Image: Shadows On Wood

January 31, 2019

Night Music: Strange Fruit

January 30, 2019

Public Hearing for 815-825 Commercial

January 30, 2019

A public hearing on the proposed redevelopment of 815-825 Commercial (and 1680 Adanac) is scheduled for 12th February at 6:00pm at City Hall.

The proposal is for a 6-storey mixed use development with commercial at grade and 38 rental units above. There was an open house for the project last April after which I stated my support for most aspects of the design and the mix of apartments proposed.


However, I objected to the project in the end, having noted the following at the open house:

“The very first thing I heard one of the developers’ reps say to someone else as I walked into the presentation room was ‘No, these aren’t designed to be “affordable” units. The one beds will probably start at around $2,200 [a month]’.”

The notice from Vancouver Planning says quite specifically that the units will be “affordable”, but the development documents say they will be “market”.  As we have seen in so many recent developments, City Planning seems to think that $2,200 is affordable for a one-bedroom apartment.  I don’t, and I am sure that the 50% of Vancouver workers who get paid median incomes or lower will also disagree.

If you have concerns or interest, please make yourself available to speak at the public hearing.

Wise Words

January 30, 2019

Rezoning As An Assessment Cash Grab

January 29, 2019

At Vancouver City Council today, BC Assessment officials were on hand to discuss the latest valuation of properties in the city.  The details are highly technical, but it was interesting to learn that the total value in Vancouver is now $480 billion, a 600% increase in just 20 years.

What the discussion also reminded me was that properties are assessed taxes not necessarily on their actual value but rather on what their current zoning considers the “highest and best use” of the lot.  In other words, if you live in a single house that is zoned for, say, a duplex, the owner pays tax as if the duplex already existed. Even more egregiously, if you own a small business property, say a single-storey building that is in a zone that allows a 20-storey tower, the assessment valuation can be for the latter.

Under this arrangement, property taxes are taken for what might be rather than for what is.  This makes no sense to me. Moreover, it could lead to a situation where a Council can increase its revenues simply by up-zoning — a cash grab.

It has also been the case that developers owning upzoned vacant lots that they are not yet ready to develop can argue for a change of temporary change of use to, say, community gardens, relieving them of about 70% of the assessment cost.  I would argue that to receive this kind of benefit, they must agree that no building will take place for at least, say, ten years.  I understand that householders who have resided in their property for at least 10 years can apply for a current use valuation, so developers should be required to meet the same time period.

More broadly, I would propose that all assessments be based on current actual use rather than the zoned potential, to be reassessed on the issuance date of a development permit.  Such a change should benefit both private householders, small businesses, and developers alike.


Image: Cans #1

January 29, 2019

Night Music: Goodbye To Love

January 28, 2019


Those fuzzy guitar riffs are worth all the saccharine on the world.

Poem: In These Days

January 28, 2019


in those days,

when we had nothing to lose,

when a shoestring would have

busted our budget,

you wouldn’t have been mawkish

if we’d lived in a belfry;

you wouldn’t have been angry

if it was ringing with bats.

you’d have loved it, and loved

life and loved me while doing it.


but these days,

when we have everything,

if it’s not designed by a consortium

of the better known architects

we don’t even look,

don’t even disturb our coiffeured

minds for a moment

unless it has the imprimatur

that others love it

and is, therefore, worth loving.



Borderline Invisibility

January 27, 2019

We are probably all aware that books by some authors — Clancy, King, Rowling, Martin, Patterson, etc. — sell in the millions of copies.  However, there are authors, and publishers, who aim for a very different market. has a delightful piece this week about writers and presses that limit their editions to a few hundred copies, and some even reduce their output to single figures.

The main section of the article deals with poet and artist Margaret Galey who published a book of 38 poems, all using only the letters from a sign “Hello, Please Remove Shoes”. The book had a run of just five copies.

