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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. It’s odd that Vancouver, with its ongoing crisis in affordable rental housing, doesn’t pay more attention to Seattle – fast-growing, tech-boom city that it is – where the problem has been so much new rental stock available that the fear has been too many ‘ghost apartments.’  That’s changing, according to the Seattle Times:

The Seattle area is filling up new apartments faster than any region in the country, suggesting demand for housing is starting to catch up with the record construction boom — not a great sign for tenants hoping landlords get desperate and drop rents.

The new figures offer fresh insight into the years-long, multibillion-dollar experiment being waged by developers as they build more apartments in the city of Seattle this decade than in the previous half-century combined, betting on the long-term economic health of the region. Will enough renters eventually materialize to fill them, or will the city have a skyline of empty ghost apartments? …

(Market analyst Carl) Whittaker cited the region’s strong economy and foreign immigration pull for leading the country in drawing renters, as well as the fact that the metro is building more apartments to actually house them. Only three metro areas in the country — New York, Dallas and Los Angeles — built more apartments than Seattle last year. …

For a while it looked like developers might have been too aggressive with all those new units: Vacancy rates had been rising, recently reaching their highest point since the recession. Building owners struggling to fill up tons of new units all at the same time resorted to offering concessions like a free month’s rent or thousands of dollars in gift cards. The supply-and-demand equation flipped so suddenly that Seattle rents went from soaring at the fastest rate in the country to among the slowest.

Now, generally speaking, apartments in Seattle are filling up nearly the same rate as they are opening.

As PT has noted before, the fundamentals are beginning to shift in Vancouver too: falling house prices, increased supply in some areas, more to come.  While the housing crisis continues, it’s changing, and perception lags behind.

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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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I’ve seen at least at two studies which demonstrate that ‘gentrification’ does not necessarily lead to major displacement of poorer residents.  But that goes against the dominant narrative, so is often not acknowledged – or it’s dismissed.  Indeed, the meme that investment or development leads, ipso facto, to gentrification is spreading, most recently at the open house for the Kits Larch Street rental project:

 

Here’s another perspective from Jesse Van Tol, chief executive officer of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition:

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In cities across the world, housing systems are undergoing immense change. Homes are being transformed into liquid commodities, and as such, are increasingly unable to meet the social need for residential space. This has painful consequences for households and urban life, in the form of residential alienation, precarity and displacement. But in many places, resistance movements are growing.

Join us April 23 to hear sociologist David Madden explore the causes and consequences of the commodification of housing, drawing lessons from London and New York City

David Madden is associate professor in sociology and co-director of the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics. He works on urban studies, political sociology and social theory. His research interests include housing, urban restructuring, public space and critical urban theory. He has conducted qualitative, ethnographic and archival research in New York City and London. He is co-author, with Peter Marcuse, of In Defense of Housing: The politics of crisis. His writing has appeared in leading academic journals as well as the Guardian, the Washington Post and Jacobin.

David Madden’s talk will be followed by a panel of local respondents to give the themes of his talk a Canadian context on a local, provincial and national scale:

  • David Hulchanski, University of Toronto
  • Penny Gurstein, University of British Columbia
  • Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • Question period hosted by Jen St. Denis, Star Vancouver

 

Tuesday, April 23

7 PM to 9 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM)

Room 1200-1500, SFU Segal Building, 500 Granville Street, Vancouver

Admission: $5. Free for students with valid student ID.

Reserve your seat!

 

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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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Trust Dan Fumano in his Vancouver Sun article to wade right into the ongoing NIMBY and YIMBY discussions which in many ways mirror what we all think is happening on the west side of the City of Vancouver.  In his article (and you should read the comments on-line) a group of older articulate residents express their displeasure with the potential for a new five storey building on the site of the old St. Marks Church at Second and Larch in deepest darkest Kitsilano.

This application for 1805 Larch Street is for a 66 foot tall five storey building that will have 63 secured rental units which will be built under the City of Vancouver’s Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP). What this means is that 20 percent of the building will be for “moderate income” renters, those earning between $30,000 and $80,000 annually. In total the building will have 19 studios, 16 one-bedrooms, 20 two-bedrooms, and eight three-bedroom apartments, with underground parking and a rooftop patio.

In the rezoning application for the three lot site, Metric Architecture describes the church as disused for ecclesiastical services, but notes that its location and site lends itself for moderate income family accommodation.

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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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