Local Ottawa stuff

“Ees new concept. Ees European.”


Okay, ask so it’s not exactly street food – or even tasty coffee for that matter. But this guy was selling $1.50 Styrofoam cups of coffee  and hot chocolate off his back this morning outside the Tunney’s Pasture OC Transpo bus station.

I shelled out $2.00 – including a tip – and talked to the guy. And in a thick Russian accent, he told me this was a new concept in coffee vending. I never finished mine, since I was heading downtown and near some decent coffeeshops. But has anyone else seen this out on the mean streets of Ottawa?


For fun: iPhone time-lapse videos with iMotion HD

Recently I’ve been playing around with an iPhone app called iMotion HD that allows you to use your iPhone to do some pretty snazzy time-lapse photography. Here are a few iPhone time-lapse videos I’ve done recently.

iPhone time-lapse video: 2012 Ascension Christmas Pageant rehearsal

Two hours of chaos in one and a half minutes with a great acapella vocal group doing a Manhattan Transfer style version of Carol of the Bells. Love how this turned out.

iPhone time-lapse video: artist Jennifer Shepherd shooting a video

I recently did some work with artist Jennifer Shepherd of Living Tapestries and Susan Murphy of and Jester Creative to shoot a concept video for Industry Canada’s Canada Business group on how to start a business. We wanted to try a different approach for this video – more fun and whimsical than your average government information package. I’ll share the final product when it’s public.

But as a fun way of capturing the process and camera set up, drugs I shot this time lapse of Jenniferat work on one of the drawings.

iPhone time-lapse video: prefab house being delivered in Wellington Village area.

Cool to see how they do this, but the timpe-lapse video ended up being kind of shaky. So maybe this one isn’t ready for iMax yet.

Funny stuff

Hurricane Sandy T-Shirt: Been there. Trashed that.

To all my friends in New York City, remedy Boston, ed and the US East Coast. Wishing you safety and peace as you ride this one out. I hope this Hurricane Sandy T-Shirt gives you a bit of a chuckle.

Link to image here.

Here’s the real reason Sandy visited NY. It was that T-Shirt. Feel free to share it, Facebook it, Pin it, Instagram it, whatever you like.


Funny stuff Politics

Political Humour: Mitt Romney: Horses, Bayonets, and Binders of Other Ideas!

Binders, abortion and blinkers, and blades… oh my!

I was all gooey and weak in the knees listening to Mitt Romney tonight during the final debate with Barack Obama. He. Is. Dreamy. (sigh) But tonight, and through the whole campaign, I was also struck by how many progressive, modern ideas Mr. Mittens has – about women, Muppets, the 47% of Americans who mooch off the system, that kind of stuff.

But his brilliant plan to measure American military capacity by the lofty standards of 1916 –  bayonets, horses, gunboats, and all? Pure un-bindered genius! Then it occurred to me: why, this guy doesn’t just have a LOT of ideas. He has BINDERS full of them.

So I give you. Mitt Romney’s secret idea binder…


Ottawa stories: The return of Nanny Goat Path (maybe?)

For long-time Ottawa residents, patient this view will look strange, and it should. Because it doesn’t exist anymore – or rather, the view has changed drastically, and the hill and path are now blocked off and overgrown. But I’m thinking it’s time for Nanny Goat Path to rise again.

Photo from early 1900s showing the rough path that once ran down Nanny Goat Hill from the Western end of Laurier down to Le Breton Flats.  Source: Urbsite

 So where is this? 

Believe it or not, this picture was taken on Laurier Avenue. Specifically, the photographer was standing at the very Western end of Laurier Avenue, at the top of the Nanny Goat Hill escarpment, facing West. The road that stretches straight to the horizon is now the Western part of Albert Street, where it turns into Scott Street.

The view is toward the sawmills and housing on Lebreton Flats (gone), the O’Keefe brewery (gone), and the Western Ottawa railroad yards, roundhouse, and the old West-end train station (all gone).  To get a better idea of how it all once fit together, this great piece on Urbsite is a solid primer, but we could spend a whole book talking about Lebreton Flats… oh wait Phil Jenkins already did.

Originally, the  path in the photo was part of Maria Street – the road that eventually became Laurier Avenue. Maria  ran straight down the escarpment here as a road which joined the old Richmond Road. You can still see the grading, retaining walls, and utility poles (above) from the era when this was a municipal street.

But in the late 1800’s: the grade of Maria Street proved too steep for streetcars, so engineers route trams and roads around it to connect Wellington Street downtown with today’s Wellington Street West, and Albert Street angled across to merge with Wellington near the same spot.

So by the early 1900’s, the Nannygoat Path became what you see in the photo above: a rough, informal pathway. Rough, but a convenient way for people to move on foot from downtown Ottawa to a few major residential, employment, and transportation centres. So you can see the path in the photo is well-worn and steep, but not unreasonable for a person on foot.

