City Council + Public Hearings May 26 & 27, Park Board May 25: Heads up on controversial and critical topics

Drinking beer and wine in public spaces

The coming week has one Park Board meeting, on Regular Council meetings, two electronic Public Hearings, and one Council Standing Committee meeting. Here are quick links to agenda, and further below are CityHallWatch comments on selected items, plus the full agendas (check City site for latest versions). We encourage concerned citizens and groups to communicate with Commissioners and Mayor and Council if you have comments on any item. The agenda pages indicate how you can provide comments. See also our contact page here.

Park Board, May 25, 2020 6:30 pm

Council Agenda, May 26, 2020 9:30 am

Council Committee Agenda, May 27, 2020 9:30 am

Public Hearing Agenda, May 26, 2020 6:00 pm

Public Hearing Agenda, May 28, 2020 6:00 pm

Is drinking in public spaces coming to Vancouver?

Here are some selected items plus comments by CityHallWatch.

Regular Council May 25, 2020


  1. COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts: Financial Mitigation and Restoration of City Service Plan

Excerpt: Patrice Impey, General Manager, Finance, Risk and Supply Chain Management, to present the report dated May 19, 2020. Staff outline project priorities and cost implications.


  1. Sewage and Rainwater Management Plan for Vancouver

Excerpt: The 2019 to 2022 Capital Plan has allocated $137 million for the renewal and separation of aging sewer pipes as part of the City’s ongoing renewal program. A further $111 million was planned for upgrades triggered by growth as part of a new program to respond to development. Based on current estimates, the cost to complete the separation of aging combined sewer pipes throughout the city as part of the renewal program is approximately $3.7 billion.

CityHallWatch comment: The impacts of growth on infrastructure is enormous, especially where large amounts of density are concentrated like development corridors where the services need huge upgrades to service the growth.


  1. Defining Social Housing Consistently and Transparently in the City of Vancouver

Motion by Clr. Fry to improve the definition of Social Housing. Worth a careful look.


 Standing Committee of Council May 27


1. Development and Permit Process Improvements

a. Presentation – Development and Permit Process Improvements

b. Regulation Redesign – Amendments to Zoning & Development and Parking By-laws

CityHallWatch comment: These By-law amendments are significant for a number of reasons. The city is combining a large number of amendments on unrelated issues as an omnibus change to the Zoning and Development By-law for various zoning schedules, for various Official Development Plans, for the Parking By-Law and other land use documents. These are not minor text amendments, but are substantive changes to zoning and regulations, with a variety of impacts.

No “redline” documents are provided to show what is changed in context with the original by-law or a detailed explanation of what each amendment means in practical terms to the built forms or development process. This lack of transparency makes it difficult for Council and the public to really know what is changing.

Some of the issues that stand out appear to be changes to RS and RT zones that include variances allowed for character house retention and for increased intrusion of decks and porches into front and side yards by about 6 ft, without being related to adjacent buildings.  It is not clear how this could apply to side yards that are usually less than 6 ft. on most lots.

There has been no public consultation on this item. The City’s approach in this case it that a Public Hearing is considered the public consultation, but there has been no opportunity for public input to be considered in the staff recommendations. Public would normally have a chance to give input prior to the staff’s recommendation for referral to a Public Hearing.

  1. Enabling Mass Timber Construction

CityHallWatch: This policy is to enable twelve-storey wood frame construction. Many considerations. See media coverage for more analysis.

  1. Recalibrating the Housing Vancouver Strategy post COVID-19

At the Council meeting on May 12, 2020, Council referred the following motion to the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services meeting on May 13, 2020, in order to hear from speakers. Subsequently, due to time constraints, the motion was deferred to the Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities meeting on May 27, 2020 to hear from speakers, and for the Committee to engage in debate and decision.

CityHallWatch comment: This motion asks for data to be made public regarding information to inform the reconsideration of the Housing Vancouver Strategy targets. There has been considerable media coverage about this topic. We support the motion!


Public Hearing May 26, 2020

  1. REZONING: 2776 Semlin Dr and 2025 East 12th Avenue

CityHallWatch comment: Note that in the proposal there will be 104 units and 32 will be to HILs rates. These break down as follows:

  • Twenty-seven out of the 32 units are studios.
  • These 27 units will be for renters with a gross household income of less than $51,500 per year.
  • Using 30 percent for housing as a standard measure for affordability, an income of $51,500 means a person can afford to pay $1,287.48 in monthly rent.
  • Five out of the 32 units are two-bedroom units.
  • These five units will be for renters with a gross household income of less than $63,000 per year.
  • Again using the 30 percent for housing as affordability measure, a household earning $63,000 can afford a monthly rent of $1,575.

Most of these units will be studios renting at $1,287/month. This is actually at market rates for the east side or even higher than market in many cases. Only  five units will be 2 bedroom at $1,575/month. While this is below market for 2 bedrooms, it is not that much below. But more troubling, are these liveable? Now the city is allowing for rentals to have bedrooms without windows and to be so small that they can barely fit a bed inside. More like a closet or den.

