Dying Downtown Victoria BC

March 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm | In architecture, business, dying_downtown, johnson street bridge, land_use, scenes_victoria, victoria | 12 Comments

If downtown Victoria BC storefronts were teeth, this city would need a new bridge.

…Oh, wait. That’s a bad joke (see posts tagged with Johnson Street Bridge)… We are getting a new bridge. But as the following photos will show, what we really need is economic revitalization.

This afternoon, I was walking down Fort Street to Monk’s at Fort and Blanshard. I passed one empty storefront after another – just on one side of the street, just on one street, just on three-and-a-half blocks.

This is what many parts of downtown Victoria look like.

We start at Fort and Cook Streets, the northeast corner, before we head east on Fort St. (we’re traveling on the north side of the street).


We see 1090 Fort St, and there isn’t just one empty storefront, but two.

This is Kona Coffee Shop – or rather: was. Now gone.


Next up, same building:

This used to be a hair salon. Even a hair salon can't survive here?


Next up, in a small, low building a few doors down:


Charles Baird Antiques – closed


The next one’s demise (just a few doors down) was new-to-me:

Plenty Epicurean Pantry will be closing next. 🙁


Nearly next-door to Plenty (ironic name) is the Korean specialty clothing boutique that closed earlier this year. The sign claims that someone new is taking over, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Right now, the place is empty and bereft:


Specialty knits boutique – closed earlier this year.


Ok, we’re still in the same block (1000s), and here’s another place that has been sitting empty for months and months:


This used to be a niche home decor store. Has been empty for months. No new takers.


Ok, we now come to the 800 block of Fort St. (The 900 block on the north side of Fort is mostly surface parking lots – next to Lund’s – and a grassy trash-lot in front of View Towers. So, there are only a few stores in that block anyway…)


Seeing that this one is closing was a shocker: it's a Korean grocer, next to a French butcher. Why is it closing?


A couple of doors down, there’s the carpet place, which recently started claiming that it was closing. Probably just a ploy, but I thought I’d include this to replace Marvan (in the 1100 block of Fort, on the south side), which is closing, sadly:

I'm guessing this store isn't really closing. It's just a cheap ploy to convince rubes there are deals to be had.

The alleged going-out-of-business carpet store did take over (in a most unattractive manner) an empty storefront next door – yes, another one, and it has been empty for …what?, years now?

The ex-Miroirs home furnishings store, an empty storefront for months upon months, currently being used by the carpet store two doors up (the carpet store that's claiming to go out of business, too)…


Now we’re in the 700 block of Fort. I can’t even remember what this store used to be – but it’s empty, and will probably stay that way for ages…

Empty storefront in 700 block of Fort St.


And next door to the above, the former Cairo Coffee Merchants, defunct:

Cairo Coffee Merchants, closed, empty, …for how long?

Ok, that was depressing.

It never fails to amaze me that Victoria is full of attractive neighborhoods, bounded by gorgeous scenery that’s unparalleled.

But go downtown, and you have to wonder why Victorians hate their city so much that they let it die.

Note: this post is the first of a series of three – it just kind of happened that way. Part 2 is here and part 3 is here.

Oh, the irony

March 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm | In johnson street bridge, land_use, victoria | Comments Off on Oh, the irony

Today our city “leaders” voted to go ahead with a new Johnson Street Bridge project that excludes rail. See this article for skeletal information: Victoria council decides not to include rail as part of the new Johnson Street bridge. See also Ross Crockford’s piece in yesterday’s paper, No need for panic on bridge decision, which hits on some important points.

Regardless of all counter-arguments, city council (with the exception of Counc. Geoff Young) voted to kill the 122-year old rail link into the city today.

Imagine the cognitive dissonance I also experienced today as, walking my dog, I saw a poster for a local upcoming TEDx conference – TED, which stands for progressive thinking and innovation. What did the local organizers of TEDxJuanDeFuca use to illustrate their poster? Why, an image of the bridge that our city council has voted to destroy (along with any hope for rail on the new bridge – already dubbed Fortin’s Folly in “honor” of Victoria’s mayor)…

Do the innovators around TED understand something our city leaders don’t? The old bridge is unique and iconic, and maybe they intuitively grasp that one builds on that DNA (versus destroying it). Unique and iconic is a damn good basis for innovation and transformation.


