Infrastructure
February 20, 2020

Speaker List Released for South of Fraser Public Geo-Forums on Transit, Pedestrian and Mobility Issues

Students, staff, faculty and the general public are invited to join us at KPU Civic Plaza in February and March to discuss mobility challenges facing the South of Fraser urban-region.

These two free ‘Mobilities 2020’ events are for anyone interested in transit, universal access, pedestrian, cyclist safety and transit justice issues, particularly in the fast growing urban-region South of the Fraser River.

Confirmed panelists include: Stan Leyenhorst (Universal Access Design); Andy Yan (SFU City Program); Sandy James (Walk Metro Vancouver); Patrick Condon (Founding Urban Design Chair, UBC); Douglas McLeod (City of Surrey, Manager Transport Planning); Todd Litman (Victoria Transport Policy Institute); Don Buchanan (City of Surrey, Transportation Planner); and diverse citizens/activists.

These evening Geo-Forums are on Thursday, Feb.27th (7-9pm) and Thursday, March 19th (7-9pm) at KPUs new Civic Plaza Campus (just North of the Surrey Central Skytrain Station). Both evening KPU Geo-Forums will feature panel and Q+A discussions with city public transportation officials, urban planners, scholars, transit, universal access, cycling and pedestrian activists.

All are welcome !

Mobilities 2020: Two Public Geo-Forums on transit, pedestrian & mobility issues
Dates: Thursday, Feb 27th, 2020 & Thursday, March 19th, 2020
Time: 7:00-9:00 pm.  Please click here for Free Registration
Where: KPU Civic Plaza – 6th Floor  Surrey Central Skytrain Station, 13485 Central Ave, Surrey B.C.

 

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Last week Jill Bennett in this  Global News video story  talked about the state of disrepair of the public sidewalk outside of Canada Place. It’s worth looking at the video which shows how shocking the existing conditions are.

The attention to detail for walking is fundamentally important to all cities. No matter who you are or where you live, the Metro Vancouver sidewalk is an extension of your public space, and it is equitable that sidewalk users receive the same level of treatment afforded to users of bike lanes and of roads. Everyone no matter their age or ability or level of accessibility should be able to travel easily and comfortably on walkable smooth surfaces, with drop down curbs at intersections, clean and readable. It just makes sense to provide people using the most sustainable way of travel the easiest and most effortless experience. This is no budget trade off instead of  housing affordability or density, it is an essential part of accessibility and movement at the most basic level to support a growing population.

One thing that has been an utter fail in the last decade in the City of Vancouver has been the management of the pedestrian environment, the sidewalks, and the standard of maintenance of the walking environment.  Even well respected urbanist  Larry Beasley has pointed out that Vancouver’s pedestrian public realm needed to be cleaned and polished up, and garbage off the streets. Right now several parts of the city have dangerously cracked sidewalks and supporting public realm infrastructure that looks like nobody cares. Repairing sidewalks was even offered as a voted on potential  “contribution” to the Denman west end neighbourhood.

Sidewalks and sidewalk repair are never an extra~it is part of the infrastructure of a well functioning city to maintain accessible and safe walking facilities. Pedestrians are supposedly the first priority in the City’s transportation plans. It’s time to invest in that.

Every Mayor likes to have their own stamp on things, and despite the fact that Greenways came out of an Urban Landscape Task Force of members of the public led by renown Landscape Architect Moura Quayle, greenways (and its budget) were squelched in favour of other new programming identifiable with the Vision council majority in 2008.

The creative Doug Smith  Greenways Engineer had left his post in 2005  to undertake important work in the City Works Yards and then the Sustainability Office. It was under his guidance that “greenways” became synonymous with great street design.

These were actually  streets where walking was the first priority. There was a network of 140 kilometers of streets that joined important destinations like services, schools and shopping that were strengthened by pedestrian public realm improvements.

You can see some of the work along 37th Avenue in the city, and also take a look at the map of greenways. Greenways were really “green streets” in that Doug Smith’s team explored innovative ways of creating infiltration bulges, baffled daylighted storm water,  public art, fountains, and  of making walking the first priority, followed by cycling. Vehicular use of these greenway streets was blocked or slowed by different means. The intent was to trial new ways of creating sustainable infrastructure that then could translate to other pedestrian and public space areas.

In the Greenways staff were several individuals whose job was to visit and walk every sidewalk and every street in Vancouver to rank the sidewalks needing repair work, and identify where new sidewalks needed to be place. Having them embedded with Engineering Greenways staff meant everyone had a real sense of “ground truthing” in how to create the best walking environments.

