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Vancouver City Hall gets greener

Aug, 13 2006 - 10:40 AM

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) - The City of Vancouver wants to produce less gas.

Literally.

Vancouver City Hall and its offices are being renovated to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It's part of the city's Corporate Climate Change action plan.

The retrofits included new lighting, water saving measures and replacing a boiler from 1936.

The city says the renovations will save over 100,000 dollars a year and keep more than 300 tonnes of greenhouse gases out of the air.

The city has contracted Ameresco Canada to complete the renovations which are to be finished in December.

The upgrades are expected to cost about 2 million dollars.

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SkyTrain platform barrier too pricey, TransLink says

By Jeff Nagel Black Press

Aug 04 2006

There’s not much more that can be done to keep blind passengers from falling on to SkyTrain tracks without spending tens of millions of dollars, a TransLink spokesman says.

Drew Snider was speaking after an accident Monday at Vancouver’s 29th Avenue Station, where a visually impaired rider was injured after making a wrong turn and falling in front of a moving train.

“He teetered at the brink and went in just as the other train was arriving,” said Snider, describing video images captured by TransLink cameras.

He said installing clear barriers that would run the length of each platform, allowing passengers to only walk where SkyTrain doors open, would be tremendously expensive.

“It’s measured in the millions of dollars per station,” he said. “It was a decision of TransLink a few years ago the money would be better spent on other areas of safety.”

Part of the challenge is the fact different-sized SkyTrain cars and different lengths of trains mean the doors don’t open in consistent spots.

Blind patrons have fallen on the tracks before but only three have actually been hit by a moving train, Snider said.

“It’s been a relative handful when you consider we’re pushing up around a billion rides now on SkyTrain,” he said.

He said TransLink installed yellow tactile strips near the edge of each platform in 2004 at a cost of $5 million after consulting with advocates for the visually impaired. The tactile strips help blind passengers with canes determine when they’re within half a metre of the edge, he said.

A new strategy on accessible transit is coming to TransLink’s board in the fall, he said; that will roll out more initiatives, not just for the physically disabled but also for passengers with language challenges – such as tourists and new immigrants.

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I really wonder how will they ever install these barriers, if they would. The different door locations (different trains) would pose a very difficult design.

Until the day we see our whole fleet as Mark II's........but by then there might be a Mark III rolling out of the factories. O_O

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wtf..... we will never see that. Besides, there is no need of the barriers for now. Until we see most platforms crouded with people, then fine. Maybe these barriers are good for the disabled and visually impared, but for now before we ever install these barriers, employ more Transit Police and SkyTrain staff on the platforms for security, for fare-envasioners, and for the visually impared

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wtf..... we will never see that. Besides, there is no need of the barriers for now. Until we see most platforms crouded with people, then fine. Maybe these barriers are good for the disabled and visually impared, but for now before we ever install these barriers, employ more Transit Police and SkyTrain staff on the platforms for security, for fare-envasioners, and for the visually impared

Well eversince SkyTrain opened in 1986, there have been 38 deaths. 27 have been suicides and the rest, including the accident last week, have been accidents where people were accidentally bumped into the tracks or were drunk and fell in or were not feeling well and fell in or dropped something and tried to pick it up and were electrocuted/hit by a train or were visually impaired/disabled.

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CBC realizes a real-estate reality

Proceeds of parking-lot sale will pay for renovations to centre

John Bermingham

Province

Friday, August, 18, 2006

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CBC is making its own version of reality-TV these days, converting its Vancouver real estate into a lucrative cash cow.

The Mother Corp. has sold off the staff parking lot at its downtown building at 700 Hamilton to Concord-Pacific for approximately $34 million. The downtown developer's plan is to build two highrise towers on a TV theme.

CBC will use the revenue to fund a new Vancouver Production Centre for its 550 employees, at a time of scarce federal support for the "corp."

Construction has just begun with a scheduled completion in 2009.

"What we were looking for were offers to sell our density and airspace rights to that property, to allow condo development, " said Ken Golemba, CBC's project manager yesterday. "In return, we would get money which we would use to renovate our 32-year-old facility."

Access to the plaza will be switched from Hamilton Street to 775 Cambie next month.

Plans call for integration of all television and radio operations into a single, three-storey newsroom.

Golemba said it will make staff more effective and better able to swap digital information, working from a common assignment desk.

The project will also showcase several public features:

-A promenade, so that people can watch the newsroom at work.

-A 4,000-square-foot plaza, featuring a courtyard garden and outdoor stage.

-8,500 square feet of community space for non-profit uses.

Project architect Kate Gerson said the look will be glassy, with the newsroom standing at Georgia and Hamilton.

"We're doing our best to not hide the existing building, but certainly liven it up," said Gerson, of Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden.

"We're completely redoing the plaza, and adding the glassy newsroom on top of the new plaza. You'll be able to see the activity going on in there."

It's also something of a branding fit with the Concord-Pacific Group, which is calling its buildings TV One and TV Two.

David Negrin, senior vice-president development, said it's been a nice fit of downtown living with a TV-broadcast theme.

"What was really important for us was to tie it into the newscast theme, which we thought would appeal to younger people and middle-aged people," he said.

Ground-breaking on the condo towers, which both face onto Robson Street, begins next week.

The 21-storey and 31-storey towers are nearly all pre-sold, with only 60 units remaining out of 450.

Move-in is planned for 2008.

"I think it's worked very well for both parties," said Negrin. "It's been a great fit. The CBC theme is the biggest thing about the project."

"People always see that as one site," he added. "We wanted to keep that, so the towers tie into the actual architecture of the CBC."

The union representing CBC workers said it's been a longtime strategy at the corporation to convert its real-estate holdings into operating dollars.

Similar overhauls have already been done in Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton.

But what's seen as the salvation for the broadcaster has ended up squeezing staff into smaller working-spaces that resemble call-centres.

"They've had a policy of squashing employees into as little square-footage as possible," said Canadian Media Guild president Lise Lareau.

"At a certain point it's a false economy," she said. "There's nothing wrong with getting money, especially when money isn't flowing from the feds, but they've gone too far in many cases."

© The Vancouver Province 2006

the new parkette looks quite nice too. this area faces hamilton right across the street from the library

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Construction on TV Towers will start next week.

Construction on TV Towers will start next week and facility renovations as well as tower construction would finish in the fall of 2009.

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More renderings and info: [url=http://www.cbc.ca/bc/photogallery/vrp/]http://www.cbc.ca/bc/photogallery/vrp/[/url

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Pictures of YVR Airport terminal expansion, 600,000 square feet.

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TransLink adding more buses

August 24, 2006 - 7:37 am

By: Treena Wood/Province

LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS1130) - It will be easier to catch a bus around the Lower Mainland by the end of the year. TransLink is adding 200 more buses, the most comprehensive bus service expansion since TransLink came into being in 1999. A late night bus service to SFU is also planned, along with beefed-up service to UBC. It's all in response to a big increase in transit users. Ridership jumped 24% on buses and Skytrain between 2002 and 2005, which is the largest increase in the country.

