Author Archives: Jay Banks

Things You Need to Know Before Buying an Old House in Vancouver


A West End home - City of Vancouver Archives

Though a fairly young city, Vancouver has its share of older houses. In 2011, out of 41,440 owner-occupied single detached homes, thirty per cent of them were built in 1946 or earlier.

Older houses present problems for the prospective buyer. Insurers may refuse to cover, or renew policies on, houses that have not been upgraded to modern standards. What follows is a list of known issues that a buyer should investigate.

Is your wiring up to date?

Modern lifestyles, full of appliances and entertainment devices, consume far more electricity than they used to, and the electrical systems of older houses, built when the cutting edge of domestic technology was a two-slice toaster, may be inadequate to the task.

Many old houses have knob and tube wiring, also known as K&T wiring or open wiring. Every house in North America built between 1880 and 1940 had K&T wiring, and "It is still present to some degree in the vast majority of occupied houses in B.C. that were built pre-1950." The copper wire was covered by a cloth and rubber insulation called "loom", and ran through porcelain knobs and tubes. K&T is ungrounded and can short out. Electrical service was often limited to 60 amps.

K&T wiring was not designed to handle modern demands, and can post a risk for fire hazards. If a system built for 15 amps is overtaxed and constantly blowing fuses, homeowners may install 25 or 30 amp fuses, which may cause the wiring to overheat. This makes the wire and insulation brittle and contributes to the risk of fires. Another problem comes from retrofitting modern outlets to older wiring systems.

Some insurance companies will increase their fees for houses with K&T wiring, or not cover them at all. Furthermore, unprofessional electricians may not know the requirements of this kind of wiring, and repair it with scotch or masking tape instead of professional electrical tape.

Homes built between 1965 and 1976 may have aluminum wiring instead of modern copper wiring. Aluminum wiring is susceptible to overheating and failure of terminals, indicated by discolouring near the wall receptacle, the smell of hot plastic, or flickering lights. Most of these problems occurred with 110 volt circuits for outlets and lights, not the 220 volt circuits for major appliances.

According to an essay by a master electrician, out of the 500 Vancouver houses more than forty years old he surveyed, 95 per cent of them had electrical fire hazards, which he attributed to "handyman tinkering" by non-professionals.

When selling houses, particularly old ones, realtors are obligated to educate the buyers and sellers about the kind of wiring. It requires a certified electrician’s inspection, and that finding will inevitably recommend replacing the wiring. Removal and replacement of the wiring for a 1500 square foot house can cost from $5,000 to $8,000, and take one week or more. Upgrading an existing electrical panel to 200 amps can cost about $1,200.

Beware of the UFFI

UFFI is urea formaldehyde foam insulation, a shaving cream-like foam that can be injected into and around electrical outlets, plumbing and other hard-to-reach spaces. During the energy crisis of the early 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Canadian homes were insulated with UFFI to reduce heating costs. However, homeowners afterwards reported respiratory problems, eye irritation, fatigue, and other symptoms, which Health Canada attributed to formaldehyde gas released from the UFFI. The insulation was banned in Canada in 1980, and later in the USA.

Whether UFFI actually releases enough formaldehyde to be harmful is debated, particularly cases in which the insulation was installed 30 or more years ago. The Canadian Cancer Association’s website says, "Homes that had UFFI installed many years ago probably do not have high formaldehyde levels now." A post on the website of Carson Dunlop home inspection services concludes, "urea formaldehyde foam insulation has not been shown to be a health concern." Health Canada also points out that UFFI can deteriorate when wet, and release increased formaldehyde if installed incorrectly.

Regardless, currently UFFI is banned in Canada. The presence of UFFI in a house can lower its price greatly, and prevent mortgage companies from financing it.

Always check for asbestos

Perhaps the best known dangerous house material, asbestos is an insulating agent known to be cause cancer and respiratory disease, and cannot be detected just by looking at it. Homes built before 1990 are more likely to have asbestos, in floor tiles, wrapped around furnace ducts or pipes, or in other areas.

Health Canada recommends that people reduce risk of exposure by hiring professional inspectors before altering their house. Often, the best response to pre-existing asbestos is to leave it be. WorkSafeBC recommends that asbestos should be identified and removed by trained professionals with protective gear, and that homeowners should contact their municipality to learn how to safely dispose of asbestos materials.

Homeowners should note that asbestos in a home may fall under the asbestos exclusion clause of an insurance policy.

The Professional Standards Manual of the Real Estate Council of British Columbia requires that sellers discloses the presence of UFFI and asbestos in properties. A hazardous materials survey can cost from $500 to $2000 or more, and removal of asbestos, depending on the type of material, can run from $400 to $15,000. Removal of UFFI can cost about $10,000 for an attic and between $15,000 and $20,000 for an entire house.

Vintage furnace is not always a win

Beginning in the 1930s, gas- and oil-powered furnaces were a major improvement over older, coal powered furnaces that had to be stoked. However, oil furnaces can be an environmental hazard and a fire risk, causing higher insurance costs. Forced-air gas furnaces and electric heat are much lower risks, and are more efficient too. A new furnace and re-routed ducts can cost about $8,000.

Another common feature of older houses is oil tanks for furnaces, whether indoors or outdoors, aboveground or belowground. Leaks from oil tanks can releases hundreds of litres of oil into the home or the ground, contaminating the soil and groundwater, or getting into the sump pump or floor drain. Many oil tanks corrode from the inside out, making their weakness invisible. As water in the tank sinks to the bottom, it may cause rust or corrosion where the legs attach. The only sign may be the odor of oil.

The presence of an old oil tank may cause the denial of homeowners insurance. According to a report from the Canadian Real Estate Association, "A home with an exterior oil tank older than 15 years, or an interior tank older than 25 years, usually will not be insured." British Columbia has standards for residential oil tanks in place, but voluntary guidelines for the maintenance and repair of installed tanks.

A paper from the environmental law clinic of the University of Victoria says that "B.C.’s Environmental Management Act and the common law can require the owner of a property that is a contamination source to pay for the cost of cleaning up that contamination and contamination of neighbouring properties." Insurance policies may have pollution exclusion clauses that keep them from having to pay for such spills. Removal of an oil tank from a basement costs between $350 and $500.

An older or heritage home may also be denied insurance if it has a roof has not been updated in the past 20 years, a wood-heating system, galvanized pipe or lead plumbing, lead-based paint, or problems with the septic or well installations.

Despite the issues with older houses, it is still almost always possible to get insurance, especially for people who already had insurance and are renewing policies. First-time buyers may need to turn to a specialty provider with higher premiums. Such houses also may take longer to insure, and buyers should start looking for coverage as soon as possible. Installing smoke alarms, sprinkler systems or monitored burglar alarms can also be rewarded with discounts.


 

Photo Essay: Best Vancouver Ice Cream Shops

It's summer, which means great ice cream shops have been popping all over the place in Vancouver. Every year, there are new and awesome artisanal gelato shops opening all over the city. But good ice cream is something that takes years to master and once you do, your patrons will be coming back no matter what new and exciting gelateria opened across the street. Here's how it looked in our personal favorite ice cream shops this summer.

A scoop from Rain or Shine

Rain or Shine

Location: 3382 Cambie Street or 1926 West 4th Ave
Website: rainorshineicecream.com

Ice Cream is a treat most people associate with happiness, childhood memories and summer. Rain or Shine is a company which wants to make you remember these happy days and relive them again, be it a sunny day or a truly rainy one. They specialize in making ice cream fun, while keeping the ingredients, fresh, local and natural, without added chemicals or flavours. They even have a list of local suppliers for you to read through, including Birchwood Dairy, Vancouver Olive Oil Company, Canadian Hazelnut Company, Campbell’s Honey and many more seasonal suppliers providing the freshest ingredients for your ice cream.

For those who can't choose just one or two from their variety of flavours, or those who are looking to stock their fridge for worse days, they have ice cream flights and whole pints on the menu.


Rain or Shine is a place that doesn't just sell the ice cream. They provide a place for people to enjoy each others company. This place became a true social hub for the neighbourhood. People from all over the place are coming in for a scoop. A big part of the charm is the friendly and always smiling staff working at the shop.

Rain or Shine is open every day from noon to 10 pm.

Earnest Ice Cream

Location: 3992 Fraser St or 1829 Quebec Street
Website: earnesticecream.com

What would make ice cream even better? Enjoying ice cream that comes from honest local sources in a place that cares for the environment. That's Earnest Ice Cream for you, a true environmentally-friendly ice cream shop in town, trying to become a first zero-waste ice cream shop in Vancouver.

They create their ice cream in small batches with the freshest of ingredients for you to enjoy in the shop or take home with you. They have a good selection of classic flavours like caramel, chocolate, and vanilla, but they also rotate a selection of seasonal flavours you really need to get before they are gone. With Flavours like Bourbon Peach or Blackberry Cheesecake, you can't go wrong. They even make innovative vegan options. At their shop, you can enjoy Vegan Chai, Vegan Strawberry Brownie or a vegan classic like Vegan Cookies and Cream.

