Eye on Norquay

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Archive for April 2013

Trashy Cans

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How the City of Vancouver Cheaps Out on Norquay (Lesson #3)

Part 1:  Trashy Cans … and Other Street Furniture — or Not

Early on, the promise of new street furniture for Norquay became a standing joke among residents who were attending an interminable stream of workshops and open houses. First off, that “discussion” looked like a tactic designed to divert attention away from big issues toward relatively trivial matters. You can provide input on the scope and location of the new “neighbourhood centre” or … maybe you’d rather express your preferences about garbage cans and lamp posts.

Who could ever have imagined that the joke, a pittance of a public realm promise glued onto a forced mass rezoning, would turn into a sick joke through nondelivery? (Two and a half years after the mass rezoning and counting.) No, it’s actually even worse than nondelivery. Even the little that Norquay used to have has been taken away!

The street furniture mapping from the Norquay Plan approved by council on 4 November 2013 indicates that Norquay has lost nine litter bins and one bench. That’s how things don’t add up when you try to count the crumbs. Color coding overlaid onto that page tells the sorry story at a glance:


Little colored dots are hard to read, so here’s the tally for everything, existing and supposedly to come:

Benches          12  In Place         6  Not in Place

Litter Bins       3  In Place        12  Not in Place

Bike Racks        6  In Place        29  Not in Place

Bus Shelters      8  In Place         4  Not in Place

These statistics carry a Norquay resident back to those planner blandishments: Wouldn’t you like to let us make you into a new neighbourhood centre? You’ll get revitalized. You’ll get all of this public realm improvement. By the time it came to putting words to paper late in the game, the Norquay Plan snuck in the big hedge: “Proposed street furniture (as major development occurs)”. The shells in that game moved faster than a human eye could follow (especially the three “condition” bombshells dropped right at the end of over three years, massively upping all Kingsway height and FSR). The note does not say: “Existing taken-away street furniture to be returned as major development occurs.”

This seems a good point at which to exhibit the few trashy cans that have not been disappeared. These three photos of Norquay area Skyline-style “litter bins” were in no way posed — this is how they were found on the street. Notice especially the rust, dents, graffiti, residues at base, and companion weeds. This is what revitalization looks like!




Now it’s time to turn from the disgrace of Norquay to take a look at what has happened along Victoria Drive, an area which lies just to the west of Norquay.

Part 2:  Not Mass Rezoned but Getting Nice New Stuff!

What smacks you between the eyes is the absolute discrepancy. The Norquay area, forced into an unwanted mass rezoning, gets mostly worse than nothing. Then, to really rub it in, a massive shipment of new goodies lands right around the corner in an area not subjected to mass rezoning. The message: “Did you ever get suckered!”

To start off, here’s a mapping and tally of all the new litter bins and bike racks that have just been installed between East 33rd Avenue and East 41st Avenue, with existing benches included in the accounting.


All that new street furniture that came all at once. Here’s a sample picture of a new bike rack on Victoria Drive:


And here’s a sample picture of a new litter bin on Victoria Drive:


This is one more instance of the treatment given to Norquay. Extensive involvement in years of “planning” starts to feel like swallowing a corrosive substance — you’d throw up, but you have no stomach left.


Written by eyeonnorquay

23 April 2013 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Assessments

Blocky Not Wanted

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Four Storey Apartments on Fifty Foot Wide Lots May Be Coming Soon to Your Community

Zoning schedules for the new apartment zone proposed for Norquay will be part of the report that is announced to go to Council on April 24. Matt Shillito, Assistant Director of Community Planning, stated at the April 9 Norquay Plan Implementation public hearing that the Planning Department expects to use new schedules adopted for Norquay elsewhere in the city. 

The area to be included in the new apartment transition zone for Norquay is the half block directly behind the Kingsway Rezoning Policy area, plus the lots directly facing onto Norquay Park and six large lots on the east side of Earles Street north of Purdy’s. This is a total of more than 200 lots.

The Norquay Plan is very vague about the specifics for this new zone. The Norquay Working Group was told that assembly of three 33 ft. lots would be required.  This would enable building of four-storey H-shaped or U-shaped apartments with maximum light and air exposure. There would be a green area facing the street.

What is now being proposed, according to the latest Norquay Open House


is a minimum frontage of 50 ft. with 1.5 FSR. A frontage of 90 ft. could be built up to 2 FSR. We would like to see the originally suggested requirement of three lot (90 ft.) assembly maintained. Building on a frontage of 50 ft., or even 66 ft. (two 33 ft. lots), will make it difficult to produce the letter-shaped structures that were proposed during the community process.

As currently proposed, the new zoning would make it possible to build these apartments on a single 50 ft. wide lot. In Norquay itself, there are only a handful of 50 ft. wide lots in the area to be zoned for these apartments. The effective minimum frontage there will in most cases be two lots, or 66 ft. Residents of areas of Vancouver with 50 ft. wide lots directly behind arterials should be concerned about this proposed Norquay zoning. They may want to speak at the public hearing likely to be held in early May.

We will have more concrete details when we see the report going to Council on April 24.

Prepared by Jeanette Jones

•   •   •   •   •   •

Video of what Matt Shillito said at the 9 April 2013 public hearing:

Transcript of what Matt Shillito said at the 9 April 2013 public hearing:

We are looking at least some of these forms — the duplexes and the rowhouses and the stacked townhouses — in other areas, and particularly in terms of the community plans on the way in Marpole and Grandview-Woodland where there may be opportunities to introduce these zones. So in those areas and in other areas of the neighbourhood centres and areas of good transit accessibility, subject to a planning process like the current community plans, we would like to introduce these zones as discussion items for … with the community in each of those areas.

