Heads up! Vancouver Plan goes to City Council for approval on July 6, 2022 with implications for everyone for generations ahead

Above: Vancouver Plan, main map and legend

Yet another major decision slated for the next several days as Vancouver’s planning department and City Council try to complete business before the summer hiatus in August and then the election season leading up to October 15, 2022.

The Vancouver Plan is a significant document, with the potential to become designated as the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP). What makes this upcoming decision so significant and risky at this point in time, is that BC’s housing minister David Eby, who could be vying to replace John Horgan as premier, has repeatedly threatened to have the province to impose development decisions on municipalities. In Vancouver, conceivably, anything that is consistent with the OCP could move forward without a Public Hearing or proper public oversight. Basically, straight from the developer to approval, short-circuiting meaningful neighbourhood and public input.

Council agenda (Wednesday, July 6, starting 9:30 am) including instructions on how to write or speak to Council, and how to observe online: https://council.vancouver.ca/20220706/cfsc20220706ag.htm

The report itself is 230 pages (warning, huge file at 227 MB): https://council.vancouver.ca/20220706/documents/cfsc1.pdf

Official website about the Vancouver Plan: https://vancouverplan.ca/about/

This is a significant document, and we firmly believe that the vast majority of Vancouver residents, including homeowners, renters and businesses alike, have little or no idea what’s really being proposed, nor the vast implications. We encourage neighbourhood groups and associations to organize quickly to review and analyze the content, discuss and be prepared to write or speak to Council with their comments and concerns. Once the decision is made to approve or reject, and dust settles in the coming weeks, individual votes by mayor and Council on the Vancouver Plan are likely to have an impact on their prospects for reelection in the October 15 election.

The Vancouver Plan is proposing new development building typologies throughout the city that are not grounded in neighbourhood-based planning principles and do not respond to local context.

The Vancouver Plan will effectively impact housing and development all across the city. This version is going to Council for approval with only a week’s public notice, with the expectation that it gets approved during a day-time Council meeting. Some initial observations… the Vancouver Plan:

  • Significantly increases higher density development across the city
  • Creates new regional designations for Major Transit Growth Corridors along existing bus routes, with huge implications for several blocks on either side
  • Expands transit development corridors and areas
  • Targets development growth near neighbourhood centres, up to heights of 12 storeys on side streets
  • Proposed 12 -18 storey towers close to stations, with high towers of 25+ storeys on stations and on major projects
  • Would allow multiplexes throughout RS and RT zones (this basically covers the rest of the city)
  • Contains little to no reference to neighbourhood character or heritage buildings
  • Incorporates other major plans such as Broadway Plan, Jericho Lands, etc.
  • Overrides existing community plans and visions
  • Promotes massive growth and housing targets that are not based on evidence or transparent data

We will provide further analysis/commentary as time permits in the coming days. We encourage people to have a good look at how the local civic reporters and media cover this story. They have an obligation to provide factual, timely, balanced information and analysis to the public. Will they? In a sense, this is a test.

‘Broadway and Commercial: A Public Process Failure?’ (by Scot Hein in Spacing Vancouver) (Public Hearing for 1780 East Broadway starts July 7)

This three-tower application goes to a Public Hearing starting on Tuesday, July 7, 2022.

Public Hearing page (see “6. CD-1 Rezoning: 1780 East Broadway”): https://council.vancouver.ca/20220707/phea20220707ag.htm

“Shape Your City” rezoning information page: https://shapeyourcity.ca/1780-e-broadway

Below, with permission, we republish an article by Scot Hein (retired architect, former senior urban designer at the City of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia. He is an adjunct professor of Urban Design at UBC, lecturer at Simon Fraser University and founding board member of the Urbanarium). It provides a detailed history and analysis of the site and proposal, with powerful conclusions in the “Food For Thought” section at the end. It originally appeared in Spacing Vancouver here: http://spacing.ca/vancouver/2022/06/14/broadway-and-commercial-a-public-process-failure/

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Broadway and Commercial: A Public Process Failure?

 | BY SCOTHEIN

Above: Current 3 Tower Proposal for the BCSS Referred to Public Hearing Last Week. Image Credit: Perkins + Will/Snowcat Property Holdings Ltd.

