Greening Mount Pleasant and West Grandview

January 6, 2016

Finally, almost at the last possible moment, Premier Clark has called a by-election in Vancouver Mount Pleasant for 2nd February.

This riding, previously held by the often-disappointing Jenny Kwan until she resigned last summer, includes Grandview west of Commercial Drive. Melanie Mark has been selected as the NDP’s candidate, with Gavin Dew running for the Liberals, and Pete Fry for the BC Greens.

I have worked with Pete Fry for several years on a number of issues, beginning when he was chair of Strathcona Residents (SRA) and I was chair of GWAC.  He led SRA into the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods as a founding member, and he has been pivotal in leading communities in tackling development, viaduct, and housing issues.  He will be a vigorous supporter of local options in Victoria and I will be cheering him on in this by-election.

Pete Fry

Pete Fry is, I believe, the only candidate who actually lives in the riding.

We don’t need a parachute NDP-er and we certainly don’t want another BC Liberal. I urge you to give Pete Fry your full support.

More On BC Housing Privatization

October 24, 2014

The proposed sale of public lands at Stamps Place and other BC Housing locations, no doubt including McLean Park in Grandview, has raised the ire of a number of concerned parties, not just the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods.

The OneCity Party issued a statement calling “for a halt to this process,” and supporting “real consultations”.  They continued, the “Province and BC Housing are attempting to off-load their social housing properties, responsibilities and all the risk onto non-profits. This has the potential to be a lot of Little Mountains, right across Vancouver,”  referencing the recent destruction of social housing in the Little Mountain neighbourhood.

Pete Fry, Green Party candidate for City Council, noted that changes to Stamps Place had been quietly inserted into the DTES Community Plan “without any discussion or consultation with the committee or stakeholders.”  The Plan included a clause for rezoning this site: “housing objectives also include partner contributions of 1,500 net new units through infill or redevelopment of existing BC Housing social housing sites (MacLean Park and Stamp’s Place)”.  Fry noted that this “seems inconsistent with City staff claims that last week, they were surprised by BC Housing’s plans to unload these properties.”

This could be a horrible mess, especially for the residents of the properties involved.

We Need To Stop the Privatization of BC Housing

October 24, 2014

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has written a letter to BC Minister Rich Coleman regarding the proposed privatization — and potential redevelopment — of BC Housing supportive housing projects in Vancouver.  The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Minister Coleman,

RE: Neighbourhood Engagement in Planning and Development

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is a consortium of 25 Vancouver Residents’ Associations representing residents across the city. As a coalition, our purpose is to ensure that planning and development in our neighbourhoods happens within specific guidelines that focus on meaningful consultation, public engagement and collaborative planning.

We are writing to express serious concern with your proposed plan to offer significant public lands and housing throughout the City of Vancouver for sale and potential redevelopment without any prior discussion with impacted neighbourhoods. There is a tendering process currently underway for the first two such properties. Therefore our concerns are immediate and urgent.

It is our position that there is no need for haste in selling off BC Housing operated land. On the contrary, there are many reasons to undertake a thorough collaborative planning process with residents and the communities in question, with a focus on local preferences for land ownership and development. We believe that this must happen prior to any decision any one of BC Housing’s holdings.

We are alarmed by the speed of this drastic change in policy. While it is understandable that nonprofit housing societies would want to purchase rather than lease the lands on which they operate, it is unclear whether or how the public, or the neighbourhoods, or indeed residents of the housing will benefit from such a change in ownership.

Local input is critical to ensure that these properties continue to meet their goals. As such, any plans for use which will bind BC Housing’s ability to deliver services must, in our view, incorporate such input. The tender must be halted to ensure the future viability of these properties.

On behalf of the many Vancouver residents we represent we ask that you terminate the current tender, and suspend the policy to allow for a full and open public discussion of the merits and efficacy of undertaking such a change. As taxpayers and residents we share ownership of the properties in question which your government manages on our behalf. We wish to have sufficient time and information to allow for fulsome consultation and collaboration on the future of these public lands.

