Development Permit Board (DPB)

About the Development Permit Board (DPB) — Looking “under the hood” (Updated 14-May-2014)

Official web page at City of Vancouver: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/development-permit-board.aspx

MANDATE AND WORKINGS OF THE DPB – compiled by CityHallWatch

This page is an exploration by CityHallWatch of the mandate, existence, and workings of the Development Permit Board.

First is a governance mini-review, then text from the official City website about the nature and membership of the DPB, and the DPB Advisory Board.

We state at the outset that our hope and expectation that every body of our civic government operates with the public benefit as its top purpose, and with world-class levels of transparency, accountability and public process. This review is in that context.

DPB – GOVERNANCE MINI-REVIEW

It appears that the highest level of governance of the DPB is the City of Vancouver Code of Conduct, which, under the topic of “Integrity,” requires City staff, Council officials, and advisory body members to “make decisions that benefit the community.”

The Development Permit Board and Advisory Panel Bylaw (CoV Bylaw 5869 DPB and Advisory Panel) directly governs the DPB. Paragraphs 4 and 9 come to our attention. 4. The Board shall consist of the Director of Planning, the Director of Social Planning, and the City Engineer. 9. The Board shall determine its own procedure, provided that all decisions of the Board shall be rendered in public unless the Board for good and sufficient cause otherwise directs, and the Board shall give reason for its decisions. The “Director of Planning” position has ceased to exist in the City’s organizational chart, replaced by the General Manager of Planning and Development Services (Brian Jackson, hired in August 2012). When queried, the Board Chair responded on 22-Oct-2012 that upon his appointment, Mr. Jackson was given was given the authority for the Director of Planning, in addition to his role as General Manager of Planning and Development.

DECISION-MAKING, VOTING BY THE DPB

How do the DPB members vote?  On what basis, and by what criteria, do they vote? The City website states this: “The Development Permit Board may approve, approve with certain conditions, or refuse an application.” But obviously, beyond the direct and objective application of “existing zoning and parking regulations,etc.,”  judgement and discretion is obviously required in some cases. The Board Chair responded as follows, regarding voting procedures: All three Board members may vote on motions, and the Chair may vote in the event of a tie. This is outlined in Section 11 of Bylaw 5869. The Board is considering applications under the regulations and policies established by Council, in particular the Zoning and Development Bylaw, the Parking Bylaw and any number of policies and guidelines that may apply to a particular application. The Zoning and Development Bylaw allows for discretion, and the Board is required to exercise discretion in many cases. The Zoning and Development bylaw provides guidance on how this discretion is to be carried out. For example, in the C-2 zone, the Board’s guidance when considering height relaxations comes from the following section:

4.3.2 Despite section 4.3.1, the Director of Planning or Development Permit Board, as the case may be, may permit an increase in the maximum height provided the Director of Planning or Development Permit Board first considers the intent of this Schedule, all applicable policies and guidelines adopted by Council, and the submission of any advisory group, property owner, or tenant.

Board members are not required to give reasons for their decisions, but usually do. These are documented in two ways. First, through the minutes of the meeting, which are posted on the City website upon adoption by the Board. Second, there is an audio tape of the proceedings. CityHallWatch observes that, as with all human decisions, beyond the written guidance affecting how individuals in organizations come up with a position, there is still leeway for discretion, based on complex factors affecting the person and official position. Could one factor be concern about job security? As of 21 October 2012, the City website listed information (copied below) on the composition and membership of the DPB. Note that the three regular voting members (and the tie-breaker where necessary– the Board Chair) are employees of the City.

Their careers, promotions, and pensions are under pressure in a highly-politicized staff environment at City Hall under Vision Vancouver. Senior staff are promoted and/or hired in a highly politicized context. And fired. There have been several abrupt and high-profile firings in recent years, such as the sudden firing of former Director of Planning, Brent Toderian, in January 2012. The public never did get a convincing reason from the Mayor for that firing. After leaving the City, former staff are probably under strict legal conditions of secrecy or non-disclosure. The public rarely learns what goes on behind the scenes, but is often unconvinced of the official explanations. The public should constantly be asking and watching on what basis, and by what criteria the Development Permit Board votes.

