September 30, 2011
Steveston Fire Hall — a beacon at night
The brand new Steveston Firehall at Steveston and No. 2 Road is celebrating it's grand opening tomorrow.
Here is a story posted by Michelle Hopkins of the Richmond News.
Captains Kirby Graeme and Greg Deane and their crew stand in front of the brand new Steveston Fire Hall. Everyone is invited to celebrate its opening this Saturday, Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Photograph by: submitted, for Richmond News
The two-storey metal and glass building on the corner of Steveston Highway and No. 2 Road stands as a beacon in the night with its lit red glass windows. The structure is the new home of the Steveston Fire Hall, replacing the Number Two Hall, which was built nearly four decades ago (1972). After 20 months of construction, the environmentally friendly new hall is opening its doors to the public.
Richmond Fire-Rescue is hosting an open house this Saturday, Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to showcase its many green features, including a 60 per cent green roof, its steel and pine beetle kill wood finishes, (similar to the Richmond Oval) as well as its high technology features.
The News was given an advance tour of the 8,300 square-foot LEED gold certified building with Kirby Graeme, spokesman for Richmond Fire-Rescue.
“The crew was in temporary quarters on the site until they moved into the new building this June,” said Graeme.
As you enter the modern fire hall, to the left is a community meeting room, available at no charge to small nonprofit organizations or community groups. It is equipped with a new computer and audiovisual technology.
Beside that community space is the training and recovery room. This room is equipped with comfy, Lazy Boy style chairs, a DVD player and large flat screen television.
“This is where we will conduct CPR training and any other training needed for our guys,” he said, adding there is a staff of 44 for four rotations on 24/7.
The building is decidedly contemporary, with clean lines, LED motion sensor lighting throughout and little on the walls.
The large, airy kitchen is a chef’s dream, with stainless steel, commercial size appliances.
“Well, it’s a fact that some of our guys are really good cooks,” he quipped.
Upstairs are the lockers, four individual dorms with showers and a fully equipped gym.
“It’s state-of-the-art equipment similar to what’s at the Richmond Oval,” said Graeme.
And, yes, there is a traditional and operational pole — although it’s rarely used.
Back downstairs, Graeme showed off the hall with its 12 metre (39 feet) high training, hose drying tower and two apparatus bays.
The News was there as the “Cadillac” of fire trucks roared into its bay.
“Our new pump truck is a high-tech Salisbury,” he said.
Outside, there is a patio area with large barbecue and seating area.
“In the front of the building, on the concrete slab pedestal, which has the name of the hall, will be a public art piece … we don’t know which one yet,” added Graeme.
Meanwhile, Graeme said the winner of the Name the Mascot competition will be unveiled on Saturday.
“We received hundreds of entries to name our Dalmatian fire dog mascot and the winner will receive a gift certificate,” added Graeme.
To further engage the community, the hall held a Grade 5 poster drawing competition titled “What the Fire Department Means to Me.”
The winner receives a gift certificate, as well as the winning drawing will be made into a puzzle, to be given to elementary school age children throughout the city as prizes.
The community is invited to come and celebrate the opening of the Steveston Fire Hall, 11011 No. 2 Road, on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be many activities and a ribbon-cutting ceremony performed by Mayor Malcolm Brodie, fire chief John McGowan, and other local dignitaries. Please note there will be no parking at the hall. The public is encouraged to park free at either Steveston secondary, 9600 No. 2 Rd. or Westwind elementary, 11371 Kingfisher Dr. where there will be free shuttle busses available. Shuttles will run from 10:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.
SIDEBAR: Highlights of the Grand Opening Day events
— 11:30 a.m. to noon — official Opening Ceremonies
— 12:30 to 12:45 p.m. Rescue demonstration: auto extrication
— 1:30 to 1:45 p.m. Fire extinguisher demonstration
— 2:30 to 2:45 p.m. Rescue demonstration: Auto extrication
— 3:30 to 3:45 p.m. Fire extinguisher demonstration
Throughout the event:
— Fire Hall self-guided tour (see all six stations)
— Check out the newest and oldest fire trucks
— Food and popcorn
— Face painting ad temporary tattoos
— Kid’s bouncy and slide
— Safety exhibits
— Fire-Rescue Dalmatian Mascot
— Snorkel the clown
September 29, 2011
Uncovering the best of Vancouver's arts bargains
Not too long ago The Georgia Straight did an article on some of the best values in Vancouver in regards to entertainment in Vancouver. Some pretty good ideas. Good on the Georgia Straight....
Getting a taste of art and culture doesn’t have to come with a hit to your pocketbook. With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy the best Vancouver has to offer, and still have plenty left over for a late-night tipple. Here are a few tips on how to get the biggest cultural bang for your buck.
If you’re blessed with a large circle of friends, you can get a few dollars off the price of tickets for a number of performances by going in for a group rate. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra offers discounts for parties of 10 or more for most concerts, starting at 15 percent off the regular adult price. (Book with customer service at 604-876-3434.) The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company offers a similar deal, cutting $6 off the regular adult ticket price for groups of 10 or more for all shows except previews and openings. They’ll also throw in a guided backstage tour on show day, as well as discounts at partner restaurants for pre- and post-show meals. (Book at 604-637-3094.) Bard on the Beach, which wraps up this weekend, offers $3 off tickets to groups of 15 or more for shows excluding previews, matinees, and special events. (Call 604-708-5400 to book.)
Flash your youth
In addition to discounts for students of any age, a few organizations offer savings for those whose birthdays don’t predate the ’80s.
