Report to Council June 8 seeking to speed development approvals affects trees, emissions, and RS-3, RS-3A, RS-5, RT-3, RT-6, RT-7, RT-8, RT-9, RT-10 zones: Internal Development Application and Permitting Modernization Task Force

Map of development applications in Vancouver, June 2021

(Updated with link to Viewpoint Vancouver, and letter from Vancouver Character House Network. More coming…)

City Manager Paul Mochrie and General Manager of Development, Buildings & Licensing Jessie Adcock have an important paper going to Council on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, which has great importance but also potential consequences, pro and con. At just 21 pages, it deserves careful attention and good public review. Council needs some help to digest its content and possible repercussions and unintended consequences. Staff are seeking immediate approval of the recommendations, but the paper combines many unrelated issues into one omnibus report, making it a challenge for to address each issue. As we often see, the title of the report does not clearly reflect the extent of its implications.

While virtually everyone recognizes the serious problems with excessive bureaucracy, delays, and costs in getting many kinds of permits approved, there is much concern about the details of proposed solutions. The civil servants have been tasked with coming up with options, but elected officials need to have meaningful debate and take responsibility for the policy decisions. This is important but needs to be done right.

Council agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20210608/regu20210608ag.htm

Staff report: “Internal Development Application and Permitting Modernization Task Force
– First Bi-Monthly Update” (for 8-June-2021 Council meeting): https://council.vancouver.ca/20210608/documents/p1.pdf

Specific recommendations by staff, seeking Council approval, are:

RECOMMENDATION
A. THAT Council adopt the resolution, attached to this report as Appendix C, not to
enforce certain design guidelines that have been developed for one and two
family dwellings seeking a development permit in specific neighbourhoods (RS-3
and RS-3A, RS-5, RT-3, RT-6, RT-7, RT-8, RT-9 and RT-10 Zoning Districts) to
enable faster processing of residential development permit applications by
reducing the number of conditions and reviews associated with them;
FURTHER THAT the resolution apply for a period of 12 months as part of a pilot
project.

B. THAT Council adopt the resolution, attached to this report as Appendix D, not to
enforce specific sections of the Protection of Trees By-law to enable faster
processing of development permit applications and reduce further growth of
backlogs;

FURTHER THAT the resolution apply for a period of 12 months as part of a pilot
project.

C. THAT Council approve, in principle, an amendment to section 2.2. of the
Protection of Trees By-law, to define a tree as having a diameter of 30 cm., rather
than the existing 20 cm., as generally set out in Appendix E;

FURTHER THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to bring forward
for enactment, a by-law generally in accordance with Appendix E.

D. THAT Council approve, in principle, a 12 month delay in the implementation of
amendments to the Building By-law, as set out in sections 19 through 42 of
By-law No. 12692, relating to mandatory zero emission building construction
guidelines for all new homes, to enable Development, Buildings and Licensing
staff to remain focussed on clearing existing backlogs before reallocating staff to
developing the zero emission building compliance management framework;

FURTHER THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to bring forward
the necessary by-law amendments for enactment by Council.

**********

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods wrote to Council on June 7, 2021, OPPOSING Recommendations A, B, and C, and making comments on Recommendation D. They also commented, “CVN is concerned about so many different unrelated issues being combined under one report as an omnibus. This makes it much harder to address each issue and the title of the report does not clearly reflect the content.” Full text here: http://coalitionvan.org/posts/2021-jun-8-dev-app-permit-task-force/

In this context we sought input from Brian Palmquist, author of a very popular recent post, “My objections to Clr Boyle’s motion’ on ‘social housing’: This architect has designed over 1,000 social housing and co-op housing units, consulted on thousands more.” (Link here.) Below is what he provided regarding the current report going to Council on June 8 (Internal Development Application and Permitting Modernization Task Force). This is a copy of what he has already sent to Council. Bold font is selected by CityHallWatch

