Sustainable Back Lanes in Vancouver? Permeable Paving May Not Be the Answer

It is always a strange experience to see work you have been involved with get repurposed and reinterpreted. I have written before about Vancouver’s Blooming Boulevards project, that was a “demonstration” project allowing residents to garden the city owned boulevard, that portion of every front property that is between the curb and the sidewalk.

Happily there is an individual giving tours of these remarkable gardens which now crop up throughout Vancouver, but in this article in the Globe and Mail the context of why and how these gardens developed-and the remarkable stewardship of Midori Oba and Peter Wohlwend, the two residents who started it all-is missing. You can read about how they and the neighbourhood changed city policy to allow boulevard gardening here.

The same thing happened when Councillor Mike Klassen asked that the City of Vancouver to review the “Country Lanes” that were also demonstration projects. In this article, people including current city staff posited why the country lanes were not adopted by the city.

But this article does not speak to the people who were involved in implementing these country lanes. The country lanes were disregarded for a very political reason: they are not full bore paving, which is easier to do, cheap and understandable to taxpayers, and most importantly does not require any change in how city crews do their work. They were never costed out correctly to include the sustainable aspects of water capture, slowing vehicular drivers, stopping flooding to neighbouring properties, lowering thermal temperatures, and providing an accessible public space for residents.

It is no surprise that paving back lanes is still the city’s mantra.

Back lanes will all look “same old”, except with the more politically palatable permeable pavement, because that is the way the city has always done things in the city’s back lanes. They pave them.

New evidence is showing that proximity to greenery is important to mental and physical health-why can’t we make backlanes to be neighbourhood green spaces?

How did the country lane concept start?

Two decades ago Mountainview resident Sharole Tylor walked into city hall and asked why a perfectly nice dirt lane east of Fraser Street needed to be paved with asphalt, and asked why in a neighbourhood that had few recreational spaces for young kids that the back lane could not be dealt with differently.

In the 20th century, there were a lot of  Vancouver residential lanes that were dirty, gritty and dusty, and could be “improved” through-wait for it-paving. Asphalt did make these lanes more efficient for traffic and less muddy in winter, but brought its own set of evils, including speeding, flooding onto private property, off gassing of the asphalt, and the obliterating of any gardens or plants that were planted in the dusty lane.

There is a paving lane program that is part of  the Local Improvement Program. Information on this process is here. Residents could sign up other residents and petition the city to have back lanes paved, with the cost being shared between the property owners and the city.

Instead of paving, Ms. Tylor proposed that the City trial a demonstration project of a sustainable lane, with two concrete wheel runs for city garbage service and for vehicle driver access.

David DesRochers, a versatile engineer at the City of Vancouver was looking at more sustainable textures and finishes to the traditional paved back lane. Under his leadership, David Yurkovich, a landscape architect helped design three demonstration lanes, using structural soil contained in heavy vinyl cells. Engineer Wally Konowalchuk managed the project.

The first lane east of Fraser Street was built in concert with residents on a weekend, so that neighbours would know how the lane worked, and also would know how to replace any bricks that may be dislodged on the runs to their garages.


The pilot project won the American Public Works Association’s 2003 Technical Innovation Award.

There were three Country Lanes built-the lane east of Fraser Street, the back lane of City Farmer in Kitsilano, and the Hastings-Sunrise area near Yale Street. The first two lanes were designed using a landscape architect. The most successful has been the lane east of Fraser Street, which involved residents in the design and implementation.

The third lane, in Hastings-Sunrise was built by City of Vancouver crews without a completely prepared construction design, asking the city crews to lead. From the start, it was apparent that this back lane treatment did not have the same attention to detail and specifications, and has not performed well.

The country lane allows for 90 per cent of the rain water to be absorbed directly into the ground, increasing vegetation and taking the load off the sewer system. The one east of Fraser has also become a recognized public space for the residents, and has hosted barbeques and film screenings.

The first three Country Lanes were expensive because they were first builds, and clearly showed the importance of community engagement in construction and ongoing maintenance.

