Council and Park Board Preview March 6-9th: Ceataceans Report, JOAs, Character Homes, Legalizing Secondary Suites, Tax Averaging, 4/20 permit and more

Another busy week is coming for Vancouver City Council meetings (three in total: Regular, Public Hearing, and Committee) and Park Board (three meetings).

Starting off the week, Park Board has scheduled a meeting on Monday, March 6th at 7pm to discuss a proposed Proposed Joint Operating Agreement with Community Centre Associations. As well, the board will consider granting a permit for the 4/20 Vancouver event at Sunset Beach that would include a limited event-specific exemption to the Smoking Regulation Bylaw. [OUTCOME: Commissioners voted to direct staff to consult with CCAs on legal aspects, and rejected a permit for 4/20.]

Park Board will also hold meetings on March 8th and 9th (Wed/Thurs) to review options presented in a staff report on cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium. Public speakers will be heard on Wednesday night starting at 6pm. Speakers can register before noon of March 8th (Wed). The vote and discussions will take place a day later, starting at 6pm on Thursday. The review was prompted in part by the recent deaths of two beluga whales at the Aquarium. The documentary film Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered provides additional information about the live cetaceans display in Stanley Park (watch it online here).

The Regular Council meeting on Tuesday, March 7th, includes an update on consultation on Character Homes. An update is also planned about the current permit and development process. A motion on notice to consult with local business and stakeholders regarding transportation design for Commercial Drive is on the agenda. Another motion on notice is to find ways to make it easier to legalize secondary suites in duplex and multifamily zoned properties. [OUTCOME on this points. See City website for staff reports. Motion on Commercial Drive was voted down and content referred back to staff. Same with motion on secondary suites. Staff plan a housing update report back on March 28 to include that topic, and detailed proposal in July.]

The Public Hearing scheduled for 6pm on Tuesday, March 7th will review a rezoning proposal for a 12-storey building and 6-storey podium at 371 West 2nd Avenue. A total of 132 condo units are proposed, with a Floor Space Ratio of 4.11 and a total building height of 39.6 metres (130 ft). A Community Amenity Contribution of just $5,452,383 is offered for this spot rezoning from Industrial (M-2) to residential (a CD-1). One of the ways in which Council sometimes considers establishing a CAC value is to take 75% of the land lift before and after the rezoning (although not in this case). The 2017 property assessment was $25,316,000. An open question is whether the property will appreciate more than the value that would have been set by the typical land lift calculation, $7,269,844 (a CAC of $5,452,383 is 75% of this value). Is the City collecting a fair share in CACs?

The Council Committee meeting on Wednesday, March 8th will look at 2017 Property Taxation and Land Assessment Averaging. There’s a contract award for construction work on levels 8 and 9 at the Vancouver Central Library. The renewal of BIAs (Business Improvement Areas) to 7-year terms in Chinatown and Strathcona will be reviewed. The City collects mandatory levies from businesses in BIA catchment areas. The report states: “The proposed BIA levy ranges from $95.85 to $17,166.88 annually, depending upon the assessed value of the property. Forty five properties will have a levy under $500, 237 properties will have a levy between $500 and $2,000, and 133 properties will be charged over $2,000 annually.

The full meeting agendas are reproduced below: Continue reading

Open Houses: People, Parks, and Dogs Strategy (7 events Feb 11-Mar 4)

Dog off leash area, Trout Lake
Park Board has scheduled a series of Open Houses to receive input on its People, Parks, and Dogs Strategy. The schedule of the Open Houses is listed below:

  • Sat, Feb 11, 1:00pm–4:00pm (Yaletown Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews)
  • Wed, Feb 15, 5:30pm–8:30pm (Langara Golf Course, Clubhouse , 6706 Alberta Street)
  • Sat, Feb 18, 1:00pm–4:00pm (Kitsilano Community Centre, 2690 Larch Street)
  • Mon, Feb 20, 5:30pm–8:30pm (Wise Hall, 1882 Adanac Street)
  • Sat, Feb 25, 1:00pm–4:00pm (River District Showroom, 8683 Kerr Street)
  • Wed, Mar 1, 5:30pm–8:30pm (Central Vancouver Public Library, 350 West Georgia Street)
  • Sat, Mar 4, 1:00pm–4:00pm (PNE, The Hastings Room, 2901 Hastings Street)

The Park Board is seeking feedback on key draft recommendations in this Round 2 of public consultation. The presentation boards are available on the Park Board website.

