Housing From Who’s Perspective?

September 30, 2014

On Saturday morning, the residents of Grandview will have a chance to see some part of the new Community Plan Citizens’ Assembly (CA) process in action. This first public event is a forum called “Perspectives on Housing” — and a very particular perspective it promises to be.

The panel put together by the CA managers to discuss Grandview’s housing future consists of a realtor, a developer, a social worker, and a City planner.  Fine people all, I am sure.  But without an owner not in the housing business, or one of the 60%+ of Grandview who rent, or one of the 1000-odd people who live in co-ops, (not to mention one of the homeless), this is just a housing industry/City perspective that’s being presented, completely unrepresentative of the neighbourhood.  These are the people that the CA has “training” the CA members.

This is the latest gaffe in a process that has been off the rails for well over a year.  It is about time we called “Time!” on this whole sad affair, and allow our highly successful community to continue to evolve and grow at its own pace in its own way as we have been doing so well since the last Plan back in 1980.

If you want to attend the forum, it begins at 10:45am on Saturday 4th October, at the Croatian Cultural Centre.


Previous posts on the Community Plan.

Fall’s Here!

September 29, 2014

St Paul's Fall2

Select image for a better view.

Words Of Wisdom

September 29, 2014


The History of Gentrification in Vancouver

September 28, 2014

MK gentrification

There has been endless talk in Vancouver over many years now about the effects of gentrification on our beautiful city.  How endless, you say?  Well, Grandview’s own illustrious city historian Michael Kluckner will tell you at a lecture this coming Tuesday, September 30th, 7:30 pm at Hycroft, 1489 McRae Avenue.

As Michael writes:  “This is my lecture on Gentrification in Vancouver, its historical roots in the city and its relationship to heritage, urban renewal and The Big Picture of global economic changes in recent decades.”

Tickets are a modest $12 and are available from http://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org/learn-with-us/workshops-talks/evening-lectures/ or by calling 604 264-9642.

Michael is an excellent lecturer, always erudite and amusing.  This will be a worthwhile evening for anyone interested in the subject.

Good Family Food

September 26, 2014

This evening, the ever-loving and I went for dinner to Tom & Jerry’s on Hastings by Slocan.  I used to go there almost every Saturday morning for breakfast when I did my weekly laundry in a place that used to be on that block in the 1990s.  Herself and I even had a Christmas dinner there about a dozen years ago .

It hasn’t changed much since I was last there, though I think they name may have changed to “Moulin Rouge”.  It is a family oriented restaurant that specializes in roadhouse-fare such as breaded veal cutlets, baby back liver, and Salisbury steak.  It is clean and friendly and extraordinarily value-oriented.  The boss had the salmon special, while I had a schnitzel.  The servings were enormous (neither of us managed to finish our plates) and the food was  certainly a lot more than adequate.  With a (good-sized) glass of wine, we spent less than $30 and both of us are complaining about how full we feel!

This is not a multi-star restaurant with a huge reputation, but I enjoyed my dinner more than I have in many establishments ten times the price and with gourmet stars.  Good for them!

The Crack Cocaine of City Finance

September 23, 2014

Community Amenity Contributions — CACs — are a debilitating and socially-destructive drug that the City of Vancouver has fallen addicted to over the last twenty years.  They are, to be frank, the crack cocaine of city finance and they need to be flushed right out of our system.

Perhaps many of you have never heard of CACs; they are not, after all, everyday talk in the coffee shops and diners.  CACs are a bribe developers pay the city to allow them to breach the previously agreed zoning for a particular lot.  If you want to exceed the height limits, floor space ratio (FSR), use profile, or some other aspect of what the local community has determined is best for their neighbourhood, you can negotiate a fee — the CAC — with City Planning that will get you off the regulatory hook.  City Planning then puts that money toward specific new public amenities (supposedly in that neighbourhood, but apparently not always).

That sounds like an interesting idea — if a developer wants to break the rules, that’s OK, so long as he buys us a shiny new library or a small park or a community meeting room in exchange.  But it is actually a terrible idea, especially as now the City essentially says that the availability of new community amenities are completely dependent on getting CACs from developers.  In other words, we can have nice things but only so long as we give away profitable density to developers; who, in turn, may or may not contribute some of their excess profits to particular municipal parties.  Moreover, the current system encourages spot rezoning (often against the terms of Vancouver Charter section 565A), especially when the developer is dealing with today’s majority on City Council that never votes against development applications.

