While doing some newspaper research this afternoon I came across this prescient front page cartoon from Province 1911 March 31:
Next Tuesday, Councillor Colleen Hardwick’s motion on getting voter approval for any new Olympics bid will come before Council. Mayor Kennedy Stewart has intimated that we should have no say in the matter even though it will likely cost Vancouver tax payers billions of dollars, and remembering that we still have no idea what the 2010 Olympics cost because of a secret deal to hide the figures until at least 2025.
Hardwick’s motion is simple: She asks that we all get a chance to have a vote on the matter during the October civic elections. The question she wants on the ballot paper is equally simple and neutral:
“Do you support or do you oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation in hosting the 2030 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games?
_ YES, I support the City of Vancouver’s participation.
_ NO, I oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation.”
The full text of the Motion is here:
Given the Mayor’s opposition to public participation in this decision, there is a chance that even this motion might not be allowed to be discussed. That is unless we the public make sure the Council know that we want and need to be consulted on how our money is spent.
Therefore, whether you support the Olympics or not, I urge you to email City Council demanding that we have a say in this decision during the next municipal election and supporting the Motion. Your email must arrive before Council starts to sit on Tuesday 11th April. Please copy it to:
email@example.com; CLRbligh@vancouver.ca; CLRboyle@vancouver.ca; CLRcarr@vancouver.ca; CLRdegenova@vancouver.ca; CLRdominato@vancouver.ca; CLRfry@vancouver.ca; CLRhardwick@vancouver.ca; CLRkirbyfirstname.lastname@example.org; CLRswanson@vancouver.ca; CLRwiebe@vancouver.ca
The always excellent CityHallWatch has published the latest “sunshine” list of Vancouver City staffers. Almost 1,800 of them make more than $100,000 a year, and 19 make more than $200,000 a year. It is no wonder they seem tone-deaf to the needs of residents for whom the median income is closer to $50,000.
The publication of the list prompted me to compare Vancouver’s civic staff and costs against those of Toronto which has a population of almost 2.8 million, many times larger than the 663,000 in Vancouver.
- Toronto’s staff costs for 2021 were $883,546,834 or about $317 per resident.
- Vancouver’s staff costs for 2021 were $586,049,613 or about $885 per resident.
Toronto’s civic staff totals 7,239 employees, while Vancouver is budgeting to employ 8,798 in 2022.
Who do you think is getting a more efficient service for your tax dollars?
This evening I ZOOM-attended a Vancouver Heritage Foundation presentation given by Michael Kluckner on Vancouver in the 1960s and 1970s. It was a marvelously fluid talk, brilliantly illustrated with art, photographs, newspaper clippings and magazine covers. Michael is not only a fine artist and heritage writer, he was also involved in many of the events that he discussed.
The range of topics from the 1965-1975 period that he covered was broad and varied: hippy culture and lifestyle; music; publishing (Georgia Straight etc); the politics of the freeway, the Stanley Park entrance proposals, and False Creek, the development of Granville Island; the introduction of strata title and condos; civic and Provincial politics; and much else including the early careers of people well-known today.
One of the key take-aways is that little has really changed in terms of development pressures and affordability. He quoted a 1967 report that only 40% of residents could reasonably afford the housing available, and that the vacancy rate in Vancouver in 1971 was almost exactly the same as it is today.
It was particularly gratifying for me to better understand the earlier lives and deep involvement in important issues of several people I have come to know quite well here in Grandview.
Much of this will, I gather, be captured in Michael’s new book The Rooming House: West Coast in The 1970s which is soon to be published.
An evening well spent.
At 6:00pm on April 19th, Andy Yan will be chairing SFUData 4.0.
Presenters will delve into the ground-breaking work they’re involved with, provide a deep dive into the methods and tools they used and discuss implications of their findings in their respective studies. A brief five-minute Q&A period will follow each presentation. Presenters and topics include:
- How BC Rent Bank’s Data Reporting Tool is Helping to Keep People Housed, with Melissa Giles
- Understanding Evictions in Canada through the Canadian Housing Survey, with Craig E. Jones
- Scanning B.C.’s Housing Needs Reports: What We’ve Learned So Far, with Andres Penaloza
- 2021 Census of Population: What’s old, what’s new, and everything in between, with Stewart Deyell
Registration and attendance is free and details can be found here.