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President's Perspective - Happy Birthday, YVR

On July 22, 2006, Vancouver International Airport celebrated its 75th birthday. All of us at YVR have much to be proud of and reason to celebrate. Since 1931, YVR has grown from a small, one-runway airport into one of the world's premier gateways.

The airport's opening year was also an important one for aviation; it marked the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean, from Samushiro Beach, Japan, to Wenatchee, Washington. The trip took 41 hours in a Bellanca Skyrocket. Today, a trip from YVR to Japan takes less than 10 hours and there are more than 250 transpacific flights to and from our airport each week.

Linking Asia with North America has always been a key part of the gateway strategy at YVR. In 1931, opening day leaflets proudly proclaimed Vancouver the "Hub of the World's Air Trails," and spoke of a future in trade with "the Orient and the countries bordering the Pacific Ocean."

Today, 75 years later, that vision has been realized. We are the closest point to Asia of all the airports on North America's West Coast and we handle the second largest volume of international passengers.

In 1931, about 2,650 people used the airport for sightseeing flights over Vancouver and another 500 or so passengers arrived on flights from other points. Today, we serve more than 16 million passengers a year and approximately 110 destinations. The impact of the gateway strategy on B.C. and our local communities has grown with the airport.

Airports are centres of tourism and trade, and by connecting businesses and people, they stimulate direct and indirect economic activity, the effects of which ripple into the surrounding communities, the region and the province. In 2005, InterVISTAS Consulting conducted a study to measure the economic impact of YVR and found that the airport generates $6.8-billion in total economic output.

Sounds impressive, but what does it mean? In a word, jobs; 26,700 of them related directly to the airport. Pursuing a gateway strategy generates additional employment at YVR: every 1,000 origin-destination passengers generate 3,300 hours of employment, while every 1,000 passengers from Asia who connect at YVR generate 4,900 hours of additional employment as a result of the connecting flight.

YVR is not only a significant employment generator in its own right; it also acts as a facilitator of provincial job creation. Many industries throughout the province depend on the airport to market, deliver goods and provide services to their customers. Looking to the future, the 10-year capital program now underway is expected to generate 5,200 person-years of employment and $525-million in direct GDP.

In celebrating the airport's 75 birthday, we can be proud of YVR's important role in the local economy and the benefits it provides for the communities we serve.

YVR: Where Sea Meets Sky

Aquarium.jpg

As part of YVR's nine-gate International Terminal expansion, we are bringing the sea to the sky.

Continuing upon the Airport Authority's distinctive design tradition, the new wing will celebrate the spectacular nature of the Pacific West Coast with a Land, Sea and Sky theme.

Leading up to the new aircraft gates will be a stream running through the centre of the building spanned by several footbridges and flanked by benches, vegetation and rocks, contributing to the feeling of being in B.C.'s great outdoors. At one end of the creek will be a sculpture by B.C. artist Dempsey Bob, Creek Woman.

At the other end of the creek will be a 114 cubic litre (30,000 U.S. gallon) aquarium and a jellyfish tank. This exhibit will feature rockfish, sea aneones, star fish and a variety of local fish. The jellyfish tank will house 100 moon jellyfish, a colourful umbrella-shaped species which can grow up to 18 inches in diameter.

For many visitors from around the world, YVR is the first and final impression they have of B.C. That is why the Airport Authority spends two per cent of capital costs on creating an experience for our customers. Tourism is a major economic generator for the province, so we want to encourage passengers to return and continue exploring the region's remarkable leisure opportunities and scenery.

YVR stands as a testament to British Columbia's rich cultural heritage and rugged beauty. By creating an aesthetically pleasing environment, we are able to offer our passengers a peaceful travel experience, reduce stress and improve our overall level of customer service.

The feature is one aspect of the $420-million, nine-gate International Terminal expansion. To accommodate growing passenger traffic, and the newer, larger aircraft of the future, we are growing. Phase one of the expansion, scheduled to be completed in spring 2007, will add four gates, two of which will accommodate the new Airbus A380. The second phase, an additional five gates, could be completed as early as 2010.

The expansion is part of a $1.0-billion construction program, whose major projects are expected to generate 5,200 person-years of employment, 1,500 construction jobs and $525-million in direct GDP.

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Gastown attraction in financial trouble

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/...c-storyeum.html

An underground Vancouver entertainment complex has won protection from creditors while it undergoes financial restructuring.

Storyeum cost $22 million to build, opening its doors for business in the Gastown neighbourhood in June 2004.

Much of the facility, a combination theatre-museum the size of six NHL hockey rinks, is located five storeys below the cobbled streets of the tourist-oriented area.

It was designed to handle up to 2,000 customers at a time.

David Gray, who has been appointed as Storyeum's trustee, says it is not bankrupt and that it's business as usual.

However, Gray also says that the attraction "has never been profitably capitalized. And it's never really had enough money to do the kind of marketing that it should to be successful.

"So as a result, although it's had lots of people through its doors, the revenues have never been sufficient to cover all the creditors in full. And they've had to look to other people to provide funding."

Gray says Storyeum has until the middle of next month to either file a financial proposal or seek an extension from the court.

He notes both Birks and Air Canada have sought similar protection from creditors and are still in business.

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August 28, 2006 | Translink News Release

Would the last bus to leave OTC please turn out the lights?

One era ends and another begins over Labour Day Weekend, as the Oakridge Transit Centre (OTC), home of Vancouver’s trolley bus fleet for over half a century, retires from active service. For more than three generations of Vancouverites, the destination sign “41st & Oak” has meant that a bus is going home to bed. But over the long weekend, a convoy of trolleys and other buses will make the trip to their new home at the new multi-million dollar Vancouver Transit Centre in Marpole.

The transfer of the buses coincides with the largest overhaul of Coast Mountain Bus schedules and routes since TransLink came into being in 1999.

“This is truly an historic event,” says TransLink Chair Malcolm Brodie. “The Oakridge Transit Centre has been the headquarters for bus service in Vancouver since the very first trolleys arrived almost sixty years ago. TransLink’s plan to deliver more transit service throughout the Greater Vancouver region has involved buying more buses and increasing the fleet. Along with that expansion comes the need for newer and bigger facilities, like the new Richmond Transit Centre, which we opened in 2000, the new Vancouver Transit Centre now coming on line and our plans for a new and bigger operations centre on the North Shore.”

Brodie says the Oakridge Centre will remain in use for a while longer as the preparation site for TransLink’s fleet of 224 new low-floor electric trolleys, which will gradually replace the existing fleet over the coming year.

While the relocation will start early Saturday morning, Sept. 2, a parade of buses will leave Oakridge at noon. The event will be a parade in every sense, led by one of the original 1948 Canadian Car/Brill trolleys, which was part of the new fleet that was first to call the Oakridge Centre ‘home’ when it opened 58 years ago. Other vintage buses will also be part of the procession, along with one of the new generation New Flyer trolleys.

