Brian Palmquist

Brian Palmquist is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. He is a Vancouver-based architect, building envelope and building code consultant and LEED Accredited Professional (the first green building system). Currently semi-retired, he is not beholden to any client or City Hall.

He started a series of “City Conversations No One Else is Having” to mix real discussion with research and observations based on a career spanning over four decades and including the planning, design and construction of almost every type and scale of project. Below is a list of previous and upcoming articles. Now he’s expanding his format beyond those conversations.

He is a registered Architect, was the Managing Architect for the Concord Pacific Place development and the first two phases of Coal Harbour, has personally designed more than 1,000 social housing and co-op housing units and consulted on many thousands more. He first proposed the laneway-housing concept, and managed the community-planning design team for the North Shore of False Creek. From 1998 to 2000 he served on the City of Vancouver’s “Community and Industry Advisory Panel for Rezoning, Permitting and Inspection,” a panel of community and industry representatives, convened at City Council’s direction to suggest how to improve City Hall’s development processes. He resigned after 18 months because not a single recommendation of the panel was accepted by City staff. Other representatives also resigned and nothing came of the initiative.

He is the author of the Amazon best seller “An Architect’s Guide to Construction.” More of Brian’s writing in addition to these City Conversations may be seen at https://brianpalmquist.substack.com/

List of articles by Brian Palmquist published on CityHallWatch (newest at the top)

