Policy & Planning
January 18, 2021

The Point Grey Elephant in the Yard~Seaside Greenway Public Realm

In 2016 when a report  on  Point Grey Road becoming the Seaside Greenway went to Council, there was much discussion about separating walking from biking, and ensuring that sidewalks were adequate and wide enough. You can reference that report here.

Of course some residents had usurped public city owned boulevard property as their own, by adding in shrubbery and fences, and were none too pleased when the City needed that public property for public things, like sidewalks and boulevards.  There was even discussion from residents that they would be more likely to crash into pedestrians and cyclists with the hedges and trees removed. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is always instructive to look back at what people feared of and to look at how things actually progressed. When the Seaside Greenway was approved, real estate values on Point Grey Road apparently  increased by 30 percent. It is a traffic calmed, quiet street.  And yes, there is an elephant in the yard, in the 3600 block of Point Grey Road.

I have written that  privately owned landscaping on public property may always be challenged. As the city grows and enhances walking and cycling mobility there will be more vigilance to ensure that homeowner landscaping does not impede proposed city works, or indeed, city owned property.

Sadly, the Point Grey elephant’s enclosure does take up some publicly owned property too, and the fence was not moved as part of the improvements for the Seaside Greenway.

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At the end of Cameron Avenue accessed from Alma Street is a steep public staircase that has exactly 54 steps. There’s two landings as well, but those are not counted in the poem posted at the top of the stairs.

The poem is written by Robert A. He may be the gentleman that stopped at the top of the stairs, told us it was his 72nd birthday, and he had just scaled the stairs eight times to celebrate.

Part of the  poem reads:

“I am fortunate. Around the corner from My house there are 54 Steps.

Down to a Rocky Beach. We call it “the crab beach”. Always can delight Little and big kids.

By gently lifting a rock Watch the baby crabs Scuttle away.My steps are my Meditation, My aerobics

My beautiful outside Stair masterView of the City Over English Bay, Mountains, boats

Ever changing light. And weather

Twenty times a thousand steps Give or Take. “Doing the Steps” Understood by family, friends.”

And then there’s the view. You can look north at the boats, east to the city, and south to the cliff side mansions along Point Grey Road.

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Our ‘Fun with Numbers’ guy, Andy Coupland, ran some numbers on the West End, comparing 1981 and 2016 census.  Though the Big Takeway is still that the West End is more stable than often perceived, some changes (like overall demographics) are in line with wider City / Region / Canada change.  But the uniquely high rental proportion, and therefore high mobility, may explain some of the differences. 

(Comments in brackets are from Price Tags.)

 

There are more males. (If the gay population was declining significantly, you’d expect the opposite of this trend.)

1981 – 18,255 (49% of total)

2016 – 24,670 (52% of total)

 

And less females.  (In 1981 there were 440 more females than males; now there are 2,140 more males than females.)

1981 – 18,695 (51% of total)

2016 – 22,530 (48% of total)

 

There are more children under 15.  (Again, if the number of families with chiIdren was dropping, the opposite should be true.)

1981 – 1,165

2016 – 1,945

 

There are fewer young people aged 15 – 24.  (This is where affordability may be having an impact, and why it seems there are less younger gays.)

1981 – 4,950

2016 – 3,710

 

There are a lot more aged 25 – 44.  (Affordability would be less an issue for this cohort.)

1981 – 15,990

2016 – 22,545

 

A lot more aged 45 – 64  (Why the big jump in this group?  Growth of the condo supply?  Affordability?  Social status of the West End?)

1981 – 7,930

2016 – 12,000

 

But almost the same number (and a smaller proportion of the population) over 65.  (Again, affordability?)

1981 – 6,930

2016 – 7,000

 

 The number married (including separated).  (This is likely a reflection of a societal wide change, but interesting to see in the West End.)

1981 – 38%

2016 – 45% married (25%) or living common law (18%) or separated (2%)

 

An identical proportion single, never married.

1981 – 43% (15,380)

2016 – 43% (19,525)

 

A similar proportion divorced.

1981 – 10% (3,550)

2016 – 9% (4,100)

 

Fewer widowed.

1981 – 9% (3,350)

2016 – 3% (1.330)

 

Part 1 of this series here.

 

 

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The second event of The Future We Want: The Change We Need series, hosted by the City of Vancouver in partnership with SFU.

 

How must the City of Vancouver think differently about housing and the housing market to better meet the needs of its residents, ensuring priority for those with the greatest need?

What is required of a new city-wide plan to ensure the urgent and transformative change necessary to establish an equitable housing system?

