How Vancouver is this?

Price Tags editor-in-chief Gordon Price, on his last day in Hong Kong (en route to Tokyo for a study tour with SPUR), captures a brazenly familiar perspective of the city and mountains.

Although elevations are off — these mountain peaks tend to reach just 50-60% of the height of our North Shore Mountains, while the building heights can easily double the majority of their tallest cousins across BC’s Lower Mainland — the mix of urbanity and nature is pretty familiar.

That said, today’s images and commentary (of Gordon’s yesterday) throw together some marked contrasts between Hong Kong and Vancouver.

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Hong Kong’s public transit system is like the island territory’s central nervous system — essential to everything — and yet there’s also a dark side.

What’s the link between transportation and new housing development, and to what degree is the local transit authority actually part of the problem? Price Tags editor-in-chief Gordon Price captures some of the drama.

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Despite the minor issue of a tropical cyclone bearing down on western Guangdong province (“its threat to Hong Kong still exists”, asserts the Hong Kong Observatory, in that classically anodyne yet ominous lingua franca of meteorologists everywhere), Gordon Price’s tour of Hong Kong continues.

Day 3 musings cover backstreet hidden gems, demographics on display, trees, and a Hong Kong “of course” — transit. Over 90% of the population makes use of the public transportation system.

How did this happen? For starters, they built it. And they had to — Hong Kong has virtually the same geographic area as Metro Vancouver, but almost three times the population.

Also with approximately 317, Hong Kong has the most skyscrapers in the world. That’s 25% more than New York City.

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About 20 years ago, the typical question about Hong Kong culture might have dwelled on whether there’s a lingering presence of British colonial rule.

This question is hardly the one to ask today (in Gordon Price’s words, “not so much“); rather, what are the effects of globalization on this city of 7.4 million, the fourth-most densely-populated city in the world?

Photos and thoughts from our editor-in-chief below — among other things, he’s finding a set of values and concerns that might ring familiar to North Americans: housing affordability concerns, strong commitment to public works, an even stronger commitment to retail consumption, and architecture that, at the very least, makes you stop and think — “where have I seen this before?”

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Hold on tight. Price Tags publisher and editor-in-chief Gordon Price’s Instagram journalling of his Hong Kong tour begins on Day 1 with a few light and fluffy bits, but the urbanist mind is never at rest.

He dives right in with a critical view of one of the more questionable examples of postmodern architecture to appear under the twilight of colonial rule, and then a preview of something really fantastic-looking.

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Next week, Price Tags publisher and editor-in-chief Gordon Price is on a study tour with the ‘good governance group’ of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), a member-supported non-profit, perhaps better known outside their own backyard as the publishers of The Urbanist.

This week, he’s off to a one week head start on the educational portion of the trip, with a visit to Hong Kong, closing a 30-year gap since his last visit.

We’ll follow along with Gordon via his Instagram account — here are a few of his initial salvos from the trip. And send us feedback via email, or Comments below — what are Hong Kong must-sees?

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I was watching an older SFU video last week on The Melbourne Experience.

… and one of the most interesting things to me was when Rob Adams mentioned that the vibrant Melbourne laneways are not an old thing, just like Granville Island, they are a thing of the 70s, which has become fundamental to the character of the city.
Vancouver has some of the world’s most expensive property values, yet nearly 50% of the ground level building frontage is forgotten, doomed at best to be avoided, dedicated only to waste and maybe graffiti. How is that a good use of space?
Last year, there was a great article about how Seattle wants to ‘Melbourne-ize’ its’ laneways Seattle’s Future Alleys Look Like Paradise 
Nord Alley (SvR Design/Olson Kundig Architects)
Yes, there are a host of logistical issues to overcome, but all have been overcome by other places, and seriously, as valuable as land is, how can there NOT be ‘gold in them thar alleys’?
My friend Patrick Chan send me a few more examples from his Asian travels (below) … I acknowledge it might not work for every alley (a parkade can’t easily have its entrance adjusted), but I have to think that many people share my girlfriend’s view of alleys – she is scared of them – do re really want people to be scared of ~50% of a city’s streetspace?

A lane from Hong Kong… In the mornings a little van (kind of a Mr Bean type van) comes to deliver stuff. During the day this lane is shut.

P.Chan A commercial streets narrower than our 20′ lanes, also from Hong Kong. Patrick added this closing thought:
I would say you can find it in lots of places, and it’s simply the “derp” mentality keeping it from arriving in Vancouver … people just believe “that’s not how we do things here.”
Well, there’s plenty of Rad Shit out there … lets do some here! (if only because, seriously, how can it not be a good idea to monetize the space) Read more »

Scot thinks this podcast is worth your time.  Click through to the site; interview starts at 2.55

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South China Morning Post’s Vancouver correspondent Ian Young speaks with Jesse about wealth migration, racism, and immigration schemes.

Though Ian and Jesse think there is a lack of a “robust public conversation” in the city due to a media monopoly and the cosiness of a one-industry real-estate town, nonetheless the stories accumulate – most recently Doug Todd’s feature on Richmond in The Sun (Why does upscale neighbourhood appear ‘poor’ to tax officials?).  And there are, no doubt, many, many private conversations passing on anecdotes (and a lot of rumour).

Nonetheless, if there is indeed “mass exploitation” of the Canadian immigration system, corrupting influences of dirty money and distortions of peripheral housing markets leading to widespread social injustice generationally downstream, will there be a pivotal event, potentially explosive, that sparks not just that conversation but a response which, if pushed to an extreme, could unleash ugly forces building up under pressure?

Only if political leadership fails to overcome its own denialism.

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Housing affordability is the first to come to mind when we look at issues commonly shared between Metro Vancouver and Hong Kong. However, it is like the elephant in our room that everyone is fully aware of but chooses to ignore or do nothing about. To this end, FOHK is putting on a non-partisan panel discussion to discuss the issue with academics, professionals, media, community activists and the public.

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Friday, June 19

9 – 9:30 am: Morning coffee/tea

9:30 am – 12:30 pm: Panel Presentation, Q & A and Open Discussion

Oak Room, Park Inn & Suites by Radisson Vancouver, 898 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC

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Professor David Ley, University of British Columbia

Councillor Adriane Carr, Vancouver City Council

Sandy Garossino, Editor-in-Chief, Vancouver Observer

Eveline Xia, Community Advocate

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Register here.

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