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Yes side starting to talk to real people instead of each other and media

March 2nd, 2015 · 19 Comments

So the mayors headed out on to transit this morning to sell the Yes side. And then there’s this, tonight. No info in the news release from City of Vancouver on how people can join in, but perhaps 3-1-1 has the answer

As part of ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the upcoming transit and transportation plebiscite, Mayor Gregor Robertson, Councillors George Affleck and Adriane Carr will take part in a telephone town hall with Vancouver residents this evening.

The telephone town hall will be moderated by award-winning former radio host and journalist Bill Good.

“With two weeks until ballots get mailed to local residents, Vancouver City Council is making the case directly to voters about why we support a ‘Yes’ vote in the transit plebiscite,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “With our region growing by one million more residents in the next two decades, we need to invest in better transit and transportation. We want to inform voters about what’s at stake and encourage them to get out and vote.

“I’m pleased to be joined tonight by Councillors Carr and Affleck, both of whom strongly support a ‘Yes’ vote. Vancouver City Council is unanimous in our belief that a ‘Yes’ vote is the best thing we can do to grow our economy, protect our environment and cut traffic gridlock in Metro Vancouver.”

The telephone town hall will involve phoning thousands of Vancouver residents at 7pm, and will go to 8pm. Participants can listen in, take poll questions, and ask questions live, moderated by Bill Good.

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NPA new board: Peter Armstrong leaves as president; Kirk LaPointe comes on as director

February 26th, 2015 · 2 Comments

NPA had its annual general meeting last night. (My gilt-edged invitation must be lost in the mail somewhere.)

Elected a set of new directors, see a clip from the news release below, and officially clarified that the NPA is a party.

Gregory Baker, Johnny Cheung, Erin Chutter, Carling Dick, Jay Jagpal, Jason King, Kirk LaPointe, BC Lee, Ken Low, Rob McDowell, Suzanne Scott and Tanveer Siddiqui. Laura Campbell was elected U40 Chair and Paul Tolnai as U40 Vice Chair.

Outgoing NPA President Peter Armstrong, who has served for the past 3 years, will continue as Past-President alongside fellow Directors Susan Gagnon and Rob Boyko.

A new president will be chosen when the board meets next week.


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Campaign spending reports show Vision spent a million more than NPA in city’s most expensive election ever.

February 23rd, 2015 · 6 Comments

Gets boring to write election after election, but … most expensive election ever.

Campaign finance reports are over on the Elections BC website, for those anxious to scrutinize them. I so look forward to having someone note that somebody gave some sum of money every time their business licence or development is approved.

The basics: Vision went nuts on spending, with $3.3 million in spending by the end, leaving the organization almost $400,000 in debt. Strangely, the NPA had $228,000 left over, after raising almost $2.5 million. Did they decide it wasn’t worth blowing any more money or it was in the bag or ???

COPE did not file by deadline. Greens spending was modest, as they’d said it would be.

I look forward to your finds of nefarious doings, hidden in all the pages of money. I’d like to go through the timelines to see how much money Vision spent in the last few weeks of the campaign, when the team was desperately trying to pull it out of the polling hole

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New interim TransLink CEO will focus on customer service

February 19th, 2015 · 48 Comments

We’re all curious as to what this new interim CEO of TransLink might do, given that it was so important to bring him in a month for the transit plebiscite voting starts and to take the risk of adding more executive pay to the TransLink suite. Doug Allen was still getting briefed on a lot of things, so he didn’t have answers for everything yet (i.e. Can/will he do anything about executive compensation? Pondering. What is wrong with the Compass card implementation? Waiting to get the details, etc.) but you can get a sense of the kind of person he is from this condensed Q and A I had with him.

As you can likely tell from my questions, I was especially curious about whether his focus on the details of reality — customer service, escalators, cleanliness, procurement, etc. — will do anything to alter the perceptions that some people (especially drivers) have that TransLink is a fundamentally flawed organization.

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City planning keeners: A one-day symposium Feb. 27, including an appearance by former Portland mayor

February 12th, 2015 · 1 Comment

For when this blog and livestreaming council meetings just aren’t enough:

Symposium Poster

Former Portland mayor Sam Adams is the keynote and the program is diverse, as it always is with the SCARP crew.



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TransLink shuffles CEO to side, brings in new boss, promises change

February 11th, 2015 · 123 Comments

You all used to care about bike lanes. Now it’s just transit tax all the time.

Okay, so here you go. Ian Jarvis is out, Doug Allen is the interim CEO, the search is on for a permanent one.

An updated version with more reaction coming out later.



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Vancouver: Home of $2-million starter bungalows and a thousand grubby little nail bars and vegetable shops

February 3rd, 2015 · 22 Comments

Vancouver is such a city of contradictions: endorphin-inducing natural beauty and some of the tackiest housing and development in North America; the glass condos of Coal Harbour and the hovels of the Downtown Eastside.

One that has always perplexed me is how, in a city where it’s hard to find a shack with a piece of land for less than $700,000 at the least, the commercial streets near those pricey homes are often so down-market.

