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

[ Eye on Norquay complements the coverage of 2007-2008 provided by predecessor Norquay Neighbours ]

Written by eyeonnorquay

14 February 2011 at 11:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Galt Assembly

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The Multiple Listing Service for Vancouver currently advertises a three-lot land assembly on Galt Street.

 
IMG_4941
 
     Right to Left: 2312 & 2320 & 2328 Galt Street

 
For practical purposes, these are adjacent identical properties: three older houses on 33×122 lots, each priced at $999,000, for a package total of $3 million. The main selling point is “Potential for LOW-RISE Multi Family unit Project.” These properties lie in an area covered by Norquay Village — Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy.

Just to the west, at 2298 Galt Street, construction is underway on what is so far Norquay’s only instance of four-storey apartment under the Norquay Plan. This unfortunate experiment on a single lot will not be repeated. City of Vancouver allowed this rezoning to happen between November 2010 approval of the Norquay Plan and April 2013 approval of specific zonings. Land assembly is now required.

 
IMG_4942
 
     2298 Galt Street at Far Right
 
Imagine being the owner of the single intervening property, a newer house — potentially trapped and orphaned between the ill-advised 2298 Galt experiment and the 2312-2320-2328 Galt assembly.
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

15 April 2014 at 12:04 pm

Posted in News

Capital Plan 2015-2018

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Three years ago, in 2011, Eye on Norquay “participated” in the City of Vancouver Capital Plan process for 2012-2014. Back then, we argued strongly that our 2010 mass-rezoned 300-400 acres of Norquay should be put in line for some corresponding amenity and benefits. Check out the history in this posting from August 2011. The results were, to put it mildly, disappointing. Zilch for payback in 2012-2014.

Since that time, our tag-line for Norquay’s rapid redevelopment without promised corresponding increase in amenity has become all take no give.

 
IMG_4929
 
     Busy Brock Park — Early March 2014
 

Norquay has so far been treated as a location for resource extraction and density dumping. All those fine planner words during the lead-up to mass rezoning start to look like pure blather. So far, even outright-promised new garbage cans for Kingsway have failed to appear.

Future prospects look dubious, with impending shift to an even less-accountable four-year cycle. If nothing shows up for Norquay in 2014, it’s hard to believe we’ll ever see recognizable benefits. This round feels like do-or-die for Norquay. Can anyone believe that our 2010 Norquay plan would not be dismissed as “old” by 2018?

Drawing a lesson from 2011, Eye on Norquay has attempted an earlier lead-time. Previous experience made it pretty clear that solicited official Capital Plan consultation — will there even be any in the always inconveniently timed summer of 2014? — amounted to a going-through-the-motions seal on a done deal.

For whatever it proves to be worth, Jeanette Jones has exhumed stated promises, assessed reasonable priorities, consulted with relevant officials, and sent in a 2015-2018 Capital Plan submission.

Topping the list is improvement to Brock Park, which the official 2013 Norquay Public Benefits Strategy said

        is considered to be the first priority for upgrading in the first 10 years of the Strategy.

Already into the fourth year of the 30-year Norquay Plan, little evidence is yet seen of intention to deliver. If Brock Park does not get slated for a significant upgrade in the upcoming capital plan, making the ten-year timeline looks like a squeeze.

In the immediate area of the park, recent and approved large-scale development already exceeds 20% of the population growth projected for all of Norquay over a period of thirty years.

Wonder why City of Vancouver wonders why no neighborhood wants to see increased development?
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

9 April 2014 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Events, History, News

Local Open Houses

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The following letter is being emailed to a newly revised and consolidated list of Norquay contacts, to ask for help with efforts to monitor new developments and to communicate timely information among affected residents.

 
PLEASE SHARE YOUR EARLY INFORMATION!

Dear Norquay Friends –

New developments keep coming forward in Norquay, especially on and near Kingsway.

A developer who seeks to rezone a site begins by making an enquiry to the City of Vancouver. A lot of exchange takes place between planners and the developer at this pre-application stage — ahead of a formal application. If a developer makes substantial changes to a proposed project, changes are most likely to occur at this stage.

As part of the pre-application process, the developer sometimes hosts a local-area community open house to get community feedback. Only people who live within a small radius (usually just two or three blocks) of a proposed site get notified about the open house. Other Norquay residents learn of the development proposal only when the developer makes a formal development application and posts a sign on the site.

