• 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
Less than one week after the 3 February 2016 news comes out about Lowe’s “friendly $3.2 billion takeover” of Rona, ten separate little pink distant early warning signs have popped up along the Kingsway and Dumfries Street sidewalks to the south and west of the Rona building supply store at 1503 Kingsway.
See Pink Spot on Sidewalk at Left
Close-Up of a Pink Spot
City of Vancouver Public VanMap shows the dimensions of the irregular parcel. By rough calculation, the larger of the two 1503 sites amounts to almost 1.5 acres of land.
VanMap Data for 1503 Kingsway
Perspective on Parcel Size
Only time will tell whether those pink spots represent site infection by terminal condoitis. If that proves to be the diagnosis, woe betide Vancouver’s first “neighbourhood centre” at Kingway and Knight. And chalk up another serious loss of useful retail in an area that was supposed to become more friendly to walkable shopping — but is doing the opposite. (King Edward Village is a monument already to retail desertification.)
The planning exercise achieved nothing except (1) a dump of King Edward Village onto the Safeway site across the street, separated from the local area process that failed to deliver anything besides (2) a fast mass rezoning of 1577 single-family properties. That ugly history has already been exposed in detail at Eye on Norquay.
Unlike what happened with the second “neighbourhood centre” in Norquay, planners and their local area compradors never specified anything for the Kingsway shopping area around Knight. Pretend planning leaves behind blank slates for vulture developers.
Since the first came before the second, it would seem reasonable to retroject key specs from Norquay down the hill to the west: maximum FSR of 3.8, and maximum height of 16 storeys.
While “Norquay” chewed a piece off the eastern edge of Kensington-Cedar Cottage, Kingsway & Knight is supposed to be the neighborhood’s heart. Let’s hope that a stake has not just been driven through it.
New Iron Stake at NW Corner of Site
Lowe’s offers $3.2B to take over Canadian rival Rona
Lowe’s Cos to buy Canada’s Rona for $3.2 billion in cash to
create home improvement giant
Last week was a bad week for assault on public realm at Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway construction site. This seems to be what the corporation’s ballyhooed Gesamtkunstwerk approach amounts to in East Vancouver. Sick dada.
A new category of abuse opened up with someone ripping apart the protective fencing around a mature boulevard tree and cutting it down.
The only evidence that remains is part of the fencing and the stump. This tree, the closest to East 30th Avenue, was part of a row of similar trees that stretch along the east side of the entire block to Kingsway. It seems like two steel barrels were placed to try to make the tree-cutting less obvious to a passerby.
Tree stump photos were taken on 25 January 2016.
The ongoing dumping of untreated construction wastewater directly into storm drains continued with a pump-out of cementitious water from the excavation that was allowed to flood beside and across the Kingsway sidewalk. The photo below shows the residue left around the sewer grate that occupied the middle of a corner bulge that City of Vancouver had landscaped with grasses.
The photo below shows the residue that was trapped on the south side of the Kingsway sidewalk as water flowed across to reach the Kingsway street drain.
These photos were taken on the morning of 27 January 2016.
The experience of trying to report these incidents to City of Vancouver has been disheartening. It appears that Westbank has free rein to disregard any by-law it wants to, with no consequence ever suffered. How could a beholden Vision Vancouver City Council ever allow municipal employees to raise a hand to their master? In so many words — read my lips — inspectors tell you that all they can do is go and beg Westbank to be nice. From what we see so far, Westbank will never be nice.
All the invaded neighborhood can do photograph the welts and scars and publish the documentation.
The City of Vancouver has mailed out notice of a 19 January 2016 public hearing on zoning amendments for the Norquay Apartment Transition Area.
City of Vancouver Documents
Amendments to the Zoning and Development By-law Regarding the RM-9A/9AN Districts for Norquay’s Apartment Transition Area
Draft Districts Schedule:
A By-Law to amend Zoning and Development By-law No. 3575 to create new districts for the Apartment Transition Area in accordance with the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan
RM-9, RM-9A, RM-9N AND RM-9AN Guidelines
Previous Eye on Norquay Postings
September 23rd Open House (16 Sept 2015)
P.S. on RM-9A (19 Sept 2015)
September 23rd Panels (24 Sept 2015)
RM-9A Zoning Compared (24 Sept 2015)
New RM-9A Zone [Formal Comment] (27 Sept 2015)
Apartment Transition Area (9 Dec 2015)
Why Support Apartment? (12 Dec 2015)
Public Input Under RM-9A (17 Dec 2015)
Local areas across Vancouver should feel concern about the matter covered in item 1 below. The City of Vancouver is looking to establish precedent for pushing the four-storey apartment form off of arterial streets for a distance of “approximately 100 metres.” If this creep tactic is not broadly challenged now, on this particular site, unwarranted precedent will have been set. Note that this application under Interim Rezoning Policy appears to be only the seventh submitted since the fall 2012 inception.
