The Weekly Rant – Episode 1

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If you follow me on Twitter you probably know that I like to speak my mind on various topics. Usually my opinions fuel some heated debate and sometimes it gets downright ugly but at the very least it gets people talking/thinking about issues that affect our daily lives. This post is the first in a new series of weekly posts intended to bring these issues to a wider audience. This is going to be fun.

Topic number 1, food trucks in Steveston. Over the weekend I saw that the Le Tigre food truck was at the Steveston Farmers Market. I know that food trucks are staples at other farmers markets around the Lower Mainland but I don’t agree with food trucks operating anywhere near Steveston. Steveston is an extremely seasonal area for restaurants and they have to stick it out through the slow fall and winter months relying on summer business to make ends meet. To have a food truck pull into town on a sunny summer day and take customers away from these businesses doesn’t sit well with me.

Steveston, home of the worlds tamest Seagulls...
Steveston, home of the worlds tamest Seagulls… Photo WFLBC.com

Le Tigre has done nothing wrong. They have the required permits, they’re great people and they make great food, it just shouldn’t be happening in Steveston. Sorry guys, I love you but… you know. I have the same opinion about food trucks at White Rock Beach so if a food truck shows up there I’m not going to be happy about it.

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Norgate as seen from International Plaza – Photo WFLBC.com

Topic number 2, Norgate residents complaining about noisy trains. Norgate is located in North Vancouver just east of the Lions Gate Bridge and south of Marine Drive, so basically right beside the CN rail yard, also right behind the beautiful sulphur piles along the shores of Burrard Inlet. Norgate was developed in the 1940’s to house shipyard workers and is mostly small bungalows with an average selling price somewhere near $650,000. The rail yard has been a part of this neighbourhood for FAR longer than the current residents have lived there. For them to complain about the noise is ridiculous. There were similar complaints in New Westminster a few years ago and they met with the same public reaction. It’s like moving in next to the airport and complaining about noisy planes. If you can afford a $650,000 house you should be smart enough to buy something that isn’t right next door to noisy industry.

Two polarizing topics, feel free to add your thoughts to the comment section. Let’s keep it clean though, ok?

Scott.

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North Vancouver NIMBY’s, playing politics and taking control

A few days ago I posted about the proposed development by Onni Group at the corner of Lonsdale and 13th in North Vancouver. I’ve received a lot of feedback on this piece, some positive, some negative but the most interesting Information I’ve received was a string of emails between a group of people who oppose the project and have thought of some creative ways to push their addenda within North Van city council.

Density is alive and well in North Vancouver
Density is alive and well in North Vancouver

These emails are between a group of people that call themselves “North Vancouver City Voices”. What started as a small community group of concerned citizens has turned into a full blown lobbyist group complete with plans to “shape city council” and “own council” to push their own agenda. The following emails were brought to the attention of Beau Jarvis who is Vice President of Development for the Onni Group. They were then forwarded to me by someone who shares my view on this issue.

The first email is fairly harmless, it’s the response that is shocking.

“Hi everyone,

I’ve only addressed people who have been participating in the back and forth to date.  We need to do something now and seem to be going round and round trying to come up with a plan.  The question is what to do – are we strong enough (or could we be) to rally people and:

-collect $$ and place either
-letter to editor, copy Council
-ad
-insert a flyer to the paper (Joan has checked prices, basically $60 per 1,000 plus printing)
-get a petition going (difficulty wording with so many issues)
-appear as a delegation

Personally, I think the major issue once again is the process and the fact that the City is being hijacked by developers/unions/ school boards etc.  A good start to the wording is Valerie’s:

The CityShaping event was presented as another opportunity for voters to register what we feel about the future development of our city when in fact it was another exercise to give the impression that we are actually part of a decision-making process.

The new OCP (Official Community Plan) is already decided I fear and if we don’t do something publicly before the next “event” on March 10th there may be  no point.    Surely the Councillors are getting feedback and if we can come up with a group name and contact they could refer people to us.   Thoughts?

Toni”

And the response, I’ll highlight the parts that concern me in red.

“Hi everyone,

I am impressed by the number of people contributing to the email thread expressing concern about the City Shaping workshop. I count 20 to 25 names on the various emails. The suggestions about how we effect change in the current process are getting to be quite good.

Unfortunately, I think that if we pursue a public process of ads, mass meetings, etc., because of public apathy and because the other side will be turning out their supporters, we will face real challenges in getting enough people involved at this time to be a credible voice for change… especially with Mussatto, Keating and Buchanan (hereafter MKB for short).

I could be wrong on this, but I do believe it will be an uphill fight to get enough people engaged to make Council listen right now. More importantly, I think MKB will listen only to the extent of changing their tactics, not their objectives.

