• Monitors what is happening in the Norquay area of East Vancouver
• Provides a forum for residents to communicate
• Documents how city officials implement CityPlan in Vancouver’s second “neighbourhood centre”
The interests of speculators, a developer-funded City Council, and compromised city planners may go against what renters and homeowners want to see happen in their neighborhood. Bad planning can contribute to damage of organic social fabric, loss of affordable rental housing, needless manufacture of unoccupied investment condos, skyrocketing property taxes, artificially accelerated rates of development, more people crowded into the same unimproved public space, aggravation of problems with parking and vehicle traffic, loss of views, poor quality in design, and severe shadow impacts. What is happening to Norquay calls for continuing independent community-based review. Please keep coming back to Eye on Norquay to stay up to date on news and to share your perspective.
→ See Resources in right sidebar learn more about Norquay and city planning in Vancouver
Update (less than one hour elapsed after communication of problems to City of Vancouver). (1) Applicant advised to revise. (2) Web site to be updated. (3) New site sign to come. (4) New postcards to be mailed out. Unprecedented. Congratulations to CoV.
The City of Vancouver has just posted a new development application for 4571 Slocan Street. This is the second proposal under Norquay’s new RM-7 zoning.
Maybe it’s that hard to get new things right the first time? Now it’s the second time …
Eye on Norquay is pretty happy with the outcome on the first RM-7 application for 4730 Duchess Street. But only after putting in a ton of work on that file (reviewing the original submission, making a trip to City Hall, communicating with planners and local area residents and City Hall watchers across the City of Vancouver, waiting for the outcome).
It’s too bad that one glaring problem with 4571 Slocan has to pop up immediately.
The notifications are botched — both the street signage and the notification letter.
Exhibit A — Street Signage
Exhibit B — Notification Letter
Start with the street sign. The one red rectangle is where the eye fixes itself. Message: This is a development application for ONE parcel. Message reinforced: The single address is 4571 Slocan Street.
Next go to the notification letter. The bolded header indicates a SINGLE address. Message: One parcel is affected by the development application. Further message: No mention anywhere of either 4565 Slocan Street or 4585 Slocan Street.
Is this deliberate misdirection or gross incompetence? Either one is unacceptable.
To correct this situation, the City of Vancouver must:
• Direct the developer to post signage that is not misleading
• Reissue the notification letter with missing addresses listed in header
• Extend the period for comment by the time it takes to rectify these inaccuracies
Any further comment on the development application for 4565 / 4571 / 4585 Slocan Street will require a visit to City Hall, since so little can be seen from the materials that get posted online.
In return for huge changes — including mass rezoning of 1900 single-family homes, an accelerated rate of redevelopment, and doubling-tripling-quadrupling of existing building heights along Kingsway — the 2010 Norquay Plan promised a variety of improvements for our impacted area.
The two biggest promises were
Delivery of an already-long-promised Renfrew Ravine Linear Park
Provision of significant indoor and outdoor new community space on the three-acre 2400 Motel site
These two promises occupied most of the agenda at the 16 June 2014 Norquay Village Plan Public Realm Workshop. Eye on Norquay has already reported on that event.
Here is what the Norquay Plan says on page 15 about the anticipated park:
Renfrew Ravine Linear Park.
There is an opportunity to extend the Renfrew Ravine Park south to create a green pedestrian connection between Slocan Park/29th Avenue and Kingsway. This connection, which runs along an existing Metro sewer right-of-way, will be created as adjacent properties redevelop. In the shorter term, the creation of new pocket parks, community garden spaces, and mid-block pedestrian connections, will be incremental steps toward the long-term objective of a complete linear park. This new park is also well-located to help the City achieve its city-wide objective (and Greenest City target) of increasing access to nature for all residents.
Since adoption of the plan, one of the greatest battles fought so far by Norquay residents resulted in modifications of the development proposal for 2699 Kingsway. Among other things, the plaza width for a gateway to Renfrew Ravine Linear Park was increased by a factor ranging from 45% to over 120%.
