The VPL’s Inspiration Pass

October 24, 2012

What a great idea!

Vancouver Public Library has joined together with twenty cultural and recreational providers in Vancouver in what they call their Inspiration Pass:

With a Vancouver Inspiration Pass you can spend an afternoon with a sea otter, discover a secret garden; dive into aquatics; learn about sailing the seven seas and navigating the stars; uncover our city’s past, explore the future and much more.

Created to increase community engagement and inclusivity and support lifelong learning, the pass provides opportunities for Vancouver residents – regardless of socio-economic status – to benefit from the many diverse cultural, learning and recreation activities offered throughout Vancouver.

But most of all, it’s a ton of fun!

And all this through the use of a free VPL pass.  Very creative idea.  Well done.

To Victoria Without A Car

October 24, 2012

We took a day trip to Victoria yesterday to collect some material from the BC Provincial Archives.  It was great fun and we enjoyed the entire journey which we did by bus.

It is hard to believe that we would ever want to take a car from the Lower Mainland to the Island.  The coach is comfortable, there are no driving anxieties (you can even take a nap), and the coach gets off the ferry first every time.  We walked around Victoria when we arrived, but we could just as well have used local transit or taxis or even rented a local car for our time there.

Definitely no need for us to bring a car from Vancouver — ever.

Fall at the Empress

October 23, 2012

Beautiful seasonal foliage at the Empress Hotel in Victoria today.  (Click on image for a better view)

And The Trees Danced…

October 22, 2012


Why Is Mosaic Creek Park Unkempt?

October 21, 2012

Mosaic Creek Park at Charles & McLean is generally a truly delightful refuge.  Since community volunteers created the stream of mosaics across the empty lot in 1996, it has been a joy to visit, with something new being noticed every time.  But I was there today and the place is a wreck.

It doesn’t look as if any weeding has been done all year, the walks are being overgrown by grass that has not been edged and, worst of all, there is no garbage can in the park so the place is littered with rubbish.

Why has the Parks Board let this valuable spot go to ruin?  Is it because Mosaic Creek Park is on the eastside and we don’t count?  Whatever the reason, it is a damn shame.

The Future of Vancouver

October 21, 2012

Yesterday I was pleased to be able to participate in the CityHallWatch-organized conference known as “The Future of Vancouver.”  The conference was really more about the disastrous present state of Vancouver planning, but it certainly could lead to a better way of handling affairs in the future.

After an opening presentation by Elizabeth Murphy, and a brief discourse by Bruce Macdonald on the history of density in the West End, the afternoon was filled by a roster of representative speakers from neighbourhoods across the City — Grandview, Norquay, West End, DTES, Marpole, the Cambie Corridor, Shaughnessy, Kisilano and Mount Pleasant.  Without exception, the speakers noted the dire lack of consultation in planning matters by the City, exemplified by the no-debate approval of the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability which could utterly change our City without our consent.

My own brief contribution was as follows:

“I am here today as a resident of Grandview, a neighbourhood that is characterized by two major themes:  a heritage-dense housing stock, more than half of which is more than 90 years old: these solid old houses support hundreds of affordable rental units; and Commercial Drive, the vibrancy and popularity of which is due to its human scale, with its pedestrian-friendly narrow street and with most buildings at only one or two storeys in height. Both of these key aspects of Grandview are seriously threatened by the upzoning along arterials that this Council is pushing onto us.

At what passed for a debate a week ago, the Mayor said we don’t need more discussion about the Task Force’s recommendations because, he says, we have been talking about it for the last nine months.  Well I want to tell you that there was not one consultative event in Grandview by the Task Force – not a single one. The Mayor may have been talking to himself and his friends for the last nine months but he sure hasn’t been speaking with us!

Right now, in Grandview, we are in the middle of a new Community Plan process for the neighbourhood; a process that was set up under Terms of Reference that significantly weaken community engagement when compared, say, to the earlier Mount Pleasant Community Plan process.  And we have a senior planner who has arbitrarily changed the language of the Terms of Reference to make this engagement and review even weaker.

Neither I nor anyone I talk with in Grandview is opposed to change and progress – we recognize that Vancouver will grow, and Grandview along with it — but we want these changes to be under the control and guidance of the neighbourhood residents who will be affected.  To do this, we need to watch this Council and its Planning Department very closely indeed.  As an op-ed said in yesterday’s Sun, the Council has broken its social contract with its citizens.

It is unlikely that one neighbourhood can successfully push back against the powers of this Council.  But forums such as this one today, when neighbourhoods and communities can come together and share ideas, help us to keep focus.  I want to thank City Hall Watch for arranging it.  And I want to thank YOU for coming out today to be part of the solution.”

Many of the speakers were both more articulate and more detailed than I, but the problems outlined were essentially the same.  Some samples:  Marpole is “taken for granted by Council”; “Council has almost eliminated community input” in the West End; “lots of lip service but little action” in DTES; the citizens Working Group in Norquay was “unilaterally terminated” by Council; the Residents Association has been “cut out” of planning decisions in Mount Pleasant.”

It was noted by several speakers that the political interference with the Planning Department that began under Mayor Sullivan has continued and been exacerbated under Robertson’s Vision, and has now been institutionalized with the departmental overhaul. There was a great deal of concern and anger and, more positively, a desire by all speakers to work together to re-engage the neighbourhoods in planning decisions.

What was equally clear was that this is now a political struggle, a struggle to defeat the contemptuous agenda of Vision (and probably the NPA) and their development backers.  I am not yet sure that the party known as Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) which ran in the last election is the group that can push this forward, but maybe they can.  My urgent suggestion would be that they come out from behind the non-partisan and information-sharing CityHallWatch shield and start acting like a real political party striving for votes and Council seats.  It may well take more than a single election to get Vision out of power (although their arrogance and disdain for the public is beginning to show more clearly these days) and so their challengers need to get organizing on the street right now.

Let us not pussy foot around — our entire City is at stake.

Heritage In The Rain

October 19, 2012

Last night, as most of you will know, there was a terrific rainstorm across Vancouver, one of the heaviest of the short season so far.  But luckily that didn’t stop many of us getting together for this month’s Grandview Heritage Group public meeting.

We had our usual interesting discussions and I also displayed the work that has been keeping me busy all summer — the creation of a database and associated maps covering the entire building stock in Grandview (all 4,100+ lots). We always say that Grandview is a heritage-rich neighbourhood, but even I was surprised to find that 50% of all buildings in Grandview today were constructed before the end of the 1920s.

Part of our discussion last night was about the City’s upzoning project and this new research shows just how vulnerable our neighbourhood is to the wide new areas that the Council has decided on for upzoning.  We sure need to be vigilant about this and the current weak attempts at “community engagement” by Planning are not a hopeful sign.  This is what I’ll be speaking about tomorrow at the “Future of Vancouver” conference.