Outdoor pools open May 22nd, registration open May 19th

New Brighton Park Pool

Outdoor pools in Vancouver are set to reopen on May 22, 2021 as the Victoria Day weekend gets underway. There will be a reduced maximum capacity for usage and users will be able to book blocks of time online, as was the case in 2020. The booking facility will open starting May 19th. The Park Board website will have further links to the booking time slots as these are brought online. The three outdoor pools that will reopen are the Second Beach (Stanley Park), Kitsilano and New Brighton pools. Last year the pools only reopened in July in response to new safety protocols.

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LED luminaires and intelligent street light control system: Privacy/security/budget concerns ($18 million contract 19-May-2021)

Example of an LED luminaire. Image credit: Acuity Brands

On May 19, 2021 (Wednesday) City Council will hear a report from staff entitled “Contract Award for Supply and Delivery of LED Luminaries and Intelligent Street Light Controls System.” (See Agenda Item #1 at this link.)

This relates to the 44,000 high pressure sodium (HPS) “cobra head” style street lights (referred to as “luminaires” – note that some of the City documents seems to misspell this as “luminaries”) that brighten our neighbourhoods and streets every night. The City plans to replace them over time with energy-efficient LED lights, and anticipates “a control system may also support emerging Smart City/Smart Grid enabled solutions.”

Our cursory review of published documents relating to Request for Proposal (RFP) No. PS20200107 turns up some slight mention of “cybersecurity” as part of Schedule C checklist, and the only mention of “privacy” in the documents seems to be related to the bidding and contracting processes.

Noting articles on the Internet about cities that have halted the rollout of “smart lighting” due to privacy and security concerns, we would feel more comfortable if an independent watchdog like the BC Civil Liberties Association had this topic on their radar, and independent review and monitoring systems in place to protect civil liberties. Could such a system down the road be used for public surveillance? In both the short and long term, what are the risks to the public? Risks to privacy? What are the risks of cyber attacks? Who can we count on to be looking after all of these issues?

Another concern is the budget. This is a considerable cost, and does not have to happen now. Should it be put on hold until after the pandemic and to allow more time for review of impacts on privacy, security, mental health and impacts on the public and environment. More time could allow for a better assessment and consultation with the public.

San Diego was well advanced in its roll-out of smart street lights, but as described in an article “San Diego switches off streetlight sensors pending regulation” (Sarah Wray, Cities Today, Sep 24, 2020), the City of San Diego deactivated all sensor services, including cameras, on its 3,200 smart streetlights until a new ordinance could be put in place. The sensor installation had been part of a broader project to upgrade thousands of streetlights to LED lighting, in which more than 3,000 lights became part of the city’s data-gathering infrastructure. Besides cost savings, the goal was “to use insights from the data captured to improve mobility, parking, public safety and to drive app-led innovation,” but the programme drew criticism over privacy and surveillance concerns. There is a growing trend in cities of the world to make streetlights “smart.”

Vancouver is still early in the process, but we’d like to ensure that privacy and cybersecurity is firmly on the agenda from the very start. We hope that Vancouver’s mayor and city council will be exemplary in consideration of these issues.

Below, we look at what staff are proposing, now that the bid process has been completed, and we provide links for further reading about privacy and security concerns. We hope Council will discuss and clear these topics.

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Senakw (Sen̓áḵw) development: Submission to Indigenous Services Canada from Kits Point Residents’ Association

 

Above: 2021 artistic rendering of Senakw. Credit: Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation.

Kits Point Residents’ Association (KPRA) has made a submission dated April 30, 2021, in response to an invitation by Indigenous Services Canada for public comments on the proposed Senaqw (Sen̓áḵw) development at the base of the Burrard Bridge.

According to the Daily Hive and The Globe and Mail in February 2021, the project at the south end of the Burrard Bridge would have 12 towers and 4 million square feet, with the tallest tower at 59 storeys. Media coverage of the past few years suggest that up to 12,000 people could live here. KPRA has been attempting to communicate with the parties on matters of concern for surrounding communities.

Privately-held Westbank Corp. (CEO Ian Gillespie), with about 40 other major projects in Vancouver including Oakridge, Vancouver House, Broadway Safeway (Broadway and Commercial), Joyce Precinct, as well as owner of Creative Energy with a monopoly on Vancouver’s district heating system downtown, is a silent 50% partner with the Squamish First Nation in this development. Although it is not clear how much of a role Westbank is playing in driving plans, Gillespie does have extensive experience in standard practices for urban planning and and developments in Vancouver. According to Business in Vancouver (11-Dec-2019), this project was expected to generate $20 billion in revenue over the next 120 years (to approximately the year 2140), to be shared equally with Westbank. BIV wrote that in exchange for a long-term lease of the property, Westbank will guarantee the loan required for the development and contribute the equity required. The project will not require a financial investment by the Squamish First Nation other than the land.

