Design & Development
January 2, 2020

The Not-So-Grand Bargain, as seen from above

The New York Times published a wonderfully interactive perspective on “A Decade of Urban Transformation” – the changes in the American urban landscape (with enough applicability to much of urban Canada), as seen from above.

 

Vast new exurbs have been carved from farmland, and once-neglected downtowns have come to life again. The tech industry has helped remake entire city neighborhoods, and it has dotted the landscape with strange new beasts, in data centers and fulfillment hubs.

The Exurbs Boom Again

At the beginning of this decade, for a short period after the housing bust, it looked as if the exurbs were over. Housing construction and population growth there ground to a halt. Briefly, central cities and denser suburbs were growing faster than exurbia. But the exurbs eventually boomed again, a pattern we can see in rings of new development around most major metro areas in this map, especially in the Sun Belt:

For more images:

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Planning for Non-Planners: What You Need to Know About Community Planning

What you’ll learn

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Describe key objectives of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy and other region-wide initiatives
  • Explain the basic process and structure of urban plans and policies in municipalities
  • Identify the tools planners can use to influence development of communities

3 Thursday evenings: March 2, 9, 16

6:30–9:30 p.m.

SFU Harbour Centre

Instructor: Eric Aderneck, VP Planning and Development, iFortune Homes Inc.; Industrial Land-Use Planning Consultant

Register now

 

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Amidst the Australian bushfires – an image too sad to seem real:  a firefigher and a koala, watching their forests burn next to a vineyard.

Apparently it is all too real. From a Guardian blog:

… the photo was taken at Lobethal on Friday while protecting homes. Two koalas wandered out of the bush seeking assistance.

“Up behind us there were a couple of houses under threat so we were working to protect them from ember attack and the firefront and they stepped out of the bush seeking help,” he said.

Adams said it was common for koalas to seek help from firefighters in these situations. The koalas were given water and moved to a safer location. Firefighters lost track of them and they were eventually forced to pull out of the property.

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In Building a Resilient Tomorrow, Alice Hill and Leonardo Martinez-Diaz have put together a superb primer on responding to the impacts of climate change. …

Particularly gripping is chapter 9, which focuses on relocating people in harm’s way. For years, the issue of displacement and relocation was something of a taboo subject in international climate debates, both because it is so sensitive and because solutions are not readily apparent. …

“Of all the hard lessons in this book, managing climate migration may be the hardest,” they argue …  “[t]he earlier we start, the easier, and less costly, and less traumatic building resilience will be.”

They don’t need to use the future tense anymore.

From the New York Times – Among the World’s Most Dire Places: This California Homeless Camp

 

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Surely an offense to the homeless who seek shelter in the parks or, especially, the golf courses that serve only a handful of the elite.  And they’re annuals!  Every year, another wasteful, expensive insult.*

 

*To quote Chris Keam from below: “The problem with irony is that it now has about as much power as swearing on TV. Overdone and out of gas. Sincerity is the new cool attitude to have. I thought we all knew this by now, but what do I know?”

 

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It glitters!  It spins!  It outrages!

Click here to see the Chandelier spin.  Whee!

Since it was hung under the Granville Bridge, Spinning Chandelier has appalled those who deem it an insult.  Like Melody Ma:

How did such an insensitive piece of public art come into existence? Did no one at the city of Vancouver anticipate the outrage that would follow?

… It’s like letting the McDonald’s golden arches be the emblem of a city. …

One spinning chandelier to remind us of the inequality in the city is more than enough. It’s time to review the public art process before it produces another obscene structure …

Whether it’s puritans or progressives who are condemning an artwork as obscene, watch out.  Mediocrity is waiting in the wings.

And we happen to have an ideal comparison with two works by one artist: Rodney Graham, who actually created the obscene Chandelier, chosen by the developer, and another piece you’ve probably never heard of, chosen by the kind of process that Ma favours:

It was a commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, and it is, if I may be harsh, one of the most mediocre works on one of the most opportune sites in the city: the entrance to Stanley Park.

The work takes its title from a series of photographs … which documented a series of ‘incorrectly’ assembled toy glider kits… And the park, of course, is a place where children and adults may very well play with glider.

