Posted by: Erin Brown John on March 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Hidden stairwell. Scott Billings and Josh Hite are planning an art project that looks inside the unused Burrard Bridge stairwell, and looking for help from the public.

Nuclear threat. Several officials have declared the risk of radiation from Japan affecting BC is low. In spite of this, local pharmacies have sold out of potassium iodide.

Earthquake preparedness. Re:Place looks at what Vancouver can learn about earthquake preparedness from Japan.

Edgewater Casino. The casino hearings continue. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has condemned plans to expand Edgewater Casino, stating that it could pose a risk to public health. Former city planner, Nathan Edelson has also spoken out against the expansion. Casino employees are understandably concerned about their jobs.

Meanwhile, contrary to what was claimed a couple weeks ago, PavCo does not need the revenue from the casino to complete the roof on BC Place Stadium.

Cargo tricycles. Coming soon to a bike lane near you.

Sweet. The Vancouver Sun ran an interesting story about the history of Rogers Sugar.

Olympic Village. Nearly a quarter of the owners at the Olympic Village have sued, claiming their suites have deficiencies and are not built to the standards they had expected.

Image: Burrard stairwell, via Price Tags.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on March 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Earthquakes. This week the world has been witness to the devastating power of a subduction earthquake and it’s aftermath in Japan. But Vancouver is no stranger to earthquakes. What would it look like if it happened here?

While we’re on this topic, are you earthquake prepared?

Casino. Hearings at city hall about the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion began last week with 300 people attending. It seems the tide may be shifting in favour of the opponents, as council begins to ask tougher questions.

Taking aim at parkades. The Canada Line and bike lanes have succeeded in getting many people out of their cars, and fewer people are driving downtown. The result is an overabundance of empty parking stalls. What should we do with that space?

Panoramas. The City of Vancouver Archives is in the process of digitizing it’s photos and has released a set of panoramas from the early 1900s on flickr.

Bottled water. It seems Metro Vancouver’s pro-tapwater campaign has succeeded in convincing some people to ditch the bottle.

Back alley living. Take a look inside Vancouver’s first laneway house.

Music underground. What if we build a concert hall underneath the art gallery?

Image: City of Vancouver Archives, via flickr

Posted by: Erin Brown John on March 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm

The changing face of commercial space. Across North America, developers and planners are taking aim at shopping malls, tearing up parking lots to build housing, big box stores are moving downtown and suburban shopping centres are urbanizing. An article in the Globe and Mail looks at some current redevelopment proposals for shopping centres around Vancouver.

In Whalley, the strip malls are coming down and being replaced with highrises and municipal buildings as Surrey tries to build a new city centreRichmond is densifying too.

Casino. Paragon is seeking changes to legislations that place limits on the amount of money that can be carried into BC casinos without a Canadian bank account. They would like the province to allow casino patrons to be able to wire money directly from foreign bank accounts. But there are concerns about money laundering.

Other municipalities are concerned that a larger downtown casino will pull patrons away from the suburban casinos they rely upon for tax revenue.

The public hearing is tonight at City Hall. Should be interesting, because there are so many people signed up to speak.

Traffic. A couple weeks ago it was announced that the traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge was far less trafficked than TransLink had hoped, and was losing money as a result. Now it seems like traffic is falling short of what was predicted all down the coast. So what does that mean for new infrastructure projects like the Port Mann?

Vancouver, do you know where your children are? Census data says they’re not downtown.

Tent city returns. Housing activists are setting up again to protest the City’s lack of commitment to social housing at the Olympic Village.

The elms of East 6th may be coming down soon. They’re getting old and difficult to maintain, and the park board wants to replace them with smaller trees. Doing so will permanently alter the streetscape, something that some residents really don’t want to see.

Komagata Maru. Coming soon, a new monument to commemorate the Komagata Maru, a ship of Punjabi immigrants that was forced to return to India in 1914.

