Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

The “Non-Partisan” Association, Vancouver’s zombie political party

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

NPA Vancouver

This post is for Vancouverites who are urban or civic politics nerds and may not be acquainted with the early historical roots of the local civic political party known, somewhat hilariously, as the Non Partisan Association (NPA). Like a zombie, the NPA seems to be trying to come back from the dead for the umpteenth time.

Some excerpts from the 1967 Vancouver Sun article above (read it here (jpg)]:

“It was the success of the CCF—now NDP [now COPE]—at the local level in the civic elections of 1936 which was a second major factor in the organization of the NPA [the first was the move from a ward system to an at-large system in 1936]… [I]ts purpose was to keep CCF-socialist politics out [of city hall]… Unquestionably the NPA has been the “party” of the west side of the city, and has helped to maintain the split of east-side west-side which has been of fundamental importance in the politics of Vancouver for nearly 50 years. Because NPA candidates have dominated the civic boards for 30 years, west-side en have made policy for the city for 30 years…. It was the fear of the policies an dlegislation which east side, “socialistic” representatives would bring to city council and civic boards, and of more importance the concern with the political power which civic office would bring them, which prompted the organization of the NPA.”

& so on. It’s fascinating reading, revealing a party that is the furthest thing from non-partisan. Even when it pulls in candidates from across the city, it represents a particular establishment and political stripe.

By raising this party’s past I am not suggesting that a political party cannot drift from its original purpose. I’m suggesting that this one hasn’t. I would also say that it is usually difficult for an institution to alter its very DNA, and when political DNA does change, historically it has been infinitely more common to see a drift from left to right (via a co-optation by business interests) than to see a drift in the other direction. Certainly it seems very unlikely that a party this genetically close to west side and business establishment interests will be truly interested in, for example, the open government and “transparency” issue it has now mounted on its campaign like a parade float mascot.

While the NPA’s activities may have been more benign during certain periods—say, the administration of Mayor Philip Owen in the 1990s—it is worth taking a look at the most recent NPA regime of Mayor Sam Sullivan. Sullivan’s euphemistic “ecodensity” program turbo-charged the tower development bonanza that is laying waste to this city’s affordability and built heritage, and that Vision Vancouver has even further accelerated but just under a different name.

Which takes me to my next point, that the incumbent faux-green party Vision Vancouver is no alternative to the NPA. Vision Vancouver and the NPA have a great deal in common, not least their identical corporate real estate funders. While Vision is backed by an NDP element, its  ties to the construction industry’s unions have only rendered it more friendly to rampant luxury developers and property speculators. This is all shorthand for a much more complicated situation that I’m not going to footnote or otherwise elaborate on here. Much ink has been spilled on this topic, and better ink than this.

Tactically speaking I believe the best we can hope for in the November 2014 civic election is a minority civic government. We then at least have a small chance of getting some traction. I will be supporting a number of candidates (TBA) including the three Green council candidates, all of whose parties do not take developer donations. In the second-most unaffordable city in the world relative to median income, a distinction Vancouver has won the past three years in a row, we need to try something.

Vancouver did many things right in the 70s. Most of the things it’s famous for were the work of more progressive administrations, not the most recent developer-funded administrations. We need to return to a progressive civic politics. Bike lanes and faux-transparency do not a progressive housing agenda make.

The intention of this post, hastily written in the news doldrums of pre-election summertime, is merely to provide a little interesting reading on the topic of the NPA’s ancient history. Maybe this is also a bid for some consciousness of civic history in this famously amnesiac town.

Here is a link to a 5 MB jpg of the news story above. Feel free to download.

Alternatively take a look at this useful 1976 grad thesis on the origins of the NPA (PDF).

 

Oh Vancouver just stop

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

ScanBCmanpursewhiteBMW

Yes, you read that correctly. The official ScanBC Twitter account which monitors the electronic communications of BC’s emergency services has actually reported that Vancouver Police are on scene with a male robbed of his gold chain and his purse and Seymour St  & W Hastings St. Suspect fled in white BMW

If you know Vancouver, this reads as a form of time travel in which the new Vancouver reality is overlaid upon the old. Or as William Gibson once said, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

May the epoch of the white BMW be short-lived; may we survive long enough to see its fiery demise.

A friend put this captioned magazine page through my mailbox

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

death of design

This made me laugh pretty hard.

