Where are Vancouver City Council’s ‘in camera’ (closed) meeting reports and decisions published? Here.

Photo by Mochammad Algi on Pexels.com

Civic watchers may wish to check here every now and then.

Link: https://covapp.vancouver.ca/councilMeetingPublic/InCameraInfoReleases.aspx

This page contains in-camera decisions and reports that have been released because they are no longer considered sensitive. The decisions and reports are listed by both meeting date and latest release date. Regular release of in-camera decisions and reports which are no longer considered sensitive was initiated at the direction of Council on June 18, 2009. The initial release of materials dating back to June 2008 occurred on March 1, 2011. Release of in-camera decisions and reports no longer considered sensitive now occurs on a regular basis throughout the year.

Note: To view any previously released information related to the Olympic Village click here

As of March 6, 2023, there are 264 records on the page.

Here are the first several.

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Facing nearly a $2 billion operating budget (9.7% tax increase), Vancouver Council should exercise restraint and seriously review finances: Former Clr Colleen Hardwick

Former Councillor Colleen Hardwick (2018-2022) has shared the following letter with CityHallWatch.

Vancouver City Council is set to hold a Special Council meeting on the 2023 Draft Operating Budget, starting 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, in the Council Chambers. Here is the link for the documents, online video, and how to write or speak to Council. Link: https://council.vancouver.ca/20230228/spec20230228ag.htm

The agenda for the meeting stated that at the meeting, Council will receive a presentation and hear from speakers on the draft budget, and that debate and budget decision were scheduled for March 7. [Update: In a surprise and unexplained move, Council approved the agenda late on Feb 28.] There has been a lot of media coverage on the proposed 9.7% property tax increase and the draft operating budget of $1,961,363,868.

In her letter, Hardwick alerts the new Council to some unfinished City business and calls for concrete action: a baseline review, core services review, line item review of operating and capital budgets, and limiting any property tax increase to no more than inflation (5.9% in Jan). See links for details.

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February 27, 2023

Mayor & Council, City of Vancouver

Re: Budget 2023

Dear All;`

As a former Council member who took a deep interest in keeping the city affordable for its residents, I am concerned about the new Council’s proposed 9.7 % property tax increase.  It continues the inflationary spiral that began under Vision Vancouver, with consecutive Councils adding more costs, responsibilities and staff every year without questioning what is essential and what residents can afford.

When I joined Council in December 2018, I pushed for a Baseline Review back to 2008 to find out how the city had doubled the budget since then. Where did the money come from? Where did the money go?  The review as intended never happened, but it was clear the City had significantly expanded its mandate, and vastly increased its headcount as a result.  An actual baseline review would demonstrate that changes to the funding model for the Capital budget had a big impact on the operating budget.

The City changed its business and financial model, making longitudinal analysis difficult, if not impossible. New revenue streams were regularized and new definitions applied to eligible expenditures.  Whether you call it scope creep or mission creep, the effect has been the same.

In December 2021, CFO, Patrice Impey produced a Report back on City funds allocated to downloaded services that have traditionally been delivered by senior governments that demonstrated that over $350M had been downloaded from the Province and Feds to the Operating and Capital budgets over the last capital budget period.  I strongly urge that instead of taking more on, the new Council conduct a Core Services review and figure out where to trim.

A line item review of both the operating and capital budgets is in order. We need to understand where the headcount has been added.  We cannot continue to add more and more costs to residents and expect that they’re going to be able to live here.  

Residents – and I speak as one of them – are not simply new revenue streams. The public service is supposed to be serving us, not just trying to figure out how to extract more money from us. 

Canada’s annual inflation rate fell to 5.9% in January of 2023. Property tax increases should be in line.  Finally,  Council, please do start that long-needed Core Services review.  

Sincerely,

Colleen Hardwick


Creating a ‘Baseline Review’ Task Force 

Motion 11 (14-Nov-2018). Restoring Line-by-Line Budgets for the City of Vancouver (initial text)

Motion 14. (5-Dec-2018) Creating a ‘Baseline Review’ Task Force

Final text of Motion 14, Creating a ‘Baseline Review” (meeting minutes 12-Dec-2018)

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Missing Middle Maze of Meddling Mediocrity (CC#104: Arbitrary options poorly explained mask a bankrupt planning process) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #104 was first published 26-Feb-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

See links to the in-person open house events during February, online survey, and online session in this CityHallWatch post.

