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Some residents near Granville Bridge surprised, dismayed by city decision to open shelter, hotel for homeless

October 21st, 2014 · 2 Comments

The city’s swift move to open a shelter at 900 Pacific Street, in advance of any provincial decisions about winter-shelter funding, and to lease the Quality Inn for two years, in the absence of any conversations with the province about support, is a sign of Vision Vancouver ramping things up even further in its aggressive efforts to tackle the homelessness problem.

But local residents only found out about this on the news (yes, some people still watch television, Virginia) and are not thrilled. My story.

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Province has a Friday surprise for Metro Van: Turns down bylaw on garbage-shipping ban, announces review

October 21st, 2014 · 2 Comments

Bad news always comes on Fridays in the media world, so there it was on Friday last week, the long-awaited decision from Victoria on whether to approve Metro Vancouver’s new bylaw 280. That was a measure designed to stop garbage trucks from taking waste out of the region to get it buried at cheaper landfills elsewhere.

There will be more fallout from this, I’m sure. In the meantime, waste haulers and companies wanting to build new-style recycling facilities are delighted, Metro Vancouver politicians are livid.

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Four years after CityPlan, two areas adopt Visions, but Dunbar opposed major change

October 20th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Council accepts Dunbar’s vision for neighbourhood: Planners said rejection of the report, which was opposed by some residents, would have undermined the future of the CityPlan.: [Final Edition]

Ward, DougView Profile. The Vancouver Sun [Vancouver, B.C] 11 Sep 1998: B4.

Abstract (summary)

The so-called Dunbar Community Vision was endorsed unanimously by councillors after they had heard critical presentations from Dunbar residents who said the report would bring too much density to the affluent single-family neighbourhood.

One Dunbar delegate, John Geddes, said the report would make it difficult for Dunbar residents to stop higher-density projects such as row housing. Geddes said that the Dunbar visioning process had upset he and his wife, Glenna, “more than anything else in our lives.”

CityPlan — the city’s blueprint that will guide the city’s development over the next 50 years — began moving into action last year when the first two neighbourhoods, Dunbar and Kensington/Cedar Cottage, were chosen to begin their planning process.

(Copyright Vancouver Sun 1998)

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COPE called CityPlan ‘weak, vague’

October 20th, 2014 · No Comments

CORE summary finds CityPlan `weak, vague': [FINAL Edition]

Bula, FrancesView Profile. The Vancouver Sun [Vancouver, B.C] 31 May 1995: B.5.

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Abstract (summary)

CityPlan: Vague, too general and weak? Or a broad vision of what people in Vancouver want that will be used to plan detailed changes to the city?

A handful of people from the city’s left-wing municipal party, Committee of Progressive Electors, held a press conference in front of city hall to talk about everything that’s wrong with CityPlan.

In the afternoon, planning director Ann McAfee presented her summary of CityPlan. However, council deferred any discussion until the last round of public delegations is heard on Thursday.

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A look back in history: CityPlan is finalized December 1994

October 20th, 2014 · No Comments

Kinda scary, but apparently I was covering CityPlan 20 years ago. A look back in time at some of the real debates going on.


Reaction to city’s urban-village vision of the future not all neighborly: [FINAL C Edition]

Bula, FrancesView Profile. The Vancouver Sun [Vancouver, B.C] 06 Dec 1994: B3.

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Abstract (summary)

Twenty thousand people participated to come up with what appears to be the final conclusion, at least as it shows up in surveys and questionnaires: Most people in Vancouver are willing to take in the 160,000 new residents calculated as the city’s share of the growth predicted to the year 2021 for the Greater Vancouver region. And if they have to take them in, they’d rather have them absorbed by building up about 20 urban villages in the city, rather than using up industrial land or spreading them out through Vancouver.

The burr under the saddle here is people like [Eleanor Riddell], Charles Dobson, Mel Lehan, Jan Pierce, Ron Hawkes, Gillian Watson-Donald and others. They’re worried about how fair the CityPlan process was and, more important, how much control neighborhoods will really have over development.

Some, like Pierce and Riddell, feel railroaded by the city. “There’s some concern that CityPlan was driven by projections that Vancouver would have to absorb a certain number of people,” said Riddell, who got involved with city planning through her neighborhood group, the Cartier Hudson Athlone Team. “I sat in as a facilitator at some meetings and certainly at the end of it, there was a feeling that we were driven to absorb more than what some people wanted.”


