Clean, Green and Healthy, Pedestrians first


Did you know that the City of Vancouver’s transportation priority is to put the pedestrian first?

Walking could be one of the most important forms of transportation for more because it combines fitness, which promotes wellness, but and it is also a sustainable form of transportation that will allow are allowing our city to grow economically.

In our cultural it seems that time is becoming more important as folks struggle with family responsibility, work stresses and the need to live an active lifestyle.

Paradoxically, by slowing down a bit and making the time for walking – one gains time. For example, I know myself that the eternal struggle to find the time and the energy to exercise at the gym is usually the one activity in the day that does not consistently happen. Given that a trip to a gym can be typically a two hour block of time, it means one has to either get up early in the morning or making time at the end of the day for this activity. People are juggling numerous responsibilities to their family, to their work and other volunteer activities and for many exercise is the priority that falls off the back. On a positive note, I have discovered that I can get a lot of exercise throughout the day just by walking from one destination to the next.

I was surprised how little the time difference was between distance travelled using transit and walking. For example, I live in the West End and my kids go to school in Kitslano (no French immersion downtown) and I typically accompany them to and from school. We take the bus and for the most part it is a good time that I enjoy spending with my kids. Using public transportation with your kids always provides “ teachable moments” where we can have shared experiences to discuss (there is always some drama being played out on the bus). Anyways, the difference between walking and taking the bus from our home to my kids’ school is 10 minutes. It really isn’t that much time compared to what often feels like the mind-numbing minutes spent on stationary exercise equipment; maybe I need to download some better music.

The City of Vancouver is starting to get its collective head around walking. Check out this page on the city’s websiteClean, Green and Healthyand Park Boards websitesStep Out and Walk Program that have info about different walks of interest in the city.

Another great benefit about walking is it is almost free. A few observations from my own walking experiences.

1. You can even smile at people and say hi. (Disclosure: I am not so good at this but my wife is awesome at being friendly).
2. People who walk often have smiles on their faces.
3. One can actually have conversations with strangers and make smart observations about stuff. (People are pretty polite even with the banal issues that I sometimes talk about -at least they pretend to listen).
4. You meet a lot of your friends and take little moments to catch up. (This provides a feeling of being connected to one’s community).
5. Walking is good for thinking, reviewing yesterday and planning your day. (A recent study linked benefits of walking to reduced rates of Alzheimer’s disease:JAMA article )

By making improvements to the city’s built environment to promote walking achieves a number of concurrent goals including reducing green house gases, promoting sustainable transportation, promoting fitness, encouraging active lifestyles and finally the promotion of health and happiness.

This may seem like “nanny state” stuff to the more grumpier of you out there, but it really is going to way of the future. Our bodies need to be physically active. Many of chronic diseases that are the rise in our society such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are related to sedentary lifestyles and our diet.

If we can make the finer details of the city more interesting, it will encourage more walking. The pedestrian’s environment needs to be safe, engaging and fun. Jan Gehl, the Danish architect and city planner speaks of the 5 km/hr scale. Streets and public spaces look different from the 60 km/hr of the car to the human scale of walking of 5 km/hr.

More and more now we need our city’s built environment to be designed for people walking.

WERA’s pedestrian plan
Geoff Meggs speaking on the Coast about pedestrians

Commissioner Woodcock’s Letter of Support Senior Centre in South Van

Commission Woodcock has asked me to read this letter to Mayor Council tomorrow for the discussion on the next Capital Plan.

“ I join many residents of this city in applauding city council and the mayor’s office for responding to the need for a seniors centre in Southeast Vancouver. For many years community advocates such as Lorna Gibbs, John Pawluk, Tom Holmes and Keith Jacobson have spoken on behalf of the 16% of the city’s seniors who live in SE Vancouver. This area of the city has many lower income seniors as well as English as a large second language population of seniors who need a community gathering place where they can socialize and have nutritious meals.

The community has sought a senior’s centre in the area since the mid 1990’s. The City and Parks Board supported a centre at Killarney in 2001, however a provincial election changed the political landscape and the city’s funding went elsewhere. Since then there has been a history of efforts by park board and the city to locate adequate capital dollars which could then be leveraged to acquire provincial and federal government matching funds to build this long overdue facility.

