Pitched battle in Dunbar Ryerson United Church (45th and Yew) rezoning? Public Hearing Oct 17 (Tue): Open minds and respectful consideration of both sides needed.

2165-2195 West 45th Ryerson Dunbar United, rezoning 17-Oct-2017(Update: After hearing from speakers for and against, the Public Hearing ended on Oct 17. City Council will debate and vote on the application during a regular council meeting two weeks later, on Oct 31.)

The rezoning at Dunbar Ryerson United Church (2165-2195 West 45th Avenue and b) 2205-2291 West 45th Avenue) is the fifth item on the agenda for the Public Hearing on Tuesday, October 17. People are encouraged to follow @vancityclerk on Twitter for live updates on the progress of the meeting on the day.

Public Hearing (Tuesday, October 17, 2017) agenda, documents, and correspondence: Click here.

This one is looking like a hot topic for two sides. On one side is “abundant housing” activists from around the city who organized to call for increased density anywhere and everywhere, often without acknowledgement of the many other drivers of housing affordability, and without regard for local community concerns. Some congregation members also appear to support the rezoning.

On the other side are community residents who have organized as Ryerson Neighbours (www.facebook.com/ryersonneighbours).

A group of the “affordable housing” (increase supply at any cost) side set up a web page for people to click online to send their support to City Council, and their letters are prominent among the correspondence sent to City Council. (These account for over 60% of letters to Council, as of Oct 13.)

We hope that in all rezonings, both sides are respectful of others’ views.

Representative of the supply side activists is a UBC professor named Tom Davidoff of the UBC Sauder School of Business, who is closely associated with Affordable Housing Vancouver. It is unfortunate that a university professor attempts to discredit community voices by belittling local concerns: In his letter to Council, he wrote “….do the NIMBY neighbours really want to take on the representatives of what some people believe to be humankind’s savior to avoid some hypothetical damage to their extremely high property values?

We hope that others will not follow his example and that they will not fall into the habit of writing off others simply as NIMBYs.

Concerns raised by those who live in the Kerrisdale Ryerson neighbourhood include:

  • Precedent Setting Rezoning: City would rezone to allow an 8 storey-plus building, contravening the ARKS Community Vision
  • 8-storey building is incompatible with existing streetscape and defies existing zoning policy; even developments on West Boulevard, an arterial route, do not exceed  4 storeys
  • Lack of appropriate stepped-down transition/buffer from apartment zone to RS-5 residential areas: as achieved by 3-storey townhomes in the5300 block Larch St.
  • Shadow impact on homes, especially to north and east, will keep residents in the dark during fall and winter months
  • Loss of amenities: gympre-school
  • Loss of sidewalk-level green spaces and mature trees
  • Increased traffic along 45th Ave, a designated bike route
  • Dramatic change of church property use: concert venue, rehearsal space, and meeting rooms could draw 800 people a day; yet only 45 parking spaces provided
  • No drop off zone for the church or activity centre 
  • Loss of character homes on 45th Avenue
  • Up to a decade of phased construction noise, dust and disruption for residents
  • Transportation plan fails to address significant changes in neighbourhood density and venue use

A few issues not mentioned in the list:

  • The Planning Dept. makes statements about “32 units of affordable housing,” but actually 10 of them are at market rental.  See chart from their policy report, pg. 10.Dunbar Ryerson housing units table
  • The Planning Dept. refers to a “community centre” but it is actually the Church’s activity centre, not to be confused with the Kerrisdale Community Centre 2 blocks away.  The church wants us to believe this is for the local community but it is actually a destination for people from other communities and offers little that the neighbours are interested in.
  • The Planning Dept. says this is not a spot rezone but it is.
  • This development will put a nine-storey building (8 floors plus mechanical penthouse) across from a bungalow and two-storey houses.  Nowhere else in Kerrisdale is there a tower across from a house.  It doesn’t happen often elsewhere in Vancouver either, except where houses sit on recently-upzoned lots, yet the owners across from Ryerson’s proposed tower are told they will not be allowed to upzone.

4 thoughts on “Pitched battle in Dunbar Ryerson United Church (45th and Yew) rezoning? Public Hearing Oct 17 (Tue): Open minds and respectful consideration of both sides needed.

  1. “yet the owners across from Ryerson’s proposed tower are told they will not be allowed to upzone.”

    If you know any of these homeowners interested in rezoning their own lots tell them they should get in touch with us. We at Abundant Housing Vancouver would happily advocate on their behalf after we help get Dunbar-Ryerson approved!

