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Cities prepare to turn staff over to Olympics-related work

August 11th, 2009 · 40 Comments

Get ready for it. By the time everyone gets back to work in September in Vancouver and Whistler city halls, it’s essentially going to be all Olympics all the time.

As part of that, those two cities, along with others that have venues, like Richmond, have also been identifying who among their staff is going to be required to do extra Olympics work, which I’m writing about in the Globe today. That’s going to mean some reduction in usual services that those staff usually provide.

I’d love to hear from people at city hall about services and departments they’re noticing that might be affected.

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  • I agree with Geoff Meggs.

    The fact is, the Olympics are happening in six months and the fiscal situation is quite different today than it was when we submitted our bid book and were awarded the games….but I don’t want to be embarassed when the world comes to Vancouver.

    So rather than worry about who ‘pays’ for these staff, (one way or another, the money comes from many of us) I just hope they can be properly organized and in turn help contribute to a well run games. The fact is, these Olympics will cost the participating municipalities and province of BC more than anticipated. But now is not the time to back down from the tasks at hand because we might not get paid for services provided.

    I am often reminded of Expo ’86. My good friend Mike Harcourt was opposed to our staging the event…(I kept my copy of Macleans magazine showcasing his opposition)…but after we did do a good job of managing the event and showcasing our city, Mike was the first to agree it was the right thing to do. I’m hoping the same thing will happen this time too.

    I know many of you would prefer to see the money being spent on the Olympics devoted to other things…and I’m with you, especially when I hear about the security arrangements and so forth….but in 6 months the Olympics will be on, and the more we can do now to ensure that the events go well, regardless of how the accounting is done…the better I think it will be for all of us.

    Just think about the alternative…we spend all this money; we live through tremendous disruption; and then after a chaotic and disorganized event people will ask why didn’t we second more city and provincial staff to help do this right, rather than rely on a small number of poorly qualified volunteers?

  • cold water

    And will these peoples salaries be included in the final tally of what these games are costing the taxpayers? And if there is a surplus, will that be used to repay these salaries? (Yeah right)

  • Not Running foy Mayor

    The civil servants paid “volunteers” aren’t costing the taxpayers any additional money we we would be paying their salaries regardless. The taxpayers additional expense will be a reduction of service during the timeframe.

    Someone once told me not to pay any too much attention to the security costs as most of it is made up by payroll and that a very large portion of that would be paid out regardless of the games. The army would still be paid wether they are on base or on the streets of Vancouver, the only additional costs are extra hours for reservists and OT for police officers. Guess there might be some comfort in that to us taxpayers.

  • Darcy McGee

    > but after we did do a good job of managing
    > the event and showcasing our city,

    That’s a substantial leap of faith, and unlike Expo there’s no time to “ramp up” to a quality production. Expo was six months long(-ish). If the first month was problem prone, there were five more months to fix things.

    Not so with the Olympics: better get it right the first time.

  • Interesting story just appeared in USA Today, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and on CTV…Will Vancouver Olympics leave an iconic legacy?

  • gmgw

    Michael G said:
    ” I don’t want to be embarassed when the world comes to Vancouver.”

    Think how embarassed you’re going to be– or should be– if the “world” finds out that BC’s healthcare budget is being slashed while its government throws a great big $3-billion-and-who-knows-how-much-more jock party. I don’t know about you, Michael, but that embarrasses the hell out of me.

  • gmgw

    Michael G. again:
    “Interesting story just appeared in USA Today, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and on CTV…Will Vancouver Olympics leave an iconic legacy?”

    Sure they will. Moral (and maybe financial) bankruptcy.

  • Bill Lee

    We could always see the light and cancel it now. Pay the penalty and get out of the fuss.
    The IOC has insurance to move the entire event to another venue such as Lillehamer, Turin, Lake Placid, even Calgary.

    “The smoke from the many fires floated about Vancouver like a gray shroud as the people visited the corner wells and cisterns now that the city water and sewer system had been destroyed in the January force 8 earthquake. It was quiet on the debris strewn streets except for the incessant rain, and the heavy coughing of the remaining swine flu victims huddled under their emergency tents.”