Near my home, whose assessment rose to the point this year where I no longer qualify for the full homeowner’s grant, it’s nothing but battery sales, Ethiopian restaurants, secondhand furniture, several truly grotty produce shops, print-and-sign operations, and a series of convenience stores run by immigrants desperately looking for a foothold in the new world.

Even in Kerrisdale, where the prices are triple and quadruple my dump, it’s not that much better. So I finally, in my latest Vancouver magazine column, tried to get some answers about this odd phenomenon.

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The transit file: Yes coalition train finally leaves the station; province makes U-turn on separate congestion tax; Vancouver warns of dire consequences of No

February 3rd, 2015 · 134 Comments

It’s now up to 250+ comments on the post about the last transit plebiscite. Time to start afresh, folks.

The latest stories on the transit plebiscite.

The launch

The province’s very fast switch to a harmonized tax after the Retail Council said it would go to war over a new, separate third tax

And, in council today, transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny outlined why it would be a disaster for Vancouver if there’s a No vote, how Vancouver would benefit, and what staff are doing to inform and persuade people. Story to come.

Also, I note that the B.C. Hotel and Foodservices Association seems to have swung over to the Yes side (Ian Tostenson didn’t sound so sure when I talked to him last week) even though it will mean a 15.5 per cent tax on alcohol.


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The origami tower — meant to be first step to new Vancouver waterfront — sparks debate over both tower and waterfront

February 3rd, 2015 · 7 Comments

Been a lot happening recently, so I’m catching up here and packaging a few things together since things are sometimes changing daily in the fast-paced civics world these days.

First up, the “origami” tower came to the urban design panel, where it was not supported in a 4-2 vote. My story here.

For those not familiar with how the UDP works, it is not like the development-permit board or board of variance or even council. The design panel is meant to allow local architects, engineers, and planning experts to give city staff some outside-the-hall feedback on major new projects coming forward. It’s more like an architecture grad-student studio than a judicial body. When a design is not supported, it means the advice is “Go and work on this a bit more.” It’s not a rejection.

And, for those who will be surprised when this comes back again, the panel expressed no discomfort with the height or density. Their major recommendations were to move the tower away from the train station, where it looks a bit like a Japanese horror-movie monster eating it, I have to say. And, since the plaza there has spectacular views of the water and mountains and should be a welcoming space for the public, they suggested making it even more accessible, possible even turning the lobby into a kind of passageway for general commuters on their way too and from the station.

The panel hearing also included a lot of discussion about whether this building fit in with the future waterfront of Vancouver, which was thrashed out six years in a planning document about the future Waterfront Hub.

That plan, which no one has talked about much since the idea of having a soccer stadium built over the tracks there fell apart, also alarmed some people — because of the new roads it envisioned for the area, the cluster of new towers and more. So I wrote about that in a follow-up story here. (As far as I can tell, these stories are available to non-subscribers in the link, but, if not, let me know.) Much more to hash over here. I had former city planning/design wizard Ralph Segal helping me understand some of the ramifications of the details. He’s written a couple of posts on this already here and on Gordon Price’s Pricetags blog.

Michael Alexander, the City Conversations convenor quoted in the story, called me later to clarify his remarks. Here’s what he had to say:

I am not opposed to the basic design of the building (though I think it can be improved, and overreaches in size— but that’s what developers do to get what they really want when the city protests). The problem is its location.
Waterfront Station is the hub of 10 major rail, sea and air corridors— the most concentrated and important in B.C. and one of the important regional transit centres in North America. Not once was transportation mentioned in the hearing. The building is being told to site a little to the east, a little to the west. But that parking lot needs to be the boarding location for major bus lines and taxis that then exit to the transit plaza in front of Waterfront Station which the Hub Study envisions. And the woefully underused Waterfront Station needs to become a place that attracts people, not one that they just pass through.
There is a place for that tower if some land swaps and infrastructure enhancements are brought into the conversation. I would hope that the city would be promoting that, and Cadillac Fairview is the kind of farsighted company that could entertain a broader vision. I don’t hold it against them that they are trying to build on land that they already own.

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Supreme Court ruling strikes down rezoning for controversial Yaletown city-developer land swap and two towers

January 28th, 2015 · 29 Comments

This was a bombshell yesterday. More to come. No one seems to know all the scenarios that might play out (could this void the city’s land sale with Brenhill? will public hearing process need to be changed?), all of which sound serious and complicated.

Lots of interesting things in Justice McEwan’s ruling. He stayed out of whether this is a good or bad deal for the public. He wagged his finger a little bit at the petitioners, saying it’s natural and normal for a city planning department to support a development by the time it reaches a certain stage — not a sign of some kind of nefarious conspiracy. And he didn’t seem to make much of the tentative agreement between the city and Brenhill, which the resident group dug out through Freedom of Information.

His main point was that the public needed to have complete information, they needed that information to be presented in a way they could understand (bombarding them with details isn’t good enough), they needed clear information on the financials (which could mean the city will need to provide much more clarity on community-amenity contributions) and they needed to be able to discuss the two pieces of property and the land deal as a whole, not as two separate projects with no relation to each other.

My story here. The ruling itself here. I’d love to hear from IanS and any other legal experts out there on this one.

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