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November 16, 2017

Daily Scot – Seattle Congestion Pricing

I came across this live traffic report on KIRO 7 Seattle the other morning.  What stuck out besides the brutal traffic congestion and commuting times was the traffic reporters advice to avoid it.  See if you can pick it out in the video below:

 
What she is referring to are the Interstate 405 express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood which bypass Seattle on the region’s suburban Eastside.  Hotlanes as they are sometimes referred to are designated HOV or Express lanes rate adjusted depending on traffic congestion, the worst the traffic the more the single occupancy driver is charged for the right to use them.  The charges are levied via a transponder in the drivers car.
 

Could we use these “Hot Lanes” on our roadways?   More on the 405 express lanes and others in the Puget Sound region from the Washington State Department of Transportation website here.

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CTV News Vancouver had a feature last night on the City of Vancouver’s proposal to test a separated bike lane on the west side of the Cambie Bridge using a temporary barrier.  As well as a collection of Yea or Nay opinions from the street,  the report features NPA councillor George Affleck providing his two cents on the city’s bike lane proposal.

Check out the video link here
 
 

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Yesterday I profiled a bountiful urban garden on the rooftop of Quebec City’s Hôtel du Vieux and asked the question: with the pressure on the Agricultural Land Reserve what does the future hold for food security in Vancouver?  Could Vancouver be doing more with our numerous rooftops regarding urban farming?  Indeed there are some excellent rooftop projects around town already up and running (Fairmont Hotel Waterfront and YWCA immediately come to mind).
This past summer I had an opportunity to tour an extensive urban agriculture program on top of Bosa’s False Creek apartments located on the corner of Main Street and Switchmen in Olympic Village.  The program is sponsored by the Bosa Properties Foundation (more here)

Building resident and program participant Thea Treahy-Geofreda took me on a tour of the operation and provided some background on the projects history:
The Bosa Properties Foundation has committed to supporting our rooftop garden project each year. They supply all the soil, seeds, seedlings, equipment and support (if necessary, through Can You Dig It!). The team of residents maintain and harvest the garden from there.  This specific rooftop garden has been operational for 3 years and we are planning our 4rd season now.  Bosa also supports the efforts of the community garden within their Chinatown building.
The crop yields are substantial and are never wasted, supporting a range of local organizations in Vancouver:
We have 3 designated plots which are donated to Project Chef, a school based cooking program in Vancouver.  They request the crops they need before the growing season starts, and we provide them throughout the summer.  All left-over produce from our bi-weekly harvest are donated to the Vancouver Food Bank. We consistently provided them with 1-3 boxes of mixed vegetables each harvest, all season.

Food waste recycling is done onsite using a continuous flow Vermiculture system (Compost worms) providing nutrient rich worm tea and castings fertilizer for the garden while reducing the need for organic waste collection.  More on their composting system here.

I asked Thea what are the teams biggest challenges and most successful crops:
There are little (if any) challenges with our rooftop garden, as we are protected from strong winds, attract an abundance of sunlight and are protected from most “pests” found at ground level.  We do deal with some aphids and slugs, though nothing like those working on the ground.
Tomatoes and hot peppers have got to be out most successful crops.  The heat and sunlight we get create the perfect environment for these plants. The hardest thing to grow on our rooftop are squash and pumpkin. We quickly gave up on that after year one.


Kinda makes you miss summer doesn’t it?  Thanks to Thea and the Bosa Properties for exposing me to such an exciting urban agriculture initiative.

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With the seemly relentless attack on the Agricultural Land Reserve from Mega Malls, Port development, speculators and farmland banking from countries including Mainland China and Saudi Arabia (More here), what does the future hold for food security in Vancouver?  Well, perhaps our numerous rooftops are the solution.  A friend recently experienced a delightful stay at Hôtel du Vieux an Eco-minded boutique hotel in the heart of Quebec City’s old town.

 
From the hotel owners:
“Hôtel du Vieux-Quebec is an officially recognized and award winning leader in the environmental movement. Committed to reducing its impact on our natural environment, this Quebec City hotel has launched a series of initiatives to lighten its ecological footprint.”
As impressive as their commitment to carbon reduction and recycling is check out their jam-packed rooftop gardens:


The hotel compliments its abundant crop production by maintaining 5 beehives as part of the Miel Urban or ‘Urban Honey’ project, increasing urban pollinators in an insecticide free zone while producing Honey for local cafes and restaurants.

