Council and Park Board Preview (Jan 24-26): Park co-management, assessment rolls, zero emissions heating, 6 units per residential lot motion, public hearing, and much more

This will be the first full week of meetings of Vancouver City Council this year. A Regular Meeting of Council on Tuesday (Jan 25), a Committee meeting (Jan 26) and a Public Hearing (Jan 25) are scheduled. There’s also a Park Board meeting on Monday night (Jan 24).

Park Board will receive updates on the condition of the Stanley Park seawall and of damage done by the recent storm surge (for example, damage to the Jericho Pier, which is slated to be reconstructed). Commissioner Mackinnon’s motion, Co-Management of Vancouver Parklands with the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, will be discussed. There should be further clarity if there are any limitations on this motion from the Vancouver Charter. It is not clear whether the Park Board will schedule speakers from the public at a future date. This is such an important topic, we think that opportunity is crucial. See our post on this motion here.

On Tuesday, January 25th, City Council will receive the annual YVR report that will include plans for the airport authority going forward. There’s an item on Community-base Crisis Management. Council is scheduled to appoint KPMG, yet again, as the External Auditor for 2022. There’s a series of Cultural Grants for 2022 that will be considered; Council is set to dispense almost $14 million in grants this year.

A total of 9 motions on notice are on the agenda. The motions include more options for car sharing and Mayor Stewart’s motion for allowing 6 units of housing on a single residential lot. He has been out promoting this aggressively with robocalls, e-mails, data collection for his re-election campaign via his campaign website linked to this “Making Home” motion. Yet the details of his proposal are scant, and some experts are looking at the details and say it won’t work. See Brian Palmquist’s detailed analysis in “Making Hay with Making Home” and “Making Home or Sharing Home—Choose One.” The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) has written in, opposed to the motion

The Public Hearing for Tuesday night (January 25) includes four items. The first item at 622-688 SW Marine Drive is a rezoning proposal for two towers at 28 and 32 storeys in height and a 6-storey podium. A total of 573 rental units (with 20% ‘below market’) are proposed with a FSR of 6.84, commercial uses at grade and private childcare. The height of 96.2m (316 feet) is a little more than what would be expected for 32 storeys (as a result of large floor heights); it’s worth noting that at a DP Stage more ‘floors’ can be squeezed into this height as there’s only a dimensional measurement that’s being considered by Council for the CD-1 (and not the number of floors). The Marpole Community Plan provided direction on this site for towers of 12 and 16 storeys in height (compare with the 28 and 32 storeys in this rezoning).

Marpole Community Plan (12 & 16 storeys) vs. Rezoning Proposal (28 & 32 storeys)

The other two items at the Public Hearing are 2037-2061 East Broadway (6-storeys, 54 strata units, sequestered CAC), 7929-7949 Cambie Street (6-storeys, 33 strata units) and a CD-1 text amendment for 118-150 Robson Street (10.33 FSR).

The City Council Committee Meeting on Wednesday, January 26th will hear from speakers for any items on a motion that had registered speakers (note: speakers need to register before 8:30am on Tuesday). Council will receive a presentation on the BC Assessment Rolls (property assessments). There’s a report that recommends requiring space heating and domestic hot water to be electrified (impacting new as well as existing units that need to renovating or have heating systems replaced). There’s a 138-page document for Guidelines for C-2 Residential Rental buildings around local shopping areas on the agenda. Motions on notice that were previously referred to this meeting will also be debated; these include Councillor Dominato’s motion for Budget Transparency and Accountability in Municipal Election Years. This motion seeks to give enough time for an incoming administration to properly review the budget before the upcoming fiscal year (note: expect indirect opposition and obstruction from staff). Council only needs to approve a budget before an upcoming fiscal year (by the end of March).

Update on Stanley Park seawall repairs will be provided at the Park Board meeting (Extreme Weather Impacts & Damages)

The meeting agendas have been reproduced below:

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Tonight (Jan 24) Park Board to discuss Stuart Mackinnon’s motion on ‘Co-Management of Vancouver Parklands with the Musqueam, Squamish, and TsleilWaututh Nations’: Some commentary

Above: Text of the motion

(Updated) A motion entitled “Co-Management of Vancouver Parklands with the Musqueam, Squamish, and TsleilWaututh Nations by Vancouver Park Board Commissioner (and current Chair) Stuart Mackinnon (Green Party of Vancouver) will be presented to the Park Board today (Monday, January 24, 2022) at a meeting starting at 7:30 pm (agenda link). The “therefore” part of the motion is:

“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation direct
staff to define and develop an implementation plan with the Musqueam, Squamish, and
Tsleil-Waututh Nations for co-management of parklands within their traditional territories that
are currently under Park Board jurisdiction per the Vancouver Charter
.”