So what happened to Nanny Goat Path?

Two things went wrong for this path. First, with the Lebreton Flats fiasco and the death of the rail and sawmills, all the major reasons to use Nanny Goat Path had disappeared by the 1960’s. Second, car culture came along, and at the bottom of the path, Albert Street became the major route for cars, and later Transitway buses, to climb the escarpment.

So Nannygoat Path was stranded in an awkward high-traffic corner, with not a lot of people using it anyway. So eventually, the top and bottom of the hill were fenced off, and over time, largely forgotten.

But this is critical: the Nanny Goat path right-of-way remains City of Ottawa property.

Imagine with me…

Now that Laurier is the major East-West bike route through downtown, and the Albert / Scott corridor has long been identified as the ideal place for a major East-West bike way, this hill would be a poker-straight connection between those routes.

Certainly, the grade is still steep, so it would be a hard climb and a fast descent, so switch-backs, road crossings, and connections at the bottom would need to be considered.

But even if it never became a bike-route, at the very least, this path should be resurrected as a pedestrian path. What do you think? Crazy? Possible?

Here are a couple of Google Map grabs showing the rough route (red shapes).

Local Ottawa stuff Politics

DenVan to Mayor Watson: Transparency means no private meetings

OTTAWA POLITICS: For those who need a refresher on the issue before reading this, website like this please scroll to the bottom for some background links.

Mr. Mayor, approved

I’ve just read the full text of your response to Jeff Leiper’s letter. And I think you missed the point.

You see, a lobbyist registry is nice, but it is rendered almost completely meaningless by the secret pre-consultation meeting you defend in your letter. And while it would be nice to take you at your word that everyone is playing fair and nothing untoward is being discussed or promised, the letter quoted in the original Citizen article leads us to believe that isn’t true. Are we wrong?

Great. Prove it.

Here’s my five-step approach to allowing you to continue your practice of holding confidential pre-meetings with developers but  also ensure that appropriate public oversight becomes an integral part of the process.

  • 1) Hold the meeting as usual – It can be private, and confidential, and frank discussion can be had about a given property and a developer’s options and plans; BUT
  • 2) All details of these meetings are recorded – Including who was there, notes on what was said, and all documents exchanged before, during, or after the meeting;
  • 3) Hold these details in confidence – Developers can adjust their plans without fear of competitors learning of their plans; then
  • 4) Release all details when a formal rezoning application is made – so community members can see that nothing untoward was discussed.
  • 5) If no application is ever made, discard the documents – after, say, 10 years.

There, simple, transparent, and easy to manage. What do you think?

Your humble citizen,

Background: secret meetings at Ottawa City Hall

For those just joining us, here’s where we’ve been so far:

Storified by DennisVanStaalduinen · Wed, Jul 25 2012 13:41:25

Community associations and long-time activists were shocked to read this story by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely showing evidence of detailed, and secret, negotiations between Ottawa Planning staff and large developers where City staff seem to be pre-agreeing to rezoning applications that are double or triple the allowed height. 
City planners promise rezonings before talking to public, councilWould-be developers are regularly told how extensively the city is willing to rezone their property at private meetings before the public…
And all this came right before council debated a new “Lobbyist Registry” that is supposed to bring transparency to dealings between City Hall and moneyed people with agendas. 

Centretown Councilor Diane Holmes points out the contradiction in these live Tweets from the meeting:
Holmes wants clarification on planning consultations and pre-consultations.David Reevely live
"I think we underestimate the latent anger that’s out there in those communities, particularly mine."David Reevely live
Public consultations are "a sham. It’s really a con game." Points to two applications at council today.David Reevely live
Which led to this very articulate open letter to mayor Jom Watson from Jeff Leiper, head of the Hintonburg Community Association.
Open Letter to Mayor Watson and members of City Council, 10 July 201210 July 2012 Open letter to Mayor Watson and Members of City Council Mr. Mayor and Members of City Council, On behalf of the Hintonburg C…
Which in turn inspired my attempt at parody on
Cement trucks at 130 km/h? Why the heck not!A thought experiment: What if Ottawa treated speed limits like development applications? Recently, our City’s Planning Committee has been…
And now, here’s the long letter from Mayor Watson in response, which essentially tells Mr. Leiper (and the rest of us) to calm down and trust City staff to hold secret meetings. Because surely they won’t discuss the things they were clearly discussing in the correspondence that started this whole kerfuffle:
Watson responds to super-early promises of rezoningsThis story… Would-be developers are regularly told how extensively the city is willing to rezone their property at private meetings bef…

Funny stuff Local Ottawa stuff Uncategorized

Cement trucks at 130 km/h? Why the heck not!

A thought experiment:
What if Ottawa treated speed limits like development applications?