If you receive notice of a community open house for a rezoning application, please let us know. Then we can pass this information along to the rest of our Norquay mailing list. The earlier in the process we have the opportunity to tell the developer what we think, the more likely it is that our comment will receive due consideration.

Please forward a copy of any information you may receive about any local pre-application Open Houses through the Eye on Norquay Contact Form.

To see Norquay monitoring that we have undertaken beginning in 2014, you can read recent postings at Eye on Norquay. Specifics can also be found through links in the right sidebar (Development Applications, Specific Rezonings, Documents, etc).

Exercise of genuine concern to see the best new developments possible, with input from persons well-acquainted with local conditions, will ensure that all of us enjoy improvements to liveability in our neighborhood.

Sincerely,

Jeanette and Joseph Jones
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

7 April 2014 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Open Letters

5500 Dundee Street

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On 21 February 2014 Fuho Design Ltd. submitted a conditional development application for 5500 Dundee Street (changed from 5522 Dundee).

        http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/developmentservices/devapps/pc5500dundee/index.htm

The application seeks approval

        to construct a two-storey plus basement, two-family dwelling and two, two-storey,
        one-family dwellings, providing four parking spaces at the rear.

City of Vancouver will receive comments on, or before March 10, 2014 “to be considered as part of the application’s review.”

The site plan for the proposal shows cookie-cutter design being dropped into a location with very unusual configuration. See the site plan for yourself:

 
2-siteplan
 

It seems clear that this crude approach to layout of development on the site fails to conform to a key specification of the RT-11 zoning approved at public hearing.

The same applicant, Fuho Design Ltd., is responsible for at least three other concurrent applications in Norquay: 2748 E. 40th Ave, 2351 E. 41st Ave, 4517 Nanaimo St. Examination of all four of these plans makes it possible to discover the cookie cutter factor.

Jeanette Jones has prepared and submitted a carefully considered comment on the development application for 5500 Dundee Street.

This application (taken together with a previous application for 5494 Dundee) raises a further question about Norquay public realm. These two properties lie adjacent to City of Vancouver land that is designated as “unopened lane.” It would be appropriate at this point for City of Vancouver to commit to pedestrian-oriented enhancement of these two connectors.

Such a token of good faith in implementation of the Norquay Plan would be welcomed by residents who have seen much development take place, attended by very little of the promised paybacks.
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

26 February 2014 at 4:42 pm

Marketing of 2220 Kingsway

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Looks Like a … Fail

 
Lead-Up Hype

 
On 8 February 2014 the marketing campaign for Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway development project held a “South Tower Release Event.” A 6 by 12 inch glossy marketing announcement was mailed out to the surrounding area. The event was timed to fall in the middle of the surrounding two weeks of Chinese New Year festivities. The card design drew the eye to a coupon-like box that proclaimed:

              New Year Special Savings          Save Up to $20,000

Here is what the card looked like:

 
kensingard
 

The lead-up to this “event” also featured three full-page advertisements in the Georgia Straight for three weeks running: p. 8 for Jan 23-30, p. 6 for Jan 30-Feb 6, p. 10 for Feb 6-13.

 
On the Day
 

The Kensington Gardens sales center has enveloped the old Canadian Tire big box store building on the site. Here is what the event looked like from outside on that sunny day at noon, when the marketing machine hoped to stampede anxious buyers into grabbing a New Year discount:

 
IMG_4846
 
     Parking Lot — Mostly Sales Staff and Dollarama Shoppers?
 

Around front at the grand entrance, no people are lined up to elbow their way toward lucky bargains. There is nothing but one wistful batch of balloons and a point-the-way signboard:

 
IMG_4847
 
     Not Here, Not Saying Yes
 

Wait. Maybe this special “event” is like a yard sale, where shoppers in-the-know have shown up ahead of time to snatch the goodies. Let’s check inside:

 
IMG_4848
 
 
     Cavern of the Walking Dead
 

 
First Release?
 