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Ian Robertson found one solution in Paris.  From Euroactiv:

In Paris, as in many European cities, the number of cars is declining, which is leaving a vast amount of underground car parks empty. With its start-up project called “La Caverne”, Cycloponics is reclaiming these urban territories and using them as a way of growing plenty of organic vegetables. …

At Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, the two have set up a 3,500 m2 urban farm located underground, in a former car park. …  Gertz and Champagnat responded to call for tenders from Paris, whose empty car parks were squatted by consumers and crack dealers. It’s been more than two years now since ‘organic has replaced crack’, and about fifteen jobs have been created. …

 

 

Small packets of water-soluble, sterilised and packaged straw are hung from floor to ceiling, and the mushrooms grow through tiny holes. Everything is calculated to ensure their optimal growth. The air is saturated with moisture, the endives grow in the dark, and the mushrooms get a few LED lights.

But the car park has definite advantages over the limestone cavities usually used to grow mushrooms, as there is a permanent and precise control of the weather, as well as better thermal stability. …  Farming in car parks also makes it possible to better resist the climate crisis. Parasites and other insects, for instance, are rather rare in the subsoil, even if endive tubers and straw bought outside can also be vectors of diseases, such as sclerotinia, which destroyed part of this year’s endive harvest. …

“In Paris, as in many European capitals, people no longer have cars, there are too many parking lots, especially in the poorest districts. But we also visited unused car parks on the Champs-Elysée. It would be possible to do something about it!” according to the entrepreneurs.

Full article here.

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On Tuesday night CBC radio hosted a special broadcast of their feature program, The Current with Matt Galloway. Never a program to shy away from controversy, the broadcast centered on “The Future of Vancouver’s Chinatown”. The event brought out a capacity audience of CBC afficiendos, passionate Chinatown supporters, and a cross section of people that would not look out of place at a community centre or any Vancouver civic gathering.

Matt Galloway had as panelists  Carol Lee, who is with the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation and the inspiration behind the wildly popular Chinatown BBQ, Jordan Eng from the Chinatown Business Improvement Association (BIA) and the Duke of Data and SFU Professor of City Planning Andy Yan.

All three panelists have deep roots in the Chinatown community and refreshingly they all saw the importance of this place not just for the city, but for its pivotal importance provincially and nationally. As Carol Lee poignantly noted the story of Chinatown goes back to the nation building  railroad across Canada where thousands of Asian labourers stitched the country’s rail tracks together. The “physical legacy of struggle and sacrifice” is also manifested in Chinatown which was built on a drainage swamp around 1885, the same time that the railway was completed. Andy Yan described Chinatown as “my muse and my tormentor“, in that this culturally rich place was always a neighbourhood of sanctuary and brought together many ethnic groups over time, and is important to maintain in a city built for everyone. How do you save what is integral to a community? How do you continue to provide the liveliness, the cultural activities, and social housing?

Carol Lee talked about the community handling the issues of homelessness, addiction and lack of inclusion, and the panel discussed the fact that the planning and solutions that work in Vancouver’s Chinatown can provide a pattern language for other downtown innercity neighbourhoods coping with similar issues. The BIA’s approach has been to focus upon cleanliness, graffiti and safety, with half the business association’s budget spent on security.

Several speakers active and engaged in Chinatown spoke about the importance of this place culturally and and as a destination. Despite the fact that there are other malls and places to go to that reflect Chinese culture, they are perceived as a substitute for the real thing. Architect Stanley Kwok who built the Crystal Mall in Burnaby and who has lived a half century in Vancouver questioned whether Chinatown needed to form a corporation to manage all the buildings, and whether the location was to be a museum or a living place. All speakers pointed to the importance of commerce in the area’s health, citing the importance of physical, economic and cultural revitalization.

The location of the new hospital precinct as well as the towers planned for the Northeast False Creek will provide plenty of customers for Chinatown businesses. In terms of housing, units that could accommodate older Chinese seniors and integrate with the community form and fabric was discussed.

This was a surprisingly rich and passionate discussion about Chinatown’s place as the “gateway to achieving Canadian dreams” and the importance of collaboration was stressed.

There was a puzzling reference and long dialogue  from a Vancouver City Councillor that Chinatown needed to work better with City Hall and that most of City Council were not on board in working towards Chinatown’s future.

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There’s been a lot of buzz on social media about the societal and cultural shifts  to make streets safer, more sustainable, and more equitable for all road users. This week the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety released their recommendations in Stockholm. Under the auspices of the World Health Organization and the Government of Sweden this work highlights the importance of synthesizing road safety, security, climate change and sustainable development goals.

The old model looked at road building, safety and health, and sustainability as separate line items instead of a synergistic model.  The first tenet developed by the Academic Expert Group was the reduction of all road speeds in cities to 30 kilometers per hour unless a “higher speed” can be proven safe. This provides more equity and less health risk for pedestrians and cyclists without the opportunity cost of fatalities and serious injuries.

