Demolition and construction impacts: If you live or work anywhere in Vancouver (especially these 84 addresses), you WILL be affected

Construction at Fraser and Broadway(Update July 15, 2013 — Neither the Mayor or any councillor has yet acknowledged receipt of this message.)

Take the CityHallWatch Challenge: On a map of Vancouver and draw a radius of a few blocks around every site or area mentioned here. Read on and you will quickly realize that you risk being affected by demolition and construction disturbances (see below) from 7:30 am until 8 pm, six days a week, in the coming months and years if you happen to live or work in or near any of the 84 addresses listed at the bottom of this message. (See new list as of July 5, 2013, here.)

Or in any of these areas: the Georgia Viaducts (proposed demolition and development district), along the Broadway Corridor (subway being proposed), within several blocks of Oakridge Mall (about 14 towers and mall development proposed) or any neighbourhood shopping area and along any arterial street (basically, any street a traffic light on it, which may all be up-zoned in July 2013 under the “Interim Rezoning Policy”), in the Norquay neighbourhood (area-wide up-zoning April 9), in the Downtown Eastside, Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, West End (four community plans nearing completion), or for that matter in any neighbourhood in Vancouver (Regional Context Statement to be adopted July 2013).

We know that the City can and should improve its bylaws and enforcement to better protect its citizens from impacts of demolition and construction. After reading this, you may feel motivated to write Vancouver Mayor and Council ( with your own message, and reflect these points in your own words at every public consultation and public hearing.

The health and livelihood impacts of demolition and construction on communities are significant and likely to become increasingly controversial in Vancouver as the city is now at an all-time high in development, and many major policies that will affect the pace and location of development are approaching adoption or implementation in 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, we know that Vancouver bylaws and practices controlling the negative impacts of construction are substandard and that the City is now reviewing the Vancouver Building Bylaw, so right now is an opportunity for public input.

Letter from CityHallWatch to Vancouver Mayor and Council, 2 April 2013

Dear Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver City Councillors,

We are writing to request that you review and improve the bylaws governing the impacts of demolition and construction on Vancouver neighbourhoods, and also step up their actual monitoring and enforcement.

You may have heard that CityHallWatch issued a statement indicating that we had learned the City Hall amended bylaws to permit construction in all neighbourhoods 24 hours a day. The statement garnered considerable attention. Shortly after noon on April 1st we issued an update online indicating that it was an April Fool’s stunt, as most people guessed, and provided the background on the more serious background story. We apologize if the communications happened to place an extra burden on City staff.

The objective of this statement was to draw attention to the topics raised. We understand that the Noise Bylaw, Building Bylaw, and Traffic Bylaw govern various aspects of construction impacts on the residents of Vancouver, and that the Building Bylaw is currently under review, so now is an opportune time for public dialogue.

Major policies that will affect the pace and location of development are approaching adoption or implementation and could become increasingly controversial as residents experience the effects of more of these construction projects, large and small, over a long period of time.

Please consider these points:

• Vancouver should study the best North American by-laws and practices for dealing with noise, transportation, construction and development. Findings should be made public.

• Vancouver appears to have substandard bylaws in some areas compared to other municipalities — for example, it has no bylaw on ground vibrations from construction, while Toronto does. Implementation and enforcement also appears to be substandard to some jurisdictions. Specific examples can be provided upon request.

• Vancouver is currently amending the Vancouver Building Bylaw, and now is the time for public attention, dialogue and involvement.

• Everyone needs to have greater awareness about the negative impacts on livability of demolition and construction as the focus of development appears to be moving from “brownfield developments” such at the north shore of False Creek and Coal Harbour, to intensification of construction in mature neighbourhoods.

• Bylaws are supposed to balance the need to protect livability and the public interest first and secondly, after this is addressed, facilitate construction and/or serve the development industry.

• Negative impacts of construction are experienced at many sites around the city today. The City needs to give more consideration of the cumulative impacts of these projects on the health of residents and neighbourhoods of Vancouver.