Comments by Brian Palmquist

One of 16 checklists professionals prepare for a permit application

I spoke at the recent Motion B.2 meeting, noting a variety of concerns around the speed & efficiency of city permitting processes. In the week after that meeting, the transcription of my remarks in https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/ has received more than 700 views, including many supportive comments around improving city hall permit-related functionality.
In reading the above-mentioned report, I have these comments:
1. To have any hope of success, the Task Force should not be “Internal,” rather should include community & industry members much as the 1998-2000 effort I referred to in my remarks last week. I have no doubt the professions, development & construction industry as well as community organizations would participate & contribute.
2. Regarding “Daylighting Building Permit Wait Times,” I note that this action has not been completed as yet.
3. Regarding the statement, “the permitting & licensing process has increasingly been used as the tool by which to achieve Council objectives,” I am sure that is correct. However, there exist relatively straightforward software solutions to this issue. Software platforms are available that could allow each & every development, building, engineering & trade permit application to be customized to the applicable zoning by-laws, neighbourhood plans & policies, building types, areas & heights, pretty much any criteria city staff wished to consider. City staff could prepare a RFP for the provision of their ideal system—I am confident the private sector could provide it on an accelerated schedule basis, & for relatively modest development and ongoing management costs.
4. In the “Opportunities” Table, I notice no estimated staff savings against “amendments to the Building By-law relating to mandatory zero emission building construction guidelines for all new homes.” This could be incorporated in the type of software I mention above, but as an experienced designer, builder & LEED AP, I should caution that this initiative will have huge negative impacts on the cost of all housing in the City of Vancouver.
5. Permit Processing streams (report, p. 7): Architects & Engineers regularly complain about lengthy time frames associated with most types of permitting, which they are well trained & experienced to manage. The simple expedient of trusting professionals to be professional would cut a large swath through many process streams. I am sure AIBC and EGBC would be pleased to help with this. And for the small minority of situations where professionals behave unprofessionally (a few dozen a year, province wide), there are clear & serious investigation & disciplinary procedures to protect the public as mandated to the self-governing professions.
The character limits in the city’s “Share your thoughts” web form prevent me from further detail, but I would be glad to participate on a voluntary basis in a city/ community/ industry Panel tasked with making real reform in these areas. Respectfully submitted.

The Vancouver Character House Network has sent a letter to Council about the staff report. Download PDF: Character House Network-Zero Emissions-Design Guidelines-Tree Bylaw-2021-06-08

Click to access character-house-network-zero-emissions-design-guidelines-tree-bylaw-2021-06-08.pdf

 

Viewpoint Vancouver (reincarnation of PriceTags) has posted this:

Vancouver Cutting Trees for Quicker Development Processes, Axing Tree Retention for Development Expediency? (Sandy James Planner – June 7, 2021) – https://viewpointvancouver.ca/2021/06/07/vancouver-cutting-trees-for-quicker-development-processes-axing-tree-retention-for-development-expediency/

************

RELATED LINKS

Hundreds of trees in Vancouver could fall in plan to reduce building permit backlog: Bylaw change would no longer protect trees with 20-centimetre diameter (Mike Howell, 2-June-2021, Vancouver Is Awesome – https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/vancouver-news/hundreds-of-trees-in-vancouver-could-fall-in-plan-to-reduce-building-permit-backlog-3839712

Vancouver city manager proposes first round of reforms to complex permits process (Frances Bula, Globe and Mail, 2-Jun-2021). Excerpt: After years of complaints from builders, businesses and homeowners about Vancouver’s complicated and time-consuming permits process, the city is proposing the first of many planned sweeping reforms. The first round of changes recommends temporarily relaxing the city’s tree-protection bylaw and putting a pause on new standards for zero-emissions residential buildings. Released Wednesday, the staff report also recommends not enforcing design guidelines in some zones, saying that the measures are needed because the city has so many new policies layered on to old ones that it’s reaching a breaking point. “This regulatory complexity, combined with technology gaps, COVID impacts and resource consequences as a result of decreasing revenues, led to an unsustainable imbalance between application demand and staff capacity to process that demand,” said the report from the city’s recently appointed city manager, Paul Mochrie. “Over time, the permitting and licensing process has increasingly been used as the tool by which to achieve Council objectives. This practice has been a major contributor to the current operational difficulties being faced by staff,” the report continued. If Vancouver doesn’t simplify its processes, the report noted, the city runs the risk of driving even more people to build and do renovations without permits.” Full article (note – paywall) – https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-vancouver-city-manager-proposes-first-round-of-reforms-to-complex/

Mayor punts permit-delay issue as costs mount for Vancouver builders, homeowners
(Kirk LaPointe, Business in Vancouver, 5-Apr-2021): https://biv.com/article/2021/04/mayor-punts-permit-delay-issue-costs-mount-vancouver-builders-homeowners

AND

3 thoughts on “Report to Council June 8 seeking to speed development approvals affects trees, emissions, and RS-3, RS-3A, RS-5, RT-3, RT-6, RT-7, RT-8, RT-9, RT-10 zones: Internal Development Application and Permitting Modernization Task Force

    • This report was published June 1 for Council June 8. Not much time for consultation Typical staff BS – rush the Council with big projects.

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