VIFF features on Chinatown and Japantown raise questions about Vancouver’s urban changes

TWO SELECTIONS AT this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival cast their gaze upon historical neighbourhoods in Vancouver: Chinatown and Japantown. Together, they raise interesting questions for discussion about not only the past, present, and future of these areas, but also about what is becoming of our entire city as urban change and development overtake us.

Although Chinatown and Japantown were distinct from one another, they shared many parallels.

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Both areas neighboured one another on the edges of the Downtown Eastside, and both were formed by ethnic groups as a result of numerous historical social factors, including language barriers and racial discrimination.

Julia Kwan‘s documentary Everything Will Be takes an intimate and sensitive look at how current changes in Chinatown are affecting citizens who live and work in the area. Meanwhile, The Vancouver Asahi, which tells the story of a legendary local baseball team of Japanese Canadians, recreates life in Japantown during the 1930s.

Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Craig Takeuchi

Chinatown, past and present

UBC planning professor Andy Yan was one of the people Kwan chatted with while conducting research for her film. Like Kwan, Yan has ties to the neighbourhood—his family owned businesses there. His great-grandfather owned Most Modern Cleaners while his father owned the Kwong Chow Restaurant. His grandmother also raised him in the area.

For his master’s thesis, Yan took an in-depth look into Chinatown and issues about revitalizing degenerating neighbourhoods.

What’s interesting to note is that prior to Chinatown, the area was an Italian and southern European enclave. As Kwan’s documentary reveals, one Italian family-run business in that area remains, Tosi & Company (current proprietor Angelo Tosi is featured as an interviewee in the film).

This shift in ethnic dominance in various areas is one that has repeatedly occurred throughout the city’s history. Both local, national, and international economics and politics have determined not only waves of immigration from different countries but also what types of class and professionals the city has attracted. As but one example, Robson Street used to be known as Robsonstrasse, due to the growth of German immigration in the area.

Yan explained by phone that Chinatown began as a bachelor’s society, but grew as women arrived and families began to grow, particularly after the Second World War.

“The completion of the [Canadian Pacific] railway in 1886 certainly helped increase the population of Chinese Canadians to concentrate and move to cities like Vancouver and Victoria and begin in neighbourhoods like Chinatown, but also the kind of ongoing relationships to Chinese settlements throughout the province was in part connected and coordinated out of the neighbourhood.”

Both Chinatown and Japantown were also hit by the Anti-Asian Riots of 1907. The Asiatic Exclusion League, formed by local labourers concerned about their jobs being taken away by cheaper Asian labour, became upset by Asian immigration. In reaction, they marched through downtown Vancouver and continued into Chinatown and Japantown (also known as Little Tokyo) where they smashed businesses and looted stores.

The attacks did not deter the communities, however. While Japantown blossomed up until 1941, Chinatown particularly boomed in the 1960s and ’70s.

Read 1287 more words here…

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Green incentives a must for developers, says report

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NOT SURPRISINGLY, RESIDENTS in areas well served by public transit drive less.

Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Carlito Pablo

Driving less means fewer greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, which is good for a warming planet. But what if there’s a way to boost this benefit to mitigate climate change?

An information item included in the agenda for the meeting on Friday (September 12) of Metro Vancouver’s housing committee gives some direction. It’s a summary of a report with a self-explanatory title: “Why Creating and Preserving Affordable Homes Near Transit Is a Highly Effective Climate Protection Strategy”.

The full report can be found on the website of the two U.S. nonprofits behind it, the California Housing Partnership Corporation and TransForm. The paper cites analysis of data provided by 36,000 households in three types of locations in California: transit-oriented, areas with less frequent transit, and not transit-oriented (those more than a half-mile away from transit or that don’t get as much transit service as the first two categories).

It also uses five income categories: extremely low income, very low income, low income, moderate income, and higher income.

The 16-page report notes that households in transit-oriented areas use transit three to four times more than those in other areas.

Although that is to be expected, the paper points to a much higher “transit trip bonus” from extremely low income and very low income households in transit-oriented neighbourhoods. That is, they take transit 50 percent more than their neighbours in the higher income brackets. This finding has implications for how policy should be geared toward residential development in transit nodes.

