The Development Permit Board consists of four senior staff at Vancouver City Hall. City Council is giving it increasing power to approve massive developments — a trend that circumvents public input. But there seem to be systemic delays in the timely disclosure of DPB documents to the public, which puts the public at a huge disadvantage.
As a case in point, on Monday, June 15, the DPB will review DE418950, an application at 1128 Alberni to change the “permitted” use of 96 units at Carmana Plaza from “hotel” to “residential.” But as of 4 pm on Friday, the meeting documents were still not published online. However, as a result of CityHallWatch’s request, staff provided them by e-mail at 3:09 pm. We have uploaded them (see below, along with excerpts of communication with staff) for the public to download. (Note that we have learned that the crucial staff report on this application is dated May 20, which is twenty-four (24) days ago. That date also happens to be the same cutoff date as the last day for public input. So the report was ready instantly!)
Today CityHallWatch wrote the DPB asking for the meeting documents to be made public. Typically, the documents are ready about two weeks before the meeting, but here is a case in which the documents are only published one business day before the meeting. Further below is text of the e-mail, and the e-mail trail in response. We plan to follow up with Mayor and Council regarding the systemic problems exposed by this case.
Excerpt of our first e-mail: With this property, and properties like it in the West End, being pre-zoned for higher density development, submissions to the Development Permit Board are the public’s only opportunity to provide comment directly to those making approval decisions regarding these projects.
The City has an obligation to share with the public the application details and the results of the city review (including the summary of public input received) of the projects in a timely manner — one that allows the public adequate time to prepare to offer informed input to the Development Permit Board
(Another problem is that it appears the applicant Peterson Investment Group has been violating the permitted use for about ten years already, by operating a hotel in those 96 units when they should have been on West End’s the rental market — so this case exposes contradictions in the City’s words and actions regarding provision of rental housing.)
After 5 pm, the documents were still not posted on the City’s web page.
But individuals who received the staff report by e-mail will know the staff recommendation: That the DPB approve the application.
We are considering filing a request to Vancouver Police Department on this case. The owner has violated the law for years running a hotel in violation of the permit. The City has looked the other way. Now Peterson Investment Group requests formal approval for a hotel. City Hall has knowingly failed to enforce its own bylaws. Now, staff are recommending approval of the request. No penalty for the violation. The message is that City of Vancouver bylaws are meaningless. Violations are selectively ignored. Special violators are rewarded. In this case, the violator is a prominent land owner. And a funder of the ruling party. We have seen that the BC Supreme Court will not defend the public in land use cases. Public servants will not. City Council looks the other way. The last recourse may be law enforcement. But the Mayor of Vancouver is chair of the Vancouver Police Board. What next?
DOWNLOADS for June 15 meeting (received by CHW from staff at 3:10 pm Fri):
- CoV DPB, Minutes, including 1128 Alberni, 10-Jan-2011
- CoV DPB, 1128 Alberni, Hotel Proposal – Change of Use (combined), 17-Dec-2014
- CoV DPB, staff report, 1128 Alberni, DE418950, for 15-June-2015 (People should note that this report is dated May 20. Why did City Hall postpone its public release? Also, public input was being accepted to the end of the day on May 20. How could the report be complete before all public input was received?)
- Note that the architectural drawings are here.
RELATED POSTS ON CITYHALLWATCH
City claims ignorance on Carmana Plaza permit violation (rentals as hotel). Public correction needed? (CityHallWatch, 12-May-2015)
E-MAIL TRAIL FROM FIRST TO LAST
Date: Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 2:05 PM
Subject: 1128 Alberni Street – DE418950, DPB 15 June. Please post meeting documents so public can prepare input
To: “Harvey, Lorna” (DPB Secretary)
Cc: “Mayor and Council” “Project Facilitator”
Dear Ms. Harvey,
cc. Project Facilitator, and Mayor and Council (Please note our concerns about timely provision of information to the public)
We are interested in the Development Permit Board meeting at 3 pm on Monday June 15 regarding 1128 Alberni Street, in which the applicant is seeking approval for “interior alterations and change of use of a portion of 1128 Alberni Street tower from residential to hotel.”
Can you please indicate when the staff report on this application will be posted online?
It is now 2 pm on Friday afternoon, June 12. As of this moment, the meeting materials have NOT been posted on the City of Vancouver web page for the DPB meeting.
We note that in previous examples, staff reports for a DPB meeting are typically dated a couple weeks before the meeting. Presumably, the report for this meeting exists already and has been circulated internally at City Hall. But it is not yet available to the public. Why is the publication of the material delayed to the last minute?
With this property, and properties like it in the West End, being pre-zoned for higher density development, submissions to the Development Permit Board are the public’s only opportunity to provide comment directly to those making approval decisions regarding these projects.
The City has an obligation to share with the public the application details and the results of the city review (including the summary of public input received) of the projects in a timely manner — one that allows the public adequate time to prepare to offer informed input to the Development Permit Board.
We note that this application represents a loss of 96 units of rental accommodation in the West End, a neighbourhood that suffers from a very low vacancy rate. Many people are also concerned that the owner of the property has apparently been violating the permitted use for about a decade, depriving the market of these 96 rental units, while the owner, Peterson Investment Group, operates a hotel.
We hope the information will be made public soon!
CityHallWatch Media Foundation
Automatic reply FROM Harvey, Lorna 2:05 PM
I am currently away from the office and will be returning Monday, June 15, 2015 at 9:00 AM. If you require assistance in the meantime please contact Lidia McLeod.
From: CityHallWatch, 2:08 PM
To: Mcleod, Lidia
… We received an auto reply from Ms. Harvey saying she is away until Monday and to contact you.
We would appreciate a response and action today.
FROM Mcleod, Lidia, 2:39 PM
Unfortunately the City website has been experiencing some technical difficulties for the past several days, and we have been unable to make updates to the Development Permit Board webpage. Our IT department is currently working with us in order to resolve the issue, and we hope to have the agenda and materials available online before 5pm today. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused in the meantime.
As I am not the most qualified person to answer your other question I am going to forward it to Anita Molaro, the Assistant Director of Planning. Thank you for your enquiry and I hope you have a great weekend.
From: CityHallWatch, 2:50 PM
Thank you, Lidia,
… If the document already exists, and since it is supposed to be a public document anyway, and in consideration of the City’s website problems, perhaps you could send it immediately to anyone who requests it by e-mail. This would be very helpful, and also avoid the scenario of the crucial documents not being available to interested parties until some time on Monday or not at all.
If the City is unable to provide the information to the public in a timely way today, one additional option would be to REMOVE 1128 Alberni from the agenda for June 15 and reset it to a future DPB meeting, in order to give the public adequate time to review the materials. This is one specific case, but we would the City will look at this topic of timely disclosure of DPB meeting materials and performance standards of the DPB as a systemic issue, putting the public interest first.
From Wroblewski, Andrew, project facilitator, 2:58 PM
To CityHallWatch, Lidia, Lorna, Anita
I will follow up with an e-mail to you, and everyone who responded to the notification with, with a copy of the report. The appendices will be too large to e-mail but they mostly reference the plans that are already on-line.
Andrew Wroblewski, Project Facilitator | Development Services
Wroblewski, Andrew, 3:09 PM
To: Unspecified recipients
Due some technical difficulties with our website, we have not yet been able to post the Development Permit Board report. We hope to have this situation resolved shortly.
As a respondent from the notification process, I am e-mailing you a copy of the report.
The architectural drawing are online here.
Andrew Wroblewski, Project Facilitator | Development Services
NOTE – 3 attachments came with this e-mail. CityHallWatch has renamed the files and posted them online in this page.