Business & Economy
January 15, 2018

Back to the Bridge~ Liberals Suppressed Report on Twinning the Massey Tunnel


The Delta Optimist  has published a  letter that really should have  been their big headline. But never mind~Price Tags Vancouver will do it. We all remember the defeated Liberal government’s bandying around of the proposed multi-billion overbuilt Massey Bridge which would have provided ten lanes on the bridge and led to the industrialization of that part of the Fraser River. The ex premier of the province, Ms. Clark actually got on the podium and when asked during the election why this unsustainable bridge to congestion on each side of it was being built, happily announced “JOBS!”.
It turns out that despite what the past Provincial Liberal government said to the public and continually announced, there was another option to the building of this billion dollar bridge behemoth. Specialists from the Netherlands prepared a presentation~on twinning the existing tunnel in 2013. The Massey Tunnel is named after Douglas Massey’s father, and it was Mr. Massey who made a Freedom Of Information request to the then Provincial Liberal government. That turned up nothing. But a more recent repeated request turned up this Dutch Engineering twin tunnel study and it is publicly available courtesy of the new Transportation Minister, Claire Trevena.
As Mr. Massey wrote in the Optimist: “ A meeting was held on April 4, 2013 between the Ministry of Transportation and Tunnel Engineering Consultants (TEC) of the Netherlands to update the ministry on the state of the art of immersed tunneling.
The content of the 60-page presentation included introduction of TEC worldwide tunnel projects both recent and proposed, and cost-effective options for the George Massey Tunnel. Special attention was given to tunnel safety, earthquake resistance design and comparison with bridge solutions.
The following are quotes taken from that presentation:
1.Tunnels are more suited for various and poor soil conditions.
2. Tunnels are shorter in length than a bridge and have a smaller footprint.
3.Tunnels can be built parallel and close to existing tunnels.
4.Tunnel construction is capable of dealing with severe seismic conditions.
5.Tunnel construction where 80 to 90 per cent of the work could be done by local contractors.
6.Tunnels can be built “safer than an open highway.”
This Dutch team also recommended that they assess the structure and integrity of the current tunnel and increase river depth by using an asphalt mattress instead of riprap. They suggested using longitudinal ventilation and repurpose the existing ventilation ducts as escape pods and for conduits for cyclists and walkers, among other innovative ideas. This report was never made public. As Mr. Massey states ” the former Liberal government never revealed the true facts or alternatives to the public. Instead, it followed the demands of the Port of Vancouver and wrote fear mongering reports that suited its agenda of removing the George Massey Tunnel and deepening the lower Fraser River to suit present and future industrial interests.”
The Dutch have been creating these types of submerged tunnels successfully for years. Looking at twinning the tunnel would preserve the existing habitat and ecosystem of the Fraser, and restrain the industrialization of this sensitive bog and marshland.  Why was this report not released before to the public? And is this a viable option for  creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River?
As Mr. Massey summarizes that this sensitive area is “known the world over as vital component for a continued healthy ecosystem that supports a migratory food source for all marine and wildfowl life from the headwaters of the Fraser River along migratory routes of the Pacific Coast. May the true facts be known.”

Read more »

 

If you have been walking on Seymour Street between Robson and Smithe you have probably heard it~kind of a high-pitched hissing noise, with a bit of a pulse to it. And no, it is not a heat pump or something related to a building’s air conditioning. That sound is actually a deterrent to keep loiterers and folks that would otherwise chat, sit near, or take up space near the parkade running the noise.
Called the Mosquito, this technology was invented  in Great Britain and has a patented small speaker that produces a high frequency sound that can be heard by people who are 13 to 25 years old. That sound is broadcast at 17 Kilohertz (KHz). For older people, and in this case the Seymour Street sound, the setting is at 8 KHz and can be heard by people of all ages. There’s even a way to put place the Mosquito in a “royalty free” music channel, to ward away teenagers but attract older people. “Classical or Chill-out music that would keep the teenagers away to some extent…Launched in the year 2008, it is popular among clients who prefer to use music as one of the strategies to deal with anti social behavior!”
So back to Seymour Street~as reported by CBC News, a guy walking his dog noticed his pup was upset walking along this block. He found that the noise emanated from a box mounted in a stairwell in a nearby parkade, and was designed to deter people from gathering there. Calling these “audio pigeon spikes” a complaint was made to the City of Vancouver. And apparently others have noticed this noise as well, making walking down the street unpleasant for passersby.
Rob De Luca, public safety director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the devices can be disruptive when used near public spaces, like a busy sidewalk.
“Broadly, these things can raise some concerns,” said De Luca. “The experience can be painful for certain people. It can very much be a blunt instrument. It doesn’t discriminate on people who are offending or not offending — it hits all ears alike.”
It appears that the Mosquito devices are legal in Canada and the complaint has been forwarded to the Vancouver Police Department.  It is worth checking out the comments section of the CBC article where commenters have listed other locations where these Mosquito devices are installed. And if you want to hear how annoying the Mosquito noise is, you can hear this sound by following this link.