The promo advertising for this “South Tower Release Event” boasted

              First Release an Overwhelming Success

What was this purported “first release”? On 23 November 2012 marketer George Wong, principal of Magnum Projects, put on what he called a carnival in the display center. Three days in advance, an infomercial appeared in the Vancouver Courier to promise attenders:

a circus performance by Blink Acro, a magician, Miss Chinese pageant girls, musical performances by Famous Players and Kuba Oms, a food truck festival, children’s activities and an appearance by former Vancouver Canuck Kirk McLean. [1]

The “first release” seemed designed to release good feelings and nothing else. After all, in late November everybody is thinking mainly about the money they need for Christmas. Nowhere in sight was anyone sitting down with buyers to nail down contracts for units that exist only as pied-in-the-sky sketches.

By way of contrast with February 2014, here are four glimpses of the December 2013 faux-release:

 
IMG_4127
 
     Line-Up Outside Main Entrance
 

 
IMG_4133
 
     “Miss Chinese Pageant Girls” [their words]
 

 
IMG_4152
 
     Aerial Acrobat
 

 
IMG_4171
 
     George Wong Promoting the Project
 

If someone puts on a no-cost event with music, entertainment, fun for children, and food trucks (free only until 2:00 pm, many were disappointed to discover), it isn’t surprising if they manage to draw a crowd. To call the attendance 5,000 seems quite a stretch. But to call whatever happened first release looks more like outright prevarication than any kind of stretch.

 
Contrast with Marketing of 2300 Kingsway
 

Anyone who was present at the 2010 opening sales day of the Wall project at Kingsway and Nanaimo knows what successful release marketing looks like — people crowding in to sign contracts for units that do not exist, exuding anxiety to buy. Rennie Marketing Systems reposts this Vancouver Sun article about the result.

Phase 1 of the development is comprised of a 22-storey high-rise and a mid rise, and went on sale on May 29. Approximately 95 per cent of those units have been snapped up and demand is also expected to be high for the 96 homes in phase two. [2]

In this context it is amusing to sneak a peek into a relationship that once existed between marketer Bob Rennie and Westbank principal Ian Gillespie, the developer who stands behind the 2220 Kingsway project:

Gillespie, Cheng, and up-and-coming condo salesman Bob Rennie exploded onto the Vancouver development scene together in the mid-’90s; the three represented development savvy, distinctive architecture, and a new kind of lifestyle marketing. But the great partnership evaporated. Rennie and Gillespie had a famous falling-out six years ago. [3]

Has Bob Rennie ever decided to put on a carnival? Do Ian Gillespie and his marketer George Wong have any grasp of the location where they seek to plunk down a fortress compound?

Bob Rennie had first-hand acquaintance with the Norquay neighborhood through his mother. This connection showed up in the naming of a part of the project that he marketed.

Phase two has been dubbed Eldorado in honour of the hotel on the site, which was originally oriented primarily toward business travellers. Rennie’s mother worked for years as a waitress in the dining room. [2]

Gillespie’s concept of a fortress compound at 2220 Kingsway, a form never intended by the Norquay Plan, has made the 2300 Kingway towers look better than they ever did before (despite lack of setback and excessive height).

Holborn bogged down with “The Hills” and then handed its project off to Wall for salvage as 2300 Kingsway. Westbank probably has too much ego invested to even consider a parallel maneuver.

It will be interesting to watch how Westbank copes with the trials of trying to do its upscale thing in the wrong location … location … location.

 
 
[1]  Naiobh O’Connor. Developing story: Carnival planned to help sell Kingsway condos. Vancouver Courier (19 Nov 2013)
http://www.vancourier.com/authors/developing-story-carnival-planned-to-help-sell-kingsway-condos-1.702189

[2]  Claudia Kwan. Daughter know best, Kingsway buyer reports. Vancouver Sun (17 July 2010)
http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoasthomes/story.html?id=722cb181-eaac-43ed-805d-27b2b6df1746&p=1

[3]  Frances Bula. The new skyline: Ian Gillespie’s vision. Vancouver magazine (1 Mar 2014)
http://www.vanmag.com/News_and_Features/The_View_From_Olympus
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

23 February 2014 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Events, News

404 = 428

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Dwelling Unit Increase at 2220 Kingway

 
Following on a variety of speculations and considerable passage of time, the veil can be raised now on how 404 = 428 in developer math. A thank you to City of Vancouver planning staff who brought this information out of the shadows in response to a tweetfest in early January 2014.

         https://twitter.com/CityofVancouver/status/418909177898356736

(This Eye on Norquay posting has kept slipping down the priority list as time-critical situations have since popped up with 4730 Duchess Street and 3120-3184 Knight Street.)

