Learning From Tokyo~Mental Health, Greening & the Design of the City

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Mimi Kirk and City Lab report on  a concept that is getting more and more attention-how do you design and plan cities and spaces to optimize the mental health of all citizens?  This is also the work that noted landscape Cornelia Oberlander has been advancing  as part of the Margolese Prize. A Tokyo-based psychiatrist Layla McCay notes that while mental illness in Japan is comparable to other countries, fewer people seek treatment for it. With stress seen as a major contributor to mental illness in Japan, and high suicide rates, the The Center for Urban Design and Mental Health recommends “that cities incorporate four main themes into urban design to support mental health: green spaces, active spaces, social spaces, and safe spaces.”

In reviewing Tokyo’s  streets, McCay noted that governmental officials and planners “tend to approach urban design with a view toward improving physical health rather than mental…

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Cropping Cash in the Agricultural Land Reserve~Surrey’s $28 Million Dollar “Farmhouse” Estate

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When Price Tags has a contest for the most important planning initiatives in Metro Vancouver, my vote will be for the recognition  of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This  was created in 1973 to permanently protect 47,000 square kilometers of provincial fertile arable land  from urbanization and land development. It was a smart idea to start the conversation of the importance of food security and maintenance of  farm land. Once its developed, farmland never goes back to arable use.

Of course by its nature the ALR restrictions prevent land owners from flipping and developing agricultural properties, and many may say that restrains the property rights of the owners. But there are lots of loopholes that are being exploited, including the development of monster mansions in Richmond on agricultural properties. Price Tags has already reported on  the fact that there is no foreign buyers’ tax on these mansions built on…

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Mansplaining, Planning, and the Need for Gender Equity

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Alissa Walker is a talented writer, Curbed.com’s Urbanism editor and lives in Los Angeles.  In Curbed.com Alissa  describes  something that  women in the planning, architectural or design professions know: despite the fact that roughly fifty per cent of the population are women, that is not reflected in the planning language used to describe place,  or indeed the people who are talking, thinking, or writing about planning-they are mostly men. Now there was Jane Jacobs, and New York City’s amazing Janette Sadik-Khan, the former Commissioner of Transportation-but where are the other planning women and why are they not widely championed?

Alissa had been reading four books on gentrification, and found “Not only are these four books by men, they’re largely about men. According to the books themselves, the factors that have contributed to gentrification—displacement of marginalized communities, systemically ingrained racism, unequitable housing policy—have been…

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Get Rid of the Tunnel, Then You Will Need The Bridge

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It’s just the story that keeps on giving. As reported on  The Indo Canadian voiceonline,  the Corporation of Delta, the Mayor, Council  and the Chief Executive Officer want their Massey Bridge and on the August 14 council meeting went through how to decommission the Massey Tunnel. You just can’t make this stuff up. Despite the fact every other municipality in Metro Vancouver has said no to this ten lane overbuilt bridge on the best farmland in Canada, Tsawwassen soldiers on with what they believe is good for themselves-and the region.

Firstly to build up the business case, Delta staff once again reviewed the safety issues in the George Massey Tunnel “including electrical system deficits, deteriorating concrete, damage to sprinkler system, and the ageing ventilation system”. And then the discussion moved to how to get rid of the tunnel, including  “potentially flooding the tunnel once the new…

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Dockless Bikes Making a Big Comeback in China

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The Economist reports on a new trend  that is getting attention in China-the return of the bicycle. Unlike the conventional docking systems that are used for bike-sharing initiatives in many cities, a user-friendly approach has been taken in China where bike rental is paid for by smart phone and then the bike can be left anywhere after the ride.  The use of GPS technology enables the bikes to be located with a mobile app. Since the typical bike ride by bike share is about fifteen cents or one yuan, and since bikes can move faster in areas that cars cannot, bike share has caught on.

Established in 2015, bike share company “OFO” has over 2.5 million bike share yellow framed bikes in more than fifty Chinese cities, with rival Mobike installing bright orange wheeled bikes. Things must be going well as Ofo is now commencing bike share services…

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The End of the Shopping Mall As We Know It

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As reported by CNN Money  nearly 25 per cent of all shopping malls in the United States will be closing within five years. While shopping malls used to serve as vending and social places, consumerism seems to be in decline generally, and certainly accelerated with the rise of online stores like Amazon.

As Credit Suisse reports, the United States undertook phenomenal mall development in fifty years, from 300 enclosed malls in 1970 to 1,211 today.  Credit Suisse suggests there is a retail bubble with too many stores being built, and point out that foot traffic at malls has been steadily declining for years. While online sales of consumer good is 17 per cent in the United States today, it is expected to double to 35 per cent by 2030. That decline in mall sales is borne out by the fact that “Department stores have lost more…

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Smell-o-Vision at the Bus Stop

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As reported in City Lab  by John Metcalfe , Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs paired up with the City’s Department of Transportation Vision Zero team  to reboot (no pun intended) how people “perceive streets”.  They hired artist Alan Nakagawa as the first “Creative Catalyst Artist-in-Residence”. Nakagawa has created haiku on road signs, and  other printed media. But the most interesting has been the installation of “Street Perfume” at a Mar Vista bus stop.

Mar Vista has transformed into  an area of cafes, galleries and small shops. Nakagawa noted that “There are smells of coffee, food, there’s a lot of landscaping so there’s also soil. There are aromatherapy shops so you occasionally get whiffs of perfume. Then there are the sewers, the gas mains, carbon dioxide, asphalt, and all that stuff.” 

So the artist created a long chrome cylinder affixed to a bus stop with the…

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