Archive for July 2011
[ Comment posted in response to: Matthew Burrows. Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson flags street homelessness reduction as key success. Georgia Straight (27 July 2011) ]
We’ve worked hard in many neighbourhoods to improve the city’s consultation and planning process. … I think some of the relentless criticism is unfounded and should be fact checked.
— Gregor Robertson
So check these facts …
“Working hard” in Norquay means (1) taking almost five years to do a plan (2) restarting twice with brand new planning teams and little continuity on the City side (3) retreating ever further from contact with local community residents (4) imposing last-minute “considerations” that dumped lots of extra height and density into the plan with NO COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT (5) approving a Plan demonstrably not supported by the community (6) terminating unilaterally the Norquay Working Group because it refused to be the dummy for ventriloquist planners (7) letting a developer apply for major rezoning at 2699 Kingsway before the plan was approved (8) using the pittance “amenity” CAC generated by the development to pay only a fraction of the costs of mitigating the shadow impact of the development itself (9) fuzzing away Urban Design Panel consensus key criticisms of how the 2699 Kingsway proposal fails to realize the placemaking crucial to Kingsway revitalization. This is the brief version of the abuse suffered by Norquay. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Maybe even your own neighborhood!
Letter of the Week in today’s Vancouver Courier carries to a wide public Norquay concern over the siting of new development as approved in the July 12 rezoning of 2667-2703 Kingsway.
Above the letter is a photograph of Director of Planning Brent Toderian, with this caption:
According to one reader, city officials such as Brent Toderian, director of planning, must rethink the Norquay redevelopment on Kingsway.
The primary issue is how much respect will be shown for the top two items of the four listed as Panel’s Consensus on Key Aspects Needing Improvement:
• Consider moving the garbage room from the courtyard area
• Design development to have the project better address the unique confluence of two street grids
Date: 26 July 2011
Mayor Gregor Robertson
Councillors Suzanne Anton, David Cadman, George Chow, Heather Deal, Kerry Jang, Raymond Louie, Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer, Tim Stevenson, Ellen Woodsworth
Penny Ballem, City Manager
David McClellan, General Manager of Community Services Group
Brent Toderian, Director of Planning
Kent Munro, Assistant Director, Current Planning
Harv Weidner, Planner III, Community Planning
Neal LaMontagne, Planner III, Citywide and Regional Planning
Paul Cheng, Development Planner II
Alison Higginson, Planner II, Rezoning Centre
A Key to Placemaking in Norquay, A Key to Revitalization of Kingsway:
Open Letter about the Siting of Development at 2667-2703 Kingsway
At the 12 July 2011 public hearing on the rezoning application for 2667-2703 Kingsway, I offered Council a carefully prepared presentation, with written copy  provided to accompany oral presentation. The presentation included four “asks,” all of which got lost in a spate of anxiety to sign off on the thirteen questions distributed as appendix. (Those questions were incidental to what got passed right over.)
Observe that the four specific requests made no effort to challenge recently approved developer “rights” to height and floor space ratio (FSR). Even so, Council transmuted the substance of my presentation into the red herring of complaint about what Norquay Plan policy allows — and then disposed of my comment like a dead fish.
Although the rezoning has been approved, the issues that I tried to raise live on — left to the discretion of city planners. There remains an opportunity to get this development done right.
I hope that reason can overcome this recent history of reactive and defensive fear in the face of substantiated criticism, and find a path to honest solutions for the key consensus problems identified by the Urban Design Panel review .
Simply put, the space along the sewer right-of-way through the center of the development needs to serve its crucial public function — as gateway to the greenway. That greenway is the second of the top three specific community amenity priorities (p. 15) named in the Norquay Plan . The public hearing discussion revealed that the greenway already represents a long-undelivered promise made to Norquay for previous densification. This opening to the greenway should become one of the most evident features of the Kingway revitalization, a major marker of place. At present it is nothing like that.
As the 2667-2703 Kingsway development is now configured, Norquay seems headed for one more sad and unnecessary compromise. Undue haste and lack of community involvement underlie this problem. Recognize that this is the second of five anticipated large-site developments along Norquay’s stretch of Kingsway. Only a handful of opportunities exist to establish fundamental structure for the Kingsway revitalization.
