City of Vancouver policy on election sign bylaw enforcement: Arbitrary lenience? Selective enforcement?

Vision signs 2300 Block Vaness St on CoV public land, BUSTED, 3-Oct-2014

Vision signs 2300 Block Vanness St on CoV public land, BUSTED, 3-Oct-2014

This is a follow up report. See bottom for previous coverage.

As soon as the official election period began on September 30, citizens began reporting violations of the Street and Traffic Bylaw, almost entirely by Vision Vancouver. The example at the left was a clear violation and removed.

In response to CityHallWatch inquiries the Chief Election Officer (Janice MacKenzie) gave us this response (below) on how the City is enforcing the Bylaw. In our opinion, in many (possibly most) cases permitted by the City, the violation is clear, and the City’s failure to enforce the bylaw benefits the parties that violate it most often.

Here is an excerpt of the letter to CityHallWatch from Chief Election Officer on October 15, 2014:

Based on your enquiry, Mr. Peter Judd, the City Engineer, has provided additional information to the elector organizations and candidates regarding permissible election signage and the City’s enforcement approach regarding election signs. I have attached a copy of the notice for your information. In that notice, Mr. Judd indicates that it is the City’s practice to allow election signage between the back of a sidewalk and the adjoining private property. Some of these signs may be on City property, but given that the property line is very difficult to identify without a survey, the City allows this encroachment. … I can assure you that election signage complaints will be acted upon expeditiously. These complaints are to be directed to 3-1-1.

CoV Political Signage - Info Bulletin - City Engineer October 2014

CoV Political Signage – Info Bulletin – City Engineer October 2014

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More election sign violations sprouting everywhere on public and private land: What you can do …

Illegally placed Vision Vancouver signs at Columbia & Peveril 24-Oct-2014

Illegally placed Vision Vancouver signs at Columbia & Peveril 24-Oct-2014. Photo credit @lavrys on Twitter.

In response to repeated CityHallWatch inquiries to the City Manager (Penny Ballem) and Chief Election Officer (Janice MacKenzie), on October 15, 2014, Ms. MacKenzie wrote, “I can assure you that election signage complaints will be acted upon expeditiously. These complaints are to be directed to 3-1-1.”

CityHallWatch notes that this is a complaints-based system. What can you do if you are concerned about a possible bylaw violation?

On public land (i.e., violating City bylaws) 

  • Call the City at 3-1-1 to report and ask for City staff to investigate and remove the signs if in violation.
  • Even better, write an e-mail to the City at info@vancouver.ca giving the exact location and time you noticed the sign. Include photo if available.

On private land (i.e., place without the property owner’s permission)

  • Remove and dispose the sign.
  • Or ask the offending party to come and get the sign (contact the party by phone, or ideally, by e-mail so that you have a record of the communication).

In both cases, we urge you to take a photo, for the record. If you send an e-mail we also appreciate a copy to CityHallWatch (citizenYVR@gmail.com) so we can track and report on cases.

In numerous cases we have heard about, signs (always Vision Vancouver so far) have been place on private property without permission of the property owner. For example, below is a message we received on October 18 (name removed to protect privacy).

I rent an apartment in a duplex house in East Vancouver [near Main & E 41st Ave]. I get on well with my landlords and consider them decent people. Imagine my horror when I came back home one evening and saw a Raymond Louie [Vision Vancouver] election sign on the grass outside the house. However, I decided not to do or say anything since I didn’t want to antagonise my landlords and risk the good relationship we had built up.

I happened to be leaving the house at the same time as my landlords were coming in and I decided to poke a little fun and tell them they had some litter on the front lawn – in the form of the Louie sign. My landlord surprised me by saying she has no idea where the sign came from and that she certainly didn’t put it up or give permission. My faith in her was restored when she allowed me to remove and destroy the sign.

I would be shocked if this is typical behaviour from Vision. Can you confirm if this is known to happen regularly?