Incidentally, while I’m at it: note that TEDxJuanDeFuca will be held at the Vancouver Island Technology Park, which bills itself as the city’s (or region’s) tech hub. But I wonder where the tech community was when the battle to save the existing Johnson Street Bridge – and the rail line it currently carries – was being waged by JohnsonStreetBridge.ORG and its supporters. Why was there no awareness of rail’s significance for technology and innovation in our city? Consider that, over on Quora, Robert Scoble answered the question, Why are so many tech companies based in the San Francisco Bay Area?, with a pointed reference to the significance in Silicon Valley of the railroad. Please read the whole text, it’s a great little history and analysis of what made Silicon Valley become Silicon Valley. Scoble writes :

First, this is a railroad town. It wouldn’t have existed without it. Literally. First of all, if you go and visit the Santa Clara train depot inside is a museum. One of the photos on the wall is of this depot with NOTHING around it. Today it is the hub of Silicon Valley. Inside the rail yard, too, is one of the first computers used in Silicon Valley. It’s an interlocking machine. Basically controlled the the flow of trains in and out of the rail yard. These were the first “geek machines” along with communications, and other systems. That drew the first “geeky types” out west, to build systems for the railroads. Many liked the area and stayed.

The railway also brought a few other things…

Scoble goes on to enumerate those “few other things,” including how railroad wealth (concentrated in the hands of Leland Stanford) eventually created Stanford University. And how the railway right-of-way provided the path for laying internet cables and fiber. Traveling on top of those lines are the trains – commuter trains – that bring workers from San Francisco to Palo Alto (and vice versa). Now isn’t that interesting? Silicon Valley’s railway was integral to growing a robust regional ecosystem – one that could survive. Kill the railway, and you’ve preemptively killed whatever ecosystem it could be sustaining.

We used to have trains running from downtown Victoria to Sidney. No more. We still have a train track running from Nanaimo into downtown Victoria. Soon to be no more – it will end outside of downtown, in Victoria West, thanks to Fortin’s Folly.

Once more, the streets

December 10, 2010 at 11:06 pm | In johnson street bridge, land_use, street_life, transportation, urbanism, victoria | 4 Comments

While I promised myself, for sanity’s sake, to forgo paying attention to city politics, the City of Victoria‘s endorsement last night of a transportation proposal has me back at square one. Meaning what? Meaning I’m scratching my head, wondering what’s in the water around here.

The endorsed plan – proposed by BC Transit – would do a couple of really bizarre things that strike me as undesirable. The plan involves putting either rapid transit trams or rapid transit bus lines along Douglas Street, which is the city’s main north-south street corridor. Douglas Street is actually part of the Trans Canada Highway – further north, outside the city core, it becomes the highway. But in the city itself, it’s also just another main street that runs parallel to Victoria’s two other main north-south arterial roads, Government Street on its west and Blanshard Street on its east. At Douglas Street’s southern terminus you find Beacon Hill Park’s Mile 0 and the Terry Fox Memorial, site of many tourist moments. Before reaching the park, Douglas Street traverses Victoria’s Central Business District. As it provides an artery for the city, Douglas Street has four traffic lanes (two north-bound, two south-bound). There is on-street parking along much of Douglas Street’s downtown stretch, albeit on alternating blocks and sides of the street; and there are several blocks where no parking at all is allowed because bus service is heaviest here.

In the proposed plan, all on-street parking would be eliminated. Traffic lanes would be reduced from four to two, running side-by-side along the street’s western edge. Along the east side of the street, there would be two side-by-side tram or rapid transit bus lanes, one heading north, the other south, again: side by side. In the middle of the street would be a two-lane bike path.

