Sunday, November 25, 2018

Reflections on Vancouver's architectural design, planning and development by Ray Spaxman (Director of Planning 1973-1989)

As Vancouver embarks on a City Plan, it will be important in my opinion to not only look at the single family neighbourhoods, but also at the future of the downtown. I am concerned that a number of recent spot-rezonings are ultimately going to result in the loss of what made Vancouver special over the past few decades. If you don't believe me, just watch the corner of Seymour and Hastings where a previous designated open space (albeit not the most beautiful design) that was the result of a density transfer with which I was involved in 1982 is being destroyed and replaced by a 20+ FSR office building
As you will read below, Spaxman has changed is views on this new development proposal on Melville Street.
Spaxman quite rightly points out that this illustration is good evidence of the architect and developer's complete lack of concern for context when it comes to the design of this new proposal for the north end of the Granville Street bridge
     I believe the person who is most responsible for Vancouver's acclaim as a centre for good planning is former Director of Planning Ray Spaxman. Following his appointment in the early 1970s, he introduced the concept of citizen participation in the planning process and the importance of neighbourliness.
    Here is one of many interviews with him on this topic;
    Recently, Ray has been quite outspoken about many of the new, very high-density commercial and residential developments in the city's downtown and West End. He is concerned that they do not respect their context and neighbours, and I generally agree.
    Below is an email message many of his followers received concerning two new developments in the city. I am reprinting it with his permission. As the city is about to embark on a City Plan, I hope his concerns will be given careful consideration. While there is much need for new planning in the city's 'mature ring', including Dunbar, Kerrisdale, etc. I think it is time to rethink what we are doing to our downtown and West End.
     Here is Ray's message.

At the end of my previous missive on the 1133 Melville project I noted that several respondents had told me that while they usually had a gut response to a design, either liking or not liking it, they were at a loss about how to express to others why that was.  One respondent asked how they could assess the design issues. Coupled with my earlier promise to explain how I came to alter my first impression of the building, this note (the result of numerous drafts), is my attempt to communicate on those issues. 

Then, just as I thought I had arrived at a good draft, someone sent me the proposed “Granville Gateway" project which I shared with you on November 21st. In my comments I said I was “nonplussed” by what I saw. While my further comments hinted at some reasons for that, I decided to take some time to consider the scheme more carefully, including reading the rezoning application itself. 
I have now done that and have moved into the broader issue of what constitutes good urban design. 

Many Urbanarium readers are very experienced on such matters and will hopefully bear with me as I try to connect particularly with those readers who asked me to explain further.  I regret the shortage of local architectural criticism in our media and especially the lack of visionary discussion about the many multi-dimensional design opportunities we have in our region. 

Because I need to keep it as short as I can, I decided to set out a number of what I have titled THOUGHTS. They aim to provide references to what to look for when assessing development proposals   

THOUGHT ONE. Architecture and “Commodity, Firmness and Delight”.
We are all endowed with different abilities. Some people have exceptional design abilities. It is often suggested that good architecture has to satisfy the elements of what Vitruvius described as Commodity, (Does it work?), Firmness, (Is it soundly built?)  and Delight (Does it express pleasure to those who experience it?).  Good architectural teams will have those components appropriately represented. Architectural firms become known for their strengths and weaknesses. Some firms may be recognized for their skills in getting  buildings built on time and on budget, others for their special skills with particular building types, like hospitals, community centres, airports, high rise apartments, single family homes, big office towers and so on. They also earn reputations for their design abilities and, of course, in that instance the goals and design sensitivities of their clients become paramount. Designing a building for very rich people is a different exercise than designing for very poor people. Designing for the desires of the world community is different from designing for our local community.  Commodity, Firmness and Delight still apply to all building creativity. 

As an architect, I was always aware that there were some architects who had a magic touch with design. While many of us can seek to understand and improve our skills, there will always be people who have a magic touch. Even so, their successes will still score most highly if they design to achieve high levels of Commodity and Firmness as well as Delight.  

You can see when you read the design rationale for the 1133 Melville proposal where the architect has given serious consideration to these elements and explain them in understandable language. 

THOUGHT TWO. Is a City like a Garden? 
The city is like a garden. When we create and maintain a garden we have regard for the types of soil we will encounter, where and when the sun shines, how the plants thrive in relation to other plants, how it relates to neighbours' gardens, and so on. We know we can only achieve a successful, healthy and attractive garden if we consider how all the plants contribute to its overall health and beauty, When we plant a new tree we have to ensure that we don’t kill the plants that might be overcome by its shadowing or extending root system. It has to be neighbourly. When we visit a well created and maintained garden we can sense the way everything is working to provide a healthy and beautiful environment. 

A city is like that, or can be. Consider our developing downtown and wonder if the same compatibilities or neighbourly concerns are being creatively crafted as the city grows. Think of the other places you know and wonder which ones you feel most comfortable in and why.  Wonder about how new buildings get inserted into the whole fabric of the city. Some new building proposals, while attending to their own needs for sun and shade, privacy, views, microclimate, access and so on, do not always give care to those same assets already existing for their neighbours. Proposals that ignore their neighbours end up harming the livability of the whole city. They harm it physically, functionally and especially socially. I believe a city that ignores the need for good neighbourliness in its development processes will end up an unhappy city. 

Do you see how the "Granville Gateway" project is so enamoured with its own spectacular design that it has to fade out and simplify the whole of its context in Downtown Vancouver, right through to the existing Mountains? 

THOUGHT THREE.  Neighbourliness. 
Good neighbourliness can apply to all three components  of Commodity, Firmness and Delight.  For example, under Commodity: Does the building add to or subtract from the workability and/or amenities of the neighbourhood where it is located? Firmness: Does it add to or subtract from the value of its neighbourhood? Delight: Does it enhance the delight of the neighbourhood where it is to be located? In our city these issues were once given extremely important consideration and dozens of guidelines were created to assist designers in those elements that contributed to good neighbourliness. Those guidelines were the basis for the design process that created, and what became respected as "Vancouverism”. 

