TransLink plans to remove bus stops along Nanaimo Street, Dunbar and Powell starting January 17, 2022 (Routes 4 and 7): It’s called ‘bus stop balancing’

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TransLink has announced plans to remove bus stops along Routes 7 (Dunbar-Nanaimo) and 4 (Powell-UBC) starting on January 17, 2022. It’s still possible to send feedback to TransLink regarding the proposed changes to these two routes. The bus stops would be removed under the guise of ‘providing faster and more reliable service’.

There’s an excellent summary of many of the changes proposed for Dunbar Street: TransLink seeks feedback on plans to cut nearly half of Dunbar bus stops in January (Carol Volkart, Dunbar Residents Association). This is all part of an ongoing TransLink program known as “Bus Stop Balancing” (Translink.ca/busstopbalancing) with the task of “consolidating and removing bus stops that are too close together to improve travel times and reliability for customers across the region.” Some of this chopping is probably due to financial strains from COVID-19 dramatically cutting transit use, but we suspect another factor is that billions of dollars are being sucked from transit-related funding resources to pour into mega projects such as the Broadway Subway.

In this post we’ll focus on the changes proposed for Nanaimo Street.

The Number 7 bus along Nanaimo (starts at Nanaimo Station and goes all the way to the Dunbar Loop) runs rather infrequently, about once every 13 or 15 minutes (see the full schedule here). The City of Vancouver recently upzoned much of Nanaimo Street to 4-storey and 3.5-storey forms (East 12th to East Hastings). A new 4-storey building is nearing completion at Grant Street and Nanaimo near one of the stops slated for removal. There are a number of development applications in progress in the area, as well as completed lot assemblies. Why would TransLink remove capacity just when the City is increasing density here? We’ve included a number of slides that include stops that are being removed.

On Powell Street, the bus stops between McLean and Woodland at the Flint (the SRO with about 90 units run by Atira) would be removed for both bus Routes 4 and 7.

There are some questions that perhaps TransLink can look at. Why are the Dunbar and Nanaimo Streets buses combined into a single route in the first place? Would it not be worth considering doing short turns for each in the downtown or a major arterial or interchange? Speaking of bus service, why is there still no bus service along East 1st Avenue? As the City grows, would it not make sense to increase bus service and frequency?

TransLink has already removed stops from a number of routes. Please see: TransLink looking to remove bus stops from select routes 25 King Edward/UBC and 17 Oak/Downtown (CityHallWatch, March 21, 2021)

Here are the proposed changes to bus Routes 4 and 7 from the GoogleMap on the TransLink website:

A Shadow of Doubt (Brian Palmquist: City Conversations about the Changing Shadows) – About a 20-storey-equivalent tower proposed at 1406-1410 East King Edward

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles.

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A Shadow of Doubt
City Conversations About the Changing Shadows
By Brian Palmquist
(first published 5-Dec-2021)

Caption: One of these must be wrong! Credit for actual shadow model at right to Stephen Bohus, BLA[1]

December 5th, 2021—This City Conversation is about what the public and Urban Design Panel (UDP) are being shown by applicants seeking massive upzoning. Perhaps as a result of the kinds of questions asked in this Conversation, commentary on this application has been extended to December 12th. Regardless of your thoughts about the application itself, if you agree with our concerns described below it might be worth expressing your objections.

“Surely we must be wrong?” I thought to myself as I looked at the shadow diagrams for a proposed rezoning at 1406-1410 East King Edward. For those wondering what those are, shadow diagrams are specific indications of how proposed new buildings shade their neighbours as well as surrounding streets, parks, etc. By convention, they are provided for the summer solstice and the two equinoxes, capturing shadows cast at 10am, 12 noon and 2pm on those days.

Although these times and dates might seem a bit arbitrary, they have been the standard for decades, allowing applicants, the public, city staff and reviewers such as the Urban Design Panel (UDP) to see the shadowing impacts of larger, taller building proposals. As a former UDP member, I can attest that you get used to these standard times and dates, so that over time you develop a sense for “just fine,” “too much” or “too much in that place.” But you always trust the data provided—right?

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City staff head count set to swell by 513 from 2018 levels. 8,798 positions forecast in 2022 Budget.

The head count at the City of Vancouver is projected to increase to 8,798 full-time equivalent positions in 2022. This is up by 513 positions from 2018 (see table). The forecast sees an increase of 160 positions over 2021. The planning department is set to increase in size by around 65 positions for 2022 from 2018 levels. The current City Council, consisting of mayor and ten councillors, has been in office since December 5, 2018.

