Archive for April 2011
Over the past five to six years, Norquay has experienced the ever-increasing unwillingness of city planners to engage with local residents in planning the future of our 10,000 people and hundreds of acres.
In the latest step, Norquay will simply get told at a single event on 30 April 2011 about the zoning specifications for three new housing types — with no detail provided in advance.
City planners like to point to a long string of meetings and claim that they have consulted extensively. The truth is that they have listened to almost nothing that Norquay had to say, mainly because less and less were they able to manipulate Norquay into saying what planners wanted to hear.
In the spring/summer of 2009, the lead Norquay planner at the time stated that planners were making up the process as they went along. (That is what planning amounts to in Vancouver.) Eventually they just put on the jackboots to stomp Norquay with a predetermined result.
Elsewhere seems different. Mostly bad too, but with at least some negotiation and give. In Marpole, at Shannon Mews, in the West End, in Mount Pleasant, in the Downtown Eastside, in Point Grey — developers and planners have shown at least token willingness to modify and to concede and to scale back. Voices in those communities receive some hearing and some recognition.
In Norquay, though, it has always been take — and then take more. This abuse seems to have two facets. First is an apparent assessment that an ethnic immigrant working-class community is ripe for the picking and unable to resist effectively. English is not a first language for most. Many families must work multiple jobs and have no time or energy to attend city planner events. Planner concepts and jargon pose barriers even to persons with considerable education. Many residents operate from expectations based on experience of regimes where contact with government officials is a thing to be avoided at all costs.
The second facet is appeal to greed: convince naive property owners that their existing single-family zoning is worth less than the new zoning. The reality is that removal of 2,000 single-family RS-1 properties from the 70,000 or so left in Vancouver must increase the value of the fewer that remain, likely out of proportion to any increase resulting from the Norquay mass rezoning for more crowded development.
|2006 January||City planners dump a 22 storey tower into Norquay just ahead of “neighbourhood centre” planning, a classic blockbusting technique|
|2007 June||A comprehensive detailed survey of all residents meets up with strong rejection of a draft plan to mass rezone 2400 single-family dwellings|
|2009 July||After receiving an unwanted resident-produced plan that does not suit their agendas, city planners cease to meet with Norquay residents|
|2010 February||City planners show their back-room-produced plan to Norquay and then come back in June with a very different plan that is even further away from what the community was asking for|
|2010 November||City planners take their plan to City Council, along with three “considerations” to incentivize developers that the Norquay community never had a chance to see|
|2011 April||Three new zoning specifications get waved in front of people who have had no say|
The latest step in Norquay planning is announcement of one 30 April 2011 “information session” on zoning for new housing types. “Staff anticipate Council considering approval of zoning … in June.” The purpose of this sudden single meeting is to satisfy a formality and allow planners to claim once again that residents have been “consulted.”
City planners look to bring their finished work to a public display before going to City Council for a rubber stamp. The zoning schedules themselves are not being offered for prior inspection or review. What Norquay residents may have to say does not matter. Presentations and Q & A means that planners will talk and then have no time left for the questions they do not want to hear. There is no mention of comment being sought. If any were expected, how could planners anticipate racing their documents to Council a month or so later?
The assumption common to planners and politicians and developers is that they can do whatever they like with the zoning of Norquay’s 1500-2000 single-family properties, and freely alter the character of an organic, long established neighborhood, as long as they have even flimsy grounds to claim that their actions may increase property value. Incidental matters like property tax acceleration, loss of existing green space, and aggravation of traffic and parking impacts are met with standard fuzzy dismissals.
The interests of existing residents do not matter, nor does the density achievable with existing zoning. The agenda is revitalization — the incentivizing of always-more-expensive new construction that will profit developers, increase tax base, generate permit fees, displace lower-income residents, and meet outside consumer demand for brand-new building. Meanwhile, the “greenest city” sets out to deliberately accelerate the destruction of affordable rental housing and to ship the embodied energy of existing dwellings to the landfill.
On 3 February 2011 city planners unilaterally disbanded the Norquay Working Group, and said that sign-up would be provided at the February 19/21 Norquay open houses for two new groups on zoning specifications and benefits strategy. But at those open houses Norquay residents were told that they would have no opportunity to participate further in the planning for their own neighborhood.
The timing of the 30 April 2011 information sessions once again shows cynical manipulation of the calendar: considerably less than two working weeks of notice has been provided, and a double-long holiday weekend intervenes to distract attention and encumber schedules.
Appendix: Record of Notification and Advertisement for 30 April 2011 Norquay Information Session
• Mailout – 3.5 x 8.5 inch printed card postmarked 14 April 2011 and received 18 April 2011:
“Information Session: Zoning for New Housing Types”
• Email from planner 21 April 2011 reproducing verbal content from postal mailout
• Advertisement dated 21 April 2011 and published in Vancouver Courier 22 April 2011:
New Housing Zones in Norquay Village