101 ways to improve Vancouver - Rebecca Blissett, June 9 2015, Vancouver Courier
Ringing cowbells and cheering on strangers who were out for their morning exercise sounded like good fun so that’s what Robyn Chan and a handful of her friends did Saturday morning along the Stanley Park seawall.
It was one of Chan’s big ideas for her contribution to the Vancouver portion of the 100in1Day festival, which was held for the second time in this city as part of a national community-building movement based around random merriment.
Chan, who is also the project lead for 100in1Day in Canada and works for the local branch of Evergreen, a not-for-profit environmental group specializing in livable cities, is pleased with the way Vancouver has taken to holding individual projects (or, as the group likes to call them, “interventions”) as a way of taking one small action to improve the city.
“It’s really great. The ideas are anything and everything — it’s anything that brings about positive change,” she said. “It’s really a social experiment.”
Residents in Vancouver and in other areas of the Lower Mainland participated by leading their own events that, Chan said, help transform the way people interact with the city. Some had stronger messages than others. Stacey Forrester and
Sarah Foot set up the Admiration Station at the Mount Pleasant Library where the idea was to compliment a stranger in a respectful manner. Others, such as the Silent Disco at Grandview Park where anybody could show up, sync playlists on their phones or MP3 players, throw on some headphones and dance, was about community connection.
Others, still, were historically and environmentally motivated such as the informative walk on St. George Street where a historic stream, one of many paved over as Vancouver grew, still flows underneath. The walk was lead by women who are part of Lost Rivers Vancouver, St. George Rainway Project and the False Creek Watershed Society.
“We want to use rainwater to bring life back to cities,” said landscape architect Sarah Primeau before walking down the street with the group that held long stretches of blue fabric between them to represent a stream.
100in1Day started three years ago in Bogotá, Columbia, when some students were asked to come up with six ways to promote civic engagement. While brainstorming ideas over beer, the students decided to tackle 100 instead, which, miraculously, ended up being 250. The idea spread to other cities around the globe and Metro Vancouver jumped on board with 83 events in different neighbourhoods last year. That figure grew to 105 this year.
It wasn’t just individual participants, either. One of the stations that worked up an all-day buzz was the Kensington branch of the Vancouver Public Library where the mechanical clacking of typewriter keys springing onto paper was enough to stop passersby. Much fuss has been made of the innovation lab and other technological advances at the central library of late, but there’s a tactile appeal to old-fashioned typing which falls somewhere between pen and parchment and letters electronically imprinted on dot-matrix paper.
“We’re promoting high-tech stuff but that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for this,” said Sarah Green, the VPL employee responsible for rounding up the three typewriters outside the library in a temporary living room featuring her own furniture from home.
“People have been expressing all day that they love how the typewriter sounds. It’s using a lot of senses and it sounds comforting.”
Vancouverites weigh in on False Creek Flats plans. Naoibh O’Connor, May 28, 2015, Vancouver Courier
Water drew Shahira Sakiyama to a City of Vancouver open house Wednesday afternoon, an event which launched the planning process for False Creek Flats. And not the water you get from a tap or a bottle.
“This is the historic site of the old False Creek, so I just wanted to see as this development takes place how they’re incorporating, honouring the historical site of the creek into the development that will be taking place, be it in green infrastructure or historical markers,” she said. “You know, there’s reference here to climate change and so in aiming to be the greenest city, how are they embracing how we’re going to be the bluest city?”
Sakiyama was one of dozens of people who flowed into the three-hour long open house as soon as it opened at 4:30 p.m. Visitors wanted to find out about the city’s plans and pitch their own ideas about what they’d like to see happen in an area that encompasses more than 450 acres.
About 8,000 people work in approximately 600 businesses in the flats, which are bounded by Main Street to the west, Prior and Venables streets to the north, Clark Drive to the east, and Great Northern Way to the south.
Rita Wong, who’s been working with Sakiyama on the St. George Rainway project, is equally interested in the future of the land. Wong noted there are about 50 different buried streams in Vancouver and St. George is one that flowed down into the False Creek Flats area.
“I would love to see reconstructed wetlands, daylighted creeks — you know to be working with water. Shahira talked about climate change and if we’re going to think ahead, we need to have resilient design that works with nature and not against it and is prepared for lots of water, as well as little water. This is a real opportunity. I hope it is a good process,” she said.
Rob Veerman stopped by to check out plans for things like the future hospital, greenways and bicycle routes, as well as how the area will be connected.
Veerman said many Vancouverites don’t know much about the flats because the area is not very accessible.
“Right now, the way I see it, the neighbourhood is really separated by the train tracks and if you, say, want to get from the Great Northern Way campus, the Emily Carr campus, to Strathcona Park, it’s very hard to get there,” he said. “You have to go all the way around Main Street or to Clark Drive just to get around the entire neighbourhood. There’s no way to cross the rail lines right now. So I’m interested in how the city is going to make the neighbourhood into more of a neighbourhood — make it more accessible to people: bikers, walkers, even cars.”
Sarb Mund, who owns Commissary Connect, a commercial kitchen located in the flats, said he’d like to see a central food hub with recycling alternatives.
Other open house visitors posted their thoughts on an 'I wish my flats had' board. Remarks included:
- famers market with commercial processing and eateries
- had a 'special innovation One' where regular zoning and bylaws did not apply — test new venture models/industry
- overpass from SkyTrain
- were more business friendly acknowledged
- revived indigenous cultures and practices
Brian Jackson, the city’s head planner, said there’s a lot of interest in the business community about False Creek Flats.
“They want to see it maintained for jobs. They’re interested in the kinds of jobs we’re trying to attract here, the type of density that we’re going to try to build into the new plan,” he said. “This is 450 acres of prime job space for the City of Vancouver for people who don’t want to be downtown but want to be close to downtown, and who like funky spaces and places that are still in the heart of downtown.”
Jackson said the city doesn’t want to put a strict timeframe on the plan, but it would like to move it forward in about a year. At this point, he said staff are listening to people, trying to understand what the issues with redevelopment are, and what the transportation requirements for the area are.
“We want to connect this area to the rest of the city,” he said.
The biggest challenge, according to Jackson, is keeping people focused on the fact this is a non-residential opportunity to provide job space.
“This is not about more condominiums. This is about the type of jobs that aren’t located in a downtown and looking at green jobs and high-tech jobs, and how we can bring more of those to the city,” he said.
Workshops on various aspects of the plan for False Creek Flats are scheduled for June. See vancouver.ca/falsecreekflats for for dates and more information.