Damn Signs

July 31, 2013

Drive signsA little while ago I had my Grandview Heritage Group hat on and made a few calls about road signs appearing all over the neighbourhood that tried to brand the entirety of historic Grandview as The Drive.  It turned out to be a Commercial Drive BIA initiative and when I met with the new Exec Director, Jane McFadden  (wearing both my GWAC and Heritage hats) we managed to get it sorted out quite amicably.

The Courier has run a story about it today where I get to mildly cuss in public.


They ARE Watching You

July 31, 2013

If you were at all unsure about just what the US NSA was tracking about YOUR life, then this long and detailed report in the Guardian should set you straight.  They can and do track everything every one of us does online.  Without warrants.  Without overview.  At the whim of individual monitoring officers.

“A slide entitled “plug-ins” in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain”, “every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc” …

“One document, a top secret 2010 guide describing the training received by NSA analysts for general surveillance under the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, explains that analysts can begin surveillance on anyone by clicking a few simple pull-down menus designed to provide both legal and targeting justifications. Once options on the pull-down menus are selected, their target is marked for electronic surveillance and the analyst is able to review the content of their communications” …

“Beyond emails, the XKeyscore system allows analysts to monitor a virtually unlimited array of other internet activities, including those within social media. An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages” …

“As one slide indicates, the ability to search HTTP activity by keyword permits the analyst access to what the NSA calls “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”.

Anyone NOT worried about this is simply putting their head in the sand.


Artful Sundays Are Back!

July 31, 2013

Artful Sundays 2013  Poster 3

Translink Follows Ferries To Disaster

July 30, 2013

It seems that Translink is following the BC Ferries model of lowering service while increasing fares. It sure hasn’t worked on the ferry system, and I don’t see it working for buses and trains, either.

By the way, did you know that when Compass kicks in, a cash-paid bus fare will NOT allow you transfer to SkyTrain? What’s with that?

Time to make Translink responsive to people’s needs. Time to get Translink under political control once again.

Talking Shop

July 30, 2013

Last night was the first of two Community Plan Open Houses this week. I have written about yesterday’s event at http://gw-ac.org/2013/07/30/mondays-open-house/.

I really enjoyed myself because it was a chance to meet a lot of people I hadn’t had a chance to talk to at our meeting on 8th July, and a number of others with whom I have been corresponding via the email lists and the petition — putting faces to names.  Fascinating and heartwarming to watch a whole bunch of “ordinary folks” get worked up over an issue and willing to fight back against City Hall.

Also fascinating to listen to so many former Vision Vancouver supporters talk of their deep disappointment with the party. Even though an alternative seems far off right now, this mood (which seems to be the same across many of the City’s neighbourhoods) should be of real concern to the VV honchos planning their re-election strategy next year.

We’ll do it all again on Wednesday.

Just Another Day In the ‘Hood

July 29, 2013

Started the day sharing coffee and a pleasant chat with a friend at Adeline’s. We chatted amiably about politics and Pride, and happily failed to identify the tree that the owner was interested in (it drops small seed pods and he hoped they weren’t poisonous).

It seemed to be a little cooler today (at least that early in the morning) and, when we were done with chatting, I wandered up to the bank, enjoying the stroll very much. I managed to resist the temptation to have an iced capp, though it was a genuine struggle!

This afternoon, I’ve been getting ready for the Open House on proposals for development at Commercial & Broadway tonight:  made and printed a flyer to hand out advertising GWAC’s next meeting, the online petition  (which continues to collect numerous signatures), and the new blog.

Pretty soon I’ll have to go to the Open House and be a publicly political animal once again. But right now, I’m happy to eat a cheese sandwich, drink tea, and read David Harvey’s “Rebel Cities“.

Not a bad day at all.

Urban Renewal

July 28, 2013

class war

Feeling Not Very Special

July 27, 2013

Here we are on a summer Saturday and Vancouver City Council is spending yet another day talking about a bike lane and road closure on millionaires’ row — on a Saturday, for goodness sake!  I don’t know how many hours this is now, but we must be close to a full day.

