Transcript: Gregor Robertson’s reasons for public apology during Nov 2014 election campaign

Gregor RobertsonOn November 15, 2014, Vision Vancouver squeaked by with a slim majority in the civic election giving them absolute control with 7 of 11 seats on City Council. Some councillors in this civic political party were narrowly re-elected by a few hundred votes over their contenders.

A major factor in that tight election was a public apology by Gregor Robertson — then Vision Vancouver’s two-term mayor and candidate for a third term. His high-profile apology at the start of a televised mayoral debate on CBC on November 12 was widely broadcast. During the debate he did not delve into details, but he partially explained his reasons in a CBC interview a few days later.

The apology was something that I’d considered over a number of weeks as the campaign rolled along and I’d heard quite a bit of feedback. People being concerned about not being heard through development decisions, you know, rezonings, through bike lanes, whatever it was, that just felt like our agenda was so ambitious that we hadn’t taken the time to listen to people quite enough. And I heard that enough times over the course of the campaign that I though that, you know, I don’t want people to have hard feelings about this. I want them to know that I’m listening to this. I hear it. And I just wanted people to be sure, that people understood, that I’m hearing these concerns reflected back, and I apologize for any hard feelings. It’s more that I am committed to trying to find ways to get people more included and engaged so they know they are being heard at City Hall. Some people’s feelings are hurt. They don’t feel like they were consulted or heard. I want to make sure that the city is getting more together. Getting more inclusive and connected, rather than feeling more fractured.
Gregor Robertson, on CBC Radio, Nov 2014 [year corrected]

For further reading, the following article in the Globe and Mail gives the back story, showing how the apology was not exactly a spontaneous and heartfelt apology, but an act of high-level political strategy in the 2014 civic election campaign. The campaign’s inside information suggests that the apology could have been the thing that got Vision Vancouver its squeaker win — which happens to be for the new extended term of four years until 2018. Now BC municipalities are nearly three quarters of the way through this term, with the next municipal elections being in October 2018.

Though the Mayor and his political party probably maneuvered to get their current majority and absolute control of City Hall through this apology, and although the back story suggests it was not really a sincere apology, how are they doing now?

There have been several divisive and highly debated issues going through City Council, one of which is the current Public Hearing on a 12-storey tower with major implications on the heart and soul of Chinatown. After three nights to hear about half of the speakers on a list of about 250, Mayor Robertson as chair of the meeting recessed the public hearing at about 10 pm on Friday night (May 26), and abruptly announced that it would resume at 9:30 am on the following Monday morning. If the remaining half of speakers cannot be physically in the room when their name is called, at this awkward time during working hours, they may miss their chance to speak. Some fear the Mayor may then try to end the hearing and call for a vote on the rezoning.

How Robertson’s mea culpa helped the Vision Vancouver campaign” (by Gary Mason, The Globe and Mail, 17-Nov-2014.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/how-robertsons-mea-culpa-helped-the-vision-vancouver-campaign/article21633186/

EXCERPTS:  Continue reading

Renderings, standards and human perception. A look at the 105 Keefer Street rezoning

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The photograph above is of Columbia Street. It is very much in line with how a person with normal human vision would experience it.

Here is the area of the photograph located in a white box (lower left) within the rendering produced by the applicant (Beedie Group) for the 105 Keefer rezoning:

Does the applicant’s rendering portray scale in a manner or context that the average citizen can clearly understand? Not really.

There are no before / after shots provided with the rendering for a comparison. Could the City make sure that comparisons similar to the following one are provided for scale and context purposes? We think it should.

The architect’s rendering adds excessively tall trees that mask the true height of the proposed building. Here is a comparison of a wide angle photo taken in the field (on left) and the corresponding section of the rendering (on right); note the height of the trees in relation to the monument (lower right):

The before / after shots could be provided with a camera focal length that is in line with human vision. Here’s a crop of the rendering that is approximately in line with our photograph below (top is “before” and bottom is “after”): Continue reading

Silencing the citizens: Did Mayor Robertson go “nuclear” on 105 Keefer with 9:30am Monday Public Hearing?


Does Mayor Robertson really want to hear from everyone who wants to speak at the Public Hearing on the future of Chinatown?

After three nights of public input, it appears he’s hit the “nuclear” button on the Public Hearing, to potentially to ram it through with great expedience. [As popularized recently by President Trump, “go nuclear” refers to resorting to drastic measures in an attempt to undermine an opponent.]

Vision has employed a strategy to exhaust the speakers list. They have decided to reconvene the Public Hearing at probably the most inconvenient time, during regular office hours on a weekday. If a person who has signed up to speak is not physically in the room when their name is called, they miss their chance. Normally they can go back on at the end of the list. When the end of the speaker’s list is reached, then Council can just go ahead and vote on it (thus effectively skipping many people who had signed up to speak).