The Melville proposal goes to considerable lengths to explain how it has been designed to fit supportively into its neighbourhood  - acknowledging its extraordinary density.

My foremost example of how this can go wrong is the now-approved Jenga Tower on Georgia Street, where the first “magnificent idea” drove the proponents, the architects and, apparently, including the City bureaucracy, to ignore the main elements of good neighbourliness.

THOUGHT FOUR.  An Architect's Dilemma. 
Imagine you are a local architect. A big and important developer approaches you and wishes to commission you to design a high quality office building on a site the firm has acquired in Downtown. While it is in an area zoned at 7 FSR, discussions with contacts around town and at City Hall suggest that a much higher density is possible there. It would provide much needed modern office space and a much better return on investment which could be shared with the city.  The developer understands that the City would consider a spot rezoning on that site for perhaps three times the zoned density, perhaps as hIgh as 21 FSR and be taller than the current height limit therefore requiring special consideration.  

You return to your office to discuss this with your partners. They see it as a great architectural and business opportunity but some of them worry about the impact of such a huge density on that area of town, especially on the existing neighbours. You argue that, while a city that develops at over 20 FSR is going go feel very dense and certainly much different from what “Vancouverism” used to mean, this seems to be what the city leadership believes is good for the city. We are not in a position to second guess what might be the community’s will. And, as well, someone is going to design it, so, as we know we are some of the most competent architects in the city, let us give it our best shot.   

We define density in Vancouver with a Floor Space Ratio, known as FSR. Some communities call it FAR, Floor Area Ratio.  Various areas of the city are zoned for a specific FSR. The FSR shows how much floor space can be built on a site in that area.  For example 2 FSR means that any development on the site can accommodate as much floor space as the equivalent of twice the area of the site itself. If the building covered the whole site area, it could be two storeys high. Very few buildings cover the whole site. This is because  other requirements such as for day-lighting, street and lane setbacks, and access to parking and other services on site also have to be accommodated.

Experienced people can quickly identify the approximate built densities of various forms of development. Here are few typical examples. 

Single family houses   = 0.45 FSR and two storeys. 
Two family homes   = 0.75 FSR  ditto.
Townhouses = 1.5 FSR up to three storeys. 
Three storey apartments = 1.5 FSR.
Six storey “mid rise” apartments = 3.0 FSR.  
Older High rise apartments  = 3.0 FSR. 
High rise apartments = 4.5 FSR Downtown South, Yaletown.
Older High rise  office buildings   = 9 FSR  and 450 ft. Downtown.
Higher mixed use buildings today = 24 FSR and 700 ft. Downtown. 

Some are more mysterious. For example the proposed Granville Gateway at 550 ft. tall is said to be 7.0 FSR. 

THOUGHT SIX. Who Looks After the Neighbours’ Interests?
While I think it is in all of our interests to care about neighbourliness, it is especially important for proponents of development to care.  However, their primary goal may be for a building that would compromise neighbours' existing amenities. That is where the City comes in. Through its planning processes the City has discovered through discussions with the public, and through it’s policy decisions, what the community believes constitutes good neighbourly development  What is key here is that the City, in negotiations with the  developer’s team and the affected neighbours, has a special role in ensuring good neighbourly development. 

Urbanarmers will be aware of many of my communications over recent years where I believe the City has frequently failed to identify and ensure consideration of these neighbourly polices. When that happens the individual neighbour has a difficult, if not impossible task when faced with the huge, combined resources of the developer and the City. 

Again, the Jenga tower is an example of how the neighbours' concerns were secondary to the desire for an iconic building and substantial community amenity contributions from the developer.  

THOUGHT SEVEN. Then, What about 1133 Melville?
If you would like more explanation about its design merits, find the application on Google. They do a much better job than I can do here. They also use language that is clear and objective. 

THOUGHT EIGHT. Then, What about Granville Gateway?
Find their design rationale on Google too, and compare their language with the Melville application.

THOUGHT NINE. Regarding More Applications to Come. 
Use these THOUGHTS for future proposals.  
I do hope this helps! Please let me know. 

Best Regards, Ray

CMHC's National Housing Conference November 21 & 22

Earlier this year, I received an invitation from CMHC Ottawa to attend a national housing conference to be held in November. For 10 years between 1972 and 1981, I worked for CMHC in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto and often attended CMHC events. However, many years have passed, so I happily accepted the invitation.
      Unfortunately, time does not allow me to summarize all that I heard and learned. However, key takeaways were that the drop in housing prices that we are experiencing in Vancouver is not unique to BC. Prices have also been dropping in Sweden, UK, Australia, and elsewhere around the world where prices increased dramatically over the past few years.
     Also, there are some intriguing financing models being developed to help finance social housing, and allow people to invest. One Australian company BrickX has developed an interesting way to allow millenials and others to invest in residential property without actually buying a property.

     I decided to speak about the pros and cons of Inclusionary Zoning, since while CMHC is promising significant new public funding for social housing, there will never be enough money to go around and IZ has a role to play, as long as it's responsive to market realities. In this regard, I spoke in favour of 'poor doors'!

        Below is the preliminary conference program. (there were some substititions) This will hopefully convey what CMHC considers to be the most important topics of the day when it comes to affordable housing.


Introductory Remarks
Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Keynote Address: Douglas Cardinal, OC, Canadian Architect
Creating socially inclusive communities through people-centred planning, design and architecture
How is the concept of social inclusion evolving in Canada? How can we adapt planning processes to meet the needs of a community? Hear from renowned and celebrated Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal as he discusses his architectural planning process and explores the impacts of community-centred planning and design on social inclusivity– especially for Indigenous peoples. Cardinal will also speak to the importance of traditional practices, culturally-appropriate designs and the significance of including women as integral decision-makers.