Recently, dosage our City’s Planning Committee has been happily rubber-stamping rezoning applications from large developers for skyscraper condo buildings – even though they are double, pills triple, or even quadruple Official Plan and Community Design Plan guidelines. So I wondered: what if we treated other urban regulations the same way? After all, they all get in the way of growth, don’t they?

Artist’s Rendering. Modern “Slimline” Cement Trucks Enhance Neighbourhood at Optimal Speed.

In the quiet urban neighbourhood of Placid Park, more than 750 giant cement trucks a day will now be able to drive at up to 130 km/h through small residential streets. “Maximum 40km/h” signs will remain in place for residents and all other vehicles,  but Devco Cement trucks will now be allowed to travel at more than three times the posted speed.

That’s because earlier today, the City’s Transportation Committee unanimously approved a proposal from Devco to allow their cement trucks and other heavy vehicles to travel through the neighbourhood of Placid Park at an “optimized speed”.

“They’re just being all “NOM-C”, saying ‘Not Over My Child’. But oh, wait till they see how lovely this proposal really is for everybody!”
~ Councilor Catherine Hobby

“Placid Park kids will absolutely adore these super-fast -moving trucks!” Says the Mayor.

According to Devco president Lance De Boil: “The goal is to help the city meet its “rapidification” goals, and ease traffic congestion on main arteries.” To do this, Devco will now be able to use Placid Park as a high-speed bypass – whisking their trucks from Highway 466 to a new Devco cement plant on the other side of the small neighbourhood.

“It’s a win-win!” Says Transportation committee chair, Councilor Peter Hummer: “Our Diesel 20/20 Plan calls for rapidification of 20-40% in this area, and this decision allows us to take one big step towards getting those trucks moving much more quickly to their destination.”

The City, for its part, will pay for repaving and widening the road – and removing all speed bumps, stop signs, cross-walks, bike lanes, and the school crossing zone next to Placid Park Elementary School’s playground.

“Fast is good. It’s really a step up from the clunky, down-speed proposals of the past!” said De Boil in his presentation, before handing off to his Transportation Architect, Roddy Heehee.

According to Hayhee, the old speed limits were about preventing dirty, ugly, old trucks, not today’s “low-profile conveyances, pulsing with power, energy, and grace”.  Heehee’s PowerPoint presentation showed artists’ renderings of pastel-coloured trucks on wide, leafy streets, moving past happily waving mothers and children. His presentation drew applause from the dozen lobbyists, consultants, and transportation architects on hand.

And area Councilor Catherine Hobby says she is enthusiastic that the community will eventually change their minds on the issue: “They’re just being all “NOM-C”, saying ‘Not Over My Child’. But oh, wait till they see how lovely this proposal really is for everybody! Devco has hired an expensive Toronto truck-decorating firm. And gosh, but won’t all those slim new trucks make Placid Park sparkle with urban energy!

But community representatives aren’t convinced: “I don’t care how pretty the truck is. If it runs over my dog, it’s going too damned fast!” said one grumpy man, who asked that his name (Fred Smith) not be used. “I thought the word “limit” meant, well, a “limit”. I guess not for everybody. If I asked for permission to drive that fast, I’d get arrested!”

“I don’t understand,” said Placid Park Community Association chair Les Pertinent. “The city’s official plan says one thing, and we spent years working with the city to develop a long Community Transportation Plan (CTP) – all of which were approved by Council. Then we put in countless hours and community dollars hiring experts to show how ludicrously dangerous this proposal is, and twenty-five of us took unpaid days off work to come downtown and say our piece. How can they just overturn all that with one, unanimous vote?”

Hummer rolls his eyes: “Sure, we all support CTPs in principle. But this one only covers the middle of the street Devco is proposing to use, not the new wider street! And the wording says “greater speeds than 40 km per hour should be discouraged. Discouraged? How can we possibly know what that means? That would get thrown right out at the Ontario Motor Board (OMB)!”

Hummer angrily denied that this decision was simply a way for Devco to increase profits at the expense of safety for local residents. He also denied any connections between campaign funding and the pattern of voting on the committee – which routinely approves major speed limit rezoning applications by large companies against community objections.

“Besides,” adds Hobby,who has herself also reacted angrily in the past to questions of campaign funding: “You can’t say it wasn’t democratic. We did hold consultations. Well, one public meeting anyway. The company presented the idea to the community, while I hid… er, um, took notes at the back of the room. And even though there were hours of objections, Devco staff very patiently explained how wrong and narrow-minded everyone in the room was.”

Then Hobby smiles beatifically and gestures to the huddle of angry citizens outside the Committee Room: “And gosh. These people did elect me. So they must approve of what I’m doing!”

When asked what the next steps are for the Community Association are, Les Pertinent shrugs. “We’re a small community, so we can’t afford a legal challenge. I guess we’ll just have to keep our kids off the streets.’