They will also happily pack some ice cream for you to take home and make you feel good about caring for the environment. Their ice cream pints are packed into returnable and reusable jars that make them a true zero waste company. You can even find these pints all over the city, in your favourite coffee shops or restaurants. And every jar you bring back gives you a $1 store credit to use for your favourite ice cream flavour. Pleasure doing business with them, isn't it?

Both of their locations are open for you to enjoy Monday to Sunday from 12 pm to 10 pm. If you are not in the area, you can check all their pints distributor on their site.

La Casa Gelato

Location: 1033 Venables Street
Website: lacasagelato.com

When it comes to gelaterias, La Casa Gelato is the mother ship. Since 1994 these guys have been producing some of the finest gelato in town from their tucked away location in Strathcona. Now with more than 588 flavours (and counting), no one comes close to the variety and creativity of this elite creamery.

Forget about chocolate and vanilla. We're talking jalapeno blackberry gelato that is almost too hot to handle. We're talking aged balsamic vinegar gelato that tastes like balsamic vinegar. With 218 flavours available on site at all times, it would take hours just to sample all the options. Whether you're looking for something classic or for something completely off the wall, this place has got it. There's even apple wasabi gelato.

Usually packed with people and with dance-pop spreading around from the speakers, this is truly a unique ice cream experience and is worth visiting at any time of year. Funny moments, like the crowd taking a break from sampling the sweets to spontaneously dancing the Macarena is what happens here a lot.

Upon walking in the door, you buy a poker chip representing your desired serving size. You are then free to roam the store, sampling as many of the flavours as you like. When you find the one for you (or, if you're feeling lucky), you trade in your chip and get your scoop. When it comes down to it, making the final decision is nearly impossible. Thankfully, there isn't anything here which isn't worth having — even if only for the novelty of eating ice cream that tastes exactly like garlic. Yes, they have garlic flavoured gelato, and yes, you should try it.

You can test your taste buds and try all the flavours in La Casa Gelato 7 days a week, 365 days a year 11 am till 11 pm. Twelve hours should be enough to taste at least half of their flavours!

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

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The Vancouver Resident’s Guide to Alternative Gardening

Cherry Tomatoes by Jonas Ingold

With short winters, plenty of fertile soil, and a temperate rainforest climate, Vancouver is the perfect place to grow a lush, beautiful garden. The only problem is that many Vancouver residents don’t have an actual garden space to plant in. This doesn’t mean that gardening isn’t an option in Vancouver, though. Lacking their own garden plot, many Vancouver renters and homeowners have turned to alternative methods for keeping a garden. From community gardens to boulevard plots, here are some of the most popular options in the city for space-challenged gardeners.

Rooftop and Patio Gardens

Because much of Vancouver’s urban space is taken up by highrises, many developers are looking upwards to create gardening options. Rooftop and patio gardens are becoming increasingly common in Vancouver, especially in new condo and apartment buildings. Much of this is thanks to the City’s active promotion of urban gardening spaces within new developments.

Vancouver Rooftop Garden by Kyle Pearce

"We encourage developers to put shared garden plots on their roof or their podium," says James O’Neill, food policy planner for the City of Vancouver. Of course, not all buildings will be well-suited for garden plots, so City staff have to balance the desire for shared gardens along with other needs such as recreation areas and playground spaces.

"There are so many other competing interests that need to be balanced," O’Neill says. Even with all of these competing interest in mind, however, O’Neill notes that adding a shared garden space to a residential development proposal often makes the proposal more appealing for the City.

Small Space Gardens

If you live in a condo or apartment building without a rooftop or patio garden, you may still be able to use the space you already have to satisfy your gardening itch. Even with a small patio, there can be plenty of growing potential – as long as you’re facing the right direction.

According to Michael Levenston, executive director of City Farmer Society, a non-profit group that encourages urban farming in Vancouver, the challenge is first of all finding the space and then finding the sunlight:

If you have a balcony you can grow on the balcony but you want to be facing the sun.

Growing Vegetables on the Deck by Ruth Hartnup

As long as you have adequate sunlight, Levenston says, the space requirements for a balcony or backyard garden are minimal.

You can start with a square foot and grow something in a square foot, and then you can expand that to whatever size you want.

Many people will build their own raised beds for planting out of a few pieces of wood, although if you prefer a professionally-made product, Levenston adds that there are companies that can make raised beds for you to match your exact specifications.

Community Gardens

For those seeking garden space outside of their own property, community gardens are a common solution. However, community gardening has become so popular in Vancouver that finding space can be a real challenge. According to O'Neill:

There are so many people who want to garden in the city and many of our community gardens have several year wait lists.

Davie Village Community Garden by Daryl Mitchell

According to City Hall, there are over 110 community gardens within the City of Vancouver which can be found on city-owned land, at churches, at schools, and on private property. Even this number of gardens, however, is not enough to satisfy the city’s growing population.

But just because a community garden is full, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get your name on the list. Levenston explains that spaces can open up when someone moves away or stops using their garden plot, or when a new community garden opens up.

There’s usually a lineup but that’s not to say you shouldn’t put your name in.

Garden Sharing

While not everyone who wants to plant a garden will have access to one, not everyone who has a garden will be interested in planting it either. That’s why many Vancouverites have turned to a shared space model to meet their gardening needs.

In past years, people who wanted to share gardens in Vancouver could do so through an online forum, but the website is no longer functioning due to lack of funding, Levenston says. These days, garden sharing in Vancouver often occurs through informal networks, although Levenston adds that City Farmer often acts as an intermediary for these sorts of arrangements as well.

I get calls from people who say I’ve got this patch of land, can you find someone?

In addition, residents can look to international websites such as yardsharing.org or even Craigslist in order to connect with others who might want to share a garden space.

Vancouver Greens by Ruth Hartnup

Boulevard and Street Gardens

Another option the City has been actively promoting for gardeners is the option to plant on City land in places like boulevards and traffic circles. As O’Neill explains, any resident who has a boulevard in front of their property is encouraged to use that space for growing both edible and ornamental plants.

The boulevard is defined as the place between the curb and the sidewalk. For those who don’t have access to a boulevard, another option could be to become a volunteer with the Green Streets program, which allows volunteers to plant gardens in traffic calming areas such as traffic circles and bulges.

Initially, both the Green Streets and boulevard gardening programs only allowed for decorative gardens, but both programs have now expanded to allow for food growing as well, as long as gardeners follow the guidelines set out by the city. These guidelines include making sure plants don’t reach more than one metre in height in order to preserve sightlines for drivers and pedestrians, and taking precautions to minimize the effects of airborne toxins such as vehicle emissions.

City Beet Urban Farm in Mount Pleasant by Ruth Hartnup

Greening the Greenest City

Year after year, Vancouver has been recognized by surveys such as the Siemens Green City Index as one of the most environmentally-friendly cities not only in Canada, but around the world. In 2016, Vancouver was ranked second overall in North America on the Green Cities Index, and ranked first based on air quality and CO2 levels. And despite the city’s continuously increasing density and growing population, creating green spaces has remained a priority. O'Neill confirms this:

We try to encourage as much food growing and gardening in the city as possible. We’re trying to remove barriers as much as we can to allow it to happen through developments, through multi-family buildings, in high density areas, and also in single-family home areas.

For residents, these varied options for gardening and food growing mean that everyone can have their own role in making the city a more beautiful and eco-friendly place, even if they don’t have a garden space of their own.

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Vancouver Neighbourhood Photo Essays: West Point Grey

West Point Grey is bordered by 16th Avenue to the south, Alma Street to the east, English Bay to the north, and Blanca Street to the west.

According to the City of Vancouver, the Musqueam people lived in this area’s ancient village. A First Nations legend refers to Point Grey as the “Battleground of the West Wind.” The neighbourhood is named after Captain George Grey, a friend of Captain George Vancouver and it was its own municipality from 1908 until 1929, when it was merged with Vancouver.

This compact neighbourhood attracts with its quiet residential streets bordered by trees and the proximity to Vancouver downtown and the beach. The main commercial area is along West 10th Avenue between Tolmie Street and Discovery Street, offering a popular shopping and restaurant district where old shops sit by new residential blocks.

While it’s one of the city’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, West Point Grey is home to a mixture of residents including working professionals, business owners, faculty members of the University of British Columbia, artists, university students or young families. One of the segments of the neighbourhood’s population are longtime middle class homeowners who moved to the neighbourhood before it became one of Canada’s most expensive residential areas.

