Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Seniors' Parking-Pass Increase

In the public-input segment of the Committee of the Whole (COW), 20 Feb, 2017, a senior citizen presents a strong case against the increase. Admonishing Council for supporting it and reminding them that this will not be forgotten by (our substantial numbers of) seniors in the next local election.
Good for them!
Springing this whopping cash-grab on seniors now - regardless of whether-or-not an increase in itself is reasonable - in its suddenness shows a lack of sensitivity towards a large segment of the electorate. A lack of caring.
It is this lack which upsets many much more than the increase.

The manner in which the topic is discussed/passed later in the same COW shows a disconnect between City Hall and this ever-growing segment.
Which is just about all this administration seems to know about local seniors: generally they're increasing. Under what circumstances is another matter of no acknowledged interest here - except from Councillors Adams and Cherbo. Who are to be commended for wanting to consult with seniors.
Mayor Kozak seems to be under the impression that those elderly having bought into Nelson Commons are a conclusive example of "although some seniors live on fixed incomes, others have more money than many young people". This according to the Star: "some" and "others".

Passing a motion - after the fact - to have "management staff" meet with the "Seniors Coordinating Society" is an attempt at damage-control only. This meeting should have taken place before bringing the increase to Council.
Shades of the 'aggressive-panhandling bylaw', while we had few panhandlers - and none aggressive.

This increase-approval once again shows how Council frequently comes to meetings poorly informed/prepared - to then discuss/decide with anecdotal reasoning and info spoon-fed by Staff.

Even though in this case relevant factual information of numbers/levels was made available to City Hall by and is available at the
Nelson & District Seniors Coordinating Society
719 Vernon St (Civic Centre)

What with City Hall's need for additional revenue through parking and this pass-increase to fund road-work, the following is worth noting:

There has been free parking (no meters!) for about 20 cars, 24/7, over the last 10 months, in the so-called Hall Street Plaza.
The same applies to about 14 spaces on Hall, between Baker and Vernon, while there for a somewhat shorter period due to Nelson Commons construction.
Altogether about 34 spaces! 
More Stores-to-Shores Phase 1 shenanigans.

This loss of revenue through meterless parking is substantial - do the math! - while a non-issue at City Hall.

Absurdly - just around the corners on Baker metered parking is enforced. 
So, what gives here?

Raising the seniors' pass-price incrementally - while immediately installing 34 parking-meters - is the reasonable and more revenue-creating way to go.

Caras Ionut

Deb Kozak, Mayor

Colin McClure, CFO

Kevin Cormack, CAO

Colin Innes, Public Works

Saturday, 28 January 2017

It's (H)all going downhill!

Following is the text of my presentation about the Stores-to-Shores Phase 1 project - focusing on its generally poor outcome - to the recent Committee of the Whole (COW). With a non-scheduled member of the public limited to 5 min, once a month,    I there can't go into great detail - thus add some observations, thoughts after the text quoted below. Also on Phase 2.

Before I begin my 5 min to the COW, Councillor Dailly, also Chair, somewhat vaguely asks me not to mention names. But I don't do Hugs & Slugs. And wonder what his agenda is, as now must others present in the Council Chamber. Is this about shielding others from having to take responsibility?

In politics everybody has an agenda, but no matter how personal politics are at City Hall: my COW presentations and blog-posts are neither. They are a constituent's commentaries in person/print - frequently ending in looking at transparency and accountability among elected officials and administrative staff.

That's how commentary works in the real world - that's how it ought to work in Nelson.

Yet - while usually done by general news-media - not so in Smallishtown, where the advertising-dollar supersedes the constituency's need to know. Therefore severely limiting local information flow - Facebook Likes hardly constituting that. And that taken into account by those in charge.

   I.O.D.E Park: Will Johnson

Hall St Phase 1: And What Next? - COW 23 Jan, 2017
It would behoove Council to realistically evaluate - never done thus far - what Phase 1 actually did accomplish, then take that into account before committing again to - nothing definitive.
Council was involved noticeably only twice in Phase 1. The first time - in its first public outing after being elected - to present this phase to the public - and the second time to give the shop away.
While what was presented was short on reality-based images: it left the public with the clear impression that the whole Hall St. corridor would splendidly provide a leisurely walk downhill, with greenery, places to rest with benches and public art. That's the story Council had - that's the story Nelson got. Infrastructure adjustments were given way less attention in this presentation.