Here’s  a rendering, as it appeared in last night’s (and today’s) Times-Colonist online:


I’m already getting into arguments with friends over this one. Some of my friends applaud the plan and point out that this is not new, and that BC Transit has been working on this since 1995.

To which I say, “it’s still a pretty shitty plan, sorry.”

I’ve never seen a tram arrangement like this, and really can’t understand why (in the case of this illustration) the south-bound tram should be orphaned away from pedestrian access. The only pedestrian access is via the sidewalk, and in this case the south-bound tram is removed from the sidewalk by a north-bound tram lane. I suppose if the trams don’t stop very often, you can build fancy stations to accommodate riders having to cross the tram tracks, etc. But shouldn’t the point downtown be that you have really frequent stops?

Nor do I get the logic of a bike lane down a median. In this scenario the cyclists will have to fight with cars and trams if they want to reach the curb/ retail frontage. That makes no sense. Maybe it makes sense for cyclists who don’t want to stop and are going to keep going until they reach …somewhere. But what if it’s a cyclist who’s hopping from one downtown store or venue to another? I guess he or she will be infringing on the pedestrian’s sidewalk space – and that always has the potential for trouble.

What I really dislike about this plan is how it suggests that if we could only get everyone into their proper slot (into the bike lane in the median, into the tram lanes side by side, into the car lanes side by side, and into the sidewalks – separated by an ocean of other transportation options) – if we could only get everyone to stay in their place, we could “solve” urban transportation issues. I’m not averse to that approach in areas where it’s imperative to clear the path for 50 to 60-kilometer per hour travel, but in a downtown, that’s not where (or how fast) we want to go.

I can’t help but think that rapid transit and cars are doing relatively well in this plan, but that pedestrians and cyclists aren’t. They latter two groups are asked to move like the former two: in straight lines, without stopping in any sort of way that could hold things up, without meandering, without trespassing or “jaywalking” – “jay-riding”? – into the other lanes of traffic. I don’t think that’s very urban. In every real city, pedestrians are constantly taking back their streets through everyday acts of disobedience: dawdling on the sidewalk, hitching bikes to parking meters (oops, I forgot we’re not even going to have parking meters under this new plan!), jaywalking, clustering, gawking, sitting around… Anything and everything in addition to “moving along” in an orderly fashion.

I dislike the extreme tidiness of this plan. There’s no mess here – probably because everyone is in their place. (And heaven help the poor fool who steps out of line…)

It looks suburban.

Finally, a word about the sad fate of the Johnson Street Bridge: those of us who fought to save the bridge suggested that one lane of the three traffic lanes on the current bridge should be given over to “multi-modal” transportation (read: bike lanes etc.). We were told by the rabid pro-replacement councilors around the table at City Hall that it would be impossible to reduce this tiny tiny bridge’s lane capacity from three to two. And yet these same councilors yesterday gave their assent to reducing the city’s main arterial road from four lanes of traffic to two, for a stretch of more than two kilometers. The hypocrisy staggers me.

Addendum: See also my post, Congestion is our friend (on, among other things, Gordon Price‘s talk on Motordom [<–slide deck on SlideShare]). From that slide deck, here’s an image (#26) of what an urban street (Commercial Drive in Vancouver) can look like – note the parked cars and general urban “mess”:

Xtranormal version of Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge Debate

November 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | Comments Off on Xtranormal version of Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge Debate


Maybe the self-styled “chairman of the board” will take a boo. And learn something.

Click on image below or here.

Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge sings

November 9, 2010 at 11:42 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | 1 Comment

Really, she does.

I love this video – political activism at its most poetic and poignant.

Everything’s a conversation, except when it’s not

November 4, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In advertising, johnson street bridge, politics, victoria | 1 Comment

Social media has penetrated even the most conservative institutions (such as real estate, property development, and municipal politics), and from where I’m sitting right now, it looks as if it’s driving a coffin nail of sorts into what was The Cluetrain‘s seminal insight, markets are conversations. That insight, incidentally, was from 1999.

