I hope you have been enjoying a safe and relaxing summer with friends and family. As usual, our city has been non-stop this year with a record number of special events in neighbourhoods across Vancouver. And while we are proud of our parties and celebrations, we have been getting lots of work done too.
We are in the midst of one of the largest building booms in our city's history. There are more than 1000 people working all out to complete the Athletes Village in Southeast False creek - and many more working to complete the Canada Line and new Convention Centre.
We are also in the midst of the largest social housing investments in Vancouver history. Close to 20 single room occupancy hotels are being upgraded to supportive housing and we are making 12 city-owned sites available to the province for 1200 more new units. I am happy to also report the development of these sites remains on schedule since they were approved in December. The Development Permit Board (DPB) has approved five of the 12 applications for social housing. City Council approved another one in July following a public hearing. We expect the 7th application will be considered by the DPB near the end of August and the other five will continue to move forward to Council in the fall. We will keep you posted on this progress.
Today, I am also pleased to confirm the City of Vancouver has purchased another site to develop social housing in our city. City Council has approved an investment of more than $3.5 million to acquire 1700 Kingsway for the development of social housing, associated social services and street retail.
This site has the potential to create 70 additional units of supportive housing away from the Downtown Eastside. More announcements are expected in the coming weeks.
In addition to setting records for new building permits and new social housing starts, we are also experiencing some of the largest reductions in crime in our city's history - with double-digit decreases in violent and property crime across Vancouver compared to two years ago. Our Police Chief Jim Chu and our incredibly capable police force are doing great work for our community.
They are being supported by many innovations introduced by our Civil City Commissioner Geoff Plant. Vancouver is the only city I know of with a position like this. He is working hard to increase access to social services and support for people suffering from mental illness and drug addiction - in addition to other innovations like an expanded Ambassadors Program, more effective by-laws and increased fines for public disorder.
Another area that we are setting records is our bike network. Between 1985 and 2005, Vancouver created approximately 200km of bike routes. Over the past three years, we have introduced plans to add 100km more.
These measures complement many other initiatives that will have a dramatic impact on our community's quality of life, including:
plan to reintroduce Streetcar Line to Vancouver - with the first phase to be completed by 2010
plan to establish 24 hour, seven day a week, multi-language 311 phone information service to replace more than 500 city phone numbers
property tax reductions for small business
new policy to increase access to quality daycare for Vancouver families
development plan to secure the future of a new and improved BC Place Stadium in Vancouver
provincial commitment to include UBC Rapid Transit Line in regional transportation plan.
Our EcoDensity is also moving forward - with Council approving the plan in June. City Council has shown courage and foresight by approving a number of controversial developments that will increase density in our city - including initiatives at 16th and Granville, near Broadway and Cambie and around the Arbutus shopping centre. These important developments along key transit corridors were all passed despite strong neighbourhood opposition. I am proud to be part of a City Council that is prepared to do the right thing for the city and the planet. EcoDensity builds on Vancouver's reputation as an international leader in urban planning and sustainable development. Among other things it:
establishes the strongest green building standards in North America
commits to more housing affordability, types & choices
entrenches commitment to quality community amenities
establishes environmental sustainability as a primary goal in ALL city-building decisions
facilitates ongoing public consultation
The plan that was approved reflects input from Vancouver residents, businesses and community organizations through an extensive two year public consultation program. We have launched the next phase of the EcoDensity consultation with a special on-line survey and Facebook discussion at www.samsullivan.ca regarding implementation of the plan.
We have extended the deadline to receive your input. Have your say today!
Finally, the eyes of the world are turning to China for the opening of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games this week. In addition to cheering for Team Canada, I know that all of us will be thinking about Vancouver's turn in 2010.
I am very proud of the work our City Council and staff are doing to prepare our city for its finest moment. Working in partnership with VANOC, neighbouring municipalities, the provincial and federal governments, Vancouver will be ready for the world in 2010.
It will be an honour for me to represent our city in Beijing. In addition to attending the closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics, I will be attending the opening of the Paralympics. Councillor Suzanne Anton will be representing Vancouver at the opening of the Beijing Games and Councillor B.C. Lee will be attending the Paralympic Games.
We will be joined by a small delegation of Vancouver staff to observe and study at the 2008 Summer Games. This team is less than half the size of the one that attended Torino. In addition to promoting Vancouver's preparations for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, we will be focused on observing and learning about:
look of the city
media & press operations
Our delegation will also meeting with business and community leaders in Beijing to promote economic development opportunities between Vancouver and China.
Bookmark www.samsullivan.ca for regular updates from China.
In my next report, I will update our plans for the upcoming fall session of City Council. Our priorities will include:
implementing key elements of our EcoDensity plan
accelerate social housing developments with Project Civil City
continue to prepare our city to host the world for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games
Please accept my best wishes for a safe and enjoyable rest of summer.
Mayor of Vancouver