Governance & Politics
February 21, 2019

Community Meeting Tonight: West Vancouver B-Line

Should be an interesting evening in West Vancouver tonight, as the district holds its long-anticipated community meeting on the matter of the B-line rapid bus service proposed for Marine Drive.

Community Meeting – West Vancouver B-Line Service
West Vancouver Community Centre gymnasium
February 21, 6-9 p.m.

Presentation boards here.

Can’t make the meeting? The deadline to send feedback is one week from today (Feb 28 at 11:59pm) — here’s the link to submit online.

Why might tonight’s meeting be interesting? For all the wrong reasons, of course.

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Imagine you are in a country that is looking to increase investment in a floundering real estate market. Even though real estate prices are now at 40 percent from their peak, Greece has not recovered from the 2009 debt crisis, and is offering  visas to non-European Union citizens when they invest 250,000 Euros in real estate. This is cheaper than Portugal’s offer of a visa which requires twice the investment of at least 500,000 Euros. Those prices translate to 374,000 Canadian dollars in real estate in Greece to obtain a visa, and 748,000 Canadian dollars  to get a visa in Portugal.

There are three direct flights a week from China to Greece, and for those Chinese investors in Athens real estate their buying power enables them to purchase two properties for the price of one in Portugal. Despite curbs on the exporting of currency from China,  Chinese investment has continued in Greece, along with Russian and Turkish real estate investment.

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From Michael Alexander:

First sunny day above freezing, and the newish playground next to Science World is packed as usual, with long lines for every ride including the zip line.

If the city charged $1 a kid (“C’mon Mom, it’s only a loonie!), in a year we could build enough affordable housing to meet demand*.

 

 

* Ed – First rule of affordable housing: demand is never met.

 

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Addressing the popular myth that people migrate to warmer places to be homeless, this article in the Los Angeles Times  by Gale Holland outlines that five homeless individuals died from causes that included hypothermia in Los Angeles last year.

By comparison, two homeless people in New York City and two in San Francisco died of hypothermia in the same period.

“Hypothermia has led to more deaths in L.A. than in colder regions because 39,000 homeless people here live outdoors — by far the most of any metropolitan area in the country. L.A.’s generally moderate Mediterranean climate is no shield, because hypothermia can set in at temperatures as high as 50 degrees, experts say.”

A 2007 report from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council suggests that going without a hat can “drain up to half of a person’s body heat, and wet clothing can intensify heat loss twentyfold.” 

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Here are three interesting items that are linked to sustainability and surprisingly  involve the province of Alberta. As noted on Twitter by @TheGentYYC some extraordinary initiatives are moving that province in a greener direction. First off,  that Canadian oil stalwart, Petro Canada is building a network of Electric Vehicle (EV) fast charging stations across Canada.

Petro Canada says “Keeping people moving is what we do, and we know that Canadians needs are evolving. We want to help you along your journey, which is why we are building a cross-Canada network of EV fast charge stations. To keep you moving toward what matters most to you.”

As @TheGentYYC points out Petro Canada is owned by Suncor, the world’s largest producer of bitumen. Suncor had a revenue of over 29 billion dollars in 2015 and owns the oils sands plant near Fort McMurray.  For Suncor to sponsor electric vehicle charging stations is a “tectonic event” and suggestive of a major policy shift in “corporate climate leadership”.

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Vancouver Sun’s Dan Fumano talks about an interesting perception with the work of the current Vancouver City Council.  Dan was referring to  the council report on the “court house block” of  800 block of Robson Street and the potential decision to approve over five million dollars to create a permanent plaza at this location. You can read the report to Council on this here.

This has been a long talked about initiative and even the architect for the Robson Square court house Arthur Erickson had discussed the closure of this portion of street in the 1970’s. It is not a new idea and it is not something that the previous Vision party  dominated city council dreamed up.  But somehow in the last decade there is a sea change in the way that Vancouverites perceive that work initiated by the City is the “vision” of the ruling party, and not the result of careful reasoned work undertaken over the years by  city staff, who also embark upon extensive public processes to review and comment upon potential plans and projects.

The last Vision party dominated Council contributed to the perception of council as project mavericks by having Council members talk about projects instead of having experienced City staff explain elements of the projects they would have painstaking detail and knowledge of.

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As the new Vancouver Council rolls forward with regular meetings, committee meetings, and public hearings (available for public viewing via the city’s streamed broadcast), I’m struck by the performance of various levels of staff at the podium.

Some pretty impressive people in streets, waste, planning, engineering, licensing, social and cultural programs have been presenting and answering questions — sometimes technically complex or strategically nuanced, but often both — the past few months, and giving their elected representatives their first few impressions of the calibre of the people who really run the city.

It’s also the first time for members of the public — a few dozen in attendance at City Hall and apparently not many more online — to recognize and parse out this dynamic. In other words, even as I work, I get to watch them work. A lot of hoop jumping, and careful performances. It’s not to be envied, and it prompts a lot of questions about the staff-council dynamic.

Are they understanding each other? Is there mutual respect? Do they agree with, or even like, one another?

My impression is that these questions are less important to answer than the other question that’s often raised about city staff — why are they costing us so much?

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With another mention of Clouds of Change in the latest Cambie Report podcast, as well as Gord’s post yesterday (plus past posts on the topic), it’s worth sharing some of the back story.

As late as the 1980s, the climate science conversation was still terra incognito within civic government. So, as with today, it came down to the people who decided to lead the conversations, and bring them to action — first and foremost, the City of Vancouver Task Force on Atmospheric Change.

Recalls Task Force member, and Vancouver city councillor (1999-2005) Fred Bass:

We met every Saturday morning for a year, to look at recommendations to the city about global warming. And I saw the CO2 curve going up like that.

And I’m enough of a scientist, and also I think a fairly good assessor of information, that when I saw the CO2 curve going out of control, I thought, “This is terrible. This is awful.”

Many of the people who participated are still around; a few, like Mark Roseland, principal researcher on Clouds of Change, former professor and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at SFU, and now Director of the School of Community Resources and Development at Arizona State University, are not.

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Michael Alexander adds to the post below on Seattle:

We really should pay more attention to local government in San Francisco; they’re dealing with so many of the same issuesAnd they have a city council structure which many would cringe at as a replacement.

San Francisco is almost exactly our size (47 square miles vs. our 44.4 sq. mi). Since 1996, its governing 11- member Board of Supervisions has been elected by district. (The Mayor is elected separately, at large.)

Today, San Francisco has some of the highest rental prices in North America, though they’re down a bit from two years ago. According to the rental site Zumper, the median cost for a one-bedroom apartment (in Canadian dollars) is $4,480!

Here’s the median cost for one bedroom by district, in U.S. dollars (add 30% to get Vancouver equivalents). Note that most of the outlying areas are almost exclusively single family.

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Carla Guererra, founder and CEO of Purpose Driven Development, Planning and Strategy, and member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), drops a startling statistic in a new blog post on the ULI website:

In a global survey of 279 companies in 2010, McKinsey found that those companies with the greatest proportion of women in their executive committees earned a return on equity of 47% higher than those without female members.

It’s a simple message — more women equals more money.

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