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Who’s buying property in the Lower Mainland? Amazingly, people under 30

October 19th, 2014 · 11 Comments

I know this story is going to bring out the hate mail. As well, the timing is weird, coming as it does in the middle of a frenzy of “All our young people are leaving town! There’s nothing for sale under two million!”

But I’ve been intrigued by this for a while, ever since the various young people in my life started to hit their mid-20s and ’30s. And I started to hear about their friends buying. I, like others, had thought every youngster was being driven out of town to Saskatoon. But the stories kept coming in.  Two sisters, friends of my stepdaughter, bought a condo together five years ago, then sold, split the proceeds, and each bought one of their own. The friends of someone else’s son, guys who work in port jobs, have done the same with a condo in North Van. A friend of my niece’s, a young Vietnamese guy from Edmonton who does social marketing for sports events, bought a place in Burnaby a couple of years ago. And, weirdly, they weren’t doing it with big whacks of their parents’ money.

So I’ve wanted to do this story for several years. Even interviewed Matt Kennedy, the young guy in this story, back in 2011 when he first bought. But didn’t get around to doing the story until I saw a hook recently, the Urban Futures analysis of data showing that home ownership among the young and the oldest increased between 2006 and 2011.

My story, of course, has prompted all kinds of comments on the Globe’s site about how it must be just real-estate promotion. (And, I have to say, only in Vancouver would we be profoundly suspicious of a 20-something who saves his money, lives at home, works hard, doesn’t go out, in order to be able to buy a piece of property. In another city, another era, he’d be called a smart and thrifty person.)

There’s no doubt that the young people buying in Vancouver, more so than other places except possibly contemporary Toronto, are settling for smaller spaces, perhaps more precarious footholds. (Strata councils, ack!)

But people who’ve wanted to live in desirable places have done that for a while. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to move to the suburbs, even though I grew up in North Van and loved it. I have stayed in Vancouver but have had to give up on some other things. I bought a house together with my mother originally. I’ve never been able to buy in exactly the neighbourhoods I wanted. I’ve always had less space, shared space, compromises. I think a lot of people in the city have done that. And, if they didn’t want to make those compromises, they moved to Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey, Langley, for the last 50 years.

It’s harder now, I’m not questioning that. Besides the pressures on housing from people outside the market (Americans buying vacation condos, whatever is happening with Chinese capital), one of our issues is we have a generation that wants to live in the city. Previous generations, except for a certain set of oddballs, accepted that they would move to the suburbs when they had kids. This generation is much less happy with that answer. So they’re creating pressure on the market too.

In spite of that, they’re buying in  major metro areas in greater numbers than ever. It might not fit your preconceptions, but unless you’ve decided you don’t believe in statistics, this has to make you think.

The story is also cut and pasted on the next page, for those who can’t get past the wall

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NPA starts to hit hard, saying Gregor Robertson hates the city’s resource economy, lies about homelessness

October 16th, 2014 · 20 Comments

Vancouver’s Non-Partisan Association ramped up its game this week, with mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe announcing his party’s positions on housing and the city economy. My Globe story here makes it pretty clear that the party will go into the election championing Vancouver as a home to LNG, mining, forestry, and so on. On housing, LaPointe articulated a few new ideas — using city bylaws to make sure empty properties are maintained — but largely said the city needs to have a new conversation about how to accommodate development and create affordable housing.

I asked if HE has any ideas on that, since the typical ways that cities and agencies have found to create affordable housing is: give developers bonus density in exchange for guarantees of low-cost rentals or have the city contribute land in order to lower the overall price of housing on it. He said he’d wait to see what ideas come from the community.

It’s interesting to see how much stronger his language is getting when it comes to criticizing the mayor. At a Vancouver Board of Trade event on Wednesday morning, he said Robertson had lied to people about solving homelessness. (The previous week, he said it was an “act of cowardice” for Robertson to not come out to the Urban Development Institute breakfast.)

