Wake for Dan Small

September 29, 2013

The celtic institution of the wake is a marvelous way to sweep away the dread and gloom of death with music and booze and camaraderie.  We were lucky enough to enjoy all three last Thursday at the Wise Hall at the celebration of the life of Dan Small who left us this summer.

Dan's PartyDan had been a fixture in the home-brewing business here on Commercial Drive and then Strathcona for decades.  He became an incon in the home- and craft-brewing business.  As CAMRA BC said:

“The impact of his homebrew shop can be tasted in every beer made by a brewer from the lower mainland. Both homebrewers and professional brewers, many of whom started as homebrewers, owe Dan a debt of gratitude. And so does CAMRA BC, without the interest in craft-beer spurred on by Dan’s Homebrew I doubt we would have anywhere near the growth in quality and quantity of local craft-beer that we enjoy today.”

It was a particular joy at the wake to drink Parallel 49’s Strathcona Pale Ale in Dan’s honour.

Dan’s brothers, Bill and Tom, form Vancouver’s Tall Brothers weed-rock-fusion band, and the picture above shows them singing their own tribute to Dan on Thursday night.

Walkable City

September 29, 2013

I’ve been catching up on Jeff Speck’s 2012 book “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step At A Time,” one of the key texts of ultra-modern urbanism. The subtitle gives it away that this is a kind of extended “Newsweek”-style essay, breathlessly written and littered with facts and figures, overwhelmingly pushy and sure of itself.  That’s not to say I didn’t like it or find it of interest, though. It is a valuable read, even when it is occasionally annoying.

There are some issues I have with it:

Speck makes some mention of maintaining affordability in neighbourhoods (p.109-111) but he mentions more often the fact that walkable districts increase in value and attract more affluent citizens. For example, he praises the High Line development in New York (“perhaps the most delightful piece of civic art to have been created since mid-century … these public amenities are a real boon to the livability of their neighborhoods” p.98) without understanding (or at least mentioning) that the poorer residents of the blocks around the High Line have been displaced by price inflation as a direct result of that piece of “civic art.”   Neither “Affordability” nor “Displacement” can be found in the large index that accompanies the book.

He seems to have fallen in love with Brent Toderian’s Vancouver which he describes as “elegant point towers sitting atop lower sidewalk-hugging bases” and “another great city to move to.” (p.215) He fails to say these are only valuable in certain areas of town and suggests a more general usability.

On a very small matter he makes an observation that is counter to my own experience. He is talking about making buses a fun and pleasurable thing to do. He suggests this can be accomplished, in part, by having seats that face inward rather than forward (p.156). Since reading that the other day, I have been looking carefully and have noticed that on the #20 at least, the forward-facing seats fill up in advance of the inward-facing ones. That would seem to suggest they are the more favoured seats.

As I said, this is a worthwhile read; but needs to be part of a wider urbanist diet.

The Politics of the Jackson Hearings

September 28, 2013

On the GWAC blog, I have written a narrative of the public hearings on the Jackson Report about the four current Community Plans.  Here I am going to talk more about the politics of it all, and the different ways in which Councilors and staff used these hearings.

It was clear from the very beginning of the presentations by the public that the opposition Councilors (Affleck, Ball and Carr) were going to ask questions to elicit more information from each speaker, and that Andrea Reimer would be the Vision pitbull trying to discredit the citizen speakers and whatever organizations they represented. The balance of the Vision Council majority seemed bored most of the time, just putting in the time they were obliged to, hoping it would be over soon.

Whenever criticism of the Planning Department became too sharp, whoever was in the Chair would try to suggest that we didn’t have the right under City rules to be so critical. They forgot, I am sure, that we are Canadian citizens with the right of free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Apparently the Vision Council believes that their petty rules supersede the Charter.

The staff were equally abusive of the citizenry.  Brian Jackson had a section in his original presentation called “Myths” which was, in itself, a misrepresentation of much information.  In his second-chance wrap-up, he had the gall to suggest that the citizens of this City were too stupid to understand what had been going on.  Luckily we are not too stupid to call him on this.  Jackson also had the lack of shame to suggest that the very concerned citizens of Marpole had been sowing false fears and panic in their neighbourhood when he must know that the “fear and panic” was a direct result of his own department’s failure to engage.

This entire hearing became a damning indictment of Planning’s handling of the Community Plans.  In the end, under pressure from neighbourhoods across the City, the Mayor agreed that there had been significant failures by planners in Marpole and GW at least. We can only hope that Jackson and his team take to heart the extra time and extra consultation message incorporated in the Council’s amendments to his Report.