  • Remaining date
    • Monday, February 27, Online Session, 6:00-7:00pm (Eventbrite, but it’s full)

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Pardon the title’s alliteration as we ask some questions that you might also.

Current & proposed RS Housing options

The city’s Missing Middle initiative has three public consultation options during February, of which the first two are now complete:

  1. Online Survey—I’ve taken it, wrote about it but admittedly in many more words than the Twitter-lite limits on public survey responses. It’s open until March 5 and I urge you to take it.
  2. Open Houses—Seven of these have been planned in the month of February, I guess more than enough for the city’s 23 neighbourhoods. I’ve attended two so felt qualified to comment.
  3. An Online SessionScheduled for February 27th. Again, I recommend you sign up for that. Coming at the end of the seven open houses, perhaps it will be a moment for city staff to share what they’ve heard.

A third of the city’s Information Session Boards that support this public consultation are devoted to Background + Context issues. Please read them yourselves if you must.

The second third of the Boards is devoted to the Multiplex Concept. Some interesting take aways:

  • Staff have already had four workshops with local small home builders and designers, while the entire citizenry of Vancouver [about 670,000 residents] is allotted just seven information sessions. Not workshops, mind, where attendees roll up their sleeves and have at the concepts; rather, information sessions where no staff member took notes, there were no places for Post-It notes or other markups and all was presented as a fait accompli.
  • Site requirements being explored for any growth in RS areas include: rainwater detention tanks (say $10,000 + one-third of your front yard); a 12’x12’ space on the lane for a BC Hydro Pad Mounted Transformer (PMT), because bigger buildings apparently need them (say $25,000 + more than a third of the width of a 33’ lot); new tree planting, presumably to replace the trees lost to the rainwater detention tank, the PMT and the larger multiplex footprint.
  • Lest anybody except the city make any money from multiplexing, there will be an unspecified density bonus paid by the owner/developer to the city. The Boards say this would “help fund amenities like parks, childcare, community centres and affordable housing across the city,” except they really go to general revenue, could be used for anything staff wants, anywhere in the city. Such is the history of almost all such bonuses collected by the city for the past decade. Notice the proliferation of new parks, community centres, pools, etc…
  • There is an interesting concept introduced called Below-Market Homeownership (BMHO), except it’s just an option being explored—the devil is in those details. See suggestions at the end of this Conversation.

The city’s Boards suggest a development rate of 150 multiplexes per year, growing over time. Given the city’s proportion of 33-foot to 50-foot lots (about 70-30), at 150/year multiplexes with maximum development on each site that’s about 240 additional homes per year. It’s not included in the city’s Boards (?) but staff have elsewhere advised that the current rate of gentle densification in the city is about:

  • 250 duplexes per year
  • 475 laneways per year

So that’s 725 additional homes per year, three times what multiplexing is expected to produce—despite all the challenges to simple renovation and laneway construction. 

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Building Reuse is Climate Action – The Greenest Building Is the One that Already Exists: Feb 24/Fri 11 am, online via SFU Continuing Studies, speaker Mark Thompson Brandt

This should be recommended viewing for every Vancouver Mayor and Council and everyone in the planning department, top to bottom. Tickets still available as of the night before.

SFU seminar Feb 24 – The Greenest Building Is the One that Already Exists

Fri, 24 February 2023, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM PST
Free
Online

Link to register: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-greenest-building-is-the-one-that-already-exists-registration-524016897647

1 hour 30 minutes

Building Reuse is Climate Action: The Greenest Building is the One That Already Exists

This lecture is presented by the SFU Liberal Arts & 55+ Program in conjunction with Heritage BC’s Heritage Week 2023.