Secondly globally road safety should have a more holistic approach involving  utilities, businesses, and cities, broadening the traditional responsibility of governmental authorities.

The need for oversight and quality assurance for all users of transportation corridors is is vital for citizens and sustainability, especially when transit and highway systems are controlled by one entity.

The list of participants in the process of developing these recommendations include top public health practitioners, and Dr. Fred Wegman, the inventor of the Safe Systems Approach.

You can watch the interview below of the Academic Expert Group participants as they explore their interests in developing a new road map to safe roads.

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Stats-and-numbers guy Andy Coupland does a backgrounder on The Grand Bargain and what Vancouverites (City and Metro) should know about this town.

Here’s the first post in the Andy Coupland Primer. Here’s the second. The third.  And now the fourth and final:

Random Acts of Density

Can the city or the region build itself out of the current ‘housing crisis’? The proportion of rental households actually went up in Vancouver between the 2011 and 2016 censuses (and in the rest of Metro too, although with a lower overall proportion renting). The past five years have seen over 33,000 starts in the city – the past four years have seen over 28,000.

But for the city to achieve an average 8,500 new units a year (the target the mayor has mentioned) would mean moving away from the caution we generally see.* Perhaps it won’t be as difficult as it seems. It was a bit surprising that there wasn’t pushback when Wall built a huge complex on Boundary Road, quite a way from the SkyTrain. That was the most extreme example (in Vancouver) of a street of modest houses replaced by over 1,000 condos in 32 floor buildings.

The take-up of the Cambie Plan also shows a different approach – not so much the six-storey buildings along Cambie already mentioned but the more recent additions. The City now has a method to fast-track rezoning for 1.4 FSR townhouses. One existing house can become six or even eight units, half of them 3-bed family-sized. There are already 32 projects as current rezonings – all but two approved in the past year. There are nine other sites already at Development Permit stage, and they represent 341 townhouses – which for Vancouver is a huge change.  The same sort of thing is happening in Marpole and Grandview Woodland, as those plans took the same forms and density.

That will be another way in which Vancouver will continue to grow in ways other municipalities don’t, because there’s actually a lot of change happening in some of Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods, which really isn’t the case in other municipalities. It would be interesting to know who is buying them. The family homes generally cost well over $1 million each – so more affordable than most existing Vancouver houses, but still a pretty steep haul to finance as a young couple.

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CBC’s The Current is Doing  a Broadcast on the Future of Chinatown Monday February 10.

Join Matt Galloway for a special show in Vancouver on Chinatown’s Future.

Matt Galloway is the host of CBC Radio’s The Current. (CBC)

Why a  forum all about the future of the city’s Chinatown?

It’s a part of the city that’s changing rapidly, and faces challenges from all sides. There are fewer visitors, growing pressures to develop, and long-established stores closing up.

Is it time to re-think the future of this once vibrant neighbourhood?

Join Galloway for a special taping of The Current: Vancouver’s Changing Chinatown.

Stay after the event for a chance to meet him.

Get your free tickets from Eventbrite by clicking this link.

Additional Information

Doors open: 6:30 p.m.

Taping: 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Location: Floata Seafood Restaurant, 180 Keefer St., Vancouver, BC V6A 1X4

All seats are first come, first served. There will also be a rush line at the event should tickets sell out.

Please contact the organizer at cbcradioevents@cbc.ca with any questions.

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Transparency is such an important quality and nothing is as vital when developers move existing established rental tenants out of buildings that they are refurbishing or redeveloping. The language of the Residential Tenancy Regulation indicates that

“The landlord may end the tenancy only for the reasons and only in the manner set out in the Residential Tenancy Act and the landlord must use the approved notice to end a tenancy form available from the Residential Tenancy office. The landlord and tenant may mutually agree in writing to end this tenancy agreement at any time.”

As Jen St. Den writes in BCTV News when Reliance Properties moved the tenants out of the twelve unit rental building at 1188 Bidwell Street and redeveloped a  20 storey 108 unit apartment building on the site, those existing tenants that wanted to stay thought they could return to that building at their old agreed upon rents and signed an agreement to vacate the old building. Their assumption was that after a two year time period that had been agreed to by the developer and the City, that rent increases for those returning tenants would only be the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for British Columbia, as stated in the Residential Tenancy Regulation.

Wrong.

Instead Reliance Properties trotted out “new” leases that brought the returning tenants’ rents up to “market rental levels” of   $2,350 a month for a one bedroom, and then offered those returning tenants a “rebate” to their old pre-development rent for two years. After that, the rent mushroomed up to the “new” rent, plus the percentage annual  increase in the CPI.