Excerpt from the concluding paragraph from KPRA: The potential for there to be significant adverse environmental effects occasioned by the Proposed Development is clear. In view of the unprecedented nature of this development in terms of its scale and location, we submit that ISC does not have the information it requires to make a determination of whether the Proposed Development is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, within the definitions of the Impact Assessment Act, until a Detailed Project Description is produced and made public and until the issues raised here have been investigated, reviewed and made the subject of meaningful community engagement and consultation.

Text of the submission follows:

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Port expansion and increases in rail traffic. Are improvements needed at Renfrew, Rupert and Boundary Road railroad crossings?

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There’s been a substantial increase in rail traffic over the last few years on the CN tracks that pass through the Grandview Cut. We’ve included several photos of this route in the slideshow above.

The increases in freight rail traffic have consequently led to bottlenecks at the street crossings that are at grade. This impacts not only Prior Street, but also the Renfrew, Slocan, Rupert and Boundary Road crossings. While City Hall approved an underpass for Prior Street back in October of 2019, there’s been on no visible work on this undertaking. As for the major arterial streets of Renfrew, Rupert and Boundary, there’s been no progress on underpasses and overpasses. There would of course be technical challenges to overcome at these locations, such as groundwater from nearby Still Creek at Rupert and the limitations created by the elevated Skytrain tracks (with respect to some overpass options). There’s a section of another railway line that’s buried underground in Vancouver Heights before Second Narrows. This illustrates that it’s also possible to run longer stretches of a railway underground. There’s of course the open question whether any funding would be allocated to address the increases in freight traffic going through the railway crossings at Renfrew, Rupert and Boundary Road. Are there any long-term plans by the City? Or do transportation planners consider this to be a non-issue?

Links
Union, Venables Street Railway Crossings. Delays and more delays (CityHallWatch, Aug 2, 2020)
Protest on Prior: Residents demand traffic calming as staff report goes to City Council (CityHallWatch, Oct 1, 2019)

‘Build A Tiny House’ tagline on for sale sign: A look at the zoning provisions

“Build a tiny house” is the tagline on a for-sale sign in Grandview-Woodland. This property is near Victoria Drive and is zoned as RT-5 (duplex).

The www.zealty.ca website lists this property with a price of $289,000 (1912 William Street), with a 9ft frontage and a 60 ft depth (2.73 x 18.3 m). The lot area will be approximately 540 sq feet or 50.2 sq metres, and zoning allows for an FSR of 0.60. Here it appears that ‘downsizing’ is the name of the game.

What kind of ‘tiny home’ could be built on this site?

Duplexes are out, as the RT-5 zoning district schedule states: 4.1.2. The minimum site area for a Multiple Dwelling shall be 511 m².

The front yard would have to be a minimum of 12 feet (3.66 m): 4.4.1. The required front yard shall be a minimum depth of 7.3 m or 20% of the lot depth, whichever is less.

Side yard setbacks would be calculated at 0.9 feet (0.27 m) on either side, making the building width 7.2 feet or 2.19 m on the exterior (less on the inside due to wall thickness): 4.5.1. A side yard with a minimum width of 10 percent of the width of the site shall be provided on each side of the building, except that it need not be more than 1.5 m in width

A rear yard setback of 35.1 feet (10.7 m) is also stated in the zoning: 4.6.1A rear yard with a minimum depth of 10.7 m shall be provided, or 30% of lot depth for lots with an average depth exceeding 36.5 m.

There would of course be possibilities for variances and for the discretion of the Director of Planning to provide relaxations to the RT-5 zoning. However, regardless, a lot that is 9 feet wide would still only permit a tiny house. Perhaps a design competition could yield some interesting ideas on what kind of ‘tiny house’ could be built on this site.

