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CVN Calls on Mayor and Council to Endorse Principles and Goals for Collaborative Neighbourhood-based Planning

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has sent the following letter to the City of Vancouver Mayor and Council, calling on them to endorse CVN’s Principles and Goals for Collaborative Neighbourhood-based Planning, as revised January 8, 2016. This is an updated version of the Principles and Goals document originally issued in 2014.

January 15, 2016
Dear Mr. Mayor and Councilors:

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) represents twenty-six community residents’ associations across the City of Vancouver. Our member associations include a broad cross- section of the Vancouver population. CVN is both non-profit and non-partisan.

CVN came together as a coalition in 2013 and collaboratively developed a shared statement of Principles and Goals for Collaborative Neighbourhood-Based Planning in the City of Vancouver. Almost all political parties in the recent municipal election endorsed these Principles and Goals. To provide additional clarity, CVN has recently updated the April 7, 2014 document to: include transportation planning, specify that “residents” are owners and renters, recognize diversity and remove an outdated reference to the 2014 election.

We call on each of you to:
• Fully and officially endorse the Principles and Goals for Collaborative Neighbourhood-Based Planning in the City of Vancouver (rev. January 8, 2016).

• Ensure that the successful candidates hired as City Manager and Director of Planning fully support the Principles and Goals for Collaborative Neighbourhood-Based Planning in the City of Vancouver.

• Incorporate these Principles & Goals in all City planning including Housing, Transportation and Land Use.

Please find attached the latest edition of the Principles & Goals document.

We look forward to hearing from you and to using CVN’s Principles and Goals document as a basis for constructive collaboration between City Council, the Planning Department and Vancouver’s many communities.

Sincerely,

Larry Benge, Co-Chair
Dorothy Barkley, Co-Chair

On behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Member Groups of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Arbutus Ridge Community Association
Arbutus Ridge/ Kerrisdale/ Shaughnessy Visions
Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours
Chinatown Action Group
Citygate Intertower Group
Community Association of New Yaletown
Crosstown Residents Association
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
Dunbar Residents Association
False Creek Residents Association
Grandview Woodland Area Council
Granville Burrard Residents’ & Business Association
Joyce Area Residents’ Association
Kitsilano-Arbutus Residents Association
Kits Point Residents Association
Marpole Residents Coalition
Norquay Residents
NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
Oakridge Langara Area Residents
Residents Association Mount Pleasant
Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association
Strathcona Residents Association
Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
West End Neighbours
West Kitsilano Residents Association
West Point Grey Residents Association

CVN Sends Letter to MPs re Federal Assistance for Transit and Housing

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has sent the following letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to all the local Vancouver federal MPs, and to key ministers responsible for federal infrastructure and funding. This letter is also available for download as a PDF: CVN Letter to MPs-Nov.30-2015.pdf

November 30, 2015

Federal Members of Parliament, Vancouver Ridings

Re: Federal Assistance for Vancouver Transit and Housing

Dear Vancouver Member of Parliament,

Congratulations on your recent election as a Member of Parliament for the Vancouver area. We look forward to working with you to represent the interests of Vancouver neighbourhoods in Ottawa.

What we are Requesting

We note that the Federal Liberal Party platform included providing infrastructure funding for transit and housing. We heartily applaud these funding initiatives, which we believe are long overdue.  However, we have serious concerns about how these funds may be implemented in the City of Vancouver. We therefore are asking that the federal government require conditions be met to address these concerns prior to approving federal infrastructure funding.

Transit and Housing Infrastructure

We are requesting that transit funding be conditional on citizen support for the transit and related land use plans. This also applies to implementation of housing infrastructure funding.

We ask that the new federal Liberal government:

  • require a full and transparent public process in the City of Vancouver to determine the most publicly supported option for rapid transit on Broadway before federal funding for transit is provided;
  • support more affordable transit options that provide broad distribution of benefits;
  • not use Public Private Partnership (P3) funding models;
  • not use development to fund transit;
  • ensure that land use patterns around transit, and for new social housing, are an appropriate fit and compatible with our community supported plans; and
  • extend co-op housing operating agreements that are now expiring.