    Reading “Paris in despair” Paris in 1871, the Siege and The Commune by Hollis Clayson

  • Joseph Jones

    The International Olympic Committee takes in at least $80 million a year for itself, no matter what happens. This nonprofit organization issues no audited statements, demands tax free status, and offloads all liabilities.

    Those Games are rigged. The IOC gets the gold, the host city goes in the hole. Don’t play.

  • Frothingham

    I was not n favour of the winter games. I still am not in favour of them, and I will not be embarrassed nor pleased after the binge party is over. These events are way too over-hyped and over-sold. I wish them well, and then I wish them good riddance. But I don’t buy in to the BS.

  • CriticalMassivePoop

    @Joseph Jones

    You got it. The host city (i.e. the taxpayer) goes in the hole, while the owners of the hotels, restaurants, bars and stores rake in huge profits.


    Perhaps the city should go after all of those greedy business owners who don’t pay for their business licenses? Think that might make up some of the gap?

    Perhaps the city can force these idiotic bicyclists who love to hold their monthly anarchic “Critical Mass” bike rides to start paying for licenses to ride their bikes on the same roads that I drive my car on? (And pay good money for, God-dammit.)

    Perhaps the city can finally install turnstiles on the skytrains and buses, and keep the leeches, cheapos and and bums out who don’t want to pay their “fare share”?

    Perhaps the city should license and tax the thousands of marijuana grow-ops around the city? That should be good for a few hundred million dollars, maybe even a billion.

    The reason why there’s such a shortfall of people willing to work for free (oops, I mean volunteer) over the Olympic period is simple.

    It’s because the average Vancouverite is deep in-the-hole because of their sky-high mortgages and the fact that their significant loved-one is out of work! Vancouver has the least affordable housing market of any major Canadian city. Add to that the recession/depression and the risk of losing your job, and it doesn’t exactly scream, “YEEHAA! Olympic party time!”

    It’s inconceivable for most Vancouverites to leisurely take time off of work and stroll around showing off the city to rich out-of-towners and visitors. They simple can’t AFFORD IT.

    The Olympic spirit is a charade. Montreal learned the hard way. It spent massive quantities of money on the summer Olympics in 1976. It took until December of 2006 Quebecers to finally pay off their $1.5-billion debt from the 1976 Summer Games. They would have been much wiser spending that money on infrastructure.

    Sound familiar? That’s because it is; Vancouver has a decaying infrastructure. How will we pay for it? Will the Olympic profits make all the problems go away?

    Dream on… maybe with enough marijuana ingestion Vancouverites will be able to forget all of these problems. It’s worked well so far.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    I have been a vocal opponent of the Games for Vancouver, from the beginning.

    $6 billion dollars would certainly go a long way to aid in fixing some of the ills that ail us.

    The two week PR orgy for mostly self-absorbed, doped up androids does not make me feel like healthcare or social programs, that have been suffering for the last ten years, are going to get serviced any more swiftly.

  • gmgw

    Bill Lee:
    I do like your taste in reading!! That’s a superb book (love your “adaptation” as well). Not to mention appropriate to the current situation… (have you ever visited the monument to the Communards in Pere-Lachaise, by the way?)

  • This had better be included in the final accounting of cost for the games. This is why me and lots of other Vancouverites voted NO in the referendum. We EXPECTED there to be “unexpected costs”.

  • LP

    To think, believe and/or hope that healthcare or social services or the homeless problem would be any better today without the Olympics coming here, is complete horse manure. No disrespect is intended to the horse or its excrement.

    The healthcare system is already the province’s biggest expenditure and most successful money vortex. So we dump an additional one time $?? billion into those two budget items (social services) and what do we have? Nothing more than MORE wasted money.

    How much more money is being spent in the DTES today, than 15 years ago? Has it improved? No, it’s become worse. Philip Owen says it’s as bad or worse than its ever been. I’m not of the belief its from a lack of money, the problems are much deeper than that.

    The healthcare budget has grown volumes since 2000, and where are we today? Lets take the Olympic money and build a new hospital for $?? billion. Great we have a hospital but we wouldn’t have the money to staff it or fill the beds without adding significantly to the yearly budget.