The paper notes soaring demand from high-income households for luxury apartments near public transit in California. However, there is little private interest in developing homes for low-income families in transit-oriented areas.

The situation may be similar here in Metro Vancouver. Although current and future transit locations are attractive sites for development, housing prices in general are beyond the reach of many working families.

The report also draws a model wherein public investments are made in affordable homes in transit-oriented locations. With 10 percent of revenues from California’s auction of GHG cap-and-trade allowances, the state could build—over a period of three fiscal years—“15,000 transit-connected homes that would remove 105,000,000 miles of vehicle travel per year”.

“Over the 55-year estimated life of these buildings, this equates to eliminating 5.7 billion miles of driving off of California roads,” the paper states. “That equates to over 1.58 million metric tons of GHG reductions, even with cleaner cars and fuels anticipated.”

The paper also suggests providing additional incentives to developers for more GHG-reducing measures in projects in transit-oriented locations. Topping these measures is housing more extremely and very low income families. Another is for developers to provide free transit passes.

According to the report, developers can also be encouraged to create space for bike-sharing and provide amenities like bicycle-repair stations and “pedestrian trunks to support walking to shopping”.

Relaxation of parking requirements for developments in transit-oriented areas may also be a good incentive for developers.

The report cites a prototypical example of an approximately three-hectare site with an original plan to build 875 units in six-storey buildings and a parking requirement of 1.65 spaces per unit. By designating the entire development as “affordable” for extremely low income households, the parking can be reduced to less than one space per unit, allowing the developer to add 146 units. The paper also notes an interesting detail, which is that “contrary to popular perception, lower-income households have relatively high car ownership when they lack access to transit.”

“This finding is significant because it indicates the large financial savings that lower income households can accrue by being able to avoid vehicle ownership by living near transit,” the report notes. “Transportation costs, primarily those associated with vehicle purchase, maintenance and operations, are the second highest household cost after housing.”

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Vancouver city council to vote on referring downtown tower application to a public hearing

A new highrise tower proposed in the Downtown Vancouver core – is being referred to a public hearing. The 31-storey building will be the same height as the Harbour Centre building (not including the UFO shaped revolving restaurant portion) and replaces the current 8 storey high-rise parking structure.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Charlie Smith

A Vancouver staff report recommends that council refer an application for a 31-storey building on the southeast corner of Granville Street and Cordova Street to a public hearing.

VIA Architecture submitted the documents to the city on behalf of Granco Holdings Ltd. (Carrera Management Corporation) to increase the floor-space ratio from 9.0 to 24.24. The proposal includes retail space at street level.

In the report, city manager Penny Ballem comments that the application “aligns with the Metro Core Jobs Strategy, the Vancouver Economic Action Strategy, and the Transportation 2040 Plan in that it involves the creation of significant job space adjacent to a major transit hub”.

Waterfront Station is across the street from the parkade.

According to CityHallWatch, there’s been speculation that the super-secretive owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Greg Kerfoot, owns the site.

The senior property manager at Carrera Management Corp., Trish Knight, has not returned a call from the Straight to confirm this.

Carrera’s office is in The Landing at 375 Water Street, which is the same building occupied by Vancouver Whitecaps office staff.

From Cordova Street, the proposed tower is roughly the same height as Harbour Centre minus the rooftop restaurant.

Read original article here

Vancouver Campfire Project proposes fire pits on beaches

Make good choices! Where is the line, do you try to stop people outright and make certain activities illegal, or regulate and provide safe access because you know they’re going to do it anyways? On a side note – I’m not quite sure I understand why a campfire in the middle of a provincial park surrounded by trees is allowed, when one on the beach surrounded by sand and water (both proven fire suppressants by the way) is not.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Stephen Hui

Students’ idea ignites opposition from fire department

ALTHOUGH OUTDOOR FIRES fuelled by wood are illegal in Vancouver, a group of students is starting a “public conversation” about changing this on the city’s shores. The Vancouver Campfire Project proposes the introduction of designated fire pits on local beaches.

