GWAC Public Meeting Monday, 7 May 2018
Learning Resource Centre (Britannia Library)
Special Guest Speakers and Contributors: Area-Wide Rezoning
Joseph Jones, Jeanette Jones, Jim Lehto, Elizabeth Murphy, and Steve Bohus (facilitator/media)
The meeting began at 7:06 pm
D. Cromie welcomed members of the public and special guests and reminded attendees to use the new name-tag identification system for our meetings. He also pointed out the Donations Jar sitting on the Membership Table and welcomed people to sign up to be GWAC members and to donate to support our non-profit organization.
Business Arising: No new business to report.
D. Cromie compiled exit poll results from the proposed Mixed-Use Detox Facility Open House at 1636 Clark Drive and 1st Avenue and sent them to the Mayor and Council. We printed 100 questionnaires and received 100 responses, most with comments. Beyond the basic 49 no’s and 40 yes’s, the size answers are much more telling: 36% found this proposal acceptable at the proposed size or larger; a further 7% would find this proposal acceptable at 75% of the proposed size; a further 15% would find this proposal acceptable at 50% of the proposed size. Clearly, rather than saying no, the neighbours are saying this project is too big as proposed. Respondents acknowledged the need for more detox facilities in the city, but many asked that proposed project be scaled back. GWAC has long supported distribution of services rather than concentrating them in a single neighbourhood or area.
He also mentioned that GWAC has received several inquiries and requests for information from residents who are worried about the summer closure of East 1st Avenue, from Nanaimo to Clark Drive, and the already-increasing traffic volumes on their neighbourhood streets. In an effort to inform people about traffic calming, S. Briggs has put together Traffic-Calming Tool Kit, which is basically a two-page primer for novice traffic calmers. The kit will be posted to the GWAC website: http://www.gwac.ca.
Treasurer’s Report: No Report
Great Grandview Neighbourhood Garage Sale: Coming to the streets across the GW catchment area on Saturday, June 16th, 10 to 2 pm. Everyone is invited to participate—just put your stuff in front of your homes and sell.
Grandview Garden Club, Thursday, May 10th, 7 to 9 pm, Learning Resource Centre. Topic: Creative Containers. Presenter: Tammyanne Matthew, Landscape Architect.
Stone Soup Festival, Saturday, May 12th, Noon to 5 pm. Britannia Site and Napier Greenway. Website: https://www.britanniacentre.org/community/events/events_calendar/events/65.php
Mothers’ Day Traditional Pow Wow, Sunday, May 13th, 11 am to 9 pm. Britannia Gym A/B and Napier Greenway. Website: https://www.britanniacentre.org/community/events/events_calendar/events/65.php
Grandview Heritage Group, Thursday, May 17th, 7 to 9 pm. Britannia Boardroom. The group has just celebrated its seventh anniversary—congratulations. For more information on the Heritage Group, please check the website: http://grandviewheritagegroup.org/.
Grandview Garden Tour, Sunday, June 17th, 10 to 4 pm. Tickets $15 (at Figaro’s). This year, there are 12 Gardens on the tour. For more information check the website: http://eastsidegardentour.blogspot.ca/
After the announcements, S. Bohus took the floor to introduce the guests and the area-wide mass re-zoning.
Last Fall (2017), RT5 zones were re-zoned. The Grandview Woodland Community Plan introduced 4-storey Secured Rentals, but that proposal has been taken off the table (for north of East Hastings on the east side of Nanaimo). What is left is 3.5 and 4 storey zoning across the catchment, basically an area-wide mass rezoning. The City may be in the final stages of this rezoning; there were Open Houses held in January and March of 2018. The panels shown to the public in March stated that a recommendations for the 4-storey zones would be brought to City Council in the spring, which would presumably go to Public Hearing.
12th Avenue (Clark to John Hendry Park): An area-wide rezoning is available for the south side of 12th Avenue, as well as the first block east of Clark on the north side. The City recommends 4-storey apartments, with a maximum of 1.7 FSR for lot assemblies of 4 units or more (compared to 1.0FSR for a single lot or 1.2 FSR for assemblies of two or three lots). Spot rezoning is available for the part of the north side of 12th Ave; it is not included in the mass area rezoning.
