Archive for the ‘Statements’ Category

Picking on the Poor

leave a comment »

 
… to Serve Vancouver’s “Development” Industry

 
“Every neighbourhood needs to do their part in taking some of this housing [for the homeless] and helping care for and engage that population”  — Gil Kelley, General Manager of Planning, Urban Design & Sustainability, City of Vancouver (27 Nov 2017)

 
 
Of Diversions and Displacement

Smoke from localized brush fires over the siting of “temporary modular housing” (TMH) should not divert an onlooker’s gaze from Vancouver’s main social conflagration. For well over a decade, the City of Vancouver, in the service of the development industry, has conducted overt war on the poor. In 2006 Project Civil City marked an early low point for this new century.

Who are the frontline casualties in this conflict? The latest count of 2,138 persons recognized as homeless. What is the current main diversionary tactic? A bureaucracy that sets off skirmishes in Vancouver’s second-tier poor neighborhoods and then accuses those areas of being filled with selfish NIMBYs.

The starting point for all of this is 2,138 homeless people

         Who find themselves perpetually moved along on the sidewalk
         Who often have their few belongings taken away and thrown out by city functionaries
         Whose right to set up a tent and to congregate for safety is subjected to constant challenge

Homeless people fall at the extreme end of a larger spectrum of deliberate displacement. At the more fortunate end are people who can leave Vancouver because they see no reasonable future for themselves in a city being sold out to globalized wealth. All are persons victimized by an ethos of greed that traces back to the corporate agendas underlying Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympics. [1]

The inevitable counterpart of this greed is the fear suffered by people who get exploited and/or shoved out of their familiar surroundings. In a trickle-out phenomenon, the homeless provoke anxieties and defensiveness in every neighborhood that lies beyond the greater Downtown Eastside area. Why is this happening now? Proximity to Vancouver’s urban core has turned the Downtown Eastside, a longstanding haven for the city’s poorest, into a prime target for gentrification — and for the resulting severest degree of displacement, no home at all.

 
Scatter and Social Mix

It is telling that the City of Vancouver is making its first moves to “scatter” TMH into the poorest areas of the rest of the city. The notion of TMH “scattered across the city” emerges in Cheryl Chan’s July 2017 reporting on an interview with Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, General Manager of Community Services. [2] A report that went to City Council on that same day to expedite the spread of TMH offers up this contradictory perspective: “The proposed authority does not extend to single-family (RS) zones” (page 2). [3] Thus is a strong degree of class privilege protection built into a measure that might otherwise promote a possibilty for genuine citywide equity.

The concept of “scatter” is a first cousin to the concept of “social mix.” A revealing instance of the phrase “social mix” occurs in the context of a September 2013 review of four simultaneous “community plans” — for Downtown Eastside, West End, Marpole, and Grandview-Woodland (pdf 18 / A3). [4] Only in the planning for Downtown Eastside does “social mix” emerge as a concern. The City of Vancouver seems to raise the issue of “social mix” mainly in the context of gentrifying areas that house the poor. “Social mix” thus acquires a special restricted Vancouver meaning: to displace poorer people in order to provide opportunity for richer people.

In this same vein, the City of Vancouver also professed a policy of “social mix” for “publicly-owned lands in Southeast False Creek, and defined that aspiration as a ⅓ affordable housing, ⅓ modest market and ⅓ market housing mix” (page 15). [5]

David Hulchanski’s recent income mapping of Vancouver [6] shows Marpole as the lowest-income area on the west side of Vancouver (slide 24):

 

 

A City of Vancouver document from May 2006 provides 2001 census data tailored to the 479 acres that then comprised the Norquay Village study area (this encompassed the 4410 Kaslo site newly proposed for TMH on 1 December 2017). Notable figures include a Chinese population of 48.1% and a “population in low income households” at 32.0% of 10,905. At that point Norquay organically had already achieved the low-income end of the ⅓ ⅓ ⅓ “mix” touted as desirable. It seems certain that Norquay’s subsequent planning and development has destroyed that existing balance. In a period of about four years about 11% of Norquay’s mass-rezoned 1,912 properties have been redeveloped. This change usually amounts to eliminating the oldest and most affordable housing stock and replacing it with the newest and least affordable.

