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


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     

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

We Don't Shelter Chinese! (Chapter 1)

Presentation to the Committee of the Whole (COW), 19 Dec, 2016, by Nelson's Chinese-Canadian community, within the monthly 5 minutes allowed informally to individuals/groups from the general public:

Our proposal to erect a gazebo over the Commemorative Chinatown Rock was presented 5 months ago, and as of this date the Chinese-Canadian community is still waiting to be informed of a/the next step to be taken-or-not by whom.

This - after our response to the deliberately misrepresentative "Report" on said proposal by Colin Innes, Public Works, and Mayor Kozak's subsequent very public very forceful attempt to muzzle Council on the topic, in the COW, 17 Oct. - raises questions about due diligence, even simple goodwill within this Administration.

But then - in Nelson politics are usually personal. Public input is inconvenient - thus not sought. When in form of criticism - it is resented. My occasional presentations to COWs and in blog-posts clearly have not endeared me to some on the 2nd Floor: so stalling our proposal looks like grudge-payback.

Affecting the whole local Chinese-Canadian community.

And continuing to relegate this community to the same less-than position locked-in since the Queen City's early days - even though Victoria and Ottawa have officially acknowledged and registered the historical contribution of Nelson's Chinatown to the development of BC.

Heritage still a White-is-Might issue at Nelson's City Hall!

Having no confidence in our request to be granted due process - Nelson's Chinese-Canadian community herewith withdraws their proposal for a gazebo to symbolically shelter the Commemorative Chinatown Rock at Vernon & Hall.

End of presentation.


We decided to discontinue our pursuit because the ultimately accountable-to-none City Hall 2nd Floor - with Kevin Cormack, Chief Admin Officer (CAO) absolutely in charge of things local - can come-up with any reason of their/his choosing for why there can't be a gazebo - no matter how unreasonable - to which our only opportunity to respond openly - in front of witnesses - is within the 5 minutes of the Public Participation segment of a COW long after the fact.

To make this clearer: The only time Council and an individual/group from the general public (briefly) interact is when the latter make an officially prearranged presentation to Council in a COW.
Council then may deal with this specific issue in an(y) upcoming Regular Council Meeting (RCM). This as far as they can - always based on info predigested and timed for them by Cormack in a Request for Decision - with the concerned outside-party not invited to participate.
They must wait until the next COW - several weeks later - with their input/response of 5 minutes tops, but Council will not make a decision then.
Because that is only made in RCMs
An endless dance!

Bottomline: There usually is no here-now give-and-take between Council and concerned members of the public!

In our case, with the 2nd Floor's reasoning clearly bizarre - seemingly even somewhat unsettling to Council: they do not get involved decisively. What with politics within City Hall just as personal: they usually don't. And we can only watch from a distance.


While City Hall's attitude towards this gazebo - incidentally: to be funded by the Chinese-Canadian community - is unacceptable, it is understandable within the context of racist (governmental) attitudes towards non-whites prevailing in BC since its beginnings.

Examples (Chinese);
The Exclusion Act becomes law on 1 July, 1923 (Dominion/Canada Day!): excluding most Chinese from immigration into Canada until 1947. The date making clear that Chinese are not, never must be Canadians
By Chinese called Day of Humiliation.
Between 1871 and 1949 those of Chinese descent can't vote in BC. And because they're not on the provincial voters-list - they can't vote federally! 
Not being voters they can't become pharmacists, lawyers, accountants.
Until 1951 the Chinese Clause in the Crown-Lease Act excludes Chinese from the system.
In 1967, Chinese immigration (officially) is put on equal basis with that of other countries.
Only in 1977 does the Citizenship Act (officially) dismantle preferential to-the-head-of-the-line treatment for British subjects applying for citizenship.
In Surrey the Mongolian Bylaw of 1894 prevents all Chinese and Japanese from employment with the Corporation of Surrey. This bylaw theoretically remains in effect until 1982 when it is "discovered" on their books.
In 2006 the Chinese Benevolent Society of Vancouver celebrates its 100th Anniversary. Michaelle Jean, our Governess General, congratulates the Society on its "Canadian spirit of generosity and compassion", while it is exactly the lack of any Canadian spirit of generosity and compassion which leads Vancouver's very marginally better-off Chinese community at the time to help those many among them left homeless, jobless, starving and ill by colonial moneymakers-at-any-cost.
This twisted "congratulation" coming from the person in Canada representing the inescapable pointless British queen over there. And her tiaras.
Beverly J. Oda, of Japanese descent, Ottawa's Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, sends her letter to this Chinese NGO in two side-by-side columns: one in English, one in French. 
"We are the one country everybody would like to be... We also have no colonialism. So we have all the things that many admire about great powers, but none of the things that threaten or bother them."
                                             Stephen Harper, PM
                                             Pittsburgh G20 Meeting, 25 Sep, 2009

When, in 2010, requesting $1500 from Council towards the installation of a Commemorative Chinatown Rock we are rejected initially, with Councillor Stacey opining that a plaque on a building somewhere would do. Be cheaper.
Still - the rock itself is donated privately by Cherry's Rock Farm up in the hills, and Columbia Basin Trust promptly grants separately requested $1500.
In 2011 we ask Mayor Dooley to dedicate the Rock, giving him enough time to prepare. A few minutes before the dedication he asks me what to say. What is this? Where am I?
When he is just about to unveil the Rock, Dooley motions uninvited Councillor MacDonald to do it with him. Ignoring Cameron Mah, leader of the Chinese-Canadian community, who is standing right there.