10th Avenue

Access and Transit

The access and transit are very simple thanks to the location and character of the neighbourhood. West 16th is a key route terminating at UBC, while West 10th, the commercial heart of the neighbourhood offers many bus lines, too. Alma Street hosts bus routes to the Southlands and Dunbar as well as north to downtown and Kitsilano. Another popular choice of commuters is the Off-Broadway cycling route.

Nature and Recreation

West Point Grey is the place where the view of Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains can be admired the most thanks to the exquisite views created by the natural terracing. There are many spaces for recreation, whether it comes to parks, beaches or forests. The popular beaches of Spanish Banks, Jericho and Locarno have trails across forests and along beaches which are great for a refreshing walk or birdwatching. There are also several dog friendly areas where you can appreciate the natural terrain and play with your dog off-leash. 

Trails lead through Pacific Spirit where the numerous walking, running, hiking, biking, and horseback riding paths offer an escape from the streets and busier seaside. Jericho Park is the easternmost of the beaches, a home to a forest and a waterfront that are home to beavers, turtles or blackbirds. Jericho Sailing Centre offers kayaking lessons.

Spanish Banks
Jericho Beach Park
Jericho Sailing Centre

Events

The main event of the neighbourhood’s social calendar is Fiesta Days, a community festival that combines a carnival and stage performances. This family oriented event is held in June along the West 10th Avenue between Tolmie Street and Discovery Street. In addition, July brings the annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival taking place at Jericho Park.

Where to Drink and Eat

With impressive lunch options and a variety of coffee beans available for purchase, Bean Around The World is an excellent spot for coffee lovers. If you would like to visit the 'home to the world's best cinnamon bun', stop by at Grounds for Coffee and try their organic Arabica coffee. The Diner offers authentic British meals (and humour) while Burgoo Bistro has comfort food at its best from around the world. 

Jericho Pier
Jericho Pier
10th Avenue
10th Avenue
Hasting Mill Store Museum
4th Avenue
Jericho Beach
Panne Rizo (10th Avenue)
Spanish Banks

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

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Parking in Vancouver: Parking Spots, By-laws

ICBC says there were 1,376,000 passenger vehicle policies in the Lower Mainland in 2015. All of those cars and other vehicles need to be parked somewhere. A rule of thumb for land-use planning says that every car has one space at home and three or four other spaces waiting for it elsewhere. Yet there is only so much parking space available in Vancouver. There are a few tips on how to find free convenient parking in Vancouver, but drivers will probably have to use paid parking at some point.

parking-in-vancouver-3

Drivers need to be aware of the City’s rules and regulations when it comes to parking on city streets to avoid fines and upset neighbours. There are different rules depending on whether there are signs on the street or if you are at a meter. Many residents are unaware of the three-hour bylaw that states you cannot remain parked for more than three hours in front of a property you don’t own or live at. It is in effect between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

Another regulation to pay attention to concerns parking near a fire hydrant; there must be at least five meters between the hydrant and the car.

Drivers are also not allowed to idle a vehicle for more than three consecutive minutes per hour or while there is no one in the vehicle and it is unlocked. Parking is also forbidden within 6 meters of the nearest edge of a sidewalk of an intersecting street, within 1.5 meters of an intersecting lane, private road, boulevard crossing, sidewalk crossing, or driveway, or within 5.5 m directly in front of private driveways, roads, and garage entrances. There are several other regulations about parking on the City website.

Tickets

Parking tickets may be paid at a 40 per cent discount within fourteen days. After thirty-five days, a fine is added to the ticket, and after sixty days the ticket goes to a collection agency, which may affect your credit rating. You can buy the tickets online or by phone with Visa, American Express or MasterCard, or by cheque or money order in person or by mail. 

Time limited parking

Some parking spaces are time-limited, typically one or two hours, depending on demand. Time-limit parking spaces are indicated by street signs, which show the times and days when the restrictions apply.

Parking Meters

Other spaces have parking meters. The rates can vary depending on the location and time of day and you can pay with coins, a credit card, or a mobile app. All of the City’s parking meters run from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day (including holidays).

Parking Apps

Drivers can use two major smart phone apps to help find and manage parking on Vancouver streets. The first app is Easy Park app, by a City-owned, not-for-profit parking company. Drivers can find lot locations, entrance locations and rates. You can also pay from your phone and extend your parking time when you are away from your vehicle. Find it on the Google Play and App Store.

The second app is Pay by Phone. It can be linked to your credit card and uses your license plate number to register your car for parking. It can be used at meters around Vancouver and also some lots. The app will send you a text message when the time is nearly done. Users can extend the time from the app. Pay by Phone is available for Apple, Android and Blackberry phones.

Accessible Parking

For travellers with disabilities, there are designated disabled parking zones and accessible parking meter spots throughout Vancouver. The City maintains a GoogleMap of accessible parking spaces, which can be used by vehicles with valid permits from the Social Planning And Research Council of BC (SPARC BC). You can apply for a SPARC permit at their website.

Other Alternatives

Other alternatives to cut down on parking problems include car-sharing, carpooling, and ride-sharing. There are several car-sharing cooperatives and businesses available in Vancouver, including Car2Go, Evo, Modo and Zipcar. Carpooling and ride-sharing can be done with friends and co-workers, or organized via services like the JackBell ride-share database.

parking-in-vancouver-6

Transit Options

There are alternate ways of getting around the city that don’t require parking. The City estimates about 50 per cent of trips are done by walking, cycling or using public transit. TransLink, the body in charge of the region’s public transportation, claims that 85 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents live less than 400 metres from a bus stop, which connects to the over 210 bus routes running around the city. Vancouver’s public transportation options include the Skytrain, which has the Expo Line running north-west to south-east and the Millennium Line that runs in a loop east to west. There is also the Seabus, which connects Waterfront Station downtown to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, and HandyDART, a door-to-door service for people with disabilities.

Residential Parking

Some residential areas have restricted parking, which combines restricted parking for residents with time-limited and unregulated spaces for visitors. Residents with valid car insurance can buy annual parking permits online, by phone, or in person during business hours. You will receive a decal by mail, which you apply to your vehicle. This only applies if the decal matches the vehicle and the license plate of your vehicle. Depending on the area, the annual fee ranges from $38.93 to $77.90. Also, some areas allow a maximum of two permits per household.

The City also provides short-term and visitor parking permits, useful for guests, rental vehicles, and borrowed cars. You or your guest must apply in person at City Hall. (For the West End or Robson North zones only, apply at the West End Community Centre, 870 Denman Street.) Contractor permits cost $5.25 per day, while all other permits cost $10.50 per week.

Designers and architects should refer to the City’s parking bylaws, policies and guidelines.

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Referendum Rejected

With an average of 870,000 vehicles on Metro Vancouver roads daily and just 10,000-metered parking spots plus about 17,550 at Easy Park lots the city faces a challenge.

Add to that the expectation that there will be 170,000 new residents by 2045 the City needs to advance a plan to ease the congestion. Because there is a shortage of land in Vancouver it is easier to make the transit system more efficient and more attractive rather than try and increase the available parking spots. This is the problem the Mayors Council Plan hopes to help by promising to reduce the traffic problem by 20 per cent.

The plan largely focuses on improving the region’s public transportation system including an expansion to the Millennium Line along Broadway from Commercial Drive and UBC. It will also add five new b-lines to the roughly 210 bus routes it already has. The new routes have been defined as:

  • Downtown to SFU via Hastings Street;
  • Downtown to SE Marine Drive via Victoria Drive and Commercial Drive;
  • Downtown to Lynn Valley Centre in N Vancouver by West Georgia Street;
  • Joyce-Collingwood Station to UBC along 41st Ave;
  • Southeast Vancouver to Richmond and Burnaby via Knight Street.

The plan also commits to increasing sea bus service by 50 per cent.

However, residents essentially voted against funding the plan by rejecting a tax that would have covered the cost of the project in a 2015 referendum. Elections BC website records a total of 61.68 per cent of voters against the tax while 38.32 per cent supported it. Reports state the tax would have been a 0.5 per cent sales tax and revenue was expected to cover the $7.5 billion of in projects. It would have helped pay for some of the 10-year plan, which included an east-west subway line, a light rail system for Surrey that would reach to Langley and 11 new rapid bus lines in the suburbs, as well as a third harbour ferry.

Matt Taylor, a Master’s of Engineering Student at UBC has outlined the transportation problem in Vancouver in a YouTube video. He estimates there will be about 1,100,000 new residents in Vancouver. Which will mean an addition of 730,000 vehicles "at current ownership rates."

Taylor said that with that amount of growth the city would need an addition 2,200,000 more parking spaces. Due to the lack of land in the city, most of the spots would need to be built underground. At a cost of $40,000 per spot, Taylor said that would be a total cost of $90,000,000.