 

 

Not coincidentally, both of these two local areas — Marpole and Norquay — were subjected to planning for mass rezonings during the past decade. Real estate interests have viewed both neighborhoods as de facto “brownfields” ripe for harvesting profits in, since easy build-out opportunities on former industrial lands are ceasing to exist.

 
Problems, Problems

A good candidate for Vancouver’s top problem is 2,138 people who have no home. That specific number has to be a lowball figure. As veteran housing activist Jean Swanson has put it:

 

 

So far, TMH has amounted to an intermittent and stopgap approach to attempting to provide even a temporary solution to this major problem. The TMH initiative fumbled big-time at its very inception. On 13 December 2016, City of Vancouver yanked the four specific proposed sites off the table at the last minute via a “yellow memo.” [8] Council went on to approve the new policy, but as policy suddenly left with no ground to stand on.

A time very close to Christmas can be a good time to minimize the scrutiny that increases embarrassment. The coincidence here is striking. It will be one year to the very day that City of Vancouver staff will be bringing their “Community Information Session” on TMH at 4410 Kaslo to Norquay and to other area residents.

 

 

No wonder the City of Vancouver web site for TMH fails to link to the backstory information that would permit easy discovery of previous fails. A month later, on 31 January 2017 the City of Vancouver fired Mukhtar Latif, “chief housing officer and CEO of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency.” Upper echelon bureaucrat Latif had spent well over three years in delivering nothing but a snafu. [9]

During another year of bumbling onward, what more has the City of Vancouver produced? One demonstration project of 40 units located at 220 Terminal Avenue, and one massive blowback situation in Marpole.

 
Solution

Any genuine solution must start by incorporating solid input from persons directly affected by homelessness, and from persons who have the trust of homeless people and are intimately connected with their circumstances on an ongoing basis. This by definition excludes City of Vancouver staff.

Distrust starts at the top. Recent Vancouver homeless history provides a singular instance of a meeting where Mayor Gregor Robertson personally signed a pledge that the City of Vancouver would provide “100% welfare/pension rate community-controlled social housing at 58 West Hastings.” [10]

 

 

At about the same time, the preceding decade of history for that especially contentious and historic site was written up. [11] What has happened in the year since? Gregor Robertson has once again added to his personal dishonor by reneging on this public pledge. [12]

Any genuine solution must amount to something more than portable SROs shoved randomly and opportunistically into sometimes hostile environments, with City of Vancouver officials like Mayor Gregor Robertson occasionally showing up to finger-wag at local residents about how they should play nice.

Homelessness is a major problem that has to be owned up to honestly by every resident of Vancouver. Appropriate funding must be allocated to the situation. The City of Vancouver can always find money for what it really wants to do. Big money fast, like the untold hundreds of millions to bail out the Malek developers of Olympic Village. [13] Big money fast, like $55 million to buy the Arbutus strip of land from Canadian Pacific. [14] The City of Vancouver has to stop crying poor whenever it comes to spending money to house the poor.

Through recently completed planning, Norquay is already slated to provide 100 units of non-market housing at the 2400 Motel site on Kingsway. This is land that the City of Vancouver already owns. Eye on Norquay has specifically brought this matter to the attention of senior planning officials, both in person and through formal correspondence on 19 June 2017. All Norquay residents deserve an explanation as to why the sudden makeshift measures of TMH should take priority over the results of an extensive formal planning process that concluded seven years ago.

Who would want 50 temporary portable SRO units when they could have 100 permanent purpose-built dwelling units? This is a matter of logic. The emotionalism of finger-pointing and name-calling that the City of Vancouver directs at singled-out poorer neighborhoods needs to stop now. Misdirection is a shameful substitute for considered and transparent planning.
 

