Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Almost hit by a car

As I walked up Beta Ave after coming out of the Brentwood Mall parking lot above Sears, a driver that had stopped at the stop sign coming out of the parking lot to Beta Ave nearly accelerated into me after briefly stopping (right after he overshot the stop line).  I guess he didn't notice my extremely large red and white umbrella that I was carrying this rainy evening.  Maybe his headlights were too close to me (he had already overshot the stop line) to illuminate my huge umbrella.  Maybe he was too focused on the car heading north on Beta to notice that I was crossing right in front of him.  Regardless of the reason, he didn't see or notice me until after he made me think that my life (along with this blog) was going to end in an intersection on a cold rainy night in Burnaby (okay I didn't think of it that elaborately at that moment but that is what would have happened).  Luckily he saw me at the last second just as he had seen the stop sign at the last second just moments earlier.  Had he hit me and I survived, the best case scenario would have been that I would have been seriously injured and I would be left blogging all day every day while I recover.

This near accident highlights the need for well-lit pedestrian crossings as well as well-painted markings on the road to guide drivers.  There are many other things that it highlights but those other things are those that only remedial driving courses could resolve.  Is it just me that notices that the markings and signs on our roads are pretty much invisible during dark rainy evenings (which happens to be a majority of the year in Metro Vancouver)?  I am not only saying this as a pedestrian, but as a driver.  If you are driving at night in the rain, you cannot see the lines on the road that separate lanes and intersections.  It's quite unbelievable that our planning departments for cities in Metro Vancouver have never noticed that this is an extremely dangerous situation.  If there is a planner that says that they have indeed noticed this situation, why haven't you done anything?  Is there nobody in Metro Vancouver, who gets paid quite well to create safe roads, that has noticed this glaring (or lack of glare in this case) problem on our roads?  There must be a better paint somewhere that doesn't disappear on a rainy night.  The last time I drove (as is the case every time I drive) I noticed that visibility is pretty important when it comes to traffic and pedestrian safety.  I would say that it is the most important factor in pedestrian and road safety,  Visibility.  Visibility.  Visibility.   If any planners are reading this (I doubt it) they can earn their good pay with this free advice.  No exorbitant consulting fee required.

  • brighter paint that doesn't disappear in the rain.
  • lighting that makes signs, crosswalks, and lines on the road visible to everyone during our typical winter evenings and not lighting that only allows us to see...lights on top of tall poles.
To city planners everywhere, you're welcome.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The election has come and gone...

...and believe it or not, many may not even have known what kind of election it was let alone have been aware of it at all.  Once again, the participation rate was around 25% of eligible voters.  For some reason, 75% of eligible voters don't feel that voting is important enough to set aside some time.  Enough of my frustrated ranting about voter apathy.

The next 3 years will continue to see changes occurring in the Brentwood area as the city continues to build up the density here.  The Brentwood Mall redevelopment will be the largest project in the area, if not Burnaby and will be an opportunity for local residents to share their concerns and to provide input into what they would like to see for the redevelopment.  This is where the public's direct input can have a direct impact on how the Brentwood area will evolve if enough people have their collective voices heard.

The Brentwood Town Centre Development Plan envisions creating a pedestrian-oriented development according to the City of Burnaby website.  Even with such a bold statement being made, citizens should question what criteria was used to envision a pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood.  We should question whether or not the criteria used is current or out-dated.  Is the current criteria for sidewalks good enough to meet the standards of a walkable neighbourhood?  What was considered to be pedestrian-friendly in the 1990's may no longer be good enough to meet our expectations in 2012 and beyond.

Cycling infrastructure must go hand-in-hand with the development both within and outside the Brentwood area as it will become more of a hub of activity for people living in the surrounding areas located outside the Brentwood Town Centre zone.  The widening of Willingdon Ave between Lougheed Hwy and Hastings St is part of a Provincial Government plan to increase traffic flow in the area. Although I don't believe that it is the best idea to add another lane on Willingdon Ave, it should be an opportunity for Burnaby to initiate a collaboration with the Province to build a cycling and pedestrian thoroughfare alongside the widened Willingdon Ave to connect Brentwood to the Burnaby Heights area to the north where community amenities at Confederation Park could be accessed by walking and cycling.  The pedestrian and cycling thoroughfare can be separated by barriers and vegetation to create a buffer along its length to provide an element of safety for pedestrians and to minimize the impact of the road widening on the homes immediately to the east of Willingdon Ave in the Brentwood Park area.There is currently no direct north-south pedestrian or cycling route on either side of Willingdon Ave between Burnaby Heights and Brentwood.  Accessibility between neighbourhoods should not be built around automobiles alone and the addition of a pedestrian/cycling path would begin to remedy the decades-long automobile-centered growth that we continue to witness as I write this post.

