Freeziepop and Zeroman battle Taxcess

Trees kick butt!

November 28, 2009

Trees win in urban growth battle Read the rest of this entry »

Cull or be culled

June 19, 2009


Yes! The city is in safe hands!

Roger and the communists

April 21, 2009

There are Communists! Communists! Right here in River City!

There are Communists! Communists! Right here in River City!

Read the rest of this entry »

Wanted! Bambi O’Deer!

April 7, 2009

bambi-odeer

City politicians last night recommended killing deer – proceeding with a cull – in the Sifton Bog, this fall to protect that environmentally sensitive land which is surrounded by a subdivision.

Hey! You wanna see a match?

November 8, 2008

Donkey face

My ass and my face!

Fire crews are at the Brunswick Hotel, where a massive blaze has destroyed the 153-year-old building. The building had undergone an unauthorized, partial demolition on October 19 but was shut down by an Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation on October 20.

Reading this interview with Moshe Safdie in Queens Quarterly while waiting out the prep of Thanksgiving dinner.

Referencing his experience with McGills mega-hospital, a project he resigned from, he says; Most buildings going up have little or no archtectural input  in their design. Most everything is predetermind by developers.

The government sets up the procedure which minimizes the governments involvement in the building with a P3 public-private partnership. Government says, ‘We have so much money – give us the proposals. You design the facility, you operate it, you hire the architect and engineers, give us a product within the budget.’ 

This is happening across the board with jails, with airports and with hospitals. 

“I suppose at some point it’ll happen with houses of parliament. Who knows where the end of the line is?” 

Safdie feels this process stifles any innovation. The developers are out to deliver a product at the lowest cost. They have to. That’s the process. If they don’t, they don’t get the job. 

Architects are hired who’ll do an expeditious job. There is no place to reinvent or rethink past the lowest common denominator that’ll do the job, which is okay for a warehouse or a parking garage, but for buildings of a greater cultural purpose it is questionable. 

When the private sector developer decides what our libraries will look like, what our hospitals will look like,  we are saying the marketplace is going to decide our image, our fundamental image 

Buildings tell the story of our culture. When we delegate that to the marketplace, to the lowest common denominator, we are saying something about ourselves. 

Queens Quarterly Summer 2008 
Moshe Safdie architect interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel

A very Gehry parking spot

Let’s play demo ball

October 8, 2008

It’s a game of push and pull. Read the rest of this entry »

Historic West Woodfield

August 13, 2008

Section of a proposed heritage building preservation area is torn out of the map.

Idling at one of the 150 Tim Horton’s drive-thrus in London, it is said, contributes to poor air quality. There is a movement to ban drive-thrus.  There is an argument that drive-thrus are great for the handicapped and elderly who find it difficult to get out of cars. Well, I guess they didn’t find it too difficult to get into the car. 

Yet handicapped persons, some argue, would be well served by adding nine more accessible cabs to the present fleet of nine.

Jamie Donnelly of Aboutown, one of London’s two main cab companies, told the committee he thinks the city needs three new such cabs, but adding nine won’t do undue harm to the industry.

“That would not do it,” [Roger Khouri] said, using a much smaller area city as an example of how to handle the issue.

“Woodstock has eight accessible cabs — with a population of 36,000. That’s absolutely phenomenal.”

Coun. Walter Lonc has studied how Ottawa handles accessible cabs: That city has 185, so, given that ratio, a city of London’s size should have about 73, he said.

Doesn’t this suggest that London is well served in terms of handicapped access to drive-thru coffee?

Jonathon Sher reports in Woodlands’ fate in hands of OMB:

A two-week hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board ended with lawyers for the city and an activist defending a policy that protects most of the city’s larger woodlands against development. Under that policy, adopted by council in 2006, the city expects to declare as significant — and protect — about 96 per cent of woodlands that are at least four hectares. An older policy protected as little as 25 per cent of those woodlands.

The arguments are being challenged by Developers and their lawyers:
But his argument and that of the city was challenged by lawyer Barry Card, who’s representing developers such as Farhi Holdings, Sifton Properties, Drewlo Holdings, Z-Group and a lobby group that represents the industry, the London Development Institute.
Rather than make changes by amending the city’s official plan, a labour-intensive step that engages the public and experts, the city adopted a new policy, Card said.
“It really amounts to a sell-out of the planning process,” he said.
Under old rules, a woodland wasn’t significant unless it rated high in three of several categories that include size, composition, age and history. New rules require only a single high rating.
“That takes 1,000 hectares (of woodlands) off the table,” Card said.

