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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for June 2018

Arbutus Centre Public Hearing

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We have now received a notice from the City that there will be a Public Hearing on Wednesday July 18 at 6pm at Vancouver City Hall in the Council Chamber.

I wrote about this development back in February. The city webpage on the proposal includes the Policy Report considered at the Council Meeting on June 19. This is a substantial document but if you are concerned about the way that the originally approved project has now been expanded you should read it.

The important bit seems to be:

This report evaluates an application to amend the existing CD-1 By-law for the site at 2133 Nanton Avenue and 4189 Yew Street to permit the development of an additional 8,016 sq. m (86,283 sq. ft.) of secured rental and social housing residential floor area. The proposal is intended to help address housing needs in the area and changing conditions since the previous rezoning. The proposed amendment would result in 25 additional units of social housing accommodated in the development of Block A. The application also includes an expanded Neighbourhood House and Adult Day Centre, additional secured market and below-market rental housing, as well as a contribution towards construction of the Arbutus Greenway. A reduction of 1,000 sq. m (10,764 sq. ft.) of office space is proposed.

The application has been assessed and found to generally meet the intent of the Arbutus Centre Policy Statement and other City policies. Staff support the application subject to design development and other conditions outlined in Appendix B. It is recommended that the application be referred to Public Hearing, with the recommendation of the General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability to approve it, subject to the Public Hearing and to the conditions in Appendix B.

The details in Appendix B are extensive and deal with issues like massing and shadowing.

The report on Public Consultation indicates that most people who went to the open house opposed the increase, but the staff feel that current council policies override that consideration.

The text on the City’s Notice of Public Hearing is as follows:

Council will consider amendments to CD-1(642) (Comprehensive Development) District to:

  • add additional residential density

  • increase the maximum allowable building heights on the western portion of the site from 57m (187ft) to 60m (197ft) for Block C and from 57m (187ft) to 72m (236ft) for block D

  • to increase the number of social housing units by 25

  • to increase the size of the Neighbourhood House and Adult Day Centre

  • to add additional secured market and below market rental housing

  • reduce the amount of office space by 1000 sq. m. (10,764 sq. ft.)

The proposal is causing concern and UniteHere Local 40 is organising an Emergency Community Meeting on Thursday July 5th at 6pm to 8 pm in the Kerrisdale Community Centre Room 005

Anyone may register to speak at the Public Hearing starting from 8:30am Friday July 6, 2018 until 5pm on Wednesday July 18 at publichearing@vancouver.ca or by phone 604 829 4238 or in person from 5:30 to 6pm on the day of the Public Hearing. You may also submit comments to publichearing@vancouver.ca or by mail to the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver BC V5Y 1V4. All submitted comments will be distributed to Council and posted on the City’s website.

The main problem I have with this process is that it treats this site and this development in isolation. Since there is no City Plan, this is common to every development proposal. There is no assessment of the cumulative impact of all of the developments that are going to happen in the neighbourhood. Redevelopments of a number of sites in the immediate vicinity include Amica, Quilchena Gardens townhouses (Yew and Eddington) and the McBain strata (townhouses and a three storey condo) on the corner of Valley and King Edward. Other redevelopments are highly likely since the development of Arbutus Village started in 1984 and most of the larger condos show signs of age and are in need of significant upgrades/repairs. Developers are already showing interest. If the proposal to increase the building heights in the Centre are approved, this would increase the incentive to replace the existing townhouses and six storey condo buildings with much taller towers. While the City staff appear confident that the local transportation system can cope with the increment of development in this amended zoning proposal, the cumulative impact of all of these developments is an order of magnitude greater than what is here today.

Along Arbutus Street from Valley to 33rd Avenue, the development is currently low rise but is already in the process of being replaced – and it is highly likely to be seen on the block adjacent to Arbutus Centre as well.

