October 22, 2007

New York thinks we're expensive!

It may not be news to us – but the New York Times just ran a story on how expensive condos are in Vancouver:

 “When I try to explain to friends in the States how much it costs here, they don’t believe me,” Ms. Gill, 29, who is a real estate broker, said of the city’s high prices. “They say, ‘You’re lying.’”
But $840 a square foot — which is how much the couple paid for their condo — is not unusual these days.
Downtown Vancouver is the most expensive housing market in Canada, according to a survey of 21 cities worldwide released last April by Century 21. The average sales price for a condo in Vancouver was around $419,750 in 2007, up 14.6 percent from last year, according to Royal Le Page Real Estate Services. The average sales price in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, was about $241,818, up 15.7 percent from last year, and in Montreal, $201,818, up 4.6 percent.

The whole story here.

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“There’s never enough” – that’s the first rule of non-market housing.  Advocates for affordable housing in a tight market like ours have no difficulty making that case: the evidence is abundantly apparent, whether in the media or on the streets.
So it’s easy to lose perspective.  In fact, the list below (circulated by the Mayor’s office) came as a bit of a surprise to me.  I hadn’t realized there had been any completed projects this year, nor that there were that many units under construction. 
Perhaps because Councils unanimously support these initiatives (with only a couple of exceptions I can think of in 15 years on Council) and the Left is reluctant to give the Right any credit at all, gains are discounted and difficiencies magnified.
It does look as though most of the housing to come will be the maintenance of existing SROs, upgraded and secured and concentrated in the Downtown East Side and Downtown South.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to make much difference, either in politics or perception.   And in fact, I wonder if it really makes a difference to homelessness.  The truly dysfunctional rarely find a place in these government-funded projects, since they’re often too disruptive to those who wish to maintain a stable environment. 
Nonetheless, whether sufficient or not, it’s an improvement.  And that’s always worth acknowledging. 
Social Housing Projects Completed in 2007:

Project Address New Units Converted Units Grace Mansion 596 East Hastings   85 units Helping Spirit Lodge 1475 Kingsway   36 units Southview Heights 3131 East 58th 57 units   Triage on Fraser 5616 Fraser St.   30 units Jackson Ave. Hsg. Co-op 230 Jackson Ave.   23 units The Vivian 512 Powell St.   24 units Total 6 projects/255 units 57 units 198 units

Social Housing Projects Under Construction:

Kindred Place 1321 Richards St. 87 units   Beulah Gardens II 3355 East 5th 89 units   St Vincents 4875 Heather 60 units   Triage on Hastings 65 East Hastings 92 units   Icelandic Residence 2020 Harrison Dr. 77 units   Woodwards Singles 131 W. Hastings 125 units   Woodwards Families 122 W. Hastings 75 units   Passlin Hotel 768 Richards St. 46 units   Pennsylvania Hotel 412 Carrall St.   44 units Total 9 Projects/695 units 651 units 44 units

Social Housing Projects Funded and in Development:

Portland on Main 980 Main St. 80 units   Small Suite Demonstration 337 West Pender 120 units   Olympic Village, Parcel 2 151 West First Ave. 88 units   Olympic Village, Parcel 5 85 West First Ave. 99 units   Olympic Village, Parcel 9 1685 Ontario St. 69 units   Union Gospel Mission 601 East Hastings 133 beds, rooms and units   Carl Rooms 335 Princess Ave.   47 rooms Marble Arch Hotel 518 Richards St.   145 rooms Orange Hall 329/41 Gore Ave.   27 units Orwell Hotel 456 East Hastings   55 rooms Park Hotel 429/33 West Pender   56 rooms Molson/Roosevelt Hotel 166 East Hastings   45 rooms Savoy Hotel 258/60 East Hastings   28 rooms St. Helens Hotel 1161 Granville St.   98 rooms The Rice Block 404 Hawks Ave.   44 rooms Walton Hotel 261/5 East Hastings   51 rooms Lu’ma/Aboriginal Mothers 2019 Dundas St. 10 units   Trio Downtown Eastside 30 units   Circle of Eagles 1470 East Broadway   17 rooms Lu’ma/Aboriginal Families Broadway/Nanaimo 20 units   Total 20 Projects/1262 beds, rooms, units 649 units 613 rooms Grand Total 35 Projects/ 2212 beds, rooms, units 1357 units 855 rooms Read more »

