Heads up: City wants to let developers “buy” extra density, at bargain price $86 per sq ft. Public Hearing Sept 19 (Tue)

Heritage density transfers license to print money[Revised, updated] INTRO: After the summer hiatus, City Hall is moving quickly on many topics this week, with two Council meetings and a Public Hearing. Here is an important topic relating to “heritage density.” More public scrutiny and analysis is important here. We are not aware of any public consultation on this proposal, or any contact with neighbourhood associations in the affected neighbourhoods, or any media coverage. There also appears to have been no independent scrutiny or assessment from the taxpayer perspective of the prices staff are proposing by which developers can purchase additional density.

MAIN STORY: The September 19 (Tuesday) Public Hearing includes Item 7 (TEXT AMENDMENT: Heritage Density Bank Update and Zoning Amendments to Support Heritage Conservation), proposing to allow a 10% increase in density (FSR, or floor space ratio), to be approved by the Director of Planning, in exchange for the developer paying $86 per sq ft ($925 per sq m).

If a developer cannot find enough heritage density to buy, it can simply make the financial contribution to the City. This proposed amount appears to be cheap considering the size of potential profits the developer can make in return.

The proposal will affect Central Broadway C3A, West End commercial C5, West End apartment areas RM5, RM5A, RM5B, RM5C, RM5D, and the Downtown Official Development Plan. Developers can already purchase heritage density for these areas, if they can find another developer that wants to sell, but the new thing here is permitting developers to buy density outright if they cannot find a vendor.

From staff report: [T]his report recommends amendments to the Zoning and Development By-law to allow for increases up to 10 percent over the permitted floor space ratio to be purchased through heritage amenity shares on a per square metre basis with contributions going to the City’s Heritage Conservation Fund.

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Important: Write City on 2 big problems in RT-11 zone (small house/duplex) BEFORE they spread across the city

Eye on Norquay sent an open letter several days ago to Gil Kelley and other senior planning staff at the City of Vancouver pointing out two big problems with the new RT-11 zoning.  This is time sensitive for the Public Hearing on Sept 19.

The letter describes two significant problems that are becoming evident in the build-out of RT-11 (small house/duplex) zoning in Norquay: 

  1. Living rooms and bedrooms are often too small.
  2. Landscaping is not being maintained.

They are asking the City of Vancouver to find a solution to these problems before new RT zoning is passed for Grandview-Woodland. [Amendments to zoning in Grandview-Woodland are on the agenda (Item 9) for the Public Hearing on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. So this is urgent business.]

Many areas of Vancouver currently zoned RS are likely to be rezoned to RT as part of the Housing Reset Strategy. These issues will proliferate across the city if they are not addressed now. Failure to rectify the problem will have implications for generations ahead in Vancouver. Continue reading

No spending limits for Vancouver byelection Oct 14 (but Greens & One City already reject developer donations)

City HallMike Howell of the Vancouver Courier wrote on Sept 12, 2017, that there will be “No spending limits in place for Vancouver byelection: Minister says goal is to have new rules for next year’s municipal vote.”

From the CityHallWatch perspective the biggest public concern should be for Vision Vancouver and the NPA, which received over five million dollars in the 2014 civic election. Vision depends blatantly and heavily on developer and union donations. NPA depends heavily on developer funding. Of all the parties running in the October 14 byelection, as far as we know it is only the Vancouver Green Party that rejects funds from developers and unions and has a cap on individual donations. Current BC legislation does not require reporting of donations between election years, so the public has no idea on the size of donations especially to the ruling Vision regime for 2015, 2016, and 2017 to date. We have huge concerns about regulatory capture. We believe that regulatory capture is one of the underlying causes of the housing crisis in Vancouver.

For the byelection, we urge voters to tell candidates they want tighter election funding rules in Vancouver and note that the Green Party is already there and has been for years.

Below are excerpts of the article. Please go to the Courier for the full text.


Photo caption: Green Party council candidate Pete Fry and school board candidates Estrellita Gonzalez, Judy Zaichkowsky and Janet Fraser plan to run a “grassroots” campaign that doesn’t involve accepting money from developers. The party spent less than $100,000 in the 2014 municipal election campaign. 

  • The provincial minister responsible for municipal affairs says rules will not be in place to prevent Vancouver candidates in the Oct. 14 byelection from raising and spending as much money as they want to get elected.
  • Selina Robinson, who is also the province’s housing minister, said in an email to the Courier that the NDP government is working on new campaign finance rules that would apply to local government elections. She said “the goal” is to have rules in place for the October 2018 municipal elections.
  • “Our government is committed to local government finance reform,” she said. “I have asked my staff to prepare options and will be hearing back from them shortly. I have heard and appreciate Vancouver’s particular interest in campaign finance reform and we recognize that reforms around contribution limits and corporate and union donations are important issues both at the provincial and local government levels.”
  • The NDP minority government recommitted in its Sept. 8 throne speech to reform campaign finance laws to eliminate corporate and union donations, put strict limits on individual contributions and ensure only B.C. residents be allowed to donate to provincial parties.
  • … Over the past decade, the city’s two mainstream parties — Vision Vancouver and the NPA — have run million-dollar campaigns, or more, to get their candidates elected. Both parties are expected in the Oct. 14 byelection campaign to outspend other parties, including the Green Party and OneCity.
  • Judy Graves, OneCity’s council candidate, said the party doesn’t take money from developers and therefore is “not beholden to the extremely wealthy.” 
  • … Pete Fry, the Green Party’s council candidate, also said his party doesn’t accept donations from developers. 

Report of Sept 9 Rally to Protest Waste and Point Grey Road Project: Wake Up Vancouver (WUV) & Concerned Kitsilano Residents

New Release received. See photos at bottom.Kits Residents rally 9-Sep-2017 (5)

Wake Up Vancouver (WUV) & Concerned Kitsilano Residents Rally to Protest Vision’s Vanity Point Grey Road Project

Vancouver, BC, September 13, 2017 –

Wake Up Vancouver’s protest rally at Volunteer Park (Point Grey Road and MacDonald) drew a spirited crowd on Saturday, September 9th. It focused on wasteful spending and the creation of unsafe infrastructure at taxpayers’ expense.

The event drew reporters from CBC, CTV, Global TC, News1130, CityTV and other major media outlets. Speaker’s included WUV’s Fiona Brodie, Green Candidate Pete Fry, Consultant Peter Labrie, RCCCD Chair Alicia Barsallo and Larry Benge of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods. They all spoke out against the wasteful, autocratic, and opaque spending of Vision Vancouver. In this case, to close a road, build a new 9 foot wide sidewalk that required chopping down over 26 mature trees and hundreds of feet of hedges, moving hydro poles, installing new lamp posts, paving the road 3 times, when the government claims they have to raise taxes to find money for pressing civic priorities.

Protestors took the spotlight away from a “Completion Party” of Vision Vancouver (and HUB) which was nearby. The Visionistas were celebrating the closure of Point Grey Road as a bikeway and the 9 foot pedestrian sidewalk renamed “Seaside Greenway” classifying the new Point Grey Road sidewalk as an “Inland Seawall Park.” But the bikeway and new mega sidewalk completes this as a private road for the privileged on Point Grey Road, who in majority numbers did not support the road total closure or wasteful upgrades. The bikeway and new overwide sidewalk costs residents of Vancouver tens of millions of dollars, and boosts pollution and gridlock along 4th and Broadway corridors by 10,000 cars a day.

Community champions and the protestors bemoaned Vision’s practice of prioritizing such wasteful and unnecessary infrastructure and Vision’s practice of rewarding special-interest groups while ignoring real pressing problems – such as transit, affordable housing, cost-of-living, and homelessness.

Ironically, the bikeway and the extra wide pedestrian sidewalk was almost empty during the protest. No, the protest didn’t keep the cyclists away. Rather, it was a spot of rain.

For more information, please visit:
http://www.kitsresidents.com and https://www.facebook.com/wakeupvan/


Urgent petition: Grandview Woodland Area Council asks Mayor/Council to postpone RT5/RT6 zoning amendments, get more community input (Public Hearing Sept 19)

Grandview Woodland houses, credit GWAC

Please read below and consider signing this petition: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-gregor-robertson-and-council-postpone-approval-of-vancouver-rt5-rt6-zoning-amendments-to-allow-community-input

We have reported that the September 19, 2017 (Tuesday) Public Hearing, the first one back after the summer hiatus, has nineteen (19!) items on the agenda a week today, the exact contents of which are NOT yet available to the public. Among the items is this one:

Increasing Housing Choice and Character Retention Incentives – in the Mount Pleasant and Grandview-Woodland Communities
To amend the Zoning and Development By-law to increase opportunities for housing choice and provide additional incentives for the retention of character houses. If approved, the proposed changes would amend the RT-5, RT-5A, RT-5N and RT-5AN Districts Schedule; rezone certain areas from RT-4, RT-4N, RT-5A, RT-5AN, RS-I, RS-4 and RS-7, all to RT-5/5N; and amend the RT-6 District Schedule

The potential implications and pitfalls of these zoning changes could be huge, yet even the local neighbourhood association that follows these things very closely is saying that neither they nor the community at large have had adequate opportunity to review the proposed changes and comment on them. As we know, by the time something goes to a Public Hearing, the chances of significant changes are minuscule.

And so, citing the lack of public consultation on this, the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) has launched a petition today asking Mayor and Council for more time.

Postpone approval of Vancouver RT5 RT6 zoning amendments to allow community input

Direct link here

The City of Vancouver has proposed changes to the RT5 and RT6 zones under a report to council dated July 25, 2017, that is referred to public hearing for approval. These changes have had little community input, only a few open houses, and most people in the community have not been adequately informed or involved by the city. Read the report published July 13, 2017 here. Continue reading

Not a done deal: Message to Park Board from Community Centre Associations on Joint Operating Agreement. Meetings planned

Below is a media release from several Vancouver Community Centre Associations (CCAs) regarding the ongoing issue of Joint Operating Agreement with the Vancouver Park Board. This is a crucial issue that goes to the core of how our city and communities operate. See past articles on CityHallWatch for background (search for “CCAs”), and visit www.mycommunitycentre.com.
A number of CCAs will hold public meetings on this topic this month. See the list at the bottom of this post.

Useful article: “Some community centres still looking for changes to park board agreement,” by Jessica Kerr, Vancouver Courier, 15-Sept-2017.

The Park Board will hear a staff update on this topic at its meeting on Monday, Sept 18, 2017, which starts at 7 pm. Agenda here.

For Immediate Release

September 11, 2017

Community Centre Associations hold community meetings about
Joint Operating Agreement – saying: “It’s not a done deal”
to Park Board Commissioners

Vancouver, B.C. – Several Community Centre Associations (CCAs) are holding meetings to update members on the current Joint Operating Agreement (JOA), which Park Board Commissioners want them to sign by September 30, 2017. Some CCAs are holding general meetings and are asking members to vote on whether to accept or reject the draft proposal put forward by the Park Board.

In April 2017, Park Board Commissioners voted to approve a new JOA to offer to 20 CCAs.

While many CCAs are holding community meetings to update members on the situation and to gain valuable feedback on next steps, three CCAs (Hastings, Kerrisdale and Killarney) are taking the lead on the effort and are asking Park Board Commissioners to make select changes to the agreement. Said Kathleen Bigsby, President of the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society: “What we are asking for are small changes – minor compromises on the part of the Park Board – but they are important to us. If these changes could be made, it is our expectation that this would result in a majority of the CCAs signing the agreement, providing a win for all involved.”

“We have legal advice that says there are several key elements in the current draft of the agreement that are of serious concern,” said Bigsby. She added: “We can’t, in good conscience, go back to our respective boards and recommend signing the current draft of this long-term contract.”

The areas causing concern are:

·      Infringement of the autonomy of the CCAs
·      Restrictions on use of retained earnings
·      Ability of the Park Board to evict a CCA from all or a portion of their community centre
·      Termination
·      Term and renewal
·      Commitment to community programming

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Grandview Woodland Community Plan (2016) drives land assembly, price escalation: Jak King

2016-land-use-map Grandview-Woodland

File image from GW community plan documents

Community historian and prolific blogger Jak King (https://jaksview3.wordpress.com/) has reported on the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood for years. He wrote frequently about the process that resulted in the official community plan being adopted in July 2016.

A full year has now passed. In other neighbourhoods we have found that the City does not monitor the results of new community plans in any systematic, comprehensive, or routine way. Are the promised (or hoped-for) benefits being realized? What are the positives and negatives? Who are the winners and losers? City officials have not reported or commented yet.  We are not even sure they are monitoring.

But Jak King looked at the real estate listings for Grandview this week and noted the prices and the reasons given by the real estate agents for those prices. And he asks how they match up to the “Community Values” expressed in the Plan.

Two things that catch his attention — a significant jump in prices, and site assemblies. The listings are mostly “perfectly decent habitable houses” built between the 1950s and 1970s.  In each and every case, the cause of the price inflation is clearly stated: the Community Plan.


The Community Plan & Land Prices


It has been just about a year since the Grandview Woodland Community Plan was bludgeoned through City Council by the developer-financed Vision Vancouver majority. The history of that Plan was a long and sorry one, involving as it did a massively engineered lack of consultation and consent from the residents, that has been told in some detail on this blog and elsewhere. But that is history and now we are obliged to deal with the aftermath and protect as much of our grand neighbourhood as we can.

The Community Plan states that “[c]hange must be integrated, gradual, and sustainable and be responsive to the needs of local and city residents.” [page 6]. It goes on to say that “[t]his community strives to be a place where people of all socio-economic levels can live.”  [page 7]. After a full year post-Plan we can look at the real estate listings for Grandview for this week, noting prices and — importantly — the reasons given by the real estate agents for those prices, and see how they match up to the Community Values expressed in the Plan.

  • 1912 E. 8th, $3,599,000: Less than two  years ago, this property sold for what was already considered a premium price of $1,940,000.  Now the price has almost doubled because, as the realtor delights in telling us: it “falls under new Transition Zoning in Grandview Plan. New Zoning will allow up to 1.2 FSR 3.5 storey Rowhouses.”

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