“…And The Waters Around Us Have Grown”

November 5, 2019

Thanks to @Lidsville on Twitter we are alerted to the excellent interactive maps of anticipated sea level rise by 2050, just 30 years away. Here is a map of the Lower  Mainland:

 

A closer view of Grandview and its neighbours shows False Creek reclaiming its historic Clark Drive boundary:

 

More importantly, this is where the new St. Paul’s Hospital is supposed to be built.  Already there have been stories of liquefaction tests at the proposed site; this is a problem that can only be worsened by a rise in sea level. I suspect  that the technology-heavy and expensive “solution” will be some form of barrier at Main Street, probably with SNC involved.

And what of the entire industrial waterfront along the Inlet?  Are they planning for sea level rise and I missed seeing the stories?

This is important stuff, and thirty years is not very long.


Council Passes AG Motion

October 24, 2019

Councillor Colleen Hardwick

At yesterday’s Vancouver City Council Meeting, Clr. Colleen Hardwick’s Motion to establish an Auditor General was passed unanimously (with Clr. Wiebe absent).

The Motion passed more quickly and less divisively than I had expected, though it was not without incident. Clr. Pete Fry issued a set of amendments that sounded as if they had been drafted by and on behalf of the City Manager, but Clr. Rebecca Bligh managed to remove the most objectionable features of the Fry amendments through an amendment of her own.

I am hopeful for the future but now, we wait and see what impediments the City bureaucracy and their allies throw up to delay and/or water down this fine achievement.


Who Deserves More Respect: City Staff or City Taxpayers?

October 18, 2019

As I have written about before, Vancouver City Councillor Colleen Hardwick has proposed a most important and vital reform of city governance: that, like every other major city in Canada, Vancouver should appoint a completely independent Auditor General.

The function of this position is NOT to ensure that monies are being spent legally — that is the job of the outside auditor which every City is obliged to have.  Rather, the function of the Auditor General will be to ensure that Vancouver city taxpayers are getting value for the taxes they pay, that City departments are being run efficiently and are actually fulfilling the tasks that Council sets for them.  The proposed budget for this new position of about one million dollars a year is an infinitesimally small percentage of Vancouver’s almost $2 billion annual budget and, if other cities’ experience is any guide, will pay for itself several times over in savings and efficiencies identified.

This Motion is to come before City Council next Wednesday and it seems to many of us in the City that there is an open and shut case for such a position, especially as Vancouver is one of the last big cities to make such an appointment. Such positions have proved both successful and indeed invaluable elsewhere.  However, there is resistance to this Motion; partly from the entrenched city bureaucracy that will be the focus of the Auditor General’s work; after all, none of us like to have someone looking over our shoulder while we do our work. One might hope that they will understand in time that more autonomy not less comes with transparency and a proven track record of effective spending.

The opposition from certain Councillors are for reasons that are far less clear. Some Vancouver Green councillors, for example are said to be opposed to the Motion because, according to them, it is disrespectful to the City staff. Nonsense. I ask everyone to read motionb6 and show me where disrespect is shown to staff. These Councillors, apparently, would prefer to refer this to staff for their opinion. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think a completely unbiased assessment is likely to result from such a referral.

Vision Vancouver — whom the electors of Vancouver firmly and decisively removed from office at the last election — often used a referral to staff to minimize, significantly delay, or even bury for ever Motions they didn’t like. Many of us assumed that a new Council would be different.  We hope that is the case here.

But, perhaps they all need to be reminded that, while City staff do deserve respect, the taxpayers of this City deserve it even more.

 


Urban Renewal

October 10, 2019

class war


Important — An Auditor General For Vancouver

October 5, 2019

What may be the most important Motion to come before Vancouver City Council this term is sponsored by Councillor Colleen Hardwick.  It is a Motion that calls for the establishment of an independent Auditor-General to provide

“effective stewardship over public assets, value-for-money in operations, transparent administration, and accountability … [to ensure] that the City of Vancouver is financially healthy and administratively effective, including a commitment to service excellence.”

The full Motion is 9 pages long.  It is worth reading:  motionb6

The Motion notes that:

“Vancouver is the only major Canadian city that does not have an Auditor General’s office (or a comparable “City Auditor” office) that is independent of the City’s management – one that is capable of providing an essential layer of independent financial and performance oversight of the City’s financial and operational affairs.”

