Vancouver seeks public input on allowing citywide changes for triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes: Local open houses, online event, survey all in February

Above: Image by City of Vancouver to convey the concept of missing middle. (Note: Not to scale. Also, the current consultation is on triplexes to sixplexes, not duplexes. Duplexes are already permitted nearly everywhere in Vancouver. So-called “single-family” (as in the detached house) zoning no longer exists anywhere in Vancouver. Most lots in RS zones can already have a duplex plus two secondary suites, or up to four units.)

Spread the word! On February 1, 2023, City of Vancouver released an announcement of a wave of events this month on possible changes to zoning across most of city to enable the construction of more “missing middle” housing (multiplexes = triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes). (Note that the image on that announcement page is incorrect, showing a duplex surrounded by blue sky and green grass.)

Information is available online on the City’s Shape Your City website, plus eight real in-person open houses during the month of February. That’s your chance to meet your neighbours and talk to real humans, a rarity in this era of virtual open houses. There is also an online survey. For all the information, open house location/time details, online session registration (Feb 27, quick! fills quickly), council presentation, survey, documents and other links, click the City’s site here: https://www.shapeyourcity.ca/multiplexes

Stay tuned, we may have more coverage on the topic in the coming weeks, including some issues to clarify and questions you may wish to ask City staff at events.

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Feb 1, 2023 announcement by City of Vancouver

Vancouver seeking public input on allowing more missing middle housing in neighbourhoods across the city

Starting today, the City is seeking public input on a proposal to allow triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes and sixplexes (“missing middle housing”) in neighbourhoods across the city. 

Last week, City Council directed staff to begin public engagement on ideas to add much needed missing middle housing to Vancouver neighborhoods. Council received an update on the technical and background work underway to support these new options, and gave staff the green light to continue their work. The next step is to hear from the public on the goals and specifics of this work which include: 

  • Creating opportunities to make neighbourhoods more complete and connected by adding housing options to areas with convenient access to amenities and services needed in daily life.
  • Providing a range of housing ownership options so more residents can call our neighborhoods home and build a future here.
  • Providing more housing options that would meet the needs of a diverse array of family and household types, including families with children.
  • Improving the accessibility and sustainability of new housing options.

City staff will also be explaining some of the specifics and details necessary to make these options achievable, and to build homes in a more efficient way by simplifying regulations and streamlining processes.

Resident feedback will help shape draft recommendations on missing middle options and will be reported back to City Council later this year.

Get involved

  • Visit our Shape Your City Page to review materials and watch the Council presentation held January 18th, and sign up to receive updates on this work  
  • 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
      Wednesday, 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
  • Take our survey [online, ends March 5, 2023]

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MEDIA

Planning staff aim to add the missing middle:
A push to fill the ‘missing middle’ puts at risk the hidden density in many neighbourhoods
Vancouver’s push to create more affordable ownership meets criticism
(Kerry Gold, The Globe and Mail, BC Edition, 3-Feb-2023)
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/vancouver/article-single-family-houses-multifamily-homes/

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After 100 Conversations, What next? (CC#100: Reflections on where we’re headed in our third year) by Brian Palmquist

(City Conversation #100 was first published 1-Feb-2023)
(For a list of City Conversations by Brian Palmquist on CityHallWatchplease visit this page.)

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January 31st 2022—A brief interruption. Today (January 31) my blog host, Substack, introduced “Pledges” without any clear advance notice to me or any other blog writers that I am aware of. While I appreciate the few City Conversation readers who then “pledged” modest sums, monetizing CCs was never my intention—I was surprised to see the pledges, took a while to determine what was going on without my permission. I have since turned the “Pledge” option off. Folks who pledged will NOT have any funds taken from them. But thanks for the gestures.


February 1st —An even 100 City Conversations seems a good point to think about what lies ahead.

I published the first City Conversation almost two years ago, but the first real City Conversation with my adult son only happened in June 2021. He’s in Whistler now, but our early conversations taught me the importance of speaking clearly about sometimes complex issues—if I stray from that approach, please, readers, be as blunt as he about what’s gobbledy gook—I am nothing if not teachable.

