Art & Culture
November 1, 2019

Coming Soon! is the Public Art Every Construction Site Needs

If you’ve already seen these posters around Vancouver over the past year-plus, then your Vancouver street cred is showing…

Coming Soon!” is a series of hand-made prints from artist and Emily Carr University instructor Diyan Achjadi, commissioned by the City of Vancouver Public Art Program.

Installed on fences and hoardings that surround construction sites in the city, these prints were created by Achjadi as she began to take note of the way construction sites interrupt pedestrians on their day-to-day travels.

As she says in a video produced for the project, she started to ask questions about these spaces, one of which was: can a hand-made artefact interact with commercially-made spaces that are about desire and selling things, and present images that aren’t about commerce, capital, or selling anything?

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In Review: The Quest for Commute Trip Reduction Part – I

In part one of this series, CTR was described as a collection of tactics designed to reduce commute duration and distance, as well as reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles in favour of more sustainable, healthier modes of travel. The primary responsibility for implementing CTR tactics falls on employers (typically ‘large employers’ with over 100 employees). State/provincial and regional governments typically have responsibility for encouraging or legislatively mandating participation by employers, and offering support, incentives, and/or disincentives/penalties. Apart from legislation, governments may also work toward CTR through trip reduction ordinances (TROs), regulations, policies and guidelines that apply not only to large employers, but municipalities, transport authorities, housing developers, building owners, among others.

At the time of this writing, CTR is not mentioned in any B.C. provincial legislation. CTR is not mentioned in Clean BC, despite its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Metro Vancouver, no municipalities appear to have adopted ordinances specifically for CTR, however, some plans and programs do support and reflect CTR-related principles, including:

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A tale of two city-makers — one, a son of the working poor, who showed an early knack for creation and collaboration, in part through the use of polyhedral dice; the other, a world-renowned urban planner, with a Twitter following as large as the populations of some of the cities he now calls clients.

The two are, of course, the same man. Brent Toderian arrived in Vancouver in 2006 as the new Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver, stepping into the role jointly held by Larry Beasley and Ann McAfee. In addition to being part of the team of “mad geniuses” at 12th & Cambie, Beasley and McAfee were already legends in the planning community for having presided over the era which introduced Vancouverism to North America.

In explaining the trajectory that brought him here — an early passion for law, a degree in environmental science from University of Waterloo (major in urban and regional planning, natch), and early success managing city centre planning and design in Calgary — Toderian plots and connects a few new dots in his life story.

That’s the opening flourish, however, to a more fascinating and controversial narrative, one which to this day still casts a shadow on the political makeover initiated by Vision Vancouver in the early days of their first majority on council (2008-2011). An administrative shake-up of epic proportions placed Toderian — halfway through what might have otherwise been a legendary tenure of his own at City Hall — in a very, very difficult position, one which ultimately became untenable.

If you know anything about Toderian, whether personally, by reputation, or by Twitter feed, you agree with his self-assessment: he has zero tolerance for boredom, he believes planners aren’t (or perhaps shouldn’t be) neutral, and he’s unafraid of speaking truth to power (both the act, and its potential consequences). All of which might explain why he only lasted three years into the reign of then-City Manager Penny Ballem, who replaced her much-venerated predecessor Judy Rogers in 2008 to the chagrin of, …well… almost everyone. It’s an act of political interference still bemoaned for both its immediate and long-term consequences.

But in case that’s still not enough of an explanation, Toderian speaks for himself — perhaps more candidly than you might have expected — as to the impact of that personnel change, and why he couldn’t stay at CoV. Whether due to the mellowing effects of time, fatherhood, or his subsequent success as an urbanist consultant and celebrity with Toderian UrbanWorks, Toderian opens up about this exciting, fraught time of his career, in a fast-moving discussion with Gord.

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It was 2009, Vancouver was about to become the largest metro region to host a winter Olympic Games, and the city faced a challenge of similarly grandiose proportions — how to accommodate a 30% increase in downtown transportation trips alongside a 30% reduction in road network capacity, thanks to Games-related operations.

