Business & Economy
May 27, 2019

City Conversations: Dirty Money 2

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Dirty Money 2: the Dirt on Housing Prices

The province recently released Peter German’s report on money laundering in the exotic car industry, following last year’s exposé of B.C. casinos. At the same time, it released SFU Professor Maureen Maloney’s report on how laundered cash is being used to buy Metro Vancouver real estate, inflating B.C. housing prices by at least five percent, along with recommendations for needed reforms. The B.C. government has just started a public enquiry to get more details on this corruption, but in the meantime, hear from the experts themselves.

Join Peter German and Maureen Maloney to hear how these scams operate, their impact on B.C. and Canada, and what this means for you.

 

Thursday, June 20

12:30 – 1:30 pm

SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, ICBC Concourse (Lower Level)
580 West Hasting (enter off Seymour)

Free Event | Registration is Required

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Whoever put together the City of Vancouver tweet above did a nice job, but you can see by the wording that the tweeter does not know much about Jeff Speck. We’ve been relatively quiet about  the fact that renowned urbanist, author and city planner Jeff Speck is in town assuming that all the tickets for his speaking events were gone weeks ago. But we were wrong, and here’s your opportunity to hear the author of the classic book “Walkable City” who has just released “Walkable City Rules: 101 steps to Making Better Places”. This recent book is a practical handbook for practitioners, breaking down the steps and methods to make cities that are connected, sociable and thriving.

For people in urban design and new urbanism Jeff needs no introduction. He is a thoughtful seasoned urbanist that truly believes that downtowns are the heart of any city and making them vibrant is achievable and the right thing to do. And he’s not just a speaker. Jeff has rolled up his shirt sleeves and worked across North America and elsewhere in towns and cities providing the guide map to revitalize and recharge places by reinventing how downtowns are perceived and how they are accessed.

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If you have been on the eastern border of France near Switzerland and Germany you may have visited Mulhouse, a former textile manufacturing town that has gone sleepy and was past its prime. But as The Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis reports in the past decade 470 new stores and businesses have come to Mulhouse, with over 3/4 of these being independent operators.  “It is one of the only places in France with as many independents as franchises. And it is one of very few places in France where more shops are opening than closing.”

So what is the Mulhouse Magic and how did they attract new businesses? The town with a population of 110,000 made a point of attracting and promoting  independent businesses that were not part of chain stores. Like America big box retail has tried to lure the French market to more suburban locations, but a combination of factors have made Mulhouse radically different.People want to go and spend time downtown.

With a 36 million dollar euro investment plan over six years the town recreated its downtown as an “agora”, a center welcoming residents, and rebalanced its housing plan. Many high salaried citizens had moved to housing outside of the downtown core, leaving many properties vacant. By subsidizing building facade renovation and installing a tram system, bike shares, shuttle buses and easily accessible parking, Mulhouse demonstrated it was open for business.

But here is the piece that is important-the town’s public spaces and downtown environment were key in the transformation of Mulhouse into a place to locate businesses and to shop. The magic ingredients? Wide sidewalks, benches, and lots and lots of tree planting and landscaping.

 “Making the town’s public spaces attractive was just as important, with wider pavements, dozens of benches, and what officials deemed a “colossal budget” for tree planting and maintenance, gardening and green space. Local associations, community groups and residents’ committees were crucial to the efforts. A town centre manager was appointed to support independents and high-street franchises setting up.”

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[Update: Do read Geoff’s comment at the end of this post.  Powerful and provocative.]

 

SFU Vancouver – the downtown campus – is now 30 years old since SFU came down from the mountain.  It’s what President Andrew Petter says helps make SFU the engaged university.

Engagement is the particular work of the Centre for Dialogue, Public Square, City Conversations and the City Program – all of which had events happening on Thursday, and two of which featured Mary Rowe, the speaker for this year’s Warren Gill Lecture.  They certainly engaged me, with more questions than I had a chance to ask.  Here are some.

INEQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

When considering the rural-urban divide in Canada, Mary began with two points that are pretty much taken as self-evident in academia: diversity is good, inequality is bad.  Policies for healthy cities should encourage the former and reduce the latter.

But what if inequality is a measure of diversity?

Since a diverse city is one in which there are many different kinds of people and pursuits, do those differences of equality become magnified with greater diversity? In fact, is increasing inequality how we know the city is more diverse?

Let’s say public policies were effective at reducing inequality by redistributing benefits, by building the infrastructure, physical and cultural, to build a stronger middle class.  Isn’t the result a more homogenous city, perhaps less likely to generate the cultural and economic energy we associate with places like New York in the 1970s, London in the 1800s, Florence in the 1500s?  Does equality mean boring and less diverse?

