Little Sunlight in this Province

August 29, 2013

Last night, more than two hundred residents of the West End attended a meeting about their Community Plan.  It was an important enough meeting for Vancouver Director of Planning Brian Jackson to make himself personally available to answer questions from the citizens.  But if you get your news from one of Vancouver’s major newspapers, the Vancouver Sun or the Province, you would know nothing about it.

You would learn in big headlines about the execution of otherwise unknown actors in North Korea, and about the tax problems of an obscure polygamous sect leader — but absolutely nothing about the urgent concerns of a major section of Vancouver.

With the exception of a letter or two to the editor (and the pro-development op-ed rants of Bob Ransford), you would probably also know nothing about the resistance to enforced densification that has characterized political activity in Grandview this summer.  Is it any wonder that one (at least) of these papers is about to disappear when they don’t feel any need to cover local issues in any detail?

Many would say (and indeed have said) the local mainstream media are just covering Vision Vancouver’s mistakes by limiting their coverage. Hard to argue against that possibility.  But I don’t think we should completely ignore simple bad management.

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I Have A …

August 28, 2013

Geoff Olson in the Courier today has a perfect editorial cartoon for the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s famous speech:

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Fish In A Box

August 28, 2013

I don’t use a mobile phone, not even a dumb one. Never have. I grew up in a time when leaving the house or the office was a chance to get away from the phone, to escape from whatever pressures could come down the line. A chance to relax a bit. I liked that. Still do.

However, what that means is that I like the idea of phone booths on the street — and those are disappearing quicker than quick.  In fact, in most places they are already extinct.  Which is a major problem for people like me who chose not to have a smart phone or who simply cannot afford one.

Most phone kiosks get dumped in the landfill, I guess, although the traditional red British box can sometimes be seen as a tourist draw. In one place in Japan, however, someone decided to turn one of them into a public aquarium.

fish in booth

I would rather have a phone in there but this is a seriously creative idea.


Private Profit By Guilt Trip

August 27, 2013

One of the most egregious of the errors committed by the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan planners was the inclusion of a 12-15 storey tower at Commercial and Venables.

In the draft plan, this monstrous tower and its 8-storey proposed twin across the street sit incongruously in an area of Grandview that is otherwise untouched by the Plan.  The siting of the tower involves the destruction of a building, the Astorino’s Hall, which has significantly more cultural importance than, say, the Waldorf Hotel. It is placed where transit is at its worst (none on Venables, and the already always busy #20 on Commercial).  And it exactly matches a desire floated by a major developer even though the local planner insists that no development proposal has yet been seen by the City. So how did it happen to appear in the Plan so perfectly sited and sized to meet the developer’s requirements?

Of all the elements that made up the unpopular draft Community Plan, apart from the deliberately provocative 36-storey tower at Commercial & Broadway, the tower proposal at Commercial  & Venables met with the most furious reception by residents.

But the developers had what they thought of as an ace up their sleeve. One of the buildings they needed in their assembly is owned by the Kettle Friendship Society, a group that services individuals with mental health and related housing issues. The Kettle has a history on the Drive of more than thirty years, and they are well-respected and well-supported in the community.  Boffo Developments offered the Kettle new offices and a few housing spaces in the new building if they, the Kettle, would become the front for Boffo’s plans to build a high-rise tower.

Boffo knew that most of us would support an expansion of housing services by the Kettle and they were counting on this feeling to overcome the community’s utter distaste for a badly positioned and overly tall tower that could well destroy that part of the neighbourhood.  If reaction to the Boffo’s Open House is any gauge, it didn’t happen.

This has become a topic of conversation again because, now that the community has obliged the planners to rethink the entire Community Plan, with a long extension to the schedule anticipated to be approved on 25th September, Boffo is panicking that their plans are to be delayed for a further year.  Their first reaction is to have the Kettle launch an online petition (which I certainly will not link to) demanding that their expansion be allowed to go ahead regardless of the rest of the Plan.

The petition never once mentions that the Kettle’s expansion involves a neighbourhood-destroying 12-15 storey tower on Venables. Perhaps they are too embarrassed to mention it; or perhaps they know that, much as we admire the Kettle, the neighbourhood is firmly opposed to the tower.

They are trying to guilt us into giving Boffo the outrageous tower — and all the profits that go with it — in their plea to help the Kettle. It is sad and disturbing that an organization as worthy as the Kettle has allowed itself to become a tool in this developer’s ongoing assault against our neighbourhood. Very sad indeed.


Celebrate The Volunteers!

August 23, 2013

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City Abstract XI

August 22, 2013

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UnShaw About Email

August 22, 2013

Like thousands of others in the Lower Mainland, my ISP is Shaw, and I have generally been quite content with the service I get from them.  However, I have had an issue this week that has really made me wonder.

I send a lot of emails and I am used to getting most of them answered pretty quickly. So it was a surprise earlier this week when I seemed to get no replies from anything I had sent for a couple of days.  For a while I put it down to people being busy or being mad at me for something.  However, I happened to speak to one of my correspondents by phone early yesterday afternoon and I mentioned one of the more important emails I had sent him a couple of days before. He checked and found he had not received anything from me.

I checked with a few other people and they said the same thing. So I called Shaw.

At first, the helpful service technician was bemused, not seeing any reason why my emails were not getting through (even though, as I should say, I was still receiving emails normally).  Eventually they discovered that the Shaw system had decided on Monday evening that my email signature (that I have used for quite a while) was spam and had refused to send any of my emails.

They did this without informing me and so for nearly three days I was blithely unaware that nothing I wrote was going anywhere.  And, moreover, the system had destroyed my emails and so they couldn’t just flip a switch and release from a cache somewhere.  Again without telling me.

I was left to scramble about and try to recreate as best I could the important emails I had sent for the last few days.  Annoying and, I think, an intolerable imposition on someone who has been a Shaw client for well over a decade.  Why the hell couldn’t they have let me know what they were doing so that I could have deleted my signature (or whatever was needed)?  I am righteously pissed about this.