June 4, 2010

Seawall Interruptus – 3

On June 10 at 9:30 am, Council will be considering a two-year extension for the floatplane terminal .  But the report recommendations say nothing about requiring a seawall connection.

THAT the Director of Planning be advised that Council would favour the approval of Development Application Number DE413848 for the continued use of the Temporary Float Plane Terminal in Coal Harbour for a further period of time, not to exceed two years from permit issuance or the completion of the new permanent facility at 1001 Canada Place, whichever is first.

The Park Board at least reports that “this missing link in the Seaside Route from the downtown to Stanley Park can only be constructed once the buildings have been removed. While pedestrians can currently circumvent this blockage by using the grand steps from the foot of Thurlow Street down to the seawall, the options for cyclists and in-line skaters are limited.”

And the Engineering Department also notes that “Should Council support a further extension of the temporary facility, staff will work with the applicant on updating this document to reflect the current situation.”

Umm, not sure what that really means – but once the lease is extended, probably not much. In fact, the floatplane operators will have an incentive to draw out the two-year extension when bargaining with the developer of the new (and more expensive) facility.

I’d recommend that Council simply require the terminal to provide a temporary route through the site as a condition of approval. It’s the least the operators can do in return for occupying the last link on the seawall between downtown and Stanley Park – now the most critical few metres on the entire seawall system and some of the most valuable space in Vancouver.

You might want to pass along your comments to .

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As noted below, the seawall from Canada Place to Stanley Park is finished – but not connected.  Though all the attention at the moment is on the Dunsmuir cycle track, there’s probably no higher priority than creating a route through the floatplane terminal that appropriates the seawall and prevents seamless access to the ramp on the convention centre.

As a consequence, everyone is forced to use the stairs.

If you’re on wheels, that means hiking your bike up or down six flights.

Or not having access at all.

UPDATE: Thomas Guerrero notes the presence of an elevator to the left of the stairs.  News to me – I don’t recall a sign indicating availability and directions – but even that is not sufficient to handle demand on a typical sunny day (assuming we get some sunny days!).

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It’s taken almost two decades, but the seawall from Canada Place to Stanley Park is almost complete.

Almost.  There is still one small section that remains blocked:

The floatplane terminal, sited just west of the new convention centre, is to be moved eventually.  But when?

Rumour has it that the City may renew the lease for this site, at least until third parties can agree on terms for a new location.   But will they require the seawall to be connected, even with a temporary link? – a policy that Councils have had in place since the Expo site was first being developed.

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The Mercer Quality of Living Survey is out.  (Available here.)  This year, Vienna is tops.  Vancouver ties for fourth with Auckland.  In between are Zurich and Geneva – nothing too surprising for a Swiss-based company.

Until you come to this:

Calgary is the world’s top in our Eco-city ranking, followed by Honolulu, with Ottawa and Helsinki in joint 3rd place.


“Calgary’s top ranking is down to its excellent level of service on waste removal, sewage systems, and water drinkability and availability, coupled with relatively low air pollution.”

Vancouver?  Thirteenth.

Okay, West Coasters, expect to be lorded over in 3… 2… 1…

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A few additions to the City Hall post below.

The Canada Line station has some cutsey public art: the always-popular cow.

Given that it’s ‘public art,’ there must be something sardonic or ironic about it.   Escapes me, though.

Same with this:

While it’s a fine idea to cover the Hydro boxes, typically placed for maximum awkwardness, I don’t get the starfish reference. 

Then there’s the wall:

Some at City Hall preferred a totally landscaped berm along the Cambie side of the park, while others argued that this design was more consistent with the heritage of the Hall, right down to the rough-hewn look of the concrete.  About such things are many hours spent and memos written.

Finally, the redesigned block of 10th Avenue indicates how our bikeways are evolving: a one-way single lane for cars, with separated lanes for bikes on both sides.

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The non-political ones, that is.  And certainly the biggest change is the Canada Line.  City Hall is now five minutes or less from downtown, and its front entrance has shifted from south on 12th Avenue to north on 11th.   Along with the reconstruction of Cambie Street, the City has built a new and welcoming entrance across from the station.

