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

Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

Indigenous Art at YVR

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We were out at the airport yesterday evening. A niece was on her way through, but had a couple of hours layover there while she changed planes. We arranged to meet her in the terminal for dinner.

This gave me a bit more time to look at the art which is installed at the entrance to the domestic arrivals area, in the basement. To find out more about these pieces go to the YVR webpage

The pictures below have all been posted on flickr and can be found there just by clicking on the image.

Thunderbird and Killer Whale by Richard Hunt 1999
Killer Whale and Thunderbird by Richard Hunt 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Back of "Thunderbird" by Richard Hunt
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob
YVR Domestic Arrivals Area
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob

Written by Stephen Rees

September 9, 2019 at 11:50 am

From hyperloops to hailing rides:

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This is just the start of Justin McElroy’s puff piece for the CBC on Railvolution.

I am not going to be dragged off topic by venting on hyperloop or ride hailing. What triggered me was the reference to the lack of affordable housing – as though the lack of it was somehow the fault of transportation planning or unique to Vancouver. Indeed I do not understand why mainstream journalists continue to play around with the issue without placing the blame squarely where it should go.

Canada used to do affordable housing quite well. Though the word “affordable” is rather more recent. Back then it was pretty much accepted in the advanced western countries that the housing market did not work at all well for people on limited incomes and no wealthy background to help out. Housing the poor was regarded as an obligation that had to be accepted by government to avoid the sort of problems described by Dickens and Victor Hugo. Slums were always a feature of industrial landscapes – and for much of the nineteenth century seemed to be regarded as an unfortunate necessity. Until some manufacturers with social consciences – or religious obligations – started building decent homes for their employees. The quakers who ran most of the confectionary companies stand out in my mind – Cadbury and Rowntree. In fact the Rowntree Trust is still in the same business in the UK now.

In Canada the federal government funded public housing – up until the Jean Chretien administration when Paul Martin became Finance Minister and began the change to neoliberal – monetarist policies that cut back public spending on the poor in favour of tax breaks for the rich. This was pretty much the same policy that Thatcher had adopted in the UK – she forced the sale of the best council housing to the tenants in the stated conviction that it would convert them to Conservative voters.

While I am not saying there were no housing issues prior to this point, what is indisputable is that provincial and local governments have had a hard time since federal support for housing was withdrawn. And it is also noticeable that other publicly supported tenures such as co-ops have also been having a hard time.

Of course Vancouver is not alone in “experiencing challenges around affordability”. It has been made worse by the previous BC Liberal government turning a blind eye to money laundering. Vancouver was already a favoured destination for wealthy immigrants – again due to the federal policies that promoted the business class.

“municipalities across the region have faced pressure to keep land around transit-oriented developments affordable for those that need transit most” is really one of the silliest ways of looking at the issue. Municipalities can determine zoning: that is about the extent of it. Arguably, places that continued to stick to single family zoning for much of their territory did a lot to price people out. But then the places that did see development weren’t exactly cheap either.

The region had a strategy to limit sprawl, but that was blown out of the water – once again the BC Liberals decided to invest in highway expansion which far exceeded anything that was spent on transit in the same period. The Olympics were designed not just to attract visitors to a sports festival but to blow a hole in the regional strategies of Greater Vancouver and Squamish-Lillooet and encourage housing development and car commuting along the expanded Sea to Sky Highway. Jack Poole was a developer first and foremost.

So the combination of Hayekian fiscal measures federally and reckless mismanagement provincially is more than enough to explain why decent housing close to jobs has become so hard to find here. What is less acceptable is that having a so called “progressive” governments at both levels in recent years has not seen anything like an adequate response to the need for effective housing policies. It is not as if there is a shortage of resources. When governments find it possible to buy an oil pipeline and building the boondoggle Site C, they have no credibility at all when they plead poverty as a defense of inadequate social policies – where housing ought to have a much higher priority. And during a climate emergency when investing in tar sands and fracking should be anathema.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Oakridge Development

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Walking through the mall this morning I passed this illustration of what the new mall development will look like. I then crossed the 41st Ave and Cambie Street intersection to take a photo from the diagonally opposite corner for comparison purposes. You will note that the rendering adopts a much higher viewpoint than street level.

fullsizeoutput_292bfullsizeoutput_292aThe rendering also eliminates the overhead wires for the 41st Avenue trolleybus.

Preparatory work for the development is already underway, hence the traffic control officer and the bollards in the street.

If you also follow me on flickr you will already have seen the following photos there. The exhibit is still open in the mall as part of the marketing effort for the condos.