The practice of holding part of a Public Hearing during working hours on a weekday is extremely rare in Vancouver. One example was in March of 2014, with the Oakridge Centre Public Hearing.

Alert! City Hall quietly shifts Public Hearings to daytime, working hours — another step down the slippery slope (CityHallWatch, February 23, 2014)

Public Hearings started at 7:30pm… then were moved to 7pm starts and 6pm under the present administration (it is harder for some people to make it after work to 6pm than 7:30pm).

Is it a nasty tactic for the Mayor to suddenly announced that the public hearing will reconvene at 9:30am on a Monday morning? Does it show a blatant disregard and disrespect to residents of Vancouver? Is the Mayor deliberately silencing the voices of the community, and preventing members of the public from speaking?

As a sign of good faith, the Mayor could announce publicly that Council will NOT vote on the 105 Keefer application on Monday, but will reconvene on a weeknight later in the week or the following week. That would enable more of the speakers who wished to speak to have their chance to address council. This will permit people to have their voice (who can’t leave their workplaces during working hours on a weekday)

There’s been a steady erosion of rights of citizens to speak to Council. In the middle of the Rize Public Hearing, the Vision dominated Council changed the rules governing the meeting. Previously all members of Council who voted had to be present for the entire length of the Public Hearing, now they can skip out of the meeting and still vote at the end. As well, members of the public could ask to speak a second time at the end of the speakers list (if they would not have enough time).

CityHallWatch writes Council: Procedures Bylaw amendments will reduce Vancouver’s democracy, weaken public Hearings (in Council 27-March-2012)

The rules for Council meetings are set forth in the Procedure Bylaw and the Vancouver Charter.

Council added extra backup dates for Public Hearings earlier this year, but it appears that Monday, May 29th was not previously scheduled as a backup date: Continue reading

Controversial 105 Keefer (Chinatown) rezoning goes to public hearing (May 23, 25, 26, 29+): Beedie Group, 12-storeys

105-keefer-v5, credit changincitybook-com

105 Keefer proposed design. Does the developer’s image make building look smaller than it would really be?

Updated: The first night saw 35 of over 220 registered speakers. The Public Hearing continued May 25 and May 26 and reconvene Monday, May 29/17 at 9:30 am, hearing speaker #171 of about 240 speakers. (A weekday morning public hearing is unusual, and makes it difficult for many people to attend.)

Public hearing info: http://council.vancouver.ca/20170523/phea20170523ag.htm

Live tweeters on #105keefer Monday morning and/or afternoon (May 29):
@melodyma
@kathleen__yang
@jhwfung
@fabulavancouver
@angelakmho
@chinatown_today
@ricepaperbird

Live tweeters #105keefer Friday night (May 26):
@melodyma
@amandawan
@jonesj
@_dbautista
@yskevinhuang
@jhwfung

Official updates @vancityclerk

Hashtag #105keefer

Recent news articles here, followed by our original post from before the first night of the hearing.

Heated battle over Chinatown’s future pours into council chambers (by John Mackie, Vancouver Sun, May 24, 2017): http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/heated-battle-over-chinatowns-future-pours-into-council-chambers. Excerpt: Shirley Chan gave an eloquent speech that related how her parents had led the fight to save Chinatown and Strathcona from a freeway in the 1960s and 70s. “Tragically it appears we’re back to square one, after two massive developments at the corner of Keefer and Main,” said Chan, arguing the new housing and businesses in the developments “lacked any meaningful link to Chinatown.” This was not what the Chinatown activists had envisioned when they worked with the city to revitalize the neighbourhood. “Our eyes were opened,” said Chan. “We realized that (the) zoning approved by city council was not designed to save Chinatown as we had foolishly thought, it was effectively designed to replace Chinatown as we knew it. “There were no incentives to keep the (heritage) buildings; in fact the incentive was to tear (them) down. (And) The preservation of character was not successful. We had lost the small storefronts, the mom and pop businesses, the pedestrian friendly streets — now they were shrouded in shadows.

Andy Yan: Where goes Chinatown, so goes the City of Vancouver (op ed by Andy Yan, Vancouver Sun, May 25, 2017): http://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/opinion-where-goes-chinatown-goes-the-city-of-vancouver. Excerpt: Historic zones like Chinatown and Gastown only constitute 0.4 per cent of the entire land mass of the city of Vancouver. This city is starving for a living common memory and a new development model to relieve this civic famine. … Additional profits from the increased height and density are privatized to the developer…. The developer still has a right to build, but the project’s insensitivity to architectural context and social crisis should not be supported by city council. … Rezoning with little regard to social, cultural and economic context and consequences should be rejected. Vancouver needs a new type of city building that celebrates and supports the diverse histories and communities that made this city great. This begins in Chinatown.