Plenary Panel 1: A place to call home or a place to accumulate wealth? Inequality and exclusion in housing markets
For investors, housing has become a commodity - a means to secure and accumulate wealth. However, for most households, income and wealth inequalities have created an environment where it’s become increasingly difficult to find a place to live in dignity and thrive in a community. Four experts bring the perspectives of academia, government, politics and policy to understanding market needs and explore solutions to rising inequality and social exclusion.
 Moderator: TBC
 Evan Siddall, CEO, CMHC
 Manuel Aalbers, Professor, U of Leuven
 Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, OHCHR
 Michael Oxley, Professor, Cambridge University

Lunch and Presentation of Housing Research Awards
Beginning at 1:00 p.m. Evan Siddall will present the Housing Research Awards to the inaugural recipients

Breakout 1A: Designing global cities: Planning solutions to population growth, affordability and inequalities
From Vancouver to Barcelona via Toronto, rapid population growth is fuelling housing shortages and social exclusion in cities, widening the gap between the “haves” developers and the “have nots” citizens. This panel explores how innovative design and planning solutions can limit social polarization and guarantee access to more affordable housing for all global citizens. Hear from architects and planning experts about their own projects and how they are creating housing that puts citizens first.
 Moderator: Manuel Aalbers, Professor , University of Leuven
 Patricia McCarney, President & CEO of World Council on City Data
 Micheal Geller, President of The Geller Group, Vancouver
 César Ramírez Martinell, Architect & Planner, Chairman & Founder of Barcelona Housing System, Barcelona
 Ana Bailão, Deputy Mayor, Councillor, Ward 18 - Davenport Toronto's Housing Advocate

Breakout 1B: It takes two: How government and capital markets can boost affordability and choice
Government support alone isn’t enough to keep our cities vibrant and affordable – support from capital markets is key. In this session, Canadian and international panellists examine innovative ways that private and public partners can work together to create sustainable and affordable financing options. Gain insight on energy-efficient mortgages, social impact bonds, cost-effective funding partnerships and discover how Canada can take a leading role.
 Moderator: Tim Nash, Founder of Good Investing, Toronto
 Julie Lawson, Honorary Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University, Australia
 Luca Bertalot, Secretary General of EMF-ECBC, Belgium
 José de Jesus Gómez Dorantes, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of FHipo, Mexico
 Louise Stevens, Treasurer, CMHC

Breakout 1C: All housing is social housing: Investing in inclusive communities
What is exclusion and how do we overcome it? Our panellists bring their diverse points of view to help you better understand the unique challenges of achieving social-inclusivity. Whether it’s accessible housing, mixed income housing or housing located close to services and amenities – get inspired and learn more about the innovative ways Canadians are contributing to fostering access, acceptance and integration in our communities.
 Moderator: Emily Paradis, Senior Research Associate – U of T, Lived Experience Advisory Council of CAEH
 Edith Cyr - Director Bâtir son Quartier, Montreal
 Avvy Go, Clinic Director of Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
 EM Pijl - Assistant Professor, University of Lethbridge, Alberta
 Debbie McGraw, Housing Locator, Housing First Program
 Cheyanne Ratnam, Project Coordinator, A Way Home

Breakout 1D: Human rights based approach to housing
A key element of the National Housing Strategy is the Government’s commitment to progressively realize a right to adequate housing through legislation and initiatives that focus on the needs of vulnerable populations. This panel will consider what systemic housing barriers exist and propose solutions for expanding the participation of marginalized groups in housing policy and decision making.
 Moderator: Jeff Morrison, Executive Director, CHRA
 Martin Gallié, Professor, UCAM
 Kristi Mader, Executive Director, Ready to Rent BC
 Charlene Gagnon, Manager of Advocacy Research and New Initiatives, YWCA Halifax

Day 2: Keynote Address: Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
Turning the tide on social inequality: The need for inclusive housing and sustainable communities
London is dealing with the impact of a changing economic landscape, including disruptive capital flows that are leading to higher home prices, rents and housing costs. This is having spill over effect on other aspects of society like health and education. Dorling brings his expertise to help us understand what’s happening in London, what solutions could have an impact and how they could inspire other global cities.

Plenary Panel 2: Balancing Stability, Growth, and Inclusiveness: How governments can manage systemic risks and maintain healthy housing markets
Price escalation, affordability issues in major cities and high household indebtedness – Canada isn’t alone in experiencing these housing market issues. Australia, Ireland and Sweden have all been responding to similar problems in different, innovative ways. Top central bank and supervisory officials from these countries join us to discuss their experiences and bring their perspectives on the challenge of formulating policy while balancing sometimes competing public policy objectives.
 Moderator: Romy Bowers, CMHC
 Carolyn Wilkins, Senior Deputy Governor, Bank of Canada
 Carl Schwartz, Chief Representative New York Office, Reserve Bank of Australia
 Erik Thedéen, Director General, Finansinspektionen (Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority)
 Robert Kelly, Deputy Head of Financial Stability, Central Bank of Ireland
Breakout 3A: Exploring solutions to supply in housing markets
Rising home prices in some Canadian urban areas have been linked to relatively weak supply responsiveness. This panel will highlight the importance of understanding the market, the impact of policy on land and home supply, as well as explore ways to improve supply responsiveness. It will also look at the potential for cooperation and partnerships to help overcome supply challenges in cities across the country.
 Moderator: Aled Ab Iorwerth, CMHC
 Tom Davidoff, Director, UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, Suander School of Business
 Dan Garrison, City of Vancouver
 Enid Slack, Director, Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance
 Claire Noble, City of Calgary

