Eye on Norquay

Looking Out for East Vancouver

      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

First Three Triplexes

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Triplexes are the most dense form of development permitted on standard single lots in Norquay’s RM-7 Rowhouse/Stacked Townhouse zone,. Since 2013 nine triplex applications have been approved. Three projects have been completed (see photos). The remaining six projects await start of construction.


     5189 Clarendon Street — Configuration One — Completed 2016

Unit Configuration

The factor that most affects the livability of a triplex unit is how the units are configured within the building. In these nine applications, three different unit configurations have been brought forward.

Configuration Type One  —
Two side-by-side units, with one other unit (usually at the back) extended across the width of the building. Some of these units are long and narrow. This configuration works best on a corner lot, where the third unit can front onto a side street. Each unit is usually three storeys, each requiring a separate set of space-consuming stairs.

Configuration Type Two  —
Two 2-level units on the upper storeys with one unit situated at the basement (“garden”) level. The upper units may be either front-back on narrower lots, or side-by-side on wider, shallower lots. With wider units, fewer inside stairways are required.

Configuration Type Three  —
One unit on each level. The two units on the first and second levels are accessed by outside stairs. Only the upper storey requires provision of an inside stairway. This configuration seems optimal, providing the greatest amount of usable space and the most flexibility for unit layout. One of the three applications proposing this configuration is nearing completion at 2743 Duke Street. COVID-19 restrictions likely will preclude the open house that would provide an opportunity to examine the inside of that building.

The application for 4856 Slocan Street (configuration type two) proposes a triplex with a fourth unit in a separate building at the back of the lot — in essence, a laneway house. The additional unit was permitted because of the lot’s exceptional 172-foot depth. This project was designed to match the adjoining apartment building, which was constructed by the same developer.


     5002 Highgate Street — Configuration One — Completed 2018

Other Considerations

Unit Size  —
Most units are 3-bedroom and have an area of approximately 1000 – 1100 square feet.

Affordability  —
A unit of 1100 square feet was advertised in 2016 for $1M. A unit of 1300 square feet was advertised in 2018 for $1.2M. A unit of 940 square feet is being advertised in 2020 for $900,000.

Roofline  —
Four of the applications feature a gabled roof and five feature a flat or low-pitched shed roof. Flat roofs must be set back from the front of the building. There are very few flat-roofed single family houses in Norquay. To respect neighbourhood context, flat roofs should be restricted to sites on corners, on arterial streets, or adjacent to other flat-roofed buildings (e.g. schools, apartment buildings, or stacked townhouses).

Open space  —
Each unit is to have some private open space, either at ground level or in the form of a balcony. In practice, it has been difficult to fulfill this requirement. Ground level open space is at a premium, and most of it is shared. One application features a shared roof garden.

Secondary suites  —
These are not permitted in the RM-7 zone. One unit of a triplex may contain a lock-off unit.

Parking  —
The RM-7 parking requirement for vehicles is two open spaces for every 3 units. There is no parking requirement for lock-off units. All triplex projects in Norquay provide 3 on-site vehicle parking spaces. Bicycle parking spaces are required as per the Parking By-Law (currently 2.5 spaces for each unit with a minimum area of 65 square metres, and 1.5 spaces for each smaller unit). Functional placement of bicycle parking spaces presents a challenge in all RM-7 building forms.


     2743 Duke Street — Configuration Three — Completed 2020


Specifications for Triplex

Minimum Site Size:  303 square metres (3260 square feet). Sites larger
than 445 square metres (4790 square feet) are permitted 4 or more units.

Floor Space Ratio:  0.90

Maximum Height:  11.5 metres / 37.5 feet


Norquay Sites Approved for Triplexes

Address                       Application Date         Configuration Type

5189 Clarendon Street         2014 October 16          One

5002 Highgate Street          2015 March 2             One

2711 Ward Street              2018 January 5           Two

2632 Ward Street              2018 April 4             One

2743 Duke Street              2018 June 7              Three

2726 Ward Street              2018 August 15           Three

5385 Earles Street            2020 February 13         One

4856 Slocan Street            2020 February 10         Two

2775 Ward Street              2020 April 8             Three


Written by eyeonnorquay

7 July 2020 at 8:40 pm

One More Blockbusting

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2538 Birch Street Front Runs Broadway Corridor Plan