I have already summarized here what I see as 14 unresolved planning and urban design issues facing Vancouver in 2023 and beyond. I will continue to monitor those and additional emergent challenges, reporting out progress or regress as it happens.

Rather than taking the considerable time and effort to edit most of my previous City Conversations into book form, I have decided to move on—all of my 100 posts remain visible in what my blog host, Substack, calls my archives. They total well over 100,000 words, certainly book length. At my age, I’ve decided it’s better to look forward than to edit what’s already happened.

I see the 2023 City Conversations comprised of two parallel threads:

  • Issues: As with many of my Conversations, I will continue to write about urban design and planning issues of the day—spot rezonings, both those with illustrations and those without (which now comprise half of all spot rezoning proposals since the 2022 election); emergent area plans such as the Jericho Lands; etc.
  • Neighbourhoods: It became clear to me during the 2022 election campaign that Vancouver’s 23 neighbourhoods matter to most of its citizens, but not to city staff. Neither has been equipped (neighbours) or interested (city staff) to articulate their value. I hope to write about all 23 in a way that celebrates their unique, positive qualities while shedding a light on the challenges they face from local conditions such as spot rezonings, area plans and the Vancouver Plan. I will also consider neighbourhood impacts of the fed’s expanded immigration and provincial planning (or lack thereof) for schools, affordable housing, healthcare and planning and urban design support for those with mental health and drug addictions.

Issues happen when they happen—during one exhausting week last year I wrote four posts. So they will be peppered throughout. 

Neighbourhoods are susceptible to more rational analysis even as they are bombarded by city staff’s aggressive menu of spot and area rezonings. City staff continue to “hide in plain sight” information about what they are planning and facilitating throughout the city. I recently opened up my Homes for Whom database of spot rezonings, asking neighbours to alert me to new and progressing developments—formal information from city staff often lags the reality of site signs, “virtual open houses,” referrals to Council, etc. I am pleased that many citizens have started to feed me the project information they find as they walk about their neighbourhoods and come across new project signs, new demolitions, new construction sites, etc. In return I add them to my neighbourhood-specific alert system so that they receive updates about each neighbourhood project’s arrival and progress. It’s early days but it’s working! You are welcome to join in.

The most accurate Homes for Whom data together with all-city data such as population growth informs but does not replace what’s missing from city staff analyses: an understanding and appreciation of the elements of each neighbourhood that make it successful and memorable.

As a 48-year resident of Vancouver I have a reasonable knowledge of our city’s history and the placemaking elements that created our 23 neighbourhoods. But my personal knowledge is limited—I need your help.

I will start my neighbourhood analyses with a couple that I know best. Please, if you live in them, correct my errors and fill in the gaps. Consider these first essays as templates for later Conversations about where you live and work. Don’t wait for me to write a thousand words about the neighbourhood you know and love, missing what you know to be its essence, its beauty, why you love(d) to call it home. Contact me with your thoughts and images as they occur to you, also links to sources you value. I will capture them and include them when writing about the neighbourhood you call home. In fact, I have already started that process with an email folder and a database location to store information about each neighbourhood.

We have somehow come to live in a city whose administration treats its citizens not as the holders of vital knowledge about our city. Rather, we are seen as a boundless source of funds to pay for programs and projects that have not solved any of our challenges—neither affordable housing nor homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction, sufficient and maintained schools, parks and community spaces, to name but a few. These have all worsened in the past decade. 

I was privileged to participate in COVID-era Zoom meetings with folks from half of our neighbourhoods, a large sample scattered from east to west, north to south. In every case, when asked, “Can your neighbourhood accommodate several hundred new homes each year and how would you do that?” neighbours were thoughtful rather than defensive, accepting their need to accommodate their fair share of population growth—ready to roll up their sleeves and welcome new friends and neighbours. 

It’s not revolutionary, it’s common purpose. We can do this!