To turn to practicalities. What is needed is an adequate size of gateway, one that aligns with Norquay Park across the street, and one that respects the context of the Kingsway slant across the predominant street grid. In other words, the eastern wall of building A and the western wall of building B need to be set at an angle to align with the length of Norquay Park. After all, one of the design notions is that 2667-2703 Kingsway will provide a face to the north end of the park, ultimately connecting the park with Renfrew ravine through a linear park.
With current alignments, the developer has proposed to jam box-shaped buildings into a non-box context. Imagine New York’s fabled Flatiron building forced to be four walls standing at right angles on its triangular site!
To encourage the developer to do this right, redistribution of massing and additional height and FSR could provide sufficient incentive. Is it possible that an 11-story building A and a 7- or 8-storey building B could offer the profits that the come-and-go developer needs to extract before leaving our more permanent community residents with a much improved setting? A better and preferred solution would be to find whatever money is required for this implementation through the 2012-2014 Capital Plan now undergoing formulation.
As an individual, reasonable and pragmatic, representing no one other than myself, I would like to see this egregious design problem find a good solution. Fine improvements have just been completed in Norquay Park. To wink at a quick fix right across the street makes no sense.
How this particular situation resolves will send a big signal to the demonstrably abused  Norquay community. City planners have here an opportunity to respond to legitimate, carefully articulated concerns — concerns based in external professional review — concerns that are backed up by willingness to see compromise that favors the developer.
 Statement of Joseph Jones to 12 July 2011 Public Hearing on 2667—2703 Kingsway
 Urban Design Panel Minutes for Wednesday, May 4, 2011 — Item 1. 2699 Kingsway
 Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan (4 Nov 2010)
 Rowan Arundel. Vancouver density: investigating current patterns and potential future densification areas. University of British Columbia, Geography Department. 2008.
That’s What Gregor Robertson Said …
That’s where a lot of the problems, and a lot of the social unrest and challenges that we have, come from … We want City Hall opened up.
— Gregor Robertson (10 Dec 2008)
I remember 10 December 2008. A group of community folk from across Vancouver scrambled to put together an event at Heritage Hall. Lots of displays went up for different neighborhoods and their concerns. Food and drink bedecked a long row of tables. All for the benefit of the invited guests: seven of the eleven newly elected Vancouver City Council, who showed up at the end of their first day in office.
Take a couple of minutes right now to blast back to this scene from the past via YouTube video! Count up those worthless words while you watch.
The grassroots people who pulled that event together got to know each other during the long “process” that foisted EcoDensity™ onto a largely unsuspecting Vancouver. A less unsuspecting Vancouver as time passed, though — the EcoDensity™ public hearing ended up running to seven separate sessions.
EcoDensity™ backlash played a major role in the Vision Vancouver 2008 sweep of City Hall. New voters came out to support what looked new … while dyed-in-the-wool NPA voters, their interests savaged by EcoDensity™, saw nothing to choose from and sat out the election. There was hope for change, hope for a renewed respect for the hundreds of thousands of people who already live in Vancouver neighborhoods.
Intimately intertwined with EcoDensity™ was the Norquay situation. All the while, a “new understanding” was hijacking CityPlan, setting the stage for a real estate speculation land rush and a gentrification onslaught in East Vancouver. Fuelling the frenzy was the approaching 2010 Olympics — which condo king Bob Rennie joyfully declared a “six billion dollar ad buy.” In the years since the torch was put to Norquay, spot rezoning brush fires have popped up all across Vancouver. The examples of Little Mountain, Mount Pleasant, Chinatown, Marpole, and West End jump to mind.
All of that is history now. Bitter history. Despite the fine words that flowed three years ago, Vision Vancouver has consistently voted as a bloc — with the developers who funded their election, against the local communities who have pleaded uselessly through many hours of public hearings. The local communities who probably put Vision on top …
Next stop? Tuesday June 26 at the front door of City Hall. People will be responding to a call for all Vancouver local communities to let City Hall know just how unhappy they have become. Well over 100 persons have already registered to speak at the public hearing itself.
* * *
10 December 2008, Heritage Hall — Vision Vancouver’s First Day in Office
Transcript of What Gregor Robertson Said Back Then
It’s so fantastic to walk in here. I didn’t quite know know what I was coming into, but coming in the door, it was like all of Vancouver crammed into the Heritage Hall — with poster boards to boot.