In 2009 the park board expressed its support by passing a motion asking staff to investigate siting options at the existing Killarney community centre for adding 10,000 sq. ft. of program space to accommodate a seniors centre. Commissioners hoped that if park board could provide the land then the costs of building and operating this facility would be reduced significantly.

In my years of approaching both provincial and federal officials in seeking support for this seniors facility, what I heard was that it was crucial for the City to pledge funding and prioritize this on our projects list before other levels of government would consider pledging funds. So it is with much enthusiasm that myself as a commissioner, speaking on behalf of the Coalition of Progressive Electors, along with residents of this city, applaud this initiative to make a capital dollar commitment to the development of a seniors facility. “

Art Theft from West End. Magdalena Abakanowica’s “Walking Figures” Installed at Cambie Canada line station


Hey what happened? I thought Magdalena Abakanowica’s “Walking Figures” was going to be installed at English Bay. Back in September of 2009 I wrote on my blog that the piece was coming to the West Endearlier entry

Yesterday I happened to be at Cambie and Broadway and noted the piece there. The walking figures seem to work well in this location, but in English Bay it would be particularly special given how many pedestrians would be able to “walk by” this sculpture. It would certainly speak to them!

At first I thought perhaps City Hall had something to do with the location change and had the installation moved from the West End so I called Vancouver Park Board and spoke with a couple of art programmers. They informed me that The Vancouver BiennaleBiennale’s site organization was responsible for the move and had negotiated the new location with Translink and Cultural Affairs at the city.

1241 Harwood St before Urban Design Panel Today at 4:15 pm at City Hall 3rd Floor.

At the Urban Design Panel the proposed development project of 1241 Harwood will be reviewed today Wednesday Jan. 26 at 4:15 pm.

The Urban Design Panel reviews proposed development projects as part of the city’s normal evaluation process. As described on the city website:

“The Panel gives impartial and professional advice to the Director of Planning, Development Permit Board or City Council on any proposal or policy affecting the community’s physical environment. In particular, the Panel offers advice on significant development permit applications which are to be reviewed by the Development Permit Board or Director of Planning, as well as comprehensive rezoning applications and other projects of public interest.”

The Panel functions only as an advisory body and does not have any decision making authority, but the Design Panel is held in very high regard both by the Planning department and Mayor and Council. If a project is not supported by the Panel the project is usually withdrawn for revisions which starts the whole public consultation process over from the start.

Case in point is the development application of 1241 Harwood st. (DE414280), was at the design panel back in July 2008 and the project was “not supported”. The Panel “…was uncomfortable with the massing of the tower and thought it seemed to loom over the heritage house….” . Basically the majority opinion on the Panel was that the proposed project was out of context with the site.

Here is the link to minutes of the meeting:Minutes UDP

The propose project is complicated as it is a Heritage Restoration Agreement (HRA). On the 1241 Harwood site there is a 1903 mansion called Eastwood Place. The West End back in the day use to be the tony neighborhood of Vancouver. Many of the city’s elites built large homes with gardens in the West End. Now Eastwood Place is home to 7 rental units.

Also on the 1241 Harwood site is a rare example of a 100 year old Tulip tree which is thought to be the largest example of its type in Canada. Part of the reason for the unusual massing of the 2008 proposed project on the site was a result of an attempt of the architect to protect this tree.

In Vancouver, HRAs are funded by the City of Vancouver (COV) through density bonusing. Developers who agree to restore a building that has a heritage designation are given density to pay for the expenses of the restoration.

The challenges of the 1241 Harwood project are that the site of the heritage house and the tree necessitate a very complicated and unusual massing of builds if the tree is not be cut down. If the tree is cut down, it would dramatically change the dynamics of the massing of buildings on the site.

The architects of the project seem to want to save the tree. A proposal was put to Vancouver City Council last summer requesting a density bonus for saving the tree. Unfortunately the trees root ball is on two sites and the owner of the other site does not want to be encumbered by the heritage designation of the tree for future development possibilities.

This was an unusual request to Council and it is unclear if they would have granted a density increase to save a tree if it was all on one site, but given the root ball straddled two sites Council did not agree to exchange density where the future of the tree was not secure on one site.

