Learning From The Best

January 19, 2023

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Scot Hein was one of the most respected planners at Vancouver City Hall. For the last few years, he has been using his skills to train other planners. He has now announced a new short course that will be of value to neighbourhood activists and all those interested in dealing with the City’s zoning and planning departments. As Scot describes it:

“Essentially I will be sharing my best tools, methods, case studies/precedents and engagement practices for all stakeholders towards positive shared results. We’ll also practice how to start a productive design oriented conversation in the neighbourhood.”

It is a four-week course in April and May that includes a walking tour of Kitsilano. Full details are here: https://www.sfu.ca/continuing-studies/courses/city/introduction-to-neighbourhood-design.html


Italian Labourers’ Strike, July 1910

November 10, 2022

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I have written a short research article on the strike of Italian city labourers in July 1910, which started in Grandview and which featured action on our streets.The article can found at: https://grandviewheritagegroup.ca/blog/

I hope you find it of interest.


Vacancy Control: The Key to Rental Affordability

October 11, 2022

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We have had Rental Control in Vancouver for many years through which long term renters are assured that their rent will only increase each year by an amount governed by Provincial regulation. However, rent control operates at the tenant level, meaning that when a tenancy ends the landlord is free to jack up the price of a suite by any amount they choose, often destroying affordability. In my own building we have seen new tenants charged $1,000 a month more than was paid by the tenant who left.

Moreover, this ability to raise rents by huge amounts has contributed directly to some greedy landlords seeking to evict low-paying tenants no matter how worthy they are, no matter how long they have lived there, and how regularly they pay their rents.

Vacancy control is rent control at the level of the suite, meaning that new tenants will not see such massive increases in costs, and landlords will have far less reason to strongarm existing tenants out of their homes.

I am delighted to report that TEAM For a Liveable Vancouver, if they gain a majority on Vancouver City Council, will implement vacancy control for all multi-unit apartments. Mayoral candidate Collen Hardwick noted:

“Vacancy Control is needed because while many landlords of multi-unit apartment buildings are not dramatically raising rates when vacancies occur, enough are imposing huge increases to make it impossible for low and medium income renters to afford the rent.”

Vacancy control will be brought in for a short period in order to study its effects:

“TEAM will set a term of 2 years for the Vacancy Control implementation and include a “sunset clause” for it to expire – while during that time there will be a full review of the results with recommendations for the future. And there will be an Appeal Board for apartment owners whose properties have needed repairs and renovations to allow appropriate rental increases to cover those costs. The Vacancy Control measure will only apply to large multi-unit apartments of more than 6 units and not to smaller rentals, including basement suites, laneway houses, duplexes and other similar situations.”

Patrick Condon, founding Chair of UBC’s Urban Design Program, said:

“Vacancy Control is absolutely essential to Vancouver to stop the enormous increases in apartment rental rates and the ridiculous windfall profits that some landlords have imposed on those seeking affordable housing in our city. This measure will stop the spiral of ever more unaffordable rentals and allow City Council to begin the work needed to make Vancouver somewhere that all renters can continue to live without spending more than they can possibly afford.”

TEAM’s policies are a stark contrast to those of ABC mayoral candidate Ken Sims and Forward Together Mayor Kennedy Stewart – who have solicited donations from the major corporate developers who benefit from unlimited rent increases in vacant rental units.


Remember This When Voting

October 8, 2022

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Today is another chance to vote in advance of next week’s election in Vancouver. As you ponder the lengthy ballot, remember this:

I call this Kennedy Stewart’s plan, but his policies were supported by OneCity and the Councillors who now make up ABC Vancouver.

I urge you to think carefully about TEAM’s neighbourhood-based planning policy, their aim to create a $500million fund for co-ops, and their inspirational transit plan that works for the entire city rather than just a tiny section along Broadway.

Whoever you support, do vote!


Giving The Neighbourhoods Back To Us!

October 7, 2022

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One of the key factors drawing early supporters to TEAM For a Liveable Vancouver was its promise to return power back to the people after a generation of top-down, ignore the residents, “we-know-best” urban planning from Vancouver’s Planning department and their developer cronies. This week, TEAM released its policy for development and planning, and it meets that promise head on.

