Saturday, June 30, 2012

Time to Separate the Judicial and Legislative Roles of City Councillors at Public Hearings

Prof. Max Cameron, UBC Political Science, Director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. interviewed at the June 6 Vancouver Urban Forum on the need to separate the legislative and judicial roles of municipal politicians at public hearings...

Citizens as Customers and Clients

University of Alberta's James Lightbody interviewed at the June 6 
"......City government is [now] thought to be Wallmart and citizens are no  longer classic citizens but we are customers and clients, that everything should be user-pay, fees for service and managed by City Hall.... We have retrenched into the legacy of Reagan and Thatcher into a very non citizen oriented form of local administration."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Email to Mayor, Council, City GMs re
Port Place Development Permit

From: Frank Murphy
Date: June 24, 2012
Subject: Port Place Development Permit

A quick two cents worth re the Port Place Development Permit on Monday's Council Meeting agenda. You'll be aware that the residential component promised in the first application and that was the basis for Council's enthusiastic approval of that permit has been eliminated. It is now promised for some time in the future. Please remember it is well within your authority to ask for a time out here. I hope you will ask Staff and the proponent the following questions.
What alternatives have been considered and what alternatives could be brought to Council for consideration?
What approaches have worked well elsewhere. (Vancouver's Oakridge redevelopment come to mind and I would suggest you request a briefing from Director of Planning Andrew Tucker on the successes in similar circumstances of Toronto architect and planner Ken Greenberg (Walking Home).
Have downtown merchants and/or their organization the  Downtown Nanaimo Partnership been asked to advise Council on any concerns they may of the impact of this redevelopment?
Also, I hope you'll take the time before you make any decision to walk the site. Approach it from any direction and get a sense of this extraordinary property and the opportunity that exists to, of course, assist the corporate property owner achieve their business goals but at the same time accomplish other objectives: downtown revitalization, economic development, neighbourhood improvement, fully integrating the site back into a multi-use walkable street grid connected to and mutually beneficial to our established downtown core.
The opportunity to redevelop a key inner city site like this comes around once every what, twenty-five years. Please take your time.

Frank Murphy

Thursday, June 21, 2012

From Platforma Urbana
Cities in Focus: Curitiba, Brazil

Video: Cities in Focus, Curitiba, Brazil | Plataforma Urbana. Narration and interviews are in Portuguese. Terrific pictures of the day to day working of Curitiba's famous, innovative Bus Rapid Transit. This from Taras Grescoe's Straphanger: Savings Our Cities and Ourselves From the Automobile: "The Transitway system in Ottawa, which has been running since 1983, is an influential early attempt at BRT..." Plans are in place to convert it to light rail.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From SUNN: Vancouver Historic Quartiers BC Fee-simple Attached Housing Now Legal

This building was built under strata legislation. The owners hold the property in common and must deal with issues as a collective. With the new legislation, each unit will have the legal entity of a single house. Expect changes in design. No more underground parking, common roofs, and shared landscaping. Also expect changes in use. Individual units will generate more opportunities for rental housing. We see major changes to the feel and functioning of the neighbourhood as well. In these matters, small changes can usher in great qualitative differences. Photo: 

Slipping below the radar, in the first week of June 2012, the Provincial Legislature passed a small amendment that made legal a form housing in this region that had been banned from the outset. As a result “the missing link” in Vancouver urbanism is now approved and ready for construction. Fee-simple (clear-title) attached housing is now legal to build in British Columbia for the fist in a long time. There really are no examples I can point to of row houses built here in the last 150 years. Row houses are there, but always missing one important feature or another. We have premised the Vancouver Historic Quariters analysis on just this reversal in policy. Read more about the implications of this change for Vancouver urbanism here. Read more: One Decision Our Way | SUNN: Vancouver Historic Quartiers

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Email to Mayor, Council, City GMs re: Vancouver Urban Forum

Date: June 16, 2012 11:59:00 AM PDT
Subject: Vancouver Urban Forum

Mayor Ruttan, Nanaimo City Councillors and General Managers,

Last week I attended former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan's Vancouver Urban Forum. It was as former Vancouver City Councillor Gordon Price said, a feast of ideas. Here's 3 that stood out for me.

1 Municipal government reform. The level of government not only closest to us but the one with the most immediate impact on our daily lives, municipal government should be more inclusive and representative. The forum was subtitled the "Fourth Wave of Urban Reform", the first 3 dating back to Confederation followed by reforms, one in response to the other, in the 1910s and 1960s. 

UBC's Prof. Max Cameron, head of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, made a point which gave me pause: the concept that dates back to Aristotle of the separation of the judicial and legislative powers of a governing body. He points out that elected municipal officials are asked to participate in the Public Hearing Process as both the people who wrote the law and those who adjudicate disputes or applications for variance. A fundamental time proven principle, the separation of these responsibilities at the municipal level might offer a good place in moving toward reform. Sullivan asks the question: "Can we design our democracy better by implementing the separation of powers?"

