Proposed bylaw change would let Vancouver city engineers make changes to roads without seeking council approval: City Council May 16 (Tues)

City HallAn important staff report goes to City Council on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

Complete Streets Policy Framework and Related By-law Changes
Dale Bracewell, Branch Manager, Transportation Planning, to present on the Administrative Report dated April 19, 2017.
http://council.vancouver.ca/20170516/documents/rr2.pdf

Anyone with an opinion on this can write or speak to City Council. For e-mail, write mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca.

The word usage of “complete streets” sounds very positive, but careful review of the contents is needed to understand what is going on. In the article cited below, Council is set to make a decision that would let Vancouver city engineers make changes to roads without seeking council approval. That would make decisions easier to fly “under the radar,” and our elected officials could evade public pressure. Meanwhile, we have witnessed the extreme pressure on staff, which could result in even top managers fired on a moment’s notice without any convincing public explanation. If the Vision Vancouver majority on Council votes as  a bloc on this proposal and lets it go ahead, it could be unleashing significant consequences down the road, whether under the current regime, or future political regimes.

This delegation trend is similar to what the West End has witnessed with rezoning approvals for major towers in large sections of the community — public involvement being severely curtailed, and decisions being made internally by just three staff members in the Development Permit Board. Also, until West End Neighbours won a court case, Council was delegating authority to the City Manager to waive development levies.

Here is what Elvira, one civic activist, wrote to council: I’m not in favour of City By-Law changes giving City Engineers and the Transportation Dept the authority to make changes to roads and sidewalks without approval from council. Such changes could include REMOVING TRAFFIC LANES OR PARKING SPACES to make room for WIDENED SIDEWALKS or cycling infrastructure. This is heading down a slippery slope. We did not elect the Engineers, we elected the Council. Yes, the current process might seem more bureaucratic and time consuming, but that is the price we pay for living in a democracy. These decisions should be made by the elected representatives who are answerable to the electorate, not the bureaucrats, even with their “so-called” public consultation promises.

**********

‘Buck stops here’: Vancouver councillor taken aback by staff request for authority over road use decisions — Proposed bylaw changes would let Vancouver city engineers make changes to roads without seeking council approval.
(by Matt Kieltyka, Metro News Vancouver, 11-May-2007)
http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/05/11/vancouver-council-against-staff-authority-for-road-decisions.html

Excerpts:

  • One Vancouver city councillor is “very uncomfortable” with proposed bylaw changes that would let engineers make changes to roads without approval from council.
  • A report going to council Tuesday seeks bylaw revisions and expanded delegated authority “to facilitate more efficient delivery of important Complete Street improvements” under the city’s Transportation 2040 plan.
  • Such changes could include removing traffic lanes or parking spaces to make room for widened sidewalks or cycling infrastructure.
  • The city’s director of transportation planning, Dale Bracewell, told Metro the existing Street and Traffic Bylaw dates back to 1944, when Vancouver was more “car-centric”, and is in need of modernizing. If approved, the changes would let crews make small “one-off intersection” and “spot” improvements to local streets without the need for reports to council and approval, he said.
  • … But Bracewell admitted the proposed bylaws don’t set any parameters over which kind of project do or don’t need council’s approval before going forward.
  • Given the intense public backlash over
    – Point Grey Road,
    – Commercial Drive,
    – a proposed bike lane through Kitsilano beach and
    – reduced parking around Vancouver General Hospital,
    Non-Partisan Association councillor George Affleck told Metro he’s not comfortable with staff making any similar road use changes in the future without city council’s oversight
  • “It’s a great way for Vision Vancouver to avoid having to talk about bike lanes ever again. It would make me very uncomfortable,” said Affleck. “In my mind, the buck stops at council. Decisions on major developments, how we build our city, streets … those kind of decisions should be discussed in public with council oversight. That’s our job and when we start skipping that process, we’re in big trouble.”
  • Affleck said he voted in favour of the city’s long-term Transportation 2040 plan with the understanding council would be the ones making “decisions on specific details as they move forward.”
    “[The bylaw revisions] go against what I believe was the intention of that plan and why I supported it,” he said. “Changing a speed bump is one thing. But if you’re changing and getting rid of a lane or parking for bike lanes, making change that has significant impact not only on the neighbourhood but the city at large, city council should be making a decision on it.”
    According to the staff report, the bylaw amendments give the city engineer delegated authority to reallocate public right of ways for different modes and uses, divert general motor traffic from streets and reroute transit routes onto different streets, with the support of TransLink.
  • Bracewell said the city would still be required to notify people affected by any changes and engage in public consultations, as it currently does.
    “Clearly, hopefully, you read in the report that [staff] is absolutely committed to do the consultation,” he said. “I honestly believe that if we were at least writing less council reports, we would even do a little bit more consultation. We would err on the side of doing more.”
  • [CityHallWatch comment: We have witnessed concrete examples in which development approval decisions by the Development Permit Board were actually made BEFORE the end of the public comment period. We have also witness cases in which the agenda for a DPB meeting are made public ONE HOUR before the meeting — even despite a complaint being made in advance to the City Manager. It could be unwise to trust these general statements of Bracewell. If the system is set up for abuse, you can expect that it will be abused some time in the future, whether intentionally by City officials, or by incompetence.

Full article: http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/05/11/vancouver-council-against-staff-authority-for-road-decisions.html

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