When 2220 Kingsway went to public hearing on 9 April 2014, the document [1] that Vancouver City Council voted on specified

         a mixed-use development comprised of a commercial podium and three 14-storey residential towers
         containing a total of 404 dwelling units.

When a Vancouver Courier infomercial [2] hyped an upcoming marketing event for 2220 Kingsway, the story loosed this free-floating factoid:

         The development, which will cover one city block and take three years to build, features three
         towers with just under 450 residential suites …

That reporting generated wonder at the discrepancy. How did 404 units manage to morph into “just under 450"? Facts show that half of the apparent bloat was nothing but gas emission by the marketing promoter for 2220 Kingsway.

Here’s the deal. What goes before City Council looks all specific and professional and detailed. In reality, too much of that cheque gets left blank for the developer.

Lesson # 1: The number of units specified to Council at public hearing is jello. The jello [FSR aka floor space ratio] is nothing but a blob that the developer still gets to play around with, outside any forum of public accountability.

In this case, the developer went from a public hearing allocation of

1 Bedroom = 151     1 Bedroom Plus = 14     2 Bedroom = 196     3 Bedroom = 43     Total Units = 404

to a development permit application for

1 Bedroom = 211     1 Bedroom Plus = 0       2 Bedroom = 200     3 Bedroom = 17     Total Units = 428

The CD-1 bylaw for 2220 Kingway (By-law No. 10827) [3] specifies:

         Conditions of Use

         3. The design and lay-out of at least 25% of the dwelling units must:
            (a) be suitable for family housing;
            (b) include two or more bedrooms; and
            (c) comply with Council's "High Density Housing For Families
                With Children Guidelines".

 
This is the only constraint faced by 2220 Kingsway on the size of unit designed. Even with considerable reduction of the specification presented to Council, the developer still substantially exceeds the token requirement.

Whatever planning rationale permits this allocation seems wildly out of step with building a Vancouver that can retain families with children. The space distribution at 2220 Kingsway has snuck considerably further toward the profiteering ghost-city model of investment cocoon.

The presence of this fortress compound would insult the character and history of the surrounding area, and never fit in with the existing community. Pre-sales of units seem unenthusiastic, and this could be one reason why.

 
Questions

Acquaintance with backstory on the change in number of dwelling units opens up a further series of questions.

The first question is:  How is the interested public supposed to find out about this kind of change? The answer is, with difficulty. In this case, only through happenstance did news of the increase in dwelling units dribble out through a news story based on developer information.

No updated information is provided online. The web page for Rezoning Application — 2220 Kingsway seems to constitute a dead zone where only fossils can reside.

An avid development monitor might periodically try asking city planners if there have been changes. Up to the point where a development like this receives an occupancy permit, a determined scrutineer can also ask to look at the plans at city hall.

Sidelight: Information on 2220 Kingsway was further obscured by the city planning decision to skip right past the step in the process that offers a last opportunity for public comment — review of application by Development Permit Board.

The second question is:  How much can an approved project change before it has to go through further public review process? Unsurprisingly, the answer is fuzzy. It appears that a 5% increase in number of units would not reopen the case, but that a 10% increase probably would.

The third question is:  When a developer fiddles around with the specifications that have been approved at public hearing, is it ever the case that enhancement of profit opportunity leads to recalculation of applicable CAC [Community Amenity Contribution]? That question remains unanswered.

 
[1]  REZONING: 2220 Kingsway – Summary and Recommendation
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20130409/documents/phea4-SummaryandRecommendation.pdf

[2]  Naiobh O’Connor. Developing story: Carnival planned to help sell Kingsway condos. Vancouver Courier (19 Nov 2013)
http://www.vancourier.com/authors/developing-story-carnival-planned-to-help-sell-kingsway-condos-1.702189

[3]  2220 Kingsway – By-law No. 10827
http://former.vancouver.ca/blStorage/10827.PDF
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

17 February 2014 at 2:47 pm

Posted in CoV Documents, History, News

3120-3184 Knight Street

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Interim Rezoning Policy — Only for East Vancouver?