2 The (mostly) single occupant car vs public transit. Cities around the world are realizing, even from a constitutional equal rights of all citizens perspective, the correct hierarchy of mobility in the city is 1. the pedestrian, 2. the cyclist (and other folks on all manner of self-powered wheels), 3. transit and 4. cars and trucks. I think it's fair to say we're continuing to plan and develop Nanaimo in about exactly the reverse order. I found very interesting, in TransLink's presentation, the insight that one of their proactive contributions to successful transit is the promotion of well designed, more densely populated, walkable neighbourhoods, where both work and amenities are located close to home.

3 Economic development. Harvard economist Edward Glaeser (keynote presenter and author of The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier) examines the American Sunbelt cities, where the greatest, sprawling growth of the last 50 years and the worst of the devastating damage of the 2008 economic crisis occurred. (As have many others, notably Richard Florida in his The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity) These  economies, booming prior to the real estate crash, were based on 2 elements: appealing climate and the self-generating construction and marketing of residential housing at very low levels of population density. Insufficient attention to  more sustainable economic development along with the prohibitive costs of infrastructure made these economies vulnerable to an inevitable shock: if it wasn't the economic crisis it would have been the rising costs of fossil fuels or any of a number of other factors. In the end they were little more than a Ponzi scheme. Surely a warning a city like Nanaimo should heed.

A fascinating forum and as I'm sure you agree, from where you're looking at it, it's an exciting transitional time for cities large and small.

Frank Murphy

Thursday, June 14, 2012

From The Georgia Straight
Density Debate Pits Sullivanism
Vs Ideas of Jane Jacobs

Vancouver ex-mayor Sam Sullivan was a devotee of Canada’s most famous urban theorist until he fell in love with high-rises...

By Daniel Wood, June 7, 2012

From where former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan sits on this blustery April day, the past and the future are equally visible. Across the mouth of False Creek from Kits Point rise the towers of the West End. They are the legacy of Sullivan’s Non-Partisan Association (NPA) and its 1960s developer-cum-mayor, Tom “Terrific” Campbell, who called hippies “scum” back then and those who opposed his plans to densify the West End, Kitsilano, and Kerrisdale “pinkos, commies, and hamburgers”.

His nickname was used sarcastically by people who couldn’t abide his fierce high-rise plans. But Sullivan tells me he has just come to a shocking discovery. Considering the fact that suburban sprawl is—with its spacious, energy-consuming homes and requisite commuting—a disaster for the planet, then, to Sullivan’s mind, Campbell was right. Stacking people was right. Towers are good. And all the New Urbanist, low-rise, Jane Jacobs–loving, fuzzy-wuzzy antidevelopment forces were wrong when they brought a halt to the city’s concrete and steel densification in the early 1970s.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Canadian Photographer Edward Burtynsky's "Oil" Opens at the Nevada Museum of Art

Edward Burtynsky, Highway #1, Intersection 105 & 110, Los Angeles, CA USA, 2003. Chromogenic color print. Photograph © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz
Edward Burtynsky: Oil, an original exhibition featuring more than 50 large-¬scale color landscapes by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky will be on view at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, June 9 through September 23, 2012. The exhibition surveys a decade of photographic imagery exploring the subject of oil, chronicling the “life cycle” of this major energy resource, one that has profoundly shaped the modern world.

More Information:[/url]

From Michael Geller's Blog
Housing Form and Design: My Contribution to the Mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force

Yesterday I joined Bruce Hayden and Patrick Condon at SFU's Noon Time Conversation Series to discuss whether there is a need for alternatives to the glass high-rise tower for Vancouver.  All three of us suggested that while there is a place for towers (well, two out of three were more supportive of building towers, right Patrick?) we all agreed that there is both a place and need for alternatives, especially those that can produce more affordable housing. These include fourplexes, sixplexes, townhouses, stacked townhouses, wood-frame apartments up to six storeys, and mid-rise buildings, both 'set on their own grounds', and with zero side yards. Read more: Michael Geller's Blog: Housing Form and Design: my contribution to the Mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force

Here's the report: 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Vancouver Urban Forum, Wed. June 6

The Vancouver Urban Forum will take place on Wednesday, June 6 from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre. About 300 delegates are expected including some from cities across Canada as well as from Albania, Australia, Bangladesh, Colombia, etc. Attendees will experience a daylong program of short presentations that will inform, provoke and entertain and will be connected to the theme "achieving urban densification" and a coming "fourth wave of urban reform."
Prof. James Lightbody of the University of Alberta will set the stage by describing the first three waves of urban reform in Canada and why we might be on the verge of a fourth wave.
California city planner Dan Zack will give an abridged version of his "Delightful Density" presentation that is wowing residents groups in that state.
Brent Toderian, Vancouver Director of Planning from 2006 to 2012, will present on "Density Done Well."
Prof. Edward Glaeser of Harvard will recommend what Vancouver needs to do to achieve affordable housing and how density relates to economic prosperity.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vivid Sydney 3D Mapping Time Lapse