Archive for November 2016
City of Vancouver Parcels of Land
Introduction to the Brief
The Norquay Village Public Realm Plan, the last policy document of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, was released in October 2016. It can be found on the City of Vancouver web site at
The Public Realm Plan gives further detail about implementation of the relevant sections of the Norquay Plan (2010) and the Norquay Public Benefits Strategy (2013). Because staff considers the Public Realm Plan to closely follow these previous guidelines, the plan was simply announced and not shown either to the community or to Council for input or approval.
Most of the Norquay Public Realm Plan is in fact consistent with the Norquay Plan and with the Norquay Public Benefits Strategy. The very important exception is Section 2.5 entitled “Ravine Way” (p. 12-13).
Definitive specifications for Ravine Way, a proposed pedestrian connection between Norquay Park and Slocan Park that runs along a Metro Vancouver trunk sewer line and right-of-way, were to have been part of the Norquay Public Realm Plan. But details remain vague. The Plan has no definition of boundaries for Ravine Way, although a minimum 33 ft. width is specified. There is no discussion of a timetable for the incremental completion that has been promised to the neighbourhood.
The City of Vancouver already owns all but two of the properties necessary to create Ravine Way. The Public Realm Plan suggests that some of this land is superfluous and disposable: “some of the City’s land holdings in excess of the minimum corridor width may be released for development.” Our brief that follows, Ravine Way Specifications in Norquay Village Public Realm Plan (November 2016) presents evidence for the argument that it is highly unlikely that any of the land that the City of Vancouver currently owns in the Ravine Way corridor could or should be released for development.
The brief went to five relevant staff at the City of Vancouver on November 7, 2016. To date, we have received no response.
• • • • • • • • • • • •
To: [Five relevant City of Vancouver staff in Planning and Engineering]
From: Jeanette and Joseph Jones
Date: 7 November 2016
Re: Ravine Way Specifications in Norquay Village Public Realm Plan (April 2016)
Ravine Way, a proposed pedestrian connection between Norquay Park and Slocan Park, runs along a Metro Vancouver trunk sewer line and right-of-way. The realization of this feature has been promised to the Norquay neighbourhood for many years. The promise has been repeated in the Norquay Plan (2010) and the accompanying Norquay Public Benefits Strategy (2013).
Because land assembly is not yet complete, and because most of the properties that the City of Vancouver already owns are at present under lease, Norquay is told that the construction of Ravine Way is a longterm project.
The Ravine Way properties that are currently owned by the City of Vancouver are shown on a June 2006 map titled Norquay Village Study Area — City Properties. That map was provided to members of the 2006-2007 Norquay Working Group by City of Vancouver planning staff. See Appendix A for scanned copies.
The two properties that were identified in Appendix B of the May 2013 Norquay Public Benefits Strategy as still necessary to acquire are 2731 Horley Street (68 ft. frontage) and 2698 Ward Street (50 ft. frontage). We understand that these properties have been officially flagged.
A June 2014 Public Realm Workshop for Norquay proceeded on the declaration that all of the properties that the City of Vancouver already owns as well as those still necessary to acquire would be incorporated into Ravine Way. However, the Norquay Public Realm Plan posted to the public in October 2016 states:
A minimum corridor width will be protected along the Ravine Way route in order to facilitate the long-term vision. It is noted that some of the City’s land holdings in excess of the minimum corridor width may be released for development even as other currently missing properties in other portions of the corridor are being acquired. (p. 12)
This wording suggests that some portion of the property that the City of Vancouver owns at present is considered superfluous and disposable.
Unsourced maps lacking legend, included in the consultants’ presentation at the June 2014 Norquay Public Realm Workshop, show the location of the Metro Trunk Sewer that now carries a major underground stream to Still Creek through a large culvert that runs under the right-of-way. Black borders appear to define the properties which lie directly above portions of the culvert. See Appendix B for the mapping provided under the title Ravine Connection as pdf 12 of 13 in Consultant Presentation (PWL Partnership) as posted to the City of Vancouver web site.
A simple viewing of this map alongside the City Properties map of Appendix A might well lead to the erroneous conclusion that some of the land that the City of Vancouver already owns is not compromised by the underground sewer piping. One might assume that parcels not directly above the culvert could be suitable to release for development. But such a conclusion would not take into account the broader location of the old wandering stream bed, which does not coincide neatly with the linear path of a culvert.
