Governance & Politics
September 24, 2018

Triple Tweets — 2018 Vancouver Civic Election

On the emerging election issue of a subway to UBC, we have a few diverging opinions — within the same big tent. I suppose it’s healthy, but it does seem to be less a matter of opinion and more a matter of missing homework.

Then we have Bowinn Ma, MLA, P. Eng., schooling the twitterverse on transportation’s immutable law of induced demand, and its vicious circle of negative effects on city-building. Ms. Ma is BC NDP North Van-Lonsdale MLA. Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink.

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Mr. Sim of the NPA will probably be among those Vancouver mayoral candidates who actually make it onto the October 20 ballot by submitting paperwork and his deposit to elections officials before September 14, 4 pm.

It’s hard to say the same about all of the current crop of 11 who are out there in various stages of hope, agitation and mischievousness.

Today, Mr. Sim has broken his long silence and discussed platformish kind of stuff with Stephen Quinn at the CBC (while on a bike *), and at length (52:31) with the fun guys at Cambie Report (Note:  access to the full podcast will cost ya a few bucks, otherwise it’s a short teaser **).

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As the 2018 civic election rolls onward, we await the list of candidates who’ve filed nomination papers with Elections BC (last chance, September 14, 4 pm).

Meanwhile, we are treated to such revealing media stunts as this: Ken Sim, NPA Mayoral candidate, on a BIKE!  In public. On the record!  And the CBC announcing that this is the first of many such rolling interviews — the Election Cycle.  And the interview may not be about bikes at all. So bikes become a positive and normal part of the world of Vancouver, including the media world.

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In October, Vancouver’s 2018 civic election will produce a Council with, at the most, 3 incumbents:

  • Adriane Carr
  • Heather Deal
  • Melissa De Genova.

Change looks like this.

 

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Incremental change in the still-big field of entrants, as we edge under the 90-day mark on our trudge towards the October 20 polling date.

For those who want to strap into their world-of-wonk survival gear and get on it, the Cambie Report‘s Ian Bushfield continues to maintain his great big spreadsheet of candidates, now expanded to most, if not all, of Metro Vancouver. Hold on tight, because names and parties continue to change daily hourly — get it HERE.

My current, superficial analysis for Vancouver says 60 “confirmed” candidates, and 11 “maybes”…

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We watch Vancouver’s NPA with great interest as a movement of new faces with strong ideas knocks on the fusty dusty old door. This, I believe, is what a shakeup looks like, as we head slowly towards the October civic election that looks like it will transform City Council here in Vancouver, and may just transform the city itself.
Here’s Julian Prieto, tossing his hat into the NPA’s nomination contest. And, as with several others, showing a laser-like focus on housing. It’s a pretty good example of how a serious social problem can draw people into the political realm to try and take action.  And shuck the old partisan divisions along the way.
Mr. Prieto looks to work for increased housing supply via zoning changes, in concert with increased public transportation infrastructure as ways to help improve livability and reduce car dependency through people living close to work. A by-now familiar set of ideas a.k.a. urban density.
These ideas are a far cry from the NPA’s previous platform urging traffic light synchronization and rush-hour counterflow lanes as the only available solutions to traffic problems.
Meanwhile, the old guard of the NPA, while driving in from Dunbar, chanting the ritual curses against any and all bike lanes, doubtlessly looks at these new faces and wonders: what the hell is happening; do we really want to ride this bus; and why is the NPA getting this attention.
If this keeps up, I may have to chuck my preference to not be a joiner, pay my bucks to the NPA and help vote these young people into a position to win a council seat.  Lord, talk about change.

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In the thinking out of the box department newly minted City of Vancouver Councillor Hector Bremner introduced a motion at Council to rezone West Point Grey as a new zone for rental residences. Bremner was specifically looking at the zoning of the area north of 4th Avenue and west of Blanca which borders the University of British Columbia lands. Why? Because the zoning on that land means that lots must be 12,000 square feet. Minimum. To give you an idea of how massive that is, the normal city lot of 33 feet by 120 feet has 3,960 square feet. This West Point Grey area requires footprints three times the size of the standard city lot. Of course lots of influential people live there too that have no interest in new rental zoning. There are current for sale listings for residences in this area ranging from $14 million dollars to $28 million dollars.
As reported by Matt Robinson in the Vancouver Sun Bremner stated “This is a chance for this council to put its money where its mouth is and … actually take action and say mandated mansions in the 21st century is not more important than creating housing right next to UBC…I saw just how dilapidated and derelict many of them are. The rest are owned by numbered corporations, largely out of country, passing amongst each other to avoid property transfer tax”.
Councillor Bremner says he has reviewed the financials and believes six storey residential buildings would be viable in this location. His aim was to turn 150 acres into rental housing zones with a potential of 10,000 units.  Councillor Bremner’s motion also mentions the fact that smaller units would benefit seniors, housing could be created for UBC students, and that this motion was entirely in keeping with Council’s expressed policy identifying potential changes in low density residential neighbourhoods as a high priority. The West Point Grey Residents Association was not too happy, and suggested that the land price was too high to be used for constrained social housing funding.
In a letter to council, the West Point Grey Residents Association expressed “dismay and opposition” toward the idea. It faulted the motion for lack of consultation and stated that scarce social housing funds would be squandered on purchases of such high-priced land. This does however commence the conversation of  where the City’s new Ten Year Housing Strategy will land, and who will decide the equitable distribution throughout lower density residential areas.

