safe Mobility Plan? Are you an experienced Engineer who is looking to join an organization who is a leader in road safety? The City of Surrey is leading the province with its Vision Zero Safe Mobility Plan where we strive to have zero people killed or seriously injured on our roads. The Plan was launched in February 2019 at BC’s first ever Vision Zero Summit which was hosted by the City of Surrey.

If you are an experienced traffic safety engineer who is excited about shaping the transportation landscape in one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, this unique opportunity is for you. As our lead Road Safety Engineer, your senior position will play a key role in implementing our road safety vision. You will ensure that Surrey establishes road safety cultures, data collection systems, organizational structures, and partnerships to achieve its Vision Zero targets and objectives, all while working and collaborating alongside true industry leaders that were instrumental in developing the City’s award winning Traffic Management Centre and Intelligent Transportation System.

Reporting to the Road Safety Manager, you as the Senior Road Safety Engineer, will help lead the development and implementation of data driven road safety improvements and programs in alignment with the priorities identified in the Vision Zero Surrey Safe Mobility Plan.

You can find out more about this opportunity by clicking this link.


Read more »

It is one of the most frustrating things about this pandemic~everything might be closed down and activities discouraged, but there are basic things you need to do. I had an appointment and stopped  at Broadway and Granville Streets to use a washroom. I went to order in the Starbucks on Granville Street and asked to use the washroom only to find that while Starbucks will make the coffee and you can drink it, there’s no washroom available due to Covid.

For many people and for children drinking liquids without access to a washroom is like writing on a blackboard without chalk. It cannot be done. There are times you just need the use of public washroom facilities. I could not find a washroom to use anywhere. I did have a gift certificate for a merchant on the street, and while I was first refused access to the store’s washroom (which was taped off and closed)  that was provided once no other alternative was known and I told them I  had a credit in the store.

This was my first time having to negotiate to use a  washroom in Vancouver. Why is that even necessary?

I  don’t think that the merchants of this city should be required to provide washroom facilities without support from the City. There is no support, other than a vague promise from the City that some mobile washroom facilities would be available for the  dire need in the downtown eastside. No timeline, no locations given.

Council’s response and ignoring the need for basic washroom facilities in business areas is  just not good enough.

While the City has ignored the need for safe sanitary portable washrooms in business areas and in downtown they appear to have accessed funding for other items.

This City Council  voted  two months ago to have an auditor general set up to scrutinize internal processes and evaluate program effectiveness at a cost of two million dollars annually. Last week City Council considered adding an ethics commissioner at an annual cost of $200,000. That job was  to develop separate Codes of Ethics for staff and for City Councillors and Committees (there already is one for both).

The previous City Manager has pointed out that there already  was an internal auditor function and hiring the two million dollar auditor general would duplicate some existing positions. You would think Council could shoehorn in the ethics commissioner into the two million dollar annual outlay for the new Auditor General and pony up some money for something of a much more immediate need: Public Washrooms. Portable ones. That could be placed for citizens use now.

Why is Council busy looking at its own processes and fine tuning themselves when there is no where for citizens to do their business in the streets?

I have written over and over again why we need public washrooms, and accessible clean washrooms in Covid times. It is not only a public health issue it is a human right.

It was  Paola Lorrigio in The Star who bluntly points out that the dearth of  public washrooms, once a barrier to the homeless, poor, racialized and disabled is now a barrier to everyone.

Read more »

Daphne Bramham on the weekend wrote in the Province that “the chaos and disorder” in the Downtown Eastside  is so  “normalized that most Vancouverites have abandoned the neighbourhood, given it up to the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, and the people who prey on them.”

It is a true reflection of what has occurred and it is not equitable. There should be a standard of civility afforded to everyone to have safe, clean, accessible open spaces and streets everywhere in the city and to ensure public safety to every resident. By every measure that parameter has failed and the most vulnerable are impacted.

Ms. Bramham and Derrick Penner in the Vancouver Sun have written about the JJ Bean coffee shop at 14th and Main Street. The manager has had an escalating situation with several mentally ill homeless people in a host of situations, including “an altercation involving a homophobic slur, someone using drugs while barricaded in his café’s washroom, trash strewn in the alley and human waste smeared on the café’s compostables recycling bin.”

The coffee shop manager found that there was no direct way to find assistance with the challenges, and both the police and the city pointed at each other as places that should be able to provide assistance.

There is clearly no civic blueprint  to allow businesses to function while municipal attitude is to look away from people in crisis on the street, and finger point that other levels of government should be assisting.

Read more »

Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View. © Janna Ireland.

MAS Context is a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization that addresses issues that affect the urban context. We do so through publications, various types of public events, and installations.

This event explores the work of pioneering Black architects in Los Angeles and Chicago through the lenses of photographers Janna Ireland and Lee Bey. Their recent books, Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View and Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side, examine and document the buildings, from private homes to churches and hospitals, designed by a series of Black architects that left their mark in those cities.

Janna Ireland will discuss the work of Paul R. Williams, the legendary Los Angeles architect who became the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects and, later, the first Black recipient of the AIA Gold Medal. Ireland’s book, Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View, contains over 200 photographs taken at Williams’s buildings, from modest homes for middle class families to mansions for the elite.

Lee Bey’s Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side is the first book devoted to the South Side’s rich and unfairly ignored architectural heritage. It documents the remarkable and largely unsung architecture of the South Side, including buildings by pioneering Black architects such as Walter T. Bailey, John Moutoussamy, and Roger Margerum.


Date: Thursday, February 11, 2021

Time: Event starts at 4pm  Pacific Time
Event will take place on Zoom
You can register by clicking this link.


Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View (Angel City Press Press, 2020). © Janna Ireland.


Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side (Northwestern University Press, 2019). © Lee Bey.



Read more »

Yesterday, Michael Alexander told the story of New York City’s fabulous (and fabulously expensive) new Moynihan Train Hall, and the less happy history of Penn Station, which it serves. Today: what are their lessons for Vancouver? And what are Vancouver’s public transit opportunities (and the region’s) for the coming decades? 

Like the glorious original Beaux-Arts Penn Station, historic Waterfront Station is privately owned by a large developer. And as in New York, that private developer wants to maximize its profits. In New York, the result was to bury most of Penn Station in the basement of Madison Square Garden. Here, developer Cadillac Fairview plans a private, ultramodern 26-storey office tower on a wedge of parking lot next to the station. It was quickly nicknamed The Ice Pick.

Nearly 13 million riders pass through Waterfront Station each year, about five million more than users of the next busiest Translink station. As the pandemic wanes, ridership will increase. The historic 1914 building is protected by heritage regulations, and serves as a stunning public entry and meeting hall.

The actual transit facilities are underground, or in a shabby shed attached to the building’s north side, a construction mirroring the tawdry underground Penn Station that New Yorkers and visitors have suffered since 1968.

Connections are so poorly designed that to transfer between Skytrain lines, you go up two flights, through fare gates, down two flights, and through another set of fare gates.

Translink rents this space and office space in the upper floors from the developer, Cadillac Fairview.

That’s not the way it has to be, or the way the city has said it wants it. Since 2009, the city has had preliminary plans which include a great, glassy public hall, a transit and visitor entry to Vancouver, with views of water and mountains, transportation and history, urban commerce and pleasurable public space. Something like this:

Read more »