 
[1]  Two revealing quotations:

“If the Olympic bid wasn’t happening we would have to invent something.”  — Jack Poole, Vancouver real estate developer and VANOC chair
Frank O’Brien. Western perspective: Taxpayers reluctant skeleton in 2010 bid. Western Investor (June 2002) A6

“Nobody wants to admit it, but Vancouver has become a resort city where rich foreigners live a few months per year … It’s a $6-billion ad buy [with the Olympics]. There’s never been anything like it. It will change Vancouver, forever.”  — Bob Rennie, Vancouver condominium marketer
Miro Cernetig. The views from on high are nice, but not many can afford them. Vancouver Sun (25 Jan 2010) A1

[2]  Cheryl Chan. Vancouver wants more modular housing built to help homeless. Vancouver Sun (26 July 2017)
Vancouver wants more modular housing built to help homeless

[3]  Council Report: Zoning and Development By-law No. 3575 – Amendment to the General Regulations to Delegate Discretionary Relaxation Powers to Expedite the Delivery of Low Cost Housing for Persons Receiving Assistance (26 July 2017)
http://council.vancouver.ca/20170726/documents/pspc-UrgentBusiness1.pdf

[4]  Council Report: Community Plans: Next Steps (25 Sept 2013)
http://council.vancouver.ca/20130925/documents/cfsc1.pdf

[5]  Sustainable Community Assessment for Southeast False Creek (28 Jan 2005)
http://council.vancouver.ca/20050201/ym3a.pdf

[6]  J. David Hulchanski. What is Happening to My Neighbourhood? The Socio-Spatial Restructuring of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal 1970 to 2015 (Dec 2017)
http://neighbourhoodchange.ca/documents/2017/12/van-cal-tor-mont-1970-2015.pdf

[7]  Council Agenda: Item 2. Temporary Modular Housing Definition And Regulations: Proposed Amendments To Existing City-Owned Cd-1 Sites, And Design Guidelines (13 Dec 2016)
Includes: Policy Report, Staff Presentation, Summary and Recommendation, and Memorandum
http://council.vancouver.ca/20161213/phea20161213ag.htm

[8]  Matt Kieltyka. Vancouver’s chief housing officer Mukhtar Latif fired. Vancouver Metro (31 Jan 2017)
http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/01/31/vancouver-chief-housing-officer-mukhtar-latif-fired.html

[9]  Stefania Seccia. West Hastings ‘tent city’ could be around for years. Megaphone Magazine/Tyee (4 Aug 2016)
https://thetyee.ca/News/2016/08/04/West-Hastings-Tent-City/

[10]  Kai Rajala / Nathan Crompton. Battle of 58 West Hastings: The History of a Fight for Housing, 2007–Present. Mainlander (27 July 2016)
http://themainlander.com/2016/07/27/battleof58/

[11]  City screws DTES again: 58 W Hastings Protest & news conference (24 Oct 2017)
http://www.carnegieaction.org/2017/10/24/city-screws-dtes-58-w-hastings-protest-news-conference/

[12]  Bob Mackin. City stands firm on Olympic Village loss. Vancouver Courier (21 Oct 2011) 19
http://www.vancourier.com/news/city-stands-firm-on-olympic-village-loss-1.377596

[13]  Frances Bula. Vancouver acquires Arbutus rail corridor from CP for $55-million. Globe and Mail (7 Mar 2016)
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/vancouver-settles-dispute-over-arbutus-corridor-with-55-million-payment-to-cp-rail/article29049229/
 

Advertisements

Written by eyeonnorquay

12 December 2017 at 4:31 pm

No Legitimate Basis

leave a comment »

 
for Joyce Precinct Review

 
The following formal comment on Joyce Precinct Review has been forwarded to City of Vancouver.

 
Re: Joyce Precinct Review
To: Michelle Yip / JoyceStationReview@vancouver.ca
From: Joseph and Jeanette Jones
Date: 28 November 2015

 
Summary:

The Joyce Precinct planning lacks legitimacy because of

•  Failure to communicate in Chinese
•  Contamination of options by an already-submitted development application
•  Disregard of Renfrew-Collingwood’s existing Norquay planning
•  Inadequate assessment of amenity deficit in the local area
•  Discriminatory disparity in allocation of Vancouver population density

Therefore the Joyce Precinct planning needs to go forward by undertaking adequate consultation with a
local-area working group (e.g. Norquay, Downtown Eastside) before presenting further information to the community.

