• 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
More 2220 Kingsway / Kensington Gardens Marketing Fail?
Through the letter slot on 20 October 2014 slides a glossy foldout that further exposes the failures of Westbank marketing of 2220 Kingsway / Kensington Gardens. Here’s a scan of the front and back.
A Final Tower Release Event is scheduled to “happen” on Saturday 25 October 2014. With this further information, we can see for sure that the ominous-sounding Final Tower can be identified as the least desirable East Tower.
Save the worst till last! The biggest tower in the ugliest location. Even if very few buy, the free food should attract enough of a crowd to obscure that fact.
If nothing else, Westbank should manage to avoid the total embarrassment of absolute no interest that manifested back on 8 February 2014.
Watch Vancouver mainstream media this week to see if some outlet will shill out a shameless infomercial.
Many Months Onward
What has been going on with 2220 Kingsway marketing since early February? A plausible speculation would be that there has always been a push on to market to offshore investors, since that is known to be a favored Westbank strategy.
Perhaps too many prospective buyers, both in Vancouver and elsewhere, have decided that the five-star gem of a Westbank project should not be set along the truck route asphalt of Kingsway.
Perhaps Westbank now is crawling back to the local market in desperation, to try to hawk the humongous pile of leftovers.
Back to the primary market for East Vancouver. But with an image and a cost that will strike smart locals as way too fancy for the location.
Why the Worst?
Why is East Tower the worst tower? Four easy reasons.
One — The tower form is all about the view. This East tower will mainly have breathtaking views of … the other two towers that are the same height. What can be seen to the south and the east is not what shows up in the advertisement. The cruelist trick is that the view of mountains and inlet to the north is doomed when the large site across Kingsway redevelops to the twelve stories specified in the Norquay Plan. No one can own a view.
Two — That outside edge of the fortress will overlook … the noise and exhaust and traffic of delivery trucks in the narrow lane designated to service the big box store buried in the heart of the development. Not to mention all the other traffic (residential and commercial) streaming into and out of the massive underground parking arena. All of the other three perimeter buildings overlook existing streets.
Three — Biggest is least exclusive. And the exterior design is arguably the worst.
Four — Harsh weather will broadside East tower. That tower will provide windbreak for the interior courtyard and the other two towers. That tower may experience higher energy costs. Whenever envelope breach occurs, East Tower should fail first.
Views of What?
Perhaps the biggest flim-flam has to do with views. No one in any tower will enjoy the airplane vista that graces the brochure. Many will be looking mainly at other towers sited for minimum allowed separation. Most residents will have a view that is not that far from pavement level.
How much of that panorama can be seen in the ordinary world? Why have the golden arches of the nearby McDonalds disappeared? Why is there almost no traffic flowing along Kingsway? There are two quick questions that jump to mind.
For the benefit of those unable to examine the old Canadian Tire site in person, here are a few useful local views — across Kingsway, and proceeding west toward downtown for the two blocks to Victoria Drive.
Dollarama Across the Street
The Five-Star Elegance of Those Golden Arches
At Your Doorstep?
Here are the ordinary street distances to the three external “amenities” touted below the disappeared-McDonalds picture. (Remember, that’s a picture in the brochure, not a photograph.)
1.2 km to Kensington Branch of Vancouver Public Library
1.5 km to John Hendry Park / Trout Lake
1.0 km to Nanaimo SkyTrain Station
Any property owner in Vancouver whose doorstep is a kilometer or more away is going to be a very rich person. Imagine having that much land.
Surprises Throughout the Day?
One of the surprises was prepared about three weeks ago. Protective plastic orange fencing went up around City of Vancouver boulevard trees along three edges of the Canadian Tire site.
Pay close attention. This fencing is mostly a subliminal message:
You must decide to buy right now because construction is just about to begin
Never mind that the whole Kensington Gardens project appears to be less than half-sold after a marketing campaign that started in late 2013.
Never mind that the rent-a-fence that has been up for months (to keep out garbage dumpers and strewers of used needles) has come down just ahead of the October 25 event.
