At look back at the Green Party of Vancouver election campaign platform (2018) – public engagement and city planning

Photo: Green Party of Vancouver candidates for the 2018 civic election included (left to right) David Wong (missed being elected by just a few votes), Mike Weibe (elected), Adriane Carr (re-elected), and Pete Fry (elected). Credit GPV City Council Platform.

From time to time we highlight the election promises and platforms that got our current members of City Council elected. Here we provide the text of the Green Party of Vancouver election platform for 2018. The Greens got three persons elected to Council for the 2018 to 2022 term: Clr Adriane Carr, Clr Pete Fry, and Clr Mike Wiebe. It is not always clear that they are referring back to the platform that got them elected.

(As a public service, we keep an archive of civic election platforms of winning parties going back to 2005 and welcome PDF or print copies of any that we’re missing.)

And so, in the context of multiple past and present consultation projects on neighbourhoods, corridors, transit, zoning, and the highly-desired-but-slow-moving citywide Vancouver Plan, let’s see what they committed themselves to. One current hot topic is a motion by OneCity Clr Christine Boyle (see our post “Councillor Boyle’s motion (May 18) seeks up to 12-storeys in every neighbourhood, with no public hearings“) which is proposing significant changes in zoning across the City and elimination of public hearings for them. Here below is an excerpt of the Green Party of Vancouver 2018 platform text from page 6 of 41, relating to “authentic public engagement.”

How are the elected threesome performing since elected in October 2018? There is now just a year left in their term, still time to make good on any gaps. Bolding below is by CityHallWatch to emphasize some or our core concerns.

AUTHENTIC PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

  1. Fast-track a new city-wide plan for Vancouver, co-created with residents, that has a liveable city, not
    a growth strategy, as its goal
    . The new plan will review recent blanket city-wide zoning changes and
    determine what we want our city to be: what kind of growth and density, what kind of housing and
    where, what new public amenities, and what types of transportation. The planning will follow a tight
    timeline, within 18 months, because of the urgency of addressing the housing crisis
    .
  2. Empower communities through neighbourhood-based city planning offices that enable communities
    and residents to be involved in the planning and implementation of the new city-wide plan
    .
  3. Establish new guidelines for all public engagement, to authentically and democratically engage
    residents so their input is ultimately reflected in plans and decisions. Incorporate a focus on genuine
    listening, collaborative decision-making, and sufficient time for public review of reports well before
    decisions are made so people have the time to determine if their input has been incorporated
    .
  4. Increase participatory budgeting so residents can democratically determine how certain city money
    is spent
    such as how revenues from increased West End parking fees will be spent in the West End.
  5. Encourage civic pride by supporting opportunities for citizens to meaningfully engage in city life and
    show love for the city
    : from fostering civic literacy to complimenting active citizens to promoting
    neighbourhood festivals and clean-ups.
  6. Support city advisory committees; ensure a fair selection process; and strengthen their role in
    providing advice to Council and staff on issues.

Whew, it’s all bold! We would love to see the Green examine their work of the past three years and provide a report card now on what they’ve done on these points, and what’s left to do in the remaining year or so before the next election cycle. The next election is in October 2022 and things are already starting to heat up.

While we’re at it, here is an excerpt from page 33/41, relating to “improve public transit”:

Continue reading

Council Preview May 18-19: LED lights, Grants, Alcohol consumption in designated public places, Skytrain station washrooms, 12-storeys motion, Commercial Drive motion, Public Hearing

A Vancouver City Council meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 18th. Council will review a series of grant allocations. There’s a report back from staff to again allow alcohol consumption in several designated public places, in continuation of the pilot project launched last year.

There’s a series of motions on notice, including ones calling for accessible washrooms at new Skytrain stations, a motion to prioritize Commercial Drive as a Pedestrian High Street and a motion that seeks to allow 12-storey and 6 FSR buildings anywhere in the City as long as these meet the City’s definition of ‘social housing’ (that can be up to 70% market rental).