Renfrew Ravine Linear Park offers a prime example of a City of Vancouver nasty trick: make a promise, fail to deliver, and then use the same promise over again. The good thing is that the City of Vancouver has already acquired about 7/9ths of the land required, probably at the more reasonable prices that prevailed over a decade ago. The bad thing is that the City of Vancouver has delivered so little on a very old promise tied to SkyTrain development (especially 29th Avenue station area) in the 1980s. The only evidence of delivery is one recently installed community garden.
The foregoing is all backstory to repeating the number one message that came out of the June 16 Workshop:
Don’t Sell Off Any CoV Land
This posting, and this repetition, respond to Workshop materials that City of Vancouver posted to the web afterward.
It has been worrisome to discover in the record a so-called consultant presentation consisting of 13 slides.
How can this package prepared by PWL Landscape architects be called a “presentation,”
when it was never presented to workshop participants?
The twelfth slide has caused us some concern:
The nine numbers in circles located across the right-side graphic read, left to right:
/ 20′ / 20′ / 23′ / 15′ / 20′ / 30′ / 29.5′ / 20′ / 29′ /
We’re hoping that these figures represent nothing more than the technicality of easement that runs across the properties for the underground pipeline that carries the waters of what used to be that section of Still Creek. The City of Vancouver has not yet responded to our questions about these numbers.
Some time ago, Eye on Norquay attempted to do a freedom of information request, to retrieve the planning criteria that led to Norquay being fixed in City of Vancouver crosshairs for the second “neighbourhood centre.”
All that came back was an offer to charge about $500 to make the attempt (and likely return three sheets of paper with everything blacked out).
Chad Skelton’s recent visualization of the Starbuckification of Vancouver promised to offer insight into this ongoing Norquay mystery. And all for free — excluding the labor of dropping a Norquay outline onto the mapping.
The effort confirmed the intuition. Norquay is a pinkish-to-red Starbucks desert. See?
Conclusion: Planners decided that any area of Vancouver that was so Starbucks-starved must need fixing. Like a wary cat, whether it wanted fixing or not. Thus did Norquay get mass rezoned for a “neighbourhood centre” against its will.
Guess what? Four years onward, there still isn’t a Starbucks. Here’s betting that particular incursion will be a long time coming. And that’s OK, since Starbuckification is a synonym for gentrification.
By the way, it’s looking more and more like Westbank miscalculated by trying to plop its product at 2220 Kingsway. Surprise, surprise.
… Or, Spawn of Norquay
It is becoming apparent that Grandview-Woodland — in the one respect of indefinite process suspension — may be the neighborhood that comes closest to reproducing the excruciations that Norquay has suffered.
Only under the direction of a maestro of horror can Part II outdo Part I. The City of Vancouver has this demonstrated capability.
Just as color, props, and setting (a fortress shopping mall replacing an isolated farmhouse) made it possible for Dawn of the Dead (1978) to take the themes of Night of the Living Dead (1968) to an entirely new level, so too may the Grandview-Woodland production surpass that of Norquay, all played out in our ever more zombified city.
The common element in the two histories is stop-dead-in-tracks, followed by dragged-out fumble toward a restart destined to lead to predetermined closure. The G-W sequel has a blockbuster and publicly-known budget of $275,000.
Scrutinize the parallels in this chart:
|Council initiates 21 November 2005||Council initiates 28 July 2011|
|One “kick-off” Open House March 2006||Two “launch” Open Houses May 2012|
|Norquay Village Draft Plan distributed May 2007||Broadway & Commercial workshop 6 July 2013|
|Ruckus w Toderian June 2007||Ruckus w Jackson June-July 2013|
|Indefinite suspension starting June 2007||Indefinite suspension starting August 2013|
|Municipal election 2008 — NPA decimated||Municipal election 2014 — ???|
|Open House restart late November 2008||“Citizens Assembly” restart September 2014|
|Unsupported plan imposed November 2010||??? 2015 ???|
The latest Grandview-Woodland face-off, appearing on the same date of 3 July 2014, sees hired-gun consultant Rachel Magnusson op-edding in the Vancouver Sun about jury democracy, while Grandview-Woodland defender Jak King over at the Georgia Straight takes the City of Vancouver to task.
