Category Archives: LED Screens at BC Place

TELUS new giant screen: Ten questions that TELUS can’t answer

Dear Mayor Robertson,

(18 Feb 2015)

Thank you for your role in passing the bipartisan unanimous motion just two weeks ago seeking a reduction in unneeded / superfluous light in Vancouver. I am writing you today to share my concerns about Telus’ new sign bylaw amendment application at 520 West Georgia Street. As a downtown resident and as a father, I do feel that a lot can be learned from my personal experience and my family’s experience about living in front of Telus’ giant screens at BC Place. I do realise that Telus has made efforts to describe this new giant screen on Georgia Street in terms that are different from its screens at BC Place, but please take my word (amongst scores of other residents’ testimony) that a whole new slew of suffering will be caused for nearby families irrespective of degrees of intensity or type of content if this new screen is approved. (Recall that Telus fiddled with the brightness and operating hours of their screens at BC Place for months, with little reduction in the suffering caused to nearby families.)

To the surprise of many, VanCityBuzz has recently published a photo with the heading “One of the projectors and the projection being tested at TELUS Garden” which seems to depict Telus’ completed purchase, installation and testing of their new giant screen as though it was a fait-accompli. As a citizen who insists on due diligence in civic affairs, I admit that this type of contemptuous corporate behaviour infuriates me. I wonder if it frustrates you also.

Over the last while, I have worked with a number of other downtown residents to prepare a list of ten questions that emphasise our main concerns with Telus’ new sign bylaw amendment application, and I ask that you please have a read before making your decision concerning Telus’ application. I do understand that Council may choose to convene a public hearing at which time I look forward to conveying to you in person and with more backstory, the elements that make up our primary concerns.

Thanks for your attention to this file and to the important precedents that may be created therein.

With regards,

David Cookson

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 City Council must say NO to TELUS’ new giant screen application

‘Application to Amend Sign By-law—520 West Georgia Street’

Ten questions that must be answered:

  1. Telus’ new proposed giant video screen is only two blocks away from the closest residential high-rise building (amongst others). In Telus’ own application, when addressing line-of-sight, Telus admits that ‘The Hudson’ at 610 Granville is only 176 meters away. Scores of families will suffer. Is this not why we have bylaws to protect us?
  2. Telus is favouring corporate interests over family interests, this despite the pain and suffering that Telus has caused and is still causing to thousands of families living near Telus’ screens at BC Place. Screens and homes simply don’t mix under any circumstances, even when care is taken to mitigate the effects. Have we learned nothing?
  3. Telus is misleading the public by claiming that the new giant screen is “only viewable in low light conditions” (i.e. in the evenings, which is incidentally the most invasive time of day for nearby residents). However, in Telus’ own application, Telus admits that they intend to run the screen during several daytime events such as the Sun Run. So which is it?
  4. Telus is misleading the public by claiming that the new giant screen “will not feature advertising”. However all that will be required for Labatt to feature Budweiser ads (for example) will be for Telus to rent a single office at Telus Garden to Labatt. In Telus’ own application, Telus admits that they intend to allow “brand recognition” (which precisely means advertising) on the screen for tenant businesses at Telus Garden. Has Telus not simply narrowly redefined the word “advertising” just to suit their current proposal?
  5. In the year 2015, no-one uses outdoor video screens to learn about community events – one would have to stand there staring and waiting for 15 minutes to glean anything valuable. The vast majority of people use their smart phones or they listen to the radio, while others use the internet at home. People without internet or radio access are generally made aware about upcoming events at the community centres that they frequent. Can anyone really claim that they’ve ever learned about any community events from the outdoor screens at Future Shop on Granville Street?
  6. Telus is misleading the public by claiming that the intensity of the new giant screen will be “lesser than that of a handheld smartphone or laptop” by using the measure ‘nits’ to describe light intensity. What Telus is failing to explain is that ‘nits’ are a measure per square meter and so the bigger the screen the bigger the disturbance. Can these misleading claims (which work really well in short news-cycles) really go unchallenged?
  7. Telus is misleading the public by claiming that the disturbance caused by the new giant screen will be “exactly the same as that of normal lights from an office building”. This is patently ridiculous given that video screens themselves are dynamic (i.e. they move and flash) and are designed to draw your attention. Why else would anyone install a projection device on the outside of an office tower if not to draw people’s attention?
  8. Exposure to flashing and dynamic (i.e. moving) video imagery must remain a voluntary activity for residents living in residential buildings nearby, not something that they are held captive to nightly. Would subjecting local residents to this nightly harassment really be a ‘best practice’ in the most densely populated residential neighbourhood in the country?
  9. Council recently passed a motion seeking a reduction in superfluous outdoor lighting in Vancouver. Would permitting Telus’ proposed amendment not fly directly in the face of this unanimously supported Council motion?
  10. Telus has shown utter contempt for the City of Vancouver’s bylaws at BC Place where Telus continues to operate and earn the advertising revenues from their giant outdoor video screens. In 2012 the Mayor and Council unanimously passed a motion demanding that the BC Place screens be brought into compliance but Telus has ignored this request for three years. Should companies that act deplorably be granted special permissions by the City?