Join me for this Friday’s City Program  “Paradise Makers Lecture Series – Those who shaped Vancouver in the Post-war Era”  This month, we profile Rand Iredale (1929-2000): Pioneer, Architect, Mentor.”
October 19 at 7 pm – Fletcher Challenge Theatre at SFU Harbour Centre (515 West Hastings).   Reservations required. Please call 778-782-5100 to reserve.

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October 17, 2007

The bell curve that marks a change in history:

This is the original sketch of M. King Hubbert – a petroleum geologist based in Houston, working for Shell Oil – who in 1956 predicted that U.S. domestic production would peak sometime in the early 1970s.  Not a message Shell (or anyone else in Houston) wanted to hear.
The debate raged until 1970, when, indeed, domestic production peaked.
So now the question is: when does world-wide production peak, or has it already? And what are the unpleasant implications of that, particularly when combined with climate change and geopolitical instability?
It’s also the subject of an upcoming PlanTalk, to which you are invited:

The Elephant in the Room: Peak Oil and Climate Change
What are the challenges facing planners and policy makers at our local and regional level in addressing issues related to peak oil and climate change? How can we foster motivation, optimism, and engagement in developing feasible actions that can be made in the immediate and long term to address climate change and peak oil?
Join us at the upcoming Plan Talk to discuss the impact of peak oil and climate change within urban environments and the role that planners can play in addressing the ‘elephant in the room’. This talk will feature speakers that bring a variety of perspectives to the discussion, from engineering, planning, and local and regional governance.
Stuart Ramsey, Transportation Engineer and Planner.  Stuart will discuss peak oil and climate change, and its context within an urban environment, specific to transportation. Jason Emmert, Community Development Planner, Smart Growth BC.  In addition to moderating the discussion, Jason will also comment on how urban areas have responded to peak oil and climate change issues. Marvin Hunt, City of Surrey Councillor.  Marvin will provide comments on how issues related to peak oil and climate change may be addressed at our regional and local levels.
When: Tuesday October 23rd, 6:30pm refreshments * 7:00-9:00 pm speakers & discussion
Where: Chateau Granville (Pigalle Room), 1100 Granville Street (at Helmcken)
Cost: $20 PIBC Members* and other professionals; $10 Students. Payable by cash or cheque at the door. Receipts will be issued.
RSVP to Suzanne Smith by Wednesday October 17, 2007 (SSmith@cnv.org or 604-990-4240) Plan Talk is a speaker series supporting discussion on the challenging and provocative issues of planning practice.  Our goal is to link planning professionals and student s to share emerging knowledge and professional wisdom in a relaxed and social forum. Events are open to all interested in participating.
PlanTalk is sponsored by PIBC’s Lower Mainland Chapter.  This event will count for 2.0 CPD units for PIBC members.

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October 17, 2007

Early Vancouver

It’s a classic: a view from a streetcar circulating through downtown and the West End in 1907, set to some cheesy music.
A couple of thoughts: parts of Vancouver (Hastings, in particular) don’t look that much different today. And why did they run the utility poles along the main streets when they could have put them, as we do today, down the lanes?

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For several decades, there has been this idea in Vancouver for an institution that would document and celebrate the changing city. The ‘Urbanarium’ concept was promoted by City Planner Ray Spaxman and others in the design and development community, and some may remember the exhibition in the old motor-vehicle testing station on Georgia.
But alas, nothing permanent.
In Salt Lake City, currently going through significant redevelopment, another former planning director, Stephen Goldsmith, created a museum to help the community take a new look at what change means for the city. Well, sort of a museum.

