(Updated 5:30 pm, Oct 4) Today we notice Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in damage control. Until about 9 am he was on Bill Good Show AM 980 on the radio dial. (Go to http://www.cknw.com/news/audiovault/index.aspx audio vault to hear, set at 8 am show, then drag forward when ready). There was a Twitter “town hall” today as well.
#vanhousing. Tweeted questions went to @MayorGregor. We participated. Mayor Gregor left many questions unanswered. What we have seen so far from media coverage is still not providing enough information to the public. Watch each reporter and media outlet. Most mainstream reporters are still failing to ask the right questions. We’ll try to cut through the fog in coming hours, days, and weeks. We urge the public to be vigilant. This is not just about the Mayor’s Task Force. A critical issue is the way that a party in power and certain media outlets consistently fail to provide our society the information and analysis needed, in a timely way, for elected officials and the public to make informed decisions on every topic. This failure naturally drives people back to grassroots sources for information. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Change is needed. People want the truth. The Mayors Task Force is a test case to shine the spotlight upon how our civic government is working.
The public should have a lot of questions for Mayor Gregor, and Councillors Geoff Meggs and Raymond Louie — the only elected officials on the Task Force. They are the ones directly accountable on this story. Below is a growing list of questions. People should watch what they say for answers in coming days. Write to your elected officials. Write to your media. Note their responses.
- Why the rush and stealth? A lot of the outrage about the Task Force report was not just about the content but also the process. The Mayor’s Task Force report was released only on September 26 (Wednesday) only three working days before Robertson hoped it would quietly be adopted by Council (Tuesday; it was only held over one extra day because people asked to speak.) It lacked many important details (e.g., impact maps, justification for policies, convincing explanations of how policies would actually make housing affordable, etc.). Many people and civic groups were caught completely by surprise. Council meets every two weeks. Why not adopt recommendations after proper discussion? Why were maps only released AFTER the report was adopted? A few of the other Council members (e.g., Elizabeth Ball, Adriane Carr) stated that they too had only received the report when the public got it.
- NEW: How could our elected officials adopt such vaguely-worded definitions and set wheels in motion for creating land use policy policy? Why did they dupe the media and public? Previously staff defined “arterial roads” as those that carry frequent transit. Suddenly, after the decision was made on Oct 3, the City has released maps of areas affected by their new policies, the public discovers the Mayor and his team are referring to any street with non-local traffic. It is outrageous that Council approved this policy without defining what is included and without providing a consultation with that information. We want a world-class city? If so, we need world-class City Council. Why are mainstream media letting them off the hook?
- Has the Vision Vancouver dominated Council ever rejected a rezoning application, even with strong community opposition? (Answer: Almost never. Exception: Casino relocation was actually approved only expansion not allowed. Note that the 1241 Harwood (famous “tulip tree” case) was not a rezoning (HRA) and was delegated to an internal body — the Development Permit Board, which approved it later.) Comment: The city’s newly-hired General Manager of Planning and Development, Brian Jackson, has stated publicly that he wishes to reduce public anxiety about specific density/development/rezonings conflicts by dealing with the big issues during the bigger policy and planning processes. But on October 3, with little or no public consultation, City Council just rammed through plans to make major policy changes. Thus the next battlefield goes back to individual rezonings. This is exactly opposite of what Mr. Jackson wanted to happen. Anxiety levels will be going up high.
- Now, some technical questions, on the topic of rezoning to allow buildings up to 3.5 storeys along arterial roads and up to 6 storeys around “neighbourhood centres”:
- When will the public get accurate maps of where you decided to accept rezoning applications for 3.5 and 6-storey heights? Will the map provided to the Vancouver Sun (front page, October 4) of the impact areas 100 meters from arterial streets be made public?
- Will you provide a map that shows how much of the city is affected by the 500 meter extensions from neighbourhood centres for rezoning up to 6 storeys? Is this impact on any arterial within a 500 meter radius of the edges of the neighbourhood centre? How far does the 6-storey area extend out from the arterial (in 500 meter range)? Is it to the first laneway, first street, 100 meters, or to the end of the first property fronting the arterial?
- Exactly how to you intend to measure the distances where you allow greater heights? Where do you measure the 100 meter buffer around arterials for the zone to allow for 3.5 storey buildings? Is this from the centreline of the arterial? From the curb (or if you prefer, the kerb)? A sidewalk, or from the property line fronting the street? What happens to the designation of a property that is intersected by this 100m buffer? Is it partially included, excluded or intersected by the 100 meter designation? How was the 100 meter range determined? Can this 100 meter range be increased in the future?
- What is the maximum density (Floor Space Ratio) for the 6-storey areas, and for the 3.5-storey areas? What are the maximum heights to be allowed (separately for 3.5 storeys and 6 storeys)? How could you have possibly adopted your policies without any mention of FSR?
- Aside from excluding Industrial Lands (as designated in the Regional Growth Strategy), are there any other land uses to be excluded from the zoning changes? (Note that the fact that the changed policies would not affect Industrial Lands was not stated until an oral report to Council at 1 pm on Oct 3). Or is anything designated as ‘General Urban’ fare game?
- Along arterials that already have Commercial land use designations (such as C-2, C-3A, C-8), will the Interim Zoning Policy allow for 100% residential units? Commercial designations generally require at least some commercial (typically at grade).
- When can we expect to see a draft of the Interim Rezoning Policy?
Our conclusion: A high level of public and media scrutiny is needed of all the policies adopted. We must wait to see exactly what text was adopted in Council on October 3 before further analysis can be done.