Additional Requests for Federal Programs to Address Affordability

  • reinstate the RRAP program in which CMHC gave grants to low income earners for upgrades to older housing for health, safety and energy efficiency;
  • provide federal tax incentives for rental housing and for the retention of heritage homes; and
  • use federal powers to make housing in Vancouver more affordable for local residents through protection from an unregulated global housing market.

1) TRANSIT:

Negative impacts of transit tied to high density transit-oriented development

The Metro Vancouver Region’s designation of major transit infrastructure routes as Frequent Transit Development Areas (FTDA) encourages, requires and supports extremely high density development. This is the city and region’s proposed direction for the area referred to as the Broadway Corridor from Nanaimo/Commercial Drive to UBC, 4th Avenue to 16th Avenue. While this plan would involve a radical transformation of the Broadway Corridor and affected neighbourhoods, public consultation has been minimal with community input not reflected in the plan.

The proposed first phase of development of the Corridor is identified to be a subway from Vancouver Community College to Arbutus Street. If the first phase is approved, the city has indicated it would be also looking at land use designations west of Arbutus to UBC in anticipation of a phase two extension of a subway to UBC. This will have significant impacts on neighbourhoods in and surrounding the Broadway Corridor without their support.

Under this scheme for the Broadway Corridor, the City’s Transportation 2040 policies and the KPMG report propose that development could be similar to that of the Cambie Corridor, on the Oakridge Mall scale (redevelopment approval added 11 towers up to 45 storeys in height) as a model for sites such as the Jericho Lands. This scheme would not be an appropriate fit for our neighbourhoods and would destroy its existing character and not provide the kinds of medium density family-oriented housing that are so desperately needed in our city.

Worse yet is the very real possibility that neighbourhoods could be transformed by transit-oriented development and densification well in advance of transit infrastructure that may not be provided for decades, if ever. Meanwhile, intense levels of new development would add further congestion to the already severe impacts of UBC commuter traffic.

Amenities Starved for Transit Funds

Problems arise if subway funding is tied to a Public Private Partnership (P3) model, or if development is used to fund transit. These funding models would divert Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) paid by developers into funds that would pay for transit rather than for amenities for the community and its increased population. This is an unacceptable form of downloading the cost of transit onto cities and communities.

The Future of Transit

It is by no means certain that, in the long term, future transit systems will be dominated by large scale high cost projects. It is clear from the recent transit plebiscite that the public is fed up with continually paying for high cost transit, and is demanding more accountability.

Proponents of a Broadway Corridor subway would like to boil the choice of options down to efficiency and “megaproject” economic stimulus. However, the broader implications of competing public transit visions for Vancouver and its neighbourhoods are vastly more complicated and significant.

There are other options to promoting a nodal pattern of high-rise development through high-cost underground rapid transit on a single corridor. Others advocate for a high-capacity, at-grade transit network that is more evenly distributed and reinforces a pattern and scale of urban development that is more affordable, livable, socially productive and supports businesses on a broader city-wide scale.

Studies have shown that a more evenly distributed transit network is also more cost effective (see below results of a UBC- based study). These studies indicate that it is also vastly more sustainable from an environmental perspective to replace existing fossil- fuelled diesel buses with a combination of higher-capacity, zero-emission electric streetcars and articulated trolleybuses. The existing transit grid could have more frequent transit and expanded routes throughout the city and on key routes of heavy demand.

For the price of this….

 Image showing single Broadway subway line, serving a small area of Vancouver                   

We can have this…

Image showing a grid of transit lines, serving nearly the entire area of Vancouver

Equivalent electric streetcar network deliverable for same cost of proposed Broadway Corridor subway (Condon, et al, 2008, The case for the tram; learning from Portland, Sustainability by Design – An examination of alternatives to an underground extension of the Millennium Line to UBC, Foundational Research Bulletin, No. 6.)

How This Affects Us

There is a real danger that our neighbourhoods, and in particular larger sites such as the Jericho Lands, could be planned and built based on an outdated approach and faulty assumptions. Many informed sources suggest that a nodal based approach to transit, based on transit megaprojects and high rise development, is probably not the way of the future as some have suggested.