 
Detailed Comment:

The 20 information panels presented at the 21 October 2015 open house show contempt for the Renfrew-Collingwood community and therefore provide no legitimate basis for further planning.

Lack of Communication —  English-only information panels are provided to a diverse ethnic community. At a minimum, all information should always be provided in Chinese for that substantial component.

Misrepresentation —  The City of Vancouver web site at http://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/renfrew.aspx presents Renfrew-Collingwood as “primarily a residential area” with “easy access to services and amenities.” Astonishingly, the only introductory planning reference is to adjacent Grandview-Woodland.

Norquay Planning —  The reality is shown on panel 7. Right next door to the west, still in Renfrew-Collingwood, lies Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre, still an active process. The document for that mass rezoning of 1912 properties and approximately half a square mile stated:

        It should also be noted that by planning for new housing types in the neighbourhood centre,
        the existing RS-1 zoning is maintained for the majority of the surrounding areas.
        (p. 19, Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan, 4 Nov 2010)

To almost immediately propose to eliminate yet more RS-1 in Renfrew-Collingwood — especially after having facilitated the 2011 assemblage into CD-1 of 33 individual parcels at 5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street and 3690 Vanness Avenue — shows that City of Vancouver regards Renfrew-Collingwood as little more than an ongoing density dump.

Existing Density —  Figures show that for 1996-2006, among the 22 Vancouver neighborhoods, Renfrew-Collingwood ranked second only to Downtown in rate of population increase at 17% and in rate of dwelling increase at 26.5%. With 61.6 persons per hectare in 2011 in Renfrew- Collingwood, only six other Vancouver neighborhoods rank as denser: West End, Downtown, Fairview, Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, Kensington-Cedar Cottage (descending order).

Amenity Deficit —  In light of the foregoing, it seems preposterous for panel 19 to assert that “Joyce-Collingwood is generally well-served by existing and planned facilities.” Consider those other denser neighborhoods and what they offer in their immediate areas. Renfrew-Collingwood is clearly already overpopulated and underserved in comparison.

Contaminated Options —  The legitimacy of this pretense at planning is also compromised by a curiously similar set of three options into which the local community has had no genuine input. Only two points need to be made about the options:

1.  Option 3 embeds an existing blockbuster development application for 5050 Joyce Street. This is reactivity, not planning.

2.  The highlighted statement on the first options panel (panel 8) defines the information and the process as pure jello:

        The following options are not exclusive options. Based on responses, staff will create a preferred option
        that may include components of each option.

These words could easily translate as: Staff will pick and choose from positive comment solicited from developer interests through our open house and then aggregate those into our preferred option to maximize both height and density.
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

28 November 2015 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Statements

Landscaping Concerns

leave a comment »

 
On 30 July 2015 the following formal comment was submitted to three City of Vancouver planners having responsibilities for urban landscape, urban design, and development planning.

 
Norquay’s residential zones are being redeveloped with duplexes, small houses, and townhouses. Since the new zoning came into effect in Spring 2013, more than 50 duplexes have been approved outright in Norquay, and more than 15 have been completed and landscaped. A few single family houses have also been built during this time. Construction has not yet begun on any projects in the RM-7 (rowhouse or stacked townhouse) zone. One 8-unit project is nearing completion and has been landscaped in the RT-11 (small house/duplex) zone. One 4-unit project on a single lot has been completed in the apartment transition zone.

These comments are based on observations of the front yard landscaping around these newly completed residences and on inferences from landscape plans of recently approved multi-family projects.

 
I.  Lawns

Most of the new front yard lawns that have been planted in Norquay within the past few months are now dead or dying. Virtually all grass that has been recently planted on boulevards has died. This was already happening when Vancouver’s watering restrictions were at Stage 1, as the picture below (taken on 24 June 2015) shows.

 
IMG_8241-640
 

In one completed project, the areas of grass in the front yards are green, but they have not been cut (possibly because they are too small to be cut with a lawnmower). The grass is now about 10 inches long.

 
Comment and Suggestions:

1.  Climate change increases the possibility of drought. Areas planted with grass should be kept to a minimum, especially in multi-family projects.