In 2020, 1,440 City of Vancouver employees earned over $100,000 as recorded in the sunshine list (this list contains the names of employees earning over $75,000). We’ve previously published the salaries of some the City’s top wage earners for 2020; the former City Manager took home $354,698 last year.

Further details of the changes in the staff count can be found buried on page 171 of the 2022 Operating Budget. Vancouver City Council is set to debate the 2022 Budget on Tuesday, December 7th.

The senior management of any organization is expected to monitor and manage human resources levels, and at the top is the city manager (Paul Mochrie replaced Sadhu Johnston in January 2021), but ultimately the buck stops with the elected officials. Are they exercising enough restraint? It seems like there were no staff reductions at City Hall compared to what happened in the private sector in response to the pandemic. Other factors to consider are the numbers and ratios of union vs non-union positions, but we are not aware of such information available to the public.

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Trout Lake Master Plan consultation open until Dec 14th. Proposed changes to John Hendry Park include relocating farmers market, relocating bikeway, improved water quality. Artificial turf fields under consideration

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Park Board is seeking input from the public on the Master Plan for John Hendry Park (Trout Lake). There is a survey that is open until December 14, 2021. This is the final chance for comments before a revised park renewal plan is presented in early 2022. This Master Plan has been in the works for a very long; we’ve been covering the process since 2013.

There are 31 draft directions that have been presented in the current draft renewal plan. A few of the highlights include:

  • relocating the Farmers Market to the southern end of the park, near the current concession stand and washrooms (the current location is at the north end of the park)
  • keeping the current off leash dog area in the present location, but add secure fencing
  • “26A: relocate the BC Parkway Trail to the east park edge to improve separation from recreational trails and connect to bike routes on E 13th Ave and E 19th Ave” (note: this area is often waterlogged during winter months so other improvements would be needed)
  • all-weather sport field: “maintain with updates to surfacing (gravel, turf, or artificial turf)”
  • lake lookouts: renew and upgrade piers
  • capture and treat park rainwater runoff and improve water quality

John Hendry Park is arguably one of the most important parks on the Eastside (along with New Brighton Park), so it is crucial to get the right Master Plan in place. For more details on the proposed changes, please visit the Park Board webpage on the consultation process. There’s a good summary of the 31 draft directions in the following panel (click to enlarge):

John Hendry Park Renewal Proposed changes (click to enlarge)

The panels from the current consultation phase have been reproduced below: Continue reading

A look at how the City proposes to weaken view protections in Broadway Plan (Public survey ends tonight, December 3rd)

ABOVE: In materials presented by City staff for this phase of Broadway Plan consultations, the City is looking at allowing higher buildings along the Broadway corridor that will intrude into Vancouver’s protected views. There’s consideration of narrowing view cones along Cambie and other streets. The proposed changes have not been adequately explained to the public, and they could have significant impacts on views from other parts of the city, far beyond what staff are showing. For example, the PAVCO rezoning back in 2018 considered higher buildings that would intrude into mountain views (top right image).

The survey for the Broadway Plan (https://shapeyourcity.ca/broadway-plan) has been extended until Friday, December 3rd (11:59 pm), so any readers concerned about points raised in this post may wish to send in their additional comments and observations. (The survey was extended from the original deadline of November 30th).

In this article we take a closer look at the changes around view protections proposed by City staff. What’s being proposed? What does it all mean? What are the implications?

In short, the proposal simply means weakened view protections for Vancouver. The staff proposal would weaken view protections in two ways. First, under consideration by staff are changes to allow intrusions into protected Queen Elizabeth Park view cones. The view from QE Park is the most important protected view in the City; it provides broad protection to many other views enjoyed by the public. Staff are essentially seeking to do away with protected views 3.1 and 3.2.4a. The second way of weakening protections would be to narrow view cones along streets like Cambie. This change would also impact other parts of City and further weaken view protection, as it would allow taller buildings into areas that are now protected. We’ll look at these proposed changes in more detail. For reference, we’ve reproduced the full panels by staff further below (scroll to end). In addition to narrowing protected views, planning staff want to modify the existing policies regarding views to and around City Hall.

There are some parallels with the Broadway Plan now to the way City staff weakened view protections with the West End Community Plan. See our previous post for more details: View protection weakened in West End Plan, 550 foot tower zones proposed (November 20, 2013).