     from:  Jeanette Jones
       to:  Bligh, Rebecca; Boyle, Christine; Carr, Adriane;
            De Genova, Melissa; Dominato, Lisa; Fry, Pete;
            Hardwick, Colleen; Kirby-Yung, Sarah; Stewart, Kennedy;
            Swanson, Jean; Wiebe, Michael
       cc:  Joseph Jones
            Gil Kelley; Susan Haid; Theresa O'Donnell
     date:  July 3, 2020, 3:13 PM
  subject:  One More Blockbusting: 2538 Birch Street
            Front Runs Broadway Corridor Plan

To:  Mayor and Council
cc:  Gil Kelley — Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability
       Susan Haid — Deputy Director of Long-Range and Strategic Planning
       Theresa O’Donnell — Deputy Director for Current Planning

Re:  CD-1 AMENDMENT: 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway)
       Agenda Item #1 for Public Hearing of July 9, 2020

This proposed building would set a precedent for height and density in the Broadway Corridor. No precedent-setting application should be approved shortly before or concurrent with an active planning process.

This is not the first time that the Planning Department has brought forward a specific application that would set a precedent for height and density in an area that is undergoing a planning process. Such blockbusting has been consistent practice over the past 20 years. To newly-elected councillors or newly-appointed staff, this application may look like an isolated instance. To long-term residents who follow planning proposals, this particular rezoning looks like one more deliberate instance. A listing at the end of this email provides ten case studies where City of Vancouver has brought forward similar precedent-setting applications.

In Norquay, a proposal for a 22-storey tower was approved for 2300 Kingsway on January 24, 2006. The kickoff event for the Norquay planning process took place on March 25, 2006. As members of the Norquay Working Group, we directly experienced how this sort of pre-approval influenced the planning process. One planner asked us if we didn’t think that our neighbourhood would look rather strange if there was one 22-storey tower on Kingsway, with nothing else taller than the 6 to 8 storey buildings that residents favoured. Later in the process, a different planner called the 2300 Kingsway development “a mistake.”

Preempting the planning process in this way makes it almost impossible for residents to trust the City of Vancouver, or to believe that planners act in good faith.

We oppose your approving this CD-1 Amendment. The 16-storey building that was approved in 2018 has neighbourhood support. The applicant should either build that project, or wait until the Broadway Corridor Plan is approved and then submit a new application.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

   How Major Rezonings Front Run Active Area Planning

   Rezoning Approved:  2003 Jun 24
       Plan Approved:  2004 Jul 08
             Storeys:  17
    Specific Project:  King Edward Village – Kingsway at Knight
           Area Plan:  Kingsway-Knight Neighbourhood Centre Rezoning
   Rezoning Approved:  2006 Jan 24
       Plan Approved:  2010 Nov 04
             Storeys:  22
    Specific Project:  2300 Kingsway – Kingsway at Nanaimo
           Area Plan:  Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2011 Apr 11
       Plan Approved:  2014 Jan 07
             Storeys:  16
    Specific Project:  Granville at 70th
           Area Plan:  Marpole Community Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2011 Jul 19
       Plan Approved:  2014 Jan 07
             Storeys:  35
    Specific Project:  Marine Gateway – Marine at Cambie
           Area Plan:  Marpole Community Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2012 Jun 11
       Plan Approved:  2013 Nov 07
             Storeys:  22
    Specific Project:  The Lauren – 1401 Comox St
           Area Plan:  West End Community Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2012 Feb 27  (application 2010 Jul 26)
       Plan Approved:  2010 Nov 18
             Storeys:  21
    Specific Project:  The Independent – Broadway at Kingsway
           Area Plan:  Mount Pleasant Community Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2012 Oct 16
       Plan Approved:  2014 Mar 15
             Storeys:  12
    Specific Project:  The Heatley – 955 East Hastings
           Area Plan:  Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2014 Mar 14
       Plan Approved:  2018 May 01
             Storeys:  45
    Specific Project:  Oakridge Centre
           Area Plan:  Cambie Corridor Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2016 Dec 14  (application 2016 Jun 29)
       Plan Approved:  2016 Jun 28
             Storeys:  30
    Specific Project:  The Joyce – 5050 Joyce St
           Area Plan:  Joyce Station Precinct Plan
   Rezoning Approved:  2018 Jun 19 – withdrawn  (application 2016 Jul 27)
       Plan Approved:  2016 Jul 28
             Storeys:  12
    Specific Project:  Kettle Boffo Project
           Area Plan:  Grandview-Woodland Community Plan
   Rezoning Proposed:  2020 July 09
       Plan Underway:  
             Storeys:  28
    Specific Project:  2538 Birch Street
           Area Plan:  Broadway Corridor Plan