Image: mezzoblue, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on February 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Olympic Village. Apparently after all the setbacks and politics, Olympic Village condos are apparently selling.

Casino. PavCo has responded to the public outcry about the proposed expansion to the Edgewater Casino, stating that we need the new casino in order to pay for BC Place’s new roof, something that wasn’t previously disclosed to the public. That is, assuming that the casino pulls in the revenues they are expecting to. Whether or not they would materialize remains to be seen. Some say that the numbers just don’t add up.

The Vancouver City Planning Commission is asking council to delay their decision about the casino expansion until there is more public consultation.

Endangered sites. Heritage Vancouver released it’s Top 10 Endangered Sites for 2011. This year’s list includes three Vancouver schools scheduled to be replaced.

The endless cycle of debate about the Hornby bike lane resumes.

Chinatown towers. Some Chinatown residents are concerned about the proposed lifting of height restrictions in their neighbourhood. They feel that changes in height would affect the character of the neighbourhood and lead to an increase in rents and housing prices.

Where tourists go. Eric Fisher shows in a heat map the geographic distribution of tourists and residents in Vancouver.

Image: Tyleringram, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on February 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Over the weekend MOV stepped outside with the latest event in the Not an Architectural Spearker’s Series. Moving Through was a series of walks and talks around the city centred around transit, architecture and urban planning.

Participants explored the city and the built environment from new angles, considering the way that we live, work and move around Vancouver.

At the end, everyone gathered at SFU Woodwards for a talk by Gordon Price, Director of the City Program at SFU. Price asked everyone in attendance about why we need to change.

As he noted, the way we do things has created a lot of economic prosperity and allowed people to live stable lives and raise families with good careers and nice homes. We have lived in a time and place that has been very politically and socially stable. We have a good thing going right now, so why change it?

The environment is changing. Many signs point to us reaching the carrying capacity of the Earth, and this will have far-reaching implications for how we organize our society. The political and economic stability we have enjoyed is not necessarily a given in the future.

Vancouver’s population is growing and construction is not keeping up with demand for new housing. New people moving to Vancouver are going to need places to live but where to put them, and in what kind of accommodation? We’re running out of brownfields to redevelop within the city limits so we’re going to have to look hard at the municipalities outside Vancouver. Our population is aging as well and these people will need to be housed and cared for.

He ended with his wish to see us begin the changes we need before the situation becomes dire. Some sobering food for thought.

Podcasts and video footage from the event are coming soon. Until then, check out some photos from the event.

Images: Kellan Higgins, Michael Schwartz and Gala Milne

Posted by: Erin Brown John on February 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Digital video billboards: a vibrant addition to the landscape or ad creep? Planners didn’t have them in mind when they originally drew up rules about ads and signage in the city. These new flashy signs present their own set of problems and issues.

Casino expansion. In spite strong numbers opposed to the latest proposal to expand gaming and casinos downtown, and some notable opponents, it seems to be an uphill battle. The leaders of the movement lament that it’s just not as easy to get people interested in actively opposing it.

** I’ve since heard from Vancouver, Not Vegas that things are not as dire as the article suggests, that their list of supporters has gained the attention of City Hall and that they are gaining support as more people hear about the proposed casino expansion.

Bike lanes. The City released the usage stats for the Dunsmuir and Hornby bike lanes and is seeking public input on how to make them work better. For doubters, a City engineer issues a challenge: check the data yourself.

Canada Line vs. small business. A decision to award damages to a business owner affected by Canada Line construction has been overturned by the BC Court of Appeal.

#1. For the fifth year in a row, The Economist has ranked Vancouver as the most liveable city in the world, but don’t rejoice just yet because the rankings don’t take income or cost of living into account.

Olympic Village again. Sales have resumed and the new prices have been announced, but some advance sales have roused some complaints about the process. Meanwhile, sales companies are going after buyers who have backed out of their purchases.

