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All city controversies solved in one easy night of talking and drinking among savvy group

October 3rd, 2014 · 2 Comments

For those who wished they had been at the blog gathering, but couldn’t make it, here’s a recap from Kirk

Thanks to those that made it out last night.

For those that missed it, I heard two main topics:
1. The election and the candidates.
2. Vancouver’s future. Housing, investment condos, demographics, schools, you name it.

We are all special snowflakes, but there were some notable names that those who couldn’t be there might have wanted to talk to (in order of appearance): Frances (the guest of honour), Mike Klassen, Pete Fry, and Andy Yan.

I could only join one conversation at a time, so I missed out on other topics. We were there for almost five hours and the discussion was still going strong when we packed it in.

Jeff, I forgot to ask if you had pictures of your cycling trip through Spain. You’ll have to bring some next time.

And Silly Season added this

Excellent evening. Not all fear-bsed, btw! Lots of interesting comments from people across the #vanpoli spectrum and ideas/solutions floated on how to deal with those pressing issues.

Very creative stuff. Politicians should take note.

And I add this

It is a revelation to see how people who sometimes bash each other over the heads on social media can have such a productive, non-combative discussion about difficult issues when we’re all in person. I think there’s something about face to face that makes people strive to agree a little more. Interesting dynamic.

For those who would like to come out another time but fear the policy talk is too elevated, fear not. We also traded good gossip. Which famous family’s kids are driving the neighbours with their wild parties? Who is the former NPA party member whom Peter Armstrong would most like to remove from the face of the earth? Was the fake-Twitter-follower scandal really a scandal? Who was behind it? And much, more more.

As a result of the festivities, I didn’t get home until near midnight and slept in for my call at 7:30 the next morning with a district-energy specialist. Crazy time.


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Uh-oh, I installed Disqus. Hope it all works out

October 1st, 2014 · 13 Comments

I paid $500 of my own good money, which I’ll have to raise elsewhere, to install this system which several people said would improve the commenting system. We’ll see how it all goes.

If really terrible, I’ll uninstall it.

My blog-maintenance minions assure me that all previous comments will re-appear, as they are only partway through. Good Lord, maybe we can all go back to writing postcards.

Thanks all for your patience with the unusual number of tech glitches and changes the past month.

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The stealth marketing campaign by Vision Vancouver

September 30th, 2014 · 22 Comments

Warning: This post contains a mix of serious analysis and some whimsically imaginary facts mixed with real ones. If you can’t tell them apart or if the juxtaposition creates too much cognitive dissonance for you, STAY AWAY.

The Vancouver election campaign has been so strangely underwhelming so far that it’s allowed many of us in the still-paid-journalist world to muse in our free time about how people are actually going to decide to vote in this campaign-free campaign, if they actually do.

The smaller parties and independents — COPE, Greens, Cedar, independent mayoral candidate Bob Kasting, One City, Vancouver First — have all been labouring away earnestly and mightily to establish comprehensive policies, announce that they are opposed to the two big developer-backed parties (as Vision Vancouver and NPA are now legally required to be labelled). They’ve had a few small breakthroughs in the media and public consciousness but nothing’s really taken off.

And the big guys are nowhere.

The NPA seems to be concentrated on tweeting out pictures of its candidates and supporters at rallies, festivals, beer nights, tractor pulls, strip-poker nights, and so on, with the occasional announcement about another call for complete and utter transparency, including large picture windows, at city hall from mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe. On occasion, a little Twitter war breaks as an NPA candidate makes a snippy little remark about Gregor’s good looks or who has the wisdom to truly understand the city.

Vision, on the other hand, seems to be hiding in the city in camouflage outfits. Only the relentless emails urging us to support them in their stand opposing tankers, lobbying for a subway, solving homelessness, and saving the city from the NPA give a clue that they’re still alive.

But there must be campaigning going on somewhere. It’s unlikely that the sophisticated team Vision has built up is really doing nothing but setting up special polls for election day that are only accessible by bike.

So, I’ve come to realize, we’ve entered the year of the anti-campaign campaign.

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Police fines for cyclists

September 29th, 2014 · 23 Comments

This came to my inbox from reader/resident George Muenz. Anyone else noticed this problem?

Thousands of cyclists go up the Spanish Banks road to UBC in order to get to the cycling paths on Marine Drive and onwards.

I have had reports from several people that police have threatened people with fines and worse if they do not ride on the pedestrian path adjacent to the road. That path is dangerous as there is nowhere near enough room for pedestrians/joggers and thousands of cyclists.