Read more »


Vicki Huntington needs no introduction to the people living in Delta. Ms. Huntington was the former MLA for Delta South and has an outstanding  background of public service.  Among her many accomplishments she has been a band manager for the Gitanmaax First Nation in Hazelton, worked with the RCMP in their security services, and consulted with  ministers of the Crown in Ottawa. She also served five terms as a Councillor in the City of Delta and two terms as the MLA.  She believes strongly in maintaining farmland for future generations and has been recognized for her strong commitment to farming and nature.
Vicki did not run in the last Provincial election for her independent seat~had she run as an independent, she would have been part of the balance of power in the Provincial government coalition. Instead, Delta Councillor Ian Paton of the Liberals won that seat, and currently double dips between sitting on Delta Council (he is paid $62,000 a year plus his expenses) as well as sitting as an MLA where he makes an additional $106,000 plus. Mr. Paton was named newsmaker of the year  by the Delta Optimist, not for double dipping and denying Delta of a more independent voice on Council, but  because he became  a member of the Provincial legislature.  Mr. Paton claims to want the farmer’s best interest but has been unwavering in the support of a multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge which will industrialize the Fraser River, create congestion on either side of the bridge, and purportedly bring more industry to Delta.
What a shame that the Delta Optimist did not recognize Ms Huntington who was the first independent MLA in over sixty years, and the first to be re-elected. However Ms. Huntington has been appointed to the new committee reviewing the Agricultural Land Commission and Agricultural Land Reserve along with eight other members. Their mission is to provide  “strategic advice, policy guidance and recommendations on how to help revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission to ensure the provincial goals of preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching continue to be a priority.”
There is no doubt that the Agricultural Land Reserve is essential to the health and food security of British Columbia and must be maintained for future generations. Price Tags Vancouver has already written about the City of Delta carving out ten acres of farmland for a “truck staging area” for port bound trucks, and how the Port of Vancouver has another  81 acres of farmland in Richmond to add to their 1,457 hectares currently in “industrial use”. It’s a huge problem~should the Port be allowed to take the most arable farmland in Canada to use for truck and container parking and portage? How can farmers be compensated and continue farming when they can garner economic windfalls from development through port expansion or pseudo “farm estates” to well-heeled buyers?
This new Agricultural Land Commission review  committee will seek opinions and feedback and hold meetings with  farming and ranching communities. Recommendations could include changes to the way the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission is set up, regulated and administered. This review is badly needed to ensure that agricultural land is reserved for future populations, and to stop speculators buying up farmland for other purposes. The current MLA for Delta South Mr. Paton is already naysaying the committee appointments,  suggesting that maintaining land in agricultural use restrains the rights of farmers to get extra income from their land. But farmers and speculators did buy that agricultural land  ostensibly for agricultural purposes, and for the future of the region, we must ensure that this agricultural land, the very best in Canada, remains for future generations.

Read more »


 

The Gordie Award for 2017 for happiest transportation story goes to the Arbutus Greenway. After a bitter battle which spanned a decade and a half an agreement was finally made for the City of Vancouver to buy the nine kilometer long railway bed for 55 million dollars from CP Rail. At the time in 2016 the Mayor of Vancouver got pretty evocative, calling this “Vancouver’s chance to have a New York-style High Line”. Of course Vancouver does not have the supporting density around the Arbutus greenway~yet.
The City of Vancouver has embarked on a public process to look at interim measures for the greenway and to examine proposed long-term measures, which include a tram line, a pedestrian linkage and a bike way. But go to any part of the Arbutus greenway in any weather and you will see Vancouverites running, walking, and pushing baby carriages along this new space. You can also connect with the City’s plans for the Arbutus greenway here. 
As well Price Tags Vancouver editor Ken Ohrn has been following the process and and you can review his remarks here.

Read more »


It is in the 100 block of East Pender Street right beside the New Town Bakery and it truly is one of the best places for a host of Cantonese dishes including my favourite, the curried beef.  Chinatown Barbeque at 130 East Pender Street will remind you of the places you frequented a student in Chinatown~clean, packed, and bustling with dishes coming out of the kitchen. Carol Lee is the owner, and she also  chairs the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation and is on the  Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee. You may recognize some of the chefs and servers from the Daisy Garden in Chinatown works hard to support local residents and employees. The servers and chefs at Chinese BBQ used to work at Daisy Garden restaurant at 142 East Pender, a popular place that was destroyed in a fire two years ago.
As Wanyee Li of Metro News observes “Diners at the 48-seat restaurant can choose from several iconic Cantonese dishes that Chinatowns around the world used to be known for – BBQ duck, BBQ pork, roast pork, poached chicken, soy sauce chicken, and more.
“It’s a fine line. You want to be changing and you want to respect the history – but people love the food,” said Lee.