Last week, the proposed development in the Featured Image above, located at the Broadway and Commercial “Safeway Site” (BCSS), was referred to public hearing anticipated for July (consequently, while many are on vacation). The project is designed by a highly respected architect working with a creative developer who has delivered many innovative, industry-leading, projects. The proposal includes three towers, with heights ranging from 24  to 29 residential storeys sitting atop a series of “plinths” (or thicker bases) that add 9 more storeys: the tallest tower rising effectively to 38 storeys.  

On the face of it, the proposal complies with a specifically referenced density of 5.7 FSR (or “floor space ratio” expressed as a multiple of site area) in the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan (GWCP), approved in 2016.  However, the proposal is inconsistent with the council-approved site plan diagrams that staff included for this important site in the GWCP.

To see how we got here, and critique its value, it’s worth understanding the site’s public process history and related form of development refinement over time.

Grandview-Woodland Community Plan & Broadway and Commercial “Safeway Site” Public Process History

The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan was approved by the previous city council in 2016, with community stakeholders who helped shape the plan now monitoring implementation through market-driven redevelopment. Before this time, the Grandview-Woodland community initially suffered through a difficult public planning process that imploded over tower heights for the BCSS, ultimately contributing to the dismissal of the previous council and giving rise to the current council who must now vote on their referral. As such, it’s important to understand what led to this.

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Report on Vancouver Sun’s panel: The Affordability Puzzle: Who has the Answers? (Featuring David Eby, Bob Rennie, Joy MacPhail, Bernd Christmas, 21-Jun-2022)

Above: Screenshot of Vancouver Sun’s panel on June 21, 2022 (left to right: moderator Stuart McNish, B.C. Housing Minister David Eby, Bernd Christmas, Joy MacPhail, Bob Rennie)

We previously announced a panel discussion sponsored by the Vancouver Sun and major developers on June 21, see “‘The Affordability Puzzle: Who has the Answers?’ Indeed!

The video of the event is now available on the Vancouver Sun website: https://vancouversun.com/business/real-estate/live-qa-bc-housing-affordability

Below is a report of the event, by Upper Kitsilano Residents Association. Time and resources permitting, CityHallWatch would like to organize a panel with a more balanced composition. Send inquiries/ideas to us at citizenYVR@gmail.com

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 “The Affordability Puzzle: Who has the Answers?” Not this Panel

UKRA watched a recent Vancouver real estate panel discussion called “The Affordability Puzzle: Who has the Answers?” It was hard to watch. We objected to the uniform one-sidedness of the panel, which included NDP Housing Minister David Eby, Joy MacPhail, Chair of an expert panel on housing supply and affordability, local development nabob and real estate marketer Bob Rennie, and Bernd Christmas, President of the Nch’ḵay̓ Development Corp. for the Squamish Nation.

We wrote to Harold Munro, the editor of the Vancouver Sun and host of the June 21 virtual meeting, with our objections to the pro-development love-in, but received no response. So much for our largest newspaper attempting to cover more than one side to the housing crisis story. Read this story by CityHallWatch for some solid insight into the panel.

In the hour or so that panelists spoke, we witnessed them being overly chummy, dismissive of those who disagree with them, and unprofessional. Eby, for instance, referred to Vancouver city councillors as “volunteers.”

“Many council members are just on this side of volunteering,” said Eby. “They go around the table saying ‘well, maybe we should take five floors off…and what colour is that shed going to be,’ and before you know it, eight years have passed.” Eby emphasized his recurring threat that “if we [Eby and municipal councils] can’t arrive at an agreement [to dramatically increase housing density] we [Eby as Minister of Housing] will have to step in.”

