CVN letter to Council (5-Oct-2020): Opposed to approval of “Vancouver Plan Phase 1 Report”

This letter went out to Mayor and Council on October 5, 2020.

October 5, 2020

City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Councilors and Housing Staff,

Re: Item 1. Vancouver Plan Phase 1 Report: Public Engagement Summary, Provisional Goals and Update on COVID-19 Community Recovery Actions      

Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20201006/regu20201006ag.htm
Report: https://council.vancouver.ca/20201006/documents/p1.pdf
Revised Report (5:30 pm): https://council.vancouver.ca/20201006/documents/p1-highlights.pdf

Although the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) wants to participate in the Vancouver Plan process, we are opposed to the recommendations in this report and request that Council reconsider proceeding with this as proposed.

The 76 page report was only released to the public two business days ago on October 1, and it has even been revised just this afternoon with no indication of what has been changed until after 5:30 pm.

* Proposed Vancouver Plan Provisional Goals not ready for endorsement:

There has been no broad public consultation on these goals as drafted by staff. These are not ready to be adopted and should only be received for information. We urge City Council to refer this back to staff for public consultation, including more options and an emphasis on issues including affordability, liveability and neighbourhood character. Goals should be co-created by the public, not determined by staff.

The document makes no mention of recalibrating the Housing Vancouver Strategy targets using transparent data, which was directed by Council months ago. The full data requested has not yet been provided to Council and the public.

The report does not address the need for a meaningful neighbourhood-based community planning process, and instead is focused on specific groups.

* Appendix B Proposals should be for information only:

The proposed Appendix B includes actions to continue existing spot and area rezoning policies such as MIRHPP, arterial and transition area rental incentives, and C2 rezoning, all going ahead before the Vancouver Plan process and reframed here as COVID recovery. Those actions are in fact an implementation of the previous Council’s policies. Staff are proposing to continue implementation of them through a separate program, outside of the Vancouver Plan process, and contrary to recent Council direction to staff.

Please note that the “Our Communities Our Plans” city-wide petition  specifically opposes these proposed policies. It is now close to 3000 signatories and growing.

https://www.change.org/p/city-of-vancouver-council-officials-our-communities-our-plans-99961c91-4a17-497d-86c8-b385b3c0f315

These policies should not be implemented where they result in significant  precedents being made, before consultation and plan development under the Vancouver Plan.

We ask that you immediately halt the precedent-setting rezonings, and instead allow each neighbourhood to consider and provide input into what kinds of new housing choices go forward and where, through the Vancouver Plan. Please refer to the CVN Principles and Goals document  for reference. In the 2018 civic election it was endorsed by all currently-elected parties. (Vision Vancouver did not endorse it.)

* Need for an Interim Rezoning Policy

Typically, whenever a planning process is undertaken, the City will have an interim rezoning policy. This was done for all of the past community plans and the corridor plans for Broadway.

Therefore, please consider adding the following to the Recommendations in this report:

D. THAT Council direct staff to implement an interim rezoning policy, with specific terms to be approved by Council as is typically done during planning processes in order to avoid pre-empting or diverting the planning process with rezonings that set new directions or preclude options that could emerge during the planning process, including quick starts for community supported options.

We encourage Council to receive this report for information, but not to approve the recommendations. Please send it back to staff for more work. Please also pause the current spot rezoning policies during the Vancouver Plan process and return to neighbourhood-based planning, where local community  opinions are reflected in the planning outcomes for their neighbourhoods. Emerging supported options can be brought forward as quick starts once identified by each community.

Thank you, Continue reading

Letter to Council (3-Oct-2020): CVN Response to Rental Rezoning in Transition Areas Proposal

In relation to the City’s survey on Secured Rental Policy in low-density transition areas (4-Oct-2020 deadline), CVN submitted the following letter. The survey is at this link:
https://shapeyourcity.ca/rental-rz

+++++++++

October 4, 2020 (update)
City of Vancouver Council

Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Councilors and Housing Staff,

Re: Consultation on Rental Rezoning in Transition Areas and Online Petition Below

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is opposed to this proposed city-wide rezoning policy and the current process. Changes to policy for new zoning should be done through a neighbourhood-based planning process that allows for affordable housing and rentals to meet the unique needs of each neighbourhood. This proposed rezoning policy works against proper planning process and outcomes.

We have formerly written to you with concerns about this policy but the proposed amendments do not address our concerns.

