We never used to pay much attention to the city’s financial statements, except for a cursory brief on what the total budget was or some quirky expenditure. Now, it’s an annual event to see where the city is with the Olympic Village and the $750-million construction loan it took out to pay for it.
Crawling toward the finish line in paying down the Olympic Village debt: $162 million last year, only $300 million to go
April 23rd, 2013 · 72 Comments
After seven long years, the Vancouver Art Gallery gets the site it wanted for a new building PLUS support from the mayor. But … a few strings attached
April 18th, 2013 · 150 Comments
While all of you have been merrily living your lives, some people in the city have been waiting for months for this city report to come out saying whether the Vancouver Art Gallery would get the Larwill Park site or not.
City report here.
And, btw, all the background and the prediction of how it would all go down from a couple of months ago in my Vancouver magazine article here.
When that 3 million square feet of office space gets built in Vancouver, will there be enough tenants to fill it all? The hot question these days
April 18th, 2013 · 8 Comments
The office-tower boom in Vancouver (and Burnaby, New West and Surrey) never ceases to produce chatter in the halls of the development/broker sector.
It was the topic again at the city’s recent real-estate forum, where several panelists speculated on the impact of all that space hitting the market.
One way to be an opposition politician — come up with ideas that the majority party thinks are swell
April 16th, 2013 · 25 Comments
Hmm, this is the second time I’ve seen this where Councillor George Affleck pitches an idea that the Vision council decides to adopt with no quibbling.
(Other one was New Year’s Eve celebrations)
It’s kind of a novel approach to political activisim — think up new things to do that fit with the governing party’s general ethos (parties, beer) and then get out in front of staff or anyone else to propose it.
Anyway, enough digressing. Here’s George’s motion for next week:
For Immediate Release
April 16th, 2013
A motion put forward by NPA Councillor George Affleck, on the regulatory changes needed to permit micro-breweries and distilleries on industrial land to sample products produced on-site, is expected to be unanimously passed at next Tuesday’s Council meeting.
“Current City of Vancouver regulations do not allow for brewery and distillery operations to offer customers samples and purchasing options. I’m asking staff to come back to Council with recommendations on how we can change that” says Affleck.
“This motion is intended to bring the City of Vancouver up to date with Provincial policy directives, and is aimed at giving local breweries and distilleries a greater chance to thrive while adding to the vibrancy of the city’s robust food scene.”
“I’ve already received a great deal of support from the Mayor’s office since submitting the motion and am confident it will receive unanimous support at the Council table.”
Councillor Affleck’s motion will be debated at the April 23rd, 2013 City Council meeting.
April 16th, 2013 · 39 Comments
Every time my niece comes over for a family dinner, she watches in some disbelief as I scrape food scraps into a bucket, peel the labels off tin cans and drop the component parts into the paper recycling bag and the tin/glass/plastics box respectively, and generally act like I’m at a sorting centre.
She thinks I’m a terminal hippie but, of course, I’m just a lapsed Catholic Canadian who can be guilted into some pretty amazing behaviours by someone in authority just telling me the world will be a better place if I do X or Y. In spite of my efforts, I still feel like an environmental failure, especially when I am confronted with the rows of waste containers at super-progressive places (the folk festival, Langara College) and I can’t for the life of me figure what to put in which container. I’ve spent some hours of my life peering through the plastic trying to figure out if I can put the fork made of corn particles and the recycled-cardboard container in the same trash bag.
And now, I and all of you, gentle readers, are about to be tested further as Vancouver, at last, bringing up the rear of the pack, starts rolling out the food-scraps recycling program starting May 1. Over 10 weeks, all neighbourhoods will be inducted into The Plan, which will mean we get our food scraps and yard waste picked up every week, but the other bin with supposedly only the plastics and unsalvageable-in-any-way stuff will only get picked up every two weeks.