And now those institutions are partying like it’s 1999, I guess…

The local chapter of an urban development institute sends out its November 2010 newsletter. We read the following:


[unnamed urban development institute in unnamed locale] continues to work with local municipalities on issues of interest to the development industry. (…) Our members sit on a variety of committees [locally] either as official [unnamed urban development institute] representatives or as general development representatives. Our members report they are active in many conversations including City of [right here] OCP [Official Community Plan] workshops taking place over the next week or so. This is what makes being part of [unnamed urban development institute] so important. Our members care about the industry and the communities in which we operate.

[unnamed urban development institute – local chapter] has initiated a new policy conversation around potential tax breaks for green buildings. President, T. L., and member, K. J., are actively engaging politicians at all levels across the province in this new [unnamed urban development institute of right here, local chapter’s] initiative.

[unnamed urban development institute – local chapter] is opposed to the proposed general downzoning of the [local/ downtown] neighbourhood and continues our conversation with the City about this and other topics related to the draft Core Downtown Plan.

I love this org and I know that “our members care about the industry and the communities in which we operate” is not cant. They do. I don’t mind that they’re focusing on conversations, either (although the word loses its meaning through overuse, don’t you think?).

But next, and on the very same day, someone sends me a link to an article in the local weekly “alt” paper, where the city’s Mayor has published a bit of propaganda aimed at convincing voters to vote a certain way in an upcoming (Nov.20) referendum. And I guess that was enough to make me kinda sick of the conversation meme.

The article’s title, A Bridge for the Future, wants to convince us that we aren’t really stuck in 1999, but are heading into a Brave New World instead. After numerous bromides about the importance of maintaining a strong city economy – so that the City can continue to run the city – the Mayor adds:

This brings me to the current conversation on the Johnson Street Bridge.

Whoa – wait! What has happened with regard to the Johnson Street Bridge has gone way beyond “conversation,” as far as I can tell.

And, as a long-ago participant of sometimes frustrating, sometimes thrilling conversations with the actual authors of The Cluetrain, pardon me if – right now – I’m a tad skeptical hearing this called a conversation. I think I’m smelling snow early in the season instead.

The City of Victoria is spending $150,000 (tax payers’ money) in an ad campaign to convince voters to vote “yes” in the Nov.20 referendum, yet the “no” side, entirely funded by grassroots volunteer time and money, is not even given equal space to advertise its “no” campaign. The City’s “yes” posters are plastered on every on-street pay parking kiosk and the City’s orchestrated “yes” message flashes on the sports arena’s ultra-bright display, but “no” posters (printed at volunteer expense) are to be restricted to the fifty officially sanctioned poles in the city.

For a conversation to make sense, it has to take place on a level field. This is not it. Therefore, it’s not a conversation.

Wilkinson Eyre’s concept proposal for the New Johnson Street Bridge

October 25, 2010 at 10:37 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | 7 Comments

Tonight I took myself to the Victoria Conference Centre to listen to Sebastien Ricard (of Wilkinson Eyre Architects) and Joost Meyboom (latterly VP of Engineering at Delcan, now at MMM) talk about the proposed New Johnson Street Bridge.

Given the scope – more on that in a moment – of the project and what it means for the City of Victoria in terms of expenditure and debt, the event was certainly under-attended. You’d think this would have packed people in – instead, everyone was able to sit well apart from everyone else, which was probably a good thing. There were some people in the audience I really haven’t wanted to get close to since this project got underway, not now, not ever again. These include city staff and politicians, who, in my opinion, are leading Victoria on a fool’s errand. A very expensive fool’s errand.

Sebastien Ricard struck me as a really nice guy, and I don’t doubt that he’s a good architect. But his lengthy slide show of past works consisted almost entirely of pedestrian bridges, whereas what Victoria wants is a multi-modal (car, bicycle, pedestrian, wheelchair/ scooter access – and rail) bridge. The design his firm proposes in answer to these clamoring demands looks superficially snazzy, but actually consists of so many disparate parts – as well as some missing components (rail!) – that it starts to appear clunky.

Yes, clunky.