Each one of these developments will be considered in due course in isolation. This type of spot rezoning is common in Vancouver, but is a recipe for failure. It is one of the reasons that at least one candidate for Mayor in the October 20th election, Patrick Condon, is calling for a City wide Plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Complete Disclosure – I live in the 6 storey building adjacent to Block C. It is already on the market with Colliers and is attracting the interest of developers.  No decision has yet been made by the owners who are considering the choice between sale and extensive renovations.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 30, 2018 at 11:53 am

Arbutus Greenway

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The greenway is really showing how well the plan is working now. The start of sunny weather and car free days in Vancouver is bringing people outside. We walked from King Edward Ave to Granville Island

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13th Avenue

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10th Avenue

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6th between Cypress & Burrard

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6th between Cypress & Burrard

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5th at Fir

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5th at Fir

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5th at Fir

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5th at Fir

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5th at Fir

All these photos were taken on my iPhone 6 and are as shot, no post processing at all.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 16, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Alaska Trip: Part 8

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This map comes from the US National Parks service: the Volendam sailed all the way from Point Gustavus to just south of the US/Canada border at the top of the map to both Johns Hopkins and Margerie Glaciers. On board we were joined by Park Rangers who gave a commentary on what we were seeing. It is worth pointing out to that they were unequivocal about the retreat of the glaciers and its cause. On the map you can see the lines which show where the ends of the glaciers were in the past.

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These three pictures were taken leaving Skagway – the ones below were posted to flickr once I had access to free wifi ashore

Margerie Glacier panorama

Glacier bay 1 panorama

Margerie Glacier Calving

The last photo shows the Margerie Glacier calving. This glacier flows at the rate of six feet a day and the rumbling and creaking noises are almost continuous. The moments when great lumps of ice fall into the water are entirely unpredictable. The bow of the ship was opened up for the occasion but the press of people trying to get the best shots meant that it was easier to go up to deck 6 where there is a viewing platform under the bridge which is actually available all the time.

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The water was filled with icebergs from the glacier. There were some sightings of wildlife but I did not get any photos: we did see dolphins and sea otters, as well as large numbers of sealions. Others said they had seen humpback whales.

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Frankly the visit next day to Ketchikan was something of an anticlimax. Essentially it is a small town that has sprawled along the coastline – and because it has four cruise ship berths gets four huge ships in port at the same time and is overwhelmed. There are many gift shops and an interesting area that was formerly the red light district. There is also a funicular, out of service at the time of our visit, and many totem poles.

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The weather is Ketchikan is notoriously wet – and it delivered plenty of rain. We had been extremely fortunate with bright sunshine in both Glacier Bay and Dawson. The inside passage back to Vancouver was pretty much invisible in fog, low cloud and rain for much of the time but I did manage some nice rainbow shots while eating dinner on the last evening of the cruise.

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I want to close with some general observations, which I hope might be useful if you decide to make this trip, and I definitely recommend that you do. Understand that if you go early in the season not everything is going to be ready and open, and a lot of the people working for you will be new to the job and still in training mode. Since this is the land of the midnight sun, take a sleep mask or at least a couple of clothes pegs for the curtains to minimize the stray sunshine when you want to sleep. I think an inside cabin on the ship might be a better choice at this time of year. After all you are only going to be in the cabin to sleep.

We had a package deal of fly up, road trip and cruise back: this meant we got to see Glacier Bay. If we had done it the other way around we would have missed that. There are seven day round trip cruises, but they miss out Denali and Dawson, of course. While on board you get pretty much unlimited food, on the land trip only a few meals get included. We did not buy a meal plan and enjoyed some very good experiences: 49th State Brewing and Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage, and Rib & Salmon in Whitehorse were outstanding. Best value for money, without a doubt, was the Salmon Bake in Fairbanks.

On the ship we got a “beverage plan” included, but I would choose otherwise in future. A cabin credit goes further and can be spent on board in the duty free before you arrive in Vancouver if there is any left after gratuities and laundry are taken care of. Laundry is well worthwhile, I think, if you want some nice clean, pressed clothes when you get home. We tend to look after ourselves and not spend a great deal on excursions: the Denali Tundra Wilderness and the Gold Dredge were part of our package. The first I would not miss, the second was better than expected, but there are other dredges and gold panning sites we did not see. We did not do any of the Parks Canada walking tours in Dawson and just got lucky to see the press and the theatre. I am glad we did. The river boat tour was also in the package and could have been better, I think. The salmon bake and stage show in Fairbanks were also a HAL excursion which included transport to and from the hotel by schoolbus.   Definitely rent bikes in Anchorage – great fun and inexpensive. If you just stick to the brochure deals you will not get much time in Anchorage, which is a pity. We paid extra for one night in the Ramada: trust me, its worth paying more for the Captain Cook.