The City of Vancouver posted 3 December 2015 revisions to the rezoning application for the northwest corner of Commercial Drive at East 18th Avenue — with no notification to concerned parties who had provided previous comment on the application. Below find comments, plus the previous comments of 1 June 2015, as submitted to City of Vancouver by Jeanette Jones on 9 January 2016. The failures of the revisions to address previous concerns seem inexplicable.
Comment on 3 December 2015 Revisions to Rezoning Application for
3365 Commercial Drive and 1695-1775 East 18th Avenue
The changes to the application proposed in the revisions of December 3, 2015 do not adequately address the issues raised in my comments of June 1, 2015 on the original application. These comments are reproduced below, followed by a current response in italics.
This application should not be approved in its current form for the following reasons:
1. The building form does not meet the criteria set out in the Interim Rezoning Policy. The IRP states that “mid-rise forms up to a maximum of 6 storeys” may be considered if they front on arterials. In this case, a 6-storey building is proposed to front on Commercial Drive. “Within approximately 100 metres of an arterial street” (i.e. behind the apartment building), the IRP permits “ground-oriented forms up to a maximum of 3.5 storeys, which is generally sufficient height to include small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses, and courtyard row houses.” The intent of the IRP is “to encourage innovation and enable real examples of ground-oriented affordable housing types to be tested for potential wider application that will provide on-going housing opportunities.”
Until now, the phrase “ground-oriented forms” has been understood to mean the housing types listed above. In the case of this application, I was told at the Open House that three of the ground floor units in the 4-storey wing have ground-level entries, although only one unit is shown on the floor plan. In any case, the City seems to be implying that the presence of a few ground floor units with ground-level entries makes the entire 23-unit 4-storey wing fronting on East 18th Avenue a “ground-oriented building form.” Planners have referenced examples in other parts of the City.
This is a false comparison. Yes, there are multi-storey apartment buildings in Vancouver where there are a few ground floor units with private, ground-level entries that could be called “ground-oriented units.” But these units do not define the building form. An apartment building does not become a ground-oriented building form because it contains a few units that have private ground-level entries. It does not meet requirements where City policy specifies that ground-oriented housing types should be built. The 4-storey wing of the apartment building proposed in this application needs to be removed. All housing units behind the 6-storey building fronting on Commercial should be small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses, or courtyard row houses, just as the IRP specifies. Otherwise there will be fewer, not more, examples of “ground- oriented affordable housing types” built under the IRP. This would defeat the clearly stated intent of the policy.
I do not know how to state this point more clearly. The proposed 4-storey wing that fronts on East 18th Avenue still violates both the intent and the form of development/location criteria of the Interim Rezoning Policy. It does not provide a suitable “transition zone between higher density arterial streets and single family areas.” The additional setback of the 4th storey does not bring the height of the building down to the 3.5 storey maximum specified by the IRP. If the City of Vancouver is determined to allow 4-storey apartment building form in this location, a detailed rationale for this decision needs to be provided in the Report to Council that will accompany the final recommendation of the Planning
2. The 6-storey apartment building is too tall and massive for this site. The height and mass are excessive for a building in the RS-2 zone. The building should be shorter. Failing this, the 5th and 6th storeys should be set back at least 10 feet from the building edge. The building design should be improved to reduce the massing, and to add interest and variety.
The height of this building has not been reduced. Any additional setback of upper storeys seems to be confined to the back of the building. There is no substantial reduction in the mass of the building as seen from the street.
3. The 6-storey building is set too close to the property line. The setback is only 0.2 metres on Commercial and 0.91 metres on East 18th Avenue. This is not enough. A greater setback would enable landscaping to soften the impact of the building, and make it fit in better with the surrounding residences.
The setback seems unchanged for either building. Front yards in Marpole’s new RM-9/RM-9N zone have a depth of 4.9 metres. In Norquay’s new RM-9A/RM-9AN zone, they have a depth of 3.7 metres (Guidelines, Section 4.4.1). This should be a minimum setback for 100% residential apartment buildings, especially when they front on residential streets.
4. More trees should be retained. At a minimum, the fir and hemlock trees (#1677 and #1678) identified by the arborist as being in “normal” condition should be kept. There should be sufficient space allowed for the root balls of the grove of trees at the corner of Commercial and East 18th Avenue so that those trees survive undamaged.
It does not look as if the two specified trees are being retained. Changes to the 6-storey building seem to reduce rather than expand the space allowed for the root balls of the grove of trees at the corner of Commercial and East 18th Avenue. The community considers these trees the true “heritage value” of this site.
5. The “heritage” house should be removed. The house has little heritage value at present. It will have virtually none after it has had its interior gutted and its exterior finishes replaced, and has been moved from its present location onto a new foundation elsewhere on the site.