Sure, there’s a nifty “wheel” (the bascule mechanism) at one end of the bridge (the downtown end) through which pedestrians could traverse. But the cantilevered doo-dads attached to the side of the bridge, and the overly complex system of over- and under-passes designed to satisfy the impossible soup-to-nuts menu that Victoria – or possibly its most ambitious council member – has demanded of the architect unfortunately eliminates all hope for an elegant solution to this crossing.

It needs to be said: this design is a hodgepodge.

It’s a hodgepodge, and if we complain that we currently have “an octopus” of roads at the downtown end of the bridge where a number of roads converge, we will – by the time the new bridge is finished – have an additional octopus of attachments and byways ensnarling the bridge itself.

And Ricard didn’t seem particularly inspired by his own proposal, frankly. He seemed more enthusiastic when he showed us his other efforts – ones that actually got built (I have serious doubts that what he has designed for Victoria will ever see the light of day, at least in the form he showed us tonight): in that part of his slide show – which consisted of simple, elegant solutions offering design affordances in response to a rational set of constraints, as opposed to Victoria’s pie-in-the-sky wish-list – he seemed genuinely confident and engaged. When it came time to run through the slides of the New Johnson Street Bridge proposal, on the other hand, the energy level dropped off significantly.

Perhaps he knows something we don’t – something to do with where this project is heading?

The project has already headed with unparalleled vengeance into scope creep. We have councilor Pamela Madoff to thank for that: it was she who suggested that we need an apples-to-apples comparison, when in fact that comparison was never on the agenda. The people’s question originally was, “do we want a simple repair job or do we want a Cadillac-version of a new bridge?” Madoff ensured that the question of a simple repair job was swept off the council table, replaced instead by the ridiculous scope creep that resulted in “repair” estimates that exceed the estimated cost of a new bridge.

Well, we’ll see what happens on November 20 – that’s when Victoria voters (those of us who bother to vote) decide whether or not the city should be allowed to borrow $49.2million – what will no doubt be a mere fraction of the end cost of the Sebastien Ricard-Joost Meyboom proposal.

PS: Here’s a photo that David Broadland of FOCUS Magazine sent me – it shows how empty the Conference Centre was last night (Mayor Dean Fortin is at the podium, Howard Markson is leaning against the pillar; Sebastien Ricard and Joost Meyboom are seated at the table to the right):

Philippe Lucas on Victoria’s Public Market: oh the irony

August 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm | In heritage, johnson street bridge, urbanism, victoria | 2 Comments

Last night I attended PechaKucha Night Victoria (Volume 3), where City of Victoria Councillor Philippe Lucas was supposed to give a presentation about efforts underway to get a permanent covered farmers’ market set up in the city.

Lucas’s perky presentation featured a number of holiday snaps taken in exotic locales where people still eat local food. Those photos were augmented by snaps of his child eating …well, local food. The point, presumably, was to show the importance and significance of local food consumption. Perhaps the inference thereby was also on the importance of local food production, although aside from a shot of a vegetable bed recently planted outside City Hall, I don’t recall that Lucas elaborated.

Admittedly, my attention drifted elsewhere, but then – toward the very end – Lucas at last came around to the topic at hand: a local farmers’ market for Victoria.

And that’s when he did it: he showed a photo of the covered public market we used to have.

Oh, the irony

Why irony? Earlier that day (Aug.12) Councillor Lucas voted to tear down the unique Johnson Street Bridge – because it’s too decrepit and we need something new and shiny to take its place.

But that’s exactly what this city did with its existing Public Market building in the 1960s – and the result was the disaster known as Centennial Square. The city tore down the public market for some of the same reasons it’s now tearing down the Johnson Street Bridge: it was said the building wasn’t up to standards and that it wasn’t being used properly anyway, and that economically it was a failure. But the city had also spectacularly mismanaged the enterprise, and failed to maintain the structure, which fell into disrepair. Its offerings were apparently sub-par if not skanky, with vendors mired in red-tape, to boot. (See Ross Crockford’s excellent June 18, 2008 post, Market Forces, which details the very troubled history of Victoria’s Public Market.)