Here’s an example of one of the City’s officially designated view cones that provides protection. This view cone helps enable other public views (pictured below are Helena Gutteridge Plaza at City Hall (lower right), the southwest corner of Cambie and West 12th Avenue (left), and an image from the Broadway Plan (upper right)).

One of the misleading assertions by staff is that only single views count, without considering the protection that’s been afforded by the designated views that act as control points. Shaving off a little from the eastern part of the ‘protected view’ in the middle of Cambie Street (at West 12th) does indeed have an impact elsewhere in the public realm. It’s not as simple as saying that some trees have grown into this part of the view cone, so therefore it can be narrowed without having consequences elsewhere:

There are two view cone locations on Cambie Street around City Hall. The one chosen for the Broadway Plan panel is at West 12th Avenue. There’s another view cone location just south of West 10th Avenue (view cone 9.1). There’s significant overlap between these two control points. It’s worth noting that there are no trees going into the view cone 9.1, yet planning staff are clearly also considering narrowing this view. Here’s a comparison of the image in the Broadway Plan (lower right), the views webpage from the City (upper right) and the view cones in the City’s VanMap application:

City Staff are not showing how much they want to take away from view cone 9.1. They are “cherry picking?

The impacts on narrowing street views is much bigger than just the immediate areas in the Broadway Plan. The view cones from Cambie, Main Street and Granville provide protection for a much larger area, including some views over parts of Downtown and the West End. Here’s a look at these view cone locations in the City’s VanMap application:


The Granville Street view cone at Broadway also provides protections for public views. Here are a few photos just from that intersection. Only one photo is from the location of the view cone (location shown in VanMap, photos taken on December 2, 2021):

The other way way that City staff are looking to weaken view protections is to essentially do away with protected views 3.1 and 3.2.4a. This is not explained anywhere but just shown in a thin strip in one of the boards (full boards are reproduced at the end of this post).

What does this mean? What staff are saying is they essentially want to keep the control line for the downtown (upper line) and allow buildings to go into the areas labelled as 3.1 and 3.2.4a (see illustration above). It’s also worth noting that these views are taken from the highest point in Vancouver in Queen Elizabeth Park, so modifying the views will have impacts on actual mountain views from a number of other locations in the public realm (that is, from other locations that aren’t as high up). In terms of the extent of view cones 3.1 and 3.2.4a, these can be seen in VanMap (below left).

Here below is a look at the view from QE Park. Unlike a number of other defined view cones (that act as control points), this location is a destination view where people actively travel to in order to enjoy the view.

View from Queen Elizabeth Park

People at Queen Elizabeth Park lookout (a destination view)

Staff in their panels do not include any dimensional heights but rather use the ambiguous term of a ‘storey’. The floor height of a storey can vary widely. Office space can be 3.5m to 4m (11.5 to 13.1 feet) in height for a ‘storey’ while residential storeys can be around 2.75m (9 feet) in height. What is a storey according to staff?

Here’s the specific wording copied from the panel:

“For the Broadway Plan area, view 3.1 significantly limits the heights of new buildings, particularly along Broadway in and around Uptown. For example, with view 3.1 as it is today, a building near Broadway–City Hall Station would be limited to about 14-18 storeys. Without the view 3.1 restrictions, height could be increased by 11-15 storeys while still maintaining the mountain views (3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3, and 3.2.4.). The impact of view 3.1 varies depending on location, and may be more or less impactful in other areas of Broadway.”

So does this mean a 18-storey height noted by staff is increased by 15-storeys, and then is the total 33-storeys along Central Broadway? Is that at 4m floor height? As staff don’t provided dimensional heights, they are leaving the door open to serious abuse. It’s also difficult to gauge the massing that’s being considered, as the density information is nowhere to be found (for Vancouver, coverage is measured as a Floor Space Ratio). If they were being forthright, staff could do the simple exercise of plotting the proposed heights in a 3D computer model, show a zoning envelope for views, show ‘before’ and ‘after’ scenarios, and even show other options.

There is mention of revising the City Hall Presence protections (see sections 3.4 and 3.5 of the C-3A Urban Design Guidelines for more details). Staff are looking at intruding into protected views 3.2.4a, and mention that CityGate (which north of the study area) already intrudes into part of this view. While that’s true, the implicit suggestion that there is thus a ‘view shadow’ and other tall buildings can go into this line of sight, without impacting other public views, is a fallacy. If there’s an intrusion into an existing view cone, should staff then declare ‘open season’ on the entire view cone? Or should they try to preserve the views that are still there?