With the trolleys rounding the turn for the last time at 41st & Oak, the parade presents a delightfully visual and historic occasion. The route will follow 41st Ave. west to Oak, south on Oak to Marine Drive, then left on Hudson Street and into VTC. Transit buffs will find some excellent vantage points along the way: the most desirable photo location would be a spot at or near 41st & Oak, with OTC in the background.

The vintage buses that will be on display have been lovingly preserved for about 20 years by The Transit Museum Society (TRAMS), sponsored in part by TransLink and the Coast Mountain Bus Company. The vintage coach will be in the livery of the BC Electric Railway Company, which originally operated public transit in Greater Vancouver, and will be driven by Angus McIntyre, who operated the Brill buses when they were still in service. Angus is one of about 50 active Coast Mountain operators now beginning a “fourth generation” of trolley buses in Vancouver. In fact, he recently gained the distinction of having driven a vintage Brill for TRAMS, a current New Flyer trolley on the job and a new trolley in training on the same day.

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August 31, 2006 - 14:10 PM

YVR'S INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL EXPANSION EXTERIOR COMPLETED

Vancouver International Airport Authority celebrated the completion of the exterior of the first phase of the International Terminal's nine-gate expansion today as the final piece of glass was installed, completing the wall and enclosing the building.

The $200-million, 29,958 square metre building is the cornerstone of the Airport Authority's $1.0-billion construction program and will feature the first four gates. The building has been under construction since June 2005 and will be completed and operational by spring 2007.

"With the completion of the exterior of this building, YVR is one step closer to realizing its gateway potential," said Bob Cowan, Airport Authority Senior Vice President, Engineering. "When the first phase of the expansion is complete we will be better able to meet the travel needs of British Columbians and remain a significant economic generator for our region and province."

Currently, the capacity of the International Terminal is at its maximum during peak travel times. Phase one will ease the strain on facilities and will accommodate future needs and expected growth. By 2010, YVR is expected to serve 21 million passengers.

The building was constructed from 4,300 tonnes of steel and will house new waiting areas, duty-free shops, services, restaurants and dining areas. Leading up to the new aircraft gates, two of which will be able to accommodate the Airbus A380, will be a stream running through the centre of the building, contributing to the feeling of being in B.C.'s great outdoors. At the end of the creek will be a 114-cubic-litre aquarium and a jellyfish tank. The aquarium will feature sea life native to British Columbia and the jellyfish tank will house 100 moon jellyfish.

Ray Zibrik, President of YVR Project Management, the subsidiary company responsible for overseeing the project, recognized the dedication of hundreds of people in completing the building. "I am proud to report that this portion of the project was completed ahead of time and under budget. I would like to thank all of the workers, engineers and designers on this project for their hard work and dedication and congratulate them on meeting this goal."

The project was funded through a combination of airport revenue sources, including retail sales, airplane landing fees and the Airport Improvement Fee. The $1.0-billion construction program is expected to generate 5,200 person-years of employment and $525-million in direct GDP.

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Injection site gets extension

Ottawa gives Insite more time, but more questions need to be answered

Heather Travis, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, September 02, 2006

VANCOUVER I The federal government is giving Vancouver's supervised injection site another 16 months to prove itself as an effective way to fight drug addiction.

Insite will remain open until Dec. 31, 2007 to give federal health authorities more time to conduct further studies, federal Health Minister Tony Clement announced late Friday afternoon.

Without the extension, it would have closed Sept. 12.

"Do safe-injection sites contribute to lowering drug use and fighting addiction?" Clement said in a news release announcing the extension. "Right now the only thing the research to date has proven conclusively is drug addicts need more help to get off drugs."

Because the much-anticipated announcement came late in the day at the start of a long weekend, a time politicians often use to bury news, opposition politicians and members of the medical community who have been fighting to keep the site open, continued to have concerns about the site's ultimate survival, and what they infer as government mistrust of research already conducted.

Site advocates had been seeking a three-year extension to September 2009.

"Are they trying to slip something under the radar?" asked NDP MP Libby Davies, whose Vancouver East riding is home to Insite, which is located in the Downtown Eastside. "We have done lots of research . . . why do we need to do more?"

Davies says the last-minute announcement suggests the federal government is not fully on board with the experimental project.

The call for more research just buys more time for the government to find an excuse to close down the site, said Davies. "We have to be very worried that they want to do more research."

Former federal health minister and Liberal Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh was also suspicious of the announcement.

"I'm shocked and disappointed at what appears to be a cynical approach by [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper," said Dosanjh.

"We don't need to do more research. The research is here."

Doctors say they have provided sufficient information to ensure continued support of the site.

Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and president-elect of the International AIDS Society, said the government asking for more research tells him it doesn't trust the research he and his fellow physicians have already conducted.

"They are saying that our research is not sufficiently at arm's length," says Montaner. "One can only worry if there is an ideological or morally-based argument . . . to say we can't live with it [the research]."

While Montaner says he is happy the site will remain open another year, he has strong reservations about some of the issues implied in Friday's announcement.

"We are not talking about people with light drug addictions," he said. "We are very strong supporters of the four pillars approach."

The safe-injection site is only one part of the harm reduction strategy that needs to be addressed by the federal government, according to site operators.

"Obviously this is good news," said Mark Townsend, community worker with the Portland Hotel Society, one of the groups operating the site. "But it is not just about a supervised injection site."

Townsend hopes further inspection by the federal government will open the window for other harm-reduction programs, such as pre-tox beds, which are made available to drug users waiting for space in detox clinics.

He also hopes federal representatives, including Harper, will visit Insite to witness first-hand the part it plays in reducing crime and preventing drug-related illness and death.

Mayor Sam Sullivan, a strong advocate of Insite, said he was extremely pleased with the announcement and is looking forward to showcasing the city's innovative approach to treating drug addiction as part of his commitment to reducing crime and disorder by 2010.

"It shows the federal government has listened to the community," said Sullivan. "I really do believe [Harper] wants to understand the problem and is open to new ideas."

"It gives us time to make the case to Ottawa for why we need a new approach to fight drug addiction."

The Vancouver police department also issued a statement in support of the announcement to extend the site's operations.

However, prior to Friday's announcement, police chiefs at the Canadian Police Association convention in Victoria urged the government to "cease all financing of the supervised injection site program and invest in a national drug strategy to combat drug addiction which includes education, prevention and treatment."

Along those lines, Clement said in his release that he would be working with the justice and public-safety ministries as well as the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse to implement a new national drug strategy that will put greater emphasis on programs that reduce drug and alcohol abuse.

Until such a strategy is in place, the release said, the government would not entertain any more applications for supervised injection sites elsewhere in Canada.

htravis@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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Downtown's Last Resort

A Critique of the Last 20 Years of Vancouver's Approach to Downtown Living Asks Some Difficult Questions About Where the Future Lies for Canada's Ocean Playground.

Trevor Boddy | August 2006

That downtown Vancouver is home to one of the grandest experiments in Canadian urbanism is now beyond question. No city in this country--not Toronto when it lined Bay Street with banking towers, not Montreal in its pre-EXPO optimism, not even Calgary during its last oil boom--has remade its core so radically, in so short a time. Whether this experiment will prove a long-term success is very much in question.

While the planners, developers and politicians most closely associated with the city-transforming 1991 Downtown Plan have been quick to sing their own praises, and a compliant Vancouver and national press have generally sung along to the same tune, there are now growing worries about the fate of the glittering glass and concrete downtown it has produced. In over two decades, the downtown's population has doubled to nearly 100,000 residents. But over the same period, only nominal residential growth has been seen in the adjacent West End and nearly all other Vancouver neighbourhoods. Our politicians are loathe to extend the densification they trumpet so loudly in the downtown to the areas that need it most.

Ninety percent of the nine million square feet of new towers approved in downtown during this decade have been condos. Downtown is heading towards a fate as a dormitory suburb (transit ridership projections have more people leaving the core than coming in each morning, and downtown traffic levels and commute times have been reduced) while new employment continues to locate in suburban fringes ill-served by transit. Rising suburb-to- suburb traffic levels prompted the provincial government under Gordon Campbell to undertake its current binge of bridge-building and perimeter highway construction, foolishly replicating the energy-wasting urban form of nearby Seattle, and other American cities, and contradicting the radial nature of our mass transit system serving downtown jobs and retail.

The stark reality is that one-third of Vancouver's head-office jobs left the city during the past six years, whereas Calgary has seen an increase of 64 percent. Never much of a head-office town, the bias of Vancouver planners towards condos means that it may soon not be a town for offices at all. First, eight million square feet of potential office space in the former downtown service area of Downtown South was re-zoned "housing optional." This area is now nearly completely developed--as condos and condos alone. Next to go "condo" were the heritage buildings in Yaletown and Gastown that once hosted design, media and software companies. Developers then turned towards office tower sites in the commercial core of the "Golden Triangle" bounded by Georgia and Granville Streets and Coal Harbour. Given the promotion of housing over all other uses by Vancouver planners, you can hardly blame developers: Westbank Corporation's Ian Gillespie estimates economic return for condos in Vancouver is now five times that of new office buildings, the highest such skew in any North American city. Land brokers confirm that downtown land has not been priced for office use for at least five years, but Vancouver is only now having a public debate about downtown's future.

A revealing example is the fate of Rhone and Iredale's 1969 West Coast Transmission Tower on Georgia Street, recipient of many engineering awards for its Bogue Babicki and Associates-designed cable-hung forms, converted recently into condos and renamed "The Qube." Many more of downtown's dwindling stock of towers would have met the same fate, had City Council not slapped a moratorium on such conversions last year. Although hard to grasp for many planners--especially Americans or Canadians in slow-growth cities--too much housing may be killing peninsular downtown Vancouver, especially the mono-form, mono-class, crank-the-handle towers of recent years.

West Coast architects have long groused about the top-down imposition of housing typologies, the arbitrariness of discretionary approvals, and the continuing postmodernist stylistic bias of Vancouver's senior planners. Bing Thom was one of the first to publicly decry the shift to a downtown future as a "resort," not a true metropolis. At the recent World Planners Congress here, he went on to call too many of our condo towers "vertical gated communities," noting that street life is not what one would expect at North America's highest residential densities, especially in the toniest of these new zones, Bayshore and Coal Harbour. After touring Vancouver for three days for "A Dialogue of Cities,"--an international symposium discussing urban trends here and globally--eight architecture critics from five continents came to much the same conclusion. However, Vancouver's recently departed co-director of planning Larry Beasley defends the suburban values of predictability, cleanliness and lack of architectural variety in the high-rise zones shaped by his "Living First" strategy, arguing that a key motor of Vancouver's downtown success is making itself attractive to those who grew up in urban fringes.

Then there are questions about the nature of these new downtown residents. Planners portray them as mountain-biking software and computer game developers, walk-to-work denizens of the postmodern economy--but there is just as much contrary evidence that many of the new residents are a golden global class temporarily parking their investment dollars, linked with a huge cohort of Canadian baby boomers planning to spend their final years in Vancouver, shaping a Penticton with point towers. Estimates are that one-quarter of downtown purchasers are international speculative investors and another quarter are Canadian non-residents who rent out their apartments, Vancouver's only new source of rental housing in a decade. These mainly young renters give downtown its current air of diversity. But soon after the arthritis kicks in for their greying landlords, these cultural creatives will get booted out. Even worse, the social diversity that was a hallmark of False Creek South is proving difficult to duplicate downtown, and not just because of the loss of federal social-housing subsidies. Perhaps the most damning indictment of Vancouver's planners is their policy-driven intensification of the Downtown Eastside's shameful slum. Like Rio de Janeiro--Vancouver's only rival for the world's most beautiful setting--they have condoned a high- density favela for drug dealers and the indigent beside a glamourous beach-ringed high-rise zone that is home to the middle class and the wealthy.

Nearby, the first phase of the Southeast False Creek development--home to the 2010 Olympics Athletes' Village--was bought last spring at double the highest previous price ever paid for downtown land. Its developers were eyeing the international and not the local market for the new global commodities: condos in resort towns. I predict it will not be long until condos in what I call the "Portal Cities"--Vancouver, Dubai, Hong Kong, Panama City and Miami--are traded on stock exchanges like commodities. Leading this trend is the extremely influential and political condo super-marketer Bob Rennie-topping Vancouver magazine's 2005 list of most influential Vancouverites. As a society we may come to regret a scene in which 15 percent of the cost of new housing goes to marketing, but only five percent goes to all design fees. With the exception of a token condo tower by Arthur Erickson for Concord Pacific, Vancouver's finest architects are largely conspicuous by their absence in the downtown boom.

What is happening in downtown Vancouver is unprecedented in North America--a diverse downtown, in times of wealth and growth, changing itself into a residential area. Detroit emptied itself out, but planners have had to come up with the awkward language of "de-downtownification" to describe Vancouver's manic turn to condos over downtown jobs. Toronto and other Canadian cities have relocated downtown functions as they have evolved, but as a peninsula surrounded by water and Stanley Park, Vancouver has no such geographic option. The nearly three million people of the Lower Mainland may be losing their opportunity to join the ranks of the great world cities--I have little confidence that Richmond, Burnaby or Vancouver's off-peninsula inner ring will ever achieve metropolitan density.

To an astonishing degree, the changes in downtown Vancouver are tied to the fads and fancies of architectural, economic and cultural theory over the past few decades. Postmodernism--in its stylistic, socio-economic and cultural modalities--is the idea-set which has produced downtown Vancouver as resort. The easiest visual clue to this is the plannerly bias towards ersatz historic references for new buildings and streetscapes. The1991 plan and its updates promoted Art Deco roofs and "Chateau Chapeaux" as caps on condo towers, while city urban designers mandated a pale imitation of Bath's Royal Crescent for the foot of Richards Street.

More worrisome than this is the glib promotion of postmodern urbanism and economics by our city builders, validating lifestyle before the creation of wealth, pumping the visual markers of the "Creative City" over the more difficult and important investments in affordable housing and cultural institutions that would actually make a creative city happen. At a recent RAIC panel on urbanism, Calgary architect Marc Boutin described the new downtown Vancouverites as totally immersed in this promotional oversell, lost souls trying to find themselves through the self-congratulatory latte-and-rollerblade lifestyle they have bought into. This all started with Stanley Kwok's urban design for the first phase of Concord Pacific in the late 1980s. Kwok says its small-plate tall towers were dually inspired by Hong Kong's residential towers and tropical resorts like Waikiki--a cruelly apt choice!

Led by Las Vegas-born and -educated Larry Beasley, downtown planners were surprised by the relatively easy reception higher-density housing was receiving in Vancouver, as long as it was accompanied by significant public benefits. The resulting 1991 Downtown Plan is the Magna Carta of Vancouverism, the document proposing an urban design philosophy, an accompanying architectural typology, plus a massive re-zoning to transform much of the downtown peninsula into a residential zone. Discretionary approvals tightly controlled by senior planners--usually through social-bonus zoning--traded density for sometimes questionable public benefits, including mini-parks, historic building preservation, public art, construction of community facilities, contribution to a social housing fund, day-care provision, and so on.

The Vancouver high-density housing typology of small-plate high-rise on continuous townhouse base was codified at this time. A truly postmodern hybrid, the Vancouverist typology is deeply revealing of the planners and developers who concocted it, its form being a conflation of Hong Kong towers with New York brownstones. The argument was that the townhouses would serve families, but high prices mean that few with small children can afford them, and they are just as likely to be filled with empty-nesters. Beasley has long associated himself with the Congress for the New Urbanism, and engaged founder Andrés Duany for some key urban design work in South Vanvouver's East Fraserlands. Conversely, the New Urbanists have taken to claiming Vancouverism's Hong Kong-New York hybrid as the highest-density option for their own visual lexicon of urban forms. Despite this mutual admiration, even the schematic genealogy offered here indicates that Vancouverism has nothing to do with New Urbanism.

In its inception and initial implementation, Vancouver's 1991 Downtown Plan is one of North America's most visionary and inspired plans, on par with New York City's Zoning Resolution first passed in 1916 (substantially revised in 1961), and San Francisco's downtown initiatives under Alan Jacobs. What is currently Vancouver's problem, and may soon become the Lower Mainland's urban calamity is that these plans were not adjusted to changing conditions and realities. With the wholesale transformation of the city, what was necessary and inspired in 1991 had become ill-advised and outdated by 2001. As often is the pattern for large-scale shifts of planning policy, Vancouver's development industry resisted the principles of the plan for the first years, then came around to become its strongest supporters with the condo boom this decade.

Much of this accommodation to the development industry was accomplished through a lowering of Vancouver's already-low architectural standards. For example, the corner of Richards and Nelson Streets in Downtown South represents a particularly bleak concentration of the Beasley-era architecture of Vancouverism. First came Bosa Development's two-tower, voluted and otherwise postmodernized half-block complex, which received the unlikely name of the Mondrian because its height was bonused through inclusion of new art exhibition spaces for the Contemporary Art Gallery. With the ghosts of Dutch Constructivists quaking in their graves, the crudely banal Miro was built across the street, followed by the Gallery kitty corner. Linked by their almost complete absence of architectural art, the "Three Gracelesses" of the Mondrian, the Miro and the Gallery give permanent witness to the lack of striving for architectural excellence by typology-obsessed planners--while developers ironically accrued social status through Vancouver's art world, and not through the art of city-making.

Similarly, Vancouver's policy regarding the "View Cone"--an emphasis on views to the mountaintops from a dozen public spaces pales in comparison with what was really needed--the protection of views to the harbour along streets and stewardship of Vancouver's most important public space, False Creek. The ocean inlet has become a parking lot for 1,280 seldom-used yachts, and this transformation of False Creek into one big marina is an obvious cue about the new Vancouver few dare mention: our locking into a future as a resort for the wealthy and the aged. The cultural creatives our planners and developers love to boast about are crawling away from Terminal City, priced out and themed out by a converging city planning and urban development ethos that has traded away long-term urbanity to get short-term rewards.

Vancouver will survive indignities and lost opportunities even as enormous as those inventoried here. If we improve its architecture and shape its downtown into a place to work as well as live, Vancouver will resume its natural position as Canada's only chance at a world city. Montreal's mayor may call in UNESCO contacts to name itself, somewhat pompously, one of three "World Design Cities," and Toronto will be a long time admitting that its turn to "starchitects" over the past decade has resulted in a string of buildings that will only cement its decline from national metropole into a provincial striver. Whatever its failings, especially recently, Vancouverism has entered the argot of planners and architects worldwide--a status no other Canadian city developing planning ideas has ever known.

Vancouver will succeed--despite its resolutely lame mass media, the rewarding of its architectural bottom-feeders, its unsettling convergence of developers' and planners' pretensions--because of the depth of passion many of us invest in it. We have let the rhetoric of real estate supplant the craft and consciousness of city building, and a sharp recession is what will soon set things right. The bones of a great city are coming into place, and now we need time and public wisdom to put some flesh on it. Love-hate relationships are always signs of a love frustrated, and Vancouver is now ours to make or break.

Architecture critic Trevor Boddy (trevboddy@hotmail.com) is winner of the Alberta Book of the Year and Jack Webster Journalism prize for his writing on cities and buildings, and has taught architecture and urban design across Canada and around the world.

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Hundreds of millions for Vancouver

Arab company plans to develop hotels, marinas, condos and villas

Ashley Ford and Ethan Baron

The Province

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World, was in Vancouver yesterday for the grand opening of the company's expanded container facility at the foot of Main Street.

He said his company will send teams of people in the next few weeks to scout out opportunities to invest "hundreds of millions" of dollars in the development of hotels, marinas, condos and "villas."

"This place is very beautiful, its water, its mountains," said Bin Sulayem, 51. "Things that we have done in Dubai could be done here.

"We are both on the sea. Commerce is very important to us, as it is here. You have a very large Asian community here, same as Dubai.

"We have confidence in Vancouver and its investment climate. I believe Vancouver is a good place in which to invest."

Dubai World is the parent company of Dubai Ports World, whose $200-million investment in Vancouver's Centerm Container Terminal boosted its capacity from 360,000 containers per year to 800,000. DP World will continue to expand Centerm, spending more than $200 million to push capacity to 1.2 million containers a year.

The company also plans to develop warehousing and distribution operations to support Centerm.

State-owned DP World acquired Centerm as part of its $6.8-billion-US takeover of Britain's P&O Group in March. That takeover included operations at six major U.S. ports, including New York and Baltimore. The purchase sparked a political storm in the U.S. over post-9/11 fears about a Middle Eastern owner controlling key shipping sites.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said: "The question that needs to be answered is whether or not they [DP World] can be trusted to operate our ports in this post-9/11 world. Should we be outsourcing our own security?" DP World eventually bowed to pressure from Congress and announced it would shed its U.S. operations.