The VSO has introduced an all-access pass for patrons aged 30 and under. This free pass will get you two $15 tickets to any eligible concert in the 2011-12 season, which can be purchased up to two weeks before the concert date. The Arts Club Theatre Company offers cheap StudentRush day-of tickets if you’re packing a student card for high school, college, or university. Grab a $20 front-row ticket online or at the box office on the day of the performance—and be sure to have your student card on hand when you arrive at the show.
At the Cultch, youths 19 and under can snag $5 rush tickets an hour before the show—one per person. If you’re under 18 and don’t mind hanging with your parents (or another couple of geezers) for an afternoon, Vancouver Opera is offering family matinee pricing for West Side Story. The deal gets you two adult tickets at regular price and up to two tickets for the youngsters at $35 each. (Call 604-683-0222 to book.) The Pacific Baroque Orchestra offers free admission for all people 19 years of age and under, while $10 student rush tickets are available at the door. And the Vancouver Recital Society’s Youth Club allows students in grades 1 through 12 to attend a minimum of three concerts for $16 each. Over at DanceHouse, regular tickets are just a little more than half-price for students.
Choose your time wisely
If you can get down to a box office an hour or so before the curtain goes up, you might be able to snag discounted rush tickets to whatever is playing that night. Or consider checking out a preview performance, where kinks are still being ironed out. Matinees can also be a bargain, while some organizations have specials on certain nights of the week.
At the Vancouver TheatreSports League, all Thursday shows are half-price, and Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. production is just $8 a ticket. The Vancouver Art Gallery is by donation if you visit on a Tuesday after 5 p.m. And at the Playhouse, previews of Tosca Cafe, Red, and God of Carnage are $33; La Cage aux Folles is $41. Rush tickets come even cheaper, at $20 for Tosca Cafe, Red, and God of Carnage, and $30 for La Cage aux Folles. For the first Saturday matinee of the Playhouse main-stage shows, any unsold seats are pay-what-you-can—in cash, at the door.
Play the numbers game
The most reliable way to consistently save on shows is to purchase a subscription package. This will cost you more upfront, but will save you cash in the long run, especially if there are a number of shows that pique your interest. Just about every performing-arts organization offers a variety of subscriptions, such as the Arts Club’s $299 SixTix mix-and-match vouchers for productions at any of its three theatres, or its $139 Granville Island Flex Pass, which gives you four tickets to any production at the Granville Island Stage and Revue Stage.
The Cultch offers similar deals, with Build-Your-Own subscription packages for four or eight performances that will save you 25 percent or more on single-ticket prices.
The VSO has 13 different subscription series, in addition to a build-your-own-series option. And Ballet B.C. offers subscribers discounts on special touring productions, like the Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Chances are your favourite organization has a package to suit your taste and price point.
September 28, 2011
Smartphone market a popularity contest, say tech analysts
Photo Credit: Bloomberg , Getty Images
Most respondents said they would be purchasing a smartphone, with iPhone being the top choice (18%) followed by Blackberry (10%) and Android and Windows 7 both at 8%. 12% said they would be be buying just a regular cell phone while forty-four per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t buy any of those devices.
That doesn’t surprise technology industry analysts.
“Broadly speaking, sales of smartphones are not at all like sales of computers or paper clips,” explains Duncan Stewart, director of Deloitte Canada Research in the areas of technology, media and telecommunications. “There is a big element of fashion when it comes to these devices.”
“There is definitely a cool factor,” adds Peter Wolchak, editor of the business technology magazine, Backbone. “It’s like in high school, where some kids try really hard to be cool while others just are cool. Apple has that intangible coolness.
“There are very few devices now that will impress people when you pull them out of your pocket. Apple can do that, Research in Motion (RIM) can’t. No one is impressed when you pull out a Blackberry. This cool element is not rational or substantive, but it drives sales.”
Timing is critical
Fashion is not the only factor in smart phone sales. Timing is also important.
Stewart says that, in Canada and the United States, the iPhone now has momentum in the product cycle while Blackberry is just starting to introduce new things.
“Phones have different update cycles, and that has a big effect,” he adds.
“Smart phones come out in a six-month cycle. This is not the way it works with refrigerators.”
Wolchak also attributes the iPhone’s success to the Apple “ecosystem,” which provides a wide range of services and features ranging from a music store (iTunes) to GPS applications.
“Anything that can be done on a smart phone can be done on an iPhone,” he says, adding that Apple has about 425,000 apps. “The smartest marketing slogan is, ‘There is an app for that.’ It’s actually true.
“You buy into all that when you buy an iPhone.”
RIM’s efforts on that front have paled in comparison. Wolchak notes that RIM launched a music store a couple of months ago but didn’t really market it.
“RIM is not launching it as a serious competitor to iTunes. The music store was added so that analysts going through their checklist could say RIM has one.”
Will the iPhone be king of the hill next year at this time? Not necessarily.
“iPhone sales were soaring but have flattened over the last several months and will likely continue to stay fairly flat,” says technology blogger Matthew Miller.
“RIM sales should increase when QNX (real-time operation system) devices launch in 2012. I see the gap between the two narrowing in the next year.”
Stewart agrees. “Blackberry is introducing new things that could cause the gap to narrow,” he says.
Of course, both Apple and RIM will have to contend with several upstarts.
Eight per cent of respondents said they would like purchase an Android, and the same number said they would likely pick a Windows Phone 7.
“Overall, it’s something of a popularity contest,” says Stewart. “It’s like, who is popular in the school? Who has the most friends? Who is getting the most signatures in his yearbook? It’s really interesting to watch this market.”
Read it on Global News: Global News | Smartphone market a popularity contest, say tech analysts
September 27, 2011
Vancouver’s Tiny Speck delivers new online world
An onscreen image from the new multiplayer online game world Glitch that launches today. It can be found at www.glitch.com
VANCOUVER - Stewart Butterfield finally has the game he set out to make nearly a decade ago, before he got sidetracked by his own success.