Also, courtesy of the enjoyable fuckyournoguchitable tumblr: antlers, actual real taxidermy, fake taxidermy, steer skull and cardboard antlers.

Meanwhile, as Vancouver’s historic Chinatown gets very quickly gentrified–evacuations of historic businesses, sales and demolitions of buildings, and the erection new glass luxury condos—we see it  filling up with upscale little restaurants and cafes full of… antlers. This white man’s pioneer or settler style, circa 1890s, sits aggressively in Chinatown, which was itself founded in the very period these antler references hark back to, if not decades before. It’s as if Chinatown never happened.

Ed Snowden’s surprise from-remote appearance at TED 2014 in Vancouver today

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Edward Snowden at TED Vancouver

Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance at the TED 2014 main conference in Vancouver today. TED is calling it “Here’s how we take back the Internet.”

From a remote location in Russia he could remotely control a wheeled bot that allowed “him” to turn around and look at the audience.

Good remarks. And then Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, comes out of the audience to talk to Ed too. If you want to watch that part, start around 26:30. Quite amazing to watch.

Edward Snowden at TED Vancouver

Tim Berners-Lee with Edward Snowden, TED 2014 Vancouver

Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan or DTES LAP

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

DTES LAP

The Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan or DTES LAP is a comprehensive plan for a significant area of downtown/East Vancouver. It goes before City Council this week, where Council seems likely to pass it despite significant opposition.

You can get a copy of the LAP—which released only two weeks before going to Council, despite consisting of 450+ pages—from Publication Studio in Chinatown, who have kindly printed it for public accessibility on a pay-what-you-can basis.

The plan is, in my opinion, a fairly massive giveaway to condo developers by the developer-friendly civic party Vision Vancouver. It conforms to a way of running and envisioning cities that is increasingly being termed neoliberal urbanism. See also this article on this approach.

I am by no means an expert on this very complicated plan and all the issues involved. But based on what I have learned from months of discussions down here in the DTES as well as living down here for 12 years, I find the following takes on the issue compelling (and will be adding more soon).

Advocate/PhD student Melissa Fong’s speech to Council is excellent.

Carnegie Community Action Project letter to Council

Statement by Strathcona Residents Association

Why developers don’t like the DTES LAP by Media Coop (in effect, developers dislike the only parts of the plan I endorse)

Where do working class ethnic enclaves fit into our future cities, in Megaphone Magazine

And the official links:

Staff Report and Plan

http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/report-downtown-eastside-local-area-plan-2014-feb-24.pdf

Social Impact Assessment

http://strathcona-residents.org/files/social-impact-assessment-2014-feb-26.pdf

Corporate Communications presentation for media

http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/executive-summary-dtes-local-area-plan-2014-feb-27.pdf

Lastly here is an interesting comment on the DEOD section of the LAP (please comment if you disagree, or have anything to add):

“Lastly, there has been a good deal of concern over proposed “no-condo zone” in the 10 blocks of the DEOD. In many respects we feel this is a bit of a red herring. The pretense includes 40% market rental and 20% “affordable” housing – with the remaining 40% split between shelter rate and CMHC’s Housing Income allowance (30% income) rate. To put a dollar value on that, a one bedroom at the CMHC rate would be about $950, a one-bedroom at the “affordable” rate would be about $1350. The scheme proposed significant height and density increases and relies on uncommitted federal / provincial money and developer levies. We feel that the “upzoning” being proposed will cause significant land lift and resultant speculation that will negatively impact retail and industrial diversity as well as social sustainability and liveability, and ironically the very “affordable housing” it is proposing to protect. For perspective on the market economics driving purpose built rental, we suggest the Western Investor’s recent “Why New Rentals are Being Built” article provides some context behind the market economics behind schemes like this and Rental 100 in the West End.”

We also need to talk about the City’s rather arbitrary population growth projections which seem to be the justification for allowing developers the density bonuses they seek. Not that density is bad, but how is the idea of density being mobilized and for whose benefit?

Video: the real story of 439 Powell Street, the Ming Sun building

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

439 Powell St - screenshot

This video, Behind the Walls of 439, corrects a great deal of the misinformation generated by the City of Vancouver. Good job by local television students.

Pretty heartbreaking.

“This is the story of the displacement of people with less power.”