Saturday, October 20, 2018

Short term rentals and the UNA Elections

In the recent Campus Resident resident candidates for UNA Board were asked to share their opinions on short term rentals.

The response from candidates can be broken into three general types:

(1) evidence based evaluation
(2) procedural and jurisdiction responsibility
(3) fear/worry/misconceptions

The only candidate to draw on an evidence-based evaluation of short term rentals was Victoria Bell. In her response to  the leading question as to whether short term rentals are damaging to community she said it is "not a black and white answer, but I feel that it would possibly help some faculty to stay."

All of the candidates focussed on aspects of procedural and jurisdictional responsibility. They all acknowledged that there are no formal restrictions or specific regulations on short term rental and most suggested that stratas are the best agent to make decisions over regulating short term rentals.

Matthew Delumpa went a bit further arguing that his experience in Vancouver leads him to believe that short term rentals has an influence on housing affordability and he proposes that the UNA work with UBC to set up a regulatory regime to govern short term rentals. There are fewer than a couple dozen short term rentals publicly listed in the UNA area.  How can a couple dozen short term rentals make housing unaffordable at UBC? I have lived (rented for the first decade; co-development resident for the second decade) on the UBC campus, I have been involved in faculty campaigns for affordable housing, and I currently serve on the UBC Board of Governors. From this vantage point I can see that the exorbitant cost of land and housing at UBC is a serious problem.  However, this is a problem that goes far beyond short term rentals or UBC.

Natalie Jaskevich differs and instead argues that the UNA should work with the stratas to enable them to regulate short term rentals building by building.

Terry Mullen, while expressing his belief that no rental should be less than two months, states that if the UNA were to get involved it would be an overreach of its proper jurisdiction.  This is a viewpoint shared by James Ellis.

The fear/worry/misconception category reveals a sense of worry common to communities undergoing significant change, disruption, and growth.

Ellis and Jatskevich express worries about security: "Short-term rentals can present challenges in terms of noise, security, property damage" says Ellis.  According to Jatskevich short term rentals create "concerns in regards to building security, common property damage, small property theft, noise level, littering, etc on the properties."  Where is the evidence for this?  It is easy to find news articles about offending short-term rental operators - in North Vancouver, in Yaletown, everywhere but UBC. As noted above there are barely a couple dozen short term rentals.  These claims may accurately reflect how people might feel in the absence of real experience, but they don't reflect the reality of short term rentals at UBC.

Mullens takes a slightly differnt tack on this file. He focuses solely on who benefits and comes to the conclusion that the community loses. It is not clear on how he comes to this conclusion. At UBC all of the short term operators I have spoken to describe their guests as people with direct ties to UBC: faculty coming in to teach a course, scholars attending conferences, parents and grandparents visiting family attending UBC, parents with their children visiting UBC as they decide on whether this is a welcoming place for their child.

From all the evidence that I can see there is no problem at UBC with short term rentals - yet, there is a general worry about disruption to a sense of community, feelings of belonging, worries about strangers.  These short term rental guests are just normal people like you and me, people are coming to UBC for work, study, and visiting family and friends. I've spoken to as many short term rental hosts that I can find and each of them says the same thing - where is the problem? There is often more noise from the neighbourhood children (which I enjoy), the rugby teams walking through eagle's park to the fields in the summer (which is one of the great things about campus), the marching band every other weekend along main mall (not so supportive of the marching band though), then there ever is from a short term rental guest.  The thing is that we already live in a complex dense urban environment that is filled with all kinds of 'disturbances.' The net effect of a short term rental is negligible in real material terms.  What is a more fundamental problem is the way that urban planners continuously up population density and try to squeeze more and more of us into smaller and smaller places - that's the real underlying problem that we are facing and the source of much of the anxiety.

Regulating a problem makes sense, regulating something that isn't a problem is a waste of time and money. I trust that my neighbours who have volunteered their time and effort to serve as  elected resident directors will reconsider their opinions that are based on misconceptions, talk to people who have real experience with short term rentals, and consider the ways that we can build community more effective that includes short term rentals as one of the option available for people.




Friday, October 19, 2018

Jumping to Conclusions - the VSB Election.

School board elections tend to be low profile - they shouldn't be - but they typically are.  By the time voters work their way through the ballot and find themselves at school board a lot of people seem to lose interest in deciding. That's too bad as some of the most important societal decisions are made in our schools.  I've previously made public the kind of person I think is best suited for the role of trustee.  You can revisit my picks here. In this commentary I want to speculate on who will actually end up on the school board tomorrow and whether one should consider doing anything about it.

In past elections when there were two major parties going up against each other the popularity of the winning mayor had a lot to do with who won school board (though not always).  This time around with four serious contenders (though most pundits suggest it is still really a right/center race between Sims (NPA)  and Stewart (Vision in all but name).  Sylvester is presented as an ideological center ground.  Who knows, maybe she could squeak up the middle.  Running a distant fourth is Hector Bremner who formed his own party once the NPA denied him a nomination spot. This diversity on the center-right with no clear left wing candidate means, I think, that by the time voters get to school board choices they will be straying long and far from any kind of ideological consistency. So, here are my best bets on who will end up steering Vancouver's education system for the next four years.

