Archive for February 2012
After a 24 February 2012 City of Vancouver email went out to unspecified Norquay residents and/or property owners, members of the Norquay Working Group have been asking us about what input they ever had into the planning for Kingsway streetscape changes scheduled to begin in March 2012.
Three preliminary remarks are called for.
One — On 3 Feb 2011 city planners unilaterally terminated Norquay Working Group, but said that there would be opportunities to sign up for two new working groups on amenities and benefits strategy and public realm planning. At the 19/21 Feb 2011 open house there were no sign-up sheets provided, and the new lead planner said he had decided that the community would have no participation. Kingsway streetscape would fall under the heading of public realm. [ Back story at http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/gentrification-bombards-heart-east-vancouver/6123 ]
Two — On 26 Jan 2012 the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee received draft terms of reference from the same planner who has just sent the email to Norquay. The Mount Pleasant group is told that it will have participation in planning under four headings. Two of those headings are Public Benefits and Amenities Strategy and Public Realm Plan. So Mount Pleasant residents get to participate, while those in Norquay are not allowed to. (Might things change for Mount Pleasant after too many residents get vocal at the public hearing now underway?)
Three — Strong Norquay representations that precious Kingsway pavement should be allocated to a bicycle lane rather than to a decorative median were persistently stonewalled and disregarded by planners. They seem to think that the row of long-dead trees (October 2010 count was 12 dead out of 21) along the King Edward Village median presage a more attractive choice. [[Update March 2012 – Replanting seems to have happened recently.]]
Jeanette Jones prepared the report that follows and has already sent it to the persons who were asking questions. Joseph Jones has reformatted this information, written the introduction, and provided links to cited documents.
Report on the History of Planning for Kingsway Streetscape Changes
I’m writing you jointly because each of you has expressed surprise/concern about the recent email from city planners giving notice of implementation of the Kingsway Streetscape Plan in the near future. You were wondering about how this plan was formed and how decisions were made.
I did some work and here is what I could find about its history.
June 2007 Draft Plan — A Kingsway Streetscape Plan was part of the (now notorious) 2007 Draft Plan. It was included in the survey of the neighbourhood — a survey that the planners later dismissed as “not valid.” The plan was developed with participants in the “Shopping” Working Group.
November 2008 Open House — A copy of the June 2007 Kingsway Streetscape Plan was displayed in the room and discussed on Boards 14 and 15. “Some of the detailed elements of the streetscape plan have not yet been confirmed. Further decisions will be made through community workshops to be held early in 2009.”
April 2009 Workshop — This workshop (the one where we chose areas of interest and met in small groups with a City staff member) included the Kingsway Streetscape Plan as one of the options. I did not choose this option, so I’m not sure what happened there.
January 2010 Open House — Board 22 mapped changes to street design for Kingsway (street lighting, landscaped medians, additional street trees, sidewalks, ramps & bulges, street furniture), as well as the signed pedestrian crossings and proposed changes to some of the intersections.
June 2010 Open House — Board 19 illustrated some of the elements of proposed street design changes.
November 2010 Norquay Plan Approval by Council — Appendix B of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan approved by Council is an 18-page description of all the details of the Kingsway Streetscape Plan.
It is true that we did not spend a lot of time in Working Group meetings talking about the plan for the Kingsway streetscape, and it got short shrift at the Open Houses. I guess it is also true that most of us were far more interested in talking about the new housing types in residential areas and new development along Kingsway, and about what the community would get in exchange. Planners will no doubt say that the community was adequately consulted and that most people favored the streetscape plan. (I looked at the comments from the June 2010 Open House related to Kingsway streetscape, and most of them were favorable. Unfavorable comments mostly addressed the problem of Kingsway as a highway rather than any specific details of the plan.)
The following City of Vancouver email has been received by unspecified Norquay residents and/or property owners.
From: Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Program
Date: Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 4:03 PM
Subject: FW: Norquay Neighbourhood Centre Plan Implementation Update
Hello Norquay Resident/Property Owner,
You are receiving this email because you have signed up at a previous Norquay event to be updated on work to implement the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan. We would like to provide a brief update for you in advance of two neighbourhood open houses planned for April.
KINGSWAY STREETSCAPE IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAVING
Work on Kingsway to introduce a centre landscaped median, improved pedestrian crossings, landscaped curb bulges, new lighting and street furniture is scheduled to start in March and be completed in the fall. During this time, there will be disruption to traffic on Kingsway, however once completed, the improvements will provide a more comfortable and safer pedestrian environment and identify Norquay as a special place, and the future heart of the neigbourhood on Kingsway. As development on key Kingsway sites proceeds in future years, additional crossings, wider sidewalks, plazas and other pedestrian amenities will be added to enhance comfort and convenience for pedestrians and add to the street character.
Staff have now completed the detailed regulations and guidelines for the three new zones — the RM-7 Rowhouse zone, the RM-8 Stacked Townhouse Zone and the RT-11 Small House Duplex zone, and anticipate forwarding these zones to a Council Public Hearing in June. You will recall that the Norquay Plan directed development in the new zones to be designed to improve housing choice and affordability by introducing new housing types, including secondary suites and lock-off suites within these new types, while ensuring high quality design that is a good fit with the existing single-family homes in the neighbourhood. Additionally, single-family development rights were to continue in the new zones. Introducing all these Plan directions into individual zones has proven challenging, however we believe these zones will now deliver the type and quality of housing that the Plan envisioned.
The 4th zone proposed in the Plan — the apartment transitional zone — has not been developed yet. Staff will be requesting Council to approve policies and guidelines this spring to provide design directions for applicants wishing to develop in this area in advance of the apartment zone being developed.