Houses along the east side of Willingdon Ave have gradually been torn down to make way for another traffic lane between Lougheed and Hastings.  There should be ample space to add a pedestrian/cycling lane alongside the new lane which would greatly improve the look from its current state of pedestrian unfriendliness.

The Brentwood neighbourhood is going to look much different 10 years from now and the space allocated for pedestrian infrastructure built today must meet our needs 20 years from now and beyond.  It would be a big mistake to not consider our needs decades into the future as it would be more costly to impose harsh reactionary measures later on due to the lack of foresight by our planners today.  The pain of change being felt in neighbouring Vancouver is an example of what I am talking about as the struggle between car-users and cyclists rages on in Downtown.

The City will not know what is expected of its citizens if enough people do not participate in public hearings related to development projects.  The public hearings held at Burnaby City Hall should be standing room only with a steady stream of input and ideas as to what the citizens expect with the Brentwood redevelopment.  People need to start thinking about it now well before the project is announced.  Automobile traffic, walkability, cyclability and density are issues that immediately come to mind.  What do you think?  What needs to be done and what do we need to make Brentwood a complete neighbourhood?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why is there a disconnect from municipal politics?

Warning: If you are someone that does not exercise your right to vote, you will not only not enjoy this post, you will be insulted.

As the Burnaby Municipal Election campaigns near their end, media outlets have been pointing out the fact that very few people are aware of issues that affect their city and that even fewer actually make the effort to vote for a body of government that has a direct impact on their everyday lives with the decisions it makes.

The last Burnaby Municipal Election saw a voter participation rate of 25 percent out of all eligible voters.  Essentially, only 1 out of every 4 eligible voters cast a ballot in 2008.  Does this mean that out of every 4 people, 3 people have no problem allowing 1 person to have a say in local government?  In a world where conspiracy theories abound about the world's power structure being controlled by corrupt elites, I find it difficult to understand how a person living in this country, in this part of Canada, in a city as diverse as Burnaby does not feel that it is important enough to vote for their local government.  

Burnaby City Council is often making decisions on our behalf that affect us, the residents of Burnaby.  One example I can point to that is relevant to this blog is the issue of density.  Earlier this year, the City of Burnaby held a public hearing, after providing notice in the local newspapers, on its intention to amend rezoning bylaws to allow greater heights and greater density in Burnaby's town centres.  I attended the public hearing at which nobody came to speak on the issue.  Having no opposition to the proposed amendment, the Council moved to approve the amendment.

Recently on September 20th, at a public hearing regarding the Solo District development at Willingdon and Lougheed, a resident that had moved into a newly built nearby tower 3 years ago was surprised and dismayed by the future loss of her view that would occur with the newly approved heights of the high-rise towers slated to go in.  It appeared that this opponent of the proposed tower heights was scrambling to voice her opposition to a project that will not be in violation of any bylaws and therefore cannot be prevented.  This example highlights the problem of complacency that has developed in our society.  The person opposed to such height allowances had not even been aware of the fact that high-rise towers had already been planned for the area prior to her purchasing her high-rise condo,  let alone having been concerned enough to be aware of the decisions made on her behalf by city council regarding increased density.  This is one of the many examples of disinterest in issues that directly affect Burnaby's citizens who will not cast a ballot on November 19th.

I am certain that more people in Burnaby (which included me) had enough time to watch multiple Canucks games during their recent run to the Stanley Cup Final than will vote in the election on November 19th.  Those that had time to watch most (if not all) Canucks games this past spring but do not have the time to spend a few moments to learn about local issues and go to a polling station conveniently located near their home to take a few minutes to cast a vote, have no excuse other than that they are spoiled, ignorant, lazy or all of the above.  If anyone takes exception to my condescending view of non-voters, please share your reasons for not caring enough to inform yourself in this age of the internet to exercise a right that people in other parts of the world are willing to stand in extreme conditions all day long, risk injury, torture, and/or death to exercise their right to vote.  In this country, there is no reasonable excuse for voter apathy.