The article’s author also contacted Happy Monks Press who limit their editions to 25 copies, of which 10 are for the author.  Others really are one-offs:

“For Alternative Press, which was run by Ken and Ann Mikolowski for more 30 years (1972–2004), Robert Creeley handwrote a poem on each of the 500 letterpress postcards he was given and made no copies. This means his “Collected Poems” will always be incomplete. Creeley’s postcards were put in mailers, along with bumper stickers, bookmarks, and other goodies, and sent to subscribers. The content of every envelope was unique.

Having consciously self-published my own books in very limited editions (though one of mine did break the 1,000 copy barrier), I’m glad to see that writing just for the sake of writing (“borderline invisible”) can still be fashionable.

A Good Day For Geniuses

January 27, 2019

Today is the anniversary of the birth of two extraordinarily innovative creators — Wolfgang Mozart in 1756, and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) in 1832.

We live in the sunshine of their genius still.

Image: Coming and Going

January 27, 2019

The Whiskey War Goes On and On

January 26, 2019

One year ago, I reported on the BC Government’s seizure of $40,000 worth of whiskey from Fets Whiskey Kitchen on Commercial Drive (here, here, and here).  You may recall that, although Fets purchased their whiskey from legal outlets and paid the full price and the full tax on the purchases, they were technically not allowed to purchase from those outlets.  Similar seizures were made in Victoria.

Last June, the BC Government’s own panel set up to look into the issue, recommended changes to the law to allow the kind of purchases that Fets had made.  This month, the Federal Competition Bureau entered the fray in support of Fets, declaring the BC regulations “anti-competitive”.  It is now 12 months since the raid, and more than six months since the panel’s report, but Fets still doesn’t have their whiskey back, and they are still on the hook for legal expenses and potential fines.  According to an article on Whiskey Cast:

“While the other three bars settled their enforcement cases with the province and paid small fines, the Fergies [Fets owners] are still fighting the potential loss of around $40,000 (CAD) worth of whisky and a proposed fine of $3,000. Their hearing has been pushed back to this May.”

I am clearly on the side of Fets in this fight, but regardless of right or wrong, it is crazy that this can drag on so long. As mentioned above, the government’s own panel came up with recommendations six months ago but they are “still under review.”  I certainly don’t believe that government and business should operate in an identical fashion, but, seriously, no business would survive if they took so long to make a decision, especially in this day and age.

Our otherwise worthy AG needs to get off the pot and make this right for a business that has helped the Drive flourish for more than thirty years.

[Hat tip to Nati Harron for the link to Whiskey Cast]



Night Music: Strawberry Fields Forever

January 26, 2019

Toward A City Plan

January 25, 2019

I spent a very pleasant time this morning with a good friend discussing city politics and planning.  She is an articulate, intelligent, and involved activist with definite ideas and we have worked together well for some years. However, she and I disagree about the need for, and the design of, a citywide plan. I was having a little trouble articulating my ideas this morning and so I’ll make an attempt at a start here and perhaps expand these thoughts in future posts.

As anyone who has read my planning posts over the last few years will know, I am a firm believer in bottom-up planning as opposed to the top-down directed approach adopted by Sam Sullivan and the NPA a decade and more ago; an approach which was gleefully taken up and vastly expanded by Vision Vancouver throughout their period of civic control, to the delight of their crony developer buddies, and which has led us to the sorry state of housing unaffordability that sits as a curse on Vancouver today.  This makes me extremely wary of any attempt by the city to impose a city-wide plan on the neighbourhoods.

I recognise that the City needs to be in control of important aspects of planning, most especially regarding infrastructure — water, utilities, transportation, fire services etc.  There are also reasonable arguments to be made for central responsibility regarding building codes, licensing, parks (to a certain extent) and probably recreational and cultural facilities. The City should also collect and disseminate the data regarding potential demographic growth, and should also determine the overall amount of spending on social housing.  Beyond that, I believe that all planning should be substantively in the control of the neighbourhoods, and any city plan should be formed from a mosaic of local plans.

Each local zoning plan — directed by democratically elected neighbourhood committees operating with the technical assistance of professional planning staff and offering open consultation to neighbourhood residents — would take into account:

  • the City’s infrastructure requirements;
  • an amount of anticipated demographic growth equal to all other neighbourhoods;
  • an amount of social housing funding (and thus new supply) equal to all other neighbourhoods.