LaPointe got in a few more jabs that were well-received by the 140 or so at the VBOT, saying that he didn’t consider the Point Grey Road project so much a bike lane as a “gated community.” And he said that he is applying to be the mayor of Vancouver in this campaign, but that Robertson seems to be applying for a job as the mayor of Burnaby or as federal environment minister or as the chair of the National Energy Board.

In the meantime, Vision continues to put out news releases saying the NPA has voted against everything on the books — social housing, rental housing, an affordable housing agency, etc. — and that their platform is empty. Robertson went a little further this week in a scrum, saying LaPointe has never been to city hall once, which is why he doesn’t understand how anything works.

My story copied below as well, for those who can’t get beyond the wall

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Why can’t Vancouver solve its homelessness problem?

October 14th, 2014 · 17 Comments

I wrote a little essay on this and the computer ate it. So here is my story from the Globe on this topic, all by itself, although there are lots of other interesting aspects and side issues to this.

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First big campaign day: NPA talks about free parking on Sundays, Vision talks housing, free swim lessons

October 10th, 2014 · 70 Comments

Suddenly, the energy level has ramped up in the campaign and lots to do and cover the last two days.

Things started off Wednesday with duelling newsers from Vision and the NPA, where Vision announced its “family-friendly” (you’d think in this province, they’d be wary of that phrase, but whatever) affordability platform, emphasizing their commitment to keep looking for ways to encourage new rental apartments, family-oriented units, and social housing, along with, yes, free swim lessons. Only for those under 14, so don’t get too excited, my blogsters, about getting a chance to finally learn to swim.

Kirk LaPointe of the NPA took to Kerrisdale to say that motorists have been treated with disdain by Vision Vancouver and, to help out struggling families who just want to park easily as they do their shopping and so on, an NPA government would get rid of parking charges outside the downtown for Sundays and holidays, as well as scaling back the hours for paid parking everywhere from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. My story here.

That night, there was a council candidates’ debate at Killarney community centre where, predictably, the big issues were the funding for the seniors’ centre and the fight between the park board and six community centres. Vision council candidates Raymond Louie and Niki Sharma didn’t get booed or anything. Louie kept insisting the city’s $1.2 million is there if it’s needed, contrary to reports, and Sharma was very conciliatory, though vague (“we should talk”)  in her answers about how to de-escalate the situation between the park board and centres.

But certainly other candidates got big rounds of applause for saying the fight should end and Vision dithered for 12 years on the seniors centre. (Though they’ve only been in power for six, so that seemed off.)

Then, yesterday, a news conference by the Chernens from the Cedar Party in the morning, claiming that the city failed to get the best deal out of the Oakridge redevelopment, leaving hundreds of millions on the table. Apparently their team called the Vancouver police department, alleging actual fraud. The RCMP’s E Division apparently went to city planning to ask some questions and then declined to lay any charges. Lots of photocopied documents and allegations of this and that passed around.

And, in the evening, a big rally by Metro Vancouver Alliance, the coalition of churches, unions, advocacy groups and others pushing to create change in four areas: housing, a living wage, better transit, and measures to alleviate social isolation. The three major mayoral candidates, Gregor Robertson, Kirk LaPointe, Meena Wong, plus the Greens Adriane Carr were there. I tweeted madly on this. If I get a burst of energy, I’ll storify them and post.

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Adding fuel to Surrey election fire, Surrey scores D in safety and getting around on first vital signs report

October 7th, 2014 · 2 Comments

All of a sudden, after nine years of relative calm, Surrey seems like a very unhappy place. The report issued today will add to that.

SurreyCares, in partnership with the Surrey Board of Trade, released the results of Surrey’s first Vital Signs study this morning. The report investigated updated statistical data as well as public opinion on issues ranging from crime to the economy.

“This reports gives the laser-like focus needed to create a more vibrant, livable city,” states Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

“We were surprised by some of the things we learned,” states Jeff Hector, president of SurreyCares. “The study reveals that residents have an honest, community-driven pride and a deep interest in where we are going.”

The report includes the results of a public opinion survey where residents assigned ‘grades’ on eleven areas that measure quality of life. Overall, the community scored C, or ‘Average’, on its first report card. The areas rating the greatest interest of residents are:


Arts and Culture…………..C

Environment……………… C

Economy & Work…………C

Getting Around…………… D+

Report available in full here.

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