The Broadway Plan is almost upon us. It will be going before City Council in May for approval. Before then, the public is offered one last chance to make comments until March 22nd.
According to an email I received, you can:
- Learn more: Detailed information on the Draft Plan, planning process, and engagement opportunities are available on our Shape Your City website.
- Take the survey: Provide feedback through the online survey which is open until March 22, 2022. Take the survey here.
- Attend the open houses:
- March 2: Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House (800 East Broadway) from 4:30 – 7:30pm
- March 5: CityLab (510 West Broadway) from 10:30am – 1:30pm
- March 7: Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (2305 West 7th Avenue) from 4:30 pm – 7:30pm
- Talk to the team: Book a time to chat over the phone with a member of the Broadway Plan team through our Office Hours.
If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com.
Of course, those of us who have seen the utter futility of so-called public consultation in this City for the last dozen or so years may wonder whether it is a worthwhile exercise. Clearly the Planners have already decided what they want, and this is just a PR operation.
In a report about the development at 1477 W. Broadway, the Fairview/South Grandview Action Committee noted that:
“7 times throughout the Report, City staff state that the proposed height and density of the proposal aligns with the Broadway Plan Refined Directions, even though the Broadway Plan is not finished, nor has it been approved by Council.“
In other words, the fix is already in, and these “consultations” are basically just to make us all feel a bit better about a process we have no control over.
Elizabeth Murphy, an experienced observer of the Vancouver housing scene for many years, has written a well-argued piece in the latest Business in Vancouver delving into the recently-published census figures.
The pro-developer supplyists in this town keep on and on about our rising population providing, they claim, an urgent need to keep building more and more housing. However, as Murphy points out, the census shows Vancouver’s population continues to grow only at a modest 1% per year, just as it has done for more than a generation.
It is this kind of real data that infuriates the pro-developer crowd. They do their best to ignore it, as do their buddies in City Planning and City Council who have forced through building growth more than 20% greater than actual population growth in the last five years.
This extraordinary rush to build is at least partly responsible for the incredible rise we see in land prices as developers vie for lots to build on, leading us to a situation where the average household can no longer even dream of owing a home (absent a lottery win or a rich parent) nor even, indeed, of renting a place big enough to accommodate a family.
And still the developers and their shills want more even though as Murphy notes: “Development in the approval pipeline is already decades ahead of population growth, contrary to the supply deficit narrative.” This is far from a new problem here. I wrote a similar story back in 2016.
Not only is this frenzied building creating vast numbers of empty homes (about 23,000 according to the latest figures) and destroying all hope of affordability, the City has been unable to keep up with the basic infrastructure required to service these properties. As Murphy writes:
“The city has not kept up with promised amenities for rezoned areas such as Norquay, Fraser Lands, and Marpole. The Cambie Corridor doesn’t have enough servicing , such as sewers, for the rezoned capacity. There are billions of dollars of infrastructure and amenities required for even what has already been rezoned, plus what is proposed … Development only covers a small percentage of the actual costs of related infrastructure. And in the case of rental housing, most development fees are reduced or exempted. So most of these costs must be carried by property taxes and capital debt financing.”
She also comments on a possible solution:
“While growth is inevitable, there is a choice as to how this is done. The challenge is to do it in a way that provides the needed housing, without overwhelming existing infrastructure. This requires incremental growth at a scale that new needed infrastructure can be affordably provided without inflating land values. These are the fundamentals of planning for a livable, affordable and sustainable city, not just unlimited growth promotion.”
As my Twitter handles states: we need to build for need not for greed.
It’s an election year in Vancouver, so we can expect a steady stream of announcements from City Hall showing how well the administration is managing your tax dollars. These are usually delivered in the form of small local improvements or planning exercises. And sometimes they are used to take peoples’ minds off more important matters such as housing affordability, the opioid crisis, money laundering, and the developers’ hold over City business.
So, it was in this rather cynical frame of mind that I read two such announcements from this week.
The first was about the distribution of $2 million in grants to groups — such as the BIA and the Kettle — to help with street cleaning functions using homeless folks. Hard to argue with the utility of that, and it helps employ some of the Kettle’s neediest clients.
