April 25, 2019

Climate Emergency and Climate Emergencies


In 1989, in my second term on city council, I moved a motion that launched the Task Force on Atmospheric Change – thankfully renamed Clouds of Change.

The origin of that report is now 30 years old.

It was, I believe, the first report on climate change by a North American municipality.  Its main achievement was to set the City on a course that we now call sustainability.  It was the first of a dozen more plans and initiatives that led to the city we have today.

Did Clouds of Change lead to a reduction of greenhouse gases, did it in a modest way help fight climate change?  Modestly, yes.  But in those thirty years, this happened:

… from 1989 to 2019.

… more than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the last three decades.  Which means we have done as much damage to the fate of the planet and its ability to sustain human life and civilization since (Clouds of Change!) than in all the centuries – all the millennia – that came before.

Given that we’re on track to do that again, only worse, in the next 30 years, it makes sense to call this phase of our awareness The Climate Emergency‘ and to accelerate our progress, amp up our targets, shorten our timeframes.

Which is what this report does, and which Council started to consider last Tuesday. They began with delegations.  I was one – as well as Peter Ladner, also a former councillor.

Approve the report, I asked, since it builds on the initiatives and work that proceeded it – and we as a city are getting pretty good at meeting ambitious targets and setting an inspiring example for others.  There’s good people on your staff wanting to take this on: give them your support for the Big Moves.

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Now that Google’s Streetview has been in operation for a decade, and conveniently provides its available archive with each image, it’s possible to do what Guest suggests in the post below:

You could take a similar pic – but in reverse and with a future transition – of the former Granville 7 Theatre on Granville Steet.

i.e. bustling pic of the movie crowds in the 1990s, boarded up with chain link fence and homeless camped out for the past few years after the theatre closed, and in a few more years (hopefully) bustling again as a Cineplex Rec Room.

Here’s the result so far:




The current street scene, at least in these shots, is not as dramatic as it can be, when there are rough shelters under the canopies.  Whereas the difference in New York from the 1980s to now – in this case, the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bushwick – is unmissable.  Almost inconceivable.

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From Orca:

Crossing the Granville Bridge recently, I was stopped by a woman who was interviewing walkers about a plan already adopted by the city to now spend at least $25 million creating an elevated greenway for walkers and bikers over that bridge. This was part of the public consultation program.

As a taxpayer, I wonder about governments that often adopt plans first with public consultation to follow.

I often use interviews as a research technique in my job so I noticed how cleverly the interview questions were designed to elicit a positive response to the project. They all centred on how wonderful the new greenway would be for the kind of people I very rarely see taking advantage of the similar and costly developments on the Burrard Bridge.

Some very important questions aren’t being asked. This project will be paid for by all the citizens of Vancouver. No one is asking them if they think that a greenway over the bridge is the best use of their tax money.

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. It’s odd that Vancouver, with its ongoing crisis in affordable rental housing, doesn’t pay more attention to Seattle – fast-growing, tech-boom city that it is – where the problem has been so much new rental stock available that the fear has been too many ‘ghost apartments.’  That’s changing, according to the Seattle Times:

The Seattle area is filling up new apartments faster than any region in the country, suggesting demand for housing is starting to catch up with the record construction boom — not a great sign for tenants hoping landlords get desperate and drop rents.

The new figures offer fresh insight into the years-long, multibillion-dollar experiment being waged by developers as they build more apartments in the city of Seattle this decade than in the previous half-century combined, betting on the long-term economic health of the region. Will enough renters eventually materialize to fill them, or will the city have a skyline of empty ghost apartments? …

(Market analyst Carl) Whittaker cited the region’s strong economy and foreign immigration pull for leading the country in drawing renters, as well as the fact that the metro is building more apartments to actually house them. Only three metro areas in the country — New York, Dallas and Los Angeles — built more apartments than Seattle last year. …

For a while it looked like developers might have been too aggressive with all those new units: Vacancy rates had been rising, recently reaching their highest point since the recession. Building owners struggling to fill up tons of new units all at the same time resorted to offering concessions like a free month’s rent or thousands of dollars in gift cards. The supply-and-demand equation flipped so suddenly that Seattle rents went from soaring at the fastest rate in the country to among the slowest.

Now, generally speaking, apartments in Seattle are filling up nearly the same rate as they are opening.

As PT has noted before, the fundamentals are beginning to shift in Vancouver too: falling house prices, increased supply in some areas, more to come.  While the housing crisis continues, it’s changing, and perception lags behind.

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In principle, the idea of infill in already built-out neighbourhoods is seen to be a good one, especially to broaden the choice of options.  At the community planning stage, there’s general acceptance.

Reality is tougher.  Two prominent cases for apartments on parking lots have received a lot of pushback – in the case of the Delbrook proposal in North Van District, council rejection; in the case of the Larch Street proposal in Kitsilano, considerable neighbourhood opposition.

Even in the West End, one neighbourhood you’d expect would welcome infill, the dilemma of scale and relationship to the existing fabric becomes apparent in these two examples.  The first – around five storeys, about the same as those examples mentioned above – was submitted almost immediately after the approval of the West End Community Plan in 2013 – a proposal for a rear parking lot at Cardero and Comox, as reported in PriceTags in 2014.  The comments detail the complaints.

Nonetheless, it is now under construction:


The other, a half block away, at 1685 Nelson, is considerably different in scale – actually an extension of to a heritage-quality house – but also meeting resistance.

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As Price Tags blog does more PriceTalks podcasts, we’re looking for more contributors to join the team. If you have a knack for organization, media production, and sharing engaging content, this might be for you.

Here are the basic requirements about this unique opportunity:

  • You must be a resident of the Metro Vancouver region
  • Familiarity with Zoom recorders and common audio equipment is a must
  • Some audio-editing experience (ie. Adobe Premiere, Audacity), or comfort with a wide range of computer platforms and software, and a willingness to learn

We usually record about once a week, typically on weekends at the Inspiration Lab at the Vancouver Public central branch, with occasional special events at other locations.

We’d like to do more editing and production with the interviews, more on-location recording, and shorter items on particular topics. Indeed, we’d look to new team members for ideas and innovation.

Depending on the candidate(s), interest and experience level, and availability, this could be one or more volunteer roles with possibility of honouraria, or a paid contract.

Interested?  Let us know at pricetags (at) shaw (dot) ca.

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