    I don’t buy the argument that this $?? billion spent on the Olympics should be handed out to ministries that can’t manage what they have. Thanks but no thanks. Before we drop another untold billions into social services or healthcare, we need to rip them up and start over again.

    British Columbians and Canadians need to stop this charade and believing that our social values and medicare, which were crafted decades ago are suitable today. But of course most of you commenting above would prefer to just keep on going with the charade as long as the Olympics had never set foot in our province.

    I certainly am not proud of a healthcare system ranked below countries like Cuba. I am certainly not proud of medicare which has been ordered changed in the province of quebec, but not the rest of Canada. Nor am I proud that bullshit povertarians continue to waste more money than can be counted on the homeless in this city while the problem becomes worse. But apparently that answer is money and not a different system.

    The problem is that these bloody Olympics are taking away more $400K suites for the homeless, more wasted money in a healthcare system built for the 1960’s and lets not forget more chicken coops and bike lanes. Yeah, right.

    Our problems in healthcare, social services and the homeless aren’t going anywhere, and frankly I think it’s time we all had something else a little more positive to focus on. I’m with the majority on this one. I’m going to enjoy the Olympics, and be proud of them.

  • I must admit, I am both surprised and saddened by many of the opinions expressed in some of the foregoing posts. While I agree that a lot of money is probably being wasted, and diverted from other much more needed services, overall, I do expect positive economic, cultural, athletic and other benefits from these games.

    Thank you LP. Are all the other Olympic supporters reluctant to comment, or do you simply not exist!

    Today, I have posted a blog which attempts to compare the potential legacies of the Olympics with those of EXPO 86. You can find it at I conclude by noting that I would rather have a big party to generate economic benefits, than a war. (That’s how they used to do it.)

    Out of interest how many of you who oppose the Olympics also opposed Expo. And in hindsight, do you feel it too was a mistake?

  • rf

    Hey Gmgw…..64% voted for the Olympics in the plebicite.
    Gregor and Vision got elected with far less, yet the Vision and petty socialists tell us to suck it up when they push something through.
    It’s a 2 week showcase like this city will never see. Suck it up.

  • Bob

    I wouldn’t have chosen for Vancouver to host the olympics, but I agree with Geller, now that we’re here we should do it right. I live downtown and I think it’s going to be a blast and I love that the city built venues that will be useful to the community when the party is over.

    Also, I don’t get why people make fun of Council for implementing bike lanes and moving forward on allowing chickens. I think these are good things.

  • gmgw

    RF sternly intoned:
    “It’s a 2 week showcase like this city will never see.”

    And, god willing, never will again.

    “Suck it up”.

    Gee, thanks for the fatherly advice, RF. Like I’m being offered a friggin’ choice??

    PS: If the plebiscite was re-staged tomorrow, what do you think the “Yes” vote might be, based on what we now know? Considerably south of 64%, I suspect.

  • Darcy McGee

    > PS: If the plebiscite was re-staged
    > tomorrow, what do you think the “Yes”
    > vote might be, based on what we now
    > know?
    > Considerably south of 64%, I suspect.


  • Yippee Olympics!

    I’m all for the Olympics way over 100%% My family loves sports, encourage our own children to be active and when we watch any professional sports, show them what they could strive for.

    Most of you guys are just grumps! Christ, I hope you leave town when the Olympics are here. Continuously bitching about something that is coming regardless is useless and quite frankly, tiring to keep reading about.

  • urb anwriter

    Expo 86 legacy? Hmmm. Call someone you know in Toronto, San Francisco, New York, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, or Paris; ask them all about the much glorified ‘legacy’ of Expo 86. And then be prepared for stunned, sullen, silence. And the buildings? The CPR was working on getting rid of that ‘glow in the dark’ mess long before we bought into the ‘exposition’ debacle.

    And, just out of interest, what’s the average age of people ‘living’ in, or on, the north side of False Creek? How many of them were born when Expo was such a hit?

