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New city living: High-income families squeeze into small condos, which takes strategy and a good attitude

July 29th, 2014 · 27 Comments

When I was at a Bulablogger brunch organized last spring by jenables, I heard the story about this family living in an artists’ loft with two kids. It stuck in my head. Well, really, it would for any of us who have lived with kids and locked ourselves in the bathroom for a little privacy, even in relatively spacious, three-bedroom houses.

Could I do this, I wondered? Probably not, was my conclusion. But Kirk and Elaine, along with hundreds, even thousands, of other parents do in the city. Here’s their story.

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CP and Vancouver bargain over value of Arbutus rail line — $20 mil or $100 mil — as July 31 deadline looms

July 29th, 2014 · 12 Comments

I educated-guessed the prices that CP and Vancouver might be dickering with over the Arbutus rail corridor in my last post. Then Daphne Bramham at the Sun got off-the-record info confirming those prices. And now here’s me catching up on the story in today’s Globe.

I personally can hardly wait to see what CP will do next. For most companies I know, the mere thought of cameras rolling while their bulldozers mow down people’s flower gardens would be enough to make them blench. Others I talk to say CP really doesn’t care about public opinion — it’s not dependent on any level of government for support for its operations, so a bunch of people crying over their crushed dahlias is not going to matter one way or another.

But the CP spokesguy did sound somewhat conciliatory about the deadline in my story, saying there was no plan to go in on Friday at 7 a.m. to start dismantling people’s gardens.

Anyway, the intelligent, thoughtful comments on the last CP post have inspired me to put up this story. It was so great to see people talking about the history of the line and the various methods of valuation, instead of calling each other cretins. Is there something about rail lines that inspires higher-order thinking?

While you’re all here, any guesses on what might happen next and whether there’s a possible solution? Someone suggested to me privately that the city could offer CP the $20 million and put on a covenant or agreement saying if it were ever rezoned to residential/commercial development, then CP would get the full $100 million.


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Vancouver offers to buy Granville Island, Arbutus corridor — but the sale price unknown

July 24th, 2014 · 81 Comments

Continuing to catch up on posts here. (Sorry, as many of you know, I was camped out at the Vancouver Folk Festival all weekend, though without a “structure,” so no park rangers came to chase me out. As a result, I fell behind in alerting you to all of my brilliant recent pieces of journalistic prose.)

I filed this one on Sunday from the festival, re Mayor Gregor Robertson’s initiatives to guarantee some local control for Granville Island, either by having the city buy or lease the island, and to preserve the Arbutus rail corridor as it is now.

We, the taxpayers aka residents, don’t know what the price tags on these would be exactly. My guess is that the city would only be interested in Granville Island if the federal government transferred it for a nominal fee, since it probably takes some federal money now to subsidize rents and maintain the place. That’s currently paid for by everyone in Canada. If the city had control, guess who would be covering those costs?

As well, with the Arbutus corridor, the city’s “fair-market assessment” probably is based on it being zoned as a transportation corridor, which would make it a lot less valuable than if it were zoned for condos.

Richmond recently got a big chunk of old CP rail line for its 3.7-kilometre greenway for, apparently, $5 million in 2010. So that would indicate the price for Vancouver for 11 kilometres might be around, say, $20-30 million. On the other hand, Mayor Philip Owen and the city paid CP $9 million for a 1.5-kilometre section near Granville Island back in 1996. Based on that price of $6 million per kilometre and using the old Bank of Canada inflation calculator, the current price for 11 kilometres would be $93 million.

All of this, of course, is just fun imaginary math, as CMHC, the current managing body for Granville Island, says it’s not even clear in legislation whether the government has the power to sell this piece of Crown land. And, given the current state of animosity between CP and the city, hard to see an amicable and reasonably priced sale any time soon.





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When journalists become politicians — the perks and perils for Kirk LaPointe, Michael Valpy, Rene Levesque, Nicole Parton, and more,

July 24th, 2014 · 5 Comments

Got to talk to yet another one of my former bosses, Mel Rothenburger of the once-great Kamloops Daily News, about what it’s like to go from journalist to politician. Do your former colleagues give you the kid-glove treatment? (No) Is it more rewarding than journalism in some ways? (Yes, because you get things done instead of just saying they should be done.) Is it harder than it looks? (Yes)

Here was my story in the Globe last week on this.

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NPA pushes De Genova up to council, keeps Coupar at park board

July 18th, 2014 · 49 Comments

Little announcement out from the NPA today about incumbents running. Only deviation from what had previously been suspected is that John Coupar is being kept at park board instead of moving up to council.

I can only guess that’s to leave some room to recruit some candidates who aren’t 1. white 2. mostly male, as former NPA board member Ken Charko was frequently warning the party was going to be a problem.

Here’s the announcement.

Mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe welcomes the depth of municipal experience of those running for office again   

Friday, July 18, 2014, Vancouver BC - Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe today unveiled the party’s incumbent candidates who are running for re-election in Vancouver‘s November 15 election.

They are:

  • George Affleck for Council;
  • Elizabeth Ball for Council;
  • Melissa De Genova for Council;
  • John Coupar for Park Board; and
  • Fraser Ballantyne for School Board.

“The civic experience and talent these incumbents bring to the election as candidates is impressive, and I am grateful for their wish to continue their public service to our great city,” said NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe, who announced his own candidacy earlier this week.

Ball will seek another term as Councillor as will Affleck, who first won in 2011. De Genova, who seeks a seat on City Council this time around, was first elected to Park Board in 2011. John Coupar and Fraser Ballantyne will seek a second term as Park Board Commissioner and School Board Trustee, respectively.