People can follow the meeting online or attend in person. If you have comments you can write an e-mail to pbmeetings@vancouver.ca and all commissioners. If you wish to speak, you could indicate so and may have an opportunity at a future committee meeting. Unless someone signs up to speak, it appears this motion could be debated and voted upon without the public even having had a chance to speak. Top of the agenda says, “Regular Board meeting items are not available for speaker registration. To hear from delegations on a topic, the Board may refer the item to a future Committee meeting.” More details on meetings: https://vancouver.ca/your-government/park-board-meetings-and-decisions.aspx.

This is a complex and important topic and merits a high level of public awareness, discussion and dialogue. The motion in itself is very general and lacking in details but has huge implications, considering not only reconciliation, but also that First Nations are partnering with major privately-held developers whose ownership/control is not known publicly, in multi-generational deals worth billions of dollars, the details of which are not known to the public. One example is the Senakw multi-tower development proposed beside Vanier Park at the south base of Burrard Bridge, in which Westbank is a 50% partner. In social media, the chair of the Squamish Nation Council is actually talking about full jurisdictional control. There has been only limited coverage on this motion in mainstream media and social media, so the motion merits a bit more attention.

Below we provide media links, plus text and PDF versions of the motion as well as correspondence to Park Board commissioners we’ve obtained from long-time parks commentator Elvira Lount (who articulates concerns about legality, practicality, cost, anti-democratic, conflict of interest). We also include a copy we obtained of correspondence from the Kits Point Residents’ Association (KPRA) to commissioners.

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Making Home or Sharing Home—Choose One (City Conversations We Should ALL be Having, by Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles.

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Making Home or Sharing Home—Choose One
(City Conversations We Should ALL be Having)

By Brian Palmquist (first published on 24-Jan-2022)

January 24, 2022—My earlier post, “Making Hay or Making Home,” elicited lots of commentary, questions and confusion. In trying to make sense of it, I am proposing what I call ‘Sharing Home.’

Sharing Home—a Modest Proposal

“But why would anyone go through the risk, expense and incredible hassle (including being out of your own house for god knows how long) of taking up the mayor’s offer,” asked my friend, Carol. “He’s guaranteeing that he will take away an undefined amount of your land  lift, i.e., profit for going through this in the first place. You’d end up in a smaller house, with no guarantee of compatible fellow-owners, no big financial payoff, and you would have lost your space and privacy. Why would you do it?”

“That pretty much sums up the responses of existing homeowners who are trying to get their heads around this,” I answered. “Meantime, politician Jean asks, ‘How would this work? Affordable for whom? Rental or ownership? How big? Would the two affordable homes be on the lot with 4 other units or somewhere else? With the money from the land lift going to so many different things (11 listed in motion) how can we know that a decent amount will go to housing? What about the folks in current basement rentals who get evicted for this? Would they have a right of first refusal at their old rent in one of the new units?’ Lots to unpack there,” I added.

“Academic Tom picked up on this, saying ‘The city currently does nothing for basement suite tenants when they are displaced by conforming RS uses (e.g. tear down to mansion), which is unfortunate, as the new uses do zero for affordability. I agree a good use for the land lift would be to provide benefits for displaced basement suite tenants. Because so much of the lift from redevelopment would be captured, this program would mostly serve to change what happens to existing RS homes when they are redeveloped. So I don’t see harm, and I do see help, relative to the current RS status quo. Naturally if the city is to add homes with minimal displacement, RS is the place to do so, as these areas have the fewest renters per land area. I don’t think this is enough density, but it is far better than the status quo.’ Lots there as well,” I said, rolling my eyes in confusion.

“Let’s try to, first, clarify what’s in Making Home, as best we can.” I paused at the enormity of that task. “Then perhaps we can address the ‘What about this? What about that?’” Carol nodded agreement so I continued.