There are 3 weekdays left before the election this Saturday.  It will not only be interesting to see who gets elected, but also how few people will be electing Burnaby City Council and School Board.  If you are angry, get out and vote.  If you are happy, get out and vote.  You have no excuse to not vote.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Traffic control coming to Madison and Dawson

It appears that a new traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Madison and Dawson
Avenues after a letter of concern from residents of the "One Madison Avenue" residence to the City of Burnaby was written.  Although a study of traffic and pedestrian volume between 2008 and 2011 did not technically support the need for a traffic signal, it was considered that new developments currently being constructed and future projects currently being planned will be well served with the new signals at that intersection as more vehicle and pedestrian traffic is expected in the area.  The cost of the traffic signals is estimated to be $220, 000.

(from the City of Burnaby website)

1. THAT Council approve an expenditure of $220,000 (inclusive of 12% HST) in 2012 for the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Dawson Street and Madison Avenue, as outlined in this report; and staff be authorized to bring down a Capital Works Expenditure Bylaw in the amount of $220,000 for the works and;
2. THAT a copy of this report be sent to Mr. Adam Lord, Property Manager, Stratawest Management Ltd., #202 – 224 West Esplanade, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 1A4.
The Traffic Safety Committee, at its meeting held on 2011 November 01, received and adopted the attached report to review a request for a traffic signal at the intersection of Dawson Street and Madison Avenue.
A review of the collision history at the intersection did reveal a relatively high number of collisions within the last four years (2007-2010). Despite past efforts to improve safety, there have been at least 10 collisions per year with the highest number of collisions reached in 2010. Because of this trend, it is recommended that a traffic signal be installed at the intersection to enhance safety. The continuing increase in pedestrian and vehicular activity in the area from redevelopments will also be well served by a traffic signal at this intersection.
Respectfully submitted,
Councillor S. Dhaliwal Chair
Councillor C. Jordan Vice Chair
Councillor P. McDonell Member

2011 October 26 38000 20
Traffic Safety
To review a request for a traffic signal at the intersection of Dawson St and Madison Ave.
1. THAT the Committee recommend to Council an expenditure of $220,000 (inclusive of 12% HST) be approved in 2012 for the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Dawson St and Madison Ave, as outlined in this report; and staff be authorized to bring down a Capital Works Expenditure Bylaw in the amount of $220,000 for the works and;
2. THAT the Committee recommend that Council send a copy of this report to Mr. Adam Lord, Property Manager, Stratawest Management Ltd., #202 – 224 West Esplanade, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 1A4.
Requests for additional traffic controls at the intersection of Dawson and Madison have been received periodically since 2007. In response to concerns raised, parking near the intersection was restricted to improve visibility, and a marked pedestrian crosswalk was installed in 2009 December to facilitate pedestrian crossings. Most recently, a letter dated 2011 October 05 was received from Mr. Adam Lord, Property Manager, on behalf of the “One Madison Avenue 1” residents located at 2345/2355 Madison Ave. Mr. Lord requested a traffic signal at the intersection to improve safety and access.
The intersection of Dawson and Madison has been reviewed on several occasions in the past few years in response to requests for a traffic signal. Most requestors cite the difficulty in getting access from Madison (the local street) to Dawson (the collector street) due to the volume and speed of traffic along Dawson. Currently vehicles travelling along Dawson are provided the right-of-way, while vehicles along Madison are controlled by stop signs. An aerial photo of the intersection is shown in Figure 1.

Meeting 2011 November 01
47To: From: Re: 2011 October 26 ............................................................. Page 2
Traffic Safety Committee Director Engineering Dawson St and Madison Ave
right-of-way, while vehicles along Madison are controlled by stop signs. An aerial photo of the intersection is shown in Figure 1.
A comparison of traffic counts at the intersection completed in 2008 and 2011 during the morning and afternoon peak periods do not show any appreciable change. Not surprisingly, the latest traffic signal warrant analysis continues to show that a traffic signal is not technically warranted. This analysis considers traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes, roadway conditions and adjacent land uses. Despite this, it is acknowledged that vehicles travelling on Madison Ave may have difficulty accessing Dawson St during peak periods, but this is not necessarily unusual given the roadway classifications and their general purpose.
A review of the collision history at the intersection did reveal a relatively high number of collisions within the last four years (2007-2010). Despite past efforts to improve safety, there have been at least 10 collisions per year with the highest number of collisions reached in 2010. Because of this trend, it is recommended that a traffic signal be installed at the intersection to enhance safety. The continuing increase in pedestrian and vehicular activity in the area from redevelopments will also be well served by a traffic signal at this intersection.
Installation of the traffic signal at Dawson and Madison is proposed in 2012. Total cost is estimated at $220,000 (inclusive of 12% HST) and these expenditures are included in the Traffic Management component of the 2012 – 2016 Provisional Capital Program. It is recommended that staff be authorized to bring down a Capital Works Expenditure Bylaw in the amount of $220,000 to finance the proposed works. Funding allocated from nearby developments and any potential cost sharing from ICBC will also be applied to offset some City cost for this road safety improvement.
Copied to: City Manager Director of Finance