I find it hard to believe that anyone could object to this reform. However, some years ago when George Affleck proposed something less substantial (an Ombudsman), the Vision Vancouver majority made sure that it never saw the light of day. And a well-informed observer tells me that City staff “are freaking out” about the current Motion — which makes me an even stronger believer in its necessity.

Unfortunately, I am also hearing that the Vancouver Greens (in whom so much progressive hope was lodged in the last election) will move to refer this Motion to staff for study. In other words, they want to bury it. I hope that serious reformers with contacts in the Greens can help shift them from this disastrous position.

The Motion goes before Council on 23rd October.  I hope that many of you will write to Council before that date in support of this vital reform to bring Vancouver into the 21st century.

You can email them at:   clrbligh@vancouver.ca;  clrboyle@vancouver.ca; clrcarre@vancouver.ca;  clrdegenova@vancouver.ca;  clrdominato@vancouver.ca;  clrfry@vancouver.ca; @clrhardwick@vancouver.ca; clrkirby-yung@vancouver.ca;  clrswanson@vancouver.ca; clrweibe@vancouver.ca


What Value Neighbourhoods?

September 27, 2019

In a post yesterday, I outlined a few of the developments that are altering Grandview beyond recognition.  As if on cue, on Wednesday October 9th, Heritage Vancouver and SFU are hosting a conversation specifically called “What do we do about neighbourhoods?”  To quote their website:

“Neighbourhoods are often positively associated with community. They tend to have a combination of qualities that communities identify with which can make them distinct. These include the people, the types of interactions they have with each other, nature, types of commercial spaces, housing tenure, and public spaces in addition to the type and design of buildings. However, there are conflicting views as to whether this distinctiveness is positive or not.”

In 2016, I was a panellist on one of these “Shaping Vancouver” conversations, and this is part of what I had to say then about the changing nature of the Drive:

“Since that time – for some 60 years – the Drive has been the scene of continuous change. We have had a constant change of people on the Drive – starting with the Italians and the Portuguese and some East Europeans, followed by Central Americans, Jamaicans, those from the Middle East, and a variety of Africans. Not only different cultures and nationalities and languages, but also different sexualities and those of various economic circumstances were welcomed to the neighbourhood.

Each of these groups have left their mark on the patina that is the glory of the Drive today. They have changed building styles, grocery options, street art, food availability, everything; and they have done this over and over again.

And all of these continuous changes have been welcomed, indeed encouraged, by most Drive residents.  And that is because all these changes have been subtle, incremental, and evolutionary within the general envelope of what the Drive is – which is a place of low-rise buildings, 25′ store fronts, and, importantly, local business ownership.

That is how we got to today, and it this same velocity and style of change that will maintain the Drive that we all love. Introducing rapid and intrusive change can only damage what is a highly successful and well-loved neighbourhood.”

My opinion  hasn’t changed.  It will be interesting to hear a discussion on this three years later.  Hope to see some of you there.


St. Paul’s Could Be Our Saviour

September 23, 2019

The wonderful old St Paul’s Hospital is now for sale.  It was announced some while ago that a new St Paul’s will be built on the False Creek Flats, and so the current 6.6 acre site in the West End has been put on the market.

I am sure any number of major developers are salivating at the prospect. However, what we don’t need are more high-end condo towers designed for foreign speculators and other 1%ers. In fact, the sales agent’s release itself notes that already “there are 11 active and 23 upcoming high-density condo projects in the Vancouver downtown core, delivering a total of 6,766 units.  The average price of these units are reaching up to $2,154 PSF.” That’s more than $2 million for a 1,000 sq.ft condo.

What we do need are a lot of low-income and lower-income rentals, and the old St. Paul’s offers a tremendous opportunity to supply those in the medium term by renovating the current structures.  Not only could this site supply a huge amount of affordable housing, it will save vast amounts of landfill space from any proposed redevelopment and, I am sure, will be cheaper to renovate than to demolish and rebuild.

The only question I have is whether we have any politicians, at any level of government, with the guts and the foresight to grab this opportunity and make it work for the working people of Vancouver?