Speakers
  • Evan Siddall – President and CEO, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
  • Khelsilem – Squamish Nation Councillor
  • Barbara Steenbergen – Member of the Executive Committee, International Union of Tenants
  • Leilani Farha – Global Director, The Shift
  • William Azaroff – CEO, Brightside Community Homes Foundation
  • Andy Yan – Director, The City Program at Simon Fraser University
Moderators
  • Meg Holden – Professor and Director, SFU Urban Studies
  • Kerry Gold – Journalist and Globe and Mail Housing Columnist

Register here.

 

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It’s only mid-January, and already we have a nomination for ‘Article of the Year.’

Doug Ward’s long-form analysis in The Tyee of the No. 1 story in this town is a must-read if you want an informed perspective on the particulars of the housing challenges in Vancouver, what actions and proposals have been taken, and where the various factions on council stand.  It’s the best read so far of the political players, their motivations and critiques of each other.  It’s a lot of material to pack into a single story, and this one is as good as we’ve seen so far.

Here’s Doug’s conclusion:

The politically low-friction days of filling brown fields with new developments are over. And nowadays, almost all densification in established neighbourhoods happens on the east side of town, while on the wealthier west side, says (Andy) Yan, “The homes have become larger and emptier. It’s getting less dense.”

Something’s got to give….  (But) Stewart and his councillors have yet to forge an agenda that reflects the mood of crisis that delivered them to their posts in the first place. They have until the fall of 2022 to demonstrate otherwise.

My thoughts:

The housing challenge cannot be met within the boundaries of Vancouver.  Housing is, at minimum, a regional challenge, involving every level of government.  City of Vancouver politicians should never be so presumptuous as to think they have the levers to solve it between Boundary Road and the UEL.

Also unquestioned (even in Doug’s piece) is the presumption that the City should replace the market as the short-term determinant for housing supply and affordability.   Let’s leave aside the question as to whether that’s possible (it isn’t), the fact is that most citizens, including immigrants, would be distrustful of an ideological solution unless it manifestly benefits them directly.

It could be that city government won’t have to intervene in any major way (rezoning the city from one end to the other or budgeting to build thousands of units) so long as it can affect marginal supply at a time when more global factors align (especially interest rates and health of the economy – which influences immigration rates, domestic and foreign).  By assisting the market to strategically supply an ongoing expectation of new units (which is happening now, especially in the rental stock) in a sufficiently short period of time, the overall market may be moderated in price and scarcity to remove the issue as a political imperative.  The pandemic might do the same, but likely won’t make much of a difference in the medium term.  (It hasn’t so far.)

The hope being placed on the Vancouver Plan was naïve to begin with, and unachievable in the time left in this council’s term, especially given the disruption of the pandemic.  Trying to accommodate a visionary or ideological model of change for every neighbourhood simultaneously, especially when it involves the character or scale of a community, is simply not doable without having to pay too high a political price (assuming there is a disciplined majority willing to take the risk).

Such a city-wide plan cannot on one hand provide an overview of how growth will be accommodated (along with infrastructure and amenities) in a way that is accepted as equitable and, on the other, inform citizens on what can literally be built next door to them (which is the real purpose of zoning: to give assurance, continuity and control over the rate of change).  The Vancouver Plan has no chance of doing that, and so will be compromised into mush or deferred into the future if it isn’t abandoned.

Vancouver will muddle along, spot-rezonings and all, and manage to still end up with a remarkably successful (if expensive) city.

 

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CTV News in Victoria  reporter Jordan Cunningham interviewed a puzzled homeowner couple who were upset that someone had called the City of Victoria’s bylaw officers regarding their very sizeable hedge. The hedge quite clearly encroaches on the sidewalk, and the homeowners could not understand why someone would not talk to them ahead of calling the City about getting their hedge trimmed back.  The homeowners talked about the fact they knew the latin name of the hedge, that birds lived in it, and how they “seasonally” trimmed their hedge.

Mr. Cunningham cleverly did the Homer Simpson “disappearing in the hedge” meme and spoke to people using the sidewalk who expressed no challenge with the hedge. You can view his CTV News video story here.

But the sidewalk really represents the “thin edge of the wedge” about public property and the right of all sidewalk users to have safe, comfortable and convenient access. If you were using a mobility device, or had a stroller and were also holding onto a child you would want the full width of the sidewalk. Sidewalks are to be accessible to everyone, not just the fittest passersby.

The homeowners were quite sure of their rightness, and even penned a letter which they somehow affixed on the hedge, and in the note they point out that the “BYLAW Officers have now threatened us with REMOVING the hedge”.