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Crucial ‘Rapid Response to Homelessness’ report that was scrubbed from government website: Available now here. (Public Hearing on Arbutus and 7th/8th continues today at 3 pm)

Above: This crucial government report funded by taxpayers but inconvenient for the rezoning applicant was scrubbed from the BC Housing website before the Public Hearing.

We sincerely hope that our B.C. provincial government and BC Housing are not going to go down the path of making inconvenient information “disappear.” Unfortunately, they appear to be going that way, and we hope they turn around. We also hear reports that the provincial government is ordering an SFU researcher Julian Somers to delete nearly two decades of publicly-funded research data that shows “Congregating people with mental health and addiction issues in a single building does not work.” (See also Brian Palmquist’s article, search for the word “destroy.”) Outgoing Premier John Horgan and BC Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby (listed in media as candidate to replace Horgan) need to set the tone of integrity and fact-based decision-making, right from the top.

This all relates to a proposed 13-storey (equiv. in height to a typical 18-storey) tower at 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue, and 2091 West 8th Avenue, in the midst of a Public Hearing that started on June 28, 2022. and continues today at 3 pm to hear from over 225 registered speakers.

During the second night of the Public Hearing (June 29), one speaker revealed that a crucial report had disappeared from the BC Housing website. To counter that tactic and provide the information in a timely way, we have obtained a copy of the missing report and provide a link to it below. You can view it online or download in PDF. You the taxpayer paid for it. It’s yours!

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For those we will not hear…and those we hope will listen (#60: Science/facts against proposal are suppressed. But decisive. Will Council listen?) Brian Palmquist on Arbutus & 7th/8th supportive housing tower

(City Conversation #60 was first published 29-June-2022)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatch, please visit this page.)
The subject if this article is a proposed tower 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue, and 2091 West 8th Avenue, in the midst of a Public Hearing that started on June 28, 2022. It is billed as 13 storeys but actually equivalent to an 18-storey residential tower..

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June 28, 2022—What follows are my lightly edited remarks at the first of several evenings of the public hearing for a proposed high-rise low barrier residential spot rezoning development at 8th & Arbutus—I have added a bit of relevant data released by the Kitsilano Coalition spokesperson at her presentation regarding the deliberate destruction of scientific data that do not support this proposal. Please read to the bottom, where I write about how, with your involvement, this time we can make a difference.

The community came together to rally against this proposal–but is that enough?

“I am speaking in opposition to the proposed spot rezoning at 8th and Arbutus. There are three reasons for my opposition to this proposal:

1.     There is no independently peer-reviewed science supporting successful outcomes for this many folks with this many issues in this form of housing. Independently peer-reviewed science is an important concept here—it means data-based and objective rather than self-reported or subjective. By now there should be much independently peer-reviewed science (hereafter just science), but the provincial government shut down the funding of research in this area. In fact, the provincial government demanded that Dr. Julian Somers of Simon Fraser University destroy 17 years of such scientific data as soon as they cut his funding. Dr. Somers will speak later in the queue about his findings as they relate to this proposal.

2.     The science that does exist supports a more distributed approach—fewer folks in each of many more facilities, with many more supports—an approach with real hope for improving the lives of all affected and better integrating with the neighbourhood.

3.     My Homes for Whom database, which includes spot rezoning data suppressed by city staff, shows that the city has already completed spot rezoning of more than 11,000 rental homes that have not yet been built, plus over 20,000 rental homes that are in the current approvals queue, plus at least 12,000 rental homes contemplated in projects like Senakw’ and the Jericho Lands. That’s 43,000 rental homes, of which a small percentage could be distributed homes for the folks currently slotted into 8th and Arbutus.

Others will talk more knowledgeably than I about the science around more widely distributed supportive housing as compared with the approach proposed for this site, involving as it does the de facto warehousing of 129 people in metal micro-suites that cannot ever be adapted to house couples or families together.