DEVELOPMENT PERMIT BOARD ADVISORY PANEL

Regarding the Development Permit Board Advisory Panel, CityHallWatch notes that several of the members are closely affiliated with or employed by the development industry. Their careers also depend on getting their own applications approved in the future, and for that, they may depend on approvals of the City and other panel or committee members. It seems there could be some conflicts of interest, or at least expectations of mutual assistance to get support for each others’ projects. We have witnessed the case of a member of this Advisory Panel being politically appointed to a Mayor’s advisory committee in the West End, which proceeded to produce outputs in conflict with community wishes, then making speaking as the last speaker at a public hearing on a controversial rezoning, and demonstrating inappropriately close relations with the developer proponent.

The members of the public on the Advisory Panel are selected from among applicants, but even that selection is politically controlled. Vision Vancouver councillors dominate all civic committees, and has control of the Nominations Committee for all civic bodies. The public has a right to ask who controls Vision? Its political donors (primarily development industry)? It is clear that Vancouver municipal government has deeply ingrained conflicts of interest and the potential for systemic corruption.

The City’s organizational chart has “Communities” at the top. But does that chart reflect reality? Communities have a right to ask if their own interests are being fairly represented on politically-appointed bodies at City Hall. Have the media and the public been adequately scrutinizing the actions of the DPB, the DPB Advisory panel, and the Urban Design Panel?

OVERVIEW OF THE DEVELOPMENT PERMIT BOARD (from City website)

Some development permit applications may have a significant impact on their surroundings, because of the scale and context of the project or because of community controversy about the project. Those applications are reviewed by the Development Permit Board.

All other development permit applications are reviewed by the Director of Planning or their delegate(s). The Board is limited in its authority by existing zoning and parking regulations, and by the Official Development Plan (ODP) provisions that City Council has enacted. These provisions generally outline acceptable uses and building forms in a given area. The Board cannot deny a development if it meets the zoning/ODP and guidelines, or approve a development if it does not fall within the zoning/ODP. The Development Permit Board may approve, approve with certain conditions, or refuse an application.

BOARD MEMBERS

The Board consists of four senior staff members, the Director of Development Services (who serves as Chair of the DPB but usually does not vote), the General Manager of Engineering Services, the Deputy City Manager and Director of Planning.  As noted, the Chair does not vote except when Board members present at a meeting are equal for and against a question, in which case the Chair shall have the right to exercise the casting vote.

Each Board member, except for the Director of Development Services, has an alternate or alternates.  If the Director of Development Services is unable to attend a Board meeting, she may appoint a Board member or any alternate of any Board member to act as Chair at that meeting on behalf, and in place, of the Director of Development Services.

Board Members 2013

Board Members

Position Alternate(s)
Vicki Potter Director, Development Services Chair Any Development Permit Board member or alternate may act as Chair.
Brian Jackson General Manager, Planning and Development Kent Munro Assistant Director, Current Planning Division
Any Assistant Director of Planning
Peter Judd General Manager, Engineering Jerry Dobrovolny Director of Transportation
Karyn Magnusson Director, Departmental Services, Office of the General Manager – Engineering
Sadhu Johnston Deputy City Manager General Manager of Community Services (Brenda Prosken)
Any other General Manager

ABOUT THE Development Permit Board Advisory Panel

Excerpt from official City website: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/development-permit-board-advisory-panel.aspx

The advisory panel advises the Development Permit Board about the applications that the board is reviewing. The advisory panel:

  • Reviews plans and models of proposed major development.
  • Hears presentations from applicants and other interested parties.
  • Attends all meetings of the Development Permit Board. Panel members may participate in board meetings if they wish.

As advisors to the Development Permit Board, advisory panel members are polled for their opinions but do not vote on the applications before the board. The Development Permit Board and the panel both operate under the authority of Development Permit Board and Advisory Panel Bylaw 5869. Membership The advisory panel consists of nine members appointed by City Council. The members include:

  • The chair of the Urban Design Panel
  • The chair of the Vancouver Heritage Commission
  • Two representatives of the development industry
  • One representative of the design professions
  • Four representatives of the general public (one of whom also represents young people in the community)
  • City Council members or City employees are not appointed to the advisory panel.