“City Conversations We should ALL be Having” series

  • #84 – Voting strategically with your heart. Click to read. (Hoping that who you vote for is what you wish for) – About voting strategies in the Oct 2022 election.
  • #83 – The Evolution of Hope. Click to read. (How the Vancouver election’s most hopeful promise came into being – regarding TEAM’s $500 million co-op housing proposal)
  • #82 – Question: When is a Deal not a Deal? Click to read. (Answer: When the City of Vancouver folds with a full house) – About how the City gives sweet deals to let developer delay amenities and parks to the very end of major projects – examples as False Creek North, and the River District (on the Fraser River).
  • #81 – What if Vancouver Planning & Building Actually Worked for Vancouverites? Click to read. (How could a citizen-focused City Hall work for its residents? One example)
  • #80 – Feint by Numbers: 220,000—we got this! Click to read. (The Mayor’s housing target has been in his cards for some time)
  • #79 – Feint by Numbers: 1/3, one third, 1/3. Click to read. (A new housing target that’s as old as Vancouver’s urban planning success)
  • #78 – What’s at stake in Fairview: Click to read. (Our Broadway Plan models, called ‘just plain wrong,’ become ‘pretty much right’)
  • #77 – What’s at stake in Renfrew Collingwood. Click to read. (How much more can a Vancouver neighbourhood stand?)
  • #76 – What’s at stake in Riley Park & South Cambie . Click to read. (Two neighbourhoods that work together—does the Vancouver Plan work for either?)
  • #75 – What’s at stake in the Neighbourhoods. Click to read. (The Vancouver Plan does away with neighbourhoods. Here’s what that means)
  • #73 – What Vancouver can do about Planning—Part 2 Click to read. (A neighbourhood-based approach for mental health, homelessness and housing insecurity)
  • #72 – What Vancouver can do about Planning. Click to read. (A neighbourhood-based approach has added community benefits)
  • #71 – What Vancouver can do about Affordability—Part 2. Click to read. (Different types of zoning require different planning treatments)
  • #70 – What Vancouver can do about Affordability—Part 1. Click to read. (How we manage homelessness is a key to how we manage affordable housing for those suffering housing insecurity and just needing a reasonable place to live)
  • #69 – What Vancouver can do about Homelessness—Part 2. Click to read. (One way to properly house the homeless)
  • #68 – What Vancouver can do about Homelessness—Part 1. Click to read. (What are the foundations of policies that will address homelessness in a meaningful, measurable way?)
  • #67 – What can Vancouver do? Click to read. (After 16 months of challenges, time to consider Vancouver’s opportunities & suggest solutions)
  • #66 – Where are the details? Click to read. (More than 10% of Vancouver’s current spot rezonings are mysteries without any design.)
  • #65 – I’m done with the Vancouver Plan’s false math! Click to read. (Correcting the omissions in city staff’s math)
  • #64 – Talking Points to Power. Click to read. (Some thoughts to inform your 8th & Arbutus presentation) (Public Hearing on 13-storey tower continues 14-Jul-2022)
  • #63 – Vancouver is crying, afraid she is dying. Click to read. (Exhausted and feeling alone, this is what Vancouver might say if interviewed about the Vancouver Plan) (Council meeting resumes Friday, July 22, at 9:30 a.m.)
  • #62 – Vancouver is an Endangered Species. Click to read. (The proposed Vancouver Plan has no place for most of what made our city the model for livability)
  • #61 – Vancouver Neighbourhoods are an Endangered Species. Click to read. (Erased from the proposed Vancouver Plan, our city’s 23 neighbourhoods will be gone for good if we stay silent.)
  • #60 – For those we will not hear…and those we hope will listen. Click to read. (The science and facts against this proposal are suppressed, but decisive—will Council listen? — Regarding Arbutus and 8th tower, Public Hearing June 28 onward)
  • #59 – Rally against the Shadows. Click to read. (When Vancouver city staff pit low barrier housing against schools and parks, a community comes together hoping not everyone loses. Regarding Arbutus and 8th tower, Public Hearing June 28)
  • #58 – Forever in the Shadows. Click to read. (When Vancouver city staff pit low barrier housing against schools and parks, everyone loses — regarding Arbutus and 8th tower, Public Hearing June 28)
  • #57 – Ins and Outs of the Broadway Plan. Click to read. (Making common sense of what the Broadway Plan will add and remove from our city)
  • #56 – The Surprising Math around the Broadway Plan Click to read. (Looking closely at Vancouver’s real Population + Housing projections reveals a big surprise—we don’t need the Broadway Plan!)
  • #55 – What the Design Panel said about the Broadway Plan Click to read. (It required a Freedom of Information Request to obtain the meeting record — the day before final deliberations.)
  • #54 – Why the Broadway Plan now? And Why all the Fuss about our Model? Click to read. (Why is the 500-page Broadway Plan being rushed through after mere days of review? And why has our 3D model become its litmus test?)
  • #53 – “False Diagrams” you say? Click to read. (Are our images wrong just because there are no others? You be the judge.)
  • #52 – What the Broadway Plan means for Vancouver’s History. Click to read. (The Broadway Plan will eliminate 45 years of citizen planning work)
  • #51 – Feint by Numbers — 5, not 20. Click to Read. (Simple math + urban design support a 5 storey Broadway Plan)
  • #50 – Affordability. Capacity. Trust. Click to Read. (This is what’s been lost with the Broadway Plan)
  • #49 – What the Broadway Plan means for Kitsilano. Click to Read. (Our systematic review of the 485 city blocks affected, Part 1)
  • #48 – Housing Progress Report—None that is Real—Progress, that is. Click to Read. (What passes for a report to Council these days!)
  • #47 – So Where is the Affordable Housing? Click to Read. (Guess how many rezoning housing projects have been started and completed since the last civic elections?…it’s less than 10.)
  • #46 – Democracy be Gone! Click to Read. (The public hearing about the proposed rezoning of 1477 West Broadway may be the last public hearing ever!)
  • #45 – ‘A Community of Communities is the Touchstone’ — or Not? Click to Read. (Mike Harcourt, former Vancouver Mayor & Premier of BC, outlines his concerns about Vancouver’s current planning, spot rezonings, and the need to strengthen our communities)
  • #44 – Showing up for Democracy. Click to Read. (The proposed spot rezoning of 1477 West Broadway highlights the state of the trust between a remote civic government and its citizens) [Here he recounts experience of presenting in person in the Council Chambers, with not a single member of council actually in the room.]
  • #43 – Feint by Numbers: 1477…the Beginning of the End? Click to Read. (1477 West Broadway is the leading edge of a Vancouver wedge issue called The Broadway Plan.) PUBLIC HEARING Thurs, April 14. Tell Council what you think!
  • #42 – Fighting for the Soul of Vancouver. Click to Read. (The draft Vancouver Plan will destroy our city. Can we come together to resist?)
  • #41 – Is Vancouver Losing its Soul? Click to Read. (Reflections on a city where fewer and fewer can afford to live)
  • #40 – Feint by Numbers: 129,057 Homes for Whom? Click to Read. (I’ve been collecting the housing numbers Vancouver City Hall continues to hide. Here they are—you can help.)
  • #39 – Jericho Lands + UBCx UPDATE 2—The Beginning of the End. Click to Read. (Today City Council voted for proposed alignment of UBC SkyTrain through Jericho Lands)
  • #38 – Jericho Lands + UBCx UPDATE—Time is of the Essence Click to Read. (How the UBC SkyTrain extension and the Jericho Lands proposals help each other—but nobody else)
  • #37 – Vancouver c2030—Getting to Affordable. Click to Read. (How a local government organization nailed the issues, and a new Vancouver City Council responded – A fictional look back from 2030 at how a 2022 report assisted a new City government in its fight for affordability)
  • #36 – c2030 Version 2. Click to Read. (An alternative future reality and how we can get there by the end of the decade)
  • #35 – c2030 Version 1. Click to Read. (A fictional look back at how we got to where we might be by the end of the decade)
  • #34 – Feint by Numbers: 350…Vancouver House High-Rises, that is. Click to read. (The Broadway Plan is the urban planning carpet bombing of Kitsilano, Fairview, South Granville and Mount Pleasant. We only have a week to say “Stop it!”)
  • #33 – Feint by Numbers: 60,000. Click to read. (What The Broadway Plan means for Kitsilano—perhaps a 100% population increase)
  • #32 – Feint by Numbers: 5455. Click to read. (The proposed spot rezoning at 5455 Balsam illustrates how city staff are using technology & COVID to betray established Vancouver residents and their neighbourhoods)
  • #31 – Feint by Number: 1477. Click to read. (1477 West Broadway is the leading edge of a Vancouver wedge issue called The Broadway Plan)
  • #30 – High-rise Hypocrisy Part 3—The Human Toll of the High-Rise Path. Click to read. (About the toll on seniors, including mention of the Broadway Corridor development plans)
  • #29 – Chautauquas or Confrontations? Click to Read. (“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” in the context of urban planning in Vancouver)
  • #28 – Why Care About Canada’s 2021 Census? Your Future is at Stake! Click to read. (Published on date of census release)
  • #27 – High-rise Hypocrisy—“Greenest City” it Ain’t! Part 2. Click to read. (More expert opinion on the topic, plus lots of links to reports and studies)
  • #26 – High-rise Hypocrisy—“Greenest City” it Ain’t! Part 1. Click to read. (A fresh look at the environmental implications of the towers that are sprouting up in Vancouver)
  • #25 – Making Home or Sharing Home—Choose One. Click to read. (Further analysis and alternatives to Mayor Stewart’s ‘Making Home’ motion going to Council Jan 25, 2022)
  • #24 – Four Steps to Rental Affordability. Part 4 (Supporting It). Click to read.
  • #23 – Four Steps to Rental Affordability. Part 3 (Prioritizing It). Click to read.
  • #22 – Four Steps to Rental Affordability. Part 2 (Requiring It). Click to read.
  • #21 – Four Steps to Rental Affordability. Part 1 (Defining It). Click to read. (Affordability is probably Vancouver’s #1 challenge—to paraphrase a friend: “Nothing else matters if you can’t make rent!” This multipart City Conversation aims to explain the complexities in (somewhat) simpler language, together with proposals that will improve affordability for the majority of Vancouverites who are, in fact, renters.)
  • #20 – City Conversations We should ALL be Having. Click to read.
  • #19 – A Shadow of Doubt (City Conversations about the Changing Shadows). Click to read. (About a 20-storey-equivalent tower proposed at 1406-1410 East King Edward)