    Beyond that, I find the characterization of our position as “supply at any cost” as misleading. Sprawl, for instance, is rather bad. Directing new multifamily housing only onto areas where multifamily housing (as is done in Metrotown) is a recipe for mass displacement, and broadly unfair. Focusing new housing on rezoning industrial lands where there are few to complain can harm the regional economy.

    So if we shouldn’t sprawl, we shouldn’t displace rental apartments, we shouldn’t remove industry, where should more poeple live? Why, current single family neighbourhoods!

    And as it happens, single family neighbourhoods take up most of the region’s residential land, and the priorities that lead to the creation of single family zoning were riddled with racism, classism, and rent-seeking. Sounds like an area to add much needed housing in a region suffering from crushingly low residential vacancy rates and multi-million dollar detached manses.

  2. Brendan Dawe, you are so far from having genuine concern that the only one who can’t see it is yourself.

    Your group, Abundant Housing Vancouver, is an astroturf group organized in July 2016. Just after Bob Rennie mused about wanting to duplicate San Francisco’s developer advocacy group YIMBY, and a few months before Gregor Robertson’s Chief of Staff Mike Magee resigned and promised to not lobby Vancouver city hall directly even though he has been a frequent guest since then.

    Personal endorsements by Tom Davidoff, Colin Hansen, and Andrew Wilkinson make Rennie’s involvement pretty clear. Coordination of messaging with the Mayor’s office, taking turns using specific language and topics, along with Sarah Zaharia of the Mayor’s office organizing 3 appearances on Global BC to feature Abundant Housing twice and a sympathetic feature for the the United Church in the middle, is indication of Mike Magee’s involvement.

    So why did the group sit dormant for 7-8 months? Why all of this energy into a single development that will be developed by Bruno Wall and marketed by Bob Rennie?

    Why do you advocate against broad based rezoning? Why do you try to provoke a strong first-reaction like a propagandist, but then get twisted in your own unforced contradictions?

    A single project spread across parts of 2 blocks will not be felt by the city, and yet the time and energy you spend trying to convince good people that supporting the Mayor’s position is all or nothing, there can be no discussion, that they must get very emotional so they don’t stop to think and ask questions.

    Questions like why is it a good idea to grant Rennie+Wall a bunch of money to build more luxury condos that were being pre-sold a year before VV even created a definition of ‘Affordable Rental Housing’?

    It’s not about the church, they have $20 million in the bank from selling the Dunbar congregation against its membership’s will. That’s on top of the $7 million Tim Stevenson voted to give the United Church for St James, which the church gets to operate and rent out even though they no longer own it. Ryerson itself has a string of AirBnB rentals. The rezoning is a complete departure from precedent with St Mary’s to the north, and St Faith’s to the south. In fact the Christian Science church just over on East Boulevard is presently being redeveloped to a much lower density, and to approve that the city said there was no demand for church space.

    The houses and trees slated for demolishing are older than the church itself. The project isn’t green, as it wants to create an outdoor plaza with big paving stones.

    It’s not about upzoning Kerrisdale, which was requested in the ARKS Community Vision that Vision Vancouver has done nothing to implement since it was completed in 2005.

    “Abundant Housing” the astroturf group has silently approved the planning department rebuffing Bosa and other developers along West Boulevard and 41st from seeking rezoning, even though they are much better situated and in line with the ARKS community vision — where density could be increased, and gradually transition lower away from the arterial roads. So the recently completed, under construction, and beginning excavation projects are capped at 4 stories on much larger parcels of land, at about a quarter of the density Ryerson is asking for. Similarly “Abundant Housing” is specifically arguing that upzoning of neighbouring properties should not happen, as it would be “giving millions to those who do not deserve it” (I suppose a 30 year tenant of a co-op is low status compared to each of the following who will pocket millions from this project in the United Church, Bruno Wall, and Bob Rennie)

    Doing ad-hoc rezoning is slow, it’s expensive per square foot, it monopolizes new buildable land into a few hands that can ration it out at fixed prices. It destroys public trust when every significant concern is pre-determined in backrooms, with no guidance from common principles or expectation. The land grants through CD-1 rezoning are akin to off-the-books spending, and the price the developer pays is set at a fraction of the market price. Furthermore, it’s all based on a pro-forma provided by the developer and there have been unreported serious failings where city staff paid the developer much more because they trusted fudged numbers.

