The Livable Region
February 2, 2007

The Daily Alarm: Quote 2

So it begins.  From the Calgary Sun:

EDMONTON — Alberta can’t make absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the current boom, says Environment Minister Rob Renner.
“You’re not going to get reductions in total amounts as long as the economy continues to grow and you have increased processing capacity,” he said.
“We want to ensure that anything that the federal government does doesn’t in any way target Alberta businesses and emitters.”

Translation: The Earth is a nice planet and all that, but we in Alberta can’t afford it.  We have no obligation to the future if it in any way stops us from putting out the carbon and raking in the dollars.
That has all the moral foundation of quick sand.  Or, should I say, tar sand.

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February 1, 2007

Michael Klassen – newly appointed to the Vancouver City Planning Commission – sends along a snippet from his blog (via City Comforts) that features:

These painted highrises in Moscow are actually from a blog called Russian Art & Culture News.

In Russia where is in winter sun is a very rare thing such kind of art might keep the winter depression away. For instance this fall-winter there were no visible sun in Moscow for more than 30 days. Due to this it was reported that a lot of people simply refuse to go to work because of an enormous depressive state they were in.
Maybe such urbanistic art would keep the depression away.

Not if you read the blog, says Michael, which apparently is quite a downer. Still, the pictures are cool.

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Solutions to the housing crunch in Vancouver? Ways to create more affordable housing? For everyone?

Enough with the questions.  Time for answers.  Last October, the Vancouver City Planning Commission, Smart Growth BC and the City Program brought together some of the brightest minds in the city to take that one on. And now you can see the results for yourself here:

This summary of the two-day conference highlights the remarks of public-lecture speaker Karrie Jacobs (The Perfect $100,000 House) with response from Dale McClanaghan and Lance Jakubec; distills the speech of keynote speaker Larry Beasley (New Possibilities; Old Barriers); and sums up the comments of our panel of experts Bill Buholzer, Bruce Haden, Bob Ransford and Jay Wollenberg (Overcoming Barriers to Affordable Housing Strategies).
Most importantly, the report documents (with helpful illustrations) the recommendations of the small-group discussions:

  • Small infill houses on laneways
  • Adaptive re-use and enhanced housing mixes in single-family areas
  • Intensification along major roads, new nodes and transit-oriented development
  • Thinking outside the box

This conference did more than talk about a problem; it supplied some realistic and practical solutions.
Now the challenge: translating it all into action.

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A sterling example in today’s Oregonian (thanks to Sightline’s TidePool) on the attitude of the Federal Highway Administration when it comes to planning for the future.
Metro, the regional government responsible for strategic planning in the Portland area, is giving the highest priority to projects that support the region’s goals for coping with growth, whether that means more roads, more transit or more bicycle lanes.
Not good enough for the FHA.

The highway agency scolded Metro for not focusing more on highways, cars and parking.

“The plan should acknowledge that automobiles are the preferred mode of transport by the citizens of Portland,” the agency said. “They vote with their cars every day.”

So there we have it: People vote with their cars, therefore we must build more roads, so people can drive more, which means they’re voting for more roads – and more cars, forever.  Which is what keeps the FHA in business, providing infinite capacity for infinite demand.
Suggested motto for the FHA: “It doesn’t work, we know it doesn’t work, we’re going to do it anyway.”

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An Op-Ed in today’s Sun: 

The 2002 B.C. Energy Plan strongly promoted fossil fuels, supporting coal-fired power plants, coal-bed methane development, and offshore oil and gas exploration. It was panned by those who pointed out that it would worsen climate change. These criticisms were ignored by the provincial government and also by most of us, the voting public, who did not truly feel the significance at that time.
The world has changed since then. Canada and the world have woken up to the reality of global warming. …
So in two weeks or less, Campbell has the opportunity to re-invent himself. He has done it before in his transformation from an opponent of the first nations treaty process to an advocate of reconciliation. Will he reinvent himself again in the crucial field of greenhouse gas emissions, and provide the leadership that British Columbians so clearly want?

The Gordon Campbell I knew would meet the challenge. 

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There is going to be a huge amount of response to the Fourth Assessment of the IPCC on Feb 2 – and lots of quotes.  In fact, it’s already started.  Here’s the best one I’ve seen today, from John Holdren, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

“We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be.”

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January 29, 2007

Brian Libby writes the definitive blog for those admirers of things architectural and urban in Portland. I sent him the recent issue of Price Tags on a comparison of our two cities – and he in turn has featured it in a post on his blog.
Another example of the self-referential world of the blog – click, click, click.
Brian asks:
The Portland-Vancouver BC Mind Meld: Is Price Right?
Click on over, add your perspective – and tell him I sent you.
 [And while you’re at it, click over to this piece in the New York Times on Portland’s aerial tram that was featured in Price Tags 90.]

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I have to agree with Stuart Lefeaux, the long-time superintendent of Stanley Park, about the consequences of the December windstorm: “The end result is that Stanley Park will be much more interesting than before.”
Though retired in 1979, Lefeaux saw the results of Hurricane Freda in 1962. In this article in the Courier, he told of what followed:

“The storm opened up quite a swath behind the Hollow Tree and we made that into a picnic area,” he says. “The biggest result though was that we were able to build the children’s zoo and miniature railway in an area cleared by the blowdown.”
The storm also cleared the way for the development of the Prospect Point picnic area and created viewpoints and vistas towards the ocean and North Shore.

Given the news coverage, many people probably believe the damage to be worse than it was, that Stanley Park was affected throughout its thousand acres. But save for a few areas of blowdown, it looks pretty much the same at casual glance. Where the microbursts roared through – Cathedral Trail, Prospect Point – the damage is dramatic. From Prospect Point to the Hollow Tree, the seaward slopes down to the Merilees Trail have been decimated.

But the extent of the blowdown is limited. Result: the view through to English Bay has been opened up, and is, as Lefeaux suggests, much more interesting.

Though I doubt the Parks Board would put it this way, the outpouring of grief and generosity is going to lever a lot of opportunity to make capital improvements, particularly slope stabilization, that would be otherwise unaffordable but will also change the park in some ways.  Stanley Park has added another layer of history to its landscape, and more diversity for those of us who experience it.
Here, by the way, is the New York Times story – Its Wild Heart Broken, a City, Like Its Eagles, Rebuilds.

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