The second item involves the beginning of a four-year plan to upgrade the City’s 44,000 street lights, many of which are old and faulty. There is now an app you can use to report lights that are not working.
Much of the talk among my local group when this was announced was about replacing the current lights with ones that dim or switch off when not needed. It was noted that the energy savings alone should be enough to cover the costs of the relevant sensors.
Your tax dollars at work.
A group of UBC scientists has recently published a scholarly article with the weighty title of “A spatiotemporal analysis of inequalities in life expectancy and 20 causes of mortality in sub-neighbourhoods of Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1990–2016.” It looks at changes in the causes of death in Metro Vancouver over those thirty years as a function of where the deceased lived and the economic inequalities between districts.
The introduction notes that:
“Urbanisation has been shown to widen health inequalities and increase the number of people at the extreme ends of the disease morbidity and mortality distributions within major global cities.”
The good news is that overall life expectancy acoss Metro continues to grow:
“Over this period, females not only lived longer than males, but the gap between [census tracts] CTs with some of the highest LEs (90th percentile, P90) and the lowest LEs (10th percentile, P10) decreased during this period for females and increased for males, with inequality most recently at its highest for males over the 27-year study period.”
However “In Canada, life expectancy was found to be lower among First Nations communities by an average of 16 years (Tjepkema and Wilkins, 2011) compared to non-Aboriginal adults.”
The survey notes that the area with the lowest life expectancy (LE) is the Downtown Eastside, probably no surprise there, where LE is just 60.2 years. This compares with the UBC Endowment Lands where the LE is a mighty 90.4 years.
“These disparities may result from systemic injustices, such as inequitable health care and nutritional food access, and social and environmental determinants, such as income and race inequality and urbanisation. These factors affect not only mortality rates of chronic diseases over time, but they were also drivers during recent acute health crises, such as the opioid overdose and covid-19 pandemic.”
We also have a pretty good idea about what is, eventually, killing us and how that has changed over time (though I am obliged to note that this is all pre-covid data):
An interesting survey.
One of our finest local reporters, Carlito Pablo, called me the other day for a new year’s catch up and to ask who I was supporting for mayor in the next election. I told him I was supporting Colleen Hardwick and TEAM because “She’s got the right ideas for city governance” including a bottom-up approach to neighbourhood consultation. She “understands that elected officials and the staff [of city hall] have to listen to the residents of Vancouver”.
The highlights of TEAM’s policies for the next election can be found at voteteam.ca.
In a short while, if the small business human scale vibe that is Commercial Drive is erased in favour of a homogenized street from anywhere, these are the names you will be able to blame:
The so-called Streamlining Rental report that I have discussed here and here was approved in full last night by all Councillors other than Cllr. Hardwick. It makes a great deal of the Vancouver Plan meaningless by pre-zoning huge areas City-wide.
More immediately for those of us in Grandview — and nothing to do with “streamlining rentals” –, it plants yet another boot in the groin of the Grandview Woodland Community Plan by encouraging greater height and retail spaces more suited to chain stores than local owner-rent-payers. This goes entirely against the Plan’s insistence and promise that:
“Zoning will remain unchanged [on Commercial Drive] … Because of the area’s significance to the community and the strong desire to maintain its low-scale character and form, the plan will ensure that other City policies that may otherwise allow for additional height will not apply.” (p.40)
The Mayor and the nine Councillors who voted for this Motion have obviously decided that promises made to East Vancouver about development hold as much water as their broken promise to keep taxes below 5%. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Let’s make sure we remember at the next election those who voted today to ignore and disrespect the long-considered opinions of the local residents.
Parks Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon of the Vancouver Green Party has introduced a Motion at Parks Board that advocates the “co-management of parklands” in Vancouver with the local First Nations. That sounds like a fine idea but, as with some other of this Board’s choices this term, it is being handled about as ineptly as one could imagine.
For all its reconciliation positivity, this Motion is illegal, impractical, and grossly undemocratic.
