Governance & Politics
October 28, 2020

BC Foreign Buyers’ Tax Not an Election Issue~Survey Suggests We’d Go Farther with Restrictions

Here’s an interesting poll from Mario Canseco with Research.Co and a reminder that when the BC speculation tax was passed, there was expectation of a big revolt against it.

Journalist Ian James Young  calls it out on twitter: “has ever an issue received so much attention, and gained so little traction, as the supposed revolt-in-waiting over the BC speculation tax?”

Mr. Canseco’s poll taken in June 2020 shows that 78 percent of people in British Columbia were prepared to take the issue of foreign ownership even farther, being in support of a regulation banning  “most foreigners from purchasing real estate in Canada”.

The comparison used in the survey was the legislation in place in New Zealand that bans foreign investment by persons and corporate entities that are not vested in that country. There are some exceptions in New Zealand available for people with residency status, and Australian and Singaporean citizenship.

Mr. Canseco’s poll found support in B.C. highest among Vancouver Island residents and those aged 35 to 54 years, both at 88 percent.

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There’s been some discussion that the City of Vancouver’s three public golf courses, which are classified as park land, should be morphed into housing sites. The argument has been that as the population of the City of Vancouver expands, why not use golf course sites for housing?

The City cannot easily turn land zoned for park use into housing sites and there’s the suggestion that doing so may be short sighted, as the city densifies and requires park land for a growing populus into the next century. The City does have an  established policy of providing 2.5 acres of park land for every 1,000 residents, and used DCLs on new development to garner funds for park purchase.

The original intent of DCLs, (Development Cost Levies) was to pay for social housing, infrastructure, parks and childcare facilities. As development occurred in the city, each development would pay a portion of the associated costs. Councils have also waived these DCL payments in some cases to achieve other goals such as new affordable or rental housing, meaning that the funds for other infrastructure required have been deferred.

Take a look at what the  City of Sydney Australia is doing in this article written by Megan Gorrey in the Sydney Morning Herald. Mayor Clover Moore and Sydney Council is considering two plans to pare down an 18 hole civic golf course to 9 holes and create 20 hectares of new parkland.

 

It’s no surprise that Golf New South Wales called the proposal “shameful”. But the Lord mayor argues that the land is for public use. While the golf course is in a park trust run by New South Wales state, Mayor Moore observes that the area surrounding the golf course is “becoming the densest residential area in Australia” with an expected population increase of 70,000 residents and 22,000 workers by 2031.

There are twelve golf courses, six accessible to the public within 12 kilometres of this golf course. The City Council plans to spend $50,000 on a community consultation plan for the area and for the park if the proposal is adopted, providing new park land with close proximity to the downtown.

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David Zinn lives in Ann Arbor Michigan, a town of 121,000 people west of Detroit. He is a graphic artist and he has a special talent~he imaginatively places chalk drawings around the sidewalks and public areas of his city. His imaginative revisioning of the cracks and crevices of the public realm has taken him to many cities around the world, where his art is on the street. That art is there for  a little while, under normal environmental factors.

Mr. Zinn sees  the inevitable rain and weathering of his artistic work as part of his creative process. He’s developed a set of characters that  appear  in different landscapes ,and he takes advantage of found objects and fixtures along sidewalks. His cast of characters include “Sluggo” a green monster as well as a  flying pig who is named Philomena.

There’s a series of books and even a calendar  based upon Mr. Zinn’s drawings. This year Mr. Zinn did a TEDx talk that describes his philosophy and process in creating these images. 

 

You can take a look at this short YouTube video below that describes Mr. Zinn’s work and philosophy, as well as why he believes art is good for everyone during the Covid pandemic.

Images:DavidZinn

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Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Sustainability and Island Press are partnering on a fall speaker series featuring Island Press authors and Urban Resilience Project contributors. All events are free, hosted by ASU, and promise to inspire.

Join Shane Phillips, author of The Affordable City, for a discussion moderated by ASU urban planner and sustainability scientist Deirdre Pfeiffer.

From Los Angeles to Boston and Chicago to Miami, US cities are struggling to address the twin crises of high housing costs and household instability. Debates over the appropriate course of action have been defined by two poles: building more housing or enacting stronger tenant protections. These options are often treated as mutually exclusive, with support for one implying opposition to the other.