I have heard only one person from the neighbourhood speak in favour of retaining this house. The Heritage Commission has stated that its value (minimal at best) is conditional on its remaining in its current location. None of the costs of retaining and moving this house should be included in the applicant’s pro forma. No additional density should be granted for dubious “heritage retention.”
June 1, 2015
January 8, 2016
A bypass of ground water processing at 2220 Kingsway was reported by Eye on Norquay on 8 November 2015. As of 2 January 2016, the City of Vancouver allows such bypassing to continue.
As 2015 turns the corner into forgettable past, the following photo essay documents how Westbank’s contractor at 2220 Kingway continues to scoff at City of Vancouver requirements, and to bypass its own equipment for ground water processing. Freezing conditions help to show what is happening.
In addition, Westbank’s contractor leaves a leaky hose to spew water for days. Cheaper than replacing the damaged hose. Apparent motto: Damn the environment. Waste water. Prioritize profits.
End Point: Kingsway at Gladstone Storm Sewer Looking Upstream
Starting Point: Sump Hose Comes out of Excavation at Left of Hydro Pole
Sump Hose from Excavation to Curbside
Tangle of Blue Hose Leaks Water through Red Tape Patch
Downstream from Sump Hose at Curbside
Curbside toward Kingsway Storm Drain
All photos taken 2 January 2016.
A Decade Plus of Vancouver Local Area Planning
As 2015 comes to an end, Eye on Norquay offers up this retrospective — one little history lesson to pin a lot of isolated bits across the framework-of-torture that serves planning hell. Politicians and planners prefer to operate with bits … and especially their analogues, silos and spots. Except when a “plan” makes it possible to grab more, give less, go bigger, and execute faster.
Besides all that, without an occasional “plan” dress-up, the rest of Vancouver’s development would have to stand naked as a silly opportunistic jumble.
yrs-mos Kingsway & Knight Neighbourhood Centre 2-00 July 2002 to July 2004 (plan) October 2005 (zoning) Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre 4-07 April 2006 to November 2010 (plan) • April 2013 (zoning) May 2013 (benefits strategy) West Point Grey Community Vision 4-08 January 2006 to September 2010 Mount Pleasant 3-07 April 2007 to November 2010 (plan) October 2013 (implementation package) Cambie Corridor 1-10 July 2009 to May 2011 (plan) April 2015 to ---- [phase 3] Downtown Eastside September 2005 ... August 2011 to March 2014 (plan) West End 2-04 July 2011 to November 2013 (plan) • January 2014 (zoning) Marpole 2-09 July 2011 to April 2014 (plan) • May 2014 (zoning) Shaughnessy 1-03 June 2014 to September 2015 (heritage conservation area) Grandview-Woodland 4-04+ July 2011 to ????
The timeline above provides a framework for tales of the local areas that have suffered recent onslaught by City of Vancouver “planning.” Let a Q & A approach test your knowledge of the strung out and the done in.
Who got strung out the longest?
Grandview-Woodland will soon overtake Norquay. Downtown Eastside, whose tortuous path is an exemplar of obfuscation, occupies a class all by itself.
Who wrung the clearest concessions out of City Council?
Marpole — likely the poorest and most vulnerable westside local area. Two other westside areas receive mention in the timeline because their areas were dealt with as a whole — not because they underwent anything like a mass rezoning for denser and faster redevelopment.
Where has City of Vancouver grabbed the most the fastest?
Cambie Corridor, no contest. First and foremost, the “corridor” concept served to simultaneously overwhelm three distinct local areas: Riley Park-South Cambie, Oakridge, Marpole. (Those first two have (had?) community visions, for whatever those exercises are now worth.)
Who got the most “consulted”?
Downtown Eastside. See also “strung out” question above. The City of Vancouver delights to boast in its report to Council (p. 7) of intensive engagement with the LAPP Committee with members investing over 470 hours of volunteer time. [Between the lines: Ask a dis-membered former LAPPster how it feels to be “consulted.”]
Whose “plan” has been most disrespected so far?
Probably Mount Pleasant — consider only (1) the override of extreme nonsupport for Rize-Alliance at Broadway and Kingsway (2) the impending encroachment of Westbank-Hootsuite on industrial land at Main/Quebec and 4th/5th Avenue.
Who stands out for NOT being present?
Most of the “community vision” areas, since the City of Vancouver did a 180 during Norquay planning — and left fifteen years of CityPlan smothered in mothballs. Six of these community vision areas (1998-2010) became hands-off to any subsequent local area planning of the mass-rezone variety: Dunbar (1998), Victoria-Fraserview/Killarney (2002), Sunset (2002), Hastings-Sunrise (2004), Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy (2005), West Point Grey (2010). Even so, significant portions of three primarily eastside areas got steamrolled: Kensington-Cedar Cottage (1998), Renfrew-Collingwood (2004), Riley Park/South Cambie (2005).