“Jean and Tom’s comments underline the vagueness of Making Home. The Mayor proposed all-ownership as well as hybrid own/rent combinations, He indicated there would be a fee or Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) payable to the city to capture some of the so-called land lift presumably arising from building up to six homes on a lot zoned RS—unfortunately, that CAC and other city-imposed costs makes homes in the resulting sixplex less affordable than existing condos or townhouses—I covered that in my previous post.”

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An entire block of dog parks on properties assessed at $250 million (1600 W Georgia). Are the massive tax breaks worth it?

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An entire city block of temporary dog parks in the West End may appear to be an oddity. The combined property assessment values for the lots on this block exceed $250 million. Are the dog parks there to address a specific need? Can you have too much of a good thing? Or have the temporary gravel dog parks been created solely for tax breaks?

According to the BC Assessment website, the three properties on this block have been assessed for 2022 as follows:

1698 W Georgia is assessed at $77,372,500.

1616 W Georgia is assessed at $117,316,000.

1608 W Georgia is assessed at $55,443,400.


The combined 2022 property assessments for these 3 properties is $250,131,900.

East Park Pollinator Meadow: Then and Now

The East Park Pollinator Meadow opened in the fall of 2020. At the time we documented the opening with a series of photographs. Today, much of the new urban park is fenced off. Included above is a comparison of the park at the time it opened with its current state. Is the cost of reworking the park at this time warranted? The pollinator meadow was meant to be a temporary placeholder. A final design for the park is still in a public consultation phase.

More information on East Park is available on the City’s website: vancouver.ca/eastpark

Making Hay with Making Home: Thoughts after Mayor Stewart’s ‘Making Home’ Presentation (City Conversations No One Else is Having #17, Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles.

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City Conversation No One Else is Having #17
Making Hay with Making Home
: Thoughts after attending the Mayor’s Zoom presentation about his ‘Making Home’ Initiative
By Brian Palmquist (first published on 21-Jan-2022)

January 19, 2022—Thoughts after attending the Mayor’s Zoom presentation about his ‘Making Home’ Initiative—trying to make Making Home work.

6 into 1 goes…just show me the numbers, please!

“Darn, I just can’t make the numbers work!” I exclaimed, throwing my pencil down as my son entered my study, my fancy name for a desk by a window in the basement.

“What can’t you make work?” he asked, a bit surprised at the vehemence of my reaction. It looked like I was doing some simple math, surely not something to get excited about.

“I attended the Mayor’s Making Home zoom presentation last night [Jan 19] and I’m trying to make sense of the costs and benefits of what he’s proposing…and so far, I can’t.”

My son looked puzzled. “Didn’t the Mayor provide the numbers?”

“No,” I responded, “and his staff moderating the Zoom questions and answers (Q&A) did not pass through any questions about costs and benefits for homeowners or the city. I know because I asked two simple questions early on and they were never addressed.”

“Well,” he suggested after a short pause, “others in attendance must have asked practical questions around costs and benefits?”

“If they did,” I responded, “they never made it to the Mayor. And the way the Zoom session was monitored, I could only see other attendees’ questions after they had been answered. In other words, we only saw the questions that were answered, not those that weren’t. Very frustrating, with lots left unaddressed.”

“So what’s with the numbers?” he asked, changing the subject before I went on an ‘I hate Zoom’ rant.

“Well,” I answered as I laid out two hand written sheets in front of him, “the Making Home program is presented as a way for younger and less affluent folks to ‘get onto the property ladder,’ as the Mayor likes to say, and for older and more established Vancouverites to stay in their neighbourhoods while cashing in on their value in a way that allows, for example, younger family to live near them. In exchange for sharing the increase in value that comes with building up to six homes on a 33-foot lot like ours,” his eyebrows raised at that thought, “the homeowner gets to build way more than would otherwise be allowed, at least double what the maximum current zoning allows.”

“Sounds good so far, other than where do six homes go on this lot,” my son interjected. “What’s the issue?”

“The issue is that it makes no financial sense.” I laid two sheets of paper in front of him.

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Plans to heat the East Fraserlands in Vancouver with a waste incinerator in Burnaby: A look at the pros and cons

Above: Incinerator at 5150 Riverbend Drive, Burnaby (Metro Vancouver Waste-to-Energy Facility)

Metro Vancouver recently announced that the River District in the East Fraserlands at the southern edge of Vancouver, on the Fraser River, is set to become the first customer of their District Energy Project. A company owned by Wesgroup Properties (River District Energy) plans to purchase up to 10 megawatts of heat generated by the region’s incinerator in Burnaby. Hot water would be piped from the incinerator to a future Community Energy Centre for distribution in the River District. Metro Vancouver estimates that this project would become operational by 2025. The estimated cost of the project is $55 million. The press release touts the fact the Waste-to-Energy facility already generates around 22 megawatts of electricity that’s sold to BC Hydro (an amount that can power 16,000 homes).