That takes 1000 hectares of trees off the protected state and allows them to be clearcut to build suburbs, driveways, roads and golf ball driving ranges. In an earlier story, Debate blooming again over London’s tree-protection policy from Wed, January 16, 2008 By PATRICK MALONEY, SUN MEDIA, Card said:

“It’s not about whether significant woodlands will be protected — but whether insignificant woodlands will be protected,” said lawyer Barry Card, who is representing a consortium of local developers at the hearing. “Developers like treed communities. What they don’t like is a change of the rules that’s arbitrary or ill-advised.”

I guess breathing is ill-advised. Developers like treed communities because the houses on the edge of the woodlot sell for more money. Funny. Seems people like trees. They like cars, and they like trees. From Trees In Trust;

An acre of trees absorb enough carbon dioxide in a year to equal the amount produced when you drive a car (41,000 km). (North Carolina State University Trees of Strength).

Now get out a calculator.

if 1000 hectares = 2471.05381 acres

then 1 acre = .40468564224 hectare

1 acre can deal with the CO2 from 1 car driving 41,000 km so

the CO2 absorption per hectare would be… 41,000 x .40468 or 16,592.085 km

Let’s do some looking for the average mileage of a vehicle in a year. What’s the average mileage of a second hand car? The average mileage on Canadian car works out to between 10,000 and 15,000 k per year, so let’s say 12500 k.
Now, from TRANSPORTATION: Road vehicles Canada averages .58 vehicles per person, where the average for OECD countries is .5. According to Wikipedia, the population of London is 457720. We commonly round this to 450000. This gives us a vehicle count of between 225000 and 265477.

Let’s do some rounding:

CO2 per hectare: 16,500 -> 16000 -> 4

year avg mileage: 12,500 -> 12000 -> 3

So, 1.33 cars per hectare. 1000 hectares support the annual CO2 emissions from 130,000 cars, and London should have about twice that many vehicles.

Ask yourself then, is 1000 hectares an insignificant woodlot?

Mr. Card and this developer consortium argue that it’s good policy to cut out your lungs. Ironically, trees support urban sprawl. The more trees you have, the more CO2 from cars you can support.

This video essay and interview with Richard Florida; At the intersection of immigrant and hippie is an interesting find in light of our recent trip.

There has been no functioning government in Nepal for about 12 years now – at least since the last election. Kings and parliaments and Maoist insurgents arguing over how things should be done have put a stop to any kind of local power in terms of city planning. The streets of Kensington Market are safe and civilized compared to Kathmandu.

The views of traffic, goods on the streets, people walking, taste slightly of the intensity both of Kathmandu, and a remaining street market near a now closed garment market of Old Shanghai. Both are under tremendous pressure.

The Kathmandu Valley, it is said, can support about 1.5 million people. At the last count, meaning the last time anybody actually counted, the valley held 2.5 million. It feels incredibly dense. Surrounded by mountains, they really have nowhere to sprawl.

Shanghai is an amazing city. Shanghai is a completely planned, reconstructed city that contains a nearly 20 million people.

It is hard to believe that Nepali’s can pack Kathmandu any more densely. Brick and mortar construction can only go so high, but some who go to The Emirates for a few years bring back enough money to build six and eight floor hotels with more modern building techniques – squeezed into lots in Thamel with a breath to spare. The Chinese Government just appropriates entire neighbourhoods and reconstructs them. Sprawl isn’t a problem. Flat goes in every direction.

Thamel, in Kathmandu, and Shanghai are Shopping. The streets of Shanghai are crawling with an expanding middle class with money to spend. If there’s one thing the Chinese Government understands, it’s Capitalism and if there’s one thing the Nepali Maoist understand it’s that Tourism is the heart of Nepal’s economy, and you can’t scare them away if you want income to run the country. The Chinese Government understands that it owns access to the market, and if corporations want to play, they have to pay.

A ferry ride across the river to Old Shanghai and a short walk through grey winding streets brought us to a street market. As much as you could marvel at Shanghai’s huge pedestrian mall on Nanjing Road and a walk the river along The Bund, it all seemed plastic, just a beautifully articulated surface. Old Shanghai market streets were real, genuine – like Kensington, like Thamel, alive with people working, working at living and making a living, attacking the street – the public space with vigour, need, hunger.

There’s more than just a hole at the emptiness of downtown London, a city that can sprawl because it can, where Developers have called the shots with the city trotting along on a leash. I can’t imagine any of the developer faction going to Shanghai to come back here to complain about Planning, or returning from Kathmandu and whining about needing more freedom.

Ankor Wat was once a sprawling suburb at BBC News. The citizens themselves were architects of the demise.

The large-scale city engineered its own downfall by disrupting its local environment by expanding continuously into the surrounding forests,” 

Hey! Planning committee?

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