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Vancouver Film Locations: Vancouver Marine Building

Marine Building is an art-deco styled skyscraper located at 355 Burrard Street in Downtown Vancouver. Designed by architects of McCarter Nairne, it opened its gates in October 1930 as a dominant of our city. At 321 ft with 22 floors, Marine Building remained the tallest building in Vancouver for nine years, until it was bested by Hotel Vancouver in 1939.

marine-building

Marine Building has its name for the extensive decor depicting marine flora and fauna. The architects themselves tried to design the building as a giant crag rising from the sea. Think iceberg from Titanic, but fewer people and more sea-snails, turtles, scallops and sea horses. For it's majestic beauty and extensive decor, it's a popular spot to use as a background in movies and TV shows. Marine Building was almost everything in it's time, from banks and office buildings, to police bureaus and superhero headquarters. Let's take a look how and which movie crews changed this memorable building in the recent years:

Backstrom

Backstrom is a detective comedy-drama set in Portland, Oregon, so of course their main filming location would be Vancouver, because why not. Main character Detective Lieutenant Everett Backstrom, played by Rainn Wilson, who you probably know better as Dwight from the US version of The Office, is an anti-hero on the right side of the law. A bit politically incorrect, rude, and struggling with alcoholism, he is a mix of everything that makes a prototype of a bad cop. Yet, he takes on cases with special interest, that nobody else can solve. And yes, he solves them. Think of him as the very modern, more unpleasant form of Sherlock Holmes.


Marine Building in this TV series represents Portland Police Bureau. Backstrom is seen walking out of the building and lighting a cigar on his way, while rain is pouring down. As spectators say, it was one of the sunniest Easter weekends when Backstrom was filming one of it's most melancholic scenes and the film crew set up a giant rain tower to create the right atmosphere, despite the fact that if they would film any other day, Vancouver would provide the right conditions on its own.

Caprica

Caprica is a victim of yet another 'try to cash on a spin-off that never could work' scheme. Written as a prequel for the geek-beloved Battlestar Galactica (the reboot, not the original, mind you), Caprica is taking place 58 years before the destruction of twelve colonies.


This series maps how humans created the robots Cylons that later turned against their masters in the original Galactica reboot. Do you also have the feeling that this is getting too confusing with the original, reboot original and the prequel? Please, no more sequels, we beg you Syfy.


As is tradition with prequels, the show had low ratings and was pulled from the air on Syfy even before they finished airing the first season and these episodes were later included on DVD. Before that, they aired the episode 5, where the Marine Building is shown as the New Cap City Bank where a heist is in the process. Vancouver substituted nuked Caprica City before in rebooted Battlestar Galactica, heavily altered with CGI to fit the story. However, in Caprica itself, only small additions were made to fit the futuristic look the series was going for.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

There's not much to tell about Dirk Gently and its plot without leaving you even more confused with what exactly is going on in this series. Dirk Gently is a holistic detective. Yes, you read that right. Holistic as in he does everything, from your run-of-the-mill lost corgi to supernatural cases of great importance. Because, naturally, everything in the universe is connected.

Confused yet?


It seems as no surprise that this BBC America and Netflix collaboration series is based on the books of Douglas Adams, who you might know as the author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The show takes place after the first two books and should be an homage to the non-existent third book that Adams planned to write before he died. The first season was filmed almost entirely in Vancouver. Marine Building was used here as a lobby of Perryman Grand Hotel, where Dirk's sidekick-against-his-will Todd works. Or you know, worked, before he got fired in this very scene.

Smallville

Where else would you put a famous news agency, if not the Marine Building? In Smallville, a teen-inspired prequel to Superman movies, The Daily Planet, news agency where Superman - excuse me I mean Clark Kent - ends up working, is pictured as the Vancouver Marine Building.


The most entertaining thing about all of this is that the original building, as it appeared in the comics, was based on the Old Toronto Star Building where the co-creator of Superman Joe Shuster was a newsboy.


He even claimed that fictional city Metropolis, where Superman does most of his saving and hero-related stuff, was based on Toronto. However, this view shifted since then and Metropolis, as we know it now, reminds people New York City more than Toronto.

Fairly Legal

Nothing says I despise the law more than becoming a mediator. Kate Reed (played by Sarah Shahi, who you might remember as Sam from Person of Interest), was a great lawyer at her father's firm. But then she realised she wanted something more, she wanted to help people. And that's where the series starts, with Kate determined to do good by occasional acting a bit against the law.


As it goes in the series about lawyers, nothing says successful as a fancy office building. This USA Network comedy is no exception. In the 7th episode of the first season, the Marine Building served as an entrance to one of the buildings where one of the lawyer's Kate is confronting, has an office.

Fantastic Four

In Fantastic Four, and we mean the more classical 2005 and 2007 movies, not the train-wreck that was 2015 version, the Marine Building is the centre of the attention of fictional New York City. This building represents the Baxter Building, a fictional residence in Manhattan that houses the Fantastic Four headquarters.


In contrast with the comics, where Baxter Building is shown as strictly military and industrial looking, for the movie creators choose the art-deco inspired Marine Building as a bit more indulgent original living quarters of Reed Richards. In the latest comics, the creators even shifted their view and draw the Baxter Building with a bit of flourish, reminding more Vancouver Marine Building, than the original military structure.

Life or Something Like It

Angelina Jolie stars as Lanie Kerrigan in this romantic comedy-drama about a reporter living the perfect life. Or so she thinks until a homeless psychic tells her she is gonna die next Tuesday. From there, things start spinning out of control, as Lanie tries to change the course of her destiny and finding some meaning in her life.


And what movie set in New York City would it be without filming the prettiest buildings in Vancouver. The Marine Building was used as a set for A.M. USA offices, where Lanie longs to work as a big-star reporter. Because every news agency needs its old, art-deco building, right?

Lucifer

If you always wanted to see a supernatural police comedy with an unusual main character, who is good despite being bad, you are in luck because Fox recently introduced Lucifer to its viewers and changed the way you will look at procedural police series. The story is about the proverbial Satan struggling with his "work" (read damning souls for eternity) and going for a holiday to Los Angeles. Do you see the irony in this? Of course, he runs into a very attractive detective, who is somehow immune to his charm and sets to help her solve crimes.


In eight episode of the first season, Detective Chloe Decker and Lucifer come across potential murder suspect Richard Kester, who is standing at the edge of the building, ready to jump. Naturally, this building is the Marine Building in Vancouver, because no other building has such a beautiful rim you can stand on. In this scene, Lucifer manages to talk Richard out of jumping by accident, so it ends well for both Richard and the steps of the building that don't have to be drenched in fake blood. Talk about a step off of the devil path, oops.

The Flash

If you had the power to travel trough mirrors, why not rob a bank in an art-deco building? The same train of thoughts was probably what the Mirror Master from CW's The Flash had. In the third season, he decides to rob Central's City First National Bank, set in the Vancouver Marine Building. He almost succeeded, which is not that surprising, since that building has a very suspicious amount of mirrors for a bank. He is stopped by The Flash and Jesse Quick. Nobody is surprised.

 

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

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The (Inevitable) Future of Housing in Vancouver

As the city with the highest density rate in Canada, Vancouver architects and city planners need to find new ways to increase housing density to make way for the population growth, which is expected to reach 3.1 million over the next 14 years. Local architect Michael Geller has looked to Europe for inspiration.

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Geller recently wrote about some European concepts for urban homes that he believes would fit in well with the Vancouver scene."Throughout Europe whenever they build townhouses or row houses they are not part of a condominium. They are individually owned just like a single family house is," Geller told Vancouver Homes. One of the attractions of this, he explained, was the freedom to make the house your own.

If you want to paint your door a different colour or plant vegetables in the garden you don’t need the approval of a strata council.

STACKED TOWNHOUSES

There was another innovation of European-style housing that Geller said would work for Vancouver: stacked townhouses.

The idea is that you may have a row house above another row house but each has a front door at the street. So, you can create housing with prices comparable to an apartment but you don’t have to go through a lobby and corridor and elevator to get to your home.

According to Geller these are not only high density buildings but also an attractive option for residents.

Certainly that is something that would be very attractive to a lot of people who can’t afford a row house and really don’t want to live in an apartment building.

He said stacked townhouse style homes were very popular in Toronto and Montreal, who have a higher population than Vancouver.

There are a couple of examples in Vancouver but normally the zoning prohibits them.

They are not unusual to Vancouver, in fact, the Katz company developed the first stacked townhouses in the province on 8th and Cyprus in the 70s. As part of their design the units have a garden and the upper units have a roof garden. There is a communal courtyard and playground incorporated in the design.

However, the assistant director for Urban Design with the City of Vancouver said there may be more of these types of buildings coming on to the market. "You are starting to see them getting built now," Anita Molaro said. "There are more and more applications that are coming on stream."

Some of these projects include Norquay Village and Little Mountain There are also stacked townhomes located in Mount Pleasant. The 16East development was done by StudioOne Architecture. The units are 2-3 bedrooms and include hardwood flooring, rooftop patios and underground parking.