For context, here’s the outline of the property in VanMap:

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Letter to City calls for better methods to include seniors in ‘Planning Vancouver Together’ consultations

Preamble: Below is a letter e-mailed from a Vancouver senior named Barbara to Mayor Kennedy Stewart, two councillors, and the planning department, regarding frustration with the City’s neighbourhood planning consultations, particularly, with a recent workshop on “Planning Vancouver Together: Complete, Connected Neighbourhoods” (https://shapeyourcity.ca/completeneighbourhoods). “Creating ‘complete, connected, and culturally vibrant neighbourhoods’ is a key goal of the City’s strategic Vancouver Plan,” says the promo material.

Above: Logo from the City of Vancouver’s “Planning Vancouver Together” program. Credit: CoV

 

We reprint Barbara’s letter first (with permission), and then further below offer some suggestions on how to create change, for any seniors wishing to help improve the situation.

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Now, here is Barbara’s letter, which relates to the “My City My Neighbourhood Mapping Workshop” (link) on April 28.

From: Barbara
Sent: April 29, 2021 2:51 PM
To: Neighbourhoods neighbourhoods@vancouver.ca; kennedy.stewart@vancouver.ca; adriane.carr@vancouver.ca; pete.fry@vancouver.ca
Subject: Re: My City, My Neighbourhood: Participatory Mapping Workshop TODAY!

I am writing to you today to give you feedback on my experience attempting to participate in My City, My Neighbourhood: Participatory Mapping Workshop yesterday. I am a senior and signed up for this activity as I feel I am part of a segment of our population that is not being heard by City Hall.

My experience reinforced this feeling. Firstly, I have some experience with computers, but definitely am not an expert. Secondly, I have participated in online meetings using Zoom and Google Meets successfully during Covid. The additional information to read beforehand was only sent to me on the day of the workshop around 9 am. Like other participants I assume, I found that difficult as timewise I had other commitments and not enough time to read and digest all the directions.

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Neighbourhood groups query Council on major gaps in Broadway Plan consultation process

CityHallWatch has received a copy of the following May 3, 2021 letter from three neighbourhood associations to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Council. It relates to one of the City of Vancouver’s several major planning processes currently underway. Intended to synergize with a multi-billion dollar Broadway Subway (for which digging has yet to begin and is slated to have its terminus at Arbutus, though boosters hope for another multi-billion dollar extension to UBC), the Broadway Plan (City link here) is being billed as a comprehensive 30-year area plan for neighbourhoods between Clark Drive and Vine Street (Mount Pleasant, Fairview, Kitsilano – see map). The planning/engagement (consultation page here) is purportedly in its final stages and currently slated to finish in just a matter of months, in late-2021. These groups are saying that neither the public nor Council have received adequate information. It will be up to City Council to give clear instructions to the City’s chief planner, Theresa O’Donnell (appointed to the role just last week), to make her department provide the critical information.

Photo: Vancouver City Council for 2018 to 2022. Left to right: Councillors Rebecca Bligh, Christine Boyle, Colleen Hardwick, Pete Fry, Adriane Carr, Mayor Kennedy Stewart (centre), Councillors Melissa De Genova, Jean Swanson, Michael Wiebe, Lisa Dominato, Sarah Kirby-Yung

 

The letter It is self-explanatory, but here is an excerpt from the conclusion: “The capital expenditure outlays required by the Broadway Plan and the larger Vancouver Plan will run into the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. No business, operating with budgets the size of the City of Vancouver, would undertake a planning exercise as a prelude to such major expenditures, without the benefit of all the facts… We hereby formally request Council ensure that the missing facts, data, assumptions, and details, which have been discussed in this letter, be publicly disclosed at least six months before any plan is delivered to council, to allow meaningful independent analysis to be performed, and conclusions drawn as to the implications for this Plan. It is hard to understand how recommendations to Council can be considered credible when there are such obvious gaps in the public engagement process. It will be equally hard for residents to understand how Council could consider a plan in the absence of such data.”

Map: Area covered by the Broadway Plan, from 1st to 16th Avenue, and from Vine to Clark.

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May 3, 2021

Dear Mayor Stewart and Councillors:

This letter is submitted on behalf of the Fairview/South Granville Action Committee, the Upper Kitsilano Residents Association and the Burrard Slopes Stakeholders Association, regarding the Broadway Plan.

While the [Broadway] plan is not currently before council, we have been involved in all phases thus far, and have identified several, serious concerns regarding the Phase 1 and 2 materials, and engagement processes.

After the vote on the 2538 Birch development, one Councillor said in a media interview that too much from the community came forward at the last minute. We certainly don’t think that that was true, but we want to convey our concerns regarding these matters to you now, so that you have the opportunity to inform yourselves well before any report or proposal comes before council.  Put simply, a defence of “had I only known” or “it’s too bad these points weren’t raised earlier” will not be an acceptable response from our elected representatives. 