Nelson - no matter how progressive it looks and claims to be - is deeply conservative (spelled colonial: the mother of heritage).
Though few here would openly cop to being racist: possibly many are not even in touch with what that means.

Whether by osmosis, design or suddenly pushed down the rabbit-hole by the gazebo-issue: City Hall's 2nd Floor certainly appears racist.


Mayor Kozak

Colin Innes

Kevin Cormack

Li Huang Feng          

Monday, 12 December 2016

What a Dump!

Bill Metcalfe - back from a way too long vacation and seemingly fortified by it! - has a go at the lack-of-rental-housing thing in Nelson. Finally! Someone!

Report: Nelson's rental vacancy rate is 0.7 per cent
                                                    Bill Metcalfe, Nelson Star Dec. 6, 2016
To be found on the Star's website, under NEWS.

This basic what's-what City Hall so far hasn't been able to get its head around, despite by now habitual tut-tutting over affordable-rental-housing.

In Metcalfe's article, Trevor Jenkinson, realtor and president of the Landlord Association, says "... some(?) landlords have decided to stop long-term renting and go with short-term rentals instead because of bad experiences with tenants."

Weelll - this rather sounds like a lame excuse for wanting to go Airbnb, since frequently tenants claim: what with the well-known shortage of rental-housing (possibly the same "some") landlords often don't keep properties in good repair because they've got choices!
Tenants haven't and talk about living in overpriced dumps!
With Airbnb now legitimized by City Hall, quite conceivably more long-term tenants will be eased out to enable more conversions. Since short-term renters don't have the same concerns as long-termers: give it a coat of paint, and you're off to low overhead and funny-money!


Then - there's the mayor's oddly titled oddly disconnected

COLUMN: Nelson deserves(?!?) a full range of housing options
                                           Deb Kozak, Nelson Star Oct. 23, 2016
On the Star's website, under OPINION.

According to Kozak, vacation rental "discourages property speculation and encourages long-term rentals(?!?). It also protects the integrity of our neighbourhoods."
Go figure!
"It is exciting to see people move into their new home at the recently completed Nelson Commons project."
"Including affordable units in future is an exciting prospect and another possibility when new projects come forward."

Aside from all the excitement she also talks "vibrancy". Kozak's perky politico-patter could be frightening: it lacks genuine community-connect.

"The next step is to attract the people working in the knowledge industry. Living in spectacular surroundings and being able to work anywhere is within reach here."
And where - precisely - will they sleep!

Nowhere in this column of bytes does Kozak present any concrete and now-doable "housing options".


Column 2:
This is by a city councillor - making little of the point he promises.

COLUMN: Affordable housing a priority 
                                               Michael Dailly, Nelson Star Nov. 4, 2016 
On the Star's website, under COMMUNITY

It goes on-and-on with beside-the-point introductory pleasantries, uses lots more space on food-policy, to only then get to what it has promised as priority: affordable housing. Not making clear what affordable housing means. 
Actually - I don't remember anyone here ever publicly doing so!
After starting with Canada, then moving to BC: this barely touches on specific Nelson needs - with nothing concrete and now-doable either!

Though interesting here is that with the mayor attempting to sell the City to presumably youngish people in the "knowledge sector" - Dailly identifies "... those most in need of quality, low-cost rental housing include young people..." 
Ships passing in the night.

While he says "Nelson's Affordable Housing Committee, council and staff (oops, no mayor!) are working to identify more incentives that encourage purpose-built rental housing and secondary units": nowhere in these two columns does he or Kozak mention anything originated and locked-in by Council. Even though " The lack of affordable housing remains primary focus of this council."


So here is something concrete and now-doable for City Hall:
Not only rework the onerous water-rates on secondary (basement) spaces more flexibly - but also offer other (financial) incentives to homeowners for doing-up their basements as rental units.
Offer free know-how assistance and (financial) incentives for turning part of a single-family house into a self-contained apartment. If scaling-back alone is used as motivator by people to give-up their homes and move into a condo - what about keeping them in their homes of many years - possibly decades - while making the property more manageable in a sort-of co-op model. Overall cheaper and easier to maintain!
The lane-house idea has been bandied about for years: so legitimize it already! Give (financial) incentives to homeowners for building smaller, self-contained lane-units. Today available pre-fabricated, with multi-level efficiency and reasonably priced.

City Hall's priorities are skewed. (See the recent $42.600 wasted on a new Cottonwood Market never-to-be!) It is now paying an out-of-town "consultant" who-knows-how-much for a Baker Botox plan, surely followed by predigested whatevers - none of economic benefit to Nelson proper, all as always expensive - while we should be in crisis-mode over housing more than just skin-deep! 

Applying funds based on need!

It's time for Council and the mayor - as a unit! - to take willing, hands-on responsibility in this emergency. Enough already with "working to identify more incentives." 


Bill Metcalfe

Deb Kozak

Michael Dailly

Katharina Grosse
Paul Lester
Kwaku Boateng
Galerie Koenig