For Lon LaClaire, a transportation planning engineer at that fraught moment in the city’s history, it was an experiment that would prove to be the ultimate litmus test of the city’s potential to lead North America in the prioritization of efficient, effective, and (still) decidedly unsexy transportation modes — walk, bike, transit.

It happened of course (turns out snow was the issue — go figure), and that experiment’s success paved the way for the past 10 years of a transportation paradigm shift in policy and investments that is indeed now recognized across the continent, if not the world. And it’s due in no small part to LaClaire’s leadership on the City’s transportation engineering team, not to mention a certain je ne sais quoi….translation: “How is this guy so calm?!?

Today, he’s Director of Transportation with the City; if you’re part of Twitter’s #vanpoli urban wonk mob, you heard Cambie Report’s interview with LaClaire a month ago. And if you’re one of the many visitors to Vancouver for next week’s 25th Annual Rail~Volution Conference (considered by some as the Olympics of urban planning), Gord gets LaClaire to chip out a few new gems.

Such as his ‘what if?’ moment about Vancouver’s transportation history, to complement a plethora of our real-life ‘aha‘ moments. Or his explanation for why, over the last 25 years, our streets are moving less traffic, even while population and commuting trips has grown. Better yet — LaClair’s compelling reason why anyone concerned about transportation in their backyard should run, not walk, to VanConnect to report street issues and concerns. Most worrisome? His prediction of the problem many of us will face on opening day of the Broadway Skytrain extension in 2025.

All that, plus the secrets of grid resilience, the transit hub where City’s motto comes to life, and what to do with unused asphalt. Only the best for our 50th episode…

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Every child is full of questions. And while the science is fuzzy, it seems that children who ask questions about the future — not how things work today, but how they could work better tomorrow — tend to make great planners.

Michael Gordon was one of those children. And his legacy as one of the most important planners of Vancouver’s Golden Age (thank you, Larry Beasley) has been built by finding answers to the most difficult of questions about the growth of inner cities. Namely, is it possible to make exponential leaps in urban densification — doubling or tripling the number of people living in communities — and maintain quality of life, even (or especially) their character?

Growth and stability. Heterogeneity and heritage. They’re almost impossible dynamics to manage, being both deeply personal and matters of public interest. Yet, somehow Michael Gordon has made them work.

Like supporting a doubling of the West End population over the last generation, while allowing its Robson, Davie and Denman ‘village’ communities to remain desirable, even improving by most measures. Or masterminding the slow but sure transformation of Granville Street (especially the 900-block) into a downtown entertainment district extraordinaire, without sacrificing the existing retail mix and transit hub activity.

He also showed his peers — at the City, as well through his extra-curricular dabblings with UBC School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) and the Planning Institute of BC (PIBC) — that you’re never too old to be an effective planner for new tricks. Like skateboarding, which he took up at age 47, and added to his portfolio of planned placemaking via the Downtown Skateboard Park, tucked under the Dunsmuir Viaduct at Quebec and Union streets.

So…since he now has a lot of the answers, Gord Price and co-host Rob McDowell started asking the questions. Have engineers displaced planners as the creative forces in cities? Will the City-wide Plan solve everything? Did he, along with everyone else, miss affordability as a factor in community planning?

And how do planners plan for the future — plan for change — when the communities themselves seem not to want it?

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The ‘golden age’ of active transportation development in Vancouver continues, with ongoing expansion of the downtown bike network now reaching Drake Street.

Despite what you may hear elsewhere, Drake isn’t very sexy, or even that interesting. But as the City suggests, Drake is actually essential to the concept of a complete network, because it connects where people are coming from, to where they want to go.

A fair number of people cycle beyond the protected cycling facilities on Drake Street, indicating…strong desire.

Currently, cycling volumes on Drake Street are highest between Burrard Street and Hornby Street, the only section with dedicated cycling facilities.

That “strong desire” is based on evidence of an average of 500 daily midweek bike trips in the summer, about 40% of the volume at the separated portion.

