Governance & Politics
February 14, 2020

Transpo Futures South of the Fraser? Come to MOBILITIES 2020 in Surrey February 27 & March 19

Save The Dates. Join us in Surrey, Feb.27th & March 19th for MOBILITIES 2020. 

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.

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 !

For more information and the free registration (recommended to ensure a seat), visit this site:

https://www.kpu.ca/arts/geography/news

 

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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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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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Here’s the spoiler: you would think that City of  Vancouver proclamations would be based upon the approved criteria as listed on the City’s website and are then vetted through an approval process and then presented to Council.

Wrong.

It was the CBC’s municipal roving reporter, Justin McElroy who along with the Breaker News  started to see that Vancouver’s proclamations were a little funky. On his twitter feed Justin noted that under Mayor Robertson there had been a  “St. George’s Rowing Day”, “The Rock Proc for Dwayne the Rock Johnson Day”,  “The Elite Canadian Champion Wrestling Day” and the ‘International Clash (the UK Band) Day”.

Surprisingly work done by Bob Mackin with the Breaker uncovered  a proclamation for Mayor Robertson’s girlfriend on her birthday, and another proclamation for the  mother of Mayor Robertson’s chief of staff on her birthday.

I was curious why the City of Vancouver would not recognize Pat Davis and her son John Junior for the remarkable multi-decade  legacy they have left the city with their streetscape on the 100 block of West Tenth Avenue and the stewardship of Mount Pleasant. What I found is that the approval process for City of Vancouver proclamations is not a transparent process, but are approved by the Mayor’s own political staff~and the Mayor. There’s no Council involvement for background or references.

The mayoral staff are the hardworking people that are hired directly by the mayor and usually leave with the mayor as he/she go onto other political jobs. Extraordinary people like Laurie Rix, Janet Fraser and Muriel Honey have held those positions.

While you fill out the proclamation here  the proclamation then goes into a political decision making process in the Mayor’s office and is not referred back to Council. The criteria that is used to decide who gets a proclamation is also not publicly available. Other journalists have had challenges even getting a list of all the approved proclamations from the City of Vancouver despite having  a Freedom of Information request. There is apparently no list.

Take a look at the City of Burnaby’s criteria for a proclamation. They are more transparent in their process and even list what proclamations have been approved for the last two years.

 

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I have been writing about Nita (Pat) Davis and her son John Davis junior, who after the death of John Davis Senior continued to work on the remarkable landscape of  houses in the 100 block of West 10th Avenue. John Senior and Pat bought a worn out Edwardian or Victorian to fix up in 1973 on what was then a run down street with discontinuous sidewalk.

That  first house, 166 West 10th , became the first structure in Vancouver to obtain heritage status. As Rafferty Baker wrote in an article for the CBC“the plaque next to the front door has a small number one marked in the corner”.

John Senior died in the early 1980’s and Pat and her son John Junior continued his vision of learning about and renovating these houses, researching paint colours, and bringing the houses back to an active life with several rental units in each one. It was the rental units and John’s custodial services at other apartment buildings that allowed the family to continue rehabilitating these houses, at a time when the RM-4 land use zoning in place easily allowed for the construction of three storey walk up apartments. They were the outliers of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and it was not until this century that they were perceived as early adapters to the reuse and revitalization of existing buildings. Over four decades the Davis Family restored eight houses, all heritage designated to ensure that they would continue existing as a lifetime legacy in this city.

Pat Davis and her son John are quiet people, and surprisingly their legacy has never been acknowledged at the City of Vancouver, despite the fact that nationally Heritage  Canada has given the Davis Family an award for the preservation of the historic streetscape. They were innovators as well, with the first coach house which became a model for the coach houses now allowed in the neighbourhood, and their work became the foundation of the RT-6 zoning in place in the area. This zoning allows for the main house with heritage merit to be maintained and developed into apartments, with a coach house on the back of the laneway. John Davis Junior was also involved in the public process  of the heritage style lighting that went on Tenth Avenue, the maintenance of the road surfacing, and public realm. Their involvement with the first Mount Pleasant Traffic Plan resulted in the City turfing out  the engineer prepared scheme and going with that suggested by the community. That has been successfully implemented for over 15 years with only minor adjustments.

The way the Davis Family maintained the public realm around their block became the basis for the Mount Pleasant Linear Walkway, a streetscape plan to install sidewalk that was missing throughout Mount Pleasant, along with corner street bulges, landscaping, lighting and interpretation. In the 1990’s the area was extremely rundown with absentee landlords that would not approve streetscape improvements through the normal Local Improvements Program. Working with City Engineer Susan Clift, we devised a plan to provide continuous walking surfaces throughout the area, with landscaped areas and shortened crossing distances. By assessing the entire neighbourhood for the improvements, costs for the average lot were $15.00 a year added onto the tax bill.  The plan was approved by the community, and an area that had poor walkability was finally completely connected with sidewalks and street crossings.

With the passing of Pat Davis, it seems fitting for the City of Vancouver to recognize the work of the Davis Family in maintaining this heritage block of rental housing with the lush streetscape and public realm they carefully curated for the neighbourhood.

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In the very good news department,  Sadhu Johnston the City Manager of the City of Vancouver has announced the new City Engineer and General Manager of Engineering Services. That individual  is Lon LaClaire, who has been Director of Transportation in Vancouver since 2015.

Lon is taking over the position vacated by Jerry Dobrovolny who is now the Chief Administrative Officer of Metro Vancouver.