The area-wide 4-storey apartment zones are also recommended for East 1st Avenue (from just east of Commercial to Semlin Drive), as well as Garden Drive (7th to 8th and 10th to 11th).
Note: Change in density with mass rezoning (lot assembly means density goes up).
Grandview Community Plan, passing in 2016, limits/defines height to 40 feet or 3.5 storeys, with 1.3 FSR (page 91 of the Plan) from Semlin Drive to Garden Drive on 1st Ave.
Townhouse/Row houses are approved for arterial streets. For example, at 1st and Templeton, townhouses or row houses can now be built on four or more assembled lots. Clearly, the City is incentivizing lot assembly. At Charles and Kitchener between Nanaimo and Kamloops, zoning is proposed for townhouses or row houses on the middle of the block. A number of blocks on Nanaimo from East Pender all the way down to East 12th Avenue (outside of the shopping nodes) are proposed to be in a 3.5-storey row house/townhouse zone, with a choice of use at grade that will allow choice for between residential and commercial. The 3.5-storey zone will allow 4-storey apartment forms with assemblies of 4 or more lots.
Nanaimo at Venables is seeing a surge in lot assembly, as are a number of other sections of the arterials currently under planning.
Residents should expect to see more construction activity as the Nanaimo Shopping Node Expansion (C-2 Zones 4-storey mixed use—a well-used zoning schedule across the city) kicks in. The Nanaimo Shopping nodes are identified, from William Street to East 2nd Avenue and East 6th to East 11th Avenue. A number of sections of the Shopping Nodes have been identified by the City as 6-storey privately initiated rezonings.
The City may require owners to request to rezone if the properties are on the lots identified for six storeys. It doesn’t appear that the entire Nanaimo Shopping Nodes will be rezoned to four-storey C-2; only the lots outside of the six-storey, privately initiated rezoning areas may be. Would it make more sense to rezone the entirety of the Shopping Nodes to a C-2 base?
Marpole RM-8: An example of increased neighbourhood density and size. RM-8A (a new schedule) is considered for Victoria to Garden Drive, for 8th Avenue to 10th Avenue, and for East Pender Street. Currently, one zoning schedule exists in the area, with one side of the East Pender and one side of Garden classified in one zone and the other sides of these streets are classified as another, different zone. The problem is that no draft zoning district schedules have yet been released for Grandview Woodland, so residents are working in the dark. At the March 2018 Open House, the City also identified “Blocks under Review” at Nanaimo and 12th, as well as at Kitchener Street and Nanaimo. No further updates are available on the City’s options for these blocks.
Other issues include: Taxes (Highest and Best Use) if area is rezoned; Zoning Boundaries; Heritage/Infill allowances; derelict houses on assembled lots; No CACs with mass rezoning (Community Amenity Contributions which are in-kind or cash payment from developers in exchange for favourable zoning and variances; developers must provide public amenities, including parks, other green spaces, public art, etc.).
For examples of the effects of mass rezoning, look, at Norquay and Marpole districts.
Joseph Jones took the floor to recount his experiences in Norquay. Those who are interested can follow Joseph and Jeanette at their website: https://eyeonnorquay.wordpress.com/
He began his presentation by warning GWAC of the “Jello Factor.” Our neighbourhood plans are made of Jello—kind of jiggly and opaque, insubstantial. The City said it could target development .5 to 1% per year. Yet, in four years, 11% of the properties have been developed, with is approximately 3% per year. Zoning is not a science at City Hall, so the outcomes are unpredictable. Beware of “Red Lining”—existing structures allowed to fall into disrepair and rot, as owners and developers sit on their properties, waiting for favourable zoning and building conditions.
Jones recommended commentaries by local engineer and member of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT), Raza Mirza, especially ones which discuss the high costs and low efficacy of purpose-built rentals.
As an example of these high costs and inefficiencies, Jones noted that the City, under the “2007 Property Taxation . . . Amendments,” handed back many tax dollars to the developers of one of the first big rezoning experiments, the Kingsway and Knight Neighbourhood Centre.