Never mind that the condo offerings have already been picked over. Or still will be held back.
Q. When does a full-page advertisement become a news item? A. When you can read between the lines and spot a disaster.
The latest Westbank round of marketing for Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway leaves some dirty underwear peeking out. That’s embarrassing, not sexy. (A whole new dimension for their #gwerk “philosophy,” perhaps.)
Here’s a grab of the ad that displayed on page 29 of Vancouver Metro on 16 October 2014. Same ad, different shape, on page 4 of Georgia Straight in 16-23 October issue. Test yourself. Can you discover the biggie before reading on below for the spoiler? (Oops. The story is already in the headline for this posting …)
The top line of the advertisement says it all. Just do the math. Kensington Gardens equals three towers and some other stuff. The Final Tower Preview is about to arrive. Gasp!
Pause to recall the nothingness of the South Tower Release Event on 8 February 2014. Nobody showed up.
When did tower two catch up with tower one to get “75% sold”? Who knows? Maybe it happened quietly offshore on a fractionalized basis. Maybe some packager has inked a special agreement that allows Westbank to make a claim of units sold. There will be no transparency. An advertisement can claim just about anything.
So three towers, two of them three-quarters sold, computes overall as a project that is half-sold. Half-sold after almost a year of marketing.
Bob Rennie would be so ashamed. Only, he isn’t the one doing the marketing. See link in the nothingness paragraph above for that story.
Let’s dig a little further into the new Westbank advertisement.
How about those 5 star amenities? That’s what you expect with located-in-Vancouver condos that start at a price point of $250,000. Right? No?
Whatever you may find inside the walls of the fortress, here’s a sample of what you can expect to find outside.
Item — 9 Sept 2014 — Gooey condom on Dollarama sidewalk opposite 2220 Kingsway
Item — 8 July 2014 — 6 used needles at Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway
Now there’s some 5 star grossness.
If you need to calm your nerves, though, after having bought into Kingsway grittiness, there are at least three (hard to keep exact count) medical marijuana establishments located within a five-minute walk. There’s local shopping in a walkable neighborhood!
Parks and Greenspace
One of the Westbank advertisement’s four graphics bears the caption
Parks & Greenspace at Your Feet
A vision of Shangri-La that will be found nowhere in East Vancouver. All by itself, this misrepresentation should provide truth-in-advertising grounds to back out of a deal, if there is anyone out there who has been foolish enough to buy a 2220 Kingsway condo sight unseen.
Let two further points wrap up this foolishness. (1) See what City of Vancouver had to say about Norquay parks at our fourth community workshop on 28 April 2009: Only average park land, and lacking in facilities. (2) Despite the priority standing for nearby Brock Park in the Norquay plan, the total sequestration of $3 million CAC from 2220 Kingsway, coupled with dubious traction for our appeals to 2015-2018 capital planning, make it likely that the deteriorated infrastructure will continue to revert to swamp for the indeterminate future.
Notice that Westbank uses the word Asian in the advertisement three times. (1) Prominently in the third line: “world-class Asian grocer” — Is that what you would call Loblaws-owned T & T? (2) In amenities listing: “premier Asian restaurant” (3) In amenities listing: “Asian-inspired park” — A major feature of the SW corner parklet will be underground exhaust air grates.
It does not look as though the Asian buyers desired for this development are stepping forward fast. Perhaps too many of them can smell a pig in a poke?
Beyond this ghetto marketing, Westbank may have failed to tune into Norquay’s shifting demographic. Observations of street life over the past few years tend to confirm Bob Rennie’s anticipation that a hefty chunk of $88 billion of local wealth represented by 113,000 primary dwellings will “help the kids” buy real estate in East Vancouver.
Source: Bob Rennie — 2012 UDI Speech, Point 22
Compare These Two
It looks like Westbank seriously overpaid for their chunk of East Vancouver land. Back in 2011, the purchase price was reported as $34.088 million for 2.3 acres.
That works out to $14.82 million per acre for Kensington Gardens in the heart of East Vancouver versus $14.73 million per acre for Vancouver House downtown.