 
On 11 February 2014 the City of Vancouver held a second open house about the development proposed for 3120-3184 Knight Street. The history of the application can be viewed on the Rezoning Centre web site.

There it says:  This application is being considered under the Interim Rezoning Policy for Increasing Affordable Housing Choices. In other words, a developer is looking to profit from relaxations and incentives (meaning no CAC/DCL to fund increase to local area amenity in step with population increase).

No information is provided on the spaciousness or affordability of the existing three rental apartment buildings that would be replaced by more expensive new construction.

Summary information for revision of the application shows that rental units have been reduced from 54 to 51 while floor area has decreased from 42,609 sq. ft. to 38,325 sq. ft. Floor plans indicate that 19 of these would be two- or three-bedroom units. The basic math [ 38,325 sq. ft. ÷ 51 = 751.47 sq. ft. average] suggests that every unit would be a shoebox.

The main purpose of this posting is to examine the failure of this application to meet one of the conditions of site location. The Interim Rezoning Policy (click on the Details tab) says that location should be

        within 500 metres (a five-minute walk) of identified neighbourhood centres
        and local shopping areas

In conversation with planner Yan Zeng at the open house event, Eye on Norquay confirmed that city planning regards Commercial Drive retail as the required adjacent shopping area.

Here is the crude City of Vancouver mapping of what are considered arterials and shopping areas for the purposes of the Interim Rezoning Policy:

 
cityareas
 

Direct measurement of sidewalk route with a measuring rod shows that sidewalk distance from center front of site to NW corner of East 13th Avenue at Commercial Drive is around 650 meters. Here’s the route followed, a direct path with good sidewalks for shopping carts, the most level way to pass through an unusually hilly area:

 
streetmap
 

The site fails to meet the distance-to-shopping-area criterion by 150 meters, which is 30% in excess of the maximum. Add to that the laughability of defining of East 13th Avenue at Commercial as shopping area. That terminus only reaches the boundary. Real shopping lies another three blocks or more to the north.

Why would the City of Vancouver so blatantly disregard its own criterion in this instance? One answer may be that it is desperate to find acceptable proposals under the new initiative, to the point of abusing a local community considered unlikely to mount effective defense.

Months after the 3 Oct 2012 adoption of the Interim Rezoning Policy, it appeared that only three provisionally acceptable proposals had been submitted. It seems unlikely that the stated expectation of the Interim Rezoning Policy (under the Progress tab) was ever met: Staff are expected to report back to Council by June 2013.

These are the other two applications that went forward early on:

        1729, 1733 and 1735 East 33rd Avenue  —  [rezoning approved 13 March 2013]

        Pacific Arbour proposal for 4600 block of Dunbar  —  [application rejected March 2013]

So far, under the Interim Rezoning Policy, it looks like the east side of Vancouver gets treated one way while the west side gets treated differently (and deferently).

Will heedless density dumping continue in already far denser East Vancouver — being allowed in this case to ride roughshod over conditions specified for location while destroying more affordable rental units? Another Eye on Norquay posting has mapped a peculiar tendency of developer-giveaway STIR projects to gang up around the Norquay area of East Vancouver.

Brian Jackson, Vancouver’s General Manager of Planning and Development, looking back on 2013, said his “single toughest decision” was to reject a proposal to redevelop the Stong’s site. Coincidentally, that is the block right next to the Pacific Arbour proposal. (A rezoning application is still posted for 4508-4560 Dunbar Street and 3581 West 30th Avenue.) Perhaps the case of 3120-3184 Knight Street offers Jackson an opportunity to show some balance in his decision-making.

Here’s recent news on Interim Rezoning Policy, straight from Brian Jackson:

One has been approved — a co-housing project on East 33rd Avenue and another, called Beulah Garden, is in the works, Jackson said. The project on East Fourth is for 57 units of affordable seniors housing. “They already have a seniors housing project there, so they’re just expanding across the street,” Jackson said. … Thirteen other projects are in the pre-application, the serious enquiry or the initial inquiry stage, including the second co-housing proposal that’s in the pre-application stage.

 

Written by eyeonnorquay

12 February 2014 at 11:34 pm

Posted in CoV Documents, News

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