Urbanism
February 26, 2018

The U.S. 10 Year Census Count Tries to Find Every Dwelling, Especially in Cities


In cities where there is a shortage of housing and people are living in unorthodox dwellings, how do you carry out a census count? The New York Times reports on  the challenges of ensuring that every person is accounted for in the census, which is used as the base for planning and funding cities. Federal resources are tied to the census which is done every ten years, with the next in 2020. In New York City planning department staff have already spent fifteen months reviewing addresses, finding 439,000 that the federal Census Bureau had missed, representing 13 per cent of the housing stock. These units were in illegal basement, attic, and garages, “revealed by extra door bells and mailboxes.”
Disasters and construction need to be factored in, especially with Houston’s displacement of people with Hurricane Harvey and the thousands of new built units and addresses that will be constructed in New York City in the next two years.How much federal money is tied to the decennial census?  In San Jose California as many as 70,000 residents were not counted, resulting in $20 million dollars annually  not being allocated federally for the city.
This spring, volunteers will use a texting app the city tested in December to identify these and similar units for inclusion in the Census Bureau’s master list. The app will not be available to building code enforcement or to officials for immigration enforcement.  “A nonprofit founded by the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Cities of Service, is hoping to spread the tool to other cities that will be receiving their address databases from the census in the coming weeks.
People forget it is an enumeration of the population, but it’s an enumeration of the population in housing units and in group-quarters facilities,” said Joe Salvo, the director of the New York City planning department’s population division. “Essentially, everyone needs to be put down on a map. Everybody needs a recognized address.”
You can find out more how federal funding is allocated through the ten-year census count at this Brookings Institute website.

 
 

Read more »


Its hard to believe but in the United States there are several states that historically privatized their shores and tidelands, creating a hodge podge of regulation and uncertainty about availability and access to what should be a public right~the access to beaches and shorelines. Washington State is among several that sold its tidelands and beaches 120 years ago on private titles, ending the practice in 1971. By that time 60 to 70 per cent of all Washington’s tidelands were privately owned with only 30 per cent of the shorelines accessible to the public.
Boundary lines on shores vary dependent on when a parcel was sold~if it was before 1911 the title extends to the mean low tide line, but parcels sold to 1971 extended to lowest low tide. There is public access available on any public road that ‘abuts’ a shoreline. That road has been interpreted by law as a legal public beach access.  And despite the fact that the beach is in “private ownership” the public trust doctrine states that anyone has the legal right to walk across private tidelands to reach public ones. This has not been challenged in court, and when it does, many in the legal profession suggest the “privatizing of beaches” will be over in Washington State.
As one visitor’s bureau states “Under the doctrine, many of the signs that say, ‘private tidelands and beach,’ go beyond their authority. However, the doctrine is an interpretation of state law and has yet to be challenged in court…Things could be different if the state were to put a higher priority on the preservation of public access by funding projects that help resolve questions of property ownership.”
 

 
 
 
 

Read more »


Time for a voyage back fifty years ago to another time and and another Mayor. Called “Tom Terrific” (and that was not always a  positive term) Mayor Tom Campbell is described in wikipedia as “brash, confrontational, and controversial. During his term, the City held a referendum which authorized the then-controversial development of an underground shopping mall and office towers, now known as Pacific Centre, Vancouver’s largest development… Campbell took an assertively pro-development stance, advocating a freeway that would cut through a large part of the downtown east side, the demolition of the historic Carnegie Centre, and the construction of a luxury hotel at the entrance of Stanley Park (the Bayshore Inn) and another at the north foot of Burrard in which it turned out the mayor had invested (it is now an apartment building and never became a hotel).”
Mayor Tom Campbell was mayor from 1967 to 1972 and was not too happy with the “hippie” movement of the time. Dan McLeod of the Georgia Straight newspaper was beaten by City Police, and the Mayor stopped the 1970 Festival Express rock’n’roll tour from coming to Vancouver, saying he would shut down the festival with police intervention. He was also Mayor during the August 1971 Gastown Riot which resulted in 79 people being arrested, and 38 being charged with different offences. Stan Douglas’s art piece “The Gastown Riot” located in the Woodwards Building Atrium commemorates this event.

 
In 1968 Mayor Tom Campbell spoke to a CBC reporter at the Court House Steps, now the Vancouver Art Gallery about hippies, loitering, and why they were a scourge to society. At the end of the interview, one of the “hippies” quotes Shakespeare back to the reporter.
It is an interesting look back at what was considered heinous and unacceptable behaviour. And a reminder~these hippies are Vancouver’s senior citizens today.

