‘So what’s the rent?’ (CC#99: It seems to be more of a struggle than it should be to find out what is the ‘affordable’ rent in a new Vancouver building.) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #97 was first published 31-Jan-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

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“So what’s the rent?”

City Conversation #99: It seems to be more of a struggle than it should be to find out what is the “affordable” rent in a new Vancouver building.

January 31st 2022—Real life frustrations trying to figure out the true cost of rental housing.

 The Pearson Dogwood site where Jane is looking for modest rental accommodation

“So what’s the rent?” Jane asked for the umpteenth time. This was her eighth email exchange on the subject over an eight day period.

Jane (not her real name to prevent her being blacklisted) has rented the same apartment for more than 20 years, but is about to be demovicted—that’s where a tenant is evicted because their apartment building is being demolished for redevelopment. 

Now, the building Jane lives in is operated by a so-called “nonprofit” organization—except it’s demolishing her serviceable 35-year old building to replace it with more, smaller apartments for which future tenants will be charged much more rent for much smaller spaces. That appears to be okay with city staff as her home falls just outside the Broadway Plan boundaries that are supposed to provide a greater degree of renter protection and compensation. 

Jane is single, working but not wealthy, so all of this matters. It just doesn’t seem to matter to her nonprofit landlord, nor to local and provincial governments. Not to her nonprofit landlord, which has been trying to get her and the remaining tenants out the door for well over a year (it’s cheaper for the landlord if they just leave), without incentives or other forms of assistance. Not to the city of Vancouver, which granted permission to redevelop without any substantive relocation assistance to existing tenants or assistance in finding comparable accommodation elsewhere. Not to the province, which just wants more housing—although it has recently offered $500 million of taxpayer money to allow nonprofits to buy existing buildings in the Broadway Plan area, even where, as in Jane’s case, they continue to demolish serviceable buildings they already own elsewhere in the city.

So Jane is looking for a new home to rent in Vancouver. Upon reading the recent announcement of the impending opening of what is billed as affordable rental housing at the Pearson Dogwood site at 57th & Cambie, she contacted the operating nonprofit (different from the one where she currently lives) with the questions on any renter’s mind: “What’s available? How big is it?” and most important: “What’s the rent?”

I’ve re-read the email string she shared with me several times now, with breaks between to deal with the resulting headache. My synopsis (edited for brevity):

Continue reading

Letter to Editorial Board of The Globe and Mail (CC#98: Editorial Board’s January 23rd ‘Opinion’ about Housing in Vancouver is wrong in so many ways) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #97 was first published 30-Jan-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

A week ago The Globe and Mail carried an opinion by the Editorial Board entitled “Vancouver is ready to build new housing in old no-grow zones. But the plan is too timid.” (Who wrote it? The membership of this board is apparently a closely guarded secret.) But at any rate, their opinion piece seems to be filled with biases and errors, and that’s a serious problem for Vancouver if the public and policy makers in Vancouver simply swallow the opinions of that board. Brian Palmquist tried to correct them with a written submission. Regrettably, no reply was received. So he decided to publish it on his own, and we share the letter here. Brian has been tracking, analyzing, and reporting on rezoning and development in Vancouver in far greater detail than even the planning department appears to be doing. Please read on.

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A Letter to the Editorial Board of the Globe and Mail

City Conversation #98: The Editorial Board’s January 23rd “Opinion” about Housing in Vancouver is wrong in so many ways

January 23rd  2022—On this date the Globe and Mail published an Editorial Board Opinion. This is my polite rebuttal, submitted two days later to their Op-Ed editor. After 5 days of no reply or acknowledgment, here it is as a City Conversation. Synopsis: the real housing data is in plain sight and tells a different story.

A summary of planned housing in the City of Vancouver—a 60+ year supply without breaking a sweat

Your editorial, “Vancouver is ready to build new housing in old no-grow zones. But the plan is too timid” cannot go unchallenged. 