2.  Where grass is planted, the grassy area should be a reasonable size (no tiny pockets), be easy to access, and have a shape that facilitates mowing and edging. If the area is shady, a type of grass that grows well in shade should be planted. Grass should not be planted under conifers or under any large existing tree.

3.  Developers should be required to adequately water new landscaping before new residents move in. Perhaps during the hottest months of the year, landscaping should be deferred until cooler weather.

4.  Residents of newly landscaped properties should be given information about the care and maintenance of their landscaping when they move in. Specific instructions should be given about watering requirements and restrictions, and about how to apply for a special watering permit if a new lawn has been planted.

5.  It seems likely that many residents of new housing have no previous experience in gardening with ornamental plants and lawns, especially with newly planted ones {new plantings}. They may expect their brown lawns to recover in the fall. It would be beneficial for the City of Vancouver or the VSB to run a two-hour course in the spring in both English and Mandarin/Cantonese on caring for new lawns.

6.  Residents of new buildings should be made aware that they are responsible for the care and maintenance of the boulevard that borders their property, as well as for picking up any litter that collects on the boulevard or in the gutter. They need to be encouraged to water new boulevard trees.

 
II.  Trees and Shrubs

Few trees have been planted in front of duplexes or single family houses. Where shrubs have been planted, many of them are currently dead or dying. In the almost-completed RT-11 project at Killarney Ridge (East 41st and Killarney), many trees and shrubs on the south and west edges of the property have died even before the new residents have moved in.

In general, the landscaping plants being used in RT-11 and RM-7 projects seem to be appropriately low maintenance and reasonably drought tolerant. But new plantings need to be watered regularly until they are established.

In one completed project, an automatic watering system ensures that plantings are adequately watered.

 
Comment and Suggestions:

1.  If not already required, an automated watering system should be made mandatory for all planted areas in multi-family developments to ensure that they are adequately watered.

2.  It would be beneficial for the City of Vancouver or the VSB to run a night course of several sessions in late winter or early spring in both English and Mandarin/Cantonese on gardening with ornamental plants.

3.  Where the required 4 ft. allowance between buildings and the fence is not a walkway, this low- visibility area should be covered either in gravel placed over an effective weed inhibitor with a hardy ground cover such as periwinkle. Any other type of planting will be difficult to access and care for. There will be times people need to walk in this space, and to set up ladders and other equipment.

 
III.  Walkways

The surface for walkways should not be stepping stones or gravel. A surface of concrete or pavers is easier to maintain, to walk on and to shovel when there is snow.

 
Jeanette Jones
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

10 August 2015 at 10:28 am

Density × Density

leave a comment »

 
A development application for 2312-2328 Galt Street happens to be the first rezoning proposal under Norquay Village — Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy. The application seeks to benefit from the Rental 100 suite of developer handouts at the same time.

The City of Vancouver is allowing two new experimental densities to collide, and Norquay in the heart of East Vancouver suffers the toxic density fallout. It was already unfair to target one of Vancouver’s already denser neighborhoods for more population with no added amenity. It seems beyond unfair to layer a second density handout on top of the first.

 
 
Apartment Transition Zone
 

First of all, the Galt Street application seeks to benefit from incentives provided by the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan.

Here is the relevant portion (pdf 46 of 108) of what Vancouver City Council approved on 4 November 2010 over the objections of a majority of area residents:

 
apttranszone
 

Note the following three divergences from how this new “zone” was presented in 2010 — and what has happened since:

I.   Norquay was promised an Apartment Transition Zone. Instead, in 2013 it got an inflated loosey-goosey Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy.

II.  In 2010 a Basic Development Parameter was specificed as 72 dwelling units. Presumably this figure applied to “one parcel.” The 2013 version of the zoning upped this figure to 180 for two parcels and 240 for three parcels. That represents an inflation of 25% for two parcels and 11% for three parcels.

III.  The 2013 version of the zoning specifies at 2.4 that single parcels of less than 50 ft. ordinarily will not be eligible for rezoning. Land assembly is required. In the interim, however, City of Vancouver encouraged a misbegotten experiment on a 46.4 ft. parcel at 2298 Galt Street. Too bad planners had to see the face of Frankenstein before realizing that the monster needed to die. The four apartments in a nasty location have recently gone on the market at prices ranging from $878,000 to $998,800. (So much for Norquay’s vaunted new affordable housing.)

