Nature & Public Spaces
August 14, 2018

What Late Summer Brings With It Now

Smoke and filtered light.

The haze softens the city with a yellow flush.   It’s just on this side of other-worldly.  It’s another indicator that the early stages of climate change are already consequential, regardless of how they are disregarded, dismissed or denied among the decision-makers.  Philip Dick: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

Summer hazes may go away, but the reason they’re here will not.

 

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Vancouver’s home-grown carsharing cooperative, Modo, issued a press release this past week with the results of a multi-city member survey that spoke to the overriding reasons for the move away from car ownership — cost.

Of the 3,500+ respondents, 42% said the cost savings is why they prefer to use the 2-way service, just edging out convenience (39%).

But what about carsharing’s other role, beyond getting us from A-to-B cheaply? As in actually removing cars off the road — that’s where it’s at, and we found that while it’s not high on the list of influencing factors for Modo members, it’s a reportable outcome.

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The Board of Metro Vancouver (Greater Vancouver Regional District) has committed to pursue a regional target of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, from 2007 levels, by 2050.
In alignment with this target, Metro Vancouver is developing a Climate 2050 Strategic Plan – learn more in person at next week’s public dialogue:
Wednesday, May 30
Noon – 2:00 pm
(lunch at 11:30)

BCIT Downtown Vancouver Campus
555 Seymour Street
REGISTER HERE

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FUTURE OF THE REGION SUSTAINABILITY DIALOGUES

Locally, Metro Vancouver and our member jurisdictions have been leaders in climate actions for almost 20 years.
The Metro Vancouver Board has committed to pursue a regional target of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2007 levels by 2050. In alignment with this target, Metro Vancouver is developing a Climate 2050 Strategic Plan with a vision to ensure our infrastructure, ecosystems, and communities are resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Join one of our public dialogues to learn about and share your views on Climate 2050. To get a jump-start on learning more about Climate 2050, visit our website.

DIALOGUE SCHEDULE

All Dates: Noon – 2:00 pm (lunch served 11:30a.m. – noon)

  • REGISTER Wed May 30 BCIT downtown campus, 555 Seymour Street, Vancouver
  • REGISTER Thur June 7 Polygon Gallery, 101 Carrie Cates Ct, North Vancouver
  • REGISTER Fri June 8 Port Moody Inlet Theatre, 100 Newport Drive, Port Moody
  • REGISTER Wed June 13 John M.S. Lecky UBC Boathouse, 7277 River Road, Richmond
  • REGISTER Thur June 14 Surrey City Hall, 13450 104 Ave, Surrey
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Melody Ma is a web developer, technologist, and active thought leader on urban issues in Vancouver.
Ma recently wrote a cogent think piece in the Vancouver Sun challenging some of the assumptions about the new 3,000 Amazon jobs that will be created when the American online retailer settles into downtown Vancouver, in the former home of the post office.
Ms. Ma notes that despite Mayor Robertson’s framing of this job influx as a big win, it may not be so. Amazon, she says, “will add more strain to the housing affordability situation, it will also strain our technology labour market, potentially negatively impacting the very sector that it is supposed to help.”

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It is very hard to believe that we still need to be reminded about the importance of food security and ensuring that our agricultural land, which in Metro Vancouver is the finest arable land in Canada, is protected for future generations.
Price Tags Vancouver has been tracking the unbelievable story of the City of Richmond Mayor and Council allowing mansions of over 10,783 square feet in size to be built on agricultural land that is over one half-acre in size. These “farms” are being bought at an agricultural land price as they are in the Agricultural Land Reserve, then redeveloped with large mansions and then quickly turn into multi-million dollar gated estates, exempt from the foreign buyer’s tax (they are on agricultural land) with a large land lift as these countrified estates demand top dollar for offshore buyers. These lands will never return to agricultural use and are now economically out of the reach of farming buyers.

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Along with  a high-speed train link to Seattle as reported in Price Tags Vancouver, there is a new “by sea option” too. After seven years of planning Harbour Air Group will work with Seattle’s Kenmore Air to fly four times a week between Coal Harbour and Lake Union in Seattle, very close to Amazon.com’s headquarters.
The big challenge for this route as reported by Glen Korstrom in Business in Vancouver has been obtaining a Canadian Border Services Agency approval for a customs desk at Coal Harbour. There already is an American customs facility at the Lake Union dock in Seattle.
The proposed flights will land passengers in Seattle under one hour. In the interim the B.C. government is also  contributing financially for a business-case  report on the feasibility of the high-speed train link, bringing these two Cascadia cities closer together along the “innovation corridor”.