• Both developers and the City need to communicate better (and both ways – speak and listen) with affected residents regarding construction management. This includes consulting with affected residents and communities on issues such as “exceptions” to noise bylaw requirements, and the desirability of alternatives to handling site management and construction practices.

• City Council might also consider imposing requirements on developers to go beyond the absolute minimum bylaw requirements, when approving rezoning or development proposals, and incorporate this thinking into the Development Permit Board and Urban Design Panel.

• It is worth asking if the entire regulatory system and its implementation are biased in favour of the construction industry. Are citizens’ concerns about health, safety, and livability impacts of demolition and construction given enough respect by City Council and advisory bodies like the Urban Design Panel?

Here below are just a few specific examples of topics requiring attention. As you know, the Noise Bylaw currently permits loud construction noise in all neighbourhoods from 7:30 am (from 10 am on Saturday) until 8 pm, six days a week. We believe the City should review whether or not these hours are acceptable in all neighbourhoods, but especially in the most densely populated neighbourhoods. Please give special consideration to the fact that many seniors, young children, home-bound and shift workers are at home when you currently permit construction disturbances. Also, in contrast to other municipalities, Vancouver has no bylaw governing ground vibration from construction. Pounding from demolition and construction can be jarring and disruptive and has an enormous impact on people’s lives.

Other impacts of demolition and construction include traffic, odor, hazardous fumes, dust, and increased safety risks. We can provide specific recent examples upon request. The combination of the noise and the sounds can be more than a nuisance. Then can be stressful, can affect mental and physical health, and can continue for months or years, six days a week. They can affect quality of life and livability of a neighbourhood. There is also a need for better efforts to coordinate the timing of various construction activities. As one example, the central part of the West End has been experiencing a triple-whammy of construction impacts, with sewer and watermain work, construction of the Comox Greenway, and excavation at 1401 Comox (1061 Broughton). Meanwhile, a tower is being built at Bidwell and Davie, and the just-approved construction at Beach Towers will affect thousands of residents once work begins there.

The impacts of demolition and construction on communities are significant and should not be trivialized. It may be easy for some Councillors, staff, or industry representatives to ignore concerns, saying that construction impacts are a necessary “cost” of development that residents must bear. But if you look more closely, you will also see that on each project, choices are consciously made that can exacerbate or mitigate the negative impacts. Without requirements imposed or guidance offered from our local government, the industry will typically choose the cheapest route, which often comes with more severe neighbourhood impacts.

Through our April 1st communications we tried to get some public attention to these topics in a creative way. We know that this has been achieved. We now hope that as our elected officials at City Hall, you will consider these points and take action on them after meaningful public consultation. The issues are significant, affect a large and growing number of Vancouver residents, are long-term, and are not likely to disappear.



List of rezoning application sites in process or approved, as of 2 April 2013

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3 thoughts on “Demolition and construction impacts: If you live or work anywhere in Vancouver (especially these 84 addresses), you WILL be affected

  1. Pingback: (April Fools Day Special) City of Vancouver to amend bylaws to permit construction 24 hours a day, FOI inquiry reveals | CityHallWatch: Tools for engagement in Vancouver city decisions, creating our future.

  2. Hi,
    I was sent this link by a friend. We recently have spent 8 weeks on holiday in an apartment facing Burrard Street. It was spoiled by the noise of the construction works on neighbouring buildings and having seen the notices of future development works it will get worse. This was a looked forward to and expensive holiday and the result is that we will never visit Vancouver again and have advised friends to cancel any ideas of doing so. We were shocked at how the health and welfare of residents appears to have been ignored by the City government. The noise and dust from 7.30 to 19.30, 6 days a week caused us stress and we both developed coughs. I can imagine that this has a more adverse and severe effect on people who will endure it for years to come. The construction of Vancouver buildings is poor in relation to stopping outside noise.Your Mayor and elected officials need to get out of their offices and take off their “rose tined” glasses. Vancouver is currently neither a great place to visit let alone live. If they do not listen, well use your vote next time to make them.

    Good luck with your mission.

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