Written by eyeonnorquay

3 July 2020 at 11:11 am

Regulation Redesign

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On Regulation Redesign and Pre-Zoning


     from:  Jeanette Jones
       to:  Bligh, Rebecca; Boyle, Christine; Carr, Adriane;
            De Genova, Melissa; Dominato, Lisa; Fry, Pete;
            Hardwick, Colleen; Kirby-Yung, Sarah; Stewart, Kennedy;
            Swanson, Jean; Wiebe, Michael
       cc:  Joseph Jones
            Gil Kelley; Jessie Adcock; Lon Laclaire; Theresa O'Donnell
     date:  June 18, 2020, 6:36 AM
  subject:  Increasing the supply of more affordable housing more quickly
            through regulation redesign and pre-zoning

To:  Mayor and Council
cc:  Gil Kelley — Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability
       Jessie Adcock — General Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing
       Lon LaClaire, General Manager of Engineering
       Theresa O’Donnell — Deputy Director for Current Planning

Re:  Increasing the supply of more affordable housing more quickly through
      regulation redesign and pre-zoning

Recent presentations to Council have suggested that the most effective ways to speed up construction of new, more affordable housing units are to streamline regulations and to pre-zone large areas of the City for denser housing forms. This idea was reiterated in the “COVID-19 Housing Response” presented on April 29, 2020. The first steps in regulation redesign are to be considered at the upcoming Public Hearing on June 25, 2020. A proposal to pre-zone for larger buildings in the C-2 districts is described in Referral Report #10 on the Agenda for the Council meeting of June 23, “Amendments to the Zoning and Development By-law to Increase Rental Housing in the C-2, C2B, C2C, and C-2C1 Commercial Districts.”

We recognize that both streamlining regulations and increasing pre-zoning will to some extent reduce the time necessary to complete projects. In principle, we support this work if it is carefully done.

However, we know that the length of time that passes between application for a project and its completion is influenced by many other factors as well. Since the Norquay Plan was approved in 2010, we have monitored new development in Norquay. We regularly check both the Rezoning Applications web page and the Development Applications web page for new applications. We also walk through the area approximately once a month. We have noticed great variations in the time that elapses between posting of application and completion of project. A table of data for Norquay Development Applications between 2016 and 2019 is appended to this letter.

On the basis of our experience in Norquay over the past ten years, we have identified significant other factors that contribute to the failure to complete projects in a timely manner:

        Poor project design. As initially proposed, many projects have major design flaws. Planning
        staff spends considerable time working with applicants to bring these projects up to standard.
        Better design at time of application would lead to better processing time.

        Inexperienced builders. New zoning for low-density housing forms attracts some builders
        inexperienced in building these housing forms, or inexperienced in building under Vancouver
        regulations, or both. These builders find it more difficult to understand and to follow regulations
        and they may lack well-developed contacts with the necessary trades.

        Delays in receiving permits or inspections. This may be due to slow municipal processes.
        But delay in receiving permits also results from the length of time it takes builders to meet
        the conditions set out in the prior-to letter of approval.

        Shortage of tradespeople. Many Norquay construction sites sit idle for weeks or even months
        at the stage where electricians, plumbers, drywallers, etc. are needed. Shortage of particular
        trades labor sometimes means that poorly executed work has to be torn out or remediated.
        (As one example, extensive concrete work had to be jackhammered out and repoured at the
        large development at 2220 Kingsway.)

        Unforeseen financing problems. We have seen many approved projects in Norquay advertised
        for sale before construction begins or when the project is only partially finished. In either case,
        the affected site can sit idle for months or even years. The weakening market for condos has
        meant that slower presales delay start of construction. A few Norquay projects have become
        subject to court-ordered sale. The impacts of COVID-19 promise to exacerbate financing difficulties.