First, the obvious errors in your editorial:

  • There is no single family zoning in Vancouver—the entire city has been zoned for a minimum of 30 homes per net acre for several years. That’s at least 3 homes on even the smallest 10m x 30m lots;
  • City hall’s “50% of the land has 15% of the homes” is a fantasy that ignores the thousands of laneway homes and secondary suites already built on formerly single family lots, not to mention the construction of duplexes where before stood single family. Many more laneways, suites and duplexes would have been built already if the permitting process for these simple homes was not at least 6-12 months, which is a major part of the housing supply problem.
  • There is no “flat-out refusal by citizens to consider apartment buildings with homes of two or three bedrooms for families in neighbourhoods of detached homes,” as you state. The city’s Streamlining Rental policy that you allude to was divisive because it addressed that fictitious refusal or reluctance by supporting proposals that could only elicit opposition. Since the last municipal election, half of all proposed Streamlining Rental rezonings are formless—they are cookie cutter apartment building illustrations from an uninspired book of neighbourhood-destroying sketches. And none of those formless rezoning proposals says anything about family-sized homes.
  • As to what will actually be delivered to a neighbourhood, such formless rezoning proposals say “The specific form of development (building design) will be reviewed through a future development Permit process.” Yet, of the 23 formless apartment buildings approved so far by this and the previous Council, which is almost 10% of the total of their 250 spot rezonings, all approved, only two have applied for a Development Permit, and one of those two still has no form. Forgive us for asking, “When if not now?”

Data about housing in Vancouver is not easily available from City of Vancouver web pages or staff. It required searching out and analyzing more than 400 different city web pages to identify what housing has been initiated in the past four years—city staff offer no accurate summaries.  Housing data I have searched out is summarized by the accompanying illustration from my Homes for Whom database. In summary:

  • In the past four years the city has approved or encouraged through area planning a 66-year supply of housing for the city at historic absorption rates, not including the Vancouver Plan, which is Vancouver’s Official Community Plan-in-waiting that will likely double (at least) all of the numbers discovered so far;
  • That 66-year supply does not include housing contemplated in existing zoning, what planners call existing zoned capacity. City staff say they cannot do that calculation, so ignore it, although private citizens and professionals have done estimates;
  • Nor does the 66-year supply include other proposals that will emerge—in the past four years there has been an average of five rezoning proposals approved each month.

The Editorial Board’s conclusion about the need for ambition is inarguable. Gentle density comprising duplexing, secondary suites and laneways has been underway in Vancouver for some time, hampered only by excessive fees, byzantine approval processes and glacial approval time frames—that’s the real place to focus criticisms and suggestions. More housing may be required, even though these “gentler” forms of development already make up about a quarter of the new housing Vancouver’s population growth requires. Gentle density would provide much more housing, and more of it more affordable and livable than high density high-rise if it was not kneecapped from the start.

The ambition you champion must be accompanied by transparency, which seems in short supply at Vancouver city hall. My accurate data is available for the asking and paints a very different story. My and other analyst’s offers to compare data have been stiff armed and derided. Draw your own conclusions, Globe and Mail Editorial Board, but first do the research or at least listen to those who have.


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City Conversations

City Conversations is all about the future of Vancouver and similar communities.

By Brian Palmquist

Brian Palmquist is a Vancouver-based architect, building envelope and building code consultant and LEED Accredited Professional (the first green building system). His writing is based on research and observations from a 40+ year career including the planning, design and construction of almost every type and scale of project. He is the author of the Amazon best seller “An Architect’s Guide to Construction.” and is working on a book about how we can accommodate a growing population while saving the Vancouver we love.

February 4, 2023 (Saturday) is Transit Equity Day. How about it, Vancouver?

Above: A core message of transportation equity, referenced in Litman (2023). Source: Ryan “Equity and Mobility” in Transportation Talk by Ryan Martinson

Looking ahead a week to February 4, 2023, we’d like to draw attention to “Transit Equity Day.”

According to avid transit commentator and analyst Nathan Davidowicz, Transit Equity Day has never been celebrated in Vancouver or British Columbia.

It seems he’s right. Searching around the web, we see some reports and talk of “transit equity” in the local context of Metro Vancouver, but could not find any evidence of mobilization or events organized to mark Transit Equity Day, past or present. The time is ripe in 2023.

This is short notice, but perhaps someone could organize something over the next few days to get a humble start of what could be something that could do a lot of good for the world.

Below we share some excerpts Nathan shared with CityHallWatch, then eleven key points he wishes to emphasize, and then more web links for further reading and research. These are great resources for further reading.

What is “transit equity”?