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HEIGHT DOES NOT EQUAL DENSITY

Geller said a unique aspect of stacked town houses in Europe was that they were narrow and could be up to four storeys.

When you are starting to get into four storey townhouses, you are getting a density that is comparable to a much higher building,

Geller explained, adding there were some examples in Vancouver.

"Those buildings along Commercial Drive or Fourth Avenue or Broadway they have what we call a floor space ratio or FSR, which is the ratio of the size of the building to the size of the land, of around 2.5. The 12-storey high rise buildings in Kerrisdale or South Granville are less than that." 

"People invariably associate high density with high rise. It is just not necessarily the case." Geller said that in Toronto often the stacked townhouses were situated back to back in an effort to further increase density. In other words, they only have windows on one side, like an apartment would, but you can get very high densities with this type of housing.

According to Geller the urban dwellers would be attracted to these sorts of buildings because they offer freedom that apartment living doesn’t, as well as some special features. "A lot of the stacked townhouses or row houses will have a roof terrace," he said. "A backyard might be better but if you can’t afford a place with a backyard there is another option especially in the city."

UNIQUE BUILDING DESIGNS

In the quest to make affordable, high density homes attractive to urban dwellers in Vancouver, Bjarke Ingels, an architect from Denmark, has created a unique residential building, the Beach and Howe Tower near Granville Bridge. The building, which was reported about by CNBC, will stand 151 meters and provide a view of the beach and mountains to attract residents. Its unique, twisted shape was designed to avoid unsightly views of the nearby highway.

The building has brought to the Vancouver housing market an extra 600 units, including 180 that are market value. There is also a plan to create an outdoor art gallery on the underside of the Granville Bridge, which will give a modern feel to the neighbourhood.

Vancouver House by BIGBeach and Howe Tower by BIG

BIGGER NOT ALWAYS BETTER

Geller said another concern he had was the size of homes being built in the region: "Most new houses in metro Vancouver tend to be 2,250 square feet or more." 

When I was growing up we all lived in houses of less than 1,000 square feet. I think there is a need and demand for small houses of under 1,000 square feet both for empty nesters who want to downsize but also young households who really want a house and are just getting started.

Molaro said the City did not have a say in the size of housing that developers build: "Our zoning in our single family neighbourhoods allows for the majority of the city a floor area of 0.6 times the site area."

That is what the zoning will allow and that is what the zoning has been in place for, I would say, at least 30 or 40 years.

"It is true there is a lot of construction going on in the single family neighbourhoods and they are optimizing their full density potential," she said. However, Molaro also said that a lot of older homes have been built smaller but it was at the discretion of the builder.

What people chose to build on that property is their choice up to that limit.

She said that although the homes were large, most often there was a basement suite being developed on the land as well, all within the square footage.

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URBAN CHANGE NOT JUST FOR VANCOUVER

According to the report by CNBC, the World Health Organization has predicted the world’s urban population will be 6.4 billion by 2050. Thus, city planners around the world need to take into consideration how to obtain higher density spaces in attractive buildings, and how to make them affordable.

It has created a demand in cities around the world, including London, for thousands of new homes. In fact, the London Councils has said there is a need for 809,000 new homes in the next four years. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made a commitment to provide 200,000 affordable houses over the next three years. Molaro said that Vancouver was going to be a part of that change.

Ground-orientated type residential units and stacked townhouses are part of that sort of portfolio of typologies under consideration.

 

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Photo Essay: Catfe

Bringing together cats and coffee, Vancouver's first cat café quickly became a popular spot for the city's cat lovers. The concept of the themed café where visitors can watch and play with cats and take one home have spread throughout the world after the world’s first cat café opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998.

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Vancouver’s version opened in December 2016 at International Village and is a home to eight to twelve adoptable rescue cats at a time. The capacity of this place is limited so no wonder that Catfe has been very successful - almost too successful - getting cats adopted when it almost run out of kitties shortly after its opening. Catfe staff member Leah explained the idea behind this unique place:

It’s not just a café with cats. Cats can be used as therapy too and people can connect with animals. It’s difficult to find a place that allows cats In Vancouver so some people come here to get that contact. Cats are also relaxed here and I love seeing them changing. When they come here, they are sometimes frightened so you see how they change from nervous to happy after a while.

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Catfe offers drinks, snacks and coffee from local roasters. The light lunch menu includes Tartine quiches, vegetarian soups, savoury pastries and cat-themed treats as well as vegan and gluten-free options.

The café is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm except for Thursdays when the new cats are welcomed and the adopted ones picked-up. The public demand is exceeding the capacity of the café, so in order to maintain a healthy cat-to-human ratio, the number of visitors is limited to 16 people at the time. Admission is $5 per person with any cafe purchase (or $8 with no purchase) for a one-hour visit.

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Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

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Vancouver Restaurants With the Longest Tradition: Minerva’s

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A fixture in Kerrisdale since 1973, Minerva's has provided Mediterranean food to the neighbourhood’s people for more than a generation.

Minerva's’ owner, Nonda Pavlakis, was a young man of 17 when he came to Vancouver from Greece in 1967 to be with his brother and sister. He did tailoring and sales at a clothing store, and later became part owner of the Copacabana night club.

I was at Copacabana and we had just sold the club. A friend of mine came along and he asked if I wanted to buy a restaurant. My answer to him was, ‘What the hell would we do with a restaurant? I don’t know anything about restaurants.’ A month later, I was involved in the restaurant. I just saw the opportunity was here. It was a little restaurant that was doing okay then.

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In 1975, he and his friend purchased a small, two-year-old pizza joint on West 41st from a Greek couple. The name Minerva's, from the Roman goddess of wisdom, came with the restaurant, even though the previous owners were Greek.

I took it over, with a friend of mine, actually, but he stayed here for about eight months and he left. I took over the restaurant and worked hard. About a couple of years later, we expanded.

At the time, Kerrisdale was, as Nonda puts it, "a nice little village. It has changed a lot now. It used to be all kinds of stores. Now you see coffee shops, beauty salons, and banks. That’s all you see in Kerrisdale."

As Kerrisdale evolved, Minerva's evolved along with it, going through renovations and expansions roughly every decade.

When we bought it, it was the old style with the red carpet, red chairs, velour wallpaper. We changed it over the years. Every few years we like to do something to update.

Currently, Minerva's has an understated style of comforting earth tones and diffused lighting, with paintings of Mediterranean scenes on the walls. In the summer, the large windows open onto the sidewalk.

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For our business, the changes were good, actually. Ninety per cent of our customers are repeat customers. They live in the neighbourhood, but the neighbourhood has changed a lot. It used to be older people here, but now there are a lot of young families moving into the area.

His wife Kay works behind the restaurant’s bar, and his son John runs the business as a manager, since 2007. In August of 2016, it opened up an adjoining bar on the corner, Barra 41, which John runs.

Over the years, we’ve changed the menu a lot. Because it was just a pizza and pasta place. Then we kept changing the menu every so often. We take something out, we add something. We go with the times. We go with the people’s needs. Now it’s mostly a Mediterranean restaurant. We still have the pizza, of course, but we’re very well known for our steaks and our barbecue. And of course, we have lots of Greek dishes, as well.

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Asked about the secret of his establishment’s longevity, Nonda is characteristically modest.

You have to take care of your customers. Give them the right things, give them the quality of the food. We have very good quality of food, and our prices are affordable. Our steaks, for example. We use the best steaks here. Downtown you would pay sixty dollars. Here you will pay thirty or thirty-five dollars.

Nonda talks about how former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell have visited and stops himself before he can name a certain Vancouver-born movie star who regularly eats there.

This is characteristic of how Nonda treats all of his customers, some of whom are neighbourhood regulars who eat there seven days a week.

I can walk around here right now, and I know every one of my customers. When you come in through that door, we try to make you be happy when you go. That’s the success of a restaurant. You don’t see the people as a dollar sign. You go to some places and they try to grab the dollar and they don’t care about the mood. Here, we like to see you over and over and again and again.

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After running a restaurant for more than forty years, Nonda says right now, he doesn't have any plans for the future.

I’m still working. I’m going to continue working.

The sample dinner was barbecued baby back ribs with spaghetti. The generously sized portion of ribs were tender and easily separated from the bones, which provided the requisite tactile experience. The barbecue sauce was tart and tasty. The accompanying spaghetti came with a red sauce with more subtle flavours than you would find in other restaurants. The side dishes were garlic bread and Greek salad made with crisp and fresh vegetables, which together with the main entrée made for a satisfying dinner.

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Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

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Parking in Vancouver: Parking Spots, By-laws

One of the major problems that drivers in Vancouver encounter is the lack of parking spots. Vancouver has a limited number of parking spaces compared to the number of vehicles on the road each day. It is important to be aware of the City’s rules and regulations when it comes to parking on city streets both to avoid a fine and also upset neighbours. There are different rules depending on whether there are signs on the street or if you are at a meter.

