Art & Culture
November 14, 2019

Senakw Is Not a Gift

From the CBC:

“I really think this is a real gift to the city,” said Stewart. “Everything we can do to make this project be successful is at the top of my list.”

 

Be careful.  If Senakw, the Squamish Burrard Bridge project, is a gift to the city, other proponents will come bearing gifts for similar considerations.

From Expo 86 to the 2010 Olympics, the City has seen almost a dozen megaprojects appear on the skyline – developer-driven, comprehensively designed and built, beginning with Concord Pacific in the late eighties.  All through the nineties, megaprojects sprouted – from Coal Harbour to Collingwood Village to Fraser Lands.

They all had to meet standards for complete communities, based originally on what we had learned when the City created the South Shore of False Creek, followed by Granville Island.  If a developer came to the City with a megaproject proposal, they came with a plan that met the council-approved megaproject standards.

The City extracted huge wealth from the value it created through those zoning approvals.  Lots of parkland and seawall extensions, in addition to the basic infrastructure – pipes, cables and roads.  As well: social amenities and necessities – schools, community centres, child care as a priority; housing percents for families with children, for social equity. There were design standards: for cycling, for sustainability, for the arts.  And more.  That’s what we meant by ‘complete communities’ – and you can go walk around in the results.

Developers paid for all this through direct provision of the benefits, like a child-care centre, or through ‘contributions’ – those CACs you hear about without quite understanding how they work.

In the case of Senakw, it could be the other way around.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers (Vancouver’s first aboriginal relations manager) said Senakw will give future Vancouverites the chance to live in the city and it’s up to the city to respond to concerns about infrastructure and capacity.

Stewart say he is up to the challenge, including working with the park board, the school board and the province to ensure community services are available when the neighbourhood’s new residents arrive.

At 10- to 12,000 residents, there is no way Senakw could meet some of the established standards.  Concord Pacific had to provide 2.75 acres of park for every thousand residents.  Senakw would need more than twice the area of its entire 11-acre site.  While it’s not yet clear what Senakw will  provide, it isn’t obligated.  Nor is it yet clear (or even negotiated), but the City looks like it’s committing itself to providing significant amenities and necessities – accepting density and paying for impacts.

So if the development itself – the thousands of market rental apartments – is the gift, then why would the City not be open to receiving more gifts from other developers.  Yes, Senakw is unique given its status as a reserve, so developers wouldn’t expect the same deal.  They’d just expect the amenity bar to be lowered.

How the relationship develops and negotiations occur is what reconciliation is seriously about – a relationship based on mutual interests levered for maximum value. One of the values of the City is the building of complete communities.  Squamish would point to their own history for examples.  It shouldn’t be hard to come to a consensus.

Squamish has an interest in a successful development in every respect.  The city has to demonstrate respect.  Together, they’re negotiating our collective interests.

This is the reality of reconciliation.  It’s not about gifts, or reparations.  It’s about building the latest version of a complete community, together.

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If you’ve already seen these posters around Vancouver over the past year-plus, then your Vancouver street cred is showing…

Coming Soon!” is a series of hand-made prints from artist and Emily Carr University instructor Diyan Achjadi, commissioned by the City of Vancouver Public Art Program.

Installed on fences and hoardings that surround construction sites in the city, these prints were created by Achjadi as she began to take note of the way construction sites interrupt pedestrians on their day-to-day travels.

As she says in a video produced for the project, she started to ask questions about these spaces, one of which was: can a hand-made artefact interact with commercially-made spaces that are about desire and selling things, and present images that aren’t about commerce, capital, or selling anything?

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Last year I wrote about  the  University of British Columbia study that identified Halloween night as having a 43 per cent higher risk of pedestrian deaths than any other night close to that date. Using available traffic data from the United States, the researchers looked at 608 pedestrian deaths that occurred on 42 previous Halloween nights, and found similar findings to that of a study done 20 years ago.

The graphs below show the spike in deaths of children occuring on Halloween. The second graph is more shocking, showing that 25 percent of those deaths occurred around 6:00 p.m.(at dusk)  with the other 75 percent being evenly distributed between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

As the Vancouver Sun  wrote, even though vehicles  are equipped with better safety systems and lights, “car-pedestrian accidents kill four more people on average on Halloween than on other days…Kids aged 4 to 8 faced the highest risks…” 

I have previously written about the University of Iowa study that found that  children between the ages of 6 and 14 years of age were not able to judge the speed, distance, and  safe crossing time in moving traffic. The study found they could not  recognize gaps in traffic, and that skill was not fully developed until the child was around 14 years of age. Even a 12 year old crossing experienced a “fail” two percent of the time in the study.