 

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CTV News Vancouver had a feature last night on the City of Vancouver’s proposal to test a separated bike lane on the west side of the Cambie Bridge using a temporary barrier.  As well as a collection of Yea or Nay opinions from the street,  the report features NPA councillor George Affleck providing his two cents on the city’s bike lane proposal.

Check out the video link here
 
 

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As reported in Metro News, by   there’s a report going to Vancouver City Council next Tuesday with the title “Complete Streets Policy Framework and Related By-law Changes”. What that really means is that the City Engineer is asking for changes in the Streets By-law to undertake work under the guise of the Complete Streets Policy as outlined in the Transportation 2040 Plan without having to schlep to Council for approval of things like lane changes or the making of public spaces that generally follow the plan.
The challenge with the lack of reporting back to Council is establishing what Council should know about-or not. My years working as the City’s greenways planner showed that even something that would be seemingly a public good and not contentious-like closing the street for a small greenway at 11th Avenue and Maple Street in Arbutus-brought over twenty delegations to Council. While Council approved the greenway, the final design that was built incorporated the existing street instead of the specialized surface promised to the residents, and was not to the design approved by Council. At some time when redevelopment occurs on that section of street, I am sure that the residents will remind Council of this lapsed undertaking and request a greenway reboot.

There’s been some contention over the City’s move towards walking and biking priority as per the 2040 Plan, especially  in recent events with the Point Grey Road, Commercial Drive, and the Kitsilano Beach bike lane and the Tenth Avenue Hospital improvements that will take out all but two metered parking spots on Tenth Avenue west of  Ash Street. These big “events” would still be going to Council.
One councillor, George Affleck wants to maintain council oversight on road use changes.  “It’s a great way for Vision Vancouver to avoid having to talk about bike lanes ever again. It would make me very uncomfortable,” said Affleck. “In my mind, the buck stops at council. Decisions on major developments, how we build our city, streets … those kind of decisions should be discussed in public with council oversight. That’s our job and when we start skipping that process, we’re in big trouble.”   “[The bylaw revisions] go against what I believe was the intention of that plan and why I supported it,” he said. “Changing a speed bump is one thing. But if you’re changing and getting rid of a lane or parking for bike lanes, making change that has significant impact not only on the neighbourhood but the city at large, city council should be making a decision on it.”
It’s an interesting point, as when changes do go to Council there is the opportunity for public debate and learnings for Council and the public. Do we need to have that discussion? Or should the engineer use delegated authority for changing modes and uses on public right of ways and do diversions and rerouting traffic routes? Are we at a place where the public good is recognized and  served by less Council oversight and public debate?

 
 
 
 
 

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Ken Ohrn writes:

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Health-care dollars are in the news – this time, with twinning of one sickening and one wonderful twist.  And a strong sense that while people can change, accountability for public attacks is really all too rare (all is fair in politics and war, and memories are short, we seem to think).

First: By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver.

A local study has shown the enormous cost of injuries to people in BC — some 456,000 injuries and $2.29 billion per year in 2010. But the article focuses on 5 percent of injuries that are recreational and, in theory, preventable (22,000 out of 456,000), and makes the absurd claim that bicycle helmet use saves health care dollars.

My opinion, and I’m not alone, is that helmet use discourages people from riding bikes (by roughly around 50 percent), and the health benefits (and ensuing lower costs of health care) exceed the risks of riding by a margin of 20:1. (See Klassen article below.)

Meanwhile, the other bogus nastiness in the article is the apparent opinion that the other 434,000 injuries are not preventable — and we all know that the largest part of these 434,000 injuries are most likely related to motor vehicle crashes.  It’s another example of the cultural blind spot we all have to the appalling death and injury toll from motor vehicle crashes. First — we just don’t “see” them; second — they’re not preventable.

So buckle up those helmets, people. And let’s just forget about road deaths and injuries altogether.

Second:  Mike Klassen writes in the Courier wanting more bike lanes, and increasing the active lifestyle, because of its large contribution to overall health, and thus to reduction of the huge medical care costs attributable to a sedentary lifestyle.

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It marks, for me, a Wonderland-level change from the days when Mr. Klassen ran a scurrilous attack blog called City Caucus on behalf of the civic NPA.  In this now-defunct blog during the run-up to the bike-lane-heavy 2011 civic election, he published a vicious hatchet job on HUB, the non-profit advocacy organization for people who ride bikes. Because, ya know, the NPA was fundamentally against bike lanes and by extension, against people who ride bikes. HUB’s position, including the health benefits of an active life, were just a bunch of hooey. This position did not work in 2011 and in 2014, as the NPA lost both elections badly.

Now, it seems, Mr. Klassen understands that an active lifestyle is of huge importance to society as a whole, and as a result he advocates in favour of bike lanes, along with improvements for pedestrians.

He writes:  “While Vancouver abounds with runners, cyclists, paddlers and those taking a stroll on our cherished seawall pathways, we can do more. We could establish new jogging and walking routes, and combine them with safer traffic crossings right across the city. And notwithstanding the headaches they cause with opponents, the city should build more bike lanes, too.”

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