Initial maintenance in these lanes is also higher. But these lanes were never costed for the environmental, sustainable and social public space aspects they provide. They were never really championed for what they could do, and of course decades ago the idea of the need for sustainable open spaces in laneways for a densifying city  was not really on the radar.

Here is the Federal government’s write-up on the country lane. The right idea, the wrong time. Back lanes as green public spaces? It is time to revisit this concept.

Slowing Driver Speed to 30 Km/h Saves Edinburgh 20 Million Canadian Dollars Annually

Featured image for “Edinburgh Saves 60 Million Canadian Dollars Just By Slowing Driver Speed Limits to 30 Km/h”


While we are still struggling to urge the Provincial government to allow municipalities to declare areas of their towns as 30 km/h zones without the costly signage and legalities, the City of Edinburgh continues to show  why we need to implement slower driver road speeds.

The adoption of the lower driver road speeds was part of the City of Edinburgh’s commitment to Vision Zero, a strategy to stop all traffic fatalities and injuries while enhancing safe, healthy equitable mobility.

In this evaluation that has just been completed on the city’s 20 mph (30 km/h) citywide network, not only did average driver road speed drop, but researchers were able to clearly show that for every one mile per hour of decreased driver speed that accidents were reduced by five percent. Of course the other important outcome was that driver caused crashes at lower speeds result in less significant injuries to vulnerable road users.

Driver vehicle crashes were reduced by thirty percent in the first three years of the implementation of the 20 mile per hour speed limits, with a coinciding 31 percent drop in death and serious injury. The lower driver road speeds meant that more people bicycled more often.

Nitrogen Oxide emissions also decreased, a key national policy goal of the  British government. But the absolutely best part of this evaluation is the analysis that the lower driver speed limits have saved 38.6 million pounds in three years.

That’s the equivalent of nearly 60 million Canadian dollars.

Due to this effectiveness, Edinburgh’s Transport and Environment Councillor now wants to expand the area that is applied to the  20 mph driver road speed.

These findings are in keeping with this study published last Fall in the Journal of Transport and Health that looked at the 20 mph speed reduction in Edinburgh and in Belfast, Ireland. Even though there were marked differences in how the 20 mph and Vision Zero approach were implemented , reductions in posted driver speed resulted in “significant reductions in collisions and casualties, particularly in Edinburgh which had higher average speed at baseline”.

The study also noted that the monetary cost of crashes and deaths would exceed the cost of any intervention to reduce speed, making the overall cost and benefits favourable.

The YouTube video below describes the implementation of the 20 mph speed limits in Belfast and in Edinburgh.


NYC’s Answer to Left Turn Drivers Maiming Pedestrians

Featured image for “Left Hand Turn Drivers Kill, Maim Pedestrians-Here’s NYC’s Solution”


Written by:

Sandy James Planner

I have already talked about how how driver right turns on red lights became common practice. That movement  is a vestigial hold out from a half century ago. During the 1970’s gas crisis it was felt that it was more fuel efficient to allow vehicle drivers to turn right on red lights instead of waiting for the green signal. Prior to the 1970’s the right turn on red was largely prohibited in North America. Today Montreal and New York City are two of the only cities that prohibit drivers making a right turn on a red light. And they are both pedestrian oriented cities.

The right turn on red has persisted even though the  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found over 40 years ago that permitting these right turns by drivers increased driver crashes with pedestrians by  60 percent and increased driver crashes with cyclists  by 100 percent.

But what about the driver turning left at an intersection? The American National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTA) has found that 36 percent of all driver crashes at intersections were on left turns, and those turning movements result in twice the pedestrian and cyclist deaths as right hand turns, with three times more serious injuries.

There are three main reasons why driver left turns are dangerous to pedestrians. Vehicle drivers turning left use a wider radius and travel at higher speed, meaning people in the crosswalk are exposed to quick moving vehicles.

Left turns are taken at a wider radius, leading to higher speeds, cutting corners too closely and greater pedestrian exposure. During the left turn, the vehicle driver’s line of sight is not clear, with the vehicle’s A pillar concealing part of the outside view.