Lessons of Possible Use to Grandview-Woodland
Norquay residents must have surprised the City of Vancouver by coming back in January 2009 with a sizeable group of committed persons who stuck it out through the whole slog — of what eventually proved to be only one phase of a “process” that ran for close to five years.
Altogether there were about four dozen individuals who connected with the Norquay Working Group throughout 2009 (notably, about that same number is scheduled for the upcoming Grandview-Woodland “Citizen’s Assembly”). Norquay’s faithful-attendance core settled down to around a dozen and a half. Within that group, the minority of City of Vancouver supporters tended either to have ties to development interests, stakes in networking for possible employment opportunities, or naive trust in what planners were pushing (that listing is in decreasing order).
In hindsight, it seems clear that the City of Vancouver had no idea how to deal with a group of local residents that really wanted to play a part in specifying their own future. The City of Vancouver abruptly terminated the Norquay Working Group in February 2011, shortly after Council approved an imposed plan. Norquay was not allowed to have a group to “implement” plan proposals. From that point forward, everything about us has been done without us. (Until the Norquay Village Plan Public Realm Workshop of 16 June 2014.)
People on the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee (November 2012 to October 2013) had far more experience and competence than the Norquay group, and did their best to hold city planners accountable. They felt very frustrated throughout, and deeply disappointed in the results. That probably was the last voluntary local area planning group that the City of Vancouver will allow to exist. More control is the agenda.
The randomness or stratification or whatever happens with the impending selection of the engineered Grandview 48 will not be transparent, and probably will “represent” a lot of Vision Vancouver plants and picks.
Painful and hopeless as the task may seem, people with history and understanding in the Grandview-Woodland struggle should consider putting in their applications.
The 2009 Norquay experience suggests that the City of Vancouver will always have considerable difficulty in rounding up and sustaining a substantial number of compradors. Truth will out, especially if even a few informed and persistent individuals manage to find their way into the forum.
Since the time of Kingsway & Knight (in Kensington-Cedar Cottage) and Norquay (mostly in Renfrew-Collingwood), the City of Vancouver has abandoned the list of 19 projected “neighbourhood centres” and generally avoided messing with the other seven of the nine residential neighborhoods covered by community visions. (For the record, those seven are/were: Dunbar, Victoria/Fraserview/Killarney, Sunset, Hastings Sunrise, Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy, Riley Park/South Cambie, West Point Grey.)
[ Postcript above copied from
Killing the Remnants of Character in Norquay
Norquay is blue, literally, in a Vancouver Building Age Map recently put together by Ekaterina Aristova.
Eye on Norquay has tweaked her mapping with an outline that circumscribes the blueness of Norquay.
(Follow the link to Aristova’s source map to see how color scale matches to decade.)
The blueness shows how much of the character and heritage that Norquay once had was destroyed in the decades of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. This history is what led planners to get so glib in the Norquay Plan:
There are only about 300 houses remaining in the area that were built prior to the 1940’s, many of which have lost much of their original character over time. There are only two houses in the area that are listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register. (p. 6)
Translation: The City of Vancouver has treated this local community as a tear-it-down area deserving of a cheapo clear-cutting type monoculture, and will continue to do so. The cynicism comes home to roost in a functional sneer at the little character Norquay still left in the area.
This Plan provides incentives for character house retention, most notably by enabling development of rear-yard infill housing and additional FSR allowances to offset incentives of additional FSR through tear-down and redevelopment. Character home retention is not required, however. (p. 21)
One year ago a spiffy and mostly vacuous document accreted to Norquay:
Norquay Village character house and retention guidelines (15 May 2013)
Here’s the key to the vacuity:
With the exception of Small House/Duplex development sites,
the retention of a character house is at the owner’s discretion.
Next, go to Page 1 of
RT-11 and 11N guidelines
to discover that Small House/Duplex means a site of at least 5,500 sq ft. When you calculate the square footage of a “regular” Norquay parcel of 33 x 120, you get 3,960 sq ft. Of course, there are a lot of Norquay parcels on the downside of “regular.” But on the upside, you may as well go looking for hen’s teeth.