It is vital that we de-couple the civic amenities that residents need from the indiscriminate and rapid densification of our beautiful city that six years of Vision Vancouver management has brought us.  The NPA and COPE were also in power during the period while this addiction took hold.

It didn’t used to be this way.  In the good old days — just a couple of decades ago — we voted on plebiscites every other year to determine which amenities we were willing to pay for by issuing City bonds.  It was mostly efficient. It was defiantly democratic.  The people got to decide what they thought was worth paying for, and the developers were not involved at all.  We need to go back to that system or something very much like it.

In return for lessening their costs, by eliminating CACs, I would tie this change into a change to the Development Cost Levy by-law to ensure a developer pays the entire cost of city infrastructure required for new development.

These changes, to CACs and DCLs, frees developers from paying CACs, obliges developments to pay for their own infrastructure, and allows the electors of Vancouver to more directly control the flow of amenities required to make us the most livable city in the world.



Buddha Sleeps

September 22, 2014

buddha sleeps

Bob Kasting – Glen Chernen Announcement

September 21, 2014

Further to Friday’s meeting. here is a short video clip of, first, Glen Chernen of the Cedar Party stepping down as a mayoral candidate in support of Bob Kasting, then Bob accepting Glen’s support, followed by a brief statement from Nicholas Chernen, Cedar Party Council candidate.

I am guessing this is Stephen Bohus’ video, for which I thank him.


A Debate On Neighbourhood Development

September 20, 2014

I am glad to see the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has arranged an All-Party Meeting on October 15.  The theme of the debate will be Putting The Community Back Into Community Planning.

See the Coalition website for on-going details.

Time to quiz the candidates about the role of community in our neighbourhoods.  Who gets to choose where the towers rise, or even if the towers rise? Should residents choose? Or should it be Planners?  Or Developers? Or how can these parts be made to work more efficiently for an improved neighbourhood — whatever the definition of “improved” might be in each case?

Make  a date in your calendar and come get involved in making Vancouver the best it can be.

A Government of All the Talents

September 19, 2014

When I was cutting my teeth on politics, watching grainy black and white coverage of US conventions in the early 1960s, there was always that moment of decision, of magic, when one of the candidates, recognizing the end, marched across the crowded hall and threw his arms around another candidate better placed than him.  The loser’s supporters swarmed across the hall and picked up the winner’s balloons and placards, and everyone jumped for joy as the teams joined forces.

Today’s event at the office of the Cedar Party in Vancouver perhaps didn’t match that kind of theatrical drama, but it was fun anyway, and might even be the trickle of pebbles that cascades into a slide that builds and sweeps away the tired old surface of cronyism that has passed for municipal politics in Vancouver the last dozen years and more.

Glen Chernen, standard-bearer of the Cedar Party, stood down today as a mayoral candidate in favour of independent Robert Kasting.  You might recall that I endorsed Bob Kasting the other day.  Glen will now run as a Councilor for Cedar and he and the rest of the Cedar Party team will support Kasting as Mayor.  There was a good turnout for the event and decent press coverage (see the Straight, for example).

Bill McCreery of TEAM was also at the announcement.  His party decided a few weeks ago not to run candidates but they too endorsed Bob Kasting as Mayor.  Randy Helten who ran for Mayor of Vancouver under the NSV banner in 2011, also spoke today in favour of putting together a team that can ensure Vision does not win another majority,  And just this week, Adriane Carr’s Greens (who I also endorse) talked about building issues’ coalitions among a group of parties around the Council table after this November’s vote.

This is sounding good to me, folks.  What Vancouver desparately needs is a government of all the talents, not a block-voting machine directed by non-elected outsiders.

Who Checks The Checkers?

September 19, 2014

CityHallWatch — that fount of civic information and leadership for which this city should feel genuinely blessed — is currently pursuing what may be a very significant election story concerning the purchase and operation of new election voting machines.

You might think that — especially after the debacle that was Florida 2000 — that the operation of election voting machines would be one of the most transparent parts of government business.  Surely the machinery and software that determines who governs us needs to be squeakier than squeaky clean. And the purchase of such machines and software needs to be equally clean and transparent.

