Vancouver citizens need to take notice of what is going on at City Hall during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic crisis and state of emergency of 2020.
After reading the following, we urge citizens to contact Mayor and Council and encourage City Hall to restore the policy of having Development Application notice boards placed on site. Click here for tips on how to reach them. (While you’re at it, you might praise them for their efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, and also urge them to ensure that emergency measures do not undermine transparency, accountability, and democratic protections.)
Behind the scenes, largely directed by city staff, changes are being made without public notification or consultation, some of which are eroding policies and measures that previously ensured some measure of transparency and accountability. Things that Vancouver neighbourhoods and citizens fought hard for in previous generations and decades. This case here is just one example among several that need to be to watched (see another example here: City staff are proposing an immediate shift to ‘electronic’ Public Hearings, CityHallWatch, 8-Apr-2020).
CityHallWatch started following Vancouver civic affairs in 2010 and has somehow outlived many mainstream media outlets despite being entirely volunteer run and having a budget of zero. As one service, in January 2014 we started taking a monthly snapshot of rezoning applications and development applications, on the first of every month, and posting it online in text and PDF format. (CityHallWatch is the only place this archived information is available. Not even City Hall is doing that.)
“Due to the COVID-19 situation, site signs have not been requested to be placed on site. In the interest of keeping everyone which might be affected by the development informed, please also forward this notification notice to the tenants/occupants of the site.”
Ironically, the paragraph that follows it, which has been in place at least as far back as January 2014, says this in black font (underlining by CityHallWatch to emphasize the contrast with the long-standing original principle):
Welcome! The City is committed to making sure neighbours of development proposals are as informed as possible about proposed developments and that they have opportunities to provide input. This new method serves to notify people about development applications, in a way that is more sustainable and cost-effective.
The red sentence “site signs have not been requested to be placed on site” is written rather vaguely, but we interpret it to mean, “City of Vancouver officials in a un-named department have decided not to require developers to post Development Application signs on site.”
CityHallWatch notes that …
- Other than this notification on an obscure web page, to our knowledge, no other notice of this change has been made public. No one would find it unless they were already on the page looking for a specific development application.
- There is no indication of who made this decision to stop posting signs, when the decision was made, and how long the measure will continue .
- There is no explanation of the safety benefits of not posting Development Application signs onsite. They typically are placed outside on a wall, on open ground, or on vacant land.
- Note that the City is actively continuing with other outdoor work, including the posting of various other types of signage and information boards around the city. Note that City staff are aggressively pushing Council to continue referring rezonings ahead to Public Hearings (which they then use to prevent the public from communicating with Mayor and Council on a specific rezoning application). Note that staff are aggressively attempting to make Public Hearings go online (instead of in the Council Chambers) starting less than one month from now. Note that the construction industry is continuing with actual on-site work at construction projects.
- Note also that the Vancouver Courier newspaper last week declared that it will cease print publication. For may years, the Courier has been the official newspaper used for legally-required advance public notification of Public Hearings. See our Jan 2018 post on this topic (Where do you watch for advance notice of Public Hearings and other City meetings? CityHallWatch, 4-Jan-2018).
It is clear that the processing of development applications should NOT be permitted to proceed without proper onsite notification signs for the affected neighbours, neighbourhood, community, and general public. They should be made aware of what is being proposed. This transparency and accountability is fundamental to the public notification process.
We encourage Vancouver citizens to contact Vancouver Mayor and Council to communicate on these topics. See this link on how to reach them: https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/city-hall/contact-officials/
A Development Application notice board (example provided below) typically carries valuable information follows:
- Application reference number
- Details of the application, including what is already permitted under current zoning, what changes are being sought, height in feet and/ore meters and storeys, types of dwellings, floor space ratio (density), parking, etc.
- Name and contact information for the applicant
- Image of the proposed building
- Location map
- Schedule of application and approval
- Official city contact information, including website and phone