Breakout 3B: The co-operative community housing model: Still strong after 50 years
Housing co-ops offer quality, affordable, community-oriented housing to over 250,000 people in Canada and yet, there remains significant unmet demand for affordable and co-operative housing. Leaders in co-op housing from across the country explain how co-operatives are evolving to adapt to current housing market trends. They will also discuss what it will take for co-ops to remain modern and relevant moving forward.
 Moderator: Blair Hamilton, Program Manager, Manitoba, Co-operative Housing Federation
 Louis Philipe Myre, Director of Consulting Services, FECHIMM
 Christyne Lavoie, Agente de Recherche, Université de Sherbrooke
 Thom Armstrong – Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of BC
Breakout 3C: Forging new partnerships: Collaboration and creativity in Indigenous housing
In the spirit of reconciliation, governments, academia, the non-profit and private sector as well as community organisations are working to build new relationships with Indigenous peoples. In this panel, we discuss ways to advance partnerships and relationships in order to improve Indigenous housing outcomes on reserve, and in urban, rural, and northern areas.Hear first-hand about the successes and challenges of these partnerships and discover creative ways of tackling complex housing issues.
 Moderator: Trina Wall, CMHC
 Shirley Thompson, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba
 Carolynn Constant, Mino Bimaadiziwin Partnership
 Alex Wilson, Academic Director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre, University of Saskatchewan + co-presenter
 Nancy Martin Executive Director, Miziwe Biik
 Ricky Houghton, CEO, He Korowai Trust, Kaitaia, New Zealand
 Robert Buyers, President and Chief Executive Officer, Namerind Housing Corporation, Regina

Breakout 3D: Building an affordable future for rental housing
For the first time in over four decades, levels of homeownership in Canada have been declining. Demand for ownership is being outpaced by growing demand for rental housing, which is pushing rents higher and deepening housing affordability woes. Hear from experts as they provide a better understanding of the different factors influencing affordability issues and discuss the potential role of policy in contributing to solutions.
 Moderator: Simplice Nono, CMHC
 Brian Clifford, BC Non-Profit Housing Association, Vancouver
 Catherine Leviten-Reid, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia
 Nathanael Lauster, University of British Columbia
 Jacob Cosman, John Hopkins University, Maryland

Breakout 4A: The life and death of smart growth: Will a lack of demand kill high density plans?
Municipalities across Canada are continuing to embrace smart growth policies that promote smaller, higher density housing surrounded by amenities. Yet, many consumers are still choosing to buy large single-family inner city and suburban homes. Our panellists dive in to this discrepancy and unpack the connection between what consumer want, are willing to buy/rent, and what cities are prioritizing. A deeper understanding of this issue will help guide relevant solutions for municipal growth policies.
Moderator: Michael C. Oram, CMHC
• Cheryll Case, CP Planning
• Ren Thomas, Professor, Dalhousie University
• Stu Niebergall, Regina Home Builders’ Association
• Oualid Moussouni, P

Breakout 4B: Environmentally-sustainable housing for vulnerable Canadians
In this session, affordable housing providers showcase the ways they have balanced meeting client needs with environmentally-sustainable objectives and requirements. Providers share how to reconcile increased capital costs of ‘green’ housing projects with providing as many units as possible. They’ll also demonstrate how their projects are delivering tangible results since implementation and explore how investments in sustainability can translate to reduced operating costs.
 Moderator:
 Raymond Sullivan, Executive Director, Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation
 Daniel Pearl, co-Founder of l’OEUF (L’Office de l’Électisme Urbain et Fonctionnel)
 Cameron MacDonald, Executive Director, Right at Home Housing Society

Breakout 4C: Reaching Home: A new federal response to homelessness in Canada
Over the next 10 years, the National Housing Strategy aims to cut chronic homelessness in half. Employment Social Development Canada (ESDC) will launch a new federal homelessness program in April 2019 to help meet this goal. Learn new details about key elements of the program and provide feedback. Additionally, gain insight from community partners and explore how the program will improve outcomes for individuals experiencing homelessness.
 Moderator: Abra Adamo, CMHC
 Natasha Pateman, Executive Director, Homelessness Partnering Strategy, ESDC
 Susan McGee, Executive Director, Homeward Trust, Edmonton
 Jim Fowler, Executive Director, homeEd, Edmonton
 Amanda DiFalco, Manager, Homelessness Policy and Programs, City of Hamilton
 Dean Waterfield, Senior Director, Housing and Homelessness, Wesley, Hamilton
Breakout 4D: The future of social housing
The National Housing Strategy identifies a number of core priorities, including improving the sustainability of community housing and building the capacity of housing providers. Join this opportunity to discuss the challenges, opportunities and the vision for a future of more sustainable, inclusive social housing.
 Moderator: Julia Markovick, CMHC
 Steve Pomeroy, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research and Education, Carleton University
 Karen Hemmingson, Chief Research Officer, BC Housing and Housing Partnerships Canada
 Kevin Albers, CEO, M’akola Development Services

Plenary Panel 3: Deriving social outcomes from private capital
Social finance investments mobilize capital from a variety of investors, such as charitable foundations and high net worth individuals into projects that deliver positive social, economic and environmental outcomes. Challenges and constraints - such as lack of investor readiness and limited data on results - have impacted growth in the Canadian market. This panel will look at the role of social finance in fostering more socially inclusive communities and how government can harness the full potential of private capital.
 Moderator: CMHC Chair, Derek Ballantyne
 Nancy Neamtan, Strategic Advisor, Territoires innovants en économie sociale et solidaire
 Shayne Ramsay, CEO, BC Housing and Chair, Housing Partnership Canada
 Tamara Vrooman, CEO, Vancity
 Michael Oxley, Professor, Cambridge University

Closing Remarks
Evan Siddall, CEO, CMHC

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bob Williams, Harold Steves, Mike Harcourt to tell BC planning stories Friday November 16th SFU Goldcorp Center 6pm. All welcome.

How did the Agricultural Land Reserve get created?
Who planned the redevelopment of False Creek?
How did Whistler get transformed to what it is today?
Who planned modern day

New Westminster, Coquitlam, Richmond and the rest of Metro Vancouver?