Today’s questions: What’s one aspect of your neighbourhood that makes it (or made it, if it’s going or gone) a great place to call home?

Leave a comment

I read and respond to all comments. 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 while saving the Vancouver we love.

Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book (2022 edition)

This is a handy resource for anyone interested in population and housing in the region. For your convenience, we copy the contents list further below.

“The Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book brings together a large collection of regional and municipal level data in order to provide a comprehensive look at the region’s housing market and the people impacted by it. This book is a living document that is updated periodically as new data becomes available. The information included in the current edition is based on data availability at the time of publishing.”

All these materials are available on this web page: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/data-statistics/housing-data-book/Pages/default.aspx

Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book 2022 (PDF Version, 163 pages)

Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book 2022 (Interactive Version, online)

​Download this Data (from the link above)
Part 1 Data Tables – Household Profile
Part 2 Data Tables – Housing Stock Profile
Part 3 Data Tables – Ownership Housing
Part 4 Data Tables – Rental Housing
Part 5 Data Tables – Non-Market Housing
Part 6 Data Tables – Housing Need and Homelessness

Subscribe to the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Mailing List if you would like to be notified when future editions become available.

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Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book 2022

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
REPORT HIGHLIGHTS

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Are we all ready for Kindness Week? (3rd week of February)

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Perhaps kindness is so commonplace that it should need no mention. But with all the challenges and tensions in the city and the world today, it actually is worthy of conscious attention – at every level, from personal, family, neighbourhood and civic matters to the global, including even geopolitical affairs.

A random act of kindness is doing something kind and caring without expecting anything in return. It’s usually the bad news that grabs the headlines, but it’s the many acts of kindness that happen every day of the year that make for a better world.

Searching around, perhaps we can see kindness near us every day in random acts of kindness. But besides the random type, there are also many organized efforts to promote kindness. Here below, we’ve pulled together some materials.

Here’s an idea. Perhaps Metro Vancouver and each of its member municipalities could declare Random Acts of Kindness day (or week) this year in 2023. Such declarations are indeed a thing. In Canada, the third week of February is official “Kindness Week.” Perhaps some municipalities have done so already. (Metro Vancouver (http://www.metrovancouver.org/) has a mayors’ meeting today, Feb. 1, and a special board meeting Feb 3.)

In a quick search online, it doesn’t appear the City of Vancouver has made such a declaration in the past.

The B.C. provincial legislature made a proclamation of Random Acts of Kindness Week (12-19 Feb 2007), but it seems that was a one-off event, and that link to the proclamation doesn’t work anymore. Further below here, see an article with the background of the B.C. declaration that year – “PoCo kids’ random acts of kindness club inspires B.C.-wide wave of goodwill, by Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun). In September 2009, this city was host to the Vancouver Peace Summit (search online for lots of video and coverage) featuring the Dalai Lama and other Nobel prize winners. The Dalai Lama served as guest editor of a special edition of the Vancouver Sun on Sept. 26 that year (see Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun, below).

At the national level, did you know that the Government of Canada has enacted the Kindness Week Act in 2021 (S.C. 2021, c. 9)? “Throughout Canada, in each and every year, the third week of February is to be known as “Kindness Week”” An excellent background to this enactment is available in the North Delta Reporter article copied below.

Besides the positive feelings for individuals, families, and neighbourhoods, a growing body of scientific research is showing that kindness actually has tremendous health benefits.

FURTHER READING

World Kindness Movement (https://www.theworldkindnessmovement.org/)
… is an international NGO with no political or religious affiliations. The formation of the movement crystallized at a conference in Tokyo in 1997 when Japan brought together like-minded kindness organizations from around the world. The WKM was later launched in Singapore on 18 November 2000 at the 3rd WKM Conference and in 2019 it was registered as an NGO under the Swiss law. (More history, and photos of founders, including three Canadians). On Twitter @WKMovement. Note that they mark World Kindness Day as November.

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‘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 #99 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):

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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.


I read and respond to all comments made below. 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). 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.