Architecture
September 15, 2019

A Change of Scale: Cambie and King Ed

In the recent history of Vancouver, it’s unusual when the built-out parts of the city – places where people happily live and work – suddenly change scale and character, when a new urban form, usually larger and different in use, replaces the local urban landscape.

Sudden change was the way we used to do it: when a single rezoning swept away the architecture (and many of the people) in early streetcar neighbourhoods, and converted them into the concrete highrise versions. (See Kerrisdale Village, Ambleside, the West End).  It can also happen where obsolete uses and rising land values come together, when industrial lands convert to residential megaprojects.  (See Collingwood Village).

Or where new transportation infrastructure aligns with new land use. See the impact of the Canada Line on Cambie Street.

Here’s the northwest corner of Cambie and King Edward in May, 2015 – a half decade after the Canada Line opened:

And in September, 2019:

Along the Cambie boulevard, the shift in scale is dramatic.

… compared to what was there just five years before:

 

It won’t take too long to get comfortable with this scale of change.  In fact, the spectacularly treed boulevard will be so much more appreciated now with gallery walls of apartment buildings, all about the same height and setback.  The parkway becomes more an elongated arboretum, less a well-treed highway median.  The entire landscape shifts with your viewpoint on the elegant curves that so gently rise and descend over Queen Elizabeth Park.  On the Cambie Boulevard, the tradition of  Olmstedian landscape architecture lives on.

When Oakridge was laid out, this was the best of Motordom in the City Beautiful, designed for the aesthetic and practical experience of moving by car.   Now, underneath, real change has come but out of sight.

The consequences of planning done after the Canada Line corridor have accelerated; the transformation is apparent, and a little jarring.  But because what was best about the boulevard looks like its being respected, what could have been traumatic change looks like it will be just fine.

When you’re hoping that Vancouverites will come to accept more sudden change in scale and character of the city and its neighbourhoods, it’s helpful to have something done well to show them.

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People in Canada have become used to the fact that a lot of our public realm often does not include a washroom. Price Tags Vancouver is using the Canadian term for that room that includes a toilet and a sink. This room is called a “rest room” in the United States, but it serves the same purpose-it’s a place that all humans need to use, and use more frequently as humans get older.  So why have we not been installing these necessary facilities, especially near our rapid transit or heavily used bus corridors, especially for an aging population that relies on transit as a major mode of transportation?
Kudos to the City of Vancouver’s Seniors Advisory Committee who are pushing for TransLink to install accessible public washrooms in all new stations, and in the Millennium Line Broadway Extension. As Glenda Luymes outlined in the Vancouver Sun  the lack of washrooms even drew the ire of the Raging Grannies who were in town to protest something else a few years back, but developed a special song about the lack of rapid transit washroom services. They sang that song in front of  Waterfront Station.
Seniors’ Advisory Committee Chair Colleen McGuiness stated “It’s beyond short-sighted not to put them in. Loneliness and isolation are a concern for seniors, and a lack of public washrooms on transit routes is a factor in that.” 
Oddly enough the renovated SkyTrain stations on the Expo line have space and are prepped with plumbing for washrooms, but TransLink won’t be  reporting  on  washroom availability until next year.  Issues will include the cost of maintenance, security, and sanitation. But if Edmonton, Toronto and Paris can provide washroom facilities at some stations, surely Vancouver can as well.  You can take a look at this older copy of The Buzzer that provides a chart of which transit systems have washrooms. This TransLink newsletter from 2011 also asks  “I’m curious what Buzzer readers think about the issue. Is adding more washrooms to the system important to you? If so, how do you think they should be implemented, and by whom?”