About 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions relate to buildings, with the vast majority coming from our existing buildings. But can we save our environment and our buildings too? We’ll explore how both traditional and modern buildings offer potential for deep green rehabilitation, to reduce “operational carbon.” Preserving the structure of these buildings alone prevents significant new emissions from “embodied carbon.” We’ll take a look at the work of conservation professionals who recognize value in the existing, to prepare buildings through multiple lifecycles and develop long-term solutions for their futures.

Lecturer
Mark Thompson Brandt (OAA, RAIC, FAPT-RP, LEED AP, CAHP) is principal conservation architect and urbanist for TRACE Architectures, an Ottawa firm specializing in natural and cultural conservation for architecture and urban design. Major projects on Parliament Hill include the $70M East Block rehabilitation and the $100M Sir John A. Macdonald Building renovation, which received seven national/international awards and a 5-Green-Globes rating.

Mark has more than 30 years’ experience, and currently specializes in modern heritage rehab/reuse. He co-authored the 2016 document Building Resilience: Practical Guidelines for the Sustainable Rehabilitation of Buildings in Canada. Mark is co-founder of Zero Net Carbon Collaboration for Existing & Historic Buildings and co-lead of the Climate Heritage Network’s Working Group 3, “Building Reuse is Climate Action”. He is the only Canadian architect to be an Association for Preservation Technology Fellow and Recognized Professional (FAPT-RP).

Missing Middle Housing—Manufactured Consent Part 2—The Open House (CC#103: How does an Open House work when nobody’s taking any notes?) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #103 was first published 20-Feb-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

See links to the in-person open house events during February, online survey, and online session in this CityHallWatch post.

  • Attend an open house. Remaining dates
    • ​THURSDAY (note date correction), February 23 Marpole Neighbourhood House, Gathering Hall, 5:00-8:00 pm
    • Saturday, February 25, Hastings Community Centre, Community Hall, 2:00-4:00 pm
    • Monday, February 27, Online Session, 6:00-7:00pm, Sign up via Eventbrite

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Above: The city’s meme for the Missing Middle Housing initiatives

The city’s Missing Middle initiative has three public consultation options during February:

  1. Online Survey—I’ve taken it, wrote about it but admittedly in many more words than the Twitter-lite limits on public survey responses. It’s open until March 5 and I urge you to take it.
  2. Open Houses—Seven of these have been planned in the month of February, I guess more than enough for the city’s 23 neighbourhoods. I’ve attended two (enough!) so feel qualified to comment in this post.
  3. An Online SessionScheduled for February 27th. Again, I recommend you sign up for that. Coming at the end of the seven open houses, perhaps it will be a moment for city staff to share what they’ve heard.

The Open Houses I attended were held where you might expect—community centres and halls. Each event was staffed by about a dozen city staffers spread amongst 18 information boards. The two events I attended averaged about 30-40 citizens at any time, so there was ample opportunity to converse.

In my earlier days as Managing Architect (working for the applicants) for the False Creek North neighbourhood plan (a.k.a. Expo Lands or Concord Pacific) and the first two phases of the Coal Harbour development, I organized and attended many information meetings. In those heady Vancouverism days every engagement with the public had these characteristics below. [They are] missing from the city’s current open houses:

  • The most senior planners and designers on the team were present—including the lead architects, landscape architects and engineers, and their city staff equivalents, albeit supported by more junior staff. There were always folks at hand who could address the thorniest questions and record the public’s ideas and concerns.
    ==> The two Missing Middle open houses I attended had at most one senior city staff member.
  • We took copious notes and amended ideas on the fly—Every team member was expected to bring a note book and capture each suggestion, each unanswered question, each unclear element of the plans. Our team debrief was immediate. Each team member spoke from their notebooks and illustrations frequently changed between meetings to be clearer and allow us to truthfully demonstrate “we are listening.”
    ==> At the Missing Middle open houses, I and some other members of the public had notebooks and used them. There was not a single staffer with a notebook. When I noted this to staffers, they responded that they had a debrief meeting after each open house—clearly their memories are better than mine was at their age. Nor were there any post-it notes or similar means to allow attendees to make comments on the information boards—still a standard means of gathering audience feedback, here absent.
  • We did not deflect
    ==> [At the Missing Middle open houses] several times when staff could not answer a simple question, I was told that I should take the online survey (I have already) and/or attend the online briefing at the end of the month. They had no response when I noted that the online survey only provided 255 character comment options—less than a tweet on Twitter.