    I had a ‘season’s pass,’ or ‘six-month,’ whatever purchased through employee perks at Chevron – I went once. Just like the Olympics – over-sold, over-hyped, deified, commercial cat-yawk.

  • gmgw

    Michael Geller inquired:
    “Out of interest how many of you who oppose the Olympics also opposed Expo. And in hindsight, do you feel it too was a mistake?”

    I strongly opposed Expo up until it opened, feeling, as with the Olympics, that it was a massive waste of money and resources that would be far better spent on alleviating our far more urgent social needs; then I completely sold out, got a job there, and worked there for the fair’s entire run. I’d love to be able to say that the experience converted me to the Expo cause like Saul on the road to Tarsus, but I merely felt like a massive hypocrite. What can I say? As my partner was frequently reminding me at the time, I needed a job.

    I’d also like to be able to say that the experience changed my life for the better, but…nah. It was a gig. I did experience moments of fleeting glory, however; I got to shake Jim Pattison’s hand (impresive, huh?), as well as stand within four feet of both Princess Diana and George H. W. Bush; and I saw the astounding Urban Sax troupe (from France) perform in the Plaza of Nations; it was undoubtedly the most impressive work of performance art/theatre I’ve ever seen in my life. I was also well-situated to readily discern the rot behind the Expo tinsel, so to speak.

    What particularly bemuses me about the Olympics hype is its eerie familiarity: “It’s going to put Vancouver on the map! It’s Vancouver’s chance to shine on the world stage!” and so on. Exactly the same phrases were used to tout Expo 86. I mean, what happened? Did that mythical table shift some time in the past 23 years? Did we roll off it like a pencil, plunging back into (horrors!) obscurity? Did we emerge grandly onto the world stage, only to take a clumsy pratfall before the august assemblage of all those Really Important People, who apparently expressed their contempt by getting up and leaving en masse, carrying the tale of our ignominy and unworthiness to the World we’d so hoped to impress?

    I mean, what happened to that glorious Expo legacy we were promised, if we now need a massive booster shot? Will we be told in 20 years that we need another one, and will the same rhetoric be used to sell it?

    Michael, with all due respect, I think your position re the Olympics, their projected “legacy”, and that of Expo 86, is a classic illustration of Miles’ Law: “Where you stand depends on where you sit”. I can understand how, considering the circles you move in, you can look at the north shore of False Creek, 23 years on, and see that forest of towers as a positive outgrowth of Expo 86. Why wouldn’t you? You hang with the development crowd. I should think a good many people of your acquaintance have made a considerable amount of money from the post-Expo boom(s), (though none more than the Li family). Supply-siders to the last, you hope that lightning will strike once again in 2010, and you once again present arguments that it will benefit us all. Somehow. Eventually. (I’m sure I’ve quoted this line before, but it’s too good a refutation of the trickle-down theory to not repeat– it was voiced by a housing activist in San Francisco a decade or so ago: “A rising tide may lift all boats, but if you haven’t got a boat, you’re f**ked”.) Was Expo a mistake, you ask? Not for you, bubeleh. Not for you.

    Frankly, Michael, I don’t think you have any subjective understanding of what it is to be poor, whether unemployed or working poor. There are a great many people in and around this city who received little or no direct benefit from Expo, and even fewer who will directly benefit from the Olympics. Skating rinks don’t put food on the table or put roofs over heads, unless you happen to work in one. Most of us will simply go on living our “lives of quiet desperation” while you and your friends enjoy your big party. Among my own circles, I know of no one that’s been invited. I guess we’re supposed to be hoping that there’ll be a few table scraps left over when you’ve finished. And then we can look forward to paying the bill(s), for god knows how long.

    Looking at your blog, I came upon this phrase under “about us”:

    “Much of this blog is devoted to an around-the-world sabbatical my wife and I took in 2007. It was written to inspire others to arrange a sabbatical or quit their jobs, pack their bags, and take a trip around the world.”

    Well, obviously your blog is not meant for the likes of me and mine. Frankly, Michael, I don’t think that anyone who could write those words with a straight face has a hope in hell of understanding those of us out here who can’t afford to attend your party, and oppose the entire event as obscenely wasteful. It’s all very Marie Antoinette of you, to be sure, that intro. If only more of us could live in a comfortable world like yours, just for a while.