Another City of Vancouver map provided by planning staff to the 2006-2007 Norquay Working Group shows both the location of the culvert and a varying location for the original stream bed. See Appendix C for Norquay Village Study Area — Natural Features (July 2006). A Vancouver-wide context for this map can be viewed in Vancouver’s Old Streams (March 2011), provided as Appendix D.
In this City of Vancouver mapping it can be seen that the culvert does not strictly follow the old stream bed, and often diverges from it considerably. Moreover, the divergence is greatest precisely in those locations where the City of Vancouver presently owns the greatest amount of frontage: 2760 Cheyenne Street (78 ft.), and both 2707 Duke Street (99 ft.) and 2708 Duke Street (99 ft.). The likely explanation for the fact that the City of Vancouver already owns all of these properties is that in the past it was not judged acceptable or practical to develop either the land directly above the culvert or the land above the old stream bed.
The three buildings that the City of Vancouver has constructed on these sites for use by social agencies are one-storey structures. All but one of the existing buildings on the entire right-of-way are slab-on-grade construction without basements. The single exception is 2731 Horley Street, a steeply sloping lot where the front portion of the house’s first storey is partly below ground. This is also the location where the pipe and the old stream bed converge most closely, under the easement on the east side of this 68-foot wide property.
Construction technology has advanced in recent years, and it may now be possible to build in such problematic locations. Nevertheless, the additional costs required for small-scale construction seem likely to remain prohibitive.
In early 2015 a neighbour on Wenonah Street set out to build a new duplex with basement. Excavation uncovered an old stream bed that the City of Vancouver permit process failed to make them aware of. A major East Vancouver streamway that routes downhill from south of East 41st Avenue into Trout Lake passes through their parcel. The continuous active underground flow of a significant stream can be heard at manhole covers in Brock Park across the street.
Much of the property at what is now 2262 / 2266 Wenonah Street situates directly over the original stream bed, while a large underground clay pipe, which their backhoe broke into at the front northeast corner, mostly runs underneath the adjoining parcel to the east (occupied by a slab-on-grade Vancouver Special).
Construction delays and remediation of the Wenonah Street site led to massive unforeseen costs. Remediation measures under the direction of a specialist engineer included much additional excavation, side shoring with steel pilings and large concrete blocks, a drilling rig brought in to assess conditions, massive amounts of compacted gravel fill, and repair to the damage of existing underground culvert. (There was evidence of less than standard “inspection” accompanied by very rapid undergrounding of the repair.) A photo essay provided as Appendix D says far more that the words of this paragraph can.
It is difficult to suppose that City of Vancouver could sell off any Ravine Way property without fully disclosing known impairment. If any of the land that the City of Vancouver currently owns along the Ravine Way right-of-way were released for development, problems similar to those experienced on Wenonah Street seem likely to crop up. Under the Norquay Plan, the area is zoned RM-7 for row houses
and stacked townhouses.
It seems unlikely that monetary value realized from shaved-off bits of geotechnically dubious old stream bed could ever begin to approach the public use value of the same land’s being devoted to a larger Ravine Way.
Please respond in writing to this brief. Since the City of Vancouver views Ravine Way as a long-term project, the maintenance of full and accurate documentation becomes crucial. In view of the information presented here, it would seem appropriate to remove language from Norquay Public Realm Plan (April 2016) about disposal of presently held City of Vancouver Ravine Way land, and to add language to confirm that the land is generally unsuitable to support development of future construction.
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Appendix A:1 — Norquay Village Study Area: City Properties
Appendix A:2 — Norquay Village Study Area: City Properties
Appendix B — Norquay Village Public Realm: Community Workshop
Consultant Presentation (by PWL Partnership) : Ravine Connection (pdf 12 of 13)
Appendix C:1 — Norquay Village Study Area: Natural Features
Appendix C:2 — Norquay Village Study Area: Natural Features
Appendix D — Vancouver’s Old Streams (March 2011)
Appendix E — Norquay Old Streambed Photo Essay [modified]
1 of 16 – photo 7635 on 16 Jan 2015 at 3:41 pm
View northward along west side of lot. Load of rock distributed across site to provide footing for backhoe. Excavation visible at front of lot. Vertical steel driven in row close to west lot edge.