There is no single solution to the housing crisis—it will require a comprehensive approach backed by strong, diverse coalitions. Hear how professionals and advocates are working to improve affordability and increase community resilience through local action.

To register for this webinar please click here.

Date: Thursday October 29, 2020

Time: 1:00 to 2:00 Pacific Time

 

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Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are the automotive darling of this century, growing in popularity as safe and secure for occupants, but are killing machines for other vulnerable road users. The SUV rides high above the road to give drivers good visibility.  I have been writing about how SUVs and trucks which make up 60 percent of all vehicle purchases have been responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille are twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high engine profile, but this information has not been well publicized. In the United States a federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers. Writer and city planner Angie Schmitt has just written the excellent book  “Right of Way” which details how road deaths in the United States have increased with rising sales of the SUV.

SUVs are also ‘Climate killers’. There has been little progress on reducing  road transport carbon emissions in Europe, comprising 27% of all emissions. While the automobile industry blames regulators for turning away from diesel (lower in carbon but more toxic)  regulators blame the lack of progress on SUVs “driven by carmakers’ aggressive marketing”.

Yet none of these factors have deterred the auto industry in marketing bigger, larger, more den-like SUVs with all kinds of driver assisted systems and even a 38 inch OLED screen.

The Verge’s Andrew Hawkins details his day driving the new 2021 Cadillac Escalade. It is the size of a small boat, nearly 18 feet or 5.5 meters long and nearly 6. 5 feet or nearly two meters high. It is bigger and longer than the model from the previous year and as Mr. Hawkins duly notes, is called by Cadillac ““the largest and longest Escalade ever.

But there’s more.

“Sitting in the driver’s seat, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the outside world — mostly because you can’t see a lot of it. The grille was like a sheer cliffside, obstructing my view several feet out in front of the wheels. An entire kindergarten class could be lined up in front of this vehicle and I wouldn’t see them.”

He used social media to send out images of his three year old son in front of the grill of this SUV to show how impossible it was to see a child in front of this vehicle. Mr. Hawkins also referenced this sobering study produced by WTHR News in Indianapolis last year  which shows how huge the “blind spot” in front of SUVs are. And the Escalade had the longest blind spot. In the horrifying video attached to this article news reporters had a group of crosslegged school children sit down in front of the SUV in a line, and kept adding school children until the driver could see them.

The Escalade had the largest front blind spot of 10 feet, two inches, with the driver sitting in a natural, relaxed position. It took 13 children seated in a line in front of the Escalade before the driver could see the tops of their heads.”

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The Cities Health and Active Transportation Research Team  (INTERACT) led by the very capable Dr. Meghan Winters is known for studying the important intersection between active transportation and population health in cities.

The team is looking at an important question~Can urban design changes in our neighbourhoods make us healthier and happier?

In a study led by INTERACT,  researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with the City of Vancouver and scientists across Canada are examining that question.

In 2018 the team  launched a five-year study to uncover how the development of Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway is impacting physical activity, social participation, and well-being of nearby residents, and whether these impacts are felt equally across different socioeconomic groups.

You are invited to participate, on two on-line data surveys and join a national community of scientists, urban planners, public health experts, and engaged citizens with a common interest in designing healthier cities for all.

Please click this link for more information.

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Last week I wrote about the international poll on walkability which found North American cities lacking. Those cities have  not thought through the importance of people being able to access schools, shops and services within a three kilometre radius of dwellings. They have also not embraced that housing people at density means having access to nearby public spaces, squares and parks and making the whole experience “lively”.

In Metro Vancouver, parks are planned like they are for 1960’s. It’s kind of intended that Moms and Dads have vehicles that can whisk kids to washrooms and restaurants. We don’t put picnic tables in all parks, and  we don’t install washrooms in many.

In a place that is attempting to house families at higher density, we also have to provide safe,comfortable and convenient access to useable, year round park spaces. And that’s not the half-century old “soccer field in the park concept.” We simply need to reboot what we think open public space is, and centre a new definition of park space as something that is accessible to everyone, and useable twelve months of the year.

Stephen Quinn’s radio interview on walkable outdoor space on CBC Radio  touched on this.

In the 21st century we are not a  city of public washrooms nor do we provide covered outdoor public spaces during inclement weather. There’s lots of talk about this being an equity issue, and it seems odd that these basic amenities are not provided.