By focusing on the rest of Drake, one can infer that, not only is the ultimate goal to provide safe passage for those venturing between Burrard/Hornby and Richards, Homer, or to destinations like David Lam Park, but that more people could be drawn into downtown by bike in the first place, if only these connecting bits (like Drake) had dedicated facilities.

Here’s where the City needs your input — they’re seeking feedback on two different design options, plus ideas on how to support the activities of local businesses, organizations, and residents.

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At 7pm this evening, award-winning landscape designer and author Margie Ruddick presents the third of the Inspire Jericho Talks public lecture series, “Creating Great Neighbourhoods – Respect the Land“, hosted by Canada Lands Company, the MST Partnership, and the City of Vancouver. (Details and registration links follow.)

Ruddick is a New York-based landscape architect and author of Wild by Design, and winner of the National Design Award in 2013 for her pioneering, environmental approach to urban landscape design, “forging a design language that integrates ecology, urban planning, and culture”.

Her reputation for realizing the idea of nature in the city once actually resulted in a court fine for bringing a bit too much nature to her own backyard.

As the landscape design mind behind some of the east coast’s most treasured, natural public spaces, Ruddick is perhaps the perfect choice to talk about strategies for creating life-enhancing landscapes that combine ecological function with design, reflecting the aim of Inspire Jericho Talks — to share inspiration, spark ideas, and explore possibilities for the future of the Jericho Lands.

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The following video features new Vancouver city councillor Colleen Hardwick speaking to the amendment, drawn from the “Making Room” housing program — itself an outcome of the staff-driven 10-year Housing Vancouver Strategy — that would allow duplexes across the city.

It’s actually two parts, featuring…

  1. Candidate Hardwick at a public hearing in September, on concerns about the process used to approve the original “duplex motion”; and
  2. Councillor Hardwick addressing the council amendment about a process, proposed in November, to facilitate the rescinding of the motion.

(Hint: The first part is not like the second part.)

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Six years after the adoption of Transportation 2040 by city council, work continues to expand and connect the downtown Vancouver cycling network.

Up next are upgrades to an extension of the Richards Street protected bike lane, from Cordova to Pacific, to provide better access to downtown, and of course the commensurate infrastructure for the safety and comfort for people of all ages and abilities. (Can you say triple-yay?)

An open house is happening next week where the public can ask questions and provide feedback on the proposed design:

Thursday, December 6
4pm to 8pm

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch
Promenade Trade Fair (North End)
350 W Georgia Street

Can’t make it? You can be part of the consultation — check out the design boards and information displays, then:

 

 

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One of the more remarkable aspects of the housing affordability crisis in Vancouver is the endless bloviating about community amenity policies and consultation processes, yet we are unwilling, or unable, to discuss actual root causes.

Stuart Smith is a director of advocacy group Abundant Housing Vancouver, and has done a lot of research on factors that have gotten us to where we are today, like exclusionary zoning. My notes from a meet-up over beer in early May include the names Sonia Trauss, Kim-Mai Cutler, and Stephanie Allen.

A few weeks ago, on the first of two days of public hearings in council chambers to debate the motion to amend RS-1 zoning across much of the city to allow for duplexes — an offshoot of the Making Room report (spoiler alert: it passed) — Stuart was one of the voices supporting this motion.

He was too short on time for an anecdote which would have served as an important educational moment — he shared it with me afterwards, along with the above map:

90 years ago, Harland Bartholomew drew this map. Its explicit goal was to constrain and separate apartments, and people who live in apartments, from detached homes, and the people who live in detached homes.

Many proponents of this map knew it would ghettoize apartments, and the racialized and marginalized people who were most likely to inhabit them at that time. They considered this a feature, not a bug.

This was a radical change to traditional ways of building a city. It’s been 90 years. The experiment has failed. It’s time to move on. It’s time to make room.

It’s possible this 90-year old zoning plan ultimately influenced the housing tempest we find ourselves in today.

If you buy into the idea that past is prologue — or, if you’re skeptical of Making Room and the duplex motion in general — watch and listen to the final 90 seconds of his Stuart’s actual presentation. It’s worth it:

The full text of Stuart’s five-minute presentation to Council follows.

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