Currently about 25% of Metro Vancouver’s waste is incinerated at this plant. While incineration does keep a lot of waste out of landfills (apart from residue), a considerable volume ends up going into the air with the exhaust plumes along with CO2. Waste to energy plants need to burn fuels like natural gas, so it can be misleading to let people have the impression that all the power is generated just by burning garbage. There’s an input of energy needed to run an incinerator. Once there’s a dependency on an incinerator for heat energy, then there’s a need to continue burning waste to keep the plant going. In an earthquake-prone zone like Metro Vancouver, there are also concerns related to resilience after a natural disaster. A single plant to supply heating to thousands of homes also makes for a single point of failure. There’s also the possibility of future price-gouging by a monopoly (no competition for delivering heat to residents).

The project may be counterproductive to achieving zero waste. Many problems were identified in the following article: Still time to halt Burnaby’s waste incinerator heating project, advocate says (by Dustin Godfrey, Burnaby Beacon,  January 10, 2022). The article quotes Sue Maxwell, who co-authored a report on achieving zero waste in the province, saying that going ahead with the project was “a terrible idea.” Her report, A Zero Waste Agenda for BC, calls for phasing out waste incineration altogether “and closing other loopholes for waste disposal.”

We’ve included many links to articles at the end of this post to encompass a number of different viewpoints.

The district energy model is used in parts of Europe. One example that’s often held up is the Viennese Spittelau Hundertwasser incinerator (a few original photos are included below; this plant provides district heating to 60,000 households):

Spittelau incinerator in Vienna

Spittelau incinerator in Vienna

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Public Hearing Preview, Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022. Three rental buildings and 174 rental units at this year’s first public hearing.

Above: 1369 Kingsway rendering (Item 1 at public hearing)

The last City Council meeting (Dec 14) feels like the ancient past. The future is now in 2022, and Vancouver’s first public hearing of the year (and first public meeting for Council members) is tonight, January 18, starting at 6 pm. This is the only meeting of Council this week, but everyone should fasten their seatbelts, as 2022 is a municipal election year (Oct 15) with all its political games, and before that many major consultation/planning initiatives are scheduled for completion and decisions (see a summary at “Fight consultation fatigue!“). The first regular council meeting is January 25

Though there has been some correspondence sent to the Public Hearing in support of or opposed to the three items, this meeting is not likely to be very controversial. Below we just point out a few highlights. It is up to City Council to hear from the public and determine if the applications are a good deal for Vancouver. Is the City getting enough in return for the opportunities being given to the developers? 

Agenda, documents, and instructions on how to write/speak to Council here: https://council.vancouver.ca/20220118/phea20220118ag.htm

Item 1. CD-1 Rezoning: 1369-1381 Kingsway (image at top of this post). To rezone to permit development of a six-storey mixed-use building with 49 secured market rental residential units and commercial space at-grade, with proposed height of 24.1 metres (79 feet) and floor space ratio (FSR) 3.80. The proponent is Yamamoto Architecture Inc. on behalf of Peterson Cedar Cottage BT Inc. More info: https://shapeyourcity.ca/1369-1381-kingsway 

3304 kingsway PH 18-Jan-2022

Item 2. CD-1 Rezoning: 3304 Kingsway (image above). To rezone to permit development of a six-storey mixed-use building, with commercial at grade and 79 secured market rental residential units, with proposed height of 24 m (78.7 ft.) and FSR 3.93. More information (includes promo video): https://shapeyourcity.ca/3304-kingsway

185-193 Southwest Marine Drive PH 18-Jan-2022

3. CD-1 Rezoning: 185-193 Southwest Marine Drive (image above). To rezone to permit the development of one six-storey residential building and one three-storey townhouse for a total of 46 secured market rental residential units, with proposed height of 17.4 metres (57 feet) and FSR 2.4. The proponent is Matthew Cheng Architect Inc., on behalf of the numbered company 1034903 B.C. LTD. More information (includes promo video): https://shapeyourcity.ca/185-193-sw-marine-dr

See the Shape Your City links or Public Hearing documents at the above links for more details. 