Ned Jacobs reflects on Geoff Olson opinion piece: Jane Jacobs’ vision lost among Vancouver’s high towers

In the article below, Ned Jacobs responds to an opinion piece by popular columnist Geoff Olson in the Vancouver Courier (Opinion: Jane Jacobs’ vision lost among Vancouver’s high towers, October 23, 2014)…

Jane Jacobs with son, Ned, in Greenwich Village, 1962I rarely, if ever, say that Jane Jacobs would have said this or that about things that she did not comment on and, of course, can no longer comment on, because it is unfair to put words in the mouths of those who can no longer speak for themselves. That said, I think Geoff Olson’s commentary, general though it is, is consistent with Jane’s views and approach.

In conversations that I had with Jane in the last decade of her life she said that she wasn’t opposed to residential highrises in principle, but thought they needed to be designed and placed with care and sensitivity to their surroundings (as they were in the West End until recently), and that there are many neighbourhoods and even entire cities that manage just fine without highrise buildings.

One small error in Olson’s column: the title of Jane’s 1961 classic is The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jane reversed the cliché “life and death” because she was optimistic that if the principles she advocated were adopted, America’s dying or threatened cities and neighbourhoods could be revitalized and the still-thriving ones protected. Ten years ago Jane told me that she was gratified that where these principles were being sensibly applied—as in Vancouver—this was indeed the case.

On the occasions that  Jane visited Vancouver she experienced and enjoyed many of our neighbourhoods. She said that she felt quite at home in mine, Riley Park, and that she thought it functioned very well despite the relatively low population density. She thought the choices for “new housing types” that residents had made for the Riley Park/South Cambie Community Vision seemed sensible and she applauded the CityPlan concept and planning process (although she disliked the term “vision” because of its utopian overtones).

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs - CoverJane deplored errant wastefulness in the name of “progress”, such as is increasingly occurring throughout Vancouver, and thought that no community or place should be treated as if it were a “blank slate”, which I think we are also seeing to a great extent—the Little Mountain quagmire and Cambie Corridor policy to demolish the Marine Gardens housing complex and replace it with towers are cases in point. In1998 Jane toured the historic and affordable Mole Hill, which the city was planning to demolish for condominiums and an unneeded park expansion. Her strong statement of support for the Mole Hill tenants, who had been fighting for years to save their homes and gardens, contributed to their victory, which followed soon after.

TowersJane Jacobs’ books continue to be read, and continue to help inform us about the present as well as the past; but it is up to us, the living, to use our own eyes and ears to evaluate what is working well and what isn’t, and apply her highly nuanced ideas and observations in ways that seem appropriate to serving our present needs and are also likely to benefit future generations. Jane felt that both of these objectives could and should be achieved. Based on decades of personal involvement and research she also concluded that incorporating the local knowledge of residents and business proprietors, and obtaining their support for constructive change, are not only feasible but crucial for successful community planning.

Ned Jacobs

New video transcript exposes union money deals with Vancouver politicians to curry favour in negotiations: CUPE Local 1004

Vimeo image - 109871335This video (vimeo.com/109871335) was prepared by “Unicorn Man” showing a transcript of parts of a discussion between CUPE Local 1004 and politicians. Among the politicians present were incumbent Vision Vancouver Councillors Geoff Meggs and Raymond Louie and Vancouver park board commissioners Trevor Loke and Niki Sharma. They showered the union with praise and promises if reelected, and won a commitment of political donations and union members getting paid time off to work for the political campaign.
This audio was first made public in an article by investigative journalist Bob Mackin (“Vision Vancouver wins union campaign funding,” Vancouver Courier, October 16, 2014).
Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs

Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs

 

Excerpt of article: Those in attendance approved a $34,000 donation to Vision from a $70,000 political action fund. Matching by CUPE’s national and B.C. headquarters means it will total $102,000. The new OneCity party didn’t send a speaker to the meeting, but Local 1004 pledged $8,000. COPE and PEP are to get $5,000 each. Local 1004 also earmarked $10,000 for member book-offs to work on campaigns and $8,000 for advertising. Local 1004 affirmed its support for the Vancouver and District Labour Council’s endorsements.