The Federal Liberal Party platform said only that they would support “rapid” transit on Broadway, but rapid transit can take a variety of forms other than a subway. Rapid transit could instead be streetcars or rapid electric trolley buses, or other combinations of grade level transit at a fraction of the cost as noted in the example above.

2) HOUSING:

Social and Co-op Housing

The co-op housing projects built under CMHC programs were covered by operating agreements that provided federal funding supplements. Many of the operating agreements are expiring and need to be renewed to ensure ongoing public ownership and subsidized rents for the most vulnerable in our society. We understand that the new federal government is now considering these extensions and we strongly support this.

New infrastructure funding should be provided for new social and co-op housing projects subject to appropriate design controls to ensure that the size, scale and design elements are consistent and compatible with our local area plans and are community supported.

Reinstate the RRAP Program – In addition to funding for social or co-op housing , the federal government could reinstate the RRAP program in which CMHC gave grants to low income earners for upgrades to older housing for health, safety and energy efficiency.

Federal Tax Policies as Incentives for Rentals and Heritage Retention

Tax advantages are needed to encourage long-term ownership of lower-rent buildings and incentives for retention and upgrade of solid older buildings. This helps to reduce inflationary pressure on rents and loss of more affordable older rental stock.

As an incentive to retain heritage buildings only, capital gains tax laws should be amended, for up to two secondary suites on one house lot to be allowed to still qualify for principal residence exemption from capital gains tax as long as they are non-strata family or rental and the owner occupies the main unit. Perhaps long term owners could be allowed to also occupy one of the secondary units. This provides incentives for heritage retention while also encouraging more rental units and providing mortgage helpers to assist home ownership.

Protection from Global Housing Market – The purchase of housing is largely unaffordable for local residents in Vancouver. Action is needed to protect communities from an unregulated global housing market in which local residents are at an unfair disadvantage since local real estate is becoming disconnected from the local economy and work force. We ask the federal government to correct and better enforce tax and other regulations, as well as to create additional preventative measures to protect the local housing market.

In Conclusion, we hope you will deliver this message to the Prime Minister and your fellow MPs and ensure our communities’ interests are represented. We would like to meet with you to discuss plans for transit, land use and housing affordability in Vancouver. Please confirm receipt of this letter and let us know when would be a good time to meet.

Sincerely,

Larry Benge, Co-Chair

Dorothy Barkley, Co-Chair

On behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Member Groups of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

  • Arbutus Ridge Community Association
  • Arbutus Ridge/ Kerrisdale/ Shaughnessy Visions
  • Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours
  • Citygate Intertower Group
  • Community Association of New Yaletown
  • Crosstown Residents Association
  • Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
  • Dunbar Residents Association
  • False Creek Residents Association
  • Grandview Woodland Area Council
  • Granville Burrard Residents & Business Association
  • Kitsilano-Arbutus Residents Association
  • Kits Point Residents Association
  • Marpole Residents Coalition
  • Norquay Residents
  • NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
  • Oakridge Langara Area Residents
  • Residents Association Mount Pleasant
  • Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
  • Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association
  • Strathcona Residents Association
  • Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West End Neighbours
  • West Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West Point Grey Residents Association

Link to Tyee: UBC Professor Patrick Condon http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2016/01/25/Bad-Transit-Projects/

Link to Common Ground: Elizabeth Murphy http://commonground.ca/2015/11/federal-funding-should-support-an-accountable-transit-plan/

Statement Regarding “A Better City” Slate

In order to avoid any confusion, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods wishes to make clear that the organization known as A Better City is not affiliated or connected in any way with the Coalition.

We note that A Better City has taken a full-page advertisement in the Vancouver Courier tomorrow announcing their preferred slate for the November 15 election.  While welcoming all citizen input into the municipal election, we re-confirm that the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and its member associations are non-partisan groups that do not endorse slates, parties or candidates.