Our concerns can be summarized in four broad areas:

1. The guiding principles and emerging directions for the plan.

2. The information gathering process.

3. Other factors requiring consideration when developing the plan.

4. Making Broadway a Great Street.

Below, and in the attached Appendix, we highlight serious concerns and painfully obvious gaps in the current information.

It is well-known that many people are concerned about the built form of development in Vancouver, and more specifically, want to know what size buildings are being contemplated for the Broadway Corridor. Will they be 10, 20, or 40-floor structures? We have seen two sets of engagement documents prepared by staff, completed countless questionnaires and surveys, and yet not one of the surveys included the simple question, “How tall do you think buildings in the Broadway Plan area should be?”

This fundamental omission is of deep concern and experience suggests one of two possible conclusions, neither of which is encouraging: (1) Staff has already made its mind up about the heights for the Broadway Plan area, or (2) Staff doesn’t care what the public thinks are appropriate heights.

Our concern is underscored by the fact that, at recent Phase 2 workshops, staff advised participants that Phase 3 of the engagement process would include specific height, density and 3D drawings of the area. This suggests to us that those decisions have already been made without public input.

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Westbank defects in Kensington Gardens and Vancouver House, plus some background

HVAC changes at Westbank’s 2220 Kingsway on May 1, 2021. Kensington Gardens was completed in 2018

Westbank’s (CEO Ian Gillespie) luxury developments have recently run into a spate of reports of defects in the completed projects. This post touches on rapportage about these incidents, plus some contextual information about the relationship between major developers and the City, and links to social media coverage and discussions added at the bottom.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at the “Kensington Gardens” (three 17-storey towers at 2220 Kingsway in Vancouver) were recently changed a couple of times as reported on social media by @jonesj. Since they are installed in the rooftop, this is a big deal.

A couple of weeks ago residents posted footage online of flooding in the Vancouver House project, affecting 20 floors, with the water running into condo units, down and out of elevator shafts, down the emergency escape stairs, and flowing into the underground parkade.

Did buyers expect luxury both inside and out from the Vancouver House? Commenters gave analogies of selling Lamborghinis and delivering Fords. Or perhaps it is like buying a Ferrari on the outside but getting a Fiat on the inside.

One way of looking at this and many other phenomena City Hall watchers observe is that Vancouver is witnessing the symptoms of late-stage “regulatory capture” (see our 2015 post – Is this what’s wrong with Vancouver City Hall?). This idea is worth further exploration. It leads to a deep question for a future post: How can a City move beyond late-stage regulatory capture?

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Development applications snapshot 1-May-2021

Example of a development application sign

As a free public service CityHallWatch has for many years been taking a monthly snapshot of rezoning and development applications from the City of Vancouver website and making them available on our website.

IMPORTANT: In recent months, the City has completely stopped updating its rezoning (vancouver.ca/rezapps) and development application (vancouver.ca/devapps) web pages and shifted to a very different format called “Shape Your City.” Some changes may make it more user friendly, but some changes have reduced information transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now and the rest of the information disappears. We will do a separate analysis of that at a later date.

If you see any of concern, please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else. Even the City does not provide this information.

The City has stopped providing a map showing applications, so we must now create our own static snapshot version using Google Maps. Click HERE to see the current map.

Listed below (generated by webscraping shapeyourcity.ca as the City no longer updates their addresses and links on development.vancouver.ca or vancouver.ca/devapps webpages): Continue reading

Rezoning applications snapshot, 1-May-2021

Example of a rezoning application information sign

As a free public service CityHallWatch has for many years been taking a monthly snapshot of rezoning and development applications from the City of Vancouver website and making them available on our website.

The lists contain valuable information on each application (all now being done online during the era of COVID). If you see any of concern, please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else. Even the City does not provide this information.

IMPORTANT: In recent months, the City has completely stopped updating its rezoning (vancouver.ca/rezapps) and development application (vancouver.ca/devapps) web pages and shifted to a very different format called “Shape Your City.” Some changes may make it more user friendly, but some changes have reduced information transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now and the rest of the information disappears. The City has essentially made it impossible for web crawlers their new “Shape Your City” portal. We will do a separate analysis of that at a later date.

We’ve created our own static snapshot version map using Google Maps. Click HERE to see the current map for May 2021.

Below is our list of rezoning applications created as of 1-May-2021. Continue reading