The Scene at 6th & Commercial

January 31, 2014

JJ Bean

I am a member of a number of neighbourhood email groups and recently one of them has been alive with discussions about what is or isn’t happening in the back patio/parking lot of JJ Bean Coffee Shop at 6th & Commercial, and around the Post Office building across the street. About half the folks posting say there is a problem with aggressive behaviour and, perhaps, drugs, while the other half are saying they don’t see a problem and a laissez-faire rapprochement is the best solution.

This is highly reminiscent of the public meeting we had last month about Victoria Park.

In view of the concerns expressed and the obvious differences of opinion, Community Policing Constable Mike Lemon has organized a meeting to discuss these issues. It will take place at 6:30pm on Wednesday 19th February at the Britannia Learning Centre under the south side of the Library.  The City, JJ Bean, and the Post Office have been invited to attend.

All residents are welcome.

Happy Chinese New Year

January 31, 2014


The Ups and Downs of Civic Engagement

January 30, 2014

My day began with a wonderfully constructive and productive meeting with several members of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods — not to mention a very fine breakfast at Adeline’s on the Drive.  The meeting was full of great ideas and companionship and the sharing of news from across the City. Made me feel good.

But when I got home at noon I discovered the City of Vancouver had released the Final Report of the Mayor’s Engaged City Task Force.  What could be wrong with that you might well ask. After all, I am always going on about improving community engagement.  Well, this Final Report on engaging residents was created without the members of the Task Force or its staff meeting with any of the city’s local Residents’ Associations.  That is just nuts!

I have skimmed the Report and am now going through it in detail, and I know I’ll be writing more about it.  But how can it be taken seriously when they didn’t even try to communicate with the locals who deal with the problems of civic engagement on a daily basis?

Very disappointing.


The View Through

January 30, 2014

The View Through

Interviews, On and Off

January 29, 2014

On Monday, I had a long chat about the Citizens’ Assembly with Yolande Cole of the Georgia Straight which was included in this piece today.

This morning, I chatted with Jane Bouey on Coop Radio, which I always enjoy immensely, even though it is usually really early.  Today, we covered the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods’ position on the West End rezoning, and our own Assembly. You can hear it here, starting at about 49mins:

I was also supposed to be part of a meeting with Heather Redfern of the Cultch about her desire to demolish the heritage Green House beside the theatre.  Unfortunately, I was waiting almost four hours to meet with my doctor at the clinic and missed it.  Luckily, Penny Street, Michael Kluckner and Bruce Macdonald were there to stick-handle it in fine fashion.

Upon Reflection: Marine Building #1

January 29, 2014

upon reflection_Marine Building I

Public Participation Helps (Of Course)

January 28, 2014

Thanks to Francis Bula for pointing us to this article from last November which I would certainly not have seen otherwise.

The article refers to a theory that shows including public participation, what we like to call community engagement, speeds the implementation of new ideas.

Creighton’s theory compares two types of decisions: Unilateral and Public Participation. Unilateral decisions result in a quicker decision being made, but implementation time can take significantly longer because of legal issues, controversy, or other delays. Conversely, a decision made with public participation increases the amount of time it takes to make a decision, however, that time and much more is made up in the implementation process. Thus, including more voices at the table results in a more efficient and timely process compared to unilateral decisions.


They include a graph to illustrate the point:



The example they use in the article is about bike share in Los Angeles.  But the theory seems to be useful for all development and planning decision making.

The Citizens’ Assembly Talking Points

January 28, 2014

Tonight is the second of the two City-organized Info Sessions about the Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly. If it is like Saturday’s, there will be strong resident pushback against the limited nature (in both scope and size) of the Assembly that the Planners appear to favour.

I have written my piece about Saturday’s session and, more importantly, I have heard a large number of similar comments from members of the GW Ad-Hoc Committee.  This morning, Bruce Allen on CKNW chimed in:   (Thanks for the call out, Bruce!)

Tomorrow morning at 7:50am I will be speaking on Co-op Radio (100.5FM) to Jane Bouey about this and other issues.  Politics in Vancouver is hotter than the winter weather, that’s for sure.

Turn, Turn, Turn

January 28, 2014


Pete Seeger (1919-2014).  He will be remembered so long as there is singing in the land.

Vancouver Sunset

January 28, 2014


vancouver sunset august 2004

Talk Down To Me Vancouver

January 27, 2014

Regular readers will know that I have strong reservations about Talk Vancouver — reservations made even stronger after I used it today.  I swore I would never use it again, but they teased me about the Citizens’ Assembly  process and I just dived in.