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Kitsilano Coalition’s FOI stats on police calls to Marguerite Ford Apts prove serious problems with large ‘congregate’ supportive housing. Similar housing model goes to Public Hearing June 28 (Tues)

Above: Marguerite Ford Apartments, managed by Rain City Housing and Sanford Housing Society

We are reposting with permission this article by the Kitsilano Coalition based on results of an FOI inquiry about the statistics on police calls to the Marguerite Ford Apartments, housing similar what is planned for a proposed 13-storey low-barrier supportive housing tower at Arbutus between West 7th and West 8th Avenues. This decision goes to a Public Hearing at Vancouver City Council on Tuesday, June 28th. By majority vote, Council could choose to reject the application, which would send the proponents back to the drawing board, community consultation, and one hopes, a proposal more likely to succeed for the community and for the persons that are supposed to be housed there. Dr Julian Somers of SFU has come out strongly saying that based on solid evidence, the model currently proposed for this site has been proven to fail, emphasizing that a broader discussion is needed on housing for the most vulnerable. His interview on the CKNW Jas Johal Show articulates the case best.

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LOW-BARRIER SUPPORTIVE HOUSING: THE REAL STORY (26-Jun-2022)
Kitsilano Coalition
Original link: https://www.kitsilanocoalition.org/blog/low-barrier-supportive-housing-the-real-story

In these last days before the public hearing on the rezoning application for Arbutus & W7th / W8th on June 28, 2022, we have heard Housing Minister David Eby making statements to the media dismissing the concerns of the neighbourhood surrounding the site of the proposed 129-unit low barrier supportive housing project at 7th/8th and Arbutus. Minister Eby repeatedly asserts that any problems that arise at new supportive housing projects settle down within six months, and then “people don’t notice the buildings…they really blend in nicely” (see the 3:20 mark in Jas Johal’s interview with the Kitsilano Coalition).

The facts show that is NOT the case.

A comparable building, in terms of size and residents, to what is being proposed at 7th/8th and Arbutus is the Marguerite Ford Apartments at Olympic Village. This residence was opened in May 2013 and has 147 units.

To confirm the statements made by Minister Eby that sites “settle down” in 6 months, we made a request to VPD for calls for service (911 calls) to the 200 block of West 2nd Avenue (where Marguerite Ford Apartments is located). 

Our FOI request was made for the following:

  1. The number of 911 calls for the two years before the residence’s opening (2011-2013).
  2. The number of 911 calls in the first two years after this residence was opened (2013-2015). 
  3. The number of 911 calls in the most recent two years (May 2020 to May 2022) to see how things are going eight years later. 

This data (see the bar chart below) showed that the VPD received a whopping 972 calls (a 1700% increase from the previous two years).  

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1477 W Broadway now billed as a 40-storey tower in DP stage. Comment period open until July 4th. Updated diagrams show that shadow studies used in rezoning stage were wrong.

1477 W Broadway Development Permit

The Development Permit application for 1477 W Broadway is now billed as a 40-storey tower with an 8-storey podium. During the rezoning stage, the tower was referred to as being 39-storeys in height. The applicant has added another storey in the upper floors of the tower by varying height (above level 36). A Public Comment period is open until July 4th. A Development Permit Board meeting has been scheduled for September 6, 2022 to review this proposal. A total of 226 rental units are proposed in the tower (up from 223 in the rezoning stage). Further details about the proposal can be found on the ShapeYourCity webpage for 1477 West Broadway.

The shadow studies that were used at the Public Hearing and all through the rezoning stage were wrong (see our previous post for a detailed analysis). Now the architects, Musson Cattel Mackey Partnership (MCM), have submitted shadow studies that contradict their earlier work. The new shadow studies are more in line for what might be expected for this site. Here’s a comparison between the rezoning application and development application of MCM’s renderings for one of the times used in the shadow study (spring equinox 10am):

There’s an open question of how incorrect shadow studies sailed through the rezoning stage without even a whimper from staff. Why did City staff refuse to correct the shadow studies after the errors were repeatedly pointed out during the rezoning process and at the Public Hearing? These shadows studies were done by an architecture office. Only architects who are members of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) can practice in BC. A professional body such as the AIBC is allowed to self regulate, and it has a crucial role to protect the public interest.