“Transit equity is acknowledging that everyone deserves safe, reliable and affordable transportation options… Whether traveling to school, work or the beach, everyone deserves to be able to get around our county. We need to invest in building a more reliable and frequent transportation service.”
Faina Segal, Friends of the Rail and Trail, Santa Cruz.

Across Canada, transportation agencies address social equity concerns in a plethora of diverse ways. However, there is little consensus on how equity should be measured, whether achieving equity through transport policy is a priority, or how equity measures can be incorporated into existing transport evaluation tools such as costs/benefits analysis.

Source: Planning for Transit Equity in the GTHA:
Quantifying the Accessibility-Activity Participation Relationship
for Low-Income Households, report for Metrolinx, by Dr. Steven Farber and Jeff Allen, 29-May-2019.

Transportation equity is a way to frame distributive justice concerns in relation to how social, economic and government institutions shape the distribution of transportation benefits and burdens in society. It focuses on the evaluative standards used to judge the outcomes of policies and plans, asking who benefits from and is burdened by them and to what extent.” 

Source: 2021 International Encyclopedia of Transportation.

“It’s that time of year! Transit Equity Day “season,” where unions, transit rider organizers and climate and environmental justice groups come together to plan actions to take place on February 4, Rosa Park’s birthday, and to declare transit equity as a civil right.”

Source: Web page with map of actions across the United States
(https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/transit-equity-day-2023/)

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Here are some key points from Nathan Davidowicz.  

Translink’s Transport 2050 plan (link) is not equitable and would further widen inequity in Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of B.C.

In Metro Vancouver, transit operations and governance are different from any other place in Canada. While we do not have a racial divide to the extent seen in the United States we do have many equity problems that should be dealt with.

Eleven points:

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What’s a ‘building line’ in Vancouver? Here’s a backgrounder.

Above: Map from 18-May-1999 staff report to City Council

The Council agenda for January 31, 2023 has an item under Referral Reports, entitled “1. Zoning and Development By-law Amendments to Schedule E Building Lines (Hastings Street, North Side, from Cassiar Street to Boundary Road).” So watch for that one at a Public Hearing in the near future.

Above: Example of a building line about to be changed at an upcoming Public Hearing (reference).

What is a “building line”?

In Vancouver, there is a definition and history. Basically, “no development may be carried out upon, over or under any part of a site” between the building line and the street or lane. As you travel around the city, in some places you can visually detect an invisible line that requires buildings to be set back a fair distance from the roadway. This is clearly evident on the West side of Arbutus south of 12th Avenue, for example.

Building lines are described in Section 8 (PDF link) of the Zoning and Development By-law (link). Schedule E (PDF link) prescribes exact details. For example, on “Alma Street, west side, north of 12th Avenue to 4th Avenue,” the building line’s distance from the centre line of the street is precisely 40 feet (interestingly, in terms of units, we’re still in the last century). Typically building lines are used for transportation and surface utility purposes, such as for sidewalk widening, road widening, turn bays, cycling facilities, transit facilities, tree planting, or landscaping and green infrastructure.

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First performance audit from Vancouver’s Auditor General (Mike Macdonell) looks at building permit fees: Praise but also recommendations for improvements

This morning, January 25, 2023, the City of Vancouver’s Auditor General, Mike Macdonell, released the new office’s (est. 4-Nov-2020) first performance audit report (PDF download here, 35 pages), this time on the topic of building permit fees. The report found some positives and negatives, and made recommendations. Also, for anyone interested on the machinery of how permits happen and the workings of the various offices and departments involved, this report is a valuable resource. Plus, the newly elected City Council under Mayor Ken Sim has promised to speed up the permitting process, so this report would be a good read for anyone who wants to understand what’s involved.

A performance audit is “an independent, objective and systematic assessment of how well government is managing its activities, responsibilities and resources.” What is a building permit fee? From the report: “Local governments regulated the construction and renovation of structures to ensure the safety of occupants and achieve policy objectives. The issuance of building permits is an important early step in this regulatory process. Intended to be a fully cost recovered service, building permit applicants are required to pay fees in accordance with a fee schedule. The City’s effectiveness in its cost recovery objective is the subject of a separate audit to be released later this year.”

This new office was created by an initiative by former Councillor Colleen Hardwick with strong support from others on Council. The Auditor General’s first annual report will be available in early 2023, so watch for that.

The Auditor General is responsible for “assisting Council in holding itself and City administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds, and for achievement of value for money in City operations.”

