July 9, 2019

A Night on the North Shore: A Conversation with Residents

The Price Talks team hosted its first public podcast recording, held in front of a live library audience in the District of North Vancouver on June 26, 2019.

We’ve lobbed quite a bit of criticism at the North Shore generally over the past eight months, regarding recent decisions about housing, transportation and the public realm, but felt it was time to actually hear from residents.

Joining Gord for the discussion were:

  • Dominica Babicki, formerly Energy Manager with the District, currently completing her PhD in geography focusing on issues related to related to energy, buildings and climate change. A lifelong resident of the Edgemont neighbourhood, mother of teens, and part-time caregiver to both parents.
  • Justin Scott was born and raised in Deep Cove, went to Cap U, and is starting a new career in marketing. He currently lives in an apartment in West Vancouver, and is considering his long-term housing situation.
  • Victor Schwartzman is a Brooklyn native who came to Vancouver via a decades-long stop in Winnipeg. He currently serves on DNV’s Community Services Advisory Committee, hosts and produces Soapbox Radio and World Poetry Cafe on Coop Radio 100.5 FM, and in renting in a social housing complex in Parkgate.

Special thanks to Lynn Valley Town Centre resident, and community planner and facilitator, Steven Petersson for MC’ing and providing invaluable support throughout the evening.

Our sincere gratitude to everyone who attended the evening — a diverse and attentive crowd, with lots of participation and free-flowing discussion. We hope to do this again.

Last but not least, thank you to Meghan and her team at the Lynn Valley Branch of North Vancouver District Public Library. What a perfect facility, in a beautiful community — paradise tucked into the side of a mountain.

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Do you live or work on the North Shore? Are you a fan of Price Talks, the podcast? Want to hear — and be part of — a discussion about decisions on housing, transportation, and public spaces in West and North Vancouver?

Join Gord and a panel of local residents and pundits in a public chat, and a live recording of Price Talks:

Wednesday, June 26
Doors @ 6:30pm | Recording @ 7:00pm

North Vancouver District Public Library – Lynn Valley Branch
1277 Lynn Valley Road, North Vancouver

Register here — tickets are free.

After the recording, the conversation will continue next door at Brown’s Social House.

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The North Shore is a self-conscious piece of paradise: the glory of post-war suburbia set into west-coast rainforest.  Understandably, most residents would like change to reinforce that paradigm, not pave it over.

But municipal government is essentially in the paradigm-changing business when it comes to long-term solutions.  In the short-term, however, anything that uncomfortably changes scale or character is objected to.  Residents say they want better transportation, but their way of life is largely car dependent.  They want affordable housing, but not an increase in taxes related to property.  Lots of circles to square.

So what does an aspiring mayor or councillor do?  I thought I’d ask a candidate with whom I had spoken prior to the last election.  Tony Valente ran as an independent for council in North Van City, and lost by only about 500 votes.  Now, as one of the next generation of aspiring leaders with more vacancies open, he has the odds with him.

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Why is it ‘retired businessman’ running in a municipal election typically means someone who wants to lead his community back to the last century – about when W.A.C. Bennett was Premier, life was good for the Kerry Morris’s, and, they believe, with some business-like common sense it would stay that way.  The measure of success: North Shore residents should be able to drive everywhere in free-flowing traffic, with lots of free parking – and no damn bike lanes.  

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From the Vancouver Courier – North Shore real estate: The new gold rush

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Some jurisdictions in other parts of the world don’t allow non-citizens to buy certain types of housing or place limits on that. Others levy hefty taxes on foreign capital entering the real estate market. Additional taxes on speculators who rapidly flip property and on purchases at the top end of the market have also been suggested.

But so far, “British Columbia has none of these things,” said David Eby, the NDP critic for housing, who has often lambasted the provincial government about inaction on the topic.

“I’m blown away that B.C. and Canada seem to be the only jurisdictions who are not taking the issue seriously.”

Such measures could have an impact, said Ley.

“In my perception, price increases enter the market through the top end and trickle outwards into lower priced areas,” he said. “If you can stop the rapid increase at the top, that’s a helpful thing to do.”

But not everyone — particularly in government — thinks that is a good idea.

“I don’t think the government’s planning to do anything to pull the rug out from under these prices,” said Ralph Sultan, MLA for West Vancouver – Capilano.

“One’s home is typically the biggest asset anybody has,” he said, adding government interferes with that value at its peril.

“Anything the government does is probably going to have an adverse financial impact on a lot of people and these people are constituents and they are voters.”