The local plan would be approved (or rejected) by a full neighbourhood household survey.

These are just early thoughts and I suspect there are holes in the plan wide enough to be called chasms. I welcome comments and ideas to improve this quick draft.


Image: Canada Goose

January 25, 2019

Night Music: Bohemian Rhapsody

January 24, 2019

Spies: A Memory of 58 Years Ago

January 24, 2019

When I was eleven years old I lived in Ruislip Gardens which is a tiny suburb of Ruislip which, in turn, is a small suburb hanging on to the western edge of London.  I had a newspaper route which I took care of seven days a week starting at six each morning.

In London in those days we had a dozen or more daily newspapers and each subscriber to our delivery service could receive any permutation of papers. Most houses took two papers, and some many more. Sorting the right papers into the the right order in the right bags was a vital part of each morning’s routine at the shop.

By Christmas 1960, I was one of the senior delivery boys and had thus inherited a long route that covered the main road from Ruislip Gardens to Ruislip and included several side streets along the way. It took almost two hours and I sure earned my breakfast every day. On school days, it was split between two boys.

One of the side streets to which I delivered newspapers every day was Cranley Drive. And at 45 Cranley Drive lived a Canadian couple, Helen and Peter Kroger. I know I delivered papers to them but I don’t recall them at all, not even from the Christmas tip. However, in January 1961, the Krogers were arrested, and I do remember the street being closed off one cold morning by police cars and constables. It was revealed over the next few months that the Krogers were really Russian spies Morris and Lona Cohen, and that their basement on Cranley Drive included a sophisticated radio communications setup with Moscow.

It seemed exciting to a young kid in those dangerous days of Atom spies, the Third Man, Checkpoint Charlie. And I have kept my fascination with moles and sleeper cells ever since.

Blurred Vision Again on Broadway Subway

January 23, 2019

Translink has formally decided to scrap any idea of people-and-cost-friendly Light Rapid Transit for any part of the journey along Broadway. They have confirmed their love affair with the more expensive Sky Train system for the line all the way through to UBC, though why this is news amazes me; their decision on this was made many years ago. I went to more than one presentation where it was clear this was the only path they were examining.

Many of us, I believe, had hoped that once we had rid our city of Vision Vancouver and their crony capitalist buddies that this crazy but developer-friendly idea might be scrapped.  Not so, unfortunately. Our new Mayor, a one-for-one substitute for Gregor Robertson — no doubt encouraged by Geoff Meggs from his seat of power in Victoria — is all for the big towers and the expensive hole in the ground.

It will be a boon to UBC, I guess. But will they kick in any cash from their huge endowment?  Not a chance. It is we taxpayers who alone will be obliged to cough up the whole sum.  It will be billions and billions of dollars out of our pockets, funds that could be better used to significantly improve transit right across the city, not just on a one trick pony.

Rapid transit all the way to UBC is a good idea, of course, but the subway (especially underground — an idea done just to please the elite of westside Vancouver who don’t want a far less expensive elevated rail) is the worst possible option as I have written several times before.  Our new City Council is sounding a lot like the last bunch.

Breakfast Today #8

January 23, 2019

One of our favourite breakfasts is vegetable samosa served with a fried egg on top, along with Thai chili sauce and creme fraiche on the side. For some years, we have bought our samosas from the corner store at Commercial and Venables. Unfortunately, some weeks ago, one of their coolers broke down and they haven’t had samosas for sale. We have felt deprived, especially as they can;t tell us when they will be restocking

Luckily, Chef John of Food Wishes came to our rescue with his new recipe for samosadillas — a tortilla-based alternative with a powerfully flavourful filling.  I made several this morning and they were brilliant!  I usually only use my own photos for these food posts, but my camera let me down today and so this is from the Food Wishes site.


I thought I would miss the solid crunch of the deep fried samosa batter but, frankly, I enjoyed these even more. Thank goodness I made a bunch!

Image: Cozy Apartments

January 23, 2019