Comment:  Shillito kept his remark within the context of the public hearing on the RM-7 and RT-ll zonings, and did not extend to the four-storey apartment “targeted” for Council on April 24. It seems certain that the same would be said of this fourth new housing type.

Written by eyeonnorquay

18 April 2013 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Even More Opposed

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Now that the dust has mostly settled on last week’s back-to-back public hearing items for Norquay, it’s time to highlight the lack of support for what the City of Vancouver has done to a half a square mile of East Vancouver.

Focus in this posting is on Item 1 of the 9 April 2013 public hearing agenda, because the two zoning schedules for RM-7 and RT-11 are the broad-scale realization of an action taken about two and a half
years ago.

Back on 4 November 2010, when Norquay effectively got mass rezoned through adoption of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, the minutes of the meeting [1] show these statistics:

        The Committee heard from 23 speakers; eight of whom spoke in general support and 15 who spoke in
        opposition to some or all of the recommendations and expressed concerns.

That was an opposition ratio of 2 to 1.

There is no record here of written submissions. Copies of negative written comments other than our own have been seen. Council knew that we (Joseph Jones and Jeanette Jones) would not be able to make a Council meeting on that date, due to travel planned months ahead of time. No allowance was made for our years of engagement with the planning process. Even without our presence on the scene, opposition was strong.

Afterward, we received two reliable eyewitness reports that City of Vancouver staff openly engaged in telephone solicitation for additional speakers. There was also an impression that staff had coached speakers to support the plan. So the apparent support probably was not as real as the record might suggest.

Now compare the results from the 9 April 2013 public hearing that executes much of the intent of the Norquay Plan. The minutes of that meeting [2] show these results for written correspondence:

        4 emails and letters in support;
        27 emails and letters in opposition; and
        3 emails and letters regarding other matters in relation to the application

and for speakers:

        4 in support and 17 opposed

Those are opposition ratios of 7 to 1 for written comment and 4 to 1 for speakers. Council chambers and gallery were also filled with known supporters who chose not to waste their time speaking.

If Norquay residents had believed that anything they had to say would make any difference, those opposition ratios would have been far greater.

As time passes, lack of support for the all take no give tendencies of City of Vancouver policy swells like a festering pocket of pus.

[1] http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20101104/documents/penv20101104min.pdf

[2]  http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20130409/documents/phea20130409min.pdf

Written by eyeonnorquay

16 April 2013 at 12:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Not in the Plan

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Around noon on 10 April 2013, Vancouver City Council returned to “unfinished business” to approve the rezoning of 2220 Kingsway.

A restricted-access podium covers and walls off most of the 2.3 acre site. That physical feature of the development is far more offensive to Norquay residents than the three 14-storey towers that loom above. Still, the height of the development is out of human scale, and the massiveness was never anticipated in the resident-engaged Norquay planning of 2009.

Eye on Norquay appeared to be the only observer physically present during these proceedings at City Hall.

The main point of interest in this day-after-public-hearing discussion and vote was raised by Adriane Carr, the sole councillor not embedded in the Vision-NPA axis. The text of the Norquay Plan as approved by Council [1] offers no authority for a height of 14 storeys. Only for a height of 12 storeys.

Brian Jackson (General Manager, Planning and Development) was the only staff in the room. Almost as soon as the question was raised, he said that “Blackberry contact” was down and asked for time to summon other staff. Council declared recess. After a few minutes Jackson returned with planners Matt Shillito, Harv Weidner, and Grant Miller.

The only response from planning staff with regard to this official document was to point to “Consideration G” on page 2:

THAT Council amend the proposed Neighbourhood Centre Plan to increase the base building height allowable through rezoning in the Kingsway Rezoning Area from six- to eight-storeys to eight- to ten-storeys and to increase the allowable building density from approximately 3.2 FSR (net) to 3.8 FSR (net).

That text offers no support for allocating 14 storeys to 2220 Kingsway.

The cited authority for the 14-storey specification derives from two graphics (page 53 and page 54) embedded in a reworked presentation [2] of the Norquay Plan. See Appendix A and Appendix B below for direct access to those graphics.

It seems clear that the legal document itself was subsequently elaborated on to record what was desired by someone after the fact — but not what was stated at the time. This papered-over mess traces straight back to the hasty political agenda that saddled the Norquay Plan with major increases to height and density in October 2010 just before the rezoning was crammed down the throats of residents.

All too often the City of Vancouver seems to exploit inconsistency to mean what it wants to mean, and even then to exploit those inconsistencies inconsistently. Norquay has already seen provisional graphics used to override multiple instances of clear text [3]. One of the councillors mentioned a principle that text takes precedence over graphics. (If such a principle exists, it just got tossed out the window again.)

If the graphic on page 53 has such authority for justifying a height of 14 storeys, it seems strange that the same graphic gets dismissed as “just a sketch for illustration” when it comes to recording intention for the plaza that was supposed to accompany the development. This looks like an extreme case of having it both ways at the same time. (The “plaza” morphed into a “park” and got shoved off onto the extreme southwest corner of the site.)

One Vision councillor went on at some length about how it might be different if a “whack of people” had come out to the public hearing and had made a point of the two-storey discrepancy. Point one. There is abundant evidence that even many nights of speakers have little impact on done-deal rezonings, especially if the developer happens to be a major player. Point two. Those who speak up and say what is not wanted to be heard tend to get written off as unrepresentative of the silent majority. On the other side of that equation, the abuse suffered by those who attempt to participate usually leads to rapid disengagement. The lack of speakers that show up is then taken as evidence of contentment with the state of affairs.