Friday, November 11, 2011

Maybe veterans' votes aren't significant enough for our municipal leaders

I just read an article in the Burnaby Now, Burnaby Heights Legion considering selling property, and started to wonder why such a long-standing institution that has been a gathering place for our veterans since 1937 has been forced to consider selling its property on Hastings St in the heart of Burnaby Heights.  Legion Branch 148 has struggled financially, due to increasing property assessments, to cover its property taxes.  Repeated attempts by its members to convince City Council to give it a full tax exemption has fallen on deaf ears.

On Remembrance Day, a day for us to remember sacrifices that no monetary compensation would ever come close to covering the debt owed our veterans, I find it ironic that our city is holding our local Legion  Branch financially accountable to the point that it might have to close its doors.

Property values in the region have steadily increased and though many people have financially benefited from it, for the average person not involved in real estate speculation, it has merely meant higher property taxes, and institutions such as the Legion are in the same boat.  I am a proponent of change in the form of higher density development that can transform neighbourhoods, but not at the expense of losing an institution that I'm certain means more to our veterans than anyone else could even imagine.

I would like to see our politicians, both current and aspiring, to talk to this issue and work towards keeping Branch 148 in Burnaby Heights.  Garth Evans of Team Burnaby has stated that he does not want change when it comes to development that might significantly change the Burnaby Heights area.  I believe that this is the type of change that he might have been talking about at the All Candidates' Meeting at Gilmore School last week.  I just hope that he himself realizes what he was talking about and makes this an issue during this election campaign as well as beyond November 19th.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Greens would establish affordable housing in transit hubs

Once again, affordable housing was discussed at the latest all candidates' meeting which took place at Stride Elementary School yesterday evening.  I didn't attend the meeting and, as is the case much of the time, I am using the Burnaby Now as my source of info on this meeting.   The Burnaby Greens candidate Rick McGowan stated that if elected, the Greens will allocate 20% of density bonus money to create affordable housing in areas close to SkyTrain stations.    However, he further stated that the Greens would reduce the allowable density in town centres back to previous levels from the current allowance that Burnaby City Council established earlier this year.  This would essentially reduce the amount of potential money that could go towards affordable housing.

As I have written earlier, it is important to have a program in place to deal with affordable housing for at-risk members of the community before it gets out of control and before available space is taken up by conventional housing which makes the issue more costly to deal with in the future. The Greens have suggested a concrete plan instead of just promises to attempt to work with various levels of government with an excuse later to blame the other levels of government for the lack of action.

There is currently plenty of potential to build more affordable housing in the Brentwood area as developers clammer to have their high-density projects approved.  I like the Green idea of 20% allocation of density funds but disagree with the scaling back of the density allowances that were approved earlier this year.  Greater density will help fund more community amenities as well as allow adjacent single-family neighbourhoods to maintain their low-density character and serenity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Prep for Aviara has begun

Another development by Ledingham McAllister began preparation this past summer with the levelling of a warehouse on the southeast corner of Gilmore Ave and Douglas Rd.  The longtime presence of the Fiji Canada Association at the corner of Douglas Rd and Halifax St will be gone as the property it has occupied for over 2 decades was sold by the Association to McAllister Properties on December 8, 2009.

McAllister Properties in turn sold the property to LM Aviara Properties which leased the property back to the Association, rent free for 1 year.  The Association has been looking for a new home while it has been allowed to continue renting the building on a temporary basis.  A sign advertising the future Aviara development has been installed at Douglas and Gilmore as well as at Douglas and Halifax.