So what have we got in Phase 1 (and are still to get with the I.O.D.E Park):
1. The Park
With this park-as-was clear-cut, what is left - and will be for years to come - is a steep, rocky hill with spotty top-soil: now prone to being fried in hot sun and eroded in heavy rains. Whatever few very young trees to be planted will provide little cooling shade and extensive enough root-systems to keep soil damp and in place. So - if the two totally exposed benches and one picnic-table should be occupied - there will be no reason for anyone else to climb up there.

The "social steps" at the foot of the park proved to be dangerous immediately: an insufficient barrier to keep more people from falling off was improvised awkwardly - after the fact.

2. Hall St. Plaza
This stretch of Hall - by the public expected to become a tiled PLAZA with benches and greenery, as announced by the MMM Group (presumably in charge of design) - became a parking-lot for about 20 cars. With free - thus heavily money-losing - parking since the transformation, not one but two embarrassingly pretentious posts announce this parking-lot as Hall St. Plaza.

3. Pedestrian-Crossings
The crossings on the north-side of Baker/Hall are designed so that few are using them as indicated, but if all were to: many would wade through rain rushing towards storm-drains placed exactly where pedestrians have been used to (and still are) crossing. These drains are dangerous at any time, but particularly with people unwittingly stepping down into them when covered by snow build-up.

4. Vernon/Hall Intersection
Disliked by all driving in any direction, and pedestrians walking along the north-side of Vernon now expected to cross three times at the intersection, if they want to continue along that side. This north-side crossing was blocked so that cars coming up now don't have to stop for pedestrians, as stopping in adverse weather presumably could mean not making it to the top at all or sliding back.

5. 300 Hall Block
This stretch now is a concrete wasteland with even less safe "social steps", and abundant original greens there and tall trees on the rec-center side removed.

6. Orthodontist Parking & CJLY Lane
Although the importance of retaining this parking-access was agreed to be figured-in - it was ignored in engineered design/execution (now blamed on Telus), just as the lane was disregarded and blocked within that process.

A "Design Review Committee" - run by Kevin Cormack, CAO, but never openly approved by Council - was "supported by the MMM Group". My question in 2015 was and still is: if this committee "reviewed" whatever - "supported" by the M&Ms - who was in charge of actually designing and engineering this mess, and - most important - who failed to control it?

Therefore - what about Phase 2?

Questions Council should ask proactively before funding that: to stop this downhill-slide from ending-up in the lake!

End of COW presentation

         I.O.D.E Park: City of Nelson

Additional Observations/Thoughts - Phases 1, 2
1a  The Park
It is doubtful that the final result will actually look as oversimplified above. Trees will be much smaller. Rocky outcrops and the hill's uneven grade will necessitate major 'terrain modifications'. Paths and rest-platforms will have to be shored-up safely on the downhill-side, kept level, possibly with steps. There may have to be railings. On the plan these platforms and paths take-up considerable space - and one may wonder how much of the layout is based on just wanting to keep the untouchables out (or once in - easily confrontable). There will be no reason for anyone else to be up there: nothing to see or do!

The tree canopy - with its filtered sunlight and extensive roots - used to protect flora/fauna: self-sustained naturally. Installing watering-systems now would be difficult - thus extremely expensive. For what gain? To have an uninteresting, manufactured environment superimposed on one naturally pristine.

The MMM Group's rendering of the Hall St. Plaza shows a luxuriant abundance of trees backing it in the I.O.D.E Park. Considering what has been cut down and is planned: this will never happen.

This park-makeover plan - including the clear-cutting - was not openly/officially approved by Council.



 Hall St. Plaza: MMM Group

2a  Hall St. Plaza
Unceremoniously turning this plaza-as-planned into a parking-lot may have been prompted by the Co-op's parking-variance approved by the previous Council: allowing Nelson Commons to cut under the circumstances necessary parking-spaces by about half. Already their crammed-for-space lot has been full frequently - and this is winter: with few tourists and city folk not inclined to be out and about that much.

