Urbanism
August 4, 2020

When A Golf Club Says No to Greenway Access

Journalist Douglas Todd is well known for carefully examining both sides of issues in his writings in the Vancouver Sun. On the weekend Mr. Todd wrote a very topical opinion editorial asking why there was not a continuous path along the Fraser River in the Southlands area accessible to public path users.

Indeed the Greenways Plan that was adopted by City of Vancouver Council  25 years ago envisioned a pathway all along the Fraser River that would be available to residents. When the Coast Mountain Bus Company controversially took acres of  industrial land  on the Fraser River at 9150 Bentley Street to use for bus parking it was landscape architect Art Cowie and retired biologist Terry Slack that pushed for a walkway open to the public along this part of the Fraser River. It was always intended that as redevelopment occurred along the river’s edge that the city would negotiate a right of way open to citizens.

The City has been successful in that negotiation and public pathways have been provided  with two of the three golf courses along the Fraser River west of the Oak Street Bridge. Both McCleery  Public Golf Course and Point Grey Golf Course have provided a public easement along the Fraser River. With the redevelopment of Deering Island a public pathway was also installed along the water, and a public park created on Deering Island.

(And a quick aside-the City in an in camera meeting was offered Deering Island decades ago for one million dollars for park land. At that time the City determined that they had an abundance of park land on the west side, and the land instead was sold to Park Georgia Realty who developed 38 single family lots, with architect Michael Geller.)

There was one section of the Fraser River Trail greenway south of the Point Grey Golf Course that was inaccessible due to a large stream embankment. The Simpson Family in Southlands who had lost a son in an accident in the armed forces chose to honour his memory and paid for the public bridge which is accessible to walkers, rollers, cyclists and horse back riders.

This meant that the greenways trail proceeded west through  the ancient territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and that trail joins up to Pacific Spirit Park at Southwest Marine Drive. You can see the exact route for wayfinding here.

But there is the elephant in the room~moving eastward on the Fraser River Trail past McCleery Golf Course, the Marine Drive Golf Club has refused to allow public access along its share of the waterfront. Instead, the club sadly barricaded access with threatening signs, and you can get a sense of the entitlement in the comments section they have left at the end of   Mr. Todd’s article.

The Marine Drive Golf Club in this century tried to keep areas of the private  club for male members  only and as shown in court records intimidated female members who wanted to use that  space as well.  After women members won a court decision to have access to all parts of the Marine Drive Golf Club, the men in the club went to the British Columbia Court of Appeal to have that decision on equity overturned. The men won.

As Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail wrote in 2007:

the B.C. Court of Appeal, no less, had ruled unanimously that the men could play their cards and tell their off-colour jokes without having to share their tables with members of the opposite sex. The lounge’s no-women-allowed policy was not, in the court’s view, a violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code.”

You can read Mr. Mason’s article here which outlines the treatment faced by female members.

Given the rancour of the male members  to sharing spaces with women members, you can also well imagine what the Marine Drive Golf Club’s  response was  over a decade ago when City staff politely requested the consideration of allowing a public right of way at the club’s riverfront.

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Here’s why the Spinning Chandelier as an accessible work of public art will be one of the most loved in the city – rather like “A-mazing Laughter” at English Bay.

Sure, “most loved” does not mean “best,” depending on your criteria, but those who dismiss it because of how it signifies class, or is an obscene expenditure when we have so many other priorities, or is just a marketing device, etc, will only annoy themselves when seeing how people engage with it.

Like this:

Nominations open for any more engaging works in the city.

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The guys at Changing Vancouver have one of their ‘big picture’ views of the city this week:

This is all the way back to 1987, and the ‘after’ shot was taken in 2018 from the Global TV helicopter by Trish Jewison.

Thirty three years ago Downtown South (to the east of Granville Street) was still all low-rise, mostly commercial buildings, that had replaced the residential neighbourhood that developed from the early 1900s. We’ve seen many posts that show how that area has been transformed in recent years.

