Archive for August 2014
In 2011, extensive participation in City of Vancouver capital planning process (see Norquay Residents Submission to 2012-2014 Draft Capital Plan) resulted in allocations for zero improvements specific to the 2010 Norquay Plan.
Three years onward, the next capital plan is set to run to 2018. If Norquay gets nothing in the current round of capital planning, it is hard to believe that we will ever see any significant local improvements that mitigate our unwanted mass rezoning.
What looks more and more like all-take-no-give density dumping would prove a confirmed fact. Under such conditions, why would any sane neighborhood ever welcome “additional planning”?
During 2014, Jeanette Jones has taken a lead in trying to get engaged with the 2015-2018 Capital Plan. Spending plans solidify out of the public eye, and then emerge as theoretically tweakable concrete at a late-in-the-process “open house.” To make a useful submission within such framework is a painful slog.
Come out August 28 or September 4 and see whether there is anything planned for Norquay. Taking into account planning and priorities and actual Norquay growth, Jeanette has already made the best timely case she could for Norquay to get a downpayment on all the big promises. If you can’t make one of the two open houses, at least send in a brief response saying that significant allocation must go to Norquay.
Also see at CityHallWatch:
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Here is the 24 May 2014 comment that Jeanette Jones supplied to City of Vancouver — slightly revised for this August 2014 posting, with photo captions added.
Capital Plan Proposal for Brock Park
I have lived in the vicinity of Brock Park for over four decades. When we first moved into the area the park was fairly new and well used. Our three daughters spent many happy hours of their childhoods in the playground with their friends. A cricket team played in the park on Sundays during warm weather. Other teams played soccer. Informal games of soccer, catch, and frisbee took place often. A post and chain fence separated the park from lanes along three sides.
Since then, I have watched the park steadily deteriorate. An underground stream that runs beneath the park contributes to a playing field that is so uneven and full of holes that only dogs would try to run there [photos 1-2-3-4 below]. The cricket team left years ago. No one who values their ankles would play games of any kind on the grass, and the soccer goalposts have long since disappeared. An asphalt path built about twenty years ago provides a place for people to walk for exercise, but the path is now cracked and sagging [photo 5 below]. The posts rotted and the fencing was removed. Quite a few residents of houses that surround the park now use park as their extra parking space [photo 6 below]. A brushy area around the stump of a cottonwood tree that was removed a couple of years ago has become a magnet for garbage dumping [photo 7 below]. The only part of the park that is used regularly for recreation is the playground, which is less attractive now than it was thirty years ago. There are still no washrooms.
In the meantime, many new people have moved into the area around Brock Park. A recently built development at 2300 Kingsway together with the already approved Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway add up to about 800 dwelling units. This already accounts for about 20% of the 5000 new residents that city staff have projected to live in all of Norquay by 2040. In addition, a 4-storey 94-unit apartment building has been completed at 2239 Kingsway. Behind are eight new single family houses and a small “four storey apartment” with four units on Galt Street between Kingsway and Brock Park. (Taken together, these developments occupy the two-acre site of the London Guard Motel.) All of this development is within 400 meters of Brock Park.
The Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan adopted by Council in 2010 provides for new, denser housing forms to replace single family houses. Two large duplexes have almost been completed on Brock Street just east of Nanaimo. A development application for duplex plus infill under the new RT-11 zoning has just been approved for 4517 Nanaimo Street, a property that backs onto Brock Park. The appearance of other nearby sites suggests that redevelopment is imminent. The area near Brock Park is the first part of Norquay to experience multiple major and smaller developments.
Increasing densification of the area does not only bring many new residents. It also transfers many activities that have traditionally taken place in backyards to city parks. The new housing forms (duplex, rowhouse, stacked townhouse, small houses on shared lots) leave very little room for open space on the property. City parks are becoming the “shared backyard” where residents look to play, exercise, garden, and socialize. We expect picnic tables, exercise and play equipment for all ages, landscaping, and open space where we can run and play.
The Norquay Public Benefits Strategy (Report to Council of 22 April 2013) defines this priority:
Given its location nearer areas with anticipated greater population growth, General Brock Park
is considered to be the first priority for upgrading in the first 10 years of the Strategy. (p. 9-10)
The Strategy assigns $2M to the “renewal of existing facilities and infrastructure” in Brock Park, Slocan Park, and Earles Park (Appendix A, Item D). The area near Brock Park is experiencing far more rapid development than the areas around the other two parks in Norquay — indeed, more than most other areas of the city at the present time — and it seems likely to continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
The City of Vancouver has repeatedly assured Norquay residents that development of parks will accompany the development of new housing. The renewal of Brock Park must be included in the 2015-2018 Capital Plan.
No. 1 — Baby Sinkhole. Break a Leg!
No. 2 — Fit for a Dog?