Regarding the second item (3304 Kingsway), Carlito Pablo at the Georgia Straight has written “Relatively small” homes in proposed East Vancouver rental start from 532 square feet for family units,” which garnered a lot of comments on social media about the shockingly small size of units. Two-bedroom units (“family units”) are proposed to be 532 – 733 square feet, one-bedroom units 395 – 490 square feet, and studios 320 square feet. The proponent, development company Hudson, through “Jam (3304 Kingsway) Holdings Inc.,” may later seek to qualify for a waiver of development cost levies (DCLs) valued at $857,879 for the rental component of the project. The location is currently occupied by a 7-Eleven store, and across Joyce Street from Sir Guy Carleton Elementary School. 

One observation we have is about information provided for each item. For the rezoning in Marpole rezoning (185-193 Southwest Marine Drive), but not for the Kensington-Cedar Cottage rezoning, the appendix in the document package includes population growth under the community plan. 


For reference, the meeting agenda has been reproduced below: Continue reading

Four Steps to Rental Affordability: Part 4 (Supporting It) (City Conversations We Should ALL be Having, by Brian Palmquist)

Brian is a guest writer for CityHallWatch. An architect whose career in Vancouver has spanned four decades, with projects ranging from first proposing the laneway-housing concept to serving as the managing architect on major multi-building development plans, personally designing more than 1,000 social and co-op housing units, and consulting on thousands more. Please visit this page for a list of all his articles.

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Four Steps to Rental Affordability: Part 4 (Supporting It)
(City Conversations We Should ALL be Having)

By Brian Palmquist (first published on 16-Jan-2022)

This is Part 4 of the “Four Steps to Rental Affordability” series of City Conversations We Should ALL he Having. Part 1 talked about the definitions of affordable housing; Part 2 looked at the approach Burnaby is taking to require rental affordability. Part 3 considered how to prioritize the creation of affordable rental housing. This Part looks at ways to support affordable rental development across the broad lower density swaths of the city.

Supporting the swimmer—floaties?

“In spite of my somewhat caustic comments about the involvement of government in the confusion of affordable housing,” I continued after our beer break, “there are key roles for governments in all of this, which we need to support.”

He awaited my thoughts.

“Our discussions about definitions, requirements and prioritizing have generally focused on larger, multiple unit developments. I’ve so far ignored the opportunities to create affordable rental housing within our current so-called single family home (SFH) zoning district, which cover about 70% of the city’s geography and contain about 68,000 homes, according to the current Mayor’s estimates.”

My son interrupted. “Why do you say ‘so-called single family home zoning districts’? Isn’t that where your home is located?” I smiled before answering.

“Various haters of SFH love to beat up on the RS zoning districts—I think RS stands for Residential Single. I am regularly sent articles about the destruction of SFH in California, in New Zealand, in Minnesota, you name it—the implication is that we are way behind other jurisdictions in their elimination of SFH zoning districts. But the facts couldn’t be further from the truth.” He waited patiently for me to continue.

“There has been virtually no single family zoning in Vancouver for several years now. It started with the legalization of secondary (mostly basement) suites. That was the first tough slog.” He raised his eyebrows in question.

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Storm Crow Alehouse latest in line of Vancouver restaurant closures

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The Storm Crow Alehouse at 1619 West Broadway will be permanently closing on January 16, 2022. Another Storm Crow location on Commercial Drive closed in 2020, shortly after the start of the pandemic. There’s a Memorabilia Online Auction of props and decorations from the restaurant (open until Jan 14th). After this restaurant closure, the only remaining Storm Crow location will be in Toronto.

A number of restaurants around Vancouver have recently closed or are in the process of closing. These include The Whip Restaurant, Bishop’s, Bao Chau and The Slocan. Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive is for sale. We’ve included photos of these restaurants below.

What are some of the factors behind restaurant closures? How have high property taxes (‘highest and best use’), bureaucratic red tape, and restrictions and public health orders impacted the hospitality industry? Apart from allowing more outdoor patios, could further actions have been taken to help struggling restaurants? What more can be done to help those that are still hanging on? Restaurants are an important part of the community fabric for so many reasons.

The Whip Restaurant at Main and 6th

Bishop’s Restaurant close on West 4th Avenue

Cafe deux soleils is for sale (Commercial Drive)


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