Oakridge Exhibit

Oakridge Exhibit

Oakridge Exhibit

Note the brewing vessels top centre.

Oakridge Exhibit

The view below shows the proposed brewpub

Oakridge Exhibit

This will not be like the usual mall food court. No franchisees allowed. Guest chefs from all over will be showing off their skills here.

Oakridge Exhibit

This is a sample of the Green Walls that will be a feature of the new buildings.

Oakridge Exhibit

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2019 at 1:48 pm

Vancouver Public Library: New Roof Garden

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We went downtown today to see the recently opened extension to the main public library. There is a new top floor with an large public space, currently hosting an exhibit about the changing city and above that a rooftop area that is mostly paved but with some planting (shown above).

I have also uploaded a set of photos to my flickr stream which I am linking to below

Vancouver Public Library

This poster is displayed in the main lobby. It is not meant to be taken literally.

Vancouver Public Library

As you can see it is not that hard to find your way around the new 9th floor.

There are two open patios on the 8th floor, also accessible from new exterior stairs as well as the internal escalators, elevators and stairs.

Vancouver Public Library

There is also a planted area that is not open to the public on the 9th floor as is the green roof above it.

Vancouver Public Library

The whole thing is all very nicely presented but I have to confess a feeling of being underwhelmed. The new space did get quite a lot of notice in the media, so I suppose I was expecting something more.

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Movable tables and chairs are a very good idea. Maybe as the plantings grow and more people start to use the space, things will look better. No doubt sunshine will help but frankly the view is unimpressive. Not much of our glorious setting is visible from here – just the towers and the roof of the stadium

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Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Vancouver Election Candidates

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There are a lot of them. I picked my short list mostly based on party identification: Green, COPE and Vision plus a couple of independents. I did not expect the reaction that got on Twitter and Facebook.

Last night I had no light fiction reading to while away the small hours so I read the Vancouver Voters’ Guide which has the candidates’ statements and is the next best thing. We picked that up yesterday at the Community Centre. Apparently reading printed paper is supposed to be more soporific than a lighted screen. If you want to you can read the same stuff online – in fact if you are going to vote I think you probably should. There are lots to choose from and these profiles at least will help you narrow down your own list. The city has simply copied what they wrote – and some are barely literate. Others just spout their party’s line. One or two are well over the line – and a depressing number of mayoral and council candidates seem to have little understanding of what the City Council actually does. Parks and School Board candidates are generally better at that.

Only one failed to provide anything at all: Margaret Haugen, who is running for Park Board, and deserves no votes at all for her neglect. I would also warn against Jason Lamarche for Mayor who thinks control of illegal immigrants is a high priority, and Sophia Kaiser who needs to learn how to write. Here is a paragraph of her bio selected at random

AbsoluteObediencetoAbsoluteANATHEMAObedience: 153ArchonDemon-Indoctrinations PossessingMe/

Somehow she managed to get a much longer entry than anyone else. Most of it as incomprehensible as that quote. I cannot imagine a Council Meeting if she were to command the floor.

I would also suggest you make your list early and take it to one of the advance voting places (community centres or City Hall) to avoid the lineups that will bedevil election day.

I would also suggest you look at the very short entry for Ken Denike who thinks he is entitled to continue his reign at the School Board largely on his conviction that you will already know all about him. Of course if you vote NPA or BC Liberal you already do, so why are you reading this?

I voted

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2018 at 10:50 am

Posted in politics, Vancouver

Short term rental

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This blog post is cobbled together from facebook postings prompted by recent events: I had been seeking assistance there but it turned out with a bit of luck and my very own Miss Marple we were able to track things down.

Context

Short term rentals have exploded everywhere. There have always been short terms lets for tourists – holiday cottages, flats and bed and breakfasts all offering furnished accomodation as a cheaper alternative to hotels and with more or less service. We have all (I suspect) used them. The internet changed how we booked them. We no longer buy a copy of a magazine like The Lady (which used to have lots of holiday lets in its small ads over the winter) we go to a website like Craigslist, or one of the growing number of specialists sites and apps of which airbnb maybe the best known but there are lots of others. In Vancouver, many advocates for increasing the supply of rental housing have been pointing to the explosion of these services as one of the reasons that rents are high and vacancy rates near zero. The revenue from these short term rentals is a lot higher than a long term tenancy.

The City of Vancouver “enacted a new bylaw that permits Vancouver residents to operate short-term rentals in their principal residence for stays of less than 30 days” starting April 19 this year. “Secondary suites can be operated as a short-term rental by an owner if it is their principal residence” but they need a business license.