    For now though, we must continue to demand: “Bread, not circuses!”

    One final note; You want to know what, for me, is the most meaningful, significant legacy of Expo 86? Here it is, via a link to an article that appeared at the time in (oh, the shame of it) a Major Newspaper In A Big Important American City (how annoyed the Expo godlings must have been!). Note that the article is four pages long.

    Some of us still remember him. I wonder if Jim Green does?


  • GMGW, you are right. While your comments are somewhat hurtful, I do agree that I don’t fully comprehend what it is like to be poor, whether unemployed or working poor. Although I do get some insights from one of my daughters who works with street kids and sometimes behind the bar in a DTES pub. She’s currently looking for work to pay the rent, and regularly reminds me of what it is like for many others who are unemployed or living with minimum wage jobs.

    I’m the first to admit that I have had a very fortunate life (as an aside, I was not born into a wealthy family…I delivered the Globe and Mail form the age of 10 to 13 early each morning…in Toronto…where’s is cold and snowy!), but do want to pick up on the story you referenced about Olaf Solheim, the 88 year old gentleman who died in the DTES as a result of the disruption to his life caused by EXPO 86.

    I remember that story well, and as I wrote with some sadness on my blog, one failing of both EXPO 86 and the forthcoming Olympics is that neither has had the desired benefit on the quality of life for those in the DTES.

    This is particularly disturbing vis a vis the Olympics since it was a high profile topic on the table. Larry Campbell and Jim Green were both very upfront about their desire to ensure that the negative consequences of EXPO 86 on the DTES community didn’t happen again.

    And in many respects, they haven’t. This is a two week event, not a half year event, and we have not seen evictions from SRO’s to accommodate visitors. Indeed, legislation was put in place to ensure this didn’t happen.

    But for me, one of the greatest tragedies of these Olympics is that they have not fulfilled the promise of a lot more housing in the DTES, jobs for the residents, and an improvement in the physical infrastructure and quality of life.

    As some of you know, when I returned from my sabbatical, I started to devote a lot of time to working with Michael Clague, Milton Wong, Gerry Zipursky, Mike Harcourt, Joe Wai and others in trying to improve living conditions in the area. One of the first things that I did was prepare a paper which highlighted all the housing promises associated with the Olympics. While some progress has been made (I believe the Woodwards Project and the purchase and renovation of the older SRO hotels by the Province was directly attributable to this promise) and to some degree, the creation of StreetoHome was another response, I just cannot believe that we haven’t made more progress in the past few years.

    I walked along Hastings Street earlier this week, looking at ugly, graffiti covered boarded up buildings and could not help but wonder whether there is going to be a last minute effort to improve the appearance of this neighbourhood. Now some will immediately respond the ‘appearance’ of the neighbourhood is not the issue…it’s the poor quality of life for the residents and those on the streets….I know, I know.

    But as an architect, I could not help but also focus on the look of the streets, especially since that is something that we could have done something about. And I am a believer in the ‘broken windows’ theory.

    For 18 months I tried to get local organizations interested in trying to improve the appearance of the place. I thought that we could create jobs for people, power washing and painting and cleaning up garbage. I met with Ann Livingstone of VANDU since she thought there was merit in the idea…I spoke with Wendy Pedersen and others at the Carnegie Centre, and so on…I even ran for City Council in part on a homelessness platform, (the Mayor did a better job of publicizing his motivations) but in the end, I had to quit.

    I found the whole process so upsetting. Because the Olympics ARE A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY to help make some more small improvements in the neighbourhood, and it’s simply not happening.

    So yes gmgw, I may not have a subjective understanding of what it is to be poor, but I thought I had the skills to help improve the lives of many poor people, using the Olympics as a catalyst.

    I proposed relocatable modular housing…which could have been built in time…but it did not proceed because some thought it was too expensive, and the Province couldn’t find the subsidy funding SO QUICKLY!

    I would still love to see a community clean-up project…with local residents paid to help improve their streets…but I will leave it to others if they think it is a good idea. A lot can be done in 6 months when billions of people will be looking at what you have done!

