Governance & Politics
November 17, 2020

The Vancouver Park Board & Commissioners~ Staying in their Lane?

Vancouver is the only city in Canada that still has a separate park board. That means that there is a separately funded staff that exclusively  manages parks and recreational centres, and reports directly to Vancouver City Council on their budget. The mandate of the Park Board is to “provide, preserve, and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit all people, communities, and the environment.”

Part 23 of the Vancouver Charter sets out what the Park Board does, and allows for seven Park commissioners to be elected at the same time as the City of Vancouver’s council is elected. This section is pretty clear that the mandate of the Park Commissioners is for parks, things that happen in parks and recreational activities/buildings that are associated with parks operations.

For 2020 the Vancouver Park Board had an operating budget of 136 million dollars, with 63 million dollars coming from revenue and 73 million dollars coming from taxes.  The Commissioners themselves receive $17,600 a year with the chair of the Park Commissioners receiving $22,000 a year.  The Park Commissioners meet once or twice a month and you can view their schedule here. The meetings can be a bit surprising to listen to, and it appears that sometimes the Commissioners forget that the public are listening in to their chat on Zoom.

The Park Board has been a bit of a training ground for the politically minded that then go on to try for a Councillor position at the City of Vancouver. The highly regarded Mayor Philip Owen was first a park commissioner. He went on to serve on City Council and then was elected for three terms as Mayor, in 1993, 1996, and 1999.

There are two more years before the next Civic election and that may explain some of the posturing that is being seen as Park Commissioners publicly comment on things that are clearly outside their jurisdiction.

One Park Commissioner has been making unfortunate remarks on how the City of Vancouver manages its own Slow Streets and other initiatives outside of Stanley Park, specifically on Beach Avenue.

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It was always a surprise to be in Vancouver’s downtown commercial areas and help tourists with directions in what would be the most blinding heat of a pre-Covid Vancouver summer.Tourists from the southern United States would almost universally respond how great it was to be out of the humid heat of their own hometowns.

Price Tags has already posted about the fact that projection models are showing the movement of millions of people to American northeast and northwest cities, with populations in places like Minnesota, Michigan and Vermont  growing by ten percent.  These areas will become more temperate and inviting. It’s expected that cities like Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo and Milwaukee will be sought after for relocating climate refugees for the “excess capacity in infrastructure, water supplies and highways”.

Access to fresh water, cooler temperatures and  less fire hazards were perceived as priorities. Add in the need for Covid pandemic physical distancing, and some of that migration has already started.

In the Pacific northwest median sales prices  in Bellingham Washington have increased 16.5 percent, and the number of homes sold has increased 26 percent. As one managing broker stated “People are relocating from areas like Seattle, Portland and California. I’ve helped several clients relocate from Seattle because they want to get out of the city.”

How far north will climate refugees travel to have “liveable” usable summers?

Propublica’s data in this article by L. Waldron and A. Lustgarten  suggests that climate “damage” will mean that the southern third of the United States will become so hot it will disrupt the economy “erasing more than 8% of its economic output and likely turning migration from a choice to an imperative.”

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If you have not been on a walking tour or an event and met Vancouver historian John Atkin, now is your chance to hear him moderate a fascinating panel on the impact and outcomes of the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic.

The 1918-19 influenza outbreak and our current CoViD-19 pandemic have many parallels in government action, public reaction, and a concern for the economy.

Join our panelists Dr Margaret Andrews, Professor of History at Washington State University  and  Simon Fraser University’s Duke of Data Andy Yan for an enlightening discussion on pandemics then and now.

Funds raised for the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, whose contributions support the work of the City of Vancouver Archives, including making materials from its holdings available online.

This event is sure to be oversubscribed so get your reservation in. The suggested cost is $15.00 CAD plus tax, and if you wish to provide a donation over $25.00, you will get a tax receipt.

Date: Thursday December 3, 2020

Time: 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time

You can reserve your space by clicking on this link.

Image: VIA


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It seems strange that in a place that says in their Transportation Plan that  pedestrians and cyclists are the first priority  that we still have not become serious about ensuring that the most vulnerable road users  have clear, accessible sidewalks and bike lanes when it snows. From the perspective of anyone with a mobility deficit, in a wheelchair, or walking with a baby stroller unimpeded sidewalks cleared from snow just makes sense. Add in the fact that everyone should be shopping locally to support businesses hit by the pandemic.  So why are cities not providing this basic service, of ensuring cleared sidewalks for residents  to access local commercial areas?

I have previously written about the City of Winnipeg that gives  their crews a 36 hour window for priority cleaning, and that includes sidewalks, which just like roads are labelled priority one or priority two. After a blizzard  the City of Winnipeg  will be clearing 2,900 kilometers of sidewalks stating “The sidewalks are done the same way as the streets”.

