Georgia Straight editor calls for media boycott of Mayor Robertson’s Sunday media briefing on rental housing initiative

(Updated: See bottom.)

Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith has brought public some attention to odd behaviour by Mayor Gregor Robertson in his treatment of the media on the hot topic of affordable housing. It is worth noting. Media were invited to a Sunday morning media briefing. But the whole scoop was given to a preferred reporter and the article printed a day ahead. This gives one the sense the whole thing is a controlled publicity initiative.Gregor Robertson

Mayor Gregor Robertson plans news conference after giving exclusive to preferred reporter
by Charlie Smith, editor, Georgia Straight


Tomorrow morning, reporters are going to drag their butts out to the corner of West 43rd Avenue and Alberta Street to hear Mayor Gregor Robertson speak about an affordable rental housing initiative.

When I saw the notification, I planned on attending because rental housing is something of great interest to our readers.

Then I picked up today’s Globe and Mail and saw the entire story had already been covered by Frances Bula.

…. I’m hoping the media joins me in boycotting tomorrow’s news conference. I’m going to protest by having coffee with a friend instead.

A news conference boycott would send a strong message to the mayor’s office. Imagine if CBC, Global B.C., CTV B.C., Citytv, the Vancouver Sun, the Province, CKNW, News 1130, Roundhouse Radio, Ming PaoSing Tao24 HoursMetro, Fairchild, the South Asian community papers, the Korean community papers, the Philippine community papers, the Source, the Afro NewsXtra!, Omni TV, the National Post, and the Vancouver Courier all took a pass, but that won’t happen.

Here are the key points in today’s Globe and Mail story:

1. The mayor wants developers to allocate 25 percent of units in new projects to be rented to people whose incomes are between $30,000 and $80,000.

2. This could be financed by providing these developers with more density.

See the Straight for the full comment, plus a link to the Globe & Mail article referenced (note that it appears to have been updated in the online version as of Sunday morning). Continue reading

East Fraser Lands (River District): Official Development Plan 10-Year Review. Open houses July 22 (Sat) 26 (Wed)

east fraser lands area map COV

The East Fraser Lands (River District) cover 126 acres of former industrial land south of Marine Way and between Kerr Street and Boundary Road

Launch of Official Development Plan (ODP) 10-Year Review for East Fraser Lands

The City of Vancouver is starting a one-year process to review and update the East Fraser Lands ODP.  Two open houses are planned in the coming days.

July 22, 2017 (Saturday) 10 am to 3 pm
River District Centre & Farmers Market, 8683 Kerr Street, Vancouver

July 26, 2017 (Wednesday) 5 to 8 pm
Champlain Heights Community Centre, 3350 Maquinna Dr, Vancouver

More information:

Contact the City at 604-871-6889,

Below is some info gleaned from the City website. Go to the City for more information. The link above provides extensive information including the staff report to City Council in June 2017. Continue reading

Pearson-Dogwood development on 25-acre site for 2,700 housing units + health facilities. Worth $5+ billion? Rezoning Public Hearing tonight (July 20)

Pearson Dogwood image, credit CoV, July 2017

Pearson Dogwood development plan. The 25-acre site is between 57th & 59th Avenues and between Heather & Cambie Streets, Onni is the developer. Image: CoV 2017

[Update: This Public Hearing went from 6 pm to about 10 pm. After presentations, about 17 speakers addressed council, some by video link. The final Council discussion and vote/decision will be on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 starting 2 pm as “unfinished business. See the Public Hearing link for documents and video. We have added more material and references. It is rather surprising that NO MEDIA have covered the public hearing, other than one generic article in the Georgia Straight a week before the public hearing. For such a huge project, this Public Hearing has been far below the radar of media and public attention.]

This is a huge project on the Pearson Dogwood lands, bordered by 57th and 59th Avenues, Heather and Cambie Streets. It is proposed by IBI Group Inc. on behalf of Onni Pearson Dogwood Holdings Corp. (of the Onni Group).

By the numbers: 25 acres, nearly 2.7 million square feet for 2,700 residential units (including market-rate condos, “affordable housing,” and supportive housing), child care, an adult day center, a 2.5 acre park, a one-acre urban farm, commercial space, health facilities, and more. More than 10 buildings, max to 28 storeys high. We make a very rough estimate that the total project could be worth five to ten billion dollars* on what was formerly public land.