  • city hall insider

    I volunteered to drive the Swedish girls ski team around. They never got back to me on that one…..

  • T W

    The question that will be asked is not whether 2010 is/will be a good or bad thing, but whether the elected officials, staff and the citizens based their decisions on a full appreciation of the costs, risks and benefits.

    Just as our global financial system has been roiled by unappreciated systemic risk, so will 2010 and BC taxpayers be subject to risks that were never appreciated at the time the bid was one. Or did the proponents only emphasise the positive rather the risks?

    Time will tell.

  • gmgw

    I don’t know if it could be legally done under the City charter, but one thing I think the city– or, failing that, the Province– should have done years ago is expropriated and restored the entire south side of the 100 block west Hastings, along with sundry other locales in the DTES. The 100 block is emblematic of the whole tragedy of the DTES’s accelerating slide. The way Hastings has been allowed to deteriorate since the closure of Woodwards is an absolute obscenity. It wasn’t that long ago when the 100 block was still a– well, I was going to say “vibrant”, but maybe “viable” would be closer to the truth– mix of street-level retail outlets, including what was at the time the largest Chinese restaurant in Vancouver.

    One of the biggest challenges the DTES has had to face in its long struggle for survival is greed-sucking landlords who’ve bought properties there and then engaged in classic New York-style blockbusting practices: Let those properties deteriorate through conscious neglect until they’re uninhabitable, then apply to the City for a demolition permit. The only reason the structures in the 100 block have survived (by now they may well be too far gone for rehabilitation) is that enough slumlords have engaged in this pracitice that they’ve undermined each other, and their properties still show no substantial appreciation in value; hence the entire area has deteriorated enough to still resist its long-awaited gentrification. Now everyone awaits the hoped-for restorative power of the Woodward’s development. We’ll see.

    DERA and other groups have fought the long struggle to retain some measure of livability in the DTES, but they have had to step on so many official toes to do so, and had to engage in so many political battles, both internal and external, that each new opportunity to create an affordable residential redevelopment has become a titanic struggle to secure funding. And so it goes (sorry– coffee break’s over).

  • Joe Just Joe

    I’m taking it that you have not driven by the area in a while as a large part of the South side of 100 blk W Hastings is being restored and is almost complete.
    It is also naive to say it was brought to it’s current stage by greedy landlords (there was never any redevelopment plans by any of the owners), the units have been available for lease at bargain basement prices forever, the problem is no one has wanted to lease them. Now that Woodwards is about to bring engery and $$$ into the area it appears there might be some forward momentuem.

  • Darcy McGee

    > Now that Woodwards is about to
    > bring engery and $$$

    I didn’t laugh when I read that. Really.

  • gmgw

    You’re right, I haven’t walked or driven along the 100 block Hastings in quite a while. Haven’t even taken a bus along there in a year or more. Time was when I would stroll around the DTES, Gastown, and/or Chinatown once a week or more; but it’s been years since that was the case. It just became too distressing to walk along Hastings. I’ll take your word for it that that block is being “restored”. I’m glad to hear it, if true. I would guess this is being done in order to piggyback on the Woodward’s development. Now what about the two blocks between Abbott and Main?

    Frankly, I’m surprised the buildings along 100 West were in restorable condition. You can call me naive if you want, but I think the building owners on that block have the ethics of wolverines. At diffferent times in the 80s, I had two friends who opened retail businesses in that block. Their dealings with their respective landlords were horrendous. Even things as basic as getting faulty plumbing fixed all but required threats of legal action. It went on and on. Each of them finally got fed up enough to move their businesses elsewhere.

    As for your claim that the “units have been available for lease… forever”, it’s not surprising that they got no takers; most building owners who are interested in leasing a property will at least try to maintain it in leasable condition, both inside and outside. What prospective lessee would want to spend three days just shovelling out pigeon shit– for starters– before moving in?

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Well, Darcy, I sure laughed.