 

 

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In one of those puzzling moments, the Mayor of Delta has spoken out against the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation-which the Mayor sits on. The Mayor’s Council has released its #CureCongestionGuide as reported in Price Tags here, taking a look at all the policies put forward by the various Provincial parties and ascertaining which parties will further the development of public transportation in this region. The parties were asked about their understanding and commitment to the Mayor’s ten-year vision for Metro Vancouver which included Surrey light rail and replacing the Pattullo bridge. The Mayors’ Council had a “scorecard” and gave the NDP a 3 out of 5 points in terms of their  transit and transportation platform and responses.
The Mayor of Delta is the only Mayor in the region that wants the ten lane, multi-billion dollar (estimates now suggest $8 billion with carrying costs) unsustainable Massey Bridge being built by the Province on the sensitive Fraser River delta.  The proposed new bridge goes right into her jurisdiction, and  the Mayor was the only positive vote for this monolith, with the other Mayors asking the Province for a reconsideration.

As reported by Ian Jacques in the Delta Optimist  the Mayor stated “I really believe that we have to stay out of the politics of it and send our message strong and clear to whoever is the successor. I think this goes too far,” she said. “We need to encourage people to get out to vote, but vote as you wish. Know the facts. Here at the facts from the TransLink area, but in terms of comparing parties and encouraging people to vote in a certain direction, I have a problem with that.”
The Mayor of Delta also doesn’t like that the other mayors are not supporting  the Province’s Massey bridge, ostensibly designed for congestion, but really overbuilt to accommodate LNG carrying ships on the Fraser River. “It is a huge connector for the west side of the Lower Mainland and to have it totally ignored in this fashion is quite insulting frankly and quite unacceptable to me. We have been working on this current proposal for five long years and to not have any mention of a proposal of this nature in the study is baffling.”
Mike Buda, executive director of the TransLink Mayors’ Council Secretariat actually made a lot of sense when he clearly stated “Voters need to understand the kind of role the mayors’ council is looking for of the next provincial government to support that 10-year vision.”  And that is true. The current Provincial government wants to conduct another transit referendum after the last disastrous exercise. While we all know that the key to affordability and accessibility in the region is good public transportation, no one needs to be dragged back into that expensive referendum process again. We need to move forward with a Provincial government willing to work in partnership with Metro Vancouver to keep the region affordable and accessible. And that means working hard and co-operatively for good regional public transportation.
But back to the Mayor of Delta-“They are talking about the Pattullo Bridge and that hasn’t been on the books nearly as long, so to my way of thinking, the argument that the Massey project is a provincial project is very thin.”
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In Price Tags’ quest to provide you with important information and to ensure you also win any urban trivia bet you may wager, we want you to hear this first-it is entirely okay just to stand on that urban escalator.
As written in the New York Times -“It may sound counterintuitive, but researchers said it is more efficient if nobody walks on the escalator.”  All of this started when Paul Wiedefeld the general manager of the Washington DC metro alleged that the culture of walking up the escalator on the left hand side and standing on the escalator n the right hand side could “damage the escalator”. Of course Otis the escalator company immediately responded that this urban legend was wrong, and Mr. Wiedefeld then said standing side by side on the escalator would be safer and reduce the chance of falls. Otis responded that “its longtime position has been that passengers should not walk on escalators, as a matter of safety.”

Of course Transport for London had a trial in Holborn Station in 2015 with an escalator that is 77 feet tall. The challenge was to change passengers’ behaviors and get them to stand side by side riding — not walking — during peak periods.” The results? Standing on both sides of the escalator reduced congestion by 30 per cent. But Sam Schwartz, New York City’s former traffic commissioner notes that getting North Americans to just stand on an escalator is  challenging. “In the U.S., self-interest dominates our behavior on the road, on escalators and anywhere there is a capacity problem. I don’t believe Americans, any longer (if they ever did), have a rational button.”