Cameron finds that argument disheartening. “What you’re saying is ‘I won the lottery. Don’t mess with my lottery winnings.’”

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Full article here.

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Tony Valente brings PT up-to-date on the Shipyards development that’s transforming Lower Lonsdale and the North Van waterfront.

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I have been living on the North Shore for years and, yes, I know about the perceptions from those in the ‘real’ Vancouver.

When we moved to the North Shore from UBC Campus in late 2008, we went for drinks with my MBA classmates only to realize it was a going-away party. “You are moving to the North Shore,” they told me, “and we won’t see you again!”  Fast forward to the future and some of those friends are turning up at the growing Friday Night Markets already being held just east of Lonsdale in the up-and-coming Shipyards district. The Night Markets have been have been gaining momentum for years, and sooner or later it was bound to happen that those friends would be coming over the water in my direction.

Well, its just about to get better:  North Shore residents and City of North Vancouver citizens were shown what will happen on Lot 5 – the much-talked-about piece of dirt between Lonsdale and St. Georges and just south of Esplanade.

Since playing a crucial role in Canada’s war effort by producing supply ships and later falling in to ruin, Lot 5 had been slated to host the National Maritime Centre until the Federal Government pulled the plug in 2009. After that it fell in to a seemingly endless period of limbo. During this period it has served as volleyball courts and a veritable “Field of Dreams” for those of us who wanted to dream. A group I am proud to have been a part of, the North Van Urban Forum, held a series of events which culminated in a Design Jam finale back in 2012.  .

The City of North Vancouver together with Quay Property Management will develop and manage the site which will feature:

  • an outdoor public skating rink for use during the winter months, including a looped skating trail to complement the open rink area.
  • a water play zone for use during the summer months, with a combination of pools and sprayers
  • a covering for weather protection over the entire open space, complete with a retractable portion to allow for an open water play area in the summer
  • significant heritage elements incorporated into the site development such as the use of the Machine Shop building as the covering structure over the open space
  • enhanced public stage
  • underground parking (120 underground parking stalls. Did we really need these so close to the North Shore’s major transportation hub?)
  • a commercial component, which will include restaurant, retail and proposed hotel use (hotel use will require rezoning)
  • public support spaces, including public washrooms and unique community programming opportunities for both small and large events
  • rubberized and non-skid surfaces, ample seating and viewing areas
  • connection with the Spirit Trail and multiple access points for multi-modal transportation
  • heritage elements and features

Not mentioned, but also a potentially exciting addition is a pedestrian bridge linking Esplanade with the second floor restaurant in the hotel / restaurant commercial building.

The visuals are impressive and promise to create some of the best public space in Metro Vancouver.

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For more information, go here.

 

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I used to work for New York City DOT in the Queens Borough Commissioner’s Office. Part of my job was processing requests from the public: well-meaning people who did not have the vocabulary of traffic calming yet simply wanted DOT to do something about speeding motorists and unsafe streets.  So inevitably most of these requests were for signage. People understand signs.
Seen in North Vancouver a few days ago: undoubtedly in response to some well-meaning citizen(s) demands that ‘Council do something’ about real or perceived speeding on Mahon Avenue.

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That’ll fix it!”

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I’m going to chalk this one up to the charmingly responsive nature of local government, and not an actual, serious attempt to address real or perceived speeding on Mahon Avenue.

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A quick trip over to the North Shore today, where, by picking up the North Shore News, I was reminded what a different world it is:

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West Vancouver council has given a unanimous green light for a 17-storey residential highrise building in Ambleside…  Cressey Seaview Development Ltd. came back to council Monday with a slightly slenderized design that hits the exact mark for maximum allowable width, 100 feet. In decreasing the width, the project’s architect, among other changes, moved the balconies on the west façade to the south side and reduced the size of them. …
Ensuring the plan includes ample parking on-site was another ask of council. Cressey is proposing 127 parking stalls for its 35 units.
“I would comfortably say that there would be no reason why anybody, resident or visitor to this building, should ever need to park on the street,” said Jason Turcotte, vice-president of development with Cressey. …
Coun. Michael Lewis said Cressey should be complimented for repurposing plans for storage lockers into additional parking spaces. “

And yet …

Council then debated whether or not to allow Cressey to build a temporary 7,000 square-foot, two-storey sales centre on the site, which sits in a residential area. Some councillors were worried about a traffic increase, while others questioned why the large structure was needed to sell 35 units.

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PS: On the bus back, I noticed the railings are up along the north sidewalk of the Causeway through Stanley Park. Initial impression: nice job, MOTI.
If anyone has a pic, send it along. Read more »