Please drive. Not enough people are using the Golden Ears Bridge, so toll revenues are far below expected and what is needed to pay for it’s costs. TransLink is planning a marketing campaign to get people to use the bridge more. Stephen Rees comments and considers how to pay for transportation.

Image: rufousfelix, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on February 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm

A year later. Did the Olympics make Vancouver a better city? Lance Bereloqitz and Matt Hern debate in the Tyee.

Another question. Can Vancouver become the ‘best place on Earth’?

At Home. A few months ago the Boseman Hotel became home to several homeless people as part of a Canada-wide study about the effects of providing housing for the homeless. An article in the Vancouver Sun looks at it’s progress so far.

Suburban and invisible. More on the changing face of homelessnessness. At a time when great strides are being made to address homelessness in Vancouver, the problem is growing in nearby municipalities. Megaphone takes a look.

The Forgotten. I highly recommend having a look at this series of articles on the Vancouver Observer about the Museum of Anthropology’s cancelled exhibit about the missing women of the DTES and the challenges of exploring such a difficult issue both through art and in a museum setting.

Olympic Village Plan B. Reduce prices and maintenance fees, sell selected condos and rent out others, and rename the whole thing “The Village on False Creek.” Hopefully that will get people to finally live there.

Image: kennymatic, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on February 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm



Happy New Year! Wishing you lots of health and happiness in your year of the rabbit.

Favourite places. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation wants to know which places in the city are most important to you. They intend to place 125 plaques around the city to recognize important and previously unrecognized places.

Homelessness. The City has made great strides in providing new housing for the homeless but is projected to fall short of it’s goal of eliminating homelessness by 2015 unless more funding can be produced.

Cultural space. The City has set aside space at 688 Cambie for cultural use but the Vancouver Art Gallery must still demonstrate that it is able to raise the necessary funds to build a new building and operate and there are concerns that the City is trying to fit too many things into the same site.

Internet metering. Vancouverites are taking on the CRTC over the issue of usage based billing, plans by internet service providers to limit downloads and charge people for extra use. To date more than 400,000 people have signed the petition created by Vancouver-based OpenMedia. Another Vancouverite, David Beers, debates the issue in the Globe and Mail here.

Green design. re:place Magazine looks at Canada’s first Passivhaus in Whistler. Formerly Austria House during the Olympics, the building uses 10% of the energy a normal building would and shows the possibilities for sustainable design with wood.

Image: Carol Browne, via flickr

Posted by: Erin Brown John on January 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm

During the display of the Home Grown exhibit, MOV hosted a series of dialogues about food in the Downtown Eastside with members of the DTES Kitchen Tables Project. The project aims to find practical solutions to improve the food security of the Downtown Eastside, through making nutritious, affordable food available and employing people to create and distribute it.

The series began with discussions about the issues that non-profits experience in their efforts to improve the nutrition in the DTES. Many lack the capacity to provide the nutritious food that their clients need, whether due to limited budgets or space or lack of staff. The panelists noted that while food security in the DTES is often discussed, non-profits rarely receive funding to feed people. Instead society must bear the cost of increased policing and hospital use.

Society’s attitudes are a huge barrier. They made reference to the ‘poverty mentality’, the assumption that because people are poor, they are less deserving of basic nutrition and a minimum standard of living. Consequently, non-profits and the people they serve should be grateful for whatever they are given.

But as was discussed in an earlier post, donations of food are not always as helpful as they may seem. The food is often not very nutritious and non-profits have limited capacity with which to deal with the donations they receive. They are often put in the uncomfortable position of not being able to refuse donated food that they don’t need. Consequently food waste is a big issue.

Food programs in the DTES produce a surprising amount of garbage, food that is lost to spoilage, rodents, or simply cannot be used. Disposing of it can be expensive. In some cases, the money saved by accepting a donation of food was equal to the amount it cost to dump the surplus that could not be used.