Public Hearing
Vancouver City Hall
6 pm, Thursday, July 20, 2017
Official documents and information:

Official rezoning information

The City of Vancouver has received a rezoning application for the Pearson Dogwood site at 500-650 West 57th Avenue. The proposal is to rezone and develop this 25 acre site from RT-2 (Two-Family Dwelling) District to CD-1 (Comprehensive Development) District based on the Council-approved Pearson Dogwood Policy Statement, for the purpose of developing a mixed-use development. The development will include:

  • approximately 2,700 residential units totalling 250,619 sq. m (2,697,732 sq. ft.), including 361 turnkey social housing units and land available to construct 179 social housing units;
  • approximately 114 Pearson supportive units totalling 8,430 sq. m (90,744 sq. ft.);
  • 12,196 sq. m (131,281 sq. ft.) of commercial space;
  • 19,835 sq. m (213,514 sq. ft.) of health related facilities including a community health centre and complex residential care facility;
  • a 69-space childcare;
  • a new adult day centre;
  • a new therapy pool;
  • a 2.5 acre public park;
  • a 1 acre urban farm;
  • a height of 91.0 metres (299 feet); and
  • a floor space ratio (FSR) of 2.83.

According to the Georgia Straight, construction is proposed in phases to begin in 2018. “Phase one would be complete with the first residents moving in in 2021 or 2022. Phase two would begin in 2021. The third and final phase of construction would begin in 2024.”


The Georgia Straight (Travis Lupick) summarized a June 2017 city staff report, saying the project would consist of 2046 market-rate condos, 540 affordable-housing units, and 114 supportive-housing units. Residential buildings proposed for the site would number more than 10, the tallest of which could not exceed 28 storeys. The development replace aging facilities, with a new health complex operated by Vancouver Coastal Health.

There are some major some issues with the project. To name just two, the privatization of public land, and the lack of adequate or integrated transportation plans.

One is the privatization of what was previously publicly-owned land. It would be interesting to see an independent analysis of the short-term and long-term costs and benefits of the deal. Have the provincial government and municipal government politicians obtained the greatest possible value for the public in return for what they are offering the developer (public land at a good price, combined with a massive increase in density through rezoning)?

Reference: “The fine art of dissecting debt from contractual obligations” (Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun, February 28, 2017). Excerpt: Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have sold off more than $1 billion worth of government land and other assets in recent years, with another $1 billion in sales already in the works, says auditor-general Carol Bellringer. The independent watchdog on government finances reported on the burgeoning asset sales in her annual report on the public accounts, released Tuesday. Bellringer and her staff looked at the release of assets for economic generation (RAEG) program, launched in Clark’s first year as part of a drive to eliminate the operating deficit and balance the budget. The sell-off of surplus public land to private developers brought in almost $800 million in the first three years, with Vancouver’s Dogwood-Pearson and Little Mountain lands accounting for three-quarters of the proceeds.

Another problem is transportation. The Georgia Straight reported that “Challenges derail arrival of new Canada Line station on Cambie Street in South Vancouver” (Carlito Pablo, June 26, 2017). ( The Cambie Corridor has attracted thousands of units of development, with the City of Vancouver proclaiming the importance of “transit-oriented development” (TOD). But it looks like this application is going to end up with thousands more residents here — giving us a transit-oriented district with one key element missing: transit. Mr. Pablo refers to a future Canada Line station to be here as part of the broad policy statement adopted in 2014 by the Vision Vancouver-dominated city council for the redevelopment of the disctrict. “The Onni Group has purchased most of the 10-hectare property from Vancouver Coastal Health for condo development…. A report to Council by Susan Haid, city assistant director of planning for Vancouver South, (June 27, 2017) says: “Though it is desirable to achieve a future station at 57th Avenue there are a number of key challenges…. Currently, the station is not considered in regional transportation plans and is not considered a regional priority such as the Broadway Corridor line…. Existing transit access and the lack of east-west bus connectivity is also a challenge…. While the existing design of the Canada Line considered future stations at 57th and 33rd Avenue, the design provided no access or tunnel connection to the line and construction is anticipated to be technically complex and highly costly.”

As this tweet below shows, at least one person spoke about this at the Public Hearing (Mike Burdick, President of the Marpole Oakridge Community Association).

Apparently, Onni, set to make millions of dollars in profits if the rezoning is approved, doesn’t want to foot the bill. Separately, Onni was on the receiving end of an “accidental” waiver of $1.5 million dollars in development fees on another site, uncovered by a reporter and eventually paid.

Most people would tend to think of this as being in the Cambie Corridor, but it is technically referred to as being in Marpole.

We are not aware of much media coverage of the Public Hearing tonight, July 20, 2017, at a time when many people are away on vacation. It is perhaps not surprising that just an hour before the meeting began, only 27 letters to Council were listed on the rezoning.


*Note on 5 billion dollar estimate: Very roughly calculated at 2.7 million sf x $1800/sf = nearly $5 billion in development potential — admittedly very rough as this only includes the residential units, but at least an indication of the order of magnitude.