And then the building itself became an eyesore (now there’s a loaded word, one applied by the haters to the Johnson Street Bridge), and everyone knows that once something becomes “ugly,” it’s easier to argue for its destruction. The word “blight” was freely applied to a structure designed by the same architect who built Victoria’s still-standing City Hall. As Ross Crockford’s article shows, the building was once extremely grand, but the City’s very poor management helped bring it down:

John Teague, the architect who created the 1878-built City Hall, also designed the market. It was a grand, two-storey structure of brick and granite, with a 70-metre-long facade of arches facing onto Cormorant Street (today’s Pandora Avenue). Inside, the main hall had room for 60 stalls and a bandstand, and was surrounded by a second-level gallery, all illuminated by a peaked glass roof. With a gala Christmas party, the Victoria Public Market officially opened its doors in December of 1891.

It was a disaster. As historian Jean Estes noted in a detailed 1975 Daily Colonist article, many farmers were already selling their wares directly to retailers, and avoided the bureaucracy of the city-run market, which was governed by a 67-item bylaw. The city ended up renting stalls to a strange assortment of tenants. One visitor in the late 1890s reported that she saw “a portrait painter’s studio, a real estate agent, the Sanitary Inspector, and the most ghastly of all things – the public morgue was an annex of the market.” (source)

The idea took hold that replacing the old Public Market Building with something new and shiny (a “square” built in accordance with the latest – frankly, bad – ideas of urban renewal emanating from 1960s Great Britain) would somehow be the magic wand to cure downtown’s ills. (See in particular my March 2008 FOCUS Magazine article, Victorian Fables; Does Victoria have an urban planning blind spot? [on Scribd.com].)

Well, razing the “blight” didn’t cure downtown. Centennial Square is awful, …and the Public Market Building is gone forever.

Will the Johnson Street Bridge decision be Act II in the drama called “The Destruction of Victoria’s Urban Character”?

And how can Philippe Lucas not see the irony in the juxtaposition of his morning vote to destroy the Johnson Street Bridge, and his evening bromides about local food consumption and farmers’ markets in Victoria…?

Victoria Public Market, front elevation view

In the picture below, you can see the high arch of the Victoria Public Market’s entry, next to the Fire Department engine bays in front.

1920: The Victoria Fire Department arrayed outside the Fire Hall (Public Market is next door)

Done deal all done

August 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm | In johnson street bridge, politics, victoria | 4 Comments

Spent the morning at City Hall, where mayor and council – all but one, namely Councillor Geoff Young – voted in favor of replacing the Johnson Street Bridge. Thank-you, Geoff Young, for throwing some well-placed questions out there, not that it made any difference to your colleagues.

Anyway, a few notes:

