Vancouver’s “Herbie” seen in Strathcona

Vancouver’s “Herbie” seen in Strathcona

I saw this “Herbie” VW Bug in Strathcona and it made me think of a little bit from a book Asphalt Nation that was reading a little while ago. Published 22 years ago the book is sadly still relevant and worth reading. Interestingly, Vancouver would in the past 20 years implemented a lot of the recommendations for “taming” the car in cities.

1973 The Energy Crisis

A tiny bit of history from the bad days of the 1970’s. OPEC starts an oil embargo which reduces the supply of gas in North American. People lose confidence in their American fuel inefficient autos. The price of gas triples in less than a year. Driving patterns change, folks even change modes with car pooling and using public transit. Car buyers increasingly look to smaller cars from Japan and Europe.

Jane Holtz Kay notes in her book Asphalt Nation:

 “ Why did Americans have to spend a quarter of their income on automobiles, with more and going to accessories? Small imports, less expensive to drive than domestic gas-guzzlers, nibbled away at the Big Three’s sales. “Herbie”, Hollywood’s version of the adorable Volkswagen, also known as the Bug and the Beetle, and the less endearing Japanese vehicles offered low-mileage, low-frills mobility and gave Detroit stiff completion.”

In 1974 Disney comes out with another version of the movie “Herbie Rides Again”. With the American car industry, in a deep down turn, must not have been happy with free PR for Volkswagen. More importantly that move is emblematic of Americans love of the cars. Two tons of metal and toxic material is anthropomorphize into a chippy family member, romping around.



Its all about land use policy


For more than a century the automobile has become the preeminent form of transportation. The manufacturing of cars is central to our economy for jobs and also as a driver of resources for them. The use of cars is a choice for some of us and a de facto mode of travelling for many. While the impacts of the cars primacy on the environment, the landscape, our cities and our bodies are still being fully understood, the inevitability of cars in one form another are with us for a while is evident.

For many reasons the use of private cars has become problematic. From pollution, climate change, personal safety, to a desire to live a more active life style, cars become a transportation choice of last resort or an easy convenience. While the automobile’s dominance has been the past, clearly it won’t always be the only transportation choice in the future. A more complete and complex transportation system needs to be developed that values a multiplicity of types from walking, riding bikes, public transportation, rail, electrical vehicles and who knows maybe even driverless cars.

And while it has taken over century to roll out the primacy of the car it will take a while to transition away from its dominance. Part of this transition process is going to be to understand the histories of the car. With this in mind I have been reading Christopher W. Wells excellent and exciting book Car Country: An Environmental History, which chronicles the rise of cars in North America.

Being anti-car on a visceral level is an easy pattern of thinking that one can fall into. But trying to understands some of the complex reasons for cars success is a necessary step in the process of repositioning it in our transportation system.

“… Car Country refashioned, on a grand scale, both the basic pattern of interaction between people and the environment and fundamental structure and composition of the nation’s ecosystems.

     Almost from the beginning, these changes inspired a legion of vociferous critics. By the time full-blown discontent with America’s car culture and its destructive environmental effect finally percolate up into national politics in the 1060s and 1970s, however, patterns of sprawling, low-density development had already become thoroughly ingrained in the American political economy. Moreover, Car Country’s critics too often focused on particular problems–factory pollution, tailpipe emissions, roadside eyes sores, suburban “boxes made of ticky tacky”, the loss of public “open space” and “pristine wilderness”-without understanding the broader, interconnected forces at work that continued to roll out new car-dependent communities year after year. Environmentalists secured new regulations that limited some of low-density sprawl’s more damaging environmental effects, but they failed to stop sprawl itself or the engines driving its expansion. The overwhelming tendency among critics, with a few important exceptions, has been to focus on cars rather than roads and on the behaviour of drivers rather than the powerful forces shaping American land-use patterns. “


Car Country: An Environmental History

Christopher W. Wells, 2012

University of Washington Press

Visit me at 146-1000 Parker St. for the Eastside Culture Crawl, Nov. 16-19, 2017

1963 Mustang Concept Car, Acrylic on found plywood, 48’x48″

“The car industry has produced an object of great beauty, and, as critic Elain Scarry has argued, “Beauty restores your trust in the world.” Designers carft cars to please the eye, seeing their work as aritstry and themselves as artist. That shiny, sleek piece of art in our driveway beguiles but could not betray us. Really, how could something that beautiful be deadly”

From Carjacked: the culture of the automobile and its effect on our lives by Catherine Lutz and Lutz Fernadez

A park under every parking spot

Is there a park under every parking spot? Can car sharing reduce the demand for parking in cities? If cities needed less parking because residents were walking, riding, using public transit and using car sharing the space that was being used to park cars could be transformed for other uses. Public space is a valuable thing in cities and has the power to create more inclusive communities and to give residents greater access to nature.