The 2010 Norquay Plan dropped significant additional density into RS-1 zones, and then the 2013 specifications stealthily pushed that density even higher.

 
 
Rental 100
 

The conclusion needs to go up front:

The City of Vancouver must make Norquay Apartment Transition Zone a no-go zone for additional Rental 100 handouts

This is not the place to get into all the details of the long, tangled, nasty history of Rental 100 incentives. Three points are enough:

 
ONE

The rental incentives “initiative” traces back to the 2008 economic downturn and a City of Vancouver effort to “stimulate” the construction and development activity that has become its only real business — apart from selling itself off as a global elite playground at the expense of most existing residents. This early account provides backstory:

Joseph Jones. The Ugly Story of Short Term Incentives for Rental. Vancouver Media Co-op (26 Aug 2010)
http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/ugly-story-short-term-incentives-rental/4519

 
TWO

What was “short term” in 2009 has turned into a permanent deep trough for developers to pig out on at taxpayer expense. A recent mainstream media account makes it clear that developers are now interested in building rental properties even without these incentives:

Tamsin McMahon. Canada’s rental unit landscape witnessing a resurgence. Globe and Mail (16 March 2015)
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/housing/canadas-rental-unit-landscape-witnessing-a-resurgence/article23465600/

 
THREE

In 2015 City of Vancouver budgeting, housing consumes 20% of capital budget and 35% of operating budget investments. Much of this “housing” consists of STIR and Rental 100 giveaways to developers. A correlate of this use of scarce resources is no amenity increase for the predominantly East Vancouver areas where the density is getting dumped.

 
pdf57of180-20150224-spec1presentation.pdf
 
     2015 Capital Budget Expenditures — $306.0 Million  (pdf 57 of 180)
 

 
pdf48of180-20150224-spec1presentation
 
     2015 Operating Budget Investments — $9.4 Million  (pdf 48 of 180)
 

Source:
2015 Budget Report DRAFT — Council Meeting February 24, 2015
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20150224/documents/spec1presentation.pdf
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

17 April 2015 at 8:02 pm

Vancouver CAC 2013

with 3 comments

 
 
2013 Annual Report on Community Amenity Contributions and Density Bonusing
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20150121/documents/ptec4.pdf
Standing Committee of Council on Planning, Transportation and Environment
21 January 2015 — Agenda Item No. 4
 

 
•       •       •       •       •       •
 

 
Comment Presented to Council by Jeanette Jones

 
We have before us a comprehensive report on the CACs that were collected by the City of Vancouver in 2013. I would like to talk a little about CACs that were NOT collected.

The City of Vancouver advertises waiver of DCL fees as one of the incentives for developers to build secured market rental housing. What is less well known is that the City will probably not be collecting CACs on these developments either. In Norquay, we have just become aware that even projects located in zones that were assigned fixed rate CACs will very likely not be paying them if the developer is building secured market rental housing.

This would be more acceptable if the 886 units of secured market rental housing approved in 2013 were indeed “scattered across the city” as the reports states (p. 8). In actual fact, this is not the case. Nine of the eleven developments listed on page 10 of the report are concentrated in only a few neighbourhoods: Downtown, Downtown Eastside, Kensington-Cedar Cottage, and Renfrew-Collingwood. Non-market rental housing, which is exempt from paying CACs, is concentrated in the same areas.

The Downtown is already notoriously underserved with amenities such as parks, libraries and community centres. This also true of the Downtown Eastside, which along with Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Renfrew-Collingwood is among the poorest neighbourhoods of Vancouver.

Does rental housing in Vancouver need to become more affordable? Of course it does. Should Vancouver have more non-market or social rental housing? Of course we should. I am glad to see that Council is concerned with this problem. Should social housing be built primarily in East Vancouver? This makes sense. But this citywide social good — which is what “affordable rental housing” is — should not be built on the backs of Vancouver’s poorest and most neglected neighbourhoods.