Excerpts of some of the words spoken in the secret recording:
  • … we have a history of having activists work for campaigns in civic elections
  • … we’re putting in $10,000 for that and also $8,000 in a media campaign that we’ll do
  • … the object is to keep the NPA out of this election…
  • …policies of the Green party they’re fairly conservative, fiscally, around spending…so try and perhaps displace councillor Carr.
  • … matching [money] comes from the BC and National [levels of the CUPE union]
  • … carry [curry?] favour with Vision in the next round of negotiations … which are coming up…
  • … our support is not unconditional
  • … and perhaps influence whoever the ruling government is
Since the October 16 article and release of audio recordings, there have been, to our knowledge, only two media references to this incident: an opinion submitted to The Province newspaper by mayoral candidate challenger Kirk LaPointe (who calls the deal “corrupt”) and tangential mention in an article by Mike Howell of the Vancouver Courier.
In many other cities of the world, dealings like this would be treated as illegal and corrupt. In many other cities of the world, the words spoken and deals made would be headline news on the front page of local newspapers, radio and television.
A week has gone by since the story first broke. But from other self-respecting civic reporters and media — silence. Is there some kind of cover-up going on? A blackout? Censorship?
What is wrong in Vancouver? We feel quite confident saying that our local media are failing to serve Vancouver voters and citizens. What is wrong with the Vancouver Sun? The Province? The Globe and Mail? The National Post? The CBC? And our local and national broadcast media? Voters need to know that the mainstream media are letting them down.
Information about these dealings is important for voters and the public. Conversely, the deals made between Vision Vancouver and CUPE Local 1004 are NOT in the public interest.

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Unaffordable housing: Driving factors in Vancouver. A tool for citizens to analyze candidates’ promises.

CityHallWatch guestimate factors unaffordable housingWith the civic election approaching, Vancouver’s housing unaffordability is at the top of many debate agendas. It’s the talk of the town and has been for years. COPE, the NPA, and Vision Vancouver have all had time at City Hall, with Vision Vancouver having the majority for the past six years. In fact, they got the majority — twice — promising to handle homelessness and housing unaffordability. Of course, the issues are complex. The causes are complex. But neither the politicians nor the experts have presented to the public a convincing or concise way to understand the problem. Residential Ave Sale Prices, Greater Vancouver, 1977 to 2014

So we tried a thought experiment. We created an Excel sheet and a radar graph, listing these factors, which anecdotally seem to be major causes of housing unaffordability. (Download our Excel file and try changing things yourself: Concept-major factors in housing affordability) These are the factors we listed.

  • Speculation
  • Empty units
  • Inherent land scarcity
  • Tight demand vs supply in housing type
  • Foreign ownership
  • Global economics (safe cash refuge)
  • Industry hype, psychology

Guestimate table housing unaffordabilityGoing further, each factor could be addressed by a series of policies. This example could be tweaked, and there could be more added,  certainly.

Then we punched in some numbers as a guestimate of the relative influence of each factor, based on sense and reading. The total adds to 100. We also created three columns to indicate which issue can be handled by which level of government (see asterisks). The result is the radar graph you see at the top of this article.  Continue reading

Vancouver Fire Fighters raise alarm bells, call for City Hall to place greater priority on public safety

Vancouver Firefighters letter header Oct 2014Vancouver Fire Fighters IAFF Local #18 has issued this open letter to citizens. We copy it here, with permission (bold text is our selection) and encourage readers to visit their new website for important facts on safety, staffing, training and high rises,etc. (www.keepmyvancouversafe.ca).

An open Letter to the Citizens of Vancouver.

Vancouver Firefighters open letter to citizens Oct 2014

Vancouver Firefighters open letter to citizens Oct 2014

Dear Friends and Neighbours,

Re: Fire Safety Concerns

In 2013 Vancouver saw the greatest level of housing development since 1969. Since 2010 the
city of Vancouver has removed 2 fire trucks from service, cut back its fire prevention division
and ignored a 2010 report that recommended 20 more firefighters to meet demands.

Your fire department is falling behind and Vancouver fire fighters are very concerned.