(The suggestions in the email thread might work well as we get closer to an election and we should keep them in our files, but for now, I think we need to focus on ‘Council-shaping’.)

That got me thinking about creating a working majority on council by targeting our efforts on Heywood and Bell. If we can work behind the scenes to get them to align with Bookham and Clark (call the group BBCH for short), then they can take charge of Council, set the agenda and limit the power of MKB.

How do we do that? Here are some thoughts on the matter:

First: from my perspective, it would be inappropriate to create the impression we are trying to ‘own’ council. We just want it to stop being the plaything of MKB and the interest groups that support them.  The key point is that if Bell and Heywood don’t work with Clark and Bookham, then the MKB group will continue to drive the city hall agenda.. and the deeply flawed OCP revision process is the current best example of that agenda. The only chance of change is if BBCH work together.

If thirty or forty of us invite Heywood and Bell to meet with us and we tell them that we want their support in working with Bookham and Clark to change the direction at city hall, we might just get their attention. Depending on how explicit we want to be, we can ensure they understand there are enough of us (and we are upset enough) to generate an ongoing series of letters to the NSN and some effective ads critiquing the two of them. The recent voting flip-flop over Harbourside make them particularly vulnerable. They will know (or can be reminded) that people not inclined to vote for the MKB slate will be, over the long run, influenced (as in the past two elections) by ads and other activities by independent citizens such as us. We needn’t go in with explicit threats, but we need them to understand that we want them working together and will be watching to see that it happens.  

In trying to convince BBCH to work together, we should be clear that we don’t have a complex or ideological agenda. This can be done with a simple, straightforward statement. For example, with respect to the OCP revision process… note that this is just an example…:

We believe the OCP revision process must be transparent, open and respectful of the intelligence and viewpoints of the citizens of North Vancouver and it should include all major development proposals before the city.

The current process is not acceptable because it is a mock-consultation with a developer-driven, density-biased agenda, orchestrated by city hall to achieve their desired outcome. It has no credibility with many citizens. City staff must be carefully instructed and monitored by Council to ensure the process is not tilted and the outcome is not pre-determined.

Our objective is to get a group of fair-minded council members to take control of the city’s OCP revision process.

I suggest we get together (perhaps half a dozen of us would be more efficient than 25, but whatever) to pull together some more details on this idea. The simpler we keep our objectives, the easier it will be to achieve agreement among us… and with the politicians. If we can agree on objectives beyond getting the OCP revision process back on the rails, we can include them too.

At some early point we will need to meet with Bookham and Clark to get their support for this effort. Eventually we could aim to get the four of them in a room to hammer out some ideas on how they cooperate, but for now this initiative needs to be seen as coming from us, concerned citizens, not from Bookham or Clark.

John Watson”

So let me get this straight, 20-25 people is an “impressive number of people” in a city with roughly 50000 residents (in the City of North Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver adds another 90000). OK, maybe I’m not good at math but that’s 0.0005% of the population. I’m sure they have more supporters but their most likely the “Doomsday Prepper” type and don’t own computers, cell phones or televisions.

Bad math aside let’s look at the real issue here. We have a group of people aiming to shape a city council to push their own agenda by threatening council members with attack ads if they don’t fall in line… These nut jobs have to remember that this is the city council and Mayor that their fellow citizens voted into office. If they would like to change the way the city is run perhaps they should run for office? No, that’s too hard and public for these folks, they’d rather threaten from behind the scenes. What a joke.

If people like this get their way where will we all live in 50 years? The GVRD is running out of land due to urban sprawl, the only way forward is to build up, not out. Affordable housing is a thing that is out of reach for the average person, density offers a more wallet friendly alternative to a single family home.

Let’s do an informal poll

Let this be a lesson to all of you. Be careful who you send email to and make sure that whatever you say in it you would be willing to say to someone’s face. In this case I’m sure the people involved would’ve preferred this information remain a secret. Welcome to the internet…

Scott.

Progress vs. the squeaky wheel. NIMBYism has become an epidemic.

Densification

As you may or may not know I am a huge supporter of urbanization, mass transit and building up instead of out. Building high density urban neighbourhoods is far more environmentally concious than building large, sprawling suburbs full of single family homes. Noted urbanist and Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser lays it out quite well in his book “Triumph of the city“. Basically cities with high density have less cars, more transit, more cyclists and more foot traffic. The real evil of the modern world is the suburb. The dream of most people is to own a house with a big yard, have two cars and maybe even a pool. That dream is what’s killing our planet. Take Buffalo, New York for example. Over the last 50 years Buffalo’s population has remained fairly steady at around 1 million people yet over that time the amount of land the city covers has doubled. This means double the roads, double the plumbing and electrical infrastructure, more cars, less transit and on and on… This is called sprawl.

