COVID Place making
October 19, 2020

Why Can’t We Have Sheltered Public Spaces and Parks?

Last week I wrote about the international poll on walkability which found North American cities lacking. Those cities have  not thought through the importance of people being able to access schools, shops and services within a three kilometre radius of dwellings. They have also not embraced that housing people at density means having access to nearby public spaces, squares and parks and making the whole experience “lively”.

In Metro Vancouver, parks are planned like they are for 1960’s. It’s kind of intended that Moms and Dads have vehicles that can whisk kids to washrooms and restaurants. We don’t put picnic tables in all parks, and  we don’t install washrooms in many.

In a place that is attempting to house families at higher density, we also have to provide safe,comfortable and convenient access to useable, year round park spaces. And that’s not the half-century old “soccer field in the park concept.” We simply need to reboot what we think open public space is, and centre a new definition of park space as something that is accessible to everyone, and useable twelve months of the year.

Stephen Quinn’s radio interview on walkable outdoor space on CBC Radio  touched on this.

In the 21st century we are not a  city of public washrooms nor do we provide covered outdoor public spaces during inclement weather. There’s lots of talk about this being an equity issue, and it seems odd that these basic amenities are not provided.

But remember the pre Covid pandemic reality was that there were other indoor spaces available that were public, like libraries and community centres. The closure of libraries during Covid was a tremendous loss to citizens, but especially to the homeless and disenfranchised. The library was a place that everyone had access to and had equity. With the Covid closures these important places where people could rely on for washrooms, reading, and getting out of the elements were instantly erased.

The Georgia Straight’s Stanley Woodvine  is a homeless writer that keenly and cogently expresses  that there should be universal access to covered public spaces and public washrooms. There’s also a need for  electrical outlets to be conveniently located to charge cell phones and other devices. (The average cell phone uses 25 cents of electricity annually.)

Mr. Woodvine feels that covered public spaces were not created in parks to stop  homeless from congregating. I think the reason is less sophisticated ~I don’t believe that it was on the Parks Board’s radar for cost and liability reasons.

Sunset Park in the 400 block of East 51st  Avenue did have a shelter installed, but it was for Tai Chi and for picnic tables. The Covid pandemic and the increasing density of the city means that outdoor space needs to be more user-friendly nimble and  practical during inclement weather. That’s where ingenuity needs to step in.

Read more »

As it becomes clearer that we simply can’t drive our way out of congestion, some cities like Paris are planning on keeping walking and cycling as the main way to get around within busy downtown areas. I have already written about the City of London England which sees the continuation of wider sidewalks with more amenities and the placement of more protected bike lanes as Covid infrastructure that will stay.

These are not new trends, but simply the acceleration of trends that were already in place, to have cities and places that were designed for people to live in place and walk, roll or cycle to schools, shops and services in a two kilometer area.

Fiona Harvey of The Guardian writes about  health innovations . It was researchers at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)  that have developed a scale to assess “walkable cities”~those places that ” improve health, cut climate-heating transport emissions and build stronger local communities and economies.”

Surprise! Cities in the United States rank pretty low on those parameters as they are dominated by vehicles and vehicular infrastructure which makes an easy walk to and from a commercial area pretty impossible.

The following criteria were used: the number of people living within one hundred meters of parks, streets for walking only, and squares;  the number of people that are living within a kilometer of healthcare and education; and the average size of city blocks (smaller is better for walkers and means less detouring).

Of course those walkable places also have lower air pollution, a less obese population, “more children’s play time, fewer road deaths and better performing local businesses, as well as reduced inequality. Walkable places are safer too.

Read more »

This is a big deal:

Kevin Griffin at The Sun reports on the Parks Board approval of a $2.56 million contract to develop a master plan for the parks and streets from Stanley Park to Burrard Bridge for the next thirty years. Kenneth Chan at The Daily Hive describes the area and issues:

The design firms chosen are impressive: PFS Studio is of Vancouver – known for many years as Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg – partnered with Snøhetta, based in Oslo, well known for their architecture (like Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre).  But unlike that Danish starchitect Bjorke Ingels, they’re also known for a better integration of building with public space.

This promises the production of a masterplan of international caliber, which given the location and opportunity, is to be expected.  Indeed, the challenge (for the Park Board in particular) is to imagine a rethinking of this city/waterfront interface beyond its aesthetic and recreational opportunities for the neighbourhood.  This is city-building, writ big and historic.

It will also be the third major transformation for this stretch of English Bay – first the summer grounds of the coastal peoples; then, from the 1890s on, houses and apartments (left) all along the beachfront, cutting off everything except the sands of English Bay.  For over most of the 20th century, the City purchased and demolished these buildings, even the Crystal Pool, until the by the 1990s there was unbroken green, sand and active-transportation asphalt from Stanley Park to False Creek.

But it was all on the other side of Beach Avenue, a busy arterial that served as the bypass for traffic around the West End – the legacy of the original West End survey in the service of motordom.  For some this will be seen as unchangable.  As the reaction to the Park Board changes this summer on Park Drive revealed, even a modest reallocation of road space diminishing ‘easy’ access for vehicles and the parking to serve them is upsetting to those who associate motordom design with their needs, special and otherwise.

