A response to Dan Fumano article (Vancouver Sun) ‘Eby hopeful new Kitsilano social housing building proceeds, despite pushback’

CityHallWatch has received this contribution from Substack writer pen named Du Ality as a response to an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun by Dan Fumano (16-June-2022). The opinion columnist says that BC housing minister David Eby is hopeful a controversial social housing proposal going to a Public Hearing on June 28, 2022, will succeed despite pushback. This is a well-researched article and we’d like to add one point that has received virtually no public mention so far. Vancouver’s former mayor Gregor Robertson is a principal in Nexii, the company slated to provide the actual structure of the proposed tower.

Above: Massing model of the proposed tower.

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Response to: Dan Fumano: Eby hopeful new Kitsilano social housing building proceeds, despite pushback

CD-1 Rezoning: 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue, and 2091 West 8th Avenue

Like other media and “supposed” community interest groups, this Dan Fumano article omits the co-impact of the other major infrastructure project in this immediate area, the Arbutus terminal subway station and bus loop, and the cunningly undermining language in the Broadway Plan used against the independent St Augustine School [1].

From the deceptive sketches of the supportive housing building, you wouldn’t know that it’s shoehorned into space surrounded by the bus loop, Arbutus Greenway, Delamont Park and St Augustine School.

People in the Arbutus and West 8th area are fed up with governments delivering “done deals” and poorly done ones at that.

The news of the subway station and bus loop was dropped like a bomb in Oct 2019 with no advance neighbourhood consultation. Apparently there had been a City survey to area businesses during the summer when schools were closed and people were on holiday.

TransLink sent a letter to St Augustine School in Newfoundland instead of to the school directly diagonal to the subway location. No picking up and phoning the school, despite there being many years of mutual communication with the City regarding school traffic and construction of the new elementary school, after 17 years of parish and parent fundraising.

Safety and pollution concerns about the bus loop were brought up to the City, Translink and the Province and fell on deaf ears, including those of local MLA David Eby, who is, reportedly from Fumano’s article, “sympathetic to the concerns of neighbours.”

This was followed by MLA and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby’s self-declared “done deal” from Feb 2021 for this supportive housing project. In BC Housing’s Zoom Community Dialogues, more than half of the 40 participants came from BC Housing, the City or some related advocacy group. “Done deal” messaging included that this building would be low barrier, for the hardest to house with serious mental health and addictions issues, would not require criminal background checks, and be directly opposite from an elementary school, pre-school and toddler park.

It was learned from VAHA that the City had promised this land to BC Housing in Feb 2019 and there had been no consideration of the co-impacts of this project and the subway/bus loop on each other and on this neighbourhood. It was learned from BC Housing that funding for this project did not have a time restraint attached.

Furthermore, BC Housing and City staff had hid the lack of support for the project and a FOI revealed that 75% of Shape Your City respondents were opposed to it [2].

The Nov 10, 2021 Urban Design Panel presentation on this building featured a pressured sell by City planners and applicant that this building had special time-limited funding, that the benefit of this building was more important than shadowing of the elementary school, that shadowing by a 12 storey building was no different than that of a 6 storey one, and that the City had a solar access policy for protecting public parks, public spaces and sidewalks only. There was admission that Delamont Park would be shaded by this building. The reason given for the location of this building was that it is one block away from a subway station.

The applicant relayed a story that this building was like a seniors assisted living building in his neighbourhood, which confused some of the seniors-loving panelists who enquired why there were no balconies or people-watching opportunities in this design. The applicant’s response was that future residents “did not want a public life” or to interact with the public. “The operator was very clear about that.”

Yet, these low stimulus-seeking future residents would be placed beside the popular Arbutus Greenway and the Arbutus Station bus loop with an anticipated 3500 riders per hour during peak hours.