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Parking Regulations and Bylaws

All of the City’s parking meters run from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day (including holidays). Many residents are unaware of the three-hour bylaw that states you cannot remain parked in front of a property you don’t own or live at for more than three hours. It is in effect between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

Another regulation to pay attention to is parking near a fire hydrant; there must be at least five meters between the hydrant and the car.

Drivers are also not allowed to idle a vehicle for more than three consecutive minutes per hour or while there is no one in the vehicle and it is unlocked. There are several others regulations about parking on the City website.

 

Parking Apps

There are two major smartphone apps that help find and manage parking on Vancouver streets. The first app is Easy Park app, by a City-owned, not-for-profit parking company. Drivers can find lot locations, entrance locations and rates. You can also pay from your phone as well as extend your parking time when you are away from your vehicle. Find it on Google Play and App Store.

The second app is Pay by Phone. It can be linked to your credit card and uses your license plate number to register you car for parking. It can be used at meters around Vancouver and also some lots. The app will send you a text message when the time is nearly done. Users can extend the time from the app. Pay by Phone is available for Apple, Android and Blackberry phones.

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Referendum Rejected

With an average of 870,000 vehicles on Metro Vancouver roads daily and just 10,000-metered parking spots plus about 17,550 at Easy Park lots the city faces a challenge.

Add to that the expectation that there will be 170,000 new residents by 2045 the City needs to advance a plan to ease the congestion. Because there is a shortage of land in Vancouver it is easier to make the transit system more efficient and more attractive rather than try and increase the available parking spots. This is the problem the Mayors Council Plan hopes to help by promising to reduce the traffic problem by 20 per cent.

The plan largely focuses on improving the region’s public transportation system including an expansion to the Millennium Line along Broadway from Commercial Drive and UBC. It will also add five new b-lines to the roughly 210 bus routes it already has. The new routes have been defined as:

  • Downtown to SFU via Hastings Street;
  • Downtown to SE Marine Drive via Victoria Drive and Commercial Drive;
  • Downtown to Lynn Valley Centre in N Vancouver by West Georgia Street;
  • Joyce-Collingwood Station to UBC along 41st Ave;
  • Southeast Vancouver to Richmond and Burnaby via Knight Street.

The plan also commits to increasing sea bus service by 50 per cent.

However, residents essentially voted against funding the plan by rejecting a tax that would have covered the cost of the project in a 2015 referendum. Elections BC website records a total of 61.68 per cent of voters against the tax while 38.32 per cent supported it. Reports state the tax would have been a 0.5 per cent sales tax and revenue was expected to cover the $7.5 billion of in projects. It would have helped pay for some of the 10-year plan, which included an east-west subway line, a light rail system for Surrey that would reach to Langley and 11 new rapid bus lines in the suburbs, as well as a third harbour ferry.

Matt Taylor, a Master’s of Engineering Student at UBC has outlined the transportation problem in Vancouver in a YouTube video. He estimates there will be about 1,100,000 new residents in Vancouver. Which will mean an addition of 730,000 vehicles "at current ownership rates."

Taylor said that with that amount of growth the city would need an addition 2,200,000 more parking spaces. Due to the lack of land in the city most of the spots would need to be built underground. At a cost of $40,000 per spot Taylor said that would be a total cost of $90,000,000.

While Vancouver’s transit system is robust, the City estimates about 50 per cent of trips are done by walking, cycling or using public transit.

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Conclusion

Although Vancouver has a reliable public transportation system many families still feel the need for at least one vehicle. Given that residents voted against implementing a tax to improve the system it is likely to assume that they will be relying more on their vehicles to get around. Yet, with the estimated population growth in the next 20 years the City will find itself unprepared for the increase in traffic flow and need for ample parking in public areas and streets.

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Top 3 Local Food Stores in Vancouver

"People think food just appears," says Nicole Robins, owner of North Vancouver’s Sprout Organic Market. In actuality, the food we eat is still grown on farms. Much of it comes from far away, shipped from around the world by ships and planes, with attendant problems in freshness, chemical exposure and production practices. One alternative is to eat food that is produced locally.

With the ocean to the west and farmlands to the south and east, Vancouver has many sources of locally produced food. The 2007 bestselling book The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating was written by Vancouver residents Alisa Dawn Smith and JB MacKinnon, who lived in Kitsilano during their experiment. Today, there are many local stores around the Lower Mainland where you can buy locally made food.

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Home on the Range Organics

Address: 235 East Broadway, Vancouver
Opening hours: Monday - Sunday: 11am - 6pm
Website: www.hotro.ca

Home on the Range Organics is a storefront on East Broadway near Main, only a block away from the Buy-Low Foods in Kingsgate Mall. Jackie Ingram, the shop’s co-owner and co-founder, says that it has survived for five years because they're niche.

And the other thing is the customer service. When you come in here, you can ask anyone of my team about the nutritional aspect of their food, even the kitchen staff, and they will know. Whereas the supermarkets aren’t training their staff.

Her shop specializes in locally produced, organic food.

It took off organically; excuse the pun. About five years ago, we realized people really wanted nourishing food and they really didn’t want to be part of this forty-year-old processed food ribbon that we’ve all got stuck in in Europe and over here in North America. People want to return to their roots. They want nourishing food. They want real food, slow food, fermented food. They want it and they’ll pay for it.

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The shop’s refrigerators and deli cases are stocked with meat and dairy products, ranging from ground beef and lamb raised in BC to house-made meat pies that contain local meats, to pepperonis and chorizos made by a fifth-generation German sausage maker just on the other side of Broadway. There’s locally made duck and quail eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt. There’s a kitchen in the back where Jackie and her staff make bone broth, duck liver paté, duck confit, ham hock tureen, sausage rolls, soups, and other goods. Most of this comes from inside BC.

It’s local where we can. And not just certified organic. We’re really looking for animals that eat grass out on pasture. With the chickens, you want the feathers to get wet. It’s hard to find. A lot of work goes into that. Our suppliers that we work very closely with will go and visit the farms and check out the pigs. And when they say, ‘This is exactly what you want, Jackie,’ we’re going to order them in.

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Jackie is a strong believer in the benefits of locally produced and organic foods. The customers who shop at her store not only keep their money in BC but enjoy the health benefits of fresher food. Many of her clients are health workers or referred by health workers.

They want healthy food, that hasn’t had to travel and put on a blueprint that says it’s traveled four days on a truck. How fresh can it be? What would you rather, a tomato from a garden or a tomato that’s come from Chile?

This means accepting the imperfections of food that isn’t produced industrially and shipped over long distances.

We’re not trying to say, here’s a strawberry, and it’s going to be this big all year, and it’s going to taste exactly the same. As humans, do we really want that? We don’t.

Home on the Range also carries locally made health and beauty products, and a small amount of imported goods, such as coffee from Venezuela or chocolate from France. This would seem to conflict with the locally produced ethos, but Ingram says this is only five per cent of the store’s profits.

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August Market

Address: 3958 Main Sreet, Vancouver
Opening hours: Monday - Friday 10am - 8pm, Weekends 9am - 8pm
Website: www.augustmarket.ca

Founded in September 2015, August Market is a boutique-sized grocery store on Main Street, also specializing in local foods. Its owner and manager, Gogan Shottha, used to work for the Persia Food supermarket chain as a manager, among other jobs.

I bounced around a lot. I didn’t have much direction. I never imagined myself opening up a grocery store until I was doing it. Then there was an overwhelming urge that this is what I needed to do at the point that I did it.

The neat shelves in August are stocked with a full range of products, including meats, produce, grains and packaged foods. Gogan’s priorities are local before organic.

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Local first. I would love to support local as much as possible. And then organic if possible. The idea behind the market was really that I wanted to make this very much an experience. I wanted everyone to leave feeling happier than when they came in, from the customer service to the product selection to the price. They didn’t feel guilty about overspending. They got what they were looking for. They felt like they were supporting a local business, that they felt good about.

However, Shottha’s definition of "local" is more about relationships than geography.

I define it as ‘where I am, outwards’. Literally, where I am. It’s not even a matter of national borders, for me personally. I think some people would very much say, ‘Support Canadian before American.’ That’s what I have been doing because getting stuff across the border would be more difficult. When it’s physically closer to you, the logistics of everything makes much more sense in terms of freshness, in terms of quality control, in terms of the connection. You could literally drive there, or travel there, to see where your food is coming from. You could meet these people, you could have a conversation with them.

Some of the products come from as close as urban farms further north, near Main Street. Others come from as far as California or Mexico, or from a mountain farm in the BC interior, which doesn’t even have paved roads. Gogan does his best to visit these farms and see first-hand how the food is produced and delivered.

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He had to overcome people’s preconceptions about his specialty store.

