Governance & Politics
April 19, 2019

Still Time to Give Feedback on Surrey-Langley Skytrain

TransLink sums it all up in two conveniently tweet-able sentences:

Public engagement is a key component of rapid transit planning. We value your feedback and want to hear what you think about the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain, and rapid transit options for the 104th Avenue and King George Boulevard corridors.

They do indeed, but apart from the project team’s appearance at tomorrow’s Vaisakhi Day Parade in Surrey, opportunities to have your say in person are over.

Public engagement is only open for one more week (through April 26) via online survey.

Before taking the survey, be sure to check out the engagement boards, describing the project and the various options considered for transit over the past few years, including this handy graphic comparing the different modes and technologies considered.

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Last Wednesday, the mayor addressed a full class at the Board of Trade, with a PowerPoint lecture that outlined the City’s progress on the housing crisis.

Not your grandfather’s BoT

With some helpful slides and a low-key professorial manner, he articulated some obvious but rarely made points:

  • We have in this society “a full-blown capitalist housing system” – 91 percent of housing developed by the private sector; 9 percent public.
  • Maps don’t end at Boundary Road.

  • The key to addressing labour supply needs and provide access to jobs is a good regional transit system.

Then, another chart:

Snap quiz: how many of us knew the City had almost reached its housing target for the shelterless?  In fact, except for minimum wage citizens, the results look pretty good.  Or so the mayor thought until he saw the media coverage.   Because good results, as the politician in the mayor noted, is not how data is portrayed.  But it is why the debate and discussion has shifted more and more to affordable rental.

The dilemma, as Kennedy stated, is this:

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Speed kills in cities, and in Great Britain many cities are considering lowering speed limits within their jurisdictions to save lives and reduce injuries under the banner “20 (miles per hour) is plenty”. Portland Oregon as part of its commitment to eliminate all road deaths by 2025 has adopted the Vision Zero approach, accepting no road deaths as acceptable on their street networks.

Last year the city of Portland Oregon lowered the speed limits on their municipal road system from a default speed of 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour, or 32 kilometers per hour. In one year, the results are starting to come in, with a death toll on the roads of 34 people in 2018, a reduction from the 45 lives lost in 2017 before the reduced speeds.

There is sea change in the United States regarding road safety. A University of Chicago  poll of 2,000 U.S. residents  showed that 60 percent were “were supportive of using speed and red-light cameras as an automated enforcement tool. Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they would support lowering a speed limit by 5 miles per hour if it was justified with crash data.”

Lowering road speeds in cities has a remarkable impact on crash survival rates for vulnerable road users~a pedestrian has a 20 percent survival rate being crashed into at 30 miles per hour. That increases to 70 percent at 25 miles per hour and to 90 percent at 20 miles per hour. In the United States municipal speed limits are set by each state or territory, with the default speed being 25 miles per hour or 40 kilometers per hour.

The cities of Portland and Eugene have been looking at the safety system and Vision Zero approach embraced by European countries like the Netherlands and Sweden in making their cities safer. A “context-sensitive approach that emphasizes safety for vulnerable road users will lead to safer outcomes on streets in urban areas” 

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From The Sun:

Judy Osburn (right), who owns a heritage house a block away from the Larch Street site (proposed for a five-storey rental building), is organizing neighbourhood opposition.

It’s in “the wrong place,” says Osburn, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 30 years. …

“The only way they can make (the project) work is to make it higher,” Osburn said. “Make the units smaller, and make the building higher. Well, that’s like the ghetto. You’re dropping the ghetto in Kitsilano …

 

From Global News:

Councillor Jean Swanson (left) said developers are not interested in building non-market rentals, and argued the city needs to rezone parts of Vancouver as rental-only.

“I can remember when there weren’t any condos. Rentals were all there was. It was fine, it was better than now,” said Swanson.

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If you’ve ever wanted to see changes in how City of Vancouver parks — the public spaces themselves, as well as their facilities and services — are managed and delivered to citizens, now’s the chance to have your say.

On Sunday, April 7 from 1-4pm, Park Board Commissioners and staff are holding an open house at CityLab (511 West Broadway) to gather public input for “Vancouver’s Playbook” (also called VanPlay), a new plan intended to guide the parks and recreation strategy through to 2045.

Vancouver is home to world-class parks and recreation, and our population is growing and changing.

It’s essential we look to the future to protect and improve parks and recreation across the city.

VanPlay is a year-long conversation with you, our staff, partners, stakeholders, and experts to make this the best plan it can be.

Of note – the Park Board wants to define “Strategic Big Moves for a More Equitable and Connected future”. What does that mean?

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You may have caught wind of the District of No Vancouver’s — how shall we say — odd approach to doing their part on the region’s housing issue.

Young people, seniors, low and fixed-income folks are struggling to live near services, employment and schools. Without sufficient or reasonable housing options in town centres and near transit, these vulnerable segments of our society are not just experiencing the stress of housing insecurity, they’re getting pushed out.

