What if Vancouver Planning & Building Actually Worked for Vancouverites? (CC#81: How could a citizen-focused City Hall work for its residents? One example) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #81 was first published 15-Sep-2022)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatch, please visit this page.)

This #81 is important as a summary of the shortcomings of the City’s current system of providing the public with information about rezoning and development applications. Brian describes the database he created as an individual, using information from CityHallWatch. And shows how much more the City could do to provide this information to the public. The obvious conclusion is not that the City is unable to. It doesn’t want to.


September 15th 2022—a break from neighbourhood discussions to think about how easy it would be to have City Hall’s planning & building departments move from byzantine to transparent

 A somewhat illegible snapshot from the 443 rows + 40 columns in the Homes for Whom database—why is this hard to read but more transparent than all of City Hall?

“Dad, don’t you think folks are getting tired of your database” asked my son, looking over my shoulder. “Let’s face it—data is boring!”

I smiled at his generation’s rejection of numbers. “I agree,” I answered, “it’s not sexy at all, but numbers talk and in the absence of authoritative data, as the next civic election approaches, folks are increasingly listening and paying attention.”

He looked skeptical, so I continued. “For more than a year I listened to many citizens, journalists, social media folks and politicians complain about the impossibility of getting timely information out of City Hall’s planning and building departments.” He continued looking askance.

“So, Dad,” he interrupted. “How did we get here and how do we get out of this mess?”

“I think some of where the city is at is layered accidents, but some is also deliberate.” He waited for me to explain.

“In any bureaucracy there’s a tendency to keep adding layers of requirements. One small scale example and knock on effects—a few citizens build unsafe, illegal building bits, so every single project must be preinspected. As a result there are insufficient staff to examine and shut down illegal AirBnBs or similar situations. Or, an inspector or plan checker is fooled by an applicant or contractor, so a new rule is imposed on every project, no exceptions. After a while, nobody remembers why the new rule or requirement was implemented, but nobody has or will exercise the authority to revisit and refine.” He smiled at the examples he had lived vicariously through me.

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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, 2022, in City of Vancouver

CityHallWatch acknowledges the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is the second time the day is being observed nationwide, and second time for the City of Vancouver.

The City has created a special page dedicated to this day, with useful materials, including video and links to the “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Proclamation,” the “2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action” final report and its 94 recommendations to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation,” and the 27 actionable areas identified for the City.

LINK: https://vancouver.ca/people-programs/truth-and-reconciliation.aspx

CBC has extensive programming for today.

As one concrete action today, how about reading the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action? (Link here.) Download and refer to it often.

Vancouver’s actionable areas are identified in three themes:

  • Healthy communities and wellness
  • Achieving Indigenous human rights and recognition
  • Advancing awareness, knowledge, and capacity|

Excerpt from City website:

A day of remembrance

To honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2022, Mayor Kennedy Stewart issued a Proclamation on behalf of the City of Vancouver, declaring September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Review the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Proclamation PDF file (500 KB)

The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action final report PDF file (299 KB) listed 94 recommendations to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” Of those, 27 have been identified as actionable areas for the City. Review these 27 calls to action here PDF file  (204 KB).

For a comprehensive look at our most recent Reconciliation actions, review our Reconciliation report PDF file (528 KB).

Websites of First Nations in the region (More to be added)

Musqueam Nation: https://www.musqueam.bc.ca/

Squamish Nation: https://www.squamish.net/olympic-mou/

Tsleil-Waututh Nation: https://twnation.ca/

Lil’wat Nation: https://lilwat.ca/

MEDIA release 30-Sep-2022

Musqueam gifts new name to City of Vancouver to replace Trutch Street (30-Sep-2022): https://www.musqueam.bc.ca/renaming-ceremony-vancouver-trutch-street/
New name is Musqueamview (šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmasəm).

Rally to Restore Stanley Park, Oct 1/Sat at noon, Devonian Harbour Park

(We are sharing this notice received at CityHallWatch from the ad hoc group Stanley Park for All.)

