The Livable Region
January 30, 2007

A Good Question for Gordon Campbell

An Op-Ed in today’s Sun: 

The 2002 B.C. Energy Plan strongly promoted fossil fuels, supporting coal-fired power plants, coal-bed methane development, and offshore oil and gas exploration. It was panned by those who pointed out that it would worsen climate change. These criticisms were ignored by the provincial government and also by most of us, the voting public, who did not truly feel the significance at that time.
The world has changed since then. Canada and the world have woken up to the reality of global warming. …
So in two weeks or less, Campbell has the opportunity to re-invent himself. He has done it before in his transformation from an opponent of the first nations treaty process to an advocate of reconciliation. Will he reinvent himself again in the crucial field of greenhouse gas emissions, and provide the leadership that British Columbians so clearly want?

The Gordon Campbell I knew would meet the challenge. 

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There is going to be a huge amount of response to the Fourth Assessment of the IPCC on Feb 2 – and lots of quotes.  In fact, it’s already started.  Here’s the best one I’ve seen today, from John Holdren, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

“We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be.”

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January 29, 2007

Brian Libby writes the definitive blog for those admirers of things architectural and urban in Portland. I sent him the recent issue of Price Tags on a comparison of our two cities – and he in turn has featured it in a post on his blog.
Another example of the self-referential world of the blog – click, click, click.
Brian asks:
The Portland-Vancouver BC Mind Meld: Is Price Right?
Click on over, add your perspective – and tell him I sent you.
 [And while you’re at it, click over to this piece in the New York Times on Portland’s aerial tram that was featured in Price Tags 90.]

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I have to agree with Stuart Lefeaux, the long-time superintendent of Stanley Park, about the consequences of the December windstorm: “The end result is that Stanley Park will be much more interesting than before.”
Though retired in 1979, Lefeaux saw the results of Hurricane Freda in 1962. In this article in the Courier, he told of what followed:

“The storm opened up quite a swath behind the Hollow Tree and we made that into a picnic area,” he says. “The biggest result though was that we were able to build the children’s zoo and miniature railway in an area cleared by the blowdown.”
The storm also cleared the way for the development of the Prospect Point picnic area and created viewpoints and vistas towards the ocean and North Shore.

Given the news coverage, many people probably believe the damage to be worse than it was, that Stanley Park was affected throughout its thousand acres. But save for a few areas of blowdown, it looks pretty much the same at casual glance. Where the microbursts roared through – Cathedral Trail, Prospect Point – the damage is dramatic. From Prospect Point to the Hollow Tree, the seaward slopes down to the Merilees Trail have been decimated.

But the extent of the blowdown is limited. Result: the view through to English Bay has been opened up, and is, as Lefeaux suggests, much more interesting.

Though I doubt the Parks Board would put it this way, the outpouring of grief and generosity is going to lever a lot of opportunity to make capital improvements, particularly slope stabilization, that would be otherwise unaffordable but will also change the park in some ways.  Stanley Park has added another layer of history to its landscape, and more diversity for those of us who experience it.
Here, by the way, is the New York Times story – Its Wild Heart Broken, a City, Like Its Eagles, Rebuilds.

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At the corner of Barclay and Denman Streets in the West End, on a small rectangular lot next to King George High School, there are four benches.  Rusty red, flaked and nicked, they look as uncomfortable as the stone walls they butt up against and as worn as the ground they stand on.   But there’s something bright and new on every one: a big brass plaque with an official-looking crest, and some words.
 
The crest, it turns out, is of King George High School, and my assumption is that these are gifts from the grads.
The advice:
  
“Take time to meander in your quest.”

“Slow down.  You move too fast.”
So if you actually stop to read the two plaques, then in the first case, you have, and in the second, you don’t.

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The most circulated article around City Hall yesterday was Gary Mason’s column in the Globe and Mail. (Here, if you’re a subscriber.)

While Mayor Sam Sullivan’s Eco-Density initiative hasn’t produced much excitement locally, it’s drawing attention elsewhere.
The program, which promotes increasing density as a means of reducing our collective impact on the planet, is the subject of a lengthy and mostly positive examination in a recent issue of Planning, a highly influential magazine put out by the American Planning Association.