Lastly, left turns require more concentration from the driver that may be focussing just on moving the vehicle through a gap in traffic, meaning there is inattention at a moving pedestrian crossing the street.

It was New York City data that showed that left driver turns in the city were causing three times more serious deaths and injuries than right driver turns and in 2014 was one of the first cities in North America to embrace Vision Zero. Vision Zero refers to road design and philosophy that no road deaths or serious injuries occur on the road network.

In a two year study of citywide crash data, New York City in 2018 examined two methods to reduce driver left turn crashes. The first method was the location of bollards and rubber curbs to slow vehicle drivers. While bollards slowed drivers, 40 percent of the bollards were in bad condition and in nearly 40 percent of the intersections the bollards were missing.

The second method trialled was the use of recycled rubber speed bumps guiding the driver left turn at intersections. This decreased driver speed by over 50 percent when making left turns, and resulted in a 20 percent decrease in fatalities and serious injuries. The rubber speed bumps are now used to modify intersections, guide vehicle drivers, and to slow drivers down on left hand turns.

There were some other uncomfortable truths in the data about left hand turn drivers:  drivers go faster turning left than right, going 9 miles per hour instead of 5 miles per hour for a right hand turn. It also turned out that seniors with an average age of 67  were most at risk at being killed as pedestrians by left turn drivers. In comparison, all other fatal crash victims had a median age of 50 years.

New York City also found that 18 percent of intersections were responsible for of  deaths and serious injuries. Of those intersections, 70 percent of crashes involved drivers on a  one-way street, with 80 percent at signalized intersections.

Nearly 70 percent of fatalities and serious injuries happened on roads 60 feet or wider. (Sixty-six  feet is the standard width of a Vancouver street to property line.) And 51 percent of left driver turn accidents happened with a minor road going to a major arterial.

You can see in the illustrations below how the rubber speed bumps are used as wedges to guide the vehicle drivers and slow them down on two way streets:

And in one way streets meeting a two way road in the illustrations below.

You can take a look at this white paper that identifies how traffic calming left turn drivers saves lives. The paper also looks at other cities that have adopted the rubber speed bumps as guidance systems in intersections.

The intervention has been so successful that this company now produces “kits” based upon different intersection designs to implement the intersectional speed bumps.


Back to School & Parents Take Exception to Province’s “Schooling” on Safe Walk to School

Here we are starting another school year in Metro Vancouver, and Transportation BC and the provincial vehicle insurance provider, ICBC surprise in their mid 20th century vintage take on how children are supposed to be safe walking to school.

Instead of emphasizing a massive campaign for driver behaviour educating drivers to slow down or  the Province going forward with 30 kilometer neighbourhood driver speed limits, the onus is put on the kid to plan and fear driver vehicles. You can take a look at the associated materials on this at the Transportation BC website.

The heading is “Prepare to Be Schooled” and no one at the Province checked the definition of that phrase. That refers to the shaming and embarassing of a person, in this case a student, to be at the bottom of the hierarchy of road users.

Here is the definition from the Urban Dictionary of being “schooled”

“Being taught the proper way to perform an action, via extreme ownage and embarrasment. This requires the schooler, who is always of such a high level of skill that the schoolee has no chance of saving his reputation, to utterly dominate and show no remorse.”

Take a look at the text that the Province has written below in the graphic:

The downcast student: ICBC Ad

That’s not the kind of relationship that parents of school aged children want with vehicle drivers, nor is embarrassment, shame or fear the way for children to walk safely to school. It is proven internationally that there are three main factors involved in driver crashes with pedestrians and cyclists: driver inattention, driver speed, and driver intoxication.

Of course the Province could handle the driver speed issue right away by allowing municipalities to go to 30 kilometer speed limits, but it all about driver hurriedness and convenience, not the right priority of saving lives and preventing serious injury.  Vision Zero is the approach for no road deaths or serious injuries , which has had remarkable success in Europe.

There’s also the   City of Edinburgh, that in three years of adopting 30 km/h speed limits have lowered deaths and serious injuries from crashes by 31% , and have data showing that the  cost savings for slower speeds were 60 million Canadian dollars.