 

MAKING CHOICES IN A CLIMATE EMERGENCY

At noon, at City Conversations the topic was the climate emergency, with Councillor Christine Boyle (who introduced the climate emergency motion at council and is interviewed here on PriceTalks); Atiya Jaffar, digital campaigner for 350.org;  and New Westminster Councillor Nadine Nakagawa.

I had three ‘tough questions’, with the opportunity to ask only one – itself somewhat facetious:

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At this breakfast you will hear highlights from a recent report on how cities in Holland are embracing the circular economy because of its potential to move toward zero waste and optimal use of resources and energy while catalyzing new business opportunities.

And closer to home, you will hear how circular economy is being incorporated into Vancouver’s economic development activities, and the benefits of a local circular economy business on the urban environment.

  • Freek van Eijk, Director, Holland Circular Hotspot; Author of ‘Circular Cities – Accelerating the transition towards Circular Cities’
  • Bryan Buggey, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Sector Development, Vancouver Economic Commission
  • Laura van der Veer, Director of Community & Impact, ChopValue

Register here.

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It’s not over until it’s over and Peter Ladner has forwarded this article from Business in Vancouver reporting that GCT Canada Limited (that’s Global Container Terminals) wants the Federal Court to make a decision regarding plans to grow container cargo handling capacity at Deltaport.

As I have previously written “Environment and Climate Change Canada’s statement to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area…  finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.” 

That 2 to 3 billion dollar Terminal 2 would also mean creating a reclaimed paved over industrial island of 108 hectares (266 acres) west of the existing Deltaport, supposedly in water deep enough not to impact the sensitive migratory bird and intertidal habitat.

So the good news was that Global Container Terminal who leases the docks from Deltaport had stated that the Terminal 2 complex proposed at Roberts Bank was “outmoded and no longer viable.” But of course GCT has  now dropped their new manifesto, and you can kind of see where they are going in the following  words:

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Only they call it the ‘pied-à-terre  tax.  

From the New York Times:

A plan to tax the rich on multimillion-dollar second homes in New York City has rapidly moved closer to reality, as legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have all signed off on the idea as a funding stream for the city’s beleaguered subway system. …

Under the Senate’s bill, a pied-à-terre tax would institute a yearly tax on homes worth $5 million or more, and would apply to homes that do not serve as the buyer’s primary residence.

 

Same arguments too:

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said the tax would not be well received within the business community. She suggested that such a tax … could further push the wealthy to reconsider living here. …

But Moses Gates, a vice president at the Regional Plan Association, disputed the notion that New Yorkers would leave the city. The association believes that most wealthy pied-à-terre owners would pay the tax. If they chose to sell, then the property has the chance of being purchased by a full-time city resident, who would then be subject to income and sales tax.

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In the Good News, Bad News department, Delta Optimist’s Sandor Gyarmati reports on the face-saving exercise being undertaken by Deltaport’s current container terminal operator Global Containers (GCT).  I have written about the Port of Vancouver’s  continued push for this terminal despite the fact that it is the resting grounds of hundreds of thousands of western sandpipers migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds. These birds feed solely on an algae that is only available on the Roberts Bank mudflats. That algae cannot be moved or replaced, meaning that this important bird migration on the Pacific Flyway would be extinct with port expansion.

It was  Larry Pynn in The Province who pointed out that the written response from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area. Last year the Port of Vancouver said they wanted to work on these issues, but as a representative from B.C. Nature said “I’d say the … port has been holed below the water line. We clearly have an environment at Roberts Bank that is fragile, that cannot withstand any more port development, and, finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.”

But back to the Terminal operator’s and the Port of Vancouver’s spin on ditching the terminal expansion, and no it is not to save the migratory birds.

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Chris and Melissa Bruntlett the fine people of Modacity Life passed on this fascinating article by Tom Parron on the marketing of Coolblue‘s new bike service. Coolblue is an electronics company that has been in business since 1999 in the Netherlands and Belgium. Their creed is to provide excellent response with a good slice of humour interspersed in their customer service. And if you order an item online, you are guaranteed delivery of that item the following day.

With online and 9 traditional retail locations this business delivers bought goods by “CoolblueFietst” which translates as Coolblue bikes.  With service commencing in two Dutch cities last year  Coolblue has expanded to have bicycle delivery of their products in major Dutch and Belgian cities with a fleet of 250 delivery riders. And get this~those delivery bike riders will  “all be employed with contracts and receive fixed salaries.”

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