Also, time is money. The Vancouver House transaction occurred about three years later. Business in Vancouver selected the Vancouver House land purchase price factoid to lead off a story on skyrocketing residential land prices. Three years later.
Developer Westbank paid $32.4 million, or more than $15 million per acre, for the 2.2-acre site of its new Vancouver House residential tower. … The land costs for Vancouver House, for example, translate into $83,000 for each of the 388 condominiums …
Source: Frank O’Brien. “Vancouver residential land prices skyrocket in 2014″ Business in Vancouver
(22 Sept 2014)
Not a Great Investment
A recent long report on the Vancouver real estate situation contrasts a wealthy investor in high-end single-family properties with a struggling family’s luckless, difficult cash-out on a Fairview condo — bought at $385,000 and sold for $335,000 after “a few years.”
More impressive than the single anecdote is this graph that goes along with the story:
Source: Iain Marlow / Brent Jang. “Vancouver’s real estate boom: the rising price of ‘heaven’ ” Globe and Mail (10 Oct 2014)
The bottom line for 2220 Kingsway will never be visible. But it sure looks like the glitz of Westbank hubris has shipwrecked on the hard rock of customer savvy in EastVan.
To: Park Board Commissioners
From: Jeanette Jones
Date: 30 September 2014
Although I attended the meeting last night, I was unable to speak. I will not be able to be present at tonight’s meeting. Below is my submission.
Submission to Vancouver Park Board: 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report
The 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report  states:
Neighbourhood parks are the backbone of the parks system, and are where city residents escape daily to recreate and recharge. With increasing density around many parks, intensifying use, changing demographics and standards, and emerging demands for new recreational and leisure pursuits, the on-going re-thinking and renewal of neighbourhood parks and playgrounds is a continued Park Board priority. (p. 4)
The Report admits “about 25% of the parks and open space portfolio is currently assessed as being in poor condition” (p. 10). Yet the 2015-18 Capital Plan allots only $2M to park renewal. This is about 1.3% of proposed total Park Board investment over the next four years, and less than 6% of the amount allotted for new parks and renewals. I find it difficult to reconcile this paltry funding with the Park Board’s stated priorities.
The $2M allotted for park renewal is expected to cover completion of the work at Hillcrest/Riley Park and a new playground at Andy Livingstone Park. Last night staff suggested that improvements to Sunset Park will come out of this line item as well. At best, only a few hundred thousand dollars will remain to be assigned to the hundreds of other neighbourhood parks in Vancouver.
I encourage you to increase the amount allotted for park renewal. To illustrate the need, I use my neighbourhood park, General Brock Park in Norquay, as an example. [See also Brock Park photos provided as appendix to earlier Eye on Norquay posting about 2015-2018 Capital Plan.]
When we first moved across the street from the park in 1980, it was fairly new and well used. Our three daughters spent many happy hours in the playground with their preschool friends. A cricket team played in the park every Sunday during the warm weather. Informal games of soccer, catch, and frisbee took place often. A post and chain fence separated the park from the lanes that surround it on three sides.
Since then, we have watched the park steadily deteriorate. The underground stream that lies beneath the park has created a field that is so uneven and full of holes that only dogs can run on it. The cricket team left years ago. No one who values their ankles is willing to play games of any kind on the grass, and the soccer goalposts have long since been removed. An asphalt path that was built about 20 years ago provides a place for people to walk for exercise, but the path is now cracked and sagging. The fence rotted and was taken down, enabling residents of some of the houses that border the park to use parkland as extra parking space. The brush area surrounding the stump of a cottonwood tree that was removed a couple of years ago has become a magnet for people to dump garbage. The only part of the park that is used regularly for recreation is the playground, and even this area contains less equipment than it did thirty years ago. There are still no washrooms.
