Governance & Politics
April 16, 2021

The Race is On: Sim versus Coupar

In case there was any doubt, this is going to be a hard-fought (and long) civic election.  At least one set of gloves has come off.

Ken Sim (undoubtedly the mayoral candidate for the ABC party) has taken aim at John Coupar (mayoral candidate for the NPA) if not head on, at least to the source of his identity.

Here’s the latest from Sim:

Today I am announcing my first policy commitment:

If I am elected Mayor of Vancouver, I commit to abolishing the elected Park Board and rolling it back under the authority of City Council, where it belongs.

If I am successful in securing a nomination from an electors organization, I will also be looking to recruit candidates to run for Park Board alongside me, who will be committed to being the last elected Park Board Commissioners.

It’s a bold move.  There has always been a belief by many that, on one hand, the Park Board is an anachronism – redundant and (to City Hall) annoying.  On the other, many believe it reflects a profound priority of this city and its culture: a deeply rooted love of nature and the importance of parks, community centres and the social supports they offer.

Historically the existence of a separate political body for parks has meant we were green before it was capitalized.  No Council, regardless of its ideological positions, can easily erode that commitment – so long, it’s argued, as an elected Park Board is there.

Pragmatically, it just hasn’t been worth the constitutional struggle to abolish it, likely requiring an amendment to the Vancouver Charter – hence provincial approval.

But it is no coincidence that Sim’s first major policy statement (effectively responding to the criticism that he hasn’t any) takes dead aim at the primary identity of John Coupar, long-time Park Commissioner, a board chair, proudest of his support for the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, and even his opposition to bikeways in parks.

By the time you read this, Coupar will likely be responding.  And it won’t be as mild as the persona that Coupar cultivates.

 

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Michael Geller just recommended a blog by Brandon Donnelly – “Rated by the Guardian Cities UK as one of the best city blogs in the world, it generally covers everything from architecture and planning to real estate and technology.”

I’m surprised I hadn’t seen more references to him before (a Canadian blogger on cities!).  “Brandon Graham Donnelly is a city builder and blogger based in Toronto … studied architecture and fine art history at the University of Toronto … a Managing Director at Slate Asset Management and founder of the Globizen Group. … loves snowboarding, photography, electronic music, and local Ontario wines.”

First post I saw:

Just how valuable is public transit?

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Michael Gordon* explores a misconception about Kitsilano in the Seventies – that, in a reaction to what was felt to be ‘out-of-control overdevelopment’ (see West End), Kits was downzoned.  Not quite.

 

Many years ago, Vancouver’s Director of Community Planning advised me that the 1975 downzoning in Kitsilano to prevent highrise residential development was not a downzoning. Upon further researching this, I discovered to some extent he had a point.

In July 1964 Kitsilano, Fairview, Kerrisdale, Mt.Pleasant and other neighbourhoods had their apartment RM-3 zoning amended to encourage ‘tower in the park’ residential development up to 120 feet.** Previously, the maximum height was three to four storeys.  Subsequently in Kitsilano, only seven highrise residential buildings were built along with a variety of four-storey wood-frame apartment buildings.

The RM-3 zoning had encouraged large site assemblies because it was the only way to achieve the maximum density and height of 36.6 metres (or about 11 to 13 storeys). Density bonuses were given for large sites, low site coverage and enclosed or underground parking. (This zoning still applies in areas of Fairview and Kerrisdale.)  Small- and medium-sized sites were built to a lower density and three- to four-storey wood-frame construction.

Things started to heat up in Kitsilano in the 1970s when:

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Veronica Reynolds is the sustainable travel advisor for Milton Park which is a one square kilometre office and industrial park with 7,500 employees and over 250 organizations near London. She’s been very successful at getting people to look at other options besides motor vehicles for commuting, and has installed new walking paths and connecting cycling bridges around highway infrastructure. I previously wrote about her implementation of the first autonomous public transit shuttles in Great Britain to service the park.

Veronica asked me if I knew “what3words”.  I did not.

What3words is a geolocation technology that looks at the world made up of squares of three meters by three meters. That makes a whole lot of squares, and each square is given an address with three words. The addresses are translated into 43 different languages, and yes the addresses are not the translations of the same words.

Vancouver’s City Hall’s three word geolocation is putty.averages.closets.

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Cubic, the company that provides TransLink with Compass technology, collects data on how mobility is changing in cities around the world, including Vancouver.

As cities are starting to re-open, road congestion is growing while transit continues to lag, signaling that congestion may become more severe than pre-pandemic levels.

Here’s the one for April:

Lots of room for interpretation here. (What’s up with Singapore?)  Clearly there’s a big difference in Motordom cities like Miami and transit-dependent ones like London.  Vancouver, as expected, falls in the mid-range of change – except when it comes to walking.  Guesses?

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Take a walk on the Fraser River Trail Greenway which is the perfect thing to do on a brisk spring day. You can start at the south foot of Blenheim Street, and you can go west where the private Point Grey Golf Club has worked with the City to create a publicly accessible trail along the Fraser River.

There was one section of the Fraser River Trail Greenway south of the Point Grey Golf Course that was inaccessible due to a large stream embankment. The Simpson Family in Southlands who had lost a son in an accident in the armed forces chose to honour his memory and paid for the public bridge which is accessible to walkers, rollers, cyclists and horse back riders. You can continue on that trail that proceeds west through the ancient territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and that trail joins up to Pacific Spirit Park at Southwest Marine Drive.

 

But let’s say you choose to go east on the City of Vancouver’s Fraser River Trail which was approved by Council in 1995. There is a footpath on city public lands, and you then can follow the Fraser River beside the city’s McCleery Public Golf Course. It’s a wonderful walk beside the Fraser. And then you run into this:

And there is the obnoxious, anonymous signage:

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When technology and economy come together, that’s usually called a revolution.

You can get one of these electric scooters for a few hundred bucks at Canadian Tire:

 

Joe Sulmona says you may soon be able to get one of these if you need  more carrying capacity.

Bigger battery too.  From Euractiv:

Advances in technology mean that battery-powered heavy trucks can go up against their fossil-fuel counterparts on price and – with better charging infrastructure – on range, according to the study, conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), an independent research institute.

“A tipping point is in sight for electric trucks,” said Björn Nykvist, lead author and senior researcher at SEI. “Battery technology is very close to a threshold that makes electric trucks feasible and economically competitive. All that is missing is one companion component: fast charging.”

If you’d like to know more the evolution of one-person electric transportation and its impact on urban transit as a whole,  here’s a more definitive piece from Boundmotor:

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