Couple that with the current SUV obsession. SUVs (sports utility vehicles) are responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths and serious injury. Because of their high front ends, pedestrians are twice as likely to die if they are hit by one. Drivers of SUVs are also 11 percent more likely to be killed driving one, as the size and bulk encourages more reckless driving behaviour.

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Kudos to City of Vancouver Councillor Pete Fry for bringing forward a motion banning personal fireworks in the city. This is after Councillor Fry’s  successful motion for 30 km/h speed regulations for neighbourhoods which was recently passed at the last Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference.

Vancouver does a double speak when the City talks about green goals and sustainability but still hosts and promotes fireworks sales in October and a  huge fireworks festival every summer.  I have written before about “big bang” fireworks events being  pretty last century, with emissions, noise and disturbance to wildlife in Stanley Park not to mention the impact on pets and people with noise sensitivities or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

That big summer fireworks festival used to be hosted by a tobacco company and now gets sponsored by automobile companies. It’s a great party for everyone. But there are alternatives~in Colorado, Arizona and California  dazzling drone light shows  are choreographed. The cost is in the $15,000 to $25,000 range, comparable to big bang fireworks, and loud music is played to establish the ambiance. The tradeoff, beside less disturbance to wildlife, is proactively preventing what could be the next grass or forest fire.

Councillor Fry’s motion does exempt fireworks displays for public events, and will require fire permits from the City to  “ignite, explode, set off or detonate display fireworks.”

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We’ve all seen them~those lovely rainbow crosswalks in cities that represent inclusivity and are often tied into  events celebrating gay, nonbinary and transgender people. Those crosswalks also just make people happy. In Peace River Alberta which has the most northern Pride Parade the city decided to paint a signalled pedestrian crosswalk in rainbow colours after examining the experience of rainbow crosswalks in Edmonton. In Edmonton’s pilot project summary  the city found that

the rainbow crosswalks did not decrease pedestrian safety. Stopping and encroaching behaviour differed at locations with and without the rainbow crosswalks. The observed motorist behaviour was consistent with the survey findings where people felt the rainbow crosswalks made intersections safer and were not a distraction.”

After over two months of observation and a survey of 3200 people, Edmonton found that motorists who drove through the rainbow crosswalks did not find them distracting. Based upon that information, Peace River painted up their own.  The city’s engineer found that the painting of crosswalks did conform to the Highway Marking Guide and to the Transportation Association of Canada standards.

But in the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department the town of  Ames Iowa (population of 65,000) received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) saying that  the rainbow crosswalk in that city was a “safety concern, and a liability for the city”.  In the United States the FHA regulates national roadway signs and traffic signals. The letter wanted the City of Ames to remove their rainbow sidewalks.

The Ames City Council ignored the letter (by unanimous consent) after hearing the city’s lawyer respond : “Honestly, I just do not think they  (the FHA) have any jurisdiction over the roads in the city that we’re paying for with our own tax money,”

There is absolutely no reason NOT to have colourful crosswalks in any design. New York City, Seattle and Portland Oregon all have colourful crosswalks and they have not caused driver distraction or resulted in an increase of vehicular crashes. As the New York Times reports the FHA told the City of Ames that painted crosswalks:

diminishes the contrast between the white lines and the pavement, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of the crosswalk markings and the safety of pedestrian traffic. The purpose of aesthetic treatments and crosswalk art is to ‘draw the eye’ of pedestrians and drivers in direct conflict with commanding the attention of drivers and motorists to minimize the risk of collision.”

There’s no data to this odd governmental critique of a city’s colourful crosswalks, and the way it is written talks more about a bureaucrat’s pet peeve, not any actual impediment to pedestrian or vehicular behaviour.

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Imagine the West End in the seventies and early 80s.  After the highrise building boom, before Expo.  And before AIDS.

The West End was a welcoming neighbourhood for gay men who decanted into Vancouver from everywhere in Canada, from the world – the post-Stonewall generation of suburban-raised boomers.

For gay men, the West End was a paradise of one-bedroom apartments, even its own shopping street.  Clubs for every branch of the emerging LGBT communities. Beaches and park trails. Restaurants and bars. The streets were yours for your own parades.

 

Max Baker captured that time.

He used his colour camera like a camera phone today.  He was selective, reflected the in this retrospective taken from his personal photo albums.  His eye was for the beautiful, especially the men.

Max was photographing the beautiful boys of those days when it seemed there were hot guys on every block.  The sex mostly free of consequence, except emotional.  The city mostly affordable and the sky mostly blue.