With assistance from DTES Kitchen Tables, eleven community kitchens in the DTES are exploring ways to reduce their waste. Many are interested in composting but lack the capacity to do it themselves, opening the door to the possibility of creating a composting business that provides employment for DTES residents.

Still, composting costs money that many of the non-profits cannot afford. One proposed solution was to retrofit buildings and appliances to make them more energy efficient. The savings could then be used towards paying for composting. Reducing waste will save organizations money as well, as the cost of dumping garbage is expected to increase over the next few years.

Another waste they are looking to eliminate is disposable dishes. Many organizations in the DTES rely heavily on styrofoam to distribute food because it seems to be the cheapest option available. But once one factors in the cost of disposing it afterwards, it no longer seems to be the best option.

Purchasing food presents it’s own range of problems and issues. Many organizations in the DTES buy from large distributors, but are too small to take advantage of the savings that ordering in bulk would provide. Consequently buying local or organic is out of the question.

One of the roles the panelists envision for Kitchen Tables is as a facilitator for group buying. The organization could bulk order staple foods on behalf of community kitchens and contract with local farmers to guarantee a market for their produce. The food could then be prepared, packaged and preserved by Kitchen Tables on behalf of other community non-profits. This would allow them to produce healthier foods than are available for sale more efficiently than individual community kitchens can.

They are also seeking new ways of distributing food. Joyce Rock, Executive Director of the DTES Neighbourhood House wants to see an end to line-ups in the DTES. The current system of distributing food is impersonal and dehumanizing. People wait in lines for long periods of time in order to sit alone at long tables or carry away some food. She envisions food as a way of creating community and fostering relationships that empower people.

That means eliminating the wait and bringing food to where people are. What if food was given out at clinics or laundromats or other places people gather and wait? There are important benefits to doing so. Hunger and the uncertainty of not knowing where the next meal will come from is stressful, and this can cause people to act erratically or with violence. People are calmer and easier to deal with when they are not hungry.

Food carts were another suggestion for distributing food, and an item that Kitchen Tables could get funding for. But some felt that the money could be better spent elsewhere. Why spend money on a cart when you can use it to employ people instead? If you pay DTES residents to distribute it it they have the opportunity to build skills, earn money and connect with their community, with far more benefit.

DTES Kitchen Tables is currently exploring the feasibility of starting a ‘food incubator’ in the Save-On Meats building. They envision it as a supportive space where people can learn how to start food businesses. People will be able to get professional advice and assistance and have the opportunity to sell their products in a storefront at ground level.

We would like to thank all the members of the DTES community who came to participate and lend their insight during the DTES Kitchen Tables dialogues. The discussion was fascinating and informative and the panelists’ dedication to bettering life in the DTES has been inspiring.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on January 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Disappearing lake. The park board is exploring options to preserve Beaver Lake. The lake has been steadily shrinking due to nearby construction projects, sediments and invasive pant species. Now they’re looking for public input about the project.

Underground chickens. Six months after legalizing chickens in Vancouver, only 18 people have registered their birds, and many more people are choosing not to register.

Social housing. Vancouver needs more affordable housing, but where to put it? The City may be backing off from it’s policy of requiring developers to dedicate 20% of new units in their developments to social housing. The property in question is the northeast section of False Creek. The developer, Concord Pacific has proposed that instead of building social housing there, it would give the City two properties in the Downtown Eastside.

Meanwhile activists are currently protesting a proposal to allow the construction of 7 new condo towers in the Downtown Eastside, something they claim will have a detrimental impact on rents and the affordability of housing.

Death at their doorsteps. Also controversial, plans to locate a hospice at UBC hit a snag as residents complained, citing their cultural values. Their concerns have been condemned by some as nimbyism, while others urge more tolerance.

Bike fashion. The Vancouver Observer looks at the colourful world of bike fashion in Vancouver.

Image source: feffef, via flickr.


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