Streamlining regulations and increasing pre-zoning seem unlikely to increase the supply of more affordable housing in Vancouver as quickly as suggested. Ultimately, the problem of housing affordability in Vancouver will not addressed to any significant degree unless more public assets are directed toward subsidized housing, with involvement by all levels of government.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

Completion Status 2016-2019 for
42 Norquay Development Applications 


RT-11  =  Small House/Duplex

Status          Posted   Units  Form           Address         

Completed       2016      3     SmH/Duplex     2236 East 35th Avenue
Completed       2016      3     SmH/Duplex     5570 Dundee Street
Completed       2016      4     SmH/Duplex     5651 Earles Street
Completed       2016      5     SmH/Duplex     2253 East 35th Avenue

Completed       2017      3     SmH/Duplex     2441 East 40th Avenue
Underway        2017      4     SmH/Duplex     4525 Clarendon Street
Not Started     2017     10     SmH/Duplex     2310 Brock Street

Underway        2018      6     SmH/Duplex     2555 East 40th Avenue
Underway        2018      6     SmH/Duplex     4996 Moss Street
Not Started     2018      4     SmH/Duplex     2396 East 38th Avenue
Not Started     2018      6     SmH/Duplex     2469 East 40th Avenue
Not Started     2018      3     SmH/Duplex     2421 East 41st Avenue

Not Started     2019      6     SmH/Duplex     5455 Killarney Street


RM-7  =  Stacked Townhouse  |or|  Rowhouse  |or|  Triplex
        |or|  Fourplex  |or|  Small House/Duplex

Status          Posted   Units  Form           Address        

Completed       2016      9     Stacked TH     2384 East 34th Avenue
Completed       2016      4     Rowhouse       2631 Duke Street
Completed       2016      6     Stacked TH     2679 Horley Street
Completed       2016     16     Stacked TH     2719 Ward Street
Underway        2016     10     Stacked TH     5005 Chambers Street
Underway        2016      9     Stacked TH     5005 Clarendon Street
Underway*       2016      8     Stacked TH     4740 Duchess Street
*(original application for smaller site at 4730 Duchess Street in 2014)
Underway        2016      9     Stacked TH     4412 Nanaimo Street

Completed       2017      3     SmH/Duplex     4711 Slocan Street
Underway        2017      4     Rowhouse       2725/2731 Duke Street
Not Started     2017     12     Stacked TH     4787 Slocan Street

Completed       2018      3     Triplex        2743 Duke Street
Underway        2018      9     Stacked TH     2288 East 33rd Avenue
Not Started     2018     12     Stacked TH     5080 Chambers Street
Not Started     2018      8     Stacked TH     2663 Duke Street
Not Started     2018      4     Fourplex       5150 Slocan Street
Not Started     2018      3     Triplex        2632 Ward Street
Not Started     2018      3     Triplex        2711 Ward Street
Not Started     2018      3     Triplex        2726 Ward Street

Not Started     2019      6     Stacked TH     4770 Duchess Street
Not Started     2019      8     Stacked TH     2683 & 2689 Duke Stree
Not Started     2019      4     Rowhouse       4828 Duchess Street


RM-9A  =  Four-Storey Apartment

Status          Posted   Units  Form           Address        

Completed       2016     53     4-Storey Apt   4894 Slocan Stree
Underway        2016     23     4-Storey Apt   2688 Duke Street
Not Started*    2016     44     4-Storey Apt   4869 Slocan Street
*(new application submitted in 2020)

Underway        2017     30     4-Storey Apt   2652 Duke Street

Not Started     2018     29     4-Storey Apt   2628 Duke Street

Underway        2019     47     4-Storey Apt   2436 East 33rd Avenue
Not Started     2019     27     4-Storey Apt   4715 Nanaimo Street



Written by eyeonnorquay

18 June 2020 at 11:11 am

Invisible & Unaccountable

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Invisible Unaccountable Virtual Council

Since their meeting held on 12 March 2020, the councillors of Vancouver City Council have used the declaration of COVID-19 emergency to remain invisible to the residents of Vancouver — invisible to the people whose interests they are supposed to represent. That is for one quarter of one year now. Such ongoing invisibility is one element of a tremendous and sudden increase in unaccountability.



