Last week the QEA Parents’ Society went to BC Supreme Court to ask for an interim injunction, a court order that the VSB keep the Queen Elizabeth Annex school open, and not dispose of the land by sale or long-term lease until the Society’s petition in heard in September 2023. If the school closes at the end of June and the children are moved to another school, any success in September would come too late. The three-day hearing ended June 2, and a decision from Justice Crerar on the injunction is expected this week.
Politicians and bureaucrats always make decisions in the public interest, right?
Much wisdom lives in communities, which often have a much longer-term view of the needs of society, neighbourhoods and families. This case is the tip of the iceberg, a very important matter. Tremendous forces — as evidenced by the school board side lawyering up with eight (1) lawyers versus one representing the public — are moving to dispose of public lands in under the cloak of secrecy and opaque processes. Anyone with the means is encouraged to support this group of parents. See website link below.
Here is an update on a serious legal challenge that was in the courts last week. Mainstream media coverage appears to have been zero (happy to add links of any turn up). This case is just one part of one story of dozens of publicly owned sites that the Vancouver School Board is considering, closing, liquidation and/or disposal.
Below is an update (6-Jun-2023) from the parents’ society.
The Urban Design Panel (UDP) will be reviewing an infill tower proposal for the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel site on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at 3pm. The UDP meeting agenda only contains this one item. Members of the public are welcome to come and observe the meeting.
The rezoning application proposes a 225 ft. (69m) office tower just immediately south of the existing Vancouver Hotel. A floor space ratio of 13.10 is being proposed, a floor area of 24,603 sq. m (264,732 sq. ft.), 201 parking spaces and 226 bicycle parking spaces. Further details on the rezoning application are available here: https://www.shapeyourcity.ca/900-w-georgia-st
How would this proposed infill change the image of the City in terms of general urban design and form? The site already has a heritage designation in place (but the applicant may wish to look at upgrading HVAC systems and so forth). Adding a glass tower due south of the main hotel building will substantially impact the way that this heritage asset will read in the City’s skyline.
This proposal gives us a chance to comment on a few broader but related issues.
Matters like this are rather subjective. The Urban Design Panel is tasked with advising City Council on urban design policy, “including the design and interrelationship of all physical components of the City” and on specific developments. Most members are from the development industry and over time take turns reviewing each others’ projects. How well do they grasp and represent the general sentiments of the people of Vancouver?
The main contact for this rezoning from the developer is Wendy LeBreton, who is a former development planner with the City of Vancouver. A person like this will have connections deep within City Hall and will know where to “apply the grease” to move rezoning processes along. While still at a public employee she was responsible for major projects for the developer Larco (e.g., tower on 1668 Davie Street near Cardero in the West End, and the Arbutus Centre mall redevelopment in Arbutus Ridge), and was hired away by the developer shortly after the latter project was approved by the City.
On the national stage, Larco was also responsible for bringing forward another infill project to the Ottawa Château Laurier (see links to media resources further below). This infill erupted in controversy as a result of the changes to the Parliament Hill Precinct in the Nation’s Capital.
Above: Message in the window of the Flat Fix bike shop, on Victoria Drive at the corner of East Broadway. Closing permanently. See text version below.
Without housing for workers, there are no workers. Without workers, Vancouver doesn’t work.
For years we have pleaded with those in power to protect and prioritize housing for people who want to work and build lives in Vancouver. To be clear, we are not asking for more condo towers.
Effective action looks like greater enforcement and stronger laws against: money laundering, unproductive real estate speculation, empty homes/storefronts, and illegal short-term rentals.
Despite calls from all kinds of people from all walks of life including small and (big) business owners, no effective action has been taken by any politician, from any party, at any Level.
Vancouver’s housing crisis has gone from bad, to worse, to untenable. Meanwhile our federal housing minister, and many other politicians, run lucrative side hustles as landlording specu-vestors (look it up).
We wish we could end on a positive note. and we do feet gratitude. But we are also sad, and mad. And if Vancouver is your home and you care about the city, you should be sad and mad too.
The first day of the Development Permit Board (DPB) came and went on May 29th, 2023. Hundreds of people turned out to first rally outside of Vancouver City Hall and to then attend the DPB meeting. An overwhelming number of speakers were against the proposed development at 105 Keefer Street. The City’s Development Permit Board has the discretion to approve or to reject this proposal.