A Series of Events

There are over 80 suites in our building and there has been a fairly high rate of turnover. We also see plenty of care aids coming to visit their clients.  We try to get to know our neighbours. We also have a common laundry.  There are of course rules about how these facilities are shared. There is a system of reservation of laundry times – and one of the things that has changed recently is the number of times people have been in the laundry having the machines explained to them. Whenever we ask who these people are they usually are said to be relatives of the owner. One or two owners seem to have a lot of visitors.

One day we met a very pleasant young man in the elevator going down to the laundry. We asked him when he had moved into the building and he explained that he was in a short term rental. He said he was only here for three days prior to going on a cruise to Alaska. Miss Marple observed him going into a newly renovated unit – one we had been into on an “open house” event. At that time it had its own, newly installed washer and dryer.

Every strata has bylaws. Bylaw 14 in ours is pretty straightforward

No strata lots may be rented or leased

It goes on to set out a few exceptions but none cover short term rentals or operating a bed and breakfast out of your suite.

 

We did a quick scan of the airbnb web page looking for something in our vicinity, but found nothing. Then a couple of days later, there was some undelivered mail on the shelf by our mailboxes. Two envelopes – both addressed to the suite in question and from Booking.com in Amsterdam. There was no name of the addressee but a company “Royal Crown” on one “Royal Crown & Suite” on the other. Miss Marple did a Google search and there it is – not on Booking.com but airbnb. I have taken screen shots, so let me know if that link doesn’t work in the comments, and I will add them here.

I looked at the information and saw what appeared to be a business licence number. The City has the data on business licenses available as spreadsheets you can search. I established that the number quoted referred to two people I do not know and an address of a suite on Howe Street.

So I used the VanConnect app to report what we had learned to the City. Apparently many people are disappointed with the lack of action by the City on this issue and there is also now a Twitter account that is increasing the pressure (hat tip to Sean Orr for that link). You can also go to this report an issue page on the City’s site.

I also joined up for airbnb and tried to send the owner of the unit a message. That wasn’t possible since there was not a single date I could book the unit. This seemed a bit odd to me, so I reported that to Airbnb Support.

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The response time “may vary” is a flat lie. They just don’t want to communicate any more with me. There is, of course, no other way to communicate with them. I have never used airbnb – and now I don’t think I ever will.

Action

I don’t expect the Strata Council or the Building Manager to act as though this were an emergency. I do think that it may offer us a way of increasing the strata revenue since the by law also identifies a fine

(b) if the rental continues beyond the provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act, levy a fine of $500 every 7 days of prolonged occupancy, such fine to be added to the monthly assessment of the owner;

Now I also think that we probably need to add some wording at this point to cover the short term issue. The fines are now much greater than $500 for seven days for non-compliant short term rentals. Just by looking at the 8 reviews for September alone on this one suite – and taking them at face value – there is some revenue due. The Property Manager seems a bit hung up on the Residential Tenancy bit so we may need a General Meeting to resolve that.

The City could fine the owner $1,000 a day for as long he stays in business: the bogus business license should act as a trigger. Hopefully we will hear a bit more in due course and if we do I will update this post.

There is also the really useful Condominium Home Owners’ Association of BC. They have a number of bulletins on short term rentals – these are pdf documents to download listed here: look in the index under “rentals” for “short term rentals”.

By the way, since I joined airbnb I have now submitted a complaint using their online form, and got this response

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 4.22.02 PM

The City has now responded to my complaint using the VanConnect app: the status is “In Progress”. The City has also responded to my partner – just acknowledging receipt of the complaint. The building manager says that he has spoken to the owner. However, the listing is still on airbnb complete with the bogus business license number. (Last checked October 11, 2018)

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 29, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Posted in housing, Vancouver

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Vancouver Election 2018

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The City has now produced its randomly ordered ballot for the upcoming election.

Given the size of the ballot I realised I would need something written to take into the voting place with me, where the names of the progressive candidates I would like to see elected would be in the same order as the ballot paper. I tweeted these out as three messages but I am also going to put all three lists here, for ease of reference.

Already someone has responded that their list is different – well d’uh! – they want to see OneCity folks. Sure if you want to produce your own list don’t let me stop you. I worked mine out on the basis of Green Party (of course) then Vision and COPE then independents that I have been impressed by. Of course your preferences and methodology for selection may be different from mine.

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Written by Stephen Rees

September 23, 2018 at 10:55 am

Posted in politics, Vancouver

Tagged with , ,