The Coalition’s Statement of Principles and Goals outlines more completely what collaborative planning entails. We attach a copy for your reference.

We need to keep these lands in public ownership or – even better — find some way to transform this into a resident-owned and managed situation.

Besides that, there was no consultation in this case with the residents or Ray-Cam which currently helps manage the properties. It seems that the BC Government has learned from its buddies at Vision Vancouver that in matters concerning local residents, the latter should be ignored and an autocratic decision should be made from the top.

Residents of Grandview need to be particularly concerned becausr McLean Park will no doubt be the next target.  This needs to be stopped.

Profit Uber Alles

October 7, 2014

uberlogoAs a consistent critic of the current taxi regime in Vancouver, my immediate reaction to hearing that Uber wants to open in our city was applause.  However, it seems that Uber is not a good employer. In fact, they appear to be predatory employers with their eye solely on the bottom line.

I hope that all current taxi drivers here read “Against Sharing” before signing up.  There is clearly major discontent among Uber drivers in many American cities, while the company grows its value like Topsy.

Do we really need more bottom-feeding  here?  Better that the City reduce the current taxi shortage by doubling and tripling the number of legal cabs in Vancouver.

Debunking the Myths of “Vancouverism”

February 21, 2014

I had an interesting morning today, having been invited by a UBC prof to meet with a group of ten “urban planners” from Thailand who were interested in hearing about community engagement.  We met at SFU Harbourside, and I brought along Fern Jeffries from the False Creek Residents’ Association.

The Thais, it turned out, consisted of four hotel owners from a small resort, along with six local city officials including the Mayor and their senior Planner.  They had spent the last few days meeting with Vancouver and Richmond City folks, Translink staff and developers, all of whom had regaled them with the joyous wonders of “Vancouverism ” — high density and even higher towers.  Today, Fern and I explained to them the other side of the “Vancouverism” coin — top-down planning that ignores the desires of local residents, and which changes skylines and lifestyles to the benefit of the developers rather than the people.

After the meeting downtown, the Thais, the prof, and I took SkyTrain to Commercial & Broadway to show them the Transit Oriented Development zone that would bring 30+ storey towers to our low-rise neighbourhood. (Here are some of them on the trip, with Prof Peter Boothroyd of UBC in the second image):

Thais 1Thais 2

They had visited the station under the auspices of Translink the previous day. I gave them a different view, I am certain.  We walked a block or so into E. 10th and I showed them a typical Grandview street of detached houses.  I believe they were genuinely shocked that such a beautiful and livable street could be under threat.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable time with a very pleasant group.  I hope we may have leavened the pro-tower stuff that our City planners and developers would have stuffed them with.

Community Mailboxes: Good or Bad?

February 20, 2014


CUPW_SUPERMAILBOX_version2_singlepage copy2

The House Always Wins

February 10, 2014

It is simply a disgrace that Michael Graydon, CEO of the BC Lottery Corporation which regulates gaming in this Province, has suddenly left that position to become CEO of the new Paragon Casino in downtown Vancouver.

That’s the one that the City has approved a permit for a huge increase in gaming floor space without — apparently — any additional gaming tables or slots.  As Sandy Garossino says:

“When you look at the plan put forward by Paragon in their development permit application, it’s very clear that there’s some smoke-and-mirrors going on. Nobody builds that much extra space unless they already have some assurances in place.”

And now they have the former chief regulator as their boss.  Vancouver Not Vegas co-founder Ian Pitfield said,

“It’s a grave concern that the BCLC, which oversees an industry requiring the highest standard of integrity and transparency, would permit a departure of this kind from expected ethical standards.”

There are statements all around, from the City and the Province, that this is all legal. It might well be legal, but it sure ain’t right.

Art Gallery Madness

January 10, 2014


The ever-loving and I were members of the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) for many years and we still go to shows that interest us. I consider myself extremely sympathetic to art in general and galleries in particular.  However, they are luxuries, especially in a city where we have an excellent gallery already, but where there is a housing crisis and little money to deal with it.