Meanwhile, more and more people have been moving into the area around Brock Park since the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan was passed in 2010. A recently built development at 2300 Kingsway and the already approved Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway, are bringing around 1000 new residents. This is 20% of the 5000 new residents that city staff projects will live in Norquay by 2040. In addition, a 4-storey apartment building containing 94 units has been built at 2239 Kingsway. Another nearby 28-unit apartment is in the pipeline. Three duplexes are under construction, and a duplex with an infill house backing directly onto the park has been approved. All of this development is within three short blocks of Brock Park, and this is only the beginning.
Increasing densification of the area does more than increase the number of residents. It also transfers many activities that have traditionally taken place in private backyards to city parks. Norquay’s new housing forms (duplex, rowhouse, stacked townhouse, small houses on shared lots) leave very little room for open space on the property. Neighbourhood parks are becoming the “shared backyard” where residents are looking to play, exercise, garden, and socialize. We are looking for picnic tables, exercise and play equipment for all ages, landscaping, and open space where we can run and play.
No adequate park renewal will be possible without adequate funding. One hundred thousand dollars will do little more than begin to address the drainage issues in a single park, and many of Vancouver’s neighbourhood parks have drainage issues.
The City of Vancouver has repeatedly assured Norquay residents that new development will bring new amenities. Recent development in Norquay has generated millions of dollars for the City in DCLs and CACs, but we have yet to see the promised amenities. The Norquay Public Benefits Policy (2013) identifies the renewal of General Brock Park as a high priority. Please help the City to keep its word by increasing the allotment for neighbourhood park renewal.
 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report
On 16 May 2013, a last piece of the Norquay Plan — “for the next 30 years” (see Recommendation A) — was approved by Vancouver City Council.  This action more or less put an end to seven years of struggling to try to get a decent plan. Already the replacement struggle is to get the City of Vancouver to stick with and to respect its own planning for Norquay.
One big benefit of having an up-to-date local area plan has just become apparent.
Start with the complete text of Recommendation B from the document:
THAT Council set the fixed-rate targets for Community Amenity Contributions from rezonings
— on Kingsway for sites under .4 ha., a rate of $107.60 per sq. m. ($10.00 per sq. ft.)
of floorspace achieved in excess of existing zoning.
— in the Apartment Transition Area, a rate of $161.40 per sq. m. ($15.00 per sq. ft.)
of floorspace achieved in excess of existing zoning. [p. 1]
The general good news here is that Norquay should see some payback from CAC [Community Amenity Contribution] as our local area (which is already considerably more dense than much of the rest of Vancouver) houses even more new people.
The specific good news is that fixed-rate CAC is not listed as a waiver item under Rental 100 policy.  This means that at least a pittance of CAC should trickle into Norquay along with the flood of new residents who, other than having found themselves a place to live, bring impact burden rather than benefit.
Here is what the 2012 annual report on benefits  says about fixed rate:
Certain areas of the city have their own area-specific CAC and/or public benefit policies determined as part of Area Plans (e.g. Arbutus Neighbourhood and Southeast False Creek both have fixed rate targets for CACs). [p. B-2; pdf 14]
In this respect at least, Norquay can now expect to receive the same treatment as two west side areas.
In closing, to moderate anticipations of CAC bounty, let Eye on Norquay calculate how CAC has done NOTHING so far for 99+% of area residents:
2006 2300 Kingsway $2,400,000 (single-purpose on-site 37-space daycare facility) 2012 2711 Kingsway $ 105,846 (to mitigate impacts on existing daycare) 2013 2220 Kingsway $4,011,720 (in-kind enhancements for developer's project, plus $3 million stashed and steadily losing value)
 Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan Implementation — Public Benefits Strategy and Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy (16 May 2013)
 Secured Market Rental Housing Policy (May 2012)
 2012 Annual Report on Public Benefits from Approvals of Additional Density
Under the Rental 100 program of the City of Vancouver, a developer seeks to replace three “transition zone” single-family houses with 28 units in four-storey apartment. The Rental 100 program provides significant concessions to developers (DCL waiver, parking reduction, decrease in unit size, additional density, expedited processing). These bonuses get piled on top of a massive density increase brought in by the 2010-2013 Norquay Plan. The only result that the local community expects to see is more people jammed into the same streets and public spaces. Norquay continues to experience no significant delivery on amenity promises.