These are just a few of the questions that will be discussed at a special event being organized by the Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) for planners and the general public tomorrow (Friday November 16th) at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 West Hastings Street) starting at 6pm.

Some of the major figures who were responsible for these events will be in attendance (see below).

Below is a media release recently issued by the PIBC

Leading Planners and Community Builders To Share Stories That Shaped The Vancouver Region at PIBC 60th Anniversary Event This Friday.

The South Coast Chapter of the Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) will be hosting leading planners and community builders from the Lower Mainland who will share their stories on how our region was shaped over the past 60 years.

This event on Friday November 16th is part of PIBC’s 60th anniversary celebrations and provides a rare opportunity to hear stories and insights from a list of distinguished local planning professionals and community leaders on the historic urban, community, and regional development of greater Vancouver. While the event is being organized by the PIBC the general public is also invited to attend. Tickets are $65 dollars and include refreshments. You can register here:

Participating speakers include: 

Harold Steves Councillor City of Richmond and former BC Cabinet Minister
Bob Williams former BC Cabinet Minister
Mike Harcourt, Honorary member PIBC
Michael Geller FCIP, RPP (@michaelgeller) Mike Harcourt (PIBC Honourary Member)
Gordon Price (PIBC Honourary Member) (@pricetags)
Ken Cameron FCIP, RPP
Ray Spaxman FCIP, RPP
Dr. Ann McAfee FCIP, RPP
James MacIntyre MCIP, RPP
Eric Vance FCIP, RPP
Lisa Spitale MCIP, RPP and more...

For a complete list of speakers, visit:

The event takes place on:
Friday November 16, 2018
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre - SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 West Hastings Street). Refreshments & appetizers will be served. Cash bar available.

6:00 PM-6:30 PM - Cocktail reception
6:30 PM-8:00 PM - Introduction and stories from the 1950s to early 1980s
8:00 PM-8:15 PM - Intermission
8:15 PM-9:00 PM - Stories from the 1980s to 2010

Members of the media who would like to join us, please contact:
Dave Crossley, PIBC Executive Director at: or: 604 696 5031.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November 14th. Prince Charles' and Estelle Paget's (nee Geller) 70th Birthday


     Today is a special day in our family's life. Seventy years ago my sister Estelle was born in Blackpool UK. According to family lore, had she born about 30 minutes later, my parents would have won a house. That's because a British newspaper had offered a new house to the parents of the child born closest to the future king's birth. My parents got a carpet.
    Over the years, both Estelle and I have had an opportunity to meet the Prince. Estelle arranged her meeting by writing to Ottawa in advance of one of the Prince's visits to Vancouver. She stood in line next to Glen Clark. (I'm looking for the photo.)  I met him when I was at SFU.
In conjunction with the Prince's birthday, a lot of commemorative goods are on sale in UK. Estelle's daugter-in-law managed to arrange for  this special plate which will no doubt be put to good use in Victoria where Estelle now lives.
     I suspect she'll show it to all her colleagues at KidCare Canada, a non-profit organization she founded to promote early childhood development. She was recently honoured for her work at a celebration at Government House.

You can read more about it here.
Estelle celebrates her birthday with family and friends in Victoria. Looking on are her son Gontran, daughter Julie and grandchildren.

      I'll be making a donation to KidCare in honour of Estelle's 70th birthday. I'm sure she won't mind if you do too!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Mayor Kennedy Stewart's Promises for the coming months and years! thanks to Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier November 9, 2018

Rather than paste this on my fridge, I have decided to paste it in my blog!

To help voters make an informed decision in 2022, (Mike Howell) thought it would be helpful to have a handy checklist of the promises Stewart made in the campaign to track his progress, or lack of it over the next four years.

I've gone through my notes, his platform and the many emails I received from his campaign team dating back to May when Stewart announced he was running for mayor as an independent candidate.
Some of his promises require other levels of government to get on board, some—like the need for a renters’ advocate—were initiated under the previous Vision Vancouver administration of Gregor Robertson.
There’s also the fact Stewart is an independent mayor, without a majority to help him implement all his plans, some of which—85,000 homes over 10 years!—have an expiry date in 2028.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with, knowing full well I'm likely missing a few promises he made during the campaign.
Here we go…
In his first 100 days in office, which began Nov. 5, Stewart promises:
  • To hire more staff and make changes to clear a backlog of building permits, with a focus on rental housing projects.
  • Hire a renters’ advocate to work with council and ensure renters have access to legal advice and advocacy they need to fight unfair evictions and rent increases.
  • Set up an emergency task force in the Downtown Eastside, with the primary goal of tackling the opioid crisis and saving lives.
  • Launch a review of city policies, particularly those related to taxes and permits, that impact small business.
  • Require elected officials to proactively disclose assets and prohibit them from working outside city hall, if these activities are likely to conflict with their public duties.
  • Prohibit officials and “key staff members” from accepting government contracts or lobbying for 12 months after leaving their positions.
  • Create a lobbyist registry, which would require lobbyists to declare details of their activities in an online registry. Levy fines for non-compliance. Make the information available to the public.
His other promises:
  • Build 85,000 homes over the next 10 years, with 25,000 of those non-profit “affordable” rental homes (so that’s 2,500 this year) for households making $80,000 or less.
  • Fast-track 25,000 new purpose-built market rental homes and laneway homes over the next 10 years. To help achieve that goal, create a “purpose-built rental housing office” to provide a single point of contact and “increased certainty” for developers.
  • Issue a report within first year that outlines how to make life more affordable for renters, including reviewing current policies and examining new measures such as freezing rents and adjusting rules governing short-term rentals
  • Triple the empty homes tax.
  • Expropriate “troubled” single-room-occupancy hotels.
  • Negotiate a new Vancouver Agreement.
  • On Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline: “If elected mayor, I will use every resource at my discretion to stop the federal government from building this new pipeline, including taking them all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
  • Require all elected officials and civic political parties to be subject to existing provincial regulations governing campaign finance between elections, including annual disclosure of donations.
  • Require all civic election candidates and third-party advertisers to provide “regular disclosures” of donations between Jan. 1 and election day, during an election year.
  • If city residents vote in the November provincial referendum to change to a proportional representation system, then future civic elections will be conducted using pro rep.
  • If pro rep is rejected, then future elections will be conducted using “neighbourhood constituencies” (wards) similar to those used at the federal and provincial level.
  • Launch an online petition system from the mayor’s office.
  • Fully fund and implement the city’s women’s equity strategy.
  • All drug policy options will be open for consideration, including initiating a safe and accessible supply of drugs “for those at high risk in the current illegal and dangerous market.” Expand safe consumption sites.
  • Build 100,000 sq. feet of “affordable studio space” over the next decade “by integrating arts spaces into more public buildings and affordable housing developments and creating new purpose-built spaces.”
  • Expand funding for small and medium-sized community-based art organizations and change the granting process to include individuals and groups of artists, and informal collectives.
  • Review how the Vancouver Police Department charges for event security and help reduce costs for community events.
  • Expand small-scale businesses, including corner stores, small cafes and laneway-based businesses. Laneway businesses would be live/work and protected from “the volatility of triple-net leases and property tax costs.”
  • Create an affordable start-up hub, purpose-built for new tech start-ups to remove barriers and reduce costs.
  • Work to secure federal, provincial and UBC funding to extend SkyTrain along Broadway corridor to the university.
  • Work to expand the city’s bus network, including more night service. Investigate way to reduce fees for seniors, people living with a disability and those on low incomes. Support “All on Board” campaign to make all transit free to children and youth.
  • Work with community groups in Chinatown to revitalize the historic district with a focus on promoting its culture to locals and tourists.
  • And Courier reporter Mike Howell the day before next election to go over checklist.
So there you go, voters—something else to paste on your fridge.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

