January 7, 2007

Price Tags 90 – Mutual Admirers, Portland and Vancouver


Hot off the computer: Price Tags 90.  You can download it here.

Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C. may be the poster children of good urbanism in their respective countries.  But they also influence each other – and this issue of Price Tags ilustrates how in their newest neighbourhoods.

Also: dramatic views of the North American west under snow.

Got comments?  Add them here.

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The City versus Surburbs debate has been going as long as there’s been both – and suburbs emerged along with the first cities. 
There’s an interesting discussion on this theme happening (almost) locally.
It begins with a review in Seattle’s Stranger by Matthew Stadler.  He critiques and comments on two books: Sprawl by Robert Bruegmann, and Cities Without Cities by Thomas Sieverts. 
Start by reading Matthew’s article – Losing You Might be the Best Thing Yet: What has become of citiesHere’s a quote:

… the virtues we’ve long called urban (including, increasingly, density) now reside [in the ‘in-between’ suburbs], having fled the center long ago.
The pattern is even more pronounced in Vancouver, BC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—larger, denser cities where the margins have become home to a globally mobile population whose patterns of settlement contradict our deepest myths about the city. No more the crowded, polyglot center surrounded by white-bread suburbs: Now the world spreads out across a patchwork landscape.

Then check out Clark Derry-Williams response – City Slickers – in the Sightline Institute’s Daily Score blog.  Here’s Clark:

Stadler lays out his thesis quite nicely here.  He’s a skilled and smooth writer, and while it would be easy to caricature his perspective as reflexively anti-city (or, really, anti-urban elite), that’s a mistake. 
He’s making a more subtle point:  the old idea that “city” and “suburb” are separate and distinct entities — either physically or culturally — no longer holds water.  He finds common intellectual ground with a German architect and planner, Thomas Sieverts (more here), who rejects the urban-suburban-exurban distinction in favor of the notion of the “in-between city,” a single entity that encompasses the entire built environment in all its permutations.
Ok, that’s fine — as far as it goes.  Obviously, the political boundaries separating “city” from “suburb” are arbitrary, and perhaps not all that helpful in understanding an ever-changing metropolis.
But the unsettling thing about Stadler’s writing is that — as far as I can tell — some of his facts are simply wrong.

Stadler and others respond.  It’s good stuff for urban policy wonks.  
Maybe we should get both of ’em up here for a little more debate.

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Some good news to start the year from Paul Pinsker, the City’s parking engineer:

I noticed the signed “Bicycle Station” in your piece on Chicago [here] …..


Just to let you know, we succeeded in having Cadillac Fairview required to do a feasibility study for a bikade in Pacific Centre as part of their recent rezoning.  Bunt & Associates has gotten the contract, and a young engineer on Bunt’s staff has been assigned to do the feasibility study, and he’s very keen on the idea, which is good. 
This will look at location/space requirements, features, fixed and variable costs, revenue projections, and management. We’re looking at about 250 to 300 bike capacity.  Once the costs are known, we can then look to funding sources, such as Community Amenity Costs, grants from Translink or senior government, or others.
We’d like to achieve our first bikade, finally, by what do you know…..2010!  Let’s hope we can pull this off.

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Sure it’s arbitrary – but the beginning of a new year offers the opportunity to plan ahead with a sense of renewal.  That’s why we do that silly resolution thing.
I resolve to keep up with the blog – if you resolve to help me by contributing ideas and images. Like this one from Rick Marzolf.

It’s the view from a private chapel on Pender Harbour – and nicely captures the interplay of nature and religion that charactizes spirituality on this part of the west coast. 
You’ll have a chance to hear a lot more about that idea from Doug Todd, the religion reporter from the Sun, who will be my guest at a Philosopher’s Cafe on April 12 at 7 pm (Harbour Centre Lookout.)  This series – examining assumptions about our way of life – is a joint project with PC and the City Program.
Since we’re all planning ahead with renewed vigour, write that one into your schedule.
And send me more pics of what’s outside your windows: to pricetags@shaw.ca

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December 20, 2006

Two Vancouverites – Michael Kluckner and Christine Allen – have relocated to Sydney.  Canadians will certainly be familiar with Michael’s books and watercolours detailing the heritage of our city.  Now they can read his and Christine’s blogs, detailing the differences between us and Aus.
Here’s a sample:

Last week, on a visit into the City, I was struck by a major difference between Sydney and Vancouver (or, indeed, Seattle or the rest of North America): people don’t walk along the street carrying coffee or even soft drink or water bottles.
 After 3 1/2 months in the South Granville area of Vancouver, I had come to the conclusion that the standard urban human/sheep walking style involved one hand extended slightly in front of the body, the fingers and thumb in cup-holder position (the other arm, bent at the elbow, positions a mobile phone near an ear, of course). In Sydney, nobody eats and drinks while they’re walking. You see a lot of people buying take-away lunches and drinks from hole-in-the-wall delis, then carrying them to nearby parks or squares, but people don’t amble down the street sipping from large cardboard coffee cups.
Yes, there are Starbucks — a few anyway in the City — but the coffee culture in Sydney, which goes back to the milk bars of generations ago, is a sit-down-and-talk-with-friends one. Nevertheless, people here are as glued to their mobiles while they’re walking as anywhere else….

Click here for Michael’s blog, and here for Christine’s.

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December 20, 2006

Time for a change of format.  I was getting tired of the small print.
Let me know if you have any comments on this look – or any suggestions for a WordPress presentation style.

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Yes, there is some – even as the scale of devastation becomes more apparent from our Katrina Moment.
Park Commissioner Spencer Herbert reports:

I was able to secure a commitment from the Aquarium and the Park Board to build a return bike route from the Aquarium. It won’t be the full deal bike changes necessary in the park, but I think it’s taking us in that direction. It should start to be built in the next two years I believe.

I’ve been pushing for a proper bike network in Stanley Park since I was a City Councillor. I’d even take Commissioners on bike rides to show them how confused, inadequate and frustrating the current system was.
The one-way route around the park is scaled for distances normally done by cars. If you simply wanted to cycle from the park entrance at Georgia to the Aquarium, to get back you’d have to complete a loop several miles out of your way, or cycle against the traffic (illegally) on the seawall, or try to find a route that theoretically takes you back – but isn’t signed or marked.
The Commissioners would all commit to following up, motions would be passed, staff promised to report back – and nothing would happen.
Maybe this time.

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December 19, 2006

Architectural critic Trevor Boddy celebrates the season of good cheer with another dump on the City in this Globe and Mail piece.

This Christmas season thus sees a re-mounting of a pantomime Vancouver has seen many times before: an annual joint production by our political left and political right that repeats the same sad plotline year after year: “Let’s park the poorest in a drugs slum.”
Stage right, the mavens of Point Grey and South Vancouver love it, as they do not have to provide social housing sites along their leafy lanes, even for their own senior citizens. Stage left, supposedly progressive community organizations can consolidate their power and funding streams by concentrating poverty into one area.

He’s right, of course. Vancouver’s Left and Right have been playing that game of mutual advantage with the Downtown East Side for years, and the results have been speaking – yelling, actually – for themselves.
Boddy also suggests that the City be shamed into rolling out 19 identified sites for social and affordable housing. Once again, an illustration of how easier it is to attach blame to City Hall when the responsibility rests elsewhere. The City has been pushing for senior-government funding on some of these sites since the early 1990s, when the Feds abandoned the capital programs needed to get the projects built. But just the other day, the Province announced its support.
Perhaps everyone has run out of excuses.

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