The stated purpose of CACs according to the policy is “to help address growth costs, area deficiencies, and/or other community needs and impacts.” (p. 1 of Community Amenity Contributions Through Rezonings, adopted January 20, 1999 and last amended April 29, 2014.) The first guideline for determining specific amenities states that they “must be located in the community in which the rezoning takes place and/or serve the site” (p. 3). CACs are intended to provide real amenities to the specific community that is receiving the increased density. Current practice means that the City does not even collect many of the CACs that should be funding these amenities. Most of the CACs that actually are collected in these neighbourhoods are being spent to address a problem facing the entire City of Vancouver.

This is not fair. Citywide problems should be addressed with funding from citywide contributions. It is those who live in Vancouver’s most expensive residences who can best afford to help provide homes for those who are having trouble finding a place to live. The burden of funding affordable rental housing should not fall disproportionately on those neighbourhoods that are being rapidly densified, at the expense of the amenities that their new residents desperately need. I encourage Council and Staff to find alternative ways of financing affordable rental housing.
 

 
•       •       •       •       •       •
 

 
Comment Presented to Council by Joseph Jones

 
In February 2014, at a technical briefing on the new plan for Downtown Eastside, my attention fastened on a statement that the City of Vancouver would undertake to monitor new development and to report back to Council.

The build-out in our own local area, Norquay, the heart of East Vancouver, receives no such attention. Nor does the build-out in any of the other new-community-plan neighborhoods. Our Vancouver planning machine is designed to wrap up, move on, and do zero monitoring afterward. Recommendation number one: Require ongoing assessment for all new community plans.

So, Jeanette and I now put in a lot of hours trying to do the monitoring for Norquay. This CAC agenda item provides an opportunity for us to express disappointment at how all-take-no-give the Norquay Plan has turned out so far. We now have four years of evidence. What follows is a case-study on large-site quantification to set alongside the macro problem that Jeanette has already outlined.

A little northwest of Norquay, in the first of CityPlan’s only-two-ever “neighbourhood centres,” stands King Edward Village. What did that massive development bring to the area in 2003? A CAC of $251,328.24. That’s probably less than the price of one of those 400+ condos. The money funded relocation of an adjacent existing library. Existing, so not a new amenity. In essence the library relocation was an on-site in-kind sweetheart deal for the developer.

Now on to Norquay. Our first CAC under the Norquay Plan produced a scrawny $105,846. That entire amount disappeared into some vague attempt to mitigate the shadows that 2711 Kingsway’s new tower cast over the adjacent daycare. All in all, this deal did more to damage the neighborhood than to enhance it.

Our second and only other CAC comes from 2220 Kingsway. The $4,011,720 sounds like significant money. But about one-quarter of that total is more in-kind funny-money accounting. Meaning that the stated $1 million plus costs the developer a lot less than book, and at the same time increases value for the project. What’s left over is $3 million cash that vanishes into indefinite sequestration. One thing seems certain. If and when the money re-emerges, it will buy a whole lot less than it would today. Recommendation number two: Require indexing and clear accountability for squirreled-away CACs.

Only ten years ago a community vision promised Norquay that future development would be conditional on “an increase in community facilities and programs needed to serve any population growth generated.” (p. 30, Renfrew-Collingwood Community Vision). We can already see that Norquay is well ahead on the additional population we’re supposed to absorb over a period of thirty years.

Since Norquay Plan CAC is delivering nothing substantial to Norquay, Capital Plan funding needs to fill the gap now. Jeanette and I knocked as hard as we could on that door for Norquay in 2011, and we did the same again in 2014. We still have no idea whether we’re being heard on the other side of that door. I close with recommendation number three: Require significant 2015-2018 capital funding to be directed toward defined Norquay priorities.
 

 
•       •       •       •       •       •
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

21 January 2015 at 8:15 pm

Capital Plan for Park Renewal

leave a comment »

 
To:  Park Board Commissioners
From:  Jeanette Jones
Date:  30 September 2014

Although I attended the meeting last night, I was unable to speak. I will not be able to be present at tonight’s meeting. Below is my submission.