I doubt that any of the candidates from the new right wing groupings (Vancouver 1st, Coalition Vancouver, Pro Vancouver, or Yes Vancouver ) will manage to win a seat on school board.  A couple of them have name recognition, but given the low polling numbers for their mayoralty candidate it's not likely they'll tip the scales enough to get a seat on the board.

I'm pretty sure that there will be enough conservative votes to elect at least two NPA'ers to the board (if not three). I would prefer that not to be the case. But, given the way things in Vancouver are shaping up, I suspect some people will consider these conservatives to be a centrist compromise choice. I think they're wrong and actually a dangerous choice this election, but the will of those who vote is what ultimately matters. So I'm going to bet on Ballantyne (an incumbent) and Richardson (who was previously on the board) getting enough just enough votes to join the board.

I don't think any of the independents will do more than a good showing.  I would like to see Morgane Oger get elected, but history runs against them. Of course, this could be the election where an independent with solid name recognition does get elected.  I would like that, but am not holding my breath.

I think there will be at lest two greens in the top three. These are the right/center candidates that appeal to a good swarth of middle-of-the-road voters. I'm with Patti Bacchus here on why it's not a good thing to vote for the greens, but I am fairly certain that at least the two incumbent greens will return to the school board and given the tenor of the times they will likely pull their running mate on with them.

I think that maybe one COPE candidate will get on the board, but the back room politics that created vision has had lasting damage on the ability of COPE to break back into electoral victory of any sort. However, if there was an election to turn the tide, this would be it. With Jean Swanson running for city council (essentially as the political conscience of justice and official opposition to the center-right block that will likely dominate things) her voters may be enough to swing at least one COPE candidate onto the school board.  Here the weight of the Vancouver District Labour Council endorsement of Barb Parrot (former VSB teachers' union activist) may be enough to give COPE a seat.

Vision is likely going to get shellacked though I think that long time trustee (first elected with COPE) Alan Wong will hold his seat. Vision is only running three candidates this time and Wong's two running mates are relatively unknown outside of PACs and the internal politics of public schools. Given the absence of a Vision mayoralty candidate I don't think things bode well for vision on school board.

OneCity will likely get two spots on the school board. I'm betting on incumbent Carrie Bercic. For second spot I suspect Erica Jaaf, given her Parent Advisory Advocacy, might get her the spot.  Jennifer Reddy also has an extensive network across the city as an immigrant support worker. Ideally all three of them would be great on the school board (that's how I voted).

So let me jump to some early conclusions!  Here is my predication for tomorrow's Vancouver School Board election listed by last name in rough order from most votes to least number of votes.

Fraser (Green)
Gonzalez (Green)
Chan-Pedley (Green) 
Wong (Vision)
Bercic (One City)
Jaaf (One City)
Richardson (NPA)
Ballantyne (NPA) 
Parrott (COPE)

I don't think this would be a good outcome for our schools. For one thing, past experience tells us that the greens are more likely to act like the NPA than either Vision or COPE.  Slight shifts to the right or to the center could make a big difference in terms of the composition of the board. Voters opting for the new right parties could pull down NPA votes enough to bring one or two more Vision or OneCity candidates onto the board (but without electing any of the new right candidates). Defections from Visions right could add a third NPA trustee to the board and potentially knock off COPE or Vision's Wong.  There are all kinds of ways this could go.

I'll end with a plug of my own recommendations and ask that you help me make my above predictions wrong, wrong, wrong!

Vote for the following great people:


Erin Arnold  (Vision)
Carrie Bercic  (OneCity)
Diana Day    (COPE)
Erica Jaaf   (OneCity)
Aaron Leung (Vision)
Morgan Oger (Independent)
Barb Parrott  (COPE)
Jennifer Reddy (OneCity)
Alan Wong (Vision)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

GUEST POST: Terry Mullen for UNA Elected Director.

By Terry Mullen - Candidate for UNA Elected Resident Director

The final day for voting to fill the three vacant positions on the UNA Board is November 1st, the date of the UNA AGM. 

I am running for one of those positions.  The greatest obstacle for candidates to overcome in “campaigning” is that of communicating with the electorate, that is, the residents.  The UNA has refused to make available to candidates the email addresses of residents, citing considerations of privacy.  Fair enough, I suppose, though the UNA has that information and regularly uses it. 

Fortunately John Tompkins, the editor of The Campus Resident, has been proactive in providing candidates a forum.  You may have read the candidate profiles in the September edition and the question and answer section in the October edition which came out yesterday.  Indeed, you may also have read my article, “We Shape Our Buildings and Thereafter They Shape Us”, published in the August edition, in which I discuss my concerns in regard to the Stadium Road Neighbourhood project.

I invite you to read the attached flyer. It’s brief (mercifully, you might well say) but it sets out what I see as the more important issues that are within the jurisdiction of the UNA.

Terry Mullen
Hawthorn Place