Archive for July 2012
[ Comment posted in response to: Brian Morton. Kingsway moves toward people-friendly future: New 12-storey tower in Norquay neighbourhood part of density plan. Vancouver Sun (3 July 2012) C1 ]
In early July, as the Vancouver real estate game started to catch a nasty chill, the Vancouver Sun ran a naked infomercial for a development project at 2711 Kingsway that is only half-sold. Even that claim of 50% presold could prove questionable, assuming that savvy specuvestors have plugged a decent exit clause into their contracts.
It was no surprise that Vancouver Sun editors proved unwilling to publish a cogent exposé, letter copied in Appendix A below. News that messes around with advertising cannot be tolerated.
The distortions in the Vancouver Sun story seem worthy of a tabloid that creates copy only from the overheated imaginations of sequestered fabricators. Appendix B below offers a few specific rebuttals.
The Norquay area of East Vancouver becomes an ever clearer story of profiteering exploitation of an already dense working-class immigrant neighborhood. Skyway Towers, for example, “contributes” financially a CAC sum total of $105,000 — considerably less than the selling price of one unit — and all of that money goes to the partial costs of an attempt to mitigate the tower’s all-day shadow impact on an existing daycare immediately to the north. What an enhancement for Norquay!
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Letter to the Editor submitted to Vancouver Sun and not published
Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 9:24 PM
Re: Kingsway moves toward people-friendly future (July 3)
One mile of Kingsway bisects Norquay in the heart of East Vancouver. So far, our “people-friendly future” has consisted of little more than extra bodies and cars crammed into an already dense and underserviced neighborhood.
At the touted Skyway Towers, the main payback to the surrounding community for the 130 new dwelling units is an amenity contribution of $105,000. That pittance, far less than 1/130th of the development’s value, goes to cover only a portion of the damage control required for heavy shadowing of an existing daycare.
City planners unilaterally terminated Norquay Working Group at the beginning of February 2011. Assurance at the time of further opportunity to participate in development of an amenities and benefits strategy has come to nothing.
While newer initiatives burgeon all over Vancouver, Norquay planning has fallen off the table. Definition of the four new housing types sits in limbo. Multiple major sites rush toward buildout with no amenity strategy in place.
The November 2010 mass rezoning of 1900 single family homes in Norquay seemed to be based far more on what could be taken out of the neighborhood than on what would be given back to it. Who wouldn’t have opposed that prospect?
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Assertion: Skyway Towers, the first high-rise development under the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, is a 130-unit project that includes nine commercial units to be built on the site of the old Wally’s Burgers.
Comment: Here we have a convenient failure to mention the much larger development at 2300 Kingsway, where one developer obtained a January 2006 rezoning of 2 acres for 297 dwelling units, then flipped off the project to another developer, after which a 2008 “redrawing” produced a projected 357 dwelling units. This blockbusting approval came only three months ahead of the commencement of a formal planning process for Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre. Here Norquay got a 22-storey tower with a setback of less than 5 feet and a broad new curb cut across the Kingsway sidewalk to facilitate motor vehicle traffic to 511 underground parking spaces, not to mention delivery trucks headed to loading bays.
Assertion: [The Norquay Plan] aims to maintain a single-family residential character in key areas, a concern of critics.
Comment: This is pure disinformation. In phase three of the Norquay planning, planners abandoned all pretense of maintaining balance and neighborhood character. Every last one of the 1900 single family dwellings that fell within the metastasized boundaries of Norquay was mass rezoned to one of four new housing types.
Assertion: “We’re trying to bring life, livability and vibrancy to the area,” he [Councillor Kerry Jang] said. “Now, it’s a provincial highway [and] it’s a bit run down. It can take a lot more density, but we want to be sensitive to single family dwellings. So we’ve limited [towers] to 12 storeys.”
Comment: During Norquay planning it became clear that Kingsway will never cease to be a truck route. Community attempts to define a true “neighbourhood centre” at the central intersection of Slocan and Kingsway were blocked and perverted by planners who insisted on perpetuating hodgepodge strip development along the entire one-mile segment of Kingsway. The speculator land grab unleashed on Norquay will never amount to a neighborhood, and it clearly will never have a center. What effrontery! Notice also how Jang soft-pedals the 14- 16- and 22-storey towers that will dominate and shadow Norquay in a way that residents never wanted. Also take a look at real data on which Vancouver neighborhoods “can take a lot more density.”