Rally to Restore Stanley Park
Sat, Oct 1, 2022, Noon
Devonian Harbour Park
(Please come and bring your family and friends)

Stanley Park for All is organizing a Rally to Restore Stanley Park on Saturday, October 1st at noon in Devonian Harbour Park (north side of Georgia St, between Denman and Stanley Park).

This is your last chance to come out and show your support for the return of Stanley Park to the way it was. We need easy access for everyone including those with limited mobility, families and anyone who wants to access this 1000-acre park, its restaurants, and many attractions. 

The civic election on Oct 15 is only three weeks away and the Park Board we elect will determine the fate of Stanley Park. Please attend this rally to show your support. It is critical.

Please forward this email to all your friends and family and urge them to come. 
Thank you for helping Save Stanley Park for everyone.

Stanley Park for All

PDF download and print:

Business in Vancouver’s mayoral candidate debate video (Sept 26) now online

BIV Mayoralty Candidates Debate – Terminal City Club – 2022-09-26 at 7 pm

On September 26, 2022, Glacier Media (Business in Vancouver, Vancouver Is Awesome) hosted a debate by five leading candidates for the Vancouver mayoralty in the October 15 municipal election. It was moderated by Kirk LaPointe, held at the Terminal City Club and also available online. The event is now on YouTube (above). The BIV website (https://biv.com/business-excellence-series-municipal-elections) provides a profile of the candidates, which we copy below for your convenience.

Candidates in alphabetical order:

Fred Harding of the NPA
Colleen Hardwick of TEAM for a Livable Vancouver
Mark Marissen of Progress Vancouver
Ken Sim of A Better City
Kennedy Stewart of Forward Together

Journalists from Business in Vancouver (BIV) and Vancouver Is Awesome (VIA) questioned candidates on a range of significant civic issues. Admission was free to the event, but registration in advance was required.

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2022 civic election will determine if the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan become the future of this city: Analysis of each party’s voting record and platform

(This is an updated version of an article we originally published Aug. 14, now that contending parties have published their campaign platforms.)
Vancouver’s current Mayor and all ten City Councillors are running for re-election on October 15, 2022, under various parties. How they voted on the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan (adopted by majority votes on June 22 and July 22, respectively) shows clearly what direction each of them and their respective parties want to take the city if re-elected. Below is an analysis of the voting records (of incumbents seeking reelection), plus the election platforms all parties contending in this election.

ABOVE: Current Council is Mayor Kennedy Stewart (Forward Vancouver, mayor candidate) in center, with Councillors (from left) Rebecca Bligh (ABC), Christine Boyle (OneCity), Colleen Hardwick (TEAM, mayor candidate), Pete Fry (Green), Adriane Carr (Green), [Stewart, in centre], Melissa De Genova (NPA), Jean Swanson (COPE), Michael Wiebe (Green). Lisa Dominato (ABC), Sarah Kirby-Yung (ABC). All are seeking re-election this October, with their current party affiliations as indicated.

The Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan are both a major departure from Vancouver’s historic, award-winning, neighbourhood-based planning reputation and respect for community participation. Both of the newly adopted plans create just a handful of housing typologies, mostly in tower forms of up to 40 storeys in station areas, and up to 12 – 20 storeys in areas surrounding stations. The plans randomly distribute these typologies across the city, without any meaningful relationship to local neighbourhood context. They override decades of neighbourhood plans and community visions while promoting land speculation and demoviction.

If implemented, the Broadway Plan will be incorporated into the Vancouver Plan, which will be adopted as the Vancouver’s Official Community Plan (OCP). This OCP would then become part of the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) to 2050 under Metro Vancouver.

If the Province follows through with its threatened legislation, any rezoning that aligns with the OCP will not require a public hearing, which would mean a development application could go directly to a Development Permit, a process that barely allows for public input, if any at all.

The new City Council elected on October 15 will decide if these plans are to be implemented or not. That means this election will define the future of Vancouver. Will it be a city of towers? Or a city of distinct, liveable, sustainable neighbourhoods?

The Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan will affect major site developments citywide. For example, the Broadway Plan scale of development will be extended to UBC to justify the current 40 storey plans at Jericho Lands now that a subway station is planned for the site. Current neighbourhood plans such as the Grandview Community Plan are ignored to increase the Safeway site at Commercial and Broadway to 40 storeys now that the Broadway plan has been approved. And all of these plans will go forward without public hearings if the province follows through with their threats.