2018 Inauguration Ceremony address: Mayor Kennedy Stewart promises ‘respect’ in leading mixed city council. Mike Howell Vancouver Courier

Mayor Kennedy Stewart used his inauguration speech Monday to outline how “respect” will be at the centre of his approach to working with a 10-member council comprised of four political parties as they focus on tackling Vancouver’s affordability crisis.

The 52-year-old former Burnaby NDP MP stood at a lectern and promised a crowd of about 250 people at Creekside community centre that he will inform councillors and residents of his intentions, and listen to their ideas before making decisions.
“It is up to all of us to serve as examples for our community and strive to foster an environment of openness and transparency with a goal of building trust across the city,” he said, as his wife Dr. Jeanette Ashe, mother Cathy and brother Evan listened from the front row. “I will do my best to live by these words.”
Stewart, who was elected Oct. 20 as an independent, leads a mixed council with five members of the NPA, three from the Green Party, one from COPE and another from OneCity, all of whom were sworn in by Judge Harbans Dhillon.
A diverse crowd, including former and current politicians from all three levels of government, police officers, firefighters, business executives, housing advocates and artists witnessed the inauguration, which included Stewart and councillors being piped in by a former VPD officer and entertained by the VPD’s lion dance team.
Guests included former premier Mike Harcourt, who was elected mayor in Vancouver in 1980 as an independent. Stewart said Harcourt’s time as an independent mayor provides “historical guidance” on how the next four years will go at city hall.
“Mike tells me such councils perhaps have the greatest potential for success, as all voices matter equally,” he said, noting Harcourt’s council also included his colleague, former Vancouver-East NDP MP Libby Davies, who was master of ceremonies Monday.
It was Davies who urged Stewart and the councillors to break through “partisan histories and traditions to find ways of learning and co-operating.” She said the “easy road” is to slide into hyper-partisanship, which Vancouver councils have a strong history of doing because of majority governments.
“We have high hopes for this new city council, and we wish you well,” she said. “Seek what unites you while respecting your adversaries, work in good faith for the greater good of our city.”
That greater good will be heavily focused on helping solve what Stewart called Vancouver’s “single greatest challenge:” the lack of affordable housing in Vancouver. He promised in his campaign to build 85,000 homes over the next 10 years, with 25,000 of those non-profit “affordable” rental homes and 25,000 purpose-built rental apartments and laneway homes.
“The consequences of our housing crisis ripples out into every part of our civic fabric,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where in this city you go, the stress of unaffordability hangs over Vancouver, stifling its creativity and energy and promise of opportunity. But it doesn’t need to be this way.”

He said each councillor “champions policies” that can help Vancouver “solve our affordability crisis and show the world it is possible to successfully address this problem.” He mentioned each councillor by name in giving examples of their commitment.
It ranged from Green Party Coun. Pete Fry ‘s promise to stand up for renters to NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick’s “cutting-edge” public consultation to COPE Coun. Jean Swanson’s ongoing mission to help the poor and the addicted. The other councillors sworn in were Rebecca Bligh (NPA), Sarah Kirby-Yung (NPA), Lisa Dominato (NPA), Michael Wiebe (Greens), Christine Boyle (OneCity) and Adriane Carr (Greens) and Melissa De Genova (NPA), who were both re-elected.
Stewart said he wanted to build a Vancouver that leads the world in livability, “cultural production,” social justice, economic development, in tackling climate change, in fun and in “coolness.” While he continues to celebrate the election of eight women to council, Stewart acknowledged the council does not reflect the ancestral diversity of Vancouver.
He said he was deeply concerned that not one person of Chinese, South Asian or Filipino descent holds a council seat, which means more than 50 per cent of the population’s ancestry is not represented at city hall. He promised to do “everything I can to reach out to your communities and to make sure the decisions we make at city hall take your experiences and realities into account.”
He also pointed out there is no one of Indigenous descent on council, but that he will continue the work of the previous council on its reconciliation efforts with the urban Aboriginal community and the three local First Nations — the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh — who were all represented at Monday’s inauguration in song and speech.
Stewart, who is on leave from Simon Fraser University as a public policy professor, cited his academic mentor, Dr. Patrick Smith, in explaining how Vancouver has a choice to make over the next four years on whether it wants to be a “globalized or globalist” city.
“Globalized cities are held hostage by external forces that shape civic policy and international standing—they are ships foundering in stormy seas,” he said. “Globalist cities develop proactive strategies and become significant players in shaping how the world works. They have the wind at their backs and set the course which others follow.”
He said Vancouver has been “globalist” in the past by embracing and celebrating multiculturalism and the LGBTQ community, championing the four-pillars drug strategy and leading the way on protecting the environment.
But, he said, it is a difficult feat to return to a leading city when it is beset by a volatile world economy, rising inflation and interest rates, housing speculation, a widening gap between rich and poor and a flood of deadly opioids poisoning residents.
“We can and must be a globalist city,” he said.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Mayor-elect Gregor Robertson's speech at the 2008 City of Vancouver Inauguration Ceremony for Mayor and Council