And the place is packed, with a mix of the young and the old  proving as Lee notes that “businesses that pay homage to the glory days of Chinatown can still thrive in the neighbourhood…I think a lot of the Chinese stores think it is hard to open in Chinatown and they have gone to other places where it is easier,” said Lee, acknowledging people can find Chinese food almost anywhere in the Lower Mainland. “But Chinatown has something different,” she said. “It’s something that is historic – it’s part of our Vancouver and Canadian history.”
A draft report commissioned by the City on “legacy businesses”  in Chinatown identified four factors: historic significance, small or a family operation, welcoming to seniors and culturally relevant.  And food is a way to get people to the table and reanimate an area. The success of Chinese Barbeque has been so evident that the support of Chinatown restaurants is seen as the base for a “thematic” streetscape renewal in Chinatown, with Foo’s Ho Ho restaurant expected to reopen in 2018.
Bill Yuen, a researcher at Heritage Vancouver identifies the welcoming factors to seniors and lower-income people, and the use of dialect languages as being part of the success for legacy businesses, and notes  in a Vancouver Sun article that It’s about developing businesses to enhance those values that make this place meaningful to people.”  Chinatown Barbeque is a great start.

Read more »


One of the kindest people I have worked with and without a doubt one of the smartest has just announced he is stepping down from the executive of COPE-the Coalition of Progressive Electors after three decades of public service. Lawyer Tim Louis served two terms on the Park Board and two terms on the City of Vancouver Council. He truly did read the Council package before each meeting and knew the names of each city hall staffer. Tim articled with and was mentored by  Councillor Harry Rankin who was also a lawyer with the same quick and dry wit, if not slightly more irascible.
I’d ask Tim if I could speak to him before a Council meeting and he’d respond that it would be fine as long as I “was not a card-carrying conservative”.  He chaired committee meetings, understood Robert’s Rules of Order, delegated with a strong sense of humour and responded to every phone call he received.  He often wore a Che Guevara Shirt to events, bright red, and moaned about the days when people asked him it was an image of Fidel Castro. It’s no surprise that a huge party is being held for Tim in February and it is sure to be packed full of people wanting to have one more chat and laugh with him.
Gordon McIntyre of the Vancouver Sun interviewed Tim about his remarkable achievements and accomplishments.  I was aware that if we were going to be in front of a committee meeting that Tim was chairing or sitting in on, that we needed to be prepared for those piercing blue eyes and quick intelligence that could quickly sift through any policy or program city planners had not really thought about in advance of the presentation. Tim calls this process “intellectual wrestling”.
While studying Law, Tim also was one of the founders of  the Pacific Transit Co-operative. The founders were all in need of disabled friendly transit, and they basically set up their own system which was in operation for 20 years commencing in the early 1980’s.  Remarkably this enterprise was operative in 19 days, a testament to this group’s organization and abilities.
Reporter McIntyre asked Tim directly what he thought of the Mayors of Vancouver he has worked with and known. Typically, Tim spoke directly and held back nothing in his terse and connected responses that also give a historical timeline on the politics of development.When asked to rank Mayor Mike Harcourt, Tim responded ” Harcourt, I’d give a good mark to. It was a Harcourt-COPE council where we saw council really put to work on behalf of the entire city, the citizens of Vancouver, and not on behalf of the developers.”

With Gordon Campbell Tim stated “We went back to a developers’ council with Campbell. You can see that very clearly when you look at the north side of False Creek with its high towers and density developed under Campbell and compare it to the south side of False Creek, where there is mixed income, low-rise and much lower density.”

With Philip Owen Tim states “Philip was a very decent man. Give him credit for bringing in the four pillars (drug strategy), the supervised injection sites.” 

And then there was Mayor Larry Campbell, who as the City Coroner was the inspiration for the television show Da Vinci’s Inquest. Larry was also opinionated and outspoken, and Tim notes that COPE made a “mistake” and that feelings have still not been resolved

Tim perceives Mayor Sam Sullivan as “another developers’ mayor. He called it eco-density, which was just a greenwashing, taking density and giving it a green veneer. ” 

And for current Mayor Gregor Robertson?  “As far as I’m concerned Vision is the NPA, only with bicycle lanes”.