It’s called Glitch. It’s a massive multiplayer online game world, developed in Vancouver. It went online full-time this morning after months of test runs that attracted more than 10,000 volunteer beta testers.
There isn’t an orc in sight, although the customizable avatar you choose to represent you could have a greenish tinge to his or her skin.
It’s billed as a non-violent, cooperative exercise in world building. You can grow stuff here, or run a business. But unlike online game giant Zynga’s FarmVille or CityVille, the world encompasses a vast geography through which you travel, side-scrolling.
You water trees, you pet pigs, you collect stuff. You can start your own business, or religion.
One beta tester said this about it: “I found myself describing Glitch to a friend last week as something along the lines of ‘a massive multiplayer online environment in which you gather resources and learn skills so as to devise ever more creative ways in which to do nice things for each other.’ ”
The game plays in a Web browser. Fans and developers can create their own Glitch apps and mini-games for mobile devices.
Butterfield and his partners set out in 2002 to make a game like this, but it was the bottom of the dot-com market. Nobody would lend them money.
“We got down to the point where the only person on the team who got paid was the one with kids,” he recalled in a recent interview at the Yaletown office of Tiny Speck, makers of Glitch.
Their timing was lousy but they had one salvageable idea — Flickr — an online photo sharing program that was subsequently sold to Yahoo for an estimated $28 million.
“Flickr was kind of a last-ditch attempt to build something based on the technology we’d already developed, that was quicker to complete. We had the naive idea that someone would buy Flickr for like a million dollars and we’d use that money to finish the game.
“That’s kind of what happened – it just took seven years or so to get back to it.”
The original target for the Glitch release was spring 2011, but the game world proved more complex than anticipated.
Very early on, they shut the world down after a short beta test and left for the weekend.
“We came back and all of the pigs in the world were dead. There weren’t people around to tend to the trees or water them, and all the trees died. The pigs survived long enough to at least starve to death, and then it was basically like an apocalypse world.”
On another occasion, one player harvested every tree in the world in order to set up a lumber store.
“If there’s too easy a way for somebody to advance in the game they will always find it -– and when there are thousands of people testing they will find every little loophole that we couldn’t have anticipated.”
It usually takes about five years and a $50 million budget to develop a massive online game, Butterfield said.
Tiny Speck started working on Glitch two and a half years ago, and through three rounds of financing they raised $17 million. They have a staff of 40, and “cash left in the bank.”
Investors include LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, former Groupon president Rob Solomon and Google+ vice-president Bradley Horowitz.
The game is free. Tiny Speck hopes to profit with subscriptions and credits for people who want a custom experience.
There will also be advertising sales, of a kind. Players can buy advertisements for products they create inside the game world for sale to other players.
“We should be break-even with a couple hundred thousand [players]. It should be an attractive business with a million players.”
Digital industry senior analyst Michael Inouye of ABI Research said in an interview that the online game realm is “relatively competitive.”
Zynga (FarmVille) and a few others dominate but “there is definitely room” for ventures such as Glitch — particularly if it catches on via Facebook Inouye said.
“In all successful cases the experience between the user who never pays and [the one who] spends a lot should not be so disparate that the free track is the far lesser experience,” Inouye said.
“First of all we wanted to create an environment where that stuff didn’t matter as much. The point of the game isn’t that you crush your enemies.”
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Vancouver+Tiny+Speck+delivers+online+world/5461692/story.html#ixzz1ZAfEiLsl
September 26, 2011
Welcome to the Georgia Straight’s 16th annual Best of Vancouver issue
The Georgia Straight has released its annual Best of Vancouver issue. I love the first one and the fact that it ranked third on the TopTenz.net list of the worl'ds top viral pictures. Interesting list...
, September 22, 2011
This was the Vancouver kiss that went global. Jay Leno cracked jokes about it on The Tonight Show. TopTenz.net ranked it third on its list of the world’s top viral pictures and Internet memes. Esquire simply asked if it was the greatest kiss of all time.
Australian Scott Jones wanted to be sure that his Canadian girlfriend, Alex Thomas, was okay after she was pushed to the ground during the Stanley Cup riot. Photographer Richard Lam snapped the image, and Vancouver became the only city ever known for getting it on in the middle of mayhem in the streets.
The couple helped preserve Vancouver’s image as an urban playground—even an oasis of hedonism. In a moment, they removed much of the stigma caused by the most shameful episode of the year. That, friends, makes Jones and Thomas worthy of headlining the Georgia Straight’s 16th annual Best of Vancouver issue. Let’s have more of that smooching in public whenever the Canucks make the Stanley Cup finals.
The kiss seen round the world wasn’t the only thing about Vancouver worth celebrating in the past year. Our editorial team has spent months on the lookout for good deeds, weird urban details, and various howlers to include in this week’s blockbuster edition. Sometimes the best is simply the best. Elsewhere, it’s the funniest. Or the tastiest. Or the rudest. Or the most outrageous.
Every year, we also shine a Best of Vancouver spotlight on communities that ordinarily don’t attract much media attention. Communities come in many forms. Sometimes they’re based on geography. But on other occasions, a community can be based on a common heritage, religion, sexual orientation, or area of interest. This year, we’re focusing on Japanese Canadians, who’ve come together to help the victims of a massive earthquake on the other side of the ocean, and urban aboriginal people, who are asserting themselves as artists, political activists, and community organizers.
Fans of local music know that one of the highlights of this issue is the Best of Bands feature. Here, you’ll find a dozen different acts engaged in some ridiculous antics. For these, you can thank our ever-imaginative photographers.
