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Robertson refuses mayoral debate with developer group over sponsorship and more

September 22nd, 2014 · 12 Comments

This letter from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s people, saying he won’t participate in the Oct. 7 UDI breakfast debate,  is going around in various circles.

They say the Urban Development Institute, which represents the region’s builders and developers, gave his office only two days to answer an invitation before putting out publicity suggesting the mayor hadn’t accepted, and they questioned having the debate sponsored by someone who has been out slagging the mayor.

I haven’t heard from the UDI their version on how this came about or whether they think their debate notice was offensive.

NOTE: I should add that the mayor’s people and the UDI have been on the outs for several years. The mayor’s office basically doesn’t respond to any invitations from the UDI and I know for a fact the mayor’s staff a long time ago decided they weren’t going to do the UDI any favours. I understand the UDI started inviting the mayor as of July 10 to come and, not debate, but present his main message along with other mayoral candidates. The only response came when the UDI put out preliminary information for a lunch meeting Sept. 18, at which point the mayor’s staff said it was his birthday. Then nothing more after that except for this letter when a new Oct. 7 date was announced.

By the way, as far as I’ve heard, Robertson has so far committed to three other debates and is in talks about dates/timing with three others at least. Many debate organizers seem to be including COPE’s Meena Wong in their line-up, judging from those she’s accepted so far. No word on whether organizers will now include Bob Kasting, the candidate of the very loosely affiliated parties and independents running as a kind of anti-developer-money-and-influence coalition.

The letter: RobertsonUDI

The UDI’s original info about the debate sent to members

Dear UDI Members:

With municipal elections approaching in mid-November, join us to hear from the candidates running for the top job in the City of Vancouver.

UDI recently invited the mayoral candidates for the three major parties (Vision Vancouver, NPA and COPE) to speak and so far, two have accepted.

UDI President Anne McMullin will moderate the discussion, posing relevant industry-related questions to NPA Candidate Kirk LaPointe and COPE Candidate Meena Wong.

What are their thoughts on affordability, transit, CACs and density? Take this opportunity to ask your questions as well!


The UDI’s debate info that’s on their website:


→ 12 CommentsTags: 2014 Vancouver Civic Election

City’s first round of urban-design awards generates a mixed response

September 21st, 2014 · 1 Comment

I was very happy to see the city start an urban-design awards program, though I, like the city, mistakenly understood it to mean architectural awards.

The city announced the winners last week and, to judge from public and private comments I’m hearing, the process could do with some, shall we say, improvement.

Lance Berelowitz weighs in here and I expect you all will have something to say as well.

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Vancouver Greens: More from developers for low-cost housing, maybe luxury tax, lots more real talking with residents promised

September 18th, 2014 · 26 Comments

Feels like the municipal campaign in Vancouver finally started to pick up some speed today, as the Greens launched their platform and Vision Vancouver had the first news conference with real news, announcing more money for school lunches for poor kids. (And the NPA sniping away at that.)

I mostly covered the Green announcement, as I think they’re interesting to watch. They’re clearly fighting hard to become the third party of choice for Vancouver voters and, from what I hear from people more expert than me, they have a chance because of their ability to attract votes from different parts of the political spectrum.

My story is up just now and in the dead-tree edition tomorrow.

→ 26 CommentsTags: 2014 Vancouver Civic Election

Does Vancouver have to be a high-rise condo city? Or are there other choices?

September 15th, 2014 · 59 Comments

I try not to fall in sentimental rhapsodizing about mid-rise European cities, as some of my fellow urbanists do. I know that for every chic French or Spanish historic town, there’s a ring of appalling towers on the outskirts that the immigrants and poor have been relegated to.

But it is puzzling to me that Vancouver, a new city, an innovative city, seems to have invented only two distinctive types of housing: the podium-and-point-tower high-rise and the Vancouver Special single-family house in all its increasingly awful permutations. (The older ones are actually starting to look like Greek temples, with their clean and simple lines.)

As a result, they proliferate: cheap and easy and we think there must be a market for them because the dummies keep on buying them.

And we have a strange gap in our architectural ecology: the small mid-rise. There are the artifacts around, those three- and four-storey buildings that multiplied like rabbits when the federal government gave tax breaks to apartment investors in the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s. (Discontinued because the housing activists of the day complained that rich investors were getting undeserved breaks to build housing that wasn’t even affordable — sound familiar?)

But there are few new versions of those being built. Some of you might remember that there was a time when Vancouver’s planning department and the odd councillor talked about how, when new development started moving out from downtown and into the traditional single-family neighbourhoods, the city would work with developers to come up with a new form. Not just a replica of the Yaletown podium and tower, but something that was both dense yet complemented the existing neighbourhood.

Somehow that initial idea disappeared. (I distinctly remember it being talked about in the first plan for a new building at Kingsway and Victoria on the El Dorado Hotel site.) Instead, now we have a city where weird rocket ships emerge here and there from a mostly two-storey landscape, buildings that won’t be fitting into their neighbourhoods any time soon — not until the entire neighbourhood has been rebuilt.

This story I did for Vancouver magazine took a look at what it might mean to have a city where mid-rise buildings had more of a place — and why they don’t right now.

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Vision, NPA debate the debates

September 11th, 2014 · 38 Comments


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What is the social-media score for all of Vancouver’s political parties?