    The Mayor’s office, the planning department should not be advocates who mislead, manipulate, and betray those they are paid to serve. Ideally, they should bring everyone together and go forward with a consensus. Kitsilano and Kerrisdale were the 2 densest neighbourhoods in Vancouver until a decade ago. Since then the moratorium was put in place on demolishing the old, affordable, low-rise walkup apartments (which rent for 50-75% of what the ‘VV defined affordable rental housing that carries no guarantees of continuation’ do, and the units are bigger, and they have parking). How is it that a professional department suddenly under Vision Vancouver has lost its ability to demonstrate its process by highlighting precedent and comparables.

    If it’s all about money, why doesn’t the planning department let the public see the calculations. It would be a lot simpler, however when you are afraid of being prosecuted by a future Charbonneau Commission, there is a clear incentive to have vague contradictory policies like Greenest City, Heritage Action Plan, Rental 100, Affordable Rental Housing Plan, End Homelessness, etc.

    So Brendan Dawe, decide what you want and tell us. Just don’t tell me how I should think or feel because I am not interested in being your useful idiot.

    Tell me, what’s your opinion about subsidizing vacant lots by eliminating their taxes in exchange for installing raised garden beds? I hear it makes more money than gas stations. What are your feelings on the city of Vancouver owned vacant lots scattered throughout Yaletown. How about Little Mountain sitting vacant, for what appears to be a Concord-like Vision Vancouver sweetheart deal of $0 in taxes because the city argues the land is worthless.

    • There’s a rather bizarre selection of whole-cloth fabrications in this comment. I don’t whether you imagined them or picked them up from various internet trolls, but I’ll presume your good faith, for the sake of argument.

      “Brendan Dawe, you are so far from having genuine concern that the only one who can’t see it is yourself.”

      That’s a strange notion to wrap my head around.

      “Your group, Abundant Housing Vancouver, is an astroturf group organized in July 2016. Just after Bob Rennie mused about wanting to duplicate San Francisco’s developer advocacy group YIMBY, and a few months before Gregor Robertson’s Chief of Staff Mike Magee resigned and promised to not lobby Vancouver city hall directly even though he has been a frequent guest since then.”
      This is chiefly what I refer to when I say whole-cloth fabrications. Though I will admit that we shot Tupac, and we know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

      “Personal endorsements by Tom Davidoff, Colin Hansen, and Andrew Wilkinson make Rennie’s involvement pretty clear. Coordination of messaging with the Mayor’s office, taking turns using specific language and topics, along with Sarah Zaharia of the Mayor’s office organizing 3 appearances on Global BC to feature Abundant Housing twice and a sympathetic feature for the the United Church in the middle, is indication of Mike Magee’s involvement.”

      Tom Davidoff is a UBC economist and has put himself out there as a public intellectual. It takes no conspiracy for him to comment on development projects (especially when he’s on our mailing list). Given that he is fairly hostile to the BC Liberals, I don’t quite understand why he would come packaged with Hansen and Wilkinson, neither of whom are, to my knowledge, especially fond of the Mayor. Of course, all of this supposed backroom wrangling is news to me.

      “So why did the group sit dormant for 7-8 months? Why all of this energy into a single development that will be developed by Bruno Wall and marketed by Bob Rennie?”

      That’s the sort of untrue claim that can only come from not actually paying any attention to Abundant Housing Vancouver. Since the Ryerson open house in February, we’ve organized walking tours, hosted coffee and pub nights, organized letter writing and speaking campaigns in favor of other rental projects, and recently helped stop the city of Surrey from evicting more than 150 families from unauthorized secondary suites in Clayton.

      Why all this energy into a single development? It’s true that no single development is going to contribute more than marginally to solving the housing crisis. What we seek to do is to organize and use the opportunity to put before council the argument that more homes are important for solving the housing crisis, and push back against the notion that this all just comes down to greedy developers versus aggrieved neighbours. There is a bigger picture problem here of there being a housing shortage that needs to be addressed. We like this project in particular because it’s in a single family neighbourhood, away from the noisy and polluted arterials where policy unfairly consigns most new rental housing.

      “Why do you advocate against broad based rezoning?”

      We don’t. In fact, we would like to see the whole of the single family zones rezoned to permit reasonably sized apartment buildings and have repeatedly made this argument, in public. For someone making very specific claims about Abundant Housing, you’ve managed to be wrong in a way that suggests that you aren’t actually familiar with Abundant Housing.

      “Why do you try to provoke a strong first-reaction like a propagandist, but then get twisted in your own unforced contradictions?”