For this issue, we were helped enormously by our readers, who completed more than 10,000 online ballots to tell us everything from their favourite politician to the best place to buy cheap drinks. There are over 250 readers’ choice categories, dealing with a vast number of topics. The people have spoken. Now it’s time to enjoy the results.
September 23, 2011
Thousands of realtors on watch through missing person's alert program
The Realty Watch program is a standing commitment from the nearly 14,000 Realtors in the Lower Mainland to mobilize in the event of a child or vulnerable person going missing in the community.
This collective pledge from the profession to the public embodies the community-minded approach that Realtors bring to their work every day.
"The Realty Watch Program is both unique and powerful. It can trigger an almost instantaneous mobilization of 14,000 professionals, who are also dedicated and eager citizens willing to engage with the police in support of broader community needs," said Insp. Terry Kopan, Officer in Charge, "E" Division Crime Prevention & Program Support Services.
How does Realty Watch work? Realty Watch is a community crime prevention program operating across the Lower Mainland. Police ask for a fan-out when children, seniors or other vulnerable adults go missing. A Realty Watch fanout simultaneously text-messages Realtors across the Lower Mainland. Fanouts are initiated by police and sent by participating real estate boards.
In the past year, real estate boards in northern BC and the Okanagan have undertaken steps to introduce the Realty Watch program in their communities. Soon, thousands more Realtors will be helping police keep look out for missing people in our communities.
Realtors have found three missing people since the program began 11 years ago.
Realty Watch developed from tragic circumstances. In 1996, a White Rock teen was murdered and later discovered less than four blocks from where she was last seen. Her father had asked for the help of local Realtors suggesting they would be an excellent resource to help search for missing people. Afterall, their work brought them into communities daily, they were connected via mobile devices, and could receive an instantaneous message from their professional associations - the real estate boards.
Realtors within the Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Chilliwack real estate boards received 21 police-requested fan-outs to help find missing children and vulnerable adults through Realty Watch last year.
For more information about Realty Watch, please visit www.realtywatch.net.
September 22, 2011
RCMP to post addresses of marijuana growing operations on its website
- It appears that buyers may finally be able to access information on their own in regards to grow-ups. A good step forward enabling buyers a piece of mind with their purchase. From today's Vancouver Sun...
A marijuana growing operation in B.C.
Photograph by: Vancouver Sun, RCMP handout
The RCMP has launched a website listing the addresses of where marijuana grow-ops were found.
The National Grow Initiative is an RCMP-led project launched Wednesday in Ottawa that will focus on enforcement, deterrence and awareness as part of the National Anti-Drug Strategy.
Categorized by provinces, the website lists the addresses of homes, outbuildings and businesses where search warrants were executed. It also lists when the busts were made and how many marijuana plants were found. Clandestine drug labs are also included in the database.
The addresses will remain on the RCMP website for a period of one year.
"Marijuana grow operations harm communities. Wherever they exist, there's the potential for an increase in criminal activity and a greater chance of fire, explosions and violence," said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike Cabana.
British Columbia leads the list with the most grow-ops discovered, with several dozen locations listed, mainly in the Surrey area. A property in Hope, B.C., displayed on the website, was said to have had 6,496 marijuana plants found on it in June.
"(Marijuana) grow operations pose a serious threat to Canadians, the safety of our communities and the law enforcement officers fighting against these illegal operations," said Conservative MP Shelly Glover, in a news release on behalf of Vic Toews, the public safety minister. "The government of Canada is taking action to combat illicit (marijuana) cultivation in Canada, as well (as) the organized crime elements behind it."
Pauline Aunger, an Ottawa realtor and one of the Canadian Real Estate Association's board of directors, said grow-ops are a major concern for home buyers and realtors across the country.
"The (website) puts the information in the hands of the buyer," said Aunger, explaining how there is no national database for the public to know if their homes were former grow-ops.
So far, the only way for a buyer to know if a home was a grow-op is for the seller to disclose that information.
Aunger said a grow-op can compromise the structural integrity of a home and create health hazards, such as mould.
"The buyer needs to know what happened to the house, what kind of grow-op and clandestine operation was there," she said.
September 21, 2011
Google+ social network opens to the world
Google opened its Google+ social network to the world on Tuesday, dropping the need for an invitation to join the Internet giant's rival to Facebook.
Photograph by: Google, Google
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google opened its Google+ social network to the world on Tuesday, dropping the need for an invitation to join the Internet giant's rival to Facebook.
"For the past 12 weeks we've been in field trial, and during that time we've listened and learned a great deal," Google senior vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra said in a blog post.
"We're nowhere near done, but with the improvements we've made so far we're ready to move from field trial to beta... Anyone can visit google.com/+, join the project and connect with the people they care about."
The announcement came as part of a list of the 10 latest improvements Google is making to the social network it launched in an invitation-only test format on June 28.
Enhancements to Google+ included letting members take part in video-chat "Hangouts" using camera-enabled smartphones or tablet computers, or broadcast video presentations to groups of watchers using "Hangouts On Air."
Google said it has also woven its Internet search expertise into the social network by adding a query box.
"Google+ is still in its infancy, of course, but we're more excited than ever to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software," Gundotra said.
"Over the next day we'll be rolling out all of these features globally," he said.
September 20, 2011
Vancouver's newest floating home
A new houseboat gets towed into its new home in Coal Harbour, in Vancouver, B.C. on September 19, 2011.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG
VANCOUVER - Metro Vancouver’s newest floating home was towed into place in the Coal Harbour Marina Monday afternoon.