The project is described on the City of Burnaby site under Major Projects as being a residential high-rise, townhousing, and public park expansion at 1680 & 1710 Gilmore Ave and 1771, 1779 & 1791 Douglas Rd which will include 235 residential units.  The project will also involve the closing of Douglas Rd to allow Willingdon Heights Park to take up the closed portion of the road space.  The project, referenced as REZ # 07-59, is at the second reading stage.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Candidate Garth Evans advocates traffic calming

Team Burnaby candidate Garth Evans is advocating for traffic calming measures for neighbourhoods affected by rat-runners.  The problem of motorists cutting through residential neighbourhoods to avoid busier arteries such as Willingdon Ave and Lougheed Hwy has significantly increased.  Speeding cars in residential neighbourhoods not only bring noise to the quiet side streets both east and west of Willingdon Ave, it leads to conflict between motorists and pedestrians as well as conflict between motorists.  Evans has suggested installing roundabouts or traffic diversions to keep vehicles on major roads.  Such measures would not only relieve neighbourhoods from excessive automobile traffic, it would improve walkability.

With public backlash that has occurred in Vancouver for its implementation of traffic calming measures in various neighbourhoods in that city, will Burnaby Council have the courage to bring such "radical" thinking to action?

The question arises; should we build infrastructure first before increasing density, or should the infrastructure improvements be part of the densification process as it occurs?  In many neighbourhoods it is obvious that traffic-controlling infrastructure development has been overlooked for a long time.

Garth Evans suggests building infrastructure prior to densification in expectation of more vehicle related problems.

"Infrastructure construction is not keeping pace with new development with result that our road network is becoming more and more congested and we are facing future gridlock. Our tax dollars must be used to construct the required infrastructure before future high density development is permitted."

Full article below:

Traffic calming needed for Burnaby neighbourhoods: Evans


Like just about every city in the Lower Mainland, Burnaby has its share of rat-running traffic through neighbourhoods and occasional rush-hour gridlock.
The NewsLeader asked two candidates: What are the traffic and transportation issues in Burnaby and what should the city do about them?

Garth Evans, Team Burnaby, is a lawyer specializing in social housing. He served as city councillor from 2005 to 2009.
"Traffic problems are a major concern in many Burnaby neighborhoods including Burnaby Heights where I live. Many of my neighbors have complained to me about the commuter traffic passing through our neighborhood. When I was a city councillor and sat on the Traffic Committee I frequently raised this issue and as a result the City held a public consultation process and produced an area traffic study. So far nothing has happened. What is required is a traffic control system like those in many Vancouver neighborhoods to prevent commuter traffic from using our residential streets. This would involve roundabouts and street barriers designed to direct the traffic back onto Hastings, Willingdon and Boundary. Similar action is required in many other neighborhoods and a TEAM council will act quickly to implement such a program.
"Infrastructure construction is not keeping pace with new development with result that our road network is becoming more and more congested and we are facing future gridlock. Our tax dollars must be used to construct the required infrastructure before future high density development is permitted."

Incumbent Coun. Nick Volkow is a retired truck driver and chair of the city's transportation committee.
"Our problem is we're smack dab in the middle of Metro Vancouver. So our problem is everybody from east of Burnaby is heading into Vancouver. Our problem is trying to try to mitigate the flow of traffic from the Tri-Cities, Surrey, and with the new expansion of the Port Mann Bridge and the freeway, it's not going to make it any easier."
Burnaby city hall will be reviewing its transportation plan, said Volkow, noting it's been at least 15 years since the last review.
"We've just done the Heights traffic plan, bringing in some traffic calming measures–roundabouts, curb bulges and synchronizing the lights along Hastings Street. We do the best we can with what we have."
He noted the city just won an award for a system which allows the drivers of all Burnaby emergency response vehicles to control any signalled intersection in the city to help them get to calls as soon as possible.
"We're in a great location. But too, comes with that the responsibility of allowing folks that are going through Burnaby try to get there without impinging on our residential neighbourhoods. It's an ongoing struggle. I think I'd be lying to you if I said we've got the magic bullet and the solution for it."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Will Graham Murchie's urban planning experience work for Burnaby?

Team Burnaby Candidate and retired urban planner, Graham Murchie is touting his experience as Chief Planner in Surrey as a positive on his resume as he vies for a spot in Burnaby City Council in the upcoming municipal election.