Crossing the north lawn, two changes: angled benches now line the walkway.  And though they face north and have no view, they’re still heavily patronized on warm days.

The second change: a community garden.  Ridiculed by those who would patronize City Hall’s commitment to a green agenda (chickens, anyone?), the garden is an indicator of a more profound change in the way we use public space.  Agriculture is returning to the city.  Urban people have historically fed themselves with local produce, and only in the last generation or two has that tradition somehow seemed exceptional.  No longer.

The best addition to the Hall itself is a contribution of the City Archives – historic photos from their collection, capturing the attention of those waiting for the historic elevators.

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Scot Bathgate reports:

An update on the guerilla street design project in Dallas that you put on your blog: the city wants to make it permanent. 

I love this guerilla movement as a way of forcing cities to visualize what can happen as opposed to sitting around and waiting for them to change.  I think by the time the public sees the results, the councils are forced into a corner and they look stupid going back to what was there before.  Kinda like the Burrard Street bridge.

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CNN did a nice piece on “Cities blazing a green trail.”  Nothing new for those up on the latest developments; the usual suspects are listed: Curitiba, Freiberg, Portland, Copenhagen – and Vancouver.

Vancouver is somewhat blessed geographically — with mountains, rivers, oceans and valleys — but citizens there have always tried to help what nature has provided.

Jane McRae, is program director at the International Center for Sustainable Cities (ICSC) which is based in the city.

“I think sustainability has always been important here because it’s a beautiful place and people value the environment. Green ideas are well accepted here and it creates a climate for innovation and pushing the envelope a bit,” McRae told CNN.

For the past 17 years, McRae and her colleagues at the ICSC have been spreading the message of urban sustainability at home and overseas sharing ideas and innovations with cities, regions and associations in Asia, Africa and Europe.

The same sustainability rules apply to cities wherever they are, according to McRae.

They need to be looked at as “one complex system,” she says, which “recognizes the inter-relations and interactions of the four elements of sustainability — economic, environmental, social and cultural — and treat the whole system as a whole.

“Sustainability is complex and requires moving from short term problem-solving to long term thinking.”

And here, Vancouver’s Planning Director Brent Toderian describes the green aspects of Vancouver’s pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.  (Did you know we even had one?)

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Toward a ‘just’ sustainability 

Sustainability is often thought of as ‘science’. In this lecture, Julian Agyeman argues we have the science of sustainability, but what we don’t have is the ‘social science’: how to get people, policy makers, planners and politicians invested in and able to make change.  To do this we must take seriously the social justice and equity implications of sustainability.

Julian Agyeman is Professor and Chair of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University.

Sponsored by Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development and the SFU City Program.

May 5, 7 pm
Venue: SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

Admission is free; as seating is limited, reservations are required.
Reserve at

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Paul Hillsdon has come up with another fun idea.

It centers around an urban, Times Square type celebratory setting along two blocks of Granville St.

With two stages set up, one at Georgia and one at Robson, revellers can gather early and enjoy a whole night of live music and entertainment. Robson will be closed from Howe to Seymour, with mobile eateries set up along the street. Projections on the Sears building can summarize the year, as well as show public messages that people can submit through text.

As midnight approaches, revellers can turn to the Sears building, the old clock on the Vancouver Block building, or the two LED screens on Future Shop to begin the countdown. At the 10 second mark, fireworks go off, moving north along Granville from Smithe to Robson. 

 At 12 o’clock, fireworks are set off from the rooftops of several Vancouver buildings in the area, including the TD Tower, the Scotiabank Tower, The Bay, and Sears. The fireworks should be viewable from the North Shore to Metrotown to the Spanish Banks. At the same time, confetti explodes onto Granville as the real party of the night begins.

With a five to ten minute fireworks display, the event celebrates the best music of the year. This transitions into a nighttime street party on Granville, as the lasers lights turn on and live DJs spin tunes till the morning.

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