2 of 16 – photo 7662 on 23 Jan 2015 at 9:08 am
Rear of lot toward east side. Material excavated from front of lot shows stream bed soil characteristics such as clay and organic matter.
3 of 16 – photo 7700 on 27 Jan 2015 at 10:13 am
Front of lot toward northeast corner. Shoring with large interlocking concrete blocks. Some additional gravel dump. Drainage established from underneath neighbor lot. Water accumulation managed with sump line to street curb.
Photo not provided here
4 of 16 – photo 7742 on 6 Feb 2015 at 11:50 am
View southward of entire lot. Drilling rig samples substrata. Note old streambed log at excavation bank toward right.
Photo not provided here
5 of 16 – photo 7877 on 23 Feb 2015 at 10:40 am
Front of lot, westward toward northwest corner. Along west side of lot, shoring with large concrete blocks, steel pilings, and timber. Backhoe begins significant gravel infill.
6 of 16 – photo 7880 on 23 Feb 2015 at 10:42 am
Front of lot, eastward toward northeast corner. Angle of sun unfavorable to photography. Backhoe tamps gravel bed. Just-damaged culvert barely visible beyond furthest pool of water. View of streambed soils.
Photo not provided here
7 of 16 – photo 7933 on 23 Feb 2015 at 2:18 pm
Front of lot, eastward toward northeast corner. Degree of close-up focus. Broken culvert scraped out with shovel and cut into vertical trough.
8 of 16 – photo 7939 on 23 Feb 2015 at 4:34 pm
View southward of front northwest corner. Much gravel compacted to high level in corner.
Photo not provided here
9 of 16 – photo 7941 on 24 Feb 2015 at 2:06 pm
Front of lot, eastward toward northeast corner. Gravel bed extended across front of site. Broken culvert visible at right of leftmost distant figure.
Photo not provided here
10 of 16 – photo 7955 on 24 Feb 2015 at 4:57 pm
Front of lot, eastward toward northeast corner. Large blue plastic pipe extends from rough cementing at angle not in line with broken culvert.
11 of 16 – photo 7956 on 26 Feb 2015 at 2:47 pm
Front of lot, eastward toward northeast corner. Culvert repair and connections buried under compacted gravel.
Photo not provided here
12 of 16 – photo 7971 on 26 Feb 2015 at 3:35 pm
East side of lot, just to south of broken culvert point. Excavation, compacted gravel, interlocking concrete blocks set perpendicular to lot line, apparently to separate base corner of new duplex from culvert problem area.
13 of 16 – photo 7991 on 27 Feb 2015 at 10:06 am
East side of lot alongside neighbor’s house. More use of gravel and large concrete block.
Photo not provided here
14 of 16 – photo 7999 on 27 Feb 2015 at 11:07 am
Center of lot, westward. View of subsoils before gravel fill. Concrete block at right is end of “wall” visible in 7991.
15 of 16 – photo 8041 on 2 Mar 2015 at 10:00 am
View from northwest corner of lot. Concrete block structure almost to level of grade. Extensive high level of compacted gravel.
16 of 16 – photo 8063 on 2 Mar 2015 at 5:30 pm
View from front of lot southward toward back. Old streambed material consists of clay overlaid with organic residues.
Ravine Way is the designation used for a proposed linear park and/or pedestrian way in East Vancouver that would connect Norquay Park to Slocan Park along the existing Metro sewer right-of-way. The delivery of this feature has been promised to the Norquay neighborhood for many years. During the Norquay planning process, the local community rated this amenity as highly desirable — second only to a new community arts facility at the 2400 Motel site.
Concern about the future of Ravine Way has prompted us to compile History of the Proposed Ravine Way Linear Park (September 2016). This essay traces the promise of Ravine Way through Norquay planning history. This document was sent to the City of Vancouver on 6 September 2016.
A History of the Proposed Ravine Way Linear Park
For many years, planning processes in Norquay have included a proposal for a linear park that would follow the undergrounded portion of Still Creek that flows in a culvert from Norquay Park to Slocan Park. Most of the properties that would be incorporated into the park are already owned by the City of Vancouver.
Existing City of Vancouver policy and staff communications to the community on this topic can be summarized as follows:
1. The Ravine Way Linear Park has been consistently referred to as a park which will also function as a pedestrian connection. Not until the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Public Realm Workshop of June 2014 did staff begin to refer to these properties as a mere pedestrian connection called “Ravine Way.”