This report covers “building permit fees.” From the report, in 2021, the City reviewed and issued 969 permits for new buildings and collected approximately $12.4 million in building permit fees from applicants. The vast majority of these were issued by two branches within the Development, Buildings and Licensing department (DBL): the Housing Review Branch (HRB) and the Building Review Branch (BRB). Anyone who has applied for a building permit will probably have run across these offices.

From the media release from the Office:

The audit determined that the City developed and implemented straightforward processes to consistently and accurately assess building permit fees for new buildings. The audit also found that, for projects that were reviewed, the value of the proposed work used as a basis to calculate fees was reasonable. Fees were charged accurately, in accordance with the City’s Schedule of Fees.

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Learn from the best: ‘Introduction to Neighbourhood Design’ (SFU, Scot Hein, April-May 2023)

Public Service Announcement on a great four-session course offered by Scot Hein via SFU. Here we borrow an intro from Jak King.

Scot Hein was one of the most respected planners at Vancouver City Hall. For the last few years, he has been using his skills to train other planners. He has now announced a new short course that will be of value to neighbourhood activists and all those interested in dealing with the City’s zoning and planning departments.

As Scot describes it: “Essentially I will be sharing my best tools, methods, case studies/precedents and engagement practices for all stakeholders towards positive shared results. We’ll also practice how to start a productive design oriented conversation in the neighbourhood.”

It is a four-week course in April and May that includes a walking tour of Kitsilano. Full details are here: https://www.sfu.ca/continuing-studies/courses/city/introduction-to-neighbourhood-design.html

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Make a difference in the future of your neighborhood. While city-building has traditionally been a top-down undertaking, neighborhood design has focused on building from the grassroots up. In this course, you will learn the basic tools and strategies to help you join the conversation and advocate for the neighbourhood you want to live in.

You will build a toolkit to help you navigate public processes, including: permitting, zoning, economic planning, context reading, and choosing appropriate built forms. Through examinations of relevant case studies, you will learn how to strategically convey local aspirations towards thoughtful, transformative outcomes.

You’ll also have an opportunity to discuss the current urban design challenges facing your neighbourhood, and develop specific co-design participatory strategies to address them. Walk away with an achievable plan and a support network comprised of others who are passionate about place-making.

Note: This course includes a walking tour through Kitsilano.

Tue, Apr 11, 2023
SCHEDULE
Tue, Apr 11, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time (virtual class)
Tue, Apr 18, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time (virtual class)
Sat, Apr 22, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time (field trip)
Tue, May 2, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time (virtual class)

$455

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

After completing this course, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain municipal development processes and related regulatory language
  • Examine a neighbourhood along the dimensions of urban form context and density
  • Determine the optimal set of urban design best practices for a given neighbourhood context
  • Initiate strategic public engagement processes aimed towards shared outcomes
  • Identify case studies that are relevant to local issues important to neighbourhoods
  • Understand how co-design processes should/could work

HOW YOU WILL LEARN AND BE EVALUATED

  • Expect instructor-led presentations and class discussions
  • Prepare to discuss, debate and formulate your own opinions

You will be evaluated on:

  • 2-page report due after the course

WHO SHOULD TAKE THIS COURSE?

This introductory course is for both professionals and engaged citizens with an interest in learning about neighbourhood design.

Form Follows…Maybe (CC#97: Half of rezoning applications since the Vancouver election are proposed with no “pretty pictures.” Many have already been approved.) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #97 was first published 20-Jan-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

We would like to emphasize the significance of the findings Brian reports in this post. Please read carefully. These are major revelations and merit major public attention and public debate.

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January 20th 2022—Updating my Homes for Whom database has revealed some disturbing trends that go against public consultation during rezonings. 

Above: 5 of 9 spot rezonings on the first page of the city’s Shape Your City rezoning site are generic boxes. City staff say “The specific form of development (building design) will be reviewed through a future Development Permit process.”

As mentioned in City Conversation #96, it has become increasingly difficult since the [October] 2022 civic election to find and aggregate development data. It’s there, but Hiding in Plain Sight, meaning very difficult to analyze.