I really want to recognize you, and thank you for all the work that you’ve done to represent your neighborhoods, to actually pull together in a cohesive way — what your neighborhoods are, what they mean to you, what they mean to the people who live there, and to put that forward and to make a political statement out of it.
Because its been the only thing really that pushed back effectively enough against the branding of EcoDensity. And when you say the word EcoDensity, well it sounds kind of good, I, you know, sounds reasonable and something we maybe should get behind, but the reality of it I think was very different, and it took a very very intense effort on behalf of all of you in the neighborhoods to counter that effectively, and to reframe the whole debate around what matters most — and that is community, and our neighbourhoods.
Ultimately, when you think about what was most important — where you grew up, what’s most important through your life, it’s those connections to where you live and the people that you live with. And a lot of the problems that we have — not only in this city, but in cities and towns across the world, is when community starts to pull apart and disintegrate, and there isn’t all that support. People fall through the cracks, and they fall between communities. There’s a lack of cohesiveness, and that’s where a lot of the problems, and a lot of the social unrest and challenges that we have, come from.
So making our neighborhoods and communities stronger is so critical right now, and we can get a lot better at it — and the work that you guys are doing is about that, I think. It’s about making neighbouhoods stronger, and making sure that we’re — as a society that we’re better looked after by working together in our communities. So, we recognize you for that work, which is really important to our city, and beyond.
We have a great opportunity right now with the big shift in the political winds to do things differently at City Hall.
We talked about this a lot through the campaign, through this election, about how we want to do things very differently. We want them to come bottom-up. We want the grassroots to have serious voice at City Hall. We want City Hall opened up. That’s why we had our big inauguration yesterday at Sunset Community Centre, because we want to be out in the community.
And it’s more than just us being out in the community, it’s about the community being in City Hall.
[ Simultaneously published through Vancouver Media Co-op ]
[ Comment posted in response to: Jessica Linzey. Riding Vancouver’s streets into the future. Tyee (15 July 2011) ]
Rhetoric vs Performance
Writing here as an East Vancouver resident sandwiched between the first two — perhaps the only ever to be, out of the projected nineteen? — “neighbourhood centres” at Kingsway/Knight and in Norquay. This planning was supposed to implement the multimillion-dollar overarching CityPlan initiated in 1995. Anybody really want to call that planning, more than fifteen years onward?
What have we got so far in livability and sustainability and alternative to the automobile?
One. The largest retail space at King Edward Village (KEV) sat empty for years and has just been occupied by a drive-to federal government agency. No walkable local retail here! The TD Bank is useful, but has dissed Kingsway by being allowed to turn its back to the street. Getting a grocery store meant further height/density concessions to the developer because of the former landowner’s abusive restrictive covenant. Oh yes, and the big public benefit, touted as a new library for the community? Not exactly. Try ten years of no-charge lease on the space, after which the developer starts sucking up a new revenue stream from the City of Vancouver.
Two. Two other drive-to vertical gated communities are already destined for 2300 Kingsway and 2669 Kingsway.
Three. Nasty minimal back alleys at KEV — and coming at 2300 Kingsway — where pedestrians get to dodge automobiles and delivery trucks, and to weave among parked vehicles that refuse the underground option. There’s a good reason no cafe life has emerged in the “courtyard” at KEV. A handful of surface parking spots are obviously far more relevant.
Four. Norquay Working Group could not convince planners and politicians that a bicycle lane (even one going west only) along Kingsway was a better use of public space than an automobile-dividing median planter typically filled with weeds and dead plants. Such median infrastructure is a waste if we ever get back the middle-of-the-street tram that Kingsway used to have. Paint us a much cheaper bicycle lane instead.
Five. A curb cut to send a tsunami of traffic across the Kingsway sidewalk at 2300 Kingsway, as pedestrians will scurry past, traversing shadow cast by a 22-storey tower with no setback.
Six. A privatized plaza in the interior of 2300 Kingsway set one level up from the hoi polloi that consort with motor vehicles in the alley below.
Seven. A daycare as prime community feature in the interior of 2300 Kingsway. The 10,000 residents of Norquay not served by those 37 daycare spaces effectively realize NO public benefit.
Eight. Plans at 2699 Kingsway (public hearing was July 12) that seem unlike to address effectively Urban Design Panel consensus concerns about building orientation and garbage/utility protrusion into the focus of stingy public space.