The candidates say they welcome being part of a reinvigorated NPA under Mr. LaPointe’s leadership, and look forward to an election focused on constructive ideas rather than ideology, and on openness and accessibility of Vancouver’s government.

Kirk LaPointe will introduce the incumbents today at 9 am outside of Queen Elizabeth Park’s Bloedel Conservatory. You are welcome to attend.

For candidate bios and downloadable photos, visit



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Vision park candidate Trish Kelly drops out after online mini-tempest re her sex-positive masturbation video

July 17th, 2014 · 21 Comments

So Trish Kelly, the woman who got the most votes for Vision park-board candidate in the recent nomination, just issued a statement via Vision saying she is dropping out of the race because of a video she made is being “sensationalized.” This is all very weird — Vision vetters knew all about this video before Trish’s nomination went ahead, because Trish had told them all about it. And the online sensationalization was barely a trickle, compared to some media storms I’ve seen in my day, young fella. The party and Trish must have known someone would pick up on this. So why the change of heart (aka chickening out)?

Is this the election where a couple of Twitter remarks are going to be enough to derail candidates? Or one where Vision is going to going into major damage control over even the hint of danger? All quite odd, though I’m sure opponents are thrilled that VV has been wounded so earlier in the game.

This news seems to be causing a lot of angst in certain quarters, judging from early reaction, with people especially angry at the blogger who highlighted the video’s existence.

Here’s the Vision/Trish statement, plus some Twitter reaction

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Former Vancouver Sun managing editor Kirk LaPointe launches campaign for mayor

July 14th, 2014 · 74 Comments

Busy day for me and all city-hall journos today as NPA and Kirk LaPointe finally went public, after six weeks of rumours, that he is definitely, really, no kidding, the mayoralty candidate. A group of those of us who cover city hall regularly got invited to meet him this morning at Kafka’s on Main (not quite the Hipster Aquarium, aka Gene’s, but close) and then there was an announcement on the Jack Poole Plaza at 10.

It was a festival of quotes for us, with Kirk talking about all kinds of things, so everyone went for something a little different. The Georgia Straight’s was about his promise to resign if his team engages in personal attacks. Jeff Lee at the Vancouver Sun said LaPointe wants to remake the city to be friendlier.Mike Howell at the Vancouver Courier, who was the first to ID LaPointe as an NPA candidate two months ago, focused on his promise to be more open and accountable.  That was my focus as well, with references to the many talking points he had that have been memes among critics of Vision the last couple of years.

There will be more about LaPointe, as everyone in the media world tries to figure out who this guy will be as a politician, even though many of us know him well as a journalist. In the meantime, a few of my random points/impressions:

- The strongest message he’s pushing is that of Vision Vancouver as secret, manipulative, not listening, squelching access to info and staff, limiting budget information and more.

- If I had to do a word cloud of everything he said over the approximate hour of time we had today, I’d put “authentic,” “open,” “transparent,” “secret,” “progressive,” “coziness (with developers),” “listening.”

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Mayor Robertson’s marriage becomes a political football that wreaks havoc everywhere

July 7th, 2014 · 92 Comments

I realize almost everyone reading this blog has probably read ALL the stories already about the decision by Gregor and Amy Robertson to separate, which has turned, in this season of elections and social media, into a strange gothic novelette of its own.

Here’s my story from today’s Globe, which largely focuses on why Vision Vancouver chose to kick back so hard at the gossip and rumours about why the two have decided to separate. (Full version appended below for those who don’t have a Globe subscription.) It also has a statement from the Facebook post that Kirk LaPointe, the NPA’s supposed mayoralty candidate but who hasn’t been formally announced yet, put up on the topic in response to my question to him. For those who have Facebook accounts, it’s here.

I feel compelled to add a few more details to all of this, as there is a lot of strange stuff circulating. I don’t claim to know everything. But at least I can provide details on the little corner of the room I do know.

People who cover city hall regularly were called by various people from the mayor’s office the weekend of June 7/8 to get the news about the separation. I assume others asked the same question I did — is there anything more to this? Because if there is, I assured my contact, the mayor is going to get drawn and quartered if something comes out later. No, nothing more. I assume everyone talked to their editors, as I did. News editors in the MSM, at least in Canada, aren’t fond of doing stories about private lives unless there appears to be obvious problem: a relationship that is a conflict, that reflects very badly on the character of the person involved, that is inappropriate, whatever. As there was nothing like that apparent, no one did any stories.
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Want Vancouver to have more non-ugly buildings? Maybe support, enter this new urban design competition by July 14

July 6th, 2014 · 8 Comments

I think we can all agree that Vancouver, No. 1 rankings to the contrary, has managed to erect some of the least attractive buildings in the urban world. Every time I travel to any standard American city (Minneapolis currently), I’m shocked to see how many truly lovely houses, interesting mid-rise apartments, and beautifully designed office buildings they have in comparison to Vancouver.

Yes, we do have some well-designed buildings and neighbourhoods — both old and new. But,sorry, folks, there is still a lot of the single-family housing that looks like it was built from the Home Depot remainder bin. There are condos that have gone up recently (the Aquilini reproduction of London council housing next to the Cambie Bridge, to name one) that are a blight. And we have a disproportionate number of office buildings from the 1980s “mid-western insurance head office” architectural school.

So anything that might improve standards is to be welcomed, like these new City of Vancouver urban-design awards. Hope there is more than one entry per category.

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Duelling Point Grey Road/Kits Point picnics today, partying with purpose

July 5th, 2014 · 125 Comments

At the risk of setting off a 350-comment mudfight, I feel obliged to note that there are a couple of picnics on today that seem destined to inspire people to party where their politics are.

The pro-bikeway/greenway Point Grey Road festivities are outlined here:

The Save Hadden Park, triumph over the bike lane, group appears to be gathering here:


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