To the extent that councillors provide a mere ceremonial face — a front for a bureaucracy that enjoys a continuity that their own four-year stints may not — the councillors are not to blame. Much of the time, councillors routinely and often appropriately sign off on staff reports. When council is doing its job, it truly oversees bureaucracy and provides a channel for constituency expertise and critique to ameliorate policy development. Factors that have aggravated this council’s structural subservience include inexperience, failure to prioritize, lack of perspective, diverging ideologies, self-interest, and laziness. The more that councillors are isolated from the public, the easier it becomes for bureaucracy to work its unchecked will.

Technologies and Accessibilities

This already bad situation has been worsened by City of Vancouver insistence on continuing to use dysfunctional Cisco Webex technology. On 26 May 2020, the ongoing communications chaos led City Manager Sadhu Johnston to announce three parallel channels at the start of the afternoon council session. Bob Kronbauer noticed and documented the odd kludge of an almost empty council chamber using a cellphone to generate livestream for on-screen presentations. [1]

Councillors clearly experience difficulty in managing their individual multichannel set-ups. Failures to mute induce cacophony. Disconnects provide occasion for recess. Components like headsets go haywire. Individual competence in simultaneously operating a multiplicity of equipment varies greatly. Right after Mike Howell detailed how Mayor Stewart would “run council meetings from his apartment” [2], the meeting of 14 April 2020 lost much of the morning while Stewart migrated back to his City Hall quarters.

Probably the best single documentation of City Hall’s current technological hodge-podge is a set of formal responses made to inquiry by Bob Kronbauer. He copied the responses into four separate frames attached to a tweet (10:56 AM – 26 May 2020]. The texts from City of Vancouver communications to Bob Kronbauer re use of Cisco Webex include this rationale for councillor invisibility:

        Council meetings and Public Hearings are audio-only to support remote speaker participation.
        By requiring only a phone to call in, this minimizes barriers to access for the public in removing
        the need for a computer or smartphone with internet access.

From a service-to-client point of view, this sort of lowest-common-denominator approach lacks logic. As long as the basic call-in facility is made available, no barrier to visual access need be raised to those having capabilities for greater access. Perhaps instead, City of Vancouver should further consider the barriers to access experienced by the hearing-impaired or by persons whose first language is not English. No visuals means that others are being denied access to the additional cues that would assist their ability to understand. If the parallel channel of going to City Hall is being maintained, surely provision of a virtual channel for visual access is both possible and reasonable.

Language in the recent relevant provincial regulation makes it clear that City of Vancouver has unaccountably opted to provide the poorest possible virtual access to Council:

        … the facilities must enable the public to hear, or watch and hear, the meeting at the
        specified place … [3]


Early on in the COVID-19 era, it became obvious that council could operate without quorum. In March and April meetings, apart from occasional vocal quorum checks, actual votes were providing the only indication that a sufficient minimum of councillors were in fact “present” to constitute a valid meeting. A chair’s offer of a “vote assist” has become a code phrase for “hey, you, where are you?” …

The quorum issue was raised by Joseph Jones on 13 May 2020. [4] Two weeks later council showed concerns about verifying quorum.

        Adriane Carr (Chair)  27 May 2020 AM 10:37:45 – 10:38:06
        Councillors, just before I move to the speakers list for questions I just want to remind you all that
        you need to have your video turned on. The reason is that that is the way the clerks check to ensure
        that there is quorum — they can’t see you in person in any other way other than the video.

Less than an hour after that, Carr was repeating the admonition to a second councillor.

If video is accessible only to the City Clerk, and perhaps councillors, then the public is forced to entrust maintenance of quorum to inaccessible data and to persons who are not independent referees. Democracy suffers great damage from such concealment.

Presumption Seeks Invisibility

Two particular councillors have gone on record about the preference that they have rapidly developed for the option of invisibility.

Right after Carr issued her first call for video presence, Councillor Melissa De Genova gratuitously prefaced her question time with a declaration of her intention to exert at will the privilege of shutting down her video feed:

        Melissa De Genova  27 May 2020 AM 10:39:09 – 10:39:31
        Thanks, Chair Carr, and sometimes in these long meetings I like to get up and stretch with my
        headset on — I don’t want it to look like I’m not here. So, that’s what I – I will sometimes turn off
        my video feed also … if uh if I’m chasing around my toddler so I just wanted — she’s not here
        today but I’m hoping that we will have the regular scheduled breaks — that won’t be an issue.