Only TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, with Colleen Hardwick for mayor, have policies to withdraw both the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan, and to accommodate growth in the local context through neighbourhood-based planning with meaningful community involvement in the process.

Below, we first go into the Council voting records of the incumbents and the positions of their related civic parties on the Broadway and Vancouver Plans. Then we will go into more detail about what these plans mean if they are implemented.

1. Voting Records of the Current Council

Both of the Broadway and Vancouver Plans brought out hundreds of letters and speakers over multiple days, primarily in opposition. By majority votes, Council approved both plans, albeit with many amendments. While the votes on various amendments were mixed, the focus here is on the approval of the overall plans as amended by the majority of each party represented on Council.

Broadway Plan:

With the following exceptions, all other party majorities (ABC, Forward, Greens, OneCity) voted in support of the final, main motion to approve the Broadway Plan as amended:

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A primer list for mayoral and council candidates in lead-up to October 15 civic election in 2022

Vancouver City Council has ten councillors and one mayor, for a total of eleven.

CityHallWatch.ca (updated Sept. 27 version, subject to further updates). Download PDF to print and make your own notes. Click here.

Preamble (update to original version): This list contains over 100 topics that mayor and council deal with over time, but more than any other topic, the fate of the seriously flawed Vancouver Plan and Broadway Plan will determine nearly every aspect of Vancouver’s future. All parties except one intend to implement those plans if elected. And if David Eby becomes premier of B.C., he intends to eliminate public hearings on rezonings in Vancouver, basically cutting the public out of decision making. The result will be demolition, displacement, renoviction, construction disruptions and massive climate impacts on thousands of city blocks. Only Team for a Livable Vancouver has committed to revoke both plans and have a fresh, neighbourhood-based review. Refer to this article for analysis of each party’s stance: “2022 civic election will determine if the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan become the future of this city: Analysis of each party’s voting record and platform” (Link here).

Below is a list of Vancouver civic topics put together by an avid citizen. Each has a major back story and relates to municipal governance, our City Hall. It is not a comprehensive list, but could be used as a checklist for mayoral and council candidates to scan and brush up in preparation for meeting voters in the lead-up to the election on October 15, 2022. Or it could be used by voters to organize their thoughts. People who follow the news and civic affairs will probably discover that just reading a line will trigger thoughts and memories about stories and issues of the past four years of the outgoing city council (2018-2022).

Below are over 100 points that could be a list of topics/concerns to pick from for discussion and probing candidates’ knowledge and intentions. Where do candidates stand on these things? Any of them could be turned into questions for candidates. The list finishes off with six samples questions on governance, planning and development.


a)         Property taxes

  • 23% increase over the past 4 years
  • Possible 8-10% next year being floated
  • Evaluation of value/satisfaction for money
  • Other fees and revenues

b)         Capital plan

  • Priorities
  • Services matching density?/Waivers of DCCs
  • Sources and use of CACs

c)         Services

  • Garbage/recycling
  • Traffic
  • Transportation/bikes
  • Fire/ambulance
  • Call centres/311/police
  • Weeds/trees/lawns
  • Police/crime/safety
  • Changes to Police Act?
  • Traffic and engineering always deferred from major rezonings?
  • Park Board funding
  • City Hall management and staffing
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Grandview Woodland: A ground-zero neighbourhood for Vancouver Plan and Broadway Plan. Its fate depends on the election Oct 15.