The prime mover of this rant, of course, is because of the plan to spend half a billion dollars — half a BILLION dollars — on a new building for the VAG.  If the City, the Province and the Feds can pilfer $500 million from our pockets to build a new gallery, why can’t they do the same to build affordable public housing?  But the immediate catalyst is this press release announcing the five architect firms short-listed for the job of designing and building the thing.

Someone wants their name in lights by choosing an international star architect, and Vision wants to decorate our City with a sparkling gem by which we might remember them — and who gives a damn about the poor with nowhere to live?

The City and the Province should refuse to supply any money unless the architect is a local firm and, at the very least, the Feds should withhold their cash from any but a Canadian firm.  Anything else would be a disgraceful and unworthy statement about what they (all three levels of government) think of our own talent!

Another City Screw Up On Consultation

December 16, 2013

At 3pm this afternoon, the Vancouver Development Board will review the application for a massive new resort and casino site in Vancouver.  If it is built, the current Edgewater Casino will move into the building with twice the floor space for slots and gaming tables, a design decision already approved by Vancouver City Council.  Which is odd because the City has declared itself against casino expansion.

The question of whether we want more gaming here, or even if we want this huge resort complex at all, is one issue.  The main issue today however is the complete screw up the City has made (once again) about consultation and public hearings.

Today is the very last chance that Vancouverites will have to express their opinion on the development, but you’d never know it.  Had you called the City’s 3-1-1 line over the past week you might have been told that no such hearing was scheduled or you would have been told it is on for tomorrow rather than today.  Jeff Lee, the veteran Vancouver Sun city affairs reporter, admitted on Twitter this morning that he had not heard there was a hearing today.  We only know about this hearing because Sandy Garossino and CityHallWatch have been advising their networks.

Why the misinformation?  Why the silence?   What were the City’s new 22-person communications team doing all this while?  This is either a deliberate attempt to hide these hearings from the public or utter incompetence.  Either way it is another screw up by the Vision Vancouver City administration.

Censorship in Vancouver

December 6, 2013

Billionaire Jim Pattison’s Outdoor Billboard company — which is almost a monopoly in the city — has refused to accept the following poster:

atheistThe ad was an attempt to recruit membership in the Centre for Inquiry Canada. “When we designed the ads, we went out of our way to make them as soft as we could. Our purpose is to find those people out there who think the same way we do but don’t know there’s an organization that will support their views. It’s like any other advertising campaign: we’re looking for people who are interested in our message and our product,” said Pat O’Brien.

This is a disgraceful attempt to enforce political/religious views by Pattison’s company.

Bring Back The Streetcars?

October 9, 2012

Mike Klassen has re-opened the debate about streetcar use with a detailed and provactive post at VanCity Buzz.

He opens by describing the chaos that is the present Broadway transit corridor and extrapolating how much worse it will be once the Millenium Line connects to Broadway and Commercial.  The Broadway corridor is already the busiest bus communter route in North America and an estimated additional 70,000 riders a day simply won’t work with the present B-line plus system.

A Broadway Commercial-to-UBC rapid transit line seems the obvious infrastructure improvement.  But that isn’t going to happen.  I agree with Gordon Price that we will never see this in his or my lifetime, no matter how important it is.  The cost and the NIMBY obstacles in its way are simply too great.   But, obviously, we cannot just let the transit traffic on the Broadway corridor grind inexorably to a halt.  This is where Klassen re-introduces the idea of a streetcar.

“Integrated with the existing bus and rapid transit systems, a streetcar line could link the VCC-Clark Skytrain station (Millennium Line terminus) with a new rapid bus connection located at Arbutus and Broadway. A railway right-of-way exists for much that entire route. The section by southeast False Creek is currently under redevelopment and promises to bring thousands of new commuters. While it cannot match the ridership nor the speed of Skytrain, it could take many UBC-bound commuters off the overburdened 99 B-line west of Commercial.”