"We are businesspeople," Bin Sulayem said yesterday. "We decided to sell and do our business somewhere else."

Canada had no qualms about welcoming DP World's business. Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate's committee on national defence, told reporters "the folks in Dubai certainly are good allies."

B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, on hand for the Centerm opening yesterday, said Dubai World has operated around the globe for many years with "a record of confidence and professionalism and, thankfully, hands-off oversight of their operations."

Bin Sulayem is held in high regard worldwide as a financier, he said.

"I'm very, very comfortable with his investment in this country. We're very excited about the investment, and we're very excited about the confidence that Sultan Bin Sulayem is showing in Canada, and in British Columbia in particular."

DP World is the only transport and logistics company in the world to win certification to an international standard for security-management systems and operations from Lloyds Register Quality Assurance.

It now has a worldwide network of 51 terminals in 24 countries and five continents and has the capacity of moving a staggering 50 million containers annually.

Bin Sulayem also suggested his company would pursue other port-related investment. "Vancouver has considerable potential as a gateway terminal to Canada and also the U.S.," he said. "But more importantly, Vancouver is a destination port in itself, and we see demand for quality marine-terminal services. It will be easier for us in Vancouver because we are already here."

prov_news22_top_070906_210.jpg

CREDIT: Arlen Redekop, The Province

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World, announces at the Centerm Container Terminal in Vancouver yesterday that his company is putting millions of dollars into expanding the terminal.

A Middle Eastern company spurned by the United States is about to launch a Lower Mainland shopping spree worth hundreds of millions of dollars after investing $200 million in Vancouver's port.

aford@png.canwest.com

ebaron@png.canwest.com

- - -

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Tell us by e-mail at provletters@png.canwest.com, or by fax at 604-605-2223. Please include your name and address.

� The Vancouver Province 2006

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Vancouver to host Dalai Lama centre

Karen Gram, Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, September 07, 2006

Get Victor Chan talking about the unique aspects of the Dalai Lama centre he will bring to

Vancouver in three years and it's hard to stop him. Words flow like a river from the usually taciturn man who dreamed up the idea of the cultural institution in the vacuum following the Dalai Lama's visit in 2004.

You won't find this confluence of science, spirituality, community and culture under one zen-like roof garden anywhere else in the world, says Chan, a friend of the Dalai Lama and founding director of the centre.

In fact, once built, the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education will be the only physical facility to which the Dalai Lama has consented to lend his name.

Mayor Sam Sullivan, who will meet the Dalai Lama this morning, says he is very honoured that the spiritual leader chose Vancouver for the centre.

While dialogues, such as those happening this weekend, are an excellent means to propel ideas forward, the physical nature of the centre is essential to long-term sustainability and the ability of others to fulfil the Dalai Lama's mandate of educating the heart and nurturing peace, says Chan.

"The Dalai Lama is now 71 years old. Sooner or later he will retire, but the establishment of the centre will allow his ideas to flourish for a long time," he says.

At 4,645 square metres, bigger by about 800 square metres than the Vancouver Art Gallery's exhibition space, the centre will have an outdoor European-style piazza -- where people can gather for a bite to eat or a coffee -- a zen garden on the rooftop, plus a bookstore and library.

There will also be a film screening theatre, performing arts theatre and art gallery on site, all focusing on spiritual works.

Other studios will provide space for performing movements such as Tai Chi, and salon-type rooms for the public to discuss the ideas generated throughout.

Besides the films and performances, Chan envisions author readings and many lecture series including one for Nobel Peace Prize winners, but also with top scientists from around the world.

"This will be a place where a lot of things go on," says Chan from his office in the Continuing Education Centre at Simon Fraser University downtown. "Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, it will be a cultural and educational bazaar, if you will. A kind of beacon that attracts people from all walks of life to be stimulated intellectually and emotionally and to have a nice time doing it."

Chan says the centre can capitalize on the good friendships the Dalai Lama has developed over the last four decades; friendships with people like South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic.

The centre will have what Chan calls, the two wings of a bird. The global wing will highlight the Dalai Lama's powerful international connections, with guest speakers, support for interfaith dialogues and discussions on peaceful resolutions to conflicts.

It will also be very much rooted in the local community, he says, adding that half of the $60 million budget will go to operating costs, research, local programming and an endowment. The other half will go towards the centre construction and a meditative retreat on Bowen Island. The centre won't be a palace, but will be iconic and comfortable, he says.

"I have seen the Art Gallery of Ontario designed by Frank Geary and it's very iconic and flamboyant. But I don't need that flamboyance. I need spaces that are psychologically comfortable, where people will feel comfortable to strike up a conversation with other people so that we can talk about our challenges and discuss the ideas triggered by, for example, an author's reading."

Chan says he has not yet secured a site for the centre, nor hired an architect, but has considered Yaletown, Gastown and downtown. He has three offers on the table from private developers who would also benefit by getting density bonuses. He says, wherever it goes, he wants the site to have a close association with one of the city's universities.

He wants an architect who understands the Dalai Lama's desire to enhance people's abilities to connect with each other. Most of all, he wants a location to draw in pedestrians who pass by.

"So much of our life [in Western culture] is so structured, so premeditated," he says. "A lot of spontaneity is lost in our interaction with people. I want the centre to fulfil that role for people."

kgram@png.canwest.com

- - -

Principles from the Dalai Lama

On June 13, 2005, the Dalai Lama e-mailed his friend Victor Chan, from Sweden, outlining the principles on which a centre with his name should be based. This is what he wrote:

"I think, No. 1, promotion of human values. By birth, our emotional mind already has some of these good qualities -- qualities we need for our survival. Although these good qualities are there already, we usually neglect them. As a result, humanity faces unnecessary problems. What we need is more effort -- effort to sustain, effort to

further develop these values. The promotion of human values is of great importance.

The No. 2: promotion of human relations --regardless of differences in nationalities,

religious faiths, race, rich or poor, educated or not. We are all human beings. If I have some difficulties, and if I met someone, a stranger, then immediately he will offer to help me. We all depend on each other in

difficult circumstances. We don't ask who we are, what race we belong to, before we help.

So the recognition of oneness, the oneness of entire humanity, I think that's very important. And, in this modern time, very relevant. Artificial division creates unnecessary problems. Therefore, this second point: promote recognition of oneness of the entire humanity.

I think these two points together, we can call secular ethics. Secular means no discrimination, no difference between believers and non-believers. And when I use the word secular, it does not mean rejection of religion or faith.

In Canada, Canadian people and government officials refer to the native people as First Nation people. This is a good example of creating harmony to serve a common interest, to minimize division. In reality and in practice, there is so much diversity, not only nation to nation, but also within one nation. So harmony is very essential.

To sum up, the key concepts useful to define the goals of the Dalai Lama Centre are: one, the promotion of human values; and two, the promotion of a sense of oneness within humanity. These two ideas are very useful. They promote peace among different communities within one nation. And they are useful for shaping the long-term goals of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education in Vancouver, Canada."