As a first step, a TEAM majority will repeal both of the disastrous Broadway and Vancouver Plans pushed through in the last term by Kennedy Stewart and the Vision 2.0 coalition of OneCity, ABC, and the Greens.

“The city developed these plans with selected ‘stakeholders’ rather than actually talking to people who live in the neighbourhoods and know them best. The result will be a concrete jungle of generic neighbourhoods that have lost the qualities that make Vancouver unique, beautiful and livable,” said Mayoral candidate Colleen Hardwick.

They will be replaced by a new neighbourhood-based planning system that will provide a meaningful and impactful voice to local residents and businesses.

This vital consultative approach will be enhanced by “simplifying permitting processes to reduce costs and approval times. Bottlenecks in the permitting process will be identified, and streamlined, and a One-Stop Renovation Centre will make laneway housing, secondary suites, duplexes and small-scale infill easier to build.”

These new policies, along with the $500 million plan to increase co-op housing in the city, will go a long way to restoring affordability and accessibility to housing in Vancouver.

Yet more reasons to vote TEAM on October 15th.


Now That Voting Has Started …

October 3, 2022

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… it is time to remind voters that you are not obliged to vote for all the positions available. There are, for example, 10 Council seats up for election but you only have to vote for those you actually want: if there are only 5 or 6 Council candidates you support, then only vote for those. Same goes for Park Board and School Board.

Local political writer Ray Tomlin has explained it well:

“Having spoken with strategists working within the 10 civic parties offering candidates for election in 2022, civic campaign managers are recommending their voters “plump their ballot” — voting only for the candidate(s) they really want to see elected. “Pro-plumping” strategists are telling their voters that giving a vote to someone you really don’t care about, simply to fill the ballot, weakens the position of those you really do want in. Too many votes for a candidate running with a party you don’t support not only weakens your vote for the candidates you want to see win on election night, it dramatically increases the likelihood that your favourite candidates may lose.”

It is also worth noting that civic politics controls much of your daily life — development, zoning, business licensing, basic municipal services — and yet fewer people vote in civic elections than for other levels of government. Whoever you support, do yourself a favour and make sure you vote!


Finally, A Housing Policy Worth Voting For!

September 29, 2022

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TEAM For A Livable Vancouver today proposed a $500 million City of Vancouver investment in affordable co-operative housing to create homes for over 4,000 people in up to 2,000 new units for all income levels, using City land for locations across Vancouver. TEAM mayoralty candidate and Councillor Colleen Hardwick said today that the proposal would be put to Vancouver voters in a mail ballot referendum within 18 months of taking office.

“This co-op housing proposal would be the single biggest increase in 100% affordable housing the city has ever seen at one time,” Hardwick said. “The $500 million expense would be amortized over 30 years and the co-op rents would recover costs to the City, while Vancouver would retain ownership of the lands and lease it out over a long term. Vancouver needs affordable housing – not expensive strata condos that ordinary people cannot afford, and not simply “market rate housing” or slightly below market rates that ABC’s Ken Sim and Forward Together’s Kennedy Stewart keep talking about – we need affordable housing for the missing middle and for working people who can no longer rent or buy in Vancouver.”

Professor Patrick Condon, Founding Chair of the UBC Urban Design Program, Faculty of Applied Science, said the TEAM proposal is a game changer for Vancouver.

“This is an innovative and practical proposal that could create affordable housing for thousands of Vancouver residents who have little hope of continuing to live in the city or see their kids and grandkids stay here,” Condon said. “It’s so important that a mix of our city, from the well off, to the middle class and the economically disadvantaged all live together in the same vibrant neighbourhoods across our city,” Condon added.

Colleen Hardwick noted that

“Our affordable housing plan is about giving people real hope about the future of living in our beautiful city – not the hype we hear from major corporate developers and other political parties that have simply failed over the past four years of skyrocketing rents and housing prices while prescribing more of the same but expecting different results. We need 100% affordable housing built as soon as possible and this plan will, with the support of Vancouver residents, create thousands of new homes for people who desperately need them,” she said.