No. 3 — Even the Park Board Mower Avoids This Iron
No. 4 — Plywood Treatment for Bog Spot
No. 5 — Greenwash Could Call This “Rewilding”?
No. 6 — “Park” It Is!
No. 7 — They Cut Down Our Big Tree & Then … Did Nothing
Comment on Development Application DE417834 under RM-7 Zoning
14 August 2014
There are things I like about this application:
1. The finishing materials (cedar, metal, glass) are of good quality.
2. The design of the end of building flanked by East 37th Avenue is detailed and interesting. This does a lot to mitigate the fact that both buildings on this corner site front onto the same street.
I do have several concerns:
1. The basement level units are very deep into the ground. Access to daylight and air circulation will be substandard.
2. Only 5 of the 11 units are 1200 sq. ft., the described size of the “typical” unit in the RM-7 zone. (See Appendix below.)
3. Almost all of the private open space seems to be relegated to balconies (which I admit are fairly generous). The Guidelines state that ground level open space is preferable, especially for larger units (7)(b)(i).
4. The material on the web site is often lacking crucial information. In this case, the size of the units is not given.
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Appendix: Typical Unit Sizes for Stacked Townhouses in the RM-7 Zone
The March 2013 Report Summary accompanying the District Schedules and Guidelines for the new RM-7 zone in Norquay contains the following table:
Source = page 11 of:
Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan Implementation – New Zoning District Schedules (multiple small houses/duplexes and rowhouses/stacked townhouses)
There is no indication that any one of these four “key parameters” is more or less important than any other. Presumably all of these criteria need to be met before a stacked townhouse can be built.
If the typical unit size for a development with 4 or more units is to be 1200 sq. ft., I would expect that in any given development application, either (a) at least 2/3 of the units are 1200 sq. ft. or larger, or alternatively, (b) the average size of all of the units is at least 1200 sq. ft.
So far none of the three development applications posted on the City’s web site since the RM-7 zoning came into effect has met this
(a) 4730 Duchess Street. All of the proposed units were 1050 sq. ft. (Three rowhouses are now going to be built on this site instead of the originally proposed six stacked townhouses.)
(b) 4571 Slocan Street. Of the 18 units proposed, six are approximately 1285 sq. ft., six are 850 sq. ft., and six are 800 sq. ft. (average size is 978 sq. ft.).
(c) 2601 East 37th Avenue. Of the 11 units proposed, one is 1365 sq. ft., three are 1225 sq. ft., one is 1365 sq. ft., four are 877 sq. ft., and two are 677 sq. ft. (average size is 1014 sq. ft.).
Trying to build to the maximum allowed density within all of the “key parameters” listed above does create problems and inconsistencies. The requirements for backyard infrastructure (parking spaces, bike lockers, garbage containers, electrical transformers) make it hard to fit everything onto a given site, let alone preserve open space. In addition, sloping lots (almost all of the lots in Norquay, and indeed across Vancouver) make it difficult to bring the basement units high enough out of the ground to allow windows that will let in enough daylight and encourage air circulation.
But the solution to these problems cannot be simply to make the units smaller, the buildings higher, and the open space confined to balconies. The City needs to consider decreasing the 132 units per hectare unit density — a “key parameter” that carries neither more nor less weight than maximum building height or typical unit size. Fewer, larger units would decrease the amount of necessary backyard infrastructure and allow for more ground level open space, as well as making the units more livable for families.
An alternate solution is to require applicants to build rowhouses on sites where a stacked townhouse configuration cannot be built within all of the key parameters, especially on sites with a depth of less than 110 feet.
How do grit and glitz coexist?
Kensington Gardens, a pseudo-Brit-named development headed for 2220 Kingsway is going to have to do its best to ignore the weeds beyond the perimeter. Because we doubt that their gardener will deign to care for the other side of Kingsway. We know the City of Vancouver won’t. Wrong part of town. Yes, here …
Western Norquay on 11 August 2014
A month ago, Westbank Projects Corp and City of Vancouver coordinated a lightspeed tidy-up job on the site after a pair of tweets called attention to graffiti and used hypodermic needles. Here’s the first tweet —
Westbank’s ironic public art at 2220 Kingsway. Used needle invisible in foreground
#vancouver #eastvan #vanre #vanpoli
— and the photo that went with it:
Westbank Marketing Monolith on morning of 8 July 2014
CityHallWatch independently followed up in the afternoon with report of a pile of used needles elsewhere on the site. For a while the pair of graphics below ruled the roost at Twitter’s #vanpoli hashtag:
On the morning of 9 July 2014, Sadhu Johnston, Deputy City Manager, tweeted
City staff filled a pick-up with the garbage found on the public land there
The fact remains that the City of Vancouver has clearly stated that it has no intention of maintaining the Norquay public realm. Not even the weedy new corner bulges that it installed at Kingsway and Gladstone as a token “reward” for inflicting mass rezoning on hundreds of acres.