Wales Street—rezoned for four (4)-storey developments beside Norquay Park—is a good example of skewed taxation since taxes here should be based on the technical value of property only. The valuation here is not realistic value—the land is taxed on its potential not its reality.
Jones pointed those who live in mass rezoned areas to an underused Sec. 19.8 (BC Assessment), an underused clause in the BC Assessment guide, which states that if an owner inhabits property for ten years, that person can ask to be taxed on current usage not its potential uses. Follow this link for more information about Sec. 19.8: https://info.bcassessment.ca/Services-products/property-classes-and-exemptions/section-19-8-of-assessment-act-special-assessments-for-certain-long-term-residents
RM-7 Zoning (Duchess Street) proposal to put all of the stairways outside of building, defeated.
Renfrew Ravine Way: many empty promises “zero delivery” 2014 Linear Park—The City was unprepared for discussions about this land, suggesting it was not sincere about creating the promised linear park
Kensington Gardens (in exchange for three towers, a promised plaza). Now, part of the plaza is located at Kingsway and Gladstone. At the back corner of Gladstone, another space that is supposed to be plaza space, but even that is being clawed back by a local business. More empty promises.
Jeanette Jones – began by saying that neither she nor her husband are city planners. They are concerned citizens who learned while they were protesting. Sadly, she says they learned too little too late.
Rezoning up at Kingsway in 2013: Small House Zoning: Duplexes allowed (simple permit) and single-family. Stacked Townhouses/Row house 4-storey—a new concept in Vancouver. In 2015, many requests began to come in for the stacked townhouse/row houses 6 completed 11 under construction, 12 posted.
None complete; 2 under construction; 3 posted.
Pre-Zoning is preferred by developers (faster for them). It has taken three years to go through the development application process in Norquay.
No Open Houses. Developer and planners have made most of the decisions before a public open house is held. Public can comment, but changes don’t often occur. They could be applied to the next development proposal. “Prior To” Notification—what conditions the developer has to meet in order to get the permit.
Vacant sites are common in Norquay. Owners are trying assemble and are still living in their houses. Houses sold for assembly, delays, running down. Assembled, fenced land collect garbage and creates an eyesore.
Now in Norquay: Pre-zoning they should have check what things looked like in other neighbourhoods. RM8 (Marpole) RM9-A in Norquay
City working on a couple of fronts, pushing between the plan and zoning and pushing between neighbourhoods. Keep an eye on the changes that occur as a result of the pushing.
Monitor the City Development Application site so resident groups can be informed about which lots are being sold, have sold, or are being built upon.
TALK/WRITE to City Staff. Residents must communicate with planners, for they are hearing from developers. Mrs. Jones insists that we have push the City to get our zoning right to avoid future problems
Jim Lehto, ex-City Planner (began his career working under Mike Harcourt) took the floor, saying that planning proposals in Vancouver today “look like 1950s planning—neighbourhood intersections do not interfere with commercial intersections.”
“Complete” retail option at grade. This a “ridiculous concept.” Lehto says, “Of course you can [mix in retail options]” For information about the Commercial Drive Complete Street proposal, see http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/commercial-drive-complete-street.aspx
What are you disturbing when mass zoning is enacted? Affordable housing attempts have been disaster. Supply will make it better—density does not decrease cost. Can’t target housing. People will be displaced. For example, in the 1970s, the City redeveloped “slums.” Run-down were neighbourhoods renewed, but many residents were displaced.
Time Frame? Downtown south built out in 15 years because of the incentives that must be included to speed process.
Masterplan of district. No one should be taking areas out of the plan only to go into the backroom to make a deal to change it. Comments should be made to Council before voting/approvals.
“Complete” Streets proposals push up the heights and densities. To view the “Compete Streets Policy Framework,” see the website: http://council.vancouver.ca/20170517/documents/cfsc6-Presentation.pdf
Slow the process. Grandview Woodland has some power because it is an important district to the City and its housing plans. GWAC, on behalf of the neighbourhood residents, should ask for a deferral on the rezoning in order to gather details about the zoning proposals and their effects.