The problem, as usual, is that the questions are tweaked to push you toward the answers they want and, equally importantly, make it difficult and inconvenient to give an answer that doesn’t match one of their limited choices.  For example, try answering “an open self-selected recruitment process” in place of their selections.

Very disappointing that I got caught in their web again.


Which Way Did They Go?

January 27, 2014


which way did they go

Rally For Ukraine

January 26, 2014

Ukrainian rally

There is a rally for Ukraine in Vancouver this afternoon.  I cannot be there but I urge anyone who can to join in.

Citizens’ Assembly Info Sessions

January 26, 2014

I have now written up a brief report about the meeting that kept me indoors yesterday.  It is posted at the GWActivist site which seemed more appropriate.

Morning Chorus

January 26, 2014

There are more foghorns going off in the harbour this morning than there are singers in a Wagnerian chorus!

Building Blocks

January 26, 2014



Sunny Day Inside: The Cost of Involvement

January 25, 2014

It was a stunning day today, warm (for January at least) and brightly sunny.  I should have been in the park or on the water or even just people-watching on a Drive patio. But no.

I was inside the Maritime Labour Centre discussing the mechanics of the Citizens’ Assembly along with 68 other residents and a couple of dozen Planning staffers who were also missing out on the sunshine. I’ll write about the meeting itself tomorrow.  But I can say now that the lasagna and salad were very good and, some might say, the highlight of the day.

Egg Plays With Cat

January 25, 2014


cat and egg_bw

Craziness Along The Broadway Corridor

January 24, 2014

A group of consultants, working mainly for the real estate and investment industry I believe, are holding “conversations” with “stakeholders” about the proposed Broadway Corridor development.  I thought that was excuse enough for me to dig my stake in the ground in opposition to the fantastical proposal being pushed by Vision Vancouver to dig a $3 billion hole in the ground.


Even a cursory look at the plan indicates some serious issues.  First, there is the basic question of whether this is a good use of $3 billion of tax-payers’ money. I’ll cover that in more detail below.

Second, this appears to be little other than an opportunity for Vision’s developer friends to build huge highrises in islands along Broadway.  I have no doubt that developers are already in the process of, or have already completed, assembling the required lots which will be built, out of scale, on lots serviced, as usual, by tax-payer-paid infrastructure.


These islands of immense high rises will be based on the transit stations which, in turn, will be some distance from each other.  This could easily lead to the abandonment of the retail/services in the in-between zones.  At the very least, a significant network of surface buses will be still be required to cover these gaps.

Finally, it is a fraud.  The current plan is to build the subway only to Arbutus.  That means students and workers will need to transfer to get to and from UBC.  How is that better than an express bus all the way?

There are a range of alternatives that could be considered.  For example, UBC could build substantial amounts of genuinely affordable student accommodation on campus, thus relieving the pressure on transit.  In addition, the high-tech companies that Mayor Robertson and Clr. Meggs keep insisting require this subway are perfect candidates for flexible employment scheduling, significantly reducing the need for peak hour transit and making the entire system more efficient by spreading the traffic load throughout the day.

My own more radical proposal is to make Broadway, from Clark to Arbutus, a car-free, transit and bike only, street.

Getting back to the $3 billion cost: is this the best use of that money?

  • Can you imagine how much truly affordable housing that much money would build for us using, perhaps, low-rise wooden apartments on city-owned land?
  • If the $3 billion had to be spent on transit, then it should be used to vastly improve and enhance the transit system right across the city, creating much more productivity for all of us.  This might include more high-speed buses or LRT along 4th Avenue and/or 16th.
  • If the money could be split, then a billion on transit improvements, a billion and a half on housing, and half a billion to help UBC with student quarters, would be a real winner.

What is certain is that putting $3 billion into a hole in the ground to feed islands of skyscrapers is just dead wrong.


The Fog of Sleep

January 24, 2014

Vancouver fogImage by Andy Clark/Reuters

One of the truly great joys of living in a working port is to hear the fog horns as the ships manoeuvre through the thick gloom. It really is one of my favourite things. It brings back evocative memories of all the many sea trips I have taken, washing over me with a happy nostalgia.

However, I stayed up until one this morning watching sumo, and the horns got going at full force about five.  Not such an attractive wake up call!

But I’ll live with it.  After all, that’s what naps are for.