 
Submission to Vancouver Park Board: 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report

 
The 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report [1] states:

Neighbourhood parks are the backbone of the parks system, and are where city residents escape daily to recreate and recharge. With increasing density around many parks, intensifying use, changing demographics and standards, and emerging demands for new recreational and leisure pursuits, the on-going re-thinking and renewal of neighbourhood parks and playgrounds is a continued Park Board priority.  (p. 4)

The Report admits “about 25% of the parks and open space portfolio is currently assessed as being in poor condition” (p. 10). Yet the 2015-18 Capital Plan allots only $2M to park renewal. This is about 1.3% of proposed total Park Board investment over the next four years, and less than 6% of the amount allotted for new parks and renewals. I find it difficult to reconcile this paltry funding with the Park Board’s stated priorities.

The $2M allotted for park renewal is expected to cover completion of the work at Hillcrest/Riley Park and a new playground at Andy Livingstone Park. Last night staff suggested that improvements to Sunset Park will come out of this line item as well. At best, only a few hundred thousand dollars will remain to be assigned to the hundreds of other neighbourhood parks in Vancouver.

I encourage you to increase the amount allotted for park renewal. To illustrate the need, I use my neighbourhood park, General Brock Park in Norquay, as an example. [See also Brock Park photos provided as appendix to earlier Eye on Norquay posting about 2015-2018 Capital Plan.]

When we first moved across the street from the park in 1980, it was fairly new and well used. Our three daughters spent many happy hours in the playground with their preschool friends. A cricket team played in the park every Sunday during the warm weather. Informal games of soccer, catch, and frisbee took place often. A post and chain fence separated the park from the lanes that surround it on three sides.

Since then, we have watched the park steadily deteriorate. The underground stream that lies beneath the park has created a field that is so uneven and full of holes that only dogs can run on it. The cricket team left years ago. No one who values their ankles is willing to play games of any kind on the grass, and the soccer goalposts have long since been removed. An asphalt path that was built about 20 years ago provides a place for people to walk for exercise, but the path is now cracked and sagging. The fence rotted and was taken down, enabling residents of some of the houses that border the park to use parkland as extra parking space. The brush area surrounding the stump of a cottonwood tree that was removed a couple of years ago has become a magnet for people to dump garbage. The only part of the park that is used regularly for recreation is the playground, and even this area contains less equipment than it did thirty years ago. There are still no washrooms.

Meanwhile, more and more people have been moving into the area around Brock Park since the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan was passed in 2010. A recently built development at 2300 Kingsway and the already approved Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway, are bringing around 1000 new residents. This is 20% of the 5000 new residents that city staff projects will live in Norquay by 2040. In addition, a 4-storey apartment building containing 94 units has been built at 2239 Kingsway. Another nearby 28-unit apartment is in the pipeline. Three duplexes are under construction, and a duplex with an infill house backing directly onto the park has been approved. All of this development is within three short blocks of Brock Park, and this is only the beginning.

Increasing densification of the area does more than increase the number of residents. It also transfers many activities that have traditionally taken place in private backyards to city parks. Norquay’s new housing forms (duplex, rowhouse, stacked townhouse, small houses on shared lots) leave very little room for open space on the property. Neighbourhood parks are becoming the “shared backyard” where residents are looking to play, exercise, garden, and socialize. We are looking for picnic tables, exercise and play equipment for all ages, landscaping, and open space where we can run and play.

No adequate park renewal will be possible without adequate funding. One hundred thousand dollars will do little more than begin to address the drainage issues in a single park, and many of Vancouver’s neighbourhood parks have drainage issues.

The City of Vancouver has repeatedly assured Norquay residents that new development will bring new amenities. Recent development in Norquay has generated millions of dollars for the City in DCLs and CACs, but we have yet to see the promised amenities. The Norquay Public Benefits Policy (2013) identifies the renewal of General Brock Park as a high priority. Please help the City to keep its word by increasing the allotment for neighbourhood park renewal.
 

[1]  2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report
http://former.vancouver.ca/parks/board/2014/140929/REPORT_CapitalPlan2015-2018_20140929.pdf
 

Written by eyeonnorquay

1 October 2014 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Statements

Conditions

leave a comment »

 

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)  [1]

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

 
[1]  http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20130312/documents/p2.pdf

Written by eyeonnorquay

17 September 2013 at 10:46 pm

Posted in Statements