This is an individual that was concerned and represented the average voter at City Hall and urged controls on gambling expansion within the City. Tim was also against Wal-Mart  operating in Vancouver,  forecasting a world where there would be a “race to the bottom” when foreign-owned businesses put local retailers out of business. Tim is passionate, refreshing, and speaks his mind. He will be very much missed, but I’m sure there will be more endeavours. If you want to go to Tim’s party, details are here.

 

Read more »


In cities and towns why was the west side always seen as the best? Market Watch’s Steve Goldstein observes that researchers have found that it is  ” due to the impact of air pollutants at the time of the Industrial Revolution, as prevailing winds in the U.S. and Europe typically blow from west to east.”  Even today there is a price differential between the east and west sides of major cities even though the pollution that caused the difference has been minimized.
Called a “deprivation index”, pollution was the reason for up to 20 per cent of neighbourhood segregation based upon blue-collar workers and house prices. Even in pre-industrial times large cities like Paris and London had preferred west sides and east sides. The more polluted an area, the higher the percentage of low skilled workers living in the district.  By examining 5,000 industrial “chimneys” located in 70 British cities 130 years ago, researchers found that the spatial distribution of pollution correlated with areas of deprivation in cities.
The findings have implications for planning today to ensure that residential areas are situated near prevailing winds and away from sources of pollutants. And even today, that west address is still seen as best.
 

Read more »


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.

 

Read more »


Internationally water management is the purview of the Dutch, who consulted in the rebuilding of New Orleans after the horrific hurricane and also worked with China on the concept of Sponge Cities to improve drainage and provide flooding mitigation. This is achieved by innovative sewage and waste water techniques, and combining spatial planning and water management, an interdisciplinary approach to flood proofing cities.
Similar work has been successful in the Dutch city of Nijmegen where flooding capacity of a river was enlarged by creating an extra stream channel, which  as part of that City’s policy also enhanced economic development and place making.  In Rotterdam plazas have been created that hold rainwater in extreme weather events replacing infrastructure basins. There have also been pioneering work on the use of dry river bed “wadis” incorporated  in new residential housing developments to mitigate flooding.
As reported to the World Economic Forum  China is utilizing the spongy city design concept in 30 cities including Shanghai, Wuhan and Xiamen. With an investment of 12 billion US dollars the project hopes to have 80 per cent of urban areas in China reusing almost 3/4 of their rainwater in the next three years.
Vancouver is riddled with underground streams, many lost in development~and there is a treasure trove of materials available at the University of British Columbia. There are great stream stories-by mistake the Mount Pleasant stream that used to move logs and power wood mills was excavated during work near Main Street and Broadway decades ago. There is also a large aquifer and flowing stream below the Oakridge Mall. City Engineers have calculated that the Oakridge aquifer can supply 120 US gallons a minute or approximately 7.5 litres of water per second. Indeed the water is used by the mall as a coolant, and has been used that way since the 1970’s.
New York City’s urban ecologist Eric Sanderson has created a “digital elevation” of New York  pre-development and is discussing how these ancient watersheds and streams can be reincorporated into city landscapes for resiliency and public amenity. It is this interdisciplinary approach to flooding, flora and fauna that will bring streams back to New York City and provide a new amenity in the concrete signature of the city. As outlined in this piece from Mountain View’s Vancouver Street Stories, everything old is new again~and streams and old river beds have a renewed purpose in weatherproofing  and providing new recreational spaces in  spongy cities.

 

Read more »


The Vancouver Foundation produced a study in 2012 that looked at the “strength of connections and engagement” among Metro Vancouver residents and concluded that residents had a sense of social isolation and often did not know their neighbours well.A follow up “Connect and Engage” report has just been released by the Foundation. This report examined the “sense of belonging, level of community participation, and the difference between loneliness and social isolation” in 2017.
With over 3,800 people across Metro Vancouver being surveyed this summer, the study found about 25 per cent of people feel isolated, and that there has been a marked decline in community life. The results reported are startling.  “While only 14% of all Metro Vancouver residents report feeling lonely either ‘almost always’ or ‘often’, this figure rises to 30% among people age 18 to 24, and 38% among people living in households of less than $20K. Yet the same groups are also more likely to identify new ways to make friends, and highlight finding people with similar interests, more personal time, people being friendlier or more approachable, more community or common spaces, and having more financial resources as important factors.”
Social resiliency is also being defined differently, as “traditional”  neighbourhood activities such as using local libraries, recreation centres and churches are declining in interest while local  neighbourhood or cultural events are favoured.  And positively 9 out of 10 respondents say they have a dependable person to rely on, and 86 per cent have close relationships “that provide a sense of emotional security and wellbeing.
How do citizens in Metro Vancouver define connection and social engagement? The short video below or here describes the Vancouver Foundation’s findings.

 
 
 

Read more »