But remember the pre Covid pandemic reality was that there were other indoor spaces available that were public, like libraries and community centres. The closure of libraries during Covid was a tremendous loss to citizens, but especially to the homeless and disenfranchised. The library was a place that everyone had access to and had equity. With the Covid closures these important places where people could rely on for washrooms, reading, and getting out of the elements were instantly erased.

The Georgia Straight’s Stanley Woodvine  is a homeless writer that keenly and cogently expresses  that there should be universal access to covered public spaces and public washrooms. There’s also a need for  electrical outlets to be conveniently located to charge cell phones and other devices. (The average cell phone uses 25 cents of electricity annually.)

Mr. Woodvine feels that covered public spaces were not created in parks to stop  homeless from congregating. I think the reason is less sophisticated ~I don’t believe that it was on the Parks Board’s radar for cost and liability reasons.

Sunset Park in the 400 block of East 51st  Avenue did have a shelter installed, but it was for Tai Chi and for picnic tables. The Covid pandemic and the increasing density of the city means that outdoor space needs to be more user-friendly nimble and  practical during inclement weather. That’s where ingenuity needs to step in.

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You have to really like a pollster that uses the word “blunder” in describing driving habits in Canada .

Mario Canseco the principal of Research.Co has just released a new national poll conducted at the end of September with 1,000 Canadians. In the poll, people were asked what driving behaviour was like, and whether it was getting better or worse on Canadian roads. Surprisingly the poll found that people “are expressing a higher level of satisfaction with drivers, and there is a decline on the incidence of specific negative behaviours” on Canadian roads.

The survey found that that the number of people that said drivers in their towns were worse than  five years ago dropped by 8 percent from the same survey in 2019 to 39 percent. A total of 44 percent of survey takers said the quality of drivers had not changed, while 7 percent “believe they are “better” than five years ago”

Mr. Canseco found that Canadians over 55 had a more negative view of driving ability, with half saying driving was worse now. Surprisingly younger drivers in the 35 to 54 year old cohort and the  18 to 34 year old cohort  were more optimistic,with  43 and 20 percent respectively saying drivers were worse today.

Mr. Canseco specifically asked about six driving “blunders” or behaviours including drivers not signalling at a corner, or drivers not stopping at an intersection. Vehicles straddling two parking spots, doing incorrect lane changes, and (real blunders) potentially catastrophic bad driver behaviour requiring veering off the road or stopping abruptly.

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Have you ever wanted to learn how green roofs are designed and what the metrics are for water capture and performance? The company that used to be called xeroflor® Canada has started an exciting new chapter as Next Level Stormwater Management™. They are offering a free webinar on how vegetated roofing systems work.

Urban centers have high concentrations of impervious areas which pose a challenge in managing large volumes of stormwater. Heavy rain events or back-to-back storms cause problems like flooding, property damage, and combined overflow sewer discharge. Green infrastructure, such as vegetated roofs, can help mitigate these problems because they restore the hydrologic cycle in urbanized areas. Vegetated roof systems designed for maximum stormwater management decrease the volume of stormwater within the urban core and reliably delay travel time of stormwater to the treatment plant. These retention and detention strategies help alleviate the burden of heavy stormwater on our cities’ infrastructure.

Click here to register.

Date: Tuesday Oct 20, 2020

Time:10:00 AM in Vancouver

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Here’s more data showing  that simple changes to speed and design of city roads can make all the difference in reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and serious injury.

Planner Eric Doherty posted this article from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that shows that ‘centreline hardening’ using rubber curbs and bollards at intersections to force drivers to slow down and proceed carefully through intersections  reduces left-turn speeds and increases safety for pedestrians in the intersection.

In the United States pedestrian fatalities have risen 53 percent from 2009 to 2018 and are 17% of all traffic deaths. As over half of Vancouver’s fatalities are with turning movements in intersections, tightening the corner for drivers to proceed slowly would also be safer for pedestrians.

Seattle’s Transportation Engineering champion Dongho Chang has reported out on the implementation of leading pedestrian intervals at forty locations in Seattle.

I have written about Leading Pedestrian Intervals that give pedestrians an advanced green crossing time ahead of car traffic, enabling a pedestrian to be well into the intersection before any driver turning movements through the same space.  The leading interval time is usually between six to eight seconds.  Over 2,200 of these devices  have been installed in New York City which has seen a 56 percent reduction in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

In one year Seattle has seen a 33 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions  with the installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals compared with three years of previous data at the same intersections.

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