The staff panels regarding view cones only apply to parts of the Broadway Plan that fall under current view protection policy. There is a significant part of the western section of the plan area that do not have view cone protection. However, many existing views to mountains from the public realm can still be protected by absolute height limits on new buildings. ‘No view cone’ should not equate with ‘the sky is the limit’; sensible upper limits on buildings heights can help with protecting views from the public realm.

View cone from QE Park protection on West Broadway ends between Willow and Laurel. There’s only a bit of protection by the Granville Street view cone on the western section of the plan area.

There similarly are parts of the plan area in the east that do not have protections by view cones:

Queen Elizabeth view cone protection extends to Main and East Broadway. There are no view protections between Main and Clark along East Broadway.

For reference, we’ve reproduced the City’s panels on Views and Heights (original PDF files are here). It is contradictory that staff to claim they want to retain views yet allow higher buildings that will impact views. Note what’s missing in the panels: actual dimensions of heights that are being proposed and details of the narrowed view cone proposals. Continue reading

Rezoning applications snapshot, 1-Dec-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.

The City has 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 have reduced transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now, in the way they want you to see it, and the rest of the information disappears. No handy lists, no archives prior to 2020.

We’ve created our own static snapshot version map using Google Maps. Click HERE to see the current map for December 2021. New rezoning applications include the following:

3205 Arbutus St (4-storey, 54 rental units, 2.5 FSR, 18.3m / 60ft)
5562-5688 Manson St (two 18-storey towers, 392 rental units, 5.97 FSR, 63.8m / 209 ft.)
160 W 44th Ave (RM-8A townhouse 1.2 FSR)

Below is our list of rezoning applications created as of 1-Dec-2021.

Continue reading

Development applications snapshot 1-Dec-2021

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 City has 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 have reduced transparency and accessibility. On Shape Your City, you only see the applications the City wants you to see right now, in the way they want you to see it, and the rest of the information disappears. No handy lists, no archives prior to 2020.

If you see any items 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 also stopped publicly providing a map showing applications, so we continue to fill in the gap by creating our own static snapshot version using Google Maps. Click HERE to see the current map. If you feel the City should modify how it presents development and rezoning applications, feel free to write Mayor and Council, or director of planning.

Listed below (generated by CityHallWatch): Continue reading

Special Council meeting on 2022 Capital and Operating Budget starts 9:30 am, Wed, Dec 1. (Up to 2013, budget meetings were held in evenings for the public, but Vision Vancouver changed that)

Vancouver City Council will meet on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021 to discuss the 2022 Capital and Operating Budget and hear from speakers. The meeting will start at 9:30 am. This is an important year for the budget. Finances are under pressure. Income is down, costs up. And there’s an election on October 15, 2022.

As a side note, once upon a time, Vancouver City Council scheduled Special Meetings for Budgets in the evenings. This was a while back. The last time the December budget meeting happened in the evening was with a 6pm start back on December 10, 2013. After that, Vision Vancouver shifted the budget discussions to daytime meetings, convenient for staff and Council. But for the public? Not so much. The Special Meetings on the Budget have remained as weekday daytime meetings with a 9:30am start. The continuation of the daytime budget meeting is perhaps another example of the loss of institutional memory and demonstrates inertia. When one administration sets something (a policy or practice) in place, it stays there unless some effort is exerted to change it. Out of all of current members of Council, only Councillor Adriane Carr would have been in attendance in 2013, the last time a budget meeting was held in the evening. Continue reading

Broadway Plan’s Refined Directions survey EXTENDED to Friday December 3, 2021 at 11:59 pm (originally Nov 30)

(Update – Late in the day on December 1, the City sent out an e-mail saying the deadline had been extended – “We’ve received a lot of interest about extending the survey so more people have the opportunity to provide their feedback. We’re happy to extend the deadline by a couple days to this Friday December 3, 2021 at 11:59pm.“)

We emphasize the importance of weighing in on the survey and making your concerns known. If the current Council adopts the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan, the next step would be to declare this as the city’s Official Development Plan, after which the provincial government is angling to waive the need for public hearings on rezonings. That could pave the way for carte-blanche approvals of anything developers bring to planners at the City, and virtually eliminate public oversight of development in the future of Vancouver.

Broadway Plan’s Refined Directions survey on the shapeyourcity.ca/broadway-plan page (was to close at midnight Nov 30) but has been extended to the end of the day on Friday, December 3, 2021 at 11:59 pm. at 11:59 pm. We encourage readers to do the survey and keep an eye on this topic well into 2022. CityHallWatch has done several posts on the topic of views, shadows, impacts on current rental buildings, etc. Search for “Broadway Plan” in the search field on our top page for many articles. See some links further below.