Above: On rezonings for towers like this, there is a real likelihood the BC provincial and Vancouver city governments will eliminate public hearings and thereby any real chance for public oversight of development in Vancouver. It depends largely on the outcome of the civic election on Oct 15, 2022. The current proposal for the Safeway site at Broadway and Commercial (1780 Broadway) is already significantly higher than the city-created Community Assembly’s preference of 12 storeys, which had gone through an extensive consultation. The current rezoning proposal is for three towers, with heights ranging from 24 to 27 residential storeys atop a series of “plinths” (thicker bases that add 11 more storeys). That means the tallest would rise effectively to 38 storeys under the current proposal. But the original July rezoning was postponed. After this October election, Westbank/Crombie REIT plan to additional height, exploiting proximity to the Broadway Plan (which just entered into effect on September 1 due to a last-minute amendment by outgoing mayor Kennedy Stewart) to seek additional height and density, which, if approved, would make “Tower A” approximately 30 feet taller than the Woodwards building at 47 storeys. Depending on who gets 6 of the 11 seats on Council on Oct 15, even just the opportunity for the community to address City Council at a public hearing has a real chance of being eliminated. Proposals such as this would go straight from developers to the planning department, with the public basically cut out and ignored. This pattern of behaviour would occur all over the City. The “short” image above depicts the current proposal, and the “tall” image higher as an artist’s impression (by CityHallWatch) of what is being sought by Westbank/Gillespie and Crombie REIT.

The stakes are high in Grandview Woodland. On September 26 the Britannia Community Centre & Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) City Council Candidates Public Forum was held in the lead up to the Oct 15 civic election, September 26th 7 pm – Britannia Community Centre Gym D (1661 Napier Street). (See our full list of election events here.)

Jak King in Battleground: Grandview (An Activist’s Memoir of the Grandview Community Plan, 2011 – 2016) documented in great detail the shenanigans of Vancovouver City planners in dealing with this neighbourhood (see link for an interview transcript and YouTube video on the book).

In a sense, Grandview Woodland including the area around Commercial Drive, is one of the ground zero spots for the Vancouver Plan and Broadway Plan. Except for one, all major civic parties fully intend to implement both plans, full steam ahead (only TEAM for a Livable Vancouver has stated it will revoke them if elected). If the pro-developer parties get six of 11 votes on the new Council, the next step would be for the premier-in-waiting David Eby to act on his threats to eliminate rezoning public hearings in Vancouver. Grandview Woodland and other neighbourhoods of the city would thereupon lose any real say in how their neighbourhoods develop, as applications would go straight to the planning department.

One lightning rod and an exemplification of exactly what’s going on is the proposed Safeway Tower at Broadway and Commercial. The preference of the Citizens Assembly was up to 12 storeys on the site, though the subsequent Grandview Woodland Community Plan allowed higher than that [sentence updated]. The current application by Westbank/Gillespie and Crombie REIT (an investment trust) is currently seeking three towers at 24 to 27 residential storeys atop a series of “plinths” that would add 11 storeys as noted above (https://shapeyourcity.ca/1780-e-broadway), but the public hearing, originally scheduled for July 7, has been postponed until after the election. According to an article by development industry online website, Westbank and Crombie REIT are planning to submit an amended rezoning application for additional height and density (Taller towers for more rental homes in revised Safeway redevelopment proposal at SkyTrain Commercial-Broadway Station, 21-Sept-2022, Kenneth Chan, Daily Hive)

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Question: When is a Deal not a Deal? (Answer: When the City of Vancouver folds with a full house) CC#82 by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #82 was first published 23-Sep-2022)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatch, please visit this page.)


September 22nd 2022—a mayoral candidate forum in False Creek highlights another city staff sleight of hand—and not a good one.

 Excerpt from the False Creek North Official Development Plan showing the original “Park with parcel 6A or 6C whichever proceeds last”…but the boundaries are pretty clear

“If I’d known this would be the end result of all our work in the late 80s, I’d have paid more attention at the time!” I was comparing the park at the northeast end of False Creek as shown in the False Creek North Official Development Plan  (FCNODP) to modifications proposed by the city in 2017, almost 30 years later. I was the Managing Architect for the original ODP.

“Well,” commented my son, “I wasn’t even born when you started work on the ODP, so pardon my questions.” He smiled—he never really pardons himself before tackling my thoughts. 

“How did the whichever proceeds last wording get into the comment about the park adjacent Parcel 6C? Seems pretty lame. And what’s changed?” he asked.

“I honestly don’t remember the exact reasoning around whichever proceeds last but I’m guessing it’s because that whole end of Pacific Place was a big question mark. Rogers Arena wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye, the former Expo 86 BC Pavilion site (6b) was unknown, but probably office. And, of course, there was unremediated soils contamination there from former industrial activities.”

