Sunday, March 26, 2017

Public Art!

Recently, I questioned the choice of a golden hollow tree sculpture by Doug Coupland for a space at the corner of Cambie and Marine on Facebook which I first viewed from the plaza within the Marine Gateway development. While I subsequently read about it on the internet and can appreciate the provocation it puts forth, and realize it may look better from other angles from which you can see the balance of the installation, overall I found the piece 'unfortunate' in this setting.
When I said so on Facebook, I discovered I was not alone in disliking the piece, although many others, especially art critics, thought it was wonderful, and strongly questioned my judgement about art.

This is not the only recent installation I don't like. I really am troubled by the recent salt piles next to the Olympic Village. Already the work is attracting graffiti, dead leaves, and other garbage. What were they thinking?

My colleague Norm Shearing, who also does not share my taste in art, asked me on Facebook whether there is any public art I do like. And so, on this rainy Sunday morning, I am happy to take a few minutes to post images of work I have come across in my travels, which I consider good public art. I welcome any comments.
I discovered this sculpture of Andy Warhol in Brataslava.
This is one of the installations that greeted me when I arrived at the train station in Chandigarh, India.
I miss this piece that once adorned the Vancouver waterfront seawall. I gather it's now in Calgary. Pity.
While some might question whether this pavement pattern is public art, I think it is. It is in front of a Versace store on the Gold Coast of Australia.
I love the buildings that light up at night in Hong Kong. While I'm glad I don't live across from this building with its constantly changing  patterns, I did enjoy watching its transformation
In Ljubljana Slovenia and other European cities, one often comes across bronze sculptures depicting the city at different points in history. I'd love to see something like this in Vancouver.
I enjoyed seeing the artistic additions to his bridge in Melbourne Australia
These Sao Paolo murals (above and below) reinforce this city as a creative city.
This Seattle intersection never stops delighting me. This is a form of public art I think is well worth spending money on~
While not public art in the traditional sense, I really enjoyed the painting of this Singapore building
I have seen coloured umbrellas used in many installations. I saw something like this in Morocco. Not sure where this is from.
Landscaping offers an opportunity to create delightful public art.
Very clever!
I came across this mural in downtown Winnipeg. While many don't like murals, I thought this was a great addition to the city.

One of my all-time favourite pieces. I have seen similar work in Russia.
Finally, this is the first public art installation at UniverCity, the new community at SFU where I worked for 7 years. This piece was the result of a competition, and created by a group of students with help from the SFU Community Trust. It includes the entomology of trees, in concrete, amongst the trees.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Improvements coming to the taxi industry, along with Uber, Lyft & ride-share CBC Early Edition

For 10 years I have argued Metro Vancouver's taxi system is broken. I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to chat this morning with Stephen M Quinn and the manager of North Shore Taxi on CBC Early Edition about long-awaited changes to the taxi industry and introduction of Uber & other ride-sharing programs.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Let's Rezone Vancouver A podcast conversation with Keith Roy

#3 – Michael Geller – Let’s Rezone Vancouver

February 19, 2017

Audio Player
If you follow real estate news at all in Vancouver you’ve probably heard of this week’s guest – Michael Geller.
Michael is architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer with four decades of experience in the public, private and institutional sectors. He serves on the Adjunct Faculty of the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development and writes a bi-weekly civic affairs column in the Vancouver Courier.
Michael Geller is an ideas machine – especially regarding housing affordability in Vancouver. He has presented numerous housing affordability ideas while lecturing at SFU including at a speech last week where he offered ideas on how to increase density without adding more towers, citing examples from many European cities.
Prior to his public lecture, he was interviewed on CBC and featured in Malcolm Perry’s “who’s-who” column in the Vancouver Sun.
Our talk with Michael was particularly timely, as he has had a busy couple of weeks in the public eye commentating on real estate policy changes and housing initiatives. His commentary on container houses was featured in The Georgia Straight.
His column in The Vancouver Courier this week discusses the City of Vancouver’s new proposal to retain character houses. I suggest you read the whole thing, but this quote sums up his opinion well, “If we are going to make more zoning changes in Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods, why aren’t we addressing both retention of character houses, but also construction of smaller duplexes and townhouses?”
With so many wonderful ideas, I’m sure Michael will be a guest on the show in the future, as well. If you would like to learn more about Michael Geller, visit his website, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.
Hope you enjoy this episode of The Vancouver UnReal Estate Show.
If you have any questions about the show or guests you would like to see, email us at