Assertion: “The Skyway plan had considerable support.” — Assistant Director of Planning Matt Shillito
Comment: Considerable support only from shills assembled by the developers: employees, relatives, other developers — practically all of them coming from outside of Norquay. Inspect the cooked-up written comments from the phony open house survey for yourself and see whether you think those results have any credibility. (Funny how City of Vancouver does not complain about “ballot-stuffing” when they get the result that they want to see.)
Assertion: “Right now, it’s [Kingsway is] very hostile to pedestrians.” — Assistant Director of Planning Matt Shillito
Comment: See first comment above on how the development at 2300 Kingsway will make the pedestrian situation even more hostile. The recent development proposal for 2220 Kingsway calls for an impermeable defensive perimeter surrounding a drive-to vertical gated community that encases a big box store with massive privatized plaza on top, all served by 597 underground parking spaces. So pedestrian friendly that will not be.
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A week ago Eye on Norquay expressed concern (see immediately preceding posting) about the apparent impending failure to provide landscaped median as far west as Gladstone Street during current Kingway public realm improvements. Timely inquiry by at least two councillors — appreciation to them for taking that step — brought rapid formal response (full text appended below) from a Community Transportation Engineer.
This response from City of Vancouver confirms that two sketches will take precedence over five clear and consistent verbal descriptions in the Norquay Plan. When a legal document contains this degree of discrepancy, it seems disingenuous to assert flatly that the project is “being constructed as per the plans.” It has to be further remarked that the text that accompanies the detail graphic on page 7 of Appendix B describes this presumed definitive sketch as “preliminary geometric designs … [that precede] … detailed design and implementation.”
If there is any principle to what the City of Vancouver is doing in this instance, it must involve some combination of
(1) Do what the City of Vancouver prefers to do regardless of the Plan
(2) Do whatever will cost less and provide less to the neighborhood, since money is everything
(3) Prefer graphic material over written text
If the City of Vancouver bases its action here on the third option enumerated above — according precedence to graphic representation over verbal description — it will be interesting to see if that same principle is applied with consistency in the future. A touchstone test of such “principle” would be treatment of the Norquay Plan discrepancy that involves Consideration F on page 1-2 (pdf 1-2), and the Appendix C (pdf 83) that the words refer to. Consideration F calls in writing for “four-storey low-rise apartments on larger parcels along Earles Street and north of Kingsway.” But the graphic in Appendix C shows no such development located along Earles.
Several points emerge from this exercise in documenting the abuse of Norquay.
• The Norquay Plan is a contradictory mishmash that was rushed to Council with no opportunity for
significant community review, and does not deserve legal status
• One of the densest and most sprawling megaproject developments destined for Norquay will NOT be
mitigated by landscaped median along Kingsway [compare with the median at Kingsway & Knight that
accompanies another large development with the same quantity of dwelling units]
• Plannerspeak “gateway” language has been applied to the Canadian Tire site, yet the defining
accompanying streetscape will only start somewhere further along the road!
• Community plans are a mechanism to specify a basis for taking from and imposing on the community
[eg 14 storeys and 3.8 FSR overnight become a “right” of the land speculators at the Canadian Tire site]
• Community plans strive to remain as fuzzy as possible on what benefit will ever accrue to the community
[20 months after plan approval Norquay suffers from indefinite deferral of an amenities/benefits “strategy”]
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Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 2:53 PM
cc [two councillors]
Thank you for your comments and interest in the project.
The landscaped medians are being constructed as per the plans approved by Council in November 2010. The applicable Council report, which is also referenced on the blog you’ve noted, is located here:
The street design plans included in the document clearly detail the planned locations of the planted medians in Appendix B: Public Realm and Transportation Improvements Plan.
• Figure 1 (Page 5, Appendix B (Page 69 of PDF)) — Overall Plan View — Shows median terminating in advance of Gladstone.
• Figure 5,6 (Page 7, Appendix B (Page 71 of PDF)) — Plan View Drawings of key sub-areas of Kingsway and related intersections, including where the median terminates in advance of Gladstone.
From what’s written on the blog posting that was referenced (Landscaped Median), there may have been some confusion when looking only at the general cross sections and some of the broad text. The blog also references the Canadian Tire site’s rezoning application materials which, unfortunately, are incorrect in showing a landscaped median. I believe this error has already been communicated to the developer though so they can update accordingly.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at 604-873-xxxx.
Community Transportation Engineer
City of Vancouver | Engineering | Strategic Transportation Planning
507 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC V5Z 0B4
Ph. 604.873.xxxx | Fax. 604.873.xxxx
As public realm improvements to Norquay begin to be laid out and installed along Kingsway in the summer of 2012, residents can observe details and can check them against the Norquay Plan.