Tomorrow, the Inauguration Ceremony for the Mayor and Council will take place. I look forward to hearing mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart's remarks. In the meanwhile, some city-watchers might enjoy reading then mayor-elect Gregor Robertson's speech from 2008, which I just found in the 'Homelessness' file on my computer.

Mayor Gregor Robertson
Inauguration Address
December 8, 2008

     Welcome. We’re gathered today in the traditional territory of the Coast
Salish people, and I want to begin by thanking them.
     As we honour one tradition, we renew another: bringing the
inauguration out of City Hall and into the community.
     I want to thank the residents of South Vancouver for welcoming us all
to the Sunset Community Centre. This is one of my favourite places in
the city, beautifully designed by Vancouver architect Bing Thom. His
design draws on our farming history, as well as our cultural diversity and the grid of our streets and
avenues today. But it’s also open: to the people, to the community, to the future. It’s one of
Vancouver’s greenest buildings. I can’t imagine a better place to begin this new chapter in our city’s
     Today has brought City Hall into the community… and for the next three years, we will bring the
community back into City Hall.

Common purpose
     We are coming together today to affirm a common purpose.
Vancouver’s residents share something: a common yearning for a city that takes care of its people,
empowers its citizens and inspires the world.
     And as hard-fought as elections can be, I know that yearning is shared by all of us in public life.
In that spirit, I want to thank Mayor Sam Sullivan and the members of the outgoing council for their
hard work and their service to our community. And I’d especially like to thank Councilor Peter Ladner for his dedication to our city.
     Peter, may our bicycles cross paths for many years to come.
I also want to congratulate the new members of Vancouver’s Park Board and School Board. A lot of
attention is paid to City Council – but your work in many ways does at least as much to shape our city and guide its future.
     And let me thank the women and men who serve the people of Vancouver as this city’s employees. I want to speak to you directly for a moment: to say that I believe your work has been critical to the
pride we have in our city.
     Your skills and dedication are a big part of what makes our community so livable, so admired. Your energy and imagination will be vital to our continued success in the months and years ahead. Thank you for your commitment to Vancouver, I’m honoured to be working with you. Looking around, you’ll probably notice just how diverse this assembly is.
     I myself am wearing the traditional tartan of my ancestors, from the Highlands of Scotland. If that sparks a fashion craze for kilts in this city, well, I’ll shoulder full responsibility.
The diversity here today is no accident. Our families made a conscious choice, and a conscious effort to come to Vancouver from every corner of the world. We’ve become one of the planet’s most culturally diverse cities, and that means we have a remarkable array of intelligence, creativity and global connections.
     As much as I value the wisdom and experience of my colleagues, we all know there is exponentially more in the homes and offices of our city… in the studios, shop floors and classrooms…in our boardrooms and small businesses … in our galleries, hospitals and parks… there is rich, valuable wisdom and expertise in the people of Vancouver.
     In the coming weeks and months, we will be asking every one of you to step up – to offer your ideas and knowledge – to tell us how you want to be involved – to share the mantle of leadership.
Because that’s what citizenship means in the 21st century.
     These are challenging times. And we can’t afford not to make every possible use of the creativity, ideas and compassion of our people.

A choice for Vancouver
     We’re at an historic crossroads. One of enormous economic, environmental and social challenges. And the world’s attention is turning toward us.

What will the world see in 2010?
• Not a city retrenched and reeling from the economic storm… but a dynamic, creative economy generating new opportunities and opening new frontiers.
• Not a city complacent over the beauty of its natural setting… but a city united in its determination to lead the world in sustainability.
• Not a city of generic uniformity… but a city rich with artistic voices and the cultural wealth that flows from our diversity.
• Not a city that cowers in face of crime… but a city that confronts both criminals and the causes of crime with equal determination.
• Not a city that closes its eyes to suffering in its streets… but a city that adopts and embraces the boldest of goals because our humanity demands nothing less.