Betty Murphy (involved in the earlier neighbourhood rezoning, not so much this time. See a sample of Ms. Murphy’s commentary at http://vancouversun.com/author/emurphy)
Lack of process hurts community. What we are seeing across Grandview Woodland is “neighbourhood clearing.” It is “open season” on land, properties, heritage, etc.
Tax reductions on land assemblies that have created (temporary) community gardens—taxed as recreational or agricultural
How is this plan making things more affordable? In the 1970s, the urban renewal resulted in neighbourhood planning (Kits, GW). Now, everything is fast-tracked, with plenty of backroom deals. The public must have a genuine voice (not just a yellow sticky on a board) before the plans go to Council for approval
Elements to consider: Character, Streetscape, Heritage, Design, Parking
Rate of Change Policy—replace rental units that are demolished when building new buildings
Details do not seem to be worked out at all.
Floor opened to questions/comments
Zoning Schedule must be made publicly available, for it is required to make sensible, sustainable community decisions. People need to know what is going on, and they need time to consider it.
“Should” is a non-binding word in the district schedule (residents need to practice reading the zoning schedule it because it is a dense document). Guidelines are discretionary.
When will the “colours” on the plan come about? Rezoning may be approved no matter what is already on site. (1st Ave and Templeton—rezoned for 4-storeys with lot assemblies, when 3.5-storey was in the GW Plan).
Young renter in the ‘hood comment on the high traffic volumes on arterial streets and roads, where rental housing is located. The result is pollution (air and noise), lack of light, and no green space. At grade—no residential, so to increase density, increase heights—which will decrease livability. Are there any plans to address this issue?
Developers will press to go higher—force them to agree to CACs, to create green roofs to clean the air in exchange for height variances.
Concern expressed about the Britannia Renewal and its housing proposal, which currently sees 200 to 300 housing units but the plan could increase to as many as 600 units on the Britannia site). Precious green space will disappear as the number of housing units increase there.
Consultation lacking. Few feel they get enough opportunity to consult with the City during the development process.
Deferral of rezoning with meaningful consultation. After the municipal election, there might be a better consultation process—local area planning. Brand new concepts need discussion. C-2 zoning has been tried, but all the rest have not tested; they are mere theory in Grandview Woodland.
Working groups once the norm for community development (in the West End and Kitsilano, for example), no longer a possibility. Open Houses are the format of choice, and many people feel these are unsatisfactory.
Specificity Residents and their representatives must come to the City with specific points and suggestions not just general complaints in order to force a discussion and to get answers.
CACs Neighbourhoods must get the City to insist on CACs, for even though they will shrink developer profits, the public amenities that result create community and increase urban livability.
New Developments make money for the cash-strapped City. Lift pays—old housing stock does not pay.
E-mail Mayor and Council to ask for a deferral on the four-storey rezoning. Six-storey rezonings are coming next, and we need time to consider, to consult, and to understand the zoning proposals and their effects.
Policy-level Discussions Increase in FSR incentivises land assembly; setbacks in old cities are non-existent.
Block-buster developments not pilot projects; neighbourhoods will be destroyed (cf Grant and Kitchener, six-storey, purpose-built rental building, just one of five “experiments” allowed by the Grandview Woodland Official Community Plan.
Letter-Writing Campaign—use a letter similar to the one created by Melody Mah for the Chinatown Residents Association, when they were fighting to save Chinatown from mass redevelopment. GWAC can post that letter, and, if they wish, GW residents can send it into the City. GWAC should also send an official letter requesting a deferral. Can GWAC create a list of questions/specifics about the rezoning and its effects?
FOI request for rezoning schedule from City. Told no information was available. We need to review the rezoning schedule before it goes to the City for approval. GWAC can ask for a deferral based on the lack of available information.
GWAC’s role is to inform and help citizens contact the City.
Municipal Election in October, so create all-candidate meeting questions that could be sent around to other Area Councils.
Next GWAC Public Meeting: June 4, 2018, 7 to 9 p.m. Learning Resource Centre. Topic: Green Space in Grandview Woodland.
D. Cromie thanked the guest speakers and concluded the meeting.
A suddenly re-energized meeting adjourned at 8:56 pm.