It took 12 hours for the house to travel from Shelter Island Marina and Boatyard in Richmond, where it was built, to its designated lot in Vancouver.
The house, owned by Doug McClelland and Tony Tucker, was built over three years to stringent City of Vancouver guidelines. It will replace their previous float home, which tipped and sank at the marina during the Christmas Day blizzard of 2008.
It is one of six floating homes allowed at the Coal Harbour Marina by city zoning regulations. The only other place where floating homes can be found in the City of Vancouver is at the Sea Village Float Home Community in False Creek.
September 19, 2011
The Bottom Line on Strata Fees
A reader was telling me recently about the large number of "For Sale" signs in her strata development in Maple Ridge. Of the 59 units, seven are on the market and three of them are forced sales by banks.
What piqued my interest was her comment that "the original strata fees were nothing more than a 'come-on' " by the builder/developer. When the majority of owners approved a 30-percent budget increase, two of the owners balked and walked.
So how common is it for developers to lowball strata fees to lure buyers?
Not very, according to Vancouver lawyer Lisa Vogt, who works extensively with real estate developers. Vogt says developers want their strata fees to be competitive, but won't risk their good names by under-reporting expenses in the interim budgets presented to buyers in new projects.
"Certainly, the developers we act for, and I would think the majority of developers in the Lower Mainland, this is their business and reputation is huge for them," she says.
Tracie McTavish, president of Rennie Marketing Systems, agrees.
"Most builders and developers are building for the long term, and for them to go to the time and effort and incredible stress and challenge of building a building . to have a bad taste in their mouth because the budget's not accurate, I mean, it's just suicide."
Still, it has happened. Mike Mangan, author of The Condominium Manual, recalls a case where a developer of a highrise didn't budget for maintenance of the building's elevators.
"Elevators are one of those things that are expensive to maintain," he says, "and that was just one aspect of a number of omissions, but it reflected the developer's endeavour to keep the expenses low, so strata fees would be low to attract buyers."
According to Mangan, strata owners have always been able to collect the shortfall between the proposed and actual operating expenses in the first year. And since July 1, 2000, when the Strata Property Act came into force, they've also been able to levy a penalty against developers, ranging from two to three times the budget shortfall.
Lisa Vogt knows of only one case in the last 10 years where a developer had to pay such a penalty. "And in that case, it was a developer new to the market, hadn't built before and it was kind of a one-off project for them," she says.
I asked Vogt, Mangan and McTavish what advice they have for people buying into new strata projects and looking to keep strata fees down.
- Avoid buildings with extensive landscaping and amenities, suggest Vogt and McTavish, especially "wet" ones (pools, hot tubs, water features) that require expensive maintenance and - when warranties expire after a few years - more money for repairs.
- Know the going rates. Fees in new buildings in downtown Vancouver with standard "non-wet" amenities generally range from 35 cents to 38 cents per square foot, says McTavish. Buildings with luxury amenities are in the low 40-cent-a-square-foot range.
- If you're buying in an urban area, says Vogt, find out what security measures are in place. Owners may feel they need more than the developer thought they did.
- Mangan suggests finding an experienced realtor who specializes in stratas and knows what questions to ask of the developer, including: Has the developer paid into the contingency reserve fund?
- If you're concerned about the developer's interim budget, ask a lawyer, accountant or property manager for an opinion.
- Vote in support of regular maintenance because in the end, a poorly maintained building will cost you more.
Suzanne Morphet reads email - but does not give advice - at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 16, 2011
Your Farmers Market Offers a Bumper Crop of Kid-Friendly Food
Tiny cherry tomatoes, bursting blueberries, and sweet, ripe plums that drip juice down their chins. Taking your kids to the farmers market and letting them check out local, organic food straight from the source is guaranteed to open their eyes and broaden their culinary adventure.
Trout Lake Farmers Market
We went to East Vancouver’s Trout Lake Farmers Market on a recent Saturday and our toddler loved every delicious minute. Bring a bag or basket and your child can help you fill it with a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, free range eggs, bread, cheeses and whatever else tempts you (Hint: bring a big bag). You’ll find local food grown as near as East Van’s Strathcona gardens and as far as the Okanagan’s vast orchards. The farmers market puts on seasonal events like Trout Lake’s Tomato Festival on September 10, where you can learn all about the “love apple” with special features, interactive displays and best of all, samplings.
Whenever you decide to go, your little ones will enjoy the multi-coloured displays of fresh food, live music, and buzzing crowd of kids, dogs, and happy shoppers.
Kid-Friendly Fun at the Farmers Market
The farmers market really is fun for all ages. Here are some ideas for involving your kids in the experience.
- Chat with a farmer: you and the kids can ask questions about how and where they grow their food.
- Let the little ones sample organic fruits and veggies: it’s a perfect opportunity to teach them about where food comes from, what’s in season, and about the hard-working farmers who grow it.
- Make a game of finding something they’ve never eaten before: bring it home to eat. Kohlrabi anyone?
- Grab a meal while you’re there: we shared an apple compote and ricotta crepe that was out of this world.
- Get their faces painted and watch the buskers: we were greeted by a rousing rendition of ‘Baby Beluga’. There’s usually a talented singer and instrumentalist to get the little ones dancing or at least mesmerized.
- Save the best for last: let them get hands-on by helping you cook a farm-fresh meal for the family once you’re home.
Vancouver Farmers Markets happen at four different locations and assorted times around the city. Summer markets run until the end of October. Visit the site for specific locations, dates and times.
Vancouver Farmers Markets
September 16, 2011
New-home sales forecast to decline until HST eliminated
Plans to remove the HST and return to a provincial sales tax mixed with the Goods and Services Tax will probably cause some potential buyers of new homes in British Columbia to delay purchases until 2013, Central 1 Credit Union forecasts.