Karen Gram

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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Bigger Aquarium will cost 32 trees, says report

Critics say the proposal 'chips away' at Stanley Park's valuable green space

Nicholas Read, Vancouver Sun

Published: Friday, September 08, 2006

VANCOUVER - A proposed plan to increase the size of the Vancouver Aquarium by 50 per cent would destroy 0.6 hectares of Stanley Park green space and require cutting down 32 trees, according to a technical report on the project prepared by the Vancouver park board.

The proposal is stirring up concern among some park board commissioners, who fear the project is "chipping away" at valuable land. Some of the trees that are slated to be chopped are more than 30 centimetres in diameter, including a Western red cedar that is more than 200 years old.

The report, which was posted on the Internet Thursday, said: "Of the green space, half is currently lawn, and the other half is currently areas with trees and plantings.

"About 60 per cent of the green space would be used for aquarium buildings and pools. About 40 per cent of the green space would be used for public open spaces (which will have hard surfaces), public washrooms and the new food service building."

The $70-million expansion, which was introduced to the board in May, would include building larger habitats for the aquarium's marine life, new underwater viewing areas, new facilities for animal care, two new indoor galleries, plus expanded food services and gift shop.

Park Board commissioners will consider the report at a meeting on Monday prior to sending it and the proposal out to public consultation this fall.

Ron Rothwell, the former president of the Friends of Stanley Park Society, called it a "massive intrusion" on the park.

"And it's placing a burden on Stanley Park in terms of the loss of green space," said Rothwell. "A huge error was made many, many years ago when [the park board] allowed the aquarium to locate there.

"What this should teach Vancouverites is that every time someone comes to you wanting public land for free, you should turn them down."

Vancouver Aquarium President John Nightingale wasn't available for comment Thursday, but aquarium public relations manager Brenda Jones said of the proposal: "For a lot of people [the aquarium] is considered a gem within Stanley park, and a lot of people, I think, would support our animals -- our marine mammals primarily -- getting larger, more diverse habitats."

Jones said despite the plan to build bigger dolphin and beluga pools, she did not expect the aquarium to acquire any more animals if the plan were approved.

"We don't have immediate plans for bringing in other animals."

COPE commissioner Spencer Herbert said the plan should go to a public referendum.

"From the beginning I said if we're going to take park space out of Stanley Park, we should put it to a referendum," Herbert said. "Vancouverites care about Stanley Park and don't take too kindly to the park board giving away park land.

"It's 1.5 acres, which in today's market is worth a lot of money, especially in such a location. I've always said a referendum makes sense."

Herbert added: "We need to be very sensitive about this. Maybe Vancouver will say sure, just give it away, but I doubt that very much."

In May, the Non-Partisan Association-dominated board voted 4-2 to rescind a 1995 park board decision demanding that any proposed aquarium expansion be put to a referendum first. (The 1995 board was also dominated by the NPA.)

Herbert and fellow COPE commissioner Loretta Woodcock plan to hold a press conference in Stanley Park at 10 a.m. this morning to show reporters just how big 1.5 acres is.

NPA commissioner Korina Houghton, who voted to rescind the requirement for a referendum, said Thursday: "We have to weigh the pros and concerns of the proposal, and that will come out in the public consultation. I'm looking forward to that.

"That being said, you do have to weigh the actual amount of land we're talking about in the context of Stanley Park. Stanley park is a huge area. Is it worth that reduction in green space and the removal of the trees, or is it not? I want to look at it more closely before I say."

NPA commissioner Allan De Genova, who angered fellow NPA commissioners when he insisted that a technical report be included as part of a public consultation, said he was concerned about the park's green space being lost.

"We're chipping away at it," he said.

De Genova also said he wanted to make sure that before the proposal was put to public consultation, any questionnaires it contained would be fair and not biased in favour of the aquarium.

"[Questionnaires] always lean towards how great everything is about the aquarium, and wouldn't you want to support something this great? That's wrong. They have to be fair and unbiased," said De Genova.

nread@png.canwest.com

- This story can be heard online after 10:30 a.m. today at www.vancouversun.com/readaloud.

- - -

AQUARIUM EXPANSION

Numbers below correspond with proposed changes to the Vancouver Aquarium.

1. Larger dolphin pools

2. Larger pools for sea lions and sea otters

3. Larger beluga whale pools

4. Entrance gallery

5. Educational gallery

6. New facilities for animal care

7. New main entrance

8. Expanded gift shop

9. Expanded food service in aquarium

10. New loading dock

11. Reorganized pedestrian pathways

12. Redeveloped public open spaces

13. Bill Reid sculpture

14. Locations for free public viewing of aquarium animals

15. Extension to the fish-bearing section of the salmon stream

16. New, larger and publicly accessible salmon hatchery

17. New public washrooms

18. New food service building

19. Reorganization of car and bus parking

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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Garden City exclusion bid fails

Darah Hansen, with files from Nelson Bennett, Richmond News, Vancouver Sun

Published: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Plans to turn a vacant piece of federally owned land in Richmond's urban core into a profitable mix of high-density housing and public amenities suffered a significant setback Monday at the hands of the Agricultural Land Commission.

In a letter published on its website, the commission announced it has rejected an application by Canada Lands Company (CLC) to remove the 55.2-hectare Garden City Lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve. Commissioners ruled the land is suitable for "agricultural use" and that no case of substantive community need was made to convince commissioners otherwise.

The decision could spell the end of a lucrative land deal reached in March 2005 by the CLC, the city of Richmond and Musqueam First Nation. Under the deal, Richmond agreed to pay $4.77 million for title to 50 per cent of the land, worth an estimated $200 million to developers. The city intended to use its share of the property to build sports facilities, parks and a $75-million trade and exhibition centre.

Both the Musqueam and the CLC, meanwhile, had plans to construct high-density residential towers on the remaining half of the property -- a deal worth about $100 million to each government.

"I'm very disappointed -- shocked actually," said Musqueam Chief Ernest Campbell of his reaction to the decision. "I never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen.

"The way we look at it, those [Garden City] lands were never, ever farmed and they probably never will be," he said.

Campbell said the band intended to use its share of the profits from the land deal to address housing, education and social needs of its 1,000-plus members.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the commission's ruling is a blow to the citizens of Richmond who, he said, were behind the application to exclude the property from the ALR.

"We are very disappointed as a city," Brodie said.

Only Harold Steves, a longtime Richmond councillor and strong proponent of the ALR, supported the commission's ruling. "I am immensely pleased," Steves said.

Steves said arguments to remove the land from the ALR were "weak," adding proponents of the exclusion plan should have learned a lesson from Barnston Island. In that case, an application to exclude 441 hectares of farmland was also rejected by the commission on the grounds that the applicant, a developer, failed to convince commissioners that suitable land for the development project could not be found elsewhere.

"Making money on property that is agriculturally viable is not one of the objects of the Agricultural Land Commission," Steves said.

Much like the Barnston developers, proponents of the Richmond deal failed to convince the commission that community need for development outweighed any agricultural potential of the land.