Thank goodness for the Vision Zero Vancouver twitter parents of school aged children, who with Jade Buchanan  “fixed” the troublesome graphic below with innovative wording aimed at vehicle drivers who are the cause of crashes into children.

As one parent stated on Twitter: 

And here is the version of the graphic with the text “amended” by parents to put the onus of responsibility for safe driving on the driver. Where it should be.

The new and improved text from Vision Zero Metro Vancouver paretns

Kudos to the school kids’ parents that stepped up to correct this error. You can keep track of Transportation BC’s website to see if they too will move into the 21st century in terms of road safety for children, emphasizing driver behaviour.

Better still, you can follow the Vision Zero Vancouver twitter account here.


Vancouver, Vision Zero, and Losing One Citizen a Month to Road Violence

Featured image for “One Pedestrian Death a Month in Vancouver & Vision Zero-“At Least You Are Talking to Each Other””

Vision Zero refers to zero road deaths and no serious injuries on roads, with the philosophy that every life matters.  Applied in Sweden since 1997 the core belief is that “Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society”. This approach differs from the standard cost benefit approach, where a dollar value is based upon life, and that value is used to decide the cost of road networks and calculate the cost of risk.

We see examples of this all the time and are now inured to these avoidable fatalities as the opportunity cost of driving a vehicle.

There has been seven pedestrians killed so far in Vancouver, one pedestrian a month, the latest being a woman crossing at Beach Avenue and Broughton Street at 8:00 p.m. (it was still light) on July 27. She was killed by a white SUV. A cyclist also lost his life in Vancouver biking on Pacific at Hornby in July.

In August the family of Sarah Lutgens (who at 73 years of age and extremely active was firstly reported as “elderly” in the Vancouver Sun) were in court regarding their death of their mother in September 2020. Ms. Lutgens  was killed by a driver at Tenth and Sasamat. The driver had proceeded through a red light making a left turn, crashing into  Ms. Lutgens who was legally crossing in a crosswalk and then continued to drive over Ms. Lutgens’ body.

It is no surprise that we as a society forgive these fatalities as an unpleasant side effect of the freedom to roam the road in a vehicle. And no surprise that driving over Ms. Lutgens is seen as an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act and not a criminal offence, as there was no proof of criminal intent.

Ms. Lutgens with one of her five children, daughter Ruth

As Keith Fraser writes in the Vancouver Sun, “the court held that there was no evidence of a wanton and reckless disregard for the rules of the road prior to the intersection, and drugs and alcohol were not believed to be involved. Speed did not appear to be a significant factor.”

There are three things that contribute to road fatalities: driver speed, driver intoxication, and driver inattention. The driver was fined for “driving without due care and attention”, given an $1,800 fine, with a one year ban on driving and eighteen months of probation. In court the driver apparently was upset about the driving prohibition as it inhibited taking her children to private school.

The media is also not reporting that Ms. Lutgens was struck and run over by a Tesla SUV.  Because of thicker “A” pillars and driver height the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)  reports that SUVs are twice as likely to crash into pedestrians on left turns than smaller vehicles. The researchers actually  suggest that the design of these  bigger vehicles are culpable, as they  “may not afford drivers as clear a view of people crossing a road.” 

That is inexcusable.

Ms. Lutgens, a mother of five children is not alive to give her version of the story, but dash cam footage filmed her final moments. One of Ms. Lutgen’s daughters said in her victim impact statement that the driver:

 “took my mother from me, from my siblings, and from my children and husband. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I could not take care of myself or my children.”

There are cliffs in terms of the recognition of the collateral damage done to families by these crashes, and the loss of talent and treasure to society in these unnecessary deaths.

This year Parachute Canada has commenced the discussion in a national awareness campaign based on Vision Zero principles that calls on Canadians to #ShareSafeRoads.  

Parachute Canada is a national charity dedicated to injury prevention and they have produced a series of quick 30 second videos getting the “driver”, “pedestrian”, “cyclist” and even the “scooter” to sit down and talk to a therapist. We need to commence and continue this dialogue.

