The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Noises Off at Brooklyn Bridge Park

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Sandy James Images
Via NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver is this Fast Company article on the Secret Life of Parks. Diana Budd explores the work in Brooklyn Bridge Park that Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) has undertaken in making parks quieter, even when surrounded by traffic and other noise. “By sculpting the land, MVVA gives cities their very own mute button.” 
In the parks of three major cities heavily impacted by traffic noise- Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and A Gathering Place for Tulsa,  MVVA  decided that having a conversation at normal tone was a measure.  “If you have to yell or get really close together to talk, it’s not park-like . . . You try to lower ambient noise level so people can start to hear the insects.”
Sandy James Images
Last month I visited Brooklyn Bridge Park with NYC…

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The Curious Effect of AirBnB

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Writing in “Building“, Andrew Sobchak and Laura LeBlanc look at short term rentals (STR’s) in Vancouver, from a broad perspective including small and large players.


Perceived issues?  Well, a few of them are listed to kick off the article.  Plus opinion and data (pro and con) to sharpen thought about these issues’ merits.

Headlines have been turning on Airbnb for the better part of two years, first in cities like San Francisco and New York, then, with more frequency in 2016, as the platform achieved scale in other cities. At a time in Vancouver of peak foreign investment and plummeting vacancy, advocacy groups lined up in opposition:

  • Renters claimed Airbnb siphoned away long-term rental stock, thereby driving up prices
  • Hotel industry lobbies claimed Airbnb facilitated the operation of informal hotels, reducing bottom lines and threatening employment
  • Condominium boards and neighbourhood associations claimed Airbnb increased transience, decreasing safety and…

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Traffic-Calming: It’s Everywhere

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From Willow (or St. John Paul II Way) and 32nd Ave in Vancouver. Who knew this existed?

Note the roundabout further down the street, and the large stone whose purpose, I presume, is to discourage motor vehicle operators from driving on the grassed area.

Willow.32ndClick to enlarge.

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Daily Scot – Burnaby Boomtown

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South Gate City

Welcome to Southgate City the largest new master planned community you’ve probably never heard of, I know I hadn’t until adverts started popping up in the Vancouver Sun.  Developed by Ledingham McAllister on the site of the former Safeway distribution facility in South Burnaby, the 60 acre site features a whopping 19 residential towers above podiums.  Site amenities including 5 acres of park space, a gourmet grocer, restaurants, cafés, and a community centre all located internally within the development.

South Gate City-2

Southgate City’s utopian-like glass towers are anchored in floating green space and numerous water fountains with a resounding lack of colour or use of materials.  The architectural renderings show building forms that appear difficult to engage with on a human scale once you get pass the street level podium.

South Gate City-3

It will be interesting to see how it feels when finally constructed but the master plan appears starkly opposite to recent developments…

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Student Mentoring

Much of course has been written about poverty, racism, etc. Nothing has worked very well in addressing these problems. Let me propose a very simple idea, mentoring of students.

I have been a mentor at various times in my life and found it a great experience. More important, the young person being mentored and their families seemed to appreciate it.

I am proposing a mentoring program that would address the needs of all the at risk students in the St. Louis metro area. Volunteers need to be sought and programs established. The cost if huge but on a per student basis, quite inexpensive. Furthermore data shows it works.

I am working on starting a program at one school. Anyone else interested?

Not about Switching Diesel/Gas to Electric Cars, It’s all about Walking and Bikes — Price Tags

Source: Bike Boom As reported in the Guardian by Tim Burns, the switch from diesel and gas vehicles is vastly overrated. Sure, there will be an increase in air quality but think of this: the only thing you are changing is the fuel source of “the type of heavy box” that people travel around in and insist on […]

via Not about Switching Diesel/Gas to Electric Cars, It’s all about Walking and Bikes — Price Tags

Tenants Under Siege: Inside New York City’s Housing Crisis

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Michael Greenberg’s lengthy article in the New York Review of Books is available (maybe just briefly) without the paywall. A few quotes to give the flavour:

What makes the crisis especially startling is that New York has the most progressive housing laws in the country and a mayor who has made tenants’ rights and affordable housing a central focus of his administration. The tide of homelessness is only the most visible symptom. There are at least 61,000 people whose shelter is provided, on any given day, by New York’s Department of Homeless Services…

New York is the only city in the United States to have taken on the legal obligation of providing a bed for anybody who asks for one and has nowhere else to sleep. This came about after advocates for the homeless argued, in a series of lawsuits in the 1970s, that shelter was a fundamental right, not…

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Seniors Moving to Walkable Inner City Neighbourhoods

A great article

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Urbanist and Simon Fraser University’s Director of the City Program introduced me to the expression “NORC” which stands for “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community”.  A NORC is any neighbourhood or area where a groups of folks over 60 years of age choose to reside. Patrick Sisson with points out that as the baby boom generation ages, they are rewriting where they are going to live. Instead of farms or small towns, this group values walkable urban centres. In a survey of 1,000 respondents across the United States, seniors wanted a walkable neighbourhood, low crime rates, and to be close to families.

R.D. Merrill, a  company that develops senior residences in the United States has found that while they have been building large campuses outside of town and city centres for older folks, that is not where their residents want to be. President Bill Pettit stated  “We were creating these…

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OMG ! Another Greenway??

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I’ve seen this place (which I presume was once a section of Napier Street) many times, but never stopped to look at it.

Sure enough, it looks like a West End traffic calming mini-park, and might give a few hints about the Arbutus Greenway.  A local community volunteer group calls this “Napier Square Greenway”.  It leads from Commercial Drive to the Britannia Community Centre (and back). And it’s a terrific people place.

[Click any photo to see a slide show of larger versions]

Things to note:

  • The garden, maintained by the “Britannia Neighbours“.  Recent Sunday work parties have focused on aphids and sticky oak leaves.
  • Furniture — looking like furniture now appearing on Point Grey Road, and long in place in the West End.
  • Decorative stonework, in the form of a meandering section set into the paving bricks, with a series of circular designs made out of coloured…

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St. Patrick’s Center

St. Patrick’s Center is the agency I want to acknowledge today. It is a large organization dedicated to ending homelessness. In this regard, it provides a comprehensive list of services to homeless and potentially homeless people. In addition to providing meals and lodging, St. Patrick’s provides employment training, mental health and drug abuse counseling, and housing support services.
Their leader, Laurie Phillips is a dynamic and capable leader. She has a strong background both in Social Work and business. I am proud to be a volunteer, helping provide meals at lunchtime, and playing chess with residents one evening a week.

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