It would at least be appropriate next to a children’s play space.  So how about we do a switch: put Graham’s work near a playground and replace it with the statue of Lord Stanley, arms spread wide, welcoming “people of all colours, creeds and customs” at the entrance to the park.

Except, of course, this dead white male colonialist wouldn’t pass the trauma test.  Nor does the Chandelier, according to Mitch Speed in another scathing indictment in MoMus:

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Vancouver has the highest density of artists per capita in Canada. But they’ve lost nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space in the past decade, while their median rental rates have increased more than 65 per cent. The Eastside Culture Crawl Society, alarmed at the increasing conversion of light industrial buildings to condos, produced A City Without Art?, a report that documents artists’ displacement, and calls for no net loss of existing spaces, plus more non-profit and community ownership, and other strategies.

Meanwhile, The City of Vancouver has committed to addressing our acute cultural space challenges in its Culture | Shift plan, and has recently opened 10,800-square-foot purpose-built artist production facility Howe Street Studios, with much more promised.

Can it deliver? Can it stop conversions? Will more artist space mean less city housing?

Our guides for this conversation are Eri Ishii, formerly evicted painter, and Director of Portside Studios and the 901 Artists Cooperative; Cheryl Hamilton of ie: Creative, and a third speaker to be confirmed.

 

Thursday, January 16

12:30 PM

SFU Vancouver Harbour Centre – 515 West Hastings Street

Free Event | Registration is Required

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Sad news: Car2Go (ShareNow) is shutting down its North American operations (and pulling out of a few European cities like London and Florence).

The company cited operational costs and the lack of necessary infrastructure to support new technology, like electric vehicle car-sharing, for the decision.

The company says it has more than 230,000 users in Vancouver.

“Vancouver was really very, very attractive for Car2Go,” Gordon Price of the SFU Centre for Dialogue said. “We were the car-sharing capital of North America, maybe the world. It wasn’t true in the rest of North America.

We made the switch to car-share when we scrapped our car with an incentive from the Province – for a year of Car2Go!  Loved it, especially the SmartCar which could fit into those tiny left-over spaces in the West End.

Along with Evo and Modo, Car2Go was making a difference: Vancouverites in dense neighbourhoods were making the switch.  There was even sign of ‘share-turation’ on some blocks. (Hopefully, Evo and Modo can fill some of the void.)

Losing money over time is never a winning business strategy, but Daimler (Car2Go’s parent) strategy may have been to dominate the market prior to the availability of autonomous cars.  They got the timing wrong on that (indeed, it may be a lot longer before self-driving cars are seen in dense, complex cities) and are moving away from research and development of autonomous vehicles elsewhere.

It doesn’t always pay to be first.

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At Vancouver City Hall, December 18:

Vancouver council approved a contentious rezoning application to build a five-storey rental building at Larch and West Second Avenue in an 8-3 vote Dec. 18. after a public hearing that attracted dozens of speakers, for and against. …   The Larch street building will produce 63 rental units — 13 for moderate income households.

Some neighbouring residents, who formed Kits Neighbourhood Group, campaigned against the Larch Street project, arguing it didn’t fit neighbourhood character, the building is too high, dense and bulky, and not enough affordable units are being provided to justify the incentives being offered to the developer.

Imagine trying to approve hundreds of these ‘missing-middle’ developments one by one – or even through a mass rezoning to allow them anywhere.  Imagine a ‘Kits Neighbourhood Group’ city-wide (as Colleen Hardwick undoubtedly will).

 

Meanwhile, at Surrey City Hall, December 16:

Alison Brooks Architects has won approval for a residential-led scheme in Vancouver, Canada, featuring a series of towers, the tallest a 38-storey skyscraper …

The project for Rize Alliance Properties will create 1,126 homes on the site in the burgeoning City of Surrey (City Centre) …

It was waved through at a City of Surrey Public Hearing …

 

Do the math: 63 versus 1,126.  Do the political calculation: one project tries to nibble away at The Grand Bargain, the other reinforces its expediency.

What are the odds that the City of Vancouver will provide enough housing of any kind, incentivized or not, to make a substantial difference in the housing crisis?

 

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