Cars on average are parked 95% of the time. Large areas of all cities are dedicated to parked cars. Streets, which connect the city’s various destinations account for a large amount of public space and could be, used many different ways.

While the last century has seen the invention of the car and its increased dominance of its use of civic space, we are now in a time where a “multi-modal” future will transform cities and the people who live in them. Smart phones will make the car just one of the periphery devices that will give residents of the city more transportation options.

Car sharing will become one of the choices of residents from walking, public transportation or other modes of active transportation. The fabric the city will change. Parking spaces could be transformed to other uses.

As density in the city increases the space between buildings and public space will be more important. Public space will present more opportunities for residents to experience and envision the city in different ways. From parks, gardens, and new forms of building, thinking about space in proximity to density will open different cityscapes.

Visit me at 146-1000 Parker St. for the Culture Crawl, November 17-20.

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A mini van in every drive way

IMG_1414“A mini van in every drive way” Acrylic on recovered plywood, 48″x48″ in progress

Hollyburn Properties’ open house for 1640-1650 Alberni St.

1640-1650 Alberni StreetLots of proposed new development slated for Alberni St. There is a huge demand of purpose built rental units in Vancouver with the vacancy rate being so low.

I can’t remember Hollyburn Properties ever constructing a new purpose built apartment building in Vancouver. I thought their business model was to buy existing properties and manage the buildings.

Hollyburn Properties is hosting a Open House for what I am assuming would have to be a rezoning of a site on Alberni Street for a 42 storey building of rental units. Here are the details:

Open House Details

Date: Monday, June 13, 2016 Time: 5:00pm – 8:00pm Place: Empire Landmark Hotel

1400 Robson Street Crystal Ballroom

Proposal Details

Proposed Use: Purpose-Built Market Rental (276 units)

Family Units: Approximately 40% of units are 2-3 bedroom

Sustainability Target: LEED Gold

Proposed Height: Approx. 385 ft (42 storeys)

Relevant City Policies:• West End Community Plan
• West End Community Plan Rezoning Policy

• Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning

Architect: Landscape Architect: Francl Architecture Durante Kreuk

For more information, please contact Curranne Labercane, Brook Pooni Associates, at e. | t. 604.731.9053 x 106

Remarkable Women poster program quietly dropped by NPA majority on Park Board


IMG_1308Vancouver has a lot of remarkable women. At Council there is gender parity excluding the Mayor’s vote. Vancouver is still waiting for its first female Mayor. At Park Board there is more work needed to establish gender equity with only three women being elected to the 7-person Board. Back in 2002, Vancouver voted for a full compliment of women on the Board. Although it’s 2016, meaningful progress on the gender equity front in government, civil society and business still has a way to go.

It was disappointing to learn that the Park Board quietly dropped a great program called the “Remarkable Women” poster series. One has to wonder why the NPA majority would cut such a low-cost program that has the potential to recognize, inspire and inform Vancouver citizens?

The “Remarkable Women”poster

The program is described on the City of Vancouver website in the following manner:

“The Vancouver Park Board established the Remarkable Women poster series from 2008 to 2014 to honour local women who have made significant contributions to arts, culture, sports, and community.

Each year, the individual stories of a select group of women from diverse backgrounds and abilities are featured on posters, which highlight the important role each woman plays in our community.

The Remarkable Women poster series program will be discontinued in 2015. A new awards program, the Awards of Excellence, will take its place. The Awards of Excellence recognizes outstanding achievements made by individuals.”

Curiously, a program that was developed to honour and inspire women has been slashed and a new program has been developed to “recognizes outstanding achievements made by ‘individuals’.” Is this part of NPA pattern that has a problem with recognizing women?

Back in 2006, when Commissioner Loretta Woodcock introduced a motion to have International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 be formally recognized by the Park Board, the then NPA majority of the Board rejected the motion. In the press afterwards the NPA Board Chair Heather Holden explained the rejection by stating that the motion was “silly and out of the scope of the Park board’. Crazily, the NPA Commissioners claimed that celebrating International Women’s Day would cost too much and would promote “a special interest group.” Wow!

In an outrageous media blunder one of the NPA Commissioners even went so far to explain the rejection of Woodcock’s IWD motion by saying “Why isn’t there an international dog day?’ What?

Given this sad history of the NPA’s rejection of IWD, the development of the Remarkable Women’s poster series was celebrated with some excitement. The launch of each year’s poster series was marked with a reception to celebrate the women who were highlighted on these posters.

It is disappointing to learn that the Park Board has chosen to drop this program.

