Slow Talking On Parklets

March 7, 2014

Some months ago, I flagged the campaign to pay for a parklet outside Prado Cafe on the Drive. Well, they raised the necessary money but apparently they are having problems getting the project through the City’s bureaucracy.  The following is from their Kickstarter Update Page:

We received our engineer’s drawings last week, but were unable to respond to any of his recommendations without hearing from VIVA Vancouver first. After submitting our design third package to VIVA over a month ago… we finally received our feedback today. It is messy. Here’s a primer on working with the Engineering Department:

1) We are operating under FIVE BUILDING GUIDELINES! We’ve got the federal, provincial, and municipal building codes which are standard issue, then we have the City’s patio code, and then we have the San Francisco parklet design guidelines. What this means is that our design goalposts are constantly moving and often hazy.

2) VIVA provides feedback through a closed staff working group consisting of… we don’t know who. What this means is that by the time the feedback comes to us, decisions have been made, rationales are unclear, and there is no opportunity to negotiate.

I lose sleep over these two factors. Last week I ran into a Principal of PWL Landscape Architecture who is designing the French Quarter parklet on Main street, and she reflected back my experience, so at least it’s the same across the board! She told me that one of her clients actually moved their business to Surrey because they couldn’t deal with the mess in Vancouver.

What nonsense this all is. It might have been quicker to build the entire thing in red tape.

Thanks to Dorothy for the heads up.

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Heads In The Heritage Clouds

March 7, 2014

Last night, quite a few of us heritage-interested folks from Grandview attended a Heritage Vancouver event downtown that was about “Heritage and the Community Plans”.  The evening was all about the newly-approved Plan in the West End, and the Downtown Eastside Plan that is going to Council next week. The speakers were City Planners Tom Wanklin (DTES) and Holly Sovdi West End).

Anthony Norfolk of Heritage Vancouver introduced Holly as having achieved a plan in the West End that was so perfect in its consultation that “there was no opposition to it” when it came up for approval. At the close, Norfolk said that the DTES Plan was equally splendid and that what was being said in the newspapers about the Plan was absolute rubbish (and he should know, he said, because he was closely involved in it from the beginning).

Everything between these two statements was pollyana-ish, with the two well-mannered planners giving ten minute tours of their respective Plans and then responding to questions with predictable responses.  “I do so love what’s happening to the City,” exclaimed one young person – it was that kind of meeting. It is clear that among a certain crowd, Vision Vancouver and their planners have succeeded in getting the poisoned Kool-Aid into the food chain.

Norfolk’s nonsensical remarks (belied by innumerable facts that he simply ignored — or perhaps from his Olympian height he simply cannot see or understand) were just the worst of a bad bunch. We have to remember that his organization, without bothering to ask either GWAC or the Grandview Heritage Group, wrote to the City that Grandview’s “Emerging Directions” Community Plan was a promising document. They did this just a few days before the entire Plan was chucked out due to the extent of public outrage.

When they stick strictly to heritage work, Heritage Vancouver perform a wonderful service for citizens and historians alike.  It would be good for them to stay quiet about more contentious public policy.