Monday, January 14, 2008

Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Bureaucracy...

And from the Unbelievable But True crate comes this story:

You've got mail, but no more mailbox

This was a Globe & Mail headline today explaining how Canada Post is cutting back on service to rural mailboxes.

The story in full is here, and the best quote comes from an enlightened union spokesperson:

"Carriers are also worried about repetitive-strain injury from leaning out vehicle windows to stuff the mail into roadside boxes."

Jonathan Baker on Ecodensity, Global Warming and Snitty Hall

The following is a shorter version of a major paper prepared by Jonathan Baker, former City Councilor, lawyer and good friend.

Cool Zoning

Groucho Marx observed that politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, analyzing it incorrectly and applying the wrong solutions. That about sums up Vancouver’s proposed Eco density Charter.

Desperate to appear to be doing something about global warming, City Hall threatens to rezone huge chunks of the single-family neighborhoods of Vancouver and purports to apply ecological footprint theory to zoning. The argument is that high-density apartment living helps cool the earth, because it supposedly produces fewer greenhouse gases. Urban Planner William Rees is the father of Ecological Footprintism. In an article, “Is Humanity Fatally Successful” Rees argues that mankind should be perfectly happy with an income of about $7500 per year. It is comforting to know that we can achieve sustainability if we merely adopt the standard of living of a failed state.

Serious concerns about catastrophic climate change are not new nor are the occasional idiotic proposals to deal with it. In 1950 Emanuel Velikovsky, a charismatic psychoanalyst and amateur astronomer suggested that the earth might wobble and tip at any moment because of the accumulation of polar ice. Some politicians urgently proposed at the time that the US detonate as many nuclear bombs as necessary at one or another of the poles to lighten things up at the heavy end of the planet and thus save the environment.

Mark Twain joked a hundred and twenty-five years ago, “Everyone is talking about the weather but no one does anything about it.” Today City Council is about to take him up on it and rezone for a cooler climate.

Assuming that carbon dioxide and not gamma rays is the driving force of climate change, current climate models offer little benefit to decision makers. For all of the computational power available today, the climate system is too complicated to make a reliable computational model. It is made up of numerous interlocking subsystems, which interact with each other. In some cases there is uncertainty about whether changes would bring a positive or negative feedback. Today's models require that numerous assumptions be made but the wrong assumption can lead to an incorrect model result. There is no indication that the City has made any effort at all to model the impacts of its proposals.

This is a problem. Governments were certain that replacing fossil fuels with biofuels was a sure way of reducing CO2 emissions. That is not how it turned out. A study reported on January 9, 2008 supports earlier research that some biofuels result in more CO2 than fossil fuels.[1]

In this context of uncertainty where scientists argue about whether the world will end in fire or ice, City Hall thinks that by redeveloping single-family areas they will be doing their bit to save the world. They assume that high-density buildings are more sustainable with respect to CO2 emissions. It is quite an assumption. Old buildings have to be demolished and carted off to the land-fill. New construction itself demands a lot of energy. Apartments and their common areas with elevators, lights, heat, air conditioning and other facilities demand enormous amounts of energy and generate lots of carbon dioxide. [2]

An alternative to high-rise construction that has received a fair amount of political blabber is to allow and encourage small houses in yards. The infill, however, will happen at the expense of trees and vegetation which of course photosynthesize CO2 to produce oxygen. How good is that?

And have you heard the one about how the residents of the new improved dense areas are sure to commute to work by transit and shop in the neighborhood? The trouble is that Vancouver’s commuting and shopping patterns have already changed. Increasing numbers of people choose to live in the City, commute to work outside of it and shop at mega-stores. Increasing the density is just as likely therefore to increase car use.[3]

Dense urban areas are magnets. The boulevards of Paris, which has the best public transportation system in the World, are jammed with cars.

Increasing Vancouver’s density by redeveloping and paving over single-family neighborhoods will solve the politicians’ problem of raising money from developers. To propose it as an environmental solution is scandalous.




[2] Eco D. Charter “Higher density buildings consume less energy and water, especially when combined with green design.”