In the 1986 census, just before the photo was taken, there were 37,000 people living in the West End (to the west of Burrard and south of Georgia), and only 5,910 in the whole of the rest of the Downtown peninsula (all the way to Main Street on the right hand edge of the picture).

In 2016, in the last census, the West End population had gone up to 47,200, adding 10,000 in 30 years. What was a forest of towers in 1987 had become a slightly thicker forest in 2018. The rest of Downtown had seen over a 1000% increase in 30 years – there were 62,030 people living there. Both areas will have seen more growth since 2016, and the 2021 census should show several thousand more people in both the West End and Downtown.

Gord Price – The 1987 shot really resonates for me: it was my first year on City Council.  In the following 15 years, NPA councils would approve rezonings for seven megaprojects (four on the peninsula) and, notably, Downtown South – the area on the peninsula that has seen the biggest change (and continues to do so).

The ‘Living First’ strategy that came out of the 1980s (generally termed ‘Vancouverism’) was a ‘Grand Bargain’ for its time: we would take pressure off the existing residential areas, primarily the West End, through a 1989 de-facto downzoning (following the one that occurred in the early-1970s that resulted in an end to outright approvals for highrises), and concentrate growth east of Granville and north of Robson.  In return for stability in the existing residential area, growth would be accelerated in the rezoned commercial/industrial parts of the map. Highrises would be back, now marketed as condos, in a big way. That’s the ‘bargain’ – illustrated so vividly above.

I suspect everyone on Council and at City Hall would have nonetheless been amazed at the prospect of a thousand percent increase occurring so quickly.  And yet, it did the job: the West End remained a lower-middle-income neighbourhood, where rents were above the regional average and incomes of the renters (over 80 percent of the residents) were below.  (Most made up the difference by not having cars.)

There was effectively no change in the character of the community.  Even today, one can walk most of the streets in the interior of the West End and have difficulty finding any buildings constructed after 2000.  It is still the arrival city for immigrants and students (that’s why the Robson/Denman area is a ‘Little Korea’ of restaurants) and lower-middle-income renters.  It is still able to accommodate brand new highrises on West Davie and a few other blocks under the recent West End plan without affecting the stability, physical or economic, of most of the district.

Of course, some people will still be under the impression that growth is ‘out of control’ and rents unaffordable, especially when noting the development proposals for the peripheral blocks between Thurlow and Burrard, and Robson and Georgia.  Likewise with the rents in new buildings.

‘New’, by definition is more expensive than depreciated ‘old.’  However, the argument that new development should be rejected because of gentrification could have been used in the 1960s to prevent the development of the West End as we know it today, arguably now an urban miracle of affordable housing, given its location.  That argument was in fact used in the 1970s – filtered through Jane Jacobs’s writing – to successfully end the highrise era in Kitsilano.  Seven of the last can be seen on the slopes below 4th. In fact, no residential highrises would be built in anywhere in Vancouver from the early 70s to the late 80s.

Today, growth in most of the West End is practically sclerotic,

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Every two years, Vancouver has been blessed with the sculpture Biennale – a celebration of art in public space.  And Price Tags has been documenting the Biennale since 2006, when we were still producing a magazine-style documentation of urbanism in the city.

Credit goes primarily to entrepreneur and philanthropist Barrie Mowatt, who has a long and accomplished history supporting the visual arts in this city, beginning with the establishment of the Buschlen Mowatt fine art gallery in 1979, and then the Biennale in 1998.  The latter would just be a good idea or a one-off without Mowatt’s ability to deal with the astounding logistics required to organize an international exhibition of this quality – especially one that takes place in some of our most prized public spaces, the waterfront parks of Vancouver, cautiously protected by layers of discretionary approvals.

But Mowatt has been aiming to do something more than just plop down big chunks of art on goose-strewn grass (or more politely, “transforming the urban landscape into an Open Air Museum.”)  He has expanded the scope of the exhibition to transform some of our leftover urban spaces into true gathering places for community – most notably “A-Mazing Laughter” (right) at English Bay.  The art truly does change how people see and use our public spaces.