Hardwick said that the ownership of these purpose-built rentals will remain with the city, providing a return to the ratepayers of Vancouver, as required by the terms of the Vancouver Property Endowment Fund. As this affordable housing comes online, rental payments will provide cash flow, enabling it to pay back the land leases over 35 years while providing cash for further development. 


Meet the TEAM team!

September 27, 2022

Council Candidates’ Forum

September 22, 2022

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Whose Community Is It?

September 21, 2022

As an architectural and social artifact I have no real issue with high-rise towers.

When I moved to Vancouver in 1979, I lived first at what was then the Plaza Hotel at the northern end of Lions Gate Bridge. I worked as a freelancer and so needed a corporation to invoice my services. My first company was called Twenty-Third Floor Productions, which accurately reflected the position of my apartment. I loved it up there. When North Vancouver became inconvenient for me commuting without a car, I moved to the West End and happily lived amid (though not in) the towering glass and concrete erections.  No, I have no issue with high-rise towers.

In fact, I have often said that if the residents genuinely approved 15-storey towers on every block on Commercial Drive, I would have no problem with that. I would definitely move because that’s not the Drive I want; but the point is that I will always support the right of the neighbourhood to make that decision.

From a planning point of view, I was deeply concerned in particular by the Boffo Tower proposal on Commercial Drive because of what the success of the developer against the expressed wish of thousands of local residents would mean for any concept of genuine neighbourhood control in the future.

It matters not whether we are talking about towers or townhouses or row houses or supported housing or a new transportation option or a change in the use of roads; the issue always comes down to where the power of approval lies.  Right now, the disproportionately asymmetrical power equation of developers + money + a developer-friendly City Council and Planning Department versus ad hoc volunteer groups trying to protect the right of the communities to choose means that the ability of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods to control their own affairs, in matters of zoning and streetscapes, business and housing, is slipping away at a fast and increasing rate.

It is vital that we re-establish the rights of the electorate by pushing powers down to the lowest, most local level.  In terms of municipal policy this means making “city-wide” policies subject to local opt-in or opt-out.  This would mean that the Interim Zoning policies enacted after the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, land use policies under Transportation 2040, and now the city-wide plans such as Broadway and Vancouver Plans currently being implemented and further devised by the Vancouver City Planning Commission would all be controlled and enacted — or not — by each neighbourhood in Vancouver.

This also means that regional groupings, such as the unelected Metro Vancouver, need to become operational liaisons only with no executive powers concerning local development, and certainly no authority to override neighbourhood decisions through Regional Context Statements and similar.  If necessary, the City of Vancouver should be prepared to withdraw from Metro in order to ensure this level of local control.

And we must oblige the Province to amend the Vancouver Charter so that we, the residents of Vancouver, have full control over the style of council we have, the financial terms under which elections are fought, whether or not we become members of larger groups such as Metro and Translink, and all the powers needed to ensure that we can at least address the pressing crises of unaffordable housing, homelessness, and the low salaries paid to Vancouver employees compared to other large cities in Canada.

In a Twitter exchange with me some while ago, Bob Ransford called “parochial decisions” and “endless debate” a problem.  No, it’s not a problem.  After so many decades of top-down control and crony management, parochial decision-making after legitimate local debate is exactly what we DO want, what this City needs.

Civic politics should not be about cult followings and strict ideological homogeneity.  It matters not that TEAM and I differ in some of the details of policy. What matters is it is TEAM and TEAM alone who understand that neighbourhoods are the vital partners in this enterprise of moving Vancouver forward, and it is only TEAM that will implement the processes of government that will strengthen that partnership.

On October 15th vote Colleen Hardwick for Mayor with a majority of TEAM Councillors!


2022 Mayoral Candidates Debate …

September 19, 2022

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Hopefully, all five will show up!


A Reminder: Tonight’s Debate is Off

September 19, 2022

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For the last few weeks, volunteers from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) have sought to put together a Mayoral Forum which was scheduled for 19th September at Britannia. It was to be an occasion for the people of the neighbourhoods of Vancouver to question the five leading candidates for Mayor specifically about community engagement, local development, housing affordability, and public safety.