We’ve included the YouTube video for you to view below.

Is it Time to Rethink Right Turns on Red Lights?

Do you know the history of how vehicle drivers were allowed to turn right at a red light?

And did  you know before fifty years ago while some places allowed drivers to turn right at a red light, nearly half of jurisdictions, including most of the eastern United States did not?

It was the 1973 Oil Crisis and the Energy Crisis of 1979 when fuel costs soared that vehicle drivers and governments looked at reducing energy use nationally. It was Alan Voorhees that did work on the “benefits” of the Right Turn on Red System (RTOR).  As unlikely as it sounds, allowing a driver to turn right on a red light at an intersection saved between 1 and 4.6 seconds of time. This was seen by the National Energy Department as a significant improvement for energy efficiency, and it was recommended that RTOR be implemented nationally.

Besides the time saving, there was a saving in fuel costs that impacted mainly larger vans and trucks. That is why today many courier companies have their trucks only making right turns to reduce idling, and to keep trucks from waiting in the middle of intersections to complete left turns.

Of course there was also the pesky bit of what happens when vehicles are allowed to turn right on red.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found over 40 years ago that permitting these right turns by drivers increased pedestrian crashes by 60 percent and increased cyclists crashes by 100 percent. But saving those few seconds of stopping time for vehicle drivers has still been paramount, with even Quebec moving to allowing right turn on red (except in Montreal) in 2003.

In 2015 Toronto Public Health produced a report showing that the right turn on red driving tactic had resulted in 1,300 pedestrian injuries and deaths from 2008 to 2012. That is 13 percent of all serious injuries and deaths due to vehicle driver crashes. Simply prohibiting the right turn on red would alleviate  those injuries and fatalities.

As Councillor Mike Layton recounted “the decision to allow RTOR “had nothing to do with road safety and everything to do with convenience and saving gas.”

You would think in a country that provides universal health care the concept of Vision Zero, allowing no deaths or serious injury on any roads would be of paramount importance. But the right turn on red permission for drivers has been relatively unchallenged, and the injury and death impact of giving drivers priority is underreported.

Take a look below at two articles from British Columbia published thirty years apart discussing allowing drivers the ability to turn right through red lights. The first article was published in the Vancouver Sun in 1953. The second article by Sydney Harris was published in the Victoria Times Colonist in 1981.

Here we are 40 years later, supposedly championing sidewalk users and cyclists in cities, and still giving vehicle drivers that few seconds of priority with red light turns. At what cost?

Right turn on red Vancouver 1953 14 Jul 1953, Tue The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

Times Colonist Victoria May 5, 1981 05 May 1981, Tue Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)

November in Vancouver: Welcome to Petrichor!

If you live in Metro Vancouver you know this scent, but you may not know its scientific name. Yesterday Jeffrey Tumlin, Executive Director at  the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) teased Twitter about that fresh rain smell.

After the first fulsome rain signalling the end of a very dry summer in Metro Vancouver there is a certain scent in the post-rain air that smells different and fresh in an oddly musky kind of way.

There is science behind it. When plants are dry they exude an oil to when root growth and seed germination are finished. When rain arrives it mixes with these oils and releases the scent as an aerosol when raindrops hit the plants.

This scent was termed “petrichor” in 1964 by two Australian scientists. The actual smell of petrichor is made by a mix of plant oils that produce chemicals. The word is derived from the Greek  “Petra” for stone” and “ichor” used originally to describe the life blood of the immortal deities.

The source of the smell is made from a combination of oils and chemicals, especially from actinobacteria. These microorganisms decompose organic matter into simple compounds that then nourish developing plants and other organisms.  Geosmin is produced as a byproduct. Being an alcohol it has a stronger smell, and the slight acid scent of geosmin can be noticed by people in even very small minute particles.

To learn more you can read  this article by Paul Brown in The Guardian.  For the pronunciation of Petrichor and a bit more on the word’s derivation, take a look at the very short YouTube video below.

