Crucial topics at City Council this week: Procedures Bylaw (democracy), city auditor general (democracy), Broadway planning, St Pauls Hospital move to False Creek hazard zone, Oppenheimer Park, character homes, etc.

Captain Vancouver

George Vancouver statue,  Vancouver City Hall

Vancouver City Council has a big week of important meetingscoming up, with three key meetings, the first starting the day after the October 21 federal election.

 

Some of the Council’s discussions and decisions this week will have major impacts on the future shape of our city, and indeed, upon how the democratic system works here. Below are a few excerpts of the agendas, with comments.

We encourage citizens to have a look, spread the word, and to write or speak to Council if you have comments for them. The Council agenda web page tells you how. Or you could write to Mayor and Council individually at addresses shown here.

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Regular Council agenda
October 22, 2019 (Tues), starting 9:30 am
Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20191022/regu20191022ag.htm

Some items:

Broadway Plan – Phase 1 Engagement and Proposed Guiding Principles
Due to time constraints, at the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services meeting on October 2, 2019, Council referred the above-noted report to the Regular Council meeting on October 22, 2019, as Unfinished Business.

Comment: The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods says this proposal undermines the City-wide Plan by implementing “corridor planning” rather than the neighbourhood-based planning that is supposed to happen through the City-wide Plan. Also, what gets approved in terms of process for the proposed Broadway subway from VCC to Arbutus Street has a high likelihood of being used for a proposed extension to UBC. Corridor planning would give the power to planners, and long before the shovels hit the ground, undermine or ignore the voices of the neighbourhoods through which the proposed subway would run. Staff report here: https://council.vancouver.ca/20191002/documents/cfsc2.pdf

Reference: Coalition reminds Council on Broadway Plan: Kits & West Point Grey planning to be part of city-wide process, NOT the “Corridor Plan” (2-Oct-2019)

Other items to note:

  • Standing Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs, and Nomination Sub-Committee – November 1, 2019, to December 31, 2020
  • Appointment of Council Representatives to Regional Bodies
  • Appointment of Council Representatives to Boards, Statutory Committees and Non-Profit Societies

Also, a motion by Councillor Hardwick on “Increasing Affordable Housing Options through Character House Incentives in RS Zones.” It calls upon Council to “direct Staff to report back to Council, on a priority basis in Q1 of 2020, to further incentivize the retention of character houses as a means to facilitate the rapid creation of a diverse supply of affordable rental housing as outlined in Appendix A…” This is a valuable motion, worthy of support! If you agree, please let Council know. See full text here: https://council.vancouver.ca/20191022/documents/motionb2.pdf

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Public Hearing
October 22, 2019 (Tues), starting 6 pm 
Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20191022/phea20191022ag.htm

Three items on the agenda.

1. TEXT AMENDMENTS: Miscellaneous and Housekeeping Amendments – Zoning and Development By-law, Sign By-law and Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan By-law. Comment: This appears to be largely administrative corrections to the bylaw.

2. TEXT AMENDMENT: 3560-3570 Hull Street and 2070-2090 East 20th Avenue
Summary and Recommendation PDF

3. REZONING: 1002 Station Street and 250-310 Prior Street
(New St. Paul’s Hospital and Health Campus)

Comment: This topic is all about a rezoning to move St. Paul’s Hospital from the current location on Burrard Street in the West End to a new site on the seismically unstable flood-risk zone of False Creek Flats, to allow for the new construction of towers in both areas. As of Oct 20, 89 letters to Council opposed to the rezoning are listed (see the agenda web page), and not one in support. This move has been largely driven by development and real estate interests and has a lot of momentum behind it due to the efforts of Vision Vancouver before they were effectively booted out of existence in the 2018 civic election. But is the wisdom of the people being ignored. Many people question the idea of moving critical infrastructure (a hospital) away from the large downtown population over to a hazard zone. And with seas level rising and increasing storm intensities as a result of climate change, are the decision makers of today dooming future generations to many hardships? City planners, engineers, and developers seem to be saying, “Meh, trust us, there is nothing to worry about.” Can this ship be turned around?

Related reading: “Danger of liquefaction at False Creek Flats site of new St. Paul’s Hospital flagged by City of Vancouver” (by Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 16-Oct-2019): https://www.straight.com/news/1314401/danger-liquefaction-false-creek-flats-site-new-st-pauls-hospital-flagged-city-vancouver

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Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities agenda
October 23, 2019 (Wed), starting 9:30 am
Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20191023/pspc20191023ag.htm

Selected items:

1. Amendments to the Procedure By-law No. 9756
At the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services meeting on July 24, 2019, Council heard from speakers and referred the below report to a Fall 2019 Council or Committee meeting, to continue with debate and decision.

Comments: As proposed, these will give increased influence to City staff, and less to Council and public. The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has told City Council it opposes the changes as proposed (http://coalitionvan.org/posts/procedure-bylaw-amendments/). The proposal changes were written by City staff, and CVN says they were brought forward without any meaningful public consultation, stating “they would greatly restrict democratic processes and the relationship between elected officials and the public they represent.”  CVN points out many concerns (see appendix to their letter), including that the staff report proposes that Council members’ motions would require two meetings’ notice (four weeks), which is much longer than the current bylaw requirement of only one week ahead, or current pilot of one meeting notice (two weeks); whereas staff reports (which are usually large and complex), and Council agendas, would only have to be provided by noon on the day prior to the Council meeting.

These may seem to be obscure administrative details, but they will have major implications on public involvement in City decision-making long into the future.

Here is an extra observation that exposes how the City staff acted on this matter and how crucial it is for neighbourhoods and citizens to maintain a high level of scrutiny of goings on at City Hall. The staff originally proposed amendments to the Procedures Bylaw for a Council meeting scheduled for July 24, 2019. The report was only made public online with 3 working days notice, and lacked basic information that would be crucial for discussion, such as a “red-lined” document comparing the proposed bylaw text with the previous version, clearly showing additions and deletions. Staff only added the red-lined version (dated July 22) to the website on July 23, which really was not enough time for Mayor, Council, and the public to seriously review and consider the proposed changes. The underlying message seems to be that staff did not want public to understand or provide input to the staff-proposed changes to the bylaw. It is to City Council’s credit that they postponed this discussion to October.

2. Establishing an Independent Auditor General Office for the City of Vancouver
At the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services meeting on October 2, 2019, Council referred the below motion to the Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities meeting on October 23, 2019, in order to hear from previously registered speakers.

Comments: This could well be the most important motion of the year in terms of the public accountability of our municipal government. This motion by Councillor Hardwick definitely deserves your support!

Here is a Q&A by Councillor Hardwick on Facebook. No log-in required.

See our previous CityHallWatch post: “This deserves YOUR support: Motion on Establishing an Independent Auditor General Office for the City of Vancouver (1-Oct-2019 Motion B6)”
https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2019/09/28/motion-on-independent-auditor-general/

3. A Collaborative and New Approach to Oppenheimer Park and Other Public Spaces
At the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services meeting on October 2, 2019, Council referred the below motion to the Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities meeting on October 23, 2019, in order to continue with previously registered speakers, debate and decision.

 

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