Read more »

 A graduate student with the Urban Studies program at Simon Fraser University is looking for participants for a masters research study titled: Exploring the role of the outdoor built environment for aging in place: A look into the False Creek South neighbourhood.

The intention is to understand older adults’ ages 65+ years perspectives on aging in place issues and impacts of the outdoor physical environment on their ability to remain in False Creek South for as long as possible.

The study involves an online semi-structured interview over Zoom video online conference. The interview will be approximately 45 minutes long. Participation is completely voluntary and you may withdraw from the interview at any time. The study is completely anonymous, it does not require you to provide your name or any other identifying information.

This study is being done by City of Vancouver staffer, mom, AND graduate student Beverly Chew .

Bev is specifically  seeking older adults ages 65+ years living in False Creek South to participate in a photo-taking and photo documentation activity, followed up with an interview. You can email Beverly at beverly_chew@sfu.ca for further information.

Read more »
Kathleen Corey and Brian Gould of ‘small places’ – among the best videographers of the street we’ve ever posted (here’s a sample from last year) – have some new work, appropriate to our current times.  Here’s Kathleen’s capture of the physical changes in response to COVID-19 made on Robson Street. . The Rapid Response project in this case widened sidewalks, creating more space for people, through painted concrete barriers, modular accessible ramps, expanded parklets, and bus boarding islands. . Read more »

There are two kinds of towns in the Okanagan (and most of BC).

It depends on the provincial roads that connect them.  Some, as in Osoyoos, have a highway that divides the centre-right through its heart.


Very often the highway, like Crowsnest, is literally Main Street – a ‘stroad’ that has looked essentially the same for more than half a century: broad, muscular, low-slung and unambiguous.  Mid-century motordom, which even today, despite attempts to make them more friendly for people not in cars (which is the way most of them got there), are still car dominant.

Read more »

Items in the Inbox from Daily Scot:

Have you seen the Keefer Yard in Chinatown?   My favourite outdoor Covid bar in the city.

Price Tags: Now that pop-up patios have been approved year-round in cities like North Van and Vancouver, we can expect a lot of innovation to keep us protected, happy and safe through the winter, not to mention a host of decorative responses in the spring.  Here’s an example from Coal Harbour:

 

Scot: What if we use the pandemic to convert some of the enclosed parking garages on Granville Island to beer gardens with plenty of space to social distance?

The structures would have a unique industrial chicness, drawing people from all over (which Granville Island needs, particularly in the winter).  And there is an immediate anchor available with Granville Island Brewing next door.  Other Vancouver breweries could take turns catering the spaces; food trucks could be part of the scene; nibbles could be provided by the Islands many food vendors.

Check out how other cities have created urban beer gardens:

Frankford Hall, Philadelphia

Read more »

Join John Bela, Founder of Park(ing) Day to discuss the event’s creation and evolution into what we are now all experiencing with COVID.

Park(ing) Day began in 2005 as a temporary, one-day experiment in rethinking how we use streets as public space in our communities. Since then, the movement has matured and expanded into the field of tactical urbanism and participatory placemaking. Park(ing) Day has evolved and been formalized as City led Parklet programs expand across the world.

As part of a response to Covid-19, temporary use of streets and rights-of-way have exploded. What is the future of these temporary spaces? Will these short-term changes have long-term impacts on the design and planning of our streets and public spaces? Join John Bela, partner, and director at Gehl San Francisco for a presentation and discussion.
Attendees will receive Zoom Webinar Invite prior to Friday’s Webinar.

Date: Friday September 18, 2020

Time: 12 noon Pacific Time

For further information and to register please click here.

Read more »

 

A report from Global News reporter Nadia Stewart, with a headline that distorts the story:

The protest had three dozen people – surely worth a qualified ‘some’ when the headline starts “Vancouverites upset.”  But that quibble doesn’t matter when judged against the absence of data and other points of view (like, say, comments from passing cyclists).  Importantly, the video story was supplemented in the online print version, where reporter Simon Little provided important information:

Vancouver Park Board manager Dave Hutch says about 93 per cent of Stanley Park Drive is open to vehicles, and that about 70 per cent of parking in the park remains open.

He said after talks with the city’s disability advisory committee, the board also added 10 new handicapped parking spaces.

“We’re seeing that the park and parking is nowhere near capacity this year. The busiest day was in mid August, we had 63 per cent capacity. We would expect about 90 per cent in August,” he told Global News.

Still, impact-wise, the protesters had the visuals and screen time.  There have been demanding that Park Drive be restored to two lanes for cars and have all the parking returned – in other words, back to the standards of mid-century Motordom.  That’s what we did in the post-war decades, and the roads of Stanley Park were designed accordingly: a transportation system where cars are given most of the space, there are no separated bike lanes (cars and bikes fight it out for priority), parking is provided in excess, and the seawall has to accommodate the crowding of all active transport users.

Read more »