In his writeup for the Burnaby NewsLeader, he tells readers that he was Chief Planner in Surrey at a time when Surrey's growth rate was higher than Burnaby's is now and that they prepared for it.  I wonder if they were prepared for the all-day traffic jams that are Surrey today.  Sprawling subdivisions there isolate people from surrounding areas as walkability was an afterthought throughout the building craze that overtook Surrey from the 1980's onward.  As that city's residential development spread further out, services became stretched thin beyond usefulness, unless you were a single family home developer that needed to pave over forests without any opposition from the planning department.  The only way to get out of most neighbourhoods there is by driving out either because there are no sidewalks to facilitate walking or because the subdivision is made up of winding roads that do not offer a direct path out of the neighbourhood or both.  It's sadly ridiculous to see a bus stop post sticking out of a gravel shoulder on the side of a busy road where there isn't even a curb to separate the pedestrian from the traffic whizzing by in the year 2011.

I don't know if Mr. Murchie has ever lived in Surrey (thankfully I haven't) but if failing to build sidewalks in sprawling single-family subdivisions that have clearcut vast swaths of forested land constitutes good preparation for the future in Mr. Murchie's mind, I certainly do not want to see his "expertise" take the planning reigns in Burnaby City Council.

If Mr. Murchie wants to be considered for the vote of the discerning citizen, he will have to present actual ideas on how he will do better for Burnaby than he did for Surrey as the Chief Planner there.  Of course, mentioning where he could have done better in Surrey instead of hoping that people will not question his so-called achievements will require a level of openness that the citizens of Burnaby (including myself) would greatly appreciate.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Brentwood redevelopment not discussed at All-Candidates Meeting

Last night I had an opportunity to attend the All-Candidates Meeting at Gilmore School in Burnaby Heights.  Although the topic of Brentwood redevelopment was not directly discussed, the issue of development in the town centres was slightly touched upon with the majority of development-related discussion relating to single-family neighbourhoods.

The issues relevant (remotely or otherwise) to this blog that were mentioned were as follows:

The Burnaby Greens commented on homelessness, walkability, and was the only party to bring up the issue of the Chevron Refinery pollution in North Burnaby.

Team Burnaby appeared to contradict itself when its Mayoral Candidate Tom Tao stated in his opening statement that Burnaby must come to terms of becoming a "global city".  Soon afterwards, his running mate, Garth Evans stated that in terms of development, he is opposed to change and that he wants the status quo.

What immediately came to mind was how Team Burnaby envisions Burnaby becoming a "global city" without encouraging increased density as is beginning to happen in some areas along Hastings Street on either side of Willingdon Ave in the Burnaby Heights neighbourhood.  Increased density brings in more locals to the area that not only support local businesses and jobs but also encourages more businesses and jobs to move into the area as a larger consumer and labour base will result which in turn increases the vibrancy of the neighbourhood.  The current Council has encouraged the type of development that saw Safeway transformed along with the building of nice low-rise development across the street from there.  Currently the old McDonald's site is being transformed into a street level retail complex with overhead residential low-rise condos.

The Green Candidate Adrianne Merlo addressed Garth Evans' statement that he does not want change by stating that change is happening whether he wants it or not as the global population shift from rural to urban areas has continued its rapid pace throughout the world and that Burnaby is no exception.  The Green Candidate continued by emphasizing the need to be prepared for the projected population increase in Metro Vancouver by planning for it now rather than reacting to it later and that density is a way to accommodate more residents in Burnaby.

Although the other Mayoral Candidates addressed the public's questions directly posed to them, Team Burnaby Candidate Tom Tao showed that he is completely unprepared for the job as he failed to answer even one question when he spoke.   Instead of answering the questions at hand, Tao digressed into unrelated topics to the chagrin of the audience and the posers of the questions.  Why he is the Mayoral Candidate for Team Burnaby is indeed one the mysteries of 2011.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and his fellow candidates did a good job answering the sometimes nasty-sounding attacks on their record in City Council.  When pressed on the issue of homelessness and social housing, Mayor Corrigan mentioned Burnaby's previous attempt to build space for battered women in the Burnaby Heights area only to have the Provincial Government pull its support at the last minute most likely to punish Burnaby for its City Council's political stripe being different from that of Victoria.

To his credit, Team Burnaby's Garth Evans admitted that the Provincial Government headed by the party that he supports has failed to live up to its share of the responsibility in Burnaby to tackle the issue of homelessness.