“And I guess, since Devco originally asked for 160 km per hour, it could be worse….”



How to pronounce “Gezellig” – with His Excellency, Dutch Ambassador Wim Geerts

Tagged on Flickr as “Gezellig” (by Van De Buurt) – this photo captures the warmth of the word.

Last week, medicine I reacted with shock and dismay when I saw that our friend and neighbour Joanne Chianello had done the unthinkable. She had written the following piece for her Ottawa Citizen column.

What kind of name is Gezellig?

She was referring, of course, to the fact that Ottawa foodie idol Stephen Beckta was going to be opening a new Westboro restaurant under that (objectively speaking) glorious name. But she opined that:

It’s a bad name. Unless you’re Dutch, which we are not.

(Ahem.) Now apart from my day job as a branding guy, I’m also a proud Dutch-Canadian. Both my parents were born in the Netherlands, and so I grew up with the word, and with the philosophy embedded in, “gezellig”. That word that is to Dutch culture what furniture isn’t to the Swedes, or haggis to the Scots (and as a bonus, without any Allen Keys or sheep entrails masquerading as food).

So imagine my surprise and delight when I ran into His Excellency, the Dutch Ambassador to Ottawa Wim Geerts at an event this morning at Hub Ottawa. So here you are Joanne Chianello. Straight from the horse’s mouth (that’s “horse” with a glottal G).

Thank you very much to His Excellency for playing along!

Local Ottawa stuff Politics

Wait, I have a new idea! An LRT subway through downtown Ottawa!

Here’s a blast from the past. The drawing below is from the 1915 Bennett Plan for downtown Ottawa showing a proposed East / West tunnel to carry street cars (the light rail before Light Rail) quickly and efficiently through the downtown core.

1915 - Proposed Ottawa subway line

(Click image for full size. Source file here.)

Note that the route it follows is only two blocks South of the current project’s Queen Street route but otherwise follows much the same path until it gets to the canal.

So how did Ottawa miss this train almost a century ago? The easy answer: World War I suddenly became the priority in 1917. But add to that bureaucratic dithering, site lack of political will, for sale and a general shift toward cars and away from public transit – and rail in particular – that was already underway.

Here’s how Bennett puts it in a section titled “relief to downtown congestion”, and note that even in these early days of the motor car, the priority has already shifted from moving people  to freeing up the streets for motor cars.

Means to operate cars faster through the down-town district are being sought in many cities. The end desired is that the round trip may be made in shorter time and the cars at present in use operated to do more work, with the increase in street congestion consequently obviated. This is being done in two ways,-first, by through-routing of all cars, that is, by the elimina­tion of as many as possible of the down-town terminals and loops,-second, by the construction, through the congested district, of subways for street cars, through which the (street)cars can move faster than they can on the streets.

Sound familiar yet?

So what do you think? How different would Ottawa be if we’d adopted the Bennett Plan?


Timeline of Ottawa’s urban Waterfront

For my 2012 Jane’s Walk

  • Before 1600’s: Victoria Island is an important meeting place for aboriginal peoples from up and down the Ottawa River.
  • 1610:Étienne Brûlé is the first European to travel up the Ottawa River on his way to the Great Lakes.
  • 1613: Samuel de Champlain portages around the Chaudière Falls, web noting that the Algonquin make sacred offerings to the Falls: “This waterfall makes such a noise that it can be heard for more than two leagues (about 10 km) off.”
  • 1600’s-1800’s: Voyageurs from Montreal use the Ottawa River as their highway to the upper great lakes.
  • 1800: Philemon Wright – an American – builds the first permanent settlement at Hull.
  • 1812: War of 1812 ends. Decommissioned soldiers are given land in Richmond area – land at Richmond Landing.
  • 1826-1832: Construction of Rideau Canal turns Ottawa into a bustling urban waterfront town.
  • 1836: Major Timber slide erected on Ottawa side of river.
  • 1850s: large industrial lumber mills erected around Chaudière Falls to serve growing timber trade.
  • 1854: first rail lines arrive in Ottawa.
  • 1855: Bytown becomes a City – changes name to Ottawa.
  • 1857: Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa as capital.
  • 1860: KingEdward VII (then Prince Albert of Wales) rides Timber slide.
  • 1860’s: Lover’s Walk around Parliament Hill is built.
  • 1890’s: extensive streetcar system is built – centred at Chaudière Falls.
  • 1900: Huge fire destroys major industries on islands and housing on LeBreton Flats.
  • 1912: Chateau Laurier built by Grand Trunk Railway on Major’s Hill Park.
  • 1912-1916: First hydro dams built at Chaudière Falls
  • 1930’s: Lover’s Walk dismantled.
  • 1950: Greber Plan
  • 1960’s: Expropriation of Le Breton Flats and most of Ottawa’s waterfront property. Parkways built.