Vancouver’s non-mass-rezoned areas contain the great majority of the remaining 68,282 RS (single-family) zoned properties. The value divergence upward for these properties becomes ever more apparent. The two “neighbourhood centre” mass rezonings of 1577 and 1912 properties blitzed immigrant working-class areas in the heart of East Vancouver.
Who suffers the biggest density dump?
West End by a mile. “New planning” for yet more density-dumping has landed on the doorstep of a local area that in 2011 sported a person-per-hectare figure of 218. Downtown had 146. Shaughnessy had 20. The Vancouver average was 53.
Who only pretended to get planned?
Kingsway & Knight. King Edward Village concurrently blockbusted the heart of the area, separated from the planning process. The eventual mass rezoning affected 1577 properties. Meanwhile, the “shopping area” part fell off the back of the planning wagon that was racing uphill toward Norquay. Populate your nightmares with what may happen at the Rona site, since future development for the entire commercial part of the first “neighbourhood centre” was never defined.
When considered as a part of Vancouver, the Norquay area already seems to have acquired far more than its share of the grassy retail outlets that have sprouted up across our greenest city. As the City of Vancouver starts to look for its cut of this “free” enterprise, questions arise. As always, Why Norquay? Could pot shop sprawl be just another aspect of the “revitalization” touted by mass rezoning? The favorite planner question provides hollow echo effect: “Don’t you want a nicer neighborhood with more amenities?” Data below suggests the emergence of yet one more east-west disparity (7 vs 2) in Vancouver.
One Norquay Development Application So Far
The application for 2768 Kingsway — DE419426 is the only application so far for Norquay. Here is what a viewing of the proposed location reveals:
Specific Dilapidated Storefront
Context: Tear-Down Half-Block East of Earles
Development Application Signage
At Rear of Site: Clean-up of Long-Term Dumping Accumulation on 18 December 2015
The owner of this property has abused the Norquay streetscape and neighborhood for a long time. Should this poor treatment of the local community be rewarded with a new medical marijuana license? Also, after such an extended period of neglect, can the existing building structure really satisfy licensing requirements and inspections — unless perhaps some of the anticipated cash flow gets diverted into purchasing adequate nudge-nudge-wink-wink?
New Development Applications Across Vancouver
The City of Vancouver has begun a listing for “Medical Marijuana-Related Use Development Applications” at the foot of its
Development Application Information Web Page
Here is a listing by date of notification letters for the nine applications listed as of 24 December 2015:
Dec 4 4545 West 10th Avenue Wealthshop Social Society Dec 8 2894 East Broadway BC Pain Society Dec 8 2179 West 4th Avenue Buddha Barn Dec 8 2768 Kingsway Medicinal Express Dec 8 3441 Kingsway Scooter Health Society Dec 8 1193 Main Street Herb Co Society Dec 8 6416 Main Street Healing Centre Dec 9 1316 Kingsway MPN Health Society Dec 15 1404 East 57th Avenue Green Room Society
Addresses above are taken from the notification letters. These often vary from the addresses listed in the link on the application web page. If this routine part of the “process” shows that degree of inconsistency, what sort of schmozz is going on at City Hall?
The Rest of Norquay
Norquay is already serviced by the following half-dozen “operations” — which thus far show no sign of applying for an appropriate business license:
Budzilla at 2267 Kingsway
Canna Mart at 2487 Kingsway
Weeds Glass & Gifts at 2580 Kingsway
Just to the east of the Norquay boundary lie three more establishments:
Eggs Canna at 2076 Kingsway
Green Cross Society at 2145 Kingsway
Eastside Compassion Society at 2127 Kingsway
Lots More Questions
1 — With six non-permitted storefronts already operating in the Norquay area, why would City of Vancouver consider an application for a seventh “permitted” one?
2 — What have these enterprises contributed to Norquay? Business license fees? Activation of retail streetscape? Promotion of walkability? Revitalization of Kingsway? Donations for local school programs?
3 — Since the mass rezoning of 1,912 Norquay single-family properties is supposed to result in a “neighbourhood centre,” why should pot shops be strung throughout Norquay?
4 — The gingko leaf shape is stamped into Norquay sidewalks as a symbol of the recent planning, even though City of Vancouver in the delivery has substituted other trees for what the plan specified. Wouldn’t it be appropriate now to grind away those symbols and replace them with marijuana leaves?
5 — Why can’t a business-oriented individual apply for a City of Vancouver “license” to distribute, say, medical ethanol?
6 — In light of the approach toward marijuana purveying over the past few years, why should Norquay residents have any respect for City of Vancouver management, planning, or bylaws?
[Possible answer: Lack of untaxed cash to buy the desired respect.]