Adrianne Merlow of the Greens chastised Burnaby Council for not being active in dealing with homelessness and suggested that although Burnaby Council is making a technical argument for it's lack of action (provincial-municpal disagreements) but that the issue is more of a moral one that Council has ignored.

When questioned about their opinion on the carbon tax increase of 2 cents per litre recently approved by the TransLink Board of Directors, Burnaby Council gave its usual answer that it opposed the increase.  Team Burnaby Candidate Tom Tao again failed to answer a question while he went on with his usual digressions.  The closest he came to talking about the carbon tax increase came when he had to ask the questioner about which jurisdiction the carbon tax falls under.  Tom Tao appears to not even know what the issue surrounding the carbon tax is about.  I was shocked to say the least that he has not been aware of the carbon tax issue including where the money goes.

Green candidate Merlow stated her support for the carbon tax increase arguing for the importance of constructing the Evergreen Line into Coquitlam which is, in the long term, an important step towards building up sustainable transportation infrastructure in the region.  The Green candidate continued to stress the importance of such initiatives to improve access to and from not only the SkyTrain stations in the town centres of Burnaby, but also the other stations that make up parts of the SkyTrain lines.  Emphasis was placed on improved walkability and cycling from single-family neighbourhoods to transit stations.

One issue not discussed regarding homelessness is the potential for increased numbers of homeless people to migrate into the town centres of Burnaby as increased density in areas such as Brentwood will draw homeless people in search of safety from the isolation that they suffer from in less densely-populated areas that have less amenities.  As the Brentwood area grows, more affordable housing, homeless shelters, and other social services will be required to assist marginalized people seeking safety and opportunities in the area.  To ignore the issue now and  to react to it later as an afterthought will end up costing tax-payers more in the long-run.  Programs must be established and space developed to prepare for the issue to even have a remote chance of adequately dealing with increased homelessness.

One of the issues that residents in the Brentwood area have expressed concerns about is traffic congestion as more highrises bring more people to the area.  In the Brentwood Park area of single family homes, the issue of pedestrian safety has become more apparent as increasingly rude, rat running motorists fail to acknowledge the existence of pedestrians, particularly children.  I have personally even seen speeding motorists pass other drivers that conscientiously drive within the speed limit on Brentlawn Dr which is a residential street on which when cars are parked on both sides, only one car can pass through between them.  Children trying to cross Beta Ave at Brentlawn Dr have been ignored as multiple motorists drive through the stop sign on Beta to turn onto Brentlawn Dr.

From the performance of the candidates last night, I would say the BCA (current Council) and the Greens truly earned their votes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Municipal candidates share views on development and density

Tonight I will be attending the All-Candidates debate at Gilmore Elementary School to hear the candidates' views on development in the Brentwood Neighbourhood.  Over the past few weeks, some of the candidates have expressed some of their views on the concept of density as the election nears.  For anyone interested in going, the doors open at 6:30.  The following articles/letters are from the Burnaby Newsleader.