As an aside - the Co-op allowing customers to park free for 2 hrs means they can shop there - done in 30 min tops - and comfortably take care of any other business they have downtown!

Anyway - this plaza-to-parking switch also was not openly/officially approved by Council.

3a  Pedestrian-Crossings
When I talked about the odd location of storm-drains on the north-side of Baker/Hall with someone involved in positioning them - he referred to "high-paid engineers" and concerns having to be taken-up with Public Works. Like canes, walkers, heels.

5a  The 300 Hall Block
While the "social steps" at the Hall St. Plaza proved to be dangerous - band-aided with two smallish rocks and one planter: here - with two pubs close by - it will be easy for carousers to fall off these "steps" into traffic moving uphill briskly - what with no STOP sign at the intersection, a few meters away.

Not once did the public see definitive renderings of any Phase 1 segments.

   Hall/Lakeside Intersection - Wharf/Prestige Entrance: WSP/MMM Group

Phase 2 - Hall/Lake to Waterfront
Two items stand-out particularly in its preparatory process:

The intersection of Hall/Lakeside now takes a little more attention to get through - but so what? There are no accidents! Nobody is complaining! Blocking the entrance - where it reasonably is - and moving it east turns it all into the evil twin of the Vernon/Hall intersection.
Cars coming down Hall attempting to get to the dog-walk/wharf (how could tourists even know - without a clear sight-line yet?!) would hold-up just about everybody else, while waiting to get across Lakeside into the entrance funnel. Delivery trucks? Buses? This will not improve - but negatively expand! - the confluence of Hall/Lakeside. A stretched-out three-step whammy!
Also - not to forget: the Stores-to-Shores concept was trumpeted as our only direct downtown/lake link. With this bizarre change - gone!

This decision should not have been made by Council without first listening to Nelson drivers. And concerns from traffic-experts at the cop-shop. A decision made with not enough necessary in-depth preparation and under pressure from consultants who - clearly not knowing Nelson - don't exactly have a stellar record here!
Pressured into having only two choices: roundabout or 3-way-stop. Disregarding a third: leaving it all alone (and making less money)! 

   Wharf Park: WSP/MMM

Little effort was made with this dissociated, unimaginative "concept rendering" of the waterfront to even just give it the semblance of a reality we could possibly expect. "The final design may vary" - I'll say! Lounges? Neck-breaking steps? And - nothing?

Coming from the recent experience of no-plans Phase 1 plans: with the same people behind design, engineering, execution and supervision - history is bound to repeat itself.

Unless formal constraints are applied now by a Council coming to meetings thoroughly informed/prepared.

City Council

Deb Kozak, Nelson Mayor

Kevin Cormack, Nelson CAO

Colin Innes, Nelson Public Works

Pam Mierau, Nelson Development Services

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Home Sweet Home (is not a condo) - 3

This is the last in a series of three to encourage a focused lane-house movement in Nelson. Seeing we need (affordable) housing, this idea has been one of two vaguely - and off-point - floated for some time, the other is feasible basement suites.

City Council finally stepping-up with need-based incentives for lane houses and basement suites has been long overdue.

Particularly now - with local residential-property values assessed at about 10% higher for 2016: to immediately trickle - rather gush - down into (re)sales and rentals. 
Of whatever few there are!


Tiny/Lane Houses:
Dezeen's top 10 biggest architecture and design stories of 2016
                                                     Dezeen (Daily), 25 Dec, 2016

(Non-essentials within the context of possible lane houses have been omitted.)

Kodasema creates tiny prefabricated house that moves with its owners
                                                     Jessica Mairs/Dezeen 20 July, 2016 

This tiny prefabricated dwelling by Estonian design collective Kodasema is designed to allow its residents to pick up sticks and move to a new location in less than a day.

Named KODA, the mobile house prototype contains an open-plan living-space and mezzanine bedroom with its 25 square meter footprint and also includes a built-in terrace in front of its glazed frontage.

Ground-Floor Plan

First-Floor  Plan

Kodasema hopes these features will keep both assembly and dismantling under 7 hours, making it easy for residents to relocate.