Also for consideration, this project is the redevelopment of a church owned property that would have been exempt from property taxes for the entire time the church owned it. And since the church will be rebuilt on the main floor of the new building, this tax exemption will continue, at least for the church portion, and possibly for the rest of the rentals too since it is categorized as social housing.

On top of that, the project would also have development fees waived, both for CACs and DCLs. Further,  it is getting a density bonus and height relaxation to six storeys.

Basically, it is a scandal that the city is “giving away the farm” for no real affordability for the people who need it most.

All church properties should be retained for non-profit community use, or the church should pay back to the city all previous tax exemptions it got waived prior to sale or any redevelopment approvals. This would reduce the land values of these properties and be a disincentive to selling them off to developers or for churches acting like developers.


Agendas have been reproduced below:
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Important Metro Vancouver online meetings on upgrades to Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant (19+21 May, 2020). You can help orcas and wild Pacific salmon!

Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, GSA 2020
Metro Vancouver is holding two online community meetings (same content, one in afternoon, one in evening) on the upgrade to the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 12:00 to 2:00 pm
Thursday, May 21, 2020, 6:30 to 8:30 pm

See the agendas and register online here on Metro Vancouver website.

Why is this important? Much of the sewage and wastewater from Vancouver ends up being treated here before being discharged into the Salish Sea. Your voice can help make it better. Read on!

The meetings are for the Project Definition Phase of the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant Project.

Learn about the design concepts for the new plant and give feedback on community and park integration, and habitat enhancement and resource recovery opportunities. Each meeting will have the same presentations, with time for questions and discussion.

Here is an excerpt from a notice by the Georgia Straight Alliance.

Share how better wastewater treatment can protect the Salish Sea

An upcoming upgrade to Metro Vancouver’s largest wastewater treatment facility, the Iona Island Plant, is presenting an exceptionally rare opportunity to tackle a significant source of pollution to the Salish Sea. The Iona Plant’s outflow is discharged directly into the Salish Sea at the mouth of the Fraser River. Without advanced tertiary treatment, this effluent carries toxic contaminants and microplastics directly into habitat critical for endangered Southern Resident orcas and wild Pacific salmon. These contaminants are known to disrupt the reproductive and developmental health of these iconic species, and it’s vital that we take quick action to reduce the Iona Plant’s impact on the Salish Sea and its inhabitants. Continue reading

Vancouver extends declaration deadlines for Empty Homes Tax

money pink coins pig

Photo by Skitterphoto on

Vancouver’ Civic Engagement and Communications department sent out this notice on May 12, 2020. Excerpts below. Please contact the City for details.


Late declaration deadlines for Empty Homes Tax extended (12-May-2020)

Those who missed deadline for 2017, 2018 get another chance

City Council voted today to give property owners who missed the Empty Homes Tax (Vacancy Tax) declaration deadline in the first two years of the program ― the 2017 and 2018 tax years ― one final chance to make their declaration and have their Empty Homes Tax bill rescinded.

Late declarations for 2017 and 2018 would be due by December 31, 2020. These late declarations will be subject to a $375 bylaw fine.

Changes to the Vacancy Tax bylaw will need to be passed by Council before property owners can file a late declaration (in the form of a notice of complaint) for 2017 and 2018. More information will be posted on the City’s web site at once the bylaw changes are in effect. Continue reading

“Back2Basics:Vancouver” petition calls on Mayor Kennedy Stewart to launch an independent financial audit seeking ways to reduce costs

Back2BasicsVancouver petition image May 2020

Image: Back2Basics:Vancouver petition page

Concerned citizens have created a new online petition called “Back2Basics:Vancouver.” Just launched a few days ago, it already has nearly 800 signatures and is growing fast. Its main demand is for “the City to undertake an independent financial audit of its books. Reduce costs to what we can afford. ”

Direct link to the petition:

Excerpt from petition page:

Vancouver Mayor Stewart recently pleaded with the federal and provincial governments for $200 million to help with the City of Vancouver budget during this pandemic crisis.

He says the City is going “bankrupt/insolvent” and that property taxes will have to increase by another 14%. This is on top of the current already planned tax increase of 7%!

With a $1.6 billion budget, how can the City be nearly insolvent? Surely there is room to trim expenses in this time of crisis? The announced layoffs and meagre 10% salary cuts for Mayor and management is not enough.

The City is doing little to tighten its budget while businesses and residents are suffering. Young people are disproportionately out of work. Seniors’ pensions have been decimated. Small businesses can’t pay rent. Owners are seeing their livelihoods evaporate. The city must stop pushing their out of control spending onto tax payers. These expenses affect everyone: renters, owners and businesses.

A growing movement of concerned citizens is alarmed and outraged.

This petition calls on the City to undertake an independent financial audit of its books. Reduce costs to what we can afford. Continue reading

Vancouver’s first-ever electronic Public Hearing May 12, 2020 (6 pm) merits scrutiny


On May 12, 2020 at 6:00 pm, the City will hold its first-ever electronic Public Hearing. This is a huge precedent. It has never been done before in the City Vancouver and merits a high level of scrutiny. The stage for this to happen has been evolving since mid March.