There has been spin that locals hate poor people, are rich NIMBY’s and are just like the people in Marpole that opposed the two 3 storey temporary modular buildings across a large sports field belonging to Sir Wilfred Laurier Elementary School. There is no comparison between the size and height of 3 storey buildings and this 155 foot high building with direct solar impacts on St Augustine School. There is no terminal subway station and bus loop rammed up beside these temporary modular homes and school. There is no “unresolvable transit bottleneck” like that of the Arbutus Station without an extension line to UBC, as stated by GM of Engineering, Lon LaClaire . The Marpole buildings are temporary, whereas the Arbutus and West 8th building is considered permanent with a 60 year lease.

The Arbutus and West 8th area already contains social housing, including a women’s abstinence-based recovery house. This proposed drug use tolerant supportive housing building, in close proximity to an abstinence-based recovery house, does not make sense.

MLA and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby supports the Broadway Plan for transit-oriented density.

The Urban Design Panel recording for the Broadway Plan was released through FOI just as the Broadway Plan hearing started. City staff admitted that they had made an error with not planning for childcare spaces at transit stations. One staff said that where parks met greenways, there should be a corner store or cafe. Panelist Margot, who was part of the Nov 10th UDP meeting, stated that greenway approaches needed wider setbacks and social housing projects should not be given exemptions for shading parks. Panelist Jennifer said that there needed to be strong connections between greenways and park space. Panelist Scott advocated for more park space and cultural amenities at high density transit hubs.

The actual Broadway Plan was more insidious regarding solar access around independent schools, with Councilor Dominato being the only Councilor to make a statement about it [4, 5]. When she questioned city planner Matt Shillito about this on May 18th, he essentially stated that density was the goal, so solar access for public schools was prioritized .

Councilor Dominato spoke to staff and was told that this solar access policy was specifically written for the Broadway Plan. Comments made by Planning Manager Theresa O’Donnell also supported this .

Councilor Dominato presented her amendment on June 9th, 2022: THAT Council add the following to page 283 of the Broadway Plan for solar access policies: ‘New buildings should minimize shadowing impacts on independent school yards, particularly during school hours.’

However, the solar access amendment does not eliminate the other stated embedded policy line used to facilitate the Arbutus and West 8th supportive housing hearing: solar access exemptions for 100% social or supportive housing.

The wording in the Broadway Plan document on page 283 is actually different, but after all, it’s a “living document” that can change at any given time:

“In the following circumstances, exceptions to the policy objectives will be considered:

» For secured rental housing developments in the existing residential apartment areas (currently zoned RM and FM) to enable buildings up to 6-storeys.

» For 100% social housing developments and Vancouver Community College, each development will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”

St Augustine School is the only independent school to be seriously impacted by the Broadway Plan, with potentially up to 25 storeys (or more, since spot rezonings can still occur) to the south and up to 18 storeys on all other sides [8]. This school and its school yard can be left in shade forever [5].

The Kitsilano Coalition’s statement on the failed supportive housing model promoted by Minister David Eby is best viewed on their website. Certainly, supportive housing units could be more easily, successfully and equitably created and dispersed throughout Vancouver if a few were placed in all new rental constructions. As per Dr Julian Somers’ prior research, this would be complemented with a robust Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team [9, 10, 11].

This Arbutus and West 8th supportive housing project is a by-product of unethical civic and provincial government behaviour. The proposed non-profit agency should not be placed in the middle of this.

Watch carefully how Mayor and Councilors react when presented with these ethical issues and see who is worth supporting in the Oct 15, 2022 civic election.

These major ethical issues need resolution before any new developments are placed at Arbutus and West 8th:

  1. Fair consultation by TransLink, BC Housing and the City of Vancouver with the Arbutus and West 8th neighbourhood for both the Arbutus Station/ bus loop and supportive housing project were trivial.
  2. The local MLA has a conflict of interest and cannot represent the interests of those most impacted, since he is the Minister Responsible for Housing. From the MLA duties to constituents, how can Minister Eby possibly raise “constituent perspectives and concerns in the Legislative Assembly during debates and by making statements or presenting petitions, and by asking government to act on issues affecting their residents of their electoral district or the province? [12]”Unless Minister Eby was to step down from his role as Minister Responsible for Housing, he cannot represent the neighbourhood constituents in a fair and unbiased manner.
  3. City of Vancouver staff drafted solar access policies intentionally to undermine St Augustine School. Councillor Dominato stood up to the inequity of solar access in public versus independent schools, stating that “kids are just kids.”However, there is the larger inequity that 100% social/ supportive housing projects be exempted from shadowing on ANY building or public park in the Broadway Plan.