We note that the city-wide petition Our Communities Our Plans specifically opposes this proposed policy and is over 2,800 signatories and growing at the time of writing.

https://www.change.org/p/city-of-vancouver-council-officials-our-communities-our-plans-99961c91-4a17-497d-86c8-b385b3c0f315

We also note that one of our member groups, West Kitsilano Residents Association, had been asking questions of staff last spring that only got a reply from staff on September 30, 2020, a few days before the consultation deadline today Oct. 4, 2020. There was no time to advise the community and to respond to staff.

The consultation and the staff process so far has not reflected the deep concerns raised by the communities across the city. We are alarmed that a spot rezoning policy of this magnitude would be rolling out during the consultation on the Vancouver Plan.

We ask that you immediately halt this rezoning and allow each neighbourhood to consider what kinds of new housing choices go forward and where. For consideration is the CVN Principles and Goals document for reference, that was endorsed by almost all parties running in the last election, other than the then ruling party Vision that was wiped off council in the last election.

Please halt the current rezoning process for this spot rezoning policy and return to neighbourhood-based planning where local community opinions are reflected in the planning outcomes for their neighbourhoods.

Thank you,
Larry A. Benge, Co-chair
Dorothy Barkley, Co-chair
Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Member groups
Arbutus Ridge Community Association
Arbutus Ridge/ Kerrisdale/ Shaughnessy Visions
Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
Dunbar Residents Association
Fairview/South Granville Action Committee
False Creek Residents Association
Grandview Woodland Area Council
Granville-Burrard Residents & Business Assoc.
Greater Yaletown Community Association
Joyce Area Residents
Kitsilano-Arbutus Residents Association
Kits Point Residents Association
Marpole Residents Coalition
NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
Oakridge Langara Area Residents
Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Assoc.
Strathcona Residents Association
Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
West End Neighbours Society
West Kitsilano Residents Association
West Point Grey Residents Association

Letter to Council (16-Sep-2020): Opposed to Motion B3 – “Missing Middle” Housing Pilots

September 15, 2020

City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re: Motion B3 –  “Missing Middle” Housing Pilots  
Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200916/cfsc20200916ag.htm
Motion: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200916/documents/cfsc3.pdf

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) agrees with the aim of this motion to provide more affordable, innovative housing options. However, CVN continues to oppose this motion, including the Mayor’s reported amendment, based on concerns that this proposed motion will not accomplish the intended goals.

Achieving the stated goal through citywide spot rezoning would contradict the intent of developing a neighbourhood-based citywide plan and could potentially produce unintended consequences leading to the development of more intensive high-end market housing that inflates land values in the areas affected.

Additionally, this would increase speculation and demolition of older, more affordable housing, causing displacement while also undermining the few character house retention incentives currently existing in zoning and City policy. The RT zones in particular have a lot of missing middle character housing already that would be put at risk of demolition.

This displacement, demolition and land inflation would also apply to the Mayor’s proposal. It would significantly increase FSR and the number of strata ownership units with only minor affordability measures, and no requirements for retention of character houses.

Neighbourhood-based planning processes integrated into a citywide plan will deliver substantially better results. There are many options that could be put into place as quick starts once identified through the planning process.

We would be prepared to work with the City on identifying other options that could be put in place to increase affordable housing options.  Any of these approaches should recognize the unique characteristics and needs of each neighbourhood so as to best adapt any actions to that neighbourhood, thus following the intent of zoning by-laws and local community visions and plans.

Seeking truly effective solutions to the need for affordable housing, we oppose this motion.

Continue reading

Letter to Council (15-Sep-2020): Opposed to motion on Open Option Parking Policy – Removing On-Site Parking Minimum Requirements

September 15, 2020

City of Vancouver Council

Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re: Item B.3. Open Option Parking Policy – Removing On-Site Parking Minimum Requirements    

Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200915/regu20200915ag.htm
Motion: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200915/documents/b3.pdf

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is strongly opposed to this motion to deregulate onsite parking requirements for new construction.

While there may be exceptions where parking relaxations are warranted, which should be determined through a neighbourhood-based planning process, the demand for parking is not going away anytime soon and should continue to be required in new construction. In fact the demand for onsite parking will only increase as vehicles transition to electric and require secure parking for overnight charging.

When adequate parking isn’t required, it doesn’t change the fact that new households usually own vehicles, so they instead will be required to park on the already congested streets. And this would further inhibit the shift to electric vehicles without an onsite parking stall for charging.

This would be an additional subsidy for developers who could add in as many units as possible while offloading any infrastructure for parking onto the city and surrounding neighbourhoods. People who currently depend on parking on the street in front of their homes will no longer be able to do so and may have to park blocks away.

