There’s a quiet neighbourhood street on the east side of Vancouver that explodes with two things every spring~the most extraordinary canopy of cherry blossoms, and literally hundreds of people who flock to this street to photograph the blooms-and themselves.
As CTV News reported in 2017, some whacky behaviour has also begun to bloom. One neighbour noted that people tried to climb the trees and shake branches to make the petals drop; some block traffic to get the perfect selfie. City of Vancouver bylaw officers do their part by ticketing illegally parked vehicles and trying to “keep things calm”.

Price Tags is not naming the street, but we are naming the instagram account where you can see some of the cherry tree tourist antics. As Kacy Wu of Richmond News reports,  Lele Chan’s Instagram account “Cherry Blossom Madness” will leave you doubled up with laughter.
You can see why some residents would choose to rope off the front of their lawns to stop ladders, vehicles, and crowds on their front lawn. In one photo, two east side felines become the centre of the attention.
All in a day on one of Vancouver’s most cherry tree’d streets.
If you really like cherry trees, you might want to take in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival and all its activities until April 29, sponsored by the Vancouver Parks Board. There are also tree talks and walks, and one might just take you to the street featured on instagram with “Cherry Blossom Madness”.

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As describes it there is a push for “supertalls” in New York City, those buildings that exceed the 984 foot height limit. As they note “These soaring towers aren’t always popular—many have actively fought against the buildings sprouting along 57th Street and Central Park South, worried that they’ll cause shadowing over the storied park—but it’s hard to argue against their status as marvels of engineering.”

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Saving the Best Land in Canada: Crime, Policy and Food Security in the Agricultural Land Reserve

Some of our country’s most productive soil lies in the delta of the Fraser River. The “Class 1” soils found here cover only half a percent of all land across Canada. As the climate changes, these lands will become even more valuable for growing our food. But current policies allow them to be built over, then taxed low because they’re ostensibly for farming. These lands are increasingly being used to build “farmers’ homes,” some as large as 24,000 sq. ft., and there are reports that some of these houses have been sites of illegal activity.
This month, the Agricultural Land Commission is asking for your comments on changing the rules. How can we prevent misuse of this exceptional land?

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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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As the New York Times reports Skopje Macedonia has been completely transformed from a 1963 earthquake that required the rebuilding of 80 per cent of this city. A thousand people were killed and another 100,000 were left homeless. Even though architect Kenzo Tange, “a pioneer of the 1960’s avant-garde Metabolist movement” was hired to create a redevelopment plan, his vision was never realized, resulting in a mix of brutualist concrete buildings and Soviet-style block housing.
Hundreds of new sculptures were put up across the city, and many new buildings erected in the center of town. Dozens of false facades were added to Communist-era buildings, while scores of plaques appeared, attesting to events with varying degrees of historical accuracy.”
Ten years ago the party in power decided to rebuild the city in a way that would attract tourists, adding in three pirate ships on the Varda River in the city, installing a 47 foot high statue of Alexander the Great, and creating a decadent house in honour of Mother Teresa. In a country where the average wage is less than $500 a month, the 750 million dollars has transformed the city and not necessarily in a cogent readable way.

The project cost hundreds of millions more than public projections and has been roundly derided by urban planners and architects, who say it was rushed into reality at the cost of structural integrity and functionality. ”  A new government came into power in early 2017 which has halted all the projects including a London Eye type of Ferris wheel and “recladding of the city’s tallest glass building in a plastic foam and plaster facade intended to make it look neo-Classical”.
Even though temperatures can drop to 30 below zero in winter  on the fahrenheit scale, $600,000 worth of palm trees were installed along the river banks of the city, with only five per cent surviving. While the old traditional bazaar area and its  uneven patterns survived the earthquake, they are perhaps the only truth tellers in this redevelopment story. To become a city, you have to listen to and represent the citizens, their hopes and wishes.  As one local architect ruefully notes that even though the city is bizarre and came at great cost, it is built “so poorly that it is unlikely to last”. 


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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 proposed by the Fire Chief in Surrey as a way to give more parking back to communities, Chief Garis’ willingness to review the sacrosanct five meters of parking  clearance required curbside beside fire hydrants opens up the potential for all kinds of new street use. Working for a municipality the requirements for fire hydrant clearances are never questioned, and even in the computer age where every hydrant is tracked and marked on line, even landscaping is ordinanced and suppressed around fire hydrants. Chief Garis questioned the five metre clearances  with Surrey’s City Engineer and while he found that most North American by-laws limit parking to five or three metres away from a hydrant, the requirement could be reduced to half of that.As noted in the Vancouver Courier The National Fire Protection Association in the United States recommends a minimum buffer of five feet, or about 1.5 metres.”
A study showed that parked cars only impeded hydrant access if the setback was two metres or less, and noted that “with the advancement of GPS mapping and related technologies, along with local drivers’ awareness of hydrant locations, visibility is less of an issue in compact urban settings. The space doesn’t need to be large enough for a fire engine to park either, since they rarely pull right up to the curb, and instead block traffic lanes.”
While the Fire Chief saw this as a way to give back space to parking for cars, is this not another opportunity to create more parkettes and widen facilities for pedestrians and cyclists? If there are thousands of fire hydrants in each Metro Vancouver municipality could this not be a way to improve the public realm for active transportation users with benches and other amenities? While the Minister of Transportation is prepared to consider the changes to clearances, the proposal will be going to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for consideration. This might also be an opportune time to explore how else this newly acquired space on almost every block of a municipality can potentially  be repurposed to the benefit of  pedestrian and cyclists.

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