September 7th, 2014 · 26 Comments

Because I have thousands of words to write in the next few days, this instead.

There are 10 weeks left in the campaign. At the moment, this is how the various parties and their mayoral candidates rank on the social-media counters.


Gregor Robertson, by himself: 7,560

“Gregor Robertson and the Vision team”” 4,559

Vision Vancouver: 15 (I’m guessing they realized it’s Gregor all the way, so they switched over early from this to the header above)

Kirk LaPointe (on his new politician, not personal, page): 455

Non-Partisan Association: 1,228

Meena Wong. Only has a personal page with no stats

COPE: 1,077

Glen Chernen. Personal page indicates 8 followers

Vancouver Cedar Party: 374

Adriane Carr. Personal page indicates 309 followers

Green Party of Vancouver: 436

Vancouver First: Couldn’t find anything



@MayorGregor: 44,500

@VisionVancouver: 6,649

@kirklapointe: 7,081

@NPAVancouver: 1,839

@COPEVancouver: 2,316

@meenawong1: 383

@CedarParty: 260

@glenchernen: 258

@VancouverFirst: 2 (no tweets since 2012)

@VanGreens: 559


→ 26 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Continue comments here about why bike lanes make people so angry, if you want

September 6th, 2014 · 78 Comments

Which was started in response to my story last week in the Globe

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Vision paints NPA’s LaPointe as inexperienced waffler, he paints Robertson as the guy who can’t deliver on his big promises

September 6th, 2014 · 48 Comments

I have to second the opinion of my colleague Mike Howell at the Vancouver Courier, who concluded his summary of this week’s election shenanigans with the question: Is it time for reporters to take a vacation until this campaign settles down to something reasonable?

Vision’s Gregor Robertson held his first campaign news conference, accusing NPA mayoral guy Kirk LaPointe of not being red-bloodedly 1000 per cent in favour of lobbying for a Broadway subway from the first second he started his campaign. (Strangely, this was the accusation that NPA critics were casting at Robertson a few years ago, when he seemed to be more tepid than previous mayor Sam Sullivan.)

LaPointe, on the other hand, ended up in arguments with various reporters about whether his NPA colleague, George Affleck, had promised back in January to take out the Point Grey bike lane that Vision’s engineering department was in the middle of building. (For the record, the quote that Emily Jackson got at the time from Affleck was: “The NPA has a plan to open this road, yes.”)

I can’t imagine most of the public gives a s**t about this. As a reporter, I’m often baffled, too, as parties try to grab gotcha quotes from the past that aren’t always relevant to what a party or candidate is advocating now. Is there any doubt the NPA will support a Broadway subway? I don’t think so. They’ve always been supporters of these kinds of projects. Has LaPointe modified the NPA’s position on the Point Grey bike lane? Sure. And that’s what you’d expect from a new leader.

What is interesting, from an analytical point of view, is looking at what kinds of messages each party is trying to send to its potential voters — and who it thinks its potential voters are. Vision clearly sees the party’s audience as transit riders (and they are a distinct group) and the majority of people who generally think bike lanes are a good idea.

The NPA, even though a part of its base is rabidly anti-bike-lane, knows that not everyone the party wants to appeal to feels that way, so LaPointe is trying to find a position that appeases one group but doesn’t scare off the other. Especially since, even among bike-lane approvers, there is a strong subset who think that the Point Grey bikeway was poorly handled.

In the meantime, not to ignore the interesting other parties in this race, COPE’s mayoral candidate Meena Wong, apparently the only one, launched her campaign this week, promising to really solve homelessness, build public housing, end renovictions, and much, more more. Awaiting more details on exactly how she will do all that but, in the meantime, here’s her speech.


reason for a reporter to book an extended holiday until policy platforms are released and the he-said, he-said stories find a special place in campaign journalism hell. – See more at:
reason for a reporter to book an extended holiday until policy platforms are released and the he-said, he-said stories find a special place in campaign journalism hell. – See more at:
reason for a reporter to book an extended holiday until policy platforms are released and the he-said, he-said stories find a special place in campaign journalism hell. – See more at:
reason for a reporter to book an extended holiday until policy platforms are released and the he-said, he-said stories find a special place in campaign journalism hell. – See more at:
reason for a reporter to book an extended holiday until policy platforms are released and the he-said, he-said stories find a special place in campaign journalism hell. – See more at:

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Sorry, technical difficulties erased everything from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5

September 6th, 2014 · No Comments

I know many of you thought I’d just had it with the bike-lane posts and decided to blow up the post and all comments. Haven’t reached that point yet. My blog was down most of last week because of some kind of server/host problem. They’ve managed to restore everything up to Aug. 31. I’m hoping to get the rest back.

In the meantime, carrying on and keeping calm.

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An obituary for a Vancouver city hall tree

August 29th, 2014 · 17 Comments

And now for a break from politics (though I expect some people will find a way to work it in even here):

I noticed a while ago that one of the two big cedars in front of Vancouver city hall on the south side had turned completely brown. When I happened to ask about it earlier this week, I found out it was going to be taken down Wednesday.

Here’s my little story on the interesting history behind this cedar (a Port Orford cedar originally from the south Oregon/north California region) and many others like in Vancouver, thanks to Douglas Justice at the UBC Botanical Garden.

For a view of it when it was young, here’s a picture from 1937 and another taken once the cedars had grown quite a bit.


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