Content of rezoning web page (as of July 20, 2017)

Revised Parcel C Design (April 6, 2017)

In March 2016, the applicant informed the City that despite following a three year process to find a feasible approach to the development of a new facility, the YMCA had decided to respectfully withdraw as a partner in the Pearson Dogwood Project. Going forward, the YMCA will work with the City to pursue other development options in support of its ongoing commitment to South Vancouver and the Marpole community. The proposed building on parcel C has been redesigned without the YMCA resulting in a reduced massing. As the Policy Statement allowed for the exclusion of the YMCA’s floor area the overall density of the site has not changed.  The therapy pool remains in the podium level of parcel C.


A summary of changes includes:

  • The removal of the YMCA facility
  • Reduction in height and massing of the parcel C podium
  • Redistribution of floor area and heights between parcels C, D, H and F (overall gross floor area remains unchanged)
  • Retail units added at the ground level of parcel C to provide actives uses on the  plaza edge
  • Reduction in heights of affordable housing buildings in parcel H


Revised Parcel C Design Package (April 6, 2017)

Revised Application (February 10, 2017)

The City has received a revised application package which responds to comments received by staff, the public and Urban Design Panel. There are no changes to the site density, public benefit package or overall heights. Major changes from the previous application (December 24, 2015) include:


  • an increase in affordable housing units from 411 to 540
  • an increase in market residential floor area
  • decrease in the footprint of underground parking structures to increase opportunities for tree retention and stormwater management
  • clarification of the vision for the overall site, the urban farm and neighbourhood precincts
  • redesign of public spaces including the plaza and high street to accomodate a more diverse range of uses
  • a redistribution of building heights in parcels G and H to minimize shadowing on the urban farm and to provide better height variation.

Revised Application Package (February 10, 2017)

Application (December 24, 2015)


Council Meetings

Advisory Group and Community Meetings




To view additional plans, please make an appointment with the rezoning planner.

City Contact: Graham Winterbottom, Rezoning Planner,, 604-829-4217

Applicant Contact: Jamie Vaughan, Onni Group,, 604-602-7711



Emerging Housing Directions update report goes to City Council July 25 (Tues): What’s there, what’s missing?

City HallThe City of Vancouver has put a positive spin on its “Emerging Housing Directions” policies which will be presented to City Council at a regular council meeting on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.


In a media release today entitled “Residents support City’s Emerging Housing Directions to deliver more rental, housing options across the city: 10,000 residents provided input on the future of housing in Vancouver” the City says that residents have told the City that “affordability is their top priority, that the City’s new housing strategy should prioritize housing based on what local residents can afford, and that the City’s Emerging Directions for its Housing Vancouver Strategy are on the right track.”

Comment: As such a crucial topic for citizens at all levels of the housing spectrum, this report merits good public attention. What is in there? What is missing?

For example, will the City speed up permit processes for new buildings and renovation, which could put thousands of housing units on the market more quickly (see “Invisible housing crisis“)? Will it relax its crackdowns on unauthorized rentals and instead facilitate and encourage owners to get up to code — which could potentially add thousands more units (see “Legalizing secondary suites” on a motion buried by Council in March)? There will be opportunities for further public input for the final Housing Strategy to be adopted in the autumn of 2017.

It will also be interesting to see how Vancouver’s strategies fit with policies to be introduced under the province’s new housing minister, Selina Robinson.

Here is a report on proposed priorities for Housing, approved by Council in March 2017.

Continue reading

What are the implications of a Vision Vancouver presence in new provincial government staff list?

city-councillor-meggs-geoff image COV

Former city councillor Geoff Meggs has become Chief of Staff for Premier Horgan, triggering a million-dollar by-election in Vancouver

Rob Shaw reported today in the Vancouver Sun that Vision Vancouver influences are heavily represented within the newly formed provincial government. What are the implications? These people come with pre-existing networks, connections, dependencies, and ideologies. We have seen what that has meant for Vancouver. Will they be conduits for influence into provincial policy and for information outbound?

Premier John Horgan and NDP name more staff for new B.C. government
(Vancouver Sun), July 19, 2017

  • Excerpts (go to original article for the full text):
    Premier John Horgan’s government has rounded out the top ranks of its new administration with a flurry of cabinet orders signed by the new premier.
  • Mira Oreck was named director of stakeholder relations, with a salary of $120,000. She’s a former federal NDP candidate with deep roots in Vancouver politics, having worked on Gregor Robertson’s provincial and mayoral election campaigns.
  • She’ll work closely with Horgan’s chief of staff, Geoff Meggs, who is a former Vancouver city councillor and close ally of Robertson’s (whose salary was set at $195,000 annually).
  • The Vancouver connections continue in government. Stepan Vdovine, the executive director of Vision Vancouver, was also hired as a ministerial assistant in the new tourism ministry with a $94,500 salary. Vdovine and Oreck are partners
  • Sarah Zaharia, who worked in the City of Vancouver communications division but took a leave to help the NDP election campaign, is now executive director of ministry support in the new government.