Robert Morton, a global resource systems student at the University of British Columbia, told the Georgia Straight that Calgary, Edmonton, San Francisco, and Seattle all have public fire pits at parks or beaches.

“It’s not a crazy idea,” Morton said in an interview at the Yaletown Farmers Market. “We’re not trying to do something that’s never happened before. These cities are already all doing it. Why can’t Vancouver also do this in a controlled, safe way?”

Hatched at CityStudio, an “innovation hub” that brings together students and city staff, the Campfire Project has submitted to city hall a plan for a summer pilot program involving one fire pit at Jericho Beach. Ultimately, Morton—along with Stuart Dow and Peggy Wong, geography students at Simon Fraser University and UBC, respectively—envisions anywhere from four to 12 fire pits being installed at Jericho, Locarno, Spanish Banks West, and Third beaches.

With a $500 NeighbourMaker grant from the Museum of Vancouver, the Campfire Project staged two events last week to raise awareness of its proposal. Morton and Wong noted that the fire pits would be “bring your own wood”, ringed by river rocks, and located on sand with no seating. They would be situated at least 300 metres from the closest home, have washrooms in the vicinity, and be visible from the nearest road. Signage would outline the relevant regulations and make it clear the fire pits are communal.

“The whole point is that they’re shared,” Wong told the Straight at the farmers market. “The idea is that people will just come and have firewood, and then other people will come and join.”

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Gardens go communal in Southeast False Creek

Let’s be clear here – communal sure, but more in the way that elite posh private schools are communal and their students are free to use the facilities. But not to fear – you too can have access to the gorgeous rooftop oasis of a communal garden, with the small one time investment of $438,000 which gets you exclusive use of 1 bed 1 bath 550 sq ft apartment on the second floor – and unlimited access to the rooftop and skylounge. Feel free to contact me for more information!!

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Stephen Hui

FROM THE ROOF of the James in southeast False Creek, the 360-degree view includes downtown Vancouver, City Hall, and the North Shore mountains. The terrace atop the 155-unit condo building at 288 West 1st Avenue, built by Cressey Development Group in 2012, features a barbecue, kids’ play area, and lounge.

James residents Matt Cooke and Carlson Hui gave the Georgia Straight a tour of the three raised beds and six pots that comprise the communal garden that occupies the rest of the 14th-floor space. The largest bed is home to 12 plots named after nearby streets, the pots contain herbs, and there’s a compost bin, which will soon be joined by a rain barrel.

“We have all of our lettuces and tomatoes here,” said Cooke, who is a food, nutrition, and health student at the University of British Columbia. “Around the corner, we have mint.”

Although the typical community garden consists of plots maintained by individual users as well as common areas, this rooftop garden is a truly collective endeavour. Participating units pay $25 a year to join the provisionally named James Garden Club and then take part in scheduled planting and harvest days.

According to Cooke, the year-old communal garden has “brought the building together”. Residents have an incentive to help out on harvest days, because they get a share of the crops.

Hui, who works for Lululemon Athletica, noted that strata members approved the communal-garden concept at a meeting in early 2013. He maintained that the garden has been the catalyst for residents to organize events such as barbecues, bike rides, hikes, and potlucks.

“This year, what we found interesting is how this has provided a foundation for community for the entire building,” Hui said. “So, it’s sort of gone beyond gardening.”

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Brian Jackson explains council’s actions to make it easier to save old homes than to tear them down

I’ve always been confused by the city’s Heritage policy, not just the vying between progress / development versus preservation / culture – but really how the city approaches these issues with their proposals and policy. I mean, what on earth is Heritage B classification, it makes no sense and I cannot even rationalize why it was developed this way.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Charlie Smith

 

VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL has voted in favour of several steps to protect First Shaughnessy heritage homes and pre-1940s character houses.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we’re moving forward on these,” Brian Jackson, general manager of planning and development services, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “We have received lots of letters.”

First Shaughnessy—roughly bounded by Arbutus Street, West 16th Avenue, Oak Street, and King Edward Avenue—has 329 homes built before 1940. Of those, 80 are listed in the Vancouver Heritage Register, according to a staff report that went to council before yesterday’s vote.