For people that have worked with Lon, he is extremely forthright and has a collaborative approach to working across civic departments and within communities. He’s a proponent of active transportation and was part of the team that so successfully convinced Vancouverites to walk, bike and take transit during the 2010 Olympics. Changing the way people in Vancouver move to be less car intensive and more active transportation and transit related is echoed in Vancouver’s transportation plan.

You can listen to a Vancouver transportation related podcast between Gordon Price and Lon LeClaire recorded last November here.

How transportation ties in with active transportation, health, sociability  and the role of cities is changing in the region, with progressive mayors like City of North Vancouver’s Linda Buchanan and City of New Westminster’s Jonathan Cote leading the conversation.

All of us at Price Tags welcome Lon’s leadership, and look forward to his stewardship in Vancouver and in the region.

Below is the text that was distributed to City of Vancouver staff by the City Manager.

 

“I am pleased to announce that after an extensive recruitment process for City Engineer and General Manager of Engineering Services, Lon LaClaire is the successful candidate for the role.

I am very happy that Lon is taking on this position permanently to head up Engineering Services at the City. Lon has a deep understanding of our priority areas of work in Engineering Services, and having been part of the department for 23 years, I know he is keen to continue the great work planned and underway in the department.

Lon comes to the role with extensive experience in transportation, having started with the City working on the Millennium line, the Downtown Transportation Plan, the Canada Line and transportation planning for the 2010 Olympics. Lon has connected the department’s work to the transportation component of the Greenest City Action Plan, as well as the Transportation 2040 Plan.

In 2015, as Director of Transportation, Lon led ground-breaking projects such as the Arbutus Greenway, Burrard Bridge upgrade and implementing new parking strategies. Experience with major projects like this puts Lon in a strong position as he begins his new role as GM. His cooperative approach and ability to make connections to how our work interacts internally as well as with major partners across the city and the region will be invaluable. I know he will bring his experience and appreciation of collaborative projects to the wider department.

Lon will be starting in the role immediately. Please join me in congratulating and welcoming him as City Engineer and General Manager of Engineering Services.”

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It’s not often that a political columnist will delve into the details of urban and regional planning.  Those are weeds too thick for most readers.  

But Sun Victoria correspondent Vaughn Palmer did so today, perhaps because he got fed a report on what could be, in fact, a pretty big deal: a direction for the urban and economic planning of British Columbia. 

If taken seriously, backed up with action and able to survive changes in governments, it could be for the province what the first regional planning was the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver) in the 1970s.  That is from whence came the Livable Region Plan, or ‘Cities in a Sea of Green.’   We adopted it, stuck to it, and a half century later can the results.  It worked out pretty well.

This ‘economic framework’ is more the structure on which such a plan could be built.  It seems to be a result of departmental thinking aligned with the priorities and strategies of the government – in other words, not just an NDP political exercise to justify what they wanted to do anyway. 

Following are excepts from Palmer’s column, found here in its entirety.

 

An economic framework recently distributed by the provincial government outlines strategies to accommodate future population, trade and business growth. Key elements of the plan include developing Surrey as a “second downtown” for Metro. ECONOMIC PLAN CALLS FOR DISPERSING GROWTH

The John Horgan government has adopted an economic plan to shift growth and investment away from Vancouver and toward less congested parts of the province.   … Key elements will promote the development of Surrey as a “second downtown” for Metro Vancouver, anchoring a “growth corridor” extending into the Fraser Valley.

Part and parcel of that push will see development of an updated transportation and regional land-use plan in co-operation with local governments.

While the plan mentions few specifics, it does quote favourably from a recent B.C. Business Council paper, which called for “a new Fraser Valley innovation corridor anchored by a commuter rail system running from Chilliwack to the city of Vancouver.”

“Squamish, the Tri-Cities, Delta, Tsawwassen, Langford” (yes, Horgan’s hometown) “and others offer significant advantages for technology startups or satellite office locations …  “Kamloops, Rossland, Nelson, Canal Flats, Campbell River and many others are seeing transformational growth in the technology sector from businesses and workers purposefully seeking out the cost and lifestyle advantages of a smaller community, while staying connected to their B.C. and global customers through high-speed internet.” …

To help persuade investors to locate operations in the north, the province cites access to “B.C.’s clean affordable hydroelectric grid that can power industrial development.”  The latter pitch depends in part on successful completion of the hydroelectric dam at Site C on the Peace River. The New Democrats discounted the project as unnecessary during their opposition days, but it now dovetails conveniently with their new economic strategy. …

Also in the works is “a regional inventory of investment-ready opportunities, including transportation, energy, educational, internet connectivity, community and other infrastructure needed to support quality economic growth.”

But the inventory is no more public than the plan itself, which, as noted here Tuesday, was crafted mainly for the eyes of the public service and selected stakeholders. …

As to the rationale for all this, the plan notes that the province is scheduled to add a million people over the next 30 years. …

“B.C.’s population grew by close to a million people, with much of the population increase concentrated in the Lower Mainland.”

The region was unprepared for growth of that scale.

“Demand for housing, public services and infrastructure exceeded supply, with particularly acute impacts for housing affordability. Higher demand led to sharp increases in the cost of rental and market housing, and those with lower incomes were squeezed out — or sometimes forced out through ‘renoviction’ — of housing they could no longer afford. Families moved farther away from their work in order to find housing within their means, resulting in longer commute times and growing congestion problems.” …

The fallout from runaway and unplanned growth is one reason why the New Democrats picked up 10 seats in Metro Vancouver in the last election and the B.C.

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