The article also mentions Layne Clark, Matt Hannah, Stephen Howard, Sage Aaron, Jen Holmwood, Sheena McConnell, Liam Iliffe, Kate Van Meer Mass, Donna Sanford, Bob Dewar, Marie Della Mattia, Rob Gibbs, Mike Lowe, and Eric Kristiansen.

It is interesting to note the many couples and family connections among the staff.

Public Hearing July 18 (resumes Tues/July 25): Items include 57-storey tower + First Baptist Church reno at 969 Burrard

969 Burrard First Baptist Westbank, elevations, application 2017 rev(Update: The Public Hearing resumes 6 pm on Tuesday, July 25, with staff responses to some questions, and then speaker #9 of about 35 registered speakers.)

A public hearing is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday, July 18, 2017) at Vancouver City Hall. The first two items are “2423 Cornwall Avenue” (to amend CD-1 (657) District for Point Grey Private Hospital to increase the floor space ratio from 2.08 to 2.40), and “New Sign By-law and Sign Fee By-law” (to adopt two bylaws focused on “business identification signage to simplify and clarify sign regulations to reflect best practices, to reduce appeals for hardship and to be reformatted to be more efficient and user friendly; and to direct staff to develop and undertake an education and enforcement campaign with the
implementation of the new by-law). The Sign By-Law topic deserves some public analysis. We have covered cases in the past in which outright violations of the sign bylaw by major developer have been ignored or had delayed enforcement of many weeks (click for one example by Wesgroup).

The hottest item on today’s agenda is probably the rezoning at 969 Burrard Street (First Baptist Church) and 1019-1045 Nelson Street. Media have covered this story. See links below. This is a major project proposed by Westbank Projects Corp. (CEO Ian Gillespie) with Bing Thom Architects. We estimate the market value of the project at nearly a billion dollars and it includes a large benefits package, but residents are likely to raise a number of concerns about the process and design of this application. The proposal includes seismic upgrades for the church, and for two towers to be built alongside. A 57-storey tower would include 311 market-rate condo units and a seven-storey tower would bring 61 units of “social-housing” units (by the City’s own definition, which has been criticized for being insufficiently).

We understand that Brook Pooni has been the “communications” consultant on the project.  The 57-storey tower if approved would become a major sight in the Vancouver skyline. Council officials may  be asked to shed some light on the process leading up to this application, which Gillespie boasted at an architects’ meeting was a “done deal” nearly a year before the West End Community Plan (which is being used to justify it) was even adopted by City Council in November 2013.

Public Hearing official agenda and documents (July 18, 2017, starting 6 pm)

Rezoning Application documents:

Continue reading

Council agenda preview (July 11-12): Meggs resignation letter, regulating short-term rentals, grant allocations. Plus UDP, Park Board, and more

Vancouver City Council will be in session on Tuesday July 11th and Wednesday July 12th. A report to regulate Short-Term rentals will be considered for referral to Public Hearing (in fall 2017, with regulations to be enacted by April 1, 2018). A letter of resignation from Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs is included on the agenda; staff will provide updates on the upcoming byelection (expected in Sept.) at a later date. Grant allocations for Cultural Infrastructure, Theatre Rentals and Childcare Enhancement will be considered by Council. The Public Hearing on Tuesday, July 11th includes a 6-storey Cambie corridor rezoning (4138 Cambie) as well as the redevelopment of a rental site (7-storey building at 870 East 8th). There is also a Park Board meeting scheduled for Monday, July 10th; a report on the Strathcona CCA Funding Model – Interim Strategy will be reviewed.

The Urban Design Panel meets on Wednesday, July 12 (3 pm) for four projects: 1055 Harwood Street (RZ-2017-00024) for 32-storey residential building with 82 market residential units, and 44 social housing units, floor area 54,539 sq. m (178,974 sq. ft.), density 10.35 FSR; height 91.44 m (300 ft.); 1380–1382 Hornby Street (DP-2017-00305) for a 39 storey market residential building with 214 dwelling, and restore existing Heritage house (Leslie House), convert to commercial strata unit, with overall FSR 16.4; 801 Pacific Street (DP-2017-00497) for 7 storey arts and culture facility as part of CAC payable for rezoning 1380-1382 Hornby; and 2395–2443 Kingsway (DP-2017-00056) for a 12-storey and a 5-storey residential tower with 12 units of commercial.

The Development Permit Board is set to meet next on August 8. The Vancouver City Planning Commission meets next on August 2.

The full City Council meeting agendas are reproduced below: Continue reading