Despite these challenges, in the past few days I killed the brain cells necessary to update the Homes for Whom database, which now includes 424 spot rezoning projects since 2018. Here’s some of what I found:

  • There are now 51 of these generic spot rezonings without illustrations, starting with a trickle in February of 2021, growing to a torrent starting in May 2022. That’s 51 of 424, or 12% since the previous Council started in 2018.
  • 23 of those 51 (45%) have already been approved by Council.
  • Only one of those 23 has proceeded to the next stage, a Development Permit. Notwithstanding the city’s standard wording at rezoning, “The specific form of development (building design) will be reviewed through a future Development Permit process,” that one Development Permit still has no drawings visible to the public.
  • Since the election, 11 of 21 (52%) of spot rezoning applications have been illustrated as these charmless boxes.

I also had a look at the distribution of these formless rezonings. In alphabetical order by neighbourhood:

  • 1 in Arbutus Ridge
  • 5 in Dunbar-Southlands
  • 4 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
  • 1 in Kerrisdale
  • 2 in Marpole
  • 1 in Mount Peasant
  • 13 in Oakridge
  • 7 in RPSC Riley Park
  • 3 in Shaughnessy
  • 13 in RPSC South Cambie
  • 1 in West Point Grey

That’s 11 of Vancouver’s 22 neighbourhoods, fully 50%. For the rest of you, I guess, coming soon!

What can we draw from this data dive:

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Should Vancouver’s school board be selling schools? Here’s what parents think about that.

Here is a pertinent Twitter thread by @PacQea (Queen Elizabeth Annex Elementary School’s Parent Advisory Committee) asking the various government bodies involved to think long term with the interests of the community in mind. We should expect no less!

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Here is how it starts: VSB [Vancouver School Board aka Vancouver Board of Education] is selling schools. Before they sell, they must prove the site is “surplus” not needed to meet future enrolment growth. VSB forecasts decline. BC Ministry of Education forecasts increase. And @VanDPAC [Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council, http://vancouverdpac.org/] Vancouver parents want both scenarios tested + long term plans.

Read on!

VSB’s forecast: a decline in total future enrolment (-2,500 people in 10 years).
BC Ministry of Education’s forecast: an increase in future enrolment (+10,000 people in 10 years).
#vanpoli
2/

But VSB’s “decline” is not true for Elementary School enrolment — according to VSB data, Elementary School enrolment has been stable for the last 10 years.
#vanpoli
3/

Who’s forecast is right?
No one has a crystal ball, but September 2022 VSB enrolment figures show that BC Ministry of Education’s forecast of increased enrolment over the next 10 years has started to become true: 1,684 more students enrolled than VSB forecasted.
#vanpoli
4/4

If BC’s projections come true, VSB will be short 2,300+ seats by 2032. That’s up to 5 more schools needed within the next 10 years.
It takes 7-9 years to plan and build a high school, elementary 5-6 years.
Number of new VSB schools currently funded? 1
#vanpoli
5/5

Originally tweeted by QEA – PAC (@PacQea) on January 20, 2023.

Some more references

Link to the VSB’s Long Range Facilities Plan

https://www.vsb.bc.ca/page/4893

Broadway Subway: Next stage of station construction begins at Broadway-City Hall but pedestrians and bus passengers are paying the price. 22 suggestions by Nathan Davidowicz

Above: Aerial view of Broadway City Hall traffic deck at Yukon St (Sept 2022). Credit Broadway Subway project website.

Nathan Davidowicz is an avid and long-time transit affairs watcher and policy commentator. Today he shared some observations and suggestions for transit planners regarding current construction work on the Broadway Subway (https://www.broadwaysubway.ca/). (Link for photos and videos – https://www.broadwaysubway.ca/construction/photos-and-videos/)

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First off, from the Broadway Subway project updates page, this announcement from 11-Jan-2023. https://www.broadwaysubway.ca/app/uploads/sites/626/2023/01/FOR-REVIEW_BSP-BSCGP-COM-NOT-00138_Moderate_BCH-Station-Construction-Begins_AKedit-lf.pdf

You can check the project updates page online, or sign up for e-mail updates: https://www.broadwaysubway.ca/construction/current-work/