Read more »


From the Richmond News bike rider Geordie McGillivray asks:
” I wish I could pay ICBC to insure my bike to ride on public roads. Every time someone says “If cyclists wants to be allowed to ride on the roads and have the same privileges as cars, they should have to have insurance” I tell them they are absolutely right. What? A cyclist saying yes, he should have to insure his bike? But I’m being serious. Please, let me pay to insure my bike, but with one condition: It must give me the same insurance benefits as a motorist.”
Currently, if I’m riding my bike on the road and hit a large pothole, lose control of the bike and crash injuring myself and damaging my bike, I am responsible for 100 per cent of the costs. Up to $3000 for a new bike and then paying for all rehabilitation costs. A motorcyclist who hits that pothole, crashes and gets injured will pay a $300 deductible and every other cost is paid for by ICBC. Win: Insured Motorist.
Currently, if my bike is locked up but stolen then I’m responsible for the entire cost of replacing my bike for $3000. If a motorcycle or scooter is stolen while insured then ICBC pays for the entire cost of a replacement. Win: Insured Motorist.
Currently, if I’m negligent and I crash into a car on the road, break my wheel and bars and damage the car, not only am I responsible for all the costs to repair my bike, let’s say $1000 in this case, but I then have to work with ICBC as well as police if they were called, and settle the repair costs to the vehicle. $2500 out of my pocket instead of a $300 deductible. Lose: Uninsured Cyclist.
Currently, if another cyclist runs into me, damaging my bike – but then that person rides away from the scene, I’m responsible for the full costs of the repair or replacement of my bike. Up to $3000. If a cyclist hits a car, damages it and then rides away then the motorist only has to pay a $300 deductible. Win: Insured Motorist.
How could I not want insurance like motorists have? Cyclists would then be saving thousands of dollars and passing it on to ICBC just like motorists do. ICBC would be paying out millions more every year in bike replacement and repair costs. I’d be so happy because just like motorists, I would rarely be out-of-pocket whether an accident is my fault or not. Then, we could cue all the complaints from people now saying cyclists should not be allowed to have insurance on their bikes. I’m sure of it.”
Photos: Richmond News

Read more »

 

The New York Times  has written about the increasing invasion of personal information and biometric data in China where cities store this material in databases along with assigned identification numbers for each citizen.  In an area close to Mongolia  “The system crunches all of this into a composite score that ranks you as “safe,” “normal” or “unsafe.” Based on those categories, you may or may not be allowed to visit a museum, pass through certain neighborhoods, go to the mall, check into a hotel, rent an apartment, apply for a job or buy a train ticket. Or you may be detained to undergo re-education, like many thousands of other people.”
The New York Times article is specifically writing about the targeting of the indigenous Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang, and compares this new “digitized surveillance” as a modern take on conventional controls reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s.”
The Daily Durning~Tom Durning sends the video below which illustrates the new facial recognition software that can now pinpoint citizens on the street in the City of Guiyang. Using sophisticated software every face is matched with an identity card and the movements of citizens can be followed by the week. As the reporter notes “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

 

Read more »


 
The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has written the following statement on their website regarding the Northeast False Creek Plan. Several of their points are very salient. If you have had a look through the 300 plus pages of the document it  has some great work, including addressing the historical Hogan’s Alley. But there are also some quite frankly puzzling things, including three oversized towers compromising the City’s highly valued View Protection Policy  and the fact the document was released only six days before being voted upon by Council.
There is also no rationale other than that of a “very big gateway” for allowing three 40 storey plus buildings that will pierce through the carefully established View Corridor policy. You can read that policy here.
The reason for the  View Corridor Policy was to ensure that Vancouver’s skyline continued its connection to nature and the surrounding mountains. There are 27 protected view corridors established to protect the views of the mountains, skyline and surrounding water. “In order to reduce urban sprawl, the City considers higher buildings that don’t impact the protected views”.  The three tall towers proposed in this new development do not have any rationale for compromising the view corridor.
The Coalition of Neighbourhoods Memo to Council is below.
 