He has also found a way to unite scattered pieces into something cohesive (that ‘outdoor museum’) by sponsoring the ‘Bikennale’ – so that numerous pieces can be viewed, appreciated and comprehended in a day.  With the pandemic making a single crowded event impossible, he has adapted the Bikennale (and Walkennale) into a month-long sequence of experiences – “SIX SUNDAYS THIS SUMMER” – that take cyclists not only along a route that connects the art but also brings in past pieces, the history of particular neighbourhoods and anecdotes about us as a people.

If you like to cycle or walk, sign up for the 2020 BIKEnnale/WALKennale Six Sundays (July 26 through August 30), check out www.vbbike.ca to learn more – a great chance to get outdoors (with appropriate physical distancing) and explore the history, architecture, and culture of a neighbourhood or two.

 

 

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From sfgate via Dianna:

San Francisco is defined by its hills.

But which is the steepest?

It’s not Lombard Street. While the famous winding block between Hyde and Leavenworth, with its tight turns and postcard views, has become the celebrity of San Francisco streets, its incline even before the eight switchbacks were built in 1923 was a relatively paltry 27%. It may be the crookedest and most famous block in the city, but it’s certainly not the steepest. …

YouTuber and San Francisco native Joey Yee wanted to find out, and climbed the city’s actual steepest streets in a video posted on YouTube:

So, what is he grade of Vancouver’s steepest street?

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An Open Letter to NPA Park Commissioner John Coupar, from Peter Ladner.

 

Peter Ladner:  John, I hear you’d like to be mayor. But as cyclists know, if you tilt too far to one side, you can fall over and crash. To borrow another cycling metaphor, it’s all about balance.

Now that you have gone out on a dangerous limb to oppose safe cycling and walking for all in Stanley Park, I want to propose a slam-dunk opportunity for you to show some balance.

As a former NPA politician myself, I learned, as I’m sure you have, that canny politicians figure out where the parade is headed, and then step out in front and “lead” it.

Be careful limiting yourself to support from people stuck in their cars.

No doubt you’ve heard that so many seniors and others have taken up e-biking that you can’t find one to buy these days. They describe e-bikes as “life-changing” (no more hills— ask Angus Reid!) as they add to the numbers of people who have already made cycling the most popular form of recreation in our fair city. The Cycling Lobby is working feverishly to get more kids riding safely to schools. Don’t make their parents your political enemies!

Also, bike shops are booming and can’t find enough employees. Jobs!  Economic development!  Caution: never be against those.

But before I share my win-win proposal with you, let me share a few thoughts about what you are calling “the Stanley Park transportation disaster”. At first I thought there might have been another storm that blew down hundreds of trees and blocked roads. Especially when I saw your colleague Tricia Barker describe the situation as “horrible” and “devastating”. And I saw your retweet of someone saying traffic changes have “spoiled our beautiful park.” This could cause a person to get worried.

Then I realized what you were actually talking about was the discovery of the park by more than 400,000 (by now) cyclists taking advantage of the new protected lane(s) through the park – even while it’s accessible for everyone else now that one lane has reopened for cars.

Granted, quick and easy access from the North Shore is closed and 30 percent of parking spaces are blocked, but that isn’t stopping people from the North Shore from accessing the park, or drivers from finding parking spaces.

You and Tricia Barker – and some of my (literally) old NPA colleagues – are urging people to sign a craftily-worded petition to “Keep Vancouver’s most beautiful park accessible to all.” Everyone wants that, so it’s easy to get people to sign (29,000 and counting so far: let’s get more!).

I regret to tell you I’m not signing because I think you might twist my signature into meaning I support restoring two lanes of car traffic. I said “crafty” because that is nowhere spelled out in the petition, just the ominous threat that keeping a protected bike lane “could mean limiting access for people who choose to, or must, access the park by car”. I’m afraid I’ve lost a little trust in you, so I’m leery.