Bob Ransford adds the following:

“The Olympic Line streetcar project can be built for one quarter the cost of any SkyTrain extension. The city owns most of the right-of-way that would allow a streetcar to run between the Clark Drive SkyTrain station, the Canada Line Olympic Village station and Granville Island. It wouldn’t be that difficult to secure a right-of-way all the way to Arbutus Street. This routing would tie together all the SkyTrain lines and service the densest part of the Broadway corridor. A rapid bus line from Arbutus could adequately continue to service UBC.”

Yes, I’m none too happy about supporting an NPA position from the last election.  But it is dumb to drop a good idea just because one doesn’t care for the politics of the proponents.  And, yes, I do think this is a good idea.  The strteetcars are a vital part of Vancouver’s urban history, and the economics and the need seem to work for their return today.

The Anti-Consumer Taxi Monopoly Again

July 11, 2012

About this time last summer I wrote about the anti-free enterprise taxi situation in Vancouver.  It is a situation I feel strongly about and have raised it at several public meetings without receiving any sensible replies.  My interest has been piqued once again by this detailed article by Luke Brocki in Dependent Magazine.

Brocki explains how a $522 cab license from City Hall is immorally (though not illegally) boosted by the monopolists to $800,000 before the cab hits the streets.  And these huge profits are made on the backs of cab drivers and passengers.  Even Geoff Meggs who supports the current system agrees that this is simply wrong:

“Just put aside the question of worker exploitation, which is real, and just say okay, what is produced by this capital? It’s not a pulp mill. If you take the number of taxis out there and assume a half-shift is worth $400,000, you come out with a staggering number, like half a billion dollars worth of equity in the licences and we haven’t even gotten to the car yet,” he says with a laugh. “And it produces zero. It’s straight ascribed value. So to me, that is a dead weight on the back of the industry. If people were not struggling to pay for these licence purchase costs, they could then do lower fares, there could be any number of ways the revenue could be allocated.”

Brocki’s article highlights the success of open licensing in New Zealand and Ireland:

New Zealand abolished its taxi monopoly in 1989 via the seemingly despotic strategy of simply opening the industry to everyone, incumbent licence holders be damned … the reforming government of the day called the protected taxi market a privilege able to be stripped as easily as it was granted. There was anger, of course, but a more vibrant taxi market emerged within five years, with increased taxi numbers, reduced fares and a wider variety of taxi services, from budget rides to premium sedans with drivers in black ties.  “The government still creates the institutions for a transparent marketplace and they still set minimum standards for safety and so on,” [said researcher David Seymour] “They just don’t try to control prices and volumes.”

The New Zealand story is not unique. Ireland abolished its taxi cartel in 2000 and saw taxi numbers triple shortly after deregulation. In 2007, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found restrictions on entry to the taxi industry constituted an unjustified restriction on competition that led to “large transfers from consumers to producers, economic distortions and associated deadweight losses.”

You and I and everyone else who use taxis are paying for these huge and unnecessary gouging-like profits while receiving almost no service (just 9.4 cabs per 10,000 population, compared to 27 in Montreal for example, and 85 in Manhattan).  Our monopolistic system is a disgrace and needs to be stopped.

Firing Adds Spark To Community Plan Meeting

January 31, 2012

As mentioned in the previous post, we are this afternoon to have an Open House on the Grandview Community Plan hosted by City Planning.  The interest in the meeting (already high) will be tweaked even further after the news that City Council last night fired Vancouver Planning Head Brent Toderian.

Will the new Community Plans move forward? What does the firing of Toderian mean for the future of planning in Vancouver in general and Grandview in particular?

Watch this space!


The Greenest City On Earth, Eh?

November 26, 2011

We must ask Gregor how this fits in with his lauded environmental targets for Vancouver!


