As referred to in our Council preview for the week of January 16, 2023, planning staff have put two items on the Regular Council agenda for January 17 (Tues). Referral Report #6 is to rezone 1977 West 41st Avenue and 5688 Maple Street, and Referral Report #7 is to rezone 807-847 East 33rd Avenue. For details, see the detailed referral reports at the meeting link above for Jan 17.
Further below is a letter from the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) to Council on the topic.
By way of further background, as far as we know it, these are the first two concrete proposals to come forward under the three new residential rental (“RR”) zoning district schedules added to the Zoning and Development By-law (“RR-1,” “RR-2A, RR-2B and RR-2C,” and “RR-3A and RR-3B”), which the previous City Council approved in December 2021. That was under then-mayor Kennedy Stewart, who was ousted in the Oct 2022 civic election, and in fact not one of the candidates who ran under his banner, Forward Vancouver, got elected. Others who pushed for this kind of approach, like OneCity and Vancouver Green Party, just barely squeaked onto Council. Politicians on Council today should take note.
The ABC supermajority under new mayor Ken Sim was elected in October for a term of four years to 2026, to change things up. People expect something different. ABC made promises to review Stewart-era approaches to things, including consultation, planning and development. Here is one test case.
The thing about the RR district schedules is that the rezoning process is pretty much a formality. Public community input and the overall needs of the host neighbourhood are largely ignored. This is off-the-shelf planning as witnessed by the generic images (above, from the city for these two proposals — we didn’t label them by address because the images are virtually meaningless) and rezoning signs already multiplying across Vancouver with black-and-white stick drawings of cube-shaped boxes representing future buildings. The only information available to the public is really just the location and height. Some might say that this method makes a mockery of the “virtual open houses” currently being used to get public input. “Virtual” takes on a whole mean meaning in these cases. Seriously.
What’s needed now, before moving forward, is an intelligent and substantial discussion under Ken Sim and ABC councillors regarding the City’s approaches toward planning and development. The immediate case before them is these two RR referrals to public hearing, going before Council January 17.
The new council is just getting into stride since the election, and have not had a chance for meaningful reconsideration of some of the Kennedy Stewart / Vision era policies. But chief planner Theresa O’Donnell’s decision to put these right in there on the agenda at the very first council meeting of the year could be seen as an aggressive step to push things forward before ABC actually has had that discussion. We are concerned that under this chief planner there will be no possibility of reconsideration of Vision policies. This may indicate a need for a proper hiring process for a new chief planner in this city.
For more visuals and background, see also the Shape Your City pages:
For the 41st and Maple proposal, RR-3B district would allow for a 6-storey mixed-use building where all units are secured as market rental and 20% of residential floor area is below-market rental units; commercial retail use at grade, FSR up to 3.5, max building height 22 m (72 ft.)
For the East 33rd Ave proposal, the RR-2B district would allow for a 5-storey apartment building where all units are secured as market rental; FSR up to 2.4, and max building height 16.8 m (55 ft.).
The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) has written to Council calling for the newly elected ABC Council to make good on election promises, hold back the referrals, and rather, to revisit policies that were developed under Kennedy Stewart. They reference the “Our Communities Our Plans” petition (currently at 4,880 signatures) of Vancouverites opposed to arbitrary rezoning policies and calling for proper neighbourhood-based planning.