In Vancouver? Nada. Vancouver makes it the responsibility of residents to clean the section of sidewalk in front of their house, and makes business owners responsible for the areas in front of their store fronts.  But the City of Vancouver does not respond equitably by  clearing their own snowy sidewalks adjacent to city parks and services, and pedestrian curb crossings can be treacherous. It just makes sense to snow plough out the corners where pedestrians cross, keep the snow out of bike lanes, and give Vancouverites a fighting chance when the snow falls, freezes, and stays.

It was balmy in Toronto last week, but the Toronto Star Editorial Board is not fooled and has bluntly  told the City of Toronto to start cleaning snow off sidewalks.

Just as in Vancouver, “Toronto leaves the responsibility for clearing sidewalks in the central core, the densest part of the city with the most pedestrians, to individual business owners and residents. Not surprisingly, they do a fairly haphazard job of it. And it’s pedestrians, including vulnerable seniors and those with disabilities, who face the dangerous consequences of that.”

With the pandemic curve not looking so positive, walking might be one of the few safe, open activities if there is another lockdown.

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City of New York Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver sends on this  update on the restoration of Endale Arch in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. You can see in the remarkable photos what this arch restoration shows about the importance of park entrance and access at the time it was first constructed 160 years ago. This element was designed by  landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, to provide a gesture of separation from the urban noise and business of Grand Army Plaza to the field like Long Meadow which is one mile long.

The original intent was for the Endale Arch to blend seamlessly into the landscape. When it was opened in the 1860’s it provided a pedestrian entrance into the park separated from horse riders carriage drivers and people on bicycles.  Over a century the arch had deteriorated.

With a $500,000 grant from the Tiger Baron Foundation and through participatory municipal budgeting  the arch was restored to how it would have appeared in the 1860’s. One cross vault was left exposed to show the the brick and granite components beneath the wood.  LED lighting was added to brighten the interior of the arch.

When Prospect Park opened in 1867 it was seen as a pastoral large park of  526 acres, without the tight confines of Central Park.  Articles at the time describe Prospect Park as  30 minutes away  from New York City’s Wall Street. Central park in 1867 took an hour to access from Wall Street. New York City’s remarkable subway system was not in operation until decades later in 1904.

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In place since 1967, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now called Metro Vancouver) has been addressing safe water supply, accessibility and affordability. Here’s a chance to learn how regional planning  works, and why regional planning is fundamental for the success of metropolitan areas through the Simon Fraser University City Program taught by a regional planning leader.

This online course is being taught by Chris DeMarco who was the lead planner for the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. Prior to working with the Metro Vancouver Regional District, she worked for the City of Vancouver, and in Australia on the metropolitan plans for Sydney, Canberra and Perth.

Regional Planning Fundamentals
Problems in urban sustainability, housing, transportation, land use, farmland security and infrastructure often go beyond the boundaries of a single municipality. Solving these problems requires an approach that brings various municipalities in a region together through shared strategies and action. Learning the “what”, “how”, and “why” of regional planning creates a powerful perspective on trying to solve some of the biggest urban problems facing cities and regions today.

This course will benefit anyone who wishes to learn how to solve common urban problems through mutual cooperation and negotiation. You will be introduced to the purpose, theory and practice of regional planning and how it applies to many current problems faced by cities. From viewing urban problems through a “regional lens” to learning about basic tools like regional population and employment forecasts, this course surveys how shared problems can be solved by municipalities working together.

The course will include a discussion of contemporary debates on urban and regional issues. Some key topics include: the tension between local and regional planning, industrial land protection, farmland security, environmental protection, regional housing markets, the effectiveness of regional planning and its limitations, and the relationship between regional land use and transportation planning. The emphasis will be on regional district planning in BC, with a focus on Metro Vancouver, but examples of best practices and case studies will be highlighted from around the world.

Course starts Tuesday November 16.

For further information and to register, please click on this link.


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The Smart Growth Network, Maryland Department of Planning and the State of Maryland present “Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing”.

Every affordable housing project can achieve the fundamentals of good green building design and practice and contribute to creating sustainable and resilient communities.

Kim Vermeer, President and Founder of Urban Habitat Initiatives Inc., and Walker Wells, Principal with Raimi & Associates, share innovative practices, the latest affordable housing financing strategies, and examples of places and projects where these strategies have worked in practice.

You can click on this link to register.