In later exchange I offered to help City of Vancouver allocate its $1.2 billion budget. So far they have not taken me up on that offer.
For a long time, the final item on the extensive Norquay timeline has read:
Uncertain: Planning for the SkyTrain area of Norquay that planners excluded on 2 Nov 2009
Background: Norquay planning officially “kicked off” in March 2006. After years of engagement, the Director of Planning sailed into a 2 November 2009 meeting to declare that the northern section of Norquay would no longer exist. That carve-out disrespected quite a few Norquay Working Group participants. In one instant, Vancouver city planning trashed their months of investment in working on a plan and threw their future into limbo. This is what Vancouver calls planning. Norquay residents call it abuse.
The November 2009 Norquay Exclusion Outlined in Red
[ Note: A mapping of the original core Norquay “neighbourhood centre” plus its various accretions can be found at http://www.vcn.bc.ca/norquay/nrqexp.pdf ]
Until now, the only inkling we’ve had of this murky future has been these few highlighted words in the closing sentence of Community Plans: Next Steps, a report that went to Council on 25 September 2013 :
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)
Thanks to a CityHallWatch video record , Eye on Norquay is able to provide the following easy-access transcript of a second inkling. On 30 July 2014 Brian Jackson (General Manager, Planning and Development Services, City of Vancouver) spoke to Vancouver City Planning Commission  for sixteen minutes [0:00 to 15:58]. His overview of recent and upcoming City of Vancouver planning activities included two segments specific to Norquay.
Brian Jackson (credit: CityHallWatch)
Brian Jackson 0:44 to 1:22
But in addition to the three large areas that we’ve approved — or that Council has approved [as?] we recommended, we can’t forget we also did the implementation strategy for Norquay — we finished that, we finished the Mount Pleasant implementation strategy, we did a new policy statement for Pearson Dogwood, we did a new policy statement slash structure plan for Great Northern Way. So it’s been an incredible year as far as policy is concerned. All of this is taking place in 2014, which is going to prove to be our busiest year ever in terms of development applications.
Comment — The implementation strategy for Norquay was created by planning staff with no resident involvement, other than a one-time opportunity to react to what staff cooked up. Norquay Working Group was terminated on 3 February 2011, and promised new groups for public benefits strategy and for public realm planning were never allowed to form. Meanwhile, the parallel implementation strategy for Mount Pleasant crammed a planning staff agenda down the throats of a very unhappy implementation committee. These were probably the last such resident “involvements” that Vancouver city planning will ever allow. (Also notice Jackson’s rhetoric: the backtrack from saying that planning did the approving, and the language surrounding mention of Norquay — “we can’t forget” and the redundancy of “we finished that.”)
Brian Jackson 14:04 to 14:40
And then, to top it off, our other proposal is for doing some station area planning around two of the Millennium Line stations at 29th and Nanaimo which have development opportunities, and the community itself is very interested in taking a look at what could happen around the immediate station area. So, I’m mentioning that last, because we’ve got a lot on our plate, and it may take us a while to get to those last things, so those things are looking like they’re mid to late 2015.
Comment — Far closer to the truth: the “community itself” dreads a second all-take-no-give planning incursion — except perhaps for developers who have assembled land or profiteers who expect to cash out and escape. “What could happen”? Surely not tall towers! But right now the “plate” is filled with seeing just how tall a tower can be forced onto the Safeway site in northern Cedar Cottage as part of the technically adjacent Grandview Woodland plan.
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 Community Plans: Next Steps (25 Sept 2013)
 Brian Jackson’s status report to Vancouver City Planning Commission
 Vancouver City Planning Commission — Agenda, 30 July 2014
Brian Jackson charts future path at Vancouver City Planning Commission meeting
CityHallWatch posting of 6 August 2014
Comment on Development Application DE418020 under RT-11 Zoning
6 August 2014
There are several things I like about this application.
1. The documentation provided on the web site is very complete.
2. Although the frontage is less than is required by the zoning, full advantage has been taken of the corner location of the site. The two buildings are oriented toward different streets and have different designs.
3. There has been a substantial effort to make the design on this site fit the neighbourhood context.
My concerns are:
1. A real effort needs to be made to ensure the survival of the large oak trees on the boulevard. If they do not survive for at least five years after development is completed, the developer should replace them with trees of a reasonable size.
2. There needs to be more detailing on the sides of Building A, especially on the side that is flanked by E. 37th Avenue. The current plan has a uniform finish (except for the chimney) on the sides, and very few windows.
3. In general, the windows on the back and sides of the buildings appear too few and too small. The basement of Building A appears to have windows only at the back of the building, where they are set back and covered by building overhang which diminishes access to daylight.
4. I question whether a single 360L bin will be sufficient to hold the garbage from four family-sized units for two weeks. Fights over who is taking up disproportionate space in the garbage bin may well vitiate any social benefit to be derived from living close to one’s neighbours!