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The Netherlands Consulate General in San Francisco, in cooperation with the Dutch Cycling Embassy and leading organizations in the field of mobility and transportation, are eager to explore how the Netherlands and United States could collaborate in transforming American streetscapes, and consequently movement through the city. To begin this conversation, they have partnered on a series of free, 90-minute workshops targeted towards three regions:

The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a significant impact on both our professional and personal lives. It has also fundamentally changed the way we look at cities; offering a unique window of opportunity to rethink, redefine, and reallocate urban streetscapes and the way they are used. However, it is of the upmost importance that these changes are thoroughly considered and carefully implemented, to avoid common mistakes and adverse effects.

 

San Francisco Bay Area: Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at 9:00 AM (PST)

Greater Los Angeles: Thursday, January 28, 2021 at 9:00 AM (PST)

Pacific Northwest: Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 9:00 AM (PST)

In these digital workshops, experts from both the public and private sector in the Netherlands—including Goudappel Coffeng, Technolution, Breda University of Applied Science, Studio Bereikbaar, Technical University of Delft, ProRail, Bikeminded, Mobycon, and CROW—will share their knowledge and experience from decades of political processes, transportation planning, and infrastructure design. The aim: to create attractive and safe multi-modal networks for all ages and demographic groups, and to see where the United States and the Netherlands can learn from each other’s experience in building safe, user-friendly, and inclusive mobility infrastructure. Each webinar will include three parallel breakout sessions:

1. Integrated Mobility Planning and Traffic Management: Integrated multi-modal mobility networks provide cities a consistent, hierarchal system that emphasizes all modes of transport (car, train, bus, ferry, bike, walk, etc.), which allow people the freedom of choice over their mode. Dutch mobility planning is internationally known for its innovative approach to designing systems that combine cost effectiveness, spatial quality and functional excellence.

2. Mobility Hubs and Multi-Modality: In a time where transportation services, infrastructure, and amenities are evolving rapidly, mobility hubs present an opportunity to integrate different sustainable transportation options to enhance connectivity across the region. The overarching aim is to explore the concept of mobility hubs in an effort to implement strategies and initiatives to prioritize low emission transportation modes in the long-term.

3. Inclusive (E-)Bike Design and Planning: The bicycle is increasingly seen as a key component of a multimodal transportation system and a means to achieve multiple objectives, including maximizing transportation investments, reducing maintenance costs, improving public health, promoting economic development, addressing transportation equity, and reducing environmental impacts. Learn the principles of effective network design and planning.

These workshops are aimed at professionals in the transport sector, political representatives and decision-makers, local and regional policymakers, mobility advocates, and leaders from the business community. The conversations will identify local challenges and opportunities for quick, high impact “wins”, as well as demonstrating some practical examples from the Netherlands. There will be an opportunity for audience Q&A at the end of the session.

You can reserve your place by clicking this link.

Images: irishcycle.com,dutchcyclingembassy

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 Biking in a post pandemic world: How cities are transforming their streets to get more people biking

Hear from experts on how Covid-19 has changed the cycling landscape across the globe and what needs to happen moving forward to keep more people cycling more often.

HUB Cycling’s Gavin Davidson, MRM, MCIP, RPP will be joined by:

Ralph Buehler, PhD, Professor and Chair of Urban Affairs and Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech’s Research Center in Arlington, VA,
Meghan Winters, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Sciences at UBC
Lisa Leblanc, P.Eng., M.Sc., Manager, Transportation, City of New Westminster

Date: Tuesday February 2nd, 2021

Time: 12:00 PM through 1:00 PM Pacific Time

For more information and to register, please click here.

Image:CityofVancouver

 

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Great Britain’s “High” or main streets are seeing  purchases for things other than food drop by 24 percent in shopping areas, with an overall decline in sales being the worst since record keeping started in 1995.

As The Guardian’s Richard Partington writes closing down “non-essential” shops never recovered from the online spending takeovers.Total retail sales increased 1.8 percent from November to December and surprisingly food and drink sales were the highest recorded for holiday spending. Credit card company Barclaycard saw online retail spending increase over 50 percent in December.

Canada has not had as many strict pandemic closures as in Great Britain but this study undertaken by  Vancity, Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB), and the Canadian Urban Institute shows that from September to December visits to main street businesses decreased 35 to 70 percent compared to 2019, with nearly 60 percent of businesses making less money, some garnering half of the revenue made pre-pandemic.

Retail Insider’s  Mario Toneguzzi  reports that the interim President of Vancity says it clearly~

Local businesses form the backbone of the Canadian economy and they have shown determination and resilience during the pandemic. Given the extraordinary measures and investment they have made to continue operating, they are now counting on us to get behind them.”

Concentrating on main streets in communities in Ontario and British Columbia, research shows that small businesses directly attached to the local community performed better. Up to one quarter of all businesses were doing more business online. Sadly in Victoria and in Vancouver (the survey was conducted in Vancouver’s Strathcona) the majority of business owners reported increased safety issues in their location as keeping customers away.

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