[3] Eco D. Charter “Two key contributors to climate change are transportation and building energy use. EcoDensity can help reduce both. Well-located density puts people close to shops, jobs, amenities and services, meaning more trips are made by walking, biking and transit, instead of by car. This also creates a larger customer base for local shopping areas, supporting a wider array of shops and services, which in turn, means that even more needs can be fulfilled close to home. Similarly, putting people close to transit means more trips are made using transit, and makes better transit service more feasible

Susan, of Cambie Street Fame, Writes Bill Goo

Hi Bill

Sam Sullivan will say anything to promote himself - ANYTHING.

The audacity to blame "the past City administration" for the financial
disaster that the Canada Line has become is beyond the pale!

He was the only City councillor that would not meet with the merchants in
early 2005 when we desperately needed help - and now as Mayor has continued
ignored our concerns, and has turned his back on any and all financial help,
joining the Provincial choir with "it's not our project" - blame TransLink.

He cast his vote along with the other councillors for their CONDITIONAL
approval of the project - the many conditions included adequate mitigation
for the impacts of the project on the community and businesses.

Obviously this never happened. Lives have been forever changed and
livelihoods ruined needlessly and shamefully. This project was built on the
backs of the small businesses, for the profit of the builder and big
developers - the same people who now sit on the appointed TransLink Board!
There was and is no transparency - no accountability - no integrity.

Thanks Bill, for raising our concerns with the Premier. I just heard your
exchange ..."we've learned from what happened Cambie Street" says the
Premier. What has he learned? That you can destroy the lifes work of small
business people with absolute impunity while offering a limp "it's too bad
what happened there"....Has he learned that he can do whatever he wants, and
slap the face of democracy? I am disgusted by this arrogant dictatorship.

It will be very interesting how they justify boring down Broadway, after
promising a bored tunnel to Cambie merchants then double-crossing all of us
and bankrupting many in the process. They approved shutting down Cambie
which is the main route in and out of the City from all points South and
East, yet claim Broadway impacts would be of great concern. They need to
acknowledge this with immediate compensation for doing the wrong thing alomg
the Canada Line.

This is going to stick to our teflon Premier. We'll see to that, and we'll
get the financial relief that is due one way or the other.


Build the Line and Build it Right

I was in the San Francisco Bay area recently.

I travelled from the S.F. airport to the Oakland-Coliseum stop and back on separate days, a trip of about 50 minutes. I travelled from the Oakland-Coliseum stop to Powell Street and market and Union Square and back on another day. That's a trip of about 25 minutes.

On all occasions, I found the experience not pleasurable, but reasonable. Cheap, efficient, reliable, easy to understand and negotiate.

Has BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) reduced auto traffic on the Bay Bridge or roads in general? I have no idea, but I would guess not. We drove 4 times from the Oakland stop to and from my friend's house in Clayton. Each trip took one hour on a packed freeway system.

Does that mean BART is a waste? Not at all. It's a great system, millions of people use it every day, and if more lines are built, more will use them.

All of which is to say...if Premier Campbell wants to built more public transit, I say, "Do it!"

Now, if you screw up my 10th Avenue shopping district while building a subway to UBC the heartless way you have screwed up Cambie Street, I will be mightily pissed and lobbying to have your head.

But, that aside, build the damn things already. Only this time, try to do it right.

And while you're at it, throw in several hundred million in compensation for the Cambie merchants whom you have bankrupted with your callous negligence.

Whister Steal

Here's an idea.

Let Gordon Campbell and John Furlong live in a shipping container.

Sophie to the Rescue

It is always dangerius to read the Sun's Frances Bula on City Hall.

After 3 years of worshipping Larry Campbell without shame every morning on the front page, Bula has still been allowed to cover this important beat. Why?

This morning, she did it again.

In noting that The Nutty Mayor has some federal Liberal support, Bula Bula adds, in a great leap of non-logic, that "should allay past crticisms about Sullivan that he has surrounded himself with federal Conservatives."

Well, Frannie, here's the double scoop:

Sam has surrounded himself with federal Conservatives. That is not a criticism; that is fact.

And, being the wily little opportunist that he is, The Nutty One has added a few Liberal sychophants to the corral as well. One does not negate the other.

Now, look at the high quality that Nutty is choosing.

Former Liberal MP Sophie Leung.

Now there's a doer.

Can anybody point to a single contribution to the general commweal made by this ghost?

I say, "Keep up the good work, Sam. Surround yourself with shadows. That'll have great results. For us."