Date:Thursday, November 19

Time: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time






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In the last week I wrote about the house at 2825 Clark Drive and the family, Edith, Arthur and Willie Millachip who proudly stand in front of that house in 1913. I had purchased the card with this remarkable family scene  in Prince Edward Island. After finding that the house was still standing (although now devoid of its handsome shingle style wood exterior ) readers helped me piece together their Vancouver story and find the Arlington Virginia branch of the Millachip family.

Sadly the Millachip name has died out with the demise of Arthur’s son Willie who died of tuberculosis at Tranquille B.C. at the age of 39, and with the death of Arthur’s brother John in World War One. Called “The Great War”, this conflict wiped out four members of this extended family~John Millachip and his brothers in law, George, Edmund and James Spencer.

We stand in the 21st century with not a lot of first hand stories of what happened in the First and Second World Wars. Those conflicts resulted in over 103,000 Canadian soldiers being killed with  wounded soldiers numbering over 227,000. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of the city of Kingston Ontario being wiped out, and a population the size of Abbotsford B.C. being wounded. It was a devastating loss to the economy and to the social fabric of the country.

Richard Zeutenhorst in Arlington Virginia sent me the story of Arthur’s brother John Millachip. John  had settled in  Canada along with  his brother Arthur. John was born in Britain in 1883 and immigrated to Canada  in 1911. He had married Sylvia Frederick Webb in Winnipeg in 1911. John joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force for the Great War and was in France in 1915. In 1916 He was reported missing at the Battle of the Somme and his body was never found. His widow Sylvia was an active volunteer in Vancouver and remarried in 1924.

But it was not just Arthur’s brother that died in the First World War. Arthur’s younger  sister Grace Emily Millachip had married Lieutenant George Spencer during the war, in 1915. George survived being torpedoed on a ship in February 1918 only to be fatally wounded on His Majesty’s Ship Iris in the raid on Zeebrugge. He died that day. A month later, his widow Grace had a daughter named Iris, after the ship’s name.

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Last week I wrote about finding a Vancouver treasure 5,700 kilometres away in Prince Edward Island. It was a post card size photo taken around 1914 of a couple with their son and dog in front of a very handsome craftsman cottage on Clark Drive.

The one clue to the identity of this family was in the inscription on the back of the card which read

“2825 Clark Drive E. Vancouver B.C. A glimpse of us and our new home with units. Kind love and best wishes for a very happy Xmas and New Year to you all. Edie, Arthur, Willie”.

The house is still standing, hidden by a bushy tree, with pink stucco covering the formerly handsome exterior.

I asked readers whether anyone could help identify who Edie, Arthur and Willie were, and whether I could return the image to their family.

What a response I received. Within 24 hours  I knew all about this family and their story, and had found another story of this family  that should be retold for Remembrance Day.

Meet the Millachip Family. The family  came to Vancouver in 1912 from England, and had their son’s christening in London.

Arthur Herriot Millachip  and Edith Eliza Moore had one son, William who was born in  1904 in London United Kingdom. Arthur was a house decorator, a trade he also had in London.  They moved into 2025 Clark Drive in 1913 and lived the rest of their lives in Vancouver. Edith passed away in 1935. Arthur died in North Vancouver in 1959.

Sadly, their son William died in Tranquille British Columbia at the time the facility was a tuberculosis hospital. Arthur did have a brother John who also came to Canada. His story is tragic as well. John signed up with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in 1914 and died in France at the battle of Somme in 1916. I will be writing up the remarkable story of John, and how the men in this  extended family were decimated in war.

The house at 2825 Clark Drive was built around 1909 to 1910, and Frank D. Gore who was a butcher was the first home owner. This information came from @VanalogueYVR who also established that Arthur Millachip was the owner by 1914.

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Several years ago when I was visiting family in Prince Edward Island I saw a Vancouver postcard in a rummage sale. It seemed completely out of context and it was encased in a plastic envelope and it was expensive.

I bought it and held onto it, without doing any research.

The postcard had a surprising subject~there is a house with a craftsman styled front door, ionic columns, stained glass upper windows and a family posed in front of it.

The family is dressed in Edwardian dress, with the mother holding a hand muffler and wearing a scarf. The father has a hat and wears a long suit with a stiff starched shirt collar. The child is in a sailor suit, the type that was very popular in the 1910 to 1920 period. At the family’s feet is a dog that looks like a brittany spaniel.

The card was a custom one, created for this family, showing off their prized asset, their house. And on the back of the card, there was a handwritten inscription:

“2825 Clark Drive E. Vancouver B.C. A glimpse of us and our new home with units. Kind love and best wishes for a very happy Xmas and New Year to you all. Edie, Arthur, Willie”

When I started to research the house I feared that it would be demolished. But it wasn’t. It is still there, near 13th Avenue on the west side of Clark Drive.

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