Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's the End of the Road for the North Shore Outlook

North Vancouver newspaper  The Outlook is shutting down. The last publication of the iconic North Shore publication will be Thursday, the 27th of March. Glacier who owns the Outlook shut down another one of its papers The Kamloops Daily News earlier this year because they were no longer able to balance their books. No particular reason was available for the Outlook's demise.                                                                      

This is a sad day. I always felt the Outlook did a great job of covering North Shore news issues and having a second media voice in the community is of course always a good thing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

United Church in Bed With Evil Developers!

Who knows what backroom deals have happened between the United Church of Canada, Developers, and DNV Council, but it looks as if yet another mega-development is about to foisted on the people of Lynn Valley.

Yes, it's Metrotown all over again, and the god-fearing folks at Lynn Valley United Church (home to Friday Night Live) intend to build a massive four story strata complex, as well as a new church.

The applicant, the trustees of the congregation of Lynn Valley United Church, propose to redevelop the site of the existing Lynn Valley United Church with a new church building of approximately 577 square metres (6,214 square feet) and a new four-storey apartment building containing a mix of 71 strata apartment units and 4 apartment units to be owned by the North Shore Disability Resource Centre (NSDRC) and operated by the NSDRC as affordable rental units for those with disabilities. 

Can it be coincidence that Marcon Construction & Development is now sponsoring Friday Night Live?

And why does the application make no mention of where we will go in future to have our Christmas trees chipped?

If you agree that there are far too many unanswered questions there will be a Public Hearing March 18, 7 pm at District Hall. Details here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gordzilla in the City: How does all this density improve the lives of Citizens?

I was born in Vancouver and have lived in the city nearly all of my life. This has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because of what the city once was. And a curse from watching what it has become, where it is heading and how lousy I feel about the changes.
A lot of people sing the praises of the new “world-class” Vancouver, with all its shiny towers and go, go, go development, but you don’t hear it a lot from longtime Vancouverites.
We ask the question, what’s in it for us, but never get a satisfactory answer.
Now, Vancouver has always grown, and I appreciate that it is the nature of cities to gain population. But rather than let that happen at a gentle, natural pace, a cabal of profit-seeking developers, donation-and-property-tax hungry politicians, urbanist planners and university-coddled social experimenters have conspired to accelerate the pace of change.
I get it. You’re getting rich. Bully for you. But where’s the upside for citizens?
Every day of late we hear about some massive new redevelopment. Shocked residents were only coming to terms with the proposed $1.5-billion redevelopment of Oakridge Mall, which calls for 2,900 apartment units in towers up to 40-storeys high, when city hall announced a $1-billion redevelopment scheme for the Downtown Eastside that will double the population of that troubled neighbourhood.
Anyone who dares stand in the way of all this “progress” is branded a NIMBY or worse, some kind of a crank.
But who is this city for, anyway? The people who live here now — and pay taxes, by the way — or mythical future citizens, apparently OK paying a million or more bucks for tiny boxes up in the sky? Not much of a life.
And what is the limit to all this growth? Are developers and city hall politicians not going to be happy until they have squeezed every last drop of potential density out of Vancouver and it has been transformed to resemble Hong Kong or downtown Manhattan?
In my view, all they are doing is wrecking my once lovely town.
I appreciate this is a personal view not shared by everyone. But in the past, whenever a lot of us old-time Vancouverites visited bigger cities like Toronto or London, England, New York or Tokyo, it was always such a pleasure to come home to the slower, more humane pace of our hometown. Not all of us love the endless bustle of huge cities, which is why we made our lives in Vancouver.
Perhaps I’d feel better about all the growth if someone could point to some positives. But where are all the natural history museums, art galleries and other great cultural features common to other large cities? Despite the growth, we’re not acquiring any of the cultural attributes of large cities that at least provide some trade-off to a hectic life in an urban jungle. Let’s face it, we’re an artistic wasteland compared with truly great cities. How are all those condo towers blocking the spectacular views of the North Shore mountains and the ocean making us more interesting?
One of the biggest arguments for density is to improve affordability. But how’s that working for you? You now can’t buy a house west of Main Street for less than $1.5 million (really $2 million for something decent), condo prices are nuts and keep rising and try finding an affordable place with three bedrooms. No wonder Vancouver schools are down thousands of kids from full capacity. Despite population growth, enrolment in Vancouver public schools has been on a steady decline for years, dropping to about 51,000 in 2012 from nearly 58,000 in 1997. The percentage of Vancouver’s population aged 14 and under fell to 11.8 per cent in 2011 from 12.9 per cent in 2006. The national average is 16.7 per cent, meaning we have 30 per cent fewer kids than average Canadian communities. We also have a steadily increasing population of seniors. A decline in kids means a decline in families, which means that in that way Vancouver is dying. And since increasing density hasn’t done anything to improve affordability, why do we keep doing more of it, unless it’s just to sell more condos?
All we seem to get with growth is negatives — traffic gridlock, an overwhelmed transit system that we can’t afford to enlarge and crowded public spaces. How does any of that make Vancouver a nicer place to live and work?
Finally, we’ve become jerks. We used to be a pretty friendly town, but now we cut each other off in traffic, nearly run down pedestrians in crosswalks and everyone is angry all the time. It’s part of what the late U.S. ethologist John Calhoun called “behavioural sink” — the decline in civility that results from overcrowding. I’ve taken to calling the city of my birth the “City of D-bags,” not that I’m proud of it. And I never thought I’d say this growing up here, but one day I’ll probably leave.
If all of this is what it means to be world class, you can stick it where the sun don’t shine — on any sidewalk in Vancouver surrounded by all those towers.

Gordzilla in the City: How does all this density improve the lives of Citizens?

Monday, March 03, 2014

CCPA: 4 year municipal elections: are we trading long term planning for accountability?

Don't usually cross-post stuff, but the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has a nice discussion about the ramifications of a four year election cycle for smaller communities.  Lots of good points.
I do understand the argument that longer terms give a longer planning horizon for major projects. This was why large municipalities in particular were pushing for the change. Many people from smaller local governments are less supportive of the change. These are people who basically get paid next to nothing and still work 40 hours a week for their communities. For many of them asking for a four year commitment might be too much...
I liked what Saskatchewan used to have in their legislation where large communities had a four year term and smaller communities had a shorter one. Here in BC only 20 of 160 municipalities have populations above 50,000. More than 100 have populations of less than 10,000. More than 40 have populations of less than 2,000. Would it have been too complicated to permit smaller communities to have shorter terms, or to have at least let them have a local option?
Worth reading the entire post.