February 16, 2019

Price Talks Ep21: Wes Regan on Working in Vancouver’s ‘Liminal Space’ of the DTES & Community Economic Development

In a rite of passage, ‘liminal’ refers to the transition point that is neither here nor there; a threshold that can result in multiple interpretations or outcomes, and thus (often) confusion. In this episode, Wes Regan, Social Planner responsible for Community Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Initiatives with the City of Vancouver, aptly uses this word to describe his work space at the downtown Woodward’s Building and, by extension, the city’s current approach to community economic development (CED).

One could say the true liminal space is the Downtown Eastside itself, a threshold between competing realities that the city has worked hard to define, and reconcile, in the almost two decades since the signing of the Vancouver Agreement. As “A Program of Strategic Actions for the Downtown Eastside“, the Vancouver Agreement was formulated to address poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, crime and injustice, all of which have afflicted the DTES for a generation.

Regan has been a part of a number of organizations and initiatives contributing to understanding that uneasy but critical dynamic — between economic development and gentrification,  top-down social programs and self-determination, and civic integration and maintaining the integrity of community culture and the collective lived experience.

From the establishment of the Portland Hotel Society in 1993, to the Woodwards Squat in ’02, to the eventual successes of social enterprises like EMBERS and Potluck Café & Catering, city staff have learned to embrace this ambiguity. It resulted, in Regan’s estimation, in a collapse of the traditional economic development hierarchy of formal, social and informal economies, into a “livelihoods continuum”. The development and implementation of the city’s Healthy City Strategy and new Community Benefits Agreement policy are just two expressions of policy innovation on the new continuum.

In this discussion with host Colin Stein, Regan talks about his almost two decades living and working in and around the DTES, and some of the practical implications of this new approach to CED.

 

Read more »

Simon Fraser University’s City Program is offering this two-day intensive course on how to develop the principles and strategies needed to plan healthy communities.

Building on recent work and new research on the relationship between urban design and public health, your instructors will introduce you to the Healthy Built Environment (HBE) Linkages Toolkit and provide guidance on how to develop a health impact assessment.

The course will be interactive, with guest speakers from the Metro Vancouver public health community, but also grounded in the practical demands of local government policy development, design and implementation.

Instructors and Guest Speakers

Neal LaMontagne, adjunct professor, UBC School of Community and Regional Planning

Claire Gram, Population Health Policy and Project Lead, Vancouver Coastal Health

Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health

Charito Gailling, Project Manager, BC Centre for Disease Control

Lianne Carley, Vancouver Coastal Health Population Health Team

Read more »
February 14, 2019

Lost Lagoon after a few days of freezing weather.

So what do the ice patterns tell us?  Where the underwater currents flow, producing a frozen map of streams and ponds?  Temperature gradients? Or something else – if we have eyes to see.

Read more »
The Third Annual Bell Urban Forum

 

Vancouverism in a World of Cities

 

Nearly twenty years ago, ‘Vancouverism’ began to circulate as an internationally-recognized label for a distinctive set of practices of building, representing, and marketing the virtues of urban life. From planning, development, and architecture to cinema, transnational social movements, and increasingly cosmopolitan currents of migration, the Vancouver city-region has become a reference point for new configurations of density, diversity, and new relations between humans and the natural world.

At the same time, Vancouver has become the second or third most expensive housing market on the planet, and it’s all built on the unceded indigenous lands and communities that long predate British North America and Canada. Vancouver provides a unique vantage point from which to view the transformations of space and time — of past, present, and future — in an urban world.

Where have concepts of Vancouverism traveled? How have the images and narratives of Vancouverism evolved? How have these trends co-evolved with changes in the material lived realities of society and nature in the Vancouver region?

Read more »

Vancouver Sun’s Dan Fumano talks about an interesting perception with the work of the current Vancouver City Council.  Dan was referring to  the council report on the “court house block” of  800 block of Robson Street and the potential decision to approve over five million dollars to create a permanent plaza at this location. You can read the report to Council on this here.

This has been a long talked about initiative and even the architect for the Robson Square court house Arthur Erickson had discussed the closure of this portion of street in the 1970’s. It is not a new idea and it is not something that the previous Vision party  dominated city council dreamed up.  But somehow in the last decade there is a sea change in the way that Vancouverites perceive that work initiated by the City is the “vision” of the ruling party, and not the result of careful reasoned work undertaken over the years by  city staff, who also embark upon extensive public processes to review and comment upon potential plans and projects.

The last Vision party dominated Council contributed to the perception of council as project mavericks by having Council members talk about projects instead of having experienced City staff explain elements of the projects they would have painstaking detail and knowledge of.

Read more »

As the new Vancouver Council rolls forward with regular meetings, committee meetings, and public hearings (available for public viewing via the city’s streamed broadcast), I’m struck by the performance of various levels of staff at the podium.

Some pretty impressive people in streets, waste, planning, engineering, licensing, social and cultural programs have been presenting and answering questions — sometimes technically complex or strategically nuanced, but often both — the past few months, and giving their elected representatives their first few impressions of the calibre of the people who really run the city.

It’s also the first time for members of the public — a few dozen in attendance at City Hall and apparently not many more online — to recognize and parse out this dynamic. In other words, even as I work, I get to watch them work. A lot of hoop jumping, and careful performances. It’s not to be envied, and it prompts a lot of questions about the staff-council dynamic.

Are they understanding each other? Is there mutual respect? Do they agree with, or even like, one another?

My impression is that these questions are less important to answer than the other question that’s often raised about city staff — why are they costing us so much?

Read more »

Germany’s autobahn which began in the 1930’s is the highway built for vehicular traffic only. Germany has a rather complicated history with their love of roads and cars. It was the Nazi dictator Hitler who advocated for multiple laned  highways crisscrossing the country. Karl Benz developed the first car here, and vehicles are a cultural way of life.

The autobahn does have speed limits on one-third of its 8,000 miles . Those speed limits are near city centres and also reduce speeds for safety reasons on certain sections.  The rest of the autobahn has no speed limits. But you never hear from autobahn limitless speed supporters that “The number of deadly accidents on stretches of autobahn that have a speed limit is 26 percent lower than on those without.”

As The New York Times writer Katrin Bennhold writes Germany has extremely high carbon emissions which could be lowered if speed limits were imposed on sections of the autobahn with no regulation. The speed limits would also have the secondary benefit of saving lives too, as lower speeds means higher survival rates in crashes. But when a governmental commission suggested limiting speed, opponents somehow tied in speed limits with nationalism. Even the transport minister lost the fact that it was his department trying to lower automobile emissions when he came out and stated that “A highway speed limit was “contrary to every common sense”.

Read more »

Dianna has been eavesdropping:

Overheard yesterday on the bus. A millennial quite serious and slightly horrified: “Oh, no! I couldn’t go to an English-speaking veterinarian. My cat only speaks French.”

When we got off the bus in the pouring snow we were greeted by a total stranger with a cheery Merry Christmas!

And cycling the seawall:

Department of Good News/Bad News. A few weeks ago as I biked alongside the bank of daffodils on English Bay, I told them that they were too optimistic. It was too early to bloom. They didn’t listen, and so this… which makes the geese happy.

Read more »