Coalition writes council on Northeast False Creek Plan (NEFC Plan) & Viaducts Replacement Project On Tuesday, January 31, 2018, Vancouver City Council is set to hear and decide on a report from City staff regarding “Northeast False Creek Plan (“NEFC Plan”) and Viaducts Replacement Project.” This is a significant report and decision. The agenda and official document are here: http://council.vancouver.ca/20180131/cfsc20180131ag.htm
The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods wrote the following letter to Mayor and Council on this topic.
***********
January 30, 2018
City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillors,
Re: North East False Creek Report to Council
The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has consistently been concerned about the planning processes at City Hall. Those concerns continue with the issuance last week of the North East False Creek Report that comes before Council on January 31, 2018.
General comments:
  • The 368-page Report going to Council on January 31 gets released to the public on
    January 24. This gave citizens only six days to review 368 pages.
  • The North East False Creek Stewardship Group held a meeting in which members
    stated that while they had met with the city for 16 months to work on this planning
    process, they had seldom seen their opinions expressed in any of the sections of the
    report. Some members, discouraged by what they saw as a process that only served towaste their time, ended their participation. Is something wrong with the process?
  • Some subjects, such as the realignment of Carrall Street, were never discussed with the public in the formulation of the Report.
  • It would be informative to have the calculations for density be made public so all can see the cost/benefits for the City and the economic realities of such a project.
  • Is this an extension or amendment to the False Creek/Expo Lands agreement, which
    has a total square footage cap (11Msf?) and a maximum number of units cap (?) and
    various conditions and cost waivers? If so, should this be discussed as part of a
    separate public process?
  • The Report states there is a $350 million capital budget plus design budget. Are the
    developers who benefit paying part of this, and through what mechanism (CACs?), or ispublic money paying for the viaduct removal and new infrastructure?

Positives:

  • Hogan’s Alley Memorial
  • Ice rink, community space and daycare at Plaza of Nations

More specific concerns:

  • 3 proposed buildings in the plan would violate a city-defined view cone. This violationreflects the current city administration’s obsession with increased density and its lack of
    appreciation for larger, citywide planning issues. This should not be permitted.
  • One of the top priority issues should be the Creekside Park. A proper survey should be done to clarify the actual size of the Park being created through this proposal; does this park area satisfy the Parks Board mandate for park space per number of residents from the original Development Plan for this area?
Read more »

 
 
In the 1980’s health and planning were never discussed in the same sentence, seemingly separate silos with no point of intersection. It was “socially infectious early adopters” and leaders such as Dr. John Blatherwick  the former Medical Health Officer of Vancouver , and the now retiring  Chief Medical Health Officer of British Columbia, Dr. Perry Kendall that pushed those boundaries illustrating that health matters in planning and in just about everything else.

Dr. Blatherwick was one of the early interveners in the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s, and through the media let everyone know exactly how AIDS was spread, and how it could be stopped. He also wrote a groundbreaking  City of Vancouver Council report thirty years ago that described the case of  84-year-old Olaf Solheim, a retired logger  who died after being evicted from his Patricia Hotel room where he had lived for over 40 years. The Council report explored whether he died of a broken heart, and made the important connection of supporting  mental health and the well-being of every resident, and their right to age in place.
Dr. Perry Kendall was another early adopter and served as the  Chief Medical Health Officer in Toronto, senior positions in Ontario and British Columbia, and lastly twenty years as Chief Medical Health Officer of British Columbia. Now retiring, Dr. Kendall  has maintained that major health challenges such as not exercising, smoking and the targeted advertising of junk foods to children are responsible for 70 per cent of all chronic illness.  He also has pointed out that over 75 per cent of food advertising on Canadian television would not pass European guidelines for healthy food advertising.
It was Dr. Kendall that supervised the 2003 opening of Onsite, the first legal injection site in North America, and who also led the recent campaign on the impacts and intervention for Fentanyl overdoses in this province.

Dr. Kendall could never understand the pushback to municipal bike lanes, seeing them as a healthy intervention for users and also  decreasing traffic congestion. Concerned about the fact that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury, Dr. Kendall wrote Where the Rubber Meets the Road , recommending a default of 30 kilometers an hour on all municipal and treaty lands, and a 0.0 blood alcohol tolerance for any driver over 26 years of age. This document is well worth a read and Price Tags Vancouver has written about this report here. 
The new B.C. Medical Health Officer is Dr. Bonnie Henry who was the Medical Health Officer for Toronto during the SARS crisis. As Dr. Henry observes it is  time to change our relationship with motordom in this province, where vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians) are increasing in fatalities and injuries. “Now we need to switch the focus, and by switching that focus and making the roads safer for all users, we can bring those fatalities down, hopefully to zero. Nobody in B.C. should be dying on our roads.” 
Thank you to Dr. Blatherwick and Dr. Kendall for pioneering the intersection between health, planning, and making our places better for everyone. To Dr. Henry,  thank you for continuing the synergistic work of health and planning and making every citizen’s journey a more educated and healthier one.