"People looking at new homes priced over $525,000 may very well wait until the tax changes lower the 12 per cent hit they face," Central 1 economist Bryan Yu said in a news release Thursday.
The HST added provincial tax to new housing, on top of GST, and $525,000 was the upper limit for a rebate program intended to add no additional tax on home sales.
Yu is forecasting that B.C.'s total home sales through the Multiple Listing Service will reach 88,200 units by the end of this year, which is down one per cent from 2010's sales mark.
However, while resale home transactions are forecast to end the year 4.7 per cent ahead of 2010, new-home transactions will lag by 26 per cent.
While sales will remain soft, the median price will rise 6.8 per cent to $417,000, Yu said.
"The real estate market will remain stable for the next couple years, weighed down by global economic issues, moderate employment and population growth and changes to mortgage insurance rules," Yu said.
Central 1 forecasts that next year total home sales are expected to increase by about 3.4 per cent, driven by higher new home sales. The resale of existing homes will decline.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Real Estate Association released a report Thursday showing that the sale of existing homes across Canada declined 0.5 per cent in August.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales totalled to 37,177 units during the month, down from 37,378 in the previous month, the industry group said. However, sales were still up 15.8 per cent from August 2010, on a nonadjusted basis.
The national average home price of $349,916 in August, on a non-adjusted basis, was up 7.7 per cent from a year earlier.
"[Economic] headwinds will likely persist until, and indeed after, fiscal quagmires in the U.S. and Europe are resolved. In the meantime, the Bank of Canada will have ample reason to delay raising interest rates further, which is supportive for the Canadian housing market."
September 13, 2011
The new upcoming Iphone 5 - Is this for real?
My daughter just recently sent me a link describing the new iphone 5 which is to be launched in the near future. I just recently got my iphone 4 but if this is for real I'm going to need to upgrade. Love the keyboard!!! Click here.
September 12, 2011
Vancouver listings surge in August, but home sales don't follow suit
It was the busiest August for home listings in Greater Vancouver in 16 years but sales didn't follow suit, according to the latest figures from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
The benchmark price - the average for a typical home sold - rose 8.5 per cent to $625,578.
Listings for the month hit 4,685, a 25-per-cent increase from a year earlier. Sales of single-family houses, townhouses and apartments hit 2,378 last month, up eight per cent from a year ago, but the third lowest total for August in a decade.
It all adds up to the "lower end of a balanced market," according to Rosario Setticasi, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
"Greater Vancouver has been trending toward a buyers' market over the past three months," he said.
While overall benchmark prices were up year-over-year, prices of singlefamily homes have dropped slightly in each of the past two months. The largest price increases came in West Vancouver (up 26.7 per cent yearover-year) and Richmond (up 22.4 per cent).
In the Fraser Valley, both new listings and sales surged in August. Sales increased 35 per cent over last August and there were 26-per-cent more new listings. Sales were also up slightly compared with July, which is not typical, said Sukh Sidhu, president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.
"We attribute the current steady market to interest rates remaining favourable, as well as buyers taking advantage of home prices softening slightly in certain markets and an influx of new inventory across all property types," Sidhu said.
The benchmark price of a single-family detached house in the Fraser Valley in August was $528,959, up 3.7 per cent from $510,107 in August 2010. The largest price increase was in White Rock, where the average benchmark price for a detached home rose 11.7 per cent from a year earlier, to $833,659.
September 8, 2011
Grandview Park set to officially reopen in East Vancouver
Finallly after a long stretch of time the Grandview Park will be completely reopened on September 17th. I am curious about bike-polo. Sounds like it might be a spectator sport??
Following a long summer of phased renovations, Grandview Park will officially reopen on September 17.
“There’s going to be a barbecue, a cake—we always have a cake—and some entertainment and activities,” park-board communications manager Joyce Courtney told the Straight by phone. “I think there might be a demo on the multi-use sport court.”
The court, used heavily by local bike-polo players, opened on May 14. The playground followed on August 5.
The grand opening kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. at the park, located by the intersection of Charles Street and Commercial Drive. Vision Vancouver park board chair Aaron Jasper said he will be there.
“I think that everybody, including our staff and all the commissioners, were hoping that it would have been done sooner,” Jasper told the Straight by phone. “That was the original timeline that was presented to us, that this would have been done much sooner. But, from what was conveyed to me, this was really weather-related, that a lot of the final pieces, the laying of the sod and all the landscaping, had to wait until we had nicer weather. So that was a good part of the delay.”
Jasper said he’s been checking in at the park “on a regular basis” since the spring.
“As each section opened up, and we were talking with residents, the feedback was very positive,” Jasper added. “I know there was a lot of anxiety about why we were doing this. It really was no ulterior motive, other than we felt this neighbourhood deserved to have a decent park. And I think the end result speaks for itself.”
September 7, 2011
Providing the information buyers want
A couple weeks ago, I introduced readers to Bernie Winter, a Calgary businesswoman who offers a service to review strata documents for clients in Alberta.
She and her team of consultants examine all the documents a strata corporation must make available to interested buyers and report what they find, good or bad.
Winter - and others - have tried to offer that service in B.C., but have either given up or been shut down by the Superintendent of Real Estate. The problem? In B.C., you must be a licensed realtor to advise anyone about real estate - even if you're not selling it. And since realtors are reluctant to refer their clients to another realtor, no one (to Winter's knowledge) has been successful.
Early next year, however, Winter plans to introduce a new service here, one she claims will avoid the licensing pitfall and do two things: It will tell strata owners how well their property's value is being maintained, and it will arm buyers with critical information about maintenance and the relationship between a council and a strata-management company, among other things.