The Vancouver Parks Board operates under the Vancouver Charter which states, without ambiguity:
“The Board shall have exclusive possession of, and exclusive JURISDICTION and CONTROL of all areas designated as permanent public parks of the City in a manner prescribed in subsection (5) of this section, and such areas shall remain as permanent public parks, and possession, jurisdiction and control of such areas shall be retained by the Board.”
As local filmmaker and activist Elvira Lount points out in a detailed response to the Motion, the definition of “exclusive” is “not shared”. Therefore this Motion is illegal as it seeks to share management and control. The Motion should be called out of order and withdrawn for this if for no other reason.
But there are all sorts of other reasons. Impracticality, for example. Quoting Ms. Lount once again:
“Adding a whole new layer of bureaucracy to the management of our 240+ parks is impractical, unnecessary and unrealistic. We already have a management system in place with an elected Board and the means for the public to have input through both electing Commissioners and providing feedback on various proposals …
“Adding a new layer of co-management bureaucracy is an expensive proposition … [with] all the staff and advisors working with that Co-manager in order to provide informed input. The additional cost would likely be in the many millions. How would this be funded?
And that brings up the issue of the undemocratic nature of the Motion. Again, Elvira Lount gets to the point:
“Adding a co-manager for all our parks would completely circumvent the democratic process, not only by ignoring the Vancouver Charter, but by favouring one group of voters over another, whomever they might be. It is no longer a consultative and advisory role, but a much more hands on, behind the scenes management role, and quite possibly not transparent and not subject to full scrutiny by the public … Who makes the final decisions when it comes to matters of management – the management staff answerable to an elected Park Board, or the co-manager answerable to no one?”
We are less than a year away from civic elections and a change of this importance needs to be decided by the entire electorate after a full debate, not just by the temporary majority on the Parks Board today.
I understand that this will now come up to the Board for consideration on 24th January, so there is plenty of time for you to get your comments about this proposal into the Parks Board.
TEAM for a Livable Vancouver has revamped its website and, more importantly, issued its positions on a dozen of the most pressing issues facing Vancouver as we approach the civic election in 2022.
I support all of these policy directions and welcome their addition to the civic debate. However, as regular readers will know, my primary concerns are to achieve better local control of zoning and planning, and thus achieve a more equitable and affordable City for all the residents. I am pleased therefore to draw your particular attention to the Community Representation, Planning & Development, and Affordable Housing positions which, I believe, advance those causes in a positive and progressive way.
TEAM will be going into more detail on each of these policies as the campaign unfolds.
Having worked with TEAM for several months now, I am genuinely encouraged to be part of a group that stretches across the political spectrum, working with the single aim of improving our City and the lives of everyone in it.
The City of Vancouver (or, rather, Mayor Kennedy Stewart alone), the City of Whistler, and four local First Nations today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to study the possibility of hosting the 2030 Winter Olympic Games.
You may recall that the 2010 Games led to the City of Vancouver incurring hundreds of millions of dollars of debt and, because of the machinations of Gregor Robertson, John Furlong, and Penny Ballem, the people of Vancouver are still not allowed to see the final accounting for a long time yet.
The 2010 Games were supposed to solve many of the City’s problems, not least of which was homelessness and affordability — but look at where we are today on those issues. The 2010 Games also led directly to a long period of austerity caused directly by the huge holes that the Games burrowed into both Provincial and City budgets. But we are supposed to forget about all that and cheer on another round of outrageous spending.
Councillor DeGenova, the Games uber-backer, says things will be different this time. Yeah, right.
I am not a great fan of the Olympics generally. However, I am content for them to happen here again but ONLY if there is a cast-iron guarantee that not one cent of Vancouver taxpayers’ money is spent, and that every service Vancouver supplies is paid for in full.
I just received a mailing from Ken Sim for Mayor: A Better City. I suspect this went to every household as his well-heeled 1% backers can afford to spread their money around.
It is a full page letter in both English and Chinese, and in that full page there is not one word — not even a passing reference — to any policy statement. Nothing about housing and homelessness, nothing about development, nothing about the opioid crisis, nothing about transportation or economic development or public safety, nothing about schools or parks or indeed anything else.
Why would anyone want to donate to a candidate for Mayor who is only interested in talking about himself?
Our city is far too valuable to be put in the hands of someone who just wants to play personality politics.