“Hôtel du Vieux Québec has installed three green roofs. Our rooftop gardens grow an assortment of organic vegetables, flowers, herbs and other plants. This helps to keep part of the hotel cool in the summer thereby lowering our energy consumption, sequesters carbon and captures runoff rainwater. This also enables us to provide fresh organic produce for staff and clients. We also insure that our gardens have plants that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other pollinators in our area.”
More on Hôtel du Vieux and their sustainability initiatives here.
Could Vancouver be doing more with our numerous condo tower and mid rise rooftops?  Could this be our new Agricultural Land Reserve:

Tomorrow in Part two I visit a Vancouver example.

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Continuing on the small scale infill theme (see previous posts in the series here and here) we travel to the Westside of Vancouver where the Airey Groups Bishop Kerrisdale development makes the most of an unusual narrow sliver of land.


The project mixes residential rowhomes with a classic brick clad retail space located on a unique wedge shape lot addressing the street with excellent scale and proportion.

I had to check that this wasn’t an existing heritage structure as its seems most new developments bypass traditional materials and look in favour of more contemporary elements when designing commercial space.

It all works and compliments the neighbourhood node of small scale shops across the street.  Development is located on W 57th Ave & East Blvd across from Choices Supermarket.

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I came across these interesting small scale infill projects while walking to a friends house in East Van a few weeks back.  My phone battery was dead but luckily there always Google Street View!
Here is what appears to be a 66′ x 100′ corner lot with single dwelling converted into 4 smaller units at the intersection of E 22nd & Fleming.  Before and after aerial views from Google Earth:


Street view shots:


Just up the street is a series of small infill homes on 50′ x 178′ & 66′ x 171′ lots.  This is between Fleming and Maxwell just north of E 22nd.  Before and After:


Maxwell St development Google Street View scene:


Interesting how the two middle units of the Maxwell Street development have no street frontage and are instead accessed from the laneway.  There were no Google Street View images available for the Fleming Street development.  Some interesting building typologies between single family detached and townhomes.
 

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Zoning, the missing middle and lack of supply are frequent topics in discussions regarding the housing crisis in the City of Vancouver.  One local group Abundant Housing Vancouver, aims to bring the conversion to the forefront by highlighting current zoning practices in the city.
“We think that building more housing is part of the solution to the housing crisis in our City. This is based on the common-sense idea that, if there is more housing for people, more people will have more housing.”
“Meanwhile, apartments are illegal on 76% of Vancouver’s residential land, severely restricting where relatively affordable, multi-family units can be built. We do not believe that supply is the whole answer, or the only answer. But we do believe that zoning for expensive, low-density housing is part of the problem.”
If you haven’t already, check out their website and Instagram page which provides helpful visuals of how current zoning shapes land use.  Some posts from Abundant Housing Vancouver’s Instagram page are located below:


What we let people build on a corner lot within walking distance of good transit, 1905 vs 2014. The 2014 lot is about 25% bigger too.

Throwback to our Mount Pleasant tour – these pre-zoning 1912 apartments are nearly 3x denser than the 1968 apartments across the street

9-story Mount Pleasant building, on a quieter side street. Townhouses at street level. 125 homes, many families with kids.
Some great starting points for discussing the supply side of the housing equation.  Of the many issues to consider regarding the examples of the older apartment buildings and their efficient land use are the tight setbacks and absence of mandatory minimum parking requirements back in the day, but those are topics for another post.
For more information on Abundant Housing Vancouver click on the links below:
Website
Instagram Page
 
 

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Even with sky-high land costs in the City of Vancouver not all developers are relying on multiple lot assembly in order to build mixed use projects.  While traveling around East Vancouver you notice various multi-family developments making it work on smaller lots, some as narrow as 33′.

4376 Fraser Street

3401 Fraser Street

6555 Victoria Drive

3939 Knight Street
Simple but effective none the less.  No doubt the metrics work due to the less desirable arterials when compared to the Westside, but nice to see some basic effort in materials and ornamentation.  These buildings have more architectural interest than some of the newly proposed downtown condo towers.
 

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