Thanks to Jamie Lee Hamilton and volunteers, those pictures of Max’s from his albums are on display.

REMEMBER WHEN…” is a retrospective of personal photo albums created by photographer Max Baker.

The show is a the Mole Hill Gallery (who knew?) in the basement suite of a beautiful Mole Hill home – geographically near the centre of the gay population as it was in the 70s and 80s.

The images also show LGBT parades, parties and events from 1984 to 1994. Many of the images are identified, but the organizers are hoping visitors to the exhibition will be able to put names to some of the unidentified youthful faces from the 80s.

Sept 20 and Sept 27 only – at the Mole Gallery.  1-7 pm.

The Mole Gallery is located in the Jepson-Young lane between Bute and Thurlow, and between Pendrell and Comox streets. Official address is 1157 Pendrell in the rear.

 

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Bob Ransford got it right: the public art piece – ‘Off Centre’ by artist Renee Van Halm – is at the Joyce-Collingwood Station.

It’s a small but colourful piece of the just-completed station upgrade funded in the blandly named TransLink Maintenance and Repair Program – a $200 million program of 70 projects that have been rolling out since 2016.

As these small and large improvements continue, it feels like a golden age of renewal for TransLink, reflected not only in physical changes but also in additional capacity and ease of use.  Like these, as reported in The Sun:

On Tuesday, 24 new Skytrain cars will increase capacity by five per cent on Expo Line and nine per cent on the Millennium Line during peak periods.

As well, commuters can expect more frequency on 12 key bus routes with the addition of 40,000 service hours. On Seabus, sailings are being increased to every 10 minutes during peak periods. …

The regional transportation authority has implemented a new artificial intelligence algorithm that improved the accuracy of bus departure estimates by 74 per cent during a pilot project.

It can even seem excessive:

When headways are every two minutes on a Sunday afternoon, passengers don’t really need a schedule.  But hey, it shows they care.

Let’s remember this as we reflect back on the 2015 referendum – a totally cynical move by the BC Liberals, which delayed the inevitable funding and cost millions, only serving to demonstrate how easy it is to trash government if you make the price visible.  The Liberals have barely acknowledged (and never apologized) for imposing that referendum on the region.

The least they could do now is to recognize how TransLink has improved, helped shape the region, and is more necessary than ever.

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I met G.B. Arrington in Portland, Oregon, when he worked for Parsons Brinckerhoff as a cofounder of their Placemaking Group, with a world-wide reputation as an innovator in Transit Oriented Development (TOD).  Now in ‘retirement’, he’s the Principal at GB Place Making, LLC – and a resident of Barcelona. 

His Facebook page provides a constant stream of images and observations from the Catalan city, most recently on the Festes de Gràcia – heaven for an urbanist with an appreciation of public spaces and how they can be used.

Here’s a selection of his posts (click on the title to see the images):

 

Festes de Gràcia is a little more than a week alway and the metamorphosis of the neighborhood is already underway. 22 Gràcia streets and plazas will be decorated by residents. I’m told the festival attracts over 1.5 million visitors. Yikes. This is what Carrer de Verdi looked like this afternoon – the street has been doing decorations since 1862 and remains one of the most famous of the Festes de Gràcia. The street just around the corner from us has also started decorating.

 

The real attraction of Fiesta Mayor de Gràcia are the creative spectacular transformations. The streets in the neighbourhood compete to win the prize of being the best decorated street. And the crowds come to ooh and aah. This block long suspended Viking ship would be an example.

 

Many of the Fiesta Mayor de Gràcia decorated streets successfully create an immersive experience at a grand scale – one moment you are on a normal street then you pass through into a tunnel of color seemingly reaching up into the sky. Where was this decorator for my senior prom?

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Go back 40 years ago and there were two important events on university campuses~one was the  Fall used textbook sale; and the second was the Fall annual indoor plant sale. Everyone bought indoor plants for their rooms and apartments, and these sales were held at universities across Canada. Indoor plants were a  big “thing”.

As The Economist  writes, indoor plants which pretty much disappeared off people’s radar for decades are now back~and it is young people leading the trend towards houseplants. Even Greenhouse Mag describes the social media trend towards indoor plants, viewing the universally accessible Instagram and Pinterest as “democratizing access to high design”. That includes young people using houseplants in interiors as a fashion statement in keeping with “nature-infused design aesthetic”.

Google searches for succulents (a type of plant) have increased ten times in the last nine years. On a more practical level young people often live in apartment units without yard access, and while there is care involved for houseplants, “they are neither as demanding nor as costly as pets or children”.

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