Because of residence within the notification boundary for this proposed development, Eye on Norquay received notification of a “pre-application open house” for this site and attended the event on the evening of 10 September 2014.
2312-2328 Galt Street on 15 April 2014
(These three small bungalows, each on a 33 x 122 lot, were listed as an assembly by Re/Max
on 14 April 2014 at $999,000 per lot. Actual selling price is not known.)
Here is the pre-application notification received by area residents:
See Appendix below for the five display panels from the 10 September 2014 pre-application open house.
These two parameters stand out in this proposal:
FSR increase from 2.0 to 2.2
Courtyard width reduction from 30 ft to 25 ft
Both of these variations result from piling Rental 100 on top of an already-dense brand-new zoning.
Reference: Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy — Appendix C, section 3 [pdf 42] (16 May 2013)
The developers at the open house forthrightly admitted that they anticipate charging the highest rates possible under Rental 100 guidelines. (Those guidelines were formulated to cover all of Vancouver.) Under such conditions, why would a prospective landlord dump new density anywhere except East Vancouver, so that maximized margins can be exploited?
2312-2328 Galt Street is the second proposal to emerge in Norquay under Rental 100. The first, at 2768 Kingsway, immediately got red-flagged for preposterous claims to rental affordability.
2312-2328 Galt Street is the third proposal to emerge in Norquay under new Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy. The first was 2298 Galt Street, now under construction. The second is 4859-4879 Slocan Street, for which a pre-application open house was held in late spring 2014.
Appendix — Five Panels
In 2011, extensive participation in City of Vancouver capital planning process (see Norquay Residents Submission to 2012-2014 Draft Capital Plan) resulted in allocations for zero improvements specific to the 2010 Norquay Plan.
Three years onward, the next capital plan is set to run to 2018. If Norquay gets nothing in the current round of capital planning, it is hard to believe that we will ever see any significant local improvements that mitigate our unwanted mass rezoning.
What looks more and more like all-take-no-give density dumping would prove a confirmed fact. Under such conditions, why would any sane neighborhood ever welcome “additional planning”?
During 2014, Jeanette Jones has taken a lead in trying to get engaged with the 2015-2018 Capital Plan. Spending plans solidify out of the public eye, and then emerge as theoretically tweakable concrete at a late-in-the-process “open house.” To make a useful submission within such framework is a painful slog.
Come out August 28 or September 4 and see whether there is anything planned for Norquay. Taking into account planning and priorities and actual Norquay growth, Jeanette has already made the best timely case she could for Norquay to get a downpayment on all the big promises. If you can’t make one of the two open houses, at least send in a brief response saying that significant allocation must go to Norquay.
Also see at CityHallWatch:
• • • • • • •
Here is the 24 May 2014 comment that Jeanette Jones supplied to City of Vancouver — slightly revised for this August 2014 posting, with photo captions added.
Capital Plan Proposal for Brock Park
I have lived in the vicinity of Brock Park for over four decades. When we first moved into the area the park was fairly new and well used. Our three daughters spent many happy hours of their childhoods in the playground with their friends. A cricket team played in the park on Sundays during warm weather. Other teams played soccer. Informal games of soccer, catch, and frisbee took place often. A post and chain fence separated the park from lanes along three sides.
Since then, I have watched the park steadily deteriorate. An underground stream that runs beneath the park contributes to a playing field that is so uneven and full of holes that only dogs would try to run there [photos 1-2-3-4 below]. The cricket team left years ago. No one who values their ankles would play games of any kind on the grass, and the soccer goalposts have long since disappeared. An asphalt path built about twenty years ago provides a place for people to walk for exercise, but the path is now cracked and sagging [photo 5 below]. The posts rotted and the fencing was removed. Quite a few residents of houses that surround the park now use park as their extra parking space [photo 6 below]. A brushy area around the stump of a cottonwood tree that was removed a couple of years ago has become a magnet for garbage dumping [photo 7 below]. The only part of the park that is used regularly for recreation is the playground, which is less attractive now than it was thirty years ago. There are still no washrooms.
