Archive for September 2013
This posting probably is the furthest Eye on Norquay has ever strayed from its focus on Norquay and East Vancouver. Tribute is due to the amazing grassroots organizing now occurring in Marpole. That organizing brings back memories of Norquay’s chaotic open houses in June 2007, of the local residents’ strong rejection of City of Vancouver Norquay planning shown by their own June 2007 survey, of the lively demonstration in front of City Hall in September 2007, of the fractious public meeting held at Collingwood Neighbourhood House in October 2007, of the unwanted resident-generated Norquay plan produced by Norquay Working Group in August 2009, of the sudden City of Vancouver exclusion of about 500 northern-area properties from Norquay planning in November 2009, of the sudden shut-down of Norquay Working Group in February 2011. May Marpole learn from these and other twists and turns and thus stand even stronger in resistance to the bulldozer of City of Vancouver “planning”!
Marpole is organized. That was by far the most important message delivered to Vancouver City Council on 25 September 2013.
Here are the quantitatives. Speakers claim to have reached about 80% of all residents. Weekly meetings have attendance of 80-100. Some summer 2013 City of Vancouver survey is said to have met with 69% disapproval of the planning.
Marpole at 24 September 2013 City Hall Rally
After multiple delays, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm, Council finally began to deal with a regular agenda item that had attracted over seventy sign-ups to speak: Community Plans: Next Steps. By the 6:00 pm recess for supper, Council had heard from three speakers. Between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm, the list progressed through speaker number 32. And progressed that far only thanks to at least eight no-shows!
Yours truly, Joseph Jones of Eye on Norquay, number 33, was the first no-show when the agenda item recommenced at 2 pm on 26 September 2013. Told less than 24 hours in advance to start at 1:30 pm on September 25th, waiting for eight and a half hours at City Hall, seeing a Council eager to shut down and go home rather than hear from still-gathered speakers — I got fed up with being jerked around. The disrespect overwhelms.
A standard City Hall tactic to deal with a long list of unwanted speakers is to shift agenda, and shift it multiple times, with little or no notice to the persons signed up to speak. Jobs, other commitments, lack of physical endurance — all these factors, aggravated by an indefinite inability to schedule anything else, guarantee that a significant number of speakers will never be heard. This is exactly what the disengaged City wants to achieve.
My opportunity to witness Marpole’s evening of singular pushback more than made up for never having the opportunity to make my own main point in that forum: Community plans need to be monitored and evaluated. As the City of Vancouver pushes ahead to finish off four plans so it can race off to execute yet more new plans, it fails to glance backward and assess the recent plans adopted for Kingsway and Knight, Norquay, and Mount Pleasant. Those plans amount to little more than wreckage left behind by a naked grab for raw height and raw FSR. Delivery of amenities is demonstrably of no concern. Those areas have already been packaged up for the developers, and that is all that matters. Beyond the lack of plan evaluation lies true horror: fake planning. The ugliest example is the failure to complete the shopping area planning for Kingsway and Knight (a done-in community which is no longer even considered an active planning process).
What Marpole Is Communicating
Marpole’s surmounting of the barriers erected against speakers served as a prime element to put apparent fear into the hearts of the Vision Council.
One after another, like clockwork, Marpole speakers did show up. They delivered a consistent message: support for nothing but extending the process, preferably on the same terms already offered to Grandview-Woodland. Coupled with that primary message was a strong refusal by all to see one area lopped off to remain (for how long?) in single-family zoning.
Eye on Norquay rejoiced in the obvious breadth represented by speakers: occupation, education, ethnicity, age. Add to that the clear existence of a multiplicity of strong and effective leadership.
These folk recognize a hasty divide-and-conquer tactic, and think beyond their own personal doorsteps. (This may relate to the “clustering” that City of Vancouver said was observed in the geographic distribution of some previous response from Marpole.)
During the evening, the power and extent of their grassroots community organizing emerged. Perhaps most effective were stories of persistent and repeated door to door canvassing, with no door crossed off the list because no one answered a knock the first time. Speakers themselves showed evident connection with local ethnic constituencies, notably the Chinese. More than one speaker gave clear indication of strong youth involvement in the organizing.
One 80-year-old woman forcefully raised the property tax issue. A distraught young father showed understanding of the class bias in the selection of the Marpole area for mass rezoning. A realtor, a mother of university students, exposed the connection between increasing supply of land for developer profits and impairment of the value of properties owned by existing residents.
At the end of the evening, Councillor Andrea Reimer was pressing this eloquent and savvy realtor to say whether Marpole would let up if Council were to cede a second area back to single-family zoning.
At several points Councillor Heather Deal trotted out the old silent majority ploy — made infamous by Richard Nixon, that sorry impeached president, remember him? — that was so often directed at Norquay: How do you propose to represent Marpole? What about the people you haven’t contacted? [Real meaning: The other voices we wish we were hearing from alongside of yours.] Instead, the question that Deal and her Vision Vancouver bloc need to answer themselves is this one: How does Vision Vancouver “represent” anything but brute force, after having found support among less than half of the 35% Vancouver voter turnout in 2011?
About all I know is what I observed at City Council on the evening of September 25th. All of today was consumed by a different interest. Internet sleuthing indicates that some of the speakers between #33 and #61 were heard between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm on September 26th, and that the agenda item seems set to resume at 2:00 pm on September 27th. I wish I had been able to post this report and comment in a more timely fashion.
A supplement to the foregoing can be found at https://twitter.com/jonesj (live tweetstream of 25 September 2013), much of it hashtagged #ourvancouver.
P.S. If any councillor cares what I think, let them seek out this posting. Feel free to call it to their attention yourself. For now I’ve had it with spitting into an ill wind that blows from all directions, a wind that does almost nothing but propel the sails of developers.
Marpole at 24 September 2013 City Hall Rally
Photos and images (aerial and VanMap) that illustrate the five locations mentioned — Duke Street south side, Duke Street north side, Earles Street, Skyway Towers on Kingsway, Chambers Street — can be viewed in the complementary Predator — Photo Gallery posting.
Klein Group has assembled forty single-family properties in Norquay into four parcels (15 lots, 7 lots, 4 lots, 4 lots) and is marketing two for redevelopment as four-story apartment and two for redevelopment as Stacked Townhouse/Rowhouse. Those forty properties alone add up to more than 2% of the 1900 in Norquay that suffered mass rezoning in 2010.
Average asking price for land with existing house ranges from $1.0 million per property to $1.08 million. It should be noted that except for the Earles Street properties all of the assemblages have a less-than-standard depth of 103-104 feet. Details of the land assemblies can be found in the appendix at the end.
What Happens to Existing Residents?
The August 2013 Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver “benchmark price” for a single family detached dwelling in Vancouver East was $849,100, while the median selling price for a detached dwelling in Vancouver East was $905,000.
On 4 June 2013 the Vancouver Sun listed the five “cheapest detached homes now for sale” on the east side of Vancouver. Prices clustered just below $600,000, with one outlier at $539,000.
It therefore seems clear that most “assembled” homeowners will be looking at a premium that lies somewhere within a spread of well under $400,000.
These aspects deserve consideration:
One — Any displaced homeowner will face substantial costs associated with relocation. Foremost will be the involuntary property transfer tax. Renters may find themselves forced to leave Vancouver.
Two — The assembler of the land expects to profit from taking on an intermediary role, may benefit from ability to waive or reduce commissions, and may have been accumulating properties in anticipation of rezoning.
Three — Much of the land assembly lies close to or backs onto the twelve-storey Skyway Towers development underway at 2711 Kingsway. To live for an extended period (the project progresses slowly) under a large construction crane cannot be pleasant. In the end, adjacent properties to the north will be subjected to severe shadowing.
Four — An owner may feel pressured by the prospect of potentially isolating redevelopment to either side that could further reduce existing property value.
Five — Some of Norquay’s most affordable housing stock for both owners and renters is the first to disappear. This is not surprising, since profit seeks to exploit the greatest potential margin, putting densest development onto cheapest land.
Six — Taken together, many of these aspects constitute an unstated City of Vancouver policy of promoting de facto expropriation. How do you get people off of their land when it is very difficult to directly force them to sell and move? Unleash large development right next door; threaten to surround and bury them if they hold out; upzone enough to reward development vulture capital without going far enough to put real reward into the landowner’s pocket.
Who Is Klein Group?
Klein Group operates as a “member” of Royal LePage. Parent company Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM) is a “global asset manager focused on property, power and infrastructure assets with approximately $95 billion of assets under management.” Their web site says:
Commercial — Our commercial real estate division consistently outperforms in asset management, brokerage, and investment services for our institutional and private clients.
Marketing — We create precise, risk attentive marketing programs for leading residential, commercial, and resort property developers to deliver results in very competitive environments.
Prior to 2005 Brookfield Asset Management was known as Brascan. Back in 1997, the Edper Group owned by magnates Edward and Peter Bronfman amalgamated with Brascan and become EdperBrascan. In 2000 that designation was shortened to Brascan.
Brascan, which dates back to the 1912 consolidation of railway and power companies in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo under Canadian entrepreneur Sir William Mackenzie, has in recent years been forsaking its origins in resources to concentrate on real estate, electricity generation and specialty assets in the United States and Canada. — Gary Norris. “Brascan changing name to Brookfield Asset Management, plans US$500M buyback.” Canadian Press NewsWire [Toronto] (15 Sept 2005)
Here is more about the large corporation that is swooping into Norquay after City Council’s Vision-NPA axis rode right over most of what the community had to say about its own future:
At its peak, the conglomerate that Cockwell forged with Edward and Peter Bronfman’s money represented a third of the Toronto Stock Exchange’s value and owned parts of more than 200 companies including John Labatt Ltd., MacMillan Bloedel, Royal LePage and Royal Trust — connected in a web of holding companies. … We believe keeping a low profile is good for business,” he adds. “It’s best to be under the radar.” [This was said by CEO Bruce Flatt in 2010] — Joanna Pachner. “A perfect predator” Canadian Business 83:11-12 (20 July-16 Aug 2010) 51-52, 54, 56
Elsewhere in British Columbia, this corporate monster from the east — titled a perfect predator by Canadian Business — has made itself infamous by planning to log old-growth timber on Cortes Island and by sucking profits out of BC Hydro through destructive run-of-river power projects.
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2604 — 2696 Duke St — South Side between Duchess and Earles
Current: 15 single-family houses
Parcel Dimension: 448 x 103 = 46,144 sq ft
Asking Price: $16.25 million
New Zoning: FSR 2.0 — 4-storey apartment w underground parking
2643 — 2665 Duke St — North Side between Duchess and Earles
Current: 4 single-family houses
Parcel Dimension: 132 x 103 = 13,583 sq ft
Asking Price: $4 million
New Zoning: FSR 1.2 — Rowhouse / Stacked Townhouse
5095 — 5011 Earles Street — West Side between Duke and Ward
Current: 7 single-family houses
Parcel Dimension: 224 x 112 = 24,752 sq ft
Asking Price: $7.6 million
New Zoning: FSR 1.2 — Rowhouse / Stacked Townhouse
2606 East 34th Ave and 5028 — 5052 Chambers St — East Side South of East 34th Ave
Current: 4 single-family houses
Parcel Dimension: 154 x 104 = 16,047 sq ft
Asking Price: $4.8 million
New Zoning: FSR 2.0 — 4-storey apartment w underground parking
These photos and images (aerial and VanMap) illustrate the five locations mentioned in the complementary Predator posting: Duke Street south side, Duke Street north side, Earles Street,
Skyway Towers on Kingsway, Chambers Street.
Eight Photos from Eastern Norquay
Duke Street South Side Looking East from Duchess
Duke Street South Side Looking West from Mid-Block
Duke Street North Side at Left — Looking East from Mid-Block
Living Under the Crane — Duke Street Mid-Block Looking East
Earles Street West Side Looking North
Skyway Towers — Looking West on Kingsway
Skyway Towers — Image and Reality
Chambers Street East Side Looking South from East 34th Avenue
Duke Street South Side
Duke Street North Side
Earles Street West Side
Chambers Street East Side
Exhausted Norquay residents understandably feel tempted to think that the City of Vancouver steamroller has already flattened their neighborhood and their hopes, and that no further action will make any difference at all. This is what the politicians and their developer masters intend to happen.
Despite strong and repeated demonstrations of opposition, the City of Vancouver forced Norquay planning to conclusions unwanted by the majority of those who engaged and spoke.
The results that have come in so far for Norquay indicate that even that hard-fought planning is being continuously and contemptuously disrespected. Look at one specific example. Much of the “public space” that was set as a precondition for extra density handed over to the developer at 2220 Kingsway is dissipating into entrance to a grocery store, a privatized restaurant patio, and extensive perimeter grating dedicated to air exhaust.
More generally, as the City of Vancouver dumps ever more density into Norquay, it fails to honor its commitments to make commensurate improvements — even at the paltry level of providing specified garbage cans and other street furniture.
Let the picture following remind readers that City Hall has been ignoring ordinary residents since September 2007, when Norquay discontent meshed with broader opposition to EcoDensity™ in a large rally in front of City Hall.
What promises to be the largest-yet convergence of Vancouver resident dissatisfaction will occur on Tuesday September 24 at 5:45 pm. The circumstances have just been elaborated by CityHallWatch in a posting entitled
The specific occasion for the demonstration is the Community Plans: Next Steps report to be considered at City Council on the following morning.
The focus of the report is current simultaneous “planning” for four distinct communities: Downtown Eastside, West End, Marpole, and Grandview-Woodland. All of these local communities are standing up and pushing back against the kind of heartless exploitation that has already attacked Kingsway & Knight (2004), Norquay (2010), and Mount Pleasant (2010). The pattern of abuse is becoming apparent to more and more people.
The new Community Plans: Next Steps report concludes on a note that should send a chill straight into the hearts of Norquay Working Group members who reside in the northern sector near the SkyTrain line:
Staff also note that significantly extending more than one planning process would impact the Planning and Development Services Department’s ability to deliver on other Council priorities for area planning, including Cambie Corridor Phase 3, Broadway Corridor, the Eastern Core, South East False Creek, North East False Creek and other Station Areas (such as Nanaimo and 29th Avenue). (p. 15) [emphasis added]
On 2 November 2009, after three and a half years of participation, these residents were told out of the blue that their area would be excluded from further Norquay planning and deferred to a future planning project. It looks like that future is getting a lot closer.
This is how the City of Vancouver
engages jerks around those who seek to participate.
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Comment below was distributed to a number of persons on the evening that the incendiary City of Vancouver Community Plans: Next Steps became available.
Watch the City of Vancouver unveil its crafty strategy, only one day after four local communities and others find common ground [this refers to a meeting of a coalition of about over 15 neighbourhoods that met on 16 September 2013 for a major discussion on the ills of city planning and what to do about it] and look toward a September 24 convergence on their widely despised City Hall politicians.
Ram the “planning” through for DTES and West End, which probably have the sharpest internal divisions. Back off slightly on the nascent Marpole upsurge — but only slightly. Isolate the most resistant and best resourced local community, Grandview-Woodland — especially because it is the area that has taken the lead in bringing all affected areas into common forums.
“Done” communities will tend to fall away. So ASAP take out the two easiest to do in. Separate the remaining two widely in time. First one, then the other. Also the two most distant from each other on the ground.
Maybe even let Grandview-Woodland slide off to somewhere after the 2014 municipal election, since the voting map shows that area as one of the strongest for Vision Vancouver.
Count on not-delayed or less-delayed local areas to feel resentment toward the area that has been most active and has taken a lead.
From page 15 of the just-released report:
(1) Proceed to conclusion without delay for the Downtown Eastside and West End plans
(2) Provide a short extension and make significant revisions to the draft Marpole Plan
(3) Extend the Grandview – Woodland process to create a Citizens’ Assembly for further consideration of some of the challenging issues unique to this planning area [with funding of $275,000]
The following response is being communicated to city planning staff who bear responsibility for oversight of the development being permitted on the 2220 Kingsway Canadian Tire site. See Skipping a Step for background.
Response to Conditions for Development Permit for 2220 Kingsway
Although there is no formal opportunity for public input to the development permit process for 2220 Kingsway, I would like to comment on the conditions set by the Planning Department. I am particularly concerned about the public space proposed for this site.
The Norquay Plan expected that this site would be open, with a central plaza activated by retail around the edges. Instead, what has been approved is a podium with three towers. The public space has been relegated to the edge of the site along Gladstone, with a “plaza” at the northwest corner of the site and a “park” at the southwest corner. Planners and the developer have made much of the fact that
the proposal surpasses the Norquay Plan’s requirement for a single 557-743 m2 (6,000-8,000 sq.ft.)
outdoor plaza by contributing two separate open spaces, with a combined area of 1,128 m2
(12,141 sq.ft.) — (Council Report of Feb. 26, 2013, p. 6) 
Subsequent to the rezoning, 30-40% of the “park” has been assigned to an outdoor patio for the proposed restaurant and a green barrier to separate the patio from the park. The placement of three large exhaust grates in the “public space” along Gladstone renders much of the rest of the space unappealing. The “plaza” is basically the entrance to the proposed grocery store. Only about 25% of the claimed 12,000 sq. ft. is actually usable public space.
The conditions do very little to address this situation. No one will want to sit anywhere near the exhaust grates, no matter how much is done to beautify their appearance or what kind of seating is attached to them. The original placement of trees between the grate at the southwest corner and the rest of the park was presumably meant to shield the park from the exhaust. Paving the area and moving the trees will not make this usable space.
I have huge reservations about planting fruit trees in a public park of this size. Most of the fruit will be left to fall and decay on the ground — with an even worse result if the area under the trees is paved. In addition, the trees will attract fruit flies and other insects. Certainly no one will want to sit under the trees while there is fruit on them.
The chess tables are a good idea, but I see no redesign of the “playground” space to make it more appealing to children. It is unclear what constitutes the “tai chi area.”
It seems that the public space has been designed to make sure the public cannot or will not use it.
Jeanette Jones, Norquay Resident
September 17, 2013
No Development Permit Board Review for 2220 Kingsway
The 410 residential units planned for 2220 Kingsway will constitute one of the four largest developments — existing (2300 Kingsway) or anticipated (2400 Motel, Purdy’s at Earles Street) — along the Norquay stretch of Kingsway.
The email below from City of Vancouver, regarding the development permit application for 2220 Kingsway, has been sent to unspecified persons and is posted here for public record and continuing access. The referred-to pdf file — Approval with Conditions Letter — [a one-page cover letter with twelve pages of conditions] was directed to the project developer on 9 September 2013.
Further comment at Eye on Norquay is anticipated regarding
• Conditions of development
• Lack of project review by the Development Permit Board
The step of review at the Development Permit Board is one of only three usual opportunities for public comment on a development project: (1) Open house for the project (2) Public hearing at City Council (3) Review by Development Permit Board.
* * * * * *
from: Kwan, Alice to: date: Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 10:05 AM subject: 2220 Kingsway - DE416814 mailed-by: vancouver.ca Dear Sir &/or Madam: I am following up to those who responded or showed an interest to the above project
in regards to the status of the Development Permit Application. Please see attached PDF
document. If you have any further questions or comments, please contact Michelle Au,
Project Facilitator directly at email@example.com or 604.871.6702. Regards, Alice Kwan, Project Assistant Development Services City of Vancouver Phone: 604.871.6283 Fax: 604.873.7060 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org