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Vision plan for making Vancouver a green zone

October 21st, 2009 · 22 Comments

Mayor Gregor Robertson launched the city’s green plan at the Resilient Cities conference yesterday, plus it got presented at council. You’re welcome to peruse the multiple pages and post your thoughts.

I have to say, I am still confused by some parts of it. Perhaps I need to do more homework, but it’s not intuitive or obvious what a low-carbon economic zone is or how green jobs are different from the jobs that many people are already doing with companies that are taking a more environmental approach in general.

I am also surprised that the whole question of land use doesn’t seem to factor into the main goals. Land use is the absolute, number-one thing that cities control and is usually where they can have the most impact. As well, as many environmentalists are observing, the planet isn’t going to be saved by building more energy-efficient buildings or driving more energy-efficient cars. (In fact, those kinds of green measures can deceive people into thinking they can continue on their merry way, not having to change anything about their lifestyles, just their lightbulbs.)

But if people actually start making fewer or shorter trips, because they live close to schools, community centres, shopping, and work, that will make a difference. EcoDensity can be criticized on many fronts, but Sam Sullivan’s program — yes, something of a rebranding of existing city efforts but also a push forward — did focus on that very important land-use issue.

Anyway, enough from me. Fire away.

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  • Blaffergassted

    You’re not the only one who’s confused, Frances.

    I concur wholeheartedly that land use planning is the raison d’état of city hall.

  • Not Running For Mayor

    There are some items in there that make sense and will improve us enviromentally. The actions that make sense are the ones that are nothing ground breaking just plain and simple and already proven methods. A lot of them were items that we discussed on here earlier.
    The actions that don’t make sense and damage the whole plan is the “green industry” stuff. It appears to greenwashed policital gargon. Maybe the first order of business for our new Green Czar is to provide us with a green to english translation.

  • Darcy McGee

    It’s a press release from a buy who squeezes orange into a container that can’t be recycled then adds chemical preservatives and calls it “Organic.”

    It means nothing.

  • Chris

    I think there are some ambitious targets and plans in the document. These stood out for me:
    – implement city-wide composting
    – expand the existing network of public water fountains
    – more car-free spaces and public squares
    – supporting tolls be imposed on Metro Vancouver bridges to finance transit improvements
    – implementing rules that reduce the energy use of lighting (e.g. streetlights and billboards)
    – building a downtown bike centre as a cornerstone of improved facilities for cyclists commuting to work

  • spartikus

    Stephen Rees has a worthwhile take here.

  • flowmass

    You’re right Frances, land use is the most important issue in the ‘green’ equation. While Sam Sullivan’s Ecodensity program did take a slamming from some quarters, it was a start.
    What amazes me, though, is why is it always the city of Vancouver that is under the microscope when they intiate more sustainable land-use policies like laneway housing? What about the other Metro Vancouver municipalities? What do they have in the works? Vancouver has approximately 25% of the MV population – what are the local governments who govern the other 75% doing? Relatively little, I’m afraid. Vancouver extends, as far as I am concerned, to the east boundary of Maple Ridge. Until we get some form of regional government with teeth, the others get ‘off the hook’.
    How about some comments from MV inhabitants other than in the City of Vancouver?

  • Darcy McGee

    There was nothing wrong with EcoDensity, except that it was a craptastic branding strategy poorly executed.

    The fact is that the NPA is, inasmuch as it had oversight over zoning, responsible for the dramatic increase in density that has made Downtown Vancouver so…livable?

    Of course they also share responsibility for the flight of businesses from the downtown core. That’s been happening at such a rate that the sonic boom has messed up my hair.

    Gregor’s press release is just a press release. EcoDensity was no different, but it did have a history of action to support it. Action speaks louder than words, and until I see action from the “Vision” council I won’t fall for it. Curb side composting is great…if they actually make it happen in a timely fashion. It hasn’t happened yet.

    Sam couldn’t sell snowmobile to a resident of Nunavut; Gregor’s smile makes for an easy sale, but it seems rather hollow. All the snake oil in the world isn’t going to make Vancouver a greener city.

  • Phew, that was a hard slog.

    I coulda got more sleep had I read the credits first: the usual bloviators!

    Wasn’t Vancouver Paradise last year? Wha hoppened?

    Well, hey, my pet obsession, urban places, got a bit of ink. And there’s lots of the usual platitudes.

    Of ourse the proof will be, how long will “green” hold the attention of these perennial, ineffectual well-intended, professional do-gooders.

    Hundreds of pretty sincere hallistas are at this moment enabling a host of “things” that make mockery of all this stuff . . .

    . . . and none of them have the cojonnes to say STOP!

  • K. Briffa

    Well this could get very expensive. If the European experience is anything to go by, every Green Job “created” (English translation . . . bought) cost taxpayers about $250,000.

    That’s a very expensive religion they are trying to inflict on the rest of us.

  • $250,000 isn’t so much IMO. Even if the job-holder is only paying $10,000 a year in income tax, the money would be made back over the course of their career in all likelihood… and that’s not even taking into account the added economic activity that comes from people having jobs, buying stuff (sales tax), the ancillary jobs that come from economic activity, etc. I wonder how much we are paying per job for Olympic-related work? More context is needed I guess.