Do you know about Crown Street, Vancouver’s First Sustainable Street?

Did you know that there is still one natural salmon bearing stream left in the City of Vancouver? That is on Crown Street south of Southwest Marine Drive, and you can see it as it goes through Musqueam Park. Fish that have used this creek are Chum, Coho and Cutthroat trout.

This stream and its location is also important, as it is next to the Musqueam First Nation, and Crown Street is also a major entrance to the Nation.

Even two decades ago the City of Vancouver had a surprising percolating font of innovation in the most unexpected place, the Engineering Department. There visionaries like Doug Smith of Greenways (who now heads up the Sustainability Department) and David Desrochers who was manager of Sewer Design stewarded new approaches to managing streets and stormwater. They believed that work could be done in a different, more ecologically sensitive way, and looked for opportunities to test new materials and work in their projects. One grumpy conservative engineer at the city  said that both of these individuals should lose their engineering accreditations for their innovative approaches. But that most certainly  did not happen, instead both Mr. Smith and Mr. Desrochers created work that garnered international attention and awards. And no one talks about the grumpy engineer.

David Desrochers along with  Wally Konowalchuk and Jonathan Helmus had been looking for a place to experiment with a more ecologically responsible way to innovate on  the standard street curb and gutter.  Crown Street with its proximity to this important  salmon stream  and  to the  gateway of the  Musqueam First Nations lands was chosen.

The work on Crown Street between Southwest Marine Drive and 48th Avenue was approved in 2002 . In 2004 funding of 1.18 million was approved with $545,000 being the city share of the cost. Other funding came from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities,($593,350) with the remainder from the Musqueam First Nation and through a Local Improvement Program initiative cost shared with residents.

Crown Street became a traffic calmed street with many of the elements of Seattle’s SEA streets, with minimal impermeable surfaces, and a natural storm water management system. Ditches and infiltration bulges are filled with appropriate plants. Those plants naturally filtrate storm water contaminants before reaching the streams, which enhances fish habitat. Granite curb sets, pavers and markers, many recycled, were used to delineate the street instead of cement and concrete.

Fifteen years later Crown Street with its narrowed road surfaces and gravelled separated sidewalks has been a success. This street shows how to move away from the standard curb and gutter treatment and maximize green space, squelch heat-island impacts of larger asphalt surfaces, and infiltrate and clean storm water in verges and ditches.

There are two other fish bearing streams in Vancouver: one in Stanley Park that is a fish habitat  exhibit, and a restored creek at Spanish Banks, where Coho and Chum salmon return. But none of those are natural.

This map produced by the Vancouver Park Board shows a walk around Musqueam Park and points of interest.

Climate Risk Assessments & Climate Refugees Coming Soon

Here’s another way that real estate prices will be getting more expensive: places that are not as impacted by climate change will see values increase as more “climate refugees” move there. And the price of insurance for homes will also be increasing as heat maps of climate risk in municipalities become normalized.

Think of hazard heat maps as the  “Walk Score” for property values in the 21st century.

Emma Paling of CBC  writes that climate risk assessments will be the next tool added to real estate inventories, and that future home buyers will see value in purchasing property with ocean views, but not  close to water with future sea rise, storm surges, and flooding potential.

Propublica’s data in this article by L. Waldron and A. Lustgarten  suggests that climate “damage” will mean that the southern third of the United States will become so hot it will disrupt the economy “erasing more than 8% of its economic output and likely turning migration from a choice to an imperative.”

A company in San Francisco, ClimateCheck does risk assessments based upon address for the United States. The tool has  been added to Redfin’s real estate listings on the web. Properties are ranked from 0 to 100. The closer to a 100 score the more  most risk. The tool is being adapted for Canadian use.

Since the disastrous flood in Calgary in 2013 costing five billion dollars of damage, flood risk information has been provided by realtors.  Price point and location of where buyers want to purchase homes has not yet been impacted.

But as more climate change events impede low lying or properties that do not have good drainage, it is expected that climate change insurance will be tailored to topographical location and take into account associated risks in proximity to water, hardscapes, and other hazards.