Vancouver population 631,486 in 2016 Census, and 25,502 unoccupied dwelling units

Vancouver skyline winter

Statistics Canada revealed that Vancouver’s population increased to 631,486 residents, as part of the 2016 Census count. This is an increase of 4.6% from the previous 2011 population count of 603,502. As well, the Census also showed that 25,502 residential dwelling units were unoccupied at the time of the Census (May 10, 2016). The overall population of Canada increased to 35,151,728 residents, representing 5.0% growth since 2011.

The population of Surrey increased to 517,887, a 10.6% increase from 2011. Other Canadian cities with high rates of growth in the same time frame included Calgary (13.0%), Edmonton (14.8%) and Saskatoon (10.9%). More moderate population growth was recorded in Toronto (4.5%), Ottawa (5.8%) and Winnipeg (6.3%). The largest city in Canada was Toronto, with 2,731,571 residents and a population density of 4,334.4 people per square kilometre. In contrast, the city of Vancouver’s population density was 5,492.6 people per square kilometre. Vancouver is a denser city than Toronto.

Statistics Canada hired 35,000 additional workers for the 2016 Census; hundreds of enumerators went door to door in Vancouver alone over a four-month period to follow-up and verify data in the field. Statistics Canada counted all residential dwelling units across Canada and recorded the number of residents per unit. Canadian citizens, landed immigrants, foreign workers and students with visas were all included in the population count (excluded were tourists and visitors). One in four residents completed a mandatory long form census.

A total of 309,418 private dwelling units were recorded in Vancouver. 283,916 private dwelling units were occupied by usual residents; in other words, 25,502 residential units were unoccupied on Census Day. The Statistics Canada website notes:

‘Private dwelling occupied by usual residents’ refers to a private dwelling in which a person or a group of persons is permanently residing. Also included are private dwellings whose usual residents are temporarily absent on May 10, 2016.

An unoccupied dwelling unit could be an investment property left empty, or it could be a rental unit without a tenant. The City of Vancouver received a report in March of 2016 that claimed there are 10,800 empty homes by examining hydro (electricity consumption) data from 225,000 homes (this figure of 10,800 empty homes is 14,702 less than the count of unoccupied dwelling units by StatsCan).

Statistics Canada has scheduled the following dates to release additional results from the 2016 Census of Population:

  • May 3, 2017 – Age, sex and type of dwelling
  • August 2, 2017 – Families, households, marital status and language
  • September 13, 2017 – Income
  • October 25, 2017 – Immigration, ethnocultural diversity, housing and Aboriginal peoples
  • November 29, 2017 – Education, labour, journey to work, language of work, mobility and migration

The Census included mechanisms to count homeless, as well as people living in tents, cars, or other vehicles. Data collected for the Census is strictly confidential and covered by the Statistics Act.


Population changes varied over Vancouver. A number of Census tracts recorded population declines (orange). Population increases are shown in purple (see legend). Click on image to see original high-resolution PDF.




