Design & Development
June 25, 2019

SFU City Conversation: On Vancouverism – Jul 18

Planner Larry Beasley’s book Vancouverism, about our city’s transformation, has just been published. What does it say about Vancouver’s design, its planning framework and concepts, its worldwide admiration and emulation, the things we got right and the things we missed? What lessons might it have for our upcoming Citywide Plan?

Please join us at Lot 19, the small park at the foot of Hornby Street at W. Hastings Street, with our presenters Larry Beasley and former co-Director of Planning Ann McAfee (who sometimes has a different perspective on their accomplishments).

Thursday, July 18

12:30 – 1:30 pm

Lot 19 at 855 West Hastings Street

Free event

Register Now

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More bus routes with greater capacity. Ground level retail in proximity to low-rise residential buildings. Communities designed with walking, cycling, and integrated multi-modal mobility in mind. And yes, rapid transit.

Surrey and Langley are two obvious examples of cities south of the Fraser taking slow, but steady and at times bold, steps towards the future, thanks in no small part to the work done by people like Paul Lee and Nathan Pachal.

In this second edition of our “Predecessor/Successor” series (see also Episode 31), Lee and Pachal explore the similarities between their own outsider experiences, and their respective roles promoting progressive, sometimes unpopular agendas, as both urbanists and leaders.

Lee worked in transportation planning for over three decades in both the private and public sectors, first working on implementation of the ’90s-era regional transportation plan, and most recently managing the City of Surrey’s light rail portfolio (may it rest in peace). Pachal is in his first full term, and fourth year, as councillor for the City of Langley; he’s also the indefatigable author of the long-running South Fraser Blog.

Both of Gord’s guests are used to talking to people about transportation investments, but as often from the prospective of what communities want, as what they really need. And dealing with the political decisions, as Lee learned, that often fit neither category. “Where do we need to win? Let’s build Skytrain there.”

Yet, despite occasionally blips in the process, there may be little doubt that there’s a line connecting the type of work Lee did in the 1990s and 2000s, and what Pachal has seen emerge in his short time on council. In this case (as he says with an almost astonished grin) a bus every 90 seconds in Langley City along Fraser Highway. “Walk 5 minutes, and you’re in a farm field.”

Transportation planners and policy geeks — like these two guys — know the real secret about growth in Metro Vancouver. The really exciting stuff is happening south of the Fraser.

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The Sheraton Landmark’s Big Opening forty-five years ago.

Notice the photo that showed the direction that the top floor restaurant rotated. As Gordon says of its concrete pile demise ~”with its typical brutalist raw concrete, is is now looking more like sculptural art than architecture – and for scale, massing and contrast, maybe never looked better”.


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The naysayers are thinning out now that mounting evidence points to drastic changes in climatic patterns, and the term “climate refugee”  is accepted in Wikipedia referring to people forced to move “due to sudden or gradual alterations in the natural environment related to at least one of three impacts of climate change: sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and drought and water scarcity.”

Vancouver City Council has declared a climate emergency. And Christopher Flavelle in the New York Times asks an important question~as sea levels rise, which coastal  cities will be saved and which will be sacrificed? The sea rise that was expected to take decades may be occuring in a few short years, meaning that governmental policy and budgets must adjust to deal with billions of dollars of basic storm-surge protection and sea walls. Flavelle estimates that if all coastal cities with more than 25,000 citizens were to be protected, $42 billion dollars would be required.

“Expanding the list to include communities smaller than 25,000 people would increase that cost to more than $400 billion.

Noting that the next piece of “climate denial” is ignoring the costs of flooding remediation, the Centre for Climate Integrity wants oil and gas industries to pony up for some of the costs. And the costs are limited by research to sea walls. The estimates to move residents away from flooding areas, redesigning storm, sanitary and drinking water infrastructure has not yet been factored in.

Already the Mayor of New York City has asked the Federal government to pay a $10 Billion dollar bill to protect part of Lower Manhattan from sea rise. And the levee system in New Orleans upgraded for $14 Billion dollars after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is already sinking, and may be redundant in as little as four years.

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This week the Province of British Columbia released their new Active Transportation Design Guide with the intent of creating consistent design for active transportation facilities across the Province. The Guide also provides expectations in  design guidance for any applications for grant programs to build active transportation infrastructure.

This Guide aims to double active transportation trips and also intends to adopt “Vision Zero” which has been implemented in Europe successfully to minimize death or serious injury related to vehicular crashes. The British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act is also going to be revamped to encompass ALL the different users of the roads, and also acknowledge the importance of active transportation. This will include a retooling of current driver education to include the legal rights of all road users.

The day to day use of “all human powered modes of transportation, focusing primarily on walking, cycling and rolling”  is finally going to be addressed.  This is an important step in that the new guide embraces novel ways of moving including segways, e-scooters, electric biycles and hoverboards. It is also looking at snow based activities like skiing and skating and water based like kayaking and canoeing as well as horseback riding.

The guide emphasizes holistic connections, so that people can walk or bike and easily change modes to bus, train or ferry transportation.

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Vancouver’s man with numbers Mario Canseco has his finger on the pulse of Vancouver and his latest survey in Business in Vancouver suggests we are moving towards inclusive ways to house and age in place in neighbourhoods, and that we still value neighbourhood character.

Firstly around modular housing~74 percent of people surveyed were in favour of building more housing for the homeless. From Provincial sources there is now  data showing that despite the fears  of some residents modular housing placed in Marpole has the “lowest number of emergency services of all the modular housing buildings in the city”  and no calls for overdoses.

Secondly, survey respondents value older heritage housing, which provides a grounding between the past and present of Vancouver. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed wanted heritage buildings maintained even if it meant less rental housing construction.

Lastly when asked whether duplexes, fourplexes, townhouses and three-to four-storey apartment buildings should be allowed in our “single-family” zones, 71 percent were in agreement with densifying that way, with only 22% disagreeing with that. The majority of those against the diversity of housing in single-family zones were over 55 years of age.

The discussion of what should or should not be in “single family housing areas” has also been picked up by CityLab.

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Can’t make the Price Talks event next Wednesday?

On Tuesday, June 25th, a coalition of five North Shore community agencies are hosting a panel discussion on possible solutions for North Shore seniors experiencing the impacts of the housing crunch.

Solutions to be discussed include the proposed affordable housing development on the site of North Shore Neighbourhood House, and the proposed Seniors Roommate Registry which, according to Hollyburn Family Services Society, is already attracting interest.

This event will be a ‘community conversation’, including brief presentations from the panel, engagement with representatives from the three North Shore municipalities, and audience participation.

Creative Housing Options for North Shore Seniors

Tuesday, June 25 • 10 am-noon
Delbrook Community Recreation Centre
851 W Queens Rd, North Vancouver District


  • Bunny Brown, President, Special Services Society, and a home-sharer for 10 years
  • Michael Geller, housing property developer, on municipal zoning, bylaws, and options for heritage home owners
  • Joy Hayden, Hollyburn Family Services Society, on the North Shore Seniors Roommate Registry

Presented by:

  • Lionsview Seniors Planning Society
  • Capilano Seniors Action Table
  • Capilano Community Services Society
  • Hollyburn Family Services Society
  • North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Committee

To register, call 604-985-3852, email Lionsview, or just show up — the public is welcome.

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