This is the same Council that couldn’t spend an hour or two listening to ordinary residents of Grandview-Woodland who had taken expensive time off work to talk to them about the future of our entire neighbourhood.  No, we have to wait until the end of September when, again, people are back at work and have to spend real money if they want to contribute to the discussion.

I cannot remember the last time Council had a public hearing on a Saturday.  And I can’t remember when an ordinary Council Motion was delayed for 9 weeks.  Would it be too cynical to believe that this schedule is because many of Vision Vancouver’s biggest supporters live on or near Point Grey Road, while those of out here on the east side are, well, just east siders?

A New GWAC Web Site

July 27, 2013

I spent yesterday evening and early this morning crafting a new action-oriented blog for the Grandview-Woodland Area Council (GWAC). Not quite everything there yet, but please give it a look see at http://gw-ac.org.


A New Addiction

July 26, 2013

Iced CappJust the other day, when it was really hot and I’d been walking on the Drive for just a bit too long, I found myself in Timmy’s.  Not knowing what to order that would satisfy my thirst, me not being a great drinker of coffee, my eye fell on the Iced Capp and I ordered one.

It was perfection, sheer perfection!  I sat there and sucked the straw until the whole thing was gone. Every mouthful rolling over my tongue was exquisite.  I’ve talked of little else since.

Today, the ever-loving and I set out specifically to grab a couple of Iced Capps during the middle of our shopping chores, only to find that their Iced Capp machine was busted!  Horror of horrors! I felt myself go into instant withdrawal and nothing else would do.  We rushed home and emptied the freezer of all the ice cream we had.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a Timmy’s Iced Capp.

Now, I’m sitting here waiting for my next fix.

Transit In Reverse

July 25, 2013

Vancouver was founded because of its harbour and its timber — some of the finest tall and straight trees anywhere in the world — that fit the needs of maritime expansionism in the 19th century.  But once that initial spurt had faded, by the 1890s, say, it was transit that drove the geographic growth of the City.  Streetcar and interurban lines were laid down, and housing soon followed.

That sequence was as true in Grandview as anywhere else in Vancouver. The opening of the interurban line to New Westminster in 1891, with its line along what would become Commercial Drive, created some interest in the neighbourhood.  But it is no coincidence that the building boom in the east end followed the opening of city streetcar service in the middle of the 1900 decade.  By 1915, much of Grandview was covered with a variety of streets and houses and a thriving population.


That is the historical pattern across most of North America: Transit precedes population. It has proven to be a spectacularly successful business model for the building of cities. Oddly enough, now Translink wants to reverse that successful course, at least at the Commercial & Broadway hub; and they are being aided and abetted by the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.

Page 33 of the Emerging Directions document published by the GW Community Plan planners states:

Create opportunities for transit-oriented development in the vicintiy of the station — with transit-supportive density that is consistent with existing and proposed transit infrastructure.

Given that we are told time after time that the Broadway transit service is already the busiest in North America, and given that we are all aware that thousands of people are passed by already-full buses at every rush hour, it is clear that we already have “transit-supportiive density”.  What we need are more transit options NOT more population in the area.

As Translink already fails to meet the current demands, it is senseless to add additional pressures by building what were originally conceived of as 26-36 storey towers, without a significant increase in services first.

This post was inspired in part by Elizabeth Murphy’s well-argued piece in the Sun on Tuesday.

Inaccurate Representations

July 25, 2013

Yesterday on Twitter, Clr. Andrea Reimer said that my post about Tuesday’s Council meeting was “not an accurate summary of what happened yesterday”.   I replied that I thought it was quite accurate but I was happy for Vancouverites to watch the video of the proceedings and make up their own minds.