 *****

The hearing for the rezoning of 105 Keefer is restarting at Vancouver City Council Chambers and open for speakers at http://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/105keefer/index.htm. Alternatively, the public may submit written comments of 1,500 words or less by email to publichearing@vancouver.ca”

*****

Sparks are set to fly at a controversial public hearing scheduled for tonight, Tuesday, May 23 (with reserve night set for May 25 if time runs out). The proposal by Beedie Group and designed by Merrick Architecture is strongly opposed by the community.

Rezoning info (official City site): http://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/105keefer/index.htm
Public hearing info: http://council.vancouver.ca/20170523/phea20170523ag.htm

#SaveChinatownYVR is a campaign that aims to inform and activate citizens to take action for Vancouver’s Chinatown. https://savechinatownyvr.herokuapp.com/campaigns/oppose-105-keefer-rezoning

This is a complex case with many angles, but here are their top seven points:

  1. Taxpayers should not be funding a developer’s profits
  2. Unaffordable for locals
  3. Economic displacement
  4. Lack of design merit
  5. Inappropriate use of culturally sensitive site
  6. Height and mass unfit for area
  7. Rejected by community

Continue reading

Short term rentals: City of Vancouver announces crack-down on illegal rentals of 3 major operators

City HallInformation Bulletin from City of Vancouver.

May 19, 2017

City cracks down on illegal short-term rentals

The City of Vancouver has escalated enforcement on three high profile residential operators illegally operating short-term rentals at a commercial scale.

The Level, located at 1022 Seymour Street, was issued orders related to illegal operations and has paid fines totaling $24,000. Bylaw violations by Vancouver Extended Stay and Carmana Plaza have been referred to prosecution.

In April, media outlets reported to the City that these operators were renting multiple units as short-term rentals. The City investigated these cases and gathered evidence to confirm the illegal rental activity. The City has been in contact with the owners of each building and pursued enforcement actions based on the response.

Onni operates the Level. The company has agreed to immediately stop short-term rentals and to pay fines related to activity over the past six months, the legal statute of limitations.

Vancouver Extended Stay offers property management services to owners of suites at 1288 West Georgia Street and 1200 Alberni Street. They have also agreed to immediately stop short-term rentals, however the property management service and the suite owners must all obtain business licenses to come into by-law compliance.

Carmana Plaza located at 1128 Alberni Street has received zoning approval to convert 96 suites to hotel use. The conversion process is not complete as the company must obtain occupancy permits and a business license. Short-term rentals in the 96 suites remain illegal until the process is complete. Carmana Plaza has agreed to stop accepting new short-term rental reservations, but the company is not willing to cancel existing future short-term rental reservations. Continue reading

Heads up: Write Council NOW about VGH bike lane and bypassing council to delegate authority to City Engineer

City HallCity Council resumes at 12:45 pm today to discuss agenda items. We are seeing considerable concern about two items in particular (#6 – Complete Streets Policy Framework and Related By-law Changes, and #7 -10th Avenue Health Precinct Street Improvements):
http://council.vancouver.ca/20170517/cfsc20170517ag.htm

Item #7 is slated to start at 2 pm. Follow progress of the meeting on Twitter via @vancityclerk.

To write Mayor and Council:

mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca
clrcarr@vancouver.ca, clraffleck@vancouver.ca, clrball@vancouver.ca, clrdeal@vancouver.ca, clrjang@vancouver.ca, clrlouie@vancouver.ca, clrmeggs@vancouver.ca, clrreimer@vancouver.ca, clrstevenson@vancouver.ca, CLRdegenova@vancouver.ca

In brief:

Item 6:  Vancouver Charter change:  Removing public consultations & Council’s authority  – for input & decisions on street use
– If passed – The City Engineer will have exclusive authority, bypassing Council.  This applies for transit, road use including main & side streets, bikelanes and more.
See an article in the Vancouver Sun by Councillor George Affleck:  http://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/opinion-keep-city-councillors-accountable-to-vancouverites
Item 7: Approving VGH West 10th Avenue bike lanes – This includes removal of 75 street parking spaces (leaving only 2 metered parking spaces). Over 3800 people per day visit Vancouver General Hospital and other facilities.   Only 11 disabled spots will remain, plus limited “drop off spots” with a 3-minute time limit.
We have received comments from readers that the material and survey results used by the City are skewed, prioritizing cyclists over patients. Only approx 1,800 respondents were surveyed while hundreds of thousands visit and use the area annually. The target survey group was supposedly seniors and the general population but the respondent demographic is reportedly mostly 30-39 year old cyclists, and over 46% of respondents do not use medical facilities in the area.
We are aware of other aspects of incomplete and flawed notification to affected parties. Will report more on that in the future.

Continue reading