As all speakers could not be heard on May 29th, the meeting will reconvene on Monday, June 12th. New speakers can still sign up. Included above are a number of photos of the rally and meeting on May 29th.
[Update: Readers and followers are providing some very informative material. Some of it, we’re adding to the bottom of this post to share with all and for future follow-up. Anyone who happens to know of information about the truck routes being used, for example, from Arbutus station to the barges, please do share.]
At the end of May, these truck-and-trailer rigs appear to be running on Arbutus Street at one- to five-minute intervals, six days a week from about 8 am until late in the afternoon (including Saturdays). This spring of 2023, Vancouver has a constant flow of dirt moving through its streets. At an estimated 50 cubic meters per load, about 60 metric tons, this is a lot of dirt just on this section of Arbutus at 12th Avenue. With the Broadway Subway tunnel and underground station construction, plus the recently-approved (2022) Vancouver Plan, Broadway Plan, fully loaded, fossil-fuel burning, noise-emitting, road-wearing tandem dump trucks and trailers are everywhere, including quiet residential streets. This short clip shows a truck, likely coming from the Broadway Subway Arbutus Station excavation, turning south from West 12th Avenue, passing a pedestrian, and heading south. Where is all this dirt ending up? Into the Salish Sea? Just going along Arbutus, per week, this could be nearly 600 loads, or nearly 35,000 metric tons. For a future article, anyone with more precise details and links on this topic, please feel free to e-mail CityHallWatch at citizenYVR@gmail.com.
The agenda for the Park Board’s May 29, 2023, meeting includes an item to reactivate four fountains that had been shut down to conserve water. This item came up at the previous meeting on May 8th, when it was referred to committee in order to hear from speakers. The report states that there is consideration to ask water conservation bylaw exemptions in order to turn on the “Laurel, Davis, Barclay, Helmcken Parks as well as the Bute-Haro Street fountain”. The discussion will be around the pros and cons of the making these fountains activated vs. the amount of water that would be used. Currently, the water is not being recirculated.
In a separate item, the concept plan for the Main & 7th Park will also be up for review and possible approval. The plans for this park look identical to the one option shown to the public during the consultation process. Is this concept plan a good design and a good fit for the neighbourhood? Or are there significant shortcomings with the proposal from staff? Here’s a comparison between the illustration in the staff report and the one shown in the consultation phase last year:
A series of perspective images are included in the proposed park design package along with further details on this web portal: https://www.shapeyourcity.ca/main-7th-park. It’s unfortunate that the Park Board has not provided further information about the design proposal, for example in the form of a downloadable 3D model. The current site is a parking lot. It was identified as a future park in the Mount Pleasant Community Plan and in the Mount Pleasant Implementation Plan.
There is not enough seating in the form or real benches along Main Street (for resting), no drinking fountain, weak planting around the edges, poor siting of a stage, too much of a setback from the streets and a lot of paved concrete surface. The design proposes introducing stairs from the main entrance at 7th and Main Street that would cause issues with mobility access (thus force people with disabilities to use alternate entrances). On the plus side there’s an opportunity for partial tree canopy for a portion of the space.
Is this a design that reflects the “heritage heart” of Mount Pleasant, or is it weak design, with a hodgepodge of disconnected ideas contained in a porous and amorphous site layout that could be anywhere? Perhaps this process has the hallmarks of last-century consultation and contains missed opportunities and results in a weak design. Is it safe to say that this concept plan is a ‘no place’ and just bland?
Phase I of the consultation had a long wish list of asks for the space and a contained a number of ‘motherhood’ statements. Staff could then cherry pick anything from that wish list, and then turn around and show only a single design option in Phase II. Then after showing their one design option in Phase II, staff are presenting this to Park Board Commissioners for rubber-stamping.
Can we do better for $3.4 million? It is possible to say ‘yes’ to a park, but ‘no’ to this specific design concept?
The City of Vancouver has recently released 3D point data (LiDAR) on the opendata.vancouver.ca website. This data was collected in September of 2022 and released on April 18, 2023. The previous LiDAR dataset on the City’s website is from 2018. The release notes for this new dataset state that the points have a “Vertical accuracy: 0.081 metre (95% confidence level)”. This data can be very useful to get approximate heights of the ground terrain, of building and of heights other structures. The LiDAR data can also be used for other purposes, such as tree canopy coverage calculations.