The Province of British Columbia has already conducted a province wide assessment on potential risk factors and evaluated the probability of fifteen “climate risk” events along with economic, environmental and human consequences.

Produced in 2019 it was the first in Canada to look at a provincial climate risk assessment.

After the weather this summer it is no surprise that the greatest risks in this province are identified as “severe wildfire season, seasonal water shortage, heat wave, ocean acidification, glacier loss, and long-term water shortage”. 

Other risks identified were storm surges and “severe” river flooding with  provincial economic and environmental ramifications.

The report and the executive summary of the report are available here.

Last year I wrote about projection models showing that millions of people in the United States would be moving to northwest and northeast cities, with populations in places like Minnesota, Michigan and Vermont  growing by ten percent.  These areas will be seen as more temperate and inviting.

Cities like Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo and Milwaukee will be sought after for relocating climate refugees for the “excess capacity in infrastructure, water supplies and highways”.

In the first year of the pandemic Pacific northwest median sales prices  in Bellingham Washington rose 16.5 percent, and the number of homes sold has increased 26 percent.

It’s not too late to commence a co-ordinated approach to climate change with all levels of government, as Duke of Data and Simon Fraser University City Program Director told CBC’s Ms. Paling.

“Canadians need to start demanding “political courage” from all levels of elected leadership to mitigate the impact of climate change on housing and infrastructure and more policies like taxes on foreign buyers and empty homes. We just can’t afford to surrender.”

The YouTube video below talks about the new climate refugees who are moving to areas with less extreme weather, abundant water,  better infrastructure and transportation options.

Four Decades Ago: Frank & Myra, At Strathcona’s 660 Jackson Avenue

This is one of my favourite articles ever, and it about this wonderful couple, Frank and Myra.

They used to live at “The Jackson” building located at 660 Jackson Avenue. The couple lived in the top northwest apartment of the building in the 1980’s paying $500 a month for a one bedroom. Their one bedroom had access to a rooftop , of course with no proper decking or railing. These photos, with the views of surrounding construction and the city were taken exactly four decades ago.

Strathcona Roof Garden: Photo by Mark Murphy. Frank Murphy and Myra Thomson on the roof of ‘The Jackson’. 1981.

In the photo above Myra is on the roof with Frank. She  is pregnant with her daughter who is now 40 years old and is now pregnant herself. You can also see the Lord Strathcona Elementary School at 592 East Pender and the Chinese Public School at 499 East Pender in the background.

As Myra describes it The Jackson “had a great downtown and mountain view. The stairs to the rooftop were right outside our door. An eccentric and wonderful American expat by the name of Jim Medill had renovated the whole building. Frank was the first tenant in the newly renovated version.

Jim Medill also had beehives on the roof – at the other end from our garden.” (Editor’s note: Mr. Medill, with 20 hives, grew 400 pounds of honey per hive on this roof. The building was close to the BC Sugar packing which would have provided the sustenance.)

 “I grabbed wooden boxes from the alleys and back doors of the Chinatown shops and filled them with soil to plant veggies. The garden had cauliflower, corn, broccoli, lettuce and who knows what else. Also a nice hibiscus at one point.

There is a picture (somewhere) of our baby Meghan standing in a playpen that was on the roof.
We loved Chinatown – the BBQ duck, the dim sum, the bustle of the markets. The Strathcona Hotel at one point had a restaurant with a fabulous chicken and peanut dish. My favourite place was Maxims. The beef curry pastry and the egg tarts!

We were such regulars that we were given a discount. Another favourite thing was the Chinatown grannies who would always stop and admire the baby and make sure that I had her covered up enough from the cold.

We also loved Benny’s which was just around the corner. Benny contributed a platter of appies for a business opening party that we had at Camerawork. Lovely man.
‘The Jackson’ is still there and looking great.”

Myra signs her notes with a quote from the song One Fine Day written by by David Byrne and Brian Eno in 2008:

“Then a peace of mind fell over me —
In these troubled times, I still can see
We can use the stars, to guide the way
It is not that far, the one fine day.”