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Opinion Commercial Drive businesses troubled by bike lane proposal Vancouver Courier March 2, 2017

Since writing this column I have received a number of comments challenging the position of the Commercial Drive Business Society (CDBS) and also noting it does not organize Car-free day, so the online version of this story has been corrected. It may well be that a follow up story will be required.
Since I started writing this column, there is one controversial Vancouver topic I have tended to avoid, until this week.
     I speak, of course, of bicycle lanes.
     In the interest of full disclosure, I own a bicycle, but do not ride it very often. I am afraid to. I therefore like the idea of safer cycling routes around the city.
     However, this isn’t a general column about bicycle lanes. It is about a specific City of Vancouver proposal to reduce parking and add bicycle lanes along both sides of Commercial Drive.
     This is not a new story. Mike Howell wrote about it in December 2015 and Naoibh O’Connor wrote a follow-up story last October.  So why am I writing about it? 
     I recently heard from a friend that the Commercial Drive Business Society was becoming increasingly upset by the city’s position on the proposed bike lanes, which they fear will be a major threat to the future vitality of the Drive.
     I was also intrigued by the fact that a group of people, who I assumed would be very much in bed with the mayor and council, were so upset with them.
     I decided to investigate, armed with a recent study from Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood on why local businesses shouldn’t worry about eliminating on-street parking to accommodate cyclists.
     I drove to the office on Commercial Drive but had to park two blocks away. I couldn’t find parking. I met Nick Pogor, the executive director of the society, in a non-descript second-floor office next to Greenpeace Vancouver. On the wall was a flow chart for the society’s many activities including Family Day, Italian Day, (and Car Free Day), all of which can be found on the website
     Noting that Commercial Drive narrows from four lanes to two at First Avenue, I asked to see the city’s bike lane plans, only to be told that the society has never seen any. I was also told that although the society has sent letters to every city councillor, and even provided each of them with a large binder with a 5,000-signature petition, none of the Vision councillors has responded. I found this quite astounding.
      Referring to the Toronto study that analyzed the transportation modes used by customers to get to neighbourhood shops, I suggested that perhaps Pogor’s society should undertake a similar study.
He proudly told me that they had, in fact, undertaken such a study. It concluded that out of just over 1,000 respondents, although many customers frequenting Commercial Drive owned bikes, only 9 per cent shopped by bike, while 25 per cent took the bus, 31 per cent walked, and 35 per cent drove.
     When I suggested that improved bike lanes might increase the percentage of cyclists and improve business, as was the case in Toronto, Pogor pointed out that Commercial Drive is not just a neighbourhood shopping area; it’s a destination for the city and region. Consequently, there will always be a need to accommodate those coming by car. As it is, there is a shortage of on-street parking. He didn’t have to tell me that.
     We discussed the fact that anyone who has driven beside cyclists along Commercial Drive knows it can feel dangerous. However, Pogor told me there are nearby dedicated routes paralleling Commercial Drive, as well as numerous routes running east-west, as evidenced by the city’s cycling map.
     Perhaps this is the reason when the local neighbourhood was canvassed as part of the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood planning study, only five out of 440 people reportedly identified improved bicycle lanes along Commercial Drive as a priority.
     As I was about to leave, Pogor wanted to talk about a goods movement survey undertaken by the city, which looked at accommodating loading and unloading for local businesses. Prior to the start of the study, the society was told the results would be shared with them. They never have been, prompting some members to suspect they do not support the city’s proposal.
     Over the next few years, there will be significant new development activities along the Drive. Changes are coming. Perhaps it is time for the city’s new senior management to pay a visit to the Drive, and head upstairs to the society’s offices. I suspect they will be very welcome.
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