I don’t know why it’s not like any other road in the Lower Mainland where cyclists and cars share the road. I suspect that someone “important” complained about bike traffic on that road, which of course is heaviest on weekend mornings and the police, who one might think have more important issues to address are making this a priority, even if the result is very unsafe issues for citizens.

I created this petition last night

Hope you can spread the word,

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Vancouver hurls millions of city money into housing and shelter as deadline approaches

September 26th, 2014 · 45 Comments

Since the first day that Vision Vancouver came into power, Mayor Gregor Robertson has turned up the flame on efforts to create new shelter spaces, interim housing, and permanent housing in the city.

But this week, as the election and a Dec. 31 deadline for “solving street homelessness” approaches, the city has started doing something I’ve never seen before: pay entirely for the cost of new interim housing without getting any provincial input or agreement on sharing the costs.

As my story here details, the city has unilaterally decided to lease the Quality Inn on Howe Street and turn it into interim housing for the homeless while that building is awaiting redevelopment. That is not cheap. $1.5 million for the 23 months of the lease, likely at least $2 million a year in staffing costs, and I don’t know how much for improvements, equipment, supplies, and so on.

It’s also single-handedly covering the costs of a new shelter on 900 Pacific, again, without any prior agreement with BC Housing on whether those costs will be shared.

(I said in my story that this was the first time the city had done this. Councillor Kerry Jang contacted me this morning, after he missed a call from me yesterday on this, to say the city did fund one HEAT shelter at the beginning of Vision’s first term, as a way of bringing other partners on board.)

Robertson said this is just an advance opening of a winter shelter, so the costs will be covered by the province, at least at some point. But seems to me the province has been sticky in recent years about which locations it’s willing to fund as shelters.

This is all on top of the announcement that Vision will put $400,000 of city money into school food programs. Again, an unprecedented move for a city to start taking on this kind of social-service spending.

While it would take a pretty hard-hearted person to gripe about feeding hungry children or housing the homeless, some people inside and outside the city have to be wondering what the limits are going to be when it comes to using the city budget to patch the provincial social-safety net.

→ 45 CommentsTags: 2014 Vancouver Civic Election

Bula Blogster Beer Bash: Oct. 2, Tap and Barrel Olympic Village, 7 p.m. Be there or be square

September 26th, 2014 · 6 Comments

So Kirk and Jenables and a few others set a date for a gathering of the blog commenters recently (that week my blog was actually malfunctioning, as it turned out).

Kirk has now found a spot for us to gather and reserved a table.

See you all there to talk about who is going to win the election and other fun topics.

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Why should only a few property sellers benefit when everyone has contributed to make Vancouver what it is?

September 25th, 2014 · 38 Comments

That was the provocative question last night from writer, university lecturer and activist Matt Hern last night as he responded to Andy Yan’s big-data presentation on trends that have influenced Vancouver in the past and will in the future.

Hern, reflecting on Yan’s data about foreign ownership, speculation, the city’s low incomes and high house prices, came in with a big meta-point.

Essentially (I was moderating this SFU-sponsored talk on Vancouver in the 21st Century, so don’t have exact quotes), he said that people are moving here because of the quality of life in the city: the roads, the parks, the schools, the community centres, the good planning of urban life. In other words, they’re not paying $5 million for a house here because the chunk of land and the house sitting on it are worth that. (If so, I’d add, they’d go to a different city where they could get a palace on a few acres for the same price.) They’re willing to pay that price to be in a city where all of the citizens have created, with their dollars and their energy and their community contributions, the Vancouver that exists now.

Yet the people who are making the money from this are only those who happen to own certain pieces of property and are able to sell them at vastly inflated prices. (Yan’s talk demonstrated, as did a recent Globe and Mail story, that it’s mainly single-family housing that is skyrocketing in price and mainly the houses at the high end of the scale.)

I got the sense from the audience at the talk that a whole other two-hour debate session could have evolved from this. There wasn’t time for that, but here’s a place to carry on the conversation.

And, before any of you dismiss it as ranting from the left, I have heard big-time real-estate consultant Richard Wozny make a related point on several occasions. Wozny’s point has been that the real-estate development and property speculation here is over-loading infrastructure that local residents paid for in order to create a functional, good-quality city. Now, others are jumping on and stressing it without making the same kind of contribution.

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Robertson refuses mayoral debate with developer group over sponsorship and more

September 22nd, 2014 · 34 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:


→ 34 CommentsTags: 2014 Vancouver Civic Election

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

September 21st, 2014 · 4 Comments

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 · 27 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.

→ 27 CommentsTags: 2014 Vancouver Civic Election