Bottom line: Despite the turgid prose and the fancy pictures and the veneer of concern, the City of Vancouver has declared Norquay a zone for clear-cutter makeover.
Norquay has no illusions that developers and politicians care much about any of Vancouver’s heritage.
Still, contrast the treatment of Norquay with the recent handwringing over those fine old houses in …
you guessed it! — Shaughnessy.
Kevin Griffin. “City approves plan to protect First Shaughnessy homes.” Vancouver Sun (12 June 2014)
Heritage action plan: steps to enhance protection of First Shaughnessy and pre-1940s character houses
(10 June 2014)
The City of Vancouver report cited above does look beyond Shaughnessy. But page 6 makes it crystal clear that it is the west side of Vancouver that matters, not the east side. “Arbutus, Dunbar, and Kerrisdale” get singled out for concern.
Meanwhile, the pale ghost of recently mass-rezoned Norquay hovers over the heart of East Vancouver.
Shaughnessy experiences a 15% population decline over the past forty years, yet continues to be stroked with kid gloves by the same politicians who yammer about the desperate need for Vancouver to accommodate countless incoming hordes of people.
No, Norquay does not have a particular pothole problem. But the pothole serves as a perfect icon to rebut City of Vancouver claims to have delivered “amenity” to Norquay.
Certified Genuine Norquay Pothole
Would any reasonable person attempt to make a case that filling a pothole amounts to providing special benefit to a mass-rezoned neighborhood? No. Pothole repair is a simple case of ordinary upkeep. A service that should be taken for granted.
Yet City of Vancouver staff persist in trying to rebrand routine maintenance as special favor shown to Norquay for enduring a widely unwanted mass rezoning — the second in an ever-lengthening series of “planning” assaults that almost always target East Vancouver.
Here stand three hollow icons with feet of clay.
One — Norquay Park Renewal Completed in 2011
The whole story was told two years ago as a case study in misrepresentation. Like so many Vancouver parks, Norquay Park exists today because of boggy land that formed the headwaters of Still Creek. Land that seemed unusable for anything else. Today the built-on land to the west shows severe instability. To keep it brief, Norquay Park was long overdue for upkeep, and would have seen much less improvement without a happenstance federal grant spun out by the 2008 Great Recession.
Two — Improvements to Kingsway Completed in 2012
This detailed story has also been told as the first of a series of accountings. All that needs to be repeated here is that the whole stretch of Kingsway was sadly overdue for ordinary fix-ups, especially replacement of
• Sidewalks like a used minefield lying in wait to take out unwary pedestrians
• Roadway pavement rutted by heavy vehicles into streambeds perfect for
The kicker is that sections of Kingsway where mass rezoning has not occurred received the same upgrade …
Three — Clarendon Connector Completing in 2014
Even as recently as early 2013 it seemed dubious that the Clarendon connector would be anything more than one of those items whose failed delivery will allow City of Vancouver to trot out a new promise for the same old thing.
What is the “Clarendon connector”? In a nutshell, remediation of some ancient planner slip-up when the street grid was laid out for the Norquay area of East Vancouver. Fixing a stupid mistake should never be called a “benefit.”
Even current “completion” of the Clarendon connector has failed to include the plan-identified need for sidewalk on the north side of East 33rd Avenue running westward. It seems City of Vancouver always has to cheap out on some detail just to remind East Vancouver how poor it is.
Bottom line? Norquay residents appreciate these improvements, no question. But they do not appreciate the effrontery that would try to pass off routine (and overdue) maintenance as anything special.
One — and only one — apparent special “extra” has come Norquay’s way since mass rezoning, and that deserves recognition, if only as footnote to this exercise of demythologizing Norquay’s supposed benefits. A new pedestrian crossing for Kingsway at Wales was not listed in the report for the Skyway Towers development now underway at 2711 Kingsway:
CD-1 Rezoning: 2667-2703 Kingsway — City of Vancouver, Policy Report, Development and Building
Only this crossing, which has also been delivered:
4 b. Provision of a pedestrian-actuated signal at the intersection of Kingsway and
Rhodes Street with the developer paying 100% of the cost, to a maximum of
$300,000 (2011 dollars) (Appendix B, page 6)
It is not clear where the additional crossing came from, or how it was paid for, but it has been noticed and appreciated.