      The topic tends to generate strong reactions, and frankly given rising rents and increasing homelessness, it should. I’ll leave it to you as to whether we have “unforced contradictions.”

      “The houses and trees slated for demolishing are older than the church itself. The project isn’t green, as it wants to create an outdoor plaza with big paving stones.”

      Greenery isn’t just a matter of having plants. If it was, then sprawling suburbs would be the greenest places. Given the necessary energy consumption required to support that sort of location, they aren’t. This project will enable more people to live in an area near the intersection of three frequent transit routes, one future b-line, and walkable goods, services and amenities.

      “It’s not about upzoning Kerrisdale, which was requested in the ARKS Community Vision that Vision Vancouver has done nothing to implement since it was completed in 2005.”

      It most definitely is about upzoning Kerrisdale. The “ARKS community vision” is mostly a long list of No. For the handful of things beyond single family homes for which it haltingly says yes, it does so on the provision that they cannot be economically scaled. Given its exclusionary assertions, community vision is not in line with the needs of the broader city, and should be replaced with a plan that is.

      ““Abundant Housing” the astroturf group has silently approved the planning department rebuffing Bosa and other developers along West Boulevard and 41st from seeking rezoning, even though they are much better situated and in line with the ARKS community vision — where density could be increased, and gradually transition lower away from the arterial roads. So the recently completed, under construction, and beginning excavation projects are capped at 4 stories on much larger parcels of land, at about a quarter of the density Ryerson is asking for.”

      The planning department does not ask for our approval of things. I have no idea why anything about us would be opposed to bigger buildings on West Boulevard and 41st though. I will point out though, that concentrating new housing on arterials roads is environmentally unjust, as it requires new residents with insufficient wealth to purchase a single family home to live in noise and pollution, and it causes the uneven appreciation of land values along arterial roads, displacing local businesses that everyone professes to treasure. Calling for density to be corralled over on arterials alone is a recipe for rising taxes on arterial businesses.

      “Similarly “Abundant Housing” is specifically arguing that upzoning of neighbouring properties should not happen, as it would be “giving millions to those who do not deserve it”

      This claim is ‘specifically’ untrue.

      “Doing ad-hoc rezoning is slow, it’s expensive per square foot, it monopolizes new buildable land into a few hands that can ration it out at fixed prices. It destroys public trust when every significant concern is pre-determined in backrooms, with no guidance from common principles or expectation.”

      Yes, we should not be doing this through individual rezonings. But until we have an actionable plan to upzone everything (and I think the political will to do that is increasing), it’s what we got. With regards to ‘guidance from common principles or expectations’ it has been my experience that most rezoning are in line with some written, voted on policy regarding community plans, rental incentive plans, heritage retention plans or the like, though often this is debatable.

      “So Brendan Dawe, decide what you want and tell us. Just don’t tell me how I should think or feel because I am not interested in being your useful idiot.”

      Feel whatever you want. It would be at minimum nice of you to avoid saying things that are demonstrably untrue, and a bit nicer of you to avoid repeating the unsubstantiated fever-dreams of anonymous internet trolls.

      “Tell me, what’s your opinion about subsidizing vacant lots by eliminating their taxes in exchange for installing raised garden beds? I hear it makes more money than gas stations.”

      Since you asked so nicely, we should tax vacant lots at the same rate we tax occupied lots by way of a land-value tax system. The garden tax rates are a direct incentive to speculation and the hoarding of a limited resource.

      “What are your feelings on the city of Vancouver owned vacant lots scattered throughout Yaletown.”

      The city should do something with them. I hear a number of them are earmarked for public housing, provided senior government contributions come through. However, given that the city taxes real property while senior government taxes income, and real property is growing much faster than income, perhaps the city should fund more social housing out of its own property taxes.

      “How about Little Mountain sitting vacant, for what appears to be a Concord-like Vision Vancouver sweetheart deal of $0 in taxes because the city argues the land is worthless.”

      The timeline for Little Mountain has been farcical and what the province did there was unjust. That being said, property assessments are carried out by a provincial agency, not the city. According to property tax records, the Little Mountain site was assessed $550,347 in taxes in 2017. Perhaps you are referring to some other deal that I am unaware of.

      • This rebuttal was farcical. Brendan hides behind accusations of anonymous internet trolls. It fails to address direct connections, events, etc. It’s also false — ARKS has been supportive of recent developments (which fall in line with the COMMUNITY, not developer, vision).

        Vancouverites deserve better than its city council to be steered by developers.

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