On the May 18 agenda, we’ve done a couple posts:

  • Councillor Boyle’s motion (May 18) seeks up to 12-storeys in every neighbourhood, with no public hearings (link here)
  • Motion to prioritize Commercial Drive as a pedestrian-first ‘high street” (link here)

example of 12-storey building

A Public Hearing is scheduled for 6pm on Tuesday, May 18th and contains a total of 5 items. 8655 Granville Street is a proposal for an 11-storey tower (126 ft), ground floor retail, second floor office, 55 market strata 3-11 and a FSR of 4.10. At 8257-8273 Oak Street and 1025-1035 West 67th Avenue, and 8-storey building with 62 strata units commercial at grade is proposed with a FSR of 3.53.

There is a Committee meeting of Council on Wednesday May 19th. A number of contract awards will be reviewed. One of the items is the consideration of LED luminaires and intelligent street light control system, which contains a number of privacy concerns.

On the May 19 agenda, we did this post:

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

We’ll note that the City Hall was late in releasing the meeting agendas and did not provide a full week.

For reference, we’ve reproduced the meeting agendas below: Continue reading

Councillor Boyle’s motion (May 18) seeks up to 12-storeys in every neighbourhood, with no public hearings

Photos: On left, a 12-storey tower (2nd and Ontario) as an example of what Clr Boyle is proposing for any part of any neighbourhood in all RM, RT, RS, and CM zones. On right example of a building currently permitted in RM-4 (1656 Adanac Street).

(Updated 5/18 with our comments on Clr Boyle’s standard responses on this topic — see bottom of post)

Councillor Christine Boyle has put a motion on the Council agenda for Tuesday, May 18, 2021 (see Motion 2 under B. Council Members’ Motions). It is entitled “Reducing Barriers and Deepening Affordability for Non-Profit, Co-op and Social Housing in Every Neighbourhood.

It would more accurately be named “Fast-tracking 12 storeys and 6 FSR* in every neighbourhood for 70% market priced housing and  30% below-market rental via fast-track processes and no public hearings.” (*FSR is “floor space ratio,” a measure of density on a site, and 6 FSR would mean a building with square footage six times the site area.)

It would affect RM3A  and RM4 zones (currently for 3-4 storey apartments) and RS / RT zones (currently for houses and duplexes with secondary suites and laneway houses) and C2 zones (existing 4 storey shopping areas). In other words, most of the city (see map below).

While it is stated to be for 100% social housing, the city would allow up to 70% of the units with market priced rents.  So this claim is very misleading. Regardless of the tenure, the main issue is the scale of 12 storeys and 6 FSR. These buildings would be huge and put development pressure on existing more affordable housing that would displace people. Further, the towers would be allowed within zoning so it would not require a rezoning public hearing. This motion undermines community planning.

If the motion is approved, it sets a virtually unstoppable train in motion. The motion text was made available to the public just a few days ago, which poses considerable challenges for neighbourhoods and citizens to analyze, digest and discuss on such a short time frame, Clr Boyle and current mayor Kennedy Stewart and so-called “abundant housing” activists have apparently worked together and had a head start of several days, using online letter generators to inundate council members in support of the motion. The OneCity political party, and Vancouver District Labour Council (VLDC) also have an organized campaign to activate members to lobby City Council on the misleading slogan that “It should not be harder to build social housing in Vancouver than it is to build million dollar homes.”

We provide action-related information first, then analysis below. Note that the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has written to Council opposing the motion, with their own detailed analysis.

ACTION

Anyone with concerns about this motion is encouraged to write to Council and may also wish to speak (deadline to sign up to speak 8:30 am May 18, and speakers will likely be on Wed. May 19). People can write to Council via e-mail but messages must go via the City’s online form in order to be counted in official numbers.