North Shore False Creek—The view of the mountains blocked

Vancouverism—the tower-and-podium architecture that began building post-Expo ’86—boils down to just two essential parts: Towers-and-Skytrain. The towers block the sky and the view of the mountains and stop the sun from reaching the city street and sidewalks. This in a place where skies are either overcast, or raining 60% of the time. Nobody wants that. The Skytrain blights the neighborhoods it crosses preserving an unencumbered ground plane for automobiles. People want the public realm to support social functioning as well as traffic, not just one or the other. The Vancouverism doesn’t give much consideration to the human experience of place, or what should be understood to be the quality of the urbanism. Vancouverism’s gigantic land parcel assemblies obliterate human scale. There is no ‘there’ there. No legible hierarchy of street, block, district and neighborhood. The whole is not greater than the sum of…

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Open Houses on Blood Alley Square redesign, Aug 24 & 27 (Carrall / W. Cordova block)

Blood Alley Square
The City of Vancouver will be holding two open houses for input on the redesign of Blood Alley Square and Trounce Alley. This public space is located half a block from Water Street, between Abbott and Carrall Street in Gastown. Both of the Open House events will be held in the square at the following times:

Wednesday, August 24, 4 to 7pm
Saturday, August 27, 11am to 2pm

Further details on the proposed redesign and an online survey can be found on the City’s website.
Blood Alley Square

Pacific Centre Rotunda replacement proposed, new retail building – Public input until Aug 28

pacific centre rotunda

(Update – This is an updated version of our original August 9 post. We have added links and excerpts to subsequent media coverage.) A proposal to replace the rotunda entrance to the Pacific Centre and the open space at the northeast corner of West Georgia and Howe Street with a 63′ tall (19.3m) retail building has been submitted to the City of Vancouver.

This is a significant issue, in the sense of the importance of public spaces and their value to society. Vancouver’s public spaces are being eroded. Public input is due by August 28.

The proposed building would contain an additional 31,603 square feet (2,936 m2) of retail space. The design submitted by Perkins + Will Architects contains high floors for the “3-storey” building that has a height of 63.36 feet (or a typical 6-storey height for residential; note that the City does not penalize large floor heights in FSR calculations). Property owner Cadillac Fairview would entirely remove the rotunda structure and provide another entrance to the mall directly off West Georgia Street.

This development application is considered to be “conditional” and approval or rejection will be up to the discretion of the Director of Planning. Comments related to the proposed redevelopment are due by August 28, 2016. Further information on the scheme is on the City’s development applications website. The Director of Planning post is currently filled by Jane Pickering, but Gil Kelley will fill this post starting on September 15, 2016.

Cadillac Fairview recently made another controversial proposal with the development beside Waterfront Station at 555 Cordova (an origami tower dubbed the ‘icepick building’ by detractors, currently on hold). Now the firm is looking at taking away space that functions as a public plaza and an iconic rotunda entrance to the Pacific Centre to build 3-storeys of retail. Is there any balance to public and private interests in planning in Vancouver? Does the space-making role of the plaza and rotunda have sufficient merit to City planners and policy makers? Why has this been largely off the media radar? Why are groups that supposedly advocate for public spaces (e.g., Vancouver Public Space Network, and Spacing Vancouver) not actively trying to raise awareness and protect the public space affected by this proposal? Stay tuned. See further below for recent media coverage.

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Pop-up pool consultation, plans for 2017

popup pool

The Vancouver Park Board accepted a report to Expedite Outdoor Pools at the final meeting before the summer break on July 25, 2016. There is an ongoing public consultation process on the VanSplash Aquatics Strategy. An online survey will be open until September 15, 2016.

The City of Vancouver has a shortage of outdoor pools. There are only 3 outdoor pools to serve a population of over 605,000 residents (by comparison, Winnipeg has 10 outdoor pools while Mississauga has 7 outdoor pools). One of the options being investigated by Park Board is the construction of temporary ‘pop-up’ pools. A number of examples of pop-up pools are illustrated in the staff report. On May 30, 2016, Park Board Commissioners voted in favour of a motion to Expedite Outdoor Pools (6-1 vote with only Vision Vancouver Commissioner Catherine Evans opposed).

Part of the consultation process is to identify locations for a pop-up pool. The material on the Park Board webpage notes: “The pop-up pool would go in an area without easy access to a neighborhood outdoor pool or beach, and have room for up to 200 people.” The first pop-up pool could be in operation for the summer of 2017.