I will be the first to identify that the Missing Middle initiative is different than what we worked on decades ago. But basic communications, basic courtesy has not changed.

Listen carefully, record what’s unclear and refine it. Have your most senior involved staff members present and participating. Don’t send citizens to a mindless survey so as to avoid actually thinking about and answering their valid concerns.

For those who know me as a bit of a data geek, I will be trying to distil what Missing Middle means for those most affected by it—the residents who are not missing but apparently ignored. 

I encourage readers and their friends to take the online surveyattend an open house and sign up for the online session. The survey closes March 5th.


Today’s question: Have you taken the survey and attended an open house? If not, why not? If yes, what was your experience?

Leave a comment

I read and respond to all comments, also capturing them to relevant neighbourhood files for more detailed future conversations. 

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a free subscriber to City Conversations at

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). He is semi-retired for the moment, still teaching, writing and consulting a bit, but not beholden to any client or city hall. These conversations mix real discussion with research and observations based on a 45+ 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 working on a book about how we can accommodate a growing population in the Vancouver we love.

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A virtual bike tour of Vancouver’s waterfront

This is a virtual bike tour (video with audio) of Vancouver’s waterfront, by the City of Vancouver’s Senior Urban Designer Scot Hein with Josh Bassett for presentation in 2012 at the Waterfront Centre, a respected Washington, DC think tank advocating for design excellence. Since then, much more ongoing design work has occurred, including Northeast False Creek and related park space at the end of the Creek, and more is coming, including waterfront and under-bridge amenities anticipated with Senakw.

Watch the dots as you move along the course and see the features and attractions being shown.

Below is the same content in slide show. You can click at your own pace, back and forth.

Council preview for week of Feb 13: Mental health funds, budget, equity lens, single-use cup fee repeal, low-barrier housing, 2 public hearings, ** climate change ** and more

Vancouver City Council has a busy week set up. This is just a listing of the agendas, for the record. We may add more links and commentary as time permits. See up to date agendas at this link. Vancouver City Council this week has a regular meeting, a standing committee meeting, and two Public Hearings packed with items. (https://covapp.vancouver.ca/councilMeetingPublic/CouncilMeetings.aspx). 

Vancouver Park Board on Monday Feb 13 – COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Policy for Contractors – Suspension (for decision), Stanley Park Temporary Bike Lane Options – Report Back (for decision), and General Manager’s Report (for information). Agenda and minutes here – https://parkboardmeetings.vancouver.ca/2023/20230213/index.htm. The new ABC-dominated Board made a big decision to open up Stanley Park traffic again, and commit to a longer term plan to develop cycling routes. See media for coverage. One example “It’s official: Park Board approves removal of Stanley Park bike lane” – https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-park-board-stanley-park-bike-lane-final-approved-changes

Regular Council (14-Feb-2023, Tues) has, among other things, Grant to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) for expanded Mental Health Response; 2023 Street Cleaning Grants; Appointment of Childcare Operators etc.; Quarterly Capital Budget Adjustments and Closeouts; Alignment with the Electrical Safety Regulations, Housekeeping, and Miscellaneous Updates to the Building and Electrical By-laws; Establishment of Civic Agencies; Auditor General Committee Recommendations Transmittal Report; and motions on “Equity Lens Review of City By-laws to Ensure Equity is at the Forefront,” “Repealing Vancouver’s Single-Use Beverage Cup Fee,” and “Climate Action Costs and Benefits.”

At the same meeting, these items are in “referral reports” meaning that staff are recommending they proceed to Public Hearings, so watch for them on agenda within a matter of weeks. This is a heads up to communities – if there are items you support or oppose or want improved, prepare your materials immediately:

  • 5828-5850 Granville Street,
  • 1522 West 45th Avenue and 6137 Granville Street,
  • 7688-7720 Cambie Street,
  • 103-111 North Templeton Drive and 2185 Oxford Street,
  • 817-837 West 28th Avenue and 4375 Willow Street,
  • Miscellaneous Amendments Concerning Various CD-1 By-laws.