The issues CityHallWatch raises about the machines we will use in November seem to indicate that transparency is the farthest thing from the minds of the managers and suppliers.

Watch this space.

Let’s Get To The Politics!

September 18, 2014

Yesterday afternoon, lawyer Bob Kasting announced his run as an independent candidate for Mayor of Vancouver. I had rather hoped he would announce many months ago in the hope that he could corrall behind him some of the seven or eight parties running for Council in November,  But he is in now, and that’s good, especially as he is a great supporter of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhood’s Principles & Goals document that outlines a much improved community engagement process for our growing city.

I have written before about how it is vital that we ensure Vision Vancouver does not get another majority — their plans to turn our City over to their developer friends and create an outpost for the rich elites that is completely unaffordable to you and me just have to be stopped.  Now that we have, after this weekend, COPE, Vancouver First and Cedar announcing their full teams, a little while after Vision, NPA and Greens did the same, it is time to get serious about supporting certain individuals.

My earlier writings will have indicated that I support independent Councilors and a ward system: Given than we don’t have either of those yet, it should be no surprise as an alternative that I am keen to see a Council without a party majority. I believe that is the best for Vancouver and certainly best for the neighbourhoods who can then put together issue-based coalitions as they arise. As the election moves on, I will pick individuals I will support from various parties.  But to begin …

I support Bob Kasting as Mayor of Vancouver,  He is a man of extraordinary learning and intelligence, he understands the nature of the City as a collection of definable neighbourhoods, he is willing to listen to a range of ideas for dealing with our Vision-generated affordability crisis, and I believe he has the ability to mold an “independent” council into a tool for burnishing Vancouver into an even greater future. If we are ever to move Vancouver away from the idea of political parties in municpal politics (we are one of the last holdouts for that corrupting system) then having an Independent Mayor is a damn good start

I support the three Green candidates for Council — Adriane Carr, Pete Fry, and Cleta Brown. Adriane Carr has handled her three years on Council as a lone “independent” with equanimity, intelligence, and with the ability to pick up on many of Vision’s problematic decisions.  I haven’t agreed with every vote she every gave — but why would I?  She has made a real fight of it. I have worked with Pete Fry for the last year on neighbourhood, development and transportation issues and have found him to be a fast study, a very quick and politically asuste mind, and a good speaker.  His elected management of Strathcona Residents Association was successful and shows a keen ability to debate and compromise, and his interventions in the DTES LAPP were valuable and thought-provoking. I don’t know Cleta very well, but she has great political background and if Adriane and Pete are willing to vouch for her, then I’ll go along as I get to know her during the campaign.

I will probably support a couple of Cedar Party candidates (Nicholas Chernen would be an interesting addition to Council, for example) and a couple of COPE and, yes, a couple of NPA. I have started meeting with individual candidates amongst this group and my personal support will be driven by the candidates’ views on the Coalition’s planning ideas.

If we can get a City Council with four or five different parties vying to put together issue-based solutions, I believe our future will be a lot more livable than four more years of developer-driven Vision Vancouver executing a blueprint for billionaires.

Note that this entire conversation excludes School Board and Parks Board where I have not followed the issues as closely as I have at the Council level.

Nosmo King the 18th

September 15, 2014

ASHTRAY-MKT-52Yet another year without cigarettes. Eighteen years, wow.

It might seem tedious to keep harping on this year after year, but frankly I think giving up smoking after 35 years of slavery to the habit was the smartest and bravest thing I ever did. And I know for a dead certainty that I would not be here writing this today if I had continued smoking the way I did.

So I’ll keep celebrating my freedom, year after year!

Pathway In Fall

September 12, 2014

Pathway in Fall2

The Density Debate

September 11, 2014

It was a marvelous thing that on a late summer’s evening we could get almost 100 local residents to come out to a meeting on density, but that’s what we did last night at Astorino’s.

The always erudite and arcticulate presentations from academic Patrick Condon and industrial-scale developer Richard Wozny were fascinating in and of themselves, but they led on to a series of interesting and well-thought-out questions from the floor about all aspects of density and zoning decisions, the role of CAC’s, DCLs, and property tax, and the potential cost to the city taxpayers of inappropriate high-density towers.