But how lucky we are there is zero data to show that anyone has been limited in accessing the park, or restaurants (operating at 50 percent capacity), or available handicapped parking spaces!

If you have this data, share it please.

 

Yes, we could do better. One simple example: the bicycle bypass through the parking lot at Prospect Point Café could easily be shared with cars that could then use some of the now-closed parking spaces, without ever crossing a bike lane. Join me in supporting that!

Entrance to Prospect Point parking lot, with plenty of room for shared lane

I fear that you can only deny facts for so long before someone calls your bluff and your credibility disappears – and with it could go some votes!

I find it sad that you have embraced the fictions that seniors and disabled people are being denied access to the park, and that the park is (going to be) so congested that its restaurants will be ruined.

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PT: It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Daily Scot (né Bathgate) on this blog – even though on some weeks he does text a daily observation.  Here are some:

 

DS: A great idea from TransLink, for those with bikes who would like to rack them on a bus but are too intimidated to do it for the first time:

 

DS: Port Moody must use the suburban planner’s manual: shared asphalt walk/biking path when there is a wide road begging for a separated lane.

 

DS: Turks and Caicos meets Coquitlam.  Fun colours on the North Road border as it takes on a population closer to the West End.

 

DS:Corten steel is back.  Victoria does it!  LeFevre & Co. are the developers – do great work and restored a lot of heritage buildings over the years.

 

DS: Every helmet is missing on these Mobibikes.  Is that because of Covid?

 

 

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There has been discussion that density increases mortality during pandemics, and  the suggestion that suburbs are in fashion again  because they are more “healthy”. The idea is that travelling everywhere by vehicle and retiring to a large leafy house with lots of space may enhance needed Covid pandemic physical distancing.

New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver shares this article from the Australian Times  by Jim Sallis and Deepti Adlakha that contradicts the idea that suburbs are safer. They conclude that the idea of density as unhealthy is “oversimplification and misleading when it comes to COVID-19.”

By researching thirty-six of the most dense global cities these researchers found a “near-zero” correlation between density and Covid morbidity and mortality. I have previously written about the work in Taiwan and Singapore where a centralized governmental approach took the pandemic very seriously from the outset and have had minimal cases and deaths. Taiwan has had 7 Covid deaths, while Singapore has had 27.

The researchers in this city study conclude that it is not density but  the “lack of space – both private living space and wider neighbourhood public space” that is the problem. The top five most-crowded neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom have seen 70% more COVID-19 cases than the five least-crowded neighbourhoods, even after controlling for local deprivation. It’s not how many people live in a certain area that matters, but the conditions they live in.”

Urban density, instead of being an enabler of a bio-medical emergency actually has “protective benefits”. Inhabitants living in higher densities walk more to services shops and schools  and two decades of data show this increased walkable accessibility lowers incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

In cities public health needs to be enhanced by well built and separated sidewalks and cycling facilities that “have a double benefit, both reducing the spread of COVID-19 by reducing any crowding in the streets and lowering the risk of deadly chronic diseases” by enabling exercise.

What is also crucial is the inequality and inequity of low income communities, where higher living densities means there is  less personal space to follow physical distancing guidelines. These units often without balconies and with less frequent access to public outdoor space “compound the issue of overcrowding – the risk of coronavirus infection may be up to 20 times higher when indoors than outdoors.”

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Homeless during a pandemic: What are the challenges and looming threats?

Join Canadian Urban Institute  host Mary W. Rowe for our series about what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next, as we (re)imagine the right to home – Homeless during a pandemic: What are the challenges and looming threats?

Speakers include
Stephanie Allen, Associate Vice-President of Strategic Business Operations and Performance,BC Housing;
Eddie Golko, Participant, Us and Them;
Krista Loughton, Filmmaker, Us and Them;
Karen Montgrand, Participant, Us and Them;
Tim Richter, President and CECanadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Date: Tuesday July 28, 2020

Time: 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

You can click on this link to register.

Images: ReturnofKings,NightlightCanada

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