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March 29, 2018

From The Guardian:
How does a city cope with extreme weather? These days, urban planning that doesn’t factor in some sort of catastrophic weather event is like trying to build something in a fictional utopia. For Kongjian Yu, one of the world’s leading landscape architects, the answer to coping with extreme weather events actually lies in the past.
Yu is the founder and dean of the school of landscape architecture at Peking University, founding director of architectural firm Turenscape, and famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. In the process he has transformed some of China’s most industrialised cities into standard bearers of green architecture.
Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea levels, droughts, floods and so-called “once in a lifetime” storms. At 53, he is best known for his “sponge cities”, which use soft material and terraces to capture water which can then be extracted for use, rather than the usual concrete and steel materials which do not absorb water.
European methods of designing cities involve drainage pipelines which cannot cope with monsoonal rain. But the Chinese government has now adopted sponge cities as an urban planning and eco-city template. …
Yu, who is based in Beijing, explained the key benefit of sponge cities is the ability to reuse water. “The water captured by the sponge can be used for irrigation, for recharging the aquifer, for cleansing the soil and for productive use,” Yu said.
“In China, we retain storm water and reuse it. Even as individual families and houses, we collect storm water on [the] rooftop and use the balcony to irrigate the vegetable garden.”
When it comes to water, the mottos of the sponge city are: “Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse.”

“One thing I learned is to slow down the process of drainage. All the modern industrial techniques and engineering solution is to drain water away after the flood as fast of possible. So, modern tech is to speed up the drainage but ancient wisdom, which has adapted in the monsoonal season, was to slow down the drainage so the water will not be destructive anymore. By slowing the water it can nurture the habitat and biodiversity.” …
As Yu says, it’s important to “make friends with water”. “We don’t use concrete or hard engineering, we use terraces, learned from ancient peasantry wisdom. We irrigate. Then the city will be floodable and will survive during the flood. We can remove concrete and make a water protection system a living system.”

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While Vancouverites has recovered from a surprising week of snow in February, people in Winnipeg are still digging out. But what is interesting is the difference in snow removal policy for sidewalks in Winnipeg as compared to Vancouver.
And guess what~Winnipeg actually has snow plows designed with the correct size of blade to shovel out walks and make pedestrians more comfortable on sidewalks. As reported on Global News   the City of Winnipeg  gives their crews a 36 hour window for priority cleaning, and that includes sidewalks, which just like roads are labelled priority one or priority two. After a blizzard this week the City of Winnipeg  will be clearing 2,900 kilometers of sidewalks stating “The sidewalks are done the same way as the streets”.
While Vancouver makes it the responsibility of residents to clean the section of sidewalk in front of their house, and makes business owners responsible for the areas in front of their store fronts, many witnessed that the  City of Vancouver did not respond equitably by  clearing their own snowy sidewalks adjacent to city parks and services.  City of Vancouver~if Winnipeg can clean up their sidewalks to make it safer for walking citizens, why can’t you? Kudos to Winnipeg for making it safer, more comfortable and convenient for pedestrians to  get around on sidewalks cleared of snow. After all, every trip begins with a walk, even in winter.

 
 
 

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From Park People.ca and Ken Greenberg  comes the video by Garrick Mason  “Something New from Something Old”  describing some unique and some familiar concepts in making great public spaces. Using conversations with urbanists in New York City and in Toronto, the film explores how low density streets can give up much space for the car, but space for humans walking and biking is still a street fight. Opportunities for more green space has come with the “glacial recedence of industrial uses that have revealed new opportunities. Eric Landau with the Brooklyn Trust describes how the area under DUMBO (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) has been transformed from industrial to park space. With ten per cent of the area being developed to cover the operational and maintenance costs of the new Brooklyn Park, former five acre industrial docking piers have been transformed into park experiences, each with their own unique purpose and use.
Opening up with music that was first performed by singers on New York City’s Highline, the film discusses the importance of public/private financing, noting that redeveloping green space as amenities creates real estate value for surrounding properties.
As the film maker observes: ” I decided to ask experts, designers, and planners involved in some of the highest profile conversion projects in Toronto and New York City about the rationale behind these conversions, the challenges involved in designing under such novel constraints, and the difficult issues — like funding, accessibility, benefit sharing — that come with them. Their answers were both fascinating and encouraging, pointing to a world in which the development of cities will have more to do with gracefully evolving in place than with spreading outwards to infinity. ”
You can watch the video on Vimeo by clicking on the  blue tab on the “Sorry” link below.
 

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