City’s online form (by 9:30 am May 19): https://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-council.aspx

Request to speak here (by 8:30 am May 18): https://vancouver.ca/your-government/request-to-speak-at-meeting-form-1.aspx

OVERVIEW

The motion is purportedly to promote “non-profit, co-op and social housing” but the “therefore” section of the motion only mentions “social housing.” And as we have covered before, the City continues to use a deceptive definition of social housing not used anywhere else (see our post “An update on Vancouver’s bizarre definition of ‘social housing’“). In a nutshell, social housing proposals in Vancouver are “not as advertised.” Due to changes done by Vision Vancouver, “social housing” is defined as 70% market rental and 30% below market rental.

Clr Boyle’s motion would lead to a staff report, then one single rezoning public hearing with just several days notice for the public to review documents, after which development applications would go straight to the Development Permit Board (four senior managers at City Hall), and in some cases, straight to the desk of the just one person (the chief planner) for approval, basically circumventing any real opportunity for neighbourhood input. (Our new chief planner as of April 2021 has only lived in Canada, and in Vancouver, for two years, so one wonders how much a grasp of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods, history, and culture, she would have to guide momentous decisions.) Applications developed with staff and then going straight to the DPB or chief planner would make our elected officials unaccountable and instead give enormous power and responsibility to just one or a few public servants. The City often uses the words “deepening” and “deeper” affordability and this motion mentions it several times. “Deep” may be a convenient adjective to sell the concept of “affordability,” and people can make their own assumptions, but no clear definition is provided for what it really means. Continue reading

Motion to prioritize Commercial Drive as a pedestrian-first ‘high street”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Motion on Notice called Prioritizing Commercial Drive as a Pedestrian-First High Street is being brought forward to Council on May 18th, 2021. The motion seeks to reduce the number of vehicle travel lanes on Commercial Drive south of East 1st Avenue and to introduce a number of improvements for pedestrians.

This motion is being brought forward by Councillor Fry as the mover and Councillor DeGenova as the seconder. Specific improvements would include widened sidewalks, improved access for cyclists and for the implementation of further traffic calming measures. One of the goals is to create a “slow street” with enhanced pedestrian crossings. The motion seeks to direct staff to report back on the steps outlined.

However, are City of Vancouver staff actually the best choice to do this work? City staff, are after all, responsible for the way Commercial Drive right of way is currently allocated. The world has some amazing examples of high streets that have undergone transformations in recent years, from Vienna to Copenhagen to Helsinki. This could be a great opportunity to bring in world-renowned experts in the field to help solve this difficult design issue.

There are a number of challenges for a redesign of the Drive. It’s worth noting that Commercial Drive narrows north of East 1st Avenue, as the street right of way decreases (that’s the distance from the property line on one side of the street to the property line on the other side). This leaves little room to increase the sidewalk width, to support transit stops and to potentially add dedicated bike lanes. Another tricky aspect of Commercial Drive is that some of the blocks don’t have corresponding laneways at the back of buildings. Thus, deliveries to retailers must be done through the front doors along Commercial. There’s also the issue that the transportation department may demand “5 lanes” for cars (two lanes in both directions plus a turning lane) at East 1st Avenue. Something is going to have to give if wider sidewalks are on the agenda, and the turning lanes may need to be removed or included in fewer lanes of traffic. South of East 1st Avenue, the street right of way for Commercial Drive is about 24.3 meters (80 feet), which is still narrower than the 99-foot right of way for several other arterial streets in Vancouver.

There are other items that need to be addressed regarding smartly allocating the pedestrian space, dealing with sandwich boards, placing other street furniture and detailing in order to maximize space for pedestrians. It’s important to note for TransLink, that Commercial Drive is the third most popular bus route in the region. However, there is no short turn downtown or at East Hastings, and buses can bunch up (and also not come for a while). Working out dependable trolley bus service is another item for consideration. There have been rumblings about removing the frequency of bus stops along the Drive; however, such a move would adversely affect seniors.
Between Graveley Street and East 1st Avenue, Commercial Drive expands to 5 lanes in width to make room for a turning lane:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

Continue reading

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.

**********

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.

Continue reading