DNV is quite simply saying no to efforts to accommodate people in need. Repeatedly. Over and over again.

But Councillor Jim Hanson of team “No Vancouver” (pssst….this domain is available) has a solution.

Since it doesn’t look good to say no to people in need of housing, try saying yes, but in a different way. As in — “Yes, we’d like to give housing to people in need. We’ll just take it away from others.”

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Wikipedia was launched in 2001 and is now one of the most popular general reference source on the internet. It has “openly editable and viewable content” which can be a good thing when events or references are rapidly changing.

But it can have another use too, and that is of revising history to suit other purposes. While researching an article I was writing on Vancouver’s greenways (which I was proudly a team member of for many years) I found this surprising entry on Wikipedia:

The Vancouver Greenway Network is a collection of greenways across Vancouver, B.C that was planned and initiated by the City of Vancouver’s Vision-Party-led City Council in 2011 to reduce car use despite continuous citizen opposition.[1] Greenways are streets where pedestrians and cyclists are prioritized over motorized vehicles, through structures such as road closures and road diverters to prevent or limit motor vehicle traffic, widened sidewalk-promenades, narrowed road space, speed restrictions, bike lanes, raised sidewalks and speed bumps.[2] Vision Party City Councillors hope to create and maintain the trend of constructing new greenways to establish a network where, potentially, every citizen could access a city greenway within a 25-minute walking or a 10-minute cycling distance of their home rather than by car. The Vision Party hopes to achieve this goal through restricting motorist accessibility, use and parking.[1]

Of the three sentences in the Wikipedia quote above only the middle one, taken from an interview with the American Society of Landscape Architects is correct. And I know this because the second sentence is  a quote from me.

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What a difference four years make, and some apologies need to be made by several people to the Duke of Data and Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program Andy Yan. It was the Fall of 2015 when Andy first crunched the numbers and in his very straight forward way told the CBC that his review of 172 property sales on Vancouver’s west side found 66 percent of owners had “non-anglicized Chinese names” suggesting they were recent arrivals. At that time 18 percent of these residences were purchased without a mortgage which is a pretty jaw dropping feat for many local residents. That was potentially a significant group of people entering the local housing market, and could represent the commodification of housing as a holding, not a place to live in.

Despite the fact Andy was basing his analysis on real data,  real estate pundits were quick to fingerpoint about “intolerance, racism, singling out certain groups of people …to blame” and even the past Mayor of Vancouver fell into the rhetoric stating “This can’t be about race, it can’t be about dividing people. It needs to get to the core issue about addressing affordability and making sure it’s fair.”

Well we all know where that logic took us in terms of housing affordability and it revealed an interesting cultural trait of Canadians about not wanting to offend, even when data suggested there was a trend that should be examined.

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Much continues to be said and written about the District of No Vancouver’s compulsive nixing of social and non-market housing projects.

In particular, current Councillor Mathew Bond is a frequent critic of the actions of his counterparts on Council. His Twitter feed serves as running commentary of No after No after No…somehow, he manages to keep an even and rational tone. Maybe just a hint of strain. The sound of one head slapping. Do you hear it?

Bond can’t afford to flame out at his colleagues too hard, because, much like a certain Federal ex-cabinet minister, he still has to work with these people, no matter how ethically challenged.

The parallel ends there, however; he’s member of an elected council, not of a party. He can’t hand in his card, cross the floor, and still keep his power. It’s a District council, and there’s no aisle to cross. He’d have to climb over the Clerk, and then where’d he be?

But he’s not the only one speaking out. Steven Petersson is a former DNV planner, and not only did he write a Master’s thesis on affordable housing provision, he worked as a residential support worker for disabled people for seven years.

In a recent letter to Mayor Little and his NIMBY cohorts — Councillors Muri, Curren, Forbes and Hanson — Petersson lays it on the line:

There’s a desperate community need for social and affordable housing.

Why put the needs of elites who already have homes over the disadvantaged who need your help?

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There is a very short video clip showing a member of the public in the City of Seattle that went to address his city council. In Seattle there is a twenty-minute time weekly for comments from the public, and Richard Schwartz had an allotted two minutes  to make his prepared remarks.Regardless of what this individual has to say, it is his right to talk to City Council in that time slot.

But when Mr. Schwartz started his presentation and noticed that no one was paying attention to him, he did what anyone would do~he politely asked for the councillors to put their phones down and give him eye contact while he spoke.

That did not go well, with the chair reminding Mr. Schwartz he was on a two minute timer and “Let’s go”. When he asked for the timer to start again, he was told no. When Mr. Schwartz began to talk about the right to speak and democracy, you can hear an audible sigh from one of the councillors.  The camera work for the City of Seattle clearly shows the deportment of the councillors, with their phones on their keyboards, looking like those school kids just waiting for the buzzer to announce detention was over.

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