For low cost the Park Board celebrated women of distinction annually by developing and displaying the Remarkable Women poster series in community centres and city hall.  In 2006 the NPA didn’t understand the importance of recognizing the achievements of women, and it appears that they still don’t in 2016.

Happy Victoria Day Long Weekend: Outdoor pools set to open and hey, where are our three new outdoor pools that the NPA promised!


In the last civic election the NPA promised to build three new pools. The NPA mayoralty candidate said that Vancouver was “dramatically underserved” by the current three outdoor pools. Here is a Metro article from the election:Metro

It was a hollow platform promise for the NPA with no plans for where the pools would be located or how they would be paid for. But hey, it was an election and making wild promises seemed to be the NPA’s campaign strategy.

While the NPA was not elected in the majority on council, it did gain control of the Park Board. One has to wonder, how many folks voted for the NPA with the expectation that they would be getting three new pools in Vancouver. Also, the NPA’s election notion of the lack of outdoor pools does not seem to be burning concern for the current NPA majority on the Park Board.

While the NPA-controlled Park Board has been busy granting contracts to build zip lines and renting deck chairs in our parks, it seems curious that there has been no mention of new pools at budget time. Did the Park Board Chair go to Council at budget time and request that the Capital Plan be amended to include three new pools? No!

Vancouver has some pretty spectacular pools, both indoor and outdoor. New Brighton pool, Kits pool and Second Beach pool are all located in idyllic places where folks can swim in warm pool waters. We also have some incredible indoor pools like the Aquatic Centre and Hillcrest. Some of the pools are in need of updating and renovations. To this end the Park Board commissioned a consultant to develop a strategy for the renewal of pools back in 2011. You can read the study here: Park Board Pool Study

Interestingly, a key finding and recommendation of the report was to “Phase out of stand alone outdoor pools, build future ones in combination with indoor pools.” There is a plan and it is based on rational thinking around how to use taxpayer’s money in the most cost-effective way to obtain maximum recreational utility.

It is regrettable that the NPA made promises during the election knowing full well that there was no possibility of fulfilling these pledges based on the planning that was already in place and paid for by taxpayers dollars at the time.

City breaks ground on 135 units of affordable housing geared towards families

savewayDaviewr - 1 (1)Great to see the City of Vancouver use its resources to create more affordability for families. The city with the land that it has, the new housing authority and the political will to make affordable housing for families a priority is  doing some pretty impressive work. This first of its kind project for Vancouver will create more housing for middle income people who need an important boost to stay in the city. If the Federal and Provincial governments could participate in this project there would be further opportunities to develop more affordability.

City of Vancouver
News Release
March 15, 2016
This morning the City officially broke ground on a development with 135 units of affordable housing geared towards families, to be constructed on the 6.4 acre Southeast False Creek site being developed by Concert Properties.

Located at the northwest corner of Quebec Street and 1st Avenue, bounded by the False Creek seawall and Ontario Street, this 15 storey building will create affordable family housing, enabling families to live close to work, waterfront amenities and transit.
“We want to ensure that families are not just able to live in Vancouver, but to thrive here. This project is creating more homes geared towards families in a neighbourhood where they can access outdoor recreation, community centres, transit and jobs,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We recognize the affordability crisis our city is facing and City Hall is doing everything we can to increase a wide range of housing opportunities in Vancouver.”
Exceeding the Southeast False Creek Official Development Plan requirements, 54 per cent of the 135 units are targeted towards families with children: 44 two bedroom and 29 three bedroom suites. Two in-home daycare units will also be included. The housing units will meet both the Affordable and Modest Market housing requirements of the official development plan for the area, which means that at least 40 per cent of the units in this building will rent below the Housing Income Limits and the remaining 60 per cent at modest market rents for the area. Housing Income Limits will ensure that at least 40 per cent of the homes in this building are targeted to people with an annual income ranging from $36,500 up to $56,000.
This building is part of a larger master-plan community being developed by Concert Properties called The Creek, which also includes four market housing buildings containing approximately 450 suites, and a 2.7 acre waterfront park.
“We are proud of our plans for The Creek and the contributions it is making towards the provision for new affordable housing and a future waterfront park in Vancouver,” said Brian McCauley, President and Chief Operating Officer of Concert. “As a company who has been committed to building strong, sustainable communities across Canada since 1989, we are grateful for the opportunity to assist the City with the development of this important affordable housing project.”
The total development costs for the building are $38.75 million. Through partnerships like this one, the City is demonstrating success in creating affordable housing but needs both the Provincial and Federal Governments to support its efforts to expand affordability.
Completion of the project is expected by mid-2018. Upon completion the City will own the land and building and select a non-profit housing operator to lease and operate the building.

Media Contact:
Corporate Communications