When I first opened up the shop, a lot of people would avoid it because it looked like it was ‘bougie’ and expensive. On a window, we put up a sign, ‘Not as expensive as you think.’ That attracted quite a few people to come in. ‘Oh, you have a funny sign, and the prices are reasonable.’

Over the first year, he has put a lot of work into community building, including reaching out to vegetarian and vegan communities and hopes to turn the store’s loft into a community arts space.

I would say I know roughly 80 per cent of the people who come in here’s names. And I have a great opportunity to introduce people to each other,

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Sprout Organic Market

Address: 700 E. 7th St., Vancouver
Opening hours: Monday - Friday: 9:30am - 6:30pm, Saturday: 9:30am - 6:00pm, Sunday: 9:30am - 5:30pm
Website: www.sproutmarket.ca

Sprout Organic Market is the only grocery store in a North Vancouver residential neighbourhood. The boutique-sized shop offers a full range of organic and locally produced foods, as well as housewares and health and beauty products.

Nicole Robins, the owner, used to be a banker until she started her family with her husband.

When you start a family, you start becoming acutely aware of what you’re putting into your body, and what you’ll eventually be feeding your children. It set me on a path. That started when I was pregnant with my first child. He ended up having severe food allergies, that really opened my eyes to not only organic food but beyond: supply chains, and where food comes from, and how people touch it.

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Nicole took an interest in holistic nutrition, and she and her husband bought Organics at Home, one of the first companies delivering organic food to homes in Vancouver, founded in 1999 by Chris Michael.

Home delivery is a really complicated business model and what I realized was that I far preferred dealing with people face to face. I enjoyed sourcing local products, artisan-made local products. I wanted to expand towards packaged things that are made locally, but also look at more health and beauty products. I wanted to evolve a little bit and use my holistic nutrition training that I had received as well.

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Nicole began to open her warehouse one or two days per week, starting in 2009. It became a destination for people interested in organic and local food from all over North Vancouver, and as far away as Richmond and Aldergrove. In 2012, she shut down the delivery business and opened Sprout, a retail market for local and organic foods, in the middle of what would otherwise be a food desert. The closest other food sources are Lonsdale or Park and Tilford.

Certified organic is number one priority at Sprout. We’re a small, locally owned business. It’s one of the only grocery stores in Vancouver that is 100 per cent organic from dairy, from grass-fed meats and chicken, from produce, grocery items.

This includes wild cod and salmon, caught in the Queen Charlotte Islands, processed and flown to Vancouver. Locally produced food is a secondary priority, but an important one.

To have to import our food leaves us vulnerable if there are problems. For example last year, there were problems in California with the drought. That really impacted our ability to get a number of different foods: lettuce, kale, you name it. And it drove the prices up. People are becoming more aware of protecting our food security. They are also more aware that, the further food has to travel, the older it is. You want fresh food because it is more nutritious.

Part of Nicole’s interest in local food stems from the idea that the system that puts food from all over the world on our plates is more vulnerable to disruption than we might think. Local production reduces our dependence on outside forces, whether political or ecological.

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The challenges of seasonal availability

There are two perennial problems of locally produced food: the cost relative to supermarkets and other mainstream sources, and the seasonal changes in availability. But all the above retailers say that their price points are comparable to those of mainstream supermarket retailers for organic foods.

Each retailer deals with the problem of seasonal availability in a different way.

August Market just goes further afield for its wares. Gogan says that, for the most part, they just have to switch to foreign sources like California and Mexico.

Jackie says you just have to switch it up

For example, let’s take the milk and the butter. Where the cows have got luscious fresh grass in the end of March, you look at the thickness of the cream, and you look at the colours of the butter. It’s really nice to see that changing, but they’re still producing milk, they’re still making yoghurt and butter. But in winter months it might not be so yellow. Customers don’t mind because it’s real."

Sprout has to compromise in order to serve its customers. Some of the stock is locally produced, and some is shipped in; the proportions vary depending on the season. The store’s website includes charts that indicate the availability of different fruits and vegetables by month.

Because I’m a retail grocery outlet, I can’t offer 100 per cent local produce year round. You will find year round that I have most of the time things from BC. For example, we’re in BC’s fall season right now. I’ve got cabbage. I’ve got potatoes, squashes, garlic. We always have tomatoes and peppers that are local. It’s the greens that I can’t source locally.

Like August Market, Nicole turns to suppliers further afield, such as California and Arizona, and her stock varies with the season.

I would say that I’ve got a good 45 to 50 per cent local right now. It is possible to do local throughout the year. It’s just that at certain periods, I have to trade out. In the summer, it’s all local. All my greens are local.

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

PTRVDT

Photo Essay: Vancouver Gardens You Can Visit All-Year-Round

There is nothing like having a walk surrounded by nature on a dreary day. If you think Vancouver's gardens are worth visiting only in spring or summer, you will be surprised - our city's climate allows to create places that are a real pleasure to see any time of year. See the gardens that have something to offer all-year-round in this photo essay! 

Bloedel Floral Conservatory

Address: 4600 Cambie St, Vancouver
Opening hours: 
May to August: Monday to Friday: 9:00am to 8:00pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
September to April: Monday to Sunday: 10:00am to 5:00pm
Website: 
www.vandusengarden.org/explore/bloedel-conservatory

The Bloedel Floral Conservatory opened in 1969 and lies within Queen Elizabeth Park, which is said to offer the most spectacular views of Vancouver. The futuristic building contains three different climate zones: a tropical rainforest, a subtropical rainforest, and a desert. It also hosts 200 free-flying exotic birds, 500 exotic plants and flowers while some of the most popular features are citrus and coffee trees, colourful 'Koi' fish and eye-catching birds and parrots. 

As of 2010, the Bloedel Conservatory is part of the VanDusen Botanical Gardens and continues to draw lines of visitors. This tropic escape in Vancouver is a perfect place to visit year-round so why not to enjoy a self-guided visit while wandering through and looking at tropical plants and birds? The helpful staff and volunteers are happy to answer all your questions.

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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Address: 578 Carrall St, Vancouver
Opening hours:
SPRING May 1 – June 14 10:00am – 6:00pm
SUMMER June 15 – August 31 9:30am – 7:00pm
FALL September 1 – 30 10:00am – 6:00pm
WINTER October 1- April 30 10:00am – 4:30pm
Website: www.vancouverchinesegarden.com

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden is the first, full- scale classical Chinese garden outside China. It was built in 1985–1986 and constructed using 14th-century methods - no glue, screws or power tools were used. The garden recreates Ming Dynasty traditions and balances yin and yang and four main elements: plants, rock, water, and architecture - and you can learn exactly why certain things have been placed where they have been.

The rich collection of this garden which was named a World Top City Garden by National Geographic includes winding paths, rocks, plants, a large pond that houses turtles and fish. Enjoy a guided tour which is included in your gate admission, sip a cup of Chinese tea or simply stop for a moment and relax in this urban oasis in the heart of Chinatown. 

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UBC Botanical Garden

Address: 6804 Marine Dr SW, Vancouver, BC
Opening hours: Daily 9:30 am-4:30 pm
Website: www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca

The UBC Botanical Garden was established in 1916 and is the oldest botanical garden at a university in Canada. The garden covers an area of 44 hectares and features a world-class collection of 8000 different kinds of plants, making it the right place to wander around and learn about flora from every corner of the world. The jewel of the garden is the David C. Lam Asian garden with its inventory of more than 400 varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas. 

The UBC Botanical Garden has something for everyone: choose one of the walking trails, stop at the tea house or gift shop and don't forget to check the garden's event calendar before your visit.

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Meet The Photographer: Kevin Eng

Kevin EngKevin Eng

Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C., where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.

DTKEDT

How to Avoid Vancouver Traffic Jams – Updated!

road-traffic

Vancouver is regularly named the most congested city in Canada. This designation is mostly due to the heavy commuter flow across the limited number of bridge crossings entering the city’s downtown core – a factor that is exacerbated by the seemingly constant interruption of new construction projects that block roads and cause further delays. While traffic in Vancouver can be a real problem for its residents, there are several ways to avoid it. We updated our article How To Avoid Vancouver Traffic Jams to help make your commute time shorter and less frustrating.


 

CW00DT

Vancouver’s Best Gluten-Free Bakeries

More people are opting for gluten-free nowadays, whether it’s for wheat disorders or simply for health reasons. Fortunately, Vancouver has a selection of certified gluten-free bakeries that offer a wide range of breads, sweet treats, and baked goods that will satisfy both gluten-free and non-gluten-free eaters.

Lemonade Bakery

Address: 3385 Cambie Street
Website: www.lemonadebakery.ca

Serving 100 per cent gluten-free freshly-baked goods, all-natural ingredients, and an impressive range of quality treats to suit all tastes, Lemonade Bakery is undoubtedly one of Vancouver’s best GF bakeries.