Burnaby NewsLeader

Protect neighbourhoods from rapid change: Murchie

Neighbourhoods around Burnaby’s SkyTrain stations are undergoing significant change as they are being redeveloped to accommodate higher densities. The planning department says it’s all according to its Official Community Plan, the basis of which was created in the 1960s. Other than occasional updates, Burnaby city hall has been working towards fulfilling that vision.
The NewsLeader asked three council candidates: What do you think about the pace of development in Burnaby?
Incumbent Coun. Colleen Jordan, Burnaby Citizens’ Association, is chair of the city’s community development committee and retired former secretary-treasurer for CUPE-BC.
“The key question is whether Burnaby can continue to grow as a diverse, modern city, while ensuring we maintain the values that make us a leader in Canada. The answer is a resounding yes!
Following our Official Community Plan (OCP), and in consultation with residents, we have increased density in our town centres, while preserving green space and single family neighbourhoods.
In the 1980s I lived in Middlegate. Over 30 years the new Highgate area has evolved, complete with new city facilities like a firehall, library, and recreation centre.  Private development replaced the mall, and new housing continues to expand. This is exactly what the OCP envisioned.
As one resident commented respecting the new plan to rebuild the [Station Square] Save-On-Foods site with a pedestrian-friendly urban village, ‘It’s about time.’
Too fast, or too slow, I would say it’s just about the right pace.”
Carrie McLaren, Burnaby Municipal Greens, currently works in the accounting office of a Burnaby firm while studying business at Capilano College.
“From just personal observation, the pace of development looks healthier than in the past few years. Two townhouse developments finally finishing up in my neighbourhood. They had been delayed for a few years leaving empty lots and holes in the ground due to the economic recession.
According to the city’s website numbers, 2011 so far has seen double the new construction starts of 2010. The overwhelming majority is single-family and multi-family developments. One item I’ve noticed, the city seems to depend on developers to create neighbourhood sidewalks—leaving them a patchwork of incomplete sections.
We will need to continue to replace, update and renovate older buildings and homes over the next 20 years or so, and find ways of creating new housing for future population growth (over one million in Lower Mainland cities in the next 30 years, according to Metro Vancouver). Also, we can’t forget the commercial and industrial sector if we are to continue to have a good mix of residential and business in Burnaby.”
Graham Murchie, Team Burnaby, is a retired urban planner.
“When I was Surrey chief planner, our growth rate was much higher than Burnaby’s now. We prepared for it, had up-to-date plans in place, and we talked to the residents, and required that developers consult residents too. Change happened without too much conflict because people knew what was happening. This is not the case in Burnaby today.
1. Burnaby’s plans are hopelessly out-of-date. The Metrotown plan, for example, is 34 years old! We need to create a new vision for Burnaby.
2. Our neighbourhoods must be protected from dramatic change, and residents must shape what happens. Council needs public input on how this growth is to occur, what to do about secondary suites, affordable housing, and so on.
3. The development process must be more open. In every community in B.C. developers are required to consult with the community before bringing forward a new proposal. This does not happen in Burnaby.”

Burnaby Newsleader

Density in Burnaby is good—to a point

I want to thank Lee Rankin for keeping the issue of densification in the spotlight. It gives the Municipal Green Party an opportunity to educate Team and the BCA about the Green position on the subject.
First of all, Greens support densification. Specifically we support densification within walking distance of transit hubs.
Owing to its geography, Burnaby is fortunate to have 11 Skytrain stations inclusive of the four town centre stations. The decision to densify four of them a half century ago might have been “visionary” at the time, but the world has changed considerably since the Sixties and Seventies (and so have the BCA).
I doubt most people of that time anticipated the worldwide changes in human migration, the reality of a global economy, climate change, ALR encroachment, or local food security.
Another misconception is that council has the capacity to rezone a property against the wishes of the property owner. If a homeowner wishes to rezone a property, they can apply to do so. Those owners with single and two family lots that had the good fortune to buy close to a SkyTrain hub deserve the opportunity to rezone their property to higher density, make a handsome profit from doing so and reduce the ecological footprint of the people that settle there in the future.
One point that we can agree upon with Mr. Rankin is the need for a community “buy-in” to densification.
As far as I can see, when the supplementary density bonus amendment “S-zoning” was introduced and unanimously approved by the current council, there was little, if any, public consultation or input.
New towers being constructed or considered are planned to be 50 to 100 percent taller than anything that existed in the town centers before. These projects will add to congestion and over-crowding. Greens believe the affected neighbourhoods were not given an opportunity to “buy-into” this S-zoning.
If the BCA and Team want to vilify Greens for trying to give a voice to people in the town centers then so be it.
Rick McGowan
Green candidate for city council

Burnaby NewsLeader

Burnaby residents support city centre concept

Published: October 20, 2011 4:00 PM 

I read Grant Granger’s column “A surreal spin around Metrotown” (NewsLeader, Oct. 7) with great interest. Many of his observations hit the mark and reflect more than three decades of collective wisdom around the issue of urban growth.
Conceived in the late seventies and early eighties, Burnaby’s major town centres—Metrotown, Brentwood, Lougheed and Edmonds—were designed to be hubs of residential and commercial activity, as well as transportation hubs.
The town centre concept has been supported historically across the political spectrum in Burnaby. As a council member and past housing committee chair, I always believed it was important that there was a community “buy-in” to the town centre concept and densification. High density development outside the town centre has been restricted and successive councils have taken care to ensure that multi-family and commercial development in other areas has followed careful consultation.
There has never been much appetite for densification of single and two-family neighbourhoods and it is indeed surprising and a bit troubling that some aspiring politicians are advocating for it now.
Lee Rankin
Team Burnaby council candidate