Call these the eight unwonders of East Vancouver.
Also ask yourself why the curse of this sort of planning — rezoning swaths laid over thousands of single-family homes — has been directed only at East Vancouver, ever.
The “opening” for the recent $800,000 facelift for Norquay Park took place this afternoon. A due assembly of officials lined up to say the usual words and to stand together to cut a ribbon. Neither an Eye on Norquay press release nor the media relations infrastructure of bureaucracy attracted any significant media coverage.
Norquay residents held up these two signs throughout the ceremonies:
TELL the TRUTH GONE! MISSING?
This is NOT NORQUAY
a “BENEFIT” of our AMENITIES
MASS REZONE Financing Plan
This reporter took up a position about 25 feet to the left of the microphone. Three officials soon got busy taking turns to find out what was going on. To all of them this reporter explained that the signs expressed no dissatisfaction about Norquay Park and no dissatisfaction with Vancouver Park Board — only dissatisfaction with City of Vancouver claims that the park renewal was a “benefit” deriving from the Norquay Plan.
First along was a Coordinator to ask if we would put away our signs and not impact the event. Our answer to him was no. Next along was a Director, who confirmed our refusal to disappear, and then came back for further exchange. I satisfied her question about not spoiling the photo op by saying I had no intention to seek a position in that background. When asked if I planned to disrupt the event, I said I would disrupt only if I heard a speaker try to propagate a claim that the Norquay Plan had in any way led to the park renewal. In such case I intended to counter the misinformation immediately and vociferously. Last in line was a Park Ranger, a person with life connection to the Norquay neighborhood. He seemed quite at ease once I explained the issue.
Later on five officials or so took their turns at the microphone. Not a single one mentioned the Norquay Plan. Commissioner Aaron Jasper did a fine job of telling about the funding sources for the renewal of Norquay Park.
Trying to message about untruth is tricky. But our effort attracted interest, conversations multiplied with new people, and universal sympathy flowed back from those who had the curiosity to ask to ask what the problem was.
At least six participants from Norquay Working Group turned out for the Norquay Park opening event — none of them from the minority faction that offered uncritical support to city planner pressures for more height and more density.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Renewal of Norquay Park IS NOT a Special “Benefit”
Norquay Resident Exposes Misrepresentation
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Vancouver city planners latch onto an ordinary capital plan expenditure for upgrade of Norquay Park as specious evidence that their Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre planning has already brought “benefit” to Norquay!
The falsity of the “benefit” assertion is documented in detail in Renewal of Norquay Park: a Case Study in Misrepresentation.
These untrue claims must stop. An honest amenities and benefits strategy, with genuine community involvement, must move in tandem with the intentional acceleration of development. Community Vision policy must be respected. Building a livable and sustainable community requires much more than export of quick profits to come-and-go developers.
A reactive July 18 email from planners has just followed trenchant criticisms of Norquay planning made at the July 12 public hearing on the rezoning of 2667-2703 Kingsway. Will the supposed core of planning for Vancouver’s future — implementation of CityPlan through neighbourhood centres — again spawn only empty promises and vague reassurances, while opening up one more swath of East Vancouver to developer land rush?
All that Norquay has experienced from planners recently is:
• Being told during many 2009-2010 Norquay Working Group sessions that amenities are hard to come by, and that Norquay should expect nothing beyond a scrounging from minimal ordinary funding sources (not the Capital Plan, not the Property Endowment Fund)
• Suffering November 2010 imposition of a widely opposed Plan (augmented at last minute with massive increases to scale and density), a Plan that specified no certain benefits
• Enduring February 2011 unilateral termination of the Norquay Working Group that has represented community residents
• Seeing an April 2011 open house already disrespect parameters for new housing types set out in the November 2010 plan
• Undergoing the second of five anticipated major rezonings for Norquay on 12 July 2011 — with shockingly little payback to the community
Norquay residents also look forward to joining together with unhappy local communities from across Vancouver at a gathering in front of City Hall on the evening of Tuesday, July 26.
— 30 —
Media contact: Joseph Jones
Joseph Jones will be present at the opening of Norquay Park on Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Countering an Insidious Spin Campaign
Seeking Transparency, Equity, and Respect for Policy
All for Livability and Sustainability in Norquay