Yesterday I read an article on CKNW’s website about a development on the corner of Lonsdale and 13th that a developer has walked away from due to an uncooperative city council and a few vocal North Vanancouver residents. These people are idiots. Here is a comment left on CKNW’s article from “Hugh F” “Earth to Mussatto – There isn’t the capacity for the infrastructure and in particular the roads to handle much more. The growth in the last 30 years has gobbled up the mountainsides, displaced wildlife and continuing on the growth at all costs doesn’t make sense“. Well Hugh, last time I checked Lonsdale was a major bus route that led directly to the Seabus terminal. Lonsdale and 13th is an urban area where no wildlife will be displaced and quite frankly it’s developments like this that stop the sprawl of suburbs which means no more “gobbled up mountainside” or “displaced wildlife”. Stick that in your bong and smoke it, Hugh.

Up next we have “KatyT”. Katy says “I’m sick of all the new development, I agree with the councillors that didn’t want this, how much more building are you going to do? traffic is getting worse and more congested, I think there needs to be a stop to new developments and especially building houses on the back of Grouse, that is getting as ugly as the eyesore you see coming west off the Port Mann bridge“. So Katy doesn’t want houses up Grouse Mountain… I don’t know about you but I think that’s sprawl, no? The best way to stop sprawl is to build tall, high density buildings in urban areas, such as the one proposed for the corner of Lonsdale and 13th. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here people, do you even understand what you’re protesting?

This reeks of a part of society that makes my blood boil, the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). These people are against any change in their neighbourhood, they are a small loud group in every community who overpower the sane with picket signs, protests and general bitching and moaning. The NIMBY’s in Mount Pleasant almost stopped a new development on Main and Kingsway a while back but when the project was put to an actual vote it turned out the community was largely in favour of it.

The moral of the story is that when NIMBY’s get themselves on city council they can actually stop progress. When your next civic election rolls around make sure you vote and make sure you know who you’re voting for. Imagine Vancouver with no downtown…if NIMBY’s existed 100 years ago that’s what we would have today and a city without a downtown is not a city at all, it is nothing.

Scott.

Main and Kingsway, open your eyes

Battle lines have been drawn by a small but vocal group opposed to a planned 15 story mid rise building at the corner of Main and Kingsway in Vancouver. They argue that the proposed building doesn’t belong in their neighbourhood but if they opened their eyes they would see that it is already there.

Three blocks away on the corner of 12th and Kingsway sits Stella, a 13 story residential building that also houses Kingsway Honda. The height difference between Stella and the proposed development at Main and Kingsway is roughly 20 feet. Given that Stella sits farther up the hill than Rize.ca’s proposed building Stella will actually be the same height if not slightly taller than the new structure.

Give your head a shake Mt. Pleasant, it’s time to move forward.

Scott.

Nimby Burger

NIMBY, an acronym for Not In My Back Yard, is a term used to describe people who oppose and change in their immediate vicinity. Having spent a number of years as a manager at Home Depot and Best Buy in my 20’s I am all too familiar with the NIMBY crowd. Nimby Burger resides in NIMBY central, also know as Kitsalano, at Cornwall and Yew. A throwback to the classic beach side burger stand, NIMBY is a walk up take out window on the side of Local Public Eatery, Serving only burgers, fries, milk shakes and cold drinks.

 

With a simple menu like this I was expecting great things from this cool little burger stand, so with that in mind I decided on the Dooblay, a double burger with double cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and house made secret sauce. I backed that up with fries and a chocolate shake. The burger is made to order and isn’t sitting around before you get there, I can verify this as I saw them fire it on the griddle just after I ordered. The verdict? It was good, not overwhelmingly good though. I was honestly expecting fireworks given the burger only menu. The patties were quite thin so I’m glad I ordered a double. I think I was expecting something more like Five Guys and sadly this didn’t come close. Don’t get me wrong it was a tasty burger but I think that it could be so much more with a little tweak to the meat size and toppings available. Thankfully the fries and the milkshake were there to save the burger!

 

The fries are hand cut, as you can see in the picture to the left, and are shoestring which is not the norm for hand cut fries. These fries are so simple yet so good, just salted with no crazy seasoning. They were cook very well and were very hot and fresh. They are worth a return trip along with the milkshake, which was chocolate of course. This is a “real” milk shake made from real icecream and it’s damn good. they have 3 flavors, chocolate, vanilla  and strawberry, which means they only have 2 flavors because strawberry milkshakes are gross, right Rochelle?

Nimby Burger is only open for the rest of the Labor Day long weekend so if you want some beach side burger action and some good fries and a tasty shake get your butts down to Kits Beach for some summer goodness. Fear not though, they will be back next summer and their menu is available at Local on the Late Night Menu year round.

Scott.