Even more appreciated would be a similar crossing for Nanaimo Street at East 27th Avenue to serve all those Norquay residents who face death every time they walk to Nanaimo SkyTrain station. Back when, we were told our neighborhood would become more walkable. But Nanaimo Street remains a downhill racetrack through Norquay.
Report Card on Delivery of Public Realm Improvements
in the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre
In November 2010 Council approved the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, and the associated Public Realm and Transportation Improvements Plan for the Norquay Shopping Area along Kingsway. This report card is an evaluation of the degree to which the City of Vancouver has done what it committed to do. It does not assign credit or blame to any individual or group, nor does it account for factors that have made delivery more or less difficult.
1. Pedestrian controlled traffic signals on Kingsway — A+
Signals have been installed at Rhodes (not part of the original plan?) and at Wales, on either side of Norquay Park. A mid-block signal between Gladstone and Nanaimo is scheduled as part of the development at 2220 Kingsway.
2. Landscaped median on Kingsway — C-
The median has been constructed and planted. Perennials growing in the median seem to be doing well. However, of the 25 trees planted, 17 are dead or dying and only 8 look alive and healthy.
3. Corner bulges — C
The six planned corner bulges have been constructed. However the four bulges that were landscaped are now completely overgrown with weeds.
4. Corner bulge and bike path at 34th and Wales — C
This very large corner bulge has been constructed. There is some landscaping, which appears to be receiving care. But the suggested benches, brick surface, and trees near the street are missing. The bike path that connects Norquay Park and Duchess Street and passes through this bulge amounts to an unmarked strip of asphalt on both sides of Kingsway.
5. Sidewalks — A
Broken and heaving sidewalks have been replaced and corner ramps installed where needed, with appropriate sidewalk stamps. Sidewalks in new developments are 25 feet wide (except at 2300 Kingsway, approved just ahead of Norquay planning).
6. Boulevards — B
Street trees have been planted where needed and appear to be growing well. The special “Norquay” tree surrounds have not been installed.
7. Street furniture — C-
The number of bus shelters has not changed. Neither has the number of benches, except for several added by developers at 2300 Kingsway and at 2239 Kingsway. Six problematic CityLine litter bins have been replaced by a better design. There are also two new plastic litter receptacles attached to poles. Five other litter receptacles that were attached to poles have been removed and not yet replaced. Only 10 of the proposed 37 bike racks have been installed, and most of these predate the plan.
8. Utility Poles and Light Fixtures — A
Installation of new light fixtures and new poles where needed is now almost completed.
(a) 2699 Kingsway — A-
This development, currently under construction, will contain the plaza that will function as the gateway to the Renfrew Ravine Linear Park. As a result of strong feedback by Norquay residents, the width of the plaza was increased and other improvements made. It seems that the redesigned plaza will work well as gateway to the park.
(b) 2220 Kingsway — D
This development has been approved, but construction has not yet begun. The site, which was to be open and permeable, will now be almost completely covered by a podium, topped by three towers surrounding a raised private courtyard. The “plaza” has been greatly reduced in size and relegated to the northwest corner of the site, where it will mainly function as entrance to the grocery store retail anchor.
10. Pocket Parks and Small Parks
(a) 2300 Kingsway — A-
A small landscaped pocket park with seating has been built on the corner of Nanaimo and 30th Avenue as part of this development. It is well maintained. The proposed litter bin has not been installed.
(b) 2220 Kingsway — C-
A small park is to be built at the corner of Gladstone and 30th Avenue as compensation for reduction of the plaza size [see 9(b) above]. Some of the proposed park space appears to have been separated by plantings to become outdoor seating for a restaurant. Vents from the underground parking intrude into park space. The park will contain landscaping, seating, and some play equipment.
* Subject to reevaluation when the project is completed.
Prepared by Jeanette Jones