Decorum is lost when a councillor — who has never been seen to chase around her toddler in council chamber — feels entitled to do so while virtual council is in session. Such lack of decorum should constitute grounds for a Code of Conduct complaint.

On the following day, Councillor Pete Fry asserted a comparable privilege: “It would be tough on us to be onscreen full 10-13hrs” [5].

Why should on-screen time become a more difficult task for virtual Council, especially after they have already spent a year providing physical presence to video cameras in council chamber? Their substantial savings in commute times should be reward enough. To appear in public for council meetings is the primary job that councillors have been elected to do.

The length of meetings offers no reasonable excuse. The length easily could be varied by having shorter and more frequent meetings. This change would befit what they should regard as a full-time well-paid job. Better defined times would also offer far greater certainty for speakers to council. Councillors themselves notoriously contribute to the extreme and unnecessary length of certain meetings.

Visibility Is Overdue

On 19 May 2020 British Columbia entered Phase 2 of COVID-19 management. Among the listed activities that can be resumed under enhanced protocols is “office-based worksites.” [6] If grocery store staff have been able to operate without any interruption at all, councillors at this stage should be able to make themselves viewable to their public. The time has arrived for ending an invisibility era that has become far too convenient. This call was already made by former councillor George Affleck on 28 May 2020. [7]



Coda: The Invisibility of Virtual Council Invisibility

Monetized media reporting (aka MSM) on COVID-19 Virtual Vancouver City Council has utterly failed to grapple with the dysfunctionality and democracy damage that audio-only proceedings have been wreaking. Diversionary focus has been set squarely on politics and proceduralities. McElroy slips in one brief mention of “technical snafus.” Macarenko opens with one bare mention of “technical glitches.” Howell and Tanner write as though virtuality were no factor at all.

Justin McElroy. Vancouver council faces criticism for slow response in COVID-19 recovery (20 May 2020)

Gloria Macarenko. Interview: Rebecca Bligh and Pete Fry – 10:07. CBC On the Coast (28 May 2020)

Mike Howell. What’s the deal with Vancouver council’s obsession with booze during a pandemic?
Vancouver Courier (5 June 2020)

Adrienne Tanner. With no party majority, Vancouver city council meetings continue to be a slog.
Globe and Mail (6 June 2020)



@BobKronbauer 10:14 AM – 27 May 2020

Mike Howell. Vancouver mayor to run council meetings from his apartment.
Vancouver Is Awesome (7 Apr 2020)

B.C. Reg. 42/2012 – O.C. 124/2012 – Deposited March 8, 2012
City of Vancouver Council Electronic Meetings Regulation

@jonesj 7:54 PM – 13 May 2020

@PtFry 6:19 PM – 28 May 2020


@george_affleck – 8:02 PM – 28 May 2020

Written by eyeonnorquay

8 June 2020 at 10:29 am

Posted in COVID-19

Concentration of Virtual Public Hearings

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     from:  Jeanette Jones
       to:  Bligh, Rebecca; Boyle, Christine; Carr, Adriane;
            De Genova, Melissa; Dominato, Lisa; Fry, Pete;
            Hardwick, Colleen; Kirby-Yung, Sarah; Stewart, Kennedy;
            Swanson, Jean; Wiebe, Michael
       cc:  Joseph Jones
            Sadhu Johnston, Gil Kelley
     date:  June 5, 2020, 10:09 AM
  subject:  Concentration of Virtual Public Hearings

To:  Mayor and Council
cc:  Sadhu Johnston — City Manager
       Gil Kelley — Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability

Re: (1) Changes to 2020 Council Meeting Schedule (Communications #1)
      (2) Referral Report #1 for 2538 Birch Street

These two items are on the Council Meeting Agenda for June 9, 2020. We address them together because we see them as intimately connected.

City of Vancouver staff are understandably anxious to reduce the backlog of rezoning applications that are currently ready for public hearing. This backlog is larger than usual because public hearings were cancelled in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19. The request for approval of additional dates for public hearings is an attempt to eliminate the backlog before the Council summer recess.