 
 

Read more »


In planning and real estate Richard Wozny is a local legend for his ability to capture the upside of real estate in over 1,200 studies for public and private enterprises. That represents over $100 billion dollars worth of real estate work. Richard is direct, personable, and disarmingly honest. As Douglas Todd observes in the Vancouver Sun  Richard smiles and says “’My job is to make sure everyone makes the most of their real estate. That means ensuring the top one per cent make ever more money.”
But despite making those rich people richer, Richard is also blunt about what needs to change and what is wrong with our current real  estate system in Metro Vancouver. While in the hospital for treatment for terminal cancer Richard noticed that the hospital staff were not able to live well in Vancouver despite their stable incomes. His report Low Income and High House Prices in Vancouver   outlines that a giant amount of international money is being transformed into real estate in Metro Vancouver, making houses speculative instead of much-needed shelter accessible to local citizens. House prices are way above incomes, and a good income in Metro Vancouver does not mean you afford a house. How is this happening? It is by tax avoidance and evasion, giving those speculators “an unfair advantage over average taxpaying citizens.” Richard Wozny perceives the emergence of a middle class of people as one of the greatest achievements of the past century. And taxes are what makes it possible. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”
Vancouver lives with “radical inequality” as there is no ability for the city’s average wage earner to purchase a house at the current prices. But Richard argues that if all residents “shared the burden of paying for public infrastructure” prices would regulate to where they would be more affordable. In a market of “unequal rights and obligations” government is needed to enforce proper regulation and taxation in a situation where that capital is “unaccounted for, untaxed and unregulated.” Of course one of the challenges of the foreign capital is that new construction requires infrastructure to be built. Richard sees the resultant congestion and the fact that equal access to public services has declined as indicators that government should collect more from real estate speculators and expand public services with those funds.Noting that “residential real estate is not an investment vehicle” Richard states that “allowing  real estate prices to escalate to absurd levels, governments are allowing the middle class to be turned into mortgage slaves”.
“It means governments are supposed to protect our freedom to strive for our own personal goals. By allowing real estate prices to escalate to absurd levels, governments are allowing the middle class to be turned into ‘mortgage slaves,’” Wozny said. In summation, Richard believes that the burden for paying for roads, services and schools falls to everyone that owns real estate His conclusions are similar to SFU’s public policy specialist Josh Gordon who would like to introduce a hefty annual property surtax that would be offset by income taxes paid, with provisions for seniors. But is it too little too late? And how can the federal, provincial and municipal governments act together to quickly develop policy and enact regulation so that “mortgage slaves” can afford to live in Metro Vancouver?
 
Update:Richard passed away two days after this article was written. Condolences to his family from the Price Tags Vancouver editors.

Read more »


It had been forecast for some time with the tightening of lending and monetary restrictions. But as the Wall Street Journal reports housing prices are “stalled” in Beijing and Shanghai and prices are dropping in other cities.
Mansion Global observes “Demand has dried up in these areas as a result of government measures including higher mortgage rates, higher down-payment requirements and limits on buying a second or third home. Would-be sellers are increasingly putting plans on hold in hope that prices will rebound. While China has seen brief property downturns before, the high debt levels that fueled the boom makes this slump a particular risk for China’s economy and the policy makers trying to manage it.”
New home prices have decreased 8 per cent from October through to mid-December, a startling retreat from double-digit price increases in the previous year. As many Chinese families took on big and risky loans to buy apartments, price drops could mean some owners will owe more than they can sell the homes for. “New restrictions in many cities make it harder to unload a property. To ease the pressure, the government is encouraging the growth of a rental market.”
While overall house prices have increased by 7.5 per cent from the previous year, price drops in smaller cities without large population demand will mean no one will buy these units even at a discounted rate. The World Bank has identified property price uncertainty as a major concern in China’s growth  in 2018. In Shanghai previous condo purchases in a development  protested at a developer’s office as unit prices were decreased by seven per cent from the amount paid a year before.
China’s property market accounts for a significant share of economic growth—as much as a third, according to Moody’s Investors Service—sending ripples outward into the global economy. The property boom stoked imports of housing materials, cars, appliances and other products. UBS called Chinese property one of the major engines of global growth in 2017.”  If the real estate bubble is bursting  in China, will there be any  impact in Metro Vancouver real estate?

 

Read more »


There’s an event at  Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre location with the principal author of the Hua Foundation’s Vancouver Chinatown Food Security Report  Angela Ho, detailing her findings and observations on how this area lost half of its access to fresh food assets within the last  nine years.
The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with Andy Yan (SFU City Program Director), Wes Regan (City of Vancouver Community Economic Development Planner), and Elvy Del Bianco (Vancity Program Manager for Cooperative Partnerships) to explore ideas on how various stakeholders can play a role to retain and revive these unique spaces where history, culture, food security, local economy and policy intersects.
You can register for this event here.
 
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Time
1:30 – 4:00PM
Location
SFU Harbour Centre
Room 1400 Segal Centre
515 West Hastings Street
Vancouver

 

Read more »