Based upon the above, ask yourself if the involved City of Vancouver staff can meet the Code of Conduct standards [13]:

Integrity: Staff are keepers of the public trust and must uphold the highest standards of ethical behaviour. Staff are expected to:

  • make decisions that benefit the community;
  • act lawfully and within the authorities of the Vancouver Charter; and
  • be free from undue influence and not act, or appear to act, in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, family, friends or business interests.

Accountability: Staff are obligated to answer for a responsibility that has been entrusted to them. They are responsible for the decisions that they make. This responsibility includes acts of commission and acts of omission. In turn, decision-making processes must be transparent and subject to public scrutiny; and proper records are kept and audit trails are in place.

Responsibility: Staff must act responsibly, within the law and within the authorities of the Vancouver Charter. They are to observe the Code of Conduct. This means disclosing actual or potential conflict of interest relating to their public duties and taking steps to resolve the conflict for the protection of the public interest; following the letter and spirit of policies and procedures; and exercising all conferred power strictly for the purpose for which the powers have been conferred.

Openness: Staff have a duty to be as open as possible about their decisions and actions. This means communicating appropriate information openly to the public about decision- making processes and issues being considered; encouraging appropriate public participation; communicating clearly; and providing appropriate means for recourse and feedback.

In summary, development in the Arbutus and West 8th neighbourhood is a microcosm of what has gone wrong with planning in Vancouver. Do not let this unethical behaviour go unchecked. There needs to be a public inquiry.

Register your OPPOSITION to this proposal [14].

References:

[1] Dan Fumano: Eby hopeful new Kitsilano social housing building proceeds, despite pushback, Vancouver Sun, June 16, 2022.

https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/dan-fumano-eby-hopeful-new-kitsilano-social-housing-building-proceeds-despite-pushback

[2] Busted: BC Housing & City staff caught misrepresenting/ignoring community feedback on 7th & Arbutus supportive housing tower rezoning application, says Kitsilano Coalition

[3] Video clip – Lon LaClaire – City of Vancouver Millennium Line Extension to UBC Public Hearing

Lon LaClaire introducing representative from TransLink on Millennium Line Extension to UBC

[4]Broadway Plan Appendix A Solar Access, pages 281-283

https://council.vancouver.ca/20220518/documents/pspc1appendixA.PDF?_ga=2.231948639.1585467343.1655674636-1992324750.1655210700

[5] Forever in the Shadows (City Conversation #58: When Vancouver city staff pit low barrier housing against schools and parks, everyone loses) by Brian Palmquist (on Arbutus and 8th tower, Public Hearing June 28)

[6] Video clip – City of Vancouver, Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities, May 18, 2022

Cllr Dominato questions to staff on solar protections for independent schools

[7] Video clip – City of Vancouver, Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities, June 9, 2022

Amendment by Cllr Dominato to include solar protections for independent schools

[8] Broadway Plan Appendix A Density Map, page 284

https://council.vancouver.ca/20220518/documents/pspc1appendixA.PDF?_ga=2.231948639.1585467343.1655674636-1992324750.1655210700

[9] Addiction and mental health expert says BC Housing proposal wrong model in the wrong place, Kitsilano Coalition, June 16, 2022

https://www.kitsilanocoalition.org/blog/wrong-model-wrong-place

[10] Homelessness, addiction & mental illness: a call to action for British Columbia, Dr Julian Somers, SFU

https://www.sfu.ca/carmha/publications/c2abc.html

[11] ACT Team

https://www.act-bc.com

[12] Legislative Assembly of British Columbia – Role of an MLA

[13] City of Vancouver Code of Conduct Policy Number AE-028-01

[14] CD-1 Rezoning: 2086-2098 West 7th Avenue, and 2091 West 8th Avenue – June 28, 2022

https://council.vancouver.ca/20220628/phea20220628ag.htm

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