CityHallWatch wrote previously about a crucial public survey regarding the proposed “Streaming Rental” program (see “Streaming Rental Survey on rental rezoning policy citywide, affecting RS, RT and C zones, with 6 storeys on arterials, 4-5 storeys off arterials”. City of Vancouver staff have previously advised members of the public that a planning staff report would be going to City Council in July to seek Council direction to proceed based on an update. The only remaining Council meetings in July are next week, on July 20 and 21. The Council agenda for those dates has yet to be posted online at the time this post (July 12).
Staff extended the survey deadline from June 25 to July 27. That means the last Council meetings in July will be done BEFORE the end of the opportunity for public input. With that timing, the real results of the public survey will not be available for the report to Council. That is a problem.
Another big problem appears to be unfair advantage being given to developers versus the public. After the survey deadline was extended, staff provided additional “office hours” consultations in early July — for developers only. However, many members of the general public who tried to get an appointment during the limited “office hours” consultations for the public in June, in order to get answers to their questions, were unable to get an appointment because the scheduled office hours were already full.
How can the public provide informed input to the City if they have not been given an adequate opportunity to get answers to their questions? It would appear that staff are giving more consideration to developers than to the public.
Staff are proposing to give City Council an update with influential staff-recommended directions although the public process has not been completed.
It would be premature and unfair for the public if staff go ahead and bring their report to Council in July. It would be fairer and build trust in the City and planners if the report was completed and provided to council after the public input has been properly reviewed and considered. Obviously, that cannot happen before the survey ends July 27.
The above is just about the timing of staff recommendations and lack of fairness to the public.
There are many concerns about the contents of the “Streaming Rental” program.
Here is just one example.
The rezoning policy is already causing speculation and an increase of land value inflation.
This article is a clear example of how full block assemblies are already happening due to the city’s anticipated policies. (“Vancouver land assembly pitched as potential site for rental project with city incentives lists for $39 million,” by Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, 31-May-2021).
This full block assembly on W. 25th Ave. at Dunbar Street, has the average lot price going for about double the assessed values. How is this making it more affordable?
Below are just some of the additional concerns.
Staff estimates provided to the public of how many rentals this program would produce require questioning, as no legitimate explanation has been provided as to how they have come up with these numbers. How can they use historical trends when there has never been 6 storey rentals allowed outright in C2 zones before? Same with on-arterials, the previous rezoning policy had a limit of only 2 projects for every 7 blocks. This proposed program would have no limits, allowing full block assemblies, and function as an off-the-shelf zoning bylaw that has already been approved. There has never been an off-arterials rental policy like this, so staff have no historical context and no justification to base their guesses on previous trends. There are none.
The proposed program would allow massive full-block assemblies on large areas have not been assessed for the effects of assembly within those areas. This would turn large areas of the city into development zones, just as we have witnessed on the Cambie corridor. This will cause rapid changes to increase development pressures and displacement.
There is no plan evident of how the City would provide the increased services and amenities for the additional population resulting from the proposed program, such as schools, parks, community centres, libraries, daycare, etc. which in many instances are already being used over capacity. It costs money to increase amenities. Yet most development fees paid by developers when their applications are approved only cover a fraction of the costs of services, and in fact, most developer fees are actually waived for rentals.
There are many questions also with the “eligibility map” that purportedly shows what areas are included and what isn’t in the proposed program. Eligibility for the program seems to be constantly shifting, as staff are making it up as they go. The lack of neighbourhood-based planning has many unintended consequences and is counter to proper planning principles.
The City needs to provide a better process when considering major changes to land use like this.
If the City’s staff make recommendations to our elected officials in advance of receiving full public feedback, that is akin to putting the cart before the horse.