My story on this was here with the basic details. What it doesn’t describe is the anguish that is about to amp up in every household as one person, the environmental invigilator of the domicile, harangues the others about banana peels or mouldy cream cheese or ham bones that are chucked by persons lower down on the social-conscience ladder into the regular garbage. It has already started: “If you keep doing that, we’ll run out of room.” “If you don’t learn to put things in the right place, we’re going to have food stuff stinking up the back yard for two weeks.” Etc etc etboringcetera.
Still traumatized, by the way, that there appears to be no place that is the right place to put cat poo-poo, which our two cats produce at amazing volumes.
Other than all that, yay, recycling. Here I come. Yeah.
(Globe story pasted below, as always)
What does it really mean that COPE voted to run a mayoral candidate and candidates against Gregor Robertson and Vision?
April 10th, 2013 · 105 Comments
After much see-sawing back and forth over the last seven years within COPE on co-operating with Vision, the anti group turned out in force last Sunday. They elected many of their like-minded compatriots to the executive and passed a motion that the party should run a mayor candidate and a majority slate of candidate in the 2014 election.
But how to interpret that, in Vancouver’s shifting civic politics sands. A start, in this story.
I couldn’t tell myself how hardline this decision is likely to be and whether it will get modified by the time the election rolls closers. There is definitely a group within COPE that sees Vision Vancouver as just a new face of the power elite, unlikely to do anything for the poor, working class, marginalized, non-developer residents of the city. They’re unlikely to support any kind of compromise position, even if it means an NPA resurgence.
They’re like those in the B.C. Conservative party who say, “Yes, I know we’ll split the centre-right vote if we run against the Liberals, but we’re willing to do that and let the NDP reign for a term and then the province will be ready to back us, the only real alternative, once the Liberals disappear.”
But there are lots of others in COPE, even within the harder-line group, who seem to think that some form of co-operation might be necessary, depending on the circumstances.
In the meantime, NPA types are taking great delight in this friction. I checked with Adriane Carr at the Green Party about whether this might mean a coalition with the Greens and COPE. She said her party’s position is to run independently (at least at the municipal level), since Greens tend to get votes from people voting for all of the other parties.
So, if everyone does go their own way, that could mean a COPE/Vision/NPA/Green four-way race. (I’m assuming the flegling NSV party would join forces with COPE, if it were separate from Vision, though I’m famously wrong at least 50 per cent of the time.)
April 10th, 2013 · 24 Comments
Transportation Minister Mary Polak came out with what appears to be the Liberal position for the election campaign on transit Monday. I also included, for comparison purposes, the NDP’s. Story here.
Interesting to see how relatively close they are, at least in the statements. Quite a difference with what’s happening in Ontario, when Premier Kathleen Wynne is talking openly about taxes and tolls while the NDP and Conservatives are opposed.
(My story also pasted in after the turn, as usual.)
Dear City of Vancouver: A gentle resident begs you to clean up the mess under the south end of the Granville Bridge
April 7th, 2013 · 17 Comments
This came in through City Plumber and it seemed like a plea that deserved a little attention. So if someone at engineering/311 could take note?
I have called the 311 number several times to ask that the multi-layered (and years old) grafitti at the bus turnarounds at the south end of the Granville Bridge be cleaned up. Each time I was told that nothing could be done unless I could provide a street address. There is obviously no street address – one message taker went so far as to tell me there was no such thing as a pedestrian underpass on Granville. With tourist season approaching I would like to see the city add clear signage directing people to Granville Island as well as making the areas more approachable. The giant penises and gang tags on the west tunnel opening are very off-putting. Any suggestions as to how I can get the attention of whoever is in charge of this.
BTW, for those of you about to go on a rant about city problems and city staff who do nothing about them, I did get this lovely set of notes over the last couple of months. First this one, on March 2.
Parks Board Commissioners – anyone listening ?Again the busy Kits Beach park footpath is flooded (March 12, 2013) but your staff are working nearby for another week to renovate the Hadden Park Field house into a Artist space.
April 5th, 2013 · 33 Comments
That’s just one of the many fascinating facts contained in a 28-page, yes, you read that right, 28-page report about snow clearing, generated by I believe Coun. George Affleck’s concerns that bike routes had been ploughed before major arterials in Vancouver during our annual snowmaggedon.