Onsite parking is important infrastructure that each new development should provide to ensure liveability, accessibility for persons with disabilities, for families, for an aging population, and for the continued shift to vehicle electrification. Please do not approve this motion as proposed since it is not in the public interest. Continue reading

Letter to Public Hearing (23-July-2020): Opposed to amendments to Zoning and Development By-law (C-2, C-2B, C-2C, C-2C1 Commercial Districts)

July 22, 2020
City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re: Public Hearing – Amendments to the Zoning and Development By-law to Increase Rental Housing in the C-2, C-2B, C-2C, and C-2C1 Commercial Districts
Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200723/phea20200723ag.htm
Report: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200623/documents/rr10.pdf

While the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) supports adding more rentals, we are opposed to the approval of the recommendations as currently proposed for the following reasons:

  • The City has not yet brought in needed protection for existing rentals in C2 zones as directed by Council in November 26, 2019 as follows: “THAT Council instruct staff to prepare a report for consideration for referral to public hearing to amend the Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan to extend rental replacement requirements to C-2, C-2C, C-2B and C-2B-1 zoning districts city-wide.”;
  • The proposed amendments to the outright provisions for strata properties will inflate land values, which will increase property taxes for small businesses;
  • There has been no notification of residents and owners living in these areas; and
  • There has been no neighbourhood-based planning process to consider context.

We therefore request that Council refer this report back to staff for more work on neighbourhood-based planning and public consultation, and to report back to Council with amendments to address the concerns raised by the public, after the Rental Housing Stock ODP has been amended as previously directed by Council on November 26, 2019, as quoted above.

Specifically, the proposed rezoning amendments have three components:

  1. Introduce incentives for rental housing by allowing 6-storey market rental development as part of the zoning for local shopping streets
  2. Create ‘rental only’ zoning as part of the city’s zoning by-law to allow the 6-storey developments to be for rental only
  3.  Make other changes to the C zoning by-laws and Design Guidelines for both rental and regular residential development

While #1 and #2 raise concerns as identified above, we are particularly concerned about #3. The considered changes are problematic for the proposed amendments for the outright provisions of the by-laws for strata. The main changes are related to increased height and decreased setbacks, which allows a bigger envelope for more density to be built out, and all of this has broader impacts on the surrounding area.

These are some of the concerns raised by member organizations and we are sure that each neighbourhood will have additional concerns based on their specific context. Continue reading

Letter to Council for 21-Jul-2020: Opposed to amendment to City’s Audit Committee

July 19, 2020
City of Vancouver Council

Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re: Item 1. Amendment to the City’s Audit Committee
Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200721/regu20200721ag.htm
Report: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200721/documents/r1.pdf

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is opposed to the recommendations in this Amendment as it appears to be in conflict with the recommendations regarding the necessary independence of the Independent Auditor General Office.

We strongly encourage you to instead approve the recommendations in the Report Back on Establishing the Office of the Auditor General for the City of Vancouver, https://council.vancouver.ca/20200722/documents/pspc3.pdf
and in the Appendix A by the Canadian Audit & Accountability Foundation. https://council.vancouver.ca/20200722/documents/pspc3appendixA.pdf Continue reading

Letter to Council for (22-Jul-2020): Strong support for ‘Establishing the Office of the Auditor General for the City of Vancouver’

July 19, 2020
City of Vancouver Council

Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re: Item 3. Report Back on Establishing the Office of the Auditor General for the City of Vancouver

Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200722/pspc20200722ag.htm
Report: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200722/documents/pspc3.pdf
Appendix A: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200722/documents/pspc3appendixA.pdf

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is in strong support of the recommendations in this report and Appendix A for establishment of the Independent Auditor General Office for the City of Vancouver.

Thanks to Council for bringing forward this report and we are pleased to see the City of Vancouver coming into compliance with governance best practices.
However, CVN would like to point out that another report for Council’s consideration the day before on July 21, report item 1. Amendment to the City’s Audit Committee appears to be in conflict with the recommendations regarding the necessary independence of the Report Back on Establishing the Office of the Auditor General for the City of Vancouver. https://council.vancouver.ca/20200721/documents/r1.pdf
We strongly encourage you to instead approve the recommendations in the Independent Auditor General Office for the City of Vancouver report in the report and Appendix A by the Canadian Audit & Accountability Foundation. Continue reading

Letter to Council for 21-Jul-2020: Opposed to Item A.3. Regulation Redesign – Amendments to Land Use Documents

July 20, 2020
City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re: Item A.3. Regulation Redesign – Amendments to Land Use Documents
Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200721/regu20200721ag.htm
Motion: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200721/documents/a3.pdf
(see Appendix A for list of Plans & Guidelines for amendment.)