"Much of our quality of life depends on both our home and its location meeting our needs," said Kodasema. "When choosing where to live however, we may take risks on both fronts. It can be difficult to make major changes to a conventional home as inconvenient, and extensive repairs are often involved, or even full demolition and reconstruction."

Owners are encouraged to find a site with suitable water, sewage and electricity points. But the house is also designed to generate and conserve its own energy.
The building's quadruple-glazed facade maximizes natural light while preventing heat-loss, and roof-mounted solar panels are intended to return more power to the grid than the building uses.

"Its clever design provides the inspiration to make best use of every square inch of space and envisage how the built-in components, even the walls, can be adjusted to meet their purpose most effectively," said the team.

 Section 1

 Section 2

The small lounge area sits directly behind the glazing, while the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom are set towards the back of the space to provide more privacy.
A ladder leads up to the sleeping-area above the kitchen, which is just big enough for a bed.

"In our minds KODA can become whatever you want - a city-center home, a lakeside summer house, a cozy cafe, an office, a workshop or studio or even a classroom."
KODA was first exhibited at the Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2015 and was shortlisted for the Small Project Prize at the World Architecture Festival 2016.


Local Focus:
These three projects are not meant to be ideal choices for lane dwellings - rather to spark need-based discussion in Nelson. As already done for some time elsewhere in Canada and the US: looking at zoning-issues - generally the big bugaboo - affordability and lifestyle downsizing.

While we do have tiny houses around the area - we don't have them in Nelson proper.
Nelson Tiny Houses has several items on YouTube. The CBC/Kelowna ran tiny houses on 11 Jan, 2017; the Nelson Star will follow.

Small lane houses clearly won't be for everybody - like those with children - but as (affordable) starter-homes for singles, couples and those who want to downsize, while still maintaining independence: they are an option.

Channelling ideas of lane dwellings and tiny (or small ) houses into a single clear focus is a logical way of substantially addressing (affordable) housing-concerns in Nelson.
In the process making basement suites an affordable (for renters) and feasible (for house owners) option.

With all necessary regulations dealt with solely on the municipal level, there can be no excuse for not getting-on with them in/by Nelson!

The key is foresight and willingness at City Hall!


Paul Kuimet



Pam Mierau, Manager of Development Services

Mayor Deb Kozak

Nelson City Council
nelsoncouncil@ nelson.ca 


Friday, 6 January 2017

Home Sweet Home (is not a condo) - 2

This is the second thought-balloon in a series of three to encourage an energetic lane-house movement in Nelson. What with the need for (affordable) housing, this idea has been one of two floated - the other is feasible basement suites - but floated only: City Hall is dithering.
Only with a strong public! infusion was the Airbnb situation handled quickly - quite naturally incentives for lane houses and basement suites should be next: with equally strong public! input.
All material of this series is to be found in/through:

Dezeen's top 10 biggest architecture and design stories of 2016
                                                           Dezeen (Daily), 25 Dec, 2016

Some information not relevant within an urban context has been omitted here.


Tiny/Lane Houses:
Flat-packed cabin concept allows tiny houses to be assembled like IKEA furniture
                                                          James Brillon - Dezeen, 20 Nov, 2016

A Vancouver BC start-up's conceptual design for flat-packed recreational cabins would allow users to (theoretically) build for themselves, making the wilderness more readily accessible.
The Backcountry Hut Company is an off-shoot of the interdisciplinary design-firm Leckie Studio. Its goal is to facilitate the process of building cabins for a variety of uses.

"The Backcountry Hut Company is inspired by the idea of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad of providing affordable well-designed products for all," said the studio's founder Michael Leckie.
Similarly to the Swedish company's furniture, the huts are provided in pieces that can be efficiently packed flat and assembled on-site. Rather than being built by professional craftspeople, the cabins can be put together by a small (at least moderately experienced/qualified - regulations permitting -) group working together.

 Back Country

The simple geometric cabins encompass two floors. The ground level contains public areas that vary according to individual preferences. (In the Back-Country Cabins) Sleeping quarters are located above and accessed using a ladder.

For urban application, Front-Country Cabins feature a higher degree of comfort and more amenities. "The system affords the opportunity to furnish the modular prefabricated shell with an interior that supports full-time residential occupation," explains the Studio.