That same councillor ruminated about what resided in personal memory from fall 2010. When you can’t discover what you want in the documentation, just dig into individual recollections. Isn’t that how everything legal is supposed to work?

Adriane Carr found good reason to vote against approval of the rezoning of 2220 Kingsway. Was it sheer coincidence that she is the only councillor whose election campaign funding was not seriously beholden to developer Westbank?

The autocracy and arbitrariness of City of Vancouver manipulation goes on and on.

[1]  Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan

[2]  Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan 2010

[3]  Landscaped Median #2  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/landscaped-median-2/

Appendix A  —  Page 53 Graphic


Appendix B  —  Page 54 Graphic


Written by eyeonnorquay

11 April 2013 at 9:31 am

Walled-Off Compound

with 2 comments

Public Consultation = Opposed

The developer open house is the only opportunity for public response prior to the typical done-deal “public hearing” before Vancouver City Council. Here’s the scorecard:

        27 opposed / 13 in favor / 5 unsure

This two-to-one ratio mirrors past Norquay responses that demonstrate similar lack of enthusiasm for imposed mass rezoning for accelerated development: (1) Opposition to June 2007 Draft Plan for Norquay Village (2) August 2010 support for the Norquay Village Plan as produced by the Norquay Working Group (3) Opposition to the October 2010 public hearing on the Norquay Plan.

Only Big-Box Drive-To Shoppers Wanted at 2220 Kingsway

How does the City of Vancouver propose to bring revitalization to the Norquay area of East Vancouver?

On 9 April 2013 a public hearing for the 2220 Kingsway Canadian Tire site will lead to approval for Westbank to construct a closed-perimeter one-storey podium that shuts off most of a 2.3 acre parcel of land. Looming above will be three 14-storey towers to stand as sentries at this new “gateway” to Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre.

Actually, the planning has brought no centre to what was never a neighbourhood — and there never will be a centre. Phony planning has loosed development frenzy onto a here-and-there spot-rezoned corridor. How else could “planning” ever justify this massive 404 unit redeyelopment at the absolute periphery of the “centre”?

Developer Westbank clearly thinks that customers for its condos in out neighborhood would not feel “safe” without being able to live in a fortress. Consequently, these new residents will never be real neighbors. Nowhere else in Norquay is there a tower and podium form, nor is there likely ever to be in this generation, except perhaps at the NE corner of Kingsway and Earles (the other “gateway” site). The City of Vancouver has allowed this design to come off the drawing boards. Once a rezoning policy hands a developer the “right” to a height and an FSR, the developer seems to have carte blanche to do anything they like within those two constraints. The specifications and intentions of a neighborhood plan seem to count for little [Side note: allowed FSR is 3.8, official FSR is 3.8166 — Why does the developer always seem to be permitted to nudge the allowed figure upward?] Look at it (Appendix E, Page 6 of 8):


The Kingsway median with trees will never be there, despite the words of the Norquay Plan [1]. Why does the concept sketch in the report to Council persist in showing this feature?

Not a Plaza

Notice the small greenish ground-level excrescence off to the right, down at the end of the street. This area is supposed to embody the plaza required by the Norquay Plan, valued at $811,720. This siting of the “plaza” says everything. Shove it off to the periphery, stick it on a corner, let parking garage traffic swirl past it. Get the thing as far away as possible from the development that hosts it so grudgingly. Basically ignore the Norquay Plan direction that the

        fully landscaped public plaza … be activated by retail uses on the edges.  (Appendix A, p. 25 of 40)

Thus far, the “plaza” appears to serve as little more than landscaping for the contemplation of sealed-off diners sitting in a restaurant. Where’s the coffee shop with the patio? Might a feature like that lead to just too much interaction with the dangerous locale? Consider only how much of this public amenity area has been proposed for a water feature, an unusable protective moat for the castle.

Primary connotations of the word plaza are: public, open, center, space, urban, market.

Now look at the concept sketch from the Norquay Plan:


This violation of the spirit of the Norquay Plan is the single worst feature of the proposal for 2220 Kingsway.

How much attention will ever be paid to this key concern of the Urban Design Panel (UDP): Design development to allow the building to open up more to the park. The UDP also devoted a whole paragraph to the “park” (note that they avoided calling it a plaza):

Some Panel members thought the park, although it was in the right place, seemed a bit small. One Panel member thought the building frontage along Gladstone Street was pushing the site lines and access away from the park and suggested taking that curve and opening it up to the park. Another member thought the current design would not attract people and would not be useable for the community.

These professionals recognize the scam and the abuse, but are too dependent on this major developer to say more or to say it stronger. These doubts have congregated in the priority and extent assigned to this item among “Conditions of Approval of the Form of Development” (B.b.1.i-ix — Appendix B, Pages 1-2 of 12).

Privatization of Amenity

The corollary of the park farce is extensive privatization of what has in practice served as open and publicly accessible space (practically the entire 2.3 acres, as retail store and surrounding parking area). Now look at the area that should have incorporated the plaza. That elevated small patch of blue, partly visible among the buildings, is an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by landscaping. The extent and seclusion of this area can better be assessed with this looking-straight-downward sketch of the Second Floor Plan (Appendix E, Page 3 of 8):


For all of the City of Vancouver there are only five outdoor swimming pools. This is a good time to remember the outdoor pool that was taken away from Mount Pleasant.

In Norquay, this revitalization will mean having a neighborhood whose children who know that the only “walkable village” outdoor pool is one that they are not permitted to access. Unless of course they live at 2220 Kingsway. If our children participated in public process, they would know that Norquay itself has nothing at all for the public, and does not seem likely to get new amenity any time soon. This despite new density already dumped on top of existing density.

The Opposite of “Social Mix”

A fitting close to these observations is to remark that this neutron bomb of gentrification provides absolutely no affordable housing among 404 dwelling units. Provision for that would only damage developer profit margins. The class foreseen as occupying this project isn’t even supposed to rub shoulders with the surrounding community. It has been clear from the start that a main agenda of the Norquay Plan itself is displacement of existing low-income families [2]. Across Vancouver, “revitalization” means purge the poor.

The Downtown Eastside has seen the Woodwards project as the platform for launch of a social assault on their community. A delving into the Woodwards backstory in another context [3] uncovered this:

A report from the Woodward’s Steering Committee to Vancouver City Council in September 2005 makes clear that the strategically positioned project sought permeable perimeter into the historic precincts. The military tone of this language corresponds neatly with the massive funding directed in parallel at hosting the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

That’s the very same developer. Westbank. Although the Woodwards project included a social housing component, it has become notorious for its structural apartheid. Low-income persons there are segregated into an entirely separate tower where management practices have prison-like aspects. Similar segregation is featured in the recently approved planning for 955 East Hastings. On the rare occasions where social housing is made a direct part of a project, there is no social mix. But planners and politicians still have the gall to say that there is.

[1]  Landscaped Median #2  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/landscaped-median-2/

[2]  East Van Gentrification: Norquay at the Eye of the Hurricane

[3]  Vision Vancouver Hits the Panic Button

Two Other Specific Items of Concern

Traffic Calming Measures  —

At at the East 30th Avenue/East 31st Avenue/Gladstone Street intersection to address any vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian conflicts while ensuring vehicular circulation to the parkade entry is maintained. ( B.c.4.c — Appendix B, Page 9 of 12)  The City of Vancouver has added this note:

        The calming feature proposed (traffic diverter) is to be reversed
        to allow for traffic to circulate around the site and provide access to the parkade.

One block of Gladstone and one block of East 30th Avenue, the west and south perimeter streets, are being commandeered to serve the 2220 Kingsway development. In-and-out traffic should be confined to the dedicated east laneway that connects directly with Kingsway. Gladstone is a bicycle route. If City of Vancouver insists on directing this kind of traffic onto Gladstone, it must forbid all parking at all times anywhere on Gladstone between Kingsway and the five-way intersection that connects with East 30th Avenue. Otherwise this above-ground parking will become a literally fatal temptation for customers of the big-box store oriented to automobile traffic. In addition, continuous presence of parked automobiles would further degrade the minimal excrescence that is being offered up as a “plaza.”

Soils  —

(a) A site profile must be submitted to the Environmental Protection Branch. (b) In this instance there should be no exercise of discretion in the matters of environmental protection and legalities. (c) Assessment of contaminants and their migration must be performed with extra diligence, considering the apparently unauthorized soil removal that has already taken place. ( B.c.9 — Appendix B, Page 11 of 12)

A photographic record and report [4] has been made of what appears to have been an attempt at stealth remediation around 30 October 2012 at the 2220 Kingsway site. This activity was reported to both municipal and provincial authorities. The municipal inspector indicated that the City of Vancouver had issued no permits for excavation at the site, and also informed me that “privacy concerns” meant that to obtain any feedback on the situation, I would have to place a Freedom of Information request with the City of Vancouver. Past multiple poor experiences with trying to obtain information from the City of Vancouver deterred me from attempting to discover the results of municipal assessment of the situation.

The rear portion of the Canadian Tire building housed twelve automobile service bays for many years. The southeast corner of the building hosted a large waste oil collection tank. There is likely to have been considerable spillage of contaminants into the soil. The local geology tends to consist of a layer of soil over sandstone, with considerable underground water flow. Due to slope of land, flow would be toward the north, which is underneath the existing structure. Area residents should be assured that environmental impacts of this industrialized use have been properly assessed and addressed, and all results should readily be provided on request.

[4]  Stealth Remediation?  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/stealth-remediation/


CD-1 Rezoning: 2220 Kingsway

Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan

Rezoning Application — 2220 Kingsway

Urban Design Panel Minutes — 26 September 2012

Written by eyeonnorquay

7 April 2013 at 10:19 pm

2220 Kingsway Amenities

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2220 Kingsway — Where Are Our Amenities?

When a building site is rezoned for development, the developer is usually expected to pay a Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) either in cash or in kind. The purpose of CAC is to help address growth costs, area deficiencies, and/or other community needs and impacts. Cash CAC must be spent in the neighbourhood in which the development is occurring. The amount of the CAC is negotiated between the developer and city planners, and is related to the increase in the site’s value resulting from rezoning. CAC is allocated by senior city staff, and even planners working on the project may not be present. The development at 2220 Kingsway will generate a CAC of $4,011,720.

In addition, the developer pays a Development Cost Levy (DCL) of $12.50 per sq. ft. This money can be used only for growth costs associated with parks, childcare, social/non-profit housing, and engineering infrastructure. It can be spent citywide. The development at 2220 Kingsway will generate a DCL of $4,814,000.

The report that went to Council on March 12 details the allocation of CAC for 2220 Kingsway (the former Canadian Tire site). Westbank has offered to develop public space on the northwest corner (basically the entrance to the proposed grocery store) and on the southwest corner (a small park, supposedly the “plaza” mentioned in the Norquay Plan) at a cost of $811,720. In addition, they will build a traffic diverter at the corner of Gladstone and 30th Avenue at a cost of about $200,000. These are considered in-kind CAC contributions. The remaining $3,000,000 is to be

        held in a Norquay Village Amenity Strategy Reserve and allocated to the future development of
        community amenities to be located on the 2400 Kingsway site.  (p. 9)

The proposed allocation of CAC is not acceptable for three reasons:

1 —  The traffic diverter at Gladstone and East 30th Avenue is engineering infrastructure, and should be paid for out of DCLs as is usually done.

2 —  We do not know how the proposed Reserve Fund will be spent. Will it be used, either directly or indirectly, to fund the social housing now being proposed for 2400 Kingsway? Social housing is a citywide social good, not a local community amenity.

3 —  Money put into a Reserve Fund today will be worth less when it is spent unless the sum is tied to cost-of-construction indexing. This must happen.

A sum of at least $800,000 from the CAC generated by 2220 Kingsway should be allocated now to near-term redevelopment of Brock Park. The stretch of Kingsway between Nanaimo and Gladstone is the first area of Norquay to experience major densification. Three recent developments already built or approved along Kingsway (2220, 2239, 2300) are adding 835 new housing units within 400 metres of Brock Park. More is coming. This park needs improvement. The outline Public Benefits Strategy presented at the January 2013 Open House for Norquay contains a draft direction (panel 15) to “renew/improve Brock and Slocan Parks (e.g. similar to Norquay Park improvements).” (The cost of the Norquay Park renewal was $800,000.)

The remaining money held in the Reserve Fund should be placed in a segregated account that is tied to cost-of-construction indexing, and future Norquay community space should be specified as the amenity for which the money is being held. This money should be used to enhance the new community space that the Norquay Plan states as key policy for the 2400 Kingsway site. The funds should not enable the CAC generated by development of that site, which the Norquay Plan expects to pay the basic costs of the community space, to be redirected to any other purpose.

This posting prepared by Jeanette Jones

Written by eyeonnorquay

5 April 2013 at 6:58 pm


with 4 comments

East Van Gentrification:
Norquay at the Eye of the Hurricane

The city has nowhere to go but east!  — Bob Rennie

Hard lessons from years of Norquay struggle illuminate the circumstances that underlie many of the basic points that follow:

  Ever greater density is being dumped into the already far denser immigrant working-class neighborhoods of East Vancouver.

  The kind of zoning that is still protected for high-end Vancouver neighborhoods is being wiped out on a massive scale in East Vancouver, at the rate of hundreds of acres in a single public hearing. Value is being extracted from the affected areas, not added to them. The main beneficiaries are industries connected with development and real estate sales and property management.

  Promises of local area improvements to correspond with increase in population conveniently fade away when it comes down to allocating and spending money. The little amenity that politicians/planners ever deliver amounts to nothing more than routine basic maintenance of what was already in place. Consider only the travesty of raising the possibility of prioritizing the renewal of two existing facilities — Collingwood Library or Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House — as possible major future benefit that Norquay might experience [1]. The politicians/planners unilaterally decide what happens and when it happens. And whether it ever happens.

  The direct financial “Community Amenity Contributions” (CACs) generated as development levies always seem to be scams that hype a pittance. Developers especially love to on-site their contributions as “in kind” construction that is valued at grossly inflated rates and goes mainly into enhancing the marketability of their own development projects.

  The small amount of CAC money that comes from some large development projects disappears into sweetheart deals and mitigations and sequestration black holes. Construction of the 403 dwelling units at King Edward Village brought in a CAC valued at $251,328.24, which mainly meant that the developer had one less long-term-unrented commercial space to contend with because a library branch moved in. (Disclosure to the uninitiated: the Kensington branch of Vancouver Public Library did not amount to “a new library.”) The $2.4 million in-kind CAC for 2300 Kingsway vanished into a 37-place expensive daycare that will benefit very few, and the general community not at all. The $105,846 from 2699 Kingsway got sucked into a fund to mitigate the new building’s unacceptable shadowing of an existing daycare immediately to the north. The $3 million cash CAC for 2220 Kingsway will be held in reserve and likely vanish into generalities — perhaps to be diverted into social housing that benefits only future direct recipients, with absolutely nothing coming back to residents of the existing affected neighborhood.

  Walled compounds like 2220 Kingsway privatize the benefits that used to emerge in shared public space, and FSR incentives reward the developer for that privatizing. Things that never materialize for the local community now hide behind the walls of new developments: gathering spaces, party rooms, swimming pools, rooftop plazas, exercise facilities, workshops, etc.


The Norquay area located at the geographic heart of East Vancouver will dominate a City of Vancouver (CoV) public hearing agenda set for 9 April 2013.

1 —  Half a square mile of land that surrounds a one-mile stretch of Kingsway (Gladstone to Killarney) will be subjected to new detailed zoning specifications. (Vancouver City Council set the stage for this on 4 November 2010 by forcing a contentious and little-supported mass rezoning onto the local community.)

2 —  At the same upcoming public hearing, 2.3 acres at 2220 Kingsway will be rezoned for three 14-storey towers to stand sentry around a walled compound. This is what revitalization looks like: out-of-scale opportunistic development at the extreme western edge of an area that was supposed to be getting a neighbourhood centre.

After 2220 Kingsway goes down, only two more such large sites will remain along the Norquay section of Kingsway. Over the past decade, two other sites (2239 Kingsway and 2300 Kingsway) have been built out, and a third is now under construction at 2711 Kingsway (Skyway Towers). Despite all the promises made along the way, almost all that the “planning” has done for Norquay so far is to dump additional density on top of existing density. We experience little more than land rush and hasty buildout.

More than six years of struggle have made it clear that a developer-compromised municipality feels it must kowtow to a construction industry that seems to be the only important business still based in Vancouver. Perhaps this purported business remains here only because it is impossible to export the associated jobs.


Norquay is not alone. Our particular local area occupies an interesting spot in the recent historical sequence of gentrification assault on the eastern half of Vancouver.

2003  Vancouver had the misfortune to “win” the bid for the 2010 Olympic Games. The bid was spearheaded by developer Jack Poole who notoriously proclaimed: If the Olympic bid wasn’t happening we would have to invent something.

2004  The first “neighbourhood centre” at Kingsway and Knight [2] slid past local residents on snake oil, with lukewarm support. King Edward Village then sprouted up at the “centre.” The Kingsway-oriented shopping-area portion of that planning somehow never happened. Notice that in the current listing of Vancouver neighbourhood planning projects Kingsway and Knight has vanished from view and is no longer considered an “active” plan [3]. Here’s what one area resident had to say [4] eight years later:

        We were sold the story when they changed the zoning in the Cedar Cottage neighborhood that we
        would have more density here but it would mean that there would be more affordable housing for
        families — and I don’t know what kind of families can afford $1.2 million for the top half of a house.

2006  CoV launched planning for a “Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre,” which eventually they perverted into a Kingsway Corridor plan. A few months previous to starting the planning, Council approved a blockbusting 22-storey tower for the southeast corner of Kingsway and Nanaimo. In 2007 a crude clone of the Kingsway and Knight Draft Plan met with massive opposition in a survey and failed [5]. Then the struggle began. (PS: That was the last time CoV ever carried out that kind of formal survey.)

2007  About 15 acres lying east of Little Mountain was put into play with federal transfer of land to the Province of British Columbia. Most of the existing social housing on the large parcel was demolished in the fall of 2009, and the land still sits empty [6].

2007 Area planning was launched for Mount Pleasant. Plan approval followed in November 2010. April 2012 saw approval of rezoning for 228-246 East Broadway and 180 Kingsway (Rize Alliance) after six nights of overwhelming opposition at public hearing. Started up in 2012 is a Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee that has become an ongoing battleground between residents and city planners [7].

2008  The Sam Sullivan EcoDensity™ initiative found approval after seven nights of public hearings. Partly in consequence, Vision Vancouver trounced the NPA in the fall municipal election — and then proceeded to inject NPA policy with developer steroids.

2009  Rampant speculation along Cambie in the wake of the Canada Line construction for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics encountered its first sign of reward when Council approved terms of reference for “Cambie Corridor” planning at mid-year [8]. (The Canada Line was one of the four 2010 Olympics megaprojects that served to convert public money into development industry profits, and at the same time to establish infrastructure necessary for yet more development industry profits.) Director of Planning Brent Toderian’s tough talk to speculators may have contributed to his getting fired in early 2012.

2011  In the spring, Council fumbled around with the Historic Area Height Review of the Downtown Eastside, and eventually split the area in two. That meant they could immediately loose developers onto the southeastern sector, much of which coincided with Chinatown [9]. Rezonings have been coming thick and fast. Since then, planning for the unrezoned portion has “engaged” many Downtown Eastside residents in an excruciating and extended struggle [10].

2011  Just before shutting down for August vacation, Council decided to pursue simultaneous planning in three separate neighborhoods: Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, West End [11].

Land Grab

When conflict erupts on many fronts at the same time, the nature of the simultaneous widespread activities can be hard to make sense of. Factor in everyone’s understandable tendency to focus on their own immediate home territory.

In eastern Vancouver, the bigger picture is becoming clear. Developers have decided that this is the decade or two to exploit multiple large parcels of land for rapid dense development, with minimal respect shown to surrounding existing communities. Particular attention fastens onto large sites that can be treated like empty land. This pattern is not restricted to East Vancouver, but the impacts have tended to concentrate there. (Instances in Marpole and the West End can be related to the number crunching that comes later on).

Costs of construction are relatively fixed. Costs of finishing can vary. The basic margin for profit expands with the lower land costs of East Vancouver. Kingsway and the Hastings “corridor” seem to define two of the primary axes of perceived developability. A distribution map of the rezonings that occurred under the original STIR program demonstrates concentration in three areas: West End, Norquay, and Cambie Corridor [12].

The current rate of development across Vancouver seems geared far more to opportunities for speculation than to the actual population growth. The disparity between housing as a good that meets a need and housing as a mechanism for profiteering grows ever sharper. Governments have shown no inclination to shelter Vancouver residents from market rapacity by measures designed to connect the economics of ownership with use of property as residence.


Early on, Norquay residents recognized that mass rezoning would likely mean displacement of the existing immigrant [13] working-class community. Planner-supplied data specific to Norquay showed a 2001 census figure of 32% for low-income households, and a dwelling population density 50% greater than the Vancouver average [14].

Remember how the Olympic Village social housing fiasco started out with a premise of 1/3 and 1/3 and 1/3 “mix” of income levels [15]? Norquay already had the ideal social mix, at least at the lower end.

So why was Norquay selected for massive redevelopment? Ad nauseam, city planners said things like this to us: “Shouldn’t your area do its share to house people? Don’t you want to make housing more affordable? Shouldn’t young professionals like us be able to buy a brand-new unit for less than a house on a lot costs?” [No fixer-uppers for those yuppies!]

The rejected 2007 Norquay Draft Plan itself made it clear that the effects of redevelopment would be to make the area less affordable:

        How much will the housing cost?
        New units are always more expensive than older ones of a similar type and size.
        (p. 4 document / p. 5 pdf) [16]

This item was emphasized by Norquay residents almost from the outset. Check out the web site that presented our struggle during 2007-2008 [17].

A standout fact: a city planner told Norquay residents that acceleration of change was a purpose of mass rezoning, and that rezoning specifications could aim for a specific increase in rate of “redevelopment.” The anticipation for Norquay was to double the rate, the same as what planners had determined for the first neighbourhood centre at Kingsway and Knight. Here’s a record from 2009 of exactly what was said:

        Brief discussion of rate of change led to Miller providing this information about the mass rezoning at
        Kingsway and Knight. Across the city, redevelopment occurs at a rate of about 1% a year. The target
        at Kingsway and Knight was 2%, and so far (about five years on) it measures at about 1.7%.  [18]

The failed affordability of the Kingsway and Knight project has been noted above.

What Is Going On?

A good person to seek a take on the situation from is real estate honcho Bob Rennie. This is the guy who marketed and sold off Norquay’s first condo tower at 2300 Kingsway.

Here is direct quotation from the notes for Rennie’s 2011 speech to the Urban Development Institute:

        81. I believe that there is still a Westside demographic that believes that after Granville Street the next
              bus stop is in Province of Alberta.
        82. Larry Beasley and I thought we were geniuses agreeing to dovetail our messaging. Boasting in 2002,
              that “the city will move east.”
        83. Who were we kidding? The city has nowhere to go but east!  [19]

And this is from his 2012 speech:

        Mike Magee is here today. Gregor’s Chief of Staff.
        He knows the challenges first hand of moving density to sensitive single-family neighborhoods.
        Very powerful and very vocal community groups are causing moratoriums on development.
        In the West End, Grandview Woodland, Marpole, and now the DTES.
        All obstacles to affordability.  [20]

Isn’t there something absolutely weird about proclaiming the city will move east when east side population density is already greater?

Vancouver local areas can be divided into four rough groupings. (See Appendix A for greater detail.)


   Region            Hectares      Population 2011     Persons/Hectare

   Peninsula            579             99 233              171

   West               3 315            115 375               35

   Middle             2 368            123 583               52

   East               5 023            266 880               53

   Totals            11 285            605 071               54

Peninsula = West End, Downtown
West = West Point Grey, Kitsilano, Dunbar-Southlands, Arbutus Ridge, Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale
Middle = Fairview, Mount Pleasant, South Cambie, Riley Park-Little Mountain, Oakridge, Marpole
East = Downtown Eastside-Strathcona, Grandview-Woodland, Hastings-Sunrise, Kensington-Cedar Cottage,
       Renfrew-Collingwood, Sunset, Victoria-Fraserview, Killarney

Taken all together, the Bob Rennie overviews of 2011 and 2012 paint an ugly picture. Simply put, the premium placed on West sector real estate grows through policy that continues to expand the differential. If Kitsilano is removed from the West sector calculation above, the figures change to: Hectares at 2764, Population at 74,004 and Persons/Hectare at 27. That’s a density at half of the city average. The Middle and East sectors are at the city average.

As the West sector becomes the exclusive preserve of global capital, the further degraded Middle and East sectors become a refuge for still relatively affluent local persons who can afford extreme Vancouver ratios and/or persons who are willing to lower their expectations of location/land/square-footage in order to arrive at a manageable housing cost. Meanwhile, little to no investment gets put into corresponding enhancement of public realm facilities.

Poor and low-income persons simply get pushed out. Increased allowance of buildable space accelerates the process. Older buildings with cheaper rents become the first to be torn down.

Mass rezoning tends to serve as nothing more than a covert tool for expropriation and dispossession.

What a Map Shows

A 2013 mapping of Property Values for Single Family Home (RS) Districts shows the over-$1-million-blue category now cropping up strongly in the southeast of Vancouver for the first time [21]. Correlation with the low Persons/Hectare figure of 42.0 for Killarney seems unmistakeable. Lack of “corridors” with heavy traffic volume are a likely factor in that particular geography.

The large white spot at the north end of the Kingsway diagonal represents the extraction from RS zoning of 1600 properties in the Kingsway and Knight mass rezoning of 2004. The new RM-7 and RT-11 and apartment zonings to be forced onto Norquay will affect 1900 properties. One of the achievements of the Norquay struggle has been a retention of the option to build under RS zoning as well, something effectively not permitted by the Kingsway and Knight specifications.

The bottom line: as RS zoned properties become ever scarcer, that growing scarcity predictably increases the value of what remains — likely out of proportion to any increase that may accrue from an “upzoning” to “new housing types” to achieve moderate increase in density. Appendix B demonstrates a value gap expansion in favor of detached Vancouver houses that starts around 2003, the year of the acceptance of Vancouver’s Olympic bid. To what extent have actual and prospective mass rezonings contributed to this increasing disparity? Most of the profit opportunities in rezoned-area redevelopment probably will fall to a developer rather than a current property owner. After all, would the value of any existing single-family house be enhanced by adjacent redevelopment that casts greater shadow and puts more cars on the street?


Some neighborhoods are clearly better treated than others. An outstanding example is the population decrease of 15% that Shaughnessy has experienced over the past four decades, despite its proximity to city center [22]. No other neighborhood in the entire city has experienced an actual decrease. Quieter and more spacious and ever more valuable.

The social housing requirements that have been a part of the zoning for the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District have mitigated development pressures in that area. Yet the economics of development in Vancouver has now reached a stage where building will occur even with that requirement in place [23]. The conclusion of the current planning process for the Downtown Eastside seems likely to see Council lift even that restriction, which would set off a serious land rush in the western portion of the Hastings Street corridor.

The further down the socio-economic ladder a neighborhood sits, the greater the danger it faces from profiteers. The most exploitable disparity is the greatest one. Marginality offers the most scope for expansion of margin.

The immigrant working-class population of Norquay is destined to suffer a density-dumping that further degrades the existing quality of life. This has been going on for years. It has already become clear to Norquay residents that increase in development never brings corresponding amenity. The fine words of the community vision already stand exposed as outright lie:

Each proposal for a new housing type has been made conditional not only on an increase in community facilities and programs needed to serve any population growth generated by the new housing type but also on an assurance that parking and traffic impacts would be addressed.  [24]

The older and more affordable rental housing will be the first element to disappear so that “affordable” new construction on less land can be sold to yuppies. Very roughly speaking, redevelopment accelerated so that they can purchase a place for $400,000 instead of $800,000. The proximity of Norquay to anomalously distributed East Vancouver pockets of “non-resident occupancy dwellings” (see Appendix C) provides grist for additional speculations.

Meanwhile, the homeless, the barely housed, and the poorly housed of the Downtown Eastside face an even more rapid obliteration of their only possibility of survival in everywhere-upscaling Vancouver. There is literally no other Vancouver neighborhood for them to head for. Governments play number games with dubious statistics while mouthing off about social mix. It is clear that without significant capital injection (and none is visible on any horizon), “mix” can only mean let’s stir things up and make the down fall out.

A centrifuge is revving up to spin the least powerful right out of the City of Vancouver, powered by the toxic fuel of rezonings. The only direction provided by that mechanism is out.

A recent editorial in the Globe and Mail about the current situation in Vancouver bore this main title: Rebirth Does Not Call for a Class War [25]. As the heartless real estate resource extraction game plays out right now, what looks like rebirth to some feels like death to others. Those who sense death approaching often conclude that they have absolutely nothing to lose.

•   •   •   •   •   •

[1]  Panel 13 of January 2013 Norquay Village open house. https://eyeonnorquay.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/10-18-norquay-village-plan-public-benefits-strategy-boards.pdf

[2]  http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/neighcentres/kingswayknight/index.htm

[3]  http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/neighbourhood-planning.aspx

[4]  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/sold-the-story/

[5]  http://www.vcn.bc.ca/norquay/nrqsrvrslt.html  /  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/timeline/

[6]  http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/little-mountain.aspx

[7]  http://www.rampvancouver.com/item/280/start-here/

[8]  http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/cambie-corridor-plan.aspx

[9]  http://vancouvercouncilvotes.wordpress.com/votes-on-planning/height-review-chinatown/

[10]  https://sites.google.com/site/dteslapp/

[11]  http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cityplan/Visions/nextplan/index.htm

[12]  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/encircled-by-stir/

[13]  https://eyeonnorquay.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/norquaystatistics.pdf

[14]  https://eyeonnorquay.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/page72.pdf

[15]  “Concern about the proposed 80/20 mix; support for the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 mix” (p. 7)

[16]  http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/neighcentres/norquay/pdf/newsletter3english.pdf

[17]  http://www.vcn.bc.ca/norquay/

[18]  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/documents/nwg-2009-reports/#3of11

[19]  http://storage.ubertor.com/cl1067/content/document/27119.pdf

[20]  http://forms.rennie.com/RMS/2012%20UDI%20Speech.pdf

[21]  http://www.btaworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/1mLine_RedBlue09-13_2013.jpg

[22]  https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/by-the-numbers/

[23]  http://themainlander.com/2013/03/24/proposed-condos-next-door-to-oppenheimer-park-already-hurting-low-income-residents/

[24]  Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision, p. 30  http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/cityplan/Visions/rc/pdf/newhousing.pdf

[25]  Rebirth does not call for a class war. Globe and Mail (28 Mar 2013) A10

•   •   •   •   •   •

Appendix A

According to 2011 Census of Canada statistics, the average figure for persons-per-hectare in Vancouver is 52.8. Here are the local areas that fall above the average, in descending order:

West End 218.3 / Downtown 145.8 / Fairview 94.4 / Kitsilano 75.1 / Mount Pleasant 72.5 / Kensington-Cedar Cottage 65.7 / Renfrew-Collingwood 61.6 / Grandview-Woodland 60.9 / Sunset 57.9 / Victoria-Fraserview 57.7

And here are the local areas that fall below the average, in descending order:

Riley Park 44.3 / Arbutus Ridge 43.1 / Marpole 42.5 / Killarney 42.0 / Hastings-Sunrise 41.9 / South Cambie 35.4 / Strathcona/DTES 31.7 / Oakridge 31.0 / West Point Grey 28.1 / Dunbar-Southlands 25.3 / Kerrisdale 23.3 / Shaughnessy 19.7

•   •   •   •   •   •
Appendix B


Credit for graph above:  http://telf.ca/stats.html
•   •   •   •   •   •
Appendix C

Norquay outline superimposed on mapping of “non-resident occupancy dwellings” from 2011 census data.


Source of map:  http://www.btaworks.com/2013/03/21/btaworks-foreign-investment-in-vancouver-real-estate-presentation-at-sfu-woodwards/

Written by eyeonnorquay

2 April 2013 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized