Below is a quick preview of items that grab our attention. We may add more comments and links later. Further below are the actual agendas of the meetings as of Thursday the prior week. Please go to the official links for the up-to-date agendas.
The Regular Park Board meeting of Monday, January 18th will review a staff presentation on the Vancouver Aquatics Strategy, which may shed more light on the future plans for both indoor and outdoor pools. There’s also a Climate Emergency Response report and the usual General Manager’s Report on the response to the ongoing pandemic.
The Regular City Council Meeting for Tuesday, January 19th includes a report with staff-initiated recommendations about the civic election. It is very important. Changes would include lengthening the start of the nomination period to 87 days and increasing the number signatures for Council and Mayoral candidate nomination forms. The report also recommends keeping the random ballot order used in 2018 (for more details, see our post on this topic here). Some changes can be done unilaterally by Council vote, but others require a process of asking the provincial government to amend the Vancouver Charter. Some Councillors may be inspired to propose amendments for wards and proportional representation, etc.. CityHallWatch believes that any significant changes to Vancouver’s election system should involve prior public consultation and even a referendum of some form.
A presentation on the 2021 Assessment Roll will provide more details about the changes in property values in Vancouver. Cultural grants for 2021 and the DTES Special Enterprise Pilot Project reports will be reviewed (both require 2/3 majority vote). There is a report for subdividing 7520 Balaclava Street near the Fraser River in the ALR for single-family lots, a move that staff are not recommending go forward. It is extremely rare to see City staff not recommending that developments go ahead, so this one is worth studying. A number of amendments to guidelines and policies are recommended.
A total of 7 referral reports have been included, meaning that City staff are recommending Council move the items ahead to Public Hearings. Once something gets on the conveyor belt to a Public Hearing it is extremely rare for any significant changes to happen to the application, so if you or your community have concerns about any items, the best time to raise them for Council discussion is now, before Council votes on the referral.
Among the recommended referrals to advance to Public Hearing:
- Rezoning of an 11-storey tower in Chinatown at 728-796 Main Street (the Brickhouse site at Union).
- Rezoning for a 9-storey tower at 1766 Frances Street in a location where the City’s community plan allows for 6-storeys.
- Rezoning at 1015 East Hastings, a proposal that has segregated entrances and elevators for market and affordable housing components in a proposed 14-storey building, beside a railway corridor.
- A proposal at 3084 West 4th Avenue and Balaclava for a 6-storey building on a small lot. We are hearing that it may be premature to send this to a Public Hearing already, and more time may be needed to look at options.
Councillor DeGenova will introduce a motion on notice called Turning the Key: Encouraging Affordable Home Ownership in the City of Vancouver while Councillor Wiebe is bringing forward A Community Safety and Well being Framework motion.
The first Public Hearing of the week is on Tuesday, January 19th, beginning at 6pm, and considering four items:
- A proposal for 810 Kingsway with 108 market rental units in a 6-storey building and a FSR of 3.65 will be considered.
- A 6-storey building at 2246-2268 East Broadway with 57 strata units. A CAC of $730,568 is proposed, but staff would sequester it for future allocation.
- At 441-475 West 42nd Avenue, an 18-storey tower is proposed with a total of 124 rental units (189ft / 57.7m, 6.7 FSR, 43 parking spots, MIRHP program).
- At 5740 Cambie Street, a 27-storey strata tower is proposed (133 units) and a 14-storey rental tower (80 units). Commercial uses are planned at grade along with office space in a 4-storey podium. A total of 283 parking spaces would be included. A non-profit organization (NPO) hub space (14,500 sq. ft.) valued at $12 million would be provided turn-key to the City as CAC.
The City Finance and Services committee meeting for Wednesday, January 20th begins with a proposed Code of Conduct that would apply to members of Council and Advisory Board Members (the existing Code of Conduct would continue to apply to staff). It’s worth noting that the proposed Code of Conduct could potentially muzzle members of Advisory Boards and place limitations on City Councillors on their work (for example, by having interactions with staff go through the City Manager). To enforce this proposed new code of conduct, staff are recommending hiring an Integrity Commissioner on retainer. This is a very important topic. See our post on this topic here: Vancouver’s Code of Conduct Policy: Proposed changes need further review and revisions to better include staff accountability.
Motions on notice for improved street lighting and protecting people with mobility issues when elevators break down, will be heard. Contracts for excavation and for a sewage and rainwater management plan will be considered.
The second Public Hearing of the week is set to start at 6pm on Thursday, January 21. Some very important items are up for decisions, and again we point out that the titles of the items do not represent the significance of what is being proposed, so you need to read the documents to grasp the import.
On the first item, entitled “Employment Lands and Economy Review Quick Start Actions: Mount Pleasant I-1 Amendment and New I-1C District Schedule,” staff would like Council to amend the Industrial Zoning on the south side of 2nd Avenue in Mount Pleasant (between Quebec and Yukon St) to allow for a greater heights and density. Specifically, heights of 152.5 ft / 46.5m (which could translate to about 15 storeys in height) and a doubling of the allowed density to a FSR of 6 is recommended. CityHallWatch notes that there was no public consultation process done at all for these specific changes, and it is not really clear where the proposals originated from. There could be significant impacts on the streetscape, as the following photos show the differences between 2nd and 1st Avenue (photos at 9am on January 13th). It’s not too difficult to imagine the impact that higher buildings on the south side (left side of the photos) of 2nd Avenue would have on solar access.
The second item on the Public Hearing agenda is a proposal to allow more flexibility in the ground floor uses in the DTES Oppenheimer District ODP. This would concern allowing community services in storefronts.
Third item, staff are looking at making amendments to the Artist Live Work studios by taking out a number of restrictions in a number of industrial zones across the City. Regarding such proposed changes, there may be impacts on land lift. It’s also sometimes difficult to enforce that artist live work units are actually used by artists and not as general residential. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to tighten up definitions and to have some bylaw enforcement on artist live work spaces, in order to ensure that these units are used for the intended purpose.
The fourth and final item on the Public Hearing agenda concerns expanding “neighbourhood” stores in residential areas. The proposed changes appear to be striking down limitations that restrict or prevent the construction of new “corner” stores. However, it is not really clear what kinds of practical limits would be put in place to govern what kinds of stores are built in the future and where they can go (as opposed to mid-sized supermarkets, chain stores with high commercial ceilings). Expanding the number of friendly neighbourhood “corner stores” may seem like a positive idea, but much depends on the actual details. We sense that there is not enough information in the documentation, and neither Council nor the public have enough to go on here. Have a close look at the specific wording and use of the words “corner store” in the general description, but “neighbourhood store” in the actual bylaw text being proposed by City staff. In one interpretation, this bylaw if approved could mean mixed residential + commercial buildings several storeys high could be given nearly blanket approval in residential areas across Vancouver, far from actual street corner lots. See additional background about this topic in our previous post:
Heads up! Under guise of ‘support for neighbourhood grocery stores’ City staff propose new commercial developments in residential zones (Council agenda 24-Nov-2020).
For reference, the meeting agendas have been reproduced below: