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Yuri is one of the first urbanists who I met in person after starting my blog. He had moved back to Vancouver after spending several years living in Phoenix, Arizona. Since returning, he has led the way in bringing urbanists and citymakers together for beer and conversation through his initiative to start a Vancouver Urbanist Meetup and more recently, CivicMeet Vancouver.

Who are you?

I’m a public policy analyst, urbanist, and social media geek who is interested in making our cities more livable, community-oriented places. During the day, I’m the Director of Community Engagement of PlaceSpeak, an online location-based community consultation platform. I’m also Director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, an associate editor of Spacing Vancouver, co founder of CivicMeet Vancouver and coordinator of Jane’s Walk Vancouver.

In my ‘free’ time, I can be found running along the seawall, sharing my perspectives on Facebook on Twitter, or engaged in esoteric urbanism debates over beer at a local pub,

What motivates you to get involved in city life?

Honestly?  Self-interest. I want to be part of shaping the city that I want to live in.  I learned long ago that if you think you can do a better job, than you better get up and do it.  Instead of simply criticizing from the sidelines, get involved and share your insights.  In simple terms: be a leader, not a hater.

Why Vancouver?

When my wife and decided to return to Canada from Phoenix, we spent a lot of time discussing where we wanted to live, and were considering other cities like Toronto and Calgary.  At the end of each discussion, we kept on bringing up Vancouver and ultimately decided that we were meant to return here (we both studied here earlier in our lives).

We have not regretted that decision. Vancouver offers a combination of temperate climate, urban fabric and engaged residents that few other cities offer.  

Vancouver would be better if____(fill in the blanks)

People would stop to a smell the rain drops every now and then—or as Frances Bula recently posted: “Can everyone stop being so shriekingly pissed off all the time?”

There is a reason the Vancouver keeps being named one of the best places in the world to live.  Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in other cities with far greater civic challenges, but I feel incredibly lucky to live here.

Yes, there is lots of room for improvement; most notably ensuring everybody benefits from the opportunities our city offers. But if we approach our civic challenges from a position of strength and confidence, we will be in a much better position to solve them than if we keep flying off the handle at every decision—or indecision—made at City Hall.

Favourite public space?

Granville Island. for now…  but the plaza at Olympic Village is quickly maturing into a great community gathering place.

Must have Vancouver souvenir?

For locals, a Vancouver Sun Run t-shirt.  The Sun Run should be on every Vancouverites bucket list. Sun Run has become one of Vancouver’s rites of spring and it blends the best of our health and community conscious urban lifestyle.

For visitors, probably a picture of themselves on along the Seawall. It is truly a special place  that is iconically Vancouver

Favourite local hangout?

As a beer fan, I’m really enjoying Tap and Barrel. A great selection of local beers, great staff, owners that care about the community, and some of the best patio views in the city! Other nearby favourites include Narrow Lounge and the Whip. Each had a different vibe that satisfies different moods.

Local inspiration (person, place or thing)?

What about an experience?  Running along the seawall at night  - with the city lights reflecting False Creek - is a defining Vancouver image for me.  No matter what struggles I’m facing, having this view of city meeting nature always reminds me why I love living here.

Worst thing about Vancouver?

Our inferiority complex.  (See response to “Vancouver would be better if______.”)

Favourite Vancouver memory?

Last summer’s Main Street Mosey with the Vancouver Public Space Network when we trekked across the city, from Crab Park on Burrard Inlet all the way down to the Fraser River.  It was pretty cool to share in the communal experience of a group walk, down the entirety of Vancouver’s north-south spine, sharing stories and trivia along the way.

Citymakers is a column to profile people who positively contribute to the city (socially, artistically, environmentally, etc.) in their free time. Who else should be profiled here?

Amanda Gibbs, community advocate, engagement facilitator, and my co-conspirator in CivicMeet Vancouver.