January 29, 2019

“Density is a Foregone Conclusion”: Charles Gauthier of the Downtown Vancouver BIA

They call him Downtown Charles. Okay, he calls himself that, but it fits. For the past 27 years, Charles Gauthier has led the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, one of hundreds of BIAs that sprung up across Canada (and the world) in the past 40 years.

Beginning in 1992, with a downtown business core saddled with double-digit commercial vacancy rates, Gauthier has helped usher in new programs aimed at stimulating greater public engagement in more public spaces. More promotional and support programs for downtown businesses.  And with all that, sustained growth and livability in one of North America’s most densely populated and heavily commuted downtowns.

More tellingly, Gauthier has led the BIA — staff, Board and Policy Council — into tough conversations, many of them public, about policy issues once considered outside the purview of the business community. That’s because they’re issues at the core of what makes this city tick — bike lanes, transit, housing policies, and intersectional diversity and representation. First in traditional media, and now on social media, Gauthier has become a voice of reason (and in Gord’ view, “master of the segue”).

Today, just prior to yet another BIA renewal process, and as a new council votes on a number of important motions about active transportation and densification, Gauthier say’s he’s ready…to fight the NIMBYs.

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Contributor Ian Robertson writes to suggest that Vancouver’s rental market has, just maybe, jumped the shark.

A “den” just wide enough to slide a twin bed into, for almost $900/month. If we’re being generous, it’s all of 40 square feet. It may even come with access to common areas, like the kitchen and a bathroom.

But hey it’s a room, and it’s downtown in a building that has this sweet rooftop deck!

Except — wait, how do you get this view from Alberni Street. And is that BC Place from 2011?

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Also called Tri-Face, Three Message Sign, Prismavision, or Prismatic displays, this Trivision billboard sign rotates 120 degrees to show three different advertisements.

And the three messages on this Trivision billboard installed along Arbutus Street read sequentially like a prescription for the 20th century.

The first promises “Music to your Engine” by protecting your vehicular motor; next, the promise of wealth creation.

But it’s the third sign that stands out.

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The well-connected and prolific Gary Mason wonders in the Globe and Mail just why in heaven we are paying any attention to the howling from those who’ve won Vancouver’s home lottery.

Sarcasm drips from the page, as he calls them “. . . these poor, poor multi-millionaires“.

People sitting on massive, sweat-free and tax-free capital gains don’t seem to merit a whole lot of compassion and sympathy. They’re certainly getting all the coverage.

But is it the coverage they really want? 

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Trust the New York Times to call it like it is.

As the newspaper astutely observed this past weekend:

Last year, in a provincial election almost entirely about housing costs, citizens voted out the center-right B.C. Liberal Party, which had run British Columbia for 16 years, and brought in a government led by the left-of-center B.C. New Democratic Party. Since then, the New Democrats have not only tried to increase the housing supply, but have also proposed a slew of measures that aim to curb housing demand and chase away overseas buyers.

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Simple optics tells us plenty about status of folks upset over the new proposed levy on high-value homes in British Columbia.
And the Twitter thread gives plenty of hints about the collective reaction from the other side.
Tell ya what, folks, there’s a muscle-car mayor out there just for you.
Click to see more photos and commentary.

 

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The headline says it all.
And the rest of the article, by Adam Belz of Minnesota’s StarTribune, is worth the full read as well. It touches on a few Vancouver nerves.
Here’s an excerpt:
A city staffer explained the rising burden of rental prices on poor residents, and gently pushed a central theme of the draft plan — that the city must build more homes in more places — to a group peppered with skeptics.
“If you just let the market promote density, that doesn’t necessarily trickle down to affordable housing,” said Lara Norkus-Crampton, a south Minneapolis resident. “If it was just density that provided affordable housing, then Hong Kong and New York City would be the most affordable places on the planet, and they’re not.”

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