But approval of the new additional dates for public hearings would result in at least 7 (and likely more) public hearing dates scheduled between June 23 and July 28. That is a period of 25 working days inclusive, producing a ratio greater than 1:4. These public hearings would not include consideration of other substantial staff reports to come before regular Council meetings. Such an extreme ratio of public hearing dates would require unprecedented time from Council, staff, and the public. Councilors would have trouble doing justice to applications, especially if an agenda item spreads over more than one session. It is unfair to staff, applicants, councillors – and especially to the public to schedule so many public hearing dates for the beginning of the summer.

These considerations would be true even under “normal” circumstances. Virtual public hearings raise severe additional concerns. The inability of speakers to see councilors creates a feeling of distance and lack of engagement. The technology employed for Council meetings is unreliable and frustrating to use. Audio quality varies between “acceptable” and “very poor.” Connections are sometimes lost. Speakers often find that their slide presentations fail to coordinate with their oral presentation. While the process has settled somewhat since the first phone-in speakers to Council, there is no evidence that extreme technology disruptions will not regularly occur during these scheduled public hearings.

For the above reasons, the application for 2538 Birch Street should not be referred to public hearing at this time. This promises to be a landmark controversial proposal. The public hearing should attract a large number of speakers. Using deficient technology (whose shortcomings are now extensively demonstrated) to try to manage a virtual public hearing with many speakers will prove frustrating and embarrassing for Council and for staff. For the public, the dysfunctional technology will present a formidable barrier to input and memorably impair public trust.

We urge you not to approve the changes to the 2020 Council Meeting Schedule or to refer 2538 Birch Street to Public Hearing.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

Written by eyeonnorquay

5 June 2020 at 10:56 am

Virtual Open House

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     from:  Jeanette Jones
       to:  Gil Kelley; Theresa O'Donnell
       cc:  Bligh, Rebecca; Boyle, Christine; Carr, Adriane;
            De Genova, Melissa; Dominato, Lisa; Fry, Pete;
            Hardwick, Colleen; Kirby-Yung, Sarah; Stewart, Kennedy;
            Swanson, Jean; Wiebe, Michael
            Joseph Jones
     date:  June 1, 2020, 10:03 PM
  subject:  Virtual Open House

To:  Mayor and Council
cc:  Gil Kelley — Manager of Planning, Urban Design & Sustainability
       Theresa O’Donnell — Deputy Director for Current Planning

Virtual Open House

The Staff Presentation to Council on May 27, titled “Development and Permit Process Improvements,” describes several 2019 process changes that are indeed “notable accomplishments.” We have noticed improvements to the organization and presentation of the Zoning By-Law. These changes have made that document easier to use, and we look forward to further work by staff in this area.

Still, we do have concerns with the section of the Report labelled
“COVID Response” — in particular with Slide #32 that describes virtual open house (VOH). The presentation mentions considerable consultation with “stakeholders.” No consultation has occurred with the public on virtual public processes for either open house or public hearing.

We recognize the need for VOH in present circumstances. The proposed process incorporates some of the suggestions that we made to staff on our own initiative. But not all process changes required because of COVID-19 are “improvements.”

An in-person open house provides opportunities for real dialogue that VOH does not:

The public can better understand and respond to explanations. The proposed virtual “Q & A” is probably the best that can be achieved in current circumstances. But it is a poor substitute for the discussion that takes place when applicant, staff, and members of the public are able to meet together in person.

Members of the public can interact with each other. The opportunity for neighbours to talk to each other is practically non-existent with VOH.

CoV staff and members of the public can develop a relationship. An open house is one of the few remaining opportunities for CoV staff and residents to meet in person. Residents active in their neighbourhoods interact with the same staff at more than one open house. Contact by phone or email is easier and more meaningful when participants have previous history of personal contact. One reason that we are still involved with city planning issues — more than 10 years after the Norquay Plan for our neighbourhood was approved — is that we feel that we have developed a relationship with several planners that is based on mutual respect. Face-to-face meetings between residents and staff are essential for the City of Vancouver to build trust with the public.

Virtual Open House should be seen as a temporary or supplemental measure only. The in-person open house should be resumed as soon as physical distancing restrictions permit.

Jeanette and Joseph Jones

Written by eyeonnorquay

2 June 2020 at 11:11 am