There is a lot of meat to pick over in the city’s Downtown Eastside plan, even though lots and lots of details are still missing.
Last week, we got the quick overview: $1-billion to go into the area overall over the next 30 years, diversity of housing, protection of community businesses and services aimed at low-income people, gradual increase of more market ownership and rental housing etc etc.
In my second go-round, one aspect I looked at was the amount of money going into housing: $800 million overall, and, from the $300-million in fees charged for new developments, $250 million to housing.
Vision’s critics on the left keep making the point that Vision has done nothing to create affordable housing, because they don’t like the incentives given to developers for rental projects that are then rented out at market rates. But those on the right (and even some insiders at city hall) are uncomfortable with the kind of money that Vision has thrown into housing — far more than any previous council, when you look what proportion of developer fees have gone into the housing fund and the money spent on buying hotels (Ramadas on Kingsway and Hastings), providing upgrading money for properties leased by BC Housing (the Biltmore), and land given over to non-profits to develop affordable housing projects ($22-million for the four sites currently being developed under the auspices of the B.C. Co-op Housing Federation).
The NPA and city manager Judy Rogers always resisted having the city get too financially involved in providing housing, saying the solution was to keep putting pressure on the provincial and federal governments. Vision has departed from that, which is a good thing or bad thing, depending on your point of view.
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So I guess this means no run for mayor, for sure
The Vancouver Police Board is pleased to announce that it has granted a request from Chief Constable Jim Chu to extend his contract until August 2017.
Jim Chu became Chief in August 2007 when he signed a five year contract. In 2010, it was extended by the Police Board to August 2015. It will now run to August 2017.
“Chief Jim Chu’s leadership has contributed immensely to Vancouver’s progress towards the goal of becoming the safest major city in North America, including a record low homicide rate,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chair of the Vancouver Police Board.
“His ongoing service will support the VPD and its officers in continuing their strong record of crime reduction, and I look forward to continuing our work together to make Vancouver an even safer community in which to visit, work, live and raise a family.”
“I am proud and honoured to be Chief and I would like to thank the Police Board for their support of myself and the entire VPD,” said Chief Chu.
Jenables and Kirk — two people I’ve never met except through pixels, so this will be exciting — have called for a get-together of all of us blog lurkers so that we can insult each other to our faces.
Or perhaps not.
At any rate, we/they have suggested we convene at the Elephant and Castle in the Marine Building downtown at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28. I will be there. So will they. We hope a few of you will too.
Surrey’s efforts to remake itself as an urban place, rather than just a bedroom suburb, are exciting and have generated a lot of media coverage.
What that coverage (some of it mine) doesn’t always convey is the reality of what a big job this is. Surrey doesn’t even have a vestigial version of a downtown at the Surrey Central SkyTrain station that it’s trying to fashion into its urban core. There was really almost nothing there that resembled a normal downtown when the mayor started in 2005 to talk about creating a downtown. There was a tower built on top of a mall, a lot of big-box parking lots, even more low-end fast-food joints, some fields, and, off in the distance, a few older houses and apartment buildings.
This is not a question of revitalizing or adding to an existing downtown. It’s really creating one out of whole cloth.
In my story for the Globe on the opening of the city’s new $97-million city hall, I addressed some of the real challenges Surrey has. It’s in competition with other suburbs and with downtown Vancouver for the offices that need to be in any downtown. The retail part isn’t really there yet. Mostly there is a huge investment by the city (close to $200 million) and a lot of condo projects in the works.
That’s not to say that this won’t happen. But it’s going to take a really sustained, focused effort.
Aaaand here we go to another fun public hearing. Council voted to send this on its way to a few nights of meetings.
Vancouver gears up for fractious debate over future of Oakridge mall
A massive redevelopment of Vancouver’s oldest mall – one that will remake a largely single-family neighbourhood in the centre of the city – is expected to take a major step toward reality this week.
Councillors will decide Tuesday on whether to send the project to a public hearing.
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This is what people who’ve actually argued these kinds of cases in court have to say about it the whole issue of conflict.
Those interested in the various law cases referred to in this story can find them, or references to them, here, here (do a search with Control F for King) and here.
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This just out.
Statement from the Park Board Chair on the Hadden and Kitsilano Beach Path
Park Board Chair Niki Sharma issued the following statement this evening regarding the proposed path in Hadden and Kitsilano Beach parks, and the related lawsuit.
