What were they thinking?

Nominations for questionable City of Vancouver decisions

As I travel around the city, I often come across things that cause me to scratch my bald head and question “What were they thinking?”

Occasionally, I post comments on social media or write a blogpost to see if I’m the only one who notices or cares.

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Increasingly, I am not alone questioning some of the things going on. This prompted me to suggest on Facebook that someone should launch a What Were They Thinking awards program, which one Facebook follower suggested be called the WTFWTT awards.

To get the ball rolling, here are some initial nominees:

Point Grey Road sidewalk

Many were disturbed by the initial council decision to turn a portion of Point Grey Road into a gated community. While some nearby residents were pleased, others questioned the benefits, especially given the considerable costs and other more pressing city needs.

However, the latest construction activities seem to have almost everybody upset.

As respected UBC landscape architect Patrick Condon recently noted, “the clear-cutting of mature trees and planting to create a wider concrete sidewalk demonstrates the city seems incapable of anything approaching a light touch when it comes to their Greenest City agenda.”

tree stumps
Michael Geller: As respected UBC landscape architect Patrick Condon recently noted, “the clear-cutting of mature trees and planting to create a wider concrete sidewalk demonstrates the city seems incapable of anything approaching a light touch when it comes to their Greenest City agenda.”


I would add that it’s bordering on the insane to incur such costs to install an ugly plain concrete sidewalk and expensive new power poles, reminiscent of developing nations. This is not going to be a pleasant addition to Vancouver’s waterfront walkway system.

What were they thinking?

point grey road

Burrard Bridge

The upgrading of the Burrard Bridge seems to have been underway for an excessive amount of time. While the need to carry out structural improvements was understood, the sequencing of work and certain design decisions seem most questionable.

I like landscaped medians in roads. I was therefore pleased when, after installing an asphalt pavement at the south end of the bridge, the city dug it up to install a planter. Then it sat vacant for a season, gathering weeds. Then it was planted and soon overrun by more weeds.

Now a portion of the landscaped median has been paved over to accommodate temporary lane realignments. I can’t help but wonder when there will be a serious accident as drivers struggle to adjust to these changes, not to mention the drifting orange traffic cones.

What were they thinking?

Marine Drive bicycle lanes

I was pleased when I heard that bicycle lanes would be installed along both sides of Marine Drive westward from Granville Street. However, when the road finally opened, I questioned the decision to install flimsy white plastic posts into the asphalt to protect cyclists on turns.

Not surprisingly, many of these posts were soon knocked over, leaving metal brackets in the asphalt, and many remaining posts leaning at odd angles. It’s most unsightly.

Now, large metal pipes have appeared alongside portions of the street. Please don’t tell me city workers are going to again tear up Marine Drive.

If so, what were they thinking?

Public art around Vancouver 

I have had concerns with Vancouver’s Public Art Program ever since I was told I could not hire Susan Point to create a two-block sculpture and fountain along Georgia Street in front of the Bayshore project. Why? The city’s program manager thought there was already too much native art in the city. Instead, his art selection process came up with giant, garish, gold-coloured sand buckets with water pouring out the top. My client had to pay the city a lot of money to buy his way out of that one.

I recently upset Facebook followers by questioning another garish, gold art installation — Douglas Coupland’s Golden Tree on a small plaza at Cambie and Marine. I also questioned the decision to install bright white cones of salt near the Olympic Village, which quickly attracted graffiti and debris.

Michael Geller says it didn't take long for these cones of salt to attract graffiti and debris aroun


While I am at it, I also dislike the condom sculpture (they are supposed to be condoms, aren’t they?) at Davie and Howe.

This is supposed to be a public art program. Why can’t the process select art installations that most of the public might enjoy?  

Are there projects around the city that have you questioning what were they thinking? If so, write and tell me about them. I’ll include them in future columns.



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