The story of the request of a density exchange for the tree at Vancouver City Council made the front page of the Globe and Mail with an article by Francis Bula:State of the City

May 13, 2010 Straight story about the tree:Carlito Pablo’s story on Tulip Tree

Here is link to staff report: “projection of living heritage resources”

Here info about proposed project from the City’s website:COV page on 1241

It will be interesting to see how the Urban Design Panel views the resubmitted 1241 Harwood proposal. From the renderings of the project it still seems to be a very awkward placement of buildings on the site where the newer building looms over the older Eastwood Place.

Update: 5:43 pm, City Hall after Urban Design Panel votes: UDP supports the project unanimously with comments about the location of the parking entrance on Harwood Street, design consideration on the entrance of the parking and some comments about location of the tree.

I will post the minutes when they are posted.

1241 Harwood St. at Urban Design Panel,Today at 4:15 at City Hall.

The Development Permit application at 1241 Harwood Street (DE414280), has been scheduled for review by the City’s Urban Design Panel on Wednesday, January 26, 2011. This item is currently listed as first on the agenda, and should begin at about 4:15 pm.

Public attendance at this meeting is permitted, however, the public may not address the Panel. This meeting will be held in Committee Room No. 1 (City Hall, main building, 3rd Floor, 453 West 12th Avenue).

More information on the role of the Urban Design Panel, can be found at the following link on the city’s website.

COV website
If you do not have access to the internet, or have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Scott Barker
Project Facilitator
City of Vancouver
phone: 604.873.7166 604.873.7166
fax: 604.873.7060

Agent of Change

As a result of my involvement with the West End Residents Association (WERA) as a former President and now as a Director I have had to think long and hard about proposed development projects in the West End and in the whole city.

Very early on in my thinking on proposed development projects I realized that it would be very important to have objective criteria to judge projects that would allow consistency.

One of the traps that community groups can fall into is being resistant to change, or not having a proactive concept of what kind of change they are advocating for.

A position that I have advocated for publicly is that any increase in density due to rezoning should respond to critical issues that are impacting the city. The most important issues for Vancouver are how is it going to be ecologically and economically sustainable while continuing to be a highly livable city. The questions that I ask myself when examining a proposed project are: “How will this project create more affordability? How will this project reduce the city’s carbon footprint? How is this project contributing to the city’s livability?”.

While very few project meet a positive review based on the criteria of livability, affordability and ecological sustainability at some point some projects will make a contribution in these areas. This goal of this position is to influence development to create a positive change in the city.

In Vancouver there is this false dichotomy between being “pro-development” and “anti-development” and if you don’t fall into one these camps one can be villainized by the forces of one of these camps or both. This veiled threat at the community level that if anyone speaks positively about increases in density, which conform to smart growth practices, will be perceived as being “pro-development”, is an impediment to responsible dialogue on how the city is going to respond to such critical issues as climate change and affordability.

1241 Harwood Proposed Project at Urban Design Panel on Wed. Jan. 26

The Development Permit application at 1241 Harwood Street (DE414280), has been scheduled for review by the City’s Urban Design Panel on Wednesday, January 26, 2011.  This item is currently listed as first on the agenda, and should begin at about 4:15 pm.

Public attendance at this meeting is permitted, however, the public may not address the Panel.  This meeting will be held in Committee Room No. 1 (City Hall, main building, 3rd Floor, 453 West 12th Avenue).

More information on the role of the Urban Design Panel, can be found at the following link on the city’s website.

Urban Design Panel
If you do not have access to the internet, or have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Scott Barker
Project Facilitator
City of Vancouver
phone: 604.873.7166              604.873.7166
fax: 604.873.7060</a>

Co-Existing with Coyotes, Sunday Jan. 23, Dunbar Community Centre

For those of you that may not already be aware, the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) is delivering a Coyote Zone Workshop that will provide participants with valuable insight into the lives of urban coyotes residing in the City of Vancouver.

The aim of this workshop is to educate and engage participants about:

What proactive and active measures they can individually and collectively take to reduce conflicts with coyotes,
How residents and community groups can work together as well as with the CWC program to reduce conflict with coyotes, and
How to start the process of developing a community action plan in response to escalating habituation levels in resident coyote populations.

Will 2011 be the year that capital dollars are invested in St. Paul’s Hospital?

2011 undoubtedly will be an eventful year for the on going process of the redevelopment of St. Paul’s Hospital.