“We’ve heard clearly from the public that there is significant concern with any proposed changes to Hadden Park. Tonight, the Park Board gave direction to staff to discontinue proceeding with any options for a new path through Hadden Park, and to communicate that to the petitioner in the B.C. Supreme Court application. The Park Board will not be pursuing a new separated path through Hadden Park or at Kits Beach.
“The Park Board will continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to improving the safety and enjoyment for both cyclists and pedestrians. The Board directed staff to explore ways to improve safety on the existing route through Hadden and Kitsilano Beach Park. Staff will also be relocating the funds from this project to other pedestrian and cycling safety priorities for the Park Board around the city.”
So here is the actual text of the lawsuit that the Cedar Party’s Glen Chernen and Co have launched against the mayor with respect to the HootSuite lease, which various other media have been reporting on.
I have yet to talk to any municipal-law lawyers about this, but my understanding from past coverage on this murky issue is that conflict is not as easy to define as it appears among those who throw the term around in conversation.
I remember Sam Sullivan once excused himself for voting on something involving the whole neighbourhood where he lived, a move that lawyers said was an excess of caution, since councillors can vote on issues where they have an “interest in common” with many others. If that weren’t true, no councillor could vote on, for example, taxes, since they are affected by any increase in taxes.
So the issue in a conflict case typically is — did the council member or a direct relative benefit directly by a decision that the council member voted on.
However, I’m sure there are better armchair lawyers out there than me. Any thoughts on the points raised here?
HOOTSUITE ROBERTSON LAWSUIT
The Downtown Eastside has become our regional mental-health institution, as most of the world knows.
What that means, among other things, is trying to deliver health care to thousands of people who are spread out across a few dozen city blocks instead of one convenient large institution, who can’t be compelled to show up for medical appointments, who end up flailing around between the health and the justice systems, and who can’t be locked up in a room when things get out of hand.
To deal with the whole gigantic mess, the bureaucracy of Vancouver Coastal Health is forced to interact with a host of non-profits to deliver services on the street and to try to manage the many people who come into the area on a mission to save the world. The result, surprise: A lot of conflict.
Coastal Health commissioned a study and report by writer Charles Campbell last year, one that didn’t flinch from describing the conflicts in the area. The health authority has put itself on a path to try to reform its services. But, as I detail in my Vancouver magazine piece here, that’s a Titanic job.
February 17th, 2014 · 5 Comments
Anyone who thinks the mainstream media is dead should have been at the scrum with Transportation Minister Todd Stone and TransLink mayors’ council chair Richard Walton Friday, where there was a multiplicity of cameras, recorders, and reporters.
And, since the talks that had just happened between the minister and council were fairly inconclusive, everyone was looking for some kind of new news out of the meeting.
I emphasized the fact that mayors, not TransLink, are now going to have to decide whether Surrey or Vancouver gets priority for a big new rapid-transit investment. Jeff Nagel, who has covered this issue like a blanket, went with a lead that suggested the mayors could decide to hold a referendum just on a new vehicle levy in order to pay for a big increase for the bus system.
What was obvious in the scrum was that the minister was trying to set a more conciliatory tone — yes, the mayors know what they want for the region. No, it does none of us any good to be squabbling about all this. The transit rider sitting at the bus stop doesn’t care who pays for it. (I guess that’s what their focus groups and angry emails were telling them, after the province seemed to go on the attack against the mayors a couple of weeks ago, complete with planted calls to talk shows about how the mayors never mention that Vancouver got exempted from the hospital tax to pay for transit 14 years ago.)
On the other hand, what also seems to be obvious is that the province is still stuck in a mentality of fighting to make sure it retains all the money it can from its bridge tolls etc. That’s why Stone, in his letter to the mayors Feb. 6, made it clear the province would not go along with any kind of regional road-pricing scheme in the referendum, since that might impact the revenues the province gets from the Port Mann Bridge and any future tolled bridges.
Too bad. If the province wanted to find a regional solution for road pricing, I’m sure a roomful of highly paid accountants could figure out a way to institute such a system and then divide up the revenue between the province and TransLink. But the province seems to be more desperate to protect its turf than work out a complex but perhaps, in the end, much more equitable and long-term solution like that.