The rezoning and now development permit application for the site at 1477 W Broadway has gone through many changes and iterations. The development permit board has previously approved a five-storey mixed office and commercial building at this location on December 9, 2019. There is also the curious sale of City land for $3.795 million that now has been integrated into the site (was it sold for well below market value?). We’ve included a list of several posts to provide further details about this site at 1477 West Broadway:

Compare the upper part of the south elevation drawing from the rezoning application (left) with the development permit application drawing (right). Click to enlarge.

Compare real world photo (left) with rendering provided by the applicant (right)

 

City staff want to remove funding for outdoor pool in Mt Pleasant Park from Capital Plan (Wed, June 29th)

Mount Pleasant Pool was demolished in 2010 under a Park Board with a Vision Vancouver majority

The City Manager and the Director of Finance are recommending that the Outdoor Pool in Mount Pleasant Park not be funded in the upcoming 2023-2016 Capital Plan. There’s a Special Meeting of Council regarding the 2023-2026 Capital Plan on Wednesday, June 29th starting at 9:30am. Please note that interested speakers need to sign up before 8:30am (on Wednesday).

The estimated cost of the Mount Pleasant Pool was $11,439,100 according to the Outdoor Pool Study that was reviewed by Park Board on November 15, 2021. Now City of Vancouver staff are claiming the following:

Cost estimate – $15-20 million (including cost escalation) based on the 2021 study and the new outdoor pool at Oak Park.”

There’s no explanation about how an $11.4 million cost estimate suddenly balloons to $15-20 million.

Perhaps the lack of funding for the Outdoor Pool in Mount Pleasant highlights the absolute lack of scrutiny over the 2023-2026 Draft Capital Plan. The allocation of $3.5 billion in capital investment over 4 years will be for the most part determined at the upcoming Special Meeting of Council. For more details on the Capital Plan, please see our preview of Council meetings on June 28th and 29th.

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Scot Hein’s analysis of three-tower rezoning proposal at 1780 E Broadway and Commercial (Safeway site). Public hearing July 7th

Above: Click to view the video

Scot Hein is an adjunct professor in the master of urban design program at University of British Columbia. He was previously the senior urban designer with the City of Vancouver.

Scot Hein’s presentation, featured in this post, was originally done in preparation for a meeting that was scheduled with Mayor Stewart on May 10, 2022. Unfortunately, that meeting ended up as a presentation to a only couple of City staffers, with no mayor present. The video of the presentation was recorded at a Public Forum of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council on June 6, 2022. In the presentation, he examines “the accountability and integrity of the public process” still believes that a “win-win” scenario is possible, but that it will take “huge political will” to make it happen. He outlines a number of key areas that show a “public process disconnection / breach of trust”. Notably, he ran the City of Vancouver’s Urban Design Studio for the last 10 years of his 20 year tenure at the CoV, before leaving in 2014, and shifting over to teach urban design at UBC.

The Public Hearing for the rezoning at 1780 East Broadway is scheduled for Thursday, July 7th at 6pm. Speaker registration and comments are now open on the public hearing agenda page. More information about the rezoning application can be found on the City’s ShapeYourCity portal and a grassroots community group analysis of the proposal is available at No Safeway Megatowers.

Above: Former City of Vancouver Senior Urban Designer Scot Hein presented a detailed history and analysis of the Safeway site rezoning at 1780 East Broadway

Scot has also published a book in 2022 entitled Zoning Must Evolve. Some of his material is also available on Spacing Vancouver (http://spacing.ca/). A recent article is “Broadway and Commercial: A Public Process Failure?” (June 14, 2022)