Cadman Ousted by COPE

September 19, 2011

Local resident and long-time Vancouver councillor David Cadman failed to be nominated for a place on City Council at a packed COPE meeting yesterday.  Cadman was part of a slate that included Ellen Woodsworth and Filipino-community-backed newcomer R.J. Aquino, but he was pushed into fourth place by the old “warhorse” Tim Louis (pictured) who crashed his way to second on the ballot.

Ellen Woodsworth was clearly discomfited by the development and was less than gracious to Louis during her presser after the nomination vote. I don’t always agree with everything Tim Louis says, but I like his Rankinesque dynamism and so I am glad to see him on the slate for the election.

Couple of points:  One, Cadman who lives just a few blocks away was not at the Grandview Park opening on Saturday. I was surprised at that. I’m sure this had no effect on Sunday’s vote, but it might indicate a drift away from community by Cadman.

Second, COPE managed to gather a thousand people out to a Sunday nominating meeting.  This needs to be compared to the 60 or 70 people who showed up to nominate the NPA’s Suzanne Anton shortly before.

It is a shame that COPE — under its agreement with Vision Vancouver — can only run three candidates this year (up from just two last time), but I guess it is still a re-building period. I hope this is the last time this arrangement is in place — and I think it may be if the NPA gets wiped out this year.

Vancouver Taxi Companies Oppose Free Enterprise

August 22, 2011

Why do we have so few cabs in Vancouver?  Because the four taxi companies in the city enjoy a monopoly that serves their purposes.  Why does the City allow this to happen?  Beats me but I’m guessing that if we follow the money we might find out.

Why can’t we have as many cabs as the market will support?  Why can’t we have free enterprise on the streets?

We don’t limit the number of hairdressers or butchers or auto mechanics, do we?  No we don’t.  You want to set up a beauty salon, a meat market or a garage — just rent a space, put up a sign and open for business.  The market will decide if you are one too many; not a bureaucrat or a monopoly company owner.

But not for cabs.  That’s really odd to me.

Riot Aftermath: Slow and Very Slow In Vancouver

August 15, 2011

The riots in England  have already resulted in 1,600 arrests, more than 1,000 people have been charged and scores have already been sentenced.  All this just one week after the events.

Here in Vancouver, more than two months after the Stanley Cup affray  — far less violent and more geographically restricted than the events in England — not a single charge has been laid.

There is that old saying that justice delayed is justice denied.  Usually this refers to the defendant.  But in this case it is the victim, Vancouver, for whom justice is being denied.

What’s going on?

There Are Times When Vancouverites Disappoint

June 16, 2011

I awoke this morning to find that scores of idiots — that’s what they are, mentally deranged stupid people — tore up our city last night, burning cars, breaking windows, looting, thrashing streets.

This is disgusting behaviour with NO redeeming quality that will cost the rest of us — who love street parties in our beautiful city — dearly in the future.  It is really sad that people are so empty, so depleted of meaning in their lives, that they believe the result of a sports game is worth this kind of nihilistic behaviour.

Sad days for Canucks fans. Even sadder for lovers of Vancouver.



Word On The Street

September 26, 2010

Word On The Street (WOTS), the “national” day of literacy celebrating Canadian books and magazines, is the kind of small “neighbourhood” event that Vancouver can do so well.   Today, as for many years past, the festival took place in and around our glorious main library.  This year, though still small scale, it seemed bigger somehow.  It circles the library almost all the way round with tents and stages, and also has booths and spaces inside the library concourse and downstairs.  We got there about noon and it was busy, almost crowded.  This image is some of the audience at the main stage area on Robson Street.

WOTS was also tied into the announcement of Douglas Adam’s “Hitch Hikers Guide To the Galaxy” as the One Book One Vancouver winner.  Once the news was made public, an assortment of “Hitch Hiker” character actors mixed with the crowd, handing out “Don’t Panic!” hand towels.

The weather was just perfect for the kind of strolling that WOTS provides.  And once you’ve finished with WOTS at Library Square, you are just another short stroll to your favourite bar/eatery in Yaletown.