Walking – the Talk-My First TEDx!


I was invited in 2016 to prepare a TEDx talk on Walking  in Carson City Nevada

Preparing for a TEDx talk is different from anything else you will ever do, as you speak for twenty minutes on a subject you are passionate about without notes to a live audience and seven roving cameras.

I personally feel that creating walkable environments is the right thing to do and is the best way to organize a healthy, sociable, interesting and sufficiently dense area for all to live in and thrive. While TEDx works best if you are talking directly about your personal experience, I wanted to talk about walkability, why it is important, and to highlight the stories of three extraordinary people who I have worked closely with in  undertaking amazing initiatives transforming walking in their neighbourhoods. And in Vancouver, those “neighbourhoods” have populations of about 45,000 people.

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We are in a time where there are planning “experts” that talk and tell us about how to live better in cities. I believe that the people living in those communities are the experts, and just as Jane Jacobs said, neighbourhoods lead the way.  I am so grateful to these citizens for everything they have taught me-and continue to coach me on. We truly live with community heroes in our midst.

I also wanted to express my thanks and gratitude to the Carson City TEDx committee for inviting me to speak in Carson City.  It was a tremendous experience.

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Sandy James, planner, part-time Price Tags editor and author, speaks to TEDxCarsonCity.

The transformative power of walking:  why walking is good for your bottom line.

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Tsawwassen Mills Mall Marks Its Mega First Birthday

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It’s been one year now since Tsawwassen Mills, the highly touted Ivanhoe Cambridge offering  was opened as the latest ‘megamall’ in their stable, which includes CrossIron Mills near Calgary and Vaughan Mills near Toronto. The mall was described in breathless terms as a game changer in Metro Vancouver, attracting regional shoppers to over 200 stores. Even a Delta councillor was quoted as saying “It’s definitely different at every gate, it’s a different style.”

Well, not really. This behemoth within 1.2 million square feet sucked up a lot of Class 1 farmland and paved a lot of space for 6,000 cars. The design of the parking lots and the entrances anticipated a high volume of shoppers, resulting in twisty and winding  driveways into the massive development that frustrated shoppers trying to leave. On the opening day weekend,  a volume of shoppers arrived for free merchandise vouchers and opening sales. When they…

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Trying to Stop Condo Flipping at One Burrard Place Vancouver

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One Vancouver developer is dealing directly with the problem of condo buyers who purchase condos prior to occupancy, and then “re-assign” or sell the contract to another buyer prior to completion, pocketing the proceeds. While the Real Estate Council has regulations around “assigning”  single family houses, there is no similar regulation of condos prior to occupancy, and this activity has boosted the price of units.

As Joanne Lee-Young in the Vancouver Sun reports prices started at $890 a square foot for a 450 square foot unit in a 53 storey tower called One Burrard Place at Drake Street. That amounted to $400,000 for that unit in the winter of 2015. By early 2016, with all 354 units sold prior to building, condo prices increased around 40 per cent and the cost for a similar unit was about $1,250 a square foot.

President and CEO of Reliance Properties  Jon Stovell noted…

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“It’s Not Rocket Science, It’s Political”~Jennifer Keesmaat teaching @ U of Toronto

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In what will surely be a well subscribed course, the University of Toronto has announced that  Jennifer Keesmaat will be teaching in the geography and planning department. She’s accepting the John Bousefield Distinguised Visitorship in Planning and will be giving lectures as well as teaching a graduate level course.

You can well imagine this will be a well-rounded course taught by the former Chief Planner of Toronto who made planning accessible to Torontonians through social media, and ensured that public process and participation were paramount. The Toronto Star notes that Keesmaat will  be talking on “how we can transform the city to become a safer, more livable, pedestrian place” with her strongly held values that the city ” needs to build more urban infrastructure to accommodate the increasing density, and “build better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.”

And just to make sure everyone understands that density can be  done well and…

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You can Strata that Laneway House~And Other Zoning Changes in Vancouver

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There are some big changes coming  to Vancouver zoning as reported   in Metro News. You can read through the reports on changes to the single family zoning areas and the Grandview/Mount Pleasant areas here.  On Tuesday City of Vancouver Council approved policies that will allow for more density on single family lots throughout the city . In the RS single family zones,the low density single family areas that represent 80 per cent of Vancouver’s housing, homeowners will be allowed to build a laneway home, stratify it, and sell it off.  The intention is to encourage the maintenance of older Vancouver residences and to build more laneway homes. This is the first time that laneway houses could be split from the original title and sold.

In Grandview Woodlands and in Mount Pleasant that have denser “RT” zones, Council is allowing the number of units on a standard thirty-three foot lot…

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The Birds at Olympic Village Going to Rejuvenation Camp

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Everyone has an opinion on those magnificently large and some say rather strange sparrows that hold down Olympic Square designed by Myfanwy MacLeod. And yes, apparently they were inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds 1963 horror film. As Kevin Griffin with the Vancouver Sun observes  ” the shells have become significantly damaged, especially on the male bird. They are both used as ramps by skateboarders and bicycle riders, and people regularly climb over the two structures, which are 4.5 metres tall.”  The tail of the male sparrow has been badly compromised and is no longer water proof, and the steel frames of the birds will be replaced with more durable aluminum. If the success of a public art project is the degree of tactile interaction that users have with it, the sparrows have been a big hit.

A Barcelona engineer who is on the committee for the rebuilding…

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A California School Crossing So Dangerous They Won’t Hire a Safety Guard~and a Vancouver School Crossing They Won’t Do Because it Slows Traffic.

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fob_transportation-crossing_guard-elston_grace_bernard-900This story from NBC San Diego shows how far motordom continues to dominate, even when there are youngsters trying to walk to school. In Solana Beach North County California, a busy intersection has been  “deemed too dangerous even for crossing guards, leaving parents alarmed.” 


Officials at Skyline Elementary removed paid crossing guards by the 1-5 freeway exits on Loma Santa Fe because “the intersection was too hazardous and difficult to navigate.”
Getting rid of the crossing guard gives no other path for children walking or biking  to school to cross Interstate 5 without crossing freeway exits. The choices: Drive your kids or let them try crossing without an adult crossing guard. Parents being parents and thoughtful individuals, they have come up with some solutions to the problem, like getting a volunteer adult to assist at the intersection. They are also lobbying to prohibit right turns at some of the…

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Andy Yan, Aging and the Future of Seniors in Metro Vancouver

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seniorsDaphne Bramham of the Vancouver Sun has taken a look at the census poverty figures that Andy Yan, Director of  the City Program at Simon Fraser University has been extrapolating. As Daphne observes “Women face economic disadvantages throughout their lifetimes, but it is near the end of their lives that it is most acute. Nowhere is that more evident than in Metro Vancouver, which has Canada’s highest percentage of people living in low-income households. The 2016 census data for the region indicates that the percentage of women living in low-income households is 7.5-per-cent higher than men. But past the age of 65? The percentage of poor women jumps to 15.8 per cent.”

Why are there almost 16 per cent of older women in low-income households? Andy Yan calls this “structural patriarchy“, and that age and gender must be factored in to analyses. Women do live longer and…

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