  • K. Briffa

    Chris, if the jobs were actually real jobs, not taxpayer subsidized fake ones, we wouldn’t need to divert $250 of taxpayers money for those ten years.

    By the way, since there is no spare cash just laying about, where do you think we should get the $250k for each “job” ?

    We could close some schools, maybe fire all the Parks Board gardeners or have garbage pickup twice a year . . that might save a bundle ?

  • rf

    $250k is only half what it costs to build someone a luxury social assistance condo! They’re saving money already!

    But I digress………actually, I really will digress…

    I think the religion thing is a really appropriate way to look at it. Maybe Keam and Jimmy Kimmel should ask the city to buy some of the lesser used church properties and start holding “green service” on Sunday’s? You know, just like church, where some guy preaches about all the bad things that will happen if you don’t live your life a certain way. And then everyone prays to live their life a better, greener, way.
    How is it not like religion?

  • “if the jobs were actually real jobs, not taxpayer subsidized fake ones, we wouldn’t need to divert $250 of taxpayers money for those ten years.”

    Governments regularly subsidize jobs, especially in emerging industries. Those jobs end up being ‘real’. Sometimes they subsidize jobs in twilight industries such as auto manufacturing. So, if it’s going to happen, focusing on industries with a future makes good sense to me. As I said, perhaps more context would put the $$$ into a better perspective.

    “How is it not like religion?”

    Fewer virgins, more science.

  • I enjoyed reading the document, but agree it read too much like a wish list. I do think this can be addressed by setting some quarterly performance targets so that we can see how we’re really doing.

    I would have also liked to see some reference to the fact that a very significant percentage of Vancouver’s land area is devoted to single family housing, that is often difficult to service with transit. This has to change.

    Perhaps the Task Force can now take the document and augment it with a lot more “for examples” and targets. And yes, more specifics related to land use that can guide future planning, public hearings, etc.

  • MB

    I’m with Flowmass. What are the other Metro municipalities doing?

  • Higgins

    Mr. Mayor, I appreciate that you always want to look busy and concerned for all of us but there are other ways to mess up the city, like the …Games coming to town for example. But wait, you already have that covered, and as we speak you are chasing cars, trains and airplanes around the world so all those charlat… eh, good people involved in it can start their party. By the way, how do you plan to offset your needles travel carbon quota? Invite Al Gore to speak about it? Surely the Greek Gods are lenient on this one.
    Just make sure you don’t get the “Shoes too big to fill” flu on your travels. I know that torch is futuristic ugly like hell I may add but who cares, next to Ochi, Mochi and Ghilochi the mascots, it looks the better of them.
    What was I saying? Yes, it is not the fact that this Green plan was concocted behind closed doors, by you and your handpicked Friends and completely out of touch with the constituents you allegedly “serve” but the ideas of this plan are in the same class as the ideas of the first Soviet era Five Year Plan of 1928… And look where those multiples of Five took them!
    Good thing that your plan is spread out over 10(20, 30!) years (Ten Years Plan, Twenty, Thirty); one more a reason to not believe a word of it (same as the one with” eradicate homelessness by 2015 and “bring it on” affordable housing”).
    First, who would remember it; second, you’ll probably be kicked out of politics by then anyway; third, the majority might be dead and composted civically by then.
    I could probably argue on every item on that recycled paper shopping list of yours but that would take too much of my time.
    However, I’ll end with an insightful analysis of your Green Plan that I found on the Web:

  • Blaffergassted

    I kinda like this: “cradle-to-cradle manufacturing with no toxic elements and no waste.” (from Pg. 21)

  • Peter

    I’ve done a quick review of the document, looking for how it addresses housing planning – as housing and transportation go hand in hand are key issues for Vancouver’s sustainability. Housing was largely ignored with four (very) brief mentions.

  • rf

    Really, Chris? Is that it? More science? The science supports vaccinations but greenie religious people who don’t get vaccinated still thinks it’s their business telling people to live a greener lifestyle (i’m not saying you personally). It’s total hypocrisy. The Green movement tells us how to live and that we will kill everyone if we don’t change our ways, but when it comes to a vaccination program that is really more effective if the majority of the population ‘buys in’ they say, “sorry, it’s my right. I don’t care if it may affect someone elses health. Vacinnation science is a lot stronger than global warming science, but it’s ok to ignore it?

  • “The Green movement tells us how to live and that we will kill everyone if we don’t change our ways, but when it comes to a vaccination program that is really more effective if the majority of the population ‘buys in’ they say, “sorry, it’s my right. I don’t care if it may affect someone elses health.”

    Can you point me towards a general consensus on the part of the green-minded that vaccinations are a bad idea? I don’t think it’s accurate to suggest that anti-vaccination is a generally held belief, but rather may be a position held by a few.

    To continue the religious analogy, it would inaccurate to say Christians as a rule believe the Earth was formed in seven days, just because a few zealots hold that view, and further, to discount the good advice contained within the Ten Commandments because a few folks can’t grasp carbon dating.

  • If our mayor was really interested in ‘greening’ Vancouver he would stop his support for heavy rail and embrace new transportation technology like PRT.