You can take a look at the agreement entered into between Reliance Properties and the City of Vancouver regarding the return of the existing tenants to the newly developed 1188 Bidwell that resulted in this ambiguity. This was approved by the Development Permit Board. It  states:

“That returning Eligible Tenants will be entitled to rent with a discount of 20% off starting rents. That discounted Starting Rents are applicable only to Eligible Tenants who exercise their right of first refusal and occupy a unit in the new development.”

Now there is a case of who said what, and exactly what a “starting rent” would be. There is  finger pointing from the City to the developer over the lack of clarity over correct lease execution,where it appears that the City’s intent was to allow the few returning tenants back in the building at their “old” rents, subject to annual adjustment.

In the end, it is the tenant who is left holding the bag, without enough disposable income  to continue living in the building. Those tenants feel bamboozled, and Reliance Properties whose website states “The company focuses on developing long-term tenant relationships and today, many Reliance tenants have been with the firm for over thirty years”  has developed a horrifying precedent. Clearly the City will need to spell out exact terms in future redevelopments.

 

There’s still time for Reliance to do the right thing and give this small handful of tenants the understood rent that they and the City believed was negotiated.

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The Province of British Columbia has started rolling out their first tickets for the Intersection Safety Camera (ISC)  Program announced last year. That means  7,353 motorists have received letters indicating that they are being fined for speeding through one of the 15 of 35 red light intersections equipped with special cameras capturing speeding drivers.

As Dan Fumano in the Vancouver Sun observes that compares with “police throughout B.C. issued a monthly average of 16,414 speed-related violation tickets in 2018, the most recent year for which data was available).”  Managing speed by automation is an accepted trend and works well in Europe, where steep fines keep drivers to posted speeds.

Of course those receiving speeding tickets will be outraged, and there will be hand ringing going on as lawyers test the legalities of the process. But look at the statistics the Province has produced~60 percent of all crashes happen at intersections. At the locations where the cameras have been located an average of 10,500 vehicles annually travel 30 km/h an hour over the posted speed limit in those intersections. Each of the chosen intersections  have an average of 84 crashes a year. That’s one crash every four days, or seven crashes a month per intersection.

The intersections for cameras were specifically chosen by the type of crash, the severity, and frequency. There’s been lots of notice about the cameras  in media, and online on the ICBC and Province’s Public Safety and Solicitor General’s website. The links even contain maps showing which cameras are activated for speed.

The statistics are sobering. In the summer of 2019 the highest speeding ticket issued was for a vehicle travelling 174 km/hr in an 80 km/h zone. In the fall of 2019 the highest speeding ticket given was for a vehicle travelling 154 km/hr in an 80 km/hr zone. In both cases this speed is close to double that of the posted speed. This occurred despite the fact that each intersection in the camera program has large signs posted indicating that speed cameras are in operation.

Currently Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec are the other provinces with automated speed enforcement, and Quebec has statistics that show their program works. In Quebec there has been a 13.3 km/h reduction in average speed at camera intersections, and a 15 to 42 percent reduction in crashes at “mobile and fixed speed” locations.

The speeding ticket goes to the owner of the vehicle, not the driver at the time of operation, and those ignoring the ticket will be personally served with the ticket at their home address. And this is no cash grab~the Province is moving all the net revenue from the program to municipalities that have policing budgets, with the stipulation that the funds “support community safety and address local policing priorities”.

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We asked stats-and-numbers guy Andy Coupland to do a backgrounder on The Grand Bargain and what Vancouverites (City and Metro) should know about this town, especially if they are going to weigh in on the housing crisis and to participate in the City-Wide Plan. 

Here’s the first post in the Andy Coupland Primer. Here’s the second.  And now the third:

 

CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS

Demographic change is also driving development, and explains why there are as many new homes as new residents in Vancouver in the most recent data from the 2016 Census.

In the 284,000 households in the City of Vancouver, the average household size has been falling. That’s not a new phenomenon, and it’s not only happening in Vancouver. The average household size is falling across the region, and has for 20 years.  In part it’s because my generation, known as ‘The Boomers*,’ are starting to die off. Average family size** is falling too, both in the city, and the region. It’s not because there are proportionally more one-person households; those have been surprisingly stable over the same period.

There were fewer Boomers in Metro Vancouver in 2016 than in 2011 – but only slightly fewer. The 2011 Census saw the greatest number of people born between 1946 and 1965 living in the region – almost 670,000 people. But there were 18,000 fewer in 2016, as they started retiring to other locations or dying off.

Things were different in the City of Vancouver. Boomers saw their numbers in the city drop for every census period since 1996, when the city saw ‘Peak Boomer’. There were 182,000 born in the 20 years after the war living in the city in 1996, and only 159,000 in 2016. Overall, both in the city and the wider region they’ve declined from over a third of the total population to around a quarter.

[Click headline above for charts.]

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