Around here, not only hasn’t Eco-Density generated much excitement, it’s been generally denigrated – rather like the Mayor himself.
Even ostensibly neutral articles about Sam Sullivan often start with the assumption that he’s been a disappointment. And I can’t figure out quite why. A third of it is just the lazy cynicism of our times, opposition grousing and a hostile columnist or two. It comes with the territory. Another third of the negativity may be that, on one hand, he lacks the charisma and glad-handing bonhomie we expect of public figures – and, on the other, nervous reaction to the eccentric persona revealingly displayed in the recent biopic, Citizen Sam.
But the other third mystifies me.
People are accusing him of lacking leadership and failing to put forward policies. Or putting out too many blue-sky ideas and grandiose visions. Of not providing enough detail – or too much. Of moving too quickly – or not fast enough. It’s hard to take this too seriously, since it mainly comes from the chattering class, in which I include myself.
But what I absolutely do not get is criticism of Eco-Denisty by those who should be roundly supporting the concept and cheering from the sidelines when a politician is courageous enough to even mouth the “D” word.
The notion that this is simply retread policy already implemented by previous councils is full of bull. When the APA figures it’s news, it’s new.
And so does the Director of Planning. When Brent Toderian was taking his PowerPoint on the road to introduce himself and present his intial thinking, it didn’t take him long to make a few unequivocal statements about Eco-Density. Don’t believe what you read about Eco-Density being business as usual, I recall him saying. The Planning Department will be reporting back to council with policy that will break with the status quo. What council chooses to do with that is up to them – but they’re going to get what they asked for. And Toderian knows how unusual it is to get a Mayor to ask for it.

There is no question it’s gaining traction,” Mr. Toderian says. “The ideas of livability and sustainability have been two things that have for a long time been very subjective.
“The power of the ecological footprint is that it takes away some of that subjectivity. It gives us a way to measure and quantify things. You can now calculate your own personal footprint and I can tell you it can be shocking when you see it.”
Vancouver is experimenting with many options to eco-densify, including converting single-family houses to three-dwelling units without changing the facade of the home. Otherwise known as invisible density. The city has appealed to residents for their own ideas of how to densify intelligently.
“I don’t think there is a city better positioned to have this discussion,” Mr. Toderian says. “Vancouverites, better than most, can make the connection between their living patterns, density patterns and issues like climate change.”
Which is an issue that seems to be framing every discussion we have these days.

Sullivan was prescient. What he did, by staking his office on densification, was courageous. Whether it was foolish and naive is yet to be seen, and we’ll only know when citizens react to the policies that respond to his mandate. But anyone who is criticizing him for lack of vision, action or originality isn’t paying attention or simply doesn’t like him.

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Yes, a whole collection of Soviet Roadside Bus-stops! It’s one of those sites you just have to share (which is what Max Richter does on his ‘Shortlist’.)

One would think that the Soviets would have come up with one universal design for this community structure – simple, functional and cheap to mass produce. However, in many instances this was not the case, much time, effort and imagination went into many roadside bus stops…. The themes that these decorated bus stops took usually varied depending on the region, often reflecting the local culture, history, or industries.

Many more here.

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On Thursday, Council will be discussing this report from the Vancouver Economic Development Commission:

I did a quick search, wondering how many times these terms came up:

climate change, greenhouse gases, sea-level rise

The answer: zero.
How much discussion about the impact of freighters (the largest point source of some pollutants) on air quality.
Zero.
Or the impact on agricultural lands of expanding port facilities.
Zero.
I appreciate that there are many points of view on Gateway, the need for port expansion, and the economic opportunities for Vancouver as the Asian entrance to North America.  But how can an organization charged with strategic thinking and the health of this city and region have no viewpoint on the issues which will determine the fundamental livability, viability and even the existence of parts of this region, not to mention port operations?
In the not-too-distant future, that will seem to be not just oblivious but irresponsible.

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From the City of Vancouver:

Do we have enough space for future job growth? The City of Vancouver is undertaking the Metro Core Jobs and Economy Land Use Plan to ensure there is sufficient land to accommodate future job growth and economic activity in the metropolitan core.

The study has recently completed “Step Two: Projecting the Future” where future projections of job growth and demand for employment space are compared to the amount of employment space that could be built under our current zoning.

The City of Vancouver is hosting a public open house to present these findings and to hear your ideas. The open house is scheduled for:

Saturday, February 3, 2007, 10 am – 2 pm
Vancouver Public Library, 350 West Georgia Street
(North Promenade of Library Concourse)

City staff will be on hand to answer questions and collect your comments.

More information on this study is available on the city’s website at vancouver.ca/corejobs

INFORMATION: Andy Renton, Planning Assistant, 604.871.6964 corejobs@vancouver.ca

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