Lo and behold, not an hour or so later, I was sent a copy of her latest missive to Vision Vancouver supporters.  It says, in part:

“I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback on the proposal to keep the zoning along Commercial Drive, from the Grandview Cut down to Venables exactly as it is…”

Talk about an inaccurate summary!  I guess it might be true if we forget the massive upzoning on both sides of Venables & Commercial (15 storeys on the north side and 8 storeys on the south), if we ignore the upzoning proposed at First & Commercial, and if we fail to notice the increased density on the Drive from the Cut north to 4th Avenue.

Seriously, if we want to weigh inaccuracies, I think the Councilor wins by a mile!



Happy Birthday, Famous Empty Sky!

July 25, 2013

FESI didn’t get a chance to post this yesterday, but I was lucky enough to bump into Famous Empty Sky — the greatest artist the Drive has yet produced — and she was celebrating her birthday!

We are privileged as a neighbourhood to have her as a resident and to be able so often to enjoy her powerful and beautiful art.

Many happy returns, FES, and may there be scores more of them!

Council Defers Action

July 24, 2013

I spent Tuesday morning at City Hall, witnessing what is in theory at least the last City Council meeting of the summer.  I was there with a number of others because we were keen to support Clr. Adriane Carr’s Motion to extend the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan process by six  months.

The presentations on National Reconciliation Year and the Bike Share program took a great deal of time (not whining, they are important issues for many people) and it was unclear whether the Carr Motion would actually be reached before Council rose at 1pm. But they shifted the agenda and allowed it to be discussed in the final 15 minutes. Adriane Carr made a good short speech about why we should get the extra time, and both Andrea Reimer and Mayor Robertson suggested they agreed that Grandview-Woodland (and Marpole) had made a good case for more time.

We had anticipated, not unreasonably, that the Motion would be refered to the Planning Committee’s meeting today (Wednesday) and we had a number of people slated to speak to the Motion at that time.  However, Clr. Reimer’s referal motion put us off until 25th September, requiring Planning to give a Report at that time on the pros and cons of delaying any or all of the four current Community Plans (GW, Marpole, DTES, West End).

The fact that we were not allowed to speak to the Motion today is doubly disappointing.  First, a number of people had booked today off work in order to speak and they will now have wasted an expensive day for nothing.  Second, we would have made the point during the various speeches that (a) the process needs changing, not just the schedule; and (b) that the problems with the GW Plan are not just about Commercial & Broadway but stretch across the neighbourhood.

Had Council heard those speeches they may have still told Planners to come back with a Report in late September, but the nature of that Report may well have been broader and more aligned with our overall concerns.  Right now, the focus of the Report will be on what effects a delay will have on the planning department and the other neighbourhoods in the planning queue. Not the same thing at all.

Without impugning motives, I am sure that some part of the reasoning for delaying the process for 9 weeks is that the local and media hue and cry against the Emerging Directions document will die down in that time.  That isn’t going to happen, believe you me.

As the beginning of this new phase, GWAC and its supporters will rally at the Open Houses of 29th and 31st July to make sure the planners know we want more substantive discussions on all areas of the Plan, all areas of the neighbourhood, that “fixing” the towers at Commercial & Broadway will NOT fix the GW Plan, that Open Houses are NOT consultations.  Thereafter, the next public meeting of GWAC is on 12th August and I am sure more actions will be discussed there.

It is going to be a hot summer for local politics!



Do We Have The Mayor On Side?

July 22, 2013

In today’s Vancouver Sun, Mayor Gregor Robertson wrote an op-ed piece about building community plans.  The key paragraph is this one:

So let’s build on what’s working and take more time where it’s needed. We need to get these plans right. Marpole, and Grandview Woodlands in particular — given the complexity of the future of Commercial and Broadway — have a compelling case to take more time to build a shared vision for their neighbourhoods.

It is marvelous that he recognizes we need more time, and this makes me more hopeful for the fate of Adriane Carr’s Motion tomorrow.  However, he continues to suggest that if they “fix” the Commercial & Broadway proposal then that will solve the problem the Community Plan has in Grandview.

Clearly he has not read — or choses to ignore — the one thousand plus emails local residents have sent City Council this month that make it clear we are dissatisfied with most aspects of the proposals throughout the neighbourhood.  Commercial & Broadway is important — but it is not Grandview.