Meeting frequency: The advisory panel meets every other Monday at 3:00pm at Vancouver City Hall. Meetings generally end by 10:00pm, although they may run later. Extra meetings are sometimes scheduled. Time commitment: Several hours of preparation time are needed before each meeting. Advisory panel members may be asked to perform additional work outside regular meeting times.

*************** ADVISORY PANEL MEMBERS (SEE WEBSITE FOR LATEST LIST.) List as of May 14, 2014

Members

Group Represented Representative(s) Alternate(s)
Design professions
  • Ryan Bragg (Chair, Urban Design Panel)
  • Kate Busby
  • Any member of the Urban Design Panel
Development industry
  • Jim Ross
  • Sheldon Chandler
Vancouver Heritage Commission
  • Kim Maust
  • Any other member of the Vancouver Heritage Commission
General public
  • Arshana Lalani
  • Jasminka Miletic-Prelovac
  • Alexander Ray
  • Phil Sanderson

Terms

At any given time, approximately half of the members are appointed for 1-year terms and the other half for 2-year terms.

Terms expire December 7, 2014

The following member was appointed February 18, 2014

  • Phil Sanderson

The following members were appointed December 18, 2013.

  • Kate Busby
  • Arshana Lalani
  • Alexander Ray
  • Jim Ross

The following members were appointed November 28, 2012.

  • Sheldon Chandler
  • Jasminka Miletic-Prelovac

***************

List below was prior to December 2013

Group Represented Representative(s) Alternate(s)
Design professions
  • Norm Shearing (Chair, Urban Design Panel)
  • Foad Rafii
  • Any member of the Urban Design Panel
Development industry
  • Jon Stovell
  • Sheldon Chandler
Vancouver Heritage Commission
  • Kim Maust
  • Any other member of the Vancouver Heritage Commission
General public
  • Kate Busby
  • Kevin Chen
  • Jasminka Miletic-Prelovac
  • Duncan Wlodarczak

Terms

[NOTE – from correspondence with assistant to the DPB: Where the website says that some Panel members term end but new members haven’t been appointed by Council, the listed members continue until new members are appointed…in past years the new members generally don’t start until the end of January or early February. The change over meeting for the Panel typically is at the end of January or early February when a new Chair is approved by members of the Panel.] At any given time, approximately half of the members are appointed for one-year terms and the other half for two-year terms. The following members were appointed 29 February 2012.

Terms expired December 1, 2013

  • Kate Busby
  • Kevin Chen
  • Foad Rafii
  • Jon Stovell
  • Duncan Wlodarczak

The following members were appointed November 28, 2012.

Terms expire December 2, 2014

  • Sheldon Chandler
  • Jasminka Miletic-Prelovac

List below was prior to December 2012

Group Represented Representative(s) Alternate(s)
Design professions Greg Borowski (Chair, Urban Design Panel) Foad Rafii Helen Besharat (Urban Design Panel)
Development industry Jon Stovell Sheldon Chandler
Vancouver Heritage Commission Kim Maust Any other member of the Vancouver Heritage Commission
General public Kate Busby Kevin Chen Jasminka Miletic-Prelovac Duncan Wlodarczak

Terms

At any given time, approximately half of the members are appointed for 1-year terms and the other half for 2-year terms. The following members were appointed 29 February 2012.

Terms expire 2 December 2012

  • Sheldon Chandler
  • Jasminka Miletic-Prelovac

Terms expire 1 December 2013

  • Kate Busby
  • Kevin Chen
  • Foad Rafii
  • Jon Stovell
  • Duncan Wlodarczak

**************

DPB MEMBERS UNTIL DEC 2012

Position Alternate(s)
Vicki Potter  Director, Development Services  Chair The Chair does not have an alternate
Director of Planning (currently vacant) Kent Munro Assistant Director, Current Planning Division
Peter Judd  General Manager, Engineering Jerry Dobrovolny Director of Transportation
Karyn Magnusson Director, Departmental Services, Office of the General Manager – Engineering
Sadhu Johnston  Deputy City Manager David McLellan Deputy City Manager

************

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