In response to the COVID-19 State of Emergency, the City of Vancouver has been conducting meetings of Council electronically under a provincial order that made an enabling temporary variance to the Vancouver Charter.

However, the City was also trying to use that same order to hold Public Hearings electronically. Section 566 of the Vancouver Charter deals with Public Hearings. It was NOT actually covered by the provincial order at that time. CityHallWatch described this move by our municipal government as opportunistic (City staff are proposing an immediate shift to ‘electronic’ Public Hearings: Illegal under the Vancouver Charter, opportunistic under COVID-19 emergency).

On May 1, 2020, the province created a new Order No. 2 to allow for electronic Public Hearings on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

It appears that the City was indeed previously acting in conflict with the Section 566 of the Vancouver Charter by continuing with Public Hearings through an electronic process. The province is now addressing this discrepancy by enabling it.

However, it still does not justify a business as usual approach to go ahead with electronic meetings and Public Hearings. The Order states the following:


  1. (1) This order only applies during the period that the declaration of a state of emergency made March 18, 2020 under section 9 (1) of the Emergency Program Act and any extension of the duration of that declaration is in effect.

(2) This order replaces the Local Government Meetings and Bylaw Process (COVID-19) Order made by MO 83/2020.

The Order does NOT set aside the requirements of the City to involve the public fully in the process.

The provincial Order will legalize the May 12 Public Hearing. But already this week the province is talking about starting to lift restrictions by May 16, so we will see how long this lasts.

Municipal lawyers Nathalie Baker and Ryan Parsons of law firm Eyford Partners recently posted a commentary on the provincial order:

Their comments outline how important public participation in the Public Hearing process is and how this temporary provincial order is very limited in how it should be applied for electronic means during the State of Emergency. The emergency measure should NOT be treated as a new way of doing business.

The city is proposing to only bring forward “non-controversial” rezonings to electronic Public Hearings. But it is not clear on how the city determines this when it often is not clear what is controversial until a Public Hearing takes place. Continue reading

City Council meetings May 12 & 13, 2020, Park Board May 11: Heads up on controversial and critical topics.

The Vancouver City Council agendas for Regular Council and Standing Committee, May 12 and May 13, have been posted online. A Public Hearing is scheduled for May 12, and a Park Board meeting for May 11.


We have copied official agendas (as of May 9) further below, after a detailed analysis of several topics. Analysis of the context for the first electronic Public Hearing (May 12), is covered under another post (Vancouver’s first-ever electronic Public Hearing May 12, 2020 (6 pm) merits scrutiny). Below are some key topics we’ve identified with comment.

Council Members Motions:

  1. Recalibrating the Housing Vancouver Strategy post COVID-19

CityHallWatch comment: We laud this motion by Clr. Colleen Hardwick and believe it is worthy of strong support. It proposes a revisit of the Housing Vancouver targets to align with historical and projected population growth based on census. It also requests that important related data be made transparently and publicly available. This has been a long time coming.

  1. Rescinding Motion to Include C-2 Zones in Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan

This motion by Mayor Stewart is problematic. It states:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council rescind the motion to extend the Rental Housing Stock ODP to the C-2 zoning districts, adopted at the November 26, 2019, meeting (Vote No. 05196):

  1. THAT Council instruct staff to prepare a report for consideration for referral to public hearing to amend the Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan to extend rental replacement requirements to C-2, C-2C, C-2B and C-2B-1 zoning districts city-wide.

CityHallWatch comment: As we have described (Mayor Stewart seeks to stop rental unit protection for C-2 zones), this motion proposes to withdraw the important motion previously passed by Council to protect existing residential rentals in the C-2 zones.

  1. Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Development Application Processes

CityHallWatch comment: This motion by Mayor Stewart is also problematic. In effect, it proposes that the development and rezoning democratic process be substantively weakened, in the name of expediency. The rezoning enquiry phase is proposed to be only voluntary, not mandatory. Currently, this phase helps to weed out any proposals that are substantially “not supportable” and requires the developer to reach out to the community to test public support. It is an important part of the process and should not be eliminated.


Agendas are reproduced below: Continue reading

Rezoning Applications Snapshot 1-May-2020

Above: Example of a Rezoning Application notice board

For an explanation of the CityHallWatch monthly snapshots please visit this page:

As a free public service CityHallWatch takes a monthly snapshot of the Rezoning Applications listed on the City of Vancouver website on the first day of every month. The list contains valuable information on each application, and indicates scheduled “open houses” and Public Hearings. Please spread the word to anyone who might be affected or interested. Our archive goes back years and is not available anywhere else.

A tech-savvy citizen is voluntarily producing two handy online maps regularly updated (click bottom right to switch between rezoning and development applications):

Download the full list of rezoning applications as of the first of this month, which we created in PDF format:
CoV rezoning applications snapshot 1-May-2020

For the most up-to-date and official list of applications on the City website, please click:

Below is the City’s list as of 1-May-2020.* Continue reading