The Temporary Museum of Permanent Change is a public participation project that re-casts downtown Salt Lake City’s construction sites and building demolitions as museum exhibits.

To achieve this, Goldsmith has partnered with Gilberto Schaefer, a graphic designer, and John Schaefer, a photographer…. A lot of what these three artists hope to accomplish is to simply reframe the way the community looks at and thinks about the change going on around it.
Goldsmith and the Schaefers are looking to utilize the mile-and-a-half of construction walls lining the streets as a way to create connections between pedestrians and their changing city. They have been working with property owners to gain permission to build display windows along these construction walls, transforming the plain barriers into a kind of storefront façade…. (More here at Planetizen.)

And, of course, there’s a web site for the Museum, with a link to Downtown Rising.

This site does the job formally of what Pacific Metropolis tries to do locally: keep up with a fast-changing city, project by project.
Maybe it’s time to resurrect Urbanarium, from construction site to website.

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October 15, 2007

Don’t forget: This Thursday at Robson Square, a panel discussion on the potoptype – the international competition to come up with alternatives to the standard Vancouver podium-and-tower typology:

Where UBC Robson Square Room C150 – (free admission)

When Thursday, October 18, 2007 6:30 pm

Who Moderator: Trevor Boddy

Jury: James Cheng, Oliver Lang, Patricia Patkau,

Brent Toderian, Dr. Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe,

also potogroup and competition winners.

Why As the podium tower typology becomes more than just a little typical in Vancouver’s

cityscape, a group of intern architects asks the world for their opinion of this phenomenon.

A successful exhibition attracted hundreds of interested onlookers to view the entries in the

AIBC Architecture gallery as it was displayed between September and October. As a follow

up, a critical discussion between the jurors, competition organizers (potogroup), and

competition entrants continues the dialogue. A brief introduction of the typology will be

given by moderator Trevor Boddy. Visit www.poto.ca for the competition brief.

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The Urban Land Institute

Newly Forming British Columbia District Council


Infrastructure 2007: A Global Perspective

Monday, October 15, 2007

11:30 am- Registration and Networking & 12 Noon luncheon with Speakers

Join current ULI members, guests, local elected officials and other special guests for this great opportunity to learn and network with the best in the business. Sign up at http://www.uli.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Calendar_of_Events&Template=/Conference/ConferenceDescription.cfm&ConferenceID=2937.

Keynote Speaker
Tom Murphy
ULI Senior Resident Fellow for Urban Development, Washington, D.C. and Former Mayor of Pittsburgh (1994-2006).

Peter Chamley, chartered civil engineer, ARUP

Gordon Price
Director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University

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October 8, 2007

I always thought it odd, when sitting on Council, that some people just didn’t like good news.
Whenever reports came in that detailed how we were making progress as a city, the reaction of some was (1) disbelief and/or skepticism, (2) “It’s a good first start …” (3) “Yeah, but what about … ” (That’s one of the main purposes of the Downtown East Side: no matter what we do, there’s always the DES.)
Most often the reports simply don’t get much coverage.
So I’ve heard about this report from a few people, but it doesn’t seem to have registered:

Vancouver has experienced significant growth since 1990, with the number of people increasing 24% and the number of jobs increasing 14%. Along with this growth, the demand for City services, the number of automobiles, and the built area have also increased substantially. Nationally, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased 25% and provincial emissions are up 30% since 1990.

Despite these pressures, Vancouver’s 2006 GHG emissions from civic operations (corporate emissions) have fallen to 5% below 1990 levels and city-wide (community emissions) have been limited to 5% above 1990 levels.

Vancouver’s per capita emissions (4.9 tonnes/person) are down 15% compared to 1990 and are less than half of those for Toronto (9.3 t/person) and a fraction of those of other cities such as Calgary (17.5 t/person), Seattle (12.4 t/per person) and Portland (13.7t/person).

To sum up: Vancouver’s population is up 24% but Vancouver’s GHG emissions are up 5% since 1990 and appear to have stabilized (if not started to decline).

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