In the fall of 2010 Providence Health Care (PHC) updated the Downtown community about their plans for redevelopment of St. Paul’s Hospital. A “concept plan” is being work on now by PHC and should be ready for community input eminently. This concept plan will be a good opportunity for the community stakeholders of St. Paul’s Hospital to be better educated about the future of the hospital and have input on the process.

With leadership races underway for both the BC NDP and BC Liberal parties now is an advantageous time to inquire what all the leadership hopefuls’ positions are on providing capital dollars to improve St. Paul’s Hospital.

The Save St. Paul’s Coalition will be developing a survey for the leadership candidates in the next weeks to explore which candidates are going to have the best plan for the renewal of the hospital.

Both Kevin Falcon and George Abbott are former Health Minister and know the that St. Paul’s Hospital is in urgent need of capital dollars for renewal. I have not heard Christy Clark on how much she would allocated for the a capital project on the Burrard Street site and I will be keen to know where she stands on this important issue for the province.

In the weeks ahead as PHC’s concept plan for the development of the hospital emerges it will be interesting to see what is in the plan and how receptive PHC is to suggestions and feedback from community members and community organizations.

Given the hyper scrutiny that development is being given in the city right now, it will be interesting to see how this will affect plans to redevelop the hospital. Will concerns over heights of a renewed hospital make the potential project problematic for all concerned?

This week on Wednesday there is another in the series of free community lectures on the great work that goes on at St. Paul’s Hospitals:

OWN YOUR HEALTH
ST. PAUL’S HOSPITAL COMMUNITY FORUMS

Join medical experts from Providence Health Care for monthly community forums at St. Paul’s Hospital. Each month features a different health topic with time to pose questions to the experts. The forums are free and open to the public and staff

Wednesday January 19, 2011
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Lecture Theatre Level 1, Providence Bldg.
Let’s Talk About: High Blood Pressure

Hypertension 101: Treating the Patient, Not the Pressure
Presented by:
Dr. Jake Onrot
Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine
Providence Health Care 
University of British Columbia

and

Dr. Nadia Khan
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
Division of General Internal Medicine
Providence Health Care
University of British Columbia
Intended for patients (and their family members), who have been affected by hypertension, those who are at risk and those who just want to know more about this medical condition. The presentations will focus on the major risk factors for Hypertension, how to reduce this risk and how to help patients feel better and live more functional and healthier lives. The presentations will also highlight the latest in treatment and the ongoing research at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Better a Year and a Day than Never: Dr. Hedy Fry response to my Letter on Bill C-304

Dear Mr. Granby,

Thank you for your email concerning Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

Affordable housing and homelessness programs are an important part of basic human right to shelter.
The Liberal Party feels that the federal government has an important role to play in ensuring Canadians have equal access to safe, affordable housing.

The Conservative government has failed to deliver a national housing strategy that addresses the significant housing needs of Canadians. In their 2006 Budget, the Harper government cut $200 million of the $1.6 Billion per year committed by the Liberals for affordable housing. The Conservative Party’s negligent approach to affordable housing and homelessness is a true reflection of their “fend-for-yourself” approach to social programs.

I voted to send this Bill to committee at second reading. The Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities introduced 17 well received amendments that make the Bill more effective. Currently, however the Bill has been stalled in committee due to a disagreement over a Block Québecois motion, which the Conservative chair had ruled out of order. However, regardless of whether our Liberal members continue to support this legislation at the committee level, when this Bill does come up for debate in the House it will most likely be ruled ‘out of order’ by the Speaker. The reason for this is that Private Members Bills is that aim to have the government spend money on an initiative, must be agreed to by the party in government, currently the Conservative party. As they do not currently support this legislation, so it will most likely be wiped off the order paper due to parliamentary procedure.

The former Liberal government did have a National Housing Strategy drafted in 2005. This strategy was agreed to by all of the provinces. When it looked like an election was looming, Prime Minister Paul Martin asked NDP leader Jack Layton to support the Liberal Party until they could get this legislation, and the Kelowna Accord passed into law. Mr. Layton ignored Mr. Martin’s request killing this legislation when the Conservatives won the 2006 election.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please feel free to contact me at any time if I can be of further assistance on this or any other issue.

Sincerely,

Hon. Hedy Fry P.C., M.P.
Vancouver Centre
Chair of BC federal Caucus