The 2017 city proposal squeezes the park’s waterfront footprint back against the heavy traffic roads to make room for more private development. Meanwhile the Carrall Street realignment messes up the heavily used Andy Livingstone Park so that the Carrall Street realignment looks like good urban design rather than a waterfront land grab…just sayin’

I continued. “I guess I should have been more suspicious of that wording at the time. Thinking about now, 30+ years later, and a current example, the much-delayed community centre in the River District, the development industry’s modus operandi now appears to be to delay public amenities until the very end of projects, and in the case of the River District to then demand more density in exchange for what they’ve previously agreed to provide.”

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Vancouver mayoral candidates’ town hall for Chinatown and neighbours, Sept 24 (Sat) at Choi Hall 10 am

As noted in the above poster and this link of Chinatown Peace Church, a Vancouver Mayoral Candidates Chinatown & Neighbours Town Hall Meeting is planned as follows:

The focus will be on electoral issues/topics related to Chinatown and its neighbours. Q&A session to follow.

September 24, 2022 (Saturday), 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Choi Hall, at 28 West Pender Street
Moderated by Frances Bula, Globe and Mail
Multiple sponsors (see list of 16 groups)
Video: (Livestreamed real time, but still available for viewing later, any time. Unfortunately, the sound quality is so-so, but you can hear what they are saying if you strain a bit): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDjDfHjixubw6YWxV1q_lCw

Mayoral candidates Kennedy Stewart (Forward Together) and Ken Sim (ABC Vancouver) have been avoiding mayoral debates. But according to a tweet by Michael S. Tan, the five top candidates are confirmed, so that would presumably include them both, as well as Colleen Hardwick (TEAM for a Livable Vancouver), Fred Harding (NPA Vancouver), and Mark Marissen (Progress Vancouver).

However, both Sim and Stewart were criticized for failing to attend two previous debates (one by the citywide Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods on Sept 19, cancelled due to their failure to attend, and one by Residents for Community Control on City Development on Sept 9, which did go ahead without those two and Marissen. See “Mayoral candidates Ken Sim and Kennedy Stewart duck a second debate” in the Georgia Straight.)

Meanwhile, it is not yet clear if Stewart and Sim plan to attend the False Creek Residents Association debate on September 21 (https://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2022/09/14/fcra_2022-mayoral-debate-sept-21/). (Update: Sim attended. Stewart did not.)

During this debate, at 2:02:30 in the YouTube video, an angry Downtown Eastside resident interrupted Mayor Stewart on the topic of showers and washrooms for people living on the street. This Tweet captured the interaction.

Save Vanier Park Rally: 17 Sept (Sat) 2pm at 1300 block of Chestnut. Opposed to road through park for the Senákw tower project beside Burrard Bridge

Locals are organizing a rally opposed to an access road proposed through Vanier Park for the Senákw project to include 11 towers up to 60 storeys high beside the south end of the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver.

September 17, 2022 (Saturday), starting at 2 pm
Location: Vanier Park, 1300 block of Chestnut Street
Rally organizer’s website: http://nosenakwroadway.com/

The keynote speaker at the rally is slated to be mayoral candidate Colleen Hardwick and the event will include a walk through the grassed and forested area slated to be cleared for the road.
Further below is an information sheet on the issues of concern, plus recent coverage from the Vancouver Sun. and media release by Kits Point Residents Association about the project.

Project website: https://senakw.com/

Senákw is being developed by Nch’kaỷ West—a partnership between Nch’kay Development Corporation and Westbank Projects Corp. Nch’kaỷ is the economic development arm of the Squamish Nation. While Westbank (CEO Ian Gillespie) has a 50% stake, the company is basically operating as a silent partner, hiding behind the First Nations partners.
Above: A 2021 image of the proposed Senakw project once fully built (11 towers in center of image, up to 60 storeys high). Vanier Park is on the left.


THE ISSUES OF CONCERN (provided by rally organizer)


All agreements about the proposed Senakw development have been made in secret. Clearly all the issues that follow, flow from this.

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