 

Another Giant Media Screen

On February 11, 2015 a community open house was held regarding an application to allow a large retractable screen on the new Telus Garden building in downtown Vancouver.

Henriquez Partners Architects, on behalf of Westbank Corp. and TELUS, have applied to the City of Vancouver to amend the Sign By-law to permit an 7.5 m x 11 m media sign on the west facade of the building at 520 West Georgia Street, facing Seymour Street.

Another giant screen flashing images into the urban realm? Didn’t council just vote in favour of limiting outdoor light pollution? Read more from recent media coverage.

David Cookson, a renewable-energy specialist who has spoken against the lighted billboard at B.C. Place, says he’s concerned for residents living near Telus Garden. Listen to Rick Cluff’s CBC Early Edition interview on the subject. Global News also covered the Telus high-rise screen story.

The screen still requires approval from Vancouver city hall. What do you think? Give your feedback.

Residents finally at rest from glaring digital screen…for now

One of a trio of giant electronic video screens was being dismantled today. And residents who have been plagued by flashing lights invading their homes can finally sleep at night.

City bylaws don’t apply

The South-facing digital billboard—one of three—was first erected in 2011 under provincial jurisdiction and even though it contravenes city bylaws in size and wattage, the province chose not to comply; the stadium is on provincial land and PavCo, who manages BC Place, is a provincial government agency.

While area residents live in an entertainment district and expect—and enjoy—all that comes with it, they also expect elected officials and laws to protect them from being blitzed by artificial light in their homes (ads that radiate 20 times brighter than limits set by Ottawa, for example). Countless complaints went unheeded.

False hope?

But perhaps this is just a reprieve. Do the dazzling, flickering lights of Vegas-Vancouver await as an Urban Resort goes up in its place? Here’s hoping developers will be good neighbours and keep the strobe lights inside, not in resident’s living rooms.

The FCRA joins in opposing the giant electronic billboards that intrude into the lives of our neighbours

Families still suffering due to flashing outdoor digital billboards at BC Place Stadium

Director, BC Pavilion Corp

Vancouver, Monday, February 4, 2013

Please accept our congratulations on your appointment to the Board of Directors of BC Pavilion Corp (PavCo).  There is great hope that with your appointment and with that of your new colleagues to the PavCo Board, that our community will receive a more considerate response to our concerns.  Unfortunately for those of us living near BC Place, the previous Podmore-Buckley leadership chose to ignore repeated and very public appeals from our community concerning liveability issues, electing instead to pursue a campaign of stonewalling and misinformation.

As residents living near BC Place Stadium, our homes and our lives have been greatly affected by the three giant video billboards outside the stadium since they were erected without community or city consultation in September of 2011.  When PavCo installed the video billboards outside BC Place directly facing Vancouver’s densest group of glass residential buildings, they gravely afflicted hundreds of families who had previously lived peacefully in their homes.  Despite repeated demands from neighbours that the three flashing screens be removed, PavCo has done little to address this on-going assault on the well-being of these downtown Vancouver residents.

In the face of media pressure, PavCo pointed to minor adjustments which were made to one of the three giant billboards.  These minor modifications to the brightness and operating hours (again, to one of the screens) have done nothing to address residents’ primary concern, and that is:

It is unacceptable that large groups of residents on all sides of BC Place Stadium be made to suffer in their homes – held captive under the blight of giant flashing screens – where some raise their children and others simply seek needed rest.  Surely there is a more responsible way for an otherwise honourable Crown Corporation to achieve its goals?

Following the minor operational changes, Mayor Gregor Robertson and all ten City Councillors demonstrated their on-going concerns for residents’ well-being by unanimously passing a council motion aimed at bringing PavCo’s billboards at BC Place into compliance with Vancouver bylaws. Recall that the screens in question are ten times the maximum size allowable under the city bylaw, the applicable standard for determining acceptable conditions of residential liveability within this community.

Many other concerned community leaders and officials who to this day remain alarmed by PavCo’s actions have vocally supported residents and insisted that these screens be taken down.  Vancouver West-End MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert has demanded in the BC Legislative Assembly that the screens be removed; Park Board Commissioner Constance Barnes has repeatedly stated that the screens must be taken down; and the Board of the False Creek Residents Association has identified the removal of the three giant screens among the association’s most pressing objectives in 2013.