  • Less than 30 minutes into the meeting (at 10:36am), Counc. John Luton put the motion on the table to replace the bridge.
  • Mayor Dean Fortin made ominious noises about how if we don’t get to borrow the money that’s needed to replace the bridge, we might have to raise taxes or raid the capital fund. The “raise” and “raid” homonym caught my ear.
  • Councillor Lynn Hunter’s voice nearly cracked with emotion when she rose (figuratively speaking) to defend “our professional staff” who have “been models of public service”; she said that she’s “disturbed” that they’ve been “verbally abused and have their professional ethics questioned” because these poor public servants cannot “fight back” (their hands are tied). She emphasized how astonished she was by criticism of public service staff in “a public service town” – a reference to government’s role as major employer in Victoria. (Editorial note: Yes, well, maybe that’s part of what’s wrong with Victoria: no criticism allowed…)
  • Councillor Geoff Young said he’s not surprised by the poll results (see also my post from yesterday about opinion poll games…) and that the results were obvious, given the information presented by council. Even the Chamber of Commerce fell into the trap of voting for the “cheaper” option (which council presented as the replacement option, because the refurbishment option was presented as the more expensive one), but what people really want is the cheapest option (which means “no” to the Cadillac refurbish option – an option that was never given as an option on the survey). This means people (including the Chamber) say “cheaper” by default (again, talk about gaming the survey…).
  • Counc. Geoff Young continued to question all the repair conditions given, including the 100-year-life-span; the luxury multi-modal addition; and the bullet-proof 8.5 seismic upgrade.
  • Counc. Geoff Young also referenced the Aug.11 op-ed by Ross Crockford (Councillors need to ask tough questions), where the latter points out that the replacement design – an oversized version of the Canary Wharf rolling bascule bridge – is untested and we have no idea how this bridge will wear, or what it will actually cost. The “cost uncertainties” with this design, Young noted, “are bigger than we might think.”
  • Counc. Geoff Young also noted that council has told the public that the $21million Federal infrastructure stimulus fund contribution is certain with the replace option, but not with repair; this isn’t quite true since the replace option has changed since the $21million was granted (council is proposing eliminating the rail portion, something that the Federal grant assumed was included), and therefore we do NOT have certainty about getting the grant for the replace option.
  • Counc. Geoff Young also again pointed out that the Johnson Street Bridge is actually two independently operating bridges, not one, and that this opens the door to creative refurbishment (where one bridge is closed for rehab while the other remains open, with a reverse switch when the first span is finished).
  • Counc. Geoff Young also pointed out that council has said that the bridge faces closure in 2012, but that it will take four years (till 2014) to build a new bridge – so what happens in the two year gap? Or does the bridge not need to close in 2012 after all?
  • Councillor Sonya Chandler spoke at length about “the community” and seemed to channel “the community” repeatedly, for example when she said that she doesn’t believe that “this community” wants “the cheapest option.” (Editorial aside: really? This community – me – does. I don’t think we can afford a bridge that’s going to end up costing $150million to $200million at the end of the day…)
  • Counc. Sonya Chandler also said that she thinks “we’re making urban history” (she meant the decision process at today’s meeting, with its result of voting to replace the Johnson Street Bridge). (Not sure how she arrived at “making urban history” since this whole replacement scheme will simply suburbanize downtown, but, oh well…)
  • Councillor John Luton said that we’re not just dealing with heritage, but with an “essential piece of transportation infrastructure”; he then noted that “form must follow function” and that “this piece of transportation infrastructure has hit the wall.” (Huh?) He added that he “supports a new bridge as the most supportable option.”
  • Councillor Pamela Madoff spoke lengthily about her experience with heritage and how she traveled to sites that have experienced earthquakes. She told us that earthquake damage can be quite unpredictable because the waves travel through the ground in ways that can’t be foretold. Even though the Johnson Street Bridge is heritage-worthy, “seismic performance” is at the top of her list of priorities, followed by multi-modal performance, which is a guarantor, she said, of a democratic approach. No one should feel like a second-class citizen on the bridge – whether they’re a wheelchair or scooter user, pedestrian, cyclist, etc. (she pointedly omitted drivers of cars, and therefore also riders of public transit – including trains).
  • Counc. Pamela Madoff pointed to a 2008 Vic News article by Keith Vass, which noted that the city (Engineering Dept) had requested a condition assessment report on the bridge sometime in 2007, and that the bridge would be on the new (post-2008 election) council’s agenda. She suggested this vindicated council in the face of criticism that the bridge was not on the agenda during the election. (Editorial note: it wasn’t on the agenda during the election, and if incumbent councillors knew that it would be, pre-election, perhaps they should have spoken to the issue during the election. Live and learn.)
  • The other councillors really didn’t add anything of interest. Several (including some of the ones cited above, with the exception of Young and Madoff) spoke at far too great a length about themselves, as if we cared.
  • Mayor Fortin concluded the comments by repeating the poll results (that 80% of respondents said they would find the replacement option acceptable – but again, see Young’s comments about how the questions leading to that result were formulated and presented).
  • The vote, as noted above: everyone except Geoff Young in favor of replacement.

Quelle malheur, as they say in France…

Photo by Eric Porcher

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