     I decided to run for the office of Mayor to end street homelessness in Vancouver. And I’m telling you today, that hasn’t changed. It is your council’s single most important priority in this term of office.
     Homelessness flies in the face of everything I was taught about compassion and our duty to each other. Homelessness degrades every one of us, whether the place we call home is in an alley, a shelter, an apartment or a house. Homelessness is everything our aspiration for Vancouver isn’t. It abandons our neighbours, it disempowers our people, and it does anything but inspire. 
     The Vancouver we hold in our hearts is not a city where people die of exposure. Not a city where a man named Darrell Mickasko, after being turned away from a full shelter, burns to death in a sleeping bag, trying to stay warm with his camping stove on a freezing night. If our vision of Vancouver is to become a reality, homelessness must end – and I tell you today that it will end.
Today we challenge ourselves to end street homelessness by 2015.
     We can do that with a concerted effort, in three stages -- the short term, the medium term and the long term. First, most urgently, ensuring there are enough shelter beds so people don’t have to sleep in the streets. And we increase outreach and services so Vancouver’s homeless can get off the streets and rebuild their lives.
     Second, we use city bylaws to protect and maintain the affordable rental housing we have now. And we push hard to ensure that treatment for addictions and mental illnesses is available to all those in need.
     And third, the only long-term solution, we spur the creation of new affordable housing: leading development, unlocking vacant stock, using zoning and tax incentives, and accelerating investment from other levels of government.
     I’m told that ending homelessness is an audacious goal. And that’s true. But for someone who’s sleeping under a bridge tonight, 2015 can’t come soon enough.
     Last night I spent some time dropping into a number of shelters to hear first hand about what is needed. I met some remarkable people at The Haven who are working hard to help those who are without a home. I saw again the overwhelming need that exists on our streets, and the dedication and passion of those who are there to serve. But I came away fearful for the many lives that are at stake as we enter another winter in Vancouver.
     In the coming days my government at City Hall will announce emergency measures that will be taken to open shelters and to spur quicker action on the creation of housing.

     This isn’t a time to be timid or tentative . This is a time for boldness . If ever there was a city that can set and reach and exceed courageous goals, it is Vancouver.
Visionary goals like making Vancouver the greenest city in the world. With the climate crisis escalating and the era of cheap energy fading, now is the time we must lead the planet in pioneering true urban sustainability.
     It’s time for bold goals like becoming an internationally-recognized Creative Capital, supporting artists, innovators and entrepreneurs – as well as the creative sectors that make up more than one third of our jobs.
     We need leadership goals like using the 2010 Games not just as a passing opportunity to capture a little limelight and some tourist dollars, but to show ourselves and the world how a city can mobilize to tackle its toughest challenges - in our case, homelessness and the health crisis on our streets.
We must also use this unprecedented opportunity to showcase Vancouver as an emerging global powerhouse of the green and creative economy.
     That’s nothing to fear. Times of challenge and crisis reward the people who respond with compassion, determination and ingenuity.
     We’ve done it before. We’ve embraced great challenges and made great progress.
Vancouver resisted the pressures to develop at all costs, and instead preserved Stanley Park, known the world over as one of the planet’s greatest urban parks.
     Vancouver said no to a freeway, and yes to the thriving community of Strathcona.
Vancouver businesses came together with government and created a visionary partnership – one that turned an industrial wasteland into the urban jewel we call Granville Island.
     Vancouver transformed from a time of horrific race riots to electing the first Chinese city Councillor, Bill Yee, who has so graciously provided his services to swear in this Council today.
Vancouver remembers the shame of the Komagata Maru tragedy, and now celebrates Vaisakhi in huge numbers with our South Asian community.
     Vancouver is just becoming aware of the tremendous growth and contribution of our Filipino community in Vancouver, and the positive impact that has on our city.
     Vancouver is finally emerging from generations of neglecting respectful relations with our First Nations, and this year Ken Clement became the first aboriginal person elected in our young history.     He’ll be sworn in as a Vancouver School Board trustee tonight.
      Vancouver’s GLBT community has long been a world-leading force in the struggle for rights and freedoms, and this year our Pride parade drew 500,000 people to celebrate.
     Vancouver’s environmental activists started Greenpeace and catalyzed a global movement that has changed the way we view the world, hopefully in time to prevent an ecological meltdown.
     There is lots more work to do on that front, and indeed with many of these advances our work is not yet complete.
     We can achieve great things when we come together with common purpose – and when we share that inspiration with others.
     All of Vancouver’s progress has come through partnerships: within our neighbourhoods, with our neighbouring cities, with the province, with the federal government. I welcome the chance to work with every one of those partners, in areas that range from housing to the Olympics to creating green jobs.
      We can achieve great things because we aren’t afraid of innovation. We aren’t ashamed to dream and seek out best ideas. That vision and spirit is what brought us here to the west coast of Canada.
But vision without planning and action means little. What’s key is that we couple our ideas and dreams with pragmatism. That’s the Vancouver way: audacity grounded in practicality, vision rooted in reality, creativity coupled with the entrepreneurial drive.
     As your city government we will lead with a bold vision. We will set clear targets, measure success, and be accountable for our actions. That accountability must extend to every aspect of City Hall. When the city uses your money, you have a right to know where it’s being spent, and what it’s being used for. When leaders fall short of that standard, public confidence is shaken.
     Over the next three years, we will rebuild that confidence, and ensure transparency, accountability and public debate at City Hall.
     Politicians do not always live up to that responsibility, I know. But I also know that there were literally thousands of people voting last November for the very first time.
My commitment to them, on behalf of every member of my team, is that I will not let you down on making City Hall more open and accountable.

     There is a pride in this city. Not from complacency, or a sense of entitlement.
But a pride born of our immense good fortune to be here, in this place of such beauty, living in harmony with so many cultures. It’s a pride that comes from the spirit of resourcefulness, imagination and kindness that marks Vancouver’s people.
     There was a moment last summer when I biked down that long hill from UBC to Spanish Banks. I was awestruck by the scene there.
     It was sunset. Families of all different heritage, all sizes and configurations. Single parents. Teens. Grandparents. Younger kids playing on the beach and splashing in the water.
People so happy to be together, savouring the summer. The music, the sports, the barbeques and mouth-watering aromas of dinners from a dozen different cultures.
     This, to me, was all Vancouver in a single park. And behind them, the sea, the ever-present ships heading to and from our port… the office towers and apartments rising on our skyline… and the mountains: our beautiful, impossible mountains.
     These are moments we take for granted. Yet they are moments that are only possible because we are so gifted at coming together in common purpose, and drawing on the strength and wisdom of our people.
     Today, we come together again in another beautiful part of this city, united by our love for this city. United by our vision and our passion for what Vancouver can be. United by our determination to make that vision real. That work begins today.
Thank you.
- Gregor Robertson