"They simply wanted to put housing on there to sell -- that's not a community need. You can use other land to do that," Steves said.

"I think the group just got too greedy," he said.

John Cummins, Conservative MP for Delta-Richmond East, also applauded the commission's decision.

"It brought a halt to what I thought was a bad deal for Richmond, a bad deal for British Columbia and a bad deal for Canada," Cummins said. "I commend them [the ALC] on what I think was a difficult decision."

The land deal that resulted in last year's memorandum of understanding among the three parties was negotiated under the federal Liberal government.

On Monday, Liberal MP for Richmond Raymond Chan, one of the architects of the deal, said the commission's ruling puts future development of the land in jeopardy.

"I don't know whether there is a second chance," Chan said.

Brian Underhill, director of strategic planning and corporate policy with the commission, said the "door is open" to another application to exclude the property. However, he suggested a more thorough community-needs analysis be conducted before coming back to the panel.

Both Brodie and Campbell said they aren't ready to give up on salvaging the deal, adding they will examine their options. Neither official said he would rule out taking legal action, if necessary.

Campbell said he was also interested in examining whether the federal government had any authority to exclude the land from the ALR on its own, similar to a deal struck under treaty negotiations between the Tsawwassen First Nation and the provincial government.

Under that deal, Tsawwassen will gain access to a valuable chunk of coastal farmland, being rezoned by the provincial government for industrial use to expand the Roberts Bank superport.

"I'm not sure that Canada can do the same thing. I'll have to find out," said Campbell in reference to the Richmond lands, which the band claims as traditional territory.

"We'll do everything we can, we'll put all our resources into fighting this," he said.

dahansen@png.canwest.com

ALR BATTLEGROUND

Officials and developers were told Monday that they could not remove a 55.2-hectare property from the Agricultural Land Reserve to develop a trade and exhibition centre, residential and mixed use, along with parkland and other public space.

0: Years the land was used for active farming

$9.54 million: Asking price under a federally negotiated Memorandum of Understanding with City of Richmond and Musqueam First Nation.

$200 million: Estimated value of the land if removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Current owners: Canada Lands Company CLC Limited

How the land was to be divided: 50 per cent to the City of Richmond, 25 per cent to the CLC and 25 per cent to the Musqueam Indian Band.

Estimated percentage of land to be set aside for Trade and Convention Centre: 15%

Estimated cost of Trade and Convention Centre: $75 million

Estimated loss of economic benefit to Musqueam: $50 million

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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Aquarium's plans to expand are awash in park board bafflegab

Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Vancouver Aquarium is anxious to get public input regarding an expansion plan that promises to make it a better venue for visitors, employees and the 70,000 creatures that reside there. But getting the politicians onside is like herding fish.

Park board commissioners voted Monday to disassociate themselves from a public consultation process that they themselves had initiated with the explanation that it was "too slick." Coalition of Progressive Electors Commissioner Loretta Woodcock explained that their decision to put the proposal in limbo and thereby jeopardize the entire project was not anti-aquarium: "It's anti-process."

What a load of poppycock. The consultation was slick all right. The Vancouver Aquarium was putting up $300,000 to hire professional communicators to make sure that every detail of the proposal was available to anyone who wanted to know about it through discussion guides, newspaper inserts, websites, power point presentations, e-mails, interviews, focus groups, stakeholder meetings, a public attitude survey and open houses where scale models would be on display. There would be work with teachers and input from academics and other technical experts. The process would provide multiple avenues for feedback.

Non-Partisan Association Commissioner Allan De Genova's incomprehensible criticism: "It needs to be more transparent."

COPE wants a referendum on the expansion, but mob rule is not the way to conduct a productive discussion on the proposal.

Vancouver Aquarium president John Nightingale says he's bewildered by the board's action -- or inaction. "I don't understand what they want," he said.

Nor do we. But we know what we want -- a bigger, refurbished aquarium that will offer even more enjoyment and education than the current facility can offer. The proposal, estimated to cost $70 million to $80 million, calls for larger pools for dolphins, belugas, otters and sea lions, new underwater viewing, two new galleries, new animal care facilities, a new main entrance, new meeting rooms and a larger gift shop and expanded food services. The free public viewing area will be replaced by three viewing areas with a combined length greater than the existing one; two of those will allow underwater viewing.

There has been something of a hue and cry about encroachment on green space in Stanley Park. But the sacrifice of some grass and trees must be kept in perspective. Of Stanley Park's 404 hectares, the existing aquarium occupies 1.2 hectares, or less than 0.3 per cent of the total area. The proposed expansion would add 0.54 hectares -- about 1.34 acres for those who haven't yet made the transition to metric. A good swath of the land to be redeveloped is the abandoned zoo site.

The so-called "footprint" of the aquarium on Stanley Park is the track of a squirrel rather than of a sasquatch. Think of the relationship of the aquarium to Stanley Park as a 38-square-centimetre canvas bag base on the typical 0.8 hectare baseball diamond.

Opposition to the expansion seems focused on trees that will be lost to accommodate it. But the controversy is based on a false reading of the proposal. It calls for retention -- not removal -- of 52 of 84 trees affected by the expansion. No conifers with tree diameters greater than 60 centimeters will be cut down and only two deciduous trees of that size will be lost. Most of the trees to be cleared have diameters under 30 centimetres. The proposal calls for replanting to replace some of those trees.

If not for political dithering, the consultation process would be well under way by now and there'd be an outside chance of meeting a projected completion date in the fall of 2009. As it stands, the Vancouver Aquarium doesn't know if the park board wants it to proceed or not. The board seemed to give it a green light, saying that the public consultation process must move forward. But then it put up a stop sign by withdrawing its sponsorship of the process. The Vancouver Aquarium is at the mercy of the park board. It needs clear direction from the commissioners. It's time for them to drop their drivel and deliver it.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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too many people agreeing and going against. in the states (which I'm not saying this country is better than Canada =P), this is less of a problem

I don't really think it has much to do with the number of people for or against it. It's the govt, at whatever level the issue concerns. They all seem to think that every single person needs to be able to have their say on the matter. Obviously everyone's opinion is important, but the city doesn't need to hear it if it's the exact same as the last 100 people... If there's two clear sides to an issue, the govt. needs to do what they're elected to do, make decisions. Not pussyfoot around the issue and delay it for multiple months so they can complete a few more studies and reports that will only lead to more controversy and disputes.

A perfect example is the Whitecaps stadium. If this were any other city, it would be in the process of being built right now, and would be ready for the FIFA WYC 2007. But as of now it looks like the absolute earliest possibility would be 2011.

Like right now they're doing the study to see if there's a possiblity that it's feasable. Then if it comes back and there is a chance that it could be doable, they'll do an actual feasability study, then after that they'll have to get approval to start making the plans, then they'll have to get those plans approved, then blah blah blah....etc And for each process the city will give the same nimby's the same chance to give their same arguements again and again and just like what happened in June/July, a decision that could've been made in one meeting will get dragged out over 2-3 weeks.

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