Vancouver’s Development Permit Board (DPB) is not publishing its agendas. That is a serious problem.

Article 13 of the Development Permit Board and Advisory Panel By-Law No. 5869 (consolidated to 28-Jun-2011, states:

  • 13. The Board shall determine its own procedure, provided that all decisions of the Board shall be rendered in public unless the Board for good and sufficient cause otherwise directs, and the Board shall give reasons for its decisions.

As of 10 pm on March 6, 2022, the agendas of the DPB meetings for February 21 and March 6 had not even been published. The agendas and minutes should appear at this link (see the “Meetings” tab mid-page and click the year to expand):

Below is the a screen grab of the status as of the morning of March 7, 2023.

This is a serious and repeated problem. We have noticed agendas and minutes made being public far too late. Agendas should be made public at least several days in advance. Minutes should be made available within a couple days. The functioning of the DPB and its decisions are already a black box.

The DPB serves an important function in land use decisions. It is part of the social contract between the public and the municipal government. Increasingly, power is being vested in the DPB, which consists of just four senior staff members, public servants, paid by taxpayers: Director of Development Services (who serves as Chair of the DPB but usually does not vote), General Manager of Engineering Services, Deputy City Manager and Director of Planning. The Chair only votes when Board members needed to break a tie vote.

  • Article 6(b) states: “In the consideration of all applications brought before it, the Board shall hear any representations of the applicant as well as any other person interested in the application.”

The problem is, how can any person interested in the application even know about the meeting if it is not made public?

Here is another screen grab from the DPB meetings tab.

It says:

  • Meetings are to be held virtually via WebEx. Reports will be available for viewing five days before the meeting. Hard copies of the report can also be obtained by contacting the Development Permit Board Assistant and will be available at the meeting. The meetings are open to the public. If you wish to speak to an item, register with the Development Permit Board Assistant at 604-873-7770 or ….

There are several basic problems here.

  • With the move to virtual meetings due to COVID, in-person meetings have been eliminated, so public involvement becomes 100% virtual, online.
  • If no public notification is made for the meeting, how can the public attend?
  • Reports “will be available for viewing five days before the meeting”? There was a failure to do so for Feb 21 and March 6.
  • Hard copies can be obtained by contacting the assistant. But if the meeting agenda has not been made public, no one knows what is coming, so the promise is moot.
  • Hard copies are to be made available “at the meeting.” But if the meetings are all virtual, this does not compute. Hard copies are physical, online meetings are virtual. How does the DPB intend to do this?
  • “The meetings are open to the public.” Not if no one knows about them. Not if no meeting link is provided.
  • “If you wish to speak to an item, register…” This is impossible unless sufficient prior notification is provided.

Heads should roll, or nearly so. This problem has been persistent over the years, not only with the DPB but also with the Urban Design Panel. Late notifications. Absence of agendas and documents. No links provided to access online meetings.

The key person responsible for performance of the DPB is the director of planning, Theresa O’Donnell. Above her, City manager Paul Mochrie. Above him, Mayor Ken Sim.

When something like this happens repeatedly, it cannot be passed off as incompetence. The only credible explanation is that it is intentional.

Here is just another example, from 2015. This was the case of a prominent developer that had knowingly and blatantly violated city bylaws for a decade, operating a hotel as a business, instead of providing rental housing. The applicant applied to the DPB for lucrative changes to permit what it had been doing illegally. The public knew this was coming, and some had written and spoken to previous meetings, but was kept out of the loop when the DPB held the crucial meeting and approved the applicant’s request.

The Urban Design Panel is no angel either. For a crucial presentation on the Broadway Plan, available only online, the public was locked out.

More reading on the Development Permit Board:

Another issue with the DPB page is that the list of “Current Development Applications Development Permit Board PDF file (15 KB)” on the “Documents” tab leads to a PDF page dated May 31, 2019, nearly four years old.

3 thoughts on “Vancouver’s Development Permit Board (DPB) is not publishing its agendas. That is a serious problem.

  1. no decisions made on those dates? maybe ask the assistant to the board – their number is right there. non-story

    • Thank you, Anonymous. If you happen to have connections at the City, please pass on to your superiors there are also issues between the missing agendas. Agendas and documents should be posted five days (presumably business days) prior to a DPB meeting. DPB senior folks we hope will read the rest of the post to see the other concerns about the content and timing of information provided to the public, and take actions to rectify shortcomings. Plus, based on this case, in every case an agenda does not appear on the schedule page, the public can assume the meeting has been cancelled? To be continued…

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