The Council Standing Committee (15-Feb-2023, Wed) has just two items at the moment: “Second Annual Climate Emergency Implementation Update” and “A Climate Justice Charter for Vancouver.” So the climate theme is front and center. Many people feel strongly that humanity needs to take urgent action for climate change mitigation and adaptation, but a lot of what the City of Vancouver has come up with can appear to be virtue signaling by City Hall and by certain politicians. And it often seems to fit in with the dominant developers’ ideology.

It’s important to see our city of about 670,000 within a global population of over 8 billion. Wisdom is needed to cut through the mist and have our municipal government spend our public funds and take actions that are meaningful, efficient, and effective. Experts are saying we need to reach net zero GHG emissions within a matter of years, lest we go past climate tipping points, or points of no return.

In this context, we mention the recent passing of Will Steffen (January 29, 2023), a leading earth system scientist and expert on global change and planetary boundaries. May he rest in peace. In this 44 minute presentation, “Anthropocene: Where on Earth are we going” for the Euroapeum Winter School 2022″ Will Steffen puts things into perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2C6NfFIK_g

PUBLIC HEARINGS

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S101S – Understanding Residential Density: Why is it so Confusing? (by Erick Villagomez, Spacing Vancouver)

Below, reprinted from original article in Spacing Vancouver, 6-Feb-2023. Very good reading to understand planning issues in our city. A notable point – “Frequently, public documents that include density measures do not explicitly cite whether net or gross densities are being communicated. This often leads to misinterpretations of density information.” Read on to cut through the mist.

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Above: An illustration of the ‘Eagle’ plan submitted to the city by proponents (top). An image produced by the Jericho Coalition showing a low- and medium-rise plan at the same density and from the same angle (bottom). Top image via City of Vancouver, bottom image via Jericho Coalition.

What is residential density and why is it so confusing?

Residential density is critical to urban planning. It refers to the number of people living in a specific area and is significant because it helps us understand how densely populated an area is. It’s also very controversial. In certain folks, increasing density evokes fear about large buildings, unruly people and parking problems. In other circles, it’s associated with walkable neighbourhoods, more housing options and better infrastructure. This points to the fact that there’s an unfortunate lack of clarity around the issue of residential density: what it means, and how it’s measured.

Let’s see if we can clear things up a little.

As mentioned, at its most basic, density refers to the number of people living in a specific area. It’s usually measured in terms of people per square kilometer, people per square mile, dwelling units per hectare or dwelling units per acre. Although the latter is arguably the most commonly used in zoning and development reviews, all are useful in their own way, giving people different information about the area being considered. It’s worth noting, though, that there is no ‘standard’ definition of density. Each discipline develops its own method of discussing the issue: a key aspect of why it’s so baffling.

Here are the other common points of confusion about density:

There is no standard for “high”, “medium”, and “low” densities

Talking about “low”, “medium”, and “high” densities is common in planning circles, but there is absolutely no agreement about what that means in real terms. A “high-density” neighbourhood in Toronto may be considered “low density” in Hong Kong.

Associating density with specific building types

It’s often assumed, for example, that detached houses are lower density than attached housing or that high residential density is synonymous with high-rise buildings. This is not always the case. A tower with large units located in a park-like setting can have a lower density than a set of detached houses on small lots.

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News release: Italian Cultural Centre Opposes Rezoning at 2518–2540 South Grandview Highway for Supportive Housing (Public Hearing Feb 14)

Epilogue (16-Feb-2023): At the Public Hearing, Council failed to sincerely hear the concerns of the community. The application was approved unanimously by Council. There was no attempt to reconsider the model of congregate low-barrier housing. An amendment by Cllr Dominato and seconded by Cllr Bligh directed staff to “further engage” the Italian Community Centre and Casa Serena, and called for a “community advisory committee” to be created. From other cases around the city, such committees appear to be ineffective and basically useless. The amendment by Clr Dominato is virtually meaningless and not enforceable. How can the direction to “further engage” be accounted for? No definition was provided on how this engagement should be carried out. The presentation by Mr. Miceli shows him to be logical, articulate, and reasonable. The timeline and facts he present paint a picture of how the City’s planners did NOT act in good faith in prior consultations about the rezoning application. How does one deal with an institution that isn’t truthful? More material and video links added at bottom.