"The assembly involves minimal site-work, and the design is modular and scalable," the Studio explained. This flexibility allows the design to be used in different ways.
The buildings are anchored to the ground with piling holes. Concrete is then poured into sono-tubes to form the piles for the foundation.

The metal-clad huts are part of a larger trend towards building small modular dwellings. "The cabin works as a small structure that can be understood as part of the Tiny House Movement," according to the company.

"We're interested in positioning this simple cabin project within the larger scope of principles and methodologies that allow for 'lay people' to have more agency in building their own housing, and, ultimately, having more responsibility in shaping their communities. While the back-country application is more for recreational use, the ideas that form the project play into a bigger picture of community-based building that goes beyond what any one schema, or any one architect for that matter, can do," said Michael Leckie.

 Front Country/Urban

Local Focus:
Clearly - application of the Front-Country Cabin in an urban setting - Nelson - would necessitate previously established-by-rules involvement of City Hall. While the last paragraph in the article is interesting in terms of the individual's hands-on responsibility within the growing-up process of a community.

A home-grown company - Nelson Tiny Houses - may have a voice to convince in this.

A learning-curve for City Hall - surely involving concessions, revisiting old rules - and the public: how both can establish a joint approach together. An opportunity to put the visions of Councillor Purcell's "Greater Co-op" and Councillor Warmington's "common ground/good" in action - walking the talk.
Now - thus for the future! 

Architectural Images:
Leckie Studio/Dezeen


Mayor Deb Kozak

Nelson City Council

Pam Mierau, Manager of Development Services


Friday, 30 December 2016

Home Sweet Home (is not a condo) - 1

This is the first thought-balloon in a series of three to encourage a more energetic lane-house movement in Nelson. What with the need for (affordable) housing, the lane idea has been one of two floated - the other is feasible basement suites - but floated only: City Hall is dithering.
With Airbnb handled by way of Council getting an energetic public! push: incentives for lane houses and basement suites should be next - tapping into the same energy.

All material of this series is to be found in/through:

Dezeen's top 10 biggest architecture and design stories of 2016
                                                          Dezeen (Daily), 25 Dec, 2016

Non-essentials within the context of possible lane houses have been omitted.

Tiny/Lane Houses:
Plans for a tiny house by Foundry Architects made available for purchase
                                                 Jenna McKnight, Dezeen, 28 Jul,2016

Anyone wanting to construct their own tiny house can now buy detailed plans for a micro dwelling designed by Washington DC Foundry Architects.
The Minim House - its name taken from the word "minimal" - contains a kitchen and bathroom, along with areas for sleeping, working, lounging and dining.

There are two models. One encompasses 210 square feet (19 square meters) and is meant to be mounted on a trailer, while the other totals 265 square feet (25 square meters) and sits on top of a permanent foundation.

Detailed house-plans - including elevations, sections, construction guidelines and annotated build-photos - are now available for purchase for US $495, enabling people to construct their own micro home. The company also intends to manufacture the dwellings and sell them for approximately US $70.000.
Other companies that sell plans for micro dwellings include hOMe, started by an Oregon couple, and Tumbleweed, established in 1999 in California.

The team hopes to advance tiny house design by creating a complete living unit that ranks high on function and aesthetics, and low on environmental impact.
"Tiny houses have begun to attract a segment of the population that wants to live lightly on the land and with few possessions," said Foundry Architects. "However, many of the houses often feel cramped, or worse, just uncomfortable."

The flexible interior design of the Minim House enables it to house all programmatic requirements "in inventive and surprising ways". "The openness of the plan is key to the project's modern aesthetic and comfortable living," the architect said. "It 'lives' much larger than its minuscule footprint."

Once all of the components are on-site, the house can be constructed within a couple of days.

For the interior design, the team took cues from ship cabins, where space is extremely limited. "No detail can go unnoticed in a house this size," the team said. "Every dimension and function matters because there is no room to spare."

Rather than create a sleeping-loft - a common feature in tiny houses - the team installed a retractable bed on wheels that sits under the work area.
A tabletop made of reclaimed walnut can be easily (height-adjusted and) moved around the house and serve as a dining table, coffee table, bar top or computer desk.
Other interior features include wood flooring, stainless steel cabinetry and a built-in couch.

