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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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
- 108 East 1st Avenue (104-150 East 1st Avenue) – Approved
- 1870 East 1st Avenue and 1723 Victoria Drive – Approved
- 963 East 19th Avenue (DE413541) (960 Kingsway) – Proposed – Open House Scheduled (April 3, 2013)
- 1729, 1733 and 1735 East 33rd Avenue – Approved
- 140 West 1st Avenue (DE411503) – Approved
- 2001 West 10th Avenue – Approved
- 998 West 26th Avenue (Vancouver Talmud Torah School) – Approved
- 605-645 West 41st Avenue – Enacted
- 650 West 41st Avenue (Oakridge Centre) – Proposed
- 665-685 West 41st Avenue, 5675 Manson Street, and 5688 Heather Street – Proposed
- 755-795 West 41st Avenue – Proposed
- 2803 West 41st Avenue (Crofton Manor) – Approved
- 3205-3221 West 41st Avenue and 5590 Balaclava Street – Approved
- 100 West 49th Avenue (Langara College) – Approved
- 4255 Arbutus Street (Arbutus Centre) – Approved
- 1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street – Approved
- 851-951 Boundary Road (Taylor Manor) – Approved
- 5515-5665 Boundary Road, 5448-5666 Ormidale Street and 3690 Vanness Street – Approved
- 228-246 East Broadway & 180 Kingsway – Approved
- 3030 East Broadway, Broadway Tech Centre East Campus – Proposed
- 984 West Broadway – Approved
- 2678 West Broadway – Proposed
- 3002-3036 West Broadway – Proposed
- 1290 Burrard Street & 1281 Hornby Street (Burrard Gateway) – Proposed
- 2806-2850 Cambie Street and 454 West 12th Avenue – Proposed
- 4139-4187 Cambie Street – Proposed – Open House Scheduled (April 4, 2013)
- 4412-4488 Cambie Street – Proposed
- 4533-4591 Cambie Street and 510 West 29th Avenue – Approved
- 4837-4861 Cambie Street – Enacted
- 4949-5109 Cambie Street – Proposed
- 6311 Cambie Street – Approved
- 6361-6385 Cambie Street – Approved
- 1401 Comox Street (DE413347) – Enacted
- 1388 Continental Street (1349 Granville Street and 725 Neon Street) (DE415460) – Approved
- 2405, 2423 and 2445 Cornwall Avenue – Proposed
- 7249 Cypress Street – Proposed
- 3212 East Boulevard – Approved
- 320 Granville Street – Proposed
- 1077 Great Northern Way (MEC Head Office) – Enacted
- 800 Griffiths Way (Rogers Arena) – Approved
- 41 East Hastings Street – Proposed
- 955 East Hastings Street – Approved
- 4899 Heather Street (749 West 33rd Avenue) (DE416156) – Proposed – Public Hearing Scheduled (April 9, 2013)
- 508 Helmcken Street – Proposed
- 475 Howe Street and 819-829 West Pender Street (The Exchange) – Approved
- 960 and 982 Howe Street – Approved
- 1265-1281 Howe Street and 803-821 Drake Street – Approved
- 1412-1460 Howe Street, 1410 and 1429 Granville Street, and 710 Pacific Street – Proposed
- 3455 Kaslo Street (2750 East 18th Avenue) – Proposed
- 2220 Kingsway – Proposed – Public Hearing Scheduled (April 9, 2013)
- 3068 Kingsway (DE413545) – Proposed
- 1568 E King Edward (formerly 1526-1560 Kingsway) (DE416646) – Proposed – Open House Scheduled (April 2, 2013)
- 611 Main Street – Approved
- 633 Main Street – Approved
- 1695 Main Street (DE411865) – Enacted
- 2290 Main Street – Proposed
- 1700 Manitoba Street (2-88 West 1st Avenue) – Enacted
- 445 Southwest Marine Drive (Marine Gardens) – Proposed
- 1041 Southwest Marine Drive (Coast Hotel) – Approved
- 1920 Southwest Marine Drive (Casa Mia)– Proposed
- 4350 Oak Street (Beth Israel Synagogue) – Enacted
- 4500 Oak Street (Children’s & Women’s Health Centre) – Approved
- 6010-6050 Oak Street – Approved
- 6110-6170 Oak Street and 975 West 46th Avenue – Enacted
- 750 Pacific Boulevard (Plaza of Nations) – Proposed
- 1754-1772 Pendrell Street – Proposed
- 3837 Point Grey Road (Jericho Tennis Club) – Approved
- 606 Powell Street – Approved
- 807 Powell Street – Proposed
- 1107 Seymour Street – Proposed
- 4320 Slocan Street (DE415814) – Approved
- 5731 St. George Street – Enacted
- 5761-5775 St. George Street – Enacted
- 10 Terry Fox Way (Area 5B West), also known as 47 Nelson Street – Proposed
- 745 Thurlow Street – Enacted
- 970 Union Street – Proposed
- 5805 Wales Street (Avalon Dairy) – Proposed