Frances Bula header image 2

2010: The Vancouver Year

January 1st, 2010 · 7 Comments

And here we are, made it through another year and we’re heading into the new one. The days are getting longer; in only about eight or nine weeks, I can hope for a few bulbs and buds — the biggest thrill; and we have That Event to get through yet.

I’m sure that many of you, like me, are contemplating the year past and the year to come as you perform the annual ritual of hunkering down in the house to sort through papers, clear out closets, and generally try to bring some small attempt at order into your domestic lives before the whirlwind hits again next week.

Looking back to when I was clearing out closets last year, it’s hard to believe how 2009 began.

We were still skating through icefields on the sidewalks and Russian mounds of snow on the sidestreets.

January was a non-stop Olympics village show, with multiple stories every week about how disastrous it all was.

Senior staff were beginning their exodus at Vancouver city hall.

And, on the bright side, new homeless shelters and new housing projects were opening, including the historic Pennsylvania Hotel.

How far we’ve come in a year. Who would have believed the Malek brothers would survive the Olympic-village mess? Not only that, they now are moving ahead on their West Vancouver Evelyn Drive project and the rental-tower on Bidwell that’s been causing such an uproar. Now that’s what I call persistence.

Other hard-to-predict developments of 2009: The Burrard Bridge bike-lane trial turned into a non-story. The TransLink CEO, after a valiant effort to get the province to buy into a big expansion plan for TransLink and failing, decamped back to New York. Surrey launched a design competition for its new central city that has drawn scads of international applications. The Olympic village got turned over on time. The Canada Line became hugely popular on the first day it opened. The provincial election was boring and didn’t change anything. And we lost some precious people: Arthur Erickson, Abraham Rogatnick, Wendy Ladner-Beaudry, Art Cowie, Floyd St. Clair.

It makes me wonder what the year coming up will hold, besides enough Olympics coverage to cover Planet Earth to a depth of six inches.

The wonderful, scary thing about life is that we don’t really know. By this time next year, I’ll be thinking (and perhaps writing) again — Wow, didn’t see that one coming. That was amazing — about some event none of us can imagine right now.

I do know what I’ll be looking at over the next year, the more predicatable mysteries that I’ll be waiting for the next chapter to. Among them:

1. What will happen with the 250 planned units of social housing at the Olympic village? Will it get sold, leased out to middle-income workers, or kept as social housing. The debate continues to rage. Latest opinion I heard over the holidays: Even if the city sells it, they’ll do so at a loss, because who will pay $600,000 for a unit with linoleum on the floor, arborite counters and other lower-end finishes.

2. How will Dianne Watts’ image continue to evolve? The mayor of Surrey has had to tackle some tough issues this year where there were no easy answers — monster houses, casinos, and more. The citizens were not always happy with what they saw going on. And at some point, people are going to want to know whether their faith in her ability to solve social problems and crime is paying off. Those are tough, tough problems that have done in more than one civic administration.

3. What will happen with TransLink? It continues to seem like it’s stuck in the mud, always struggling to get provincial government support and failing. Everyone has advice, no one has a solution. The agency needs to pick a new CEO this year and, more important, figure out what it’s going to do to grapple with growth in the region.

4. Will Vancouver’s massive re-organization of services, as planned by city manager Penny Ballem, pay off? She’s promised there will be $10 million in savings this year and more in the future from this re-organization and new efficiency at city hall. Will Penny really transform this bureaucracy, with her ability to understand and re-work complex systems? Or it is just going to be another case of doing more with less, leaving a trail of resentful, demoralized employees?

5. Finally, will the Little Mountain project — the first of the real-estate developments that Housing Minister Rich Coleman is gambling on to bring him more money for social housing — finally get going? And what will be in it? The developer here have dawdled forever, not even holding so much as a coffee klatch with the local community to start talking about what this neighbourhood might become.

In the meantime, on a cheery note, I want to mention how great it is to finally have seen finished this year some of the projects that we’ve waited for a long time and are part of what makes me feel like Vancouver is getting more better and more interesting: Bob Rennie’s art museum; the Carrall Street Greenway, the newly spiffied up Pigeon Park (open just in time to provide a hanging-out spot for people from the Downtown Eastside during the Olympics), the Mount Pleasant community centre (I haven’t been yet but here it’s wonderful); and Woodward’s.

Feel free to add your own thoughts to these lists. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot — but have to toddle off now to provide a stomach-soothing dinner for a few survivors of last night’s festivities.

P.S. Thanks to those of you who wrote me lovely end-of-the-year notes expressing your appreciation for the blog and the forum it provides. It’s all of you who keep me going and clearly there’s a lot of you. I clocked in somewhere around 800,000 page views for the year, with October and November at over 100,000 each. And I especially appreciate your patience in the last month when I switched to a new host and blog-maintenace group, which resulted in several glitches in December that tried all of your patience. Hopefully that’s all behind me now and full speed ahead for 2010.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Thanks for mentioning Floyd St. Clair. He was truly a wonderful man.

  • Delia

    I like how you end on a positive note about all the good things happening in the city.

  • CGT

    Thank you , really enjoy your writing.

  • Rachowiecki, Rob, 1954-

    Difficult to imagine that the City could more effectively de-moralize its employees …

    And still no account of the cost over-runs, the millions wasted on half-baked projects, the huge salary increases for management already earning far more than their experience & credentials warrant.

  • “here it’s wonderful” change to hear 😉

  • Glissando Remmy

    Glissando’s Resolutions for 2010:

    ONE. Work on my American accent.

    TWO. Immerse myself in medical lingo (watch ER, GREy’s Anatomy), good transferable skills for management (so I’ve heard).

    THREE. Attend the Tranquility Election Seminar, package No. 08 (deep reality massage, opposition party exfoliation, common sense detoxification, impure thoughts cleansing, spin bugging…) at Hollyhock; get to know the people.

    FOUR. When ONE, TWO and THREE are completed, apply and get the dream overpaid managerial job with the City of Vancouver. Make sure that FHFHF (Friendly Hiring Following Hostile Firing) ratio is also maintained.

    Oh, one more… thinking on the timing of this posting…stop procrastinating.

  • MB

    Who in their right mind would want to become a municipal politician today? Look at the issues, look at the available money, look at the constraints imposed from on high, look at the poor quality of discourse amongst the critics.

    At least the professional puditry — like Fabula’s — offer insight.

    The real power exists at the top. No mystery there. And the PM doesn’t appear to answer to anyone, least of all the voters who don’t care if he porogues parliament only because democracy is inconvenient.

    What other level of government can influence even the little kingdoms known as provinces? They say the constitution gives power over cities to the provinces, but my guess is that if serious federal money was offered for things like healthcare, transit, energy efficiency measures and culture, all of which greatly influence the efficiency, identity and ecological footprint of cities where the majority of us live, then what premier will stand in the way?

    This doesn’t mean the feds have to raise new taxes, but they can certainly tinker within existing budgets. To pay for healthcare in the original 50/50 federal/provincial ratio doesn’t mean that the public has to get nailed to the tax cross. It means that a new deal will be negotiated with the provinces, including revenue and cost sharing within the existing system.

    Cities have been shackled by the provinces, who have in turn been downloaded on by the feds. Maybe some uploading is called for. Why shouldn’t the federal government be more involved with its own citizens in cities? Why should Metro Vancouver and TransLink continue to be shunted aside and abused by the province in the absence of federal involvement, other than for a handful of token pet projects?

    Michael Geller, are you listening? The mayor has no power. A federal cabinet minister with intimate knowledge of how cities and development works does, and s/he could weild signicant deal making power with the federal cabinet and with premiers.

    Why not use major federal transit funding (a normal fact of life in Europe and Asia) to extract a better deal for TransLink via the province — like an elected board and 10 year funding plans? Why not enact a national transit plan? A national plan for housing the homeless? A national strategy to treat additions? A national cultural institution program?

    You get the picture. There is such a dearth of urban intelligence and absolutely no sense of long-term planning at the national level today. That has to be rectified, because it sure ain’t gonna happen in Victoria.