"What's the risk? That's what buyers want to know," she told me by phone. However, her new service isn't blatantly directed at buyers. She reaches them rather ingeniously through a back door, by first providing strata corporations with what she calls a Condominium Viability Audit.
Here's how it works in Calgary, where she's been piloting it for the last three years with 12 strata corporations participating. A strata corporation hires Condo-Check (her company) to examine its books, records, meeting minutes, etc. Winter, or one of her consultants, walks the entire property (residences excepted) to see how well it is being maintained.
Even the property manager's contract and performance is under scrutiny. "I'm actually in the string of emails between board members and the property manager," says Winter, "so I can see when a problem is brewing." Strata councillors aren't let off the hook either: They're interviewed as a group and also one on one. "Why are they on the board? What's their interest?" Winter wants to know. "They need to be representing the entire ownership, not just their own best interest."
Once the data are collected, it's measured on a scale devised by Winter and four other industry experts (individuals who work in the strata or rental housing industry in Alberta), then given a percentage rating, comparable to a personal credit score. And that score isn't static. Every month, the strata corporation's internal workings are reviewed and the rating may change.
"I had one that was at an 82 and they had a major problem at Christmas time, and their score went down to 60 and they fixed it within two weeks," says Winter. "The score went back up and it went back up a little higher because of how quick they fixed it, so it's a moving scale."
Strata corporations pay Condo-Check an initial fee - Winter won't say how much - for their first audit, then an ongoing fee for as long as they participate in her program. They also post a sign on their property letting any visitor - including prospective buyers - know that the strata corporation is being audited. For $395, anyone can go to Condo-Check's website (www. condo-check.com) and access the latest report. (There are two reports; one for the strata corporation and one for everyone else.)
Strata corporations are paid $100 every time someone orders a copy of the report detailing their business operation.
Winter says this program shouldn't raise any eyebrows at the Superintendent of Real Estate's office because it's not done for the purpose of selling real estate, but for the maintenance of it. Whatever the rationale, it could be exactly what buyers need and can't get now.
Suzanne Morphet reads email (but does not give advice) at email@example.com
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Providing+information+buyers+want/5350162/story.html#ixzz1XHaJvASg
September 6, 2011
Vancouver's second-oldest house to be demolished
This small heritage home at 502 Alexander Street is probably the second oldest house in the city but it is currently under a threat of demolition. This is a view of the rear of the house where an addition has already been cleared away.
Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER - The small house at 502 Alexander is pretty well hidden. It’s sandwiched between a couple of apartment blocks, and the front is barely visible behind a stand of trees.
Look closely, though, and you can see it’s very old, with drop siding and an unusual gingerbread design, both hallmarks of the Victorian era.
In fact, the address first appears in a Vancouver directory in 1888, only two years after the city was incorporated. It was built by John Baptist Henderson, and a story in the Dec. 31, 1888 Vancouver World newspaper says it cost $1,500 to build.
Somehow the house has managed to remain standing through 123 years of Vancouver real estate booms. It may now be the second-oldest house in the city.
But not for much longer. An addition at the back of the house was recently taken down during a renovation, which has rendered the house unstable. The owner is now applying for a demolition permit, and it will probably be torn down.
The house is owned by Atira Women’s Resource Society, which bought it along with a two-storey brick building at 500 Alexander for $850,000 last year. (Both structures are on the same lot.)
Atira’s goal was to renovate 500 Alexander and turn it into housing for young homeless women from the Downtown Eastside. The house next door was going to be a drop-in centre.
The brick building was gutted and rebuilt into 18 housing units. The exterior was restored, so it looks the same as it did when it was built in 1912.
The back of the lot at 502 Alexander was slated to be filled with six shipping containers that are being converted to residential use. Two of the containers were on display as examples of “green housing” during the Olympics by BC Hydro.
Crews took down the back of 502 Alexander, but in doing so, made the 1888 house in front unstable, because it was built with a “balloon” frame, where the support walls are the exterior walls.
“It’s a rather complicated story, but whoever previously owned the building put on a non-conforming addition in the ‘50s, and used the back of the house as a wall,” said Atira’s executive director Janice Abbott.
“So [they] took all the cladding down, and they made a mess of the house. When that addition came down, it rendered the house [unstable], it can’t stand on its own.”
Abbott said Atira has had several meetings with city officials about what to do with 502 Alexander. Abbott said Atira has already spent $1.4 million on the project, and as a non-profit, doesn’t have the extra resources to fix the house. She has proposed keeping the facade in a “heritage representation of the old house” that may include elements such as the fireplace mantle and the banister.
Don Luxton of Heritage Vancouver said it would be a “travesty” if the second oldest house in the city were torn down while the city is celebrating its 125th birthday.
“Our earliest buildings are the story of Vancouver being carved out of the wilderness,” he said.
“This house dates from the time when the train was just arriving and the city was growing – there was nothing here when this house was built. To look at the history of this building is like going to Rome and seeing a Roman house. This dates back to the establishment of the city, very clearly.”
Luxton said fixing up old wood frame houses like this “is not difficult,” but it does take money, which is in short supply for heritage buildings in Canada.
“It’s an unfortunate confluence of circumstances, “ he said.
“It happens with many institutions and service providers; they work on very tight budgets, and there are no identified budgets for additional priorities like heritage conservation.”
Modest as it is, the house has an interesting history. After Henderson moved in 1893, it was occupied by John Stitt, the manager of the Hastings Mill store, which is now the Hastings Mill Museum in Kitsilano. (The Hastings Mill store was originally located on the waterfront at the foot of Dunlevy, a block away from 502 Alexander. It dates to 1865, which makes it the oldest structure in Vancouver. The oldest house is 385 East Cordova.)
