Walled-Off Compound

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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):

 
2220towers
 

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:

 
gateway
 

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):

 
secondfloor
 

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
       https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/gentrification/

[3]  Vision Vancouver Hits the Panic Button
       http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/vision-vancouver-hits-panic-button/5867

 
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/

 
References

CD-1 Rezoning: 2220 Kingsway
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20130312/documents/p2.pdf

Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk//20101104/documents/penv2.pdf

Rezoning Application — 2220 Kingsway
http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/rezoning/applications/2220kingsway/index.htm

Urban Design Panel Minutes — 26 September 2012
http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/pdf/committees/minutes-urban-design-panel-20120926.pdf
 

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Written by eyeonnorquay

7 April 2013 at 10:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I’d like to comment on Not in the Plan, but couldn’t find the link.

    Just wanted to let you know that I submitted correspondence to the City OPPOSING the rezoning that was not included in the tally of those opposed, nor was my letter included in the PDF document detailing the comments received. I contacted the city again after noticing this, and was told that I had to submit things before the cut off for comments. I pointed out that I had in fact done so, and asked to have the record changed to note this. I wonder how many other comments mysteriously vanished.

    I’m sorry that I couldn’t attend, but with two small ones at home and my partner out of town on business that night, I was unable. However, in speaking with my neighbours – all felt this was a fait accompli. Thank you Adrienne Carr for making a principled stand and voting against.

    Our neighbourhood (east Van in general) is easy pickings.

    Liana

    11 April 2013 at 5:13 pm

  2. This is worrisome. The very same thing happened to my submission on Item 1 Norquay Plan, submitted very early morning of April 9. I noticed the absence of my comment in the public record on Thursday April 12. Then I corresponded with staff, provided a copy of original dated email, and the comment was added on Friday April 13. This also means that councillors did not see my submission before their vote. I am still waiting to hear if the comment has been distributed to Mayor and Council after the fact. I have specifically asked that that action be taken. Irony: Last week City of Vancouver was busy hyping its digital strategy, when it cannot even handle email reliably.

    eyeonnorquay

    15 April 2013 at 10:51 pm


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