Saturday, January 19, 2013

Casino Urbanism

Many municipalities in the Lower Mainland are gambling on casinos as their best bet for more revenue (Sorry for the puns). Today, it was announced, that Surrey city council narrowly voted against a casino project, with Mayor Watts casting the deciding vote. As we have seen in Vancouver, Casinos are controversial projects due the possibility of increased traffic, crime, and predatory practices that prey on the most vulnerable, however, the allure of more money in an era of shrinking budgets is almost too hard to pass up. Casinos also tend to leave a less than stellar footprint in our urban environment. They need large parking lots (even with transit accessibility...I'm looking at you, River Rock!) and their buildings are ugly by most standards. Here's what Surrey's would have looked like:

I'm not sure why they rendered it at night...but I assume it was to hide the fact that it was an ugly complex. 

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According to council documents, this would have built 1400 parking spots. The City of Surrey doesn't actually have a parking rate for casinos but the engineering department prescribed 15 stalls for every 100 square metres...

In Langley, where I grew up, the city approved a casino near the heart of 'downtown' and city hall and this is what we got: 

Not exactly the built environment we aspire to create. I couldn't find parking numbers but that parkade holds about 500 cars alone. 

River Rock Casino in Richmond is on the Canada Line and still has room for a few thousand cars...not to mention the hideous 7 storey parkade (though, 1200 spots are set aside as Park & Ride): 

Starlight Casino in New Westminster: 

Ariel shot of it unfinished but I doubt that it would make a difference on how it looks : 

Good on Watts. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A slight review of the last year and looking forward

It's 2013 and that means I've been in grad school for a year now. Since last January, I've taken 3 courses, gone on a field trip to Portland, and I think I've settled on what I want to write on for my master's project (though, I'm still not in the Masters portion of my program...something I'll still need to apply for).

Overall, I've had positive experiences in SFU's Urban Studies program. I've found that because the program is so flexible (i.e. you can do it part-time and classes are in the evening), that you get a wonderful diversity of people in it. The professors have also been mostly friendly and helpful.

Grad school is kind of what I imagine university would be like. It has small class sizes, responsive and engaging profs, intellectual dialogue, and you're studying things you're genuinely interested in. However, there are still the usual pain points: University bureaucracy is still decades behind and very rarely caters to the needs of students. 

The only real downside to this program is that everyone is at a different place in the program and it's hard to keep the social aspects of school alive but we manage. 

This semester, I'm learning about Research Methods which may sound boring but I'm pretty excited about it. Also, I'll be going to Seattle on our program's annual field trip. 

I've also been keeping busy with other things. You can find me at the Museum of Vancouver on January 25, ranting about our city in an event called "Vancouver, I love you but..." You should check it out! 
Inhabiting Vancouver is like being in a relationship with a beautiful and popular lover who irritates, wounds and drives you crazy. As any relationship counselor will agree, it’s just not healthy to keep these hurt feelings inside.
Now Museum of Vancouver presents Vancouver I Love You But… an evening of urban talk therapy. 
Date: Friday, January 25, 2013
Time: Doors/Ranter's Lounge at 6:00pm, Performance begins at 7:00pm
Location: Museum of Vancouver
Admission: $12 early bird (before Jan 11) | $15 | $12 MOV members
Whether it’s architecture, style, racism, the weather, street manners or the state of arts and culture, noted Vancouverites and regular citizens will open up and share their grievances about the most livable city in the world. The truth may hurt. Or it may make us laugh until we hurt. Either way, our travelling relationship counselor--Scottish performance artist Adrian Howells—will help us process our anger and move to a healthier relationship with the city.

Featuring rants by: 
-Stephen Quinn: Host, CBC Radio’s On The Coast  
-Sam Sullivan: Former Mayor of Vancouver and Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia. 
-Tami Knight: artist, mountaineer and a circus trainer. 
-Watermelon: nudist, baker, comic, licorice pusher, high functioning stoner/pin up girl. 
-Brandon Yan: urbanist and mega-tweeter @pre_planner.  
-Kevin Chong: author of four books, most recently the novel Beauty Plus Pity, and the memoir My Year of the Racehorse. 
-Mack Flavelle: Creator of stories, software, communities and the future. 
-Amber Dawn: author of Lambda Award-winning novel Sub Rosa (2010), and editor of the anthologies Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire (2009) and co-editor of With a Rough Tongue (2005). 
...and you! 
*Don't miss the Ranters' Lounge from 6-7pm, complete with cash bar, sad-face photo booth, accordion dirge by Barbara Adler and side-splitting show from our friends at Definitely Raining
This event is inspired by Object(ing), the MOV’s exhibition of art and design work by Tobias Wong. The last piece Wong created before his death in 2010 was a riff on the LCD Sound System song, “New York I love you but you’re bringing me down.” Wong wove that message in Morse Code into the structure of a floor-to-ceiling bead pendant. The message embodied the ambivalence that so many of us feel for the cities we love.