You can read the whole report right here (because really, what else do you have to do on a Friday night?), which even includes very cool pictures of the trucks and everything. Plus maps of the brining routes and an exciting hour-by-hour description the “snow and ice event of December 19th.” Apparently the potential disaster (2-6 centimetres of snow predicted) was anticipated as early as Dec. 17. But let’s get a glimpse of the report, which conveys much better than I can the drama that unrolled.
An updated forecast received at midday on December 18th, 2012, calledfor the potential of snow accumulations from 2 to 6cm between 4am and noon on December 19th, 2012. Accordingly, a Level 3 response was issued, and a total of 10trucks continued salting all major routes,secondary routes, priority bicycle routesalong vehicle travel lanes, and 2 Kubota’s were assigned to salt priority separated bikeways and the Seawall. At a shift change at 7pm, a total of 14 trucks were saltingall major routes, completing one full cycle every 1.5 hours, and ploughing as required.Wednesday December 19th, 2012While crews continued salting activities fromthe previous day, staff received a specialnotification at 8am that indicated a rain-snow mix at YVR turned to heavy snow.Warmer air that was forecast to move into Vancouver was later than anticipated byforecasters and, as a result, a warming-cooling cycle occurred with resulting snow,freezing rain, back to snow, and so on. The City received an additional 2 cm of asnow-ice mix that was not expected. The City’s response level was upgrade to a Level4 following the advisory and 24 trucks were deployed to plough and salt all major andsecondary routes, with 4 additional trucksassigned to priority bike routes alongvehicle travel lanes. One Kubota was deployed to plough and salt downtown priority 1separated bicycle routes, and another was deployed to clear and salt the Seawall.Although it would normally take 1.5 hoursto complete all major routes, staff reportthat during the event it was taking crews 3 hours to complete the major routesbecause of icy roads and traffic. Secondary routes and priority bicycle routes werecompleted within the normal timeframes. In addition, approximately 50 employeeswere clearing and salting priority bus stops and high pedestrian areas. During the lateafternoon and evening, temperatures climbed to 5°C, which accelerated the snowmelt process. The snow and ice responsewas subsequently downgraded to a Level 3during the 7pm shift change, at which time 20 trucks were salting the major and secondary routes.
BTW, the first priority for the city’s trucks is indeed the 355 kilometres of key arterials in the city. And we could spend more, like Toronto does, if we want to. Out of Toronto’s $87-million snow-removal budget, $34 million is to have non-city ploughs on standby just in case it snows. Montreal contractors must be weeping as they read that.
Okay, that was a little too much excitement for me. Just wondering, though, how much it cost to produce that 28-page report with the maps, graphics, pictures and everything.
Granville: regular street by day, low-rent Mardi Gras by night accompanied by police, ambulances, clean-up crews. Is this is good idea?
April 5th, 2013 · 34 Comments
Like most Vancouverites, I don’t usually go to Granville Street at 4 a.m.
But I did a couple of months ago, to find out how things have evolved on this street with such a roller-coaster past — Great White Way, theatre row, heroin users’ hood, sex-shop central, home to some of the city’s best live-music venues, bus route, clubland.
It was a scene, for sure. The two middle-aged women from Penticton who trailed after me for part of the evening were open-mouthed with astonishment at the party, the police wagons, the gang-squad cops, the general alcohol-fuelled mayhem. It’s a testament to how tame the city is, in many ways, that they merrily struck up conversations with various inebriated youngsters in my vicinity.
But they’re a rarity. Most people over 25 simply avoid the area — and that has even club owners’ worried, along with planners, police, and more as I found when I decided to write a story about it. But Granville is a unique Vancouver problem. In other cities, the solution might be to spread out the clubs.
But this city is so crammed with residential that it’s hard to find a place where noisy bars can go without provoking a rash of homeowner complaints. (And it doesn’t seem to matter whether the bar was there first. The Biltmore is going through a fresh round of griping from people who have moved into the new building next door, apparently unaware there was a club next door.)