Design & Development
January 23, 2019

Spending and Sending Messages on the 800-Block Robson

For all of Vancouver’s history, one thing has been invariably true: we prize our public spaces, our parks and waterfront especially, and we’re prepared to pay well for them.

A recent council motion in December – one of many made by the new council on its first budget – seemed to suggest that funding direction might be changing. Less money for urban improvements, more for affordable housing.

In April, 2016, the previous Council approved the closure of 800 Robson Street to motor vehicle traffic to fulfil the original vision of Arthur Erickson: a permanent public plaza, a seamless part of Robson Square from Art Gallery to Court House.

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Thirty years ago the Public Art Program began at the City of Vancouver. It has supported local talent with  88% of civic commissions ,100% of neighbourhood grant projects and 75% of private development commissions being awarded to local artists.

One of the most talked about pieces of public art in Vancouver is Ken Lum’s large and recognizable “Van East Cross” located near 6th Avenue and Clark Drive. The Van East Cross was installed in 2010 and was part of the 2010 Winter Olympics Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, Mapping and Marking.

But one of the issues~and it has come up with the Van East Cross~what happens in a densifying city when a public art hallmark is going to be overshadowed?

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It turns out that famous rock stars have similar neighbour complaints when undergoing renovations in their personal houses. The difference is they can add a dimension to the dispute that is befitting a rock star.

As the BBC reports Robbie Williams the best-selling solo artist in the United Kingdom lives next to Jimmy Page, the founder and lead guitarist for the group Led Zeppelin. All was relatively quiet until Robbie Williams after five years of permit applications and planning, obtained approval with conditions to build a swimming pool in the ground floor of his house in London’s Holland Park.

Jimmy Page has lived next door for 46 years  in a heritage Grade 1 listed mansion and was afraid that the excavating for the pool next door would seriously impact his foundation.

Normal people might go back and engage their municipalities, or lawyer up. But not these two rock stars. Robbie Williams turned up the volume of Black Sabbath music projecting to Mr. Page’s property, adding in Pink Floyd and Deep Purple songs, which “he knows upsets” Mr. Page.

Robbie Williams has also been dressing up as Mr. Page’s fellow band member Robert Plant, complete with a long hair wig and a rotund stuffing on his midriff.

All of this was documented in a letter to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. No surprise that a spokesman for Robbie Williams called the complaint “a complete fabrication and nonsense.”

You can take a look at the YouTube video below from last summer where Jimmy Page described the situation, and the restoration he has done on Tower House.

 

 

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Our friends at small places have produced another multi-sensory feast of city cycling splendour, this time featuring Delft, Netherlands — just one stop on their summer 2018 tour of northern Europe.

“Old enough to have a historic centre, large enough for it to be vibrant, yet small enough to make that centre mostly car-free. The suburbs of these cities grew up in the decades where protected bike lanes were standard on all streets, avoiding the awkward middle ring of cities like Amsterdam and The Hague.”

You can almost smell fragrant, summer air while all manner of bikes criss-cross intersections, public squares and underpasses. Bells brrrringing, hair flying in the wind, people smiling — where are the cars?

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This Christmas card from the 50s via the Museum of Vancouver is just the thing for PT.  It looks west down Georgia from just east of Granville:

 

The biggest changes: (1) That Christmas tree is on a parking lot at the southwest corner of Granville and Georgia, where the first two Hotels Vancouver were, and where Pacific Centre is now.  But if you had to choose a corner today that still says ‘this is the centre’ – it would be this one.

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So far, the opposition has the momentum – to newer, denser development in the region.

The District of North Vancouver Council turning down the Delbrook and Edgemont Village rezonings is the most jaw-dropping.  But similar responses are seen in Port Moody and White Rock.  In Vancouver, it’s unclear.

What will happen when significant development proposals come forward that aim to address the housing crisis?   Willwe then hear this message from councils: ‘No, this is too much, too fast – and, actually, we’re not in so much of a crisis that we can’t take time to rethink and replan.  This could take years.  So in the meantime, we’re not going to approve more projects that are opposed in the community and become controversial.’

Oh look, there’s one now.

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The New York Times noticed that in some big cities, something radical is happening:

Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city center beginning next year. Madrid is banning cars owned by nonresidents, and is also redesigning 24 major downtown avenues to take them back for pedestrians. Paris has banned vehicles from a road along the Seine, and plans to rebuild it for bicycle and pedestrian use.

This opinion piece lays out the reasons for this move away from Motordom – or at least the reasons why it should.  This is not news to Vancouver, but we’re just at the point where the new council has yet to indicate whether we’re going to renew our commitment, whether we’re going to speed up our progress, or settle for the current pace of change.

Indeed, some are speculating that many on council would, if they could, spend the money it will take to demolish the viaducts more on affordable housing rather than on more amenity for the already blessed.

 

 

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The following video features new Vancouver city councillor Colleen Hardwick speaking to the amendment, drawn from the “Making Room” housing program — itself an outcome of the staff-driven 10-year Housing Vancouver Strategy — that would allow duplexes across the city.

It’s actually two parts, featuring…

  1. Candidate Hardwick at a public hearing in September, on concerns about the process used to approve the original “duplex motion”; and
  2. Councillor Hardwick addressing the council amendment about a process, proposed in November, to facilitate the rescinding of the motion.

(Hint: The first part is not like the second part.)

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We at Price Tags are having a great time with our new podcast, PriceTalks.  So we appreciate the opportunity to be invited to other podcasts that are exploring our city and its issues – like that time on Cambie Reports with Sandy James, Gord Price and the three Cambie Reporters.

When Adam and Matt Scalena asked Gord to appear on their Vancouver Real Estate News podcast, the answer was an immediate yes.  The results have just been posted:

Vancouver Price Tags with Gordon Price

Has 2018 been a good year for Vancouver? The time to take stock is now. Former City Councillor & Founder of the influential “Price Tags” website Gordon Price sits down with Adam & Matt to discuss the present, the past, and the future of Vancouver in one of the most wide-reaching conversations to date. Tune in to hear Gordon’s take on all things Vancouver, including his unique insider account of local politics, why building permits ought to take as long as they do, and his surprising predictions for the next neighborhoods set for redevelopment. Oh, yeah, and we also cover the coming apocalypse.  This is not to be missed!

 

One of the great features of their blog is the Episode Summary – a detailed encapsulation of the conversation.  Though it must take a lot of time to do, it’s a great way to get a sense of the content before tuning in, or to find a particular topic right away.  Great work, guys.

(As per the post below, Gordon guarantees that the Price is not always right.)  Click here for podcast.

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