PUBLIC BENEFITS STRATEGY
Staff have been advancing work on the public benefits strategy. A comprehensive review of current facilities and future needs from the anticipated new population is complete, and public benefit priorities in the Plan have been further investigated and costed. This information will be presented at the open houses and you will be invited to comment and provide input. We are anticipating forwarding the Strategy to Council later this spring.
We will be inviting the Norquay community to the Open houses once details are finalized. In the meantime if you have questions, please contact …
Jennifer White at 604-871-6474 or email@example.com
City of Vancouver
The rezoning of 2298 Galt Street from RS-1 to CD-1 went to public hearing on the evening of 30 January 2012 as the fourth item on the agenda. Details are provided in the report to Council:
By 8:00 pm the first three items had been approved with minimal presentation, reporting, comment, questions, or discussion. What was to happen on the single lot at 2298 Galt Street then took up two hours of Council time.
The minutes for the meeting show response as 5 emails opposing, 4 speakers in support, 3 speakers with concerns, and 8 speakers opposed. All of the supporters appeared to have direct ties to development interests, and they spoke only in platitudes of increasing housing stock and affordability. At the vote, the Vision bloc prevailed 8 to 3. Carr and Affleck and Ball voted no on the basis of strong community opposition and failure of the project to respect the context and the Norquay Plan. Carr offered an incisive summation of criticism of the project. In closing comment, both Louie and Robertson acknowledged that the proposal was less than ideal.
A primary point was that this one-off rezoning of a leftover lot should be regarded as applied to an orphan lot and not considered to set any precedent whatsoever for the Transition Zone in Norquay (a total of approximately 160 parcels). Even so, it is a stretch for the first development in this zoning to occur on a single lot. Prior discussion with the community through Norquay Working Group made it clear that the four-storey apartment form was expected to require land assembly that would make possible U and H forms that would allow for light, cross-ventilation, and underground parking.
2298 Galt Street is an orphan lot only because the developer proceeded to develop a two-acre parcel ahead of the Norquay plan, and left one piece of land undeveloped as a staging area for the building of the large four-storey condo at 2239 Kingsway. The remaining 8 parcels along Galt Street were all developed with outright allowed single-family houses. At the very end of the large-parcel development, with no respect to context, this CD-1 development on a single lot was proposed.
In the meeting, planner Grant Miller said he would rather avoid the use of “orphan lot” terminology. Planner Paul Cheng used the term and said he didn’t know what else to call it. Page 2 of Appendix E in the report to Council in fact appeals to “orphan” status for the single lot at 2298 Galt Street.
Residents from the immediate affected area provided strong evidence of poor planning for parking, and for difficult parking enforcement. Homeowners routinely find entrance to their garages blocked by parked cars. Competition for on-street parking is harsh. The Urban Design Panel review of 2298 Galt Street made itself ridiculous by offering a strong suggestion that the four on-site in-building garages might be designed for easy conversion to other use. The Renfrew-Collingwood community vision that underlies the Norquay Plan asserts “assurance that parking and traffic impacts would be addressed” along with (not in reaction to) population increase. The report to Council cynically tosses the ball back into the court of new residents: “Staff welcome neighbours to pursue resident parking only regulations”! By the end of the meeting, it appeared that Engineering is prepared to move ahead with atypical provision of signage and enforcement for the laneways lying between Galt and Kingsway.
It became clear from testimony that recent purchasers of both the single-family houses along Galt Street and the condo units at 2239 Kingsway were misled by the agents who sold the development. None of them expected to have the context immediately ruptured by this out-of-scale development on a single lot. The “scale” model presented for the development perpetuated various distortions: (1) The displayed surrounding context of four-storey apartment block on Galt Street and a tower on Kingsway is extremely unlikely to exist within the lifetime of current owners, since most of what exists is already new construction (2) No respect was shown for the sharp upward slope of land toward Nanaimo Street (3) Variance in set-backs from Galt Street was seriously fuzzed. The report to Council also contributed to distortion by citing the greatest possible depth of this irregular lot, not mentioning the least depth of 103 feet on the west side, failing to use even an average figure. The dishonesty of this reporting to Council meshes with the dishonesty that marketers showed to purchasers. [Personal observation: on a visit to the sales center for the development, Eye on Norquay observed a plan showing a continuous row of single-family houses along Galt Street.]
The specific housing type rezonings to implement the Norquay Plan approved by Council on 4 November 2010 have not yet gone to public hearing. The owners of some 1900 properties have had no legal notification of the details of the “planning” that will affect the value and livability of their properties. The 2298 Galt Street rezoning relies on (1) Presumptions about a Transition Zone housing type that has been discussed only vaguely with the community (2) Divergence from even those vague understandings (3) Development of further specifications with absolutely no community involvement or even opportunity for feedback (4) Running far ahead of the public hearing (no sooner than 2013) that would lend any legitimacy to the housing form.
Planning consists of “making this up as we go along.” Vision will always approve what developers work out behind the scenes with planners. Residents get no say in the planning for their communities. Public hearings are pro forma rubber stampings. Respect for a stated plan seems much stronger if the issue is subdivision of a 90-foot lot in Shaughnessy — hundreds of acres in East Vancouver receive far less respect.
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Note: Council minutes record Joseph Jones and Jeanette Jones as “neither in support of, nor in opposition to the application.” This reflects three factors: (1) Recognition that the proposal falls within the technicalities of the vague Norquay Plan, if not within its spirit (2) Appreciation for the developer’s investment in design (3) Special orientation of the building to 2239 Kingsway and to the side lane to the west.