The first major rezoning for Norquay — under recently imposed “neighbourhood centre” planning — goes before Vancouver City Council for approval on 12 July 2011. Both the process and the product seem a bad omen of what lies in store for the abused Norquay community. Not to mention all other residential communities across Vancouver.
An extensive document on 2699 Kingsway (in the Rezoning section of Eye on Norquay) details many problems associated with this rezoning proposal. This posting serves to highlight a handful of the worst horrors, and also to call attention to the fuller analysis.
A. Shadow and Scale Effects of a Twelve-Storey Building
The most obvious impact is a twelve-storey building stuffed onto a site that is less than 100 feet deep. At midday in the middle of winter, that 138 foot wide building will cast its shortest shadow of the day — over 380 feet. What has been a single-family residential area directly to the north will suffer serious and prolonged shading in the season where sunlight is most important, and in the season where shading is not wanted. If the Norquay Working Group had consensus on any single point, it was a desire for human scale throughout the neighborhood.
B. No Significant Offsetting Benefit to the Community
The pittance of payback to Norquay for absorbing this atrocity is a CAC financial contribution of $105,846, with that amount to be eaten up entirely by trying to mitigate the shading impact on the existing daycare immediately to the north. This is like strafing Norquay with napalm and then giving the victims who survive a few bucks each to buy cosmetics to cover up the scarring for a few weeks.
C. City in Cahoots with Developer
The owner of this consolidated property (8 parcels) was a direct player in the first sell-out phase of Norquay planning in 2006-2007. He then vanished from the committee when planning restarted in late 2008, after the community had stood up against the 2007 Draft Plan. Other developer interests persisted throughout the 2007-2010 planning, always pushing for maximization of benefit to land speculators. Planners and most of Council had ears only for that minority of the Norquay Working Group. The rezoning application for 2699 Kingsway was filed on 2 November 2010, two days before Council approved the planning that would allow for the application. This summary of five years of Norquay planning history reeks of backroom dealing and conflict of interest.
D. Watering Down of Urban Design Panel Key Recommendations
The Urban Design Panel (UDP), at its review of the 2699 Kingsway rezoning proposal on 4 May 2011, enumerated four perceptive items as Panel’s Consensus on Key Aspects Needing Improvement. To some extent the UDP review may inform sections 3.A.b.3 and 3.A.b.4 under Conditions of Approval of the Form of Development in the Summary and Recommendation presented to Council as a document for the 12 July 2011 public hearing. However, the Summary and Recommendation sections seem far too vague in comparison with the specificity of the UDP remarks. The fuzziness of the Conditions should not mean
1. That the developer fails to move the ground-level garbage/utility protrusion away from its focal point of prominence in the public plaza. At present that design stupidity impairs the primary function of the plaza, which is to connect Norquay Park across the street to an envisioned greenway that carries through to Renfrew ravine.
2. That the developer fails to “better address the unique confluence of two street grids” by realigning the west wall of the four-storey Building B to run parallel with the north-south streets (Rhodes and Wales) that bound Norquay Park.
E. Disrespect for Norquay Plan Commitment on Parking
The Policy Report specifies a ten percent reduction in what parking the developer must provide for 2699 Kingsway. This goes against the Norquay Plan, which asserts that new development will maintain “standard city parking requirements” and provide “one off-street parking space per primary dwelling unit.” Not only will this development overshadow its surroundings, it will spill parked automobiles into adjacent residential streets.
F. Ridiculous Response Pattern in Open House Comment
A memorandum to Council, posted 6 July 2011, provides copies of the 52 comment forms collected at the city-sponsored 7 April 2011 open house for 2699 Kingsway. None of the responses show more than simple, crude personal affirmations of height, density, new construction, and presumed affordability. Not one of the responses provides analysis of benefit to or loss by the community. It is plausible that all of these unanimous “votes for” were mustered by developer interests. Ordinary Norquay residents have despaired and fallen silent in response to the prolonged and repeated abuse of city planners.
Four Things You Can Do
1. Demonstrate to City Council that everything they and their planners do in Norquay is illegitimate, by refusing ever to participate in any fake city process again. If you do participate, take great care not to let them convert you into a counterproductive “consultation statistic.” (a) Always state opposition clearly; and never make comment that can possibly be twisted into counting you as a supporter, or providing information only, or just “expressing concerns.” (b) Never sign in to an open house. You will have been judged to have been “consulted” by your very presence, whether you make a comment or not.
2. Before the 12 July 2011 public hearing on rezoning 2699 Kingsway, send an email or letter to Mayor and Council. You can minimize your waste of time by simply stating, “I oppose the application to rezone 2667-2703 Kingsway.” If you want to say more, you can say what is on your mind and/or adapt points from this posting, or from the longer Eye on Norquay analysis of 2699 Kingsway.
3. Register to speak at the 12 July 2011 public hearing (agenda and instructions here). You will have five minutes to tell Council what you think about their treatment of Norquay. If you don’t feel like saying much, you can just say: “I oppose the application to rezone 2667-2703 Kingsway.”
4. In the 19 November 2011 municipal election, refuse to vote for any Council candidate with a history of abusing Norquay. This includes all current Vision and NPA councillors. Educate yourself at the Vancouver Council Votes web site.
A closing personal comment: This work on the 2699 Kingsway rezoning application has consumed many hours in a very tight time frame. I felt tempted to say to myself, 2699 Kingsway is a mile up the road, off at the other side of Norquay, somewhere I don’t often go. Why should I even bother? So why did I bother? If speculators and developers and bureaucrats and politicians think no one is watching, they will go ahead to grab more and more of the Norquay neighbourhood. Ultimately, grab as much as possible is the only “planning” that Norquay gets. Existing planning, such as the Renfrew Collingwood Community Vision, puts unwanted constraints on the grab, and is therefore freely disrespected.