    Perhaps Mr. Geller, you were focusing your developer’s talents on the wrong DTES issue? Surely you know how exasperated Salient’s Fung is with the VDP’s horrible mismanagement of the Heritage Density Transfer Program? Despite JJJ’s rosy proclamation that the new Money Mart on the 100 Block is heralding a more enlightened era of heritage revitalization and $$$, the reality is the exact opposite.

    In July, VDP recommended that Council pass a 3-5 year MORATORIUM on all Heritage Density Transfers, which effectively means that the most environmentally-sound form of development – reusing old buildings – has been effectively kyboshed for the rest of Vision’s term and beyond.

    The decision to impose a moratorium “with no exceptions” kills restoration efforts on numerous invaluable Public Heritage Assets that are already in appalling shape and likely won’t survive 3 more winters (ie. Pantages, parts of the 100 Block, some Chinatown Societies, etc.). The decision also stalls a key component of the DTES Revitalization Plan and the upgrading and maintenance standards of high-density SRO housing in the area.

    The moratorium is the direct result of the VDP’s horrible mismanagement of the Density Transfer Program, and their reluctance to do anything meaningful to fix the program’s many structural weaknesses. Without proper mechanisms to land density, the market for transfers has become wildly imbalanced. This has happened despite the fact that Vancouver has just come through an historic building boom. Conditions from 2003-2007 were ideal for this program, and had it been managed properly it could have produced far more successes, and made a huge difference to the economic and social well-being of the area.

    The exasperation with VDP’s poor handling of the Heritage Density Transfer Program was evident in the presentations of Fung, Leto, Mah and all the other public speakers whose vision for Vancouver extends beyond façadism and glass tower redundancy. Unsurprisingly, all of their recommendations to make more substantive changes to the program to get it fixed quickly were not supported by Mr. Toderian, who consistently messaged to Council that he didn’t want to do anything that involved “more work”.

    In my humble opinion, this moratorium is just the dog’s tail wagging before the Historic Area Height Review and View Corridor and Capacity Review….

    I believe, Mr. Geller, it was you who warned: “Be very afraid.”

  • Yes, JJJ your observations are very astute. I too was concerned with the manner in which the Heritage density Transfer program was managed…it’s a somewhat esoteric topic for some, but the simple fact is that Fung and others restored buildings with the expectation that they would be able to sell density granted to them to others, to recover some of their costs…however, there is so much ‘heritage density’ banked and so few places to put it that they are stuck.

    Now some are contemplating higher buildings in what may turn out to be the wrong places, so that the density can in fact be sold. Hence the VIEW AND CAPACITY study. But while I sometimes think that Brent Toderian, who is a very bright guy, does not always listen, I think he’s listening on this one…putting towers in the DTES to use up heritage density or get some social housing or other amenities is not the way to go.

    But my goals for the DTES were more modest. I just wanted to see some improvement to the EXISTING facades and street infrastructure, pending more significant upgrading….some removal of graffiti, power washing, painting, garbage removal, maybe a few new murals….something that might be accomplished by February. I know that the city is undertaking some improvements to Pigeon Park, but hopefully a bit more could happen too.

  • sorry, that message was intended for GJG.

    JJJ, GJG, GMGW…one day, I hope to meet you all!

  • Joe Just Joe

    The new money mart building does look sharp, but I was refering to the 4 buildings east of the money mart that are still under plastic wrap that are currently being renovated. Sure there is lots of work to do still on that block, but it has started.
    I will have to side with the planning dept on the density bank issue, it’s a great tool, but without solving the problem on the demand side, the supply side needs to take a breather. With the increase to allow the purchase of 20% from the bank from 10% it should put a things back inline.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    “Take a breather”, JJJ? The target of 200,000 sq feet landed per year if met (and I doubt it will be for the next few years) will take 6 to 7 years to rebalance, not the 3-5 Toderian suggests. That’s not “a breather”, that’s a kybosh! Mr. T admitted, if I remember correctly, that this year only 40,000 has been landed so far. Many of our heritage landmarks are at imminent risk (the Pantages is on Heritage Canada’s Top Ten endangered list) we can’t wait another 5+ years to save these buildings.