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Located on Cambie Street close to the Olympic Village, Lemonade Bakery is proud to be a locally-owned bake shop that sells every type of treat you could possibly want. Their top sellers include the gluten-free sourdough bread, morning pastries, muffin scones, and the extensive bread line. Along with the signature products, the bakery also creates seasonal features, such as the Christmas fruit cake and chocolate raspberry yule log.

You’ll find an extensive range of cakes, tarts, and other pastries on the menu, and the bakery is the only one of its kind in Vancouver to offer wheat-free, traditional butter croissants. As well as being 100 per cent gluten free, the baking ingredients are all-natural with the eggs sourced from free-run Rabbit River Farm.

Head pastry chef Tracy notes that Lemonade Bakery was born from personal experience, when, after 25 years of working with gluten as a chef, she developed a wheat allergy. As the saying goes, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" – and that’s exactly what Tracy did when she opened the bakery four years ago.

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When asked about how the bakery came to fruition, Tracy explain she started experimenting at home at first:

I started baking from home, using different flours, experimenting, and applying the skills and knowledge I already had. I came up with gluten-free recipes and my family and friends enjoyed it, which is how the bakery came about.

Whether you’re living the gluten free life or not, the bakery has something for everyone. Tracy’s mission is to create pastries and baked goods that are comparable in taste to non-gluten-free products, which she has certainly achieved.

Before I opened the bakery there were very little options out there, and what was out there wasn’t good. I couldn’t believe that gluten-free food wasn’t tasty, and I found it silly that I couldn’t find palatable food. We now have eight different flour blends, and the blends we use depend on the products and which blend works best and behaves best for the desired outcome. It involves a lot of trial and elimination!

Lemonade Bakery boasts a quaint, friendly, and community vibe with a welcoming atmosphere and every type of baked good that you can imagine. The bakery is open seven days a week. Baked goods are available to order, and the bakery supplies for large events and birthday parties. 

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The Gluten Free Epicurean

Address: 633 E 15th Avenue
Website: www.glutenfreeepicurean.ca

Situated at Fraser and Kingsway, The Gluten Free Epicurean is a 100 per cent gluten-free bakery that specializes in serving quality, local ingredients and creating hand-baked goods to suit all taste buds and requirements.

With a selection of both sweet and savoury products as well as dairy free, refined sugar free, nut free, grain free, and vegan options, The Gluten Free Epicurean has something for everyone. All foods are gluten-free and soy-free, with the exception of chocolate chips and sprinkles, and the bakery offers a different special every day.

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The location opened five years ago and has quickly become one of Vancouver’s best bakeries. Taking after a French-style bistro, the monochromatic colour scheme creates a simple yet classic design with a community-based, family-oriented ambiance. Delainy, the owner of The Gluten Free Epicurean, says he wanted to create a place for people to come and feel like at home:

I’ve been gluten free since the age of 19 and could never find foods that I wanted to eat, so I want to be able to offer people a large selection of freshly-baked items to choose from.

Delainy bakes her products using a special organic flour blend to create a selection of delectable treats and savoury snacks including sandwiches and pizzas. Alongside baked goods, Delainy also notes that she’s managed to create a gluten-free apple fritter, which is one of the things she missed most after switching her diet.

Among the bakery’s wide range of freshly-baked goods, Delainy notes that the salted oat chocolate chip cookies are one of their signature sweet treats, while the pizza, which is available in four varieties including vegan and dairy free, is the most popular savoury product.

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The Gluten Free Epicurean also offers baking classes for those who are passionate about learning how to bake. The Sandwich Bread & Baguette class teaches the art of making a fresh bread loaf in a hands-on way, giving students the knowledge to make their own at home, while the Cake/Cupcake/Donut class teaches how to make a cupcake and donut base, as well as the basics of cake decoration. The classes accommodate a maximum of eight people and aim to share a few bakery secrets to help people recreate the signature products for themselves.

The bakery also hosts the Vancouver Chapter Celiac Association meeting on the second Thursday of every month.

The bakery is open from Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-6pm. They work with DoorDash for lunch deliveries, and baked goods orders must be made in store. Cake orders must be made 24 hours in advance. Find out more at www.glutenfreeepicurean.ca.

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Panne Rizo

Address: 1939 Cornwall Avenue, Kitsilano, 4544 West 10 Avenue, Point Grey
Website:www.pannerizo.com

Having mastered gluten-free baked goods since 1998, Panne Rizo knows how to make gluten-free work. Using all-natural ingredients, GF flours, and non-hydrogenated oils, the bakery is popular among Vancouverites looking for a Celiac-friendly spot for freshly-baked foods.

With two locations – one in Kitsilano and one in Point Grey – Panne Rizo has established a great presence in the city and offers a range of gluten-free breads, shortbread cookies, cakes, pies, bars, delicious desserts, and deli items. The bakery prides itself on a handcrafted menu and high-quality food, and the menu features a range of savoury foods including crepes, macaroni and cheese, soups, breakfast wraps, and paninis.

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Panne Rizo is 100 per cent gluten free with a number of dairy-free and vegan-friendly items. The bakery uses a mix of different flours, including potato, corn, amaranth, and chickpea flour, and opts for flours with high nutritional value. Allergies can be catered to as the bakery strives to keep its customers satisfied, and the bakery offers a range of seasonal features for major holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. As one customer said,

just because it's gluten-free, it doesn't have to taste like it - and Panner Rizo is one of the places proving this with its quality and consistency. The place is tiny but the selection of pastries is overwhelming. 

The bakery is known for its signature baked goods, such as the delicious apple-spiced muffin which is pegged as one of the best in town. Panne Rizo was undoubtedly one of the "original" gluten-free contenders, and the bakery is constantly revamping and evolving its menu and improving its recipes.

The Kitsilano location is open seven days a week, while the Point Grey location is open Tuesday-Sunday. Panne Rizo provides event catering for birthdays, meetings, or parties.

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Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

ALRVDT

Photo Essay: Vancouver’s Indoor Ice Skating Rinks

With winter being just around the corner, it's finally time for ice skating. Although most ice rinks in Vancouver are open since September, now is the time when people start thinking about spending some quality time on ice, right before the holidays. Fortunately, the city has plenty of ice skating rinks both indoors and outdoors - and the best way to sharpen up your skating skills before the holiday outdoor rinks open is to skate indoors. Here is the list of four Vancouver's indoor ice skating rinks to choose from.

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Admission fees for all the rinks on the list:

  • Single visit admission fee: $2,95-$5.86, with the option of low cost skate activities which are 50% off
  • Flexipass - 1,3 or 12-month access to Park Board and participating fintess centres, swimming pools, and ice rinks
    • Adult (19-64 years) | $45.28 |  $120.05 | $382.67
    • Youth (13-18 years) | $31.70 | $84.05 | $267.86
    • Child (3-12 years) $22.64 | $60.05 | $191.33
    • Senior (65+ years) $31.70 | $84.05 | $267.86

Skate rental fees:

  • Public Skate Rental | $2.90
  • School Skate Rental | $1.52
  • 10-pack Skate Rental | $23.24 

Killarney Rink

The Killarney Ice Skating Rink is located north of Killarney Secondary School near Rupert Street and East 49th Avenue. It is a part of the Killarney Community Centre. The Killarney Ice Skating Rink was one of the 2010 Winter Olympics facilities.

With the NHL size ice surface and 150 seating places, the Killarney ice rink is open to public from September until March. From April to August, the ice is removed to make space for dry-floor activities, such as ball hockey, in-line hockey, various special events and trade shows.

There is no need for registration ahead of time for most of the activities, but for some, such as Skating Lessons for different age categories, ranging from Preschool to Adult, you need to register here.

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Kitsilano Rink

Located near West Broadway and Macdonald Streat, Kitsilano Rink is a part of the Kitsilano War Memorial Community Centre. The ice skating rink is open from September until March and offers skating lessons for all ages. The seating holds up to 100 visitors.

If you're up for some special skating activities this winter, make sure you check the rink's schedule and register for the activities with limited drop-in spaces.

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Hillcrest Rink

Hillcrest Ice Rink is located in the Riley Park Community Centre in central Vancouver. It is open all year and offers both public skating and skate lessons for all age groups and abilities. In addition to skate lessons, you can sign up for figure skating, drop-in hockey and multiple hockey leagues. It is bigger than the rest of the rinks on the list and it can seat about 400 people.

Check out Hillcrest Park's schedule for this winter here.

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Trout Lake Ice Rink

 Trout Lake Rink is a new skating venue opened in 2010 for the 2010 Winter Olympics training. It is located in John Hendry Park near Victoria Drive and East 12th Avenue and it is a part of the Trout Lake Community Centre. 

The ice rink is open from Septmeber to March, and during the spring and summer months it is used for dry floor activities. Trout Lake can seat up to 250 spectators.

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Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.

SKRVDT