We will definitely go back for the White Pass train ride, and could well be persuaded to do the Inside Passage cruise again if the weather – and a suitably attractive deal – can be relied on.

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 15, 2018 at 10:00 am

Alaska Trip: Part 7

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The final leg of the land tour was supposed to be by bus to the Yukon and White Pass Railway and thence by train. Unfortunately we learned in Whitehorse that a large rock had fallen on the tracks and that trains would not be running until it could be removed and the track repaired. This came as a blow, but it was not entirely bad. First, the bus ride down the highway is considerably faster than the train, so we could have an extra hour in bed and still get to Skagway in time for lunch on board the Volendam. Second, I got really lucky as unusually when we boarded the bus, the front two seats by the door were empty. So we got a great view for the road trip.

We started at Miles Canyon, which we had visited the evening before on our own, but the bus stayed on the top and there was no time to get closer to the water. We had a brief stop in Carcross and had a pleasant chat to the young lady in the station. There is a tour that allows for bus and train travel between Whitehorse and Skagway and there is usually room for people who are not on cruise ship excursions, though obviously booking in advance is still strongly preferred. Since we have family in Whitehorse and Terrace an independent trip is going to be fairly easy to sort out.

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On the other hand we still had to cross the international border and, as you might expect, the BSA did their very best to be as awkward as they could. The tour guide had the manifest she had used on the Air North flight from Fairbanks to Dawson – but that was unacceptable as it is supposed to be submitted in advance. I suspect this might be because someone has to enter the passport data in some computer system – and the border guards preferred that everyone line up and put their passports through computer’s scanner. This might have been arranged better but someone in front of the bus had their own highly complex transaction to complete first – and only one guard was actually available. Apparently they were completely unaware that the train was not running, nor where they able – or prepared – to make any suitable arrangements. As usual the whole performance of “security” has to be followed even in the complete absence of any discernible threat.

There are, of course, no pictures of the border crossing. The scenery was amazing – and we did indeed see the engineers train working on the track on the other side of the canyon. I was on the wrong side of the bus and missed that shot.

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Once we got to the ship, we had to go through the same performance to “check in”, and we decided not to eat on board but explore the small town. The Skagway Brewing Company is strongly recommended not least for their innovative use of spruce tips in place of hops. Spruce tips are, as I am sure you know, an excellent source of Vitamin C.

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I had seen from the bus where the trains were being stored – and we also found that there was a city sponsored shuttle bus. Pay $5 on exit on the first ride, then get a hand stamp and ride free all day. I think I must have got a shot of most of the current roster of the W&Y as well as a few historic locos displayed in the town.

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We had previously travelled on the Volendam from Vancouver to Sydney, so it was very familiar to us.  And as part of the deal we had a complimentary dinner booked in the Pinnacle.

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Up next: Glacier Bay

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 14, 2018 at 9:55 am

Alaska Trip: Part 6

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Motorcoach Industries (MCI) 45'

The trip from Dawson City to Whitehorse was by bus: this was the vehicle and driver that had collected us from Dawson’s airport and would stay with us to Skagway. It was a long haul, scheduled at nine hours with a lunch stop at Minto and comfort breaks at Pelly Crossing and Five Finger Rapids, a distance of 536km, mostly through wilderness.

Yukon panorama

And of course, at the stops were the usual collections

At one – heavily promoted by our tour guide – were the largest cinnamon buns I have ever seen. Four of us shared one and I have to say the centre of it was far better than the outside. I asked one lady to lend a hand to gave a sense of scale.

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Of more scenic interest

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At Five Finger Rapids there was a steep flight of stairs – and the bus driver issued a challenge to see who could be faster down and up 150 steps – or whatever it was

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Someone asked me why I had not taken the challenge: I answered, perfectly truthfully, “It would kill me.”

The steps lead to a path which eventually gets to the rapids. We did not have time to see these close up, but the extraordinary thing is that at one time the sternwheelers had to winch themselves over the riverbed to get through.

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We arrived in Whitehorse, and were met by my partner’s niece who is resident there. She had already booked us a table at the best restaurant in town (there is usually a long line up even when there isn’t a bus load of tourists just arrived) and has a small car. After supper she took us out to see Miles Canyon and the Klondike sternwheeler. The bus driver was holding a small competition (the prize being a coupon for a coffee shop in Skagway) – the question being how did the Klondike get to its present location, The construction of the Schwatka dam formed a lake and made navigation impossible, so it was moved in a steel cradle over wooden skids lubricated with soap flakes. Even though we were the only people to actually go out that evening, in the rain, we did not win the prize. But one of the nice things about the North is that you can go out exploring after dinner in daylight.