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Italian Cultural Centre Opposes Rezoning at 2518–2540 South Grandview Highway for Supportive Housing

February 14, 2023 – Vancouver, BC – The Italian Cultural Centre is speaking against the newest rezoning application before the City of Vancouver as part of the Permanent Modular Supportive Housing Initiative (PMSHI). The Public Hearing for 2518-2540 South Grandview is scheduled for Tuesday, February 14 at 6 PM and is the first rezoning application before the new City of Vancouver Council for PMSHI and following the decriminalization of drugs in BC.

“As a key stakeholder in the community, we were unaware the proposed development was low barrier supportive housing with drug use,” states Mario Miceli, Executive Director of the Italian Cultural Centre and adds, “we feel the tactics of BC Housing and the City of Vancouver have been questionable and have not been forthcoming to provide information on this project as requested.”

The proposed rezoning is for 64-units of low barrier housing within a few hundred meters of the Italian Cultural Centre as well as Trout Lake Park and Lord Beaconsfield Elementary. The proposed units are for the hardest to house or ‘low barrier’ housing which are primarily for those experiencing homeless or at risk of homelessness including residents with addiction and mental health issues. The Italian Cultural Centre is listed in the City of Vancouver’s Referral Report as the nearest Community Centre / Amenity for the proposed block of housing.

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Missing Middle Housing—Manufactured Consent Part 1—The Survey (CC#102: The city’s survey can have only one outcome—and it’s not neighbourly) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #102 was first published 10-Feb-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

See links to the in-person open house events during February, online survey, and online session in this post.

  • Attend an open house
    • ​Tuesday, February 7, City Hall, Joe Wai (Townhall) Room, 5:00-7:30 pm
    • Saturday, February 11, St. James Square Community Centre, Room 120, 2:30-5:30 pm
    • Monday, February 13, Killarney Seniors Centre, Grand Hall, 5:00-8:00 pm
    • Wednesday, February 15, Roundhouse Community Centre, Exhibition Hall, 5:00-7:30 pm
    • Saturday, February 18, Dunbar Community Centre, Room 208, 1:00-3:30 pm
    • THURSDAY (note correction), February 23 Marpole Neighbourhood House, Gathering Hall, 5:00-8:00 pm
    • Saturday, February 25, Hastings Community Centre, Community Hall, 2:00-4:00 pm
    • Monday, February 27, Online Session, 6:00-7:00pm, Sign up via Eventbrite

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Above: Illustration from the missing middle Shape Your City web page—naive at best, devious at worst

City staff is slowly rolling out its plan for Missing Middle housing in the city. Pardon me for thinking the illustration above tells us that high-rise apartment buildings are already a given. As for the detached home at the diagram’s left margin, greying it out is clearly staff’s intent.

Public engagement in evaluating Missing Middle  is a 3-step process:

  1. Offer an online survey—the subject of this Part 1 Conversation
  2. 7 Open houses for the city’s 23 neighbourhoods, from February 8th to February 25th 
  3. single online consultation session on February 27th

Clearly, it’s going to be a busy February! I’ve decided to participate in and report on all three engagement opportunities. First is the online Shape Your City survey, which I have reproduced below together with my responses and some editorial content. The bold type is the city’s questions and commentary. The italic words are my responses. The regular type is my editorial commentary  about the survey.

I did notice some inbuilt bias in the Key Terms on the city’s introductory page, but will ignore it in the interests of brevity.

Question 1:

1. A goal of this work is to add new housing options in all low density neighbourhoods (which have RS zoning), and we are proposing that multiplexes would be allowed in all RS zones across the city. Allowing multiplex in all low density areas would match the approach taken when other new housing options like laneway houses, duplexes and character retention incentives have been added.

Map of low density neighbourhoods or RS zones in Vancouver

Which of the following best describes where you think multiplexes should be allowed? 

From the options on offer, I selected:

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