Nature & Public Spaces
July 17, 2018

Encroachment of the Humans

Vancouver continues to repurpose public space for people.

More examples, this time from Davie Street in the city’s West End. One is private, and the others are part of a 3-year pilot study by VIVA Vancouver.

The study will test a number of things, including modular design elements and curbside patios that are away from the building. These measures will test innovative features to support a vibrant patio culture and make better use of public space.

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Even BBC News picked up the absolutely unbelievable story of this “no fun” suburban neighbourhood.

The community of Chemainus (part of the District Municipality of North Cowichan on Vancouver Island) is famous for their internationally acclaimed mural festival which brings art, tourists and income to a former logging town. You would think that a place that brands themselves as an artistic hotbed would translate this creativity to other local endeavours and activities.

But no — the strata council of “Artisan Gardens”, a housing development not far from parks and a golf course, voted 15-4 in favour of a bylaw which basically prohibits any activity a child would do outside of their front door.

The bylaw prohibits using the roadway “for play, including hockey, baseball, basketball, skateboarding, chalk artistry, bicycling or other sports and recreational activities.”

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Last week, Lisa Prevost of The New York Times took a look at purchasing a four-bedroom house on the “bluffs” of Vancouver; in reality, the house is 32 kilometres north of Vancouver in Lions Bay. The price is CAD $2.7 million, in our local market which has increased by 40 per cent in the last decade.

The property is less than a mile from the Lions Bay Marina and Lions Bay Beach Park, “the most idyllic little beach. With a population of roughly 1,350, the village has just a few shops for necessities, he said; more shopping and dining can be found about 15 minutes south, in West Vancouver.

Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, calls Vancouver “the California of Canada”, pointing out that 40,000 people coming into the metropolitan area annually, presumably undeterred by the prices.

The Times article states that the benchmark sale price for a detached house is $1.6 million in Vancouver, and that in the more exclusive West Vancouver, “that buys you nothing. That’s an area that’s $3 million and above.”

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The City of Vancouver and Province of BC have given indigenous names to two of Vancouver’s more significant open spaces.

The open space on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery is šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square – ‘a place where a cultural gathering occurs.’ The plaza in front of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is šxʷƛ̓exən Xwtl’a7shn – ‘the Walks for Reconciliation‘.

The names incorporate languages of all three First Nations people — Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. And it’s a great idea; anyone who’s been to New Zealand knows what a difference it makes to have Maori being used (‘Kia ora most obviously) by everyone.

Which then raises the question here: are these plaza names meant to be practically applied?

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Our latest Question for Candidates is:

“Are you in favour of electoral reform at the civic level?”

We put this out region-wide, to all candidates for mayor, council and school board (and Vancouver Park Board) in Metro Vancouver for the October 20th election. Here’s the first response – as always, email us your responses to pt.guested *at* gmail *dot* com, or you can also tweet us.

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We’re seeing more and more examples of cities and neighbourhood groups just getting it done on streets with cans of good latex paint.

There is absolutely no doubt that paint is the most inexpensive way to change the nature of the street, expand pedestrian refuge areas, and make crosswalks more visible for pedestrians and vehicles alike.

In her groundbreaking book Streetfight, Janette Sadik-Khan points out that making infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists makes good economic sense, contributing to the street life in the city. She also argues that everything New York City needed in order to create 60 pedestrian plazas, 180 acres of new public space and 400 miles of bike lanes was all in the city yards — paint, bollards, and cement planters.

That’s why it’s wonderful to see NYC’s examples of paint-and-planters replicated elsewhere.

In Bukchon-Ro in Seoul, a traffic circle was painted in the middle of the street, separating this historic area from a commercial district. Simply painting this image caused vehicles to proceed more slowly and enabled the many pedestrians — visiting local galleries, tea houses and cafes — to cross more safely. Paint established “pedestrian priority streets”, and has helped make the streets more walkable and lively.

The town of Mandan, North Dakota, with a population of 22,000 and located just across the Missouri river from the state capitol of Bismarck, is doing the same thing. City planner John van Dyke got it right by installing three temporary painted traffic circles at intersections, calling it a “demonstration project”, and inviting public response to the changes.

Mandan also added temporary curb extensions using bollards to make a shorter crosswalk distance for pedestrians, with a planned evaluation of the project at the end of August. You can see the reporting of the local news station on the temporary traffic circles here.

images-sandy james & pininterest.com

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“But what about parking?”

“There’s lots, don’t worry”.

At the Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2018, now in its 41st year.

By the way, the infamous “Birkenstock 500” has been modified. Instead of the aggressive, early-morning free-for-all race to the main stage to claim prized spots on the grass for blankets, there is now a lottery among early arrivals, thus spacing out the action in a more civilized fashion.

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