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The other disappointment was that the trolley was not running – we were too early in the season. So another trip to Whitehorse will have to be arranged.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 13, 2018 at 10:17 am

Alaska Trip: Part 5

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The Moosehide slide has nothing to do with gold mining. There are of course local myths and legends and no real agreement on how old or what might have caused it. There is not even a wikipedia page for it!

Here is that slideshow I promised of the interior of the theatre

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The contents of the bedroom came from the large amount of stuff simply abandoned when the gold rush was over and people left town. It was a bit like walking into the Marie Celeste.

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SS Keno is one of the last remaining sternwheelers: two more lie rotting on the river bank opposite Moosehide

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Moosehide was the location the local first nation community moved to when the miners arrived. It remains occupied but accessible only by trails or the river and has no electricity, or other municipal services.

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The picture was taken from a small modern sidewheeler used for sightseeing trips – the picture below shows why you need to go to the upper decks if you want to see anything.

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The little log house is across the street from the information centre but I know no more about it other than it is the only one I saw with a sod roof and a row of uprights cut from trees with prominent natural boles. I would also like to recommend Klondike Kate’s based on one of the messiest burgers I have ever eaten. It included gorgonzola, bacon,  cranberry marmalade and very juicy beef.

Part 6 will continue to Whitehorse to be followed by the eventful journey to Skagway.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 12, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Alaska Trip: Part 4

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We left Fairbanks by chartered AirNorth plane to Dawson – where the airport still has a gravel runway. Apparently, funds have now been found to blacktop it soon.

Air North Boeing 737-200

Dawson City was created by the gold rush in 1898. Quite a lot of the city has been preserved and restored by Parks Canada, but the entire red light light district, on the other side of the Klondike river known as Klondike City has vanished.

Confluence Yukon Klondike panorama

I spent quite a bit of time wandering around photographing the old buildings, so I am going to try something a bit different in this post. I going to put each of my pictures next to one from Parks archives.

The Bank of North America was the first to open in Dawson in 1898 – originally in a tent. It became the Bank of Montreal in 1918 and closed in 1968 when the last gold dredge closed.

The Palace Grand Theatre (top) opened in 1899 and was hugely successful.  It was originally restored in the 1960s with Bert Lahr (the cowardly lion in the “Wizard of Oz”) as the headliner. It has recently undergone two years of careful restoration using original pictures and drawings. It was not open when I got there but a power cut the previous and triggered the fire curtain, and someone had to come and fix it. A very nice Parks employee allowed me to get access and wander around on my own.

On the bottom row is the imposing Post Office – you will note that buildings next door have all gone. There is considerable loss due to the severe winters weather, and melting permafrost under the buildings causing unstable foundations. The post office is still operating, but from another more prosaic structure around the corner.

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Next door to the new Post Office is the office of the Dawson Daily News. Once again we got lucky as that weekend a art show was being installed in the building, and we were shown around by the organizer (another slide show opportunity). My late brother was a printer and would have greatly enjoyed seeing the collection of old presses.

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Some of the buildings on the edge of town have become tourist attractions in their own right. The cabins of Robert Service and Jack London (with his cache for storing food out of the way of bears), as well as the former home of media personality Pierre Berton.

Jack London did not spend very long in Dawson City but he turned his experience into a series of very successful short stories, many of which became movies which are memorialized in a bar bearing his name in the Downtown Hotel.

 

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The Commissioner’s Residence has been considerably improved over the years, but those below show signs of dereliction

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St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and manse were built in 1901 after the first one burned down. The presbyterians joined with the methodists to form the United Church in 1925, and this church closed in 1932. The manse is still in use as staff housing for Parks Canada – who own both buildings, so perhaps there is some hope for their rehabilitation.

Yukon Hotel

The Yukon Hotel is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Dawson City. This two storey log building was constructed in 1898 by J.E.Binet and was known as the Binet Block. Originally offices, it became a hotel in 1909 and operated [under different names] until 1957. It is now rented out as bachelor suites.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 11, 2018 at 12:40 pm