City Conversations No One Else Is Having” series

  • #18 – A Plague on ALL Their Owned or Rented Houses. Click to read. (Further commentary on “Making Home” and “Streamlining Rental” policies)
  • #17 – Making Hay with Making Home. Click to read. (Thoughts after Mayor Stewart’s ‘Making Home’ Presentation)
  • #16 – The Vancouver Plan—Listening to Neighbours or Nobodies? Click to read. (Observations on the expert panel Special Meeting of Council 23-Nov-2021 “Vancouver Plan – Emerging Directions and Big Ideas”)
  • #15 – The Broadway Plan—Rays of Hope Among the Shadows. Click to read. (Observations on an online workshop about the future vision for the Broadway corridor.)
  • #14 – The Vancouver Plan—Now You See it!…No, You Won’t! Click to read. (Brian looks at how the neighbourhood workshops are actually being conducted for the citywide plan.)
  • #13 – Planning Hazards in the Age of Zoom. Click to read.
  • #12 – Rental—6 Homes is Easy, 4 is Easier Still. Click to read. (Brian takes a closer look at the numbers and concludes kinder, gentler redevelopment does better than the mega project approach.)
  • #11.2 – Rental—Streamlining or Steamrolling? Part 2. Click to read.
  • #11.1 – Rental—Streamlining or Steamrolling? Part 1. Click to read. (Remarks for Public Hearing for Streamlining Rental Around Local Commercial Areas report.)
  • #10 – Jericho—Where High is Called Low & the Highest Cannot be Measured. Click to read.
  • #9.3 – A Setting Lost to the City. Click to read. (False Creek South)
  • #9.2 – A Setting Lost to the City. Click to read. (False Creek South)
  • #9.1 – A Setting Lost to the City. Click to read. (False Creek South)
  • #8 – City Conversations No More? Click to read.
  • #6.3 – All About Affordability, Part 3. Click to read.
  • #6.2 – All About Affordability, Part 2. Click to read.
  • #6.1 – All About Affordability, Part 1. Click to read.
  • #5.2 – When Will it be too Late for Vancouver? Part 2. Click to read.
  • #5.1 – When Will it be too Late for Vancouver? Part 1. Click to read.
  • #4.2 – False Promises for False Creek. Click to read.
  • #4.1 – False Promises for False Creek. Click to read.
  • #3 epilogue – We now Know who Governs Vancouver—Help Us! Click to read.
  • #3 – Who Governs Vancouver—Council? Staff? Electors? Pick Only One. Click to read.
  • #2 – Building Bankruptcies—How Slow Projects Kill Neighbourhood Shopping. Click to read.
  • #1 – 160 Vancouver Houses…or Just 60? Click to read.

… And more to come!