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is opposed to proceeding with the proposed amendments. This motion proposes to amend many Community Plans, Area Plans and Guidelines for zoning by-laws across the city. See motion attached and linked below. However, there were initially no attached documents of what was proposed to change.

Then late this evening, the night before the Council meeting to consider this, the City has posted 38 major land use planning documents, including Community Plans, Area Plans and Design Guidelines for zoning by-law schedules, without any redlined document nor staff report to show what has changed or why.

Council or the public cannot consider this without knowing what is being proposed.

The only a link in the motion is to the redline to the zoning by-law changes approved last month. This is not what Council is being asked to amend by this motion.

The public and Council need the redlined proposed amended Community Plans and Guidelines, with an explanatory staff report, in order to comment or make an informed decision. That information is missing and there has been no public consultation on these proposed changes.

Therefore, this motion should not be approved. Please refer this back to staff to report back with more information, including redline documents of all proposed amendments to Community Plans and Guideline, with a staff report, after community consultation, for Council consideration Continue reading

Letter to Council (July 9 Public Hearing): Petition, Opposed to CD-1 AMENDMENT: 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway)

July 9, 2020

City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,
Re: Petition Opposed to1. CD-1 AMENDMENT: 2538 Birch Street (formerly 1296 West Broadway)

Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200709/phea20200709ag.htm
Amendment: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200709/documents/phea1SandR.pdf

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) voiced our opposition to this amendment in a previous letter to Council. Further to yesterday’s letter that outlined the many reasons for our opposition, this letter provides an additional relevant petition. We continue to support the building of affordable rental units in the city with proper planning and good urban design.

The new petition was initiated by concerned citizens a week ago, with 1472 signatures at the time of this writing and growing hourly, signed by many members and non-members of this Coalition from across the city, which “aims to move the City of Vancouver away from arbitrary rezoning policies and back to meaningful public participation in neighbourhood-based planning.”

See petition here:
https://www.change.org/p/city-of-vancouver-council-officials-our-communities-our-plans-99961c91-4a17-497d-86c8-b385b3c0f315

The petition specifically names the MIRHPP program as a problematic City policy that is “causing major damage to the City, its neighbourhoods, and its citizens” with precedent-setting spot rezonings. This project is one of the more egregious examples of this program.

The petition is consistent with the stated goals of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods in our Principles and Goals document that calls for meaningful neighbourhood-based planning processes.

We continue to urge Council to oppose this amendment. The developer already has 16 storeys of rental under the recently approved CD-1 rezoning and can proceed with that, which the local community supports. Continue reading

Letter to Council (for July 7): Opposed to “Missing Middle” motion, with reasons

July 5, 2020
City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re: Motion B6 –  “Missing Middle” Housing Pilots    

Agenda: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200707/regu20200707ag.htm

Motion: https://council.vancouver.ca/20200707/documents/b6.pdf

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) agrees with the aim of this motion to provide more affordable, innovative housing options, and it is timely to think about creative choices to fill that need. But we have concerns that the motion as proposed will not accomplish the intended goals. Therefore, CVN opposes this motion.

Achieving the stated goal through citywide rezoning would contradict the intent of developing a citywide plan and could potentially produce unintended consequences leading to the development of more intensive high-end market housing in the areas affected. Additionally, allowing higher density spot rezoning everywhere would increase speculation and demolition of older, more affordable housing, causing displacement while also undermining the few character house retention incentives currently existing in zoning and City policy. To date, spot rezoning has been notably ineffective in meeting the housing needs of local residents. Neighbourhood-based planning processes integrated into a citywide plan will deliver substantially better results.

There are other options that could be considered to better maximize affordable housing availability working within current zoning and neighbourhood plans. It seems that many modifications could be put into place with no delay without costing the city a great deal of money. These would also have the benefit of not actually changing any zoning in a major way. For example, an approach could be to simplify renovation requirements to ensure retaining current housing, including heritage housing. Fast track the designation of heritage housing for retention. Such changes would be minor and effective. Consideration could be given to supporting co-ops, co-housing, and land trusts. There are other equally effective changes that could be made without having to rezone wide swaths of the city prior to the development of a full citywide plan.

We would be prepared to work with the City on identifying other options that could be put in place to increase affordable housing options.  Any of these approaches should recognize the unique characteristics and needs of each neighbourhood so as to best adapt any actions to that neighbourhood, thus following the intent of zoning by-laws and local community visions and plans.

Seeking truly effective solutions to the need for affordable housing, we oppose this motion. Continue reading