Next, from Nathan, here is a fresh news piece on impacts of the Broadway Subway construction. “Vancouver business closing due to Broadway subway construction” (Darrian Matassa-Fung, Global News, 16-Jan-2023). Text with video at this link. Excerpt: “A Vancouver business on Broadway will be shutting its doors for good at the end of the month due to impacts felt by the construction of the new subway line. Surinder Sangha, owner of a Subway restaurant, says she’ll be closing down because business has been down by more than 75 per cent since the project’s construction began. She has run her business for more than 13 years. “City do nothing right now, I talked to my accountant to ask about provincial help but they said no help.” Sangha said she believes the loss of parking and other businesses closing their doors has severely hampered how many customers come in. To make matters worse for Sangha, she said her landlord wants to increase the rent by more than 50 per cent in March, something she says is not feasible for her business.”
Part of the City’s response is: “While the province is taking the lead on this project, we continue to work hard to mitigate construction impacts to Broadway businesses.
CHW comment: Both the City of Vancouver and the Province seem to be falling down and evading responsibility when it comes to taking care of suffering businesses along along the construction route. But the driver is the original decision to build the subway, when vastly quicker-to-complete, less expensive and less disruptive options were available.

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And now for the comments and suggestions Nathan Davidowicz sent to officials today, regarding not only the Broadway-City Hall station construction, but the whole construction project and impacts on pedestrians, bus passengers, and vehicle traffic. We’ll check back with Nathan in a few days to see if he’s had any response or actions from officials.

Next stage of station construction begins in Broadway-City Hall (Broadway Subway)

The traffic deck will be fully complete once additional panels are installed to allow the eastbound bus stop to be relocated in front of the Broadway-City Hall Station entrance.

We need proper bus stops during this long construction period.

Staff at the City and CMBC (Coast Mountain Bus Company) have prioritized car traffic instead of prioritizing pedestrians as well as bus passengers.

They prioritize the No. 99 bus over the No.9 bus on Broadway between Main St. and Arbutus St.

It is very frustrating and inconvenient for thousands of bus passengers when they have to walk long distances to bus stops, miss their bus connections and longer travel time.

Here is just one example east and west of Broadway and Cambie.

  • Eastbound: No. 9 last stop before Cambie St. is at farside Columbia St. next bus stop after Cambie St. is farside Ash St. a distance of 600m
  • Westbound: No. 9 last stop before Cambie St. is nearside Ash St. next bus stop after Cambie St. is farside Columbia St. a distance of 650m

Cutting the bus service on both No. 9 and No. 99 buses over the last 3 years shows that some passengers are deserting Broadway and using other bus routes.

Some ways to help all passengers, vehicles and businesses are:

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Hiding in Plain Sight…and how we can find it Together (CC96: Where Vancouver hides housing data, how I find it and will share it) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #96 was first published 15-Jan-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

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January 8th 2022—I have been working for sometime on how best to share Vancouver rezoning and development data which I describe as “hidden in plain sight.”

Above: Screen shot of  5 of 40 columns in one of more than 400 data rows in the Homes for Whom? Database

Readers of City Conversations will know that pretty much from the beginning (March 2021, to be exact), I have been presenting data about housing in Vancouver that is not easily available from City of Vancouver websites or staff and frequently at odds with their official numbers.

Since the October 2022 election the situation has further deteriorated. Some of my sources for raw city data advise that it has become nigh impossible for them to summarize monthly data around spot rezonings and Development Applications (DAs)—spot rezonings are where an applicant seeks to ignore what zoning bylaws currently permits, usually adding height and density; DAs follow rezonings and are the last information step before a Building Permit (BP) is applied for. I have done my own recent research and sadly, must report the same result. I think the data I have been reporting about is still available, hidden in plain sight. 

A few examples of what I mean by hidden in plain sight:

When a new spot rezoning project is proposed, only neighbours within a few block radius are informed by mail. A sign is erected on the site, but you have to walk by it to discover the basic details. This has been the practice for some long time, but with more than one new spot rezoning proposed each week on average during the 2018-2022 Council term, the pace of applications over ran that approach years ago. Neither the site signs nor the mailed cards advise when there have been any changes to an application.

Above: A typical rezoning sign—no mention of updates or changes

To find out more detail about a proposal, City staff also now set up a Shape Your City project website, where you can find some more details and comment online. Comments are summarized by city staff in their eventual report to Council. If a project changes during the review process, the website may be amended, but there is no alert about this—you need to keep revisiting the website to find if there are any changes. To find out when a project will go to public hearing, you need to monitor Council meeting minutes. Once the public process is completed, the data may be promptly erased.

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