Residents have mounted a letter writing campaign and have sent collectively over a hundred emails to the offices of Warren Buckley, Councillor Meggs, MLA Chandra-Herbert and Minister Pat Bell.  So intense was this campaign that Minister Bell was ultimately compelled to address the negative press that the billboard issue was creating for his office.  By this time it had become obvious to Vancouverites that erecting rapidly flashing high-intensity three-story-tall digital billboards directly facing a dense residential glass structured neighbourhood is pure absurdity…but the PavCo leadership remained unmoved.

This situation remains shamefully unresolved.  Residents on all three sides of the stadium continue to suffer in their homes, captive under the oppressive daily glare of giant video screens which they are powerless to turn off.  The flashing light invades their living rooms, extends across their dinner tables, and penetrates into their children’s bedrooms.  We implore you to reconsider the mistakes of the previous PavCo leadership and begin the responsible action of removing these intolerable screens. Vancouver residents must not be made to bear the continued assault of these giant flashing billboards any longer.

Sincerely,

David Cookson, Primary Spokesperson, Take the Giant Screens Down Now organisation

Patricia Graca, Board Member, False Creek Residents Association

Kate Glassford, Chair, Stadium Neighbourhood Association

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Cc:  Dana Hayden, President and CEO, BC Pavilion Corp.

Cc:  Howard Crosley, BC Place Stadium General Manager

Cc:  Adrian Dix, Provincial Opposition Leader

Cc:  Spencer Chandra-Herbert, Provincial PavCo Critic

Cc:  Geoff Meggs, Vancouver City Councillor

Attachment 1:  History of events – questions left unanswered

When questioned by media reporters in 2011 about PavCo’s apparent disregard for the well-being of the adjacent residential community, Howard Crosley, General Manager at BC Place stadium responded on camera that PavCo’s provincial status effectively creates an exemption from city signage bylaws, suggesting that PavCo need not be concerned with the litany of complaints received by dozens of civic and provincial offices nor by those complaints received by PavCo itself.  Since there was no law to forbid PavCo’s actions, PavCo could do as it pleased.  Residents were left not knowing where to turn – the city hotline and other city offices were refusing to log complaints and were instead referring complainants to provincial authorities – PavCo continued to claim immunity from bylaws and pursued a complaint rebuttal policy of ‘Too-bad-for-you’.  What were residents to do?

Left largely neutered by PavCo’s hard-line legal stance on the non-enforceability of city bylaws, City Manager Penny Ballem was required to issue a memo to City Council outlining her staff’s cursory understanding of the situation.  That was, as misinformed by Warren Buckley, that PavCo had met with residents about the situation (not one single resident has yet been found which ever met with PavCo on this issue) and that PavCo had only received a single complaint (which is categorically disproven by the copies of dozens of emails received by Councillor Meggs and MLA Chandra-Herbert).  Nevertheless, in the face of an uncooperative PavCo leadership, Dr Ballem described in her memo about the city’s inability to force PavCo to comply with basic standards of liveability, and concluded that the situation, from the perspective of her office’s inability to enforce city bylaws, was therefore ‘resolved’.  To date, City Councillors have not yet addressed PavCo’s indifference towards the Mayor and Council’s unanimous motion, and PavCo continues to operate the billboards in direct violation of several sections of the Sign bylaw #6510.

One confused PavCo staff member recently tried suggesting that BC Place has not crossed the threshold of acceptable impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood by using the argument that video billboards have existed at BC Place for many years.  Such a claim is irrational in its premise since it suggests that tiny and benign analogue filament-screw-bulb technology boards from 1986 produced the same environmental impact on the adjacent glass residential community as today’s oversized hi-intensity high-definition LED video jumbotrons selected and installed by BC Place in 2011.  Such an argument baffles the mind and is not appropriate coming from senior staff managing one of our major Crown Corporations.

A second equally baffling comment recently received from PavCo senior staff calls out authorities’ inability to prove the health hazards of video billboards. The person intimates that since the video billboards have not yet been conclusively proven to be hazardous to people’s physical health – that is, to cause debilitating illness and disease – that PavCo is correct in its assertion that the screens are acceptable.  This statement typifies the gross irrationality which has characterised PavCo’s response on this issue, and we residents expect that the new PavCo Board will use a criteria more reasonable than disease and illness in their determination that these billboards easily breach unacceptable levels of liveability for residents.

This begs the question, if PavCo did not follow any city bylaws or standards of liveability when designing and building this intrusive infrastructure within a dense residential community, then what standards did it follow?  Surely a reasonable PavCo leadership would have to agree that some sort of standards of practice, some guidelines or some best practices must be employed when erecting three giant screens with the capacity to vastly aggress residents in all directions surrounding BC Place.  Surprisingly, this question has not yet been answered by the PavCo management.  Simply put, it has not yet been demonstrated that any measures or standards of liveability were employed when planning for the erection of these billboards. With PavCo’s claimed exemption from city bylaws, and with no existing provincial guidelines to employ, the previous PavCo leadership effectively rode roughshod over this community.