June 20, 2018

Who Likes Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway Plans?

Who likes Vancouver’s plans for the Arbutus Greenway? A lot of people, it seems.  Including me, it must be said.

The City of Vancouver released this 40-page Consultation Summary Report on public responses to their spring 2018 proposed design concept.

I count 2,015 people who commented via the usual methods: online survey, Open House events (4), Advisory Committee meetings (5), and Stakeholder meetings (ongoing).

You can review my thoughts on the Greenway’s proposed design concept here; a snapshot of the results follows.

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One of the issues cities across North America are grappling with (at least those that are not yet moving on progressive housing legislation, such as California’s SB 828) is the fact that, with single family home zoning, the only thing a ‘teardown’ can be replaced with is another single family home.

Mathematician, data analyst and notorious census mapper Jens von Bergmann points this out, noting that which is dominating the political landscape in Metro Vancouver these days — that when we look at single family home (SFH) development from an affordability perspective, it doesn’t look good.

And from an emissions perspective too — things look mixed at best for entire swaths of SFH neighbourhoods, all across the region.

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In Vancouver single family housing is demolished to make bigger new houses, often of the same style. Yet, in this study to be published in July by University of British Columbia researchers and MountainMath Software, the perception that new is greener and better is seriously challenged.
UBC Reports  notes that, “despite the better energy performance of the new homes, this cycle is likely to increase overall greenhouse gas emissions.” 

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If you’ve been following the debacle in the City of Richmond over the provincially-designated Agricultural Land Reserve — and how that land is not being protected for such use — you’ve learned that municipal government can’t always be trusted to put its own, stated interests in food security and access to agricultural land ahead of the interests of a few privileged people.
The influence of developers, as they buy agricultural land cheaply and reap extraordinary profits from the building of mansions and private grounds, has spread like wildfire.

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Price Tags has been writing about the carving off of farmland to accommodate other uses seen as more immediate in Metro Vancouver.
Last Friday the Agricultural Land Commission that oversees the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) nixed the City of Abbotsford’s “Abbotsfwd” request for 200 hectares of farmland to go into “future industrial growth”. There was also a request in Langley Township to allow other uses on two blocks of farm land in Bradner. The Commission nixed that too.

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In the City of Richmond, British Columbia, where the most arable soils in Canada are supposedly protected under the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), City Council continues to allow speculators to build houses of over 10,000 square feet on agricultural land over half an acre in size.
These mansions become exclusive gated estates, avoiding the foreign buyers tax, and are now trading at prices no farmer can afford. Delta is no better, using fertile arable land for a truck parking lot next to Highway 17, fast-tracking a casino next to the Fraser River, and using ALR lands as their industrial land piggy bank.
But it’s not just in British Columbia where politicians are fraying away agricultural land for their own in-the-moment development purposes.

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Councillor Andrea Reimer has Facebooked this:
Nine years ago today, the Greenest City Action Team made its first recommendations to Council. In the time since then we seen:

  • a 27% reduction in waste
  • 32% reduction in distance driven per person
  • 49% increase in green jobs
  • 42% increase in local food assets
  • 15% reduction in GHGs
  • more than half our residents now walk, take transit or bike.

At 3.9 T person, we have the lowest per capita emissions in North America and we’ve made longer range commitments to ensure we continue to get results on a range of green policy areas including transportation, green economic growth, zero emissions buildings, zero waste, access to nature, clean water, local food and air quality.
Questions: Do people care?  Will this kind of progress even get reported, much less registered in the public mind?  Have we moved on, caring more about housing to the exclusion of other agenda items?
Or do we simply discount progress, focus on the failures, and generally ignore or minimize the positives even as we raise the bar for the future.  Like this email that came in at the same time from Michael Alexander:
Time for Vancouver to leapfrog 50%?

San Francisco sets bold new goal: 80 percent of trips by sustainable modes
Last week, Mayor Mark Farrell announced a new goal to make 80 percent of all travel in San Francisco by a sustainable mode of transportation. That includes walking, biking, public transit, and carpooling. Having exceeded our former goal of 50 percent sustainable trips, San Francisco is well-poised to achieve this new goal—and we look forward to helping the city get there.
The new 80 percent goal supports another major pledge the Mayor made during Earth Month: committing San Francisco to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Learn more about San Francisco’s carbon reduction efforts.

I should clarify the purpose of the post (and why I changed the title.)
The Greenest City initiatives were an example of a government setting out priorities, establishing both vision and goals, and committing to a timeline. And then doing most of what it said it wanted to do – sometimes beyond the expectations of both advocates and critics.
The response? As far as much of the media and public: yawn. Too often Instead: cheap cynicism.
Critics are dismissive. Advocates raise the bar. Some give a quick acknowledgement and then move on – to the failures, the inadequacies, the missed opportunities.
It’s as though the achievements are inconsequential or inadequate to deal with more urgent matters.
This is not helpful at a time when we need positive examples and reinforcement to tackle the challenge, in particular, of climate change. The celebration of success is not unwarranted if earned; it’s essential if hope is to be maintained and continually renewed.

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