In the meantime, many new people have moved into the area around Brock Park. A recently built development at 2300 Kingsway together with the already approved Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway add up to about 800 dwelling units. This already accounts for about 20% of the 5000 new residents that city staff have projected to live in all of Norquay by 2040. In addition, a 4-storey 94-unit apartment building has been completed at 2239 Kingsway. Behind are eight new single family houses and a small “four storey apartment” with four units on Galt Street between Kingsway and Brock Park. (Taken together, these developments occupy the two-acre site of the London Guard Motel.) All of this development is within 400 meters of Brock Park.
The Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan adopted by Council in 2010 provides for new, denser housing forms to replace single family houses. Two large duplexes have almost been completed on Brock Street just east of Nanaimo. A development application for duplex plus infill under the new RT-11 zoning has just been approved for 4517 Nanaimo Street, a property that backs onto Brock Park. The appearance of other nearby sites suggests that redevelopment is imminent. The area near Brock Park is the first part of Norquay to experience multiple major and smaller developments.
Increasing densification of the area does not only bring many new residents. It also transfers many activities that have traditionally taken place in backyards to city parks. The new housing forms (duplex, rowhouse, stacked townhouse, small houses on shared lots) leave very little room for open space on the property. City parks are becoming the “shared backyard” where residents look to play, exercise, garden, and socialize. We expect picnic tables, exercise and play equipment for all ages, landscaping, and open space where we can run and play.
The Norquay Public Benefits Strategy (Report to Council of 22 April 2013) defines this priority:
Given its location nearer areas with anticipated greater population growth, General Brock Park
is considered to be the first priority for upgrading in the first 10 years of the Strategy. (p. 9-10)
The Strategy assigns $2M to the “renewal of existing facilities and infrastructure” in Brock Park, Slocan Park, and Earles Park (Appendix A, Item D). The area near Brock Park is experiencing far more rapid development than the areas around the other two parks in Norquay — indeed, more than most other areas of the city at the present time — and it seems likely to continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
The City of Vancouver has repeatedly assured Norquay residents that development of parks will accompany the development of new housing. The renewal of Brock Park must be included in the 2015-2018 Capital Plan.
No. 1 — Baby Sinkhole. Break a Leg!
No. 2 — Fit for a Dog?
No. 3 — Even the Park Board Mower Avoids This Iron
No. 4 — Plywood Treatment for Bog Spot
No. 5 — Greenwash Could Call This “Rewilding”?
No. 6 — “Park” It Is!
No. 7 — They Cut Down Our Big Tree & Then … Did Nothing
How do grit and glitz coexist?
Kensington Gardens, a pseudo-Brit-named development headed for 2220 Kingsway is going to have to do its best to ignore the weeds beyond the perimeter. Because we doubt that their gardener will deign to care for the other side of Kingsway. We know the City of Vancouver won’t. Wrong part of town. Yes, here …
Western Norquay on 11 August 2014
A month ago, Westbank Projects Corp and City of Vancouver coordinated a lightspeed tidy-up job on the site after a pair of tweets called attention to graffiti and used hypodermic needles. Here’s the first tweet —
Westbank’s ironic public art at 2220 Kingsway. Used needle invisible in foreground
#vancouver #eastvan #vanre #vanpoli
— and the photo that went with it:
Westbank Marketing Monolith on morning of 8 July 2014
CityHallWatch independently followed up in the afternoon with report of a pile of used needles elsewhere on the site. For a while the pair of graphics below ruled the roost at Twitter’s #vanpoli hashtag:
On the morning of 9 July 2014, Sadhu Johnston, Deputy City Manager, tweeted
City staff filled a pick-up with the garbage found on the public land there
The fact remains that the City of Vancouver has clearly stated that it has no intention of maintaining the Norquay public realm. Not even the weedy new corner bulges that it installed at Kingsway and Gladstone as a token “reward” for inflicting mass rezoning on hundreds of acres.
In later exchange I offered to help City of Vancouver allocate its $1.2 billion budget. So far they have not taken me up on that offer.