More On Society Act Changes

As previously posted, the Coalition has written to the Province regarding our concerns about proposed changes to the BC Society Act.  The following story from News1130 discusses some of out concerns:

Local organizations fear they will be more vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits, if the province goes ahead with changes to the law governing non-profits. They believe the effort to make non-profits more accountable goes too far.  At issue is a proposed new clause in the Society Act that says any appropriate person can make an application to the courts on the grounds that the society is carrying on activities that are detrimental to the public interest.

Jak King with the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods believes organizations like his, which have opposed certain developments, could become the target of lawsuits launched by the affected developers. “It would become a real barrier for us to continue our protest against the development, because we are a neighbourhood organization with no resources and completely run by volunteers.”

King’s colleague on the coalition, Larry Benge, takes it one step further. “Maybe it threatens the future of that society, because it would go bankrupt trying to defend itself.”

The coalition says while transparency is important in a non-profit, over-regulation of small grassroots organizations can be very harmful. More than two dozen B.C. societies have expressed similar sentiments.  A letter penned by the West Coast Environmental Law says the legislation “invites harassment of societies by any deep-pocketed and litigious opponents.”

 

The Coalition writes the Minister of Housing – Stop the Sale of Public Housing!

The Coalition is deeply concerned with the proposed “sale” of social housing.  The tender document invites the non-profit sector to “buy” the land and building, with BC Housing financing the deal.  These are aging buildings  and included in the deal is the understanding that the properties will be re-developed.

Neighbourhoods are concerned with this commitment for redevelopment – with no consultation or discussion taking place at the community level.

The full text of the letter is below:

October 23, 2014

Hon. Rich Coleman
Minister Responsible for Housing PO Box 9052, Stn Prov Govt Victoria BC V8W 9E2

Dear Minister Coleman,

RE: Neighbourhood Engagement in Planning and Development

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is a consortium of 25 Vancouver Residents’ Associations representing residents across the city. As a coalition, our purpose is to ensure that planning and development in our neighbourhoods happens within specific guidelines that focus on meaningful consultation, public engagement and collaborative planning.

We are writing to express serious concern with your proposed plan to offer significant public lands and housing throughout the City of Vancouver for sale and potential redevelopment without any prior discussion with impacted neighbourhoods. There is a tendering process currently underway for the first two such properties. Therefore our concerns are immediate and urgent.

It is our position that there is no need for haste in selling off BC Housing operated land. On the contrary, there are many reasons to undertake a thorough collaborative planning process with residents and the communities in question, with a focus on local preferences for land ownership and development. We believe that this must happen prior to any decision any one of BC Housing’s holdings.

We are alarmed by the speed of this drastic change in policy. While it is understandable that nonprofit housing societies would want to purchase rather than lease the lands on which they operate, it is unclear whether or how the public, or the neighbourhoods, or indeed residents of the housing will benefit from such a change in ownership.

Local input is critical to ensure that these properties continue to meet their goals. As such, any plans for use which will bind BC Housing’s ability to deliver services must, in our view, incorporate such input. The tender must be halted to ensure the future viability of these properties.

On behalf of the many Vancouver residents we represent we ask that you terminate the current tender, and suspend the policy to allow for a full and open public discussion of the merits and efficacy of undertaking such a change. As taxpayers and residents we share ownership of the properties in question which your government manages on our behalf. We wish to have sufficient time and information to allow for fulsome consultation and collaboration on the future of these public lands.

The Coalition’s Statement of Principles and Goals outlines more completely what collaborative planning entails. We attach a copy for your reference.

Yours truly,

Fern Jeffries, Co-chair, CVN
Larry A. Benge, Co-chair, CVN
On Behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

c.c. Premier Christy Clark

      Shayne Ramsay, CEO BC Housing Vancouver Mayor and Council

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Where Was Gregor? Asks Letter Writer

The letter of the the day in Province today is from Randy Brophy who wonders why Mayor Gregor Robertson was a no-show at the Coalition’s Town Hall Meeting.
“Robertson,” he writes “was the only mayoral candidate who did not to bother to show up, sending instead Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer. She was the only candidate booed and laughed at during the question-and-answer period, starting with when she said that only provincial government should be concerned about developers funding political parties. During her closing comments, folks yelled, “Where’s Gregor?”…
Reimer took a lot of hurried, scribbled, heavy handed notes, seemed aloof, uncomfortable and reminded me a lot of a frustrated elementary school teacher I had who used to take notes before reporting us all to the principal. No doubt she ran back to her 33-member, $2.2-million-a-year taxpayer-funded communication staff for a better script.”