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Rode the Canada Line yesterday with my bike, and saw the usual people on it with me. Somehow, this variety is always there, but the populist narratives of riders’ demographics don’t come close to matching it. Odd, really.
Heading to YVR with luggage:   check
Earphone dudes (heading to or from school or work):  check
Recreational dude with bike:  check
Dude in suit with bike:   check

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809 West 23rd Avenue

The last PT Guest Editor wrote about comparing Burnaby’s density to Vancouver’s in Who Does Density Better?
A 1920s-era church at 23rd Ave & Willow could be saved if it’s turned into 6 townhouses with the flexibility of 4 lock-off suites. It’s 600m from King Edward Station and the neighbours are outraged it will no longer be a Single Family Home (SFH). There seems to be more outrage about this lot than there is about skyscrapers going up in Burnaby.
Let’s start with what we know then learn a bit more:

  • Metro Vancouver has mountains to the north, a border to the south, and an ocean to the west. Therefore it can only expand to the east, which it has been doing. We need to limit urban sprawl for all kinds of environmental, health, and economic reasons.
  • It is estimated that by 2030 the region’s population will be about 1 million more people than it is today. They will need places to live.
  • The City of Vancouver has, for about 2-4 mayors now, been encouraging density and running on platforms of density.
  • Friendly-density or “gentle densification” describes alternatives to high-rises such as 3-7 story multi-unit dwellings, townhouses, quadruplexes/fourplexes with a coach house, etc. and this density debate article is more amusing/sad 4 years later, depending on your point of view.
  • Transit-oriented development (TOD) “is a mixed-use residential and commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership.”
  • The Marpole Community Plan, approved in 2014, allows for RM8 (Townhouse, Rowhouse) and RM9 (Townhouse/Rowhouse/Low-rise).
  • The Cambie Corridor Planning Program Phase 3 was approved by City Council in April, 2015. It covers Ontario to Oak Streets, 16th Ave south to the river. Since then the City has held launch events, walking tours, and workshops on Phase 3. It is currently in progress.
  • There was an open house in September, 2015. From the City’s website: “Staff have completed their initial review of the rezoning application and have requested revisions to the application including changes to improve the heritage conservation approach, explore further on-site tree retention and improve the relationship of the proposal to the surrounding residential neighbourhood. Once revisions are received staff will notify the public and invite further community feedback.
  • I asked staff what “improve the relationship of the proposal to the…neighbourhood” meant. Basically, due to feedback, revisions have been requested. They want to give people more time to give feedback. They would like to hear from people why this church is worth saving.
  • There is still time to provide online feedback on this development application (with no clear deadline in sight).

Hair splitting leads to split ends:

  • This property is within the Cambie Corridor near Douglas Park but about 1 block outside the area where changes are likely to be permitted.
  • Once Phase 3 is complete, it could be applicable without rezoning but this application was submitted months before the completion of Phase 3.
  • The residents who don’t want it say it’s spot zoning.
  • The City and developer say it’s not spot zoning it’s an application to rezone from RS-5 (Single Family) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District under the City’s Heritage Policies and Guidelines, including the Heritage Action Plan.

This Vancouver Courier article from October, 2015 explains what’s going on in depth.
What do you think?
SFH – (Single Family Home) is also the abbreviation for at least 2 other meanings. Those who don’t want more density in Vancouver – are they Stronger, Faster, Healthier or So F’ing High?
When people are outraged at building townhouses on a large lot in Vancouver, is it a sign that the reality of density, the people who want different housing options, and the future Vancouverites who don’t usually get a say are winning?

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Business in Vancouver reports on the success of the outdoor mall near YVR:

McArthurGlen Group’s outlet mall near Vancouver International Airport has set a company record for traffic by recording its millionth visitor in only three months.
“Traffic has been well over our expectation, which would have been about 600,000 at this point,” mall general manager Robert Thurlow told Business in Vancouver October 1.
His company tracks how visitors arrive so he was able to estimate that 40% of the shoppers arrived on the Canada Line. Of the 60% who came in a vehicle, about 10% were from the U.S., said Thurlow, who has his staff do periodic counts of American licence plates in the parking lot.

I’d love to know if 40 percent by transit was also “well over expectation.”

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