In his wrap up, Mr. Jackson specifically mentioned that I would be included in the discussions to re-set the GW process. I await his call.

Back To The Rally For A Moment

September 27, 2013

Thanks to CityHallWatch, there is evidence that a short, pudgy bald guy was playing the rabble-rouser at City Hall last Tuesday.

You can watch a number of the other speeches at CHW.

Did You Know We Have Opera In Grandview?

September 27, 2013

Culture Days 2013 copy

Speaking at City Hall

September 26, 2013

Spent all day yesterday (from about 11am until gone 10pm) at the City Hall hearings on the four Community Plans, including ours here in Grandview.

With their typical efficiency, City Hall booked speakers to start about 1:30pm but we didn’t get to it until about 5pm.  There are more than 70 on the list and by the end of the evening we had heard from about 30.  We will be back for the next session at 2pm this afternoon.  I’m guessing it will be an equally late night.

We got some good early coverage from the Province and the Georgia Straight. There will be more as the day goes on.

I was the second speaker and this is what I said (more or less):

“I am the President of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council, which represents the residents of one of the four neighbourhoods covered by Mr. Jackson’s Report.  I am here to tell you that we are deeply disappointed by this Report – disappointed but not surprised because we have become accustomed to being misheard and misunderstood throughout this exercise.

This Report is an indictment of failure in Grandview-Woodland, a failure acknowledged several times publicly by Mr. Jackson himself. This Report trumpets a highly inflated number of 7,500 participants and yet never once acknowledges that in all of the meetings prior to the publication of the Emerging Directions document at the beginning of June, not a single moment was given to the discussion of important land use and rezoning decisions .Not a single moment.

This was not consultation with the community. This was disrespect for the community.

I do have to give the planners credit for one thing – they didn’t even try to pretend to be surprised at the outrage leveled at the Emerging Directions plan. They were well aware that all of the important changes in zoning and land-use would be completely new to its readers.

And now, a full three months later, this Report still offers us nothing in the way of concrete improvements. It talks about an extension of time, but gives no end-date, thus leaving the residents and the developers of Grandview-Woodland up in the air.

This Report offers us nothing in the way of details of a better process, just vague promises of a Citizens’ Assembly – whatever that may be – and for the details we have to wait yet another two months. And this Report says nothing about how that Assembly and the new processes that might accompany it are to be achieved. There is no reference at all to discussions about its role and responsibilities with the community, nor its relationship to the stakeholders, the citizens who are supposed to assemble.

Yet again it seems we are to be treated not as active agents of change but simply as passive consumers of someone else’s product.  This is very disappointing.

Our position is that any extension of time without a fully rebuilt process will be a waste of energy for the planners and for the residents, and a waste of money for the taxpayers.

From the acknowledgment of the failure of Emerging Directions to the apparent disclosure of the new details in December, a period of five full months will have elapsed; five full months in which the Planning Department could have been talking to GWAC and other representatives of the community in an effort to clear up this mess.  If we are to wait until December for the new details, GWAC begs Council to order the planners to spend the intervening period in close consultation with us and others to determine what those details should be. We note that GWAC has already submitted a detailed 12-point set of recommendations that could be used as the basis for such discussions.

We are also disappointed that this Report continues to suggest that the major problems in Emerging Directions are about the Commercial & Broadway area. While it is true that the towers suggested for that area were both provocative and completely inappropriate, any alternative to them will not distract from the significant problems of the land-use and zoning proposals throughout Grandview-Woodland. We urge Council to instruct the planners to treat all areas of our neighbourhood with equal respect and care.

Further, in order to bring clarity and completion to this exercise, we implore Council to instruct the Planners to set an end date of twelve months from today for the completion of what will then have been a thirty-month process.

Finally, I repeat that this Report is an indictment of abject failure in Grandview-Woodland and, because the process and the Terms of Reference were the same in Marpole and the West End, then this must indicate failures in those areas too. GWAC supports consistency of treatment across all neighbourhoods. If Grandview-Woodland needs a process re-set and more time, then we strongly encourage Council to grant the same to the other neighbourhoods affected by this failed process.

These are our communities and these should be our Plans.”

Famous Empty Sky Show!

September 26, 2013

Commercial Drive’s favourite artist, Famous Empty Sky, has a new selection of her wonderful steam-punk works showing at the Havana Gallery from tonight under the name “Beyond et Cetera”.  We saw one or two of these at her fabulous Clockwork Orange show back in April, but this is the full meal deal, with a whole passel of new works.

FES show

The official opening is on Sunday from 4pm to 6pm, and the artist encourages everyone to wear their best steam-punk outfits for the event!