The report also reveals that about one-quarter of Vancouver houses in all of the city’s single-family zones were built prior to the Second World War.

Council approved three recommendations in the report, which Jackson brought forward.

The first is a one-year “Heritage Control Period” in First Shaughnessy. This will prevent demolitions of pre-1940 buildings while the city undertakes a review.

Jackson said that the city has issued a request for proposals to hire a consultant to provide advice.

He expects this work will begin in September.

“We’re really excited about getting two or three bids on this for doing the major upgrade to our heritage inventory that hasn’t been done since 1986—as well as provide that professional advice based on experience throughout North America on what other jurisdictions have been doing to protect their heritage resources,” he said.

Jackson pointed out that under provincial legislation, the city cannot protect heritage and designate buildings without “fair compensation”.

This, he suggested, puts Vancouver at a disadvantage in protecting older buildings in comparison with other cities.

“I think between ourselves and the consultant we can come up with creative ways through density bonusing, fast-tracking, and other incentives that we can offer to make it easier and faster and less complicated to save a heritage or character home than it is right now,” Jackson stated.

Council also voted to eliminate the requirement for a development pro forma on permit-retention proposals adding up to 10 percent more floor space.

Jackson said that this is intended for single-family areas where someone is asking for additional density to save a house.

In the past, the property owner had to hire someone to submit a business case so that the city wouldn’t be granting too much density in return for heritage preservation.

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Phase 1 – Anticipated Completion Date! – Chestermere Courtyards

Enjoy our latest update photos – and take in the scenery of sunny Chestermere, Alberta! Our sold out Phase 1 is now scheduled for completion by the end of May Oct* – stay tuned for more photos!

(5/17 AN: correction correction! Typo, while I’d love the completion to be at end of May – this article and status being published on the 8th of May makes it seem a bit unrealistic, No?)

Courtyards in Chestermere – Visit the my Project Summary page

To see the full project details and follow development updates as they happen, please visit the project summary page.

Meet the Neighbours! – Chestermere Courtyards

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New Chestermere Health Center – next door and better looking in reality than their renderings!

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Playground and Kinniburgh pond right across from the brand new Elementary school!

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The brand new Chestermere Elementary school – just kitty corner from our townhouses. Your kids will be able to walk less than 1 block to get to school!

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Fine homes…fine neighbours – Courtyards is the only multi-family complex in the Kinniburgh area. You are surrounded by beautiful custom designed detached homes all virtually brand new.

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Proposed downtown Vancouver development aims to reshape public space

OUTDOOR SPOTS THAT offer a measure of tranquillity downtown are a treasure.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight

Vancouver historian John Atkin knows one, and it’s at the southwest corner of Melville and Thurlow streets.

“You can sit in there, be surrounded by traffic, and get lost in your thoughts,” Atkin told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

It’s obvious why Atkin likes the grounds of the Sun Life Plaza building. In an exuberant stream, water gushes out of fountains at one end, and rushes down terraces to a pool, evoking the sounds of nature.

Resting on steps and benches hidden from street view, one can shut out the hurried noises of the urban environment. The water feature was designed by now-retired landscape architect Don Vaughan as part of the building’s construction during the 1980s.

According to Atkin, the city has come a long way in creating open spaces as inviting as this one.

Atkin knows Vancouver well. He leads tours on foot and buses, providing insights into its past and present, buildings, and neighbourhoods. He has written a number of books, including The Changing City: Architecture and History Walking Tours in Central Vancouver, which was published in 2010 and coauthored by Andy Coupland, a municipal planner.

“Now we design places that actually encourage people to hang out,” Atkin said.

That’s what he hopes to see in a proposed rezoning in another part of downtown, which ironically involves turning an existing plaza into an office building.

Last September, the City of Vancouver received an application to build a 25-storey office tower at the northwest corner of West Hastings and Seymour streets.

It’s the site of a domed court, a public amenity set as a condition to allow the construction of the Grant Thornton Place office building at 333 Seymour Street during the 1980s. The plaza and building are connected by a covered escalator and a circular flight of stairs.