Alexander street is named after Hastings Mill manager Richard Alexander, who built a large house at 300 Alexander in 1888. His neighbours included fellow bluebloods Duncan and Henry Bell-Irving.
Early residents of 502 Alexander included a bookkeeper named Huddart, an accountant named Jackson and a restaurateur named Schuman. The seven-block long street went out of vogue with the monied class fairly early, though: Richard Alexander moved to the West End in 1907, when his mansion was listed as a “Japanese boarding house” in the city directory.
The street would be part of Japantown until Japanese-Canadians were forced to leave their homes during the Second World War. For a brief period prior to the First World War, the 500 and 600 blocks were also a red light district.
In 1911, Ruth Richards took over 502 Alexander, and a year after that, Dollie Darlington is the first listing at 500 Alexander. Which means 500 Alexander was probably built as a brothel.
In recent years both buildings had fallen into disrepair.
“[500 Alexander] probably hadn’t been touched by the previous owners in 45 years,” said Abbott.
“It was one of the grossest SRAs [single room accommodations] I’ve even been in. When you went in there, it smelled like dead bodies, it was just abysmal.”
The new residents of 500 Alexander are to be young women between 18 and 24.
“We will have young women who are currently living in the Downtown Eastside and homeless or at risk of homelessness,” said Abbott.
“I think it’s fair to say some of those young women, if not all of them, are being sexually exploited.”
The new residents won’t be there permanently: 500 Alexander is supposed to provide housing for up to 12 months, when it’s hoped the residents can move on.
“The goal is to try and support them to explore options they probably didn’t know were available to them,” said Abbott.
“And get out of [the Downtown Eastside] before they get entrenched.”
Vancouver’s planning director Brent Toderian said the city “did investigate some options” to try and save the house, but none worked out. Part of the problem is that Alexander east of Main is outside the officially designated heritage districts of Gastown and Chinatown, “so frankly the amount of [heritage incentive] tools that we had to offer in this particular case were limited.”
“Every once in awhile we get into these unfortunate situations where two goals of the city are conflicting [i.e., creating social housing and saving heritage buildings],” said Toderian.
“It’s usually our first hope to find a marriage between those two goals, to do something creative. but that just wasn’t possible here.”
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Vancouver+second+oldest+house+demolished/5355292/story.html#ixzz1XBZA8ZAe
September 2, 2011
Sunny skies abound in the last weekend of summer
Grab some shades, sunscreen and a seaside chair, because this long weekend's going to be a bright one.
BY Eva Cohen
August brought the long-awaited summer heat to Vancouver and the sizzling temperatures and sunshine should continue — at least for one more weekend.
With the rain throughout winter here, many people “live” for the summers, so since it began so late, will the weather stay nice longer to make up for it?
Get ready for a beautiful long weekend, because the answer is:
This week’s wet weather was just a blip in the otherwise warm and dry forecast, said David Jones, a meteorologist for Environment Canada. The entire south coast and the Interior will have warm, dry weather through Labour Day, he said.
“The weather looks really good for the long weekend, the forecast is very optimistic,” he said.
There will be a high of 27 C on Saturday in Vancouver, and Kamloops will be dry and sunny for the next several days, said Jones, with highs of 30 C and sunshine through next Wednesday.
“We’re going into a solid ridge to begin September,” said Jones. “There’s been a little bit of rain around Vancouver, but it will turn back to summer on the weekend.
After a grey July, the month of August was dry and sunny across southern B.C. Vancouver had just one day of rain, well below the monthly average of seven days of precipitation.
On that single day, half of the monthly average fell in one go: 20 millimetres. As a result, total rainfall for the month wasn’t remarkably low, said Jones, and didn’t threaten any records.
Vancouver receives 268 hours of sunlight in a typical August, while this year the city soaked up 321 hours of sun in the month — 120 per cent above average.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Sunny+skies+abound+last+weekend+summer/5342826/story.html#ixzz1Wo7mlKXZ
September 1, 2011
B.C. Conservatives propose phasing out property transfer tax
Here is an interesting article that was posted in the 'Georgia Straight'. I love how the B.C. Conservatives propose to reduce the Property Transfer Tax then eliminate it all together with it is economically feasible. I love the idea but realistically when will it ever be 'economically feasible'. I am not holding my breath...
In a submission last year to the provincial legislative committee on finance and government services, the B.C. Real Estate Association argued that the harmonized sales tax and the property transfer tax are an “unfair burden on homebuyers”.
While the HST will be abolished by the end of the first quarter of 2013, there are no clear clues about the future of the PTT.
However, the resurgent B.C. Conservative Party is signalling that it would scrap the tax in the long term. That is, if it ever gets to form government.
The party’s position on this matter is laid out in a draft policy paper that will be presented to B.C. Conservatives when they hold their convention in Nanaimo on September 24.
“The Property transfer tax will be reduced then eliminated when economically feasible,” according to the document.
Introduced in 1987, the PTT slaps a one-percent tax on the first $200,000 value of a house, and an additional two percent on the remaining balance.
According to the BCREA, the PTT was brought in at a time when the average home price was $101,916, and the two-percent portion of the tax was expected to apply to only five percent of home sales.
The association noted that in 2009, the average price of a home in the province had jumped to $465,725.
The BCREA suggested an increase in the one-percent threshold of the PTT to $525,000.
In its draft policy paper, the B.C. Conservative Party also devotes a whole section to private property rights. This covers two areas: clarification of property rights and land titles, and reform measures on strata property laws.