January 3, 2022

The Dim Sum Predictions for 2021: What We Got Wrong/What We Got Right

A new year and a new day and it’s not same old for 2022.

 

 

In November 2020 we were actually in a more optimistic kind of mood. We were not wearing masks all the time, and we could go out and eat in small groups and not worry about  who was vaccinated or not.

Because no one was vaccinated.

The Duke of Data and Director of the Simon Fraser University’s City Program Andy Yan participated in those 2020 predictions for 2021 made at the  East Hastings Street Pink Pearl Restaurant over Dim Sum 13 months ago. You can take a look at the Viewpoint Vancouver original post on those predictions here.

It was Andy who nailed it that clothing culture would change in 2021: He predicted that “just as a hoodie is the “go to” item in winter, wearing a face mask will be the new winter pants. Mask wearing will be universal, adopted out of respect and courtesy for others.”

The Dim Sum Table Prediction was correct in assuming that not everyone would be fully vaccinated at the end of 2021: we estimated  that 75 % would be vaccinated in Canada. In actual fact 77.4 % are vaccinated nationally, with 83.7 fully vaccinated to date in British Columbia. (By the way, fully vaccinated means one dose according to this Health Canada website.)

But we had the assumption that things would be opening up with the majority of people vaccinated, that there was going to be no fourth wave of Covid, and that the hammer was going to be coming down on the continual provision of Federal Covid subsidies. We were wrong on that.

We did get the Return to Work and the concept of Time Shifting/Flex Locations right. We assumed that “Many people will not return to a typical Monday to Friday commute, which will impact public transit usage. About 30 percent of people that used to commute to offices downtown will remain at home, going into the office once or twice a week instead of every day. Sixty percent of workers will still need to commute downtown for their jobs; 40 percent will have the flexibility to do some of their work at home.”

We anticipated the challenge of public transit competing with increased car usage, and estimated a 20 percent decrease in transit ridership. With the ongoing pandemic this survey by TransLink shows a decline of 30 percent in the second quarter of 2021.

With Housing Prices we anticipated prices starting to vary by regional location: that has proved to be accurate as real estate prices have increased in more remote locations where people can now live farther away from their offices and work from home.

Rental costs are more attached to economic vibrancy-we felt rents  would moderate once more higher end strata units came onto the market. We were right about apartments with outside decks and access areas having a “preferred short-term premium” with access to open space away from shared halls and elevators.

And for the local restaurant, hotels and travel industry? We saw the need to  “reboot, reformat, reconfigure , and will focus on a more local “in province” market. Growing the local market will be factor for these businesses to revitalize for the next five years. 

That is indeed what many businesses have done, focussing on local customer service and recognition, providing take out, and in some cases changing their retail model completely. Many grocery stores now offer online ordering and curb pick up. Businesses have moved to online retail sales.  We’ve also seen the change in the City of Vancouver zoning regulation, now allowing small local stores to locate and operate within neighbourhoods.

We also anticipated Regulatory Policy changes, which focused on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of individuals. We are starting to see that happen  with the change to senior centred services that assume that seniors can live their lives at home. This has meant a shift in emphasizing wellness services in house, and the development of new on-demand services for seniors, both in the public and private sectors.

We predicted and were right about changes in building design, and people looking for more interior private space for flex offices with windows. Exterior outdoor hallways and staircases in addition to elevators did turn out to be in demand. We also saw that opening windows that could be adjusted for ventilation would be important in building design: that was also highlighted in the heatwave this summer, with many sealed buildings not being able to be ventilated.

We anticipated bigger moves in industry and the economy to restructure seniors’ wellness both at home and in care.  There is the need to  provide more ground access and protected outdoor open spaces in care facilities with good ventilation and light. There is still a need for a more universal systems approach to seniors’ care and when in assisted living, having the ability  to access their families and caregivers through direct outdoor spaces and exits from their suites. The pandemic has also made seniors assisted living facilities a “last resort” for care, as opposed to the advertised model of living on a stationary cruise ship. The industry has not yet morphed to address those concerns.

And for 2022?

We are now pretty used to the required Covid protocol, and once again this Fall there was not a spike in Influenza numbers, despite fears of it being a concern. The importance of recognizing and talking about people’s mental and physical health is now commonplace,  and ensuring citizens have access to outdoors public space for walking, rolling and cycling will be paramount.

Look for a more structured approach for municipalities to roll out slower speeds  in neighbourhoods and to encourage walking, rolling and cycling to local shops and services.  While slower speeds enhance the liveability of neighbourhoods for all users, they also reduce carbon emissions, a major controllable factor in climate change. Slower speeds will be sold as a climate change mitigator.

Wearing face masks will continue to be seen as something thoughtful to wear in public, and mask use will be seen as acceptable after the pandemic.

Look for more connections between individual responsibilities, neighbourhoods, public process, environment and climate change, sure to be a major theme in upcoming municipal elections in October of 2022. Neighbourhoods by their scale and comprehensible size will become the legible unit of community for citizens.  With neighbourhoods wanting more access to city hall, the next few years  could once again bring up future discussions on  a potential plebiscite  for a ward system where Councillors are chosen by area instead of the current  at large system.

But perhaps the biggest theme is going to be authenticity: Politicians will be scrutinized to ensure that they are walking the talk in regards to sustainability, accessibility, and supporting residents in having safe access to schools, shops and services that don’t necessarily require a vehicle to get to.

At the same time, municipalities will need to be nimble in supporting not only downtown businesses, but looking at the vacant storefronts in downtown areas, and deciding who will have access to those storefronts to keep downtown areas animated and lively. As less workers return to the downtown on a five day work week schedule, more services will be needed at the neighbourhood level, and  community activities scheduled to bring people into the downtown.

The year 2022 brings with it opportunities to imagine the city differently and to try new approaches. It’s going to be a very exciting year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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