Greater Vancouver is one of North America’s toughest housing markets, with expensive real estate and a significant shortage of affordable rental units. Even though local governments acknowledge the problem, the property developers who want to build multiple-unit housing often face pushback from municipal councils and local activists.
The North Shore of Vancouver is home to three suburban municipalities: West Vancouver, with its 10,000-square-foot monster mansions, and the two North Vancouvers: the densified City of North Vancouver, nestled against the waterfront, and the largely single-family suburban District of North Vancouver which surrounds it.
The current North Vancouver District council was elected in 2018, and since then every proposal for multifamily housing, including rental, has been defeated, postponed, or rejected. Local developers are making hard decisions to keep their businesses moving forward at a time when the municipality is blocking every housing development that comes before them.
Published: Asparagus (PDF) Summer/Fall 2019
April 30, 2020
Pandemic-induced shortages inspired our family to go paperless in the bathroom, and we’re not alone.
Three weeks into the coronavirus crisis, we were down to our last roll of toilet paper. My British-born wife Susan said, “We’re not going to see paper in the stores. Let’s buy a bidet.” I guess I must have made a face, because her next comment was, “You are so Canadian. Afraid to try anything new”…
Well, now I know better! I learned that “bidet“ is actually a generic term for a variety of devices. As well as standalone porcelain fixtures, it can be applied to: the high-tech Japanese toilet seats that not only wash but also dry you; plastic squirt bottles designed for the same purpose; and hand-held sprayers that attach to your toilet water supply. I also now know that a bidet is not a toilet at all, it’s only used for cleaning yourself. And I’ve learned that after using it you’ll be wet, in need of a handy towel or toilet paper.
“At 5:30 p.m. on a rainy Tuesday night, The Dispensary — one of Vancouver’s oldest grey market cannabis stores — is doing booming business. Dozens of people stop in to pick up cannabis flower, edibles, and other cannabis products. Not one of their customers seem concerned that the store isn’t licensed by the provincial government.”
With the single exception of my 94-year-old mother, I don’t know a single person over the age of 65 who doesn’t have a smartphone, computer, or tablet, and usually all three.
I’m well past sixty, and have worked my way through punch cards, a C-64, many versions of Windows, Apple and Linux. I know at least a few people over seventy who have a programming background or who have spent a lot of time doing graphic design and computer music composition on various machines.
That’s why I’m always amazed to read comments like these:
“Amazon Echo has been particularly popular with the older generations, as it allows them to interact with technology and the Internet in a natural, personal way, rather than via a computer.”
Surveillance and the police state excepted, the Chinese subway systems are in most ways superior to the Skytrain. This was demonstrated when I returned home and found a Chengdu mother and child at the YVR Skytrain station struggling to figure out how to get to Surrey and how much it would cost. Once I helped her get her tickets she rode with me to the Waterfront station, out one set of turnstiles, up an elevator and around a newspaper kiosk, into another set of turnstiles, then was pointed to the Expo line. After a fifteen hour flight that was far more complex than any traveller should have to deal with.
The Chinese government is still building and maintaining an impressive network of multi-lane freeways, highways, and flyovers — with regular toll plazas — to move large volumes of automobiles relatively efficiently, but the Chinese government has also tried to move the country (or at least the major cities) away from internal combustion engines.
As well as making lots of safe space for transit users, bikes, electric motorbikes, and pedestrians, the Chinese have done one other thing to improve the traffic mix in Chengdu and Beijing: they’ve made it really hard to own a car. Much like the licences and charges in London and Singapore, rules in China pretty much limit car use in the city to the very wealthy.
Admittedly, lots of things are easier in a one-party police state, but by the same token, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad ideas.
On many arterials in Chengdu, you’ll find a full traffic lane on each side of the road dedicated to bicycles and electric motorbikes. These lanes are protected by low barriers – good looking metal railings, not concrete Jersey barriers – that keep slower vehicles safe from automobile traffic.
Outside of the bike lanes are sidewalks that are wider still, encouraging pedestrian traffic, although they’re also used by bikes and e-motorbikes. Despite these interlopers (I don’t actually know what the local rules are) the sidewalks feel spacious and safe. Tactile paving is widely used as well.
The Liberal government’s newspaper bailout will undoubtedly help big media players like Postmedia or The Toronto Star, but it will likely have little to offer the hundreds of smaller local newspapers in Canada. As many of these community newspapers shrink in size or get closed down entirely, a lot of Canadians are finding that the only remaining place to find out what’s happening in their hometown is Facebook.
Published: Asparagus (PDF) Summer/Fall 2019
July 8, 2019
On a Saturday in early March — when sunny weather drew hundreds of people to the mountains in suburban North Vancouver — I made a contribution to the trails I hike every week. I joined seven volunteers from the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA) to spend a day rebuilding a forest trail on Mount Seymour. We shouldered shovels, pickaxes, and plastic buckets as we hiked to the snowline partway up Bridle Path, a popular local trail.
Our leader, Penny Deck, wore sturdy work pants and steel-toed boots. Once we’d unloaded our tools, she knelt down and knocked aside hard-packed snow to uncover a cedar ladder bridge. The bridge once kept riders out of rain and stream water flowing around the trail, but years of erosion had left it nearly buried under black mud. Now, hikers and riders splashed through muck in wet weather.
By the day’s end, the bridge was gone. We replaced it with an elevated trail, stone retaining walls, and drainage ditches to carry water away from the path. The day’s work represented a small section of the 226 kilometres of trails in North Vancouver, most of which are maintained by hikers, runners, and mountain bikers who volunteer with NSMBA. Their handiwork has produced some of the world’s highest-ranked mountain bike trails, all while emphasizing social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
The District of North Vancouver is going ahead with improvements to East 29th Street between Lonsdale and Lynn Valley Road. As well as making the road safer and quicker for automobile drivers, including improvements to pedestrian infrastructure, the plan will eliminate almost all automobile parking below Tempe Crescent in favour of new continuous bike lanes.
During its May 27th meeting, the council approved an additional $972,000 for a total budget of $1.45 million. The city will contribute approximately $330,000 to paving costs. Phase 1 work will happen this summer to coincide with repaving between Lonsdale and William Avenue.
Arash Memarzadeh feels that the council just doesn’t understand the reality of Deep Cove. “To me it sucks to live here. We don’t feel like we have any ownership in the place where my parents raised three boys.”
A year after the District of North Vancouver brought in new rules to control the volume of visitor traffic into Deep Cove, some businesses feel as if little has changed. New parking restrictions and a ban on commercial tour busses were supposed to rein in the crowds that visit Deep Cove and Quarry Rock on sunny summer weekends but there is doubt how effective the changes were.
The District of North Vancouver has added 17 new Nissan Leaf electric vehicles to its fleet.
According to fleetcarma.com the Leaf is one of the top two electric cars in Canada during 2018, a year that has seen EV purchases leap by more than 150 per cent.
Reducing carbon emissions was important to the District, but this purchase is about more than just jumping on the green bandwagon.
District Energy Manager Monica Samuda worked with fleet managers on the business case for moving to electric cars. They looked at five brands of vehicles and when the numbers were crunched, reduced maintenance costs and the reduction in green house gas emissions …