    As I tried to point out back in May on this blog, the density transfer program’s structural problems are fixable and, if done correctly, the Density Bank could produce far more and higher quality amenities for the City of Vancouver. Fung, Leto and other speakers in the meeting had clear recommendations to speed up the Bank’s rebalancing – all were argued against by VDP. Why?

    Furthermore, all speakers complained that VDP did not consult with them – the main stakeholders and users of the Program – about the recommendations presented to Council (because, well, that would involve both “more work” and some listening on the part of the VDP). People with vision for a City legacy and projects READY TO GO have been strung along and strung along by VDP, then suddenly: MORATORIUM. No exceptions. Ouch.

    That’s the dog’s tail wagging, eh?

    The larger DTES issue of revitalization, as Mr. Fung pointed out in Council, has been discussed and reported on within City Hall for years and years. It is clearly identified as a TOP PRIORITY for the City and Planning Dept. and the Heritage Density Transfer program was a key tool to make this happen. For every dollar in incentives, 4 dollars in investment has been realized on the projects to date. Killing this already existing program – especially in light of the goals for STIR and HEAT – makes absolutely no sense at all. Council appears to be clueless about the implications of their decision and how it contradicts their own stated aims.

    So one step forward, two steps back. And area problems fester and worsen.

    I think it’s pretty telling that a man like Mr. Geller with wealth, community stature and numerous connections within the City and development community can, like so many before him, become so exasperated that within a year he gives up trying to make a positive difference in the DTES.

    Clearly, VDP is a big part of the problem. This moratorium, and its even uglier twin sister the Historic Area Height Review, are not the solution.

  • At Building Opportunities with Business we walk the streets of Unit Blocks, 100 blocks E and W Hastings, Pender and Cordova every day. We are working with the community, City, building owners and tenants to improve the fronts of the existing buildings; support the existing businesses; try to attract new business and place people into jobs and support them. Check it out!

    The Olympics are coming no matter what so we need to make the most of them to improve conditions in the heart of our city. Good news is that Save-on-Meats is re-opening in September, a new night club is opening this Friday in the old Ming’s location, Joanne has reopened Foo’s Ho Ho and there are others still interested in investing in the DTES. Strathcona BIA is working on sustainability, BOB is working with business, social enterprise and community agencies like United We Can on green jobs and green economy. We haven’t given up and are very optimistic.

  • Joe Just Joe

    What is the solution? How do we make sure the density in the bank doesn’t become worthless due to oversupply? Where do we transfer all that density to? How do we make developers want to buy it in this market when they aren’t building period? I’m not pretending there isn’t a solution out there, I just have not heard of one that is realistic and better then what the city has purposed. I’m all ears though.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    JJJ, we had this discussion back in May here on the bulablog. Remember? Density Bank (an actual Bank, not an inventory), downzoning (the opposite of which the HAHR proposes), making it a requirement (not an option) for developers to purchase transferable density when re-zonings occur (Fung and others recommended at least setting a minimum of 25% or higher for a couple of years to speed up the rebalancing), placing a higher transfer value on density from historic theatres and/or view cones, etc. There are more than I can recall off the top of my head… they are all recommendations contained in the Density review report from 2002, which I referenced previously, and there is a later (2007 I believe) report that has more recommendations which I came across.

    These recommendations were specifically designed to thwart the probability that the Transfer Program would get out of balance over time. By not taking these preventative measures, VPD virtually ensured the program would be undersubscribed and eventually run into problems, economic collapse or not. People using this program saw it coming and have been asking for movement on the issue for years. Hence the exasperation with the moratorium “solution”. If I were paid the big bucks that City Planners and development consultants get paid – if it was my job – I might be willing to do more homework than this. As you know, it gets pretty wonky… and anyway, we’re way off the original topic of this post.

    Shirley, I was afraid BOB was history after your recent disappearance from Main, but now I see you’ve just moved. Admittedly, I’ve always had a rather vague notion of what you folks there do, but if you had a hand in these projects and re-openings, then all I can say is, keep up the good work!

  • gmgw

    Michael Geller said:

    “JJJ, GJG, GMGW…one day, I hope to meet you all!”

    When we all do, you’re buying, Michael.

  • Happily! Happily!