FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2011 THE VANCOUVER COURIER
opinion WILL MAYOR SAVE THE DAY?
B.C. Place screen lighting up the city the wrong way Since the installation of a giant LED screen at B.C. Place, Douglas Coupland’s memorial to Terry Fox has taken on a weird twilight vibe. The four sculpted figures are positioned with their backs to the screen, as if the one-legged athlete is attempting to outrun a wormhole of electronic advertising. Downtown resident David Cookson has been petitioning for the removal or relocation of the screen (one of three on the site) for weeks. He insists it “desecrates” the memory of Fox, and it’s difficult to argue otherwise. The brief video clips on the screen honouring the athlete, bumped up in frequency since Cookson’s campaign began, sit uncomfortably with ads for mobile phones and pop drinks. Beyond the optics of a Canadian hero stomping away from three-storey advertisements, there is the matter of public safety with the screen overlooking the pedestrian-clogged corner of Beatty and Robson. Cookson is mostly focused on candlepower, however. It’s impossible to get used to the bombardment of a “flashing electric lighting bolt” into his home every 30 to 40 seconds, he says. “The flashing in the house is very different from the constant light that stays on when you have a hue or glow coming off the top during a game.” Cookson feels that the official attitude is that residents of the downtown core are “open game,” having freely “invited this kind of harassment because we live downtown.” He added: “This is an entertainment district up to Beatty Street but that’s a residential neighbourhood beyond. You’d think they’d be super-sensitive that we have these two very different kinds of zoning in very close proximity.” PavCo, the Crown corporation behind the new B.C. Place and the screen, has chosen to turn off the offender at 7 p.m., excluding “major event nights” at the stadium. This concession is a non-starter for Cookson. He notes that the sun sets early for a large portion of the year, ranging from 4 to 6 p.m. “So to say this thing is going to turn off at 7 o’clock means they decide when we can enjoy our homes.” The frequently flashed, allwhite Telus ads are particularly bright. For Cookson, the telecom’s darling piglets and beatboxing owls no longer suggest connectivity, but rather a disconnect between business and community. “I explained to them [Telus] that by providing ad revenues to PavCo they… should take some responsibility for this.” Earlier this week, Telus
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geoffolson media representative Shawn Hall responded to a Courier email enquiry with this statement: “When the issue first came to our attention we spoke to B.C. Place about it, and were advised the screen’s hours of operation would be reduced and that it would be dimmed after twilight. Given the screen is operating at an existing facility in a downtown core full of round-the-clock bright light sources those seem like reasonable measures.” Cookson claims that before buying his condo in November 2010, he looked into what kinds of zoning changes were being planned for the area. He found no paper trail. There was no public record of the giant screen’s introduction, “because they snuck it up and ambushed residents of this neighbourhood, and ambushed city hall.” The 40-year-old environmental consultant and his wife have postponed having a baby, because he says they no longer have the proper conditions at home for a sleeping infant. “I’m doing the right thing, and I’ll tell you why. If you listen to Mayor Robertson’s greenest city action plan, we’re trying to reduce the amount of transport. My wife and I have decided not to buy a car…. we use public transport whenever we leave downtown, but for the most part we walk to work. And that’s what city hall is telling us we’re supposed to do.” Cookson could well be Vision Vancouver’s poster boy: a civic-minded professional living sustainably in our ecoconscious corner of the Pacific coast. If anyone has a right to complain about a gap between Vancouver’s ideals and its infrastructure, it’s this guy. The Twitter feed StopBillboard is thick with posted complaints about the screen, including one about the “inescapable ads” flashing before daylight, at 7 a.m. Glaring injustice? On Monday, Mayor Robertson posted the tweet, “I wrote to BC Govt asking to address neighbour concerns of light disruption + be compliant w city by-law.” It will be interesting to watch this overlit production unfold. www.geoffolson.com
Describing some protesters as white punks in black hoodies, as one columnist photo Dan Toulgoet did, promotes a double punk standard, says a reader. To the editor: Re: “Robertson’s post-riot duplicity looms over Occupy Vancouver,” Nov. 2. I love the edginess of the Courier. I’m also not a fan of political correctness. But I have to highlight Mark Hasiuk’s description of rioters: “white punks in black hoodies.” I know he’s rifﬁng off the lyrics “white punks on dope.” Further more, I empathize with his contempt for the white punks in black hoodies. But really, doesn’t it promote a double punk stan-
dard? As if white punks are held to a higher punk standard than other punk groups. Me thinks that’s endowing them with too much credit. I can’t remember many journalism articles that referred to the other punks under their group banners. Perhaps this is a new trend inspired by social media culpability? Just calling it the way you see it and letting the chips fall where they may. Richard Rajcic Jr., Vancouver
Put mixed housing on Jericho Lands
To the editor: Re: Open letter to Vision Vancouver and the NPA. Two overriding issues for the City of Vancouver, currently, are revenues/budgets and housing. And although there is a unique opportunity to make a signiﬁcant positive impact on both these vital areas, it’s being ignored. Or do you and your party have a plan for the 91 acres of land, in the core of the city, called the Jericho Lands (JL)? The JL have some of the highest property values in Vancouver. And yet they appear totally exempt from city taxation. There may be minor quid pro quo payments to the city, which are not available to the public, but I understand they are far less than the possible (depending on zoning) $5-6 million of annual tax revenue these lands could generate if made
available for housing. These lands are situated between Fourth and Eighth avenues in the heart of West Point Grey (WPG). They are owned by the federal (53 acres) and provincial (38 acres) governments. The JL may have had some importance to these governments in the past, but even if the feds still use them (the province does not), it is not a use that couldn’t be duplicated on much lower-value property. Both governments could certainly use the hundreds of millions of dollars their sale would raise. At the same time, the city would also ﬁnally receive appropriate taxes from these exceptional properties. As well, hundreds of housing units could be created. If a mixed development, 900 to 1,000 are possible. Some WPG residents want the JL as green space.
A laudable position, but in this case we (I live in WPG) already have an almost obscene amount of “green space” compared to other Vancouverites. For example, for every 70 residents of WPG, there is one acre of park land. If the contiguous Paciﬁc Spirit Park is included, this ratio drops to under 25 people per park acre even after assuming 25,000 permanent residents on the UBC endowment lands. By comparison, the average ratio for the city is over 300. In Grandview/Woodlands, it’s over 1,100. We need a plan for these lands today. The other governments should be pushed to either sell its JL or, if this won’t happen soon, to properly compensate Vancouver for leaving them undeveloped. Jack Jefferson, Vancouver
Louis’s longer bus idea won’t work
To the editor: Re: “Council candidate longs for longer buses,” Oct. 19. I always wonder if [COPE candidate] Tim Louis does any feasibility research on his schemes before he opens his mouth. Granted there is such a thing as a threesection bus that carries 50 more passengers than the two section buses that now oper-
ate on the 99 B-Line. However, in cities where those longer buses operate they’re on ﬂat routes. The 99 B-line buses go slow enough already up hill on 10th Avenue. Can you imagine how slow an even longer bus will go up that hill? Not what I would call rapid transit. Dale Laird, Vancouver
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Published on Nov 4, 2011