The home contains an incinerating toilet that converts waste into ash. Which negates the need for connection to a septic system.

The home's energy-efficient building-envelope consists of structurally insulated panels (SIPS) that are clad in cedar boards. A ridge beam supports the roof, which is covered with solar panels.
They provide the energy needed to power the dwelling. The energy is converted into usable electricity via an inverter in the main closet. Extra energy can be stored in batteries.

The home can be mechanically cooled or heated when necessary. "During summer months, if cooling is needed, a thru-wall air conditioning unit located on the west elevation is turned on," the team explained. "During the winter, a wall-mounted propane stove heats the place."

Concealed rooftop gutters collect rainwater and send it to a 3-step ceramic filtration-system, which makes the water potable. Up to 40 gallons (151 liters) of filtered water can be stored at a time. A propane unit heats water on-demand.


According to Minim Houses, about 60 sets of plans have been sent around the world, with homes under construction in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.

Local Focus:
While this presentation is not meant to be an answer to our housing-problem - it may stimulate movement down the lane here-now. Pictures have the power to do that simply and more directly.

Architectural/Interior Images:
Foundry Architects/Dezeen

Mayor Deb Kozak

Nelson City Council

Pam Mierau, Manager of Development Services/Nelson

Saturday, 24 December 2016

We Don't Shelter Chinese! (Chapter 2)

This follows the post immediately below. Those who haven't read it may want to start there. Continuity.

"If the Laurier government wished to act in accordance with the views of almost the entire population of British Columbia, it will prohibit absolutely the immigration of Chinese and arrange to kill off - if any legal way can be divined to accomplish that act - every mother's son of the almond-eyed pigtail wearer, living at present in any country inhabited by white men. He is a filthy, immoral piece of human machinery - not a man in the sense in which the word is used by civilized peoples. He lives like a dog, contributes nothing towards the up-building of the country and poisons every community in which he locates himself."
                                                           Editorial: The Chinese Question
                                                           Nelson Weekly Miner, Feb. 1902

This colonial attitude - probably the most virulent ever against Chinese in BC - exemplifies the Upper Hill attitude here/then (in watered-down versions for at least two generations to come), while local Chinese continue to work - we need them goddammit with half the pay for twice the work the only good thing about them! - as briefly described on the Commemorative Chinatown Rock, at Vernon/Hall since 2011.

Their continuing contribution (here) - despite the often horrendous treatment they suffer (here) - is precisely what leads to the government's Apology for Historical Wrongs Against Chinese-Canadians of 2014. Which - in turn - leads to "Historic places with provincial significance ... formally recognized under Section 18 of the Heritage Conservation Act." Within that the significance of Nelson's Chinatown-as-a-whole is formally acknowledged as having promoted "... heritage values ... that demonstrate the contribution of Chinese-Canadians to the development of British Columbia."

The terms "historic" and "heritage values" are of importance particularly here, what with Nelson's history not recorded in depth - warts-and-all - thus not taught systematically in our schools and "heritage" at City Hall still a strictly white-on-white-in-white concept: in Benjamin Moore's imaginary Heritage Palette.

The original newspaper clipping from the Nelson Weekly Miner is archived at Touchstones Nelson - Museum of Art and History, Shawn Lamb Archive
As is a Kootenay Co-op Radio (KCR) program:

"The Chinese-Canadian Community of Nelson-As-Was
How Did It Get Here?"

From the 5 Counties in Guangdong (1793) - Fort Victoria and Nanaimo's coal-mines - the CPR - mining in the Kootenays - to Nelson's Lower Hill Chinatown in the CPR Flats by force, this program is presented from a Chinese-Canadian perspective.

There are 16 Chapters, 30 min each. These 16 archived CDs are available to the public at Touchstones, as they are from the Rossland Historical Museum and the Selkirk College/Castlegar reference library.
Programs will also be available again as podcasts, once KCR completes its change-over to a new internet-server.


"If you do not change direction - you may end-up where you are heading." 

Chinese  - Contemporary, Ink
Pond Series
Zhou Hao

Nelson City Council

Mayor Deb Kozak