Coalition’s Meeting Calls For More Collaborative Planning

The Candidates copy 2The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods held a successful candidate town hall meeting on October 15, 2014 at St. James Community Square at West 10th Avenue in Kitsilano. A panel of 11 mayoral and council candidates from various parties answered questions submitted online and at our free public event. There was a packed house of about 390 people.

Meeting 1

Ten of the eleven candidates and their parties, endorsed the Coalition’s Principles and Goals document including: Kirk Lapointe (NPA), Melissa De Genova (NPA), Adrian Carr (Green), Cleta Brown (Green), Nicholas Chernen (Cedar Party), Glen Chernen (Cedar Party), R.J. Aquino (One City), Meena Wong (COPE), Lisa Barrett (COPE), and Mayoral candidate Bob Kasting (Independent). Only Vision Vancouver’s Counsellor Andrea Reimer rejected our proposal outright. Although 2 representatives per party were invited, Councillor Reimer was the sole Vision Vancouver attendee and Mayor Gregor Robertson did not join his mayoralty rivals at the town hall meeting.
Meeting 2
Many of the Coalition’s principles include collaborative planning processes that incorporate aspects of CityPlan and other similar approaches to planning. The Principles and Goals call for broader neighbourhood representation in the planning process, including full neighbourhood surveys, to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard, especially those who may not be able to attend Council or neighbourhood association meetings.  A full neighbourhood survey ensures that 100% of residents are canvassed.
The Coalition was pleased to hear several of the candidates mention a return to an updated CityPlan process and this was greeted with overwhelming and supportive applause by local residents.  The ten candidates who endorsed the Coalitions’s Principles and Goals, each discussed how it can improve Community Planning and also spoke of a much needed restoration of trust, respect and transparency at City Hall.
In stark contrast, Vision Vancouver and Vision Counsellor Andrea Reimer’s lack of support for community-based collaborative planning and unwillingness to endorse the Coalition’s Principles and Goals document were both met with highly negative responses from the Coalition and the town hall audience.
Yesterday, Vision Vancouver claimed on their website that NPA Kirk Lapointe’s comments at our town hall ” are resulting in raising fears from neighbourhood groups that the NPA will throw out long-standing neighbourhood plans, and ignore existing targets for affordable housing”
Not true!
Three Vancouver reporters who attended the event, including Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight who moderated the evening, Jeff Lee (Vancouver Sun) and Naiobh O’Connor (Courier) also confirmed Vision’s statement as “head shaking” and incorrect.
The Coalition will be following up with more details of the evening with the candidates’ responses, additional questions that could not be answered given time constraints of the event, as well as commentary of our own. We will upload photos from the evening and video content as well.
We thank Charlie Smith for moderating the evening, all parties and candidate participants, the staff of St. James Hall, and all the local residents who came out to our event. We also thank the videographers and all volunteer Coalition members who contributed to making our event a success
Photos by Elivira Lount & Lawrence Keane

Town Hall – Putting the “Community” back into Community Planning

Plans are finalized for an exciting Town Hall meeting on Wednesday evening.

Participants include Mayoralty Candidates:  Meena Wong, Bob Kasting, and Kirk LaPointe

Representing  the Vancouver Green Party are Cleta Brown and Adriane Carr.  In addition to Mayoralty Candidate Kirk LaPointe, Melissa De Genova will attend for the NPA.  R.J. Aquino will represent OneCity.  Glen Chernen and Nicholas Chernen will represent the Cedar Party. In addition to Mayoralty Candidate Meena Wong, Lisa Barrett will represent COPE. Councillor Andrea Reimer will represent Vision Vancouver.

Our Moderator is Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight.

Should be a great evening.  Come with your questions.