While the plaza at 601 West Hastings Street was intended as a gathering place, it doesn’t attract a lot of people. That’s according to documents submitted to the city by B+H Architects on behalf of the property owner, Morguard, a company with a real-estate portfolio in Canada and the U.S. valued at over $15 billion.

Perceived as “unsafe especially at night”, the plaza is “very underutilized” except during lunchtime “on the nicest of days”, the rezoning application notes.

“There’s not a really good reason to go there,” James Vasto, a principal with B+H Architects, told the Straight in a phone interview on March 13. “Sitting isn’t comfortable. There’s very little retail. There’s one little sushi shop, and not much to do there.”

Compared to the sunlit plaza at 1100 Melville Street, 601 West Hastings Street feels cold, especially with its metal benches and tiled seating areas. According to Vasto, the domed court was “fine” for a while, but the city has outgrown it.

“It doesn’t have great views. It is sort of an odd space, a leftover space,” the architect said.

Vasto said that the new office development will “rejuvenate” the area.

The plan involves a “large public space” serving as a “focal point around which the tower evolves and responds”, the rezoning application states. The base of the tower will be carved away, allowing as much light as possible to enter the plaza. There will also be ground-level retail.

In addition, the proposed development includes 102 parking spots and 78 bicycle spaces underground.

Across West Cordova Street to the north of 333 Seymour and 601 West Hastings is Waterfront Station, the terminus of the SkyTrain’s three lines, West Coast Express, and SeaBus.

The Urban Design Panel, which advises the City of Vancouver on rezoning and development applications, unanimously supported the project in a meeting last November.

Vasto expects the development to be in its permit phase around this time next year.

When it’s completed, Atkin might add the new plaza to his favourite spots to hang out.

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Vancouver city council approves Marpole plan

A 30-YEAR PLAN FOR the Marpole community was approved unanimously by city council Wednesday (April 2), after more than two dozen members of the public signed up to speak to the strategy.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight

City staff told council the document includes plans for 6,800 new homeownership units, 835 rental units, and 1,085 units of social housing. It also calls for expanded park space, including a new 10-acre park near the Fraser River, enhanced walking and cycling routes, and upgraded community facilities.

Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal noted the plan has “evolved significantly” since the beginning. An earlier draft of the strategy resulted in neighbourhood protests last year.

“There were some changes made since those June and July meetings that people were asking for, and tonight there were some concerns expressed, but overall, people are supporting the plan, and that’s huge,” she told the Straight by phone.

“I think it’s a great example of community consultation that went through a rocky part and then, thanks to the dedication of community and staff, found its way back.”

Marpole resident Albert Leung told council he supports the plan “with reservation in several areas”, including a concern for increased traffic on arterial roads from densification in the community.

Wendy Cosby said there is “still much work to be done”, including establishing a location for an upgraded community centre—a concern echoed by Marpole Residents Coalition spokesperson Mike Burdick.

“The community centre upgrade is one of the key components that needs to be dealt with,” he told council. “You cannot move this building. This building is the centre of the community. We own the land. It needs to be renewed, there’s no doubt about it. It could have a library attached to it—that would be great. But it needs to be where the children are who are probably the biggest users of the community centre.”

Another issue raised by some speakers, including Burdick, was the creation of affordable housing as part of the plan.

“Not one person I have talked to…has been able to clearly give me a definition of affordable housing,” he said. “Who are they affordable to? That’s the key issue.”

While many community members spoke in support of the revised version of the strategy, resident Don Larson called the density planned for the neighbourhood “outrageous”.

“This is not the Marpole that I grew up in,” he told councillors.

Deal said city staff will update council in five years on implementation of the plan. Consultation processes will be launched on the community amenities, including the neighbourhood house, community centre, and library, and on the Fraser River park.

“It’s one of the first neighbourhoods in the city,” she stated.

“The Fraser is the real first waterfront in the city of Vancouver, and I think it’s about time we started paying more attention to the Fraser River side of the city, and Marpole’s a great example of that.”

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