Packed memorial marks Joe Wai’s legacy in scores of buildings in Chinatown and across Vancouver

Sun Yat Sen Garden in the snow.

Friends, colleagues and family of architect Joe Wai filled the auditorium of the Chinese Cultural Centre this afternoon to celebrate the life a man whose work touched almost every neighbourhood in the city.

The Sun Yat Sen Garden, perhaps Joe Wai’s masterwork, offered free admission today to allow visitors to enjoy the first such garden outside China itself. But as the speakers today made clear — from former Premier Mike Harcourt to Vancouver Native Housing CEO Dave Eddy — Wai’s life work was infused with a commitment to community values.

Wai’s earliest work as an activist centred on the defence of Chinatown and Strathcona from proposed freeway development that threatened to destroy both neighbourhoods. That’s where he met Harcourt and the distinctive “SPOTA houses” — named for the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association — that replaced those demolished in the name of “urban renewal” were Wai’s design.

But then there is the Britannia Community Centre, Mau Dan Co-op in Strathcona, heritage projects in Chinatown  and Skwachays Lodge, the Vancouver Native Housing and hotel at 31 West Pender, among many others, that made Wai and natural for the lifetime achievement award of the Architectural Institute of BC. Eddy made the compelling point that Wai, perhaps more than anyone else, understood the role of the two founding communities — Chinese and First Nations — in the creation of the Downtown Eastside.

Today’s memorial service was a two-hour seminar on Chinatown’s history and the turnout an indication that the debate over the community’s future is by no means over.

Big park, new seawall, new Georgia ramp, public spaces are emerging direction for post-Viaducts city

Trading the Viaducts for a new heart for the city.

A big waterfront park, a new ramp connecting False Creek to Georgia St. and new public spaces are some the exciting “emerging directions” emerging from the city’s lengthy consultations on the future of Northeast False Creek.

Central to the vision released by the city’s planning teams yesterday is replacement of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts with a new ramp connection up to Georgia that allows for expanded park space, good traffic connections to all of the city’s historic neighbourhoods and an intense mix of public spaces amid new developments proposed by Concord Pacific and Canadian Metropolitan Lands (on the Plaza of Nations site.)

The city’s consultation process is continuing — you can have your say at a new round of open houses occurring around the city.

Where the Skytrain, the Viaducts and at-grade roads now eat up vital space in the heart of the city there will be green space, intense urban development on private lands and unique public spaces both on the seawall and along Chinatown’s south edge.

Intense urban development, new public spaces.

If approved by council later this year, the plan would also open up two city blocks on either side of Main Street where Hogan’s Alley, once he heart of the city’s black and African-descent community.

The Northeast False Creek plans are being co-ordinated with new plans for False Creek Flats, the critical industrial area to the east. Taken together, the two plans will transform the heart of the city.


Uber in damage control after NYC controversy about its reaction to Trump travel bans

Uber Canada president Michael van Hemmen was forced to blast out urgent explanatory messages to Canadian municipal officials yesterday as his firm encountered a firestorm of social media protest over Uber’s response to Donald Trump’s travel bans on citizens from seven Muslim countries.

When taxi drivers at JFK Airport in New York City went on strike in support of protestors against the ban, Uber stopped “surge pricing” of its fares, apparently to flood the airport with cars and break the strike.

Not so, says van Hemmen. His first message advised that Uber disagrees with Trump’s, although Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is on the president’s economic advisory committee. Uber was creating a legal fund to help impacted drivers get back into the United States, he wrote, and Kalanick was opposed to the “unjust” policy.

But New York consumers weren’t buying. His second, stressed-out e-mail had an even more urgent tone, perhaps because a social media boycott campaign with the hashtage #deleteuber gave rival rideshare service Lyft its best day ever.

“We are horrified that people got the impression on social media that we attempted to take advantage of the job action that was taking place in opposition to President Trump’s immigration actions,” van Hemmen wrote. The “surge” was ended, he explained, so travellers could enjoy regular fares during this difficult period.

It’s a cautionary tale for business leaders who think working with Trump will win consumer support.


This just in: the latest update on Vancouver’s White Christmas crisis

  • With council debating a motion to have an independent inquiry into the Christmas and New Year’s snow crisis, it’s helpful to review this comprehensive report from City Engineer Jerry Dobrovolny, who headed up the clean-up.

Among the key conclusions:

  • there was never a salt shortage, despite reports to the contrary;
  • the snow event was of unprecedented length and intensity;
  • gaps in garbage pick-up and recycling pick-up were concentrated in certain areas and impacted a relatively small share of residents; and
  • city staff did everything they could, in the right order, to get the situation normalized.

The motion council began with thanks to city staff for their efforts and asking for estimates of the cost of providing full snow removal on side streets.

It was a difficult time, no doubt, and a challenge to improve in the future. But as a former Toronto resident told council — the only speaker on an issue that seized the city for two weeks — now that it’s melted, few people still care.