On Friday, October 3 Vancouver fire fighters were engaged in a very large and significant fire. It
required fire fighters from all over the city to extinguish the four alarm Granville Street fire. On-scene
firefighters did an excellent job containing this rapidly developing fire. fire11Behind the scenes
fire department managers decided against calling in additional staff to keep other districts of the  city properly protected. For a significant period of time several firehalls sat empty and large areas of city were left without firefighters to respond in a timely manner to fire incidents or medical aid calls.

Is this how we keep Vancouver safe?

Vancouver fire fighters are taking a stand and delivering a message that public safety should be a top priority at city hall.fire17

Please join us in a conversation about public safety at www.keepmyvancouversafe.ca

Sincerely,
Your Vancouver Fire Fighters.
Vancouver Fire Fighters IAFF Local #18
info@iaff18.org , http://www.keepmyvancouversafe.ca
(604)436-3335

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Backgrounder for Councillor Debate: “Affordable Vancouver” Oct 23, by UBC SCARP, Vancouver Sun, Housing Justice Canada

Affordable Vancouver, UBC Robson Sqr debate, 23-Oct-2014, POSTER-revThe “Affordable Vancouver” debate for candidates for Vancouver City Council will be held this evening. Below we reprint the event information and panelist names, plus the text of the Backgrounder (PDF download) prepared by organizers. Affordable housing is consistently the top public concern over time. What are politicians saying and promising? What have they done with their mandate so far? (COPE, the NPA and most recently Vision Vancouver (for the past six years) have all had a kick at the can on City Council.) Which party has what it takes to address the problem?

Thursday, October 23, 7 – 9 pm
UBC Robson Square Theatre
Organizers: UBC, School of Community & Regional Planning (SCARP), The Vancouver Sun, and Housing Justice Canada

Video link: www.vancouversun.com/debate
Twitter: #affordablevan

Tickets have already sold out, but there will be a live-stream (web video) of the event (stay tuned for link). The candidates and panel of housing experts are listed below.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING BACKGROUNDER 

A poll of Vancouverites from earlier this year indicated that 40% of respondents consider affordable housing the biggest issue facing the city. Indeed, the crisis of housing affordability in Vancouver is well-known: Vancouver’s housing price-to-income ratio is exceptionally high, and its rental vacancy rates are among the lowest in Canada. The 2014 housing affordability survey by Demographia ranked Vancouver the second most unaffordable city in the world for the sixth straight year. 

This crisis is the result of many complex factors: a rise in housing costs, a lack of appropriate government policy, too few new low-income rental units, low rental vacancy rates, high inflows of capital, urban population growth, and income growth that has lagged behind the cost of living.

The solutions for this problem will be equally complex, and will require strong leadership and informed policy-making at the municipal level. Some key questions will have to be addressed by candidates seeking the support of Vancouver residents on this important issue: 

  • What do you consider the primary root causes of housing unaffordability in Vancouver? In what ways will your party
    Affordable Vancouver, some factors causes effects

    Affordable Vancouver, some factors causes effects

    tackle these root causes?

  • The March 2014 homeless count revealed that the number of people sleeping on the street increased to 536, up from 154 in 2011. How will your party combat street homelessness?
  • Studies suggest that Vancouver lags behind other major housing markets in providing social and non-market rental housing units. Some developments have resulted in fewer of these units than originally planned.
  • What steps can be taken to ensure that there is adequate housing to meet the needs of low- to moderate-income households?
  • Vancouver is a city that takes pride in its diversity. What do you view to be the unique barriers to accessible housing faced by recent immigrants, visible minorities, indigenous peoples, women, and LGBT people? How can equitable access to housing be achieved?
  • The price-to-income ratio for housing in Vancouver is one of the worst in the world. Can housing affordability be achieved without increasing income? How will your party accomplish this?
  • What type of policies would your party pursue to develop an adequate supply of affordable housing? How would they balance affordability with for-profit development?

Download: UBC Robson Sqr debate, Affordable Vancouver, 23-Oct-2014 poster

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