As neighbourhoods have already experienced in reality with major planning initiatives (e.g., the West End Community Plan, and Grandview Woodland experienced with the Grandview Plan, as exquisitely documented by Jak King) the City’s planners distract the public and speak in generalities, but late in the game inject major surprises, after which the City loses control of the plan and does not even seem capable of keeping track and reporting on implementation.

Patrick Condon has written “Vancouver’s Dramatic New Plan for Broadway: Five Questions” in The Tyee (29-Nov-2021), which we recommend, and provide an excerpt below.

The Fairview/South Granville Action Committee (FSGA) has done extensive analysis on the proposal. Their critique is recommended reading (https://www.fsgac.org/broadway-plan-phase-3). Here is an excerpt of what they’re seeking from the City planners:

  • No Skyscaper Option: Present modelling & projections for an evenly distributed option, within current zoning. 
  • Public Benefits: Provide definitive plans for new schools, parks and community centres.  
  • Justification:
    • Provide a precise definition of “affordability”. 
    • Publish the data & assumptions used to calculate the population & job projections. 
    • Publish the data, traffic studies & projections demonstrating that a 33% decrease in Broadway’s street capacity is feasible. 
    • Publish the reasoning, calculations & costs of the financial incentives that the Plan proposes to give developers, over the life of the Plan.  

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Some additional comments from CityHallWatch.

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Fight consultation fatigue! Be sure to fill in surveys on Broadway Plan and keep an eye on the major planning initiatives in Vancouver and Metro Vancouver

On 28-Oct-2021 Justin McElroy (CBC) wrote “Vancouver hopes consultation fatigue won’t set in as next phase of citywide plan begins” He can say that again.

The City of Vancouver held Vancouver Plan stage 3 consultations, October 28 to Nov 28 with various events. The last workshop was held Nov 26, and staff have written that over the next few weeks, they will be compiling a list of FAQ to post on the Vancouver Plan website (https://vancouverplan.ca/). (Recommended: Guest writer Brian Palmquist has covered many aspects of consultation on the Vancouver Plan. Scot Hein has also written a great five-part essay “Zoning Must Evolve” and “You Forgot About Me!” as a graphic novella about development regulation concepts.)

Metro Vancouver has asked the public for input on its Metro 2050 regional growth strategy (survey until end of Nov). TransLink surveyed people on its Transport 2050 transportation strategy (survey Oct 12-29). 

For the major Broadway Plan, the survey has been extended a few days to just before midnight end of day on Friday, December 3, 2021 (see more on this below).

Major planning work is also underway for the Jericho Lands.

And that’s not all. Planning work and consultation is also being done on a sport field strategy, Britannia renewal, Budget 2022, Bute Greenway, Community Centre Strategy, West End Waterfront, West End community centre hub, Marine Landing review, streamlining rental, and more. Visit the Shape Your City portal (https://shapeyourcity.ca/) and see what appears.

Some of the online surveys for the initiatives mentioned at the top have now closed, but nothing is stopping concerned groups and citizens from writing directly to the authorities with questions and concerns at any time. Each of the above will lead you to some contact information.

Though it may seem daunting we urge people to keep an eye on all of this. An important point for context is that the Province is now preparing to waive the need for public hearings if an application is in line with a municipality’s official community plan. Vancouver is governed by the Vancouver Charter, so if the citywide Vancouver Plan is adopted in 2022 as the city’s Official Development Plan, with legislative changes to the Vancouver Charter, developers and our municipal government will really be on the same team, and citizens basically cut out. The ultimate accountability of our elected officials has also been eroded over time, with civic elections going from every two years in the 1990s to every three, and then since 2013, every four years. Meanwhile, access to information is getting more difficult and expensive, with recent changes to to FOI legislation. We have concerns that we are witnessing the “endgame of the developer complex.”

So keep an eye on these topics. The next civic elections are October 15, 2022 and candidates might distinguish themselves by how they deal with the above topics and whether or not they support citizen and community power.

Finally, we have major concerns that all of these planning initiatives are being done under the control of a chief planner (director of planning), Theresa O’Donnell (see hiring notice) who was placed in this position in the absence of an open and competitive hiring process, only started working at the City of Vancouver in March 2019, with less than three years experience living in Vancouver, with no previous experience living or working in Canada not to mention Vancouver, and whose past achievements don’t appear to include much to do with respect for communities and neighbourhoods, but do include working closely with industry.