Viewing the data
There are a fair number of freely available LiDAR viewers, such as QGIS and Cloud compare. It’s possible to download the file(s) for your area of interest directly from the Open Data site (the dataset is broken down into 67 square tiles to cover the city, saved in a .las format). The LiDAR data can also be loaded directly into a game engine, such as Unreal Engine 5.2.
The height information contained in the 2022 LiDAR data doesn’t replace a survey, but it might still be sufficient for general urban design analysis. These 3D points are far more accurate than height information from same other data sources, such as Google Earth.
Every community needs a place, a heart or an urban room, where people can meet casually without having to text or call first.
The following article is written by Lewis Villegas, Urban Design Specialist, and it has been reproduced with permission (the original post is available on lewisnvillegas – the making and meaning of place). This post is from Lewis’ point of view as he shares details about the work that went into the creation of Chinatown Square (now Chinatown Memorial Plaza).
The opportunity to make a square in Vancouver’s Chinatown came in the 1990s when my good friend David Mah was chair at CHAPAC (Chinatown Historic Area Planning Advisory Committee).
David and I had met in college and studied art, building technology and architecture together. Almost a decade later the opportunity emerged to do something with what was then known as the ‘Keefer Triangle’. David said he needed a ‘planner’ for his design team. He would be the architect and another friend the landscape architect. I had completed enough revitalization projects by 1990, that I assured him I could ‘pass for a planner’. Of course we both knew what was really needed: design of the public realm to support much higher levels of social mixing. A place for people rather than cars. Although, of course, cars could be welcomed too.
David and I felt that Chinatown was missing the all important physical Heart. Although the community’s heart was still alive and strong, there was no public place, no ‘urban room’, to stand as the symbol of this particularly important neighborhood in our city. Thus, from the moment he mentioned ‘Keefer Triangle’, I envisioned a square. And that became our design challenge: figuratively, conceptually, in every way except in actual fact, we would ‘add a leg to the triangle’ and build a square. A people place. 30 years later it is nothing short of remarkable how a very few public gestures have achieved so much.
The first time I went to look at the site I realized that the four trees that Joe Wai had planted in front of the gate leading into the Chinese Park lined up with the street trees further up Keefer. Thus, the design for the square was more or less ‘already in place’: all we had to do was connect the four trees in front of the park gate with the street trees along both sides of Keefer. All that was required was to plant a double row of trees extending right through the square, plugging into a design that was already existing in place. We would add a continuous ground plane, paving stones, pedestrian lamps and bollards. However, what we relied on most to make this site into a square is what I call the ‘Donut Principle’ in urbanism:
We know it’s a donut because it has a hole in the middle—everything else is just pastry.
Neighborhoods organize themselves in like manner. Provide a space—a hole—in the center and the community will organize itself around it. Buildings will sprout up; the people will come and fill the space with their many activities; and with the passing of time the place will seep into the local consciousness.
Meeting the People in the Neighborhood
Of course, in order to design a place for the community one had to meet the community, listen to their stories… and ‘ask stupid questions’ confident that the answers will be seeped in the story of place. At that time Horace Lee was still attending daily at the gas station he had built with his brother, the Lee Brothers Garage, on Keefer right next to the triangle. I met often with Horace and we had many discussions. He told me that originally the back of the buildings on the south side of Pender fronted on False Creek. In those days everyone owned a boat and they would go out and fish. Salmon was plentiful. Photographs on the walls of his office showed their catch being smoked. He also had photos of the Chinese Canadian battalion that had fought in WWII.
The Development Permit Board will be reconsidering a Beedie Group proposal for a 9-storey building at 105 Keefer Street on Monday, May 29th [Update: the meeting will continue on June 12th to continue to hear from speakers]. The same design that was turned down by the board in 2017 will be up for consideration again, as a result of a court ruling.
Interested speakers can signed up to speak at the May 29th meeting (please see the agenda here, note deadlines). While the meeting will also be live-streamed, speakers will have to be present in person at City Hall in order to address the Board (sign up information from the City’s DPB website is as follows: “If you wish to speak to an item, register with the Development Permit Board Assistant at 604-873-7770 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.”).
In addition, members of the public can make written submissions up until the time of the meetings; however, submissions for consideration in the staff report have a deadline and should be sent in by Monday, May 22nd. The City is accepting Public Comments via the a webpage for 105 Keefer on the following ShapeYourCity.ca web page: https://www.shapeyourcity.ca/105-keefer-st
The proposed design is for a 9-storey building with 111 residential units, three levels of underground parking, retail uses at grade and a Floor Space Ratio of 6.50. The context of the site is highly sensitive, as it is on Chinatown Memorial Plaza, across from the Chinese Culture Centre and Dr. Sun-Yat-Sen Park. The proposed building is very bulky as it attempts to maximize site coverage (as seen in the 6.50 FSR).
The City of the Vancouver and the Development Permit Board still have discretion to reject or to approve the proposal for 105 Keefer. The court ruling was a split decision on points between Beedie (Keefer Street) Holdings Ltd. and the City of Vancouver, with the end result of the City being required to reconsider the Development Application under the existing zoning and design guidelines at the time of the refusal in 2017. The text of the court decision is over here: https://www.bccourts.ca/jdb-txt/sc/22/21/2022BCSC2150.htm
We’ll provide additional analysis of this proposal at 105 Keefer in the upcoming weeks as well as some of the history about the site and context.
(Post-event update: This webinar concluded successfully with great presentations, discussion, ideas, and networking. More content is being added to this page even after the event. Consideration is under way for next steps. To be continued! Everyone is encouraged to learn about the issues of noise, plus the regulations in Vancouver, and certainly do participate in the city’s official survey before the May 30 deadline. )
The City of Vancouver is undertaking an extensive review to modernize and enhance the Noise Control By-law, seeking input from everyone who lives, works or operates a business in Vancouver (more info at this link “What are your thoughts about noise in Vancouver”).
CityHallWatch sees this as a good opportunity for a public discussion about the issue of noise, where is the balance between human activities and quiet? What about regulation and enforcement? What are your top concerns, ideas, and suggestions about urban noise?
Title: CityHallWatch webinar and chat (Thu – 18 May – 7pm): Vancouver Noise: Your concerns/ideas and the City’s bylaw review
Date: Thursday May 18, 2023 Time: 7 pm start, for 60 minutes. (“Doors” open 6:50 with opening video) We will do a “soft” closing at 8 pm, but persons who wish to remain will be able to stay on to continue discussions) Where: Online (Zoom – register first to receive actual meeting link) Host/moderator: Randy Helten, CityHallWatch Media Foundation
– Background: Overview of noise topics, Vancouver’s noise bylaw, the current survey – Arline Bronzaft, PhD (health impacts of noise, New York City Noise Code, enforcement) – Elvira Lount (beach noise, party boats, special events, dealing with enforcement in Vancouver) – Geoffrey Blair, MD, FRCSC – Jan L. Mayes, retired audiologist – Holly Hayes, A Beach for Everyone – Other valuable input has been received (construction noise, neighbour noise, etc.), and will be presented by the moderator
2. Moderated discussion and open floor (30 min.)
Note that we will do a soft closing at 8 pm, but may continue for those who wish to remain.
PANELISTS (about 4 min each)
Arline Bronzaft, PhD: Environmental psychologist and long-term researcher, writer and consultant on the effects of noise on mental and physical health for over five decades. In her hometown of New York City she has been continuously appointed by five NYC mayors to the Board of GrowNYC where she oversees its noise activities, and assisted in the 2007 revision of New York City’s noise code. She is also a Board Member of Vancouver’s Right to Quiet Society.
Elvira Lount (local activist/filmmaker, founder of Keep Kits Beach Wild and former board member of Right to Quiet society)
Dr. Geoffrey Blair: Retired Pediatric Surgeon who for more than 30 years worked at British Columbia Children’s Hospital where he was the Surgeon-in-Chief from 2001 to 2010. Currently, a UBC Clinical Professor, he teaches Surgery at the medical school. As an advocate for environmental protections and especially with concerns for the welfare of all children, he has helped to inject climate health issues into the school’s curriculum. He has also lobbied for years for a ban on gas-powered lawn equipment in the city of Vancouver.