Colleen Hardwick of TEAM agreed to attend, as did Mark Marissen of Progress, and Fred Harding of the NPA. I know CVN thanks them for their acknowledgment that ordinary residents are worth the effort of engagement.

However, both Kennedy Stewart of Forward Vancouver and Ken Sim of ABC decided they didn’t have the time or desire to speak with the people of East Vancouver and the other neighbourhoods. Even though they were given plenty of notice, they are probably too busy cozying up to their big developer buddies, planning the further ruination of our great city for the benefit of their well-heeled backers.

The rationale for the event was to listen and compare the five major candidates. With two of them refusing to attend, the rationale fails and so the event has been cancelled.

This is the second such opportunity to mingle with taxpayers Stewart and Sim have disdained in the last week. Twice bitten, forever shy, I say. The opportunity to show these characters the door once and for all occurs on October 15th, and you can do it with your votes. Take that opportunity and help free Vancouver from the clutches of the for-profit growth4greed mindset that has dominated our politics and created the affordability crisis for the last generation.

Only TEAM has the right people and the right policies to ensure that residents of Vancouver have the final say in how our city and our neighbourhoods develop. I urge all my readers to vote Colleen Hardwick for Mayor with a TEAM majority Council.


Sign of the Times

September 18, 2022

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The view along Adanac Street has been greatly improved with some simple signage.


Are You Better Off?

September 14, 2022

The Arrogance of Front Runners

September 12, 2022

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For the last few weeks, volunteers from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) have sought to put together a Mayoral Forum which was scheduled for 19th September at Britannia. It was to be an occasion for the people of the neighbourhoods of Vancouver to question the five leading candidates for Mayor specifically about community engagement, local development, housing affordability, and public safety.

Colleen Hardwick of TEAM agreed to attend, as did Mark Marissen of Progress, and Fred Harding of the NPA. I know CVN thanks them for their acknowledgment that ordinary residents are worth the effort of engagement.

However, both Kennedy Stewart of Forward Vancouver and Ken Sim of ABC decided they didn’t have the time or desire to speak with the people of East Vancouver and the other neighbourhoods. Even though they were given plenty of notice, they are probably too busy cozying up to their big developer buddies, planning the further ruination of our great city for the benefit of their well-heeled backers.

The rationale for the event was to listen and compare the five major candidates. With two of them refusing to attend, the rationale fails and so the event has been cancelled.

This is the second such opportunity to mingle with taxpayers Stewart and Sim have disdained in the last week. Twice bitten, forever shy, I say. The opportunity to show these characters the door once and for all occurs on October 15th, and you can do it with your votes. Take that opportunity and help free Vancouver from the clutches of the for-profit growth4greed mindset that has dominated our politics and created the affordability crisis for the last generation.

Only TEAM has the right people and the right policies to ensure that residents of Vancouver have the final say in how our city and our neighbourhoods develop. I urge all my readers to vote Colleen Hardwick for Mayor with a TEAM majority Council.


A-Maze-ing Laughter

September 8, 2022

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We spent some time down at English Bay today. It was sunny but blustery, and a great change from our normal routine. We always enjoy the marvelous A-Maze-Laughter sculpture by Yue Minjun which I consider one of the great public works of art.


Another Mayoral Forum

September 4, 2022

Mayoral Debate in Grandview

August 24, 2022

A Mainstreeting Event for TEAM for a Livable Vancouver

August 17, 2022

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Colleen Hardwick’s TEAM campaign will be mainstreeting on Commercial Drive tomorrow (Thursday 18th).

They will be meeting at the Entre Nous Femmes housing complex on Adanac & Commercial at 4pm and then proceeding south on Commercial Drive until about 5:30pm.

Come down and meet the next (and first female) Mayor of Vancouver and her TEAM!


Barbecue With The NPA

July 19, 2022

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Want to talk politics? For those that may be interested the NPA campaign is holding a barbecue this coming Thursday (21st) at 2365 Kitchener (corner of Kitchener & Nanaimo) at 4:30 – 6:30pm.

Note that this notice is in no way an endorsement of the NPA campaign, just a PSA. I will be happy to post notices of any events from any other party if I am notified in advance.