2. Staff has been unclear and inconsistent about the future width and precise boundaries of the park. The community has been led to believe that all of the City-owned land will be incorporated into the park, together with the properties that the City of Vancouver has identified as necessary to acquire.
3. Two principles regarding the building of the park have been consistently reiterated:
(a) Implementation will be incremental, since time is needed to
assemble all of necessary properties.
(b) Prior to completion, sections of the designated park will function
as pocket parks, community gardens, and mid-block pedestrian connections.
A detailed description of staff communications and existing City of Vancouver policy follows.
Background and Context
Nanaimo/29th Avenue Station Areas Plan (1987)
This document does not specifically mention the proposed Renfrew Ravine Linear Park. The most relevant reference is to enhancement of the Renfrew Ravine north of Slocan Park, the area where planning for a park is currently underway. There is also explicit reference to developing “a lighted asphalt pathway … in Slocan Park linking the B.C. Parkway with Norquay School to provide a north/south walkway system that intersects with the B.C. Parkway” (p. 104-105). Anecdotal evidence reports discussion of the Renfrew Ravine Linear Park between Kingsway and Slocan Park in connection with Station Areas Planning. But no such discussion seems to have become part of the written record.
The 1987 Plan states that “the Nanaimo/29th Avenue Station areas contain 2.25 hectares of neighbourhood park space for every one thousand residents,” higher than the City’s average service level of 1.1 hectares (p. 104). A careful reading shows that this figure includes John Hendry Park around Trout Lake (23.6 hectares out of the 31.3 hectare total). It must be recognized that John Hendry Park is an “area park” serving a much larger area of East Vancouver. The document “Planning for the Community & Rapid Transit: Nanaimo and 29th Station Areas” (1983) states that total park space in the 29th Station Area, including Slocan Park (4.08 hectares) and the undeveloped Renfrew Ravine (2.23 hectares), amounted to only 0.8 hectares for every one thousand residents in 1983. Although the number of residents has increased since that time, park space has not.
Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision (2004)
This document addresses the restoration and preservation of Renfrew Ravine, but not the undergrounded section of Still Creek south of Slocan Park. It states: “Renfrew-Collingwood has .8 hectares of park per thousand residents, which is lower than the City standard of 1.1 hectares per thousand.” (p. 62)
Planning for the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre
Draft Plan for Future Housing in Norquay Village Neighbourhood Center and an Improved Streetscape for Kingsway (2007) This draft plan was not approved.
This document has a short section titled “Ravine Way ‘Green Corridor’ Concept” that states:
The “Ravine Way” is a concept for a linear park that would traverse through Norquay Neighbourhood Village from Slocan Park to Kingsway following the historical watercourse of Still Creek …. The Working Group members and CityPlan staff feel that this easement and these properties represent a unique opportunity to create a linear green belt or park connecting other significant parks in the community. It is important to stress that this is a long term ‘100 year’ vision. Even with community support for this concept, it would take a long time before the city could acquire additional properties along the easement. To achieve this, the City would gradually, over the next 20-100 years, purchase additional properties along the Ravine Way corridor at fair market value. (p. 8)
This statement seems to imply that the City of Vancouver intended to acquire additional properties to increase the width of the park. The City already owns all but two properties necessary to complete a continuous linear park. It is unlikely that 100 years would be needed to acquire nothing more than those two properties.
Norquay Planning Process (2008-2010)
The Norquay Working Group consisted of about a dozen community residents who met with city planners in 2009 and early 2010 to work on the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan. It was the understanding of the Working Group that most, if not all, of the City owned properties along the easement would be incorporated into the Ravine Way Linear Park.
At Community Workshop #5 (May 14, 2009), the Park Board representative stated that possibilities for new parks included pocket parks, a public plaza at 2400 Kingsway, fixing edges at Brock and Slocan Parks, and a greenway corridor of 50 to 100 feet from Slocan Park to Kingsway. (See “A participant report on Community Workshop #5: Assessing options,” Norquay Working Group Consolidated Participants Reports, at Eye on Norquay
Norquay Plan (2010)
Section 6.2 of this document (p. 70-71) discusses the creation of the park.