Other materials have been received, and will be presented by the moderator.
– Randy Helten (Intro and overview) (0:00) – Arline Bronzaft, PhD (health impacts of noise, New York City Noise Code, enforcement) (10:25) – Geoffrey Blair, MD, FRCSC (leaf blowers) (21:32) – Randy Helten (construction noise) (30:14) – Elvira Lount (beach noise, party boats, special events, dealing with enforcement in Vancouver) (33:30) – Holly Hayes (efforts of the group ‘A Beach for Everyone’ to advocate for a healthy sound environment on beaches in Vancouver’s West End) (40:33) – Maggie (quote about neighbour noise, as one example) (49:05) – Jan L. Mayes (cognitive and health impacts of noise) (50:48) – Discussion (53:38)
Residents love their soundscapes and have various concerns about a variety of noise sources (traffic, construction, sirens, parties, boats on the water, amplifiers and buskers, leaf blowers, and more). We know that people do pay attention to the sound environment. More and more scientific research is coming out about the human health benefits of quiet and the ability to have access to natural sounds. And about the need for quiet for all forms of wildlife, even insects to survive and thrive in their ecosystems and lifecycles.
CityHallWatch invited the City of Vancouver to provide a speaker/panelist for this event. They graciously declined, saying “We hope to hear from as many people as possible and thank you for amplifying this survey. … the online survey is just the first phase of this multiphase review, which will help provide areas of focus for further review. Given this is the first phase of this process, staff are seeking to understand people’s thoughts and concerns, and don’t yet have options to present to the public.”
Noise and neighbours (People’s Law School): An excellent resource about neighbour noise (what you should know, how to work out problems, helpful agencies, free or low-cost legal help, finding a lawyer or mediator. https://www.peopleslawschool.ca/noise-and-neighbours/
Quiet Communities, Inc. (QCi) is a nonprofit U.S. organization dedicated to helping communities reduce health and environmental harm from noise and pollution. Five programs are Quiet Landcare, Quiet Coalition, Quiet Healthcare, Quiet Empowerment, and Quiet American Skies. They strive to generate long lasting structural and behavioral changes that result in quieter, more sustainable, and more livable communities: https://quietcommunities.org/
Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (Division 7A): No person shall start, drive, turn or stop any motor vehicle, or accelerate the vehicle engine while the vehicle is stationary, in a manner which causes any loud and unnecessary noise in or from the engine, exhaust system or the braking system, or from the contact of the tires with the roadway. Link: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/26_58_04
New York City Noise Code (This Code balances the important reputation of New York as a vibrant, world-class city that never sleeps, with the needs of those who live in, work in, and visit the city. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Police Department (NYPD) share the duties of enforcing the Noise Code.): https://www.nyc.gov/site/dep/environment/noise-code.page
“Quiet Parks and Quiet Spaces” (Video) (In observation of the 27th annual International Noise Awareness Day (INAD), and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Vancouver based Right to Quiet, a virtual forum was held on April 27, 2022 examining the health enhancing benefits of quiet green spaces, and the importance of protecting such spaces from noise pollution for the benefit of humans and urban wildlife.”): https://youtu.be/T27p9Wjg8rI
“Hear Nature again,” a compilation (video) created by Elvira Lount for this webinar, focusing on illegal amplified music in our parks, buskers, party boats and special event noise. (2:14) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrLPppHBAkM
Noise Is All around Us—and It’s Affecting You More than You Think (During the pandemic, our noise levels dropped and the world changed. Should we fight for more quiet?) by Bojan Fürst, The Narwhal, 19-May-2023. Link – https://thewalrus.ca/noise-ethics/
Noise pollution and violent crime (article). Every 1 dB increase results in 1.6% increase in violent crime rate. Every 4.1 dB increase results in a 6.6% increase in violent crime rate. Decreasing noise pollution could decrease violent crime rate (which has impact on social interactions, policing costs, etc.). Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047272722001505
‘It’s maddening’: Vancouver Broadway Subway construction noise affects neighbours (City News video 3 minutes, 18-May-2022. It’s a noisy nightmare for a man who lives and works right next to the Broadway Subway construction. Why he says the City of Vancouver won’t do anything about his complaints. Crystal Laderas reports.) Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_4L9BciB38