We also had a fine gathering of muncipal candidates from COPE, Greens, and Cedar Party, along with at least one rep from One City.  Some dove right into the debate, and all of them saw how these issues are still at play here in the city. We were also able to welcome Rachel Magnusson and Charles Campbell from the Citizens’ Assembly.

Candidates and officials from Vision Vancouver and the NPA were noticeably absent, which was probably more their loss than ours, to be honest. They would have heard some valuable ideas and felt the pulse of folks who are very likely voters come November.

9/11: 41st Anniversary of Chilean Coup

September 11, 2014

Today, the innocent victims of September 11th, 2001 deserve to be remembered. And they will be, all over the place. Here I choose to remember the victims of September 11th, 1973, the date on which a US-financed and sponsored military coup overthrew the democratically elected government in Chile.

Salvador Allende and the 3-4,000 Chilean victims who died as a result of the US coup deserve to be remembered as much as any in the Twin Towers. Perhaps even more, because the US claims to support democracy and yet they encouraged and assisted the overthrow of democracy in Chile; and perhaps even more, because the US claims to support human rights and yet for decades they supported and assisted the suppression of human rights in Chile by the dictatorship of the fascist General Pinochet.

But how much of this will the American mainstream media choose to remember? Virtually none I bet. So it is up to individuals to make it clear that 3-4,000 Chilean dead are just as abhorrent as 3,000 American dead. And the hypocrisy of the United States is as bad as the terrorism of Al Qaeda — and a lot more powerful.

The View From The Museum

September 8, 2014

Vancouver from MOV_small

Running The City For The People: A Review

September 8, 2014

I first published this in June.  Now that we have finally entered the election year months traditionally given over to politics in Vancouver, I thought it would be worth revisiting; and aksing whether any of our municipal parties will go along with all or at least some of these ideas:

* * * * *

There are, it seems to me, two types of municipal policies: the public policies (bike lanes, more parks, housing, support for arts, etc) that form the basis of most civic election campaigns; and then there is the question of how the City is run, the policies of governance.  I do have some definite ideas about public policy, but this article is about the second type — how this City is governed.ancouver

If I were Mayor with a majority on Council, there would be a lot of fundamental changes in governance policies, enough to ensure that we governed ourselves very differently, with much more transparency and far less politicization.  The difference between my ideas and those of the current Vision Vancouver Council will, I think, be obvious.

  • Public “real time” display of all City expenditures.
  • Immediate elimination of all Non Disclosure Agreements for City business; if it involves public money, then everything must be public; you don’t want to be public, then don’t do business with the city.
  • If you or your company or your family members have made municipal political contributions to a party within the previous four years, you cannot do business with the City(this would be a City rule, no need to amend the Charter).
  • Return to line item budgeting with details enough for everyone to understand.
  • Make Vancouver number 1 in North America with the openness, speed, and efficiency of our FOI system.
  • Move Planning out of the empire of the City Manager and have it report directly to Council. This should stem the distasteful politicization of the Vancouver public service.
  • All documents regarding city policies, planning, and development to be made public at least six weeks prior to Council.  If new documents are created, then the meeting dates must be rescheduled in accord with this rule (no more showing up with 25 pages of amendments on the day of the vote).
  • In camera sessions to be held exclusively for legal and personnel matters only.

There are probably others that should be included but, if just these eight proposals were adopted, our municipal government would be significantly more accountable and, I believe, far more efficient.  These proposals do not include the meta-changes that need to be made with the Provincial Governments help — such as a ward system and strict campaign finance limits on donations and expenditures.

I wonder how many of the parties contesting this year’s election would agree to any of these eight ideas?

The Funeral Went Well

September 8, 2014

Our mock funeral for the demolition of the house on Napier Street went very well, with a good and animated crowd,


Napier Funeral

City-TV and Global even gave us coverage.  Good fun with a worthy message.

Update:  The Rev. Mullin’s Eulogy: https://t.co/TCD4m5h3dg

Coping With Live Streaming

September 7, 2014

I want to thank the folks who are live streaming the COPE nomination meeting right now.  I had two other events to attend and so couldn’t make it; live streaming is keeping me in the loop.  Thanks!