Additional park and open space improvements will be sought as opportunities arise, with a focus on extending the Renfrew Ravine Park between Slocan Park and Kingsway. (p. 70)
The Norquay Plan identifies the partial implementation of the park as a priority. The second item on the “Priorities” list for this section of the plan is:
2. Pursue the creation of pocket parks and green pedestrian connections along the future Ravine Way (existing Metro sewer right-of-way) to eventually link Slocan Park and the 29th Avenue Skytrain Station with the Kingsway shopping area and Norquay Park. Any redevelopment adjacent to the future Ravine Way should orient primary entrances to the Ravine Way. (p. 71)
Norquay Village Public Benefits Strategy (2013)
This document gives further specifics on the incremental implementation of the Renfrew Way Linear Park concept.
A new mixed-use project at 2699 Kingsway across from Norquay Park has incorporated the first section and link to Ravine Way through a plaza space. Subsequent sections can be constructed incrementally as properties and funding become available &hellip. Prior to completion of the entire park route, sections would function as pocket parks, mid-block connections, or as two City-owned properties currently function as community gardens.
(Section 3 Parks, Open Space and Access to Nature, p. 10)
The two remaining “key properties to be acquired on an opportunity basis” are identified as 2731 Horley and 2698 Ward. The Duke Street Daycare play space is to be relocated. (Appendix B, Policy Report on Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan Implementation — Public Benefits Strategy and Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy)
The Ravine Way Linear Park is projected to cost $7 M. It is to be funded through DCLs.
In answer to a question from Council at the Public Hearing, planning staff stated that the width of the park was expected to be 20 to 40 feet.
RM-7 and RM-7N Zoning Guidelines (May 2013)
A two-page section of these zoning guidelines is titled “Special Considerations for Development Along ‘Ravine Way’ Linear Park in Norquay” (RM-7 and RM-7N Guidelines, p. 19-20). This section describes the development that is expected to take place adjacent to the park:
The development of Ravine Way will occur in an ongoing, incremental process, where opportunities for land acquisition by the city will slowly occur along with the gradual private development of the flanking sites …. The sketch shows an aspirational 40 ft. width in order to maximize capacity for pocket parks, pedestrian traffic, and seating areas. In locations where 40 ft. cannot be achieved, other design solutions will be explored …. New development on properties that contain or are directly adjacent to this right-of-way will typically be required to be oriented towards Ravine Way.
Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Public Realm Plan Workshop (June 2014)
About 30 residents met with staff and consultants to discuss plans for the Norquay Public Realm, including “Ravine Way.” Park planning at the workshop was for an area outlined in yellow on an aerial photograph, which included all of the properties that the City of Vancouver currently owns or intends to buy along the easement. In response to residents’ concern that the City of Vancouver was intending to sell some of this land, staff stated that none of the land would be sold.
A summary of ideas from the workshop can be seen on the City of Vancouver web site.
Recent Development Impacting the Ravine Way Linear Park
Skyway Tower (2699 Kingsway; consolidated from 2776-2703 Kingsway)
This development includes a 12-storey tower and a 4-storey building, separated by a plaza. The Proposed Conditions of Approval of the Policy Report presented to Council on May 31, 2011 states:
Note to Applicant: The proposal shows active uses in the form of residential lobby and retail entries facing the south half of the plaza. The north half of the plaza should receive a similar treatment to help denote this space as the entrance to the future Ravine Way linear park system.
(Appendix B, p. 2)
At this point, the building has been completed and occupied for several years. The plaza is completed and an attractive piece of public art has been installed. Bike stands have also been installed. However, there are no benches or other seating in the plaza. The grates surrounding the trees are overgrown with weeds, and the trees are not being watered during dry periods. There seems to be no
ongoing maintenance of the plaza.
2688 Duke Street (consolidated from 2684, 2690 and 2696 Duke St.)
This current development application is for a 4-storey apartment building to be built on the three properties immediately to the west of the Duke Street Daycare Centre. The site plan shows that a 7-foot wide pathway at the extreme east edge of the site has been designated as a “mid-block pedestrian connection.”
According to the staff presentation at the June 2014 Public Realm Workshop, the public planning process for the Norquay Public Realm Plan (which includes the Ravine Way Linear Park) is to consist of these stages: (1) Workshop (2) Community Outreach (3) Draft Public Realm Plan (4) Public Review
(5) Finalize Public Realm Plan.
At this point, the public planning has consisted only of stage 1, the June 2014 workshop.
Jeanette Jones — September 2016