Concern is emerging that even the minimal immediate benefits promised to the neighborhood through the Plan’s coordinated upfront capital expenditure could be mysteriously cut back. It appears that the much ballyhooed landscaped median now may not extend as far as Gladstone — despite multiple assertions to the contrary in the Norquay Plan itself! Appended below are five relevant excerpts from the Norquay Plan, with emphasis added to mentions of Gladstone.
When does a Plan cease to be a plan? When someone, who knows who or why, wishes to violate an inconvenient specified commitment. It does not help at all that the Norquay Working Group was unilaterally terminated in February 2011, with Norquay residents subsequently denied ongoing participation in public realm planning.
The impending development of the large Canadian Tire site on the south side of Kingsway at Gladstone would be a target for suspicion, but the development application materials do include a visual for Kingsway Streetscapes that shows a landscaped median on Kingsway. Even so, this fact does not guarantee that the developer is not exerting backroom pressure to have that feature of the Norquay plan abrogated.
Trust in process, and confidence in politicians, developers, and city planning have suffered innumerable blows throughout recent Norquay history. Is this first small manifestation of a tangible benefit to Norquay — the landscaped median — going to occasion yet one more grinding of the heel on community expectations?
All extracts below come from the document approved by Vancouver City Council on 4 November 2010:
Note that specification of the eastern boundary shows deplorable inconsistency — Earles, Killarney, Moss, Wales! However, specification of the western boundary is nothing but Gladstone, five times out of five.
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1 — Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, Page 13 (pdf 13)
Pedestrian-Oriented Public Realm Improvements
To further support the improvement of the pedestrian experience in the Neighbourhood Centre, a detailed Public Realm and Transportation Improvement Plan is included for Council adoption (Appendix B). Highlights of the strategy detailed in this Plan include:
— A new landscaped median on Kingsway between Gladstone and Moss Streets;
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2 — Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, Appendix A, Page 32 of 40 (pdf 57)
5.3 Pedestrian-Oriented Public Realm Improvements
To further support the vision of an attractive, safe, and comfortable pedestrian travel and activities in Norquay Village, this plan proposes a broad program of targeted public realm improvements. These improvements include:
• On Kingsway, a landscaped median between Gladstone and Earles Streets
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3 — Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, Appendix B, Page 3 of 18 (pdf 67)
The purpose of this Plan is to guide the redesign of Kingsway and intersecting streets from Gladstone to Killarney Streets over time, in a consistent manner, whether the work is undertaken by the City of Vancouver or as part of private development. Geometric changes, a landscaped median, sidewalk stamps, public art and other initiatives are to be brought together into a cohesive whole.
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4 — Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, Appendix B, Page 4 of 18 (pdf 68)
4. Plan Overview
The Plan is composed of a series of interrelated changes that together will help achieve the objectives (Figure 1). The improvements include:
A. On Kingsway, a landscaped median between Gladstone and Moss Streets
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5 — Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, Appendix B, Page 5 of 18 (pdf 69)
5. The Landscaped Median
Throughout the public consultation landscaped medians have always been included as a means to achieve important urban design. Both the Collingwood and the Kingsway Knight Shopping Areas have planted centre medians. By also including landscaped medians in the Norquay Village Shopping Area, it creates a shopping area identifier for the entire Kingsway corridor. Landscaped centre medians break down the scale of the road width and add street beautification to the road, without having to reconstruct curbs. Specific to Norquay Village is the selection of 3 different centre median trees which adds unique identity to this shopping area when compared to Collingwood and Kingsway Knight. Figure 2 illustrates the proposed typical cross section of Kingsway between Gladstone and Wales Streets.
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The rezoning application for 2220 Kingsway went up today, Friday 6 July 2012, on the City of Vancouver Rezoning Centre web site. The application materials consist of 24 separate downloadable pdf files.
The proposed development site, currently occupied by a Canadian Tire store, occupies 2.3 acres of land at the southeast corner of Kingsway at Gladstone Street. This property lies right at the western boundary of the “neighbourhood centre” area for Norquay, right beside a designated north-south bicycle route.
2220 Kingsway is one of three yet-to-be-redeveloped large land parcels that lie along Norquay’s one-mile stretch of Kingsway. What is done with this major development proposal will impact the future of the entire local community. The other two especially large sites are the 2400 Kingsway motel property (owned by City of Vancouver) at Slocan Street at the center of Norquay, and the Purdy’s property (2777 Kingsway at Earles Street) near the eastern boundary of Norquay.