Wave 2

July 20, 2013



The Young Ones

July 20, 2013

Today was a glorious day for two young men who are the future of cyling and English cricket respectively.

On the penultimate stage of the 100th Tour de France, the 23-year old Colombian wunderkind climber Nairo Quinata Rojas sprinted ahead in the final kilometer at Annecy to snatch both today’s mountain top stage win and to secure what will be second place when the Tour finishes tomorrow.  Riding several minutes ahead of the main pack, along with Chris Froome and Purito Rodriguez, Quinata put his foot down and got himself 18 seconds ahead of Rodriguez who will finish the Tour in third.  Froome, already having secured the overall victory in the Tour, was happy to let them fight it out.

My old favourite Alberto Contador, a two-time Tour winner and veteran at 30, started the day in second place, but finished almost three minutes down and fell into fourth place overall.

We are going to be watching Quintana for a decade ahead and, unless he has really bad luck, he will win one or more of the Grand Tours in the coming years.  he is a very exciting prospect.

QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander

In the rather more sedate confines of Lord’s Cricket Ground, 22-year old Yorkshireman Joe Root, who looks like he should still be in high school, showed that he is genuinely the face of English cricket in the years to come by hitting a magnificent and unbeaten 178 as England thrashed Australia to within an inch of their lives on the third day of the second Ashes Test.  A truly glorious knock, triumphantly marked by two huge 6s in the penultimate over of the day.

Root seems set to be England’s opener for a decade or more to come, and he’ll be well worth watching.


The Planner, The Councilor and the Refugee

July 19, 2013

Thanks to CityHallWatch and Stephen Bohus, we have more video of our 8th July mass protest meeting.

The City’s Assistant Director of Planning, Matt Shilito throws up his hands and disclaims any responsibility for the future schedule of the GW Community Plan, Adriane Carr promises to help as best she can, and Andrea Reimer seeks safety and a lack of response in her refugee status though admitting the current schedule is “arbitrary.”

As we know, Adriane Carr has come through for us, with a Motion at next Tuesday’s City Council. We will look with interest at which way Clr. Reimer and her Vision colleagues vote.

Our Cup Runneth Over

July 18, 2013

I had a marvelous lunch at Fet’s today — great food, excellent service, fine company, friendly owners, and a wonderful view of the “new” cup in Grandview Park.


For a year or more now, the BIA’s big blue cup in Grandview Park has been a magnet for garbage and rainwater, and many of us were scared that a small child might one day be drowned in either or both.  Now, thanks to the efforts of their new Exec Director, the BIA has painted it their signature black and filled it with a pleasing array of plants. It is a great improvement!

The other pleasure of the day was telling my lunch partner, a young gay man who has just moved into the West End all about when I lived on Davie Street in the early 80s and was often the only straight guy having breakfast at Doll & Penny’s.  Great memories and great fun!



Activism in the Summer

July 17, 2013

I’ve had a busy, busy few days, mostly connected with building the campaign against the current Grandview-Woodland Community Plan and its deliberately stifling schedule.

The good news is that Clr. Adriane Carr will be bringing forward a Motion to next week’s Council meeting — the last until the end of September — that asks Council to approve the extension of the planning period in GW by the six months that we have been demanding.

To give her as much support as we can, we have started a new online petition at http://chn.ge/1aNjDmK, and I  urge everyone to sign it.  More than 700 people signed the first petition — which is still continuing at http://chn.ge/16EsRvL — and about 200 have signed the new one in the first day.

Now that Council is faced with a specific Motion, supported by these hundreds and hundreds of emails from residents, it will be interesting to see how they respond (especially Clrs. Meggs and Reimer who were at our 8th July meeting), and how City Manager Ballem and Planning Director Jackson respond.

Clearly, our future tactics and actions will be determined by Council’s disposition of this Motion.

In the meanwhile, we continue to garner a lot of press: