Eye on Norquay

Looking Out for East Vancouver

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Bad Narrative

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The essence of journalism is telling a story. But when the story is just a hackneyed script, news content tends toward zero. Frances Bula’s mainstream media “journalism” tends to look like circuitously paid-off public relations, if not straight-out propagandizing for the corporatocracy.

Appended to this posting is a transcript of what Bula had to say as a panel participant at CityPlan + 20 Years, a planning symposium sponsored by the University of British Coumbia School of Community and Regional Planning on 12 October 2012.


Bula’s five minutes of verbal riff show how little she understands of the news she purports to cover, and how little connection she has had with any of it. More interestingly, it shows her eager to spout a line that feels a lot like repeated gossip. That sort of disconnect with history can only embarrass. Her one-dimensional words are put on record here, made available for scrutiny, and set against detail.

While it is tempting to unwind the Mount Pleasant spin at the core of Bula’s blather, focus is directed toward comment on her one-minute Norquay segment. After all, this is Eye on Norquay.

First, though, one irresistible snark: How could any fungible neighbourhood ever dare to view itself as entrenched  since it inevitably overlaps with the profit potentialities open to developers who can’t imagine dealing with anything but empty industrial land?

Knight and Kingsway, which was very heart-warming, happened exactly the way she [Ann McAffee] said.

Uh, no. See this extensive documented backstory on Kingsway and Knight. Wishful touchie-feelie haze, maybe — reporter integrity, no.

The city thought they had a similar agreement … at Norquay.

A handful of participants spent a few months watching city planners stamp a clone cookie out of steroid-infested dough. Then a formal survey showed that a strong majority of the entire Norquay neighborhood realized that they were about to be handed over to developers for no payback. A few scrutinizers went on discover that a key element of the local community vision had been willfully disrespected by planners. Publicize that.

There was gonna be a center.

After seven years of struggle, city planner bait-and-switch morphed the anticipated Norquay “centre” into a one-mile-long strip development to be bookended by fortress compounds. Center? Ha!

There was gonna be like one tower.

Briefly. The original applicant for what is now 2300 Kingway at Nanaimo asked for an 18-storey tower; Vancouver city planning came back with please-make-that-22-storeys. Review the video for the 24 January 2006 rezoning to see how chief planner Larry Beasley sure didn’t think this ugly launch into neighborhood blockbusting was just about “like one tower.”

The original group, I don’t even know what happened to them.

Logorrhea sloshes around a simple-minded notion of an “original group” and a “new group.” Watch Bula grope at nonexistent binary clarity, and insinuate skulduggery along her way toward admitting that she knows nothing — and has never bothered to gather any information.

Isn’t it sad to think that an academic forum would host this kind of rambling corporate-media-minded mythification of developer imperative?


Appendix:  CityPlan Symposium  —  posted by Wendy Sarkissian



I’m, I’m, um, a journalist who worked with the Vancouver Sun for twenty years and
now freelance for the Globe and Mail and Vancouver Magazine and have a blog all
about urban issues and politics, uh, and I really started covering the city in 1994,
so just at the tail end of CityPlan. I think I still have the book on my, you know,
pile of papers somewhere.


Largely a lot of the development up until a few years ago in Vancouver was in areas
where you didn't have entrenched neighborhoods, uh, that were ready to go to war.
What's happened in the last, I’d say five years, is, um, the downtown's been sort of
built out, a lot of the industrial areas that had been let go were built out, um,
the arterials have been built out as much as current patterns of small ownership,
uh, permit, um, you know, it's always sort of changing, but you're seeing much more
development move into the, uh, uh, established neighborhoods -- some single family,
some in the West, uh, the West End also um, and so, there's much more conflict —
that's apparent, many more questions about community engagement and whether there is
actually any at all, and one of the worst fights of the past five years was about a
tower at Kingsway and Broadway that was supposed to be a mesh with the community
plan that had just been developed -- which Peter was an integral part of — and
which turned into a terrible brawl, um, which brought into question what have the
planners really done, um, you know, who had they listened to, whose voice was being
heard, and so on.

[cut]  3:37

What you saw, I think, was a breakdown of the whole CityPlan visioning process — and
I see a lot of head-nodding around me here — because the whole process that Ann just
described for you at Knight and Kingsway, which was very heart-warming, happened
exactly the way she said. Uh, the next, uh, chapter in that was that the city thought
they had a similar agreement at Nanaimo and Kingsway, at Norquay, and, um, uh, that's
what I'd heard, they were working with the community group, there was agreement, there
was gonna be a center, there was gonna be like one tower and there was gonna be some
more density around it. And all of a sudden there was a big backlash to that, um, and
a new group came in, um, and said, well we never agreed to any of this, and what are
you doing, and you're forcing density down our throats, and the original group —
I don't even know what happened to them, um, I would love to hear someone say that
they're still alive somewhere. I feel like they've been bundled up and they're in a
gravel pit somewhere. [laughter]

[cut]  4:47

What you saw was a complete, uh, breakdown of community consensus, because people who
had been through Peter's process said, well, we never agreed to this, all we said was
we would be willing to consider some extra height at three sites in Mount Pleasant.
We never approved this. But Council and the developer had read it as: they said they
were willing to consider it, so thanks for that input -- much like Wendy is fearing —
and um, there was a certain amount of nudge-nudge wink-wink go ahead because, um,
Council, it, uh, because this was in the plan that this community was willing to
consider, uh, higher density there, and you, so you ended up in a complete
confrontation at Council, because the community felt like they still had some kind of
a say, um, and that they were going to get to nix this, if they felt like well this
is when we said we’d consider it, we've now considered it, and we don't like it.
[laughter] So they, so a lot of people in the community thought they still had control
over what was going to happen, and when they found out that they didn't, they were
enraged, um, a lot of people started dumping on the planners.


The whole planning process seemed to have devolved into not, how much total density
is this area willing to accept and what are the forms, but it became a fight about one
tower, with Council sort of saying if you don't allow this one tower — or appearing
to say, if you don't allow this one tower, the plan is gonna burn up, and all the
polar bears will die